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DARK MATTER CLOAKED IN LUMINOUS LIGHT OF BEING: SINGLES AND EPS REVIEWED BY CHUMKI BANERJEE

Just as expectations of Summer have melted into creeping autumnal mists, so these past months have seen music meander into mysticism, melancholy and introspection, blossoms shaken, boughs bare bowers , beckoning  winter’s witching hour. As nights draw in, velvet and deep, maudlin voices whisper on wind that weeps, monsters creep through tangled briars, solace sought huddled round folktale fires, flickering bright, eyes dilated wide, dark dispelled by luminous light.

Amongst flash bang fireworks, stiff upper lip of seaside, big licks for stiff candy sticks bawdry, and a touch of soft porn, this month also reveals some remarkable retro revivals, reworked with renewed creativity, past echoed through filter of present, to fashion lustrous jewels, blossom new religions which reach deep to core of being, a month of many musical treasures, so many in fact, I found it difficult to choose between such glowing gems:

LUMINOUS LIGHT OF BEING

Feldspar - ‘The Flat and Paper Sky Vol. I’, EP

Without doubt and not before time, folk, traditional and revivalist, is once again unleashing acerbic, observant, bitter sweet sword, re-honed, shards of sparkling glass, mirroring myriad facets of chimerical heart, plunging deep dichotomies that plague human psyche, in eternally evocative tones; shades of light and  darkness which shadow, illuminate, all our afflicted, yet tender souls.Feldspar, poignant, piteous, perturbing; human cruelties, fallibilities, frailties, fragility nakedly exposed; achieves this exquisitely, drawing pain, compassion and cynicism from core of woe, hope and love. Ageless lessons, re-lived, re-learnt, told by guileless poetic tongue, old lessons with modern day spiky twist,  forging tantalising melodies wrapped in intensely musical, lush, lilting instrumentation, prickling piano, glittering guitar, deep double bass, weaving strings, wafting atmosphere.

Melding cadences from ‘folk’ of ages, English and French ballads, traditional and more recently reworked; Sandy Denny meets Sacha Distel, meets Charles Aznavour, meets Simon and Garfunkel with  flutter of Faithful, essence of Elton, brush of Bowie, and infallibly gripping Brel way with words, an irresistibly alluring combination of illustrious troubadours. Track 2, 'Cressida' is my favourite, for its vulnerability, laid agonisingly bare: Baleful, death rattle drone of military drum, doleful despondent vocal, lonely and cold, trudge  "...paraded as sacrifice for cupid... naked for my lovers through snow...", voice, wearily cynical, clear sighted as ice, piano, strings and harmonies heave heartache, snap emotional vice. Traps that ensnare, inconstant love wielded as weapon, sweet surrender, once won, discarded in campaign of selfish abandon, passion consumed, casualties left where they fall, innocent adoration freely given, used, abused.

Truly rending tale of what is done in name of love, power of lust’s irresistible lure; wrenched from soul tattered and torn, loaded with grief, fresh face stained by tears of hard lessons learnt; heartbreaker of a tune which takes clarity of folk, cast over with darker, Killing Moon, dramatic clouds, my song of the month. "...you can build your heathen empire on my body... conquer every region of my chest... plant the  flag to mark your promised land upon me... take everything you want... leave the rest...darling don't talk to me about love.." The rest of the tracks, just as inviting, take a more traditional turn, in one way or another:

Let the Time Run', in contemplative Paul Simon/ Sandy Denny sort of way, touching tale of love lost and endless craving “... you were too young for sadness...I was too ugly for sex...let the time run...you might as well try to block out the sky with the sun...although I didn't get my way I hope your every day is filled with love, love, love... I'm falling apart...” The Rest', glorious melody, swept with emotive strings, rift with resonance of traditional ballad, regretful portent, retrospectively wise, poignantly resigned recollections, in Marianne Faithful sixties remake style, “....take it or leave it....my foolish friend...I took it and left...” Lady Danger', dramatic, theatrical, dances Aznavour with Elton, pounding piano duelling with strident, progressively soaring guitar, in passionate, drunkenly swirling, Bowie/ Brel  Toulouse Lautrec night,  “...tonight I am so high... I forget why... I came here...to answer your call...the lights go out on this last barricade...brightest of stars must return to their graves.... how could I presume to be anything more than your lover...until you find another naive and corruptible stranger...one kiss of your hand...goodnight lady danger...” Last track, 'Shadow', more muted like its wistful brass accompaniment, intensely expressive vocal in lyrical counterpoint with articulate ‘cello, shivered by acoustic guitar and ghostly effects, adds an Indie tone to this moving love tale ,  “...shadow of a ghost... take your turn...  to speak in dark affairs.... like a tourniquet it tightens round your throat... till the words begin to burn... you never learn... can see it in your eyes... you have been here once or twice...swore the last time round you never would return... I could be so good to you... if you could be the things I need the most... not the shadow of a ghost...and... I will waste my final chance on you...” Beguilingly engaging, this intriguing, EP is impossible to put down, dark matter cloaked in luminous light of being, I cannot wait for the next volume.

Gramotones - ‘A Soldiers kiss’/ ‘Victorian Town’, Single

I was rather taken by The Gramotones when I reviewed their EP in August, as ‘...somewhat of a revelation, dark, tremulous, taunting, melodious indie folk rock, with touch of Talking Heads, Nick Cave and sixties psychedelia: fluid, flexible vocal woven with eloquent guitar, lyrically acerbic and voluble....’, and this latest single is equally revelatory: ‘A Soldiers kiss’ : Modern day troubadour, vital, vibrant, harmonised vocals with tantalising, declamatory edge, rabble rousing, punctured by pertinent percussive stabs to racing heart, astride slipping, sliding hooves of bass, perforated by punchy guitar licks and slick, rhythmic lyrics, “...A soldier’s kiss... placed upon his lover’s wrist... she said surely a man’s life’s worth more than this... Jenny if you’re ready... going down down down... I hope that you’ll be proud of this...”

This song is totally arresting in its memorable melodic construction, military march instrumentation and musket fire, rat a tat delivery, its folkloric soul, tightly wound, ratcheting the past to ricochet of modern sound, The Gramotones, in line of Indie fire, stand out from the crowd with their acerbic sound. Flip side, ‘Victorian Town’, more experimental, wafting whiff of psychedelic powder, entirely mesmeric with its wheedling yet enticing vocal tone unfolding modern day, with nod to Sixties, Musical; full tilt, galloping bass, bounding drums, bugle synth, bowling along Dickens’s streets; lyrically, not as perfunctory as lead track, twisting yet utterly bewitching tale, guitar given freer, progressive rein to tangle with tongue.  Another highly original release from an exceptional band.

The Halstead Clan - 'The Halstead Clan', EP

Seven whimsical, twinkling, slips of songs, entirely enchanting, sprinkled with fairy dust, maybe a little dated but not jaded, eternally appealing folksy, melodic Indie, touched by sunny sixties rhythm and blues, heaving with Herman's Hermits harmonies, caressed by slick, glib, ripple of velvet bass, sparkling with glimmering guitar, seduced by Shadows plummy, semi acoustic tones, heart pulled by bass drum throb, enthralled by clear, melodious, poignant vocal; a captivating, warm embrace of an  EP,

Tonight' is slightly misleading compared to what follows, perfect pastiche of forgotten sixties hit, teenage love song, innocently sweet "... honey I know I love you...let's go grab some coffee...", real sugar rather than saccharine, laced with ooh aahh honeyed harmonies, can almost see shiny bobs nodding in time to tambourine shakes and hand claps. 'When The Wind Changes' sets face for rest of the songs, more ethereal, scintillating sprite, falling star bright, twinkling with emotion, laden with layered harmonies. 'Dreams' introduces plaintiff Piano and catch in voice, to weave more melodious magic, distant marching drum echoed through smoke, throbbing with gentle life. 'Always The Same''You, And No One Else' and 'Dance Around The Fire' , three tender, songs which strum similar melodic and thematic honest heartbeat, more introverted, introspective,  tales of ordinary life, how it wastes away, bringing grief, strife but also joy and hope;  guileless vocal in responsive duet with acoustic guitar, healing harmonisation and compassionate instrumentation, clearly enunciating moving message. "... all the things you have done...I will forgive you...  but I won't forget...should I be ashamed if I speak my mind... there will be hell to pay... you'll just scream and scream... will pluck up the courage... but not today... just want an easy life...", "....only made of bones and sinew...", "...dance around the fire with me...drink 'til we cannot see..."

Mystical number seven bonus track, 'Time Will Wait', picks up mood with chirpy double bass, shoo wop backing, carefree finger clicks and breezy vocal; charmingly moving song about how love endures, despite growing old:  " ...your wedding dress...don't fit no more...you've lost about a dozen teeth... it bothers you but it don't matter to me... could I be so bold... tell you how I feel... after all this time... we'll look the same in each other's eye... we'll take our time... but time won't wait for no one..." Songs in the key of life, they may be old tales but they sing an ageless tune.

Bird - 'Shadows', EP

Suite of eerie, gothic fairytale songs which merge into one atmospheric, eyes wide, dark night round the fireplace tale. Grimm's Tales refracted through twisted Cave eyes, sung by Kylie and Kate Bush on pillion broomstick ride, wafting soprano vocals layered with whimsy, lilting guitar mystical guide, wandering minstrel dusky heartbeat, echoed through mists of modern times.

Melodically shivering in shadows of traditional dark folk, woeful, sinister, cautionary tales, embellished flights of fancy embedded in its lore; there is also a touch of Spaghetti Western mirage glimmering through 'Shadows' ;and  red Indian smoke signals floating in 'I Am The Mountain' air, "...he turns to me and says... I am the mountain... I am the rain..."; 'Monsters' returning to "...darkest dreams...hung from cobwebs on the trees...", fair, slightly deranged maiden, barefoot, wandering nightmare landscape, washed by chill winds; inventive 'Intro' and 'Outro', preface and prologue for players drawing near, departing, through forest and field, breath of their captivating songs whispering on the breeze. Highly melodic, woven with enigmatic magic, eternally alluring allegories, beauty turned to dark side, torn by tortured pain, rose with thorns by any other name.

Ali Ingle - 'Rib Cage', Single

Since I wrote about Ali's first single, Tornado', in August:'...guilelessly enchants with sparkling instrumentation and telling of its tale, tumultuous tempest which is young love, torrid to torment and back again, as shine follows rain, slip of a song filled with shimmering sunshine of young hope...'  this young hope has blossomed, whisked up by twisting tornado that is the music business, nominated for Male Artist Of The Year at the 2012 Liverpool Music Awards (www.liverpoolmusicawards.com).

'Rib Cage', like 'Tornado', has clear eyed clarity which cuts to quick of pensive soul, poeticism which flows without pretention, precisely and pertinently capturing fleeting moments, documenting thoughts which flow through all our heads, marking milestones of maturation. Sunny, carefree, whirlwind spirit of teenage 'Tornado' has dissipated, winter winds blowing through turbulent head, torn by troubled thoughts, gathering adult head, feet once employed in joyful skip, now more reflective, kicking grit, hint of gravel in developing voice, cutting its teeth, finding its rasp.

Ali and just his ukulele, manage to illuminate emotion and rumination in a way that shoots arrow directly to core of emotion, "... it's only a week but feels like an age without your body wrapped around my ribcage... my biggest regret... that I never told... kept your warm heart beating cold...things I wish I could say... locked away in my ribcage..." does actually say it all, especially when sung so simply and earnestly. Newly found, added edge to Ali's voice will inevitably invite comparison to Dylan, and his ability to effortlessly conjure atmosphere with so little accompaniment, to Benjamin Francis Leftwich; he is as yet too young to command gravitas of the former and experience of the latter but, based on what I have heard so far, whatever his inspiration, Ali is his own determined, driven man, so it will be interesting to hear where his passion takes him, as he grows.

Billy One Move - ‘Reflections’, EP

Musicality of this band lifts it from introverted, folk tinged Indie spun round formulaic rock melodic structure, to something more individual; exceptionally enthralling, eloquent vocal tone, intimately engaged with expressive guitars and bass, threaded together by tightly stitched, taut, precise, sensitive drums. All three songs are strung round same core of pensive mood in minor key, which can get a bit wearying but is also rather hypnotic, especially as their sound is so alluring.

‘Check Your Pulse’ introduces the EP, immediately seductive, bass and drums its throbbing pulse, vocals fluid, fervent, jangly guitars duetting in harmonious syncopation, a tune which weaves round your head, maybe not new in harmonic structure, but delivered with clear conviction, spiked with originality, which makes it seem fresh. ‘Taken’ is a beautiful mix of mystical folk, progressive rock, experimental and introspective Indie, floated through gossamer echo, illuminated by wisp of magical effects: twin, jangly, ‘Theremin’ toned guitars, articulate, tangled in talk, touch of whammy bar warped; bass loquacious, deep in thought; drums delicately engaging: individually alluring instrumental voices, interwoven with  beguiling, contemplative vocal. ‘Illusions’ has a similar feel, more meandering, not as gripping  but still melodically and instrumentally touching, with hint of added grit, which intrigues but doesn’t quite get a grip. I look forward to Billy’s next moves.

GHOSTS IN THE MACHINE

Dum Dum Girls - ‘End Of Daze’, EP

There are a few bands which radiate inherent enigmatic magnetism; either distinctive sound or look, but double whammy is even rarer, Dum Dum Girls are one of the few. A bevy of startlingly captivating, immaculately styled, natural beauties; on the face of it one could be forgiven for imagining this to be contrived conglomeration, based on looks alone, natural jealousy secretly hopes that, odds of nature endowing musical talent on such pictures of enviable feminine perfection, must be low. Normal mortals lose all hope, these girls are as good as they look, musicality drawn from depths of their souls. Siren Blondie sweet, Banshee deep, Vaseline smearing Pretenders red lips, lured into Cure’s forest of introspection, vocal wire clippers cutting through instrumental mesh of creepers; intensely introverted, painfully intimate, dramatic yet melodically alluring expression of our human condition, nightmare landscapes, tortuous contortions of the mind, thoughts and fears so difficult to face, let alone enunciate, candidly explored, offering shared succour, in the sense we are not alone and that, as humans, we all carry hope.

‘Mine Tonight’: Darkly drubbing Gothic palette of tolling bass in tantric chant, menacing drums, guitars jangling nerves torn by vocal’s sibilant edge, temples throbbing, blood pounding, “....Satan on my lips...paralysed by his wicked kiss...eye on abyss...there’s nothing left...there is no light... can’t recognise the face that wears those vacant eyes...tonight I sing my eulogy...”, exorcism of painful emotion sung in brave, clear voice. ‘I Got Nothing’: poignantly plaintive plea, throbbing sob, thrummed by military drum, cold tears of sliding steel staining guitar grime, synth in desperate screech, lyrical vocal sinking in isolated sorrow, echoed through mists of hurt, “...far from home... sinking deep ...don’t understand ...don’t know where I am.... got nothing left to say...haunted by time ...don’t want to fade... just want to shine...”  ‘Trees and Flowers’: Very much in spirit of original Strawberry, Switchblade through heart, original, sharing same simmering, simpering soul, made their own, in hymn like rise and fall of soaring vocal, serenity shattered, shivering alone in subsuming, swirling, orchestral mists of mind, nerves stretched to breaking, warped to overwhelmed whispering whine, “...I get so frightened... no one else gets frightened... only me...”, a song which speaks Dum Dum words. ‘Lord Knows’: Lingering in longing Ladytron vocal with touch of Parton country, instrumentation ebb and flow, mollified slide and sway, sedated angelic chorus soothing caress; requiem to repentance, turning new leaf, “...I want to live a pure life...bliss I’ve found in ignorance... slow burning Icarus...”  ‘Season in Hell’: Heart beat drums revive, guitars shimmer mirage mists glimpsed through haze of parched grit, as hope rises with new dawn, warmed by sunnier vocal and instrumental spring, “.... tears from desert eyes... something new is dreamed...it’s been a season in hell... doesn’t the dawn look divine... it’s the end of daze....”

Cascade of captivating melodies travelling trauma to find hope, confirming cool charisma of Dum Dum Girls, icons of melodious emotion.

Epsilon One - ‘Spirals’, EP

The first three tracks on this EP could have been pretentious self indulgence, but their wit brought a smile to my lips, riveted by sometimes scary electronica, which doesn’t take itself too seriously. The last track ‘Asam’ takes totally different, mystical turn, which completely captivated me, vying for tune of the month.

‘Spirals’: Powerfully pounding sinister thud, pummels head and heart, particle beam photons sear, disrupting thoughts and sense, materialises menacing Manta Ray, grinding sub light engine tearing up time ; death metal electronica, black hole voraciously devouring space, spiralling Klingon vessel, captained by eighties experimental, Ace Rimmer, “Smoke me a kipper...” vocal; entirely gripping, battering piece of electronica, rift with searing guitars, shrill, glowering effects, lightening torn asunder by thunder drums, twee, tongue in cheek vocal lifting dark veil. ‘Ernies Theme’ and ‘Sweet Airwaves and TV Spells’: Eighties electronica, destroyed by life of ruination, staggering but still standing; bouncing bass and nodulated vocal shredded to gravel by chain smoked cigarettes, synthesiser strident senses warped to distant planet, mind re-wired by chemical excess, keyboard and shimmering effects, reality rewritten in glowing world of drunken bliss, groin of drums gyrating but now at slower pace. Marvellously entertaining revival of an iconic era, given kiss of new breath, attributes crumbled but potent none the less, delighting with estimable aplomb, swagger intact though silver suit no longer quite fits. ‘Asam: Wafts experimental psychotropic, psychedelic mists over grungy, choppy, strummed guitar, dusty bass, grit in eye effects and frayed, smoky vocal to conjure an ‘unplugged’ Nirvanaesque maudlin classic, tinged with Floyd, a song which plays itself round and round my head.

Rupert Stroud - ‘Twisted Games’/ 'No Peace of Mind', Single

Writing about previous single ‘Always’, in June, I concluded '...Rupert sends his velvet voice soaring into spires on wings of angelic choir, illuminated by light of love...'  'Twisted Games' takes dramatically darker turn, harder, more cynical, in malignantly minor key, vocal twisted as title, slipping and sliding like snake, seeking melodic resolution, shadowed by skin crawling, malevolent shiver of a whisper, stalked by sinister piano, fear churning with guitars, drums pit of heart thud, wall of Goth rock sound wrung with despair. However, despite baleful, doleful intent, there is a polite restraint, taint of contrivance, grievous grunge tamed to T.V. thriller theme, "...fighting a war that can't be won... even the innocents are sinning... in the end I'll be the one who wins this twisted game...", structure of song never quite shatters mirror of illusion, to truly plunge depths of tortured soul, Nirvana sung by mellow Elton with touch of Mansun's 'Wide Open Space'.

Melodically and vocally 'No Peace of Mind' is another side to same coin, employing similar minor slide and harmonic construct; stripped back to spare strum and drum rim tap, growling prowling, throbbing bass adding that extra grime missing from flip side, piano again sparkles dust mote spangled light; taking the theme from Thriller to Western, "...I was there...the day salvation died..." Strangely, this version holds more menace than lead track. Despite my slightly reserved comments, there is something truly enticing about both these well constructed songs, which captivate in a totally different way to ‘Always’, another memorable side to Stroud.

Pati Yang - ‘Hold Your Horses’, EP

Reviewing 'Wires And Sparks' in May, though I loved Pati Yang’s  mastery of electronica I ‘...emerged strangely unsure, un-energised, unscathed by a passion which my heart knows is there in Pati's music but, my head strains to hear...gorgeous, catchy ...sticks in the head but doesn't burn like hurt...’

This EP starts with a harder hit, its first two tracks holding me in their thrall, before leaving me torn: Pounding hooves of ‘Hold Your Horses’ hammered home by doom laden organ boom, deliriously wanton, warped, foaming at mouth, ravishing battering bass and percussive stomp, strident synth soaring with vocal in frustrated chant, takes breath away, packs ardent punch,   “...you could have had me eating from your hand ... but instead you said hold your horses...” This opener irrefutably shouts Pati’s passion, no longer constrained, but gloriously unleashed. ‘Darling’ takes up pugilistic stance, stabbing, throbbing, darkly brooding, Goth priestess with hissing snake’s tongue, spiralling out of control, twisting in turmoil of turbulent Hell, “...if this is how it’s going to end my darling... let’s set the house on fire and have a party...” electronica with death metal beat, Ladytron perverted by Banshee punk, eighties synth given new voice. ‘Revolution Baby’ rabble rousing, pounding beat, conjoins Pati with punk poetess Patti Smith before mutating into less than wild Wilde and her brand of Americanised, girly, hard but soft centred rock , swinging schizophrenically between two styles, strangely least revolutionary song, the one I find not so interesting, despite engaging interludes of deliciously driving sounds. Again, ‘Kiss It Better’ vacillates between almost dirtied up trance, ethereal vocal floating on electronic haze,  ...feel like you’re giving me something intoxicating...kills all the pain...” and cheesy Guns and Roses saccharine screech, injected with incongruous, heavy dose of pile driver beat and stab of eighties synth; pretty enough, in a hard rock Kate Bush sort of way but, except when trailing out with Doctor Who effects, lacking caffeine injection of first two tracks.

So, once again I am divided, Pati has lost none of her musical prowess and ‘Hold Your Horses’ and ‘Darling’ certainly burn with a tougher sound but, her tendency for over exuberant melodrama lingers on; for my taste, at times, overriding originality with popularist pastiche, tousled rather than irretrievably tangled and torn, however, worth it for first two tracks alone, and to hear Pati develop her sound.

Torches - ‘Twenty & Two Zeros’, Single

With industrial metal hammered beat, gratifyingly grating guitar, sordid shimmer of electronica and sour plum in mouth, rhythmic vocal, Torches turns faint beam on twisted and tawdry corners of the human mind, hint of menace in its new wave, electronically activated Goth, Lou Reed crossed with Cave, Talking Head Velvets, in Ferry voice. As yet, their light is not as illuminating as those illustrious luminaries, lacking illumines, gloomy creep rather than scathing sweep penetrating deep into depravity.  However, there is glimpse of early, experimental Roxy’s depraved glint, winking through melodiously ruffled feathers, perhaps indication of completely deranged cacophony to come, which would be even more enamouring than this tantalising tease.

Dead Social Club, - 'Sunlight', Single

In February I wrote about a previous single 'Stockholm': '.... captures essence of '80's electro pop... consistently whining, achromatic vocal, successfully grinds its main theme indelibly into the mind, by insistent repetition... as closet aficionado of the genre, just can’t get enough and just can't get the theme out of my head...' 'Sunlight', illuminates a more pensive Dead Social Club, its electro cherry popped, tarnish blemishing shine of carefree exuberance, lines of angst beginning to be etched on youthful countenance, heart breaking with voice, exploring more emotional side to eighties, Duran taking The Cure, dallying with Bowie. Hint of whinge has mellowed into maudlin moan, astringent synth whine grown a growl, guitar churning, seeking its soul, bass palpitating pulse, lost in thought,  drums harder heartbeat, snaps sharper snare; still incandescent with eighties glimmer, shrill synth softened by analogue's luminous glow, wall of sound now gently weeps, washed by rain of sparkling tears.

Dead Social Club tremulous, come of age, is just as appealing as 'Stockholm' babe, and though I cannot pretend they are truly drowned in despair, more passing mood, "...stare at the sunlight...never felt so blue...", melodically memorable in a more mature way. Reminding me a little of VNV Nation's 'Shine A Light On Me', 'Sunlight' pours its light on another more philosophical side to Dead Social Club ,which I find rather appealing.

Yeah And She Has Red Lips Too - 'I Like It, I Like, I ', Single

Unlike stuttering title, this flows fluently from Gothic 'red' lips, grappling with ghosts in space and time machine, flitting, floating ,fading, but not quite forgotten, spirits lingering long, clinging to last light, history of place, before it grows too faint; shaken vibrantly awake by new reverberations, rousing revolution, dousing doleful veneration.

Like its video venue, worlds collide in an enticing mix of old and new, Siouxsie style Gothic Punk, edges rubbed off, meets deviant Devinyls sprayed with inky Blackheart jet; vocal twisted, tawdry but not torn to tatters, guitars skittering, sliding but not screeching off the track, drums rumble in the jungle, to sharply focused, but slightly polite poke; somehow doesn't shatter china but, delivered in doses of clean melodic lines, full of fighting spirit utterly engaging, like gorgeously luminous graffiti, adorns but doesn't deface.

MIRAGE MISTS

Melinda Ortner - ‘Strangers’, EP

Comprising  four songs, ‘Strangers’, ‘Wait Another Day’, ‘Sweet Little Lies ‘and ‘Somethin Sorry’ , it is undeniable these are all highly musical, polished, perfectly produced , melodically memorable tracks, illuminated by lush orchestral instrumentation, strewn with melodramatic sound effects, vocals delivered by clear timeless voice. However, despite evident beauty, a similar mood seems to pervade every song; whatever tempo or key; slightly distressed minor or chirpier, determined major; they all seem to be constructed round same, albeit catchy, thematic core. Theatrically cabaret, cinematic, these could be themes to classy TV thrillers or second rate Bond films, their homogeneity, in terms of vocal timbre and dramatic delivery, ensuring consistency, demanding of attention, but full of rather contrived light and shade. Beautiful to listen to in a naive, dark fairytale way but, in employing infallible formula becomes a bit predictable, even schmaltzy, bereft of true emotional message it seeks to convey, the unexpected does not hit you between the, for you only, eyes. Still, Melinda’s extreme musicality is so evident, I am sure, like diamonds, she will continue to shine.

Microdance - 'Enemies of Love', EP

Perturbed by 'shoegaze' label, punched in plexus by what sounded like impenetrable wall of sound, paralysed, unsettled by sinister shiver, hiss of viper vocal, unprepared, I had no preconception of how things might unravel but, listening on, jungle began to untangle, extending succulent tendrils and frond, unnerving miasma began to lift, mesmeric micro shards shining into focus, from macro mayhem mists.

Goodbye Lily Laser' and 'Don't Stop Love' at first seemed shrouded in fog of a foreign land, confusion of contradictions, comprehension slipping from grasp, swirling vortex roaming shadowy corners of consciousness, devil in the dark mind meld; torrent of turbulence, sinister drums, seething guitars, bass generator hum, synth searing screech, satanic vocals risen from grave, angelic harmonies riding the beast; Kate Bush on death metal hallucinogenic trip. Piercing meniscus, musicality of Microdance hypnotised me with their siren call, beckoned me in, irresistibly enthralled, before I know it I was plunged deep into luminous colours of their disconcerting, yet wondrous world.

'God's Joke' takes a stripped back step back, floating above maelstrom on Buddha's cloud, chill breath tinkling wind  chimes of a frozen world; acoustic guitar glittering like ice, synth sweep and seraphic vocals wafting spiritual caress. More mystical, the extraordinary, echoed, torn to shreds, male vocal still raises an involuntary shudder, icy finger on soul, despite beauteous wash of beatific melody. More conventional song and melodic structure, but again conjuring palpable atmosphere, its contrasts are what captivate. The term 'shoegazing' had suggested a degree of shame faced shoe shuffling pretension but for me, this is passionate experimental, fearlessly plundering full palette of genres, sounds and effects to conjure new planets, breath atmosphere into fantastical musical landscapes, Microdance certainly know the steps.

OPM - 'Runaway', Single

Effortlessly enchanting, infectiously alluring, sunny Ska with Marley edge transported to this time and place, without losing its fragrant, mellow soul and magnetic, mesmeric sway; vocal seduces with husky, honeyed caress, reduces resistance to acquiesce, throb of deep chocolate bass, gloriously libidinous removes all sense, sparkling guitars, straining at the bit, ready to run, tipped over edge by temptatious flicker and flirt, growling effects kicking gritty dirt, echoed mirage shimmering misty eyes, called by distant jungle drum; seductive siren, "... come with me and... we'll run away..." impossible not to follow this Pied Piper track.

SPARKLE AND GRIT

Grizzly Bear - 'Yet Again', Single

On the face of it, perfect piece of poignant polished Indie pop built round breathtakingly beautiful melody ; touching, tender hearted vocal echoed through melancholic mists, pours mollifying balm, soars seamlessly to plaintive plead, flying on angelic choir gentle wings ; guitars, dark Chris Isaak indigo blue, redolent, doleful, tremble the soul ; bass and drums deep thudding, fearful heart; which  careers off on crazily fluttering beat; guitars rolling in grit, synth prickles, pricks, weeps, disintegrating to mind curdling shriek. The end of the song clearly draws on Radiohead influences in its instrumentation and breakdown of order, reaching for tortured beautiful/ugly which sweats through Yorke's pores, but in the case of Grizzly Bear this sounds like nothing more than smear on high gloss mirror, rather than nerve shattering cascade of broken glass. So, in this respect, Grizzly Bear, still to sharpen its claws, does not tear my innards out, but still a cuddly bear, on cusp of transformation, which finds me entirely captivated.

Great Pagans - 'Great Pagans', EP

Like many of the bands this month, Great Pagans sound like a mixture of new and old refracted through modern eyes, justifying their name by worshiping at alter of many deities, but not entirely forging a new religion.

I love their sound, morose Indie, sparkle and glitter filtered through grit, washed by New Wave on gloriously melodic 'Teenage Silhouettes'; daring to go barer on 'Not Been Myself Lately', introducing touch of jazz and scat; jingly, jangly on 'Living In Sin', plucking pulsating leaf from The Cure's atmospheric picture book; 'Slow Crash', most musically illustrative, drifting in and out of consciousness, slow motion fall through Floyd fantasyscape of layered, echoed sound, guitar and saxophone reverie floating in space ; 'Under The Cover' though stripped back, melds all in experimental pot, classic Indie, wrapped in blanket of Floyd atmosphere, crisp sheets creased by jazzy percussive beats, rippled by new wave, wreathed by mists of new age folk; while final track, 'We Dance Alone'  moves to a more progressive beat , on opiate high, swaying psychedelically between grinding grunge and maudlin moan, lost in retrospection, pierced by pinprick guitar

In loving many aliens Great Pagans, though pulchritudinous, give birth to a rather schizophrenic, yet highly musical, chameleon creature, shape shifter, mesmerically mercurial but elusively incoherent, in-cohesive, metamorphosing from song to song, at times slightly too self aware, shimmering mirage of vibrant colours, never quite materialising, but none the less leading me on, leading me down the road, not quite in league with the freeway, but there is no turning back; will be interesting to see what is round the corner for this band, will they splinter into myriad pieces, crash and burn or blossom wondrous new bloom?

Rawcuss - ‘Feelings’, EP

Jazzy pert drums and fabulous funky bass intro, with distinctive sound and energy, immediately reminded me I had reviewed Rawcuss towards the end of last year. This re-visitation completely re-endeared me to this ray of sunshine band, new wave punk, skittering Ska with Northern heart, cheeky, chirpy, pertinent: ‘Feelings’, ‘John Travolta’, ‘Manchester News’ and ‘TV Fantasies’; four tracks of high energy, agile, acrobatically musical break dance; tantalising, nimble shoe shuffle bass; tightrope tiptoe, to thrilling roll, of tumbling Adam Ant drums; guitars scintillating shimmy kicking gritty grime; vocals sarcastic streetwise cat call, wheedling Banshee to Pistols vocal catch, in rhythmic pattering rap; heralded by passing triumphant brass.

Street stories, tracking our modern times in sure footed, highly arresting strut.

The Sharps - 'My Love Ain't Gonna Save You', Single

Melodic mawkish, moody Indie, wallowing in defiant woe, may be a familiar tribal chant, but The Sharps have more than a touch of cutting edge class, strutting a cockier stance; voluble bass bouncing along on funky legs, drums rocking, rolling stones, guitar glitter with glint of steel, vocal slightly strangled, mangled, sung with charismatic zeal; catchy and contemporary, their music may not save you, but certainly reaches above tangle of Indie bands fighting for air, polished pebble on tarnished beach.

SIXTIES IN A BIBA BAG

Peter Parker's Rock 'n' Roll Club - 'Woman, Gonna Be Your Man', single

Capturing spirit of swinging Sixties, rolls like stripped back, bluesy Stones, lolloping laid back bass, spritely, sunny guitar, snare with spring in its step, vocal Jagger sassy strut; strolls, sways, sashays and shimmies, atmosphere captured in air of its vintage sound, time travel to more innocent times, truly refreshing, impossible not to twist, smile and shout.

Marika Hackman - 'These Days' (Nico Cover), Single

I am usually wary of covers, especially of icons, such as Nico, but this one is so individual, chimerically fantastical, I had to write a few words, even though I am slightly unsure whether comparisons to Nico bear any validity. Marika Hackman's version certainly does not recreate Nico's haunting, intensely intimate rendition; cannot capture shuddering, soul wrenching sob of poignant resignation which drenches original, passion that burnt so bright doused to smoulder; is not yet experienced enough to carry weight  of emotion embedded in Nico's introspective, dreamy drawl; does not plunge  depths of shivering soul; but has a naive hymn like quality of its own, evocative of spirit of the song, transported to another mind space.

Translated to cooler more clinical place, looking down from ethereal plain, dissecting pain, wash of tender violin and shimmering strum of teary eyed guitar replaced by piercing 'ukulele', needling pin prick, sedating accordion wail,  celestial choir medicated, floating on clouds of  fuzzy, fluffy echoed harmonisation, whimsy of woe, essence rarefied, slightly detached. The original will always break my heart, hearing those words in mouth of another might have been cold ashes, but  reminiscent of a Nouvelle Vague re interpretation, this is like forgotten whiff of a favourite scent, lingering in bottom of bottle, ephemeral but evocative, heady perfume which can never be recreated, revered in memory:  "...I've stopped my dreaming...I won't do too much scheming...these days I sit on corner stones...count the time in quarter tones to ten...please don't confront me with my failures...I had not forgotten them..."

SOFT PORN WITH SEXY STRUT

The Cubical - ‘On The Weekend’, Single

In February, I reviewed a previous single, ‘The Golden Rule’, writing ‘...melancholic, atmospheric, tight knit traditional bluesy folk... injecting essence of American traditional folk, song structures, instrumentation and vocal inflection into new material which dissolves fabric of time and melds with the past while reflecting the present...’

Bass swaggering, lasciviously wasted, vocal gratingly gruff, husky beyond dusky, deleteriously destroyed by inebriated, intoxicated excess, horns in ecstatic exultation, guitar beaming jubilation, this offering is much more raunchy, between the legs, forget the head (so to speak), “...wine tastes good...going to put my hands where you knew I would...’ strutting its sassy, Stones rhythm and blues stuff, “...lay [ing] that baby down...”  Slip of a song which swings, twists and shouts, vibrant, infectiously catchy, rolling, bowling gloriously full tilt into a good weekend.  A band that thinks but also knows how to party hard, what more could anyone want?

Longbeach, -'Beautiful Day', Single

Ravishing rippling piano arpeggio rolls into Guns and Roses girly hard rock, via remnant of riff ripped from the more well known U2 song of the same name. Usually this generic, soft musical porn would be kicked out of bed for raunchier, harder rollick but, stitching sublime to ridiculous is a surprisingly sexy vocal, Rod Stuart after a good dose of dripping honey.

Perfectly and prettily rendered, skilfully strutting its stuff, this could do with a good roll in the mud; dirtied up by dextrous, deviant dance remix, this could be quite a horny little track. Any takers to ruffle their feathers?

The Sonic Revolvers! - 'Plastic Rock', Single

A sucker for anything remotely Led Zep, whiff of their rhythm and bluesy riffs, merest wriggle of Plant wiggle in vocal and dab of grunge, irresistibly endeared me, like latest Lynx spritz, to catchy lick of this sweet stick. 'Plastic Rock', with its churning, chugging guitars, leering bass, thrusting drums, strutting vocal, sullied by smear of grime, old style rock and roll charismatically dirtied up.

Colour of Bone - 'Sympathiser', Single

Rhythmic, stridently strummed guitars, rife with rifled, repurposed  Led Zep  riffs, pulverised, pugilistic percussion, pulsating, pummelling bass, scratchy, rasping vocal; delivered with punch of punk, legs akimbo strutting cut and thrust, splattered by good dose of grit and dirt. Fluttering phut detonating roaring blast, riotous fireworks flecked with starburst effects, souped-up garage grunge in screeching rock and roll handbrake turn, at muddy, illegal rave, vigorously vibrant, full of life.

BIG LICKS FOR STIFF CANDY STICKS

The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing - ‘Margate Fhtagn (Cockles & Mussels mix)’, Single

Though sorry to have missed previous wax cylinder releases, thoughtfully issued with instructions to build a phonograph, bearing in mind my penchant for old formats and disastrous, bordering on catastrophic DIY 'skills', probably a narrow escape.

This time, more manageably, b-side to this new release is nothing more challenging than seaside rock, though as I like to nibble my candy when aged to bendy and chewy, I feared such a stout stick might prove difficult to lick, especially when wielded by 'occult comedian’ on bawdy seaside romp.  Fearing musical version of ‘Carry On Screaming’ but tempted by reference to Lovecraft’s malevolent, tentacle headed Cthulhu, I decided to suck it and see whether it grew on me.

There is no getting away from the fact this mutation, melding Chas and Dave with death metal Cannibal Corpse, stuck together with dab of Jam, has manufactured metal toothed, freakish Frankenstein squid, rioting through Margate, drunk on Fiddlers Dram, monstrously molesting Molly Malone, but as such things go, this is more vigorous spurt, exploding in mirthful mouth, then expected damp squib, trickling sticky ectoplasmic trail across my sorry hand. Treat or trick, give it tickle, give it a lick and see if it goes off for you, though, as an aficionado of seafood, I would have preferred a more piscine b-side, perhaps a bucket of cockles and whelks.

Reviews by Miss Chumki Banerjee 30/10/12