TRUST-THE-DOC: MUSICAL MUSINGS
by Neil March (Edition 17, 31st December 2018)
Welcome to Edition 17 of Trust The Doc. Christmas has arrived and now it’s time to say Happy New Year. Time to look back over the amazing year in new music that was 2018. So new music is what this bumper edition focuses on.
✦ Kate Carr: Soundtracking the aura of urban Brixton through Sound Art
✦ Suzanne Ciani: Live improvisations with a Buchla at the Albert Hall
✦ Kali Malone: Hypnotic soundscapes from Sweden-based American
✦ Hekla: A one-woman masterclass in how to utilise the Theremin
✦ Muriel & Blazquez: Classical and Modal Harmony in a new Pop context
✦ Esperanza Spalding: Jazz-influenced genius drops her fourth album
✦ Sons of Kemet: Like The Comet is Coming, a Shabaka-led project delivers
✦ Moses Boyd: Catford’s King of futuristic Jazz fusion & urban vibes
✦ Hippo: Mind-spinning Jazz Prog Trippiness from the West Country
✦ Kongo Dia Ntolila: From Congo to the Baltics: international flavours
✦ Dakar Audio Club: From the West of Africa to the English West Country
✦ The SoulJazz Orchestra: A fusion of flavours concocted in Canada
✦ Me For Queen: Unique Folk-influenced Pop from Scottish Singer-Songwriter
✦ Runabay: Soundscapes from the rural Northern Irish coastline
✦ Straw Bear: Energetic and tuneful Folkrock from Cambridge
✦ The Bookshop Band: Responding to new literature with cool new tracks
✦ Sharon Lazibyrd: Somerset’s Folk Queen of Singer-Songwriters
✦ Chloë March: Outstanding year for her ethereal filmic Pop soundscapes
✦ Ruby Francis: Sassy urban-leaning Pop from upcoming Londoner
✦ Lauran Hibberd: Fuzzed Up Indie Pop from Girl Next Door with star quality
✦ Sarah Munro: Talented young songstress completes third UK tour
✦ Yvonne Hercules: Earthy original artist ploughs individual path to success
✦ Salliefoyeh: Sophisticated Soul music from undiscovered talent
✦ Chiedu Oraka: The indisputable Prince of Northern English Grime
✦ Elmz XIX: Upbeat Grime and Hip Hop East Midlands style
✦ Cloud: Intelligent, reflective rap and multi-instrumental talent
✦ Morning Myth: Alluring Dream Pop from consistently excellent duo
✦ Backspace: Leeds teenage Alt Pop quintet go from strength to strength
✦ The Complete Set: Holed up in Hamburg writing classic Pop
✦ Late Night Picture: Stunning debut from promising Welsh outfit
✦ Lucky Horses: Enigmatic new act arrive with a Dance Pop cracker
✦ L Space: Fresh Faves success for electronic indie psych combo
✦ Cloth: Electronic Indie Dream Pop from a band whose star is rising
✦ Project Blackbird: A rich palette of musical colours from unique band
✦ Black Mirror: Sensitive sensuous Acoustic Pop from Teneriffe
✦ Demerara Records: Vanishing Point: Cholly: ESF: Neil March: Paul F Cook
Contemporary Classical & Leftfield
It was an interesting year in the broad area of contemporary classical, experimental, leftfield and generally unclassifiable music. Sound Artists rose to the fore with great albums of explorative constructions. One of these came courtesy of London-based Australian composer Kate Carr (https://soundcloud.com/katecarr). I ended out moving to Brixton provided us with an album of ambient sound art steeped in the noises and auras of the South West London cultural Mecca amid patiently building layers of sound that are both soothing and intriguing.
The Pioneers of Sound concert at the 2018 Proms saw a breathtaking piece of Buchla-driven electronic improvisation by composer Suzanne Ciani (https://soundcloud.com/suzanneciani) entitled Improvisations on Four Sequences. As I stated in Edition 8 of TTD ‘... her patient command of the complex set-up and her ability to bring out such amazing contrasts of texture and mood were so impressive and demonstrated an acute understanding of the connection between the technical application of the Buchla with all its elements and its relation to harmony and rhythm’.
Female composers are definitely the dominant theme in this section because another artist who I was really taken with thanks to hearing her music on Late Junction (BBC Radio 3) was the young Stockholm-based American Kali Malone (https://kalimalone.bandcamp.com/). Here is some of what I said about her in Edition 7 of TTD.
‘The more I delve into Malone’s catalogue and look at videos of her performances the more I find myself being drawn into her mystical and disarmingly measured and calm soundworld. Salutations is described as “... a collection of three isorhythmic canons for pipe organ tuned in the Kirnberger III temperament presented spatially over a 29 channel speaker dome”. The description goes on to talk of minimal melodic variation but nevertheless there being variation of an unpredictable nature which is compared to the spokes of a bicycle wheel going through endlessly altering cycles. It is interesting that, despite the obvious [post] minimalist references, her use of isorhythms and perpetually developing cycles places her in wider Modernist territory throwing up commonalities with composers like Ligeti, Xenakis and Varese and, in the sense of the evolving refractions and multiple unique cycles, Brian Eno too’.
An artist who was impossible to ignore when she appeared on Late Junction was Icelandic composer, singer and expert Theremin player Hekla (aka Hekla Magnúsdóttir) (https://soundcloud.com/heklamag). She has a track out called Muddle and what she achieves with a Theremin is quite stunning.
I was more recently blown away by a Leeds duo called Muriel & Blazquez (https://soundcloud.com/murielblazquez). These two young women bring classical piano and voice into an ethereal, almost filmic Pop context and their command of modal harmony and use of rich dissonances are really striking. Skin/Veil Me is a stunning work and all the signs are that they could be about to take a road travelled by the likes of Virginia Astley and Julia Holter into an entirely new dimension.
I want to mention two other artists who fall broadly under the leftfield tag who deserve to be flagged up for further exploration including my friend, the fantastic young saxophonist, improviser and composer (fresh from touring the UK and Europe and playing a live session for Late Junction) Ben Vince ((https://soundcloud.com/vince21music) who will hopefully be appearing at Vanishing Point soon.
Also the talented Rothko (https://soundcloud.com/user-646013394) who will sadly playing their farewell gig for me at Vanishing Point, The Ivy House on 7th February. I haven’t discussed Mark’s plans with him yet so I am not certain whether he will continue to record as Rothko but if not the incredible Blood demands more blood will have been an amazing way to sign off a twenty-year career as one of the most innovative and unclassifiable acts on the alternative music scene.
I have to kick this section off by talking about the incredible American bassist, singer, composer and all-round musician Esperanza Spalding (http://www.esperanzaspalding.com) whose ingenious inventions transcend genre to a large extent so that while a record shop might file her albums under Jazz they have so many elements of soul, classical, rock, world, film, theatre and other elements swimming around in her endless pool of ideas. It is not just the scope of her influences. It is the originality and stunning musicianship too that takes her ideas to another level. Her 2018 album 12 Little Spells is unequivocally my album of the year and has affected me as dramatically as Kamasi Washington’s Harmony of Difference EP did in 2017.
Talking of Kamasi Washington (https://www.kamasiwashington.com/) he too released an astonishing album in the two hours plus set entitled Heaven And Earth. The irony is that while it is fantastic that he writes and records so much material and offers his fans such great value for money, it is also very hard in reality to ever listen to the album all the way through which in some ways prevents it being a contender for album of the year. All the same I would not want to be without it in my collection.
2018 was a good year for new and genuinely original UK Jazz-influenced music. Leading UK artist Shabaka Hutchings (https://soundcloud.com/shabakahutchings) followed last year’s success with his experimental project The Comet is Coming by releasing a new album and touring with his Jazz Futurist quartet Sons of Kemet (http://www.shabakahutchings.com/sons-of-kemet/). The album Your Queen is a Reptile was an impressive demonstration of their diverse influences and staggering musicianship.
Meanwhile South East London composer-percussionist and multi-talent Moses Boyd (https://soundcloud.com/moses-boyd) had another excellent year. Mixing up his Jazz sensibilities with influences drawn from electronic, urban, world and classical music, he delivered the album Displaced Diaspora. The title set out his stall and his ability to realise such ambitious soundscapes and bring together a high quality group of musicians was breathtaking. Titles that referenced his local area underlined the influence of his environment on his creativity (Marooned in SE6, Rye Lane Shuffle, Waiting on the Night Bus etc.).
On a very different tip came enigmatic Bristol-based Jazz Futurist trio Hippo (https://soundcloud.com/hippobristol) whose eponymously titled 5-track EP threw up a mouthwatering range of ideas, sounds and playing. Hippo have been a little quiet on social media and the internet which has been frustrating at times, especially after the support they received from Fresh on the Net. I hope 2019 will see them not only follow up on this gorgeously trippy, proggy futuristic style they have offered up but also perhaps a more proactive use of online platforms to promote themselves and put information about themselves out there so others can promote them too.
Others who have stood out and thus merit a mention include Beats & Pieces Big Band (https://soundcloud.com/beatsnpiecesbigband), talented young South Londoner Sheila Maurice-Grey (https://soundcloud.com/msmaurice) and Leicester’s Psych-Jazz-Alt hybrid Jouska (https://soundcloud.com/jouska-639528532).
World in Union
There has been a lot of fascinating music emanating from all across the globe in 2018 but without doubt the two acts who especially caught my attention were two very different bands with origins in similar areas. They are Kongo Dia Ntolila (https://soundcloud.com/kongodiantotila) and Dakar Audio Club (https://soundcloud.com/dakar-audio-club).
In essence they represent two extremes of the Afro-Jazz-Fusion spectrum. Kongo Dia Ntolila are a London-based band formed by Congolese musician Mulele Matondo and involving an international cast of players. Their style is fluid, complex, tight as hell and awash with different flavours and unexpected switches. Dakar Audio Club were formed in Senegal (Dakar not surprisingly given the name!) and consist of musicians from Senegal, Mali, Congo and Zimbabwe. Since 2011 they have been based in Exeter in South Devon. Their style is a lot looser and quite consciously more lo-fi than one would usually associate with African Jazz and Dance orientated music but that is one of their many strengths.
KDN had an amazing year, storming the BBC Introducing Stage at Latitude and appearing on Tom Robinson’s BBC 6 Music Saturday night show as well as having part of their Latitude set broadcast by Late Junction on BBC Radio 3. DAC also had a strong year, making the FOTN Fresh Faves and being featured artists in Angry Baby. They kick off 2019 with a tour. I hope to catch both bands live in 2019.
Canada’s internationalist Afro-Jazz-Fusion combo The SoulJazz Orchestra (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeIT1NYy4wg) also had a strong year and their infectious Greet The Dawn was one of my favourite tracks of the year with its undeniably catch chorus of ‘If you kick a dog long enough/The Dog bites back’ spinning around in my head for weeks on end.
I must also give mention to Bulgaria’s uniquely powerful Pirin Ensemble (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeIT1NYy4wg) whose Vila sei gora (A Forest Burst Out Into Leaves) was a delight of a different kind with its build-up of ethereal harmony and combined human voices. Likewise I should include Butcher Brown (https://butcherbrownmusic.bandcamp.com/album/afrokuti-a-tribute-to-fela), versatile American band whose Fela Kuti tribute album has won plaudits from fans of the Nigerian Afro-Fusion godfather.
The Indie Folk scene had another strong year and the Fresh on the Net in-box was packed with Indie Folk tracks every week. Among the outstanding artists who really caught my attention came Scottish singer-songwriter Me For Queen (https://soundcloud.com/meforqueen). As I said when I reviewed her music in Edition 13 of TTD in October) she isn’t really a Folk artist but her songs mix a brittle vulnerability and honest reflectiveness with a robust command of melody and harmony and a deep understanding of how to balance the vocal and instrumental elements so that nothing is overdone and the space in which she performs allows her to stretch out. Her appearance on Tom’s show was a real highlight.
Another band who really grabbed me were the Northern Irish sextet Runabay (https://soundcloud.com/runabayband) who originally hail from rural villages in the Glens of Antrim and Belfast. In my review in Edition 14 of TTD I said ‘... their track Symmetry is characterised by low-to-mid register male vocal harmonies, sparkling Guitars, robust Bass and Drums and beautifully understated Keyboard and Cello adding melody and colour. The song seems so obviously infused with the spirit of the sea and the Glens, conjuring up a powerful pen picture of a mystical magical place’.
I was also impressed by Cambridge-based Straw Bear (https://soundcloud.com/straw-bear) whose melodic and energetic Folk-Rock sound is well evidence on the excellent Be Prepared. Likewise The Bookshop Band (https://soundcloud.com/thebookshopband), the Bath-based husband and wife duo who I was fortunate to see live at the Victoria & Albert Museum a short time after I first reviewed them. Beth and Ben are really skilled songwriters whose ability to work fast to write tracks in response to new books and perform them for the author the same day is breathtaking. They play an array of instruments between them and their voices gel beautifully. As their Soundcloud page demonstrates they have a vast and growing back catalogue of quality material.
I must also mention the super-talented Sharon Lazibyrd (https://soundcloud.com/sharon-martin-37). Sharon is a very individual singer-songwriter so to call her music Folk is possibly not that accurate. She plays violin and viola and writes songs that veer between the personal and the socio-political and her powerful, unusual voice can cut my emotions to ribbons. The title track of her album Half Shame and Half Glory was a real highlight in this regard and I was privileged to be given the album to review in TTD. Sharon has also been winning an army of fans in 2018 with her fine songs and her extremely likeable personality so watch this space in 2019. She is on a mission.
Again too many fine acts to all be included so let me also draw attention to some others you should look up including St Albans duo Starseedz (https://soundcloud.com/starseedz), hard-working Country-Folk duo Hengistbury (https://soundcloud.com/hengistbury), Folk-cum-Country Rock act Linden Tree-Band (https://soundcloud.com/user-695346459) and many more.
I realised as TTD developed over the months that this section was too broad to be treated as one entity and so I have recently been dividing up into sub-headings. So it makes sense to do the same here.
Chloë March (https://soundcloud.com/chloe-march) has been a favourite of mine ever since I first heard her unique music on the Tom Ravenscroft Show on BBC Radio 6 Music. That was a few years ago and, in the time since, she has continued to write and record engaging, ethereal music that is difficult to categorise, drawing on classical, psychedelic, prog, folk, eastern, jazz and other flavours united by her otherworldly voice, soulful brooding melodies and clever impressionistic arrangements. All these qualities are strongly in evidence on Lallulow, the single she released with ambient producer Todd Tobias which I had the privilege of receiving as a pre-release promo. It was a taster for their collaborative album and on it Chloë took take the ‘voice as instrument’ concept a stage further with warbles, rattles and invented words that add to the aura of the track and hint at a Cocteau Twins influence which is music (sic.) to my ears. Set against synth chords, evocative strings and an overall sense of breaking waves and drifting white clouds, her voice floats effortlessly and occasionally soars too. Before that she had also released the beautiful, evocative and strangely melancholy Wild Cherries which, as well as making it into the Fresh Faves, was my FOTN moderator’s submitted track of the year. (see http://freshonthenet.co.uk/2018/12/mods2018/).
Another artist who made it into both the Fresh Faves and the moderators’ tracks of the year (chosen by the awesome Steve Harris) is Ruby Francis (https://soundcloud.com/rubyfrancis). The Londoner was, along with Chloë March, one of five contrasting female singer-songwriters featured in my article Emerging From The Mist (Part Three) for Fresh on the Net in August (http://freshonthenet.co.uk/2018/08/emerging-from-the-mist-3). Here is a snippet of what I said about her.
Londoner Ruby Francis doesn’t really need much introducing. Fresh from owning the BBC Introducing Stage at Latitude (yeah, same one I played on the previous year but somehow I think she might have wowed the crowd a bit more than I did!!), performing outside BBC Broadcasting House and making cool videos, getting free clothes from Missguided and being managed by Ferocious Talent, I think it’s fair to say that Ruby is already on the threshold of major success. Her brilliantly produced and performed Drip Drop was a killer Urban-leaning Pop choon that summed up a successful year and showed off all the qualities of her irresistible voice.
Also included in that article was the fantastic Lauran Hibberd (https://soundcloud.com/lauranhibberd). Lauran has had an amazing year and I can’t say I am surprised. From the moment I heard her track Call Shotgun earlier in 2018 and explored more of her work, I concluded that she oozed star quality.
Lauran has what Simon Cowell was referring to as X Factor before he invented the TV show of the same name. With an image that sits somewhere between friendly Indie Rock chick and cheeky girl next door, the guitar-toting singer-songwriter has fashioned a sound she calls ‘Fuzzed up Indie/Rock’ which is energetic and hard enough to appeal to an Alt Pop crowd but catchy and distinct enough to cross over onto mainstream radio. This is proven by her follow-up What do girls want being selected by BBC Radio 1 as its new track of the week leading to airplay on every daytime show. Lauran has since completed her first UK tour and is gathering fans at a rate of knots.
Having got to know her a little bit over that time (through social media) I have also been impressed both by her down to earth personality and to her constant commitment to her music career. I am personally delighted for her that 2018 has gone so well and I feel confident that 2019 will be an even more successful year for her.
The other female singer-songwriters mentioned in that article were Somerset’s Queen of Folk-Pop Sharon Lazibyrd (see Folk Findings) and Hemel Hempstead’s Sarah Munro (https://soundcloud.com/sarahmunromusicuk) whose highly distinct brand of Jazz and Folk influenced songwriting and pristine beautiful voice have seen her deliver two successful albums and three UK tours despite being only 23. Having seen her live in two venues I have experienced the sheer quality of her work and her ability to have an audience transfixed by her voice, musicianship and engaging personality. 2019 can be a big year for Sarah. Reference points include but are nothing like limited to Norah Jones, Eva Cassidy, Joni Mitchell and Ella Fitzgeald. Well that’s a pretty wide-ranging list in terms of style so you hopefully get the picture.
Another singer-songwriter who impressed me when I caught her live supporting two other artists I had actually been invited to watch was Londoner Yvonne Hercules (https://soundcloud.com/yvonnehercules) whose bluesy and soulful but also Folk and Jazz-tinged style (and kicking backing band) reminded me of Joan Armatrading mixing it with India Arie. Yvonne cited Bessie Smith as an influence when I spoke to her after her performance which initially surprised me but made sense as I thought about the Blues and maybe even Gospel undercurrents that mark Yvonne out from the more Indie-Folk leaning crowd which I definitely would not place her in. I certainly see her as a real one to watch in 2019.
I must also mention a few others whose hard work and cool music means they should be recognised including the tirelessly dedicated Lincolnshire-based Chloey Rose (https://soundcloud.com/chloeyrose), talented teenage singer-songwriter from Preston Pip Hall (https://soundcloud.com/piphallmusic), Watford’s platinum-voiced Phoenix O’Neill (https://soundcloud.com/phoenixoneill), my fellow FOTN moderator, the York-based Polish artist Ola Szmidt (https://soundcloud.com/olaszmidt), Bournemouth’s impressive Jazz Morley (https://soundcloud.com/jazzmorley), Buckinghamshire’s prodigious singer-songwriter and producer Josie Roberts (https://soundcloud.com/user-143 110329) and exciting Brighton teenager Luvia (https://soundcloud.com/luvia_music) who stormed the Fresh Faves in the final week of 2018 and is another [alongside Pip Hall, Sam Eagle, Jekyll etc.] in the fantastic End of the Trail Creative stable managed by my friend and new music champion Kelly Munro.
An artist who took the wind out of me when I heard her rich soulful voice and jazz-tinged R’n’B style was Salliefoyeh (https://soundcloud.com/salliefoyeh) whose album Thick of it is a real gem full of flavours, steeped in some sumptuously sophisticated chordplay and vocal harmony. Shades of Jill Scott, Anita Baker and Angie Stone to name a few. An under-rated talent who deserves more attention.
British Grime had an especially good year and 2018 saw the regions beginning to make their mark with their own versions of contemporary urban music. One artist who has particularly made his mark is Hull’s Chiedu Oraka (https://soundcloud.com/chiedu-oraka). Working with his soulmate and producer-rapper Deez Kid, Chiedu’s style of street Grime and Hip Hop with his Hull accent and dialect at the forefront, his amusing but profound lyrics and videos of him and his mates hanging out around 21st Avenue in Hull, he has enjoyed a year of acclaim including TTD, Fresh on the Net and Angry Baby. Highlights include the anthemic 21st Kid, the more personal Darcy on which he duets with Deez and the infectious Won’t get along but his catalogue of tracks is expanding all the while and if there is any chance, 2019 will see him exposed to a wider audience. Britain is missing out if that doesn’t happen.
Similar in terms of his use of dialect and regional difference is Nottingham’s Elmz XIX (https://soundcloud.com/elmzxix) whose penchant for rapping about interesting issues germaine to his lifestyle and doing so with a refreshingly humourous edge has also caught my ear in 2018. Two particular highlights were the excellent Penny for the Pound and Passa Passa which finds him bringing Reggae and Calypso flavours into his striking music.
A very different kind of urban artist is South East London exile now residing in Aberystwyth Cloud (https://soundcloud.com/theartfulcloud). A multi-instrumentalist and rapper with a back story of family fall-outs and needing the inspiration of the sky above the West Wales coast to give him new direction, his lyrics are intelligent, sensitive and reflective and his music is soulful, sophisticated and lovingly constructed. Higher Understanding is a great example of his fine work. Check out his Soundcloud page for more of his fascinating and versatile music and read his story too.
Indie & Alt Rock
Guitar-driven Indie and Alternative Rock continues to be one of the dominant forces every week in the Fresh on the Net in-box. Among my favourites were the excellent Dream Pop duo Morning Myth (https://soundcloud.com/morningmyth) who have released a string of engaging original tracks that bring to mind an unusual cocktail of top-notch influences including Cocteau Twins, Sundays, John Martyn and Mazzy Star. The combination of Aimee’s ethereal clear-toned voice and Ross’s reverberant guitar is at the core of their sound. Highlights include Halo, Beyond the Blue and the newer All rivers flow to the ocean
Backspace (https://soundcloud.com/morningmyth) have enjoyed an active and successful year but also an important transitional one. Starting out as four 13 year olds and one 15 year old they won the hearts and minds of Fresh on the Net’s team and many others besides with their feisty Alt Pop anthem Don’t stunt your growth, warning against the pressures on teenagers to live up to unrealistic image stereotypes. It was part of a five track EP that presented the Leeds quintet as an energetic force in Indie music. Since then, helped by sensible management and parental support, they have delivered an impressive itinerary of live events and have just recorded their second EP. 2019 should be a strong year for them.
The Complete Set ((https://soundcloud.com/user-585672148) have been one of my discoveries of 2018. They have spent all of it in Hamburg where they are awash with live work and they are yet to really nail a studio recording that does full justice to their originality and creativity. But their songwriting and arranging skills combined with a real sense of harmonic language and clear musicianship make them a band with the potential to do something really remarkable and I have a sense that they are going to do just that in 2019.
There have been so many bands and artists in this area of music whose tracks I have liked. Far more than I can name but a few who I have singled out for a quick mention, all of whom are fantastic in my opinion, are Northern Irish Indie Rock band The Fugues ((https://soundcloud.com/user-32910111), Cornwall’s Alt Pop quartet Blue River (https://soundcloud.com/blue-river), solo artist Simon D James (https://soundcloud.com/simondjames), Sheffield band The Clear (https://soundcloud.com/clearmusic), Jersey-based Alternative Rock multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Astral Cloud Ashes (a.k.a Antony Walker) (https://soundcloud.com/astral-cloud-ashes), Peckham-based Alt Rockers Little Grim (https://soundcloud.com/little-grim-1) and one of my hot tips for 2019, the excellent and hard-working Man Eat Grass (https://maneatgrass.com/), a band who determinedly pursue their own path but have the commitment to take their music to a new level of recognition in the coming twelve months.
The lines between all these areas of Pop music are increasingly blurred these days but all the same there were some outstanding moments involving primarily electronic pop based acts.
One of my absolute tracks of the year turned out incredibly to be the very first made by Cardiff’s Late Night Picture (https://soundcloud.com/latenightpicture). The song Massif showcased the band’s inventiveness, singer Chloe Cooke’s striking and appealing voice and excellent production. The song was immediate with its laid back groove and infectious hook. Since then there has been a follow-up single Better Land which showed promise and now we wait with anticipation for further new tracks, an album and hopefully a chance to see them live.
Another superb track arrived out of nowhere courtesy of the band Lucky Horses (https://soundcloud.com/lucky-horses-963570416). Their Terraces and Discos. has a dreamy feel to the vocals which repeat their main theme (Hitachi Boys/2-Tone Girls) afloat on a fluid wave of sounds that swirl and interplay all the while driven by a solid echoing drum pattern. If they can write tracks of this quality, I am looking forward to seeing what they do next.
The consistently excellent Last Night From Glasgow label have been turning out a high quality of releases all year. They include tracks by two bands who achieved the unique distinction of giving their label two tracks in the Fresh Faves in the same week! That’s two from ten places available via the public vote. So not bad at all.
Here is an excerpt from my review of L Space in Edition 6. ‘L Space are purveyors of dreamy Electro-Indie and part of the fantastic Last Night From 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)’.
Label mates Cloth (https://soundcloud.com/cloth-302227722) have also had an excellent year with two tracks in the Fresh Faves and the suggestion from Tom Robinson that he wants to bring them in for a live session in 2019. Let’s hope so.
Other Pop Genres
A band who are pretty hard to pigeon-hole are the fantastic Project Blackbird (https://soundcloud.com/user-587333698) from Melton Mowbray. Consisting of the wonderful Ming Nagel (Vocals), Jon Read (Trumpet), Thure Gade Johanssen (Guitar) and Styx (Drums), they make smart, original Pop that borrows from a multitude of sources. Their album Endurance pulls all these ideas together into an impressive cohesive whole. Ming and Jon have also set up the excellent Exile FM on which they present their show The Monday Night Ride-Out which I would argue is one of the very best shows for new music anywhere in the world. I would recommend looking up my recent article for Fresh on the Net which highlights genuinely independent radio shows and stations supporting new music. Not because I wrote it but because it has a lot of info you may be able to use if you are involved in the independent music sector as an artist, label, manager, promoter etc. yourself. (http://freshonthenet.co.uk/2018/12/emerging-from-the-mist-6).
Last but not least I should point readers to the beautiful Folk-influenced and dreamy acoustic Pop of Tenerife’s Black Mirror (https://soundcloud.com/blackmirror-music) whose combination of Inés Bonet’s silky sensitive and soaring voice and Arsenio Cavada’s gorgeous guitar picking and chordplay is food for the soul. A real delicacy.
Demerara Records & Vanishing Point/Vanishing Point Solo
I am not going to let this review end without saying at least a few words about the music I have been releasing and promoting - not just mine literally but other people’s too. So here is the briefest summary I can provide!
In summer 2018 we launched the bi-monthly live event Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House in Nunhead/Peckham (https://www.demerararecords.com/vanishing-point) and in November we added Vanishing Point Solo @ Cafe of Good Hope, Place Ladywell, Lewisham (https://demerararecords.com/vanishing-point-solo/). Highlights included a superb set from Merseyside Pop experimentalists Operation Lightfoot (https://soundcloud.com/operation-lightfoot) supported by an equally gripping one from Crystal Palace avant Pop and improv collective Rookery (https://soundcloud.com/worldofsurprises) at which I had the pleasure of staging a rare performance of my contemporary classical works (i.e as Neil March https://soundcloud.com/neil-march) aided and abetted by my Environmental Sound Foundation partner-in-crime Dilara on piano and the amazing Clara Yang on flute.
We also had fine performances from talented composer Jon Samsworth (https://soundcloud.com/jon-samsworth), fellow Mod and musician extraordinaire Kerry JK (https://soundcloud.com/user-694341684), unique Indie-Folk-Psych duo Fenco (https://soundcloud.com/fencoband), electronic Sound Artist Precocious Mouse (https://soundcloud.com/precocious-mouse), electronic composition wizard Gagarin (https://soundcloud.com/precocious-mouse), improvising sound art duo Far Rainbow (https://soundcloud.com/far-rainbow) and of course several appearances by our own electro-futurist genre mash-up duo Environmental Sound Foundation (https://www.demerararecords.com/environmental-sound-foundation).
Our Environmental Sound Foundation (https://soundcloud.com/e-s-foundation) live itinerary has been pleasing with performances at the Good Hope Festival in Ladywell Fields, Vanishing Point (twice), the Happy Heart in Solihull and Vanishing Point Solo. The early new year sees us playing Linear Obsessional (Arts Cafe, Manor Park, Hither Green) on 13th January, Vanishing Point (Ivy House, Nunhead) on 7th February, Skronktronic (Riverside Studio, Finsbury Park) on 13th February and Vanishing Point Solo (Cafe of Good Hope, Lewisham) on 7th March. With a new album Macrokosmik scheduled for February/March, we also hope to tour around some of the UK in the Spring.
That proposed tour would be with the super talented Cholly (https://soundcloud.com/chollyhappymusic) who I am thrilled to have signed to my Demerara Records label. Cholly, aka Chloe Tennant, came to my attention initially as a member of Jon Samsworth’s (https://soundcloud.com/jon-samsworth) superb band who played our Vanishing Point gig in August. A chance conversation on social media the following day led me to check out her own solo work only to be knocked for six by the quality and originality of tracks like Lonely, One A Day and Rinse, Repeat. Her clever juxtaposition of raw live instrumental sounds against electronic ones and her interweaving harmonies that utilise the different qualities and registers of her voice were exciting to hear.
We have in the past two months seen One A Day sail into the Fresh Faves as well as being the most played track from our compilation album Vanishing Point (Vol. 1) and getting played on BBC Introducing in the West. Cholly will have a new single out soon and an album and tour to follow in the Spring. She has also had Fresh Faves success and acclaim for collaborations with her partner Connor in his excellent Alt Rock project A Motion for Control.
My close friend since early childhood, the hugely talented Paul F Cook (https://soundcloud.com/paulfcook) has had an astonishing year, making it into the Fresh Faves with his fantastic Blues Man on which he used a recording of a drunk guy with a harmonica ranting on a train about his expertise as a ‘Blues Man’ as the centrepiece for a great instrumental track surrounded by multiple Guitars and Bass Guitars and squelchy drum programme. Tom Robinson loved the track so much he included it in the BBC 6 Music Mixtape show and also named it (and raved about it) as his tip of the week on his Saturday Night show too.
Only weeks earlier, Paul’s track Mater Gloria, a moving tribute to his mother who passed away in 2018, from the compilation album Vanishing Point (Vol. 1) was chosen by the wonderful Elizabeth Alker to be the track she would play on her show Unclassified on BBC Radio 3. The track begins with the church bells from the village where his mum had lived in her final twenty plus years and Paul’s footsteps before giving way to exquisite classical guitars and accompanying sounds. Paul, who is also one half of the Indie-Folk-Psych duo Fenco (who played a cracking set for Vanishing Point in October), is now putting a body of experimental instrumental music together so look out for more in 2019.
Last but not least the compilation Vanishing Point (Vol. 1) has already had and currently continues to have an amazing response from radio stations with tracks played on BBC Radio 3 (Unclassified), The Source FM (Tunes to help you breathe more easily), Exile FM (who have made it a feature of the Monday Night Ride-Out that they close each week’s show with a track from it until they have played all nineteen tracks), Conquest Hospital Radio (who will feature the album on Graham Belchamber’s excellent Paradise by the Sea in early January), Radio Dacorum (Gatsby’s Friday Night Show) BBC West (Introducing in the West) and others.
Maybe we will see some of you at a Vanishing Point or Vanishing Point Solo gig soon. February’s gig will be the last ever gig by the amazing Rothko and we have Cholly headlining VPS in March. Keep checking in on our webite (https://www.demerararecords.com/vanishing-point) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/demerararecords) for all the news and info. You can also follow me (@Hornetmuziq), Demerara Records (@DemeraraRecords) and Environmental Sound Foundation (@NeilMarch) on Twitter.
And Finally …..
Well that is finally it after a bumper edition of Trust The Doc. There are of course far more exciting bands and artists than I can possibly mention here so if you are one of the many whose music I have been impressed by and I haven’t namechecked you here, I apologise but it doesn’t mean you are not on my radar.
So just leaves me to say Happy New Year everyone. Let’s hope 2019 is awesome for all of us. Neil xxxxxxx