In previous months, a common thread seemed to be preponderance of folk in all its glorious, varied forms, whereas July and August finds musical font overflowing with refreshing new water. However, despite the fact that time from conception, to birth, and release into the wild varies from song to song, there seems to be a lyrical theme which runs through many of the new releases, related to economic climate and how it affects our lives, exterior and interior, especially when living in cities. My first selection, which gathers some of my favourites together, illustrates how, even on this small, physically intimate planet, we can be worlds apart, in how we are able to express a shared humanity, depending on the environment we happen to end up in.
Moving onto a selection which looks at loss of innocence, how we search inside ourselves for understanding, seek diversion or just run. Then finally, songs about all the things we do, to just forget and enjoy what we have; indulge in fantasy, dance, have sex and fall in love. In contrast to restraint which currently grips our physical lives, musically, these last two months have been the most exciting of this year so far, as if the sun has suddenly blossomed tight buds, ready to burst, into riotous explosion of rainbow hues.
Essential element of music and other arts; eloquence without restraint or barrier; bestows on us the gift of ultimate intimate communication, the ability to look inside each others’ heads, for understanding, so we are not alone. Times of trouble and strife are when we need each other most, so perhaps they encourage the artist within us all.
Phlo Finister- Poster Girl EP
Philo Finister races us to another troubled cityscape: Deep bass and drums throbbing with menace, scintillating stab of guitar radiating relentless oppressive heat, rent asunder by siren screech, rapid fire ricochets, as sultry sister sashays scorching streets, gravelly effects, grime scrunching beneath her feet, taunting the boys, dispensing streetwise wisdom in a vocal beguilingly innocent and sweet, rising from smog of echo like urban angel with a dirty face : “...here’s an invitation to my salvation...champagne for my enemies...keep ‘em real close....bad boy....what you going to do when I come for you?...” First song on the EP ‘America’s Most Wanted’ beguiles with its mixture of smoky, trancey vocal , partly rapped, partly sung, rhythmic scraps of melody, interwoven with silver strands of melancholic guitar, perforated by punchy, pugilistic effects and sampled sounds; perfectly portraying laws of survival on hard city streets, where beauty lays down with the beast.
‘Hotel Miami’ exploits even darker, menacing, sleazy effects, rhythms and deep globular, stalking bass emphasising restless, pugilistic push and pull of drum and bass, ethereal entrapment in inveigling whispers and hypnotising vocoded voices, wrapping, trapping innocently enticing vocal, encouraged to contemplate prostitution, as self deluding means to an end: “...tell me you love me... kiss me so softly... even though you’ll do me wrong...maybe I should be a call girl....” ‘Coca Cola Classic’, ‘Killer On The Road’ continue this theme both lyrically and musically; juxtaposition of innocence and world wise, captivating hooks smeared with detritus, which, unexpectedly, hints at a sinister dub step Blondie, and though disturbing; drawing us into a world of desperate degradation; is done with a sure touch which is entirely engaging, powerfully expressive electronica avoiding the melodrama which it could have been. Last song, ‘Last Winter’ dissolves into beautifully moving drum and bass ballad, releasing full poignancy of the voice, city dirt washed away in snowfall of trancey effects, ethereal lights glowing through flakes ; at the end, though shiver of menace remains; “...I’m wanted by the law ... married to the mob...”, it is love which makes the final judgement call; “...last winter I am growing cold.... can I take you with me... take you home... before it’s over... can I hold you close...I want to die with you...”
This song is probably the one which will be picked up, be the making of Phlo but, for me, the whole EP is a journey, which needs to be travelled, to really appreciate its final stop.
Stax Revue- In The City EP
Full of sunshine sparkle, as flashy as bling, a city experience not quite so grim, where hope springs eternal in youthful optimism, where boys can be boys and just want to have fun, even when days are hard: ‘In The City’, ‘You Oughta Know’, ‘When Will We Meet Again?’ and ‘Days Are Hard’; four tracks of funky bass, jazzy guitar and soulful, elastic vocal, exuberantly effervescent with captivating smile on its face. Swinging, swaying and strutting, it is impossible not to move to lilting, catchy rhythm of its beat: “...hey you want to have fun... I’ll see you in the city... tell me honey....should I be walking home with you...”
Every song has a ravishing hook which combined with subtle yet scintillating instrumental gymnastics and a vocal dripping with sexy allure, makes this an irresistible, sparkling summer cocktail, in more ways than one.
Emma’s Imagination- Underway EP And when you are brave enough, take a look inside your head: Another lady with a voice which radiates inner beauty which is more than skin deep; First song on the EP, ‘Let You Go’, is bathed in ethereal glow of gossamer instrumentation; heaving hazy bass, echoed drums, sorrowful strings, sparkling picked guitar, shimmer of cymbals: flickering fireflies illuminating mysterious ectoplasmic glow of reminiscent folk, from which rumination flows, in form of truly touching, introspective vocal, heaving with emotion : “...feeding on the silence... can you feel it grow inside us... where my heart was there’s a spider living now...spinning webs with secrets...I can’t think of you anymore...wrestles my heart to the floor...why can’t I let you go?...”
Lyrically and melodically captivating, modern folk with a hint of Kate Bush, Emma’s imagination powerfully conjures up interior landscapes, captures nebulous feelings which float through all our heads. ‘Pour It Out’, has a more whimsical, bitter sweet feel, revealing a country leaning, touching on Chris Isaaks rhythm and blues, with its shiver of steel guitars.‘Change’, my favourite song; an eerie, echoed ballad, with deeply sensuous bass and unearthly effects, contemplative impassioned vocal transmuted to devil, its alter ego, ruinously mutated , vocoded, satanic ; takes elements of both songs above and, by injecting inspired and startling electronic coloration, forges a new, almost elemental, unforgettable sound, which grabs attention; beauty and the beast, beautifully done.‘All About You’ and ‘Bells’ redolent of old English folk, effortlessly evocative, stunningly beautiful classics; like Fairport and Goldfrapp ,taking inspiration from traditional folk melodic structures, re-smelted, re-fired to shine brightly anew; these songs resonate and glow with a spectral light, ghosts of the past dancing with the living. ‘Arms Of Old’, more country, with a touch of French cabaret; quirky, sunny, sensitive ending to an extraordinarily alluring EP; one which I know I will turn to again and again.
Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo- Dear River
Pure country vocal taking up the trail, following lilting river of escape: Emily Barker’s gospel like vocal, accompanied by Little House on The Prairie chapel organ, sways to gentle benefaction of god fearing congregation’s hand clap beat, breaking into hallelujah praise at joyous coming of age, country folk instrumentation sparkling like sun on water, treading light step, caressing warm breeze, racing to “...where I long to be...” whilst tinged with melancholy, glancing back at what is left. Emily Barkers voice has that timeless quality which embodies worldly wisdom; hope and heartbreak effortlessly captured in a classic song, which perfectly expresses that human dichotomy; the urge to move on while longing to hold on to what is loved and known.
Mathew and Me- Modern Life
Mathew and Me meld hymn like melodic quality of Sarah John with country’s city cousin, emotive Indie; life in a different key, a different perspective, but essentially translating the same themes to concrete jungle of modern being; Similar hollow drum, now wreathed with industrial smoke, moving to more assertive beat, glimmer of guitar slightly more astringent, glint of sun on glass and steel, but beneath the carapace, same tender, torn human skin; “...this modern life that thrills me now... this modern life that kills me now...”; the same urge to run free, taste the thrill while swallowing bitter pill. Clear as choir boy vocal, caressed by honeyed harmonies, guitars starburst motes of shimmering light, smoky bass, scintillating effects and rousing drums, lend Mathew and Me a luminous sound, city at dawn humming awake, heat haze mirage smelt in golden fire of a new day; in their hands, folk inspired Indie sounds fresh.
Fuzzy Logic- March On
Another city, same tale in another voice: Wrapped around with warped, heat haze effects, bass prowling on lion’s velvet feet, senses tickled by scents carried on the breeze of trickling drums, mesmerising sway, silver leash of reggae inspired lyrical guitar, guiding its lolloping lilt , as it stalks the streets. This rousing rap, weaves itself like prickle defended wild rose into all the cracks, with its pure lyrical poetry, words its music, flowing like water from nimble lips: “...life keeps getting in the way of my life....this ain’t living....this is struggle-living...in these times...these mad times...may lead to crime...random thoughts of a young ghetto soldier...major...never been a foot soldier...tread these streets like a chess master...my skin colour being bottom of world order...stand firm...stand... tall...march on...double Dutch laws...”Articulate analysis roused to rabble rousing rage, restrained by repeated reiteration , survival reliant on ability to “...walk on...”; a song which grips with its ebb, flow and the power of its eloquently expressive tale.
Roddy Hart And The Lonesome Fire- Cold City Avalanche
Inner city life once again shows us its scarier face: Grating electronica scratches graffiti scar on this song from the start, before glowing, glittering guitar and synth, like salve of setting sun, bass its balm, briefly bathes ugliness in beauty of its luminous rays, as yearning trumpet serenades lone ranger city cowboy; “...scared of the city... on another lonely weekend... looking for pity... and protection from my best friend...” stepping into skipping heart of drums, instrumentation swirling to hurricane of sound, dramatic piano gathering dark menace of glowering clouds, to build an epic of a song, a tornado which unexpectedly picks you up, an avalanche which sweeps you off your feet, guitar frenzy stealing your breath; a song which builds from quiet beginnings, to swirl like a dervish in dust storm.
David Woodcock- Same Things
Ska cabaret dropping us down, with a bump, to another modern day urban reality, where choices are few and in return for security, nothing much changes and life becomes a bore: With its confident crisp cut, cockily confident style, choppy piano emphasising the offbeat, drums and bass in sure footed united stride, ‘Same Things’ speaks in infectiously catchy two tone voice of Madness, both vocally and instrumentally; an inverted ‘House of Fun’, where routine, rather than riotous revels, rules. David Woodcock’s cockney patter tumbles out as fast as his rollicking piano rolls, lyrically ebullient in defiance of less than inspiring environment; “...feel like death in the morning...sleep it off mid afternoon...just doing the same things...same things I always do...spend half your life... tied up 9 to 5...what else can you do...dream the same dreams as you...drives me mad... no way out...” A tragic-comedy the ebullience of cabaret style piano introduces macabre malevolence to relentlessly cheerful exterior, clown “...doing same...show...”; painted smile disintegrating in torrent of piano, melting to grimace with encroaching tread of menacing bass; dissolving just as rapidly to trickle of piano rain, clutching at flimsy straw of hope; “... maybe just for the weekend... we could go to South End...take in a change of view...”Lyrically engaging, refreshingly exhilarating, while perfectly expressing schizophrenia of modern life, human nature suppressed, putting on a show.
Miraculous Mule- Satisfied
From a life with few diversions to one with many more, but still no satisfaction: Revelling in contrary clichés; from the lyrics this should be ‘Can’t Get No Satisfaction’ but of course that name is taken; squeezing pips from Rolling Stones rock and roll blues and spitting them out in a stream of subversive sleaze, this tawdry tease of Alice Cooper fused with Billy Idol, taken for a ride down dark corridors of twisted Doors minds, is irresistibly seductive in its twisted sensuality.
Hoarsely louche, mesmeric vocal, snake of the night hiss, addictively repetitive Machiavellian chant, casts dangerously magnetic black magic spell, while revving, restless, leering bass, jeering hand clap percussion, driving drums and jittery guitar thrusting tongue of enticing riffs, are on supernaturally bright eyed, ‘drug fuelled’ rhythm and blues high; relentlessly seeking satisfaction, senses blown, finding no respite;“...there ain’t a drug I ain’t took...always praying I’d get hooked... in the midnight hour... at the break of day... oh lord... I ain’t ever been ....aahh...satisfied....” They might not be hooked, but Miraculous Mule hold me in their wicked thrall.
Nothankyou- Know Yourself
And after you’ve tried to escape, without success, get to know yourself: An ear catching concoction of virtual and physical instrumentation; imaginatively engaging electronica and more traditional means of making sound, fused into new, quirky dance; funky syncopated cowbell and jazzily experimental guitar coexisting with deep squelchy drum and bass, bound together by Bjork style, rhythmical, whimsical vocal scat, dropped into spaces between notes, like folkloric pearls of whimsical wisdom “...I adore you....the shadows are shrinking as the sun beam hits the alley...I am dying laughing...”
Tightly constructed, carefully orchestrated while feeling freeform, a song with irresistible rhythmic pull to a skewed beat, iridescent with a freshness born of inspired invention, a new dance jazz.
Bridie &The Arbour- Prolong
And when you really get to know yourself, contemplate life: Lush with classical harmonies, tender acoustic guitar opulently adorned with sumptuous, lyrical layered strings, vocal woven from sun rays and vaporous mists, golden and warm: choir girl folk heaving with heartfelt soul; nebulous strands of stray musical musings, eloquent ‘cello and liquid vocal wrapped in each other’s thoughts; gathered into gossamer bow of melody, resolving in holy choir harmony. There is a torrent of fabulous modern folk out, at the moment, so it seems churlish, well almost impossible, to single one out but ‘Prolong’ is one of those songs with a Goldfrapp soul, connecting with a deep, peaceful place but carrying a sting or twist, both lyrically and melodically, which reveals something more than surface beauty.
Sarah Johns Music Party- Green Bud
Mourn innocence lost: Boom of hollow drums, rim edge click mesmerising metronomic tick, death march tread for lonely introspection, introverted vocal intoning “...green bud...green bud... you should make me feel good...but you don’t...put my hope in you and then you die...maybe would be better if you don’t come back....” Reminiscent of Kate Bush, drawing on folkloric melodic structures, slip of a song, chanted in sweet childish tones, taking lisping lead, pulling petulant lip as petals fall from disillusioned eyes and beauteous bud, layered with echoes of itself, in ring a ring of roses round. Modern madrigal, short, bitter sweet, perfectly purveying decaying innocence in just a few, pertinently precise brushstrokes; performance art personified in music, slight but singularly effective.
The Fallows- Run Like A Dog
Or run “...like a dog in the rain...” Another drop from the folk torrent, I would hold my cup out in the rain to catch; with a male vocal as empathetic and warm as Bridie, this is warm summer storm of more traditional folk; glittering acoustic guitar breaking into hoedown of chocolate bass, hard beating heart drums, fleeting mandolin and lilting strummed and bowed strings, racing through pollen hazed fields, contemplating eternal bitter sweet conundrums of love, dispensing old lore in age old melodic and lyrical themes which talk to the heart of us all: “...time won’t wait... neither will the soul of a man ... I’ve let you go before we get too old...”
Gauntlet Hair- Bad Apple
Or sink into depths of a troubled mind, on a more than bad hair day: Ethereally enigmatic track, slipping in and out of consciousness, sliding into hazy corners of sedated mind; bouncing drum machine beat its artificial life support heart; deep throbbing bass, sluggish blood pulsing veins; electronic susurration , echoed pan pipes whispering ghosts , smoke signals to subconscious thought; warped synths on mind altering medication injected by needling spikes of sound; pain numbed by soothing ripple of piano Novocaine; lugubrious vocal battling treacle of miasmic murk, reaching for distant shimmer of guitar lights. Held together by gossamer musical threads, drifting and coalescing like gathering clouds, there is a surreal quality about this extraordinary song which beguiles, intrigues and lures, while sending disturbing shiver down spine; finger tracing icy tracks, tipping balance of sanity; Extruding eighties electronica rhythms, sounds and melodic structures through filter of more modern means , touched by Eels, twisted by post punk, spell binding Goth; some of my favourite things mixed into new psychedelia, playing with the mind.
And if it all gets too much, forget the drugs, escape into the surreal, the past or just dance. An irresistibly addictive selection which helps you do just that:
Lizzie and The Yes Men- Unstoppable
Coolly surreal, cinematic in a twisted Spaghetti Western type of way, menacing bass, desert heat haze, steel guitars and marching drums; prickling, needling, wheedling vocal, Nancy Sinatra, recast in black leather, those boots that used to walk now slinking, thigh high and spiked, smoking gun at her side; modern theatrical pop cabaret, fused with Banshee slightly deviant post punk; irresistibly sleazy, undeniably catchy.
Sally Dige- Forget Me
Taking the Banshee theme down a different route, ‘Forget Me’ bass, guitar and synth lines inject pure shot of pre Dear Prudence Cure into veins of spacey Banshee Blondie vocal; Harry’s poppy, dance aware, post punk melodic style ,delivered with Siouxie attitude, washed in trancey electronic effects, scudding shadows of The Forest casting darker shade; seductive electronic, post punk Goth.
Marnie (Helen from Ladytron) - The Hunter
Moving on to another musical love, Ladytron; Marnie molecule extracted, fused in atomic fission to fashion new mercurial element. Already in amour of Ladytron’s captivating melodies and lush electronica, I was favourably predisposed , captured, even before I heard the hunter’s call. However, nothing had prepared me for entrancement of this beguiling song and its magnetic melodic hook. Poppier than some Ladytron, it retains dark core of deep throbbing, black hole bass and spacey electronic wash, melded with Cranberries emotive vocal cadences, and eighties drum machine and pulsing synths, which makes it entirely enthralling. I am bewitched; a song which will be welded to my CD, until surfeit makes me sick.
Love Inks- Solar Diary
Picks up Ladytron theme with its mixture of grumbling, bass heavy electronica, spun with silk of gossamer vocal, reverberated by eighties shivering, simmering synths and clipped drum machine beat, sprinkled with twinkle of starry effects ; another hypnotic song which ensnared me with its mesmeric mantra and enticing electronica.
I Am A Camera- The Legendary Children
Captures more light from the eighties, resonant bouncing disco bass and growling analogue synth, travelling electrons back in time, star wars special effects squelching in the background, while vocal swings effortlessly between life affirming, rousing chant “...we are the ones...the legendary children...stand up and fight... we were never forgiven...” and echoed trancey interludes which hint at the Eurythmics, with rhythmic, catchy vocal riffs and soaring breaks. Though tending ever so slightly towards the twee, with its over enthusiastic sing a long chorus, there is no denying this is an irresistibly catchy, ebullient little number.
Gentleman's Dub Club- Give It Away
An equally enticing but completely different shade of electronica; heavy, thrusting ,deeply drubbing, throbbing bass beat mixed with progressive hard house, rattled by hip hop, reggae and dub, infiltrated by trancey, spacey effects ; pushed, pulled mutated, electronic break dancing; head spin into outer space and back; infused with effusive energy and a rhythm impossible to deny, one of the most exciting dance track I have heard for a while.
Abnormal- Faye Valentine’feat Jay Lotus
Sounding like two songs playing concurrent, welter of conflicting rhythms , jazzy hip hop back beats, deep syrupy, voluble bass, plinky plonky, shiny synth , lyrical saxophone, and deep trance scat; all chattering together in haze of smoky effects; somehow, this magically coalesces into deeply sensual, enthralling hybrid of laid back soulful R&B, jazz and Balearic trance ; a delightfully unexpected intrigue.
Burning House- Turn Off The Robot (Shafiq Husayn remix)
Conflicting yet curiously exhilarating rhythms once again collide, as dub step meets hip hop meets techno meets speeded up bhangra, meets progressive dance, meets eighties synth and fame school group vocal; bound together by insanely manipulated effects knob, used as maniacal rhythm stick, barbed wire conductor, trying to tie this unruly, boisterous bunch together in time. Robot run riot, this tune; in addition to burning up the house, burns musical bridges with effervescent imagination and aplomb, to build fantastical new edifices of sound.
Kitten Pyramid- Uh-Oh
As cutely confused as nonplussed kittens placed in a pyramid; mixing it up in yet another deliciously novel way. Starting with “....lights were low oh oh ...”, Bowie ‘Starman’ guitar, there intrepid kittens take time machine, riding Sixties guitar, to surf New Wave avant garde punk, adopting Cockerish alternative ‘Brit’ rock accent along the way, travelling via mod to epic peak; lyrical ballad of soaring trumpet, in intertwined duet with impassioned prog guitar, riding rapids of tumbling piano; blues, jazz , big band, hip hop soul and prog rock melded into one mellifluous whole, merest whiff of Radiohead at the end. This could have been “oh no”, cacophonous muddle, a squirming edifice in danger of imminent collapse but instead, remarkably, the kittens pull off their balancing act and charm with their allure.
And if such fantastical flights of fancy, or dancing your shoes off fails, there’s always sex, to take your mind off almost anything:
Stalker- Kelly Brooks
Is the horny, au natural, take your time, intertwined, sensual kind; grass roots blues soaked Indie, with pupils dilated; irresistibly beguiling, besotted hook “...love that look...”, glittering guitar, iridescent twinkle in sparkling eyes, dusky drums heaving heart, sprinkled with tickle of come hither riffs; cigar smoked, steeped in whisky and pheromones, hormones rising, you can almost taste the snake of that hoary tongue.
Fred Scheider & Donna Destri – Feel
The fantasy, virtual reality, when Harry met Sally kind; this track and video is so ripe with cheese ,its whiff becomes disturbingly addictive; Dad dance Blondie making out with breathlessly beckoning, artfully writhing Cher, in space age city; “...tonight baby in the neon night... in the bright city lights... I want you to touch me... I want you...touch me baby... yes, yes, yes...uuuh, uuuh, uuuh...” ‘Feel’ illustrates how singing technique and words are almost irrelevant, as long as you have throbbing, sensual sexuality of an experienced bass, between your legs, feeling the way; though lots of Vaseline in the form of space age electronic effects , heavy breathing emulating arousal, and a ‘catchy disco beat’, also helps. I fear fatal attraction of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Je T’Aime’ might have been the starting point for this; what I assume is tongue in cheek; space age, far removed, plastic re-interpretation. You might think from my words that I am less than impressed, but I surprise even myself in saying, like a Margarita, this unexpectedly improves when taken with a large pinch of salt. Worth a listen just for the legless sex bass, I find myself surreptitiously pressing repeat; should you too get infected by its catchy eighties ‘disco beat’, I suggest you seek medical help. Otherwise it could become a storming dance hit; I look forward to many a mutant remix.
But whatever the climate of discontent, of course, love conquers all:
The Hosts- Give Your Love To Her
From hard lives, questing, questioning, fantasy, dancing and sex, to pure surrender, in this joyous, tender love song: Halcyon high of heaving, engulfing, symphonic surround sound; sweeping synths emulating soaring strings, ringing, singing guitars, breathless bass, sighing drums, ecstatically euphoric vocal serenaded by cherubic choir, riding clouds, wreathed in sweet mists of echo, head over heels in bright eyed love, eager to catch fleeting glimpse of its object of besotted affection “....she’s all you want from now on....tell her the times in the past you got it wrong...take her in your arms....give her your love....” Openly bleeding on sleeve, though emotion freely overflows in gush of anthemic enthusiasm, only a very hard heart would not melt at such disarming candour; while continuing the theme of looking back with regret at good things lost, also looking forward with hope that love may be renewed restored.
Reviews by Chumki Banerjee