TRUST-THE-DOC: MUSICAL MUSINGS
by Neil March (Edition 26, 16th May 2019)
Welcome to Edition 26 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. In this month’s bumper issue …....
✦ THE GREAT ESCAPE: Mixing business with pleasure in Brighton
✦ VANISHING POINT: Demerara Records Showcase not to be missed!!
✦ LINEAR OBSESSIONAL: Outstanding first day of Linear Ob Festival
✦ SUNN: The Art of Noise Music in the form of tuneful ambient buzz
✦ MASAKATSU TAKAGI: Ethereal impressionism from Japan
✦ SECRET FILMS: Ambient improv from deepest Cornwall
✦ CHELTENHAM JAZZ: Cerys plays & interviews new & legendary artists
✦ PAREKH & SINGH: Unique ‘Dream Pop’ from cool West Bengal duo
✦ ROKIA TRAORÉ: You can take the woman out of Mali but you …...
✦ RX SHANTYMEN: Sea shanty joyousness from South Coast singers
✦ RUTH ORHIUNU: Laid back soulful downtempo vibes from East London
✦ JUNIORE: More spy movie & Spaghetti Western aura from Parisian trio
✦ SAM EAGLE ft. AMAROUN: New collaboration + Sam live in Brighton
✦ POSTCULTURE & SINEAD CAMPBELL: When hot talents come together
✦ THOMAS DAY: Jazz-infused sophisticated pop from Lincoln artist
✦ HANNAH SCOTT: Shades of Folk-Rock dancing with Electronic Pop
✦ OK BUTTON: Dreamy Alt Pop & Electro-Indie from cool Scottish trio
✦ CHARITYSHOPPOP: Energetic Alt Pop jangle coming out of Ormskirk
✦ COSMIC NINJA: Mixing up some cool contemporary sounds & influences
✦ WILD HORSE: Back with another sizzling slice of energetic Alt Rock
✦ FRANKY BARBANO: Italian duo bring together some fine flavours
✦ MASTER OF NONE: Driving Alt Rock from Little Red’s Ian Mitchell
✦ THE HANNAH BARBERAS: Energy-driven Alt Pop Jangle & album out
✦ RUBY CROSS: Earthy organic acoustic pop from SE Londoner
✦ TILLY GREENTREE: Teenage singer-songwriter takes Brighton by storm
✦ PYE CORNER AUDIO: A new album of sumptious Electronica
THE GREAT ESCAPE: MIXING BUSINESS WITH PLEASURE IN BRIGHTON
This year I had the pleasure of being invited to be a guest speaker and panellist at a new event called Festival Live. Linked to The Great Escape it was a gathering of music industry folks with an interest in the festival and live music sector. I was there as organiser of Fresh on the Net Live and the proposed Fresh on the Net Festival. I am also, of course, organiser for the proposed Vanishing Point Festival so that is three small, short but important new music events I am responsible for curating and delivering.
So, as soon as I announced that I would be attending Festival Live, I was kindly invited by a number of bands, artists and promoters to attend fringe events that were part of The Great Escape too. Sadly I could not get to all of them but I did see a few artists live and that is a subject I will return to.
Firstly though, just to say, Festival Live turned out to be a great event and one at which I may be the person whose presence will have caused the most debate even if at least some of that will be by people who now think I’m a ‘wee gobshite’ (as my Geordie friends might put it!) with too much to say. But actually that is just fine with me. I did not see my role there as being to suck up to industry heavyweights. So it was almost inevitable that I would clash with one or two and when the person in charge of booking artists for a very famous festival talked about a ‘shrinking pool of new musical talent’, I was never going to let that one go. With my Fresh on the Net, Trust The Doc and Demerara Records heads on, I made it very clear to him that he clearly has no idea who and what is out there nor where to look for it!
I also had a [fully justified] pop at a label executive who had sat there claiming to be at the ‘cutting edge’ of indie and alternative music but had no clue about Fresh on the Net, BBC Introducing or the 6 Music Mixtape!
It wasn’t all arguments though. I made a passionate case for better grant funding support for small not-for-profit live music platforms, made a number of good contacts and, despite putting a few noses out of joint, I have already been invited back to be a speaker again in 2020. I look forward to that very much.
Now what about those artists I saw live? Well indeed. There were a few but two in particular grabbed me to the extent that it would be remiss of me not to review them. So I have, one (Tilly Greentree) in the Singer-Songwriters sub-section of Pop Scene; the other (Sam Eagle), whose track I had already reviewed for this same edition in the Epic & Cinematic sub-section (also of Pop Scene) has had a short review of his live performance added to that part of the blog.
I also had the pleasure of meeting up with my close friend Andy Maclure, better known to some as drummer with Indie and Britpop legends Sleeper. Andy, who is a senior lecturer and talent manager at BIMM in Brighton, was hosting an outdoor acoustic stage linked to Run for Life where I saw two of his students, Lisa and Marshall, give impressive performances. Lisa played solo with acoustic guitar and showcased her songwriting skills and a rangey, appealing voice while Marshall, as well as duetting with Lisa, demonstrated his soulful upper register voice, innate improvising skills (in various styles) and instinctive showmanship, elements that were noticed by the passing crowds on the Brighton seafront. All enjoyable stuff.
VANISHING POINT: A DEMERARA RECORDS SHOWCASE
Okay so I am bound to say this since it’s a night I promote (and I’m performing albeit lower on the bill) but I am really excited about the next Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House in South East London on Thursday 6th June. Why? Because, 5 years on from when I first launched Demerara Records I am putting on a live showcase with all three of the acts currently under my management.
We also have the super-talented West London-based Welsh electronic music artist Jaffro (https://soundcloud.com/jaffroofficial) as our guest performer.
The gig, which is being live streamed by the awesome bndr Music (https://www.bndrmusic.com/) sees regular Fresh Fave Cholly showcase her new Ruminations EP and other examples of her unique Electronic Alt Pop. Josie will be bringing her epic pop sound and Environmental Sound Foundation will be bringing our unusual hybrid of electronic art pop and piano & voice soul. Jaffro’s music mixes experimental ambience with songs including some in Welsh Language. This really is a night you won’t want to miss if you can be in the Peckham/East Dulwich area on 6th June.
Tickets are just £6 if you buy in advance or £8 if you pay on the door. Details at https://demerararecords.com/vanishing-point.
I cannot end this piece without also mentioning what a fantastic Vanishing Point we had in May thanks to a bunch of top-notch performances at our Electronic, Ambient and Leftfield special by Richard Sanderson, Slow Loris, HMS Loss and Smallhaus.
LINEAR OBSESSIONAL FESTIVAL: DAY ONE
Day One of the 2019 Linear Obsessional Festival in Lewisham’s Manor Park, promoted by my good friend and fellow musician Richard Sanderson, delivered an absolutely stonking gig in the Arts Cafe.
Richard himself made a rare performance (a week and a half after his excellent solo set for my Vanishing Point gig) as part of a band called Laudanum Bunches in which his Accordion combined with Richard Jackson on a fascinating selection of percussion instruments (even including a whisk!), Grundik Kasyansky on ‘Feedback Synthesizer’ and Peter Nagle on Cello. They played a thoroughly engaging and varied improv in which Richard Sanderson’s Accordion frequently joined forces with Peter Nagle’s Cello to create gradually altering drones, sometimes unison, sometimes harmonic and other times dissonant while the synth was understated and ambient and the percussion was continuously fluid, varied and smartly dynamic. The fact that it seemed to be over sooner than expected is a measure of how much the audience was drawn into the performance. I hope they will continue to play together after such a successful debut.
Next up were Slow Loris who had also played my Vanishing Point gig a week and a half earlier! Jim Shields (Synth & Effects) and Celia Newell (Electronic Percussion & Effects) gave a characteristically gripping performance that took us through a fluid series of moods and sections. Celia’s percussive hits triggered a multitude of sounds, samples and bleeps while James used the synth to provide a seemingly endless supply of sounds and more samples while he controlled some sort of desk to futher enhance and drive events. At times the gradual filtering of sounds and creation of textures was genuinely mind-spinning. But what is also appealing about Slow Loris is how they manage, within their ethereal ambient experimentalism, to cook up some lovely rhythmic configurations and oddly tranquil moments of harmonic alignment. Their uniqueness is undeniable and they pack so many cool ideas into every performance.
Lucie Vitkova is an artist I knew nothing about prior to this gig but I will not forget her in a hurry. Hailing from the Czech Republic and resident in New York, she took the notion of Sound and Visual Art to an increible level of creativity and intensity. I presume that part of ‘preparing the room’ while the audience enjoyed a break involved her planting devices under the carpet. The importance of this became clear as the performance evolved. It began with Lucie, in an outfit to which she had tied multiple empty tin cans dancing vigorously while the tin cans provided a soundtrack. She then took one of the cans and began blowing around the top of it to create cool bendy sounds. Soon she was practically kneeling with wooden rod and bow in hand triggering a sea of sounds by finding the floor devices (like a worker using a metal detector or even one searching for gold). At times she also sang in a chanting back of the throat style, responding to the ensuing bleeps, squeals and high pitches that continued to appear. Overall she slowly created a completely otherworldy sound world that it was a real joy to spend time in. And she did so while continuing to make the visual performance engaging too.
The final act of the evening was Swordfish, a veritable experimental music scene supergroup (!) made up of former Lemon Kitten Karl Blake on electric guitar, Fourth Page’s Peter Marsh on Bass Guitar, drummer Tom Clarke (also of Fourth Page) and solo recording artist Chris Cornetto on Cornet and Electronics. From the outset they provided a perfect mix of energetic but rhythmically complex and highly fluid drumming, skillful and inventive bass playing, unusual guitar figures (tritone intervals, modally inflected harmonic moments and plenty of effects placed on held chords and notes) and clever use of the cornet to produce a range of timbres.
They switched easily between different modes and tempi, achieving that trick of it never being obvious where one section had ended and another had begun. In the final section the drums picked up, almost but not quite going into triplet time as events became louder and more intense before dying slowly away in the final minutes of the piece. A fittingly impressive finale to a really enjoyable gig.
CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL & LEFTFIELD
I am not a big fan of using Late Junction (BBC Radio 3) to indulge guest artists’ mixtapes because, by definition, it excludes any genuinely new music from that edition of the show which then becomes about an artist indulging his or her record collection. However the edition involving American composer and noise artist Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O))) (https://soundcloud.com/sunno-southernlord) worked because it focused on his new work which manages to use noise in an engagingly melodic manner as demonstrated on the excellent Troubled Air.
The track is from the new EP Life Metal which you can listen to via the above Soundcloud link. If you enjoy the experience of loudly produced, opaque textured sound organised to produce oddly calming harmony you will love this work.
Masakatsu Takagi (https://takagimasakatsu.bandcamp.com/) is an accomplished Japanese musician and film maker and his track Water Memory is from a soundtrack and tells the story of a boy who is able to travel through time and meet different generations of relatives guided by his sister from the future. It is also a beautiful, ethereal and mystical piece that sounds a little like what Debussy might have composed had he been alive now and living in Japan.
I was recently introduced to the music [and sound] of Secret Films (https://lr2recordings.bandcamp.com/album/35-53?fbclid=IwAR2nA9VPnj_13VLziZMGqmma4VkC2GNSAvQt7PxnkrrHMimGggqmWCwZ68g) by my old school classmate Graham Winter who is a friend of Doug Bell. Doug is one half of Secret Films; the other being Tim Lake.
Their new album, on LR2, is called 35:53 which, as well as being symmetrical is also the running time (I think!), including gaps, of the whole thing. And that particular thing is improvised ambient music which utilises live synths subsequently expanded upon with overdubs. It’s all about the textures and each of the four tracks builds patiently, introducing sounds and throwing up some agreeably unusual harmonic language. My favourites are the patiently building opening track Night falls on Pennance Hill and the final track Towards the Horizon with its low buzzing sustained synth notes, contrastingly fluid upper register and subtle switches between quasi-minor key melancholy and enigmatic harmonic language and more tranquil soundscapes. But all four tracks are well worth hearing.
Incidentally I selected Towards the Horizon to be my Vanishing Point track on the wonderful Monday Night Ride-Out on Exile FM (https://exilefm.com) with the always amazing Ming Nagel and Jon Read (aka two members of Project Blackbird). This is a weekly feature that evolved out of the Vanishing Point (Vol. 1) compilation album I curated and released last year via Demerara Records (named after my monthly gig at the Ivy House) and which, having played all 19 tracks on the show, metamorphosized into a feature where I choose the final track of the show and my reasons for doing so are read out on the show, usually by Ming. So it has been a pleasure to be able to combine that feature and this blog to bring Secret Films to the attention of a few more fans of new music.
Musician and BBC broadcaster Cerys Matthews was live at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival where her guest was South African jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim who gave a great interview talking about his life and his experience of coming to the United States where he met and played with some of the great historic jazz players. Also featured on the show was an interview with Ezra Collective (featured in a recent TTD) and tracks by Midlife, Joe Armon-Jones, Shafiq Husayn, Ebo Taylor (also recently featured in TTD), Jazz Epistles and two of my heroes Kamasi Washington and Herbie Hancock. The podcast will still be available until early June. Download it at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0004t2q.
WORLD IN UNION
Parekh & Singh (https://parekhandsingh.com/) are an Indian Dream Pop duo whose song Hello is basically a well-written and melodic pop song infused with traditional West Bengal musical influences. It is buoyant and bubbly and not a long way from Western pop although rest assured it is a million miles from what we call Dream Pop!
The duo, who look a little like an Asian reinvention of Devo in identical achingly cool red suits, yellow shirts, black ties and matching shoes set against a futuristic backdrop, have an album of their unique music with a bit of a science and astronomy theme. The album is called Science City and according to the accompanying blurb the album ‘... sees our sharp-suited star-gazers materialising in another dimension - a retro-future world of doctors and scientists, quantum mechanics and plans to unlock the secrets of the universe’. That ought to be reason enough to want to hear more.
Late Junction (BBC Radio 3) featured a live performance by the gifted Malian artist Rokia Traoré (https://www.rokiatraore.net/en/). Now 45 and with a musical career that began as a young girl, she has worked with an impressively diverse cast of musicians over the years including Damon Albarn, the Kronos Quartet and Toni Morrison. Having been appointed as guest director of the 2019 Brighton Festival, she was in the UK and dropped into the BBC Studios to record a stunning rendition of her music which is Malian in heart and soul, filled with the repeating hypnotic rhythms and arpeggioic guitar figures that are such a part of that West African folk and jazz but also finds room for infuences from US, UK, Caribbean and European music too. Her voice is dynamic, soft and fragile at times, soaring into the upper register at others. Her guitar playing is skillful, dexterous and disciplined. It was a pleasure to listen to.
Well it’s a different area of Folk in this section for a change but my great friend and presenter of the wonderful and supportive Paradise by the Sea (Conquest Hospital Radio) recently had two members of the RX Shanty Men (https://www.facebook.com/rxshantymen/) as guests on his excellent show and I was immediately taken with their joyous interpretation of traditional sea shanties and the fantastic stories of terror on sinking boats and things people did to escape poverty.
Like Graham they are based in Hastings on the East Sussex coast and their album was recorded in the Jenny Lind Pub. Graham has played them on his show a few times now. He has also very kindly sent me a copy of the album after I told him I was writing this review. And a wonderful, uplifting album it is too. It is full of shanties that paint a fascinating history of the culture, the issues, the struggles and the humour that surrounded by Britain’s fishing communities over a long period. How nice it would be to think of modern day fishermen and women singing shanties like these about how their lives are affected by Brexit, Austerity, rows over fishing limits etc.
The RX Shanty Men do also have a Soundcloud page (https://soundcloud.com/rxshantymen?fbclid=IwAR3KoIUCKWJlzAqTFWOok9GQwtbkRTNt5B35eG3WAKrJeiJ2P4aaSQs9X0) which includes the stirring Ranzo Ray and the gruesome Hanging Johnny with its cries of ‘Away boys away’ and ‘Hang boys hang’! There’s the tributory The Grimsby Lads about the old Grimsby fishermen and the really joyous and uplifting Doodle let me go.
The RX Shanty Men album Live at the Jenny Lind has an amazing seventeen tracks. There are more highlights than I can possibly mention but I particularly like John Kanaka which, as they explained when Graham had them on his show, is a name (a bit like Joe Bloggs I guess) applied generically to ships’ crew members, Blow the man down which has a stirring chorus and the appealing opener Windy Old Weather. There is a plethora of cultural history pouring from the lyrics of these songs and, while some of the subject matter can be pretty gruesome, there is plenty of good humour too. Moreover they bring these tales and the aura of the times in which they were written to life with their fine craftsmanship.
The RX Shanty Men - Mick Bovee, Tom Kelly, Scott Reid & Jon Tigwell - perform regularly on a Thursday at the Jenny Lind where people are welcome to go along and join in with the singing. You never know. I might make my way down to the South Coast and join them one evening, especially now I have the opportunity to learn some of their tunes.
I am not sure where in this edition to logically place Hackney-based Ruth Orhiunu (https://soundcloud.com/mynameisruth) whose sunkissed laid back soulful vibe on her new single Play Tricks is broadly in downtempo slow soulful House territory. It sits in a cool ‘all the time in the world’ groove accompanied by jazz-tinged chords and a production style that allows plenty of space for Ruth Orhiunu’s soft but assertive[[‘and sugary voice.
She is actually Croydon-born and Birmingham-raised but now finds herself in East London. Her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ruthorhiunu/) reveals there is a carefully choreographed video to Play Tricks (https://youtu.be/9CuJuK2T5Sg) which features Ruth in yellow bikini dancing solo throughout. Anyway it’s a lovely track so let’s hope it picks up some airplay. BBC1Xtra, BBC 6 Music, BBC Introducing, this is one for you.
Epic & Cinematic
I was fortunate to see Parisian trio Juniore (https://soundcloud.com/junioreofficial) live earlier this year when they were first support to the Dandy Warhols at the O2 Academy in Brixton. I was captivated by their combination of French language female vocals, sumptious organ chords, spy movie meets spaghetti Western guitar picking and powerful drums. Now back touring the UK as a headline act, their new single En Solitaire is a cracker. Smouldering away under dark descending chords and film noir melody, it crackles and pops with inventiveness and atmosphere, immediately taking me into a world of dark rainkissed back streets and stylish long coats! Vienna circa The Third Man in an onscreen romance with late night Paris perhaps! Well anyway it has a unique aura, a great tune and a strong dose of Juniore’s highly individual sound world. And that, I can assure you, is a good place to be.
The prodigious teenage talent that is Essex singer-songwriter Sam Eagle (https://soundcloud.com/samsmusicbaby) keeps turning out sophisticated soulful Pop tunes and colllaborations and his track Alcohol (featuring Amaroun) has a lovely [slightly] lo-fi quality while the combination of male and female voices with a relatively raw guitar sound (but playing jazz-tinged chords) draws the listener in. It has an aura that pricks up the ears and keeps me hooked while the song develops and layers are added.
So it was a bonus that I got to see Sam and his band perform at the End of the Trail stage at The Great Escape. And boy, what a performance. Blessed with a band who seem to be able to move between grooves and tempi with consumate ease, Sam was on fire, his versatile soul-tinged vocals and funky jazz-infused guitar leading the line as he shuffled around the stage and engaged the audience who lapped up his confident interactive style. The standard of his songwriting is consistently high. The drums and bass interlock superbly well, making every switch sound seamless while it is such an asset to have a keyboard-playing trombonist whose approach is so instinctively musical. There is no-one out there doing what Sam is doing right now.
Sam is an artist on a mission and with a lot of support from the likes of Tom Robinson (BBC 6 Music) and management courtesy of Kelly Munro’s End of the Trail Creative, it is all going in the right direction as his regular appearances at festivals demonstrate.
The coming together of two exciting Yorkshire-based acts Postculture & Sinead Campbell (https://open.spotify.com/album/5sFx80Lwt3To9BSqcBrSEj) sees them collaborate on a cracking new single entitled Back To Basics. They are represented by the awesome 100% female-run HER Music PR (https://hermusicpr.co.uk) who are showing how it’s done in terms of promoting female talent in the region (including TTD favourites Muriel & Blazquez). It’s a funky epic slice of contemporary pop that cries out to get some decent radio play. A dynamic and distinct vocal performance from Sinead Campbell plays against robust instrumental play, spacious production and plenty of reverb. It has a strong hook too. The style sits somewhere between an eighties smooth funk-pop vibe and a modern guitar band leaning. It will certainly get people up and grooving.
There is also an awesome video (youtu.be/4Z3MgO16X3M) on YouTube which I hope will make it onto some of the more mainstream music TV channels. They are notoriously hard to get new artists onto but this is a video where the audio-visual quality is top-notch and it has an actual story that marks it out from the countless videos of people dancing on streets and beaches!
As Rachel from HER explains the video is ‘... shot and directed by Anarchy Cinema, it amplifies the importance of nature and true human connection. It depicts 4 new age wanderers rejecting the system and finding solace in the simple things’.
The group says this about the track - “’Back to Basics’ is in some form a rejection to the current fast paced system that we find ourselves seemingly trapped in. An outcry for re-connection, oneness and to simplify our lives somewhat: taking away all the information, the material things and connect to what truly matters: Love, human connection and consciousness. With the rise of mental health issues, the destruction of the Earth and tensions here in the UK around Brexit, ‘Back to Basics’ feels relevant.” If that doesn’t make you want to check it out, what will?!
Thomas Day’s (https://soundcloud.com/thomasdaymusic) Soundcloud page defines his track This Feeling as Indie. But actually it’s really not. On the contrary it is slightly funky jazz-infused sophisticated pop of a particularly satisfying kind. He also has a voice that stands out immediately for its earthy quality and dexterity.
Poison is heavier and pits a rockier riff against a slightly funky beat. Again it showcaes his grainy bluesy voice. There’s an EP that is dated 2017 which offers further evidence of Thomas Day’s penchant for mixing a slightly funky Rock edge to his songs on Open up while No Pressure kicks off with more dreamy jazz-inflected guitar chords and a big vocal sound before an urban beat kicks in. This boy loves to mix and match with his genre references. The chorus really picks it up too and helps deliver an impressive track.
On Palace of my mind we get yet more evidence of his versatility as he raps against a syncopated beat and strings while the chorus is at the poppier end of R’n’B. The EP concludes with Glowing Youth with slow guitar broken chords and a big high register vocal. Ambient sounds permeate the developing soundscape.
Thomas maybe is still working out what his musical identity is but these are well-written songs and he has all the elements there. A definite one to watch.
Hannah Scott (https://soundcloud.com/hannahscottuk) has been on my radar since the first time she submitted a track during my time with Fresh on the Net and her latest track Walk a wire is a stunner. It has a massive chorus with an anthemic quality to the hook and an arrangement that builds to great dynamic climaxes. It’s one part folky and even, in a strange way that is hard to pinpoint, reminds me of Folkrockers like Steeleye Span and Renaissance. Yet it is by the same token very much a contemporary pop track that also nods towards electronic pop. It also went down a storm with Fresh on the Net readers who voted it into our Fresh Faves and was picked by the amazing Ming and Jon to be played on Exile FM’s Monday Night Ride-Out; one of the best shows on radio in my humble opinion.
It is interesting that she has been championed by Old Grey Whistle Test legend Bob Harris (BBC Radio 2) and that she has been featured in Mojo. Her website (http://www.hannahscott.co.uk) talks of a special affinity with Italy and her partnership with Stefano Della Casa which has significantly influenced her style. She is certainly ploughing a refreshingly individual path and is blessed with a great voice and a talent for penning a fine tune.
Alt Rock & Indie
OK Button (https://soundcloud.com/okbutton) are a trio I have not previously come across but their track Grenade immediately grabbed me with its dreamy allure, appealingly unusual [soprano range] female vocal and an infectious melody that is matched by a smart and intriguing lyric. Is this a tragic tale of being with someone who fakes his love for her or is it a tale of her capturing the heart of a love rogue? Hmmm, well either way it’s a cracking choon backed by a great interlocking instrumental backdrop of lively drum programme, deep sustained synth bass notes, epic synth chords and crescendo-decrescendo single notes that offer an agreeable degree of buzz and distant enigmatic resonance.
The production on the vocal track is perfect too; tracked slightly and with reverb whacked up in the right places while equally, when she sings the opening lines unaccompanied again at the end, the sudden sparseness (after such a full-on arrangement) is both a cool contrast and a reminder of what a fine and individual .voice she possesses. Enough of my fellow FOTN moderators agreed and it made it through to our Listening Post.
Charity Shop Pop (https://soundcloud.com/charityshoppop), not sure if the name is all one word but hey! Their melancholy yet uptempo Alt Pop choon Dreaming (It’s a nightmare) flew out of the speakers at me with all the uptempo pop jangle of early Aztec Camera in a mash-up with White Denim. The lyrics could not be more classic teenage angst and heartbreak over a relationship gone South! But it has the most simple but lovely guitar (and synth? not sure) melody that plays in part of the intro and returns in the chorus. And what a chorus. So epic and ear-grabbing. They hail from Ormskirk and the singer’s accent adds an appealing aspect to their honest indie soundworld. I look forward to hearing more.
I was also very taken with a track called Sympathy by Cosmic Ninja (https://soundcloud.com/cosmicninjaband) who describe themselves as an Electronic Rock band from Bristol. The track is dominated by a strong female vocal (with male vocal popping up here and there to briefly take over lead duties) and a spacious sound that mixes melodic synths with powerhouse drums and driving guitar and bass. It also has a killer chorus and an imaginative arrangement that makes great use of the combined voices, individually and harmonically and some cool melodic synth figures. And Sympathy is another one that made both our Listening Post and Fresh Faves.
The track turns out to be part of an eponymously titled 3-track EP entitled Cosmic Ninja EP- 2019 (as opposed to its predecessor simply called Cosmic Ninja). It includes the more intense and slightly punkier Yeah Right which has a clever half-time chorus and some smart vocal production characteristics. We got up is intriguing in that it utilises the electronic aspects of their sound and yet the style of the verses could almost be 90s US Post-Punk and the chorus has a lovely synth sound that might more often be heard in EDM. They are certainly an interesting, exciting band with great songs, a unique sound and a talent for making the most of production skills.
In Tamsin Cullum (aka TC) they have a singer with the voice to really pull it off. Interesting that her fellow band members Jonny Angelini (Guitar), Robin De Wandelaer (Bass Guita) and Ellie Daymond (Drums) do not include any mention of a synth player. But there is mention of their trademark LED shoes and glasses and a synchronized light show so they have it sorted one way or another. It is also notable that they recorded the EP with former Gary Numan and Brian May producer Jayce Lewis at Northstone Studios in Bridgend which has proved a good choice.
It is always good to hear a new track by the excellent Wild Horse (https://soundcloud.com/wildhorseuk) aka Henry & Jack Baldwin and Ed ‘Barking’ Barnes. Their joyous style mixes an infectiously poppy Indie sensibility with a strong tendency towards classic British Rock by which I mean Stones/Who/Faces territory but done in a refreshingly contemporary way as the excellent LISTEN! Stop messing around amply demonstrates with its crunching Keith Richards meets Pete Townshend guitar riff, big vocal (and great BVs in the chorus) and crisp rhythmic display from the bass and drums. Upbeat and uplifting from start to end.
Wild Horse may also be the first band I have ever come across from the historic Sussex village of Burwash. Their sound however bears a strong City influence. Expect to hear more of Wild Horse over the coming months.
I am intrigued by the Florence-formed Italian Alt Pop duo Franky Barbano (https://soundcloud.com/frankybarbano) whose What is it for? landed in my in-box and captured my attention with its combination of strummed guitar, understated lead electric play and low register voices singing a slightly dark, mystical melody. It reminded me simultaneously of Teenage Fanclub, Jeff Buckley and Neil Young. Only one of those names, it transpires, are listed as influences on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/frankybarbanomusic/).
Every Day Waltz, which is from last year, is indeed in three-time as its title suggests although there is not much about it that is ‘every day’! It is minimal compared to What is it for? but engaging too. There is then a ten (yes, 10!!) year gap between tracks on their Soundcloud page to a 2008 EP that has some really impressive material on it. But what went on in the intervening period? Oh well, perhaps that will become clear at some later point. The good news is Franky Barbano are certainly active in 2019 and on fine form
Master of None (https://soundcloud.com/user-483877268) is, of course, a solo project of Little Red’s Ian Mitchell and it was good to receive another of his driving Alt Rock tracks Call me Jack with an enigmatic lyric, trademark low register vocal and atmospheric straight-ahead guitar, bass and drums momentum.
Also new on Ian’s Soundcloud page is another fine slice of resonant but dark Alt Rock in the form of the guitar-driven energetic track You will get what you deserve which is an ominous title if ever there was one! All good stuff and I heartily recommend you check his music out if you haven’t aleady done so.
The Hannah Barberas (https://soundcloud.com/user-526073865-259834752) may be named after a famous cartoon making patnership but there is nothing cartoon about their energised jangly Alt Pop with fine female voice, ear-catching melodies and interesting mid-song diversions and arrangement quirks. Their song I like you in blue burst forth from my speakers and had me thinking simultaneously of The Orielles, Sunflower Bean and early Orange Juice! Perhaps a sprinkling of Talulah Gosh too.
The timing was good too as their debut album The Hannah Barberas Get Physical (https://thehannahbarberas.bandcamp.com/releases) was released earlier this month. The album reveals a lot of other sides to their style including something akin to punk-infused Skiffle (yeah really!) and male vocal on Our girl is gone. Others, like Now (is here at last) and the dreamier Cafe Song (with male lead vocal) are more in that melodic Indie territory while the gorgeous Slow Cooked is mid-tempo Alt Pop with a Motown bassline, great handclaps, a lovely guitar figure and killer tune.
It’s a really good album that reminds me in some ways of some of those under-rated indie label sets from the eighties like Dislocation Dance and The Farmers’ Boys but it’s also fresh and contemporary, full of busy and imaginative playing by all instrumentalists, an abundance of top tunes and cool harmonies (including a welcome use of ‘ooh’s in the BVs). A really welcome surprise. Another surprise is that they are based down the road from me (or up the road if you like!) in New Cross.
Since first writing this review three interesting things have happened. First is that I have been speaking to the Hannah Barberas about them playing at Vanishing Point which looks likely to be in September or October. Second is that their infectious Alt Pop choon I like you in blue stormed into the Fresh on the Net Fresh Faves with a sizeable vote of confidence from our regular readers. Third is the aforementioned Ming and Jon of Exile FM, who had both voted for the track at the Fresh on the Net Listening Post, picked I like you in blue as one of their two featured FOTN tracks on the Monday Night Ride-Out.
It is heartening to observe such an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the Hannahs’ first offering. Things are looking good for them and they have been astute in courting other internet radio shows that support new music too. Lets hope it has been the start of something big for this extremely likeable and talented band.
Staying in the same sector of the Capital for the moment, 20 year old Ruby Cross (https://soundcloud.com/rubycrossmusic) is from Penge in South East London and is a singer-songwriter who, thanks to an earthy, jazz-influenced vocal sound and style and a penchant for playing imaginative chords with some volume and vigour on an acoustic guitar, makes a big sound for one person with one instrument. Her track Circles demonstrates all these attributes and has an easy swing feel that carries it along with an appealing momentum.
It also sounds like she is getting good audience numbers to local gigs which is a great way to kick off your live music strategy. There is an EP expected in the autumn so I hope to hear about that in due course.
Earlier I mentioned my visit to The Great Escape and one of the artists who blew me away with a gripping solo set (voice and guitar) was 16 year old Nottingham-based singer-songwriter Tilly Greentree (https://soundcloud.com/user-934329387/). I was aware of Tilly’s music thanks to Fresh on the Net but the fact that I hadn’t realised how young she was is a measure of how mature her voice and songwriting is. Live that voice is goose-bumpingly earthy, even bluesy at times and soulful too. Her playing is accomplished too with some skillful finger-picking and jazzy chord play.
Her live set was a mix of her own songs and some well-chosen covers. She mentioned Eva Cassidy as an influence and later, when we talked, she also referred to Amy Winehouse and Corinne Bailey-Rae. I suggested perhaps Tracey Thorn might be a good reference too. All of which tells you that she is writing melodic and thoughtful sophisticated pop with elements of jazz, soul and folk and delivering them with confidence and composure. Included in the set was her current single Rift which I duly chose to be the Vanishing Point track on the last edition of the Monday Night Ride Out on Exile FM. Tilly has just signed a two year deal with our friends bndr Music (and they were there live streaming the event) who, recognising that she is still studying for A Levels, have sensibly only asked her for two new tracks per year though I suspect she will top that anyway. She has great parental support and has signed with a label whose ethos is admirable. I have high hopes for Tilly with that infrastructure around her, supporting her talent and not trying to turn her into a commercially driven artist.
Electronic & Ambient
I heard Pye Corner Audio (https://soundcloud.com/pyecorneraudio) on the Freak Zone with Stuart Maconie on BBC 6 Music and was very taken with the dynamic swirling synths and electronics of the track Hollow Earth from the album of the same name released on Ghost Box recently.
Pye Corner Audio’s Soundcloud page showcases the entire album which offers 15 contrasting and superbly produced tracks. Particular favourites of mine include the deep buzzy bassy Descent, the almost Trance-like Mindshaft which is built around a popping bassline and ear-stroking synth melody, Core Sample which has sumptious low register synth, Dancing Shadows which mixes slow electronica with slightly Eastern sounding instrumental lead, Buried Memories which blends unusual harmony with equally unusual hypnotic arpeggios on a bright synth and The Hidden City which has a strikingly ethereal ambience.
The lack of any links on the Soundcloud page makes it hard to uncover much information about Pye Corner Audio. A google search reveals no social media pages but this page aboout the album which has been put up by the Ghost Box label (https://ghostbox.greedbag.com/buy/hollow-earth-5/) tells us that ‘they’ are actually Martin Jenkins and this is his third album for Ghost Box. Beyond that he remains an enigma for now! Since I won’t be able to tag him on Twitter, I hope someone who knows Martin might see this and let him know about it.
In the meantime it is worth my quoting the accompanying blurb on the album page which gives some insight into his thinking: ‘It draws on Berlin school synth improvisations, New Age reveries and the ghosts of 90s house euphoria to summon up images of vast, awe inspiring spaces and claustrophobic chambers. It sustains an atmosphere of wonder and adventure throughout, and like its companion piece, Stasis, it works equally as a soundtrack to physical as well as mental exploration’.
AND FINALLY ….
So I usually just end by saying that’s it folks and usual goodbye-for-now type scenario but I can excitedly add this time that tonight (16th May) I am off to be a guest at a live show by the awesomely brilliant Kongo Dia Ntotila who were featured in Edition 25 and have been in at least three previous editions! I will report on that gig next time.
The week after that I am also privileged to be attending an industry showcase at the 100 Club by my mates Sleeper, fresh back from their second UK tour in two years and with their first album in 22 years. I always end up seeing them from the balcony of an O2 venue in London (i.e. Shepherds Bush or Kentish Town) so it will make a nice change to see them in a more intimate setting.
Otherwise that just leaves me to say thanks as ever for reading my musings and take care everybody. See you on 31st May. Neil xxxxxx