TRUST-THE-DOC: MUSICAL MUSINGS
by Neil March (Edition 28, 15th June 2019)
Welcome to Edition 28 of Trust The Doc. Please visit and ‘like’ the Trust The Doc Facebook page - https://facebook.com/TrustTheDoc - and if you don’t already do so, please follow both @Hornetmuziq & @DemeraraRecords on Twitter. I will of course follow you back. It’s a bumper issue this time folks so hold on for the ride. So much fantastic new music to write about this month. Also, thanks to a read back over the earliest editions of TTD, I have reintroduced the title Folk Law instead of Folk Findings! I hope you enjoy this rather packed edition without falling asleep before you reach the finish!!
✦ DEMERARA RECORDS SHOWCASE: 4 awesome acts in a fantastic venue
✦ BBC 6 MUSIC MIXTAPE: ESF on the Mixtape alongside TTD artists!
✦ LATITUDE: BBC Introducing Stage with so many TTD faves in the line-up!
✦ WAHONA: Changing the rules for Gamelan music in Indonesia
✦ NURSALIM YADI ANUGERAH: Opera like you have never heard it before
✦ ISHFAQ: Genre defying futuristic explorations heard on 6 Music
✦ M3ON: Cool contemporary Jazz vibes and other flavours
✦ SALUM ABDALLAH & CUBAN MARIMBA BAND: New discovery, old music
✦ I SEE RIVERS: Three Norwegian women make Float Folk on the Welsh Coast
✦ S J DENNEY ft. ROISIN O’HAGAN: 2 Essex-based talents, 1 great track
✦ MATT EDIBLE: A new genre-defying project from popular Hull musician
✦ JULIAN WA: Unclassifiable Aussie singer-songwriter mixes up the genres
✦ TTD CLASSIC: The first band to put Norwich on the Indie music map
✦ YOJI: East Anglia has a new Queen of Soul[ful imaginative Pop music]
✦ HARLEA: Star Quality is hard to describe but you know it when you see it
✦ HOLLIE FINDLAY: Back from playing Highest Point with a superb new track
✦ ACHEINI: Talented South London artist with fantastic 5-track EP
✦ SAL DULU & STAHHR: US rapper and Irish producer deliver the goods
✦ FØNX: Funky R’n’B vibes, cool hooks and subtly soulful vibes
✦ YXUNGTARZAAN: Back with another stonking track in his unique style
✦ JO-ASH: Young Londoner impresses with epic soulful singing style
✦ LOUDHAILER ELECTRIC COMPANY: A very special preview
✦ BUG TEETH: 19 year old takes her inspiration from shoegaze and similar
✦ KIDSMOKE: Wrexham’s finest Alt Rockers return with another top tune
✦ YOUNG BRAVES: Driving energetic Alt Rock from the wilds of Shropshire
✦ THE HAPPY SOMETHINGS: Bringing happy noise from the East Midlands
✦ CALLOW YOUTH: Joyous uptempo Alt Pop from Mancunian youngsters
✦ ROLO GREB: Smooth sophisticated pop from talented young Scot
✦ CLAP THE PILOT: London producer delivers Discofied Pop heaven
✦ SHARYN: Epic dreamy soundscapes from Londoner with amazing voice
✦ LI-LI LIADAIN: Stylish soulful songs by singer from talented stock
✦ HINAKO OMORI: London-based composer-programmer’s ambient sounds
✦ THE KUNIG: More agreeable electronica from the Amber Valley
✦ MOODBAY: New single with two mixes by Manchester duo
DEMERARA RECORDS SHOWCASE @ CAFE 1001
Thursday 20th June sees an historic Demerara Records Showcase at the stunning new venue upstairs in Cafe 1001 (opposite Rough Trade East) on Brick Lane in Shoreditch, East London. The venue is within walking distance of Shoreditch High Street Station, Liverpool Street Station, Old Street Tube and several others.
On the bill are fantastic Alt Pop band, recent BBC Radio 6 Music and Fresh on the Net faves Blu:m (https://soundcloud.com/pillarartistspr/tiny-break-of-light); another Fresh on the Net fave also featured on BBC West and BBC Three Counties (plus Union Jack Radio, Exile FM, Conquest Radio etc.), the amazing alt pop & electronic artist Cholly (https://soundcloud.com/chollyhappymusic); BBC Introducing artist of the month and talented young London-based Irish electronic pop and indie artist Pixi Ink (https://soundcloud.com/carla-jane-duffy) and Amazing Radio and BBC Radio 6 Music featured Electro-Art-Pop and Post-Soul duo Environmental Sound Foundation (https://soundcloud.com/e-s-foundation).
It should be an awesome night at a fantastic venue in a great location. Tickets are £6 advance (from https://demerararecords.com/showcase) or £8 on the door.
BBC RADIO 6 MUSIC INTRODUCING MIXTAPE (10th JUNE 2019)
It felt rather special for my own duo Environmental Sound Foundation (https://soundcloud.com/e-s-foundation) to not only be played on the BBC Radio 6 Music Mixtape (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07chqfz) but, in particular, to be played alongside bands and artists I have written about in this very edition and Ed 27 of Trust The Doc (Hinako Omori; Julian Wa; Octopus; Suds; M3on). Massive thank you to the wonderful Tom Robinson for picking our track. It is always an honour to be on the Mixtape Show, the cornerstone of new music on the BBC. Coming on the back of being played on the fantastic Monday Night Ride Out on Exile FM and Charlie Ashcroft’s excellent show on Amazing Radio, this was fantastic news. And then to cap an amazing week Tom also closed his awesome Saturday Night Show by playing our track Fake News. To say we were made up is an understatement!!
BBC INTRODUCING STAGE @ LATITUDE 2019
This year’s line-up for the BBC Introducing Stage at the wonderful Latitude Festival in Suffolk (July) could have been partly handpicked by me! I say that with tongue in cheek obviously although it does include some of the artists I have been blogging about via Trust The Doc and writing about for Fresh on the Net such as Cloth, Dakar Audio Club, Martha Hill, Archipelago, Nebula Sun and, as of this edition and a recent VP track on Exile FM, Bug Teeth. Well, that is a good reason both to feel a tinge of pride in my judgement and to be reassured that the selection panel knows its onions (as it were!). It also reinforces the role of Fresh on the Net in giving artists a platform in the first place.
CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL & LEFTFIELD
Late Junction (BBC Radi 3) with Jennifer Lucy Allan introduced me to Wahono (https://divisi62.bandcamp.com/album/prambanan-mabad-2) who is an Indonesian contemporary composer and exprimental artist who represents a growing avant-garde movement emerging from years of oppressive government outlawing such music. Prambanan is a piece made up entirely of percussion instruments and sounds, some tuned, some not. The polyrhythms are exquisitely fluid as a click sound retains a regular pattern throughout, beaten skins provide a looser adherence to 4/4 while the tuned percussion and bells that fall like irregular raindrops around this backdrop are more or less arhythmic. So there is the aura of the Jakartan Gamelan sound but it is beautifully fragmented and bears the influence of post-minimalism and modal music of the late twentieth century.
Despite coming from a family background steeped in the operatic tradition I have never been much of a fan of opera. However, when it takes the form of unaccompanied choir singing the most mind-bending modal and atonal harmonies with a soprano lead whose chief purpose is to achieve sonic textures rather than to sing arias and indulge in ham-acting, I take a somewhat different view. So I was captivated by the same edition of Late Junction playing an excerpt from Hinnung by the unique Indonesian (Pontianak-based) composer Nursalim Yadi Anugerah (https://hasanaeditions.bandcamp.com/album/selected-pieces-from-hnnung) whose chamber opera also includes passages of pure percussive noises and ambient drones. He takes inspiration from cosmology, sonology and the culture of indigenous people from Borneo.
Hinnung is based partly on oral literature from the Kayaan people and was performed on this recording by the ‘... Balaan Tumaan Ensemble and Kerubim Choir using various instruments ranging from kaldii’ and sape’ to tenor saxophone and contrabass’. If only all opera sounded this good!
Thanks to Tom Ravenscroft (BBC Radio 6 Music) curating a 6 Music Recommends playlist, I was introduced to the mind-boggling sound of Ishfaq’s (https://soundcloud.com/musicismysanctuary/exclusive-premiere-ishfaq-hypnosis-no9-dance-regular-records) Hypnosis No. 9 which could be dubbed Jazz Futurism with its cross-rhythms, synth explorations and general aura of sophisticated musicianship. But then it also nods towards Drum’n’Bass and Electronica too. The kaleidoscopic shifts in colour and texture were amplified by the level of sheer inventiveness. The title is apt too since the music certainly has a decidedly hypnotic impact.
It is difficult to get any clear information about Ishfaq on line but the track appears to be part of a compilation under the heading of Body Music which involved a number of accomplished artists including James Rudie, Xtra Brux and others on the Dance Regular label.
M3on (https://soundcloud.com/m3onofficial) is a Brighton-based artist whose blend of contemporary Jazz with dance and urban flavours marks him out as an innovator. His track Orcino has something of a Brubeck vibe despite the modern beat and sounds that contrast the dominating piano.
Newer track Pilot shows another side of M3on’s style, described as electronic though, despite the lovely synth chord echoes and some gorgeous sounds, it is actually acoustic piano and double bass that are most prominent on this slow instrumental. Modern Lover is slow and enigmatic and sounds like it would work on the soundtrack of a film or documentary. Alexandra’s Palace, by contrast is out and out Jazz infused with funky Latin chords and rhythmics and lifted even further by some tasty guitar playing and all-round superb musicianship.
WORLD IN UNION
For the second time in this edition, I must express gratitude to the fine fellow that is BBC 6 Music’s Tom Ravenscroft who, on another of his 6 Music Recommends playlists, kicked off with Salum Abdallah And Cuban Marimba Band (https://www.deejay.de/Salum_Abdallah_%26_Cuban_Marimba_Band_Ngoma_Tanzania_DOMINO-042_Vinyl__933042) playing a track called Kindimwanga. Now it isn’t new music. On the contrary the band were around half a century ago. But it is on a newly released compilation album entitled Ngoma Tanzania on Domino Sound. And it is new to me as I imagine it will be for most TTD readers. Sometimes unearthing previously undiscovered [in the UK anyway] talent is important too. And this track and associated album prove that point.
The rolling Caribbean Pop-Funk and undercurent of African Folk are highlighted by male voices singing in joyous harmonies over effortless picking guitar arpeggios and flowing rhythms. The melody is gorgeous from the outset and the lo-fi quality of the sound reproduction adds to the sunkissed island mystique of the music. Music to lift your spirits whatever the weather.
I SEE RIVERS (https://soundcloud.com/i-see-rivers) are a female Norwegian trio now residing in Tenby in South West Wales. They describe their unique sound as Float Folk and it is certainly dreamy and resonant, folk only in so much as they play and sing in clear voices and in exquisite harmony. I could just as easily have included them in the Alt Rock & Indie or Epic & Cinematic sub-sections of Pop Scene. But since they choose to identify with Folk, here they are!
Their track Helios kicks off with a series of chords and echoy synths while the soft but assured vocal melody is harmonised by slightly distant and reverb-filled voices in thirds and fourths. It builds climatically with deep percussive elements and evocative textures. The results are stunning. The fade-out harmony vocals are particularly soothing; a massage for the ears.
I don’t know is from eight months ago and begins more organically with acoustic guitar picking and close harmonies sharing the lead vocals. It continues in this vein for most of the track before suddenly taking off in the final stretch with synth bass and vocals swirling around over a fuller arrangement. A great way to end the track.
I think I like you is from the same period and is sparser although again it is acoustic guitar and close harmonies that dominate proceedings while the hook is catchy and appealing. Again layers are added as the track progresses, the hook repeating throughout. Another gem then and more than sufficient evidence of a band worth making the effort to check out. I will be looking out in hope for a London live date I can get along to.
S J Denney (https://soundcloud.com/s-j-denney) has teamed up with the talented Roisin O’Hagan (https://soundcloud.com/roisin-ohagan) on a driving Folk-Pop track called All the signs were there which is endlessly engaging. I love everything about this track - the acoustic guitar pattern, the mid-tempo groove, the appealingly tough-edged vocal, the sweet harmonies and the cool trumpet melody that appears here and there. I think I will be listening to this a lot.
S J Denney is a guitar-toting singer-songwriter from Leigh-on-Sea on the Essex East Coast. Roisin O’Hagan has been on my radar for a while now. Also hailing from Essex although further inland (Chelmsford), she is patiently carving out a career as a budding singer-songwriter. This collaboration is welcome and really works.
Matt Edible & the Obtuse Angels (https://soundcloud.com/mattedible) is the Hull-based artist’s newest project and sees him team up with a distinguished group of musicians on a bendy Folky track entitled Matt-o-Mattic where violins take up the swirling melody in triplet time over guitar-dominated backdrop before the mood changes. Choppy piano chords mix in with the guitar while overall there is a more cinematic quality and the drums get very busy.
Lullaby is pretty with a descending arpeggio figure led by the guitar before some attractive vocal harmonies arrive. Again it’s in triplet time. It isn’t exactly Folk but then it isn’t exactly any specific genre. Folky strings and acoustic guitar, psychedelic sounds and jazz-tinged chord changes. It’s great though which is what matters!
Nightclubbing kicks off like an early seventies track with on-beat chords and voices that recall the likes of Badfinger and The Fortunes. The chorus is slightly Beatlesesque but also reminds me of The Strawbs. Oh my giddy wotsits! I just compared a current act to Badfinger, The Fortunes and The Strawbs. Am I losing the plot?! Don’t you dare even mention The Marmalade too! Oops, too late! Well, have a listen and make up your own mind. Whoever did or didn’t inspire this cracking song, a cracking song is what it is with a chorus to die for.
Julian Wa (https://soundcloud.com/julianwamusic) makes very individual music which is Folk influenced but veers into other genres (Psych, Indie, Dream-Pop). He sent in a one year old song Follow me to Fresh on the Net which is essentially Indie-Folk but with a nicely unsettling [or perhaps unsettled] quality, unusual upper register vocal and great melodic features. Find his music also at https://julianwa.bandcamp.com/
He has newer material that is intriguing too. Check out, for example, the Dylanesque harmonica style and sound on Bloom.
There is an interesting interview with Julian Wa on the web page https://www.musicmusingsandsuch.com/musicmusingsandsuch/2018/10/22/interview-julian-wa in which he cites John Martyn (Solid Air), Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band (Safe as milk) and Wings (Wild Life). I think I have always secretly hoped there would one day be an exciting young artist who cited Wings as an inspiration. Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles project didn’t always hit the spot but when they did, they could be suitably stunning. He is now the second artist I have reviewed in TTD (or is he the third?) to cite John Martyn, another favourite of mine.
Julian is an Australian who likes to work in solitude on lo-fi quality recordings. Curiously he says he would love to work with Reggae legend Barrington Levy. He has had some success in Australia. Hopefully that success will spread over the months ahead. And who knows? Maybe he will achieve his ambition of working with Barrington Levy who, at 54, remains highly active on the Reggae Dancehall scene.
TRUST THE DOC CLASSIC
When I introduced this as a new feature in Edition 27, I could not possibly have predicted the sequence of events that would follow. Firstly there was a genuinely amazing coincidence [or perhaps not such a coincidence]. I had reviewed the excellent new Brighton band Fragile Creatures and mentioned that among several past bands they reminded me of were Red Guitars. That reference prompted me to choose Red Guitars for my first ever TTD classic. What I didn’t know, at that point, was that Fragile Creatures was the brainchild of Adam Kidd, son of Red Guitars’ Jerry Kidd! In other words, I had unknowingly compared Adam’s music to his dad’s old band!
It didn’t end there though. Red Guitars then posted lovely comments about my review of them and their bass guitarist and leader Louise Duffy-Howard (aka Lou Barlow) got in touch and we ended up chatting extensively. In an incredible act of kindness she also dug out and sent me the entire second album [that I had previously not known about] in MP3 form including the cover art. And it’s a total gem. Lou has also sent me a preview sample from the forthcoming album by her current band Loudhailer Electric Company (https://loudhailer.net/) to review in this very edition of TTD. Such an honour and a very happy turn of events. What I have heard of the band suggests that this will be something to really look forward to. Check it out in Pop Scene immediately before the Alt Rock and Indie sub-section.
Well I don’t imagine lightning will strike twice and I will end up befriending this edition’s TTD classic artists. Last time I chose a band whose peak time was the mid-eighties. This band is from the same era but were most firmly in the limelight a couple of years earlier. With Norwich represented by two current acts in this edition (Bug Teeth & Lazyboy), I have decided to choose The Farmers’ Boys (http://www.thefarmersboys.com/).
The Farmers’ Boys spearheaded a brief but exciting Norwich scene that came to the attention of the Peel Show/NME audience in 1982 thanks to them and The Higsons. Both bands displayed some funk leanings but the Farmers’ Boys were essentially a band in the Postcard Records tradition of melancholy pop tunes, whimsical lyrics and snappy guitar-driven Alt Pop (although it wasn’t called Alt Pop in 1982!).
They grabbed the attention of myself and my group of like-minded friends when we heard I think I need help with its early Aztec Camera style guitar chords, poppy bassline and Edwyn Collins-inspired vocal. It had such a catchy tune set against a simple but appealing pop jangle.
This was followed by two similarly melancholy but energetic alternative pop gems in Whatever is he like with its infectiously twee synth melody, scratchy guitars, buoyant melodic bass and similarly Edwyn Collins-influenced vocal and More than a dream which had a slightly more heroic feel to it.
The Farmers’ Boys were a breath of fresh air. Poking fun at their rural connections they even had a guitarist called Smelly Stan and titles like Muck it out added to the ‘farmers’ boys’ notion. I saw them live on two occasions, one of which was supporting Orange Juice, the band who probably most influenced them. There was a slightly chaotic side to their live performances but their superb songs and engaging personalities won audiences over with miminal difficulty.
Sadly, like so many of the first few waves of Post-Punk bands, it was signing to a major label that seemed to wreck their career. Where Waap and Backs (both local indie labels) had allowed the band to follow their own instincts, EMI put them in the studio with producers who wanted to shape them into a more allegedly commercial commodity. A few singles followed (including a lovely rendition of popular live track Muck it out with its mock-disco falsetto and stonking hooks) but none penetrated the UK Top 40. The last time I saw them in any form was when they performed on the old lunchtime show Pebble Mill at One in about 1984 and it seemed like they had taken the ‘country’ aspect beyond parody and I was left puzzled and disappoined by what I was hearing. Whether that was the band themselves searching around for a new direction to reinvigorate their career or the label putting pressure on them to act like a self-caricature is difficult to know.
Sadly they didn’t get to make an album in their Waap/Backs period so the only studio sets were the patchy 1983 album Get out and walk for EMI and the 1985 album With these hands which was a long way from the Farmers’ Boys of a few years earlier. But they left us with four absolutely stunning singles (Muck it out being the fourth).
They also played a massively important part in bridging the end of the Postcard/Pop Aural era with the C86 one that followed a few years later. Their influence could unquestionably be heard in the like of The June Brides, 1000 Violins and The Housemartins. Considering the number of new bands borrowing unabashedly from that very canon in 2019, their legacy seems all the greater in retrospect.
You can find all these early singles on YouTube with unrelated videos made by fans. Here’s the link for the truly fantastic and, in my opinion, oft overlooked Whatever is he like. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8F0UR3AMRDA
Wow this has been a great couple of weeks for hearing from seriously promising young artists.
Now I don’t pretend [or wish] to be the new Simon Cowell but the past year and a half of modding and writing for Fresh on the Net and producing this blog has proved I do have an eye and an ear for those artists who have that special quality which is hard to describe but I know it when I see it and can see they could be destined for stardom. In fact it is what Simon Cowell was calling X Factor a year or two before he launched the programme of the same name. I first heard him use the term when reading his book I don’t mean to be rude but … in 2003.
Anyway I got it right [so far at least] with Lauren Hibberd and Ruby Francis, in a completely different way with Cloth and a completely different way again with Kongo Dia Ntotila. These latter two acts will rise to the top in the context of their particular scenes. Now my latest tips for the top (as cheesy DJs used to say way way back in the days before back in the day was a thing!) are both young female artists with eminently recordable voices. They are Yoji (https://soundcloud.com/yojimusic) and Harlea (https://soundcloud.com/harleamusic).
Yoji’s track Satellite is soulful pop with tasteful piano, uptempo arrangement and an infectiously catchy chorus. Yoji delivers the song like a seasoned pro, holding back in the early part of the song, allowing us to hear the melody of the song before she gradually increases the range of acrobatic flourishes and little ad libs which she seems to do instinctively. Her performance is composed but emotionally touching and the sheer sound of her voice pulls at the heart strings. She has so much potential. This is the tip of the icerberg.
The slower more soulful Twinkle Star with deep piano chords and melodies contrasting Yoji’s powerful performance further confirms this. Several mixes of the dance track Making us believe also demonstrate her versatility. She has over five thousand followers just on her Facbook artist page. That page tells us both that she is from Suffolk and she cites Stevie Wonder, Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys as influences. Needless to say she can’t go far wrong with references like those. A star in the making? With the right guidance [and she has management], she has the ingredients.
Harlea also grabbed my attention. Not just because I am drawn to the melodic strength in her music. But because she just oozes potential for commercial success. Key ingredients are a big and distinct voice, ability to pen a catchy choon, spacious production that speaks to her desire to think big and a cool image that will appeal to youngsters whether because they want to emulate her, see her as a role model or simply have a bit of a crush on her.
Her current single 99 could probably be placed in the Epic & Cinematic sub-section of Pop Scene but it’s such out and out pop that it felt wrong to put it there. Big echoing drums, fat synths and anthemic vocals abound. It is eminently radio-friendly and has the kind of big chorus singalong potential that could translate into a terrace anthem. If 99 was to make it big as a mainstream track it would become a song drunk revellers sing at the tops of their voices on the way home from a big night out!
Harlea is wasting no time either. She has management and a booking agent sorted, is playing some decent gigs, has over three thousand following her Facebook page and is savvy about posting a lot of content including visuals which are so important these days. She is also being handled, career-wise, by two friends of mine - Meredith Cork of Yellow Brick Entertainment and Phil Legg of Futureproof Records. She very coolly lists her location as London/Los Angeles! I don’t know her exact age but she looks young enough to remain cool for a good while yet!
Also on Harlea’s Souncloud page is the song Beautiful Mess which could almost be Outkast jamming with Pixie Lott! I look forward to seeing where she goes from here.
Talking of star quality and massive potential, TTD favourite and prodigious teenage talent Hollie Findlay (https://soundcloud.com/hollie_findlay) is just back from having performed at Highest Point for BBC Introducing in Lancashire with more festivals about to follow. Meanwhile she has delivered arguably her most radio-ready potential hit yet with the fantastic Querencia. I have listened to this track so many times and the chorus, the melancholy melody, the sweet BVs and Hollie’s pleading, rueful and stunning voice have just knocked the stuffing out of me. I so hope she can get some proper media attention with this track. It’s so good.
For those who don’t know Hollie is 15 [or she may have turned 16, not sure!]. She lives on the Greek Island of Kefalonia by way of Blackpool which, along with her obvious talent, is why BBC Lancashire have been supporting her through their Introducing show. This latest track sums up what may have been a problem in attracting the kind of attention I have seen afforded to other young artists. Namely that she is so good and her style is so mature and well-developed, it is easy to overlook the fact that she is so young. In other words she doesn’t sound like a promising 15 year old. She sounds like a fully developed artist with all the rough edges already taken care of.
It helps that Hollie is managed by and has had constant encouragement from her wonderful mum Frances. Pop music, just like football [and probably every area in which talented youngsters are having to compete in an overcrowded market], is a business where good parental support and guidance can be absolute gold dust.
When it comes to Hollie’s age though, it shouldn’t matter. I don’t like Hollie’s music because she’s ‘good for her age’. I like it because she writes great, irresistably tuneful and melancholy pop songs like this one and delivers them in her distinct, delightful and expressive voice. Musically speaking she also executes them with consumate professionalism. I love the way her Soundcloud blurb explains that she writes about things she hasn’t actually experienced yet but which others can relate to. Another measure of her maturity as an artist and creative writer.
Check out Real or Fake on her Soundcloud page too which she put on there two months ago. It is further evidence of her considerable talent. And with such good people behind her and another major festival gig done, things are looking very bright for Hollie right now. In a perfect world Querencia would fly to the top of the charts. Since I first penned this review I am delighted to say it stormed the Fresh Faves and also got played on the wonderful Monday Night Ride Out on Exile FM.
Acheini (https://acheini.bandcamp.com) is a talented young singer-songwriter from Shirley so kind of South London or Surrey (or both perhaps). This is no word of a lie. I met her when she came to help take my upright piano away to be donated to a local school and, in the time we were talking, I discovered she was a singer and artist. Within hours, I had checked out her impressive music and booked her for a gig! Isn’t it great when things work that way? :)
Anyway she has a 5-track EP out entitled iSHERA which presents five different sides of her highly distinctive voice and music. I hesitated before placing this in the Urban Flavas sub-section as it is so individual and unclassifiable that it arguably should be in Singer-Songwriters. But as Acheini identifies herself as primarily a Soul artist and there are plenty of Soul and Reggae influences here, Urban Flavas seemed like the right heading. Not that it really matters. The quality of her songs and her voice are the story here.
It kicks off with Daniel which mixes a cool urban beat with a lilting Ska feel (by which I mean Bluebeat more so than 2Tone). I am immediately struck by the unique and unusual sound of Acheini’s voice which is expressive, powerful and rangey. The track also has an infectiously catchy tune that is easy to imagine hearing on radio. At times there are shades of Erikah Badu about her delivery while the style has touches of India Arie; perhaps Ashanti too. But she has very much her own sound.
I imagine introduces a folkier quality with shuffling beat, chugging acoustic guitar and big organ chords. The vocal has a pleading quality which lends the track an added intensity. LoveStrung kicks off with unaccompanied voice before quiet strings sounds emerge. It is a measure of Acheini’s confidence that she is able to allow her vocal to be laid so bare. As the track builds with piano chords and transparent textures becoming translucent ones, she stretches out and treats listeners to the full registral and timbral elements of her voice.
Waiting for you kicks off with a Tracey Chapman-ish quality with long appealing notes dropping down over acoustic guitar chords and pronounced stops. It sets things up nicely for the final track and my favourite. Walk Away is almost in neo-Soul territory with lush jazz-tinged chords and lovely soulful melody. It brings a variety of names to mind, among them Jill Scott, Angie Stone and Lauryn Hill. It is a climatic end to a really excellent EP. I will end by saying that I am really excited that Acheini will be playing Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House on 5th September.
Sal Dulu (https://soundcloud.com/user-727004974) is a producer and musician from Dublin who has teamed up with StaHHr (https://stahhr.bandcamp.com/), a rapper and ‘lyrical warrior’ from Atlanta, Georgia in the USA to make a fascinatingly ethereal and unusual crossover between Hip Hop and Electronica entitled Buzz.
It mixes swirling ambient synth lines, modal chords and choppy beat with thoughtful intelligent lyrics and agreeably laid back but punchy delivery. Both artists have already amassed good social media followings and growing catalogues of original material. However this collaboration came about I am glad it did.
The ever-consistent Fønx (https://soundcloud.com/fonxmusic) is back with a slinky slice of soulful funky R’n’B entitled Backwards which mixes a cool contemporary feel with some slick retro references including a phat dirty bass sound that recalls the likes of Loose Ends, The vocal sits somewhere between Frank Ocean and Drake and there’s an undeniable hook to boot. All in all a strong return that finds Fønx on top form.
TTD favourite Yxungtarzaan (https://soundcloud.com/yxungtarzaan) has a new track out that demonstrates his consistency as a prolific and versatile writer and performer. Paradise is a cool urban track that sits somewhere between R’n’B and BritHop. It has a strong melody and a deep heavy beat and bassline but also a semi-conversational style about the vocals. It is another example of his ability to work a lot of different flavours into his music without losing his individual style. Great to see and hear.
Londoner Jo-Ash (https://soundcloud.com/jo-ash-scott) shares his name with one of my teenage son’s best friends (!) but that’s not why I am writing about him! He is a young man who has survived the perils and dysfunction of a life in the care system and after landing an internship with XL Records (part of the Beggars Group) he finds himself in the music industry. That is a good thing as he has a stunning soulful voice, massive range and heroic style that bears the hallmarks of classic singers like Luther Vandross, Donny Gillespie and Sherrick. His style is quite old skool but the song Higher Ground is not a cover of the Stevie classic but a contemporary Soul-Pop song with epic qualities.
Humble Heart of mine is slightly darker, mainly on account of its minor key and single chords over deep bass. Again it showcases his rangey voice and the soft harmony vocals add a magical element. The beat is tough though and the overall sound leaves him plenty of space for his voice to stretch out.
Jo-Ash is definitely a name to look out for as his career develops.
Special Preview of Loudhailer Electric Company
It is a great honour to be able to have an exclusive preview of the aforementioned Loudhailer Electric Company (https://loudhailer.net/), the current band formed by former Red Guitars bass guitarist and band leader Lou Duffy-Howard in which she (on Bass Guitar/Vocals/Acoustic Guitar) has teamed up with Rich Duffy-Howard (Spoken Word/Acoustic Guitar); Jeff Parsons (Guitar), formerly of Bone and Dead Fingers Talk and Rich Walker (Drums). And like the RGs, they are based in Kingston-Upon-Hull.
The Red Guitars were never a band who overly concerned themselves with what was fashionable or what everyone around them seemed to be doing. So it is with Loudhailer Electric Company. There is a really diverse concoction of flavours at play here. Lou sent me four tracks and every one is very different although united by their dynamic playing style, Lou’s distinct voice, the harmonies and a characteristically free flowing relationship between the instrumentalists.
Dark Guitar is bluesy and in three-time with a minor key aura and some tastily laid back guitar licks while Lou’s voice is very slightly smoky and hits the right spot as the band picks up and the arrangement becomes busier. Samphire kicks off like a Highland Folk tune with vibrato-adorned a capella voices before the track kicks in proper and takes us off in a Folkrock direction, a strong melody matched by a big sound and spacious production. For some reason I picture The Horslips in a mash up with Courtney Barnett. It’s really good stuff for sure.
My favourite of the four is, albeit by a small margin, Morpheus. I love the lilt in Lou’s voice, the dark aura of the music and the teasing slide guitar figures. It’s a track that demands my full attention. Again there’s an undercurrent of Blues but then there are also shades of something altogether more psychedelic. Final track Time Traveller is based around Richard’s deep-toned spoken word but then introduces the sweetest of melodies when you are least expecting it. A nice way to round off a cool sampler for the forthcoming album which will be up on Bandcamp in about a week’s time. Imagine how good they must sound live (and there is video evidence on their web site so check it out). Overall then, very impressed.
Alternative Rock & Indie
Bug Teeth (https://artists.nme.com/artist/bug-teeth/) is the artist monicker of 19 year old Poppy Johnson from Norwich. Inspired by late 80s Indie and early 90s music especially Shoegaze and those who influenced it like the Cocteau Twins, she has developed her own dreamy futuristic pop dominated by murmuring synth, looped guitar effects and her unusual soft psych-soprano vocals. This is all demonstrated on the song Moth (Jasmine’s Song) which came into my FOTN in-box in late May.
The Soundcloud page also has the lyrics for the track which seems to be a rather beautiful poem for a close friend and kindred spirit. I found that really touching and butterflies-inducing. It is also refreshingly individual. There is something really special about a young artist who can erect her own soundworld and make such lovingly crafted and heartwarming music within that space.
On the subject of her Soundcloud page, it really needs some links so that people can find Bug Teeth’s music and socials which will help her build an audience and sell some copies of her tracks. I did some digging though and you can buy most of them from https://bugteeth.bandcamp.com/. However, as mentioned earlier, she has been selected to play the BBC Introducing Stage at Latitude (which I played in 2017 and it is an awesome experience) along with a list that could have been handpicked by me considering how many are artists I have blogged and written articles about! So that is great exposure and another feather in her cap.
I’ll keep talking until I fall asleep is more ambient with guitar tremelo (as in actual played tremelo, not a wangy bar!) throughout. Superlunary is also ambient and quite lovely. It seems Poppy has only recently added vocals to her sound. I’m glad she has as her unique voice is a definite asset.
Not one to hang around, within a week of Moth (Jasmine’s Song), she fired off another new track with the glorious title of How to decay gracefully. It kicks off with quiet synth and some tasteful reverberant picked guitar figures. The ensuing overlaps suggest we are hearing Poppy utilise loops as she would live. The vocal is low in the mix, lending it a ‘voice as instrument’ quality and bringing some of the more enigmatic Cocteaus moments to mind. The track fades out as the guitar dimminuendos. The track lasts just over two and a half minutes. In that time we are again taken to another world and one that it feels good to be in.
She plays live with a loop pedal to slowly build up her sound and made her live debut in Norwich late 2018. So she is now gigging which is great to hear. A definite one to watch.
And staying with Norwich I have been rather taken with Lazyboy’s (https://soundcloud.com/lazyboyband) track Dead Close which checked in to the FOTN in-box with a large dose of 80s Post-Punk melancholy and joyous choppy guitars over Funk-Punk Bass and Drums which brought to mind Red Guitars (wow, second mention for them), early Aztec Camera and, well since this is Norwich, can I mention the Farmers’ Boys? Their Soundcloud page says they have a variety of musical interests and set out to write eaworm choruses. Well they have certainly delivered emphatically on that aim. The lyrics are very down-to-earth and describe a friend who drinks too much and becomes abusive or at least a pain. Familiar tale? Oh yes! The vocalist has a voice that is big, distinct and full of personality which really helps lift the track up another notch.
One small point here. When submitting this track to FOTN, I presume Lazyboy were hoping to make Tom’s Mixtape Show (which is entirely separate from Fresh on the Net but tracks do go to both). If so, they would have needed to submit a clean edit because the BBC are not going to allow a track to be played with lyrics about being ‘... a fucking villain’. So given how important airplay can be for upcoming bands and artists, it is worth taking the time to provide a clean edit. Just saying!
Dead Close is in fact the closing track on a 5-song EP entitled, somewhat topically in this era of fake news, Made Up Facts. The opener is the marvellously titled Luxury Talking Point and it has a fantastic intro that places a classic pop style guitar melody against a Ska keyboard. The band really comes together gloriously on this track, busy bass and drums, great harmonies and overlapping vocals and a full-on arrangement that is full of contrasts and little nuances.
Perpetual starts with a fuzzy guitar-led intro that recalls the early days of The Beloved when they were a guitar band (before they switched playing dance music with synths) but then goes into a mid-tempo Alt Pop track with more personal lyrics in similar down-to-earth language to Dead Close, something they do very well. What are we waiting here for kicks off like a Punk tune with fuzzy guitar chords before the song proves to be more in Punk-Pop territory with an appealing hook and opaque arrangement. Half-time verses provide a clever antidote to the more frantic choruses.
Semi-Pro spends quite a long time building up through dualling guitar chord-based riffs before harmonising vocals come in. The drums are almost chaotic but in a good way, adding to the track’s angsty intensity. This time it’s the chorus that’s in half time but it works well and underlines their ability to keep coming up with strong melodies. It is an EP which, despite sometimes sounding almost live in sound quality, has clearly benefitted from a great deal of thought and time being put into taking the songs and filling them with ideas and sounds that take them to another level. And I’d put money on them being great live.
For many readers Wrexham’s Kidsmoke (https://soundcloud.com/kidsmokemusic) will need no introduction. Fresh on the Net regulars with plentiful Fresh Faves pedigree, appearances on BBC 6 Music and other key stations and a number of festival performances to boot, they already have a large following and well-deserved reputation. That makes it all the more heartening to see that, like so many of the artists who have gone on from Fresh on the Net success to achieve wider acclaim, they still value the platform enough to submit their latest track to it. And what a track it is.
She takes you under blends driving bass and drums, a sea of resonant guitar jangliness and soaring upper register vocals all contributing to an upbeat, uptempo slice of engagingly tuneful Alt Pop that cries out to be played on radio. The song follows the equally infectious Passenger which has a lovely guitar figure, sweet harmonies and trademark breezy energy. To be noticed within an over-populated genre like Indie (or such name as you prefer) you really have to write material that stands out from a large crowd. Kidsmoke do and that is why things continue to move in the right direction for them.
Young Braves (https://soundcloud.com/young-braves) are an Alternative Rock band from the Shropshire area and their track Sleep it off with its slight yodel, dynamic contrasts, deep tom-filled drums, solid bass and resonant guitars flew into the FOTN Fresh Faves in early June. Their driving melodic rock sensibilities recall some of the classic US Post-Punk and Grunge acts of the early nineties, especially The Pixies and Dinosaur Jnr. But they also have a very British sound and a very contemporary one that fits in well with the currently flourishing post-Indie scene here.
The band are gigging and seeking opportunities to grow their audience. If they carry on making killa tracks like this one, that will be all the more likely to happen.
The Happy Somethings (https://soundcloud.com/thehappysomethings) have been on my radar for a while as a band who regularly send good quality tracks to Fresh on the Net where they have had previous Fresh Faves success. Their latest offering Stuck let go just leapt out of the speakers, grabbed me by the ears and compelled me to listen. A nice edgy but agreeable female vocal delivers an irresistible choon from the outset with it’s reference to ‘you’ve got a ticket to ride’ etc. and a simple but impactful hook of ‘let go, let go, let go …’.
Behind this sits a driving highly charged instrumental arrangement which snarls and crackles with electricity and maintains a relentless pace and momentum. It is such a tailor-made radio track too. I so hope some of the producers of key shows on BBC 6 Music pick this up because it is the kind of track that will go down a storm with that station’s core audience.
The Happy Somethings hail from the English East Midlads where they ‘... hang around the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire borders and like to be happy’. With names like Happy, Jolly and Joy, what’s not to smile about? Their debut album Playing with dolls has been out for a while and you can download or stream it. Stuck Let Go is, according to Tom’s review of it as a Fresh Fave, a taster of the forthcoming second album. I look forward very much to that.
Callow Youth (https://soundcloud.com/search?q=Callow%20Youth) made it into the FOTN Listening Post at the end of May with the passionate Wake Up. It has a slight air of melancholy but is also driven by busy bass and drums offset by reverberant guitar and a distinct male vocal. The melody is top-notch too. There is no info on their Soundcloud page and no links either which is a shame as more people might discover them if there were.
However I did some digging and discovered they are from North East Manchester and they are really young - three 17 year olds and one 18 year old. They have management and have been gigging locally. They list a host of influences that include everything from The Strokes, The Cribs and Teenage Fanclub (all of which correlate with this track) to Bert Jansch, The Carpenters and Fleetwood Mac. These boys have been consuming a plethora of classic music old and new. Certainly, on the strength of Wake Up, it is paying off and they have a sound that is mature, distinct and bristling with creative energy.
Scottish artist Rolo Greb (https://soundcloud.com/rologreb) came out of nowhere late on a Tuesday night with a track submitted to FOTN called Try your hand the first half of which is a kind of chilled semi-Psych slice of melodic daydreamy Pop with a slightly grainy vocal quality that is striking, the second half of which is something akin to a modern stripped down equivalent to a Prog tune! Both halves are really rather good anyway.
Also on his Soundcloud page are three tracks from a 2018 album entitled Open Space which further underlines the sophistication and inventiveness in his writing coupled with the same dreamlike quality with engimatic vocals, sweet harmonies and some lovely chords and themes emanating from the guitar and keyboards. This is especially true of Slow Read while Riffin’ is sparser, vocals low in the mix while a melodic and busy bassline works with gorgeous keyboard chords and tasty synth melody. Felt is more mystical in quality with a lightly funky bass and drums backdrop to soft vocals and a cool guitar part mixing long chords with little syncopated rhythms. The closing section takes on a slightly jazzy freeform feel with the bass prominent.
I don’t know why I wasn’t previously aware of this talented young artist but the good news is I am now.
Epic & Cinematic
Clap the Pilot (https://soundcloud.com/user-637656420-310285969) arrived in my in-box via the track Get yourself together and what a joyous slice of Alternative Disco-infused Pop it is too. Funky groove, lovely chord changes, great synth lines and a generally catchy summery vibe. This is original and high quality pop of a kind that deserves an audience.
The problem is you is a month older but was their FOTN submission the following week and I can see why. Another delighfully laid back funky groove and immediately catchy hook. This could almost fit in the Urban Flavas sub-section with its soulful tune and Disco-style octave bass figure but it’s essentialy at the poppy end of Disco House (to use a rather early 2000s term!).
If you don’t want my love keeps us on the theme of nice funky vibes coupled with an edge that’s really appealing. Again it has a strong hook, tasty chords and great vocals and backing vocals. His Soundcloud page says he is a London-based producer making Alt Pop tracks. I wouldn’t call any of these tracks Alt Pop. More in Soul, Pop and Funk territory. Influences seem to come from classic soulful Dance pioneers like Chic, old skool House acts like Stardust and Sunship plus maybe a touch of Daft Punk and Scissor Sisters too. One thing is for sure. If this is Clap the Pilot showing what he can do with his own material, let’s have some more of it. Well impressed.
Sharyn (https://soundcloud.com/sharynofficial) is a ‘Ugandan girl living in South London’. She also missed out on the FOTN Fresh Faves by literally the narrowest of margins with her unique, dreamy and climatic track Son & Moon (Interlude). I am not sure whether the spelling of son is deliberate or not as she appears to be singing about the sun and not a boy but then it could be a metaphor so I won’t assume! An echoing beat, sumptious keyboard chords and swirling synths accompany Sharyn’s fine elegant jazzy voice. Since it is now a matter of public record, I will say that I voted for it and really wanted it to make the faves. So too did my good friend Jon of Project Blackbird and Exile FM and he and Ming prompty added it to that week’s playlist for the Monday Night Ride Out.
Beautiful Saviour is soulful and quite beautiful, Sharyn’s voice dominating with an almost Afro-Latin percussion beat, soft chords and ambient rich sounds. The quieter backing vocal harmonies are quite exquisite. I choose you has shades of Laura Mvula in the striking alto vocal, enigmatic keys and deep resonant drum sounds. Routine features Sam Cole and again uses deep resonant drums but with prominent piano scales and a sparse arrangement. Again Sharyn’s voice sits in the lower register with shades of Emily Sande about it. But when she picks things up we again hear her impressive range, both registral and timbral.
Enough kicks off with an almost underwater quality about the muffled synths and distant vocal chants. Then a tougher beat comes in and Sharyn shows us more of her upper register with an upbeat R’n’B-infused track. These five tracks constitute her Beautiful Saviour EP and it is one extraordinarily accomplished work. I hope it proves to be a springboard to greater exposure because she is a serious talent.
Li-Li Liadain (https://soundcloud.com/li-li-liadain) is originally from my hometown of Hemel Hempstead and now resides in neighbouring St Albans. This I know because she and I played in a band together many moons ago. She is also the sister of Catrine O’Neill (of another TTD favourite Starseedz) and thus Aunt to Phoenix O’Neill, making them a pretty talented family. Li-li also has a new album Fast, Loose & Lovely and has been releasing tracks from it onto digital platforms where she can spread the word aboout her unique style which is part retro and stylish (with an air of Paris about it) and part contemporary especially in the use of subtle effects and beats. She pens a good mellow slightly jazz-tinged choon too as the breezy pop of Deep demonstrates. If you know Li-li, you will also know that stylishness is very much something she exudes.
Opening track Messin’ with my head finds Li-li in Amy Winehouse-influenced territory, swinging acoustic guitar and deeper-register soulful vocals. Love in my heart for you is upbeat with 60s-style spy movie bendy guitar, acoustic chords and a bluesy vocal, adorned by big harmonies. Ride the Wave is jazzier and also has some stylish retro touches. Li-li almost rocks out on the final track The Voice.
All in all it’s an impressive work with plenty of variety and lots of opportunity for Li-li to showcase the power, range and quality of her vocals. The strength of the songwriting adds the final touch to a cool album.
Electronic & Ambient
Hinako Omori (http://www.hinakoomori.com/) is a young Londoner who describes herself as a ‘musician and programmer’. She plays synth, programmes sounds and creates futuristic and appealing electronic ambient soundscapes that are partly instrumental although there are subtle and soothing voices that add an ethereal quality to the overall arrangements. All these qualities are demonstrated amply by her double A-sided single of Voyage and Teleport.
Voyage especially is full of heartwarming chords while Teleport is more about a repeating symmetric note pattern between the emerging chords and a repeated vocal figure that is trance-like and hypnotic. Voicemail is a lot more leftfield, dominated by an unusal beat, bleeps and spoken word samples. nOcoast is a year old and is sparser but still uses mostly major key arpeggio-based figures in repeating patterns. Comparisons with Brian Eno come fleetingly to mind.
Much more recent is her collboration with NEUS on White Shadow which has an electronic four-to-the-floor bass drum beat and synth melody leading into changes between two minor chords. This track has a retro quality, shades of 80s German and Japanese Electronic music about it. As it progresses, the beat becomes busier and the retro aspects give way to a more contemporary sound world.
Hinako is gigging (which is great news) and, away from her solo work, she DJs with her friend Georgia (as Two Tiny DJs), helps run Tape Club Records and is part of the curation team for In The Woods Festival. She is already on the radar of BBC Radio 3’s Elizabeth Alker whose show Unclassified is one of my favourites on UK radio. She is appearing alongside the likes of Hannah Peel and Gwenno at Timber in July. So with that level of self-motivation and the talent to match, expect to hear more from Hinako Omori in the very near future. Since first drafting this review she has also been emphatically voted into our FOTN Fresh Faves adding another achievement to her growing list.
TTD readers may recall previous reviews of electronic ambient artist The Kunig (https://soundcloud.com/thekunig) from Derbyshire’s Amber Valley. He is a consistent producer of appealingly warm and detailed electronic ambient soundscapes, the latest being the curiously named Its Wendy.
There is also another new track on his Soundcloud page which is the more uptempo Tampa Daze. It sits in tuneful House territory with a female vocal that takes it towards Disco. The Disco reference is reinforced by the rising strings figure and tuned percussion sounds. It certainly has a nice groove and clever use of contrasting sounds. Likewise In Love which is out and out poppy Disco House. Well why not?
I was delighted to be asked by newcomers Moodbay (https://www.moodbay.com) if I would like to review their single (released 7th June). There are two mixes of Listen Up - the ‘chilled original’ and a thumping dance remix. The duo, from Manchester (Anna & Alfie), describe their sound as mixing R’n’B, Electronic Music and Alt Pop which is an intriguing combination.
The chilled version kicks off with echoing electric piano playing single chords as Anna’s distinct Alto-range voice sets the scene. This mood gives way to a tougher dance beat and synth bass. The tune is catchy and very modern pop in style. Shades maybe of Anne-Marie in a mash-up with Ariana Grande with a dollop of Mya (remember her?) perhaps. Alfie’s production has a hard outer shell but is essentially very contemporary. They say they are disinterested in commercial concerns and I have no reason to doubt that but actually it is a very radio-friendly track all the same.
The Dance mix has a nice groove with nods to House, Disco annd uptempo R’n’B. It is a very accomplished debut and bodes well for the forthcoming album. Keep an eye out for Moodbay working their way onto wider radio playlists if they keep this kind of form up. They have certainly started as they mean to go on with an energetic and proactive social media campaign so no lack of commitment which is important for any aspiring band or artist.
AND FINALLY …..
Well this has been a real bumper issue; the largest since my 2018 year summary. I hope you have enjoyed reading about such a wide spectrum of bands and artists from so many musical cultures. Summer is about to replace Spring and there is plenty happening in the new music calendar. Not least our Demerara Records and Vanishing Point gigs on 20th June (Cafe 1001) and 4th July (Ivy House) respectively and the awesome prospect of the inaugural Fresh on the Net Live on 21st July (Jacksons Lane Arts Centre & The Boogaloo) which I have been handed the privilege of organising on behalf of Team Freshnet (as Tom likes to refer to us). Hope to see some of you at some of these events. And of couse I hope you will log in on 30th June for Edition 29 of Trust The Doc. Maybe tell some friends too! Neil xxxx