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IS MAY A MUSICAL DROUGHT... OR FLOOD?  ALBUM REVIEWS BY ANDY BARNES
By now, we should be averse to the meteorological vagaries living on the British Isles brings, although the last few weeks have proved even more bizarre than usual to say the least. Nearly three quarters of our island designated as drought areas, many flooded at the same time.  Someone.....or perhaps something, somewhere has an exceptionally perverted sense of humour. At least we have music maintaining an even keel, yet another month of sonic sunshine to brighten our barometrically windswept lives. 

Tom Williams and the Boat – Teenage Blood

Although hailing from Kent, the Garden of England, the aural horticultural show offered via the second album from Tom Williams and the Boat projects a less than rosy landscape.  Beneath the surface, weeds and thorns protrude from within the narrative ingenuity of Tom Williams, whilst not fully blocking the light, certainly adding a darker, less floral border to proceedings.  Within the opening title track, a bouncy, country rock melody offset with edgy lyrical content “Rain dripping inside of the window sill, Dad’s crying cos the baby’s ill.”

And therein lies the essence of this band, we can play the genre game, anti-folk, nu-folk,  country folk, Americana whatever the current buzz word, ultimately, Tom Williams and the Boat write and play brilliantly twisted, warped pop songs revolving around love, loss and dysfunctional family life.  A simple acoustic guitar accompanies “There’s a Stranger” a song outlining the eventual, unwelcome return of a lover “There’s a wolf shadow on my bedroom wall... in the rear view mirror of my car...in my dreams I’m stretched in torture, or pecked at by birds or burned in tar.” “A Little Bit In Me,” a character confessing influence adopted from parents, siblings and friends, all exhibiting curious, even destructive tendencies “My sister was a referee, reffing Sunday morning Leagues, South of Sheffield, in a park, showing yellow cards to rapists and thieves,” or “My Father too a lunatic, jailed for arson and not the first, killed himself with a home chemistry kit, garden shed to beneath the earth.”   My only question…. is Tom Williams purely a gifted story teller with a vivid imagination or has life even at this early age, left scars he exorcises through music?  Similar themes arose from within debut album “Too Slow” perhaps suggesting cathartic experiences taking place. 

Musically The Boat provide exceptional support, solid rhythms and melodic keys support and augment, Geri Holton’s violin entwines, providing melancholic atmospherics and Ant Vicory’s abrasive guitar sound contrasts, adding harsh, prickly tones.  “Teenage Bloodmay not be as immediate as the debut, but repeated listens reveal true depth, the band growing and progressing as a unit.

“Teenage Blood” has been released through a pledge campaign, not uncommon in recent years, although a tour also arranged around fans, cities chosen based on fifty pledges, aficionados offered the opportunity to bring Tom Williams and the Boat into their locale.  The winners, a tour compromised of home town Tunbridge Wells, London, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, all visited during the first week of June.  Tickets are now on general sale offering all the chance to see one of Britain’s finest young bands in the live arena.  Take the opportunity, you won’t be disappointed.

http://detourjam.com/tomwilliamsboat

Obsidian Tongue – Volume 1: Subradiant Architecture

For a duo, Massachusetts based Obsidian Tongue makes one hell of an infernal Black Metal racket, although skilfully manage to make a much misunderstood genre more accessible.  Yes, the droning onslaught of dense guitars, thrashing drums and diabolical, depths of depravity vocals completely apparent, but so too, strong melodious elements and passages of aching beauty within the morass.  Opening track “Approaching the Well,” a case in point, at one minute forty, obviously a pre-cursor to the more recognisable extreme style of “Hyper Dimensional Blood Lotus” although the rest mid-way  cleverly delays the anticipated forthcoming onslaught.  The aural assault never overpowers however, cleaner passages and tempo changes permeate regularly, revealing a shrewdly structured collection based around the spiritual beliefs and even a self-confessed “sense of duty “ from the mind of founder member Brendan James Hayter.

Black Metal will always appeal to a minority rather than a majority, that’s a pure fact of life. I’d like to think however, Obsidian Tongue may sow the seeds of this genus slightly further afield, attracting a wider audience.  Volume 2 is eagerly awaited.

www.facebook.com/pages/Obsidian-Tongue/153823741328442

Anderson, McGinty, Webster, Ward and Fisher - Anderson, McGinty, Webster, Ward and Fisher

As band names go, Anderson, McGinty, Webster, Ward and Fisher hardly trips off the tongue, the good news, their songs certainly will.  Natives of Dundee, members of various bands from the locale, The Law, Luva Anna and The Lost Todorovs, AMWWAF take their influence from the sound of Americana and country, rather than homeland traditions.  When singing about heading for the borders in the vitriolic “Michaels Temptress” however, it’s not Canada and Mexico, instead Jedburgh and Moffat being tapped into the Sat Nav. 

A prodigious mix of instrumentation including bazooki, mandolin and harmonium blends with a variety of vocal styles, everything underpinned by an unerring sense of melody.  The aforementioned “Michaels Temptress” incorporating musically, a bluegrass banjo charm, while “Little Brown Boy” hints, especially in the backing vocals, towards gospel.   Definite hints of Jackson Browne and the ubiquitous Big Star also pervade the North Eastern Scottish ether in “Oh Danna,”  “How Long,”and “Ashes of Our Wings the five Dundonians producing a beautifully crafted, twelve song collection, deserving of adorning MP3 and CD players for months and years to come.  

http://soundcloud.com/authoritycommunications/sets/anderson-mcginty-webster-ward/

The Imagined Village – Bending the Dark

If there’s one aspect of music I particularly enjoy, it’s a challenge, something The Imagined Village prove exceptionally adept at providing.  How to describe them……. certainly world folk, perhaps even prog folk, amalgamating styles and cultures, put simply, think Ravi Shankar playing hooker in a Steelye Span scrum with a back line of Asian Dub Foundation and you’re about half way there.

Formed by Simon Emmerson of Afro Celt Sound System fame, taking traditional British folk aspects, integrating Indian rhythms and splashes of electronica, providing an unsegregated, inspirational combination from the meld of fusions seen within “The Guvna,” the disturbingly stark vocal imagery of “Captains Apprentice” via the 12 minute instrumental synthesis of the title track through to the sparse accordion, fiddle, double bass and piano accompaniment fortifying “Washing Song.”  While the debut concentrated on re-interpretations of Martin Carthy’s inventory, album two focuses on both newly written or elucidations on trad material commenting on the difficult and still too frequently intolerant times in which we live. 

“Bending the Dark” a true indicator of multi-cultural Britain, a society to be nurtured and applauded, not derided.

http://imaginedvillage.com

Nymbus – Live in Livermore

This collection of recordings demonstrates the only live documentation of an intriguing sonic story……exactly who are Nymbus?  Details are sparse about the American three piece, although from the three tracks offered here, taken from Jim Sorenson’s “Turn on Your Lovelight” show on the 14th March 1970, it’s obvious their influences centre around the classic rock bands and artists of the era.  Hints of Cream appear, perhaps more so Hendrix, and perhaps there lies the problem. The late 60’s / early 70’s a golden age of rock music, some of the finest guitarists in particular vying for position, as good as Nymbus sound, trying to forge a way through a minefield littered with the likes of Page, Clapton, Blackmore et al, potentially demoralising.   On saying that, the playing is exceptional, the near 24 minute jam constituting “If I Had my Way” opens with one of the best bass introductions I’ve come across and there’s a genuine feeling of anticipation mixed with excitement as the guitar crackles and fizzes into life. 

It is understandable why Nymbus remained an unknown name on a wider stage.  While their pedigree as musicians is undeniable, the song writing skills less obvious.  A fourth track “Get Up and Dance Motherfucker” not appearing on the vinyl record, although scheduled for the CD release later this year, exhibits a certain lyrical naivety even forty two years can’t disguise “I said hey pretty women with your hair so long, why don’t you all come over sit on my face” while the riffs also centre generally around familiar blues standards. 

Let’s not detract too much however from reminiscing over an especially fruitful period in the history of blues based guitar, tracks virtually unheard, uncovered by Shattered Music in all their raw and unfettered majesty.  I’d love to discover exactly who constituted Nymbus and where they settled, in or totally outside the music industry, a fantastic interview in the making.

http://vimeo.com/shatteredmusic

Huron – War Party EP

2012 will be the year Huron finally implant their name firmly on the metal map. Festival appearances lined up for Download in June, plus Bloodstock later in the Summer, with more to be announced, opportunities rife for the Plymouth outfit to inflict their sinewy muscular sound on a wider audience.

Their third release, the “War Party EP” after two previous albums, “Cheyne Stoking” and “Marie Celeste” whilst still maintaining Nu-metal roots, also establishes the band as accepters of more varied influences this time round. “Room 174” and “Mercy Killing” incorporating progressive tendencies, Sean R Knieval’s vocal adopting more measured tones, whilst still surrounded by meaty riffs, lightening guitar licks and breakneck solos. “War Party” hopefully a defining moment for one of Britain's strongest and most consistent metal bands.         

www.huron-uk.com

Eurovision Song Contest – The Official AlbumI resisted the temptation, should I bother listening to the Eurovision 2012 official album and just write a review on previous years, suggesting a collection of insipid ballads, bland electro pop and ridiculous novelty tracks.   Instead on the basis of giving all a fair chance, I sat through every song on the album and can reveal it full of…….. insipid ballads, (which even a few key changes for extra dramatic effect don’t disguise)……….. bland electro pop…….. and ridiculous novelty tracks.  It really does come as no surprise The Eurovision Song Contest is disparaged outside a particular circle, especially when confronted by, in general, complete dross. 

I can only assume Russia and the U.K have decided to play the age card after the success of Radio Humberside’s Beryl and Betty, culminating in a Sony award, offering up septuagenarian and octogenarian sacrificial offeringsIn fairness Engelbert Humperdinck’s, “Love Will Set You Free” at least has a structure, his voice remaining reasonably intact, factors totally lacking from “Facebook Uh Oh Oh” San Marino’s absolutely cringe worthy entry, which lyrically, even Valentina Monetti singing in a second language can’t excuse.  It will be interesting to see if Engelbert does hit that last note however, when the opportunity to sing live arrives.  Could I also at this point strongly recommend a world-wide cull on all things Jedward, band, fans, merchandise….anything, which results in no future references to this pair of talentless buffoons and if I ever hear Pastora Soler wailing again, I’ll be on the first plane to Madrid with murderous intent.

Is it possible to pick a winner………due to recent years political voting, the songs themselves counting for little, probably not.  Slovakia’s Max Jason Mai with “Don’t Close Your Eyes” stands out due to heavier rock aspects, I don’t dislike the vocal from Compact Disco, Hungary’s entry and Donny Montell from Lithuania after a shocking opening at least throws in a touch of funk, offering a passable Michael Jackson impression. 

Business as usual describes Eurovision 2012……..surely the time is nigh austerity measures need adopting and we discard totally from the European Union, I’d suggest it's all a part of our human rights.  

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