Edition 41: 31st January 2020: A blog by Neil March
Welcome to Edition 41 of Trust The Doc. It is the first of the new decade. Please visit and ‘like’ the Trust The Doc Facebook page and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
And with Christmas and New Year done and dusted for another year the world of new music has begun to return to something akin to normality. Of course one might reasonably argue that normality and new music are not comfortable bedfellows. Maybe not. But this month’s issue sees a wider spectrum of genres in the spotlight compared to Ed. 40. In particular there are some cracking club choons reviewed this month. So it may be winter outside but ……..!
Also, the Epic and Cinematic section is packed this month including three promising pop purveyors and two bands with limited degrees of evidence pointing to an attempted Yacht Rock revival (if you can revive something that never actually was other than in the imagination of journalists!).
VANISHING POINT @ THE IVY HOUSE: UK TOUR OPENER !!!
First some news about what is happening on the live music front and this coming Thursday (6th February) sees Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House in Nunhead hosting the opening night of a short UK tour involving two artists I manage; Josie and Cholly. And they will be joined for this and two other dates (15th February @ Phoenix Bar, High Wycombe and 4th April @ Trust The Doc Festival) by TTD favourite HOL (formerly known as Hollie Findlay) and also at this date by Talentbanq artist Eddy Smith playing a solo set. Tickets, as usual, are £6 advance or £8 on the door. Buy them and listen to tracks by these artists here.
Last but not least remember that when you buy a ticket for Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House you are donating to new music & the artists who make that music and others (the design artist, door staff, sound engineer etc.). You are also helping us put on more events where artists are paid to perform & to increase exposure for artists restricted by mental & other health issues.
JOSIE & CHOLLY ON TOUR !!!
The tour itself takes in the following dates with the two artists taking it in turns to headline:
Thur 6th February: Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House, Nunhead
Sat. 15th February: Trust The Doc Live @ Phoenix Bar, High Wycombe
Fri. 13th March: Live Music @ The White Swan, Aylesbuy
Thur 19th March: Trust The Doc Live @ Oddfellows, Hemel Hempstead
Sat. 28th March: More Coffee Live @ More Coffee, Melton Mowbray
Sat. 4th April: Trust The Doc Festival @ Amersham Arms, New Cross
Not only will HOL be involved on three of these dates but Hemel Hempstead’s superb Indie-Folk-Rock band In The Forest will also be joining Cholly and Josie for the gigs in High Wycombe and Hemel Hempstead.
Josie will also be playing at the largest Caffe Nero in Europe on Terminal 2, Heathrow Airport on Saturday 8th February, the first in a series of performance she is giving at Caffe Nero stores. See also the review of her limited edition CD EP in Singer-Songwriters.
TRUST THE DOC RADIO
My radio show, also called Trust The Doc, launched on 18th January in the wonderful Exile FM. As promised over 50% of tracks were by new and emerging bands and artists and, in fact, over 80% of tracks were released in the past year. So it is genuinely a new music show. I am on air every Saturday from 5 – 7PM and then on podcast for a week after each show. The show has a live Track of the Week vote and two other regular features. Tune in and get a wide experience of what’s hot in new music. Listen to the podcast for the last show here.
LINEAR OBSESSIONAL @ THE DIRTY SOUTH
This month also saw us welcome back Linear Obsessional at a new home. Richard Sanderson‘s monthly Leftfield and Experimental music gig had been temporarily stalled following the closure of the Arts Cafe in Manor Park in late Autumn 2019. Now relocated to The Dirty South on Lee High Road a little further down from Hither Green into the East end of Lewisham, Linear Obsessional relaunched in some style with a cracking line-up.
The back room of The Dirty South represents a marked change of aura from the Arts Cafe. Instead of rows of school hall-style chairs we are sat in pub-style booths. This arguably makes watching the acts a little more challenging but then it also improves the social aspect and edges the cafe on comfort. Part of me misses going outside between performances and having the choice of Flat White with home-made cookie from the Kiosk but simply having to go to the bar probably edges it too. The fact that they serve Sugar-Free Red Bull (Diabetic’s Guilty Pleasure!) and that there is no wait for service are positive benefits. A toilet that involves walking through the middle of the stage is slightly bizarre but then the performances are short so unlikely to be an issue for me!
Richard is unusually and understandably nervous. The compere mic is a tad distorted and I sense there are some teething troubles with getting the PA to work as well as it has done in the cafe. But it all sounds fine to me.
The evening kicks off with an artist I have previously reviewed at Linear Obsessional. Namely Tigersonic. The bass playing producer and experimenter is on fine form with her trademark blend of dubby undertones and layers of ambient sound accompanying her playing.
She starts with an ambient drone against which the bass melody is initially slow and sliding before it begins to echo and overlap, making good use of the major scale against a static tonal centre supplied by the drone. Then we get a funkier electronic beat, bleeps, squeaks and dub-influenced Bass. A kaleidoscopic visual show has now emerged on the circular screen at the front of the stage.
Tigersonic is all about contrasts of style, tempo, texture and timbre. Sometimes she will pluck the bass for harsher tones, other times virtually stroking out an open fifths bassline or a funkier groove. It ends with a macabre repeating visual shot of a puppet accompanied by freaky laughter, pre-programmed noise and more dubby bass playing. It has been a relatively short but packed, punchy set.
Grundik Kasyansky is on next. Richard explains that he was drawn to Grundik’s work because it is ‘both Linear and obsessional’! What ensues is very much in Sound Art territory. Drones, engines, buzzes and bleeps a-plenty. Initially it is low register and builds slowly but then piercing squeals and more intense noises enter the fray. A thumping beat dips in and out, sometimes increasing like a raised pulse. It ends with a degree of deconstruction; completing his sonic journey.
I reviewed Lara Jones last time she played Linear Obsessional so it was great to see her for a second time. The improvising saxophonist has since incorporated using Ableton which helps with the creating of an ambient soundscape upon which to place her playing. Lara explains that her new album is inspired by being forced to continuously make the train journey between London and Leeds. Having also had to make that journey in the rush hour countless times in my PCS days I must admit it never achieved the tranquility and otherworldliness that Lara delivers here!
There is a mystical, oriental air to some of her melodic invention, shades of Raga and Pentatonic scales for example although what develops is more reminiscent of the Aeolian. When this is looped Lara skilfully adds pitches that create major sixth, seventh and ninth chords albeit in fluid, deliciously unstable manner. It is hypnotic and captivating. As the ambient sounds intensify the sax continues to match them. All in all another exciting, skilfully executed set by Lara.
Xylitol is electronic music artist Katherine Backhouse. And this evening she manages to set what is, in my year and a half as a regular attendee, a Linear Obsessional record of squeezing seven short tracks into her twenty minutes or so of performance. Moreover the combining of contemporary electronic experimentalism with a bunch of influences from past eras brings some fascinating names fleetingly to mind – Blur, Silicon Teens, Fad Gadget, Cabaret Voltaire, 23 Skidoo (circa Urban Gamelan) to name a few.
She also achieves a continuously contrasting soundscape. We get hypnotic riffs, classic squelchy synth sounds, buzzy electronics, trippy swirling note figures, appealing chords, spoken word and, at the end, even a sung cover of a Yugoslavian song although infused with touches of Kraftwerk.
Shark Calmer are described in the blurb for the gig as a ‘double-headed free funk improv prog monster’. Well they are Tom Clarke and Peter Marsh, both musicians with fingers in a fair few Leftfield music pies. And they don’t disappoint albeit there is not much free funk in evidence!
We have a guitar placed on a table where it can be plucked, struck like a piece of tuned percussion or used to create slides and bleeps. Meanwhile what looks like a timpani stick is used to strike electronic pads and, as sounds are introduced bit by bit and the underlying rhythmic drive alters, the effect is like metric modulation offset against a persistent beat. A Harrison Bitwistle influence creeping in here perhaps.
Most of the time the overall sound is sparse, translucent with mechanised noises drifting into the foreground, moods altering. An intriguing end to an enjoyable and, within the context of Linear Obsessional’s experimental brief, eclectic evening of sound and music. And no need to persuade people to head to the Station Tavern for post-gig drinks when we are already in a perfectly good pub! All in all, a successful relocation to a new home.
CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL & LEFTFIELD
The last time I blogged about Mathieu Karsenti it was when the London-based composer had submitted some breathtaking guitar music to Fresh on the Net. Now he is back with a lovely piece for strings and piano called Envoleés. The harmonic language is quite conventional but it is the clever use of sustained, crescendoing chords, piano figures and contrasts of register and key that make this such compelling listening.
There is also a hint of Eastern influence with the nods to Raga scales and Pentatonic here and there whilst, at times, the music becomes more chord-based with gentle counterpoint and a more modal approach ensues. These are, for me, the most interesting elements. It is that craft and emphasis on timbres that lifts this from being a piece open to criticism for its reliance on a pre-war approach to harmony. In other words the ambience he achieves makes this a much more contemporary work.
The New Year also meant new music on the ever-reliable Freak Zone with Stuart Maconie on BBC Radio 6 Music. I was particularly taken with Spectral Bazaar‘s homage to Gustav Holst‘s The Planets. Rather than recreate the original, they have composed an alternative and thoroughly contemporary version which, if the ethereal and futuristic modality and sonic adventurousness of Neptune is any indication, is an album worth checking out in greater detail.
Their Soundcloud blurb explains, in relation to the duo’s response to the centenary of the original: ‘100 years later whilst listening to the Holst suite, Spectral Bazaar decided to embark on recreating the Holst psyche within new electro acoustic pieces based on the original concepts but different track order. The result is seven unique compositions collectively titled The Planets‘. The sounds mix a surprisingly traditional but mystical use of woodwinds and percussion against swirling, swooping waves of electronic sound. It is simultaneously calming and exciting.
I don’t have a great deal of information about Spectral Bazaar other than they are a duo from Manchester. I hope to spend more time exploring this imaginative and intriguing duo. Maybe you should too!
Alexander Carson is a London-based composer of neo-classical and folk music. Usually I would be put off by a composer using the diatonic system to make music so indebted to a bygone era but his track Porous has a lightness of texture and unpretentious melancholy that I found appealing. It is all played on solo piano with plenty of sustained pedal and a good ear for dynamics and understatement. It ends with a lovely low chord too.
JAZZ & INTERNATIONAL FLAVAS
Also on the Freak Zone was a track called Rise by Animal Society. At the forefront of the new wave of Scottish Jazz, the quintet play a hard-hitting proggy form of Jazzrock that blends inventive composing, heavy riffing and instinctive musicianship. Led by guitarist and composer Joe Williamson the band has two keyboardists whose contrasting styles and registers add another layer to their driving sound while the bass and drums are fluid, tough and continuously shifting. Animal Society are touring the UK in March 2020. Look out for details as they sound like a band who are awesome live.
Skeeboo is based in Venice and makes instrumental ‘sketches’ of which the track Door to elsewhere is an example, a saxophone-dominated piece of jazz mixing it with an aura of Drum’n’Bass. He describes himself as an Italian amateur composer who experiments with a range of styles and modes. One who is worth exploring further.
The excellent Darlington band Moodbay are back with a stormer of a track entitled Ghost. Slightly dark mid-tempo pop in a persistent groove, partially laid back yet intense too. The alto range vocal is very distinct, a little menacing and impossible to resist and there is some gorgeous sax towards the end. Would it be too cheesy to say it’s genuinely haunting (sic.)? Anyway, it’s out on 7th February so put it on your shopping list.
Evan Anderson is a young man with a sweet tenor voice and strong falsetto range. He also has a penchant for penning a radio-friendly pop ballad which, with the right people behind it, could take him to the fringes of the mainstream. Love another day is in broadly Ed Sheehan/Charlie Puth territory, soft and soulful pop that would sound as much at home on Heart as on BBC Radio 1. And that kind of broad appeal is definitely an asset. I imagine he is already building that Instagram following, getting his vids up on YouTube and gathering up the streams. If not, he should be.
London artist Azu Yeché has been knocking out some soulful pop chops over recent times. The latest is Sons and Daughters. It starts off with just guitar and Azu’s appealing voice before more layers are added including quasi-gospel harmony vocals in the chorus. The song is catchy, organic and places a sweet melody over a repeating four-chord figure. Comparisons are hard to make but perhaps elements of Bill Withers and Tunde of the Lighthouse Family in a jam with Shawn Mendes. Probably best just to give it a spin.
ALT ROCK & INDIE
Tom John Hall, on the strength of Axis of destruction, makes jaunty Alt Pop with eighties-inflected synth playing against rockier guitar and bouncy Pop-Jangle groove. He also pens an infectious tune both vocally (delivered in almost deadpan baritone range) and in terms of the guitar and synth figures that play off against the vocals. Reference points are difficult to pin down even though it reminds me of lots of others. Hints of Metronomy in a jam with Bombay Bicycle Club while attending an eighties night with A-Ha and New Order. Something like that anyway!
Tom hails from Derby and now lives in London. I look forward to hearing more of his intriguing epic pop.
This Elegant Gull are back with a new track Fire on at me. The prodigious 12 year old DD Shine from Kent once again defies age stereotypes with a mature, sophisticated slice of Alt Pop ably assisted by her dad. It starts off by sampling Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade! This is followed by a male crooner before TEG takes over. The track is built around a chord pattern that fits to a semi-tone descent in the bass. The arrangement is quite opaque and synth-filled while lyrics continue on the theme of environmental destruction and complacency that were prominent in Stop giving us the poison. Impressive as ever.
WOL make inventive, multi-faceted Alt Pop nodding towards the cinematic and a little towards prog in its detail and contrast. It’s a funny time to lose bears these hallmarks. It veers between moods while the male vocal swoops and swoons between upper and lower register. The intimate interplay between the musicians keeps events moving. The track is part of a three-song EP which you can check out on their Soundcloud page.
Kath & The Kicks are back with another hard-hitting guitar-driven post-Grunge anthem entitled Walls between us. Kath Edmonds and bandmates Shaneen and Matt deliver a sizzling slab of hard rocking energy with shades of Savages in a jam with LA Witch. The wall-of-sound production helps to lend the track the feel of a live performance and the band match this with the intensity of their playing. Music to wake you out of your slumber.
Jim Pearson‘s track Into the night immediately grabbed my attention courtesy of a simple but exceptionally cool staccato chord-based guitar riff that introduces the song. That riff alone made it worthy of inclusion but it also goes on to develop into a well-written Pop Rocker with a strong chorus delivered with polish and full of ideas. Good stuff.
Another tough act to place in a convenient pigeon-hole is the Sheffield trio Polyhymns. They describe their music as experimental electric folk and on the strength of Unboxers that is a pretty good shout. A repeating electronic figure and other electronic sounds underpin the track along with a light percussion track while the vocal harmonies are sweet, ethereal and have a distant aura. The impact is both hypnotic and soothing. It is also original which, in today’s oversubscribed music scene, is not an easy thing to be. Good on them for sticking to their guns. I look forward to hearing more.
How do you decide what genre to review an artist as unique as King Al and the track Fool for you in? Quite a lot of Soul (in the Prince/D’Angelo/Omar school particularly), a dose of chaotic post-psych Indie and some freaky Leftfield experimentalism. Cutting up lines, throwing vocal harmonies against dissonances, keeping events fluid and unpredictable, this is a journey through the unique imagination of an exciting new artist. A serious one to watch in 2020.
TTD favourite Yxungtaarzan is back with another killa track entitled Somehow. Sung through a filtered effect it is a slower tempo piece with a melancholy air, the beat fizzing and sounds reverberating behind his vocal. The melody is lovely and sucks you in from the outset. This prolific artist deserves some real attention from radio and other media in 2020. Let’s hope he gets it.
REGGAE & DANCEHALL
Reggae Roast ft. Mr Williamz have an irresistible track out called Never B4 which takes me back to the early days of General Saint & Clint Eastwood with its two-vocal toasting style and relentlessly upbeat groove. Although the vibe may be retro, the sounds and production bring it up to date. ‘You never heard nothing like this before’ repeats the hook. Hmmm, I think I probably have but it’s been a while since I heard anything like this that was so fresh and uplifting.
Adam Prescott makes faithful dub reggae and his track with the excellent title Outernation is a celebration of that with echoing overlaps that Scientist would be proud of while the piano could almost be Dave & Ansell Collins. Everything is there, the light staccato guitar chords, deep bass in fifths, drums that hit the cymbal on the fourth beat in every fill. There are shouts and spoken word moments too with plenty of echo and that tuneful piano coming in and out of the mix.
Chilé may be London-based but the track Au Petit Déjèuner is in French sung by a slightly whispery but strong alto voice. This is delivered against a House beat with synths and electronic sounds that drive it forward. It is stylish as hell, soothing on the ears and has a cool catchy hook. Lovely stuff.
D-Lings are from Hertfordhire (as am I originally). Their new track Out for days – eight.ears is one of those tracks that could sit comfortably in this [Club Culture] section, Pop Noodles or Urban Flavas. Female voices deliver a soulful laid back choon with cool harmonies over a funky deep bass groove and jazzy keys. It sounds like a summer floor filler even though it is January. Full of clever effects and nuances, this is radio and club friendly Soul-Disco leaning towards House of a refreshingly contemporary kind helped by booming bass, crisp beat and classy vocals.
It is rare that I review the same artist in consecutive editions of Trust The Doc but I am making an exception this month for Amey St Cyr because her latest track Wild World is such a banging piece of soulful House leaning, as ever, towards Disco too. It showcases once again Amey’s powerful, dynamic vocals with a strikingly unusual melody and a loud, crisp and funky backing track. A floor filler if ever I heard one.
I have already featured two of Amey’s other tracks on my radio show and my feature on the Monday Night Ride Out and I am delighted to say she will be performing at the inaugural Trust The Doc Festival at the Amersham Arms on 4th April.
Anna Lux & Faderhead are from Switzerland and the link takes us to some PR label page which is a shame as it means there is no information about this act but their track Sanctuary is a stonking stomper of a Euro-House choooon verging on the poppier end of Techno. A strong female vocal in alto range leads the line over persistent beat, beautifully cheesy synths and a great hook that dominates from the outset. Another total floor filler. Loving all these cool club choons this month!
FOLK & COUNTRY
Samantha Whates is a singer-songwriter who has teamed up with M G Boulter on a lovely and unusual track entitled Agatha Christie. It starts off with a very minimalistic soundscape of Samantha’s distinct voice and what sounds like tuned percussion. It continues in this vein for a time but eventually picking guitar and layers of vocal harmony fill the arrangement out. It is all beautifully done and very engaging.
Hull’s Alice Clayton has a jaunty new triplet-time Indie-Folk shuffler called Magpie. Lyrically it is quite a sustained attack on someone (or thing depending whether the ‘she’ in the song is metaphorical) who is clearly less than transparent in terms of intentions and claims. This is offset by a surprisingly happy melody cast in upbeat organic surroundings. What you most need to know is it is also very enjoyable.
The following week she hit Fresh on the Net with another track Imposter underlining the quality of her songwriting and showing she has more where Magpie came from.
EPIC & CINEMATIC
Brodie Milner is a young singer-songwriter with an unusual but very striking voice and a musical vision that is simultaneously fresh and retro. His epic melancholy track Ancheron has the vocal put through some filter effect that sounds slightly distorted but it adds to the intense atmosphere. Against this sit loud powerful drums, simple keyboard chords and extra voices and picking guitar in the chorus. Unusual and enjoyable.
Londoner Matt Hurley is a young songwriter and producer making epic pop as demonstrated by Moving on. Big phat synth chords bounce along on the onbeat with resonant drum programme and an agreeable baritone range voice that comes across with power and conviction. The song is catchy, interesting and full of ideas including a cool guitar figure that enters the mix late on. Production is big and reverberant making it feel spacious and anthem. Perfect for radio. Very promising on this evidence.
I am not entirely sure where, in category terms, I should place Super db‘s Wait for me but it appears they may be embarking on a one-band Yacht Rock wave. The fact that they cite Earth Wind & Fire; Toto; The Police; Supertramp and Prince as influences tells you clearly not only their intentions but their era of choice for music! It works though and, retro as it unquestionably is, their smooth sound, cracking lead vocal, cool musicianship and penchant for lovely harmonic choices makes them a band I know I would really enjoy seeing live.
The Bloomfield Family are not quite attempting a Yacht Rock revival with their song Good Morning but they are not so far off it with their sumptuous epic Pop-Rock with tasteful piano chords, plenty of space in the mix but a booming bass and kick drum punctuating events like a form of heartbeat. Each time it builds to a more full-on sound, we get the kind of chords and suspensions that could almost be Jackson Browne jamming with The Waterboys and Steve Winwood. It is a primarily retro sound and very bassy too but it is simply such a great track, so much going on, such great dynamic contrasts and thick-textured appealing baritone range vocal.
One frustration is that the Soundcloud link takes me to their label with literally no links and not a shred of information about who the Bloomfield Family are. I hope they rectify that sooner rather than later. People need to know where to read about them and connect with them as a band.
I have previously reviewed Classicalbanksy‘s epic classy George Michael-inspired In Memoriam with its lyric based on an imagined conversation with GM, swirling glissando strings a la Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder and melancholy vocal. I also had the opportunity to play it on my radio show as it went out on preorder. It is therefore available to preorder and will be released on 7th February on all digital platforms. The single has been in development for some time so it is great news that it is now out there. Check it out.
I am excited that Josie has a new limited edition CD EP out. Josie is one of two artists I manage and we have been holding back on putting anything out with her tour approaching (see above). So now we have produced a 4-track CD EP which will only be on sale at her live events for now. It showcases four contrasting examples of her songwriting and performing talent.
Easy Start is mastered by Rothko‘s Mark L Beazley of Trace Recordings and sits at the poppier end of Josie’s spectrum. Energetic, piano-dominated backing track accompanies an upbeat song and vocal performance with some great harmonies in the chorus. Wish you had said is a slower triplet time tribute to a departed friend and is emotionally charged and heartfelt. Lie is darker and sparser with some haunting open fourth and fifth harmonies either side of translucent spaces. The final track Joy is epic, anthemic and builds to a fantastic climax as a virtual choir (aided by dad Mike and sister Beth) joins the act. It is a stunning vocal take from Josie too which really underlines how she has grown as an artist over the past six months. Come and see her and the amazing Dina deliver this and more at Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House on Thursday 6th February.
One of those tracks that could fit in Pop Noodles or Folk & Country but I opted for Singer-Songwriters, the important point is that Charlotte Grayson is back and on top form. Old Flame sees the Hartlepool artist deliver an instantly catchy melancholic Pop track with organic instrumental mix. It reminds me a little of Natalie Imbruglia in a jam with Ellie Goulding while Lana Del Ray chips in. ‘Lessons learned, things will burn/If you pour alcohol on an old flame’ she sings. Chorus lyric of the month and the melody that it goes with is grand too as is her understated yet emotionally affecting vocal.
ELECTRONIC & AMBIENT
Cosmosapien is back with a track entitled Aequorea which could have been reviewed under Club Culture but I felt it was that bit edgier. So anyway it builds from sparse to translucent with hypnotic, menacing sounds and repeated note patterns before returning to sparse as it reaches its finale. Engaging and intriguing.
Also back in action is enigmatic Scottish artist Faodail whose title Coming up for air suggests a possible Orwellian reference. It begins quietly but soon the thin layers of sound have crescendoed into a wash of ambient sound and harmony before the track deconstructs and returns to quietness.
AND FINALLY …….
It has been a full-on month and hectic start to my Operation New Music project but I am not complaining. Far from it. Three great live events, a fourth about to happen followed by a mini-tour of London, South East and Midlands by the two artists I manage. And I launched my new radio show too. So I hope to see some of you at the next Vanishing Point @ The Ivy House on 6th February and/or at some of the tour dates. Also please do listen to my radio show every Saturday at 5PM until 7PM on Exile FM or, if you can’t catch me live, listen to the podcast instead. Last but not least, thanks again for reading and keep supporting new music. Thanks. Neil xxxx