Times like these invite introspection, reflection and, in that brief hiatus, came flash, brighter than a million suns yet , until now, invisible, except in our minds, flinging open doors of perception; discovery of Higgs Boson, signature particle for life; almost infinitely untraceable , quietest of waves, yet infinitely important, infinitely loud, literally making us matter, reminding us, when it comes to existence; almost nothing can become everything, how every micro fraction of consciousness is cause for celebration, to listen for diminutive voice in the crowd, how happiness lies in miracle of the smallest of things, like the petite phonon which travels sound waves to bring us music. So here are my ‘particular’ choices for the month that brought us the meaning of life:
HIGGS BOSON: OPENING DOORS OF PERCEPTION
Underclass- 'Ordinary Strange', Single
Having reviewed Underclass's single 'Pillz' in May, as "...battering ram of a track... divinely, deliciously deranged... rumbles regions...arouses ardour in a way religion would ban... “, this one, with angelic harp, suffused in echo, crackling with electronica, drenched in darkness, couldn't be more different, yet is even more desirously devastating. Reverberating drone, introverted strum of guitar, trickles teary droplets from glowering sky, on trudge of drudgery's weary, bowed head, sorrowful, soaring, tortured vocal wailing in acquiescent lament "....fourteen hour shifts...with a half hour break...", sets the atmosphere for this epic; harp's pin prick pluck, tumbling tears, prickling cheeks, through crack in clouds, where sepulchral synthetic choir, diffused in light, mourns through disgruntled rumble of grumbling drums; "...dancing round in circles...trying to break from the norm...hold me close against your skin...we can ride this storm..." ; ominous static gathering electric storm, "...stand back from the fire..." ; sparks flickering, flaring to furious flash of lightning bolt; tearing open the sky in thunderous destruction of drums and bass, diving deep and delicious, washed by torrid torrent of electronic despair, vocal swirling, swallowed by hell's vortex"...stand back from the fire... don't question your desire... we are all a little strange.." I do not question my desire for this track, it is simply stunning. I am not one for anthems, and through this is described as anthemic, for me it is more torch song, wrung from sorrowful soul, immersed in angst, morosely minor, bittersweet, its passion pervades, instrumentation, effects and vocals perfectly attuned to ravishing effect, driven rock with inspirational touches of Pink Floyd. I am sorry that I didn't have a hard copy to play on my hi-fi, that would have made my day and even more destroyed that, having written this review, I discover the band is disbanding, so, this is actually their swan song and I will never get to hear their eagerly anticipated debut album. I don't know the story behind the split but I pray there is a way to salvage such talent. Once again, my single of the month has been derailed (should have guessed something would go amiss when it was number 13 on my list) but, even though it might never reach its destination, I remain on the train, hoping its journey continues. www.facebook.com/underclassedinburgh
Stalagmites- ‘Zulu/Lost Bones’/ ‘Lost Bones’, Single
‘Zulu’:With strains of The Smiths and Joy Division, dark glower broods over this song; tortured, grimy guitars churn, niggle like distress, growl dark clouds, restless bass skulks, sighs, threatens stormy skies, drums weary, tear stained tread, vocal loaded with anguish, yearns with sorrowful affliction"... all my life...I've waited for the sun... to wash it all away..." minor mutating to major, brief respite, crack of light, closing to disconsolate night, highly melodic and descriptive, despondent Indie rock.
‘Lost Bones’:Melancholic sparkle of picked guitar emerges from shimmer of echo, Battle of Evermore style, herald for plaintiff vocal, wandering minstrel, winging heights , wreathed in chill mists, guitar strumming beat of his feet, poignant tones pulling heart strings. Though there is a hint of folksy prog rock, Rush crossed with Jethro Tull, ‘Lost Bones’ meanders into its own hypnotic ebb and flow, enthrallingly eclectic, naked and alone, “...we walked until our feet bled...in my head was a choir of crying babies...we crawled until our knees bled ...in my head was a pack of feral ladies...” - A highly original and captivating band, I am intrigued to hear more. www.facebook.com/Stalagmites
The Lucky Strikes- ‘Beast Burnt Down’, Single
Icy cold finger, shiver down spine tingle of a song, fabulously fatalistic folk, Fairport combined with pagan progressive rock, Neil Young meets Alice Cooper with a dash of Johnny Cash, recounts creeping, crepuscular tale of Southend Pier burning down, “... on the night the beast burnt down... embers jumped into the sea... and drowned...” Modern folklore, dramatically delivered as cautionary tale, “... the people came... the people saw....nothing lasts... never will... ash...cinder...blood...bone...” - Darker side of folk’s familiar melodic idioms, reinterpreted almost cinematically by exceptionally descriptive instrumentation and evocative vocal, bass dredging dark depths, guitar stealthy feet, stalking its sultry night, scattering sky with shimmering sparks, stoked to crackling conflagration by carousel organ’s cackling call, flames fired by fiddle, rising to inferno., teller of tales gleefully warming his hands. A truly engrossing rendition, re awakening of old traditions made new. www.facebook.com/pages/The-Lucky-Strikes/18592996508
New Street Adventure- ‘Say It Like You Mean It’, EP
Though I have not had much experience of soul, Northern, Blue Eyed, or otherwise, the musical signature of this EP is instantly recognisable; its melodic structures, instrumentation and vocal delivery immediately conjuring black and white era of smoky underground clubs; despite irresistibly enticing melodies, seldom brought to colour in this day and age, this resurrection and re adaptation to modern times and accents is refreshing and completely engaging.- Slinky, jazzy, funky, R and B, touched with Ska and big band soul, Geno Washington, Aretha Franklin and Steely Dan rolled into one, languidly rhythmic vocal flowing like honey over extraordinarily fluid, thrilling bass lines, in conversation with counterpoint of bravura brass and steely voluble, twinkling, twirling guitar, caressed by Detroit soul backing, conjures essence of an era, rising like smoke, swirling, swaying, sixties soulful sophistication, sang in an endearing blue eyed, cockney accent, part spoken, part sung, modern tales of our times and minds told in old musical tongue, exemplary musicianship and lyrical prowess revelatory in exploring the continuing relevance of soul, despite changing times, enlightening eternal truths. I am just surprised such a significant musical movement, with its iconic hooks and unequalled ability to illuminate inner sanctums of the human soul, has languished in current music making to the extent that, this offering seems completely and wonderfully unique. http://en-gb.facebook.com/newstreetadventure
Jenny O- 'Home', EP
On the surface, sweet as sugar candy, slightly sedated, psychedelic glam, wading through honey, babyish vocals echoed, layered, tranquilised, dilated but, almost immediately, veiled menace beckons as veneer crackles, cracks in thin ice gape, to reveal deep, darkly churning waters below: five songs, superbly crafted, slightly disconcerting, dramatically delivered and totally hypnotic:
‘Well OK Honey’: Funky walking bass, ‘shoop’ , ‘shoop’ rhythmic sound effects, Beatles brass, psychedelic vocal, sardonic, sparkling guitar, carelessly scattered shimmer of Eastern magic, ironic Zombified, Sixties pastiche, staggering out of disinterested steam. (At least I hope that was the intention or I could be in trouble)
‘All My Wishes’: Disturbingly drugged vocal, effortful enunciation, clear and deliberate ,painfully drawn, slightly slurred, desolate, wan, withdrawn as its only accompaniment, disconsolate guitar strumming, replaying well worn notes, wandering round and round its musical thoughts, before taking up from vocal as “...nobody calls...”
Striking and stunningly naked expression of mistreatment and inner loneliness, illustrates the remarkable emotional intensity of Jenny O’s voice.
‘Won't Let You Leave’:With booming ho down bass drum beat, sparkling, skipping guitar, hillbilly rhythmic lilt and tambourine shake, this song takes up a country folk theme, with touches of Dolly Parton, familiar, warmly emotive melodic themes, welcome antidote to previous song, lifting spirits.
‘I Do I Do’:Sings with yet another accent, melding Kate Bush and Bjork; poignant piano peal, disturbed by crackle of vinyl scratch, introducing beautifully lush, languid vocal melody, layered, filtered through echo, shivered by percussion, threatened by dark storm clouds as vocal and dramatic piano chords, slip ever so slightly in and out of discordance before righting themselves in luscious harmony of chords and angelic vocal, tagged by tambourine, bolstered by tempestuous bass, chorus gathering, piano rumbling; extraordinary twisted beauty; caffeine injected into what could have been saccharine spill,
‘Home’:Clear vocal accompanied by piano, hummed chorus, syrupy bass and stalwart tambourine, sings a prettily perfect little ditty, warm ending to an EP of very welcome, well crafted surprises, Jenny O has an enviable song writing talent and an extraordinarily, melodically inventive band. www.facebook.com/jennyomusic
The Gramotones- ‘The Gramotones’, EP
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, spotlight turned hard and bright on this life, in this time.
‘Exile’: Sinister throb of bass, cheese grater guitar, moving to muscular musical cross examination, in conversation with derisive, staccato vocal of accused, wheedling wide boy “...I’m a walking misconception...”, howling wolf, supported by bevy of candy voiced cheerleaders, chanting “...you’ve got the wrong man...ah ooh...”.
Pertinent examination of judicial system, judgement delivered in short, sharp, mocking, highly musical blow.
‘M62’:Close to the bone, car crash narration, chillingly graphic, shocked yet matter of fact “... you said it was an accident...I believe it to be true....but you can’t deny...the speed you were going...you’re car it almost flew...young man trapped in an older man’s body...insurance will be painful if I survive...”, “... head went through the windscreen...felt like Fred Astaire...dancing on the ceiling...now dancing on air... Mr Grim with his scythe by his side...true what people say... in the moment of death you’ll never feel more alive...”
Speeds along on bluesy rock and roll wheels, though narrative style and melodic, lyrical lilt leans towards murderous folk, cautionary tales told as night draws, last hope drifting to heavens on angelic psychedelic wings “ ‘cause she loves me, I’ll never let go...”
This salutary tale, however grim, engrosses both lyrically and with its instrumentally descriptive backdrop.
‘When You Leave’: Short but poignant lament to lost love: sorrowfully strummed acoustic guitar and melancholic vocal wrung with maudlin melody, woeful, angelic, gospel chorus, ephemeral companions to contemplation “...when you left...what did you leave for me...”
‘Little river room session’: I am not sure about this one, could be satirical, bit of fun, test to destruction of lyrics or just an endearment to lighten up; vocal speeded up to Pinky and Perky squeak, matched by wide grin of banjo, bass buoyant, big bad stalking wolf, “...it’s funny how the rhythm of life... can leave you feeling so sad...never let it get in the way of what you want so bad...”
Even more unsettlingly, as Pinky and Perky start to harmonise with each other, two thirds of the way through the song, Dolly Parton sprang to mind but, despite best efforts, I found myself swaying to the lilt, listening quite intently, smile inadvertently curling my lip. This should be one of those cringing, so bad it must be good moments but, it’s not, and yes, the lyrics survive....just. After writing this, I discover the band name derives from the Latin for melodious, and I can confirm, even when cartoonised, they live up to their moniker. http://en-gb.facebook.com/TheGramotones
Florrie- 'Late', EP
The press release is completely inadequate in simply describing Florrie as “singer, drummer, songwriter and guitarist...” she is a whole phenomena in herself.
Though variable, at its best this EP is an unexpectedly delicious concoction of throbbing disco beats, funky bass, symphonic strings, lush keyboard and synth, inspired esoteric electronica from eighties through to trance, vocal ranging from pure pop to rhythmic rap to live rendition of electronic sampled repetition; extremely musical, contagiously catchy , though slightly predictable, punchy, concise, pertinent, precise, cleverly crafted; perfect pop songs, deliriously dancy, light and fluffy as candy floss but this is sugar laced with arsenic, a woman with serious song writing talent and except where it languishes rather too luxuriantly, but thankfully briefly, in soft rock, perfect summer solace.
‘Shot You Down’: Immediately engaging with drone of drubbing drum machine, deep, droving, cheeky funky bass, repetitive, percussive, sugar candy vocal, sweep of synth, judiciously employed enticing electronica and irresistible, reverential reference to one of my favourite songs, Sonny Bono’s ‘Bang Bang’; stamping, swaying, hypnotic dance floor anthem which entrances.
‘I’m Gonna To Get You Back’: Dramatically drowned in echo, mesmeric mist ruptured by pugilistic punch of rock, this song is perhaps slightly formulaic, more Kim Wilde soft rock than inventive pop; however, before I can dismiss it as self indulgent slush, a delicious bouncing bass break, sampled, slightly deranged, vocal, “...when I finish with you... there won’t be any place left to hide...I’ll see to that...” and smattering of grungy effects, throws just enough grit, disintegrates disinterest to capture my imagination.
‘Every Inch’:Steely guitar swaggers into surrealistic, psychedelic spaghetti western, ‘...you got to earn every inch of my body...” morphing into dubby rap perforated by pounding, pulsating, reverberating droning dance of drum and bass, spiked with strident synth, shimmering, swaying into sultry tease, “...let’s get creative... you want to taste...touch of my lips...”, deep bouncing bass burgeoning undeniable desire, surprisingly seductive, streetwise number.
‘To The End’:Lush, dancy electronica, throbbed by thumping bass heart, bitter sweet, innocently alluring, pure pop vocal, with mind worm chorus, this could be a Kylie classic. Need I say more? I am not sure whether this is genius but it is certainly captivating. www.facebook.com/florrie.music
Toddla T- ‘Let Your Yeah Be Yeah’, Remix of Pioneer track
A strange one this, in celebration of the Desert Trek (renamed Trojan Trek) boot’s fortieth anniversary, Trojan Records, which specialises in Ska, Reggae and Dub, is collaborating with Clarks shoes, in an international remix project , Toddla T being the UK contingent.
Subject of the remixes is ‘Let Your Yeah Be Yeah’, itself a cover of a Jimmy Cliff song, released by Pioneer, a Jamaican Reggae vocal trio, on the Trojan label in 1971. Until now I have not been aware of this song but as it got to number 5 in the singles charts, assume it is a reggae classic, which Toddla T, rather appropriately for a shoe promotion, dub steps through time and space, to South London, without losing essence of its Jamaican soul. Smashed by stamp of Toddla T’s boot, original well and truly mashed, cut to shreds, clockwork ratcheted until springs ping, shattered, exploded into myriad mosaic pieces, shards striated through spangled desert mirage, flung like stars into outer space, chased by Morse code blips and bleeps, where scraps of melody float, filtered through angelic trance, where blazing brass echoes through matrix of time, warped by reverberations of deepest, dirtiest garage bass, Roni Size pertinent percussion, bouncing offbeat, irresistible pull, to spaces in between.
A delicious concoction of merest syncopated scraps, thrown into mixer of spatial effects, at its centre, black hole pull of deepest dub step; which despite drastic haircut, dreadlocks cut to shreds, retains reggae roots; a long trek from its origins but bit of a Trojan triumph. www.facebook.com/toddlat
Pinemarten- ‘Can’t Go Back Again’, EP
Having been both fascinated and flabbergasted by Pinemarten’s previous EP, ‘Coming Around Again’, which I reviewed last December, I have been waiting eagerly, though rather fearfully, to hear what follows and find myself equally intrigued by this quartet of compositions:
‘I Can See’: Eighties Synth Pop electronica, blinking, blipping, plumy synth seething, sighing, screeching, vocal languidly moping; blown clean by winds of change, drowned in devastatingly deep, dangerously delirious, buzzing bass, washing away cheesy chintz, its stunningly seductive beat, taking this from beguiling retro to irresistible infatuation.
‘Time Apart’: Scintillating with synth sparkle, twinkling in deep velvet, indigo bass sky, perhaps shooting star too far into twee self indulgence, palling into preciousness and pretension, were it not so sweetly and innocently played; for me, slightly cloying and wafting iota too close to Wakeman’s cloak, but that is a personal peccadillo, for others more forgiving, pleasurable pastiche and, once again Pinemarten’s passion, penchant for beatific, beauteous bass wins me, over despite reservations.
‘Don’t Tell Me You Love Me’: I don’t know if the title is a dare because this song goes somewhere totally, unexpectedly different, mournful sweet strident anguish of guitar, shivered by sorrowful strings, lachrymose vocal floating in deep, deep green sea of bass, buffeted by melancholy, wreathed by waft of sepulchral choir’s gossamer threads,: more experimental, touching on Hillage territory, all the more moving for its contrast with the other pieces on this EP.
‘I Can See (Original Version)’: I don’t really trust my ears but this sounds almost indistinguishably similar to the other version, up until vocal dramatically and rather disconcertingly steps out of the song, into spacey, palpitating, fluttered through echo, spoken soliloquy, disturbingly reverberating through mists of lost consciousness, reaching for grasp on reality, “... what’s wrong...are you O.K....just tell me....I don’t understand....I don’t understand...” repeated until it loses its grip. There is something quite chilling about frailty of frightened human voice, when it bursts bubble of fantasy, its accents injecting real life, dreaming terrors brought alive. I don’t know what inspired this song but, the original reveals roots which I would never have guessed from the reworked version.
An EP of unsettling, unexpected contrasts, with more than a hint of turbulent disturbance to smooth electronic waters, this one has got me thinking, seeking enlightenment.www.facebook.com/PinemartenMusic
Freedom Of The City- Four Track Demo
This one fell through the net of previous reviews, for which I can only apologise but, having now discovered this demo CD, I can say it contains some beautiful tracks which though slightly variable, feature exceptional guitar and bass, especially on ‘Take Me Beyond Imagination’; with its glorious tumble of silvery, sweetly picked acoustic guitar, bathed in golden glow, ringing in bass reverberation, an almost cinematic introduction to warm, clearly enunciated ‘rat a tat’, part rap, patter of a vocal, entwined, teased, caressed by fluid, loquacious, deeply resonant bass, pricked by tangle of prickling, chiming guitars to impassioned entreaty, drums soft, sympathetic embrace.
‘And You’, takes up this theme, leaping straight in with fervent, stirring vocal rising through misty poignant pall, guitar peal pulling its heart strings, before leaping into spikier, funkier, two tone strut, diving back into ocean of emotion and back, just as engaging, ardent blaze of a track.
‘Colour My Mind’, though demonstrating versatility and reinforcing musicality, nudges towards generic, softly hard rock, tightly played and energising, beautifully executed but maybe not as inventively exhilarating as previous two tracks.
As for ‘Boots Of Leather’, well.... I wasn’t going to say anything, a Velvet’s song I revere, anyone’s version of this would be sacrilege to my ears and while this one is not a cover, it borrows a more than tenuous link to the original, which for me detracts, distracts completely from what could have stood alone, had temptation been left well alone.
Despite the blip which would have been unforgiveable in any less talented, a great band, soulful Indie, in places reminiscent of Turin Brakes, highly musical, sorry not to have spoken about them before. www.facebook.com/freedomofthecity
EXCITABLE ELECTRONS: MOVING TO HIGHER ENERGY STATE
Frenetics- ‘Ella’, Single
Prickling post punk with new wave rhythmic edge, glimmers of Goth and grungy glower, riding hard rock’s driving beat; tribal, punchy drums, spiked with sawtooth guitar, rift with rolling riffs, sharpened to needling point, rumbled with racing bass, vocal flowing counterpoint, acerbic syrup riding vehement waves. Melodically and instrumentally stridently articulate, intelligent, original musicality fired by punk’s spark, which though refreshingly reminiscent of a truly extraordinary era, perhaps not quite as inventive as some of their quoted influences, such as Magazine and The Velvet Underground. Nonetheless ear catching, in what can be a namby-pamby saccharine age, adamantly insistent, deep dark dose of bitter sweet, certainly palette cleansing.
Dirty Habit- ‘Dirty Habit’, EP
Odd name for a band, not sure whether it refers to a mucky nun or some perversion the band is about to reveal, either way treading with caution into the music:
‘Rock And Roll Victim’: After incalcitrant amp is kicked into touch, this sashays into seriously sexy, strutting rock and roll with a touch of humorous irony and attitude; not least because lead vocals are feisty female, which lifts it from mere regurgitation of ravishing riffs and showy solos, to sincere, sheer pleasure, revelling in rollicking like rock has always rolled, down familiar melodic and lyrical roads, eternally endearing:
“...I’m dirty, used to be clean...used to drink coffee...now it’s Jimmy Beam...never said it’d be easy...I know...but I’d give it up for rock and roll...”
‘Done And Over’: Thunderous drums, skittish, stabbing guitar, bass boot stomp to throb, Blondie crossed with Pati Smith vocal and melodically meaner demeanour, lends this a darker edge, “... she’s got nothing on me....bitch...”, with touch of spike heeled glam Goth. Again, familiar riffs sound refreshed, ready to be re-enjoyed without guilt.
‘Back Stage Pass’: Adds Pretenders to the package and more than a touch of syrupy, sonorous , soft Americanised rock, with its captivatingly charming riffs, lush chord progressions, groin thrusting bass, precisely pertinent drums and perfectly engineered sky rocket solos, which, in other hands, could have sounded pretentious but here, delivered so prettily, tempered with more than a hint of cynicism, it shines delightfully; cherry on the sweet cake being witty, tongue in cheek and other places, lyrics delivered in outrageously flirtatious vocal, on the edge of bubbling laughter:
“...you want to do me on the couch...you want to do me on the floor...on your back seat... push it to the floor.... you want to come inside the van... ride my tour bus...oh yeah... you want a back stage pass...”
Genius! Well, singer Scarlette Sin is certainly no nun (I fear name alone, Sister Scarlette Sin, has potential to provoke lascivious thoughts and a hurricane of Hail Marys ), and the band do not strike me as saints, so perhaps they are well named, though they have left me with yet another bad habit, the urge to hear them again.
Benson- ‘Benson’, EP
‘Days Like These’, ‘From Here’ and ‘Don’t Wanabee You’; three tracks of romping , rollicking rock , in liaison with smiling Ska, births bouncing, bonny baby which blithely frolics familiar, yet well loved, musical phrases and riffs; thumping, tumbling drums; perky percussion; gruffly grumbling, sandpaper vocal; guitar gleefully glittering; punchy, pumping bass, bolstered by beauteous eloquence of brass, strutting its stuff . This could have all gone a bit Guns and Roses, were it not for the sensitive musicality of the band and judicious insertion of horns (of the brass type), like the cream variety oozing fun, luscious lick, classic tunes, fast and slick.
In Remission- ‘The Great & Shallow’, EP
‘Fractions’, ‘Broken Notes’, ‘Discipline’, ‘Floodlights’, ‘Ambitions’ and ‘Solstice’; six tracks to drag you out of darkest moods and fling you against the wall; stomping, stamping, beautifully browbeating, bottomless bass , deliciously dark, deranged drums, shaking nonsense insensibly from head; mercurially agile, glittering guitar, surgeon’s scalpel of sense; vehement, vivaciously volatile vocal, verbal assault to plaintiff plea, fermenting ecstatic dissent, erasing malcontent, no longer in remission, breaking gloriously free.
‘In Remission’ driven by fervent passion, marauding metal with hint of progressive, magically reveals melodic core while losing none of its intensity and energy. All six tracks essentially form part of one melodic tale, but one so engaging it entices throughout, illuminating darkest day, in revelling rout.
Cinema Wave - ‘Monsoon Love’, Single
Industrious indie; guitar blur of hyper speed, high register picking, screeching, sliding; bass bounding, nimble racing; determined driven drums, jazzy, hi hat tingling, rhythms rolling; analogue synth , old school ,spacey; vocals with intent, husky, dusky, hoary ; rock and roll pulled by progressive, guitar’s squiggling solos soaring, synth’s attractions oscillated, an arresting concoction, with virtuosic if rather flashy guitar.
Rusty G's - 'Breaking Up', Single
Choc a block with chugging riffs, cock a snook rhythms and churlish vocal, apart from "...breaking up.." repeated rift, lyrics largely undecipherable, Rusty G's s speaks fluent, lyrical metal; driving, deranged guitar, stampeding drums and bass, lashed by tortured tonsils, musical phrases so familiar, words are not really needed.
This Years Winner Is - ‘When In Rome’, Single
Tight and taut as Olympic swimmer’s Abs, machine gun fire of an Americanised rock song, which escapes high school prom by virtue of its virtuosic, screeching, stabbing guitar, and torrential rat at tat drums, vocal at full tilt, caught in crossfire.
BOSONS: SUPERFLUID, SPARKLING SPIN
The OK Social Club – ‘The Late 90's’, Single
Having reviewed their previous offering, in March, I concluded “...sunny, fresh faced, highly melodic, catchy Indie which bowls along, in well matched harmony...” Like that ‘single’, this is actually three tracks, and though they have lost some of their puppy dog poignancy and warmth, grown more brashly confident ,instrumental and vocal prowess even more honed, this single is similarly endowed, shining with inspiring Indie spirit, unpretentious, brimming with sparkling vigour and verve. None of these songs quite match ‘infectiously anthemic’ ‘Twisted Young Gentlemen’ from the first single, but all stand out in crush of Indie crowd:
‘The Late 90’s’: Starts and stops like scratched record before burbling, babbling along, thrilling throb of dew drop bass, foil for articulate guitar in conversation with zealous vocal “... I used to finish your sentences... now I don’t know what you’re on about....talk, talk, talk, talk...you talk a lot...” before rabbiting, racing off in parody, guitar skittering, sharp little riffs in hot pursuit, taking brief breath in snatch of Monkees harmony before careering off, screeching to halt.
‘Hey What Happened’: Beautifully eloquent bass, warm hearted drums, and impassioned ,yet more languid, reflective voice, “...forget what you’ve been told... does anyone even want to know...”adds poignancy to this just as sparky song, guitar shredding strum, picked, prickling in its higher register ,niggles , nags, tangles , teases, tantalising melodic counterpoint to vocal melody, coalescing in unified, defiant chant.
‘Dirty Buzz’: Guitar again in enticing conversation with cheeky, vehemently vivacious vocal, bass funky, slipping, sliding, jumping, jiving, drums careering, classic melody, new wave punk, inflected with Ska, rocked with roll, bowling vibrantly along.
An effortlessly energising, melodic romp through many talents of this musically astute and versatile band, who definitely have a defiant, dirty big buzz about them.
The Cathode Ray- 'Dispersal', Single
Gently bobbing, new wave/post punk, sparky, sprightly, exceedingly catchy, chirpy little number, tantalisingly tempting fusion of 'Rip It Up' Orange juice with Lou Reed, Elvis Costello and Devo; coolly captivating, though slightly craven vocal, grungy, throbbing bass, dustily laconic drums, jaunty, jingly, jangly guitar and engaging, rhythmically poetic lyricism "... everything becomes fragmented... party line circumvented... all you know has been diverted... status quo perverted...." , saunters sunnily along, captivating my heart, refreshingly unpretentious yet clearly committed, circumventing usual Mudkiss channels to circuitously land on my review desk via the estimable Vic Godard, hats off to his good taste.
Ali Ingle- 'Tornado', Single
How could I resist this, Liverpool single by Ingle, sent to me by his mother, “He really is just a very ordinary lad from Speke who is trying really, really hard to get his music heard..." touches even a heart as hard as mine, and this tender track, together with its lovely little video, Space Hopping through Liverpool's gorgeous Sefton Park, melted it further.
Banjo brightly bristling, prickling, drum beat bouncing, heart throbbing to admonishing tick-tock chant of teenage pony tail pendulum tease, introduces surprisingly sonorous, unexpectedly poignant vocal , "... think I've felt love...sure felt pain...tasted sun...kissed rain..." sliding hopelessly, helplessly down swoop of bass, into arms of love , heart tugged "...brought to life..." by swooning strings , "...my heart beats fast... my blood runs slow...like the aftermath of tornado..." before "...the feelings past...but I still shake...", 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.
The Minx- ‘No Friends’, Single
Fairground organ stuck on needling loop, slides down roller coaster into this exhilarating ride; bass and vocal stab, finger poke and jab, in eye of fuzzy yet focused cajoling guitar , synth shimmered with sixties vibe, echoed through filter of the past. Truculent, time travelling, new wave punk, The Jam interbred with Pistols, Zombified, dusty yet feisty, bright and tight, minxy mirthful mutation which made me smile.
Jaya The Cat- ‘Here Come The Drums’, Single
Badgered by booming military bass, guitar ,bag pipe shriek, rumble of thunder drums takes leap, sparking lolloping Reggae feet, Ska Pogues skipping, skittering along, chivvied by stabbing synth, scintillated by shake of tambourine, rabble roused by drum’s magnetic pound, gruff and nimble as a goat, modern day Marley , pied piper to his posse; this catchy number captivates as it sways poetically, rhythmically along, leaning into the beat, full of sunshine and attitude, impossible not to move those dancing feet.
The Spins- ‘Never Let It Go’
Sunny yet emotive Indie with sixties spin in its catchy hook; Kinks meets Abba, with Elton on keyboards, touch of Monkees, hint of Finley Quay; smoothly sing along, everything in its musical place, tight as talented session musicians, melodic as pop, though sounding slightly formulaic, a perfectly constructed rendition to lighten a serious day.
Ben Dolby- ‘Tact’, Single
Rollicking bass, syncopated percussion, racing, rhythmic, strutting vocal, punctuated by brass chorus, sends this sunny track, fired with post punk ironic spark and spunk, rolling along with a touch of reggae and Ska which I wasn’t expecting from the press release. Once again, like quite a few of the tracks in this review, familiar musical idioms addressed in a modern tongue, relevance rediscovered and skilfully reapplied.
DARK MATTER: IRRESISTIBLE ATTRACTION OF PLACES IN-BETWEEN
Late Night Fiction- ‘Polar’, EP
Extraordinarily flexible voice, shrieking banshee, guttural and wailing, to maudlin melancholic, vocal chords stretched to snapping extremes. Similarly, instrumentation which effortlessly melds seemingly disparate musical metaphors, hard rock foraying into progressive, experimental, new wave, jazz freestyle; melodic disturbingly disturbed by discordant; not a genre I am familiar with so irresistibly intriguing, though ,at first, disconcertingly disconnected, like salted caramel, this enigma of opposites becomes addictive.
‘Black Watch’: Death metal interspersed with progressive , touched by Queen and Talking Heads, Satan to seraphim, schizophrenically unsettling but enticingly exhilarating in its extremes, pretension pushed aside by passion and extreme musicality.
‘Exits, Persuaded By A Bear’ : Beauteous jingly, jangly guitars, booming echoed drums belie what is to follow, swaying unceremoniously between spiky syncopation of guitar , vocal, bass and drums its counterpoint, and melodious yet unresolved melody, niggled by disharmony, breaking into rat a tat, tightly enunciated new wave rock, before falling away completely to, sliver of silvery experimental guitar shimmer, glimmered with distortion, myriad shards of broken mirror reassembled into distorted cracked whole, the ending of this song transmuting into introduction to ‘Dialectics’ (though on the EP ‘Smashy....’intervenes), which takes up experimental/ progressive theme, rambling reflection broken by brick of bass and drum kick, revolution rousing new wave rhythms, armies united in tension, .closing subdued chant says it all “...we can defeat logic...” and somehow, this does.
‘Smashy ‘Smashy Beast’ Beast’: By now, this gorgeously melodious intro with its enticing guitar riff and chocolate bass puts me on guard, ready to unexpectedly trip, tumble into maelstrom of chaos but this doesn’t happen, well not in the way of previous songs, this instrumental track moves smoothly, cohesively to impassioned climax, a hedonistic bit of headspace which, at this stage in proceedings, manages to catch me unawares.
While ‘Relax Please’ also proves to be an oxymoron, harmonious hard metal, power chords crashing, timpani tingling, taunting, dramatically dissipates to drawn out desultory discourse, “...all of my friends ...swam out to sea...” before volcanic eruption spewing lava of molten guitar , drums raining hot rocks, cooling to ash, where wanders vocal in demented distortion, instrumentation fried to frenzied frazzle.
Resolutely resisting restraints of convention, this wild horse of a band, untamed beauty bucking, browsing, eludes saddle of words, best to just hang on and enjoy the bareback ride.
Stefan Drechsel- 'The Blue Yonder', Single
Inspiration enlightened by Stefan's assertion that: "I'm fascinated by the moments of magic that can appear before your eyes in a split second. When shooting the video and photos for The Blue Yonder I hoped to capture these flashes as they happened, which I could only achieve using my intuition, not my rational mind"; this elliptical attitude to life's enigmas is reflected in Stefan's music, sideways glances at glorious melody dissolved into discordance, snippets of sonorous sweetness snatched ; like those fleeting 'moments of magic' melting to mirage, Stefan's meandering, whimsical vocal, and jazz inflected, experimental, freeform melodic patterns, on guitars and piano, trickle, tickle, taunt, travel through musical forms, glimmering incandescent vistas, unfocused fragments at edge of vision, just out of grasp, hinting at musical magic, radiance unresolved.
Flitting like firefly flashes, no sooner glimpsed than gone, perfect musical representation of those moments of beauty which materialise from ether but disappear before they can be captured in song; unsettling in that nothing reaches musical realisation but chasing rainbows is what life is about.
Tom Moriarty- ‘Don't Ask Why’, Single
In daring to make move from city mogul to musician, Moriarty probably did what many with a tender soul, inextricably entangled in city mores, for whatever reason, wish they had the courage to do but, find themselves shackled by power, money and convention, as well as responsibilities arising from ‘gains’ of such lifestyles. It is difficult both practically and mentally to open one’s eyes and imagine a different way, when laden with such a burden, heavy even when ephemeral, For those who do not or cannot achieve such release, sometimes blindness is the only way to survive, contemplation would crack the thin ice on which they stand.
‘Don't Ask Why’, expressing such sentiments in words more eloquent, captures intensity of this pernicious grip, which swallows morals, distorts reality, destroys lives with lies and blind escapism, self propagating , inescapable nightmare of despair, fuelling deceit.
Melody, musical delivery and instrumentation, beguiling; wood smoked voice, droplet tears of double bass, hillbilly drums, bright, breezy banjo, caressing female harmonies, engage familiar folk metaphors which, Johnny Cash like, belie tragic tale, cut close to the human bone:
“...some things are best forgotten....harsh realities at bay... we’re all here in this circus... all part of the show....final irony is lost....don’t go searching....much better you don’t know...it’s all a lie ....don’t ask why, why...”
Modern minstrel, insightful lessons of life propagated through emotive, melodic tunes, hitched lift no longer horse, but internet surf, fireside songs, the detail is in the chilling words.
NEUTRONS: IN A COMFORTABLE PLACE
John Wean- 'New York Doesn't Love You', Single
Heart pulling, thumping, pumping Indie, endearing in the extreme, love's dream, young and sweet, all puppy dog eyes, chained, released. Slip of a song which bounds exuberantly along, drums, driving, drubbing; bass thrilling, throbbing; guitar skittering skirl; vehement , vivacious vocal; full of joie d'esprit, laissez faire angst which only youth can muster "..I fall in love easily...get my heart broken in two... on a weekly basis...”, difficult not to fall in love with such a guilelessly enticing Scottish accent.
Kirsty Almeida- 'Cool Down Rewind', Single
Even before I had listened, homemade cover of this CD inspired calm, golden green glitter, butterflies and birds, sunlight shimmer which trickled, spilled from the song itself, diving deep into dreamy double bass arms, flecked with twinkling tinkle, strings soothing balm, bass steady heartbeat, drums tender caress, vocal balmy breeze, bathed in light; Beth Orton combined with Vega, touching on Parton’s country themes, reminding us to “...watch a flower grow... make it all go slow...watch every moment... as each moment blows...cool down...” Gently sincere, sweet and clear, a song which flows like sparkling stream, entirely suiting sentiment it sings
The flip side rhythmic remix; fairy bell xylophone cacophony, spacey spiky drums, booming bass with dubby edge, vocals naked, layered, echoed, cut up, speeded down mutation, strings sweeping, clipped, stitched, flanged effects, rhythmically snipped; while enticingly intriguing, in places sounds contrived, incongruous, confused and incomplete, vocal’s slightly sibilant, strident edge uncomfortably emphasised; for me, inspired intention, muddled in execution.
Ben Calvert And The Swifts- ‘Valpolicella Girl’, Single
Laconic, syrupy vocal, slightly staggering guitar, bashful bass and delicate drums locked in mesmerising boozy woozy sway “...Valpolicella...three for a tenner...” head spinning like bicycle wheel , as it plays on permutations of phrases rotating round Valpolicella, queasiness quelled, resuscitated by suck of mouth organ screech, charmingly quirky, laid back to horizontal, Indie folk.
Reviews by Miss Chumki Banerjee