Music being intuitive manipulation of waves, I have long believed in symbiotic link with physics, but I never thought that words of a particle physicist, albeit an entirely enigmatic speaker, would turn up in a song. In fact appliance of science; in the form of electrical manipulation, unequal equation yielding unexpected result in Alternative Eurovision and development of new musical form, christened by me, Epingle; turned out to be recurring theme in this month’s selection, which in itself offered a conundrum; how to fit a pint in a wine glass. This month and a half has poured creativity into my brimming in box, hence section at end which rather impersonally lists the overflow; ones I would have written about given time , space and an alternative reality, where time sings my tune and doesn’t pull my strings.
Where music is concerned, I do not allow head, sense nor trends to influence me; the only area of life where I can entirely follow my own heart in seeking elusive maverick spark; Bowie’s music, complex in its simplicity, unique yet universally communicative, my holy grail; its spirit the one I trail. So, I am not going to explain my choices nor put them in any form of order, neither preferential nor by genre, except to say, these are the ones I have recently loved:
Phoria- 'Red', Single from EP 'Bloodworks'
Completely inspirational meld of musical forms and instrumentation; building cell by cell, flower of deepest velvet red, petals slowly unfolding to blossom breathtaking beauty, sublime simplicity constructed from inner complexity.
'Red' mirrors that process in music: samples, shredded and reconstructed into rhythmic snippets of sound bites, its cells; off beat hand claps synaptical flint sparking life; piano pulsing river of blood in melancholic ebb and flow, catching sunlight in glimmer and glow; sigh of deep bass throbbing undertow ; electronic drum hesitant beat of stirring, skipping heart; haze of vocals warmth of light, breath of electron wind, molecular midwife, building DNA strands, aligning, weaving itself into being. Melodically enticing, Phoria take core of emotive folk, subtly mix it with electronic magic, gently tugging at drum and bass beat, to evolve new harmony between old and new. Rhythmically intercut with clips from lectures of entrancingly enigmatic theoretical physicist Feynman, I am even more enamoured; mirroring his theories, Phoria builds musical matter from small particles, excitations of quantum fields interacting to build dynamic; illustrating laws of superfluidity, matter flowing like fluid.
Respecting Feynman, it is his words which end the song; talking about an artist observing a flower, a physicist who can move to tears with his passionate words, expressing with perfect eloquence, intuitive link between art and science and infinite dimensions of beauty. If you have never heard those words, it is your duty to listen. It could change the way you look at the world forever: Understanding of life through music; an entirely symbiotic link.
Ummagma- ' 1+ 1 = 3 ', Single
Billed as Ukrainian entry and winner of this year's Alternative Eurovision was temptation enough to listen to this track. Expecting this single to be less rather than more than sum of its parts, I was grateful I had given in to curiosity and opened what turned out to be Pandora's Box of dark electronica, throbbing with menace, twinkling with mystery of unexplored deep space, cloaked Klingon vessel hoving through hyper reality, Steve Hillage given new toys at helm of state of the art spaceship.
This piece is pure soundscape, but other tracks I briefly listened to, reveal another even more intriguing side to Ummagma, gothic rock and progressive mixed with Cocteau Twins and Ladytron; look forward to exploring more but have a feeling Ummagma might be my Umami moment.
Josef Salvat- ‘Hustler [Kry Wolf Remix]', Single
Beguilingly disingenuous electronically generated, dull thud thud of four four drum beat and syncopated high hat, offers little clue to lure of what follows, taking me in with worn chug of familiarity, tickling both intrigue and trepidation. Beguiled by elusive burst of hollow, warped sound spike and hypnotic ticking time bomb click, bait to hook, I am drawn in, so when bouncing, gloopy bass kicks in, soulful vocal riding its reverberations, staccato, shredded, sampled, its fading echo sent skittering into shimmering space, glimmered with flitting firefly sounds, I am irrevocably immersed, in deep love with this completely charismatic catchy track. Melodically enticing, rhythmically engaging, with pull of drum and bass and enigmatic simplicity of deep house, one of the most excitingly exhilarating dance tracks I have heard for a long while. LOVE IT!
Monks of Mellonwah- 'Sky and The Dark Night', Epingle
A single in three movements, dramatically spine tingling, orchestrally cinematic, this could be sound track to epic movie, neither single, nor EP, there is no way to describe this, other than Epingle, an EP/Single which tingles senses.
Employing what sounds like full string section as backdrop to some extraordinary progressive dexterity , both traditional and electronic, guitars and synths twisting , weaving, swooping into stratosphere , beneath pounding, glowering skies of rolling electronic clouds, conjuring Jupiter landscape of shifting electrical storms; this is a truly extraordinary realisation of musical imagination, which engulfs and enraptures as much as it amazes with its vibrant virtuosity and mastery of a multitude of musical techniques and styles, bringing fantastical , fervent illusion vividly to life.Liar Liar- 'Vienna Ditto', EP
Enchantment of an EP, spellbinding seduction of intimately surreptitious vocal, weaving tales of love and life, whispered like dark fairy tales, stepping through wavy glass of mind's mirror, into slightly warped world, shimmered with light of luminous, tale telling, Gothic fireside folk, touched by Country, entrancingly expressed by expressive lo-fi, traditional and classical, growling guitars, thudding drums, lyrical strings; sprinkled with elixir of electronica, magical potion shifting colours, enticing melancholy, menace and duplicity from dark corners.
Though many decry electronica, for me it has opened up extraordinary palette of musical colour, which new generations, at one with its language, are beginning more fully to explore, mixing chimerical shades impossible to realise before. Here it is stitched together with magic thread, wielded by elfin fingers, invisibly melding old and new, bringing new life to vintage garment of velvets and silks.
'Liar Liar': Tango tease of gritty, saw tooth cut and thrust, pounding heart guitars and breathless drums, vocal, tongue on fire, in rhythmic dervish devil dance, moving to spaces in between, shamelessly flirting while slipping slinking just out of grasp. 'The Undefeated': Slides down Western steel guitar, throb of dusky drums, peal of cracked chapel bell, clunk of anvil on horses shoe and sweetly innocent vocal taking us to Spaghetti Western dust bowl town, careworn cowboy sauntering into sunset, shot through heart in slow motion scattering of shards. 'Whatever Comes My Way': Stunningly beautiful ballad: clearly enunciated lullaby lilt of a vocal with sob in throat, bass doleful eyes, brimming with heavy heart, evoking deep melancholy which irrepressibly invokes tear, "...love is an addiction....makes beggars of us all....I shall take whatever comes my way...." 'Little Fingers': As descriptive as menace inflected nursery tale; shiny synth, sliding guitar, stealthy bass, drums in shadows, ready to leap from dark corners, trickling effects, ghosts shimmering from other dimensions "... black so thick it seems to cling... little fingers picking at my seams...." : Highly cinematic, perfectly evoking dream state. 'Liar Liar (Bobby Bloomfield Remix)' spins song around on tantalising Portishead fairground ride of mischievous sprites and electronic effects; cut and stitched into thrusting bytes it almost becomes a new form of progressive jazz, where orchestra meets screaming synth and growling bass, while spaceship materialises in their midst.
Junip- 'Your Life, Your Call', Single
Impossible not to be snared by beat of this glorious conglomeration of eighties electronica, smoothly enticing vocal and deepest, sexiest, grimy bass, which resonates through my head to deeper plexus place with its palette of sublime, shimmering, vibrating space age effects, artfully blended with more traditional sounds of squeeze box accordion, Tablas, guitars and drums: An unlikely but unequivocal triumph of a mind worm, which moves even leaden feet to twitch and dance.
Flaming June- ‘Rumpelstiltskin & The Perils and Promises of Womanhood’, EP
Though folk seems to be flooding airwaves in one way or another, there is no denying its power to arouse emotion, its ever evocative cadences developed over countless ages, honed to enable free expression of human experience. With voice reminiscent of Mary Black, Louise Hamilton's vocals are also steeped deep in empathy, eviscerated from entrails of pain, still waters drawn from dark well, lifted into light by strength of insurmountable spirit and will.
As an avid reader of Brothers Grimm, even the name Rumpelstiltskin strikes fear in my heart, conjuring up vivid picture of twisted imp who claims more than pound of flesh. In the story his evil intention is repelled, sins of acquisitive, prideful men forgotten, but life does not follow fairytales, there is no magic to redeem, only power of self. This is what this EP expresses so eloquently, nuances in Louise Hamilton's vocal timbre, clear as glass, misty as mountain dew, speak directly of hard ground from whence sprang this spring of determination, nurtured this will to survive; allowed to shine by softly strummed guitar, percussion and dusky drums tenderly shaken and thrummed and melodic tones of dulcet violin ; whether rhapsodic or staccato, wafting or weaving, instrumentation which protectively caresses, wraps its arms around her, dances in flicker of embers.
'Rumpelstiltskin', classically plaintive; ‘Psycho’, spikier, fiery gypsy, rhythmic; 'Sweetest Weakness', madrigal like, breaking into English traditional folk rock, lilting, fiercely strummed, riding waves of burning desire; ‘Heal Me Believe Me' beautifully lyrical ballad of vocal and tumbling piano, clear as moonlight, yearning for hope and 'Song For The Broken Hearted’, swaying with melancholy, rising, falling, spun like silk round central drone of agony etched deep in broken heart: Five shining facets of a tender soul.
Keys- 'Innocuous Beats', Lead track from EP
Bear with sore head, growl of a grungy track, Sex Pistols and Talking Heads taking on the Velvets in New York underground club. Jazzily precise guitars and drums follow quirky beat while deepest gunky bass struts, teases like stalking beast, resonates like louche loose lips, giving deep thrusting tongue , vocal repeated rapped provocative sneer, inciting riot, ending up in tangled tumble, tight ball rolling on the floor; controlled explosion in confined space, from innocently beguiling beginnings, 'Innocuous Beats' concoct incendiary device.
Diwon- ‘Try Stopping’, Single
IMAX cinematic, Super Hero Hip Hop, bigger than life, poetical lyrical rap, racing through cartoon landscape of fantastical electronic sounds, soaring on sweeps of luscious melody, lifted to heavens by heaving harmonies, sliding to ground on plunging bass, vibrated to core by deep bursts of wah-wah effects, spun dizzily around by burbling bouncing bubbles and blips ; 'Try Stopping' is unstoppable rollercoaster ride in widescreen glowing musical colour, transporting hip hop, rap, drum and bass to another, wider space.
Frantic Chant- ‘What Lies Beyond', Single
Deliciously spaced out psych folk, wrung with Doors melodious dissonance and Nirvana angst while retaining new age soul. Glittering cacophony of grating , gritty sound, steely guitars sliding in and out of alignment with harmony, vibrated through ethereal echo of slightly twisted other worlds, ghostly chants and tangle of radio broadcasts permeating airwaves, desperately trying to contact earth, before floating off into outer space; glorious conglomeration of clamouring sound.
King Dinosaur - 'When They Could Own It', Single
Soul to soul let loose in tech house makes for entirely enthralling listening. Terence Trent D'Arby transported to another dimension in space and time; languid, tenderly compassionate, introspective vocal given spikier, darker edge; hissing viper of electronica sending tingling shiver down spine, skipping beat, sickening thud of heaving heart sliding down deepest, grimy, tremulous bass, plunged into dark waters of despair, washed by waves of melancholy, tormented by trickle of niggling, prickling thoughts, soothed by siren call of ethereal flutes: Moving to a different beat, soulful house with added intrigue.
Tunng- 'The Village', Single
Folk, in its many forms, seems to be enjoying a refreshing revival. At the same time, inventive use of electronica is opening up whole new pallets of sound. Putting both together might seem like tempting a Man Who Fell To Earth tragedy; Newton and Mary-Lou unable to fully look each other in the eye, to consummate. Similarly, Darth Vader and medievally attired Princess Leia seem unable to share same Star Wars space. However, for me, folk and electronica share a common goal, to conjure atmosphere from thin air. Tunng achieve this meeting of minds, traditional and new, mortal and ethereal, with musical aplomb, evolving subtlest, evocative electronic landscapes for their chimerical folk to explore. ‘The Village’ glows with luminous colours, guitar, piano and synth mutated, mirage seen through electron haze, troubled by hint of sinister clouds, caress of lilting male and female vocal doubling up, staccato snippets, radio signals from another dimension; catchy folk cut up and rearranged, showing another side to its multifaceted soul.
To Kill A King- 'Funeral', Single
With echoes of Echo and The Bunnymen , billowing on waves of empathetic emotion, 'Funeral' captures so evocatively indescribable sadness of loss, and intense joy of having known: "...scream and dance like we were young...scream all the joy in your lungs...half with a heavy heart....but not with shackled feet..."
Irreverent to death, ecstatically reverential to spirit of life; celebratory funeral bathed in warm glow of fireside tenor vocal, wafted by incense of smoky bass and dusky drums, lyrical glistening guitar flitting, showering fire fly sparks, glimmering through dark, swirling together in heady dance, serenaded by trumpet reveille ; though infinitely catchy, melodically enticing as it bobs guilelessly along, this is inspiring Indie with insight beyond killer riffs and pretty pop chords, exuding glow of affinity, rapturous rapport with human heart and soul.
Plucked from debut album, 'Cannibals With Cutlery' , forget M&S, no regurgitation of stale Indie flesh, To Kill A King forage wild, concocting flavours bright and fresh from recipes old made new, artfully artlessly capturing essence of our dichotomous lives.
China White- 'Yeah Fool', Single
I just couldn't leave out this irresistibly dancy, slinky, seedy number with its fabulously, super cool dude funky bass, lightest, nimblest tickle of Tabla and sleazy tease of a vocal: "...we can do this all night....we can fuck or we can fight...I'm just a fool for you...." I need say no more......
Arcade Parade- 'Grace', Single from Cave Of Swimmers EP
Wavering in trepidation at water's edge; shiver of cymbal fluttering heartbeat, drums whisper of hesitant breath, glimmer of twin guitars building courage in glint of repeated root, slipping to seventh in perturbed apprehension, realigning, reinforced by droplets of fathomless bass, before jumping in, glistening guitars slicing, rippling, burbling, bass twisting turning, throbbing, diving, coming up for air,, dusky drums elegant yet strong thrust of steady heartbeat, while impassioned, husky vocal stutters rhythmically, gasping breath from spaces in between.
Instrumentally alluring, beautifully intermeshed; gliding into glittering mirage of guitar interludes filtered through haze, shot through with grit, laced with languidly lyrical bass and jazzily light percussion and drums, vocals weaving through tangle with sure footed grace. Though Arcade Parade speak familiar melodic tongue, eternally charismatic Indie cadences flowing easily from their highly musical lips, this is Indie with a twist, a bit more gravelly gravitas in its soul.
Is Tropical- 'Dancing Anymore', Single
Another one I just had to mention ; it is impossible not to dance to 'Dancing Anymore' and its irresistible eighties inspired electronic beat ; relying almost entirely on insistently repeated one liners, both lyrically and melodically; "...you don't take me dancing anymore....it's been a long time since I've been on the floor..." both literally and metaphorically summing up this single.
Delivered with enchantingly light touch, brimming with gleeful, tongue in cheek exuberance, gloriously funky bass, sampled and stitched off beat percussion, shivered and stabbed with synth shriek, washed in slightly wayward spacey effects, petulant female vocals layered, harmonising with hazy male vocal in that signature eighties way; this goes beyond cheese into realms of classic, ripe for many a remix, all of which are sure to make me smile as much as this 'straight' version.
Emily Wells- 'Passenger' (acoustic version), Single
Sounding like modern day Nina Simone, Emily Wells makes extraordinary impact with just her extruded, sedated, hypnotic vocal, introspectively layered on itself in nebulous wash of harmonies, tentatively embraced by lonesome reticent twang of acoustic guitar and echoed, hushed murmur of hum. Intimately invasive, woman turned to scared child, there is a visceral fragility about this song , deep recesses of human mind cracked open, brought shivering into light, it speaks directly to loneliness and anxiety at core of every human soul, bravely literal in lyrics and delivery: "... tell me doctor you know how to make it stop.. give me all your medicine give me all your pills... bedside manner to cure my ills... I'm a passenger.... give me the keys I want to drive..." thread of thought wandering off, subsumed in morass of drug numbed mind, tranquilised, quietly drowned.
Gentler in poetic, singer songwriter style, but with spirit of Radiohead, Emily Wells manages to delve depths of agony and angst whilst shining a light on the human spirit.
Katey Brooks- 'Back To Light', Single
Not usually a particular fan of American folk which touches on Country, this song and Katey Brook's extraordinarily evocative voice has turned on bright light, opened my ears and mind. With depth and timbre to evoke extreme jealously, Katey's vocal melts away resistance, deepest blue in range, Julie Felix crossed with Chrissie Hynde, Cleo Laine and Cher, liquid gold in burnt caramel form, like headiest of scents it is intoxicating , impossible to repel, only surrender is possible. A song to fall in love with as it swirls like autumn leaves caught in last gusts of summer breeze; dusky bass sigh of remembrance, percussion patter of prickling regret, river of piano melancholic undertow, steely guitar its inner sorrowful shriek, vocal heaving, heavy with un-cried tears, drenched in compassion, warmest caress; taking familiar evocatively moving Country melodic and lyrical themes: "...there's a little bit of hate in your eyes..little bit of shame in the sky...but never any blame...you're an angel in my eyes..." transforming them into something fresh, with a luminosity which can only release those tears in torrent of rain, breaking clouds, bringing back the sun: my eureka moment.
Rebekka Karijord- 'Multicoloured Hummingbird', Single
Whimsy of hummingbird song; Rebekka's clear, melodiously lyrical vocal, snippets of syncopation in shimmering shiver of counterpoint conversation with flittering, quiver of staccato bowed strings, haze of lilting bass warm breeze beneath her wings, offbeat snap of rim edge percussion, tiny ,fluttering heartbeat. Woven with beautiful simplicity, a song which hovers in the air, folk brushed with watercolour rainbow wash of evocative electronica, effortlessly floating as beating wings blur.
Gypsy & the Cat- 'Only In December', Single
Gloriously enchanting conglomeration of curious Alice in Wonderland electronic sounds, eighties squealing synths ,irresistibly strokeable suede vocal and erotically enthralling bass; 'Only In December' immediately and irrepressibly made me smile with bouncing lilt of strummed guitar, quirk of off beat drums, glimmer of capricious cymbal , glint of echoed shiny synth, sun through rain ,elastic bubblegum, bubbling burble of Pac-man giggle , Cheshire cat grin of sunny vocal and then came that swooning bass, stealing my heart with swagger of its nonchalant strut; I am in love.
Perfect example of how traditional instrumentation and forms, in this case whimsical folk, and electronica can be merged into radiantly luminous new whole, to paint magical landscapes of sound, fantastical new dimensions opened up for exploration. Catchy in the extreme, vocal in counterpoint with lyrical bass conjuring rhythm, pulled hither and thither by interspersed blips, impossible not to dance, to sway to this enchantment, sprinkled with magical shimmer, multifaceted as crystalline snow flake.
Baby Strange- 'Pure Evil', Single
Pulsing with gothic punk dark matter, gyrating with Velvet's edge, 'Pure Evil' exhales ectoplasm inhaled from air of dank underground New York clubs; frisson of foreboding in screech of sinuous sinister guitars, in grate of fiercely strummed churn, racing heart in throbbing thud of portentous bass and drums, mischievous malevolence in vocals ominous chant, its piercing howl. Delightfully deleterious, Baby Strange tantalises with driving barrage of energising sound, bayonets pointed demanding that you dance to twisting melodies of devil's own tune, Nirvana spun till dizzy in seductive Rolling Stone's arms, hissing with forked tongue; Mephistophelian magic which magnetises.
Jon Byrne- 'Forever Chasing That Feeling', Single
With voice like marmite being scrapped over toast; glistening, gloopy, swooping smear of falsetto swooning to sticky intense depths, cut by hollering gravel of grating knife; and intently observational, empathetic lyrics deceptively wrapped in lilting melody, tinged with 'Child Catcher' sinister allure, Jon Byrne's brand of urban folk captures imagination and human condition with stunning acuity; storyteller who captivates with immortal lines such as "...hypnotised... watching the Chelsea Flower Show... through a dirty Dixons window... want to dance in the streets like royalty... forget about my life ...poverty... feel my eyeballs rolling round ..." Modern day gypsy troubadour, weaving vibrant vocal silk, dancing jauntily through streets, guitars shimmering , twinkling, glimmering with lure of silver , bass deep and warm, honeyed as gold; Jon Byrne is master of seductive bait, musically mesmerising, drawing us into insights about our human state which we might choose to ignore, before turning around to stick the knife in; cutting edge in velvet glove, 'Forever Chasing That Feeling', caramel sweet with salty core, maybe acquired taste but impossible to ignore.
The ones that got away – further recommendations, worthy of praise and your ears
Reviews by Miss Chumki Banerjee