Welcome to Edition 39 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’s & my Twitter accounts and the label’s Instagram account. In all cases I will follow you back.
So there are several important news items to share. They are:
1: Thanks to Arts Council of England & National Lottery funding and support the Trust The Doc brand is expanding to include live events; a new festival and a weekly radio show presented by yours truly on the awesome Exile FM (Saturdays 5 – 7PM from 11th January 2020);
2: From now on this returns to being monthly but will also have a new layout and will hopefully be about putting quality above quantity in terms of the content I provide;
3: In the meantime the last Vanishing Point of 2019 is set to be a very special night. Read on to find out why.
Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House – 5th December 2019 (7.45PM)
The next Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House takes place on Thursday (5th December). It is the last one of 2019 and features a stellar line-up of artists who have all had at least one rave review in this blog this year. They are Project Blackbird, Cholly & Portia Winters. As usual you can save £2 a ticket by buying online in advance and this will also be a tour date for Project Blackbird who are in the middle of an extensive European tour. Don’t miss out on this exceptional event.
Trust The Doc Live: Christmas Special @ Amersham Arms – 20th December 2019 (7.45PM)
The first ever Trust The Doc Live will be a Christmas Special on the last Friday before Xmas (20th December) at the iconic Amersham Arms in New Cross (opposite the Rail & London Overground station) featuring a mouth watering line-up of Satin Beige, Slater (UK Rock band play Unplugged), Anthony Osborne & Boubakiki. It is going to be a storming night and a perfect way to enjoy the coming Xmas weekend. £6 advance/£8 door but £6 door if you bring up-to-date Student ID.
Vanishing Point New Year Party @ The Ivy House – 2nd January 2020 (7.45PM)
We kick off the new year in style with the Vanishing Point New Year Party @ The Ivy House on Thursday 2nd January. So carry on the new year celebrations with another stunning line-up consisting of Bloom De Wilde, Billy Brown, Gagarin & Sya Sanon. Usual deal. Should be a night to remember.
• Contemporary Classical
It is always exciting to receive new works by Harry Perry (aka RryRry). Harry and I were in the same masters degree class in composition at Goldsmiths University a decade ago where his talent was always evident. In the time since, he has enjoyed a fascinating career which has taken him to Sweden and latterly to Belgium and has seen him traverse the invisible [and unnecessary] boundaries between contemporary classical, electroacoustic and pop music. It has also resulted in Harry catching the ear of one Tom Robinson leading to airplay on BBC Radio 6 Music.
Harry’s latest offering is a slow-burner of a piece entitled A still more glorious dawn awaits. And after it missed out by the slightest of margins on making our Fresh on the Net Listening Post, I opted to make it my Vanishing Point track on Exile FM‘s Monday Night Ride Out show with Ming & Jon.
In providing my blurb for the show I said: ‘A still more glorious dawn awaits is a stunning piece of ambient music with striking sounds that are warmly electronic, evoking images of sunrise over an urban landscape and a town or city gradually awakening to the familiar sounds of the factories, construction sites and traffic – a soundscape that reminds me both of my childhood years living on an estate adjacent to the large industrial estate in Hemel Hempstead and yet equally of early mornings looking out over Abercynon from one of the lower mountain peaks where my sadly departed brother Alun and I and our cousins spent so much of our school holidays at my Nan’s house. I haven’t actually asked Harry what the track is specifically about but the optimistic title fits well with the warmth it emanates’.
I think that provides a pretty accurate summary of how I feel when I listen to this stunning track. I am pleased to say that Harry has now made it available on his Bandcamp page where you can buy it at a price of your choice. Harry also tells me he feels moved to write and record ‘… some more wonky pop songs’ so watch this space. In the meantime he continues to work on a PhD and to enjoy refusing to be pigeon-holed as classical, pop etc. 2020 will be an interesting year for his musical and spiritual journey.
• Jazz & World
Adjoa may be a familiar name to regular readers as she has been reviewed in an earlier edition. Now she is back with an earthy and groove-based track called Nkyinkyim with an infectious chanted hook and a satisfyingly lo-fi production. The track finds Adjoa in fine voice, her grainy alto range effortlessly occupying centre stage while the nuances appear and disappear around her. Good to hear and, as ever, hard to categorise.
• Folk & Country
Hannah White & The Nordic‘s track Never get along appears on a Soundcloud page in the name of Sound Lounge and it frustratingly has no info and no links. So all I can tell you is this is quite a throwback to the US Country music crossover scene of the 1970s but it has an appealingly organic quality, helped enormously by Hannah White’s strikingly wholesome voice and some very tasteful Pedal Steel Guitar. The catchy hook and female-male vocal harmonies a tenth apart provide the perfect finishing touches.
• Pop & Cinematic
Pushpin hail from Hersham by way of Kingston Upon Thames and their new track Running Shoes has a light-textured funky undercurrent with tuneful picking guitar that has a slight air of West Africa despite a very British style. There is also a slightly lazy male vocal delivery that is appealing, backed up by some great harmonies and long unison notes. It reminds me a little of Red Guitars in these respects. Overall though it’s a refreshingly fluid, inventive sound and style.
I was very struck by As We Leave whose track Counterpoint arrived in my in-box. It has a curiously retro vibe, laced with sweet chord changes, an unexpected and contrasting bridge and a vocal that could almost be Chris Rea in a mash-up with Father John Mistry. It appears to be part of an EP. A second track The Hope that kills introduces subtle pedal steel in a track that is dreamier and has a beautiful chorus. There is a lack of info or links which make it hard to do any research but As We Leave clearly have something special. I hope to discover more about them in due course. The driving force behind the band appears to be Kyle Abram.
Amy Swift is based in South East London and has had praise from no less than The Guardian. Her track Every little thing is soulful pop with an intensity that is compelling to listen to. Her striking voice is adorned by close harmonies, a repeating melody that sounds like it was scored for glockenspiel and long synth string notes. The beat is crisp and precise and her vocal style is agile and soul-infused. A cool chorus rounds off this excellent track.
I have blogged about Birmingham’s Rosie Tee before. She is an extraordinary and original artist whose penchant for bendy chords, sophisticated harmonic language and distinct vocal style all add up to an engaging, impressive sound. Her new track Wither has all these qualities in spades and underlines her ability to carve out and nurture her own unique space in an overcrowded pop market. I hope she gets some airplay and recognition and soon.
Red as Ruby is another new name to me. A classically trained pianist, she has made a jaunty dance-edged slice of breezy modern pop in True Love (Something Magical) with a nineties piano riff, light and buoyant synths and her soft but assured soprano range voice leading the charge. The subtle shifts in the scales that form the basis of her melody writing work very well. The hook will grab you too.
Astrakan sent in the intriguing Idle Moon with cool mid-tempo groove, introduced on the back of a sort of trumpet solo before a soft female voice grapples with almost modal ascending notes accompanied by some sumptious jazz chords, jagged and unpredictable, bass popping up and down the octaves and drums that drive the whole thing forward. A real gem.
• Alt Rock & Indie
I was pleased to be contacted by The Pink Diamond Revue who are the brainchild of Tim Lane and hail from Reading. Their music is a hybrid of Electronic, Pysch and Alt Rock that places them in similar territory to another TTD favourite Legpuppy (who, it transpires, they have recorded a track with) and like that fine band, I have now booked them to play a gig for me. So they will be playing the free entry Trust The Doc Live gig at the Amersham Arms on 16th January 2020.
Miss Lonely Hearts has a driving electro-psych backdrop with sinister spoken word. Acid Dol features Legpuppy and is in similarly dark electro-indie style with more spoken word. At the Discotheque kicks off like DAF in a jam with Juniore and then begins to introduce compact instrumental features that could be Daft Punk collaborating with Kraftwerk. Certainly that gig in New Cross is going to be a fascinating affair.
Matt Finucane is another artist who directly contacted me about his music. The Brighton artist mixes some joyously dissonant Post-Punk guitars with a growling punky style of singing that is oddly Dylanesque while also recalling David Byrne in a mash-up with Can. This is all captured on Evil Relief which also has shades of The Fall.
Honest Song is slightly slower and built around octave guitar chugging and a poppier chorus. It is engaging, energetic and edgy. Matt has had praise from a long list of blogs. He can add this one to the list too.
Junk Drawer are from Belfast, a city that is awash with exciting talent these days. One of the points I keep making about Belfast bands is that they seem to strive to enhance their songs with a level of detail and inventiveness that lifts them up a level. Junk Drawer’s Year of the sofa is a case in point. It starts with a slightly lazy vocal delivery over simple guitar before rising up into a crescendo over a beautifully wonky riff a bit like early Radiohead. As the track builds, so too does the upper register vocal intensity and overall texture. This is really very good.
Glasgow band Kimona make breezy organic Alt Pop with a folky edge, slightly breathy but also harder-edged female vocal accompanied by strumming acoustic, tuneful lead and light percussive undercurrent as demonstrated on All I want to do is love which recalls past names such as the Marine Girls and Young Marble Giants whilst equally having a more contemporary vibe that is closer to Regina Spektor in a jam with Alabama Shakes. The guitar work on Dreaming and how it plays against the slightly sleepy vocal delivery are an absolute joy.
Tourists are from Torquay in the English Riviera, the South West town where the seafront looks like Spain, palm trees included. Their sound, however, reflects the harder centre of the town’s housing estates. We have big melodic guitar riffs, driving bass and drums and a tonne of reverb on everything including the vocals which simultaneously remind me of Ian McCullough and Pete Doherty. The track Align is energetic, marked by clever contrasts between full and half time, light and shade and vocals in lower and upper registers. It has a psychedelic underbelly and there is an unsettling urgency about it. All of which are reasons you should make the effort to check it out.
The Pre-Amps have a Mod symbol atop their Soundcloud page and their uplifting harmony-filled Alt Pop and the bright combination of timbres and textures all point to more than a passing interest in classic British Pop. The song Doesn’t Change is catchy and infectious. The use of brass and wailing organ adds to the sense of homage to sixties Pop and Soul. But it also sounds new and fresh enough not to be branded retro. A very pleasant surprise.
Family Jools are part of Kelly Munro’s impressive End of the Trail roster and their new single Revelations has a guitar part whose suspended broken chords and crashing reverberant figures would make Andy Summers proud. Not that the song has anything else in common with The Police. On the contrary, the male vocal and driving Alt Rock sensibilities of the band are tough and intense.
Their Facebook page cites classic Americana and mentions The Band and Gram Parsons but that is less evident on recent tracks like Revelations and the harder-edged California Sun. They certainly have a talent for mixing strong songwriting with a good ear for nuanced, imaginative arranging. And they are improving all the time too.
British-Burmese/Mayanmarese act Machina X have come up with an intriguing crossover between semi-ethereal female-vocal tuneful resonant Dream Pop and frantic Drum’n’Bass. The combination of the pearldrop-like music box aura, the dreamy Psych-Pop and the D’n’B beat speeding events along make for compelling listening. Warpaint meet up with Mazzy Star and run into Goldie in the studio!
FS & HG came to my attention through the Fresh on the Net in-box with their current track Humble Pie. Hailing from an unspecified spot in the UK, Frankie Stew & Harvey Gunn are a duo one of whom raps, the other produces the backing track and I was so taken with the intelligent and free-flowing poetry and soulful samples on this track that I ended up spending an hour or so watching videos of their other material on YouTube.
Above all else, that experience confirmed that these guys have a growing catalogue of great tracks, all characterized by the same rueful air of melancholy but also a lyrical stance that reinforces a determination to rise above the clichés of modern urban life. They also have great ears for what works in terms of the soundscapes they construct. This is another exciting UK urban act you should get to know.
Pilans hails from Paris via Los Angeles (or it might be the other way around). The track The girl who spread the luck could easily be placed under Pop for reviewing purposes as it is so tuneful, catchy and easy on the ear but it sounds like a track that would tear up the dancefloor in a mainstream club. Shiny synth, snappy drums, popping bass and a youthful tenor range voice.
You can dance has an oddly eighties vibe with a jerky programmed beat and electronic bass riff. Again it has a catchy singable chorus. Neither of these tracks are strictly EDM. Not that it really matters. The kid can write a pop choon and that is what counts here.
London-based but born on Madeira Island, Carina T has a post-doctoral fellowship in psychology so I won’t attempt any amateur psycho-analysis. But I will note the similarities in terms of chord structure and melodic features between her highly charged and joyful Bucket List and The Killers’ Mr Brightside. Stylistically though, they are quite different. Carina T’s sound is loud, poppy and filled with vocal harmonies. The chorus is to die for. An epic slice of heroic Pop.
Dawn Coulshed is also London-based and is a classic singer-songwriter in the lineage of Judee Sill and Janis Ian. She plays rolling tasteful and harmonically creative piano and sings in a striking voice that is part choirgirl, part sensual and, at all times, expressive and emotionally powerful. Carving has some spine-tingling vocal harmonies and a stirring Cello part. The vocal flourishes as it fades out add the final touches to a mini-masterpiece.
Sing for us, described as a demo, is sparser and has a dry recording feel. It has the same use of suspended and open chords and is beautifully understated. Her vocal is touching, dynamic and really lovely.
• Electronic & Ambient
The awesome Hinako Omori is back from a punishingly busy schedule of playing keys for such luminaries as James Bey and Kate Tempest on various tours and has made the time to release a new solo EP showcasing her work as a creator of warm electronic and ambient synth-dominated soundscapes in which her enigmatic vocals (spoken or sung) dip in and out.
Auraelia is a 5-track EP available on Bandcamp and it kicks off with the mystical title track. Her spoken word about ‘wondering why you keep creeping into my thoughts’ sits against a repeating synth riff and sustained chords and notes that sweep across the track’s skyline, darker in moments as the pendulum swings between sparse transparency and darker, fuller translucence.
Memory Grooves represents the first time I have heard Hinako take on a song in the more conventional sense albeit one that is still characterized by repeating figures, unusual rhythmic configurations, sweeping chords and sounds and contrasts of major and minor. It is stunning too, especially the main theme that dominates the final third of the track.
Swim uses a vocorder for sinister monotonic vocal over an electronic riff and filtered beat. Shorter and unsettling. It is followed by Meditation with spacy semi-piercing futuristic long notes accompanying a less audible spoken word that is run through some sort of filter. Again it is short and intense.
Final track Bank of inner criticisms kicks off with vocal harmonies, warm deep synth notes and electronic riff. It actually sounds a little like Cholly initially and has the same ghostly aura I associate with Bowie’s Black Star and maybe a little of Black too. The track builds with more ambient sounds twisting and turning amid the nooks and crannies of the repeating electro-riff and sustained synth bass tones while the vocal continues to haunt and soothe in equal measure. This is a quite amazing climax to what is surely her finest work yet. I am off to see her live in a few days’ time. I can’t wait.
• Trust The Doc Classic
Earlier on, when reviewing The Pre-Amps, I mentioned classic British Pop in the context of Mods and Mod symbolism. That and the Pre-Amps’ harmony-soaked Brit Pop brought to mind the late 70s/early 80s Mod revival and a band who time seems cruelly to have forgotten. That band is The Lambrettas.
Brainchild of the sadly departed Jez Bird and, fittingly for a Mod band, they hailed from Brighton. The band had come to the notice of Elton John’s Rocket Records with an impressive debut single called Go Steady but it was a slightly clumsy cover of the Drifters classic Poison Ivy, ska’d up in a nod to Two-Tone, that gave them their first hit.
However it was the follow-up which, despite being a chart hit in 1980, has seemingly been consigned to the long-forgotten category of Pop gems. Da-a-a-ance was an epic from the outset with its jangly guitar intro (which the Pretenders’ James Honeyman-Scott would have been proud of), uptempo Pop-Reggae backdrop and irresistible melody. When the chorus kicked in, it went to another level altogether. Throw in a yearning vocal and lyric, sweet harmonies, a great key change, lovely drum fills and clever descending bass riff and the whole thing screamed ‘Pop Classic’. For me it is exactly that but see and hear what you think. The video of them performing [albeit clearly miming] to it on Top of the Pops 39 years ago is here.
AND FINALLY …
Well that’s it for Edition 39. But what an exciting time as I build up for the start of my year long Operation New Music project with support from the Arts Council of England and the National Lottery. It also means the expansion of the Trust The Doc brand to include live gigs, a festival and a radio show. So more opportunity than ever before to support and expose new music artists and bands across the widest possible spectrum of genres. Keep sending me those new tracks and info folks. See you for Edition 40 on New Year’s Eve. Neil xxxx