Well the month may have started quietly but it soon got livelier with the news that the Arts Council of England had awarded me another year’s worth of funding. That news could not have come at a better time and it means I am able to end 2020 much as I ended 2019, full of excitement and optimism as I roll out ambitious plans to increase exposure and opportunities for new and emerging music artists. So, despite the long dark shadow of COVID 19 and the uncertainties for live venues and live music, I refuse to be slowed down by either a dreadful pandemic or a dithering leadership in the House of Commons.
TRUST THE DOC RADIO: ANOTHER NEW SHOW !!!
It may only be six months since I increased my radio broadcasting time from two hours a week to three with the introduction of the midweek Trust The Doc Extra show. But, from Sunday 6th December, I am upping the broadcasts by a further two hours with the launch of the Trust The Doc New Music Playlist as a radio show. This replaces the Spotify playlist that has played between the acts at my live events and enables me to provide a two-hour podcast show highlighting the best current tracks both by new and emerging artists and by more established ones. The show will go out at 2PM UK Time every Sunday and will be repeated at 2AM on Mondays for listeners in other time zones. It will then be available as a podcast for 7 days.
This is partly a response to the ongoing lack of live music events. But it is mainly a response to the ever-expanding demand from artists; pluggers; labels; PR companies and others who send me tracks every week. The more the audience stats increase, the more tracks are coming at me from all directions! I’m not complaining though. As I am always saying ‘New Music never sleeps’!
So below is a brief summary of the three radio shows and their individual purposes. Times are based on the UK’s time zone. The Spotify playlist still exists but not all the tracks on the playlist are on Spotify so it only has the ones that are.
Sat 5 - 7PM
Trust The Doc Radio
Live & interactive with shout outs, Track of the Week poll, regular features etc. 50% new & emerging acts, approx 35% current tracks by more established acts.
Sun 2 - 4PM/Mon 2 - 4AM
TTD New Music Playlist
Pre-recorded show packing 2 hours’ worth of the cream of current tracks (50/50 new & emerging and more established). My ‘A List’.
Wed 8 - 9PM
Trust The Doc Extra
Pre-recorded show mainly introducing new & emerging artists’ latest offerings including some not likely to make the other shows.
Tomorrow night (Tuesday 1st December 2020) at 8PM, the twice-monthly show formerly known simply as Trust The Doc TV is being rebranded as Upstream (on the Trust The Doc TV Channel). The format will be the same as before, combining promo videos of tracks with videos of tracks performed live and interviews. But there will also be new content on the channel including a roving reporter interviewing people involved in independent music outside London and some ‘5-minute interviews’ where I will be using Zoom to talk to interesting music folk about what they do. All the programmes will be found at the Trust The Doc TV Channel.
Tonight (Monday 30th November) I have the incredible honour of standing in for Ming and Jon as presenter of the Monday Night Ride Out on Exile FM. The show starts at 9PM UK time. Ming and Jon (and Alan, Project Blackbird’s guitarist) should hopefully be at their new shop having completed on the contract. I have all the usual features sorted with a Transatlantic Tingler, a Speed Triple, Billy Brown’s Choooon of the Week and, instead of me choosing the Vanishing Point track that closes the show every week, I have asked my fellow Fresh on the Net moderators, the wonderful Mark and Louise Toal from Newry in Northern Ireland to pick it and provide the blurb which they have done. I am so excited and just hope I live up to the expectations of the show’s audience. Ming has provided me with information about who some of the show’s regulars, whose names I have been hearing her mention on the show over the past two and a half years, actually are. It will be so nice if they listen in and participate in the Speed Triple as they usually would.
So, as I said in Part One, new music never sleeps and November has been no exception with more great tracks pouring into my Fresh on the Net in-box, my Trust The Doc Radio in-box and, in other cases, from my radio when I have been listening to certain specialist shows. Here then are the month’s reviews.
November saw the return of the talented London-based artist Tragic Sasha with a new track entitled Movie Star. A slow song, it finds Sasha in rueful melancholy mood as she compares the disappointment of real life to the dreams she harboured in her childhood years. This is set to lush piano chords, smart ‘less is more’ arrangement and plenty of space for Sasha’s soprano range voice to stretch between softer tones and passionate rises up the register. It has a melody you cannot hide from too.
China Bamboo are a Brighton band with a new track out entield Ambivalence (For You). Cinematic mid-tempo pop accompanies a striking, appealing female voice and an achingly sweet melody. The middle section adds a clever contrast and the track builds towards a climatic finish. Epic pop.
Jylda makes uptempo contemporary Pop that is a little bit cinematic, a touch urban and has subtle EDM tendencies. Her voice is distinct, dexterous and difficult not to be carried away by. She can pen a chooon too as this cool, synthy slice of dreamy Pop bares witness. The tracking of the voice on certain bits of the main hook really works well. All done with a touch of class.
It is hard to categorise the music of Cherryade. Ella and Alex are long-time friends based in London and they mix Indie, Hip Hop and Synth Pop influences in a mash that has shades of The Go! Team jamming with The Ting Tings. Whenever they pop up on Fresh on the Net, they always deliver punchy energetic tracks like Fast Food that usually get through to our Listening Post. Joyous, noisy and infectious modern pop.
I would usually expect to be reviewing Eleri Angharad in the Folk & Country section but New Sin signals a move into Pop territory with tough beat, slightly mediterranean melody and chords and catchy chorus, mainly built around two chords (tonic and dominant seventh for the musos among you). It feels like a track that would sound at home on BBC Radio 1. It also reminds us of what a fine and rangey voice the Swansea artist possesses. Go on radio people. Give it a play. I will be.
I was pleased to be contacted by The Choco Las who have a new single out called Everything I know keeps changing. Bryony’s strong alto range voice takes the lead on a mid-tempo guitar-chord-driven track but it isn’t long before the two boys jump in with their harmonies to bolster a catchy hook. A lovely lead guitar figure adds a cool middle section. Imagine Fleetwood Mac in a msh with First Aid Kit and Ward Thomas. Well something like that anyway. Uplifting and heartwarming organic Pop.
The irrepressible Darren Laurence continues to churn out great tracks as LegPuppy and Paycheck (when the fun stops, stop) maintains his high standards. This time, it is less electronic than usual LegPuppy fare but has the same tongue-in-cheek but dark atmosphere. Sardonic humour is conveyed via a call and response between Darren’s spoken word and the female singer’s sung response. The guitars are a kind of contemporary take on Surf Pop but mixing it up with a bit of Psych Rock! And of course, there is a video of Darren cavorting around South London in full clown mask! The shot in the arm we need in these unstable times.
Tonight (30th November) sees me handed the honour of presenting the Monday Night Ride Out on Exile FM while Ming and Jon focus on their new guitar shop so I asked my friends and fellow FOTN moderators Louise and Mark Toal to pick and write up the Vanishing Point track which I would usually supply. A good choice as I knew it would be and it resulted in them sending me the track You’ll see by The Meffs. The duo from Essex play contemporary Punk with just guitar, drums and vocals. Despite their sparse line-up and assisted by a large dollop of distortion on the guitar, they succeed in making a big and boisterous noise that has the anger and passion of Fontaines DC in a jam with Honeyblood and the determined rhythm guitar attack of a young Bily Bragg. Refreshingly simple and relentlessly energetic.
Cat Ryan have been on my radar for a while so I was thrilled to have the video for their song Mannerism on my TV show recently. The track has also been getting played on my radio shows and made it onto the first New Music Playlist broadcast which goes out on Sunday 6th December. The trio have a lightness of touch that allows them to make energetic Alt Pop without getting bogged down. Mannerism is built around a triplet time riff so jangly and fluent that it could almost be a mash-up of West African Folk and Bhangra even though the rest of the song is nothing like either. That riff and the strong female vocal melody are the twin towers of this robust pop construction while the remaining band members provide a fluid and loosely funky bedrock. The video is cool too.
Even having to recover from a nasty traffic accident does not seem to have slowed down the relentlessly prolific Man Eat Grass. Latest offering Sailing on the seven seas finds them in buoyant, boisterous mood with agreeably loud fuzz [or could even be fizz!] guitar and Tom’s trademark gritty growling vocal at the heart of the track. It rides energetically into town, guns down the bad guys and rides off into the sunset all in the space of barely three minutes just like a great single should.
Talking of prolific, there is no slowing down the amazing Nick Woodgate aka The Jojo Man Band. Trippy has his trademarks of filtered vocal and intricate guitars ruling the roost as the carriers of a catchy, carefully crafted melody and a mid-tempo driving feel. It also provided Nick with his first fresh faves success at Fresh on the Net and got him onto BBC Radio 6 Music. Knowing Nick, by the time this review is published, he will have released another new single!
It is good news that the long-awaited Friends of Gavin EP Unfinished is released in the next few days. I first played tracks from it on my radio show around six months ago. The EP finds the band, back together after over a quarter of a century, in fine form highlighted by the burning energetic Post-Punk rallying cry of Roy and a dark, daunting version of Scarborough Fair that displays all the menace and murk that the famous Simon & Garfunkel rendition failed to capture. They play it in a slow triplet time that adds to its intensity. Billy Brown, singer and guitarist, has worked tirelessly to keep the band’s music on radio shows that support new and alternative music. Hopefully 2021 will see that momentum continue.
The Cardiff collective Afro Cluster are becoming Fresh on the Net regulars and their latest track Young shall grow (featuring Magugu and Asha Jane) stormed into the fresh faves when it was my return to write up the reviews recently. So I get to have the pleasure of reviewing it on two different platforms this month. After a minimal intro of light funky guitar and melodic sax, the band bound into the mix with triplet time rhythm, punctuated by staccato horn stabs and immediately infectious hookline. Magugu’s vocals are agile and deep while Asha Jane’s style is soulful and dynamic. The musicianship, as ever, is evident throughout the band and they deliver what is unquestionably one of the standout tracks of 2020 by any new and emerging act.
Staying with Welsh artists, Nya Wyn has collaborated with the equally up and coming R.A.E. The result is a sultry, soulful piece of danceable R’n’B with a spiky humour and strong melody called Muzzle. It showcases Nya’s edgy and distinct vocals and R.A.E’s effortless rap. My 20 year old son tells me Nya’s track Who asked you? is one of the most played songs on the FIFA ‘20 soundtrack and, trust me, he would know! Two artists who are on the verge of exciting times it seems and deservedly so.
One of the most exciting tracks to [inexplicably] miss out on the FOTN fresh faves this month was Sheffield rap artist Katz with a K’s Wine Cave Fundraiser. Maybe the pointed honesty and knife-edge nature of the lyrics and his distinct, powerful vocal style made people a bit uncomfortable. Well newsflash people, that was the whole f***ing point!! For me, it is a shame when an artist this exciting comes along and people fail to grab the opportunity of giving him a platform. This is up there with the likes of Chiedu Oraka and Elmz XIX as urban sound that is proudly non-metropolitan delivered by an artist who tells it like it is whether you like it or not. I look forward to more from Katz in 2021.
There are sometimes those individual tracks that simply leap out at you as standout moments in a year of new music. And so it is with the latest offering from Georgia & The Vintage Youth. The ever-improving London-Essex outfit have hit the mark big time with the new single Lovin’ You. It has all Georgia’s trademarks in spades - a vocal performance that Paloma Faith and Pixie Lott would like to be able to match; a top tune that blends a Plan B-ish contemporary take on Tamla Motown with the classy pop sensibilities of a Phil Spector-produced girl group; and an instrumental arrangement that underlines Georgia’s innate musicianship and showcases the talents of her excellent band members. It is instantly catchy, lyrically smart and has a wonderful video too. Georgia tells me she made the video at home, utilising media skills she developed at school. Like everything she does, it oozes style. Candidate for track of the month in any genre.
I was a little disappointed that the impressive Nandi narrowly missed out on our FOTN Listening Post recently with the sophisticated Soul of Your Love. The London artist has a superb voice, soft and understated one moment, soaring and wholesome the next. And the song offers a dream-like and reverberant soundscape that swirls gently around her multi-tracked vocals and a persistent picking guitar figure. Nandi is a name we should keep a close watch on.
I was really pleased to see a first appearance at our Listening Post for Northamptonshire artist Megzz with a scorching triplet-time soul choon called Tell me why. Kicking off with a twangy, echoing picked guitar figure in arpeggios, it gives Megzz all the room she needs to demonstrate the range and timbral contrasts of her stunning voice. As the song builds, so too does her performance. Verdict: Goose Bumping. Megzz is dying to get out there and perform live again with her band in 2021. Let’s hope it proves to be a big year for her.
Having had some interesting discussions with Elbrook Court about his music, it was really good to hear him deliver the track Star Crow. It demonstrates the way he has been able to make use of better facilities to make the kind of recording he has been striving for. A sampled spoken word takes the form of a public service warning about weather conditions which repeats ominously throughout the track while an electronic dance beat controls events from the centre of the track and synths and other sounds shoot, swirl, bleep and bounce around it. A kind of quirky take on the notion of a chilled floor filla.
The ever-consistent and prolific DMP Tunes is the recording alias of Daivid Petitjeans. Lately he has seen his talent rewarded with serious label interest and contract offers on the table so exciting times ahead. Meanwhile he has dropped Reality, a joyously loud and fuid slice of Trance leaning into Euro House with some of my favourite synth and drum sounds surrounded by ambient effects. It gallops through a series of shifts in mood and style, all at the same fast tempo. From the album Xanadu it’s another reminder of David’s talent for turning out irresistably choooonful club anthems. This would fill floors across Ibitha if lockdown were lifted. Total class.
Dora Lachaise is a pseudonym adopted by the Bristol-based Dutch singer-songwrtier Maiike Seigerist and allows her to indulge a different side of her creativity. Judging by the haunting filmic Bone Collector this may mean dark story-telling in the form of disarmingly sweet melodies in minor keys that could almost be part of a lineage involving Marlene Dietrich and Julie London to name just two. Sophisticated, serene and yet chillingly scary, this should be sung by the ghost of a tragic female character in a classic movie. Very impressive.
From Tenerife, based in London (I think that’s the right way round), Alba describes herself as singer, guitarist, songwriter, feminist and earth protector. She also has a lovely track out called Sister which I have been playing on my radio shows. A slow triplet-time ballad with a touchingly honest lyric, it is constructed around snappy arpeggioic guitar and provides a translucent backdrop for Alba’s strident, soulful vocals. Catchy, passionate and sung with effortless expertise. Be warned. It will get inside your head and you will find yourself singing it as you make your dinner!
The ever-consistent Debris Discs (aka James from Derbyshire) returns with another synth-soaked and lovingly arranged slice of epic pop. The song is effortlessly melodic and has an agreeably upbeat feel while different synth sounds take up small but important counter-melodies and the beat drives things forward. Catchy, cheerful and cleverly constructed, intelligent Pop.
TTD favourites Machina X are keeping busy. As their excellent Future Imperfect EP continues to win new admirers, they have put out a new track called Closure. An uptempo piece of futuristic electro-pop, it mixes one of Cyrus’s more pulsating backing tracks. It starts with a buzzy drone figure and an unusual drum sound while Annie’s vocals are a mixture of quicker-paced melody and whispery spoken word. The beat picks up with a brighter snare and shakers while filters take the semi-quaver synth patterns off in a variety of sonic states. Breaks allow a drop right down in volume and texture before it all kicks off again. The arranging skills here are first class, the backing track always offering something different from before, the use of open fourths and fifths lending it an Eastern aura. Annie’s distinct and expressive vocals provide the perfect foil for the mechanised music accompanying her. Another cracker.
The Bristol band Stay Lunar strode onto my radar early in November when I had the pleasure of reviewing their single Not your fight for the Fresh on the Net faves. The song brings us bright, polished but energetic Pop which I described in the faves review as bringing to mind ‘... Everything Everything in a jam with Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’. It is uptempo, barnstorming Alt Pop with big, brash synths and heroic male vocals. The production is punchily perfect and the band’s musicianship makes it all sound effortless. Cinematic, futurist Pop to restore your faith in humanity.
Project Concubine are a fascinating act who are as much about the visual performance as the music and sound. Videos, including clips of their live performances, underline the theatrical element of their work. To date, they seem reluctant to confirm who is actually involved in the project [and believe me, I have asked enough times!] I know who I believe are in all the live clips! Perhaps they will relax and allow me to have some more direct info soon! In the meantime, they have given me the track I’m addictive which is a slightly intense piece of quirky electronic pop with a driving programmed beat, spiralling vibrating sounds that are agreeably familiar (almost like spinning china dice!) and a deep spoken word male vocal.
Project Concubine’s social media always talks about ‘the voice of the ivory tower’ which I take as an ironic reference to corporate elitism. Being enigmatic is clearly a priority. After all this is is art in collaboration with music and theatre, all of an alternative kind. Without doubt they are one to watch. PS: Check out the video for We wanna see u swim in Ed 14 of my TV show. Vibrant stuff.
Is there a connection between Project Concubine and Hannya White? Well that is for them to confirm or deny. But either way it has been quite a month for Hannya. In Edition 49, I reviewed a track by her. At the time she was a new name to me who I knew little about. In the time since, we have got to know each other a bit more and she has been played a lot on my radio shows. She has also made the Fresh on the Net Listening Post with the track No Preview after narrowly missing out with For you, without love. In between those two submissions, she kindly recorded a brand new track and video, Some more hate tonight, especially for my TV show. So needless to say I am impressed by her output and her originality. Her music is characterised by a controlled anarchy that mixes sparse synth figures with ambient electronic noises and sudden periods of drumming, sometimes chaotic, often distant initially but rising in volume. The rhythms can be regulated or random. Occasionally she intervenes vocally either with quiet spoken word or quirky singing. The results are unpredictable but captivating. The fact that she has a kind, supportive attitude to her fellow artists and the associated independent music community is also a breath of fresh air and she is winning friends and admirers along the way. 2021 can be a very promising year for Hannya.
Pixi Ink is Carla Jane Duffy, a young Irish artist living in London who has played several gigs I have promoted in pre-lockdown times and has become a good friend. Her latest offering Still finds her in dreamy, ethereal mode with a haunting theme of sustained vocal pitches over crackling, buzzy synth and resonant beat in a slow burner of a track. 2020 has seen Carla collaborate with a Ukrainian duo and perform live with bassist Emily Hand. Now this latest offering is, in my opinion, her best work so far which bodes well for 2021 when she will no doubt resume her relentlessly busy live schedule.
Lucrecia Dalt is a Colombian composer and sound artist based in Berlin. I came across her stunning piece Seca on Elizabeth Alker’s Unclassified (BBC Radio 3). It mixes voices placed through filters, overlapping in fluid harmony and echoing semi-counterpoint over deep buzzy sustained notes and modally inflected repeated synth patterns. In the middle of the track there is a quite sudden switch into a series of electronic bleeps and squeals as the vocals rise up the register, fed through another sound fllter while a hypnotic pattern persists. It is a stark contrast to the opening section but just as compelling. Her ability to balance clever and extended harmonic language with post-minimalist electronics and enigmatic vocal explorations is so impressive. I will be looking up her new album shortly after writing this.
My good friend and collaborator on the Trust The Doc TV channel Luke Moore is one of the busiest people I know; always delivering on projects and tasks involving others. But he still finds time to be a prolific artist both with his collective Operation Lightfoot and in a solo capacity. So I was pleased to receive One way trip to Titan. Clearly inspired by the amazing work he is doing with some of the country’s leading astronomers, the piece puts the enigma of space at its heart. It is a slow but lively piece with sometimes sustained and sometimes choppy strings. There is a definite soundtrack aura. It is almost stately at times but stormy too. A reminder of Luke’s deftness of touch both as composer and arranger.
I first came into contact with Dutch composer and electronic artist Roland Kuit in 2015 when I released a track of his on an ambitious compilation album and Late Junction selected his track as one of six that they played on BBC Radio 3. An expert in modular synthesis, Roland is part composer, part Sound Artist and his latest track Operation Concrete, as the title suggests, is more in Sound Art territory, a short but intense piece that crackles, buzzes and flickers through a series of sonic states. In one sense it recalls the great early Music Concréte experiments of Pierre Schaeffer and co; in another it celebrates the use of digital formats to control and manipulate sound. All done with trademark skill from Roland.
Hipology Sounds describe their latest track Midnight Masses as electronic and, in essence, it is. A Trance-like repetitive programmed synth and drum programme underpin the track. But, like all the Norwich-based act’s music, it has jazz at its core with improvising resonant saxes and what sound like slightly atonal strings.. So I would prefer to hear this as a thoroughly contemporary [or futuristic] notion of Jazz in the new millennium. What I can tell you is that it is ethereal, trippy and beautiful. Music that carries me far off into a mystical night sky. If Kamasi Washington were to get together with Paul Van Dyk, directed by Brian Eno perhaps, it might sound something close to this.
Folk & Country
I was very fortunate to be reviewing the Fresh on the Net faves in a particularly strong week for new music and among the tracks I got to review was Tapestri’s Open Flame. Beautiful as it is, with gorgeous harmonies, mystical melody and reverberant slide guitar figures, I soon discovered that it came accompanied by a version in Welsh entitled Y Fflam and it was that version that made it onto my radio show and New Music Playlist. The Pembrokeshire-based duo have fine voices and smart arranging skills. The song captivates from the outset and the melody stretches notes one way and another, fortified by wholesome harmonies. Simply stunning.
Sugarcane are one of those acts who seem destined to be reviewed in a different section every time I write about them. The Birmingham band who have a foot each in the acting/directing world and the pop world are back with a sweet laid back, late night tune called Midland Girls in which Robin French assumes lead vocal duties while Antonia Thomas joins him for the lilting, repeating chorus which lodges itself in the brain. Midland girls move to the South they sing and the line seems to linger in the air even after the song has ended. Soothing, soulful. Is it Folk? Not really but I had to review it somewhere!!
Belfast’s Dani Larkin is a new name to me and, if Samson and Goliath is any indication, she is one I look forward to hearing more from. Her warm, expressive vocals and thoughtful acoustic guitar work are matched by sumptuous vocal harmonies and drifting sustained Celtic sounds that add to the evocative nature of the song. It sounds like it should be sung while strolling across vast open landscapes next to imposing cliffs and a river down below. Heartwarming despite its rueful undercurrent.
XMAS & NEW YEAR RADIO FUN !!!
So let me tell you about my Christmas and New Year radio plans. It just so happens that Boxing Day and the day after New Year’s Day both fall on Saturdays. So I will be using these two days to deliver one three hour and one two hour show which will be Parts 1 & 2 of my Best of 2020. The 3 hour show will begin at 4PM on Boxing Day and will be pre-recorded. On that show I will count down my Top 30 singles of the year by ‘more established’ artists (typically those playlisted by BBC Radio 6 Music) from 30 to 11 while playing, in no specific order, a selection of my favourite tracks from 2020 by ‘new & emerging’ artists.
Then, on Saturday 2nd January 2020, I will be live and interactive from 5PM counting down my Top 10 singles of 2020 by more established acts, playing a track from my album of the year and, although I will continue to play my favourite new & emerging artists of 2020 in no particular order, I will reveal and play a track by my ‘New & Emerging Artist of 2020’. Who will it be? Well there are a group of front runners but I have not decided for definite yet.
Well that’s it for Edition 50. Take care and stay safe everyone. See you in Edition 51. Neil xxxx