TRUST-THE-DOC: MUSICAL MUSINGS
by Neil March (Edition 21, 28th February 2019)
Welcome to Edition 21 of Trust The Doc. The new music just keeps on coming! In the meantime please visit and ‘like’ the Trust The Doc Facebook page - https://facebook.com/TrustTheDoc - and if you don’t already do so, follow both @Hornetmuziq & @DemeraraRecords on Twitter. I will of course follow you back. Let’s communicate folks and be part of a dialogue about new music. :)
✦ CHOLLY: New EP Pre-Release lands to an almighty response
✦ INDEPENDENT MUSIC: My book about operating within the indie sector
✦ TRANSMISSION 13: 7th album & International Collaborations
✦ KEELEY FORSYTH: In collaboration with Hubert Zemler
✦ SARAH-JANE SUMMERS: Ethereal sounds emanating from her base in Oslo
✦ HEKLA: Icelandic Queen of contemporary art music for Voice & Theremin
✦ JAMES EDGE: A new name to me & one making cool contemporary sounds
✦ HOT 8 BRASS BAND: New Orleans maestros back with an EP of covers
✦ STAR BAND: Afro-Cuban delights from Dakar in Senegal
✦ DAKAR AUDIO CLUB: Exeter-based West African combo keep delivering
✦ FLOHIO: S.E. London’s rap Princess collaborates with Berlin producers
✦ YELLOW JUNE: Acoustic duo with harmonies to die for
✦ LAURAN HIBBERD: Her success story continues to write itself
✦ MORNING MYTH: Alternative Dream Pop duo continue to be so consistent
✦ SUDS: Shimmering melodic Guitar-driven Alt Pop from the Eastern Counties
✦ ANDREW VAN GARRETT: Fresh on the Net regular on fine form lately
✦ SOFT SPORTS: Clever, original and exciting angle on Alternative Rock
✦ INDIGO VELVET: Sumptuous Psychedelic Indie from the Scottish Capital
✦ URCHIN: Cinematic soundscapes and comparisons with Bonobo & others
✦ GLOVE DEPARTMENT: Retro in a good way; pop with some great flavours
✦ 0171: Cutting edge electronic pop presented with breathtaking originality
✦ PAULFCOOK: Another combination of real life samples & cool grooves
✦ PROJECT BLACKBIRD: Back with a reflective track from their fine album
CHOLLY EP & VIDEO CAUSE STORM OF PRAISE !!!
The new 6-track EP by Demerara Records signd Alt Pop singer-composer Cholly (https://demerararecords.bandcamp.com/album/ruminations-ep) is up on Bandcamp where it will be exclusively available until its general release in April. Already it has had airplay on The Monday Night Ride-Out on Exile FM with the awesome Ming and Jon (from Project Blackbird) and Paradise by the Sea with the amazing Graham Belchamber on Conquest Hospital Radio. It has also had a fantastic review in Souno Mazzi (https://www.sounomazzi.com/blog/cholly-adores).
You can also check out Cholly’s fantastic self-directed and scripted video for Adores (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeKi6gI8HMk). We are now talking to potential booking agents about tour dates but in the meantime Cholly will headline at Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House (https://demerararecords.com/vanishing-point) with Demerara Records label mates Environmental Sound Foundation (https://demerararecords.com/environmental-sound-foundation) supporting. Both acts are pencilled in to play three festivals. So watch this space…..
MY NEW BOOK: THE INDEPENDENT MUSIC SECTOR (2019)
It had to happen. I have written and published a book about operating within the Independent Music Sector in 2019. The book is aimed at music artists, labels, publishers, promoters, managers, small venues, bloggers and anyone with an interest in surviving in this volatile, crazy but wonderful industry! It has been through a full edit courtesy of the amazing Sue Oreszczyn and has been uploaded so it should be available any day. It will cost under a tenner. For news on this check https://demerararecords.com and my Trust The Doc Facebook page https://facebook.com/trust-the-doc where I will post all updates.
I also strongly recommend the fantastic book Work Hard, Playlist Hard by Mike Warner. Mike is one of the world’s leading playlist creators and influencers as well as being a musician and good all-round guy. The book explains, in refreshingly simple language, how the whole streaming and playlisting thing works. That makes it a MUST for aspiring bands, artists, labels, publishers, managers, promoters etc. And you can get it for a mere $9.90 at /gumroad.com/a/240104563.
CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL & LEFTFIELD
I was honoured to be asked by electronic music maestro Tranmission 13 (aka Mozz) (https://transmission-13.bandcamp.com/album/the-edge-of-the-world) to review his new album. The Edge of the World is his seventh album and finds him collaborating with an accomplished international cast that includes Diane Marie Kloba on vocals, another TTD favourite Guitar PK on Northern Lights, drummer Antonio De Braga on After the rain plus others including New Apostles.
The album opens with the half time beat, crashing guitar chords and dark atmosphere of Imagine A Place. It is adorned with spoken word of a dystopian kind (although the female voice talking about love is perhaps an antidote). I remember louder is a marked contrast, Kloba’s vocals dominating over picking guitar and sustained synth. Northern Lights is more in ambient territory with reverse notes and tasteful lead guitar. The Edge of the World is calm swirly ambience accompanying spoken word that appears to be a recording of a soldier from some past war. The music builds slowly and intensifies as the sounds of distant winds and passing noises bring to mind 23 Skidoo (a comparison I don’t make lightly since they are one of my favourite bands). That slow ambience continues on Wild Atlantic although the bendy guitars and long piercing notes have an air of the Spaghetti Western about them.
After The Rain is quite a departure, more of a chugging Rock-based song mainly built around a funkier take on 12 bar blues. The shift in direction is temporary though and Everything in Colour is, apart from the distressed spoken word, pure ambience and is filled with the most gorgeous contrasts of timbre and texture.
Just when you thought it was safe to assume how the remainder of the album might sound, up pops Driven where spoken word samples are place atop an almost Country-ish vibe. We then get the dark reprise of the opener Imagine A Place, long enigmatic notes and chords bubbling away as the spoken word focuses on naturally beautiful landscapes. Vocorder drifts on the horizon of the mix but remains quiet.
Penultimate track Mother Earth blends slide guitar with a lot of backwards notes and more spoken word samples. The album closes with Revival. Cue an evangelist preacher going ape about his religious fanaticism while the music is dominated by sweet long string chords! It’s a clever clash of soundworlds and a strong ending to an impressive album. If you enjoy inventive ambient soundscapes, samples of spoken word that expose both the frailty and fanaticism of human existence and ideology laced with accomplished musicianship and smart arranging skills, this album is for you.
Regular readers of Trust The Doc will know that I always try to listen to at least one or two editions per week (there are three in total) of Late Junction (BBC Radio 3). There was a particularly memorable show earlier in the month presented by my friend and sometimes supporter Max Reinhardt. Max was on fine form and, assisted by producer Jack Howson of Reduced Listening, delivered a playlist so compelling that I eventually had to give up on the work I was trying to do and just listen to the show over a great coffee!
Among the delights were a session by Keeley Forsyth (https://soundcloud.com/keeley-forsyth) in collaboration with Hubert Zemler (https://soundcloud.com/hubert-zemler). The music was mostly sparse and fragmented, Zemler’s expert percussion play contrasted by Forsyth’s ethereal, unusual voice. The results were evocative of lonely old battlegrounds and ancient cities. Worth checking out the podcast for while it is still available for a further week and a half. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0002hkd
I was also very taken with the music of Sarah-Jane Summers (https://soundcloud.com/sarah-jane-summers) from Oslo. Her piece Petrichor from the album Kalopsia was a rich demonstration of her skill in writing for strings, in this case solo viola, and managed to strike an agreeable balance between the harmonically interesting and overlapping of themes on separate strings of the viola and a strong sense of Celtic traditionalism emphasised by the constant flourishes. The mellow tone of the viola was beautifully utilised in this calmly understated piece.
The ever-wonderful Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone (BBC Radio 6 Music) featured 2018 album tracks by Berlin-based Icelandic theremin specialist Hekla (https://soundcloud.com/heklamag) who I have featured in a recent edition of TTD. The combination of her minimal but fluid soundscapes and otherworldly voice were powerful and truly haunting (in the real sense of that as a poetic adjective). She is a special talent who I need to find time to listen to in greater depth.
My first question on hearing British composer James Edge’s (https://soundcloud.com/jamesedgeandthemindstep) astonishing Under the Ground OST was how did I not previously know about him, especially given my own background in contemporary art music? It certainly appears that others did know about him including Northern Sky magazine who called his album ‘brilliant’ and others like Gigslutz, Glamglare, Fame, The Crack, Rockshot and Louder than War. Perhaps part of the reason I have not come across him is because he has been courting predominantly rock media.
Well whatever! James is a Londoner who sings and plays acoustic guitar. He works with a double bassist and drummer and records for Folkstock Records. But none of that is evident on this track which is all piano and strings. Alright, I am officially confused but his website alludes to shifts in direction leading to ‘bafflement’ so maybe that is the clue I should cling onto!
The opening section of Under the Ground OST consists of a series of striking dissonant chords and dramatic glissandi before a gentle piano and quiet strings takes us into more modally inflected but sparse and mysterious moods. Higher tremelo strings add to the intensity and some gorgeous harmonies ensue. After some more gentle piano, dissonant staccato strings invade with threatening intent that recalls Stravinsky in Le Sacre du printemps period.
Still the surprises come. Dark modal piano chords, string clusters, more glissandi and tremelo, then a return to the driving Stravinsky-esque rhythmic figure. What we eventually realise is that this piece is made up of short contrasting soundbites (blimey, kind of what I based a sizeable chunk of my PhD thesis on back in 2014!) and switches between different types of harmonic language. It is rare to have such a challenging and complex piece of contemporary art music at the FOTN Listening Post. That it came within a whisker of making the Fresh Faves following the public vote ought to be an encouragement to other modern composers to try their luck.
Okay maybe they are not really Jazz but the Hot 8 Brass Band (https://hot8brassband.bandcamp.com/album/take-cover) are from New Orleans, jazz capital of the world and they have a unique take on everything they touch. Now they have a new EP out. It is all covers and appropriately titled Take Cover. It kicks off with a semi-tribal funked up rendition of Joy Division classic Love will tear us apart before with insane percussion and lively trumpets plus some GoGo-style chanting. Shake your body down to the ground is mind-boggling, the brass full on and a superb bassline holding it all together. Again it’s a far cry from the Jacksons original.
Of the other three tracks the highlight for me is a jagged funky version of George Benson’s Give me the night. The EP demonstrates their unique ability to take on any track and stamp their seemingly but clearly not anarchic party vibe, innate musicianship and sense of fun on it. A breath of fresh air.
WORLD IN UNION
Star Band (https://soundcloud.com/ostinatorecords) are an Afro-Cuban outfit from the Senegalese capital of Dakar whose track Guajira Ven particularly grabbed me when I heard it on Late Junction. The amount of cool music coming from West and South West Africa (Senegal, Congo, Mali etc.) at the moment is amazing. Star Band make very organic but strongly melodic music that is folky but with a jazz-tinged edge and the kind of rhythmically fluid guitar interplay that takes me back to watching bands from a little further South like the Bhundu Boys and Bass Combo playing festival stages in the early eighties. Their sound has an agreeably hard edge too.
Talking of bands from the Senegalese capital, TTD favourites Dakar Audio Club (https://soundcloud.com/dakar-audio-club) are back once more with yet another lilting mid-tempo groover of a track called We need more time. Maybe they do but, hey, they had an amazing 2018 and 2019 is looking pretty promising for them so far.
There is something uniquely satisfying about Dakar Audio Club’s sound which takes the ingredients of South West African groove, jazz and soul and then introduces an unusually lo-fi element that gives their sound a real edge. Add to that a lovely combination of vocal timbres and ability to pen irresistible hooks and they have a winning formula. Not that there is anything remotely formulaic about their organic funky groove. Another winner from them. Their star continues to rise and rightly so.
I was pleased to discover the acoustic duo Yellow June (https://soundcloud.com/beckyalexwed) in the FOTN uploader with a gorgeous track called Got To Be which has one simple acoustic guitar part accompanying a nagging melody and some of the sweetest harmonies I have heard so far in 2019. The female vocal is distinct and as the layers of harmonies begin to rise to the fore, it is a really sumptious and satisfying sound. Simple but very effective and impactful Folk-Pop. I look forward to hearing more from Yellow June.
Monday 18th February saw the publication of my first Fresh Faves reviews of 2019. Those of you who are familiar with Fresh on the Net will know that us moderator-authors take turns to write up the reviews based on the ten tracks voted for by the Listening Post audience. It was a strong week in a strong month that has seen an increase in the volume of new tracks coming to us (via the BBC 6 Music Mixtape in-box which leads them to Fresh on the Net at the same time); a sign that both of these platforms (the Mixtape and FOTN) are expanding their footprints as more new and emerging artists cotton on to what unique and valuable resources they provide. You can read my reviews at http://freshonthenet.co.uk/2019/02/faves314
As a moderator of course, I also get to listen to and judge the entire in-box which is averaging around 200 a week which means I have the opportunity to highlight great tracks that don’t make the Listening Post and blog about them here instead. So most (though not all) of the following artists and tracks came to my attention thanks to my role with that fantastic team.
South East London rapper and poet Flohio (https://soundcloud.com/flohiomusic) has been a bit quiet lately though a visit to Australia might have something to do with it. Anyway a new track has appeared on her Soundcloud page which finds her in collaboration with Berlin-based production duo Modeselektor (https://soundcloud.com/modeselektor) on a track called Wealth. It sees Flohio spitting out her rapid-fire no-holds-barred delivery over electro-synth bendiness and a crisp urban beat. Sort of Elecronic Grime maybe. Well anyway it’s a cool mix of styles and provides a great backdrop for her intense poetry and hard-edged vocals.
Alternative Rock & Indie
Where, as in what sub-section, should I place a review of the super-talented Lauran Hibberd (https://soundcloud.com/lauranhibberd) these days? Lauran, who I only part jokingly described on Twitter recently as Fresh on the Net royalty stormed the Fresh Faves (as she always does) with her new single Sugardaddy which is pricking up the ears of Radio One tastemakers like Huw Stephens as Lauran rides off onto her second UK tour in the space of just a few months. It already feels like 2019 is going to be a massive year for the young singer-writer-guitarist from the Isle of Wight.
So her ‘fuzzy indie rock’ could sit under Indie, Alt Pop, Pop or Rock but it scarcely matters. What is important is that Lauran has fashioned a sound and image that presents her as a guitar-toting girl-next-door figure playing music that is energetic enough to appeal to fans of guitar music but melodic and modern enough to appeal to fans of pure pop. That broad appeal is already bearing fruit and one need only read some of the comments people have posted about her live performances on the 2018 tour to see that she is amassing a formidable following.
Sugardaddy is another belting tune, energetic and uptempo with amusing lyrics sung in her inimitable and slightly sardonic style. The hook will grab you of course which is why it is perfect for radio. Lauran Hibberd is a young woman on a mission and hopefully nothing can stop her now.
I must confess to being especially pleased to see Morning Myth (https://soundcloud.com/morningmyth) get through to the Fresh on the Net Listening Post though they could not have missed out on the final ten Fresh Faves by a tinier margin (1 vote in fact!). TTD regulars will know they probably hold the record for the band I have featured the most times. But that is because they just keep delivering outstanding tracks with breathtaking consistency. BBC Introducing in the South have picked up on their music too and featured them on Melita Dennett’s show.
Morning Myth are singer Aimee Herbert-Smith and guitarist Ross King. Their music sits in broadly Indie/Dream Pop territory; Aimee’s engaging vocals floating and fluttering above Ross’s lovingly crafted guitar jangle and quiet keyboards. Influences include Cocteau Twins, Linda Perhacs and The Sundays but also John Martyn and Fleetwood Mac; a pretty appealing and unusual combination that makes sense once you delve into their otherworldly soundscapes.
The Story in your eyes has a gorgeous melody and the way Aimee’s main vocal is harmonised in a higher register slightly lower in the mix immediately brings to mind Liz Fraser. Beneath this ethereal soundscape sits Ross’s lovingly played and highly reverberant guitars and subtle synths, driven by a big echoing drum track. So yes, Cocteaus influenced but with shades of Mazzy Star mixing it up with The Cranes and a heaped spoonful of Swervedriver. Or something! Anyway it’s another in their growing line of lovely, striking and eminently listenable tracks.
In similar territory, at least in terms of dreaminess, guitar jangle and appealing female vocals are Peterborough quartet Suds (https://soundcloud.com/sudsband) whose track Evergreen stormed the Fresh on the Net Listening Post in mid-February. It has a shimmering Post-Punk pop vibe that reminds me a little of The Sundays although their sound is robust and powerful too in a very contemporary manner that perhaps puts them closer to the likes of the Orielles and Sunflower Bean. The song caught the mood on the Listening Post for sure, sailing into the Fresh Faves and only outdone for votes by 0171’s outstanding track (for which read on). Suds are three women and one man from the Cambs and Lincs area; now resident in Peterborough. They have a bright future ahead if they stick at it.
Andrew Van Garrett (https://soundcloud.com/andrewvangarratt) is a consistent sender of tracks into the FOTN Uploader and, although they are always of a good standard, he doesn’t often get through to the Listening Post. Earlier this month, I felt he was particularly unlucky not to get sufficient moderator votes with his track Fall Apart which underlined both his consistently high standard of melody writing and his skill in creating great contrasts of texture and mood. There is always an air of Beatles-esque poppiness even in his rockier moments which, of course, is no bad thing.
He then followed it with another excellent track Approval Removal, a less heavy mid-tempo slice of Alt Pop with some lovely chord and key changes. More Beatles references lurked in the mix and the harmonies lifted the verses. The descending figure in the chorus even had shades of ELO (or The Move perhaps). It’s classic British Pop cleverly cased in contemporary style and production. A former member of the band No Hope in New Jersey, Andrew (Andy) deserves a chance for his solo repertoire to have some exposure.
Brighton’s Soft Sports (https://soundcloud.com/user-745474156) are former BIMM students who have developed an intriguing sound on the track Gordon that brings to mind The Police in their most serious moments (the guitar especially) while the vocals are gritty and more in Arctic Monkeys/Bloc Party territory. The synth figure that arrives midway into the track and duels with the guitar adds a proggy aura. The writing is complex and full of invention while the overall performance is intense and has a bristling energy that threatens to boil over. Really very good. I hope there will be more soon.
Edinburgh’s Indigo Velvet (https://soundcloud.com/indigovelvet) made a big impression on me with their track Nineteen which has the kind of easy but enigmatic breeze-along Indie style that reminds me of Teenage Fanclub and even shades of The Waterboys. The melody is really hard to deny as it gets inside your head (well, mine anyway!) while the arrangement suggests accomplished musicianship and a lot of thought going into making the song work. They achieve impressive dynamic contrasts and the instrumental play is excellent without ever being indulgent. Top marks then.
Urchin’s Soundcloud page (https://soundcloud.com/urchinofficial) has no shortage of tracks but no links except a YouTube one that doesn’t work. The blurb compares them to Bonobo and there are certainly parallels between the two acts’ use of busy, almost tribal rhythms, strong chords and layers of synth ambience. Initially I drew a complete blank when looking for clues on google; partly because the word Urchin throws up so many sites and Urchin band leads us to the former rock band of the same name. But I persevered and unearthed their website and lo and behold there were all the social media links! Perhaps they will add these to their Soundcloud page soon.
So it turns out Urchin are the creation of South West Londoner Leo Appleyard. They were originally an octet before Leo escaped to Melbourne, Australia and took in a whole lot of new chilled vibes which he brought home with him. Now Urchin is more a project than a conventional band. Influences include the aforementioned Bonobo but also fellow UK producers Maribou State and the Cinematic Orchestra. The Facebook page probably needs updating as the info seems to refer to the old eight-piece band.
Meanwhile Take Time offers them the opportunity to present their cinematic soundscapes and driving rhythms alongside the exotic alto voice of Grace Walker. Her performance is accomplished and soulful, highlighting the strength of the melody and allowing Urchin to build events around her. Leo’s musical vision is expansive and ambitious and the epic quality of the track is highly pleasing.
There are other tracks on their Soundcloud page but the newest is two years old which seems odd. It is actually a very good piece of instrumental Drum’n’Bass entitled Second City with nice breakz, ambient chords, great horn parts and a driving energy. Well worth checking out.
Cambridgeshire’s Anthony Shiels performs as Glove Compartment (https://soundcloud.com/glovecompartmentmusic) and makes music that sets him some way apart from the average contemporary artist (to say the least. The use of such an unashamedly retro style of tune on Ed.U.Cated-Crook with bouncy piano chords and licks infused with jazz and boogie woogie elements seems to place him somewhere between the inventive quirkiness of Ben Folds and the piano-based pop of Daniel Powter. Chuck in some early Billy Joel and you are just about there.
To The Moon is slower and has an air of John (or maybe Julian) Lennon about its verses while the chorus is more classically singer-songwriter territory. It will be interesting to see what else he has up his sleeve. He is certainly a fine musician and an accomplished songwriter even if his style is overtly retro.
Electronic Pop & Art Music
One of the most exciting new tracks I have heard so far in 2019 is 0171’s (https://soundcloud.com/0171music) 1000 Words. I have already had the pleasure of reviewing the track for Fresh on the Net as it romped home as the most popular track in the Fresh Faves, polling the highest vote I have seen since becoming a moderator 13 months ago! So clearly the always discerning Listening Post audience shared my enthusiasm.
The East London duo have chosen to construct a lead (male) vocal track all on one pitch that is relentlessly deployed in semi-robotic style (albeit with a degree of melancholy a robot could never conjure up) while events develop around it and a second (female) voice offsets the monotonic lead with soulful swirls and brushstrokes. Behind this sits a constant beat and cleverly laid synth parts and a general ambience that builds throughout. But rather than have my clumsy attempt to describe it, better to listen to it and draw your own conclusions.
Before the vote had even closed, having spotted that the wonderful Jon Read of Project Blackbird and Exile FM had voted for it, I messaged him hinting that he might want to consider it for the following night’s Monday Night Ride-Out, the fantastic weekly show he and his partner and bandmate Ming Nagel present. He replied that it was already on the playlist. So there you go. Great minds …! Ha ha ha! Seriously though, this track has made a real impression on a lot of people including more than half of the Fresh on the Net team.
You can read what I said about it along with information about who 0171 are at http://freshonthenet.co.uk/2019/02/faves314.
The amazing paulfcook (https://soundcloud.com/paulfcook) was also back at the Listening Post this month with his follow-up to the Tom Robinson favourite Blues Man. The new track Warm Apple Cider is another that uses samples from real life moments Paul has recorded for posterity and he works these samples into a cleverly constructed and compact piece of funky Electronic Art Pop that is both amusing and highly satisfying. Mastered by Rothko’s Mark L Beazley, it has a sizzling firepower that drives it forward throughout.
The [real life] voices of the two people whose unwitting spoken word outbursts take centre stage could not be more perfect in that they are both intense and funny. Such is Paul’s skill that he manages to make them sound, at times, as if they actually spoke them in time to his track. Impossible obviously since it wasn’t constructed until many years later! In the meantime the icing on the cake is the funky and skillful guitars and basses indulging in intricate interplay supported by a tough beat. Another stonker of a track.
Pop & EDM
Epic Pop & Cinematic Soundscapes
I mentioned Project Blackbird (https://soundcloud.com/user-587333698) earlier and the band from Leicestershire whose album Endurance received a rave review in Trust The Doc a few months back, have released a single version of the song Blackbird from the album. The song has a brittle beauty about it. It kicks off with long phased synth chords and Ming’s soft reassuring alto voice delivering a sweet and slightly melancholy melody. The tempo remains slow but the texture begins to become more translucent than transparent as more sounds appear and a vocal harmony appears. The spine-tingling suspended minor chord that introduces the beautiful chorus is a masterstroke. There are no drums throughout and they are not needed. A life-affirmingly sweet but sophisticated pop ballad.
And Finally ….
Well that’s it for Edition 21 but there will be plenty to tell you about in the next one due for publication on 16th March including the forthcoming Vanishing Point gig on 4th April which celebrates talented young women in new music with Luvia, Yvonne Hercules & ESF. The latter also have an EP about to drop. And there will be a load more new music to review. Till then. NEIL xxxx