by Neil March (Edition 6, 30th June 2018)
SUMMER’S HERE: WHAT’S NEW IN NEW MUSIC?
Well it’s another packed blog folks! New Music never sleeps! So what do we have in store? In addition to the usual sections on contemporary classical, experimental and leftfield genres, jazz, folk and Pop Scene (incorporating Pop; Indie; Urban etc.), highlights include:
✦ SPARKS: 46 Years of standing out from the crowd; 6 Music Interview
✦ KAMASI WASHINGTON: The new album is here and it was worth the wait
✦ SARAH DAVACHI: Outstanding album by talented contemporary composer
✦ BEN VINCE: Trashing musical demarcation lines with welcome abandon!
✦ LIEVEN MARTENS: Mind-spinning Experimental Art Music
✦ DAKAR AUDIO CLUB: Afro-Fusion all the way from Senegal to Devon
✦ TOMMY ASHBY: Thoughtful intelligent organic songs beautifully executed
✦ BUD SUGAR: Another hot new act from Hull; UK City of Culture
✦ HERMA PUMA: Cool as F*** Urban Vibes on the South Coast
✦ ENVIRONMENTAL SOUND FOUNDATION: Atonality in Pop Music!!
✦ L SPACE: New Video for debut single by Glasgow’s Electro-Indie wonders
✦ CLOUD: Wales-based SE London rapper & multi-instrumentalist returns
✦ CHLOEY ROSE: Talented, likeable, hard-working, what’s not to love?
✦ ANOTHER VENUS: Making a highly agreeable and energetic racket
LIVE MUSIC NEWS
I am really pleased to confirm I will be performing as Environmental Sound Foundation (as featured on BBC 6 Music) at the FREE Good Hope Festival in South East London’s Ladywell Fields on Saturday 21st July 2018. I don’t have the time slot yet so check the Demerara Records website https://www.demerararecords.com for details or look out for details on my Twitter feed https://www.twitter.com/hornetmusiq
I will also be playing the previously announced gigs at Ivy House in Nunhead (2nd August as Environmental Sound Foundation (and not Nielstromm as advertised) supporting the amazing Jon Samsworth and Kerry JK; 4th October and 6th December as Environmental Sound Foundation again) and and a new addition to the Demerara Records Presents … itinerary, the wonderful Cafe of Good Hope on Lewisham High Street on 1st November also as ESF with support act TBA. Details will be posted at https://www.demerararecords.com/demerara-records-presents
THE FIRST ATONAL POP TRACK?
Shameless self-plug time but I couldn’t not mention that the newest Environmental Sound Foundation track might be the first ever Atonal Pop track. It’s entitled 200 Seconds and it genuinely uses atonal (or at least not major/minor anyway) harmonic language for the main themes and over half of the total track. And like a lot of the most disturbing and unusual tracks it was inspired by a weird dream! Am I excited? You bet. But maybe I’ve just lost it and it’s actually total rubbish! Well you can decide as I’ve added it to the Disunited Nations playlist on my Soundcloud page
You can stream it along with the rest of the actual Disunited Nations EP for free at https://soundcloud.com/environmental-sound-foundation/sets/disunited-nations-ep
CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL EXPERIMENTAL AMBIENT & LEFTFIELD
In the last edition of Trust-The-Doc I mentioned a track by Sarah Davachi (https://soundcloud.com/sarahdavachiofficial). Sarah is an American composer of fascinating contemporary music that has a foot in the Minimalist camp but is also ambient, layered and beautifully scored to create a slow-burning otherworldliness. Her 2017 album All My Circles showcases her skills by making each track focus on one particular timbre; hence titles like For Voice, For Strings, For Organ etc. Her Soundcloud page contains more gems including Olsun which has shades of Brian Eno in its gradually intensifying ambience. This is another composer the world needs to be more widely aware of.
The mighty Nick Luscombe (first presenter to play my solo recordings on national radio, in 2014) presented a superb edition of Late Junction on BBC Radio 3 which had, as one of its principal themes, music and sound art inspired by the Amazonian Rainforests. It included a spin for the epic Sinfonieta Amazonia by the Belgian composer Lieven Martens from his album Three Amazonian Essays released late in 2017. The track takes the listener through a series of contrasting states of sound, texture and richly dissonant harmonic language. It is hugely imaginative and demonstrates real skill in weaving together all these diverse elements in such a cohesive and aurally satisfying manner.
Lieven Martens is more well known for his work as Dolphins into the Future in which he was a leading figure in the noise boom of the early 2000s and was associated with Exotica using early synth and electronic music and new age influences. Martens ultimately felt that project had exhausted its relevance and finds recording as himself more liberating and less limiting. I hope we will hear a lot more of his music on UK Radio in the ensuing years. He really is a major talent.
I have also been fortunate not only to come across the music of Ben Vince but to have developed a friendship formed at least in part from a mutual love of each other’s recent musical output. The fact that we live close to each other and both studied at Goldsmiths, University of London is a happy coincidence. We got in contact after Ben purchased a copy of my new EP and was generous in his praise for my work. I then listened to tracks on his Soundcloud page (https://soundcloud.com/vince21music) and was knocked for six by the quality, originality and energy of his work. I have subsequently found more info about Ben who is, by all accounts, a compelling live sax-playing experimentalist who has worked with the likes of Charles Haywood [who fans of leftfield music will know is the multi-instrumentalist genius from Post-Punk experimentalists This Heat].
Ben’s track Assimilation blends a plethora of sounds in a gradually intensifying build-up of sonic layers. It is ambient but not in the dreamy calm sense, much more in the frenetic, emotionally agitated sense. As percussive elements join the mix, the sense of something urgent behind the creativity grows stronger and louder. It is a genuinely thrilling experience. By complete contrast Hessle Audio (with Joy O & Ben UFO) starts off quietly and builds through ambient noises, electronic percussion and bass and fragments of voices swooping in and out of audibility. This leans heavily towards Sound Art. What I can see (featuring Micachu) is more ethereal with sparser application of sounds and breathy reverberant vocal that is deliberately not too high in the mix. Like most of his work, there are always sudden and surprising events that take the listener off in a new direction. Sensory Crossing (featuring Rupert Clervaux) reminds me of one of my all-time favourite bands 23 Skidoo with its frantic sax improvisations playing against constant syncopated percussion with Eastern overtones. And that, believe me, is a serious compliment.
The skill and creativity in Ben’s work is really impressive and he clearly possesses the kind of brilliantly warped imagination every innovative composer needs. I am very hopeful, from early conversations, of persuading Ben to bring his incredible music to one of my Demerara Records Presents … gigs so watch this space.
And on the subject of Demerara Records, my new EP Sounds Converge is out tomorrow (1st July 2018) and contains five tracks lasting over 23 minutes. The EP builds on my Environmental Art Music concept with a large volume of recorded environmental noise used for pitch and harmony as well as texture and ambience, playing against and alongside notated instrumental parts. I have tried to tell two simultaneous stories, one hinting at recent events in the global political world [through titles as instrumental music doesn’t allow much scope for statement!], the other inspired by my own roller-coaster personal journey over the first six months of 2018. I don’t like to use programme notes to batter audiences with explanations what they are supposed to hear in the music so I leave it to others to take whatever they want from it [which may be nothing of course]. So I will simply add that you can stream all five tracks free at https://www.soundcloud.com/demerararecords
JOURNEYS IN JAZZ
Some of you will be aware that, if I had to name one band or artist as my current favourite across all genres, I would almost certainly choose Kamasi Washington. So I am beside myself with excitement about the new album Heaven and Earth. Last year he put out an EP (Harmony of Difference) which, by rights, he could have called a mini-album since it had six tracks and was over half an hour in length. But KW is talented and prolific enough to have produced a further two hours plus of music for the new album. In past days this would have been a double album with a gatefold sleeve! Instead it is simply a work in two distinct parts, both of which are extensive in terms of the amount of work, ideas and development that has gone into them and diverse in terms of flavours and influences.
It is the breadth of ideas and the ability to continually reintroduce themes and take them off in a multitude of directions that marks Kamasi Washington out both as a player and moreover as a composer of ground-breaking contemporary Jazz. From the lush strings and spacious soundworld of The Space Travelers Lullaby to the intense and expansive conclusion of One of one the album is like a modern Symphony, set out in Expositions, Developments, Recapitulations, Variations and large Codas.
There is insufficient space in this blog to go into detail but needless to say the writing and musicianship is breathtaking. He is blessed to have such incredible band members to call upon; too many to name but once again I have to make special mention of trombonist Ryan Porter whose contribution is breathtaking.
One of the bands who have stood out since I joined the Fresh on the Net team [and who I was fortunate to review when they made the Fresh Faves a few months ago] is Dakar Audio Club (https://soundcloud.com/dakar-audio-club). The septet from Dakar in Senegal play Afro-Fusion influenced by music from Senegal, Mali, Zimbabwe and Congo. Their multi-national, multi-ethnic line-up met in Dakar but, since 2011, they have lived in Devon in the English South West.
Oddly, considering the lilting sunny flavour of their music, Dakar Audio Club seem to adopt something of a lo-fi approach to their recordings which often sound as if they were recorded live in a rehearsal studio [or at a gig but with audience applause edited out]. Yet this adds to their appeal. There is no fancy studio-enhanced slickness here. What you see [or hear] is what you get and the focus is on infectious melodies, sweet harmonies, cool grooves and lovingly crafted arrangements.
So I was delighted that, in addition to the support they have had from our little team of moderators at FOTN and from Tom Robinson on BBC 6 Music, they got played by Verity Sharp on Late Junction on BBC Radio 3 midweek. With top dance tunes like Diugou Yaa and C’est Ca and the more minimal but irresistible Aduna, they have carved out a niche that is completely their own and, slowly but surely, they are gaining wider recognition. They also maintain a busy live schedule so check out their Soundcloud page for details of where and when you can catch them at a gig.
Singer-Songwriter Tommy Ashby (https://soundcloud.com/tommyashbyofficial) joins the list of artists I have been fortunate to come across in my role as a moderator and reviews writer for Tom Robinson’s Fresh on the Net team. Tommy inherited his passion for music from his parents, taking advantage of the instruments lying around in the family home when he was growing up. He has subsequently developed an eclectic but individual style, clearly encompassing influences from Folk, Country, Blues and the Singer-Songwriter tradition of Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley and scores of others.
In addition to tasteful guitar picking and clever arrangements, he has a compelling and soulful voice that lifts his songs up another notch. His newest track Bowlegged has all these qualities in spades. Check out his Soundcloud page for more gems.
Okay so it isn’t new music in the strictest sense [whatever that is] but Tom Robinson’s 90-minute interview of quirky Pop legends Sparks on his BBC 6 Music show was inspiring, amusing, fascinating and informative in equal measure. I was 10 when Sparks burst into the British public’s collective consciousness with an energetic performance of the unique This Town ain’t big enough for both of us (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAzESJ62irI), Russell Mael stomping about the stage eyes on fire as he belted out his upper register vocal; Ron Mael pulling faces and weirding everyone out with his staring eyes and tiny moustache.
46 years later they have made a succession of original, leftfield-leaning Pop albums traversing boundaries across a wealth of genres but always with trademark arpeggio-infused melodies, clever and sardonic lyrics and sudden unpredictable changes in mid-song. They have worked with a variety of top producers and performers from Todd Rundgren to Giorgio Moroder and lately Franz Ferdinand with all manner of stops in-between.
Tom’s interviewing style was perfect to bring out the most fascinating aspects of their stylistic choices, the thinking behind the music and lyrics and the embracing of their unique position as a group whose main strength has always been their complete refusal to ‘fit in’. It was an uplifting and informative hour and a half that I am so glad I spent listening to such a great interview and to Sparks tracks from across the 46 years [and counting] of their career. Start with their website (http://allsparks.com/)
I recently reviewed a superb slice of futuristic Electronic Alt-Pop by the excellent L Space for the FOTN Fresh Faves (in which I believe it topped the public vote). L Space are purveyors of dreamy Electro-Indie and part of the fantastic Late Night Glasgow label. They have now posted a video of the single Suneaters they released in March 2018. It is further evidence of their ability to introduce themes and underlying musical currents and develop them through a build-up of sounds, voices and layers. And you can find it on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvYiSuQ3n5Y). A welcome reminder of what an excellent band they are. I look forward to giving future coverage to them and their similarly fine label mates Cloth,
Once again I can thank Fresh on the Net for my having come across another exciting act from UK City of Culture, Hull. Bud Sugar combines a rich recipe of influences including Afrobeat, Ska, Calypso, Soca, Hip Hop, Dancehall and African Folk and Jazz flavours infused with a British Pop sensibility. The result is a scorching summer carnival sound that is infectious and bristling with energy. Their new track Gambia is irresistible and fuelled by an endless supply of sunshine. Check it and other tracks including the Reggae-based Simmer Me Down and the exotic but cool party vibe of Vampire at https://soundcloud.com/bud-sugar
And at the opposite end of the English segment of the Great British mainland, Portsmouth was in the limelight in Edition 4 of Trust-The-Doc and here it is again too. This time the reason is enigmatic producer/artist Herma Puma (aka Pimpernel Jones). Herma Puma (https://soundcloud.com/herma-puma) came to my attention when the brilliantly bendy Funky Electro-House of 90 Illary Summers landed in my in-box via the Fresh on the Net uploader. I was so impressed I had to delve into more of his work and duly discovered the soulful funky Hip Hop fusion of Qwel & Maker’s Megaphone as mixed by Herma Puma and his own harder-hitting Hip Hop of Jericho. Ample evidence both of the depth of his talent and his versatility as an artist and producer. I look forward to hearing more in the near future.
Talking of Hip Hop I was delighted to see another track at the Listening Post from the talented Cloud (https://soundcloud.com/theartfulcloud). Cloud is South Londoner Omar Walters-Jeffers. A series of events, many of them not too happy, saw him end up in Aberystwyth where one day he looked up at the sky and was inspired to record under the name Cloud. The result is the combining of his multi-instrumental talents with his free-flowing, soulful rapping and intelligent, painfully honest lyrics.
His new track Higher Understanding explores deep feelings and exposes his pain though placed in the wider context of a dysfunctional and uncaring society. The female vocal sample is a brilliant contrast that adds to the emotional impact of the track. Check out his Soundcloud page. It is choc full of great tracks. A real talent and one who deserves the platform and springboard for a new level of recognition.
So before anyone moans that this edition’s Pop Scene is all urban music, let me mention London-based Alternative Rock warriors Another Venus (https://soundcloud.com/another-venus). Another Venus describe themselves as a four-piece ‘... born of Rock, Punk, Grunge and Shoegaze’. Well that’s got guitar music of the past 25 years pretty much covered! Seriously though, they make a very agreeable noise, bristling with energy, driven by a powerhouse of guitar, bass and drums and topped off by strong and distinct female voice and intelligent lyrics. Their EP Metal Flowers contains three contrasting statements of their sound and style plus there are two additional teaser tracks on the Soundcloud version. Another Venus are shaping a sound and space in which they stand out by mixing up diverse influences with originality and compactness. Expect to hear more about them in the near future. And look out for their unique comic book. (https://www.facebook.com/anothervenus)
Last but most definitely not least, I want to give another mention to the adorable Chloey Rose who I reviewed a few editions ago. Not only is she an amazing singer of strong material and a genuinely really likeable, good-natured individual. But it seems like every day she’s posting another live performance, another radio interview, another appearance at an awards ceremony etc always with a great pic on Twitter. With such an amazing work ethic and a seemingly exhaustive supply of positivity, Chloey deserves a chance to reach a much wider audience. She has already won the hearts and minds of most of Lincolnshire. Check out her awesome single L.U.N.G.S and more on her Soundcloud page @ https://soundcloud.com/chloeyrose
AND FINALLY …
Well that’s it for another half-month. I hope you found something of interest here. The next edition is due out on 15th July by which time I should be able to announce the full line-up for Good Hope Festival in Ladywell Fields on Saturday 21st July. As ever, watch this space……