Trust The Doc (Edition 38)

TRUST-THE-DOC: MUSICAL MUSINGS

by Neil March (Edition 38, 15th November 2019)

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Welcome to Edition 38 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 follow the label’smy Twitter accounts and the label’s Instagram account. In all cases I will follow you back.

A few changes in Edition 38. No Country Capers section this time as I did not get to hear any Country tracks that grabbed me but there is a distinct Reggae Roots section with two excellent tracks reviewed there. Pop Noodles continues for a third consecutive edition so I think I can call that a regular feature from hereon and my Trust The Doc classic is the Scritti Politti single that ‘got away’ back in 1982.

So here is what is in this edition:

♦ STOP PRESS: Exciting news about new live music project

♦ VIRIDIAN ENSEMBLE: Delivering a refreshing sound combination

♦ MEITEI: Mind-boggling adventures in sound and music from Japan

♦ HIPPO: Bristol trio return with another mind=spinning piece

♦ BLACK MIRROR: Spanish Islans Folk-Pop beautifully played & sung

♦ ELIMARIT: Ambient evocative and cinematic Nordic Folk 

♦ MADWOMAN: Evocative inventive Folk music from Florida

♦ BOUBAKIKI: Stunning & unclassifiable EP from London duo

♦ SERGE BULAT ft. MIRIAM GARCÍA: International flavas from NY.

♦ TRUST THE DOC CLASSIC: The Scritti Politti song that got away

♦ WALT: A kind of post-synth pop from the Capital

♦ MICHAEL HORSE: Smart pop from Bristol singer/songwriter

♦ TOVA: London band believe in epic production & playing     

♦ PYX: Exciting Kent band return with another fine slice of

♦ JOE KEMP: Trippy post-psychedelic Indie coming from Leeds

♦ BELLEVUE DAYS: Driving anthemic Alt Rock from Croydon band

♦ MINCEMEAT: On the adventurous end of the Alt Rock spectrum

♦ LEGPUPPY: South London’s psycho-electronic alt rockers return

♦ YXUNGTARZAAN: Another cracking choon from urban artist

♦ THE COSTI: More cool sounds from consistent artist & producer

♦ URCHIN ft GRACE WALKER: Cool collaboration with soulful vibe

♦ CARRIE BAXTER: Smouldering sassy Jazz-tinged Soul from London

♦ MONIFÉ: Sweet soulful and sophisticated in Neo-Soul territory

♦ KINGD2THEWORLD: Cooking up a hot spicy fresh Reggae vibe

♦ HARRI GEORGIO: Bringing a fresh Reggae-Urban pop sound

♦ REZZONATOR: Tantalising Techno emanating from Nottingham

♦ PHARAOHZ: Pulsating swirling mind-spinning Tech-House

♦ KAPIL SESHASAYEE: Outstanding sounds from India via Glasgow

♦ DOROTHY BIRD: Cinematic soundscapes from Op Lightfoot singer

♦ HAPPY MONSTER: Alive in Sussex and immersed in ambient auras

STOP PRESS: EXCITING NEWS ABOUT NEW LIVE MUSIC PROJECT

I am absolutely buzzing right now because the Arts Council of England have just awarded me a year’s worth of funding to pursue a really exciting live new music project under the heading Operation New Music.

Included in these plans, in addition to another twelve monthly Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House gigs, are:

– a brand new Trust The Doc Festival @ Amersham Arms on 4th    April 2019, world famous iconic venue in New Cross

– three new London gigs and six non-London ones

– Trust The Doc Radio Show on Exile FM

– funding to bring artists from outside the London area to gigs

That is just a snapshot of what this project will deliver in 2020. Once again, watch this space ….

CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL/LEFTFIELD

Viridian Ensemble describe themselves as ‘an ethereal blend of image, voice, cello and double bass which reimagines tropes of folkloric forms and tropes of femininity’. Actually they forgot to mention percussion and waterphone but anyway they make an intriguing noise and you can catch them at Cafe OTO on 23rd November.

Late Junction (BBC Radio 3) featured the track A Cephalapod which has a relentless driving feel, dissonant harmony mixed up with a large element of ambient sound. The vocals are enigmatic and unusual, part pitched, part spoken and the percussion is a mixture of tuned and untuned in understated manner. As the track develops, octave-apart drones appear with repetitious buzz and percussive hits. There is a sense almost of some sort of strange hypnosis. I can’t be sure what the link is to a squid or octopus but it could perhaps have something to do with cycles of its evolution. Whatever the link, it is a refreshingly original and exciting piece of music and sound.

Thanks to Leeds-based DJ NikNak, I was introduced to the unique sound world of Japanese composer and sound artist Meitei. There is an argument for reviewing his music in the Electronic & Ambient section but, as her work is so sophisticated, leftfield and connected both to contemporary art music and sound art, I felt it belonged here. A series of synth and bell-like sounds, almost like electronic church bells haphazardly repeating the same and similar figures punctuate the Komachi album, surrounded by ambient noises, some percussive, some ethereal and occasionally distant spoken voices. It is a stunning cocktail of sonic and musical invention quite unlike anything I have heard previously and I recommend making the effort to check it out.

JAZZ JOURNEYS

Hippo are back. The Bristol trio grabbed my attention [and that of Fresh on the Net readers] with their 5 track EP last year and now they have a new track Binary Diet which is typically fluid, complex rhythmic configurations driven along by virtuosic playing, the drums busy and continuously changing, the synth multi-layered and veering between rich chord play and frenetic individual stretching out, the sax robust and impressive. And like all their material, it manages to canter through a number of musical and sonic states without ever threatening to become indulgent. Fantastic stuff.

WORLD IN UNION

I think the last [and only] London-based act to be reviewed in this section were the awesome Kongo Dia Ntotila and it would be quite wrong to brand Boubakiki as World Music. The duo, consisting of two amazing and accomplished young musicians Rosie Bergonzi and Joe Steele, are impossible to categorise. Their music, written and performed using handpan (Rosie) and saxophone (Joe), is like nothing I have heard, an ethereal fluid blend of international flavours that make room for Jazz, Classical, Art, Eastern and other infusions. They mix composed music with elements of improv and, despite what might seem like a limited line-up (in terms of timbre and texture), they held the Vanishing Point audience in thrall in a wonderful live set at the Ivy House this month.

I had the pleasure of Rosie playing percussion on a composition of mine back when we were both students at Goldsmiths University in 2011 and I have watched her career go from strength to strength in the time since then including, among a litany of achievements, playing at the Proms and touring as percussionist for Neneh Cherry. Joe is someone I met for the first time last week but he, like Rosie, mixes a warm engaging personality (both on and off the stage) with a stunning talent for playing sax with spine-tingling tone and ability to make difficult lines seem incredibly straightforward!

The duo have an eponymously titled EP out on their own label and it offers four examples of their unique soundworld. You can buy it from all the usual digital platforms. If you love music that is effortless, fluid, otherworldly and inventive, I recommend you check it out (and go and see them live if you get the opportunity too).

It would also be stretching the boundaries of credibility to describe Serge Bulat‘s work as World Music but it does have an international flavour on his mystical electronically infused collaboration with singer Miriam García. The track is called Kalah Folklore (Premiere 2019). Kalah, incidentally, is a form of self-defence originating from Israel. Serge Bulat is a New York based artist and producer and this track has a dreamy soundscape and an undercurrent of Eastern music. It is certainly an intriguing track.

FOLK FINDINGS

They are not exactly a Folk duo. Indeed their music is impossible to pigeon-hole largely because it is so beautiful and unique. So I tend to describe them as Mediterranean Island Folk-Pop. Anyway, however you choose to define their sound Black Mirror are back with another stunning track. The Song of Crickets (ESM Final Mix) captured more moderator votes than any other track in our Fresh on the Net Batch 343. It finds Ines and Arsenio in fine voice and playing form, a beautiful otherwordly vocal floating effortlessly atop a reverberant soundscape of expertly played guitar, absolutely capturing the aura of the crickets gently hissing in the warm Tenerife evening breeze. Simply beautiful.

Self-described ‘Nordic folk singer-songwriter’ Elimarit has caught my attention with a fascinating piece of slow otherworldly Folk entitled Heart so cold. With ambient synth string sounds in sustained pitches mixing with environmental noise, she gives a vocal performance that has strong elements of Celtic traditional song mixed with its Nordic roots. Mystical, magical and distinct. All good stuff.

Madwoman is a new name to me and there isn’t exactly a host of info on their Soundcloud or Instagram pages. They have female voices that offer a strong, dynamic and appealingly edgy lead voice with thick, life-affirming harmonies accompanied by shimmering guitars. There is more on their Facebook page which reveals they are a quartet consisting of Samantha Daigle; Chandler McFarland; Art Ihnatsenka & Unmil Patel and they hail from Gainesville, Florida on the US East Coast. Their blurb quotes Kerouac and they describe their music, not unreasonably on this evidence, as Folk/Soul.

It was the arrival in the FOTN in-box of Morning Carolina which turned this head. It verges on Country and has a strong flavour of Americana about it. The tune is nagging and infectious, the playing accomplished and imaginative and the vocals are glorious. On the strength of this stunner, I very much look forward to hearing more.

TRUST THE DOC CLASSIC: SCRITTI POLITTI

I have mentioned Scritti Politti in reviewing Michael Horse’s track (see Pop Noodles) and I am not suggesting they were/are necessarily under-rated in terms of their entire and ongoing career. Indeed Green Gartside (for he is Scritti Politti) is highly revered as a songwriter, artist and influence on contemporary music.

Green’s unique and, at times, brilliantly baffling career is far too detailed to be adequately summarised here. From 1978 to 1980, Scritti Politti were not just an uncompromisingly edgy and inventive Post-Punk trio but they were arguably the best one too, delivering three fantastic EPs including a Peel session that saw them rewriting rules on tracks like Opec Immac whilst simultaneously giving a glimpse of the later pop maestro on Hegemony.

In 1981, after convalescing back home in Wales following a breakdown a year and a half earlier, Green returned and stunned the music world with The Sweetest Girl, a soulful Reggae-infused Pop choon with silky vocals and thoroughly [at the time] contemporary sound. It would prove to be a transitional step along a road that saw Scritti Politti relocate to the USA and become the epitome of the new digitally savvy Pop act mixing Soul, Disco, Reggae and Synth Pop to produce tear-up dance classics like Wood Beez and sweet sugary supertracks like The Word Girl and First boy in this town.

In between those events, Scritti Politti released a single in 1982 entitled Faithless. It was extraordinary for so many reasons. A slow triplet-time Soul scorcher, it was soaked in modern production sounds, featured top session players like [fretless] bassist Joe Cang and backing vocalists associated with Steely Dan. It verged on Gospel and it had harmonies that were thick, tight and goose-bumpingly beautiful. The chords, the melody, Green’s vocals, everything about it screamed CLASSIC!!! And yet it received almost no notable airtime on UK radio and didn’t even make the UK Singles Chart.

So Scritti may not be under-rated but this song is a forgotten classic which, in a parallel universe somewhere, is the biggest selling track of all time. It is certainly one of the best. And here is the evidence (although apologies as I could only find the full length version on YouTube). It was the 7″ radio edit which was just the right length in my opinion.

POP NOODLES

Another hard band to pin down genre-wise are the intriguing Walt. I say band but the Soundcloud page points to Walt being the monicker of solo artst Ella from London. Either way her new track Car (the master version for the sake of clarity) is a cracker. A sort of slow-burning slice of Post-Synth Pop, it could have been reviewed under Alt Rock & Indie or Electronic & Ambient but it didn’t quite seem to fit with either. ‘I’m better than you’ she sings repeatedly to whoever the target is of her enigmatic lyric. Her vocal is melancholy and slightly fragile but assured while the backdrop is fairly minimal, dominated by a warm synth riff and understated beat. The tune nags away and improves with each listen. Distinct, appealing and unusual. Three good reasons to give it your attention.

Thoughtful Bristol singer-songwriter Michael Horse makes appealing Pop choons that have very contemporary vocal effects and smooth production while stylistically leaning towards a jazzy soulful vibe. This is certainly the case on Lips which has a vocal that is broadly in the ballpark of Charlie Puth mixing it up with Green Gartside of Scritti Politti. And that can only be a good thing.

ALT ROCK & INDIE

TOVA are a new name to me but their track Sugar Rush has grabbed my attention mainly thanks to the contrary motion scale between guitars and bass leading into the chorus which, along with an exuberant and energetic tune, is definitely my favourite out and out Rock track of the moment. The band hail from London and their Soundcloud page reveals some more intense, driven Alt Rock with all the trappings.

It is only five months since Pyx played an impressive set at our Fresh on the Net Live festival which I curated and managed for Team Freshnet in Highgate. Now they are back with a slow-building, anthemic piece of Indie music that has definite shades of Radiohead with hints of Muse and Keane. Lots of upper register male vocal, slurring ascending guitar melody over drone root notes as events grow around that template. Cleverly constructed and catchy as well as substantial and uplifting.

It wouldn’t be Trust The Doc if there wasn’t at least one exciting artist from Leeds! Joe Kemp seems to be an artist with a liking for minimal trippy Psych Pop as demonstrated on his track Life is like a jigsaw only someone’s hidden half the pieces which mainly consists of strummed guitar, quiet percussion and a tonne of echo on Joe’s voice. He needs to watch his intonation here and there but otherwise he has an engaging tone and a penchant for penning striking melodies.

Bellevue Days have a name that might imply a Manchester link but they are actually from Croydon. And on the strength of S.A.D (Radio Edit) they play the kind of poppy but energetic Rock that recalls the likes of Blink 182 in a jam with Green Day. It is anthemic, catchy and driven by tidily recorded but gritty guitars and plenty of all round power.

Mincemeat are an Alt Rock act whose delightfully experimental and, at times, slightly chaotic style is a breath of fresh air. Aroma is built around one jerky bluesy riff and eerie vocal sound but the surrounding miasma of riffs, scales, sounds and dissonances take it off in a variety of directions, leaning towards the leftfield. Spirited, inventive and well worth checking out.

TTD favourites LegPuppy stormed the barricades at an awesome Vanishing Point at the Ivy House this month and now have another track competing for Fresh on the Net interest at the time of writing. Darren Laurence, the creative driving force and one of the figures behind the flashing masks, ghostly outfits and live clowns that form part of their electrifying live show, has leaned more towards the Electronic end of their Electronic Alt Rock sound lately. The result, as demonstrated on Twit Machine T12 (feat. Voi Vang), is a pulsating piledriver of electronic beatz, buzzing synths, a range of noises and notes and spookily dark spoken word, much of it highlighting the out of control narcissism erupting all around us even at the top table of international politics in today’s insane world.

Twit Machine … amply captures the incredible driving energy that you cannot fail to be carried away by if you are fortunate enough to experience Legpuppy live. Check them out, live and on record. A band you should get to know in this life.

URBAN FLAVAS

Yxungtarzaan is becoming a familar name in TTD. Well there is a reason for that. Namely that he keeps coming up with fantastic tracks like his latest one Guardian Angel which finds the singer and rapper in dark, slow and rueful mood, his deep voice put through some sort of filter and accompanied by an echoing ethereal keyboard figure and laid back urban beat. Another example both of his writing talent and his stylistic versatility.

The Costi is back and in menacing mood with the dark, threatening aura of Fund The Mental produced by NTZ. Minimal synth plays a slow repeating riff while the beat picks up the tempo and the rap is ominous and edgy. Translucent Hip Hop with a fistful of intent.

Urchin is an accomplished artist and producer in his own right [and I have previously reviewed him in the Epic & Cinematic section] but it is his collaboration with singer Grace Walker that has caught my ears this time with its poppy and pristine production on what is a dynamic slice of radio-friendly R’n’B that allows Grace to showcase her dexterous, rangy and attractive voice. Well worthy of further exploration.

Carrie Baxter makes smouldering sassy jazz-tinged Soul which she delivers in an appealingly edgy, jazzy voice that sits somewhere between Amy Winehouse and Norah Jones. Her song Lady has a rolling lightly funky vibe and a chorus that is instantly infectious and allows the London-based singer to stretch into her upper register. Dynamic and delightful, making me want to hear more.

And staying on a jazzy soul vibe we have Monifé. Her song Unreachable is beautifully laid back with a spine-tingling sequence of jazzy chords in the Anita Baker meets Angie Stone school of Neo-Soul. She also has the kind of sultry vocal sound and style that carries this off in some style. The killer chorus hook is the icing on this delicious cake.

REGGAE ROOTS 

Kingd2TheWorld is a new name to me. Coming out of the Capital, they have dropped an impressive piece of Reggae with a decidedly Old Skool vibe entitled Revolution which brings to mind the likes of Black Uhuru in a jam with Misty-in-Roots with a smattering of Peter Tosh thrown in. Dark, daunting but catchy and uplifting too. It will be interesting to see what else they have up their sleeves.

Harri Georgio is another new name to me and he has delivered a refreshingly contemporary fusion of Reggae with Hip Hop on Realness. It also comes complete with a killa hook, a rapid fire rap in the middle of the track and his strikingly appealing and youthful voice. The track is tailor-made for radio and I hope it gets heard and picked up by the likes of BBC 1Xtra who could play a part in its success.

CLUB CULTURE

Regular readers will know I love a bit of Techno and that, in essence, is what we have with Rezzonator (aka Duncan Rose) from Nottingham. A tough beat with crispy hats and usual build-up of rapid-fire snare fills here and there sit behind pulsating synth bass and electronic riff that repeats while the effects alter and sounds build to climaxes. Energetic, relentless and crying out to be played in clubs.

Pharaohz landed in my in-box with a mind-spinning slice of Tech-House entitled Rapturous (Egypt 4000 Years Ago Remix). It has a bendy electro-bass figure surrounded by tough beat and firecracker synths. The mid-section suddenly takes off into a spacy astral world of fizzing swirling sound before the main riff returns to carry us off towards the final canter. Another choon you want to hear over the big speakers in a cool club.

SINGER-SONGWRITERS

Singer-songwriter seems like an odd place to review Kapil Seshasayee and his extraordinary track The Item Girl. Based in Glasgow and self-described as ‘Solo Indian Classical/Art Rock’ he mixes a plethora of influences including some carefully chosen classic ones (Steely Dan, Ben Folds, Paul McCartney all come to mind) with modern ones, great contrasts of texture and dynamic, goose bumping jazz-infused chords, proggy short interludes, some in octave unison and, on top of that cocktail of loveliness, a rich tenor-baritone range voice to boot.

The quality of the songwriting and arranging also reminds me of Esperanza Spalding and that, given that she was my artist of 2018, is a serious compliment. This is an outstanding track and, as soon as I finally have a moment to do anything (!), I intend checking out more of his material. So, hopefully, will some of you.

EPIC & CINEMATIC

Dorothy Bird is a familiar name to regular TTD readers both as a solo artist and as a vocalist with Operation Lightfoot. Her latest solo track Under Water has her striking upper register vocal come straight onto centre stage, soaring in resonant glory above enigmatic bendy synths, onbeat keyboard chords, sporadic arpeggios and ambient noises. It has an atmosphere a little like some of Massive Attack’s classic moments although without the trademark tough beat. She describes the track as Art Pop which is a pretty good shout. It is certainy also both epic and cinematic. Gorgeous too.

ELECTRONIC & AMBIENT

Happy Monster is a solo artist who describes himself as ‘Alive in Sussex’ which he no doubt is. He also explains that music is his therapy that allows him a certain detachment from the horrors of the world. This is manifested via Everything that can happen will happen which, despite its dystopian title, is actually a pleasantly ethereal instrumental track that has a documentary-style interlude feel about it. Potential library music which regular readers will know is something I am particularly partial to. I look forward to hearing more.

AND FINALLY ……

So that concludes Edition 38. Edition 39 will be published at the end of November by which time there will be a preview of the next Vanishing Point and other news. Until then, thanks everybody and happy reading. Neil xxxx