Trust The Doc: Edition 30, 16th July 2019

TRUST-THE-DOC: MUSICAL MUSINGS

by Neil March (Edition 30, 16th July 2019)

TTD T Shirt Design 1Neil on Fresh on the Net

Welcome to Edition 30 of Trust The Doc. Please visit and ‘like’ the Trust The Doc Facebook page – https://facebook.com/TrustTheDoc – and if you don’t already do so, please follow both @Hornetmuziq & @DemeraraRecords on Twitter. I will of course follow you back. And it’s my birthday! I won’t say how old though! Ha ha ha not that you’d have much difficulty finding out! The Pop Scene section is divided into yet more sub-sections this time (in essence Alt Rock & Indie, Urban, EDM, Epic & Cinematic Pop, Singer-Songwriters and Electronica. I have also added Country Capers to the sections having two Country tracks to review for the first time in months. So there is a truly wide spectrum of genres covered in this edition. 

Also there was some controversy about some reviews that appeared in Fresh on the Net this month. Since I am part of the moderation and reviews team it is not appropriate for me to get into the detail of why. Instead, I have ended this edition with my version of the reviews of that same week’s Fresh Faves (Batch 331) so all ten bands and artists who were voted into the faves by our lovely Listening Post readers can have this version from Trust The Doc too. One or two of them will find they have been reviewed twice in the same edition as I had already included them in this one before I knew I would be inserting my alternative fresh faves reviews!

Four bands or artists I have reviewed previously have new albums out which they have specifically asked me to review. They are Pdang Food Tigers (Contemporary Classical & Leftfield Section), Morning Myth, Aloysius Scrimshaw (both in Alt Rock & Indie sub-section of Pop Scene) and Siobhan McCrudden (Folk Laws section). There is also a fifth album review which came about thanks to my being contacted by former Red Guitars guitarist John Rowley regarding his new band 10 Million Aliens (Electronic & Ambient Soundscapes sub-section of Pop Scene). So five full album reviews and an alternative version of the Fresh Faves reviews in one half-monthly edition! It would have been a third consecutive bumper issue anyway. Now even more so! 

So here is the list of who is being reviewed in Edition 30.

✦ FRESH ON THE NET LIVE: 5 days left to the first ever new music festival

✦ VANISHING POINT: Stunning line-up for our 1st Anniversary gig at The Ivy House

✦ FRESH ON THE NET LIVE (SCOTLAND): A new music event in Edinburgh

✦ LAFAWNDAH/MAGALETTI/CROSS BROS: A unique collaboration

✦ PDANG FOOD TIGERS: Review of new album by talented duo

✦ HOT 8 BRASS BAND: A taste of New Orleans brought to most of Europe

✦ BACAO RHYTHM & STEEL BAND: Caribbean vibes from … Germany

✦ KONGO DIA NTOTILA: Cerys Matthews joins their celebrity fan club!!

✦ SIOBHAN McCRUDDEN: Review of Welsh artist’s impressive album

✦ SADIE HORLER: Haunting Indie Folk tunes from the city of Exeter

✦ THE BROKEN HEARTED FEW: Folk-infused inventiveness from Lancaster

✦ LISA REDFORD: Country music coming outta, erm, East Anglia

✦ EMMA REEVES: Rocking Country music from the US West Coast

✦ TTD CLASSIC: Remembering the Geordie Soul of The Kane Gang

✦ MORNING MYTH: Review of Dream Pop duo’s excellent debut album

✦ ALOYSIUS SCRIMSHAW: The Dead Scrimshaw has a new album

✦ KILLERMIRACLE: Driving Rock exuberance from the county of Kent

✦ DOWN THE LEES: Belgian Alt Rockers with slow burning scorcher

SœUR: Post-Grunge Alt Rock from Worcester by way of Bristol

✦ MERMAIDENS: Epic melodic Alt Pop from Auckland, New Zealand

✦ TANTRUM XG: Exuberant urban mash-up coming outta Milton Keynes

✦ ANONYMOUSJ9A: Lilting R’n’B with Reggae & Afrobeat undercurrents

✦ AKUA TU: Ethereal Soul is the vibe with this unique singer-songwriter

✦ BROTHER ZULU: Mixing up the flavas to produce something special

✦ EL TRAIN (ft. CHEREE): Sassy sophisticated R’n’B from Birmingham 

✦ CODGE: Funky House music from the city of Manchester

✦ ALEISHA LEO: More funky House music from location unknown!

✦ JJ: Talented young singer-songwriter returns with her best track yet

✦ LOVEPOINT: Simply outstanding songwriting and performance

✦ LLOVERS: Epic tuneful Alt Pop from Teesside quintet

✦ PINK LEMONADE: Cool electro-pop vibes from London-based band

✦ RYKARD: Thoughtful ambient soundscapes from Preston artist

✦ TIGERSONIC: Bringing her unique combination of beatz bleeps & bass

✦ KASSIA FLUX: Talented multi-instrumentalist with cool new material

✦ 10 MILLION ALIENS: A former Red Guitar & the death of the American dream

✦ FRESH FAVES BATCH 331: The Reviews that never were … until now!!

FRESH ON THE NET LIVE: A FREE MINI-FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSIC

There are five days to go until the first ever Fresh on the Net Live on Sunday 21st July 2019. And the hot news now is that it is FREE ENTRY all day and evening. So 16 bands and artists performing across 3 stages in 2 venues on either side of the same street in Highgate (Jacksons Lane Arts Centre & The Boogaloo) on Sunday 21st July; all linked to the Fresh on the Net Listening Post and, in most cases, BBC Introducing. This article on the Fresh on the Net website tells you almost everything you need to know other than that I have had to move some bands and artists from one stage to another for practical reasons I won’t bore you with! In any  case I hope you will be inspired to want to come along and relish this fantastic event. https://freshonthenet.co.uk/2019/07/live-july-2019/ 

VANISHING POINT @ THE IVY HOUSE

Two weeks’ time (Thursday 1st August 2019) sees the first anniversary of Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House and we are celebrating with a truly fantastic line-up of FOTN Theatre Stage headliner and Scottish Indie-Folk artist Catherine Rudie; hard-edged female-fronted South London Alt Rockers Another Venus; Skronkmaster RIck Jensen’s totally insane but brilliant North London-based Freeform Jazz-Noise combo Apocalypse Jazz Unit and super-talented young singer-songwriter Jen. It is going to be a magical evening and, of course, we will be playing the Trust The Doc New Music Playlist between the acts which is packed with top tunes by new music artists, most of whom I have written about in this blog and many of whom have made the Fresh on the Net faves and, also in many cases, the BBC 6 Music Mixtape. So you wouldn’t want to miss that if you are in the area now, would you? Get £2 per ticket off the door price by booking your advance tickets now via https://demerararecords.com/vanishing-point

FRESH ON THE NET LIVE @ LEITH DEPOT, EDINBURGH

My wonderful friend and fellow Fresh on the Net moderator and reviews author Chris Ingram has curated our second Fresh on the Net Live event which will happen at Leith Depot in Edinburgh on Sunday 15th September. TTD favourites Cloth are headlining and there is a stellar line-up. Look out for more details soon at https://freshonthenet.co.uk.

CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL & LEFTFIELD

I seem to have had less opportunity than usual to listen to Late Junction (BBC Radio 3) and Resonance FM’s various leftfield shows but, after being partly prompted by a surprise email from the show’s presenter and friend Max Reinhardt wishing me luck with organising Fresh on the Net Live, I managed to catch the Late Juction edition in which a one-off jam was set up involving London-based Egyptian devotional pop artist Lafawndah (https://soundcloud.com/lafawndah), percussionist and Vanishing Twin collaborator Valentina Magaletti (https://soundcloud.com/valentinamagaletti) and brothers Theon Cross (https://soundcloud.com/theon-cross) & Nathaniel Cross (http://www.humanrevolutionorchestra.co.uk/portfolio-item/nathaniel-cross-trombone/) on Tuba and Trombone respectively. Theon Cross is best known for playing with the amazing Sons of Kemet while Nathaniel Cross has toured with Macy Gray.

Arguably I should have placed this review under Jazz Journeys but it feels more leftfield than jazz to me. Not that it is all that important of course. What matters is whether this experiment in organised collaboration was a success.

The result of this meeting of diverse musical forces was an avant-garde improvised set of pieces with the percussion moving events along, the brass instruments understated and sensitive while the vocals were enigmatic and meditative at times. The aura was agreeable though and made their music oddly calming despite its increases and decreases in intensity. Well worth checking the podcast for if you missed it at the time.

I reviewed a live set at Linear Obsessional by the South London duo Pdang Food Tigers (https://padangfoodtigers.bandcamp.com/) in Edition 29 and was delighted that banjo player Spencer Grady contacted me. I was even more pleased that our online conversation led to my reviewing their new album Wake up Mr Pancake for this edition. I could have done so under this section or Jazz Journeys so it is perhaps fitting that it sits just above that section. Their music displays plenty of influence from these broad genres and others too.

It kicks off on Woody’s Alright with some quiet conversation involving a toddler before Spencer’s banjo takes up the intro accompanied by single bass notes and Steve adds some bendy guitar notes. There is more toddler intervention as the track progresses and the enquiring adult is refused entry to the child’s room as he is told the child wants to be left alone! Presumably after a spat of some sort! Us parents remember how these things were! 

These are the beautiful ones has some sumptious chords that disrupt its quiet ambience midway through and we have a child talking about the planets in our solar system to the accompaniment of nursery-style bells on Priory Claims before The Wishbone Delegate brings some environmental sound into play, gradually overtaken by sustained guitar, soft synth chords and picked notes. The resulting soundscape is delicate and slightly otherwordly.

Major key picking and some sweet harmony introduces Poulter’s Dead with more sustained notes and more delicate, understated interplay. The emerging texture is translucent and has an almost crytalline quality in the way the picked tones and broken chords appear in little clusters. The quiet soundscapes punctuated by individual sounds (bells, harmonica, banjo etc.) are a feature on many of the tracks as are the samples of the little person speaking. 

Just keeps rolling has a lovely combination of slide guitar and banjo which results in some exotic chords and evocative sounds. Painter be my Valentine is a stark contrast though, an open fifths harmony held in abeyance on a synth while other notes are heard in the background and once again, through carefully crafted arrangement and gradual introduction of new timbres, a different, more modal ambience ensues, still punctuated to a degree by small individual gestures. It is the closest they get to being in Brian Eno territory!

The title track, which follows the slow-burning Left me for Harry, is another that uses quiet, gradually developing ambience. Having experienced their live set, I imagine this is Steve using bottlenecks to create some mind-boggling guitar resonance. Again there are quiet, in some cases barely audible, individual gestures but this is a track in which the guitar with its sustained harmonics takes centre stage. 

The album ends with King Caspar Cuttlefish, kicking off with briefly building ambiece before reverberant banjo arrives playing what sounds like a traditional Celtic tune. Meanwhile more sustained slide guitar harmonics float above it. It’s a short track which perhaps reminds us that, at heart, Padang Food Tigers are a duo based around Banjo and Slide Guitar. It is also an uplifting end to an album full of invention, characterised by quiet introspection and contemplation amid themes of childhood. Music-wise it is awash with skillful manipulation of sound and fine musicianship. 

JAZZ JOURNEYS

The Hot 8 Brass Band (http://www.hot8brassband.com/) have become so synonymous with the sound of New Orleans in the modern era. Formed in 1996 when sousaphone player Bennie Pete persuaded two bands from the Fortier High School to merge, they have brought together the tradition of New Orleans Jazz and Big Band music with the Funk and Urban music flavas they have grown up with. 

This summer has seen them take their unique sound out across Europe, winning over audiences in Scandinavia, the former Eastern Bloc, the Mediterranean and here in the UK. They also have their February 2019-released EP Take Cover (https://hot8brassband.bandcamp.com/album/take-cover) on sale which includes, among other gems, their mind-boggling renditions of Joy Division’s Love will tear us apart, Jacksons classic Shake your body down to the ground and George Benson’s Give me the night. If you are not familiar with their fantastic music I recommend you check them out.

WORLD IN MOTION

It was a breath of fresh air to hear the Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band (https://soundcloud.com/bacaorhythmsteelband) on Cerys Matthews’ fantastic Sunday morning show on BBC Radio 6 Music with the track Xxplosive which marries one of my favourite sounds, that of resonant and rhythmically freely played Steel Drums with a Reggae-influenced track. The track is taken from their 2018 album The Serpent’s Mouth and on brief listen, it is an album full of flavours with drums, deep bass and other sounds playing off against the joyous melodic steel drums. 

They incorporate a multitude of genres too. It will almost certainly surprise some readers to learn that they are actually from Germany and are the brainchild of Björn Wagner who lived in Trinidad and Tobago where he studied steel drums. His respect for that musical culture is a key element in what makes them so good to listen to. I don’t have any information about the other band members but they are clearly accomplished players.

I can’t mention Cerys’s show without also mentioning that she played and duly raved about my good friends and TTD favourites Kongo Dia Ntotila (https://kongodiantotila.com/) on the same edition of the show and her subsequent decision to direct message the band on Twitter reduced my great friend and KDN’s awesome manager Birikiti, by her own admission, to tears. I had a long in-box chat with her just before writing this and it is so heartwarming to see how the band is winning such influential fans everywhere they go. Not only because they are some of the nicest, least arrogant and yet immensely talented musicians I have met but also because they are absolutely one of the most exciting bands on the planet right now. 

They have an amazing manager fighting their corner all the way too and an awesome band leader, bassist extraordinaire and huge-hearted human being in Mulele Matondo. Birikiti and I now have a bet on (the precise nature of which I will not be revealing other than that, if I win, it involves coffee!) about when Kongo Dia Ntotila will make it onto Later with Jools Holland which they surely must. 

FOLK LAWS

Siobhan McCrudden (https://soundcloud.com/siobhanmccrudden) saw her debut album Icarus Girl released on the excellent Exeter-based label Hungersleep Records in December 2018. Now, with a bit of buzz around Siobhan whose single Iron Goddess was reviewed in Ed. 29, the label are giving the abum a second push so I was pleased to be asked if I would review it in this edition of TTD. 

It is an album that showcases Siobhan’s penchant for utilising her fascination with the mythology and dark story telling of the folk tradition while also allowing room for an autobiographical element. For those who don’t know Siobhan is Welsh (Cardiff-based) but also has Scottish and Irish roots so plenty of Celtic heritage to call upon. At times her music is stirring, disturbing even in the matter-of-fact way that she deals with dark subjects. At other times there is a fragile, delicate beauty that is really touching. Amid this well of creativity her voice, soft and gentle one moment, soaring and dominant the next, floats above picking guitar and evocative ambience.

Cassiopeia’s Chair sets the scene, fusing many of these elements, the vocal rising up the register while the guitar sits in one range and other sounds rise and fall in prominence. The harmonies are beautiful and have shades of Kirsty McCall about them while the descending guitar figure reminds me of Joni Mitchell in Hejira era. 

Oh Little Red kicks off with ominous strings before mostly strummed guitar takes us through a fluid series of chords accompanying an appealing minor key melody. The Forest, by contrast, is in major key with some stunning vocals in her upper range and a beautifully crafted guitar arrangement. The major key does not prevent it having an aura of melancholy though. The title track Icarus Girl has an almost Country edge and some lovely distant reverb effects although the song itself is more in classic singer-songwriter territory and the vocal style is folky. 

The album closes with the intriguing A sin nonetheless with a minimal guitar-only backdrop to a dynamic vocal that soars and cuts through with a welcome edginess. It’s a powerful way to sign off. In between these events have also been the singles The Mermaid in your glass and Iron Goddess. All in all it’s an accomplished work that underlines Siobhan McCrudden’s artistry both as a versatile and talented writer of songs and arrangements and as a singer too. Well worth putting yourself out for.

Exeter-based Sadie Horler (https://soundcloud.com/sadiehorlermusic) is 18 which is only remarkable for the fact that her writing and delivery are so mature. Washed Up Mermaid is not about a mythical aquatic female who is past her best but is a metaphor for the devastating impact of environmental abuse. She wraps this message up in a mystical and appealing soundtrack in which her striking voice veers between lower register harmonies and soaring soprano as she repeats the phrases ‘what have you done?’ and ‘floating debris’. As the song reaches its dark but delicate climax we learn that the mermaid had warned her to ‘never turn your back on the ocean’. Stirring stuff and skillfully crafted.

The Broken Hearted Few (https://soundcloud.com/thebrokenheartedfew) are three women from Lancaster who make a very individual style of contemporary Folk in which a quite traditional but edgy vocal sound, dominated by harmonies plays against tuned and untuned percussion, spy movie bendy electric guitar and what sounds like banjo but could almost be sitar. The instrumental interplay verges on psychedelic at times. This is all in evidence on Maiden Fair, the opening track from their album You can never come back. Hidden from the sun is less intense as picking banjo sits at the centre of the backing track and the vocal harmonies and melody are quite stunning. 

Newer track Night Geometry is even more unusual, jagged guitar chord-based figure accompanying lively harmonised verses, crescendo long notes, instrumental stabs and a harsher edge contrasting with a chorus that could almost be the Byrds mixing it with The Staves. Fascinating stuff.

Listening to the remaining tracks there is a lot of variety and invention here which makes me think this is yet another album I need to find time to listen to properly. Just on the evidence of highlights, it is clear that Broken Hearted Few are a band worth getting to know.

COUNTRY CAPERS

Lisa Redford (https://soundcloud.com/lisaredford) has been described by no less than former Whistle Test legend and BBC Radio 2 presenter Bob Harris as ‘one of our finest singer-songwriters’ and she has a string of media plaudits for her breezy Country music replete with pedal steel and straight-outta-Nashville harmonies. However you might be surprised to learn that she is not from Tennessee, nor West Virginia or even Texas. No she is, in fact, from Norwich!

Now we can argue all day as to whether a British artist from the Eastern Counties is doing anything new or interesting by basing her sound on such a faithful pastiche of US Country music but what is less arguable is that she has a perfect voice for the genre and the quality of her songs, arrangements and musicianship are there for all to see [or hear perhaps]. 

That is certainy the case with her latest offering Let Go. It skips into the foreground, driven by what sounds like a kicking band, an engaging major key melody and a chorus that sits somewhere between Sheryl Crow and Dolly Parton. The harmonies are spot on and Lisa Redford’s voice has an appealing edge. Country and Americana are, it would seem on this evidence, her calling and she has proved more than capable of answering that calling. Give her music a listen (with an open mind) and you might be pleasantly surprised.

By contrast Emma Reeves (https://soundcloud.com/emmareevesmusic) is actually from Los Angeles on the American West Coast and defines herself as a Country music artist which she is but leaning very much towards Country Rock and Americana. Her sound is a long way from classic Nashville and is much more in Sheryl Crowe and Joan Osborne territory. Her song Reckless Heart has a catchy hook and dynamic production that highlights her appealingly edgy vocal sound and cool harmonies. The quieter repeats of the word ‘heart’ could almost be Taylor Swift. 

This is rock-orientated Country Pop that is easy to hear on Country Radio and also the likes of the aforementioned Bob Harris’s show on BBC Radio 2. Full blooded and engaging enough to have fresh appeal.

TRUST THE DOC CLASSiC

How time flies. This is already the fourth edition of Trust The Doc to include this feature where we remember a band or artist from the past whose contribution to the evolution of our art may have not received due recognition. Last edition saw us look to the early nineties after two editions where we looked to the early eighties. So in this edition, with particular reference to reviews of similarly sophisticated soulful songwrting by Lovepoint and the raw aching emotion of JJ I have chosen a trio from the mid-eighties whose primary influence was Soul music. 

The term blue-eyed Soul was used a lot in that period as a spate of mainly white British bands came along, united by explicit Soul influences and, in most cases, a clear politically leftist tendency. They included Simply Red, The Blow Monkeys, The Style Council, Big Sound Authority, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Johnny Hates Jazz, Deacon Blue and, of course, The Kane Gang.

The Kane Gang (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kane_Gang) were a trio from the North East who were signed to the fantastic Newcastle indie label Kitchenware Records, home to Prefab Sprout, The Daintees and Hurrah! Indeed I saw the latter trio of bands play a label showcase at Imperial College in West London in 1983 and it was an unforgettable night. Fourth signing The Kane Gang took a little longer to grab our attention but when they did, boy did they do it in style. Closest thing to heaven was my single of the year in 1984 and I must have played it a thousand times without ever getting bored. 

A thoroughly gorgeous slice of melancholy soul-pop placing a simple love story within the context of commentary about poverty and inequality, it was the perfect showcase for Martin Brammer’s breathtaking voice, sweet falsetto and grainy soulful delivery. Helped by a lavish arrrangement, popping bass octaves, great backing vocals and a stylish melodica solo, it wiped the floor with everything surrounding it in the pop charts, reaching No 12 and leading to a memorable appearance on Top of the Pops. It should have got to No 1 but the fact that it was a hit at all seems like a minor miracle for such a great single. At this point I should credit the other members, Paul Woods whose soulful backing voice was a key element and multi-instrumentalist Dave Brewis who put this fantastic instrumental backing track together in the first place.

There was a follow-up hit single in the form of a slightly plodding cover of the Staple Singers classic Respect Yourself and a decent and reasonably successful debut album Bad and Lowdown World of The Kane Gang. After that they were quiet for a few years and, by the time they resurfaced in 1987, they were unable to recapture the enthusiasm of UK audiences although they did have success in the US Billboard charts before calling it a day.

Whether the Kane Gang fulfilled their potential is perhaps a debate for another day but either way they left us with one of the finest pop singles of the era in Closest thing to heaven as the video footage of that aforementioned TOTP performance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_qTPj-pDmQ) is a welcome reminder. It still makes me smile how Dave Brewis casually switches instruments mid-track and Paul Woods manages to sound like several people as he sings the BVs! Classic TOTP!

POP SCENE

Alt Rock & Indie

Morning Myth (https://soundcloud.com/morningmyth) have a new album about to be released. I did review it back in April but as it is only now about to come out, I decided to reprint that review and remind readers of why I consider it to be such a fine work.

Morning Myth follow up on a year of very fine singles with the album Glass Sky and from the moment the resonant Cocteaus-like chords kick in at the start of Halo the intention is clear. Aimee and Ross make reverberant, enigmatic Dream Pop that blends some mouth watering influences with Aimee’s haunting voice, Ross’s poetic guitar playing and combined ears for an unusual and affecting melody. They also display a great sense both of how to maximise the impact of a rich harmonic language and to utilise the textures and timbres of the instruments while allowing for plenty of space between sounds. 

All rivers flow to the ocean is an outstanding track which I have not been able to get out of my head since I first heard it months ago (and included it on a Spotify playlist that was aired at the gig I performed at and promoted earlier this month). The vocal harmonies and little semi-tone descent in the chorus are stunning and the mid-section is pure Liz Fraser (albeit when she began referencing Kate Bush).

The album continues in this vein with plenty of contrast and echoes, at different times, of John Martyn, early Fleetwood Mac and Todd Rundgren while, at others, it reminds me of the Cocteau Twins (obviously) but also Mazzy Star, Low, The Sundays and Julia Holter. The John Martyn influence is certainly evident in the guitar intro of Heart’s Cry although Aimee’s vocal delivery recalls Virginia Astley too.

The Story in your eyes is another example of their rich arranging skills and obvious songwriting skills coupled with an innate ability to play to their strengths. That of course can be said about the whole album. This is such a high quality of inventive, handcrafted Post-Dream Pop with Psychedelic Folk undercurrents. A real winner. It isn’t up on Bandcamp just yet but keep looking. It is worth the wait. My understanding is that it will also be available on CD soon.

Aloysius Scrimshaw (https://soundcloud.com/aloyscrimshaw) contacted me recently with the news that he has a new album for me to review and it did not disappoint. The Dead Musician from Reno, Nevada in the USA makes an individual style of alternative music that is dark, dramatic and dystopian, bringing together quite leftfield sonic and musical ideas with elements of spoken word and samples.

Captcha has ten tracks kicking off with Where’s your scissors Syd? In which the hook plays off against intense spoken word describing a descent into darkness while the ambient backdrop switches between relative tranquility and darkness. The intensity builds towards the end of the track, thus setting the mood for the abum. This style continues through the next few tracks, the backdrop relatively minimal with ambient synth and other sounds, deep resonant beats, instrumental figures coming in and out of the mix while spoken word offers an aura of desperation and desire for some form of intervention albeit that Machine in the ghost opens with the words ‘F*** you’ and the lyric deals with taboos in a sneering, snarling manner. 

The mood darkens even more by the time we reach Deadnamed and Doxxed, the repeating triadic minor key riff and echoing noises accompanying aggressive vocals, run through some sort of effects filter. The title track has the distinct aura of a busy city to its fluid soundscape while the spoken word has shades of Crackdown era Cabaret Voltaire about it. 

Buried alive in the high desert introduces a Country-tinged guitar and wurring sounds. However this slighly more major key aura along with strings cannot lighten the eerie story being told as the track progresses. The singing in the latter part of the track provides a real climax to a great track. The album closes with 45 45 90 with enigmatic drum programme, pulsing synth and drifting ambience. The spoken word based around the statement ‘Scrimshaw’s the word’ is again hard to make out in full but the air is intense and dystopian especially when the low ambience begins to bubble and the drum programme begins to change. The album ends with the unaccompanied words ‘Scrimshaw’s the word’ echoing into the distance.

It’s an intense, imaginative and inventive work that sees the dead musician delve into a nether world of narcissism and dysfunction, represented through enigmatic lyrics, presentation of different characters juxtaposed against beautifully contradictory soundscapes. A very accomplished album, one to lose yourself in (although don’t lose all of yourself in it or might struggle to come out again!).

Killermiracle (https://soundcloud.com/user-968518309) are the brainchild of Jack Wahl and hail from Kent in the far South East of England. The track Derailed has more than a hint of early 90s American Indie/Grunge about it. Essentially melodic and built around a couple of naggingly infectious hook, its wall of sound production and driving, snarling guitars have something of Dinosaur Jnr and the Foo Fighters about it. It also has a great hook that gets straight inside your head (well, mine anyway!). 

Down the Lees (https://soundcloud.com/downthelees) are a trio from Gent in Belgium with a sound that draws partly on early Grunge and partly on the new wave of contemporary punk-influenced music. Female voice gradually increases in dynamic over an appealing guitar and bass riff that simultaneously brings to mind songs by The Pixies and Smashing Pumpkins. The bridge and chorus however take us off into more intense, barchord-driven punkiness and unusual changes. It’s all done really well and demonstrates a passion for originality to match their hard-edged energetic sound. More to come from Down The Lees I feel.

Sœur (https://soundcloud.com/soeursoeursoeur) are ‘Worcester-raised, Bristol-based’ and play imaginative post-Grunge Alt Rock as demonstrated by the excellent Do what I want, a track in which distinct dual female and male vocals in open harmonic language are accompanied by rhythmically complex picking guitar, minimal bass and drums one moment, full on instrumental play the next. The witing is clever and the band is bang-on tight. They capture the energy well in the studio which makes me wonder how exciting they must be to experience live.

Auckland, New Zealand’s Flying Nun label pops up from time to time with interesting artists and so it is with Mermaidens (https://soundcloud.com/flyingnunrecords) whose I might disappear reveals an Alt Pop band with swirling epic synths, jangly guitar, robust bass and drums and a female vocalist with a voice that is both edgy and ethereal. They have an ear for an unusual and infectious melody line too if the chorus of this track is anything to go by. The Soundcloud link accompanying their Fresh on the Net submission is the label’s own and, since it is non-UK, I presume Tom will not have been able to pick it for the BBC 6 Music Mixtape even if he likes it. But it’s a cool track and I look forward to hearing more from Mermaidens in the near future.

Urban Flavas

Tantrum XG (https://soundcloud.com/tantrum-xg) provided my Fresh on the Net Listening Post highlight the week I received their track Hardest Bass I was inspired to flag it up in my Listening Post comments as the standout track. In particular I loved how they fused the rapid-fire very British delivery of Grime with the Old Skool Hip Hop group style of switching between contrasting voices, all the while adopting a striking musical backdrop of staccato jazzy keyboard chords and driving beat that could even be Hall & Oates or Ben Folds Five. Put that together with an intelligent lyric and skillful rapping and you have a winning formula … except on the subject of winning, it inexplicably missed out on the fresh faves by a single vote (which is always agonising). 

Anonymous9JA (https://soundcloud.com/anonymous-9ja) is an intriguing artist. Well not least he’s anonymous and his Soundcloud pic is a guy in a hoodie with his face hidden. There are no links on the page either. But the evidence from his song Boys 2 Men is that he has a silky voice with a [possibly] West African tinge in terms of style and writes effortlessly tuneful R’n’B with elements of Jazz, Afrobeat and even Reggae that are more like nuances than actual tangible influences. It’s a lovely song though and one that grabbed me on first listen and one that, if it was given the oxygenn of sustained radio play, would be a hit in the making.

This led me to his song Sign me which is more down-the-line R’n’B complete with heavy application of vocal effects. Again though, there is a lilting Aftrobeat undercurrent, an easy melody and lovely soft vocals and harmonies. ‘I need somebody to sign me’ he sings. And yes, he does. 

Incidentally there are also two Dancehall tracks on the page which are well put together and, even with a more obvious Reggae leaning, still display signs of that lilting West African influence. Intriguing to say the least. Whoever AnonymouJ9A is, he has a real talent that needs nurturing. 

Akua Tu (https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/akuatu) is a singer-songwriter from a Ghanaian family who has lived in Germany and England and began performing at a young age. Prevented by a strict family background from touring with her choir, she spent a lot of time quietly developing both her dreams and her style, fusing Soul, Jazz, Pop and urban flavours to create a sophisticated sound and a singing style that recalls Juliet Roberts, Jill Scott and other fine exponents of rangey Jazz-inflected music.

She has an album Introspection which amply showcases these influences, her voice in all its nuances and dynamics at the centre of a set of songs that take us on a journey through the influences she has incorporated from each part of her life, swinging on Free as, poppier on the mid-tempo harmony-soaked sophistication of Back to love or almost folky on Back’s against the wall with its suspended and open acoustic chords. Akua Tu has a wealth of musical and performing experience and she is on a mission to share her talents with the world. Interesting times ahead.

Brother Zulu (https://soundcloud.com/brotherzulu) ft. Zoe Kypri found his way into the FOTN Fresh Faves with the exuberatnly funky Ice Cold. As my good friend Ming Nagel noted when playing the track on the Monday Night Ride Out on Exile FM, there is a certain irony in the title given the song’s warm summery vibe! That aside this is a luxury box of rich flavours, strong hooks and intricate arrangements. Picked up by BBC 6 Music’s Tom Robinson both for the Mixtape and his Saturday show, let’s hope it has turned a few heads.

El Train (ft. Cheree) (https://soundcloud.com/eltrainmusic) popped up in my in-box with a sassy laid back slice of sophisticated R’n’B in the form of Little Moments. The track led me to El Train’s Soundcloud page which reveals both a prolific writer and producer of accomplished tracks like this one but also a host of remixes of others’ works. Little Moments works because the backdrop mixes dreamy keyboards with light but crisp drum programme while Cheree’s voice is silky and soulful. The hook is impossible to resist and the production is top-notch. 

Club Culture

Codge (https://soundcloud.com/codge7) is the performing name of DJ/Producer and artist Connor O’Shaughnessy who makes tight funky House tracks like Love Forever which has an unnamed female vocalist on it lending it a soulful vibe. This has all the hallmarks of a post-Ibitha floor filler. Look out for more from Codge then.

Aleisha Leo (https://soundcloud.com/aleishaleo) is also in soulful House territory with her Two Magpies with its clubby beat, vocal overlaps and harmonies in fourths over funky keyboard chords and programmed bass. It has a nice momentum and builds from a sparse intro. I can hear this blasting out of the giant bass bins as the smoke machine pumps away onto the dancefloor. The Facebook and Twitter links on her Soundcloud page are broken and neither that page nor her Instagram give any clues as to where she is based so I cannot share that information unfortunately.

Singer-Songwriters

I have written about JJ (https://soundcloud.com/whoisjinjie) in a previous edition. She is the kind of artist you don’t forget simply because she is unique both in terms of being an innate songwriting talent with a really distinct voice but also being such a raw talent. That rawness did mean there were one or two glitches on earlier tracks but they were worth overlooking because the songs and her voice were so good. However on her latest offering Happy? there is a clear indication of a new degree of professionalism to her recordings complete with trademark rich harmonies and organic acoustic guitar chords accompanying her slightly gritty soulful voice. This is exciting to hear because she has stepped up a level without losing that very real edge that makes her so interesting. 

JJ’s Soundcloud page also points visitors to her Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/whoisjinjie/). Even if you’re not a fan of Instagram, if you have an account, it is worth a visit to JJ’s pages because she posts home-made videos of herself playing guitar and singing which gives you a real feel for where she is coming from artistically. It will be no surprise to me if she get snapped up by a big label, manager, booking agent or all three soon which will be good for her career. At the same time though, if that does happen, I really hope she will be encouraged to hold on to that certain rawness and edge that makes her special. She is a star in the making. The next year could be an exciting one for her. And now I’m wondering if we might persuade her to come and play at Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House before she gets too big!

Epic & Cinematic Pop

I nearly reviewed the amazing Lovepoint (https://soundcloud.com/lovepointmusic) track Steam Room under Urban Flavas because it is essentially a slice of sophisticated Jazz-infused Soul-Pop but somehow it didn’t fit there in terms of its style and intent. It doesn’t really fit under Epic and Cinematic either but I had to review it somewhere! Maybe I should have created a new sub-section called Outstanding Pop!

Bizarrely the Soundcloud page describes it as Indie!! Trust me, this is NOT Indie!!! Not that labels matter much. But this track immediately got my attention for its combination of sweet jazz-tinged chords, cool little synth melodies, a gorgeous selection of sounds and an exquisitely soulful, dexterous vocal complete with fine falsetto and great use of both dynamics and controlled understatement. Songs as good as this simply do not grow on trees and when they come along you need to cherish them.

Right from the Fender Rhodes intro and harmonising synth, you know you’re in for something special and then when it stops for octave falsetto vocals to introduce a hook, that is reaffirmed. The track flows along with a sultry swing, interrupted by mystical chords and high voices. It switches between major and minor cleverly too so as to subtly alter the mood in a nuanced way. So much thought, so many ideas, so many infectious themes and contrasts between light and shade, transparency and translucence etc. This is just outstanding. And I mean outstanding.

There is a second [year old] track Upstairs on Lovepoint’s Soundcloud page which is a tasty three-time slice of darker Soul-Pop, again with some sweet chords and unusual touches. This is encouraging although I hope he isn’t only writing and recording a track a year! Hopefully there’s an album’s worth of similarly cracking choons in development or simply waiting to be recorded and committed to Soundcloud.

Lovepoint’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/lovepointmusic/) confusingly seems to focus on a band called MISS. Is Lovepoint separate to MISS? Do MISS still exist? More helpfully there’s a quote from Tom Robinson praising Upstairs and the biog tells us Lovepoint is Bristol-based artist Benjamin Wade and there is a new EP planned for Autumn 2019 release. I very much look forward to that.

Llovers (https://soundcloud.com/wearellovers) are an all-male quintet from Teesside whose shiny synth-topped Alt Pop sits somewhere between the 1975 and the latest Hot Chip sound whilst also nodding towards heroic retro pop like Aha and Talk Talk. Their latest offering Coming Loose is an uplifting slice of shiny Alt Pop with tuneful synths, distinct vocals and a particulary pleasing chorus. Since choosing to review it here it has also flown into our FOTN Fresh Faves; a cool endorsement from our ever-discerning Listening Post audience.

London-based band Pink Lemonade (https://soundcloud.com/pinklemonadeforever) have a new track entitled In my head and it’s another piece of mid-tempo pop with high register vocals, weird samples, various synth and electronic themes and agreeable harmonies.  Perfect is poppier and dreamier.  Feel Something is more like pure electro-pop but with state-of-the-art production values and beats. Again their melodic flair and sense of dynamic elevates them above so much of the competition.

Electronic & Ambient Soundscapes

Rykard (https://soundcloud.com/rykardmusic) made it into the Fresh on the Net Fresh Faves earlier in July with an ambient piece of intricate electronic composition entitled The Explorers which builds through a series of sections and sub-sections, creating an appealing sense of drifting through ethereal atmospheres. It was good to have a piece of top quality electronica in the Fresh Faves again.

Rykard, who hails from Preston, has other material on his Soundcloud page. Evan Marcus – Bay of Toven is more dance-orientated electronica and Breathing Carcass is deep jaggedly funky clubby electronica. But Happy Daze is more in dreamy ambient territory with lovely synth strings although the beat is prominent throughout. It will be interesting to see whether The Explorers signals a change in direction towards a more ethereal style that moves away from reliance on repetitive beats. Either way he is certainly a real talent.

I recently saw and reviewed Tigersonic (https://soundcloud.com/tigersonic) when she played a live solo set at Linear Obsessional. Forwarding (Ft Roots) finds her on a funkier tip, a quick electronic beat surrounded by buzz, bubbles and bleeps. What sound like voice samples appear sporadically but this is mostly out and out electronica. March of the Monday Clowns has a reggae feel though it is cast within very electronic sounds. Be Quiet sees Tigersonic’s bass guitar back in the forefront, melodically more so than as conventional bass accompaniment. Tigersonic certainly likes to get into a diverse spectrum of genres and she does so with style and originality.

I have also previously reviewed Kassia Flux and again at Linear Obsessional (https://soundcloud.com/user-686518918) when she duetted live with Smallhaus as Fluxhaus and I also mentioned it in TTD when she was deservedly included in Late Junction’s artists of the year for 2018. So it was great to receive a new track from her which shows another side to her versatile multi-instrumental experimental music. And it was the particular style and sound of this track Quantum Deep that prompted me to include her music in this section where I have previously reviewed her under Contemporary Classical and Leftfield. It is further evidence of how blurred the borders between progressive musical territories are these days which is, of course, a good thing.

So to the track. Mystical voices float almost inaudibly above slow synth tremelo. The word ‘deeper’ continues to pop up above the wave of sounds before the beat vanishes and a minimal backdrop ensues. The structure is unusual, a series of changes in texture but all of them relatively transparent and adorned with semi-chanted voices. It works though and the somewhat sudden end leaves me wondering whether there is a part two in the making. Catch her stunning live set at Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House, Nunhead, Peckham, SE London on 7th November.

10 MILLION ALIENS: ROAD TRIP (THE FALL OF THE REBEL ANGELS)

Album Review

10 Million Aliens’ (http://ten-million-aliens.co.uk) new single and video This Working Life was the subject of review in Edition 29. I mentioned, at that time, that 10 Million Aliens are another band (like Loudhailer Electric Company) formed by a former member of classic eighties Hull Post-Punk individualists Red Guitars. This time the former Red Guitar in question is guitarist John Rowley who has teamed up with fellow musicians John Senior and Rich Banks to form an experimental project with an album Road Trip (The Fall of the Rebel Angels) which, firstly, is absolutely nothing like the single and, secondly, uses a smart template of simply presenting enough spoken word samples to enable the collective of historic and current Confederate-influenced right wing opinion to shoot itself down in the continuous hail of its own wildly misguided bullets.

A Confederacy of Fools kicks off with a short burst of old-time Southern piano before a series of spoken word samples play to a backdrop of electronic reggae and different sounds coming in and out of focus including occasional slide guitar ascending figures and honky tonk piano glissandi. It casts a sinister shadow coming from the heart of Confederate and old guard racist opinion. The Killer continues this spoken word sample idea against a bluesy piano riff and shuffling beat while Long Time Coming has a more minimal piano bar ballady backdrop though buzzy ambient sounds threaten to upset the equilibrium and chanted voices add a darker edge. 

Soul Food has a funkier beat and guitar riff while the spoken word takes off in a new direction discussing vegetarians and fast food options while the horns add to the Soul atmosphere. A siren introduces Cuban Nights along with a military warning of an enemy attack. The music is Brubeck-influenced funky jazz while the ensuing tale is a warning about Russian aggression in Cuba and the threat of nuclear strike capability. 

The intro from classic TV series Thunderbirds is used at the start of Rocket Klank with intense music built on a repeated bass riff that has an ambient element. Various pre-recorded noises play off against a mash-up of spoken word partly referring to issues with space travel and aliens. From a Buick 8 has a jaunty bluesy instrumental jam accompanying spoken word samples excitedly discussing brave new world sixties ideas of cutting edge technology. 

Cops and Robbers offers up more spoken word samples while the music could be the James Taylor Quartet mixed with elements of urban noise and intense brass stabs. Dust to Dust starts off with quiet samples and enigmatic filmic music before a beat arrives with some funky picking guitar a la Average White Band and some low-mixed chants, twangy guitar and free-flowing piano chords. This is the most aesthetically pleasing track in the sense that the music is beautifully crafted and played with an agreeably laid back groove and aura. 

Don’s Guns starts like something Fatboy Slim might have concocted from funky riffs, beats and more spoken word samples, returning to the earlier theme of American paranoia about Communism. The bass is deep, dirty and in the background while some sustain lead guitar briefly takes centre stage here and there. Bound for glory begins with applause and some typically rambling words from Donald Trump. ‘I’m just the messenger’ he declares. If only, the rest of us reply! A semi-Cajun riffing blues rock intro is set against drums produced with some sort of reverse echo and slide guitar tremelandi. It remains instrumental for a while before louder spoken word samples arrive in evangelically disturbing form.

Mr Tangerine Man (no prizes for guessing the subject matter!) closes the album with more progaganda and dangerous neo-con nonsense being relayed over melancholic slightly jazz-infused semi-classical piano. It’s a clever contrast between the thoughtful playing and the brainless rhetoric. Take the spoken word away and we would be left with a rather beautiful solo piano piece. Suddenly the mood changes with Trump bragging about his wealth and personal greatness to the backdrop of a distant gospel choir. The final line of the album is ‘The American Dream is dead’; a poignant end to a fascinating work that charts a history of American right wing ideology and its relationship with a confused Christianity through the decades to the current crisis in American and thus world politics – all done to the accompaniment of carefully crafted and cleverly executed musical concepts.

It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it is an intelligent, original work and one that makes its point in a subtle way, one that simply observes and allows those telling the stories to expose their contradictory and creepy caricature of democracy without the need for explanation. That they have presented this body of evidence while demonstrating both an understanding of and respect for American musical traditions (i.e. one its current establishment lacks) makes it all the more powerful.

FRESH FAVES: BATCH 331 REVIEWS: AN ALTERNATIVE VERSION

As promised, for the ten bands and artists who the FOTN Listening Post readers voted into our Fresh Faves when the vote closed on Sunday 7th July, this alternative Trust The Doc review of the faves is for you. 

BENJAMIN FINNEY: Warmth within these walls

Multi-disciplinary composer Benjamin Finney hails from Manchester. His approach is to use guitar loops and delays with a combination of ambient sounds inspired by Post-Rock and Folk. His Facebook lists a few of his likes which include William Tyler, John Fahey, Kaki King and Sigur Rós. The blurb also mentions John Martyn and, if it hadn’t done, I would have suggested it.

What his social media pages fail to mention, presumably because Benjamin is too modest, is that he is also a breathtakingly skilled and accomplished guitarist. That is hugely in evidence on Warmth within these walls which finds his picking acoustic play and beautiful harmonic language matched by his deftness of touch and the aforementioned resonance. The result is quite stunning and there is plenty more in similar vein if you explore his pages. If you like this track, you will not be disappointed by the other material.

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BLACK MIRROR: This warm place

Regular readers of Fresh on the Net will need little introduction to Black Mirror. The duo from the Spanish island of Teneriffe have been fresh faves before and are weekly voters at the Listening Post. Consisting of vocalist Inés Bonet and guitarist Arsenio Cavada, they are prolific providers of soft beautiful songs in which Inés’s striking voice gently floats above Arsenio’s expert picking and chord play. In the past year alone they have recorded two quite different but equally fine albums.

This warm place has a darker quality, mainly due to its mostly minor key and the way Inés harmonises with herself in open fourths and fifths. When the song does switch to major chords and more triadic harmonies, the contrast is magical. Like all their songs there is something of the mystical island aura about it. The vocal harmonies grow in layers and the texture thickens a little towards the end although it retains its feeling of late evening warmth, gentle breeze and subtle melancholy. Characteristically beautiful.

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CRUSHED BEAKS: Sky Burial

London-based Crushed Beaks don’t have much information on their social media pages. They are a trio whose members are Matthew Poile, Scott Bowley and Tim Watkins although I am not sure who does what. They name one influence, The Taint (who I am not familiar with) and they claim to live in the City of the Living Dead though their Soundcloud page says London! 

Sky Burial is not, you will be relieved to know, a new digital TV channel about undertakers but the title of this excellent track. The sound is interesting. Big loud, slightly fuzzy guitar, octave basslines and powerful drums accompany a big resonant tenor voice that reminds me of Damon Albarn (though musically they are a long way from Blur). The result is simultaneously loud and punk-edged Alt Pop yet epic in quality too, thanks to the grand gestures and spacious production. It is certainly energetic, uplifting and melodic which is all good news. 

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KATH & THE KICKS: Let it out

I commented in a recent review that Leeds is making a serious bid to become the new music capital (i.e. capital for new music) of the North of England. And here comes another talented up and coming Leeds band in the form of Kath & the Kicks. A trio fronted by singer (and, I think, guitarist) Kath Edmonds who is joined by bassist Shaneen Mooney and drummer Matt Larkin, they describe their sound as Rock/Acoustic on Soundcloud and Alternative Rock on Facebook. Influences are listed as Skunk Anansie, Siouxisie & the Banshees, Deep Valley and Queen Adreena. 

Let it out definitely has shades of Skunk Anansie in its riffing gutar, rock solid bass and drums and its dynamic chorus. However there are elements of Breeders and Savages too about the semi-tone chord ascending figures and swooping vocals. The light and shade is used to great effect so that you sense the intensity being reined in during the verses just as you feel everything go up a notch into the chorus. It is full of small but significant instrumental nuances too. Powerful, potent and packed with ideas, all of them good.

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LLOVERS: Coming Loose

Llovers are a quartet from Teesside with a gig imminent in Newcastle Upon Tyne (see the below Songkick link) and one scheduled for September in Stockton-on-Tees. Their Facebook page reveals one in-between (August) in Sedgefield so they are keeping busy on the live scene where they can win fans and sell their wears.

They don’t list any influences or likes but I thought there was something of the shiny pop of The 1975 but also the current Hot Chip sound. I also hear some classic 80s heroic pop in there, a touch of Talk Talk and A Ha maybe. Well others might disagree but what is important to know is that they play a kind of cinematic Alt Pop in which big synth melodies ride atop energetic rhythm section and the vocals are big, resonant, stretching out and making the most of a natural upper register. They can pen a choon too as the irresistable hook in Coming Loose demonstrates. It will have you humming it for days after. 

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MARIGOLDS: Chamomile

I mentioned Leeds as a potential Northern English Capital for new music. Well Norwich is, by a country mile (erm no pun intended, East Anglian folk!), the Eastern Counties capital for new music. Enter Marigolds. No not a contender for Radcliffe & Maconie’s Sunday Glove feature. They are a young band from the city of the Canaries and they have a video of this track on YouTube. However there are no links or information on their Souncloud page and a google search didn’t help which is frustrating as I would have liked to have pointed to where you could read more about them. I have subsequently found them on Twitter though. 

Never mind. In Chamomile we have more epic alt pop, this time delivered in distinct male voice aided by a confident falsetto here and there. Behind it sits a full-on band arrangement with an abundance of joyous jangle and a ‘live’ sound to the drums that adds to the power of the production. Loads of energy but it’s a polished sound too with intricate instrumental interaction and a top tune to round off a fine track. Really very good indeed.

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NIGHT LANTERN: Southern Necropolis

From the English East Coast we journey sharp North to Scotland though where in Scotland is not revealed on any of the pages I have looked at. According to Soundcloud, Night Lantern are inspired by Cherry Red Records, Postcard, 60s Folk and a variety of other areas of music. The Twitter link takes us to G Meek who, by the looks of it, is Night Lantern.

Southern Necropolis, despite its rather eerie title, is very minimalistic (in terms of instrumentation, not a reference to Reich, Glass etc!) spoken word and acoustic guitar, describing a young woman in a fairly desolate sounding flat, somewhere between a black and white art movie with subtitles and an Edward Hopper portrait. It is, in a way, the epitome of DIY and could have been recorded on a single track on a portable digital recorder. But it works so well and offers a refreshing diversion from the more epic production and ambitious arrangements that are on show this week.

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POPCORN SEQUEL: Eve’s Garden (Bardot)

I cannot find any information about where they are from but Popcorn Sequel are described on their Soundcloud page as a ‘Rock Pop Punk Cinematic’ band fronted by Helen Clark and ‘whoever is left standing at the bar’. So probably more of a solo project. Her Twitter page also mentions Film Noir and Boxing (!) as inspirations.

Eve’s Garden is a fascinating piece. Driving fuzz guitar and a slight air of Americana and Rockabilly within its punkier context remind me a little of The Cramps. There are also shades of Patti Smith mashing up with Bonnie Bramlett in a jam with LA Witch! This is definitely a kind of Punk Americana with an appealing vocal drawl, lyrics that are steeped in a rock and roll bar culture and a humour that sees Helen Clark deliver the whole thing with a twinkle in her eye. Great to have a track by an artist who is resolutely individual and entertaining too. All in all a breath of fresh air, proving it is possible to take some classic retro influences and place them in a cool contemporary context.

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SCHOOL OF THOUGHT: Looking Glass

School Of Thought is a new artist based in Winchester who makes instrumental piano music inspired by the likes of Neil Young and Thom Yorke. The author Herman Hesse, one of my favourites too, is also cited as an inspiration. Interestingly School Of Thought has had support from BBC Introducing in Wales so a Welsh connection I assume. BBC Radio 3 has also played SOT’s music which is interesting from the perspective of wondering which show. It is not typical Late Junction fare.

Looking Glass leans towards but is not classical piano. It sits closer to the kind of library music that is easy to imagine being used in a soundtrack. It is based around tonal chords and slow melodies. There is an air of ruefulness which is emphasised as it modulates into minor for a period. The playing displays a light touch and smart use of sustain pedal. Very tastefully done and skillfully composed.

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SŒUR – Do What I Want

Sœur are originally from Worcester but now residing in Bristol. So continuing our theme of regional English Capitals for new music, we’ve had Leeds bidding for the North, Norwich having bagged the East and now Bristol surely as leading contender for that accolade in the West Country (though Exeter, Swindon and others might have something to say on the matter!). Anyhow Sœur are a female/male dual-fronted Alt Rock trio (two women, one man) with ‘a smidge of math rock seeping through the seams’.

Do what I want has a cleverly jagged rhythmic style in the verses that enables them to keep the vocals relatively low key before everything picks up and goes into a banging grungey rock chorus with the voices singing in perfect fifths. The band really kick up a storm and utilise dynamics so well. Are there really only three of them? Their Facebook page provides a long list of influences. They include Polly Harvey which explains the intense lyrics and imaginative harmonic ideas, Nirvana which is evident in the more driving chorus and others that include The Pixies (well you can’t really be influenced by Nirvana without acknowledging them), Milk Teeth, Shellac, Tool and Deftones. The upshot is energy-driven, agreeably loud but dynamically contrasting and extremely clever Alt Rock music that points to them being a band I would enjoy seeing live. Great way to wrap up another strong week at the Fresh Faves.

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AND FINALLY ….

So we are at the midpoint of July and five days away from the first ever FREE Fresh on the Net Live mini-festival of new music bands and artists. It kicks off at 2PM at Jacksons Lane Arts Centre on the theatre stage and then The Boogaloo and Upstairs at Jacksons join from 6PM. The venues are on opposite sides of the same street outside Highgate Underground. Please please come along and make this event enough of a success that we will consider it worth putting on another one soon (or ever!). And spread the word. That means word of mouth but it can also mean retweeting, sharing and liking my posts and those of others supporting the event. 

And also don’t miss the Vanishing Point 1st Anniversary gig at the Ivy House in Nunhead (40 Stuart Road, London SE15 3BE). It is walkable from Nunhead, Brockley, Peckham Rye or Honor Oak stations and the 484 and 343 buses stop at the bottom of Stuart Road (on the border where Cheltenham Road meets Peckham Rye), about 20 yards from the venue. So you can get buses from Lewisham, Ladywell, Brockley, Peckham Rye, East Dulwich, Denmark Hill, Camberwell Green and various other spots. It will be a fantastic gig with four contrasting, top rate acts plus the Trust The Doc New Music Playlist playing between their performances. For more details go to https://demerararecords.com/vanishing-point

So that just leaves me to say thanks for reading this ever-expanding blog! So much new music in such a short period of time! Spread the love everyone. Neil xxxx

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