For me, proliferation of electronica and digital means of production provided inspiration for a musical movement which really caught my imagination. As technology flourished and generations old and new became proficient in playing this prodigiously polyphonic new instrument, I felt certain that such access to creativity would furiously fuel fire of invention, that new light would burn bright, that pure electronic dance would spark bush fire offshoots, that electronica would become accepted into clan, as another instrument of musical expression, adding nuance to music old and new.
It has been a long time coming but, at last it seems electronically generated, synthesised sound, is starting to sit more comfortably with traditional instruments, find its natural fit in hands which confidently explore its contours, exploit beauty of its voice, rather than unnaturally force it for effect. This has been particularly marked in the music forwarded to me on cusp of 2012 turning to 2013, which while respecting the past, routinely dips into electronica's rainbow palette with a surer artistry than previously, painting music with glowing new hues, illuminating horizons which I hope will widen through 2013, into even more glorious vistas, heralding another era of musical enticements.
Come with me on this journey of discovery through 2013, as worlds collide in the witching hour, as alchemy of old and new forges new elements, explores spaces in between, travels the unknown:
WHERE GALAXIES COLLIDE: SUPER NOVA BURNING BRIGHT: NEW STARS TO TRACK AS THEY ILLUMINATE OUR FIRMAMENTS
Feldspar- ‘The Flat And Paper Sky Vol. II’, EP
Reviewing volume I of this two part EP last November, I unequivocally fell head over heels in love with Feldspar: ‘....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..... 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....’
Fearing to taint first fantastical formant, frisson of trepidation shivered my soul when opportunity for a second encounter presented itself at my door. However resistance and restraint dissolved at first notes, even when faced with almost nakedly A’ Capela barber shop choir of ‘The Flat And Paper Sky’, singing holy melodies with sacred intensity and purity, reverberating organ reverentially reinforcing root note in cyclic layered plainsong, stealing runes from ancient scripts reverentially forging new tunes, “...how can I begin to raise this stolen pen...” Redolent with glorious harmonies, ringing with eternal truth both melodically and lyrically, this perfect piece of poetical mastery moves with sincere simplicity, touching core of our musical and mystical being, “...the meaning is no use ....if all you wants the truth... then I’ll cut out my tongue be the voice of my generation....” Though slight, these few poignant brushstrokes, wielded with intense artistry, illuminate, encapsulate mankind’s never ending search to express, explore mystery of being, to ascend to higher plain. This song is extraordinary in the way it sings old tongue with new voice, and makes it as relevant and moving today, as it ever was. “...she lifts her veil to say...I came for you... the least you can do is listen.... sinking to her knees... she offers up the key... to the flat and paper sky which is my prison....”‘Bright Blue Eyes’ transforms evocative English folktale themes, troubadour tales of passion and love, stealing into modern night; though times and towns may have changed, human heart remains the same, still irrevocably stolen away by pair of bright blue eyes. Pouring bitter sweet poignancy; weeping, wailing guitar and vocal drenched with desire, twisting in tortured passion, enchanted by beauty, drugged by potion of love, taken to pinnacle of ecstasy, plunged to darkest undertow of despair; midnight blue abandon, to deep in doldrums bass; drums heaving with hope to heartbreaking sigh ; shine tarnished by electronic disturbance, lightening flash crackling night air “....undertow....sun goes down...feet fall on stony ground...darkness at the edge of town... drowning in your bright blue eyes...”
Captures with startling acuity and poetry, fevered love defeating reason, courting folly, “...carried by the moon alone...careless of the shore....” Like all good folk songs, magically gripping, telling universally engaging tale in words and melodies which enthral. Musical phrases which have endured, reworked, woven with modern mores, traditional instrumentation melding seamlessly with instruments of now. ‘Foolish Man’, on the face of it appears to strum familiar bluesy tune, “...it’s only the lonely who know how to sing the blues...” guitar glittering eyes, as bass and piano sigh, rippling in recollections of past times, drums nonchalantly jazzy, gently ticking mind, vocal resignedly equivocal, slightly sedated, lulled; warmly settled in comfortable groove, but words start to open cracks, old wounds, “...where emptiness hangs from the ceiling... slips like a stain down the wall ... can’t find a place for the flowers you bring...”
“...trying my best to be less than I can... never forget I’m the foolish man...with your clever words...it should make sense...it never does...” Superficial subterfuge crumbles, tumbles with instrumentation and words, inner torment building, clamouring on cry of spaghetti western, soaring progressive guitar, inner scream rising, bass dramatically glowering, synth and drums trembling, nauseous with fear of not grabbing life, cowering behind excuses we make. Returning to reverie, nothing has changed, despite clever words, still islands unto ourselves, still singing the blues. Another remarkable song which somehow manages to take familiar genes and, with an inner conviction which glows, evolve something fresh, philosophising thoughts which plague humankind through the ages and ponder them in words anew, in the process describing itself“....pure as an African diamond strong as a handful of grain ...”
‘After Hours’ pulses with empathy and poignant pathos, pours pure pleasure and tragedy of the everyday, which Feldspar’s acutely observant eyes see, its tender heart so deeply feels, its mouth so clearly expresses, as life flees with light of another day, “...light of a cigarette...not the light of the dawn...” Extraordinary words which Feldspar’s instrumentation so beautifully illuminates; shuffling tread of throbbing bass, heaving gentle sigh “..now in the afterhours...”; guitar glimmering, glittering light on glass; piano soft tickling caress, flowing arpeggios; reverberated effects twinkling through falling night; honeyed vocal wrapped in warmth of alcoholic glow, pouring new dawn; bowed strings worn, weary souls, trailing hope; brass reveille, Shadows guitar, displacing dark, rousing weary feet, welcoming yet another rising sun, glass half full. Once again, words of the song say it all; “...turning broken glass to diamonds... each bar stool to a throne...”Rare combination, holy grail of exceptionally poetic lyricism married with eternally emotive melodic expression, exquisitely constructed , effortlessly performed, ravishing yet modestly restrained; there is no doubt , with this EP Feldspar displays an extraordinary, natural, formidable, unforced talent. www.facebook.com/feldsparmusic
Race Car Hearts- ‘TenderViolent’, EP
Had I not listened past first phrases of first song 'Pins', I would have forever regretted it; appealing enough, in anthemic, impassioned Indie, American softly, hair flying, legs akimbo, rock hard sort of way, throbbing, bobbing, pert butt gyrating on melodically tight pins, these are pleasures which usually niggle with their honed predictability; but then something began to shift, prickle my neck, creep of shimmering effects, shifty slide of sweetly twinkling guitar, vocal's slightly percussive edge, caught by hands in rhythmic clap , bouncing on divinely delicious bass. Towards the end, bubble of preconception well and truly pricked, this track blossoms, sheds conventional skin, mutates into siren creature , beguiling , bewitching , shrouded in mists of echoed effects, magnetic , leading me willingly down the road, to even better things.
'Better Kind', a catchy sunny number , again has familiar formulaic feel, borrowed from book of American rock and a slight cheesy adolescence about the lyrics, "...measure my love by the length of her hair ...so come on baby... together we can leave this behind... make moments of a better kind..."
But instrumentation speaks different, more eloquently expressive language which entirely engages, dazzling stridency of ardent guitar, grater shredding cheese with shiny steel and glittering hint of provocative grit, bass walking Police to Talking Head beat, charismatic grin of ravishing riffs, drums diving deep, skipping heart beat. Dispelling doubt, song which captivates with its catchy charm.
'Mother Midnight' bursts chrysalis wide, to birth beautiful butterfly, setting it free to soar and fly; this song coalesces talents of this band into profoundly poignant classic, all engulfing, all its own, released from captivity, myriad colours glowing to full effect, spun round and round by cinematic sweep of orchestral strings in climatic rise, lulling lilt of piano aroused to crashing chords and impatient vibrato, guitar preternaturally glittering eyes, electric vibrations pulsing heart, throbbed by deep throated growl of sensual bass, restlessly racing to primal call of drubbing, doting drums, vocal ravished by desire, ravenous with yearning, swirling senseless in eye of passionate storm, enslaved by shimmering echo of rapture's call. Lyrically, this song also weaves more magic, "...she's like a fire cracker calling...so you want to be young...want to be free...colour of love...without the disease..." A song which seduces, showcasing talents of this band, which lets me hope they might do justice to the Nirvana tribute which follows. As I have made abundantly clear in the past, I am not keen on covers, especially those seeking to impersonate irreplaceable, inimitable genius, so, I approached this version of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' with trepidation. The melodic structure of this song alone tingles the soul; Cobain's tortured vocal drawn from depths of his being and Nirvana's inspired instrumentation, soars it into stratospheres of emotion and musical expression, something which no one else can hope to emulate.
Wisely, Race Car Hearts do not seek to stand in Nirvana's shoes, rendering a tribute of such sensitivity, love and respect, it can only make you weep. Sedated, introverted vocal, strung out, painfully articulated, extruded through droning , sostenuto mist of poignant pathos does not have afflicted edge of Cobain's, but is a quieter desperation, sung with moving conviction. Instrumentation does not grumble in rhythmic grind, grab by the throat, in quite the same way, rather tramps despondently, heaving, heavy steps through quicksand, glitters through gloaming mists, billowing essence of the song's sentiment with a poignancy which fill the senses, a moving, perceptive, compassionate and considered rendition.
Fulfilling promise of their name, ascending to misty mountain high, this unexpectedly heart racing drive terminates at 'The Immortal Ones', exposed vocal wreathed in dawn fog, sunrise guitar glimmering, vibrating vaporous air with motes of sun, hazy with gunpowder smoke, rumbling bass timpani, blast of distant cannon shot. Musically strung round hypnotic, shining strand of repeated melody, cinematic, modern folk, artfully illuminated with ethereal electronic effects, more esoteric than the other songs but just as enticing. Though only five songs long, this EP carried me on a long emotional journey, from doubt to utter belief, irresistible melodies and arrangements, delivered with impeccable musicianship, conjuring original, highly alluring, imaginative blend of acoustic, electronic and inspiring electronica, with passionately expressive vocals and devastatingly ravishing bass lines. One churlish and highly subjective observation, such beauty sometimes begs for a bit more beast, just as pain makes pleasure more poignant, the inner scream. www.facebook.com/racecarhearts
Sam Forrest- 'Silo', EP
Plumbing depths of desolate silo grunge, Sam Forrest and his band, subsumed by sombre shadows, trudge through dolorous dusk, despondency draining soul, light of hope swallowed by black hole heart. "..the world hates me...slates me...hates my guts...I'm off the channel...dismantled...everybody knows I'm a fake...in Sunday clothes..." from 'The World Hates Me' says it all, in Nirvanaesque meets heavy metal Goth meets Velvets style; ominous guitar, scratching, wailing, riding undulations of writhing, churning, throbbing bass riffs, rattled by doleful drums, meshed together into crashing, choppy wall of chainmail sound, tenebrous vocal, morose , lugubrious, convoluted by pain. 'Baby Doll' sinister mantra, "... my baby baby doll..."; one track mind of chiming guitar, restless pacing bass, and heart skipping drums; jittery, rhythmic staccato stutter, obsessively churning chain of mournful melody, picking at chagrin, wreathed in sixties psychedelic plasma. 'Clear' takes spirit of Roxy and Bowie screeching down heavy metal rollercoaster ride ; bass slipping sliding, mesmerising snake of bewitching riffs; guitar, spitting, seething, squalling; husky vocal slightly sedated, floating above tortuous storm of emotion. 'Down On Me': throbs, pulses, growls with smouldering angst, pounding three chord riffs, sinking dark and minor deep. "...fill house with bitter smoke... hang halo from rope... turn keys in broken locks... searching through aftershocks...", vocal wafting, woeful and weightless, buffeted by ferment of hell's fire, wrapped in acrid smog.
A delicious combination of highly integrated, intense, enveloping sound, bittersweet chocolate, dark and deep, subverting, diverting sixties psychedelia and tuneful melodic patterns, to more malodorous, malign place, full of foreboding, impossible not to be immersed, enraptured by such baleful beauty. www.facebook.com/pages/Sam-Forrest/257590139316
China Shop Bull- '9 Lives', Single
Prodigious plexus punch of a track, bellowing through china shop at break beat speed. Pugilistic bass punctuates air, nostrils a flare; vocal's perforating chant and rap, stares defiant glare; nimble drums skip fandango, teasing, taunting dare; guitar and electronica, seductive, snarling snare; triumphant trumpets in exultant blare. Glorious fire starter of a track which wraps Ska, rave , drum and bass and big beat in matador's cloak of stomach churning, captivating techno electronica, sets it alight, then stamps it out. Impressively inventive, totally beguiling. www.facebook.com/chinashopbulluk
Syd Arthur- ‘Dorothy’, single
Shimmering in on Tinker Bell wings, sprinkling sparkling magic dust, Dorothy clicks red shoe heels, time travels fairytale soundtrack back to arty sixties thriller, luminous light filtered through underground cabaret club haze, misty lens focusing faded colours, following psychedelic swirl of curling smoke, slowly tracing path of exhalation, along length of cigarette holder, to enter luscious lips of sultry Dietrich pout; image conjured up by Syd Arthur’s lushly evocative, velvet smoking jacket sound, skipping lightest of modern jazz fandangos, caressed by wafting wisps of billowing effects and cooing backing chorus.
Sounding almost improvisational, freehand sketch, nonchalantly picking out melodic skeleton as it sashays and sways, lilting languidly to offbeat; picked guitar , rhythmic tickle, ripples, glimmers; tremulous cymbals shiver; drums lightly quiver; while bass and synth swing with funk; breezy instrumentation confidently leave space for imagination to shine as vocal pours unguent of Cleo Laine scat, tingling undulations sliding Shirley Bassey’s glamorous back, swooping down her glittering train, Antony and the Johnsons with Garbo eyes and Minnelli legs. Artfully and seamlessly spiking essence of mellow analogue past with dusky musk of more modern digital notes, ‘Dorothy’ synthesises new allure, whisking us off to another place and time, a song of distinction, so refined, hard to get its fragrance out of my mind, floating in on balmy night breeze. http://sydarthur.co.uk
Heavy Petting Zoo- 'See You In Hell, Candy Boys', EP
Pretty improbably, there are two bands bearing the name, 'Heavy Petting Zoo', both presumably drawing inspiration from album of the same name by American punk rockers NOFX. The other, described as "post punk garage rock wet dream" obviously takes petting part of title quite literally, while this version, from Brighton, tossing aside sweet lick on candy stick, favours far more animalistic thrust.
Like Chris Isaak angels with dirty faces, they emerge from cloud of Spaghetti Western desert dust, spurs winking, rattling, clinking, honourable hearts true but besmirched, whiskey soaked throats raw, parched. Four songs shining with rock and roll rhythm and blues, rockabilly riffs riotously ripped, smeared with Nirvanaesque grunge and grit, splattered with grime, spat out in sneer of tobacco chew spit. 'I Don't Want It' growls and grimaces, rolling in dirt, like bear with soar head; vocal gratifyingly grating, abrasive, rasping Virginian cigar foul mood; drums and garage guitar rollicking in mud; bass pulsing, throbbing head; "..I don't want it but I got it bad..." wandering into reflective reverie of lowly but lovely, spunky Latin lady flagellating laundry on her washboard, soaring to sun on progressive wings, before plunging back down to more mortal brawl.
'Maybe I'm Wrong' wakes up with liquor jumbled fuzzy head, miasma of molten sound, spit and sawdust Pogues vocal clamouring, clinging to its catchy edge, shivered with revived rockabilly riffs, guitar, bass and drums racing towards shimmered mirage, resolving to reality's clip clop cowbell round neck, rearing in hasty retreat of horse tail flick. 'It's Been a Long Time Coming', guitar strums sweet campfire song, zooming to wide screen savannah cinematic sweep of soaring, slipping, stammering, sliding guitar, bass molasses deep, midnight blue, drums riding, rearing, vocal spiky , kicking dirt with restless, fretful intent, avenging angels, questionably heroes sallying forth into sunset. May not be Ennio Morricone but undoubtedly a wonderfully enticing mix of conflicting cultures which meld into marvellously alluring, piquant yet poignant dish. https://www.facebook.com/heavypettingzoomusic
The Hidden Revolution- 'Useless Noises', EP
Poignantly gentle Indie irradiated with iridescence of evocative folk, taking Turin Breaks by the Elbow, leading them through musical landscape illuminated by luminous light of progressive experimentation, to a land where Kate Bush, David Grey and Elton wander with Hillage. Title track 'Useless Noises' is most rousing, instrumentation insistently chugging, spiked with needling guitar, vocal fervently ardent chant "...surrounding you...come on...let me in..." Instantly appealing, strikingly fresh, fizzing with catchy effervescence, chattering guitar, bass and drums, rhythmically taut, tight, bubble like babbling brook, an infectious chuckle which captivates, as does earnestly beguiling vocal, certainly not an useless noise.
More restrained, less in a hurry, 'Bones', washed in shimmer of ethereal effects, bobbing on watery throb; 'Symbolize' throbbing, swaying, scintillating; and stripped back version of 'Perfectly Motionless' , with its poignant piano and naked hushed to impassioned vocal, weaving gloriously moving melody, pausing me mid breath, distilling essence of its fully charged instrumented version, which reaches out to Radiohead ; unfurl beauty of The Hidden Revolution's sound and melodic mastery, unleash full range of silken, limitless vocal which flexes like languid, operatic cat in a musical, luxuriating in lush, vividly glowing, virtual world, slinking in wonderment through mists of chimerical fantasy conjured up by imaginative instrumentation, electronica and effects. A Hidden Revolution to seek out. www.facebook.com/pages/The-Hidden-Revolution/10169244873
RIDING CRESCENT MOON: FALLING FROM OUTER-SPACE TO EARTH
Franco & The Dreadnought- 'Last Man Standing', Single and remixes
A rather endearing oddity, rhythm and blues, rapping man trance, mellow Rolling Stones, wafted with fragrant smoke, innocently beguiling instrumentation shining scintillating serenade, shimmered by electronica, fervent vocal seductively haunting, spinning beguiling scrap of bluesy riff, caressed by echo, rap entangled with velvet bass, tantalised by twinkling percussion, iridescent with electronic incandescence. The original is a song of few words which says it all with sweet simplicity, surprising me with its hypnotic allure.
The twelve piece remix package, with which it is issued, completely fascinated me, illustrating strength of this seemingly slight yet tenacious song structure, which survives being shredded, sampled and reassembled, surprisingly resilient, retaining its integrity even when chopped into tiniest fragments. Harmonic homonyms imparting different meanings to same words, remarkably the remixes, however mosaic, or prosaic preserve a central clarity and purity; drum and bass adding frisson of excitable fizz, along with playful punch in the guts; T-Phonic lost in echo of sci-fi outer space entrances; Old Skool dances on bouncing blips, keyboards and quirky bass; Vox house explodes in sparkle of mirror ball glint, bass throbbing anthemic beat; Ear Abuse Drumstep takes tune underwater, aqueous jungle with submarine blips, shivered through interference, sonic boom of throbbing bass, perforating eardrums, one of my favourite remixes; as is the Decibel Nation Dub Step version which breaks the tune down into molecular morsels, and reiterates it in rhythmic stutter, stitched together creature shocked by electrocution of distorted thud; while Cain Mos treads strident synth with offbeat drum and bass path; and Scoop Alter Ego takes scenic route of Elton piano, lush harpsichord, heaving with dance beat throb. Magic lollipop of myriad flavours, sweet but not sickly, unexpectedly mesmerising given its poppy predictability and trance inspired pedigree, which just goes to show you can't keep a good tune down, natural class will always float. www.facebook.com/FrancoDreadnought
Mr Fogg- ‘Tightrope’, Single
Pounding, pulsating, grinding, grating, throbbing with traumatised melodramatic menace, dramatic, cinematic, Peter Gabriel’s ghost embracing Kate Bush , strangulated falsetto soaring, swooping, dolorously weeping, ethereally echoed in staccato stutter, swallowed by heaving sigh, swept by swingeing strings, trumpeted by twisted pipe organ peal, Radiohead on wistful, weary wings, a tour de force of expressive, emotive electronica, which skilfully treads tightrope, harnessing illusory electronic ephemera to invoke palpable emotion without artificiality or pretension.
ON AN ON- ‘The Hunter', Single
Impressively wringing emotion from vehemently vocoded vocal, battering ram drums and bludgeoning synth, this cudgel of a track takes pop and lovingly but remorselessly beats it about the head, remarkably knocking some sense into eighties excesses by shaking it into tremulous surrender, dragged into modern times. Though alarmingly pungent, I find myself completely addicted to The Hunter's potent mix, rallying to his bugle call, pop on new medication and all the better for it.
SWIRLING STARDUST: GATHERING GRAVITY’S RAINBOW READY TO COALESCE
Bleed Electric- 'This Is My Masterpiece', EP
Bleed Electric’s press release quotes ‘Absolute Punk’ which describes them thus: ‘Bleed Electric dips into several generations of influences to create a unique blend of euro electronic music and takes a unique look at modern hip-hop’A description which; with my limited knowledge of hip-hop, beyond those artistes whose music infiltrates day to day life, but more extensive experience when it comes to electronica; left me trembling with degree of trepidation, in expectation of pallid pop pastiche. So, I didn’t expect the highly stylised, aural assault, which Bleed Electric unleashes in their ‘Masterpiece’, electronica cutting deep, bleeding into every orifice, streetwise, rhythmic repartee teleported to hive collective of electronic flux, electrons buzzing, fizzing, crackling, where even vocal is automated, auto-tuned to automaton, this ‘hip-hop’ insistently raps to a different box of beats, body popping through illusory streets, dramatically infused with intense electronic colour, amplified to epic, wide screen proportions, IMAX hip-hop of lush instrumentation, looped, chopped, warped, Cypress Hill with eighties synth and panoply of special effects.
Despite this inventive transformation, there is an element of aural déjà vu, over all six tracks, which thick layers of electronic camouflage cannot disguise; apart from waterfall ferment of shrill electronica ,'A New Reason' is engaging but sounds generically undistinguished; 'Accidental Genius' with its eighties "yeah we got it going on" disco feel, almost makes it as perverted pastiche, with perforated percussive interjections of vocal attitude, perky drums, squelchy effects and elastic bass, but feels slightly contrived; 'Pragmatic' is energised by more originality, snappy Roni Size drums popping to the offbeat, vocal rhythmic sneeze, fragmented to stuttering sample, bubble gum, gunky, trampoline bass, connected in a way that shakes your bones; 'Jus Been Thinkin 'Bout You (Yeah)' marks move into different territory, sashaying more sensual booty, hypnotic, vocal swaying, draped like black satin across the beat, libidinous bass, licentious, chocolate deep, hedonistic, voluptuous synth, percussion merest tickling, teasing tick, beautifully constructed, exquisitely expressive but again, not really singing new song; while 'Angel Fly' ascends to different dimension, unexpectedly on wings of eighties synth on steroids, timeless arpeggios tumbling through shimmered moonlight of indigo bass night, spacey, vocoded vocal, echoed chorus, sugar sweet, awash with saccharine effects, such a cheesy classic would normally make me cringe but, in this case, so cleanly constructed, it becomes refreshingly beguiling, displaying talent for taking an old tune and making it sing anew; a talent displayed to the max on 'This Is My Masterpiece', glorious hip-hop hymn of epic proportions which would not sound out of place in cathedral, rumbling with grumbling, deeply vibrating, pipe organ bass, vocoded vocal stammering, washed in ethereal effects, quaking electronica, glowering, gloaming, percussion prickling. Maybe not melodically innovative but its evocative electronica so effectively expresses the emotion, it is difficult not to be enticed.
Whether hip-hop aficionados will find this EP worthy of note, innovatively inspirational, I cannot say. For myself, though torn, I am swayed by lightness of touch and musicality, which imparts a certain magic to these luminescent new clothes, hung on old bones.
City Reign- ‘Ahead of Ideas’, Single
A year ago I wrote of City Reign’s EP, ‘Numbers For Street Names’ : ‘....musical, mawkish, introspective Indie rock of sobbing vocal , chainmail guitar variety, metallic, close knit with barely chink, brow beaten by chugging bass and drums, recycling variations on familiar, ever emotive hooks, core melodic themes and chord progressions...’, concluding ‘...for me, my favourite track by this band remains ‘Stranded’, from previous EP ‘Daybreak’ lyrically and instrumentally more illustriously individual, it hints at what might be....’
This single, precursor for their debut album, pulls on that strand, takes up the hint, delivers on its tease, allowing individuality to shape musical expression, distress melodic shine with patina of life; Elbow’s glitter ball of rippled guitar arpeggios tarnished by chagrin of time; swaying in maudlin breeze of bass and drums Smith’s sighs; churning turmoil bubbling with Radiohead distressed synth; as demoralised , despondent vocal floats, disorientated detached; rising in frustration ,instrumentation clamouring , vocal harmonised, frazzled to traumatised inner scream, fingernails scratching chalkboard, trying to hang onto fleeting life; ‘Ahead of Ideas’ unfurls City Reign’s head, shining more than chink of light, expressively articulating , illuminating, deeper impassioned core, more assured, flinging open city doors, setting themselves free and letting us in.
TWINKLING ON: LIGHT FROM ANCIENT STARS WHICH CONTINUES TO ENTICE
The Tricks- '49 Mercury’, EP
Four tracks of energising variations on similar melodic themes, a band which divides me, Indie and punk flecked New Wave influences all too easily slipping into well worn Americana, especially on rousing choruses, glimmers of intrigue sliding into more ordinary, though loved by many, Springsteen style stadium rock, with its snappy drums, self confident bass, churning, jingly jangly guitars and exhilarating vocal.
However, the thing that kept me listening is hint of Sharkey snarl in the vocal, pout of Punk attitude in choppy guitar, sprinkle of New Wave skitter and hint of darkness glowering, almost obliterated by bright bonhomie, except when 'On Trial', deeper vocal bravely ventures into shadows, instrumentation cautiously creeping Cure like into forest of the night, only to burst into more familiar stateside chant, surrendering to light, waving stars and stripes. However, a song which gives glimpse of intriguing inner turmoil, emerging again briefly, part time, on 'Part Time Lover', in its tremulous vocal and grungy guitar, only to, once again shyly recede, largely negated by overwhelming, locks blowing in the breeze, anthemic American rock feel, which permeates, reinforced by opening and closing tracks, '49 Mercury' and 'Not Too Young'. Though The Tricks may not have new tricks, something tells me they have something up their sleeve, so I will keep watching for that white rabbit to emerge.
The Dusk- 'Falling', EP
Four songs of captivating though self aware beauty, melodic constructs modelled on softly hard Aerosmith lines, tugging heartstrings with predictable progressions, falling semitones, bitter sweet, minor clouds tingeing sunny major keys, vocal intensely ardent; songs well versed in reliably emotive musical phrases, which somewhat detracts from the sentiment, however well meaning.
Which is a pity, as instrumentation is enticingly original, artfully melding traditional rock instrumentation with considered electronica, lending beguiling sparkle to stock phrases which I fear would not stand out alone.
Together with scintillating, seductively enticing staccato, stammering, pizzicato, steely guitar, throbbing drums and caressing bass, this wash of cinematic effect; watercolour haze, in 'Falling'; glimmering glitter of bell like glockenspiel in 'Therapy'; screech of eighties synth in 'The Other Side' ; and dramatic , echoed thunderclap, cymbal sound slowed down, vibrating, drifting into silence of outer space in 'A Place Of Few'; should have entirely enraptured with enthralling allure, but I find myself niggled by predictable succession of notes, which though fluent, used in another poetic order, could more fully express the originality which obviously exists within this band.
However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I cannot deny, there are many who will swoon in presence of such perfectly formed features. Perverse as I am, a bit more hurt, a bit more creep, a bit more torture, a bit more beast, rather than sullying soul, would, in my poor opinion, reveal brighter light within.
Darwin and the Dinosaur - 'Romulus', EP
Endearing Indie, with earnest insistence of new wave. Whilst definitely not dinosaurs, evolved along traditional lines of glittering, guitar, glimmering, swaying churning; bass and drums brimful of bounce, buoyantly ebullient; vocal, charmingly accented, vivaciously fervent.
An energetically even ride of seven songs which though they melodically tend to merge, are alluring enough to enthral with their enthusiasm , warm sound, seductive song structures, eternally appealing chord patterns and lyrical ditties. Darwin and his dinosaur, occasionally stumble, take a tumble, but quickly right themselves, riddled with beguiling riffs, catchy choruses, infused with charismatic cheeky charm which easily captures hearts, raises smiles, 'Romulus' scores a goal.
Red Bird Sky- ‘stories’, Single
Lyrical blue sky guitar, distantly rumbled by summer storm thunder of brooding bass; piano and sparkling keyboard, twinkle of sunlight glimmer on water; sweetly evocative, sage, world wise vocal, lilting, swaddling, swapping stories with expressively dulcet tones of bowed strings; redolent of Mary Black or maybe vice versa: a beautiful ballad, drenched with palpable compassion, drawn from similarly sensitive soul, caressing poignancy of everyday life, passing of time, stories lost from every life, "... I will listen like a child ...tales dark and wild...will hang on every word you say...lay your stories at my door..." A song which inadvertently draws a tear with its close to the bone clarity and honesty, sung in rich melodious tones, touched by hint of Irish brogue, trembling with sincerity and almost gospel like awe.
London Commands You- 'Truth', Single
Ardent Indie, ebullient yet tinged with angst, drives home its catchy riffs with assiduous exhilaration of tumbling drums, grumbling bass, zealous guitar and earnest vocal. The press release says '...for fans of Joy Division...' a comparison not entirely vindicated by this song, which has more of an anthemic American rock feel about it. However, any chintz is counteracted by vehement fervour of its instrumental and vocal delivery and subtly minor melodic turns. London Commands You may not harbour Joy Division's tortured soul but certainly knows how to, forge a good tune, with truly passionate musicality, captivate with tauntingly memorable hooks.
Bullet For My Valentine- ‘Temper Temper’, Single
Frenetic tantrum of a heavy rock track which tears along, guitars screeching, impatiently jittery, bass grievously growling, drums blunderbuss attack, vocal in paroxysm of unrestrained rising rage, scowl swooping to howl, “...out of control...”; despite lyrics, highly controlled tour de force tightly riding ravishing rolling riffs, explosion contained by craft, muscular, taut and tight, succinctly expressing the emotion without prevarication. Though its melodic and lyrical themes are not new, ‘Temper Temper’ is refreshingly unpretentious in recognising; sometimes it does you good to blow a fuse, both musically and in actuality.
PULSARS: WINKING WITH SPARKLING WIT
Crash & The Coots- 'John Coles Park', EP
In December I reviewed the single from this EP, 'Brian Fury Wins!': ‘..spangled with screech of grated guitar, hung with tarnished baubles of deep bass beep, decorated with distortion; this sounds like a Blue Peter Christmas confection, on drugs or galumphing Gorillaz cartoon creature, after too much ghanja....combining homemade electronica, art house eccentricity, musical mayhem and cartoonish charisma, makes for a wonderfully Devo-esque delight...’ (http://www.mudkiss.com/chumkidec2012singles.htm)
So I was ready for more of the same, when this EP dropped through my door, and it certainly delivers: Indie folk running riot in electronically enhanced, make do and mend mosaic patchwork, snip and stitch psychedelic wonderland, whooping, hollering, chasing white rabbit. Three original songs 'Emily (hehe)', 'Don't Have Any Legs', 'Brian Fury Wins!' and a Brigitte Bardot cover, 'Ca Pourrait Changer', which take tradition on magic carpet ride without selling its quirky soul to the devil, nor losing its grounded head in clouds; transported to carnival mirror world, where nothing is quite what it seems, where loosed stringed bass chuckles, vibrating its sides, where whistles cheekily slide, xylophone twinkles mischievous eye, stylophone squawks its strident cry, hand claps are snapped to rhythmic attention, vocal plays jester in jaunty jape; sucked through echo chamber, splodged with blips and blobs, replicated, comically contorted ,gleefully distorted but retaining sense of self. Wonderfully idiosyncratic park life perambulation, loitering in bushes, meandering though mysterious forest, Talking Heads taking the Cure, manically manipulating effects knob, exuberantly irreverent.
Unexpectedly, the cover rather suits this style, accentuating its accent, bringing out its buoyant spirit, fizzing effervescence without desecration.crashandthecoots.bandcamp.com
NAKED (on drugs) - ‘Death Dance’, Single
Provocative name of the band and song title alone incites preconception which is not disappointed by dramaticism of their music. Creeping like the Cure, twisted as Devo, edgy as the Velvets, deranged as the Doors, experimental as jazz, expressive as film score; exploding musical barriers, freeing melodic and instrumental constructs from generic constraints, appropriating and subjugating them to their avant-garde musical whims, NAKED have stripped musical preconceptions back to bare bones and reconstructed new creature which giggles like mischievous sprite above cacophonous clamour of competitive crowd.
Heralded by nonchalant boxy beat, strutting brush strokes on skins, preening clicks, sleazy synth, slinking piano and prickling guitar, play maladroit undercover hide and seek, sinister super villain vocal extruded through cyber space, skulks in dark shadows of gloaming bass, flitting with exaggerated stealth on floorboards which squeak with clarinet shriek, hypnotised by its snakelike wail, evaporating joker into night as distant sirens squeal. Combining The Doors, ‘The End’ with Inspector Clouseau soundtrack, starring Lou Reed, might seem a concept too farfetched to succeed, but subtlety and wit of this unlikely amalgamation, together with exceptional, assured musicality, paints enthralling musical vignette.
The Shindys- ‘Between You And Me', EP
Four tracks of refreshingly zingy, punky, gritty Indie, 'Best Of Luck' and 'Games You Play'; spiked with new wave and two tone edge on 'My Friends Keep On Telling Me'; twanged with Beatlesque intonation and vibrantly needling guitar on 'Between You And Me'.
Guitar and bass rotating round exuberantly recycled riffs, motivated by zestful drums, trail blazed by vehement vocal chant, it is impossible not to be roused by this rabidly rhapsodic rabble, rise to its rallying cry, which though it sometimes runs out of steam, an energising dynamo of insistent musical enthusiasm which invigorates.
BLACK HOLE: WORMHOLE LEADING WHO KNOWS WHERE
Chelsea Wolfe, ‘Prayer For The Unborn’, EP
Five darkly gothic tracks, shadowy, introspective, interior worlds evoked by expressive, spectral instrumentation, electronica and vocal speaking in lyrical tongues; scintillating chimera of twisted Banshee, high priestess, Bjork sprite, Bush princess and Patti Smith Poetess:
‘A Handful Of Dust’, scratchy guitar churning despair, swirling ephemeral wisp of wistful chant, barely uttered before carried away on wind. ‘Echo’, doleful trudge of despondent lower register guitar, metronome beat to prayer like sorrowful plain song, echoing through cold, cavernous space, lapped by crashing, forlorn waves. ‘Black On Gold (Sickening for Something)’, pit of stomach grinding guitar, heart thudding drums and bass, snake of Siouxsie vocal turning knot. ‘Dissolution- Rehearsal For Mortality’, dramatically rumbles darkly thunderous tones, as vocal intones, weaving silvery spell, invoking spirits from other dimensions, inveigling with siren calls. ‘Prayer For The Unborn’, enchantress materialises from distortion, vocal and guitar wailing ancient incantation, bass and drums, off kilter, throbbing blood through veins and temples, raising devil’s soul.
Though slightly disturbing, conjuring up mystical times, when hallucinatory magic and witchcraft roamed the world, each piece is concisely precise, few well chosen musical expressions and spare instrumentation conveying atmosphere with extraordinary clarity, restraint which articulately presents its potent tale, without the hysterics which often drown such darkly, glowering themes.
Seasons Collide- Horizons, EP
Hoarse voiced rampaging rock, rock of ages blown asunder by death metal’s explosive beat. Vocal reduced by ruination to heavy breathing, menacing threat, softened by harmonies from sweeter tongues, devils in angelic guise, wielding lightning bolts with articulate acumen, in Olympian fight.
‘Horizons 1’: Sets scene with its consolidated, chugging wall of sound, perforated by stabbing guitar, bass bouncing on rubber trampoline, drums rumbling deep thunder, distressed vocal painfully extruding rabid scream; sinister menace in counterpoint to bright eyed, clean cut , American rock god gleam. ‘Tides Of Change’, ‘The Long Road Home’ and ‘Run For Your Life’, continue this collision of colossuses, running rampant with pungent, cutting riffs; melodic hard rock, machine gunned by guitar in rapid fire ricochet, emptying cassette, pummelled by drums and bass, goading hoarse holler of warrior chant, leading assault, blazing destructive trail, as avenging Springsteen chorus, united in sweet harmony, “...drowning in tides of change...” rises through battle’s acrid smoke; silver tongued progressive rock with Zeppelin wings, wielded like talisman in depravity’s mocking face, “...crashing through the trees...”, in eternal hope, “...road may be rough but will get there in the end...” ‘Saviour’ ravages virginal White of Billy Idol’s Wedding, shreds and drags its signature riff through mired mud, before raising Guns ‘N Roses flag, in holy crusade, felled and flailed to rise again, dark knight despatched in flight, cooing chorus hallelujahs his demise, good consuming evil in united reprise..... BUT, world is not yet saved....resurrected, devil has last word......
An intriguing mix of mayhem and restraint, flipping schizophrenically between both sides of the hard rock coin, dark in collision with light, Jekyll in collusion with Hyde, Americanised rock banner shredded by metal teeth; delightfully enigmatic, dichotomy graphically personified, arrestingly addictive, gruesomely attractive, even when peering through half closed eyes.
Uncle Paul- 'W@nk The Cat, Feed The Dog', E.P.
Beginning as it means to go on, with the title, a five track EP of somewhat disturbing images and fetid fragrances, which inadvertently and unavoidably spring to, my admittedly twisted, mind and heave my hypersensitive nose. Gripping, in cringing, tongue in cheek, Tourette's sort of way, grimy grunge, art house punk, highly illustrative, to a fault. I am not intelligent enough to know whether this is clever social commentary, so am struggling to describe dichotomy of its dark allure beyond musical astuteness. Maybe not one to lick and love but cautiously sniff, before approaching:
'Disney Land': Rock 'n Rollercoaster ride of a track, guitars freefall shriek, pounding with drums in blood curdling tumble, liquefied brains yammering nonsensical jumble, accelerating to pinnacle, plunging to silence, breaking speed of sound, to rise and fall again, riding rumbustiously rattling Saw Tooth wave. Beatlesque voice emerges, like novelty kitchen timer, from excitable mayhem, to announce, "...chicken's in the oven..." perhaps Scouse version of 'my goose is cooked', predicting unavoidable trouble about to befall Disney Land poultry. 'Song About Ducks': Abducts Donald and Daffy, scooped up on squealing car chase ride, frenzied quacking fuelled by enforced narcotics, drum's thudding runaway heartbeat, bass engine grievously growling, guitar wheels scudding, swerving, churning, street punks in hedonistic chant, trailing feathers of captured capitalist propaganda, like red rag to wailing sirens. 'Terry Wogan': If Wogan were a puppet of the Devil, this is what would be behind mask of bonhomie, twisted grimace, leering sneer, death metal maelstrom of swirling fear; maybe an alter ego hope too far, though might explain the symbiotic wig. 'I Could Not Take A Piss': Interrupting Starsky and Hutch chase, Huggy Bear takes funkier, cock tied, in desperate need of piss nonchalant preamble, to public latrine, erupting in frustration of failed effort, to effect relieving ejection from incalcitrant organ, withered by wittering waffle of freer flowing, wantonly profligate, marking territory with taint of their spray. Scent of piss palpable, not one for those of a sensitive disposition, making me gag despite shared disgust at imposition of insanitary sanitation, so perhaps effective as protest song against state of our public conveniences. 'Anne Sellors' last chance': From one piss take to another, Anne Sellors' one claim to fame, literally "....pissed...way..." At this point I gave up trying to understand beyond, what the f*** and just enjoyed nefariously mesmerising, twisted sound of gritty, wheedling guitar, divinely dirty bass, sinister, riddle me de vocal interjections and tramp of tawdry drums, pulsated through searing sulphurous fog.
A visceral experience, cerebellum in the dark, none the less I did learn two arguably useful facts from this foray into the unknown; that even a stream of piss can become famous given the right publicity; and that Wogan has yet to gain recognition in the lexicon of Microsoft Word.
Reviews by Miss Chumki Banerjee