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Stealing through deep urban night, sparrow wings in fluttering flight, fleeing smog of city blight, to dance in Northern Lights

This was meant to be my top favourite EP of the month, but inextricably entangled in rapture, evicting fidelity, a threesome which plunged me into inexorable passion; symbiotic ménage a trois, three pieces of music which captured my heart and captivated my stereo this month. Kindest of Thieves and Ragz; coincidently and serendipitously previously acquainted, on my reviews for February 2012, joined by spiritual soul mate Little Sparrow, making up a trio which individually articulate emotion with eloquent clarity and together resonate with common intent, magnifying pleasure to exquisitely poignant heights. Music which you really should not miss:

Kindest of Thieves- ‘Child’, EP

Without even a note, emotive song titles clasp by throat, succinct expressions of overwhelming introspections haunting human psyche, dichotomies which clamour, possess us all; happiness traumatised by terror of mortality; desire for unrestrained consummation, possession of another being, body and soul; turbulence of  petrifying doubt and despair; trembling inner child, tender core exposed.

‘(Mother) I Feel I’m Dying’, ‘Give Yourself Up Love’, ‘Don’t It Make You Feel Like Crying’, ‘I’m Still A Child (Love)’; words rousing expectation to soaring heights, from which lesser skilled might plunge to crashing fall, but ‘Child’, wise beyond its age, drinks deep at font of mortal soul, to fly on chimerical wings, riding emotional winds, rising, falling, twirling, swirling, in constant turbulent motion. ‘Child’ burns such innocence in blood red flames of setting sun, stealing away like thief in night, to darker, more foreboding place.

Opening track,  ‘(Mother) I Feel I’m Dying’, fuses racing Indie angst with ancient runes of troubled folk,  metamorphosing  wild new creature, straining at rock and roll chains, Waterboys wolf howling at dark side of Killing Moon, scudding shadows over its bright face. A theme, taken up by Give Yourself Up Love’: throbbing, with palpitating perturbation,  thrashes more Waterboys brooding water, tugging despondent undertow, cinematically sinister, tremulous vocal trembling with disquietude, drawing on Radiohead troubled soul, trauma trapped in velvet dark , wandering winding corridors of the mind; melodically and lyrically charismatically distressed.‘Don’t It Make You Feel Like Crying’, churns choppy waves of driving riffs, lyrically weeping vocal clinging on, riding bilious surf of bitter sweet life; Gothic folk, with new age punk soul, meets Velvets edge; an electrifying mix. ‘I’m Still A Child (Love)’ lilts with chagrin, vocal steeped with angst of French chanteuse, accompanied by tearful strummed guitar , takes us into Brel territory, deepest bass diving stormy depths, vocal swooping, swirling , battered to shreds on rocks of distress.

Old English dark folk roots, twisted with Radiohead brambles, infused with Gothic punk, torn by sawtooth, staccato progressive rock edge, stitched together with extraordinarily emotive voice of Chris Fox; the music of these kindest of thieves is mesmerically enigmatic; swinging between hope and despair, drums sickening thud of offbeat heart, tunes which prickle, bristle and niggle like brooding thought; squirming in misery, electrified by unexpected happiness, tumbling free with suppurating shriek, plunging melancholia deep; rollercoaster of emotion;  capturing essence of human contradiction, like fox caught in moonlight, briefly illuminating face which seeks to hide in shadows; Kindest of Thieves hold up mirror ,steal away with part of your soul, leaving in exchange, part of theirs.

Little Sparrow- ‘Sending The Message’, Single,    

Little Sparrow, small cockney bird, metaphorical messenger, her highly emotive, sweetly sung message musical link between Kindest of Thieves and Ragz; flying from native south to Northern climes , territory of Thieves, she emulates Ragz’s migration from Northern Lights; all three musically connected by purity of soul, inspired by folkloric tradition.

Like Ragz, Little Sparrow’s voice has cut glass clarity, liquid emotion which soars and swoops like swallow riding high plain breeze. Modern day Mary Hopkins, imbued with Marianne Faithful intense passion, her vocal has timeless crystalline quality, clearly enunciated hymnal drawn from deep soul, weaving maudlin melodies, fair maiden longing for her love, ‘... you could be here....please don’t go...’ eternally moving tale retold in classical folk inspired, yet modern tongue, as intensely touching as it ever was; choir girl, silver soprano vocal flying to magical heights, weaving, harmonising  with echoes of itself and lyrical ‘cello in ecstasy of tortured anguish , instrumentation river of melancholy, in ebb and flow, snare drum despondent trickle of distress. Little Sparrow captures essence of yearning, with startling simplicity ; a modern day classic which invaded every crevice of my mind with exceptional beauty of melody and tone; like Ragz she opens doors to dreams.

Ragz Nordset- ‘Sleepdancing’, EP

Ragz is one of those rare artistes whose awe inspiring musicality flows like clear water; effortlessly fluent in universal tongue, her music never fails to totally captivate, melodically entrancing, lyrically enlightening, delving depths of human soul with enviable clarity and compassion; musical arrangements perfectly apposite, beautifully evocative, blending traditional and electronic with impeccable artistry;  limitless crystalline vocal effortlessly evoking intense emotion, guileless, heart achingly beguiling. Her melodies are indescribably moving, classic yet fresh, sprinkled with fairytale magic dust of her native land, shimmered with glimmer of their ethereal Northern Lights. I find it extraordinary that she is not better known, especially as, everyone who hears her music instantly falls in love with it.

Graduating from LIPA, Ragz unleashed her talent with four releases, Little Stings’, ‘Love You Still’, ‘Dreams’ and ‘You Started It All’ , all of which are pretty much on constant rotation on my CD and, until recently, we in Liverpool were lucky enough to luxuriate in Ragz’s presence, only reluctantly releasing this fragile butterfly back to her Norwegian habitat this past month, to refill her phial of Nordic soul, reignite the spectral flame which infuses her music with magical flicker of Northern Lights, torch burning bright wherever she or it might travel. Featuring versions of two of my favourite songs, ‘You Started It All’ and ‘More’, plus two new to me, ‘New August’, and ‘Sleepdancing’:

‘New August’: tingles spine with shivers of chill electronic winds, pulls at pulse with throb of drums through Autumn mist; billowing cinematic atmosphere enticing its audience into spectral world of whispering sprites; glimmered with twinkle of sparkling piano motif, bowed strings lyrically sweet, vocal in Ragz’s warm lower register, haunting, mystical Bjork, sweeping to swoon of Kate Bush, in pointillist counterpoint, rhythmically emphasising spaces in between deep throb of drums and bass, swooping , harmonising with itself in the round, mesmeric, magnetic; tickled by trickle of tantalising effects: perfect example of musical clarity, completely entrancing.

‘Sleepdancing’ picks up bass throb, urged to surge of racing pulse, lynchpin beat for vocal spun like skein of silk, in duet with lyrical piano, whirling, swirling through fantastical dreamscape world of cinematic strings and ephemeral effects, mystery tinged with fleeting menace, flitting, flying joyously free, riding clouds of imagination “...she’s always dancing in her sleep...wearing out her little feet....”: glowing musical colours woven into translucent dreamtime landscapes.Revisiting, an old favourite ‘More’, a song whose lyrics I adore, expressing so succinctly and passionately how human excesses, greed for more, unravels both relationships and ravages the world: “... more she says, more he gave....more she claimed of him, more he gave in...” Always a dark classic, this version travels it through dark tunnel, ‘...strips it to the bone...’, plunges it even further into gloaming gloom, purity of vocal ringing through murky maelstrom like tolling bell; metamorphosed to mantra drone, interspersed with chanting rap, lyrics chopped , mutated , plaintive chant degenerated, “...she has filled he skin with little stones...” sweetness extracted , only bitterness and despondent resignation remaining; travelling this song to core of its message by just as direct, yet different route.

Similarly ‘You Started It All’ shimmered with spaceship effects, gritty, gravelly electronica injecting it with greater menace, still retains its intensely minor, maverick soul,  vocal true and pure; passion fruit bitter sweet, gyrating round piano pulse.

Ragz illuminates imagination like no other, conjuring magical illusory fairytale worlds from thin air: colliding dark and light, like illuminated Grimm’s tales, a world of glowing colours and shadowy corners where twisted monsters lurk. This collection, with its inspirational electronica, lifts her music to yet another level, entirely enraptures.

Reviews by Chumki Banerjee May 2013

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