TRUST-THE-DOC: MUSICAL MUSINGS
by Neil March (Edition 35, 30th September 2019)
Welcome to Edition 35 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.
Meanwhile, here is what we have in store for you in Edition 35 of Trust The Doc. It is a fuller than full eclectic spectrum of music and sound with five artists in the Electronic & Ambient sub-section this time (which is only one less than Urban Flavas). And the Trust The Doc Classic takes us all the way back to my childhood with a track from 1973! Okay, that is more than enough preamble! Here’s the blog!
∗ VANISHING POINT: Another cracking line-up of new music artists
∗ MUSIC MAKERS: Another cool new music festival in S.W. London
∗ TALENTBANQ: Exciting new music platform showcases its acts
∗ LINEAR OBSESSIONAL: Review of September’s leftfield linear line-up
∗ GUNNERSVILLE: The Specials storm the stage at Gunnersville 2019
∗ NICOLE MITCHELL: African American Flautist with Late Junction mix
∗ DAI FAJIKURA: UK-based Japanese composer’s Shamisen Concerto
∗ LUCY CLAIRE: Gentle strings music and evocative soundscapes
∗ COREY MWAMBA: More mind-spinning jazz exploration from Derby
∗ KIT SEBASTIAN: Formed in France, based in London via Istanbul
∗ HENRI TEXIER: French Double Bass maestro in organic mood
∗ EZZA: French-North African trio on mesmerisingly good form
∗ 9BACH: Welsh Language lyrics and mystical Folk vibes
∗ AMY HOPWOOD: Dreamy minimal Folk from Weymouth
∗ LAURA JAMES & THE LYRES: Melodic Folk from the Capital
∗ WARD THOMAS: Hampshire twin sister duo’s fine album
∗ TRUST THE DOC CLASSIC: Back to childhood days for a change
∗ THIS ELEGANT GULL: 11 years old? Are you serious? So good
∗ KALEIDOSCOPES: Birmingham band with a powerhouse of an EP
∗ NEWT: Fantastic new 5-track EP from versatile Belfast band
∗ TIN FOIL ASTRONAUT: Canterbury in 2019 & a nod to 1971 too!
∗ GERAINT RHYS: Welsh artist back with a passionate new single
∗ THE DANDELIONS: Imaginative inventive Alt Pop from Oxford
∗ THE HAPPY SOMETHINGS: Climate change pop from E Midlands
∗ THE BROKEN HIGH: Dreamy Indie Pop from place unknown
∗ DREAMS OF EMPIRE: Melodic Post-Psych jangle from Brighton
∗ JAXON: South London multi-instrumentalist with cool Reggae vibes
∗ DEECVNT: Unique voiced soulful R’n’B artist from London
∗ RIA MORAN: Classy jazz-tinged soulful vibes from London
∗ CREEPZ FT. J BENKRAFT: Smooth vibes from Norwich
∗ SAM THABOY: Distinctive Urban soundz fro Bristol
∗ HALO NEVA: Anglo-French mystique on laid back track
∗ NORS & SCOTTY: Disco House is alive & in good health!
∗ BAD MILK: Uptempo Electronic Dance choon to enjoy
∗ COSMOSAPIEN: Edgy Electronica & EDM from Jersey
∗ ALPI BOURIGAN: Tribal House or something!
∗ MICHAEL BAKER MUSIC: Thoughtful singing-songwriting
∗ S J DENNEY: Essex singer-songwriter on top tuneful form
∗ TERRA FIN: Epic electronic alt pop from West Yorkshire
∗ CLASSICAL BANKSY: In Memoriam receives its radio premiere
∗ LI-LI LIADAIN: Another classy single from the album
∗ ELIZABETH JOAN KELLY: New Orleans artist back and on form
∗ WANOBI: Warm ambient electronica from destination unknown!
∗ FLOGGING A DEAD ONE HORSE TOWN: Enigmatic electronica
∗ HAROLD NONO: Enigmatic electronic ambience from Edinburgh
∗ XQUI & GEIGER VON MÜLLER: Ambient verging on Sound Art
VANISHING POINT @ THE IVY HOUSE, NUNHEAD: 3rd OCTOBER
Another fantastic line-up of new music bands and artists are set to grace the Vanishing Point stage at the beautiful Ivy House on Thursday (3rd October). Welsh Experimental Pop-Folk artist Jaffro (https://soundcloud.com/jaffroofficial) showcases his new 6-track EP Solo Figure Melting Down The Stryd while South East London Indie band The Hannah Barberas (https://soundcloud.com/user-526073865-259834752) play tracks from their recent and forthcoming albums. London-based Irish artist Pixi Ink (https://soundcloud.com/carla-jane-duffy) brings her unique electronic alt pop sound to the event and Brighton’s energetic Alt Rockers Fragile Creatures (https://soundcloud.com/fragilecreatures) have a new single to promote. It’s going to be a cracking night and if you book now you can still get tickets for the friendly price of just £6 each (£8 on the door). https://demerararecords.com/vanishing-point
MUSIC MAKERS: TWO DAYS OF NEW MUSIC IN SOUTH EAST LONDON
This coming weekend (Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th October) sees Music Makers (http://musicmakersfestival.com/), a two day festival of new music taking place at the historic Half Moon in Putney, South West London. A mouth watering line-up includes artists who will be familiar to Fresh on the Net followers such as Albert Man (https://soundcloud.com/albertmanmusic) who made this weekend’s Listening Post; Si Connelly (https://soundcloud.com/siconnelly) and recently Trust The Doc- reviewed artist Roisin O’Hagan (https://soundcloud.com/roisin-ohagan) among a diverse roster that you can experience for £25 (whole weekend) or £15 (one day). I hope to be there for at least one of those days.
TALENTBANQ SHOWCASE @ THE BEDFORD, BALHAM
LINEAR OBSESSIONAL @ THE ARTS CAFE, LEWISHAM: 15th September
September’s Linear Obsessional saw a characteristically varied line-up of leftfield and experimental music artists in action at the lovely Arts Cafe in Manor Park in Hither Green, Lewisham.
Linear Obsessional head Richard Sanderson (https://soundcloud.com/bagrec1) has gone from never putting himself on at his own gigs to performing three times in recent months, each time with a different configuration. Today Richard was duetting with another friend of mine and one-time collaborator Benedict Taylor (https://benedicttaylor.bandcamp.com/). Benedict is a highly accomplished Violist and well-known improviser who runs Cram Records and performs regularly at Cafe Oto and a host of other venues within the UK and abroad.
Benedict’s playing markedly stretches the limits of the instrument while veering, style and language-wise, between rhythmically complex and atonal and gentler, almost jazz-leaning. Richard’s melodeon playing sees him switching between drone-based figures, patiently crescendoing chordal features and more jagged single-note melodies. At times they appear almost to be playing in separate silos but when their ideas converge, the textures and harmony that ensue are fascinatingly modal-sounding. I should add though that both musicians are tenacious in their exploration of their instruments and so in twenty minutes of improv they cover a lot of ground.
At other times, the use of drones (in upper or lower register) by Richard means that no matter how frenetic Benedict’s scattered staccato and slurred notes and minimal glissandi might be, the overall sense is of a kind of stasis. They end with Benedict’s viola fading slowly in volume on high pitched groups of notes while Richard’s melodeon growls to a deep register close. A very successful experiment.
Susanna Ferrar (https://www.violinist.com/directory/bio.cfm?member=SusannaFerrar) been playing the violin since she was very young and began her performing career mixing with folk musicians. She has not recorded a great deal but was part of an album entitled A boy leaves home with Lol Coxhill, Sylvia Hallett and Evan Parker in 1994. These days she is a member of the London Improvisers Orchestra.
Susanna’s performance was fascinating from the outset. A seven minute video saw Susanna visiting the hut on Antarctica which her geologist grandfather had played a part in building with Scott before the explorer’s later, infamous mission. In the video she wondered around the hut, improvising on the violin. Like Benedict Taylor, she stretches the limits of her instrument both in terms of its extremes of pitch and register and in terms of the array of timbres and dynamic contrasts she achieves through her bowing, pizzicato, glissandi etc.
Midway through watching the video Susanna began to duet with her video performance live in the room creating some quite exquisite textures. Then, as the video drew to a close with the arrival in the hut of others, she continued to play live in The Arts Cafe. Having treated us to more of her versatile, dexterous playing, she achieved something that is rarely the norm at Linear Obsessional. She got an encore!! Yes the audience wanted a bit more of her delightful playing and she duly delivered.
Next up was spoken word artist Zolan Quobble (http://www.zolanquobble.co.uk/). He has a long history that involves, in the distant past, being part of a collective that included Marxist comedian Mark Steel. Today’s set saw him begin by explaining that he had caught a Ted Talk by a Quantum Physicist or similar and that, in attempting to deal with the concept of nothingness and non-beginnings, this scientist had found himself in the unlikely role of relying on metaphor! This had inspired Zolan to attempt his own poetic explanation of the concept of nothing.
The result was a lengthy poem entitled, not unreasonably, Nothing. I won’t try to remember specific phrases but will simply tell you that this combination of copious illustrations of what nothing might entail, deconstructing of words and phrases, presentation of horrifying metaphors, dystopian visions of nothingness as a permanent all-encompassing state of being [and by definition therefore, not being] and laconic humour was gripping, funny, frightening, ingenious and highly entertaining. It takes a special kind of poet to hold the audience in such a semi-hypnotic state of attentiveness without the aid of any musical, sonic or visual accessories. Zolan Quobble is that special kind of poet and I recommend you seek him out.
The final act of the evening was London-born composer and sound & visual artist Lou Barnell (https://www.loubarnell.co.uk/). Her website talks about ‘… an explosion of material experimentation and brutalist visceral choreography’. It goes on to explain ‘Lou creates scores as physical traces with sensory tests and materials, extended techniques, wearable sound-material devices and biorhythmic monitors’. She also has an impressive track record of works using movement and sound, collaborating with a host of others including fellow artists and individuals involved in related media. Her research, currently funded by the Arts Council of England, is particularly concerned with dreams and she keeps a dream diary which enables her to utilise the strange and vivid events and to consider how the abstracted forms of dreams can be fed into her work.
Her set at Linear Obsessional was one of the most astonishing and exciting I have seen at the venue. From the outset, her repeated spoken word phrases, build-up of ambient noise and striking visual performance were brilliantly disturbing. A video showed a series of images often in an unsettling sequence of dripping circular ice bands, unexplained visions of growth, wobbling jelly figures (some shaped liked human lips) and an upside down face which, as the performance intensified, began frantically to munch and chew on items.
Lou’s own performance was gripping. She began with her arms restricted by the coloured ice bands wound around them which, like their multi-coloured equivalents that sat on mic stands, dripped more markedly as they melted.
Lou also has the confident command of movement as a visual concept that reminds me of my friend and former partner-in-crime in various presentations Marilyn Wyers. The jerky dramatic movements, the hand up the back as if tied or restrained, the swinging arm are interspersed with nightmarish tirades into microphones and intensifying sound matching intensifying visual activity. If this is actually what her dreams are like she could be forgiven for being afraid to go to sleep! At one point, as she threw the ice bands to the floor, those of us nearest the stage were mildly sprayed with icy dyed water in a possibly unintended moment of artist-audience interaction! This added to the sense of engagement with a performance we were compelled to watch and listen to.
In the final section there was another surprise as the previously ambient noise-dominated soundscape gave way to a kind of skewed leftfield version of EDM. For a while the four-to-the-floor bass drum beat could have been what we used to call Banging House (verging on Techno) and the repeated synth chords were suitably funky. Of course these sounds intensified too and built, along with the video and Lou’s agile physical performance, towards another shuddering climax.
I’m not sure whether I have been quite so agreeably alarmed by a live performance of sound and visual art! But the alarm arose primarily from the sense of knowing I have experienced similarly unsettling dreams (many of them messy metaphors for my own fears) but also from the sense that we might have been collectively staring into some terrible future vision of our existence or that of our children.
It was a stunning performance though and a demonstration of how her hard work, creative imagination and meticulous planning is paying off. If you get a chance to watch her perform, take it. You will never have experienced anything quite like this before.
THE SPECIALS @ GUNNERSVILLE, ACTON, W. LONDON: 7th September
I was privileged to be on the guest list for one of my all-time favourite bands (thanks to Project Blackbird‘s wonderful Jon Read playing trumpet for them) The Specials when they headlined Day 2 of the inaugural Gunnersville festival in Acton’s Gunnersbury Park. Read my review here.
CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL & LEFTFIELD
Composer and performer Nicole Mitchell (https://www.npr.org/artists/113626855/nicole-mitchell?t=1568939584943) is a fascinating individual. An African American flute player who has feet in the contemporary classical and urban music worlds, she took over the Late Junction Mixtape on BBC Radio 3 for the farewell show of LJ’s original presenter Fiona Talkington.
On such an emotional show it was very much in keeping with the spirit of diversity and cutting edge experimentalism that Fiona embodies that the Mixtape should be handed to Nicole whose story about starting out as a young musician busking (and being arrested) on the streets of Chicago was so interesting. Nicole also talked about how being in a larger black community in a big city meant unsurprisingly there was greater acceptance of the avant-garde compared to her experience of smaller towns. We got to hear her play a delicate, dexterous solo piece before being treated to a mixtape that was suitably varied in a tribute to the music community she represents.
I don’t know Dai Fujikura (https://www.daifujikura.com/) very well but we are friends on Facebook where he always comes across as a modest fellow. But there is nothing modest about his talent as Late Junction’s airing of part of his Shamisen Concerto (performed by Honjo Hidejiro with the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christoffer Nobin) demonstrated. Harmonically striking, meticulously orchestrated and achieving wonderful contrasts of timbre and texture, it was a reminder that I need to make time to get to know more of his music.
The music of British composer Lucy Claire (https://soundcloud.com/lucyclaire) on the track Kin is harmonically conventional and filmic but it is also melancholy, light textured and translucent. She is not going to win any awards for pushing the envelope but she will get respect for her careful delicate scoring for strings and piano, creating gently overlapping waves of harmony and melody.
Her 2018 collaboration with sculptor Marie Schreer on the sound installation track Ninety-Nine Stones is very minimal, much of it played by what sounds like solo violin with occasional harmonising pitches and the background sound of what I assume is birds and animals chirping and squawking, water rushing and wind blowing.
She has a masters in screen composition from the Royal College of Music and you can read more about her at https://www.lucy-claire.com/biography.
The Sheffield label Discus Music has released the album NTH by Derby’s Corey Mwamba (https://www.coreymwamba.co.uk/). Late Junction featured the track Situations which consists of mind-spinning modal contemporary jazz in which Laura Cole‘s intense piano playing which verges on atonality plays off against busy, fluid drums and bass courtesy of Andy Champion and Johnny Hunter respectively, creating a deliberately unstable and yet strangely repetitive and hypnotic sound world.
The use of continually shifting intervals in the right hand of the piano (open fourths and fifths, clusters, augmented and diminished harmony etc.) in a rolling, repetitious pattern but with the rhythmic patterns and speed of the main theme altering is unsettling until suddenly Corey’s vibraphone playing takes centre stage (still with stabby jazz piano chords in accompaniment) and the sound and language are less difficult to latch onto. Even this section uses a lot of chromaticism. The piece is essentially in binary form and is a delightful reminder of his playing and composing talents.
A big thank you to Corey too for getting in touch and making sure I had the correct information. I am looking forward to checking out the rest of the album.
WORLD IN UNION
I can always rely on the awesome Cerys Matthews (BBC Radio 6 Music) to play some cool international sounds on her wonderful Sunday morning show. So it was with the multi-instrumentalist duo Kit Sebastian (https://www.mrbongo.com/products/kit-sebastian-mantra-moderne-vinyl-lp-cd-cassette). Formed in France, they are London-based Kit Martin and Istanbul’s Merve Erdem. Their debut album Mantra Moderne, released a couple of months ago by Brighton label Mr Bongo, reflects their mix of backgrounds.
Cerys played the track Yanimda Kal which is an upbeat, buoyant track with prominent percussion and organic sounds (Tabla, Darbuka etc.) bolstered by synths and a melody that has an unmistakably Turkish traditional edge. That use of synth and ambient sounds alongside more organic ones is very much in evidence on the spy movie pop of Tyranny 20. Tracks like that one and Pangea highlight their penchant for striking chords and contrasts of texture. The mind-spinning final track Durma encompasses all these elements and some spoken word to boot. It has some explorative sections of slightly dissonant keyboards and extended chords that a Prog band would be proud of. Definitely a duo worth making the effort to hear.
Staying on a French theme Cerys also played the track Les là-bas from the 2018 album Sand Woman by veteran French Double Bassist Henri Texier (https://www.mrbongo.com/products/henri-texier-varech-vinyl-lp). Texier is primarily known as a Jazz musician and worked with Don Cherry but this track has a curiously organic Folky air. Good to hear a 74 year old artist continuing to stretch out and experiment in different areas of music.
And to make it a Cerys-inspired triple Ezza (https://ezza.bandcamp.com/album/tiwitine) have a new album out entitled Tiwitine from which we heard the title track. The French-North African trio (Niger, Algeria & France) are on fine form, mixing up their driving energetic grooves, hypnotic note patterns and effortless musicianship on this excellent track. I have not checked the album out yet but I certainly will.
9Bach (https://www.9bach.com/) were formed in 2005 by Lisa Jen (Vocals/Harmonium) and Martin Boyland (Guitars/Percussion). With the 9 element of their name representing the word Nain (meaning Grandmother or Nan), the band name translates as Little Grandmother. The pair are augmented by Ali Byworth (Drums & Percussion), Dan Swain (Bass Guitar), Esyllt Glyn Jones (Harp/Vocals), and Mirain Roberts (Vocals) on their excellent eponymously titled 2019 album, their fourth to date. All lyrics are in Welsh.
9Bach’s sound is essentially Folk at heart but with strong nods to Rock such as on dynamic album opener Bwthyn FY Nain whereas the track that follows, Cweiriwch FY Ngwely is drumless reflective folk of a more mystical kind in which the picking interplay between Harp, Harmonium and Guitar is stunning as are the vocal harmonies. At times they veer into enigmatic dark spacey vibes with echoing drums, Spaghetti Western guitars and modal harp.
Cariad Cyntaf is evocative of vast open space and tall mountains. Pontypridd (next door town, more or less, to where my dad grew up – he played Rugby for Pontypridd!) utilises high harp glissandi and a shuffle feel. Final track Lisa Lân has great contrasts of timbre, tempo, texture and dynamic, a seven and a half minute epic that brings all the components of their unique sound together. The patient build-up of sound and ensuing impressionistic soundscape are reminders of what makes them such an extraordinary band and this such a consistent album.
Weymouth’s Amy Hopwood (https://soundcloud.com/amy-hopwood) has a lot of good material on her Soundcloud page but has chosen to submit The more I look, the less I see to Fresh on the Net and it turns out to be a really engaging track. Minimal picking acoustic guitar in mostly upper register accompanies what sound like tracked vocals, lending it a dreamy otherworldly quality which suits the melancholy mystique of the song and her slightly whispery but strong and appealing voice. Very nice indeed.
Laura James & The Lyres (https://soundcloud.com/laurajamesmusic) are essentially a Folk band from London but Laura’s music and vocal delivery almost puts her in more mainstream Pop and Singer-Songwriter territory while, at the same time, the delicate mix of guitar with what sounds like Banjo (or Mandolin maybe, hard to tell) alongside the bass, drums, keys and voices and the exquisite violin all point to a more organic Folk sensibility. The song After you’ve gone is melodic, dynamic and beautifully arranged with ideal production that is spacious and modern but brings out the nuances that are its constitutional make-up. Well worth checking out.
I have tried to always keep an interest in the unique twin sister duo Ward Thomas (https://www.wardthomasmusic.com/) ever since they played immediately before my live set on the BBC Introducing Stage at Latitude in 2017. So it was good to hear their track Lie like me from 2019’s Restless Minds album included in the Country Music Awards show broadcast on BBC Radio 2. The sisters, Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas, from Hampshire have fashioned a style that is unquestionably Country at heart (hence being the first UK act to top the Country Music charts in Nashville) but has room for a host of other influences including Folk, Pop and Soul. Their edgy distinct voices are made all the more compelling by their obvious tonal similarities and how that enables their harmonies to cut through in a really powerful way. The album has 19 tracks from the almost R’n’B-tinged No Filter with its anthemic chorus through the jaunty uptempo It’s not just me, the slow burning Hopeless and the beautiful folk-infused and harmony-soaked No fooling me to the gradually building and climatic final track This too will pass. If you are a fan of music that brings a lot of organic Country, Folk and Pop influences together with soulful, intimate vocal harmonies, strong melodies and spacious production, check this out.
TRUST THE DOC CLASSIC:
My Trust The Doc Classic feature, since I introduced it a few months ago, has so far been dominated by eighties and nineties tracks. But today we go back to 1973 with a track that was out when I was still at junior school. It was one of the earliest examples of a song I heard a few times on the radio and could not understand it when it didn’t make the UK charts. First though, a little background.
I don’t know whether one could say The Sutherland Brothers & Quiver (a unique coming together of two bands retaining both names) were under-rated. They cut a string of albums that sold respectably and were always seen as a well-considered British band blending Folk, Rock and Pop influences. They had a significant hit in the long hot drought-inducing summer of 1976 with the classic Country-tinged pop track Arms of Mary (covered by my band at the time!), had some success in the USA and famously wrote and recorded the original version of Sailing which was a huge transatlantic hit for Rod Stewart.
The Sutherland Brothers, Gavin and Iain from Aberdeenshire in the North East of Scotland, had started out as a Folk-influenced duo and had some early success before teaming up with the rockier Quiver (whose members included Bruce Thomas who would find fame as Bass Guitarist with Elvis Costello & The Attractions) from 1973.
It was their first collaborative album that produced the track I have chosen. Dream Kid (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI_BKJB_J_0) is the title track of that album and was also the lead single from it. Mixing jaunty folkier verses with a rockier chorus in which a great hook plays off against a simple but inspired three note guitar melody, it was a refreshing slice of imaginative well-written pop that bagged some daytime radio but somehow failed to take off sales-wise. Who knows why? But listening to current tracks by artists reviewed in this edition like Michael Baker Music (see Singer-Songwriters) and Tin Foil Astronaut (see Alt Rock & Indie) reminded me of this unique band and brought this timeless track to mind (as well as a reassuring reminder that, at nine, my taste in music was not at all bad!). Sorry it isn’t a proper video of the song but bands didn’t really make videos in 1973! At least this one, made by a fan, means we can hear the song.
Alt Rock & Indie
I have written previously about This Elegant Gull (https://soundcloud.com/this-elegant-gull) and they are back with a bouncy shuffle-indie alt pop anthem called Stop giving us the poison in which they loudly mix elements of bendy guitar rock with the rising thirds and synth drones of early eighties Synth Pop a la Visage and Human League.
The incredible thing about This Elegant Gull is that, according to their Instagram page, they are the brainchild of 11 year old singer-songwriter DD Shine. She may be 12 as some of her posts are from earlier in 2019 but still amazing if so. I say incredible because, while her voice sounds youthful, she does not sound childlike and sings with power and self-assuredness that I have heard older teenage singers fail to match and yet still receive lavish praise from some quarters. Also the music is so accomplished and the arrangements show maturity and imagination.
If this information is up to date and accurate I am frankly gobsmacked. But in a good way obviously! What an amazing talent and how refreshing that she wants to use it to make politically savvy, quirky and original Alt Pop. BBC Radio 6 Music, you need to know about this extraordinary girl. Fresh on the Net in the meantime have given her a platform and some research shows me that Tom has played her previously on the BBC 6 Music Introducing Mixtape show. A star in the making …. surely.
In Edition 34, I reviewed a new track by the talented young Birmingham-based band Kaleidoscopes (https://soundcloud.com/kaleidoscopesuk). Since then they have kindly sent me a preview of their EP Tears + Scars which is released on 4th October. All four tracks are written by the band and are driven along by a deliciously live drums sound, rock solid bass and fuzzy, grunge-influenced guitar while Ste’s voice is strikingly unusual and in tenor range. The tunes are strong and I love their tendency to change to a really interesting chord choice that alters the complexion of the piece such as they do several times in the excellent Sunshowers.
The production is good although the mastering volume seems to be different between the tracks. That, however, does not diminish the energy and power of the band behind Ste’s unique voice and the band’s penchant for the simple but catchy guitar riff. The EP climaxes with the inventive So strange which has a great intro before taking us into an almost lazy vocal in the verse which nods to the likes of Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins before the chorus takes it up a notch, the vocal responding to a guitar figure. All in all a highly promising piece of work that shows a band who are fast marking out their own place in contemporary Alt Rock.
NEWT (https://soundcloud.com/user-302018106) from Belfast is the project of multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Brendan Gallagher and he has subsequently formed a band to play his songs live. The song Wahaveux came into my Fresh on the Net in-box and immediately stood out for its combination of inventive, unusual melodies, fantastic vocal harmonies and fluid, accomplished playing taking us through contrasts of jagged rock-infused riffs and rhythms and floatier psychedelic moments. If they are this good live, they are worth seeking out.
Wahaveux is actually the third song from a five-track EP called Autoimmune. The other tracks are He Loves You which is less heavy but delivers more contrasts of rhythm and approach plus another striking melody and clever build-up of textures with guitars dominating the arrangement but helped again by punchy, imaginative drums and bass. The title track kicks off with a grungier riff and midway through the verse there is the most gorgeous and unexpected key change that twists on a single chord initially. Shades of Foo Fighters in a jam with Biffy Clyro.
Climax introduces more fluid rhythm and inventive chord play. It is interesting that their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pg/newtbandni) cites Steely Dan as an influence which explains the close harmonies, beautiful chords and tasteful picking guitar figures. More Countdown to Ecstasy than Aja I would proffer but that jazz sensibility and love of the exquisite really marks Newt out; like the big chord that arrives two thirds into Climax and takes us into another unexpected section of big contrasts between loud power chords and lighter guitars playing in harmony.
Ricochet wears its US Grunge influences on its sleeve and powers into an immediate full-on verse but again there are the little contrasts that break up the flow and lift the track up a level. There is a definite Kurt Cobain vibe in parts here. Again though the middle section introduces some lovely chords before leading back into agreeable rock heaviness. A great ending to a great EP.
So the buzz word is Wow. This is such an accomplished, invigorating EP. Five outstanding tracks. At the moment there are no live dates posted on their Facebook account but if Newt find an opportunity or excuse to come and play in London, I so want to be there.
Tin Foil Astronaut (https://soundcloud.com/tinfoilastronaut) are back with another fine piece of post-psych Alt Pop that has shades of Suede (sorry, no rhyme intended!) both vocally and in terms of the gorgeous guitar chords and broken chords. The song is called Without a sound. The harmonies however are closer to Teenage Fan Club although there is an undercurrent of retro Folkrock there too with the warm mystical harmonies in the chorus and rich chord changes. But then they are from Canterbury! Mostly what you need to know is that this is a truly high standard of songwriting and arranging, beautifully executed by a really strong band.
It is always good to hear from the talented and refreshingly individual Welsh artist Geraint Rhys (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jl_HGJHlnKQ) and he has sent me his new single along with this link to watch the video on YouTube. Stop the war (ft. Ffion Campbell-Davies) represents a shift away from his usual guitar-driven Alt Rock style with a buzzy growling synth-electronic bass riff underpinning this minor key track in which he passionately pleads with politicians to stop the war. It is intelligently written and demonstrates his versatility as an artist. As he wryly noted in his email to me, it might not pick up so much airplay given the overtly political character of the lyrics but it ought to.
Oxford keeps popping up in this blog as a hub of new music creativity. So I was pleased to be contacted by The Dandelions (https://soundcloud.com/dandelionsband) concerning some demo tracks they have recorded. Individually they are Dan, Jake, Simon and Tim. Collectively they make engaging Alt Pop with striking tenor range vocals, contrasting guitars, harmonising fluid bass and rock solid, inventive drums. They cite Midlake, Vampire Weekend and Neil Young as influences. I might proffer that there are shades of Teenage Fanclub on the driving All I know while the melancholy Different this time has an undercurrent of retro Americana that recalls The Band. The mid-section where big chords and harmonies (led by major sevens) kick in is really lovely.
Capable has a jaunty feel with rimshots in the beat and a guitar riff that could almost be West African though the ensuing chorus is more rock-based. Midlake in a jam with Paul Simon contributing vocal parts perhaps! The light and shade here is great and the high backing vocals in the chorus are a great touch. Final track Born to grow is a five and a half minute epic that begins with picking guitar and what sounds like synth but I’m guessing is guitar through an effects unit. The atmosphere is almost Western-like and you know you are in for a slow-burning track that builds piece by piece. And so it is when the chord-based riff and the first appearance of the hook appear accompanied by solid drumbeat. Right at the end there’s an unexpected twist into almost McCartney-esque melody and chords; a great finish to a set of imaginative and individual tracks. Impressive stuff.
The wonderful The Happy Somethings (https://soundcloud.com/thehappysomethings), from the Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire borders, are back with a marvellous Beatles-esque slice of Alt Pop entitled More Birds More Bees which makes a passionate case for action on climate change and environmental destruction to the tune of a gorgeous pop song with lovely harmonies and a breezy energy despite its minor key melancholy aura.
Another cracker from Happy, Jolly and Joy. I have already bought the MP3 and sent it to my good friends Ming and Jon on the Monday Night Ride Out on Exile FM, who so loved their last [amazing] single Stuck let go and I think it will be getting played in the very near future.
The Broken High (https://soundcloud.com/thebrokenhigh) say we don’t need to know where they come from and proceed to offer a number of possible regional scenarios. I beg to differ though guys because you will need to be seeking BBC Introducing support from your regional show and if you get it, we will know where you’re from anyway!
Hopefully they will get it because if this is their debut track, Slowburner delivers a dreamy and appealing four minutes of Alt Pop with distinct vocals, great instrumental arrangement and an almost cinematic soundscape. These boys, be they from Essex, Devon or indeed five burly men from Bolton (their words, not mine!) can pen a choon and deliver it with accomplished musicianship and imagination. It bodes well.
Never an edition goes by without my writing about at least one exciting new band from Brighton and this time it’s Dreams of Empire (https://soundcloud.com/dreamsofempire). Their joyously loudly produced wall of post-psychedelic Alt Pop entitled Radiation mixes attractive harmonically interwoven guitars, solid bass, powerful dreams and distinct female lead vocal topped off by a strong melody and hook. This sneaked into the Fresh on the Net in-box just in time to avoid the cut (at our new cap of 200 tracks per week) and immediately grabbed my attention.
Also on their Soundcloud page is more agreeable fuzzy Indie jangle courtesy of Swarm (this lot like their one-word song titles!). They are definitely another very welcome addition to the clearly thriving Brighton music scene.
JaxOn (https://soundcloud.com/dizzyjacko) is a trumpet-playing multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who has hit us with a piece of melancholy semi-dub Reggae entitled Distance which has a soulful melody, ethereal female backing vocals, plenty of echoing dreamy textures, lilting groove and lovely horns. He also surprises midway through with a rapid-fire rap about the parlous state of our divided society. The playing and production is out of this world. Really impressive and compelling listening.
Also on his Soundcloud page is a track called Words led in by more echoing tasty horns and slightly funky beat before agreeably solid reggae chords accompany a vocal that is lent additional intensity by virtue of the sound filter on the voice. It is another strong track which points to this South London artist being one worth checking out.
Incidentally his Soundcloud blurb informs us that, as a trumpeter, he has played with ‘…Stormzy, Jordan Rakei, Tony Momrelle and Nathan Sykes to jazz acts such as Julian Joseph’. On the strength of this fine work I am not surprised.
Deecvnt (https://soundcloud.com/deecvnt) is from London and makes jazz-infused R’n’B that sees him frequently rise up into a mind-boggling falsetto range that is both strikingly unusual and extremely agile and accomplished, allowing him to put together some particularly sweet harmonic acrobatics and deliver a distinct and impressive performance. The track, by the way, is Not 4 me (throwaway) but also check out Angry Black Man and the seriously soulful Girl I miss you that has shades of Donnell Jones mixing it with Usher.
Ria Moran (https://soundcloud.com/riamoran), another London-based singer, makes classy soulful music infused with sweet jazz chords, great arrangements and some gorgeous guitar play in the middle of it too. Her voice is confident alto range, distinct and adorned by very agreeable harmonies. The song You’ll stay down has a strong hook and expansive production that cries out for airplay although the 4:23 length might put one or two radio programmers off so a radio edit would not go amiss. Very impressed though and look forward to hearing more of this talented artist.
Creepz (https://soundcloud.com/creepzartist100) has teamed up with DJ Benkraft (https://www.facebook.com/Dj-Benkraft-producer-482660815398345/). DJ Benkraft’s Facebook page has had no new posts in a year and a half and I am struggling to find much information on line but I know Creepz is from Norwich and together they have delivered a smooth slice of R’n’B/Pop called Me & You with a Caribbean undercurrent, strong vocal performance, great production and an infectious melody.
Creepz’s Soundcloud page has some varied material. It veers between very good stuff like Me & You and the down to earth honesty of Missing you and the pointlessly misogynistic lyrics on Sell my soul (which would be a good track were it not for the macho nonsense and name-calling). Clearly he has talent. It would be good to hear more collaborations with DJ Benkraft.
And from the far East of England to the far West where we have Bristol’s Sam Thaboy (https://soundcloud.com/samthaboy) whose track Show you thunder is all built around a tuneful piano riff and beatz coming in and out of the mix. Against this backdrop he delivers a part-rapped, part-sung lyric that talks frankly about the stress and craziness he deals with. It is delivered in his very distinctive voice with a slight Bristolian twang, making him another artist adding to the welcome expansion of regionally inflected UK Urban music. It is an impressive piece of work by an artist we will hopefully hearing more about in the near future.
Halo Neva (https://soundcloud.com/haloneva) is the brainchild of London–based musician and producer Ed Haswell. Ed has teamed up with a silky-voiced female vocalist to deliver a French Language lyric on the gorgeous laid-back downtempo Sauterelle. It’s a track, which with its reverberant synths, spacious production and aura of mystique, could have fitted in Club Culture (as an afterparty chill track) or in Epic & Cinematic but, on balance, I felt Urban was the closest since it leans into R’n’B.
Also on his Soundcloud page is Too Far, again with female vocal but this time in English and unambiguously R’n’B. Again there is a laid back downtempo feel and again the choices of sounds and textures are dreamy, spacious and work really well. Impressive stuff.
Nors & Scotty (https://soundcloud.com/dejoataeme) have delivered a Discofied slice of melodic House with killa hook, heroic male vocal, tough insistent beat and lovely echoing synth chords on the track Somebody. A floor filler if ever I heard one, the production is deep and tall and wide! Whack this through the bass bins in a club, turn on the smoke machines and let the music do the rest. Love it.
Bad Milk (https://soundcloud.com/badmilkuk) have released an upbeat slice of EDM with squelchy electronic bass, cool beatz and breakz and a passionate vocal from guest BB Diamond. The track is called Afterhours and with a quick tempo and loud production it is another floor filler waiting to be tried out on a cool club crowd.
I wasn’t entirely sure whether I should be reviewing Jersey’s Cosmosapien (https://soundcloud.com/cosmosapienmusic) under Club Culture or Electronic & Ambient. I decided upon the former only because there is a tuneful EDM current running through his latest track Aequoria Pt. 1 with its squelchy electrobass riff and ambient synth themes. It also has an insistent beat that will work a treat in a club where a chilled audience is up for some hypnotic Electronica.
Likewise the quicker Cosmix IV with its Kraftwerk-like voice sample and a beat and repeated synth pattern that border on Techno, helped by a friendly synth melody. He has had support from BBC Introducing and is adding tracks to his Soundcloud page. It will be interesting to see where he takes his distinct sound next.
I have written previously about Michael Baker Music (https://soundcloud.com/michael-baker-music). His music is hard to place genre-wise, sometimes Folk-infused, other times more in pop territory and always delivered in his distinct tenor range voice with appealing harmonies, tasteful instrumental play and a great ear for melody. So it is with the new single One God Damn.
The track that actually caught my attention was his latest Fresh on the Net track (which made our Listening Post) Baby Books in which his slightly ethereal upper register vocal and light textured instrumental backrop is so set against a more uptempo feel with lovely guitar picking. I should also mention a third track Half my love which shares common features with these other two but also has a climatic build-up and a really anthemic feel to it.
These tracks all underline what a unique and impressive artist he is. If there is any justice Michael Baker Music will begin to receive a bit more well-deserved attention from the new music media here in the UK. In the meantime, with gigs in Hove (31st October), Whitstable (7th November) and Germany (9th November), he retains a busy live schedule.
I recently wrote about a duet involving Leigh-on-Sea’s finest singer-songwriter S J Denney (https://soundcloud.com/s-j-denney) and now he has a jaunty Folky pop track out called A fond farewell which is based around acoustic guitar strumming and voice with harmonies coming in and out of the mix. There is a strong aura of Paul McCartney about this while the understated piano recalls Gallagher & Lyle. So retro influeces but it has a freshness that places it firmly in contemporary pastures. Uplifting, smartly arranged and irresistibly melodic. This is a cracker.
Alpi Bourigan (https://soundcloud.com/alpi-bourigan) has hit us with one of the more unusual House tracks of late entitled Gamming Trap. It is built around sparky synth and beatz and an odd vocal chant here and there. Simple but effective and a step away from the obvious.
Many moons ago Li-Li Liadain (https://soundcloud.com/li-li-liadain) and I were in a band together (although I hasten to add that she is a good few years younger than me!). So it has been great to watch her solo career develop. Earlier this year she released the suave slightly French-tinged Pop album Fast Loose & Lovely which I reviewed in a previous edition of Trust The Doc It has yielded singles including this latest one Take the brain.
Li-Li is from my home town of Hemel Hempstead and has been based between St Albans and London in more recent years. Her Soundcloud blurb describes her music as ‘… an amuse Bouche inspired by ‘The 60’s’, served on a dish of grooviness, with a spoonful of psychedelia and a sprinkle of cheese! Bon Appetit!’
Take the brain has a shimmery acoustic guitar part and squelchy synth bass prominent in the mix as Li-li begins in laid back alto range and gradually shifts up the gears as well as introducing some sweet harmonies as her voice climbs the register in an infectious chorus. Wah-Wah guitar and a lightly funky beat add to the momentum. It’s a nice balance of fresh pop sensibility and retro grooves.
Epic & Cinematic
Terra Fin (https://www.terrafin.co.uk) are a band from around the Huddersfield/Leeds area and, as seems to be happening a lot with this blog lately, they are another band with next generation connections to Hull legends Red Guitars but I will return to that point in a moment. First, to explain, Terra Fin make music that is hard to pigeon-hole as their new single Sleepwalk has a strong electronic foundation but the style of the band is more in Alternative Pop and Psych Rock territory. Their website explains that the song was ‘… created using Volca sequencers and keyboards comprising of warped vocal samples’. The song builds in intensity, driven along by a robust beat and repeating synth riff.
Snowflake, Snowflake starts off like an enigmatic ambient track before cool harmony vocals take it in a slightly more psych-influenced direction. However this quickly breaks down and quieter voices are offset against swirling synth arpeggios and electronic sounds and beats. Harmony vocals eventually resurface with minimal backing in a translucent textured ending.
Soaked in honey begins more in Alt Rock territory with a Bass Guitar riff leading the verses and a full band sound kicking in as it hits the chorus. Again though there is a dreaminess and sudden changes of mood and tempo. They are a band who like to experiment and keep listeners on their toes. All very impressive and indicative of inventiveness, confident musicality and versatility.
Line-up-wise they are Lithuanian musician Jonas Lapinas who sings and plays keyboards and electronics and Bass Guitarist Corey Clough-Howard who is also the son of former Red Guitars and now Loudhailer Electronic Company bass guitarist Lou Duffy-Howard and since his mum is one of my favourite bassists it perhaps shouldn’t come as a massive surprise that he shares her talent and love of this wonderful instrument. So, like Fragile Creatures’ Adam Kidd (see the preview of Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House), another element of the Red Guitars dynasty! These guys are seriously talented though and carving out a highly distinct and original sound. They play live around Yorkshire and also in Lithuania. On the strength of these tracks I hope to see them live soon too. The rest of the UK beckons I feel!
The words Epic & Cinematic seem especially appropriate when talking about the highly talented musician and producer Simon Roberts who is better known as Classical Banksy (https://soundcloud.com/classicalbanksy). Having observed the amount of blood sweat and tears he has put into the latest version of his epic George Michael-inspired (as in it tells George’s story) In Memoriam it was fantastic to hear it receive its world radio premiere this week. And where else but on the Monday Night Ride Out with Ming & Jon on Exile FM. Jon told listeners he had listened to it five times that day because it is ‘so beautiful’. And he is right. Simon’s voice soars with defiant emotional power over a swirling mass of soulful, semi-orchestral cinematic sound with glissandi-a-go-go, consistent beat and layers of keyboards and instrumental colours that shimmer and shine throughout.
This is epic and cinematic pop in the true sense. If there is ever a movie that tells George’s real story, warts and all, this should be the theme and should inform the soundtrack. Hopefully you won’t have to wait too long to be able to purchase a copy.
Electronic & Ambient
TTD favourite Elizabeth Joan Kelly (soundcloud.com/elizabethjoankelly) is back with a new track called Harm. It captures the New Orleans composer and artist in slightly surreal dreamlike mode with melancholy chords utilising a blend of ambient sounds and noises while whispery, reverberant voices sing a repetitive theme over a descending harmonic figure. Meanwhile the ambient soundscape gradually grows in volume and intensity, almost but not quite engulfing the voices before it judders to a halt one second short of three minutes (so radio programmers, take note – perfect length for airplay). So another fine track by this versatile artist.
Wanobi (https://soundcloud.com/wanobiflamez) have a track out called Diamond Turf in the Fountain City which is a warm slice of ambient electronica which has a vaguely jazzy edge to the repeating harmonic figure while the beat is unusual, certain sounds much louder than others. It begins and ends with a boxed in fuzzy sound. As the entire track only lasts one minute and thirteen seconds there is scarcely time to develop the ideas. A brief moment from an intended soundtrack perhaps.
Flogging a dead One Horse Town (https://fadoht.bandcamp.com/) record for the Leeds experimental label Muzai Records and their track Romantic Duck Salad Part A is the kind of noise-based ambient track that I like but a lot of people I know would shrug their shoulders about and look at me with a mixture of bewilderment and pity! It appears to be driven along by found sounds fed through recording software and treated with enough effects to retain their industrial aura whilst being strangely resonant too. Not everyone’s cup of tea but if you enjoy industrial ambient electronic music and sound art this should appeal.
Harold Nono (https://soundcloud.com/harold-nono) is a new name to me although, if it is his birth name, he shares his surname with the great Italian Integral Serialist composer Luigi Nono. Harold hails from the Scottish Capital however and indeed Edinburgh is and has long been a hub of creativity across all areas of the arts. The track HAQ – “Evaporator” came to Fresh on the Net earlier this week and, after starting like a fluid, sound art-based ambient soundscape, it suddenly develops into a repeating melody sung in enigmatic otherworldly voices with an almost pop sensibility. The use of contrast is a good surprise and the track builds to a strong, melodic finish.
Also on Harold’s Soundcloud page is The Saline Revival Show which is in more ambient territory with drones and long held notes forming a translucent texture that begins to thicken as more harmonically unusual layers rise and fall. The strings sounds that appear in the final third of the piece again betray a liking for a pastoral melody. This composer likes his contrasts to be stylistic as well as timbral and textural. A definite one to watch.
Xqui & Geiger Von Müller (https://soundcloud.com/vonmuller) have a track out called Blue Moon Frequency #1 (Somnium Infinitum Mix). It is an unusual piece of electronic ambient music that, for the majority of the track, verges on Sound Art with its emphasis on the manipulation of noises more so than any particular pitch arrangements. However it begins and ends with an ambient backdrop accompanying gorgeous slide guitar picking which returns in the final section. Full of ideas and cool sounds, it is a great track. Check out this amazing video of it. https://youtu.be/MnRkeDcs89M
AND FINALLY ….
Well that’s it for Edition 35. Another full on list of talented bands and artists providing us with a fantastic cross section of new music. It would be great to see some of you at the next Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House on Thursday (3rd October). There’ll be a good cross section of cool live music there plus the Trust The Doc New Music Playlist between the acts too. Otherwise, see you in Edition 36. Neil xxxx