TRUST-THE-DOC: MUSICAL MUSINGS
by Neil March (Edition 34, 15th September 2019)
Welcome to Edition 34 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.
Fresh on the Net reopened on 2nd September and despite my trying to warn people that first week after a break is always the craziest time to submit, over 300 tracks poured into the in-box. To cut a long story short, it means we named a 50-track Listening Post to be spread over 2 weekends and we closed the in-box to new submissions for a further week. Bear in mind, that still meant having to reject 250 tracks.
Don’t bet against people who should know better all diving in and submitting the moment we reopen again on 16th September! You can’t help people who don’t want to be helped! I hope you enjoy getting to know all these amazing bands and artists as much as I have enjoyed writing about them. And they are:
∗ TRG BANKS: Public Domain Library Music you don’t hear every day
∗ ISAAC RAY: Young Cambridge-based composer and sound artist
∗ JONNY GREENWOOD: Radiohead composer’s Proms compositions
∗ DEVILS OF MOKO: That ole devil called Jazz! Amazing trio, new track
∗ STINA NORDENSTAM: Delicate distinct dinner Jazz from Sweden
∗ MAHALEO: Folk and traditional sounds from Madagascar
∗ DERYA YILDIRIM & GRUP ŞIMŞEK: Mixing traditions with style
∗ MAZ O’CONNOR: London-based Folk-influenced artist wins praise
∗ LAURA C BROWN: British singer-songwriter takes a Country Road
∗ WHITE LITTLE LIES: Country Rock with pop energy from Liverpool
∗ TTD CLASSIC: Leeds Quintet deserved better and left a cool legacy
∗ FRAGILE CREATURES: Brighton Alt Rockers with fierce new track
∗ SEASIDE WITCH COVEN: A big stick of rock from the Welsh seaside
∗ CANDID HEIST: Reading band mixing up Psych, Jangle and more
∗ SALTWATER: Thoughtful Alt Pop courtesy of North London duo
∗ NICK WOODGATE: Back with another inventive slice of Psych Pop
∗ RED HEARTED VIBRATIONS: Heroic Anthemic Alt Rock from Glasgow
∗ BERRIES: London Alt Rock trio crash the barriers with absolute gem
∗ MASTER OF NONE: More dark energetic Alt Rock from Oxford
∗ GRANDBABY: Quirky Pop from Norwich, new music hub of the East
∗ LEGPUPPY: Londoners back with driving Alt Pop anthem
∗ SOOT SPRITE: Melodic melancholy Psych Pop from Bristol
∗ YOUNG BRAVES: Shropshire Alt Rock Quartet with a new choon
∗ HANDS OFF GRETEL: More joyous driving Rock from Barnsley’s best
∗ KALEIDOSCOPES: Youthful energy from the West Midlands
∗ SECRET KNIVES: Bendy Alt Pop and top tunes from New Zealand
∗ MERMAIDENS: And more New Zealand Alt Pop of the highest quality
∗ ELMZ XIX: The King of East Midlands Urban music is back
∗ THE COSTI: West London Hip Hop artist and producer on fine form
∗ GLORIA MILLER: More soulful vibes from Portsmouth-based singer
∗ ALEIGHCIA SCOTT: Cardiff has a new Queen of Welsh Reggae
∗ THE KUNIG: The Amber Valley’s Prince of Production back again
∗ NELLE & NOEL: Soulful funky club vibes from South London duo
∗ THE WINACHI TRIBE: Cool clubby vibes from the North of England
∗ MOODBAY: Back with another epic and cinematic Pop track
∗ PINK LEMONADE: Another shiny epic pop stonker from Londoners
∗ SANS SOUCIS: Classy track sees London-based artist shift direction
∗ FREYA WARD: Sophisticated sumptious soulful vibes from Devon
∗ KATHERINE ALY: Songs of stunning beauty from Scottish Capital
∗ CAOILFHIONN ROSE: Manchester artist back and on top form
∗ FAODAIL: More ambient dreaminess from the Scottish Highlands
∗ HALF: And down the road in Gateshead, more ambient electronica
∗ MATTHEW JAMESON: Ethereal ambience from enigmatic artist
∗ FLOWERS AT NIGHT: Soothing ambience from the Irish West Coast
CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL & LEFTFIELD
Well this is a first; for me anyhow. TRG Banks (https://soundcloud.com/trgbanks) has published tracks on a Soundcloud page and declared that they are ‘in the public domain’ for others to do what they wish with. Wow. I am not sure why. Do they not want to try to get some sync royalties? Perhaps they will and that is the point.
Anyway what we have with Ring Road is a mind-boggling Library Music extravaganza of simulated bells and a mix of electronically realised tuned percussion and keyboards playing in unusual harmonic language in a relentless forward drive of enigmatic but enjoyable soundtrack music. Indian Pacific begins with a series of spread chords that mix in with ambient overtones before what sounds like guitar adds a counter melody. It’s a little uneventful but quite dreamy too and certainly pleasant, perfect for soundtrack music in the right context (of which there could be any number).
Both tracks are followed by the words No Copyright. I have not looked into the story behind this unusual step but perhaps I will when I have more time. You can though!
Isaac Ray (https://soundcloud.com/isaac_ray) is an 18 year old composer and sound artist from Cambridge and, while I could have reviewed his track Distances in the Electronic & Ambient sub-section of Pop Scene, I felt it was sufficiently leftfield and Sound Art-leaning to belong in this section instead. It is also very impressive that such a young composer is already creating patiently building soundscapes that utilise so many contrasting and striking sounds and textures from environmental-type noises to manipulation of the piano holding my attention for the full five minutes of its evolution through varying sonic states.
I had an enjoyable email exchange with Isaac as I also chose this track to be my Vanishing Point track on Ming & Jon’s Monday Night Ride Out on Exile FM. He has an impressively sophisticated outlook on music, sharing my love of the work of Gyorgy Ligeti and also of Spectral Music. Regarding Distances Isaac explains: ‘Distances’ is a take on multiple musical ‘distances’, namely spectral (ascending/ descending harmonics and subharmonics), listening perception (moving from synthetic to realistic sound), as well as the physical moving up and down on the piano’.
I particularly love the vague and accordingly evocative pitches that emerge before leading into a repeated single keyboard note that duly fades into more sound manipulation. A work of real maturity and imagination.
Jonny Greenwood (https://www.fabermusic.com/composers/jonny-greenwood) is most well-known as being guitarist and keyboardist with the Alternative Rock band Radiohead so there will no doubt be a combination of stuffy classical types and academic elitists who will be incensed by his being commissioned to host an entire 2019 Prom concert of both his music and that of composers he admires. But actually he is a highly accomplished musician and film music composer so it should not be such a surprise that he should be capable of both curating a fascinating and refreshingly individual Prom concert involving his and others’ music and of composing music that demonstrates the extent of his creative imagination and invention.
Greenwood also provided an eloquent explanation of what he was aiming to achieve and convey through each piece in the performance. Particularly impressive were Katherine Tinker‘s performances of his challenging energetic piano works in which an excess of spread chords, glissandi and pedal use were the order of the day, creating some quite exquisite textures and post-impressionistic harmonic language. First we had Three Miniatures from Water and the dreamy 88 (No. 1).
Perhaps more of a surprise though came via his Horror vacui (for Solo Violin & 68 Strings). Greenwood’s writing is patient, sensitive and exotic, the solo violin built around large intervals, movement in semi-tones one moment, octave plus a semi-tone the next, glissando slides, quiet tremelo and so on while the strings scoring is dynamic, light-textured but allows space for the solo violin to stretch out although, as the piece progresses, there is a daunting, dark and gradual crescendo across the strings. The overall impact is intense, gripping and unpredictable. His originality in terms of vision is important and the skill he demonstrates as a composer and arranger makes him both versatile and very capable. It was also enjoyable to hear Elizabeth Alker‘s commentaries and short interviews. So well done BBC Radio 3 in broadcasting it.
The veritable London Contemporary Jazz supergroup (or trio anyway) Devils of Moko (https://devilsofmoko.bandcamp.com/) are at it again with another mind-spinning futuristic and ethereal slice of Jazz invention in which the combined composing, improvising and playing skills of Mulele Matondo (Kongo Dia Ntotila) on Bass Guitar; Dominic J Marshall (Cinematic Orchestra) on keyboards and Sam Gardner (Septabeat) on drums are simply breathtaking. This track, entitled Vata whisks us off into an entirely and deliciously unpredictable dreamlike world of spine-tingling chords, fluid rhythmic configurations, effortless musicianship and continuously shifting states. But don’t be misled. This is not heavy, indulgent music. On the contrary, their melodic flair and sense of economy are two of their many strengths. If anything it is over too soon and leaves me wanting more. So how do you summarise music this good? Amazing …. is just one of many possible adjectives!
Stina Nordenstam (https://www.allmusic.com/artist/stina-nordenstam-mn0000625975) is a Swedish singer-songwriter whose Wikipedia page describes her music as several rather different genres but the track So this is goodbye is most definitely in Jazz territory. Her delicate, distinct voice is set against beautiful jazz-oriented guitar chords. It is almost Dinner Jazz and would certainly work well in the laid back atmosphere of the Pizza Express Jazz Club. She has a beautiful and compelling voice and the fragile melancholy of this song is heightened by her accomplished writing and guitar work. An artist worth getting to know more about.
WORLD IN UNION
Mahaleo (http://www.mahaleo.com) are a Folk and Traditional music group from Madagascar whose Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pg/mahaleo.officiel) page cites an intriguing list of influences from Baden Powell to Earl Klugh. Their track Izahay Mpamita, which got an airing on Late Junction (BBC Radio 3) with the amazing Verity Sharp, certainly comes across as syncopated, harmony-filled Folk but infused with a Jazz sensibility that is underlined by the improvising Flute solo work. We hear a great deal of the lilting, rolling funky interweaving of West and South West African jazz and folk so it was intriguing to get a glimpse into the very different music of an East African island nation and a band who first formed in 1972.
The awesome Nick Luscombe was presenting Late Junction when the featured act was Derya Yildirim & Grup Şimşek (https://grupsimsek.bandcamp.com/). A collective of musicians from across Europe with a strong Turkish influence, they have fused a number of musical traditions together to create a sound that is both organic and hypnotic, voices repeating infectious themes while the guitars, percussion and accompanying traditional instruments play syncopated but mesmerising rhythmic and modal figures, often using open fifths. The tracks featured (and interspersed with snippets of interviews) were recorded live at the End of the Road Festival in Wiltshire, curated for a third year running by the Late Junction team. Check out the podcast before it expires or even better, download and keep it. The link is https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00083nk
London-based singer-songwriter Maz O’Connor (https://soundcloud.com/mazoconnor) has had praise from no less than The Guardian newspaper. She is also a BBC Performing Arts Fellowship Graduate who talks, on her Soundcloud page, about bringing classic influences such as Joni Mitchell together with contemporary ones like Bon Iver. Her new track San Francisco keeps to a voice and acoustic guitar dominated format abeit adorned with tasteful strings which add to its Country edge. She certainly has a strong, expressive voice that reminds me a little of a young Anne Murray and a good understanding of dynamics. She can clearly pen an insistent choon too and when her voice soars into the chorus and the strings swirl around her, it is quite goose bumping. Maz O’Connor has also had a rave review from Drowned in Sound. Find all the links on her Soundcloud page.
Okay this is not strictly Country but British singer-songwriter Laura C Brown (https://soundcloud.com/lcbrownmusic) has a shimmering guitar-driven slice of Country-infused Pop out called Masterplan that has shades of Linda Ronstadt mixing it with Carrie Underwood. The piano adds a nice dimension and the chorus gets quickly inside your head so be warned! Her Soundcloud page links to her other pages including her Bandcamp page which tells us that she is influenced by Americana and Folk among other things, hence the nod to Country Rock on this excellent track.
Liverpool’s White Little Lies (https://soundcloud.com/whitelittleliesmusic) are quite unambiguously Country Rock. The female-male duo harmonise beautifully and write poppy melodies that shine through against a backdrop that respects Country traditions but also throws in some clear Rock-infused references. Folk and Americana are cited too as influences on their Soundcloud page. Check them out.
TRUST THE DOC CLASSIC: DELTA 5
They were one of the first truly Post-Punk bands to stand out from the newly emerging crowd at the beginning of the nineteen eighties. John Peel was quick to recognise their potential and even Top of the Pops handed them a rare outing for a non-chart single. Two years later they were no more, following an album that frankly deserved far better reviews than it got from many quarters and a lack of record sales despite their growing profile. Thirty eight years on I remain puzzled that Leeds quintet Delta 5 (https://delta5.bandcamp.com/) didn’t become one of the key post-punk bands.
Early single Mind your own business has become something of a cult classic and gets periodic airings on BBC 6 Music. Its spiky message and minimal arrangement certainly fitted well with the hard-edged and highly political Leeds music scene of the time. It was the melodically unusual and energetic Anticipation that won them a surprise invitation to play TOTP as that programme struggled to reinvent itself in the new atmosphere of the Post-Punk epoch. By this point the classic line-up was in place involving two intimately interplaying Bass Guitars (played by Bethan Peters and Ros Allen), driving and punchy drumming by Kelvin Knight, the reverberant crashing guitar chords and riffs of Alan Riggs and the sharp, distinct and rangy vocals of Julz Sale and Ros Allen. They had an immediately recognisable sound and a refreshingly unconventional approach to melodic construction. Even their voices were quite unlike any conventional pop band.
So it was somewhat of a surprise when they returned in 1981 with the poppier Shadow complete with Teardrops-style [circa Reward] horns and punchy spacious production. It was, I have to say, fantastic too. Objections from purists were just tiresome and backward-looking. This was the sound of a band that was ready to follow other Post-Punk bands in breaking into the mainstream and forcing their way into the charts. If radio programmers hadn’t been so hopelessly out of touch with a changing world that is what should have happened and, if it had, who knows what the impact would have been? Instead, the single failed to get decent airplay and they were left still waiting for their opportunity.
In the meantime their debut [and only] studio album See the whirl arrived shortly afterwards. My own memory is that the album seemed to be well received. An inspiring interview in Sounds by journalist Adam Sweeting presented the quintet as fun-loving and upbeat, playing down stereotypes of feminist musicians as somehow having to be permanently dour and po-faced. The band robustly defended their decision to use horns and other additional instruments on certain tracks. In fact they made the point, which struck the 17 year old Neil so profoundly that I have repeated the argument ever since, that it is actually quite boring when a band sounds exactly the same live as it does on record. In other words, the studio and the live arena offer two entirely different avenues for interpreting ones music.
I fell instantly in love with the album. It presented Delta 5 as a band stretching out, demonstrating a desire to subsume a wider spectrum of influences into their nonetheless highly distinct and recognizable sound. John Peel was sufficiently impressed to play three tracks back to back on his show on BBC Radio One.
Retrospective reviews have, in some cases, criticised Delta 5 and the album’s producer Adam Kidron for being too ambitious and going for a clean sound. I think that is both grossly unfair and a rewriting of history. Adam Kidron, who was already doing sterling work with a much more startlingly reinvented Scritti Politti among others, was brought in to help Delta 5 make the transition to being a band who could cross over into more mainstream waters. No-one ever knocks U2, New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen and all the other bands of the associated broad scene who did the same and did so very successfully. For me, the use of horns worked well and the masterstroke of getting Pedal Steel Guitar specialist B.J. Cole to play on the excellent Triangle was a moment of true inspiration.
In truth See the whirl was a superb album and, had Delta 5 received the kind of attention afforded to some of their peers, it would have been a massive success. Instead the lack of interest, poor sales and mixed reviews led to their premature split. The album has not even been put onto Spotify, so forgotten is it by the label although most of the tracks do appear on a compilation album. I thank heavens that I still have the vinyl original in my collection.
It can be a cliché to always talk about bands with women playing instruments as being iconic and role models but it is nevertheless true that bands like Delta 5, The Au Pairs, The Raincoats, The Mo-Dettes and The Marine Girls were all contributing to a trashing of the traditional rock band image of male dominance and women being consigned to being singers or playing less macho instruments (piano, violin, flute etc.). And their use of two Bass Guitars was innovative too and contributed to their unusual sound. It is our collective loss that we never got to see and hear how Delta 5 might have developed had they been afforded the kind of patient major label support and media fawning that the likes of U2, New Order and The Cure received.
So that just leaves me to decide which track to select for my TTD classic. Clearly it has to be one from the album. There are so many contenders but I have gone for Journey, the Side B opener which kicks off with a cool beat and a great example of the two Bass Guitars playing a figure on which the entire track is built. Riggs’ guitar crashes into action with a series of mind-boggling chords while the vocals are sturdy and distinct. There’s an exquisite rhythmic configuration that arrives mid-track and really highlights the combination of voices in a call and response figure.
There was a particularly invigorating televised live performance of the tracks Make-Up and Anticipation on the programme Something Else recorded shortly after the release of See the whirl which thankfully you can view on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b96s7pX39QU. Sadly there is no video of Journey but here at least is the track. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8WwYpz9z0Y and that, after all, is three TTD classics for you to savour!
Alt Rock & Indie
Brighton band Fragile Creatures (https://soundcloud.com/fragilecreatures/) are the brainchild of Adam Kidd. Adam sent me a brand new track just in time for me to include a review in this edition of TTD. You can find it on the band’s Soundcloud page where it is the first track on the page.
The song A New Low hits out at the parlous state of current politics and the surrounding culture of hate and misinformation to the tune of an uptempo, energetic slice of melodic Alt Rock. The chorus has a refreshingly unusual feel and trademark vocal harmonies while the guitar work is robust and impressive. Towards the end there is a sudden and unexpected change to a new tempo and a coda that introduces an entirely separate hook on which the song finishes. A fine new track and excellent timing as Fragile Creatures will be opening the next Vanishing Point at the Ivy House on 3rd October which happens to also be Adam’s birthday! All the more reason to come and check them out. I have a feeling they are going to blow people away.
Seaside Witch Coven (https://soundcloud.com/user-535944168) have no links on their Soundcloud page which meant I had to do some digging to get any info but I liked their rocking track Splutter enough to bother. Its, ahem, spluttering rhythmic figure that comes in here and there, the energy-driven guitar, bass and drums and the ‘ah’s in the backing vocals all get the thumbs up from me. It adds up to a joyous piece of almost chaotic Alt Rock catharsis with passionate male (tenor range) vocal to boot.
Their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pg/ihateswc) reveals they are a trio from Cardiff. They have already been played by Adam Walton on his Introducing show on BBC Radio Wales. They have played four gigs in August alone around Cardiff, Newport and Aberdare so they are getting amongst it. More Rock than Indie for sure, they sound like a band you will want to see live if you get the chance.
Reading’s Candid Heist (https://soundcloud.com/candidheist) are a quartet who make very melodic jangly Indie with hints of Garage Rock and Psychedelia. Moonflowers starts like something from C86 but once the full band kicks in, it is more akin to White Denim in a jam with Penelope Isles moderated by The Flaming Lips. The contrast in dynamic between the kitchen sink et al chorus and the stripped back verses with a lovely phased effect on the guitar work so well and when the band takes off into a wall of instrumental play it is both unexpected and invigorating. As you can tell, I like this a lot.
North London ‘production duo’ Saltwater (https://soundcloud.com/saltwater_music) have a melancholy piece of thoughtful pop that is entitled Down by the sea. It sits somewhere between Pop and Indie. The track is built around an appealing melody sung in soft-toned voice, a melodic Bass Guitar figure, a clever chord pattern and some soaring synth. It’s a very immediate track despite its semi-minimalistic backing track and the peaks and drops in activity among the instruments are smartly organised. Well worth seeking out.
Romford’s Nick Woodgate (https://soundcloud.com/nickwoodgate) is brother of the Madness and Voice of the Beehive drummer Woody. And he has a new track entitled Turn Away. Nick also suffers with mental health issues but music acts as a therapy, a means through which he is able to put the voices in his head to creative use. I voted for Nick in my first ever week as a moderator for Fresh on the Net some 21 months ago and he pops up every so often with another of his trademark tuneful but dark soundscapes, always leaning towards psychedelia and always seeming to call on a plethora of classic influences from down the years. Nick’s vocals are cool and inventive and the guitar riffs and semi-tone descending chord figures are quite lovely. Another fine tune to savour. I am sadly unable to find Nick to tag on social media so if anyone has his contact details please let him know about this review.
Glasgow sextet Red Hearted Vibrations (https://soundcloud.com/rhvibrations) definitely come from the same lineage of heroic Pop that once spawned Simple Minds, Friends Again and The Bluetones. Not that they sound especially like any of these fellow Scots. Two pairs of siblings and two others, their singer Laura Nelson has a voice that is warm, distinct and powerful despite sitting in mainly alto range where the opportunities to soar are more limited. The band throw everything into the mix, lots of resonance, powerful drums and bass, big guitars, soulful piano, gorgeous harmonies, sometimes in fourths and fifths, and a wall-of-sound production approach. The tune, from the outset, is anthemic but not pompous. It’s epic and beautiful, eminently singable and crying out to be heard blasting across large festival fields to the sound of crowd singalongs and the sight of a thousand phones lighting up the night sky. You can try to resist but I doubt you will hold out for long!
London-based female Rock trio and pretty recently Fresh on the Net ‘Fresh Faves’ Berries (https://soundcloud.com/berriesband) are back with a new track entitled Silent and it’s a scorcher, driven from the outset by mind-boggling guitar and bass riffs and powerhouse drums. The vocals are really punchy and lead into a cool chorus while the playing at the end is superb and the sudden ending is a masterful final touch. They are a band you should definitely want to see live. Pure energy and invention.
Oxford-based musician Ian Mitchell is better known as Master of None (https://soundcloud.com/user-483877268) and is another TTD favourite. So I was pleased to receive his latest track Leviathan which has MON trademarks of driving rhythm, fuzzy guitars and octave vocals. As with most of his tracks there is a slightly dark aura but the energy and melodic sensibility is uplifting and infectious. Another cool track to enjoy.
I keep saying Norwich is the new music capital of East England and here is yet another of the fine artists on that scene Grandbaby (https://soundcloud.com/grandbabyuk) aka Mr Jason. The ‘one man polymath’ and user of multiple identities hits us with a quirky, bouncy and percussive track called The Sink Is Shipping so while you consider that spoonerism in the light of the lyrics about ‘When you ask me where I’ll go, when you ask me where I’ll be, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know …’, I can tell you that it comes complete with a shuffle rhythm, great vocal octaves, a grand tune and big clapping noises throughout. And it lasts just over a minute and a half so a dream for radio producers. There is some more quirky, varied and great quality material on his Soundcloud page if you should care to explore it.
South London Electro-Alt-Rock band LegPuppy (https://soundcloud.com/legpuppy) are back with another stonking tune in the form of Nominate. Spoken word verses play off against octave vocals (female and male) while the music mixes their trademark driving electronic backdrop and fuzzy punk sensibilities. Lyrics are sardonic and take us through a series of dysfunctional characters while the synth adds some cool tunes and the guitar brings intensity. It builds in layers as it progresses and then disappears, as quickly as it arrives, into an echoing distance at the end. Invigorating stuff.
Soot Sprite‘s (https://sootsprite.bandcamp.com/) Soundcloud link that accompanies the track Bleed which landed in my Fresh on the Net in-box takes me to their record label Specialist Subject whose specialist subject appears to be packing loads of bands and artists onto one page! This is annoying for two reasons. It means that any reviewer has to go digging for information about the band. It also means that without a Soundcloud page with a matching email address to their BBC Introducing page, Soot Sprite and indeed any other band on this page are automatically prevented from being considered for the BBC 6 Music Introducing Mixtape. Those rules are clearly explained on the submissions page. So not a specialist subject I would want to shout about but each to their own.
Anyway, let’s talk about Soot Sprite and their excellent track Bleed. It is a mid-tempo piece of very melodic and ear-catching post-psychedelic Alt Pop with a melancholy air sung by a female vocalist with an expressive, engaging tone supported by some simple but very agreeable harmonies, an equally simple but very insistent guitar melody and a generally enjoyable band performance that is powerful without being overpowering, tuneful but not twee and energetic yet laid back in feel. It’s a great track that announces Soot Sprite as another fine Bristol-based band. They are also a band that values the great pop melody and corresponding chord changes (major to minor on the subdominant etc.) and is able to use these classic devices in a contemporary context.
There is precious little about them when searching on google so I don’t know whether they have social media pages. If not they hopefully will soon, especially a Facebook artist page which should be a priority. But I did find the above-quoted Bandcamp page which shows they began as a solo project for Elise Cook (Vocals & Guitar) but have evolved into a trio. They describe their sound as shoegaze. Well it is and it isn’t in my opinion. They don’t go for the quietly mixed vocal or gallons of reverb on the guitar and they have a clear pop sensibility too. But what’s in a label? Bleed is the opening track on a 5 track EP. I will shortly be checking out the other four tracks since this one is quite wonderful.
Shropshire’s Indie quartet Young Braves (https://soundcloud.com/young-braves) are back with a sizzling energetic Alt Rock anthem entitled 1984. From the outset it bristles with energy, powered by thundering drums and bass and driven forward by bright and inventive guitars. Atop this wall of buzzing, ballistic and buoyant sound sits a great vocal track, echoing upper register, delivering a fine melody with trademark power and passion. Check out their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/YoungBravesUK/) for details of live gigs and more. Young Braves are putting down a serious marker as an exciting band to watch.
Talking of energy-driven Alt Rock, Barnsley quartet Hands Off Gretel (https://soundcloud.com/hands-off-gretel) are back with another driving dark Alt Rocker entitled Rot (All the good things) (in which they ask ‘Why do all the good things turn to rot?’). The contrast between the softer guitar sound and held back bass and drums in the verse (including guitar drops that highlight the cool bassline) compared to the full-on fuzzier and louder sound of the chorus works really well as does the repeating of the slightly rueful sounding hook. Laura’s voice is husky, strangely yearning at times but powerful and distinct. The harmonies (mainly open fourths and fifths) work well and the band respond to the dynamic highs and lows with smart playing. Another killa choon.
Birmingham’s Kaleidoscopes UK (https://soundcloud.com/kaleidoscopesuk) are a new name to me and I am very taken with the youthful driving energy, slightly trashy (in a good way, obvs!) guitar sounds and tuneful and enthusiastic upper register vocals on When you’re young which could be a great indie rock anthem. Looking at their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/KaleidoscopesKaleidoscopes/) I think they may actually be called Kaleidoscopes (and the UK bit is for Soundcloud). There is no information about any gigs there but hopefully will be soon. In the meantime When you’re young is described as being part of a debut EP so I look forward to hearing more. The only other tracks on their Soundcloud page look quite old.
Influences-wise they namecheck some classic late 80s/early 90s US Post-Punk and pre-Grunge plus some classic British Shoegaze. The Dinosaur Jnr reference is definitely evident on this track and with that combination of influences (which includes, among others, Sonic Youth, Swervedriver and Pavement), they are drawing on some great inspirations.
Secret Knives (https://soundcloud.com/secret_knives) hail from Wellington. But that’s the New Zealand one, not Shropshire! They make very melodic, flowing Alt Pop adorned with lots of seriously bendy synth parts to offset the prettier guitars. Vocally it has a touch of Tame Impala about it and there’s a retro air too that recalls years of simply skilled songwriting. The song, by the way, is Snuff and it appears to be the first track to go on the band’s Soundcloud page for two years. On the strength of this, let’s hope there will be more soon.
And while we are on the subject of New Zealand Alt Pop band Mermaidens (https://mermaidens.bandcamp.com/) are back with a fantastic new track entitled She’s running. Strong, distinct female vocal and interesting harmonies ride atop a wash of inventive guitars, bass and drums. The melody and rhythmic changes are really unusual and striking and the band have clearly put serious work into coming up with an arrangement filled with unexpected changes, drops and quirks. This is outstanding and deserves to be heard. Let’s hope it gets some airplay here in the UK where there is unquestionably an audience who would lap this up in a heartbeat. You can quote me on that if you like!
Once again though, I had to go looking for links to the band themselves because their label Flying Nun have made the Soundcloud page and links all about them! I accept they are a long-established label with an impressive track record but I do wish labels would think before submitting artists’ material in this way. They should surely be trying to publicise the band not themselves!
TTD regular readers will know I am a fan of Nottingham’s Elmz XIX (https://soundcloud.com/elmzxix) and he’s back with a new track Far from average. It finds him in a more serious mood, a tad angry it seems. But he is focused enough to put together some great triplet raps, an infectious hook, snappy beat and cool unexpected tempo and timing changes for the unexpected fade-out at the end. And of course it is all delivered in his distinct East Midlands twang and with production that is bright enough to work on radio but edgy enough to retain his trademark, well, edge I guess! First track to hit his Souncloud page since the excellent Pinch Punch. Check it out.
There’s a new track out from West London-based Hip Hop artist The Costi (https://soundcloud.com/costithe) entitled Nerdy which finds him in reflective mood, rapping over a mid-tempo Soul-infused groove and singing the occasional choruses. Intelligent lyrics and an effortless rhythmic flow combine with an engaging backing track. And references to locality that help paint a picture around the characters, female and male, described in the track. Production is top-notch too. You will find all the links to The Costi’s social media, Bandcamp etc. plus news about an album with various artists on it at his Soundcloud page which has a lot of cool material on it.
Gloria Miller (https://soundcloud.com/gloria-miller) is at the polar opposite end of the Urban Music spectrum as a Soul singer in the traditional sense. The Portsmouth-based American artist records for the excellent Mayfield Records. She has a new track called Can’t let go. It’s a lightly funky mid-tempo track filled with harmony-soaked backing vocals over which Gloria’s dexterous voice swoops and cartwheels with the self-assured confidence of an experienced professional. Modern production, retro grooves and a soulful performance.
It isn’t every day that I get a track from a Welsh Reggae artist but that is what we have here with Aleighcia Scott (https://soundcloud.com/aleighciascott). The Cardiff-based singer-songwriter describes herself as a Reggae artist from Cardiff by way of Trelawny (which sounds Welsh but is actually a suburb of Cornwall but Cornwall in Jamacia, not the UK!) so this is nonetheless a true example of Reggae from the Valleys. Her sound on the new track Conscious Queen sits somewhere between the soulful pop-edged lilt of Lovers’ Rock and the harder bassier vibe of the Jamaican Sound Systems. She has a strong voice in broadly alto range that is perfect for this music. Refreshing, respectful and resplendant. This is a joy to hear.
I often review tracks by The Kunig (https://soundcloud.com/thekunig). The Amber Valley based producer and writer has gone for a more downtempo vibe, nodding to R’n’B with a soulful female vocal, trap-influenced beat, repeating stab chords and catchy melody. The mood is definitely dark but it is also quite ethereal and dreamy too. The track is called Talk but also on his Soundcloud page are two other new tracks. Why also has female vocal and has a more uptempo beat once it gets going, albeit strangely low in the mix and offset against a long note synth melody. It’s a cool track though with lovely vocals. Little Hurricanes has an appealingly unusual feel and an air of Eastern music influence creeping into its bouncy urban pop style. Another example of The Kunig’s versatility. I do wish the vocalists on all these tracks were credited though.
I wasn’t sure where to place this (i.e. here or Urban Flavas) but I decided it had a kind of laid back summer groove vibe so here it is. Anyway I am talking about South London female-male duo Nelle & Noel (https://soundcloud.com/nelleandnoel) whose track Red Shirt is a real gem. A semi-House beat plays off against repeated funky [partly slap] Bass and jazz-infused keyboard chords that help create a floating ambience for Nelle’s soulful voice to stretch out in and later for Noel’s more conversational lower register voice to provide a cool contrast in too. It is tuneful, funky in a more downtempo way and very catchy. Impressive stuff.
Warrington/Leeds artists (theres a War of the Roses treaty in the making!) The Winachi Tribe (https://soundcloud.com/thewinachitribe) are back with another club-ready anthem entitled, somewhat confusingly, Gary Allen (Supernatural) ft. Kudisan Kai (The Winachi Tribe Remix). Nothing confusing about the track itself though which is slightly funky soulful House with mid-range distinct male vocal and dreamier harmonising female vocals, cool bassline, solid beat, top-strings guitar funkiness and a wash of synths. It is catchy too and made to dance to.
Epic & Cinematic
Moodbay (https://soundcloud.com/moodbay) are back with a new track called Alone. It’s in a slow tempo on account of the half time beat but it is also a big cinematic slice of intense modern pop with all the trimmings. Wurry synths, resonant beats, busy backing vocals and a full English breakfast of instrumental play accompany a catchy choon that builds in dynamic and has a strong hook sung by equally strong female vocal. Another that sounds like it is tailor-made for radio.
South West London duo Pink Lemonade (https://soundcloud.com/pinklemonadeforever) are back with another radio-friendly slice of epic shiny modern pop in which a snappy resonant beat and lots of synths accompany a stunning vocal (shades of Tame Impala perhaps) and instantly undeniable hook, aided and abetted by cool backing vocals, understated rhythm guitar, top-notch production and mastering and a splendid sax solo which ices this already elaborate cake. Oh yeah and the track is called Serotonin Innocence. All the links you could ask for are listed on their Soundcloud page. Check them out. At this rate they will be bothering the charts before we know it.
Sans Soucis (https://soundcloud.com/sanssoucismusic) has a new track called Visible which drives breezily along with a crisp beat, bright backing track and an instantly catchy hook delivered in her effortlessly soulful agile voice. This song sees the London-based artist move away from the slightly folkier influence in other recent tracks and move, if anything, towards the outer reaches of Urban Pop. It’s a track that is made for radio and one that will sound amazing on the open road. I hope it gets her the attention she deserves.
Freya Ward (https://soundcloud.com/freyaward_music), from Devon, is also sometimes known as Freya Lily, the name under which she composes and plays minimalistic modern classical piano works and improvises too. But as Freya Ward, after conquering stage fright and working with some illustrious names as a backing musician, she has been carving out a career as a singer-songwriter and an impressive one as new track Lull yourself to sleep demonstrates with its sumptuous chords, sophisticated arrangement and Freya’s beautiful clear and emotionally-charged voice hovering and flying above the evocative soundscape she creates. Comparisons are hard with an artist as individual as Freya Ward but there are shades, perhaps, of Julia Holter, Julee Newsom and even a smidgin of Bon Iver to boot. Maybe Natasha Khan of Bat for Lashes is peeking in there too! Anyway it’s a rich recipe of intelligent and life-affirming pop.
Katherine Aly (https://soundcloud.com/katherinealy), from Edinburgh, is a new name to me but I am so taken with her track Sunny Days. It kicks off with a capella vocals and then the piano joins in and those exquisite harmonies are taken to another level. The song is dynamic, unique and unpredictable as she rolls out the breadth of her ideas, delivered in striking voice.
Also check out the track The Skin I’m made of on her Soundcloud page which develops from a piano intro that sounds not unlike Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake into a more minimal voice and piano ballad in which we experience her more delicate side. It also showcases the fragile beauty of her voice. And you will not be surprised to hear that it climaxes with some gorgeous harmonies too. The final chord is spine-tingling.
Manchester’s Caoilfhionn Rose (https://soundcloud.com/caoilfhionnrose) is no stranger to TTD or Fresh on the Net and she is back with a truly lovely track called Being Human. It finds her in upbeat mood, delivering a powerful and dynamic vocal over a nicely edgy mix of guitars, bass, piano and drums with loud, resonant production and mastering. The arpeggio figures that sit atop the instrumental arrangement really lift it and the vocal harmonies are lovely. Even the guitar solo is singable. Meanwhile Caoilfhionn’s voice soars above the whole soundscape with heartwarming majesty. Another top track which is taken from her new album Awaken. I will be checking the album out soon too.
Electronic & Ambient
The ever-impressive Faodail (https://soundcloud.com/faodailmusic) is back with another of his stirring, slowly building sinfoniettas of dreamy synth electronic ambience called Nostos (Returning) taken from the new EP Untethered. It is a track that evokes images of the open landscapes, high cliffs and huge lakes that he perhaps gets to be inspired by as an artist from the Scottish Highlands. Even when the tough, lightly funky beat kicks in, the music remains enigmatic, sounds coming in waves gradually crescendoing as timbres alter and the chords shape the slowly fluid melody.
Far from anyone is in similar territory but is a little warmer and has a cool contrast between percussive upper register synth figure and buzzy low notes. There is also a beautiful mystical mid-section when the beat drops out and overlapping long synth chords conjure up images of gentle waves crashing against the shore.
The title track Untethered begins like a quiet piece of soundtrack music with repeated chords and ambient sounds rising and falling around them. Again the beat changes the mood just as it changes again when it drops out, a technique he is clearly fond of. This track has a generally more enigmatic, ambient feel with programmed figures sometimes repeating, the timbres fluid throughout.
Gael rounds off the EP with slow sustained, glowing and continuously changing chords and colours building patiently. The aura is of the sun setting slowly over the rocks and sand that overlook a vast coastal area. There is no beat and no discernible melody so this is all about gently overlapping chords, the waves softly disappearing out to sea as a town goes to sleep. Of course it may be about nothing of the kind but interpretation is in the ear of the beholder, especially when there are no lyrics to guide us.
Faodail deliberately does not give much away about himself but he is a talented young composer and artist who is quietly gathering quite a following with over 4K on his Souncloud page alone. He has already had plaudits from BBC Scotland and has been a fresh fave more than once at Fresh on the Net. The new EP is a reminder of why.
Like Faodail, Half (https://soundcloud.com/herelieshalf) is an enigmatic individual making tracks in a home studio, this time [only] just South of the English-Scottish border in Gateshead. But what I can confirm is that, judging by the track Cool Spot, he or she makes tuneful electronica with biggish beat, repeating riffs and chords and an almost twee melody played on a synth. It is endearingly simple and melodic but has a more subtle undercurrent of inventive arranging going on.
There is a track featuring Jason Rullo called Sorry which is very minimal, dreamy and spaced out, floating drumless in a sense of sonic hyperspace with organ-like chords mixed with sweepy keys and resonant vocal harmonies. It reminds me oddly of Blur in their more ballady moments at times. It is two years old though which begs the question: What has Half been doing in the intervening 24 months?! Well anyway some interesting material and another artist worth getting to know.
I can’t tell you much about Matthew Jameson (https://soundcloud.com/user-870879469) as there are no links on his Soundcloud page and his blurb only informs us that he comes from the UK. So he remains an enigma for now. But he does have an EP entitled Nothing from which the title track arrived in my FOTN in-box. I was struck by its floating, understated ethereal soundscape. This led me to explore the rest of the EP and it is all in this otherworldy quietly building form. This is music to listen to on the headphones as you relax at home or on a long journey. Ambient, attractive and calming. Very nice stuff.
Flowers At Night (https://soundcloud.com/user-81182125) is the alias of Juno Cheetal from County Cork in the Irish Republic and she makes very spaced out dreamy ambient music with repeating synth riff, gentle waves of chords and her otherworldly vocals that recall Julee Cruise with hints of Liz Fraser and Julia Holter. The track Fade my jewels builds texturally and dynamically but stays in that same dreamy enigmatic territory throughout. Glass Spirits is another track in similar vein although the harmonic language is slightly more fluid. There is a lot of material on her Soundcloud page so it is worth spending time with.
I will leave you with this blurb from said page which provides some insight into how Juno creates these warm enigmatic and ethereal soundtracks: ‘Her sound is characterised by multi layering of synths, strings and warm bass lines, guitar loops going through pedals and layers of vocal harmonies.
She uses mainly vintage 80s synths like the Roland Juno106, Jupiter 8, Mini Moog, Roland W30, 808, 909 drum machines, and live drums, as well as the autoharp, and field recordings .
Her inspiration comes from 80s instrumental B sides and film soundtracks. She also composes music for theatre and short films’. Well there you go. If, like me, you are drawn to artists with a penchant for sound transformation, imaginative use of instruments and effects and a liking for the otherworldly, this should appeal to you.
AND FINALLY ……….
Well it was always going to be bumper issue given the circumstances. As I have said previously, new music never sleeps! And there is so much of it to listen to and write about. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and hope you will do so again when Edition 35 comes out at the end of the month. Until then, love to all. Neil xxxxx