TRUST-THE-DOC: MUSICAL MUSINGS
by Neil March (Edition 18, 16th January 2019)
Welcome to Edition 18 of Trust The Doc. The new year is just over a fortnight old and the exciting new music continues to materialize especially via Fresh on the Net. So happy new year everyone and here is my attempt to capture and condense some of what has been happening. With it being so close to my year end bumper issue I have not really had much time to check out new material on all the scenes I usually cover. So three regular sections (Jazz Journeys, World in Union & Folk Findings) are not included in Ed. 18 but should make a return in Ed. 19.
Otherwise we have some news about regular live events that I am involved with as an artist and, in one case, also as the promoter plus an album of piano music composed by a super talented friend and a cool list of bands and artists grouped under the Pop Scene umbrella and sub-divided into Guitar Bands, Urban, Singer-Songwriters and Epic Soundscapes. So let’s look forward to another year of exciting new music.
✦ LINEAR OBSESSIONAL: Environmental Sound Foundation & 3 other acts
✦ VANISHING POINT: More airplay for album & news on Rothko farewell gig
✦ MARC YEATS: Highly respected & loved composer’s piano music album
✦ THE LONG FACES: Plenty of tuneful indie jangle from Canterbury
✦ MADI: Energetic ‘Weirdo’ Pop fresh from the Welsh Capital
✦ LA UNDERLINED: From Acoustic Folk Pop to Fuzzed Up Alt Rock
✦ JEKYLL: Blackpool Indie Rock Popsters are on Huw Stephens’s radar
✦ ELMZ XIX: The Prince of East Midlands Urban is back with another belter
✦ LEEVEYE: South East London artist & producer continues to delight
✦ CATCHRHO: Nigerian solo artist sets out her soul-infused stall
✦ MEGAN LARA MAYE: Brooding epic pop from Brighton-based Brummie
✦ CHARLOTTE GRAYSON: Hartlepool’s Hottest Folk-Pop Property
✦ JAMIE JOHN: It’s going to get emotional if he’s got anything to do with it
✦ GUITAR PK: Sussex-based guitarist Paul Kent’s instrumental rock journeys
✦ CLASSICAL BANKSY: George Michael memoriam masterpiece & more
LIVE MUSIC NEWS.
Okay so let me begin with a shameless self-plug because Dilara and I (aka Environmental Sound Foundation) (https://soundcloud.com/e-s-foundation) played our first live set of the new year for Linear Obsessional (https://www.linearobsessional.org/) at the lovely Arts Cafe, Manor Park in Hither Green on 13th January. It gave us a chance to showcase our rapidly evolving new sound which still mashes up genres within an Electronic Art Pop spectrum but increasingly allows Dilara to stretch out as a soulful singer, energetic poet and profound lyricist all of which enables me, as her somewhat older musical partner-in-crime to hide behind my synth and laptop while the audience engage with her!
The gig also included three other excellent acts all representing different aspects of the experimental and alternative scenes. We had experimental trumpet and cello plus a really engaging performance by The Hairdressers. Read trumpeter and disabled performer Robyn’s story at https://www.robynsteward.com/heartnsoul-story. Her movement around the performing space and interaction with the audience were fantastic and the intimate call and response relationship between Trumpeter and Cellist worked very well. There was also a slow-burning symphony of accomplished leftfield improv courtesy of Brighton duo The Static Memories (https://soundcloud.com/thestaticmemories). The combination of Double Bass with a variety of sounds and textures was mesmerising and the ideas developed outwards over one epic and highly enjoyable track.
I was especially taken with talented and versatile young London-based Welsh artist Jaffro (https://soundcloud.com/jaffroofficial) who played Ukelele and Violin alongside cleverly composed backing tracks of synth and drum programmes full of jazz-tinged chords, minimalism-style note patterns and syncopated and unusual beats. His material was strong and original and he has a lovely voice (with some words sung in Welsh). I hope to bring him to a Vanishing Point Solo event soon. In the meantime well done to my good friend Richard Sanderson (https://soundcloud.com/bagrec1) for curating an excellent event. I also hope to have Richard performing his unique music at Vanishing Point Solo soon.
Environmental Sound Foundation have the following live dates coming up. 7th February (Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House, Nunhead), 13th February (Skronktronic @ Riverside Studio, Finsbury Park), 7th March (Vanishing Point Solo @ Cafe of Good Hope, Place Ladywell, Lewisham) & 4th April (Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House, Nunhead).
CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL, EXPERIMENTAL & UNCLASSIFIED
Emphasis more on the unclassified in this edition with an Alternative, Experimental and Ambient compilation and an album of new works by a super talented composer.
Vanishing Point (https://demerararecords.com/vanishing-point)
The Demerara Records (https://demerararecords.com) compilation album Vanishing Point (Vol. 1) continues to generate airplay thanks to our amazing friends Ming & Jon of The Monday Night Ride-Out (Exile FM) who play a track to close out their show every week with Joshan Mahmud and Far Rainbow featuring lately and my awesome mate Graham Belchamber on his Paradise by the C (Conquest Radio) who made it his album of the week (8th January) and played tracks by Environmental Sound Foundation, Cholly and paulfcook. The album has been out since October but shows no sign of fizzling out just yet.
Rothko Farewell Gig
It is with both sadness and a sense of honour that I can confirm Alternative Music legends Rothko (https://soundcloud.com/user-646013394) are playing their last ever gig at our Vanishing Point event at The Ivy House on Thursday 7th February where they will be supported by Environmental Sound Foundation and Handäoline. Mark has made it clear that he will continue to record new material as Rothko but this will be his last time going out live with a band. To that end he has recruited a stellar line-up that includes Rothko stalwarts Johnny (aka Band of Holy Joy) and Graham Dowdall (aka Gagarin). It should be a night to remember so I hope we will get a good crowd. Tickets are £4 in advance and £5 on the door. https://demerararecords.com/vanishing-point
Marc Yeats Piano Album
It is always good to hear about new events involving my great friend, the uniquely talented English composer Marc Yeats (https://www.marc-yeats.com/). Because Marc is not an instrumentalist and does not have a studio his only recordings are those made by professional musicians and ensembles. Thankfully, because he is so highly respected in contemporary classical music circles, there are often people who do want to record and release his material as well as performing it live. His collaboration with leading contemporary pianist and academic Ian Pace began several years ago and has now resulted in the album I remember first discussing with Marc over coffee some two or three years ago.
It is a mouth watering prospect. Ian Pace, one of the UK’s most renowned contemporary music specialists playing piano pieces composed by Marc whose style defies categorisation but is challenging, visceral, complex and exciting. So here is Marc, in his own words via his Facebook artist page (https://facebook.com/marc.yeats.composer) explaining what is happening:
‘My album of piano music - the anatomy of melancholy - will be released in the Spring of 2019 on Prima Facie records. Amazingly performed by world-renowned pianist Ian Pace, this album is a collection of piano works from 1997 to 2015, the sheet music for which will be available from my website in the spring. When released, you can purchase the album, listen to the pieces and then download the sheet music as you please on a 'pay what you can afford' donation basis through PayPal. Can't be fairer than that! But before that happens, all the wonderful people who supported the crowdfunding campaign that enabled the album to be produced will receive their downloadable copy of the album before it goes on general sale a few months later. Both Ian and I are very grateful for the amazing support and patience everyone has shown with bringing this project to fruition. You won't be disappointed!’
So there you have it folks. A date to look forward to.
So what’s new in Pop music in these opening weeks of the new year. Well it’s going to be a case of what has come through the Fresh on the Net uploader that has caught my ear? Thankfully there has been no shortage of exciting new and not so new artists with fresh tracks. Here are a few of them including a number of bands and artists who we [moderators collectively] didn’t put through to the Listening Post but who impressed me enough for me to want to mention them here.
The Long Faces (https://soundcloud.com/thelongfaces) amusingly claim to be ‘a covers band of our future selves’. That whimsical humour possibly explains the whimsical feel of their jangly tuneful Guitar Band Pop that follows a lineage all the way back to the early Post-Punk days of Postcard Records and Pop Aural via C86 and all the way forward to Viola Beach and Feet.
Jane! demonstrates these factors. Lovely guitar melody and a great hook with a heavy dose of melancholy nestles with youthful energy, lively octave jumps and fluid top lines. Sum of my Cares is slower and has a particularly gorgeous melody sung in rueful male voice to chords that are almost jazz-tinged. The tasteful guitar [solo] reminds me of Danny WIlson circa Be Bop Mop Top. The mid-section with its chords that change over a bassline descending in semi-tones and harmonies in the background is a great touch and the increase in dynamics over the closing bars provides a nice climatic round-off to another killer tune. So it goes on. The Long Faces are a band who I want to see live. Hopefully if they enjoy wider success in 2019, that will become more likely to happen.
Cardiff’s Madi (https://soundcloud.com/madibanduk) are one band who not only made it through to the Listening Post but were voted into the Fresh Faves by the public too. Madi caught my attention with the excellent Dirty (Word), striking female voice atop energetic Alt Rock/Pop backdrop. This led me to their Souncloud page where I discovered the quirkier and irresistibly catchy All work and no play and the synth-dominated Alt Rock of Intimate which has another killer chorus. The more I delved the more I wanted to delve further. So needless to say I am seriously taken with Madi [who brand their music ‘Weirdo Pop’!].
It’s not quite Pink jamming with Clones of Clones or Flowerbomb but it’s not so far off either. There is a very appealing Trash Rock (in a good way) element about the slow burning full-on instrumentation, slightly slurry swooping vocal style and general contrast of textures. Shades of Garbage perhaps but there’s also an aura of earlier classic Post-Punk Americana, acknowledging Grunge pioneers like Throwing Muses and the Pixies. Yet some of the dreamy vocals and note patterns bring the Cocteau Twins to mind.
Wow. So many flavours! But what all these comparisons really demonstrate is the extent to which Madi have already carved out their own sound that doesn’t slot neatly into a convenient category. I better not get started on the big synth riffs and electronic elements or I am just going to confuse matters further! Best thing to do is listen and experience what a delight their music is.
Also they have a carefully fused together video composite of tracks on Youtube (https://www.facebook.com/madibanduk/videos/276664086508523/).
LA Underlined (https://soundcloud.com/la-underlined) describe themselves as an acoustic rock band from London and songs like The Ghost of You with its folky ballad-like vocal, strummed guitar and strings support this contention. However Can’t say no is rockier and Take the money and run is out and out electric Alt Rock with fuzz guitars, driving bass and drums and a big vocal that reveals a very different side to their musical character. Thoughts is triple time Folk-Pop with what sounds like Irish fiddle in a prominent role. Confused? Well I am. But intrigued too. Maybe LA Underlined have not really settled on a definite direction but they do what they do well and have an energy that appeals as does their singer’s voice.
Jekyll (https://soundcloud.com/jekyllband-1), one act who I didn’t need FOTN to hear news about this month, are from Blackpool and play driving melodic Indie Rock laced with pop sensibilities. They are also part of the excellent End of the Trail Creative stable managed by the endlessly energetic Kelly Munro. In the past few weeks they have been listed by none other than BBC Radio 1’s New Music Guru Huw Stephens as one of the hot tips for 2019 so this is an exciting moment in their career.
Plan A bristles with energy and has a dark edge with its minor chords and short shifts into half time. The chorus with its semi-falsetto element brings Thom Yorke to mind while the intensity of the chorus could be Muse. So too the kitchen sink production and arrangement. If this is how they sound live their gigs must be amazing.
Mania reveals another side of Jekyll, three time chords and sustained vocal lines in the forefront as well as more semi-tone descents. Again though it is dynamic, lovingly arranged with smart instrumental play and passionate vocals. Jekyll are on the verge of real success. 2019 can be a big year for them. In Kelly they have a manager with a track record of working tirelessly on behalf of his artists nearly all of whom have record deals and booking agents. So watch this space.
Three very different Urban artists have wasted no time in getting new material out in January. Two of them are artists I have covered in previous editions of Trust The Doc. The other is a completely new name to me and is making cool R’n’B inspired music from her base in Nigeria.
Elmz XIX (https://soundcloud.com/elmzxix) first grabbed my attention a year ago with his tongue-in-cheek but unerringly East Midlands-inspired Penny to a Pound and subsequently Don’t feed the animals. But if those tracks announced him as the true sound of East Midlands Grime and Brit Hop, Passa Passa brought lilting Caribbean vibes into the picture which have remained central to his sound on the latest track Pinch Punch. That mix of the Reggae, Dancehall and Calypso flavours with such an English regional dialect shapes his unique sound and presents him as an artist who deserves to be heard and supported more widely in 2019. So come on BBC 6 Music and 1Xtra. Give this boy a platform.
Leeveye (https://soundcloud.com/leeveye) hails from the deepest of deep South East London (which, to us football fans, is otherwise known as Palace territory!) and has been beavering away in his home studio making cool urban and dance tracks that mix his flair for writing and production with an appealing vocal style including open harmonics and strong falsetto range. Those elements are very much on display in his latest offering Mystery. Hopefully 2019 will see him get amongst it and take his individual sound and style out live. Like his previous track Shark it has an immediate hook, sweet chords and mid-tempo funky bass licks. His smart use of synths and electronics brings interesting and attention-grabbing timbres and textures in and out of the mix. His potential is clearly evident.
Catchrho (https://soundcloud.com/catchrho) is from Nigeria and has a style that nods towards the poppier end of the R’n’B spectrum. Black Dress has a laid back groove but her alto vocal is more intense, offset by softer backing vocals. There is also a subtle reggae aspect in the guitar part. It has a strong chorus too. In terms of references to other artists there are shades of Erykah Badu and Solange about her lower register and effortless vocal flourishes. The breaks in the beat work well and allow her to up the tempo with vocal triplets before the more full-on chorus hook returns with a vengeance.
Indie is a complete contrast, simple acoustic guitar accompanying an almost folky soul track with pointed lyrics about her Catholic School background and some exotic harmonies. It underlines her strength as a singer-songwriter as well as a fine vocalist. Bones is a collaboration with WENS and places her R’n’B sensibilities against sustained synth notes and electronic drums, creating an evocative soundscape. All in all then a versatile and obviously talented artist well worth making the effort to listen to.
Well they do say things come in threes and so it is with singer-songwriters, each of them very different to the other two.
Megan Lara Maye (https://soundcloud.com/megan-lara-mae) grew up in Birmingham and now lives in Brighton. I am not sure whether BIMM was the reason for this move South but judging by some of those who follow her on social media I have a feeling it might have been. If so, it has done her no harm because From The Ashes presents her as a thoughtful artist whose strong and engaging voice is beautifully complemented by great harmonies, perfectly understated piano chords and arpeggios, a less is more arrangement that actually achieves a real aura of expansiveness. It is almost cinematic in that respect and the clever tweeks in the production really deliver. The switch to the upper register of the piano late at the close is a lovely way to sign off an impressive piece of work.
There is a contrasting version of the same track but I am also very taken with Losing to you with its unusual rhythmic configurations in the verse, the spacious synth backdrop and Megan’s commanding vocal performance. How this track builds is again impressive and the production is spot on. It seems inconceivable that we won’t be hearing more of Megan Lara Maye in the near future. I certainly hope we will.
Hartlepool’s Charlotte Grayson (https://soundcloud.com/charlottegraysonmusic) writes slightly folky pop tracks which have fairly minimal instrumental backing while her voice achieves that lovely balance between brittle vulnerability and robust ranginess. It is also a refreshingly real and individual voice that gives the impression that she is sharing her ideas with the listener in a personal one to one manner.
The lyrics are interesting and seemingly autobiographical. Something to miss is a potential radio track while Mesmerised with its major seven chords, octave female and male voices and lovely chorus is an obvious choice for a single. Again the instrumental arrangement consists of nothing but acoustic guitar and bass guitar (or so it sounds to me). Maybe is another beautiful track. All in all it is quite delightful and I recommend spending some time with her music.
Jamie John (https://soundcloud.com/jamiejohnsongs) is a young man whose social media pages are not exactly forthcoming with regard to info. But he has a beautifully unusual voice that sits in a kind of baritone range and floats gracefully atop his sparse melancholy foundations. Repeating chords on keys, teasing guitar notes and quiet drums accompany a dominating vocal track on Forget Me Not.
Close my eyes begins with enigmatic synth chords and quietly produced electronic percussion while his voice echoes menacingly through the middle of the slightly cloudy mix. That gives way to minimal deep broken chords and legato vocals that swoop and swerve around the notes. Again it is full of melancholy but it is powerful and emotionally charged and there is more than sufficient evidence that he is an artist I want to hear more of.
Granted, it’s an ambiguous sub-heading but I had to think of something that seemed to fit two very different examples of impressive musicianship and thoughtful composing and arranging. One is an accomplished guitarist who produces a large volume of well-constructed tracks showcasing not just his playing but his ability to combine precision with invention and melodic flair. The other is a former opera singer turned composer due to career-wrecking illness who has become an accomplished writer of soundtrack music and has delivered one of the most astonishing tracks I have heard in some time. Epic certainly describes his ambitious musical and sonic vision.
Guitar PK (https://soundcloud.com/guitarpk) is Sussex-based guitarist and writer Paul Kent. Unusually in a world where most musicians are focused either on vocal-led genres or instrumental music that is connected to electronic or jazz modes, he specialises in sophisticated instrumental rock where the guitar is the main melody instrument. It’s a niche area but one he has mastered impressively as his latest track Sunrise shows. Endgame veers closer to a jazz-tinged Prog style and is equally fine.
Comparisons are difficult but Gary Moore’s work with Colosseum II is one reference that comes to mind although Paul’s playing is a lot more laid back. Slight shades of others like Dave Gilmour (perhaps with a hint of Hank Marvin in terms of the latter’s ability to interpret melodies more so than his actual sound) and Pat Metheny (harmonically more so than technically). Anyway it’s tastefully played and arranged and well worth checking out. Away from his solo work he also collaborates with Diane Marie Kloba in Kloba Kent.
Classical Banksy (https://soundcloud.com/classicalbanksy) is a guy with the kind of inspiring back story that reality TV talent shows like The X Factor use to maximise their tear-jerking potential prior to showing individual auditions which either turn out to be amazing or dreadful! Well rest assured you are highly unlikely to see Classical Banksy on a TV talent show in the foreseeable future. You might unknowingly hear excerpts from his catalogue of cinematic compositions while watching a movie or your TV however.
More about that in a moment but a story like his necessitates comment. He (Simon Roberts) was an accomplished opera singer whose career was going well until, in 2005, he was diagnosed with AIDS. It nearly killed him but, while he lived to tell the tale, his operatic career did not and he eventually found himself working for composer Gian-Carlo Menotti. The experience enabled him to teach himself to compose and his talent and tenacity led to him writing for several small-screen films and TV programmes. He also has a new album and has written for Kylie Minogue!
My introduction to his extraordinary music has come about thanks to a unique epic work entitled In Memoriam George Michael. I will be quite honest. When I saw the title appear in the Fresh on the Net in-box my heart sank and I braced myself for some well-meaning but ultimately pointless medley of George Michael tunes. So you can imagine my relief [and subsequent delight] when instead I was treated to a spaciously produced and loud cinematic soundscape that swirled and sparked with ethereal ambience around vocal harmonies and grand themes. It takes real skill to compose and arrange something this dynamic without lapsing into pomp and ceremony. I look forward to exploring more of his music soon.
So that’s it for Edition 18. Ed. 19 should be published on 31st January and I hope to have something to say about all the usual [and unusual] areas of music. In the meantime, the new music keeps coming so happy listening and thanks for reading. Till the next time. Neil xxxxx