Welcome to Edition 43 of Trust The Doc. Please visit and ‘like’ the Trust The Doc Facebook page and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
PART ONE: THE MONTH IN BRIEF
Staying in is the new going out folks so not surprisingly this has evolved into something of a bumper issue. Over 60 bands and artists reviewed in total! So scroll carefully in case you miss something!!
It has been an unprecedented month for the independent music sector. The live scene is now just carnage. For my own part, I have had to postpone two festivals and a bunch of gigs including curtailing a mini-tour two dates early. Friends have had tours cancelled and now have no work for months. Small venues are staring into the abyss, their only meaningful income source pulled from under their feet. Freelance entertainers are faced with mass cancellations and retailers have no customers.
It has been chaos and the news and advice has changed daily, sometimes hourly, leading to mass panic and confusion and the undue influence of social media fruitcakes and mischief makers. I know it is easy to criticise when no-one could have predicted or planned for a crisis on this scale. All the same the goverment has dithered from one position to another and failed to deliver the clarity of message that might have mitigated the panic-buying and stupidity. Of course some people have just refused to listen to reason and their selfish, narcissistic behaviour has made a bad situation worse. But hey ho, we try to soldier on as best we can.
In the meantime March has also been a reminder of how much exciting emerging music talent is out there and many artists have used the extra time to get creative. In that respect at least, we can all be winners.
TRUST THE DOC RADIO SHOW
It seems amazing that the show has now been going for two and a half months but one of the bright spots in a difficult month has been observing how audience figures have soared. The level of audience interaction with my live Track of the Week poll, the features and all the shout outs and messages have been amazing.
With live music kicked into touch for what may be months on end, the radio show has become even more important as a weekly platform for new and emerging artists. Their tracks make up 50% of content on every edition and I also play new music by established or breaking acts. Finally I have some cool features that allow me to play some classic material too [including lost or overlooked tracks].
So if you love new music and enjoy hearing it in context with that which helped inspire it, what possible reason could you have not to listen? Even if you miss the live show from 5 – 7PM on Saturday, you have a week to listen to the podcast. So come on people, let’s support new music together. 5 – 7PM UK Time, https://exilefm.com
FRESH ON THE NET: MY REVIEWS OF THE FRESH FAVES
Yesterday (30th March) it was my turn once again to write the reviews of the ten winning tracks at the Fresh on the Net Listening Post (known as the ‘Fresh Faves’) and it so happened that one of those voted into the ten by the wonderful readers was an artist I manage – Cholly (reviewed later – see Epic & Cinematic) plus two I have blogged about in the recent past – SIDES and M3ON.
Also in the ten was Grace Monaco (see Pop Noodles) and narrowly missing out having made it to the Listening Post, which is also an achievement, were Sam Leoh (see Epic & Cinematic), Slinky, Greg Atkinson (Pop Noodles) and Pimlican (Club Culture) all of whom are featured in this edition of Trust The Doc. I should add that there are quite a few others who have been fresh faves in recent weeks who are also featured. Fresh on the Net continues to be the most prolific of sources for new music worth writing about.
A NEW FESTIVAL
Well, it’s not all bad news on the live music front. While Vanishing Point at our new home of AMP Studios has been put on hold, I have been talking with the awesome Dido Hallett, who heads the lovely team there and the equally awesome Maria at Lost For Words via Facetime and we plan to put on a new festival once this crisis abates. So for now at least, put Sunday 13th September in your diaries for a day of chilled electronic, ambient and related music in a beautiful space with two identical rooms in railway arches and a large attractive courtyard where food, drink and merchandise will be on sale. More news in due course.
PART TWO: REVIEWS OF NEW MUSIC
You could be forgiven for assuming Slinky‘s Crazy was written in response to and about the COVID 19 crisis as it comes over as an appropriate anthem for those of us going stir crazy as we social distance and agonise over how we are going to maintain an income. It is also a gigantic slab of soulful synth-soaked pop with a killa hook, helped enormously by his highly distinct and appealing upper register vocal. It would be so good to hear this getting some high profile airplay. Slinky’s Soundcloud page has no geographical information and no links. But I did some digging and discovered a feature about him here. It also includes his social media links which all use the monicker SlinkySounds. So I now know he is from Sidney in Australia and the song addresses mental health issues he has grappled with; hence references to living inside his head. I hope UK radio cottons on to Slinky soon too.
Londoner Justtizze makes stylish slightly jazzy and sophisticated Pop but Pop all the same as demonstrated on I love your art. A swinging, triplet time backdrop and swirling keyboard chords accompany his dexterous tenor range voice and confident ad libs as he croons, soars and seduces his way through a steadily building tower of pop pizzazz. Made for radio but with the aura of the exclusive club, this track and artist have great gravitas and sweet-scented swagger.
Lisa Murphyis from Newcastle and makes upbeat pop tunes with very radio-friendly hooks, good quality production and accomplished playing. Her influences are hard to pin down but on the catchy Take a ride there are elements which simultaneously remind me of Kylie Minogue, Billie Eilish and Katy Perry. On Time she teams up with an artist called Sophie to deliver a poppy slice of House (or is it a dancier slice of Pop?). Plenty of interesting ideas and strong hooks abound.
Thailah (pronounced Tyla) is a London-based artist whose music leans heavily towards R’n’B both in terms of her soulful agile vocal and the urban beat and sparse instrumentation. But this is essentially a sassy slice of contemporary pop that places Thailah’s confident voice at the centre of events, helped by a hook that lodges itself in the brain.
The talented 21 year old Buckinghamshire-based singer-songwriter Josie‘s limited edition CD EP is not currently available in digital form. Up until the COVID-19 crisis it was selling well at her live shows. How do I know this? Because I am her manager! But she has been using the current isolation period creatively. Unable to work with her usual musical partner-in-crime Dina, she has recorded a video of herself playing piano and singing the Bill Withers classic Ain’t no sunshine. The video is recorded dry in her home but the quality of her vocals speak for themselves. Check it out here.
I have already featured the talented London-based artist Logan J Parker on my radio show and her new single Cry Cry Cry has a cracking video which you can see if you click on her name here. It has a jaunty acoustic reggae rhythm but it’s also sassy jazz-edged Soul in Amy Winehouse/Erikah Badu territory. Logan certainly has a similarly bluesy voice and an ear for a catchy choon too. The video also showcases what a seriously cool band she has supporting her. All bodes well.
This month saw the return of Cambridgeshire’s Glove Compartmentwith a track called Colouring In. It has trademark retro influences, bouncy piano chords, handclaps and a lovely chanted hook. Crowd shouts of ‘hey’ underpin the chorus and there’s a dreamy mid-section to boot. Refreshingly retro and yet fresh as a daisy. Music to put a smile on your face. ‘When everything turns to grey/Just colour it in’ he advises. Quite right too.
Another intriguing and unusual artist is Teessider Greg Atkinson whose jaunty yet slightly rueful sounding track Carjacked Onesie combines a sweet lyric about being kind with some sumptious piano chords and a distinct, likeable vocal. I am always drawn to originality and this stands out both for the quality of the songwriting and the refreshing way he is not trying to sound like any other current artist. I look forward to hearing more.
Grace Monaco (aka Grace Dawson) makes rather happy, smiley Pop that is well produced and has some tasteful instrumentation. This is amply demonstrated on Pedigree. Her voice is full of character and she knows how to pen a catchy choon too. ‘You’re the kind of boy I would bring home for tea’ she croons before complaining that he’s likely to look away when she’s ‘getting naked’! She may not have found Mr Right but this 19 year old from Lancaster has found a sound and style that has already caught the ear of BBC Introducing and now the Fresh on the Net readers too. Warm, engaging and entertaining modern Pop with a subtle edge.
And while we are on the subject of piano-dominated retro Pop, Melbourne’s Willing has come up with a dynamic uptempo pop piece called Soft Touch that could almost be Dean Friedman in a mash with Daniel Bedingfield although it is rockier than either. It is thoughtfully arranged with some gorgeous backing vocals and is one of those songs that could have been written in any era and would always work. His gritty, expressive voice and cool falsetto lift this well above average too.
Suryais a producer and writer making R’n’B influenced Pop that is soulful, slightly intense and benefits from expert use of backing vocal figures, a simple beat and atmospheric synths. Any given Sunday is eminently radio-friendly and deserves some attention. I hope it receives some.
The North East-based organisation Decent PR keep delivering cool tracks that find their way onto the playlist of my radio show and one of these was by AXLS. The track Snowblind also won the listeners’ interactive Track of the Week poll and deservedly so. A powerful and slightly dark piece of electro-synth pop with attitude and a strong, distinct female [alto] voice, it kicks off with a cracking synth riff which sets the tone. The hook is nagging and keeps repeating, each time lodging itself further in my brain! Refreshingly modern and very likeable.
And it was also Decent PR who brought to my attention Worry Party. The band, with their roots in the North of England, play brooding Electro-Alt Pop with synth and guitar both prominent, crackling slow beat, enigmatic male vocal harmonies and a slow burning sensibility that intensifies as the track builds. Again, very good stuff.
Alt Rock & Indie
A track which immediately got my attention via my Fresh on the Net in-box this month was Tiny specks of dust by Campfire Social from Llangollen in North Wales. Stirring epic Alt Pop with big tunes, spacious production and a particularly heartwarming guitar figure that repeats at different points. It also finds room for fluidity of mood, tempo and dynamic. It has the harmonically-infused guitar-driven sensibility of early U2 in a mash-up with Arcade Fire while Biffy Clyro and The Magic Numbers look on. Indie music at its most uplifting and melodious.
There is always a place for thoughtfully arranged, melancholy Alt Pop that takes from a variety of sources which may or may not include the likes of the Beatles, Teenage Fan Club and Neil Finn. That is why I was pleased to receive Hartlepool band Mt Misery‘s The dreaming days are over in my Fresh on the Net in-box. Mid-tempo, melodic and adorned with appealing harmonies, it is characterised by intricate instrumental chemistry, engaging male vocals and a cool guitar figure that repeats from time to time. Very nice indeed.
I am grateful to my close friend and fellow music artist (reviewed later in this edition – see Electronic & Ambient) Paul F Cook for bringing to my attention the Bristol band Home Counties who cite as influences the three original pioneers of US Post-Punk music Talking Heads, Television and Devo. That is a very good starting point even for a young band active over four decades later and I can certainly hear Devo’s quirky vocals, edgy guitars and sudden switches in bar length in the track Redevelopment.
They also have an unmistakable Britishness about their sound too which brings to mind some of the more leftfield Post-Punk acts of the eighties like The Nightingales, Bogshed and Standing Flat. The vocals mix a strong melodic sensibility with semi-spoken word snippets and the punchy rhythmic intensity and compact but biting instrumental interplay do the rest. I look forward to playing this on my show in a few days’ time.
What do you get if you mix a bit of Prog with some movie soundtrack horns, jazz sensibilties and some gritty bluesy male vocals in tenor range? You get Samurai Kip. And the band have a stonking track called Daybreak most of which is in three-time although it has some fluid moments where events break down into sparser arrangement. The horns are mighty and the musicianship and inventiveness is really impressive. I don’t know why I wasn’t aware of Samurai Kip previously but they are a band to watch in 2020.
Continuing on a vaguely proggy tip, Cardiff’s Lunar Bird have come up with a refreshing slice of Space-Pop entitled A Walk. A distinct and sturdy female vocal sits atop waves of airy and echoing synths in a melodic, yearning track that has to be listened to throughout because it is too good and too appealing to cut short. Very impressed.
It is always good to receive a new track from the awesome Fistymuffs. The trio from Edinburgh are on fine form with Hey You. With its repeated cry of ‘Listen to me, listen to me’ I imagine this is continuing on the theme of abuse which they have brought us some powerful comments on over the past couple of years. They also make a pretty big noise with a relatively sparse instrumental backdrop and they have a great ability to contain their righteous anger within the context of a good singable hook as this track reminds us. I hope 2020 will be a big year for them with some well-deserved attention from national radio for example.
Another consistent purveyor of power-driven Alt Rock is Man East Grass and the Southampton outfit’s new track A road called Hope Street is dark, daunting and subtly political. It mixes a kind of triplet-time Psychobilly Punk feel with powerchord Alt Rock and semi-conversational vocal. Jaunty but edgy, catchy but cool. Another cracker and one that got played on my radio show recently.
I am always drawn to bands who mix raw energy with detailed inventiveness and that certainly applies to London band For Breakfast. The band, whose pics reveal a cool mixed gender & ethnicity line-up of young musicians, have a track out called Mother which switches effortlessly between melodic, major key poppiness with alto range female voice and full on opaque Post-Rock interplay. It has echoes of some of the best elements of early Prog Rock but with the firm caveat that their sound is anything but retro. The track burns with energy, sometimes smouldering, sometimes fully aflame and delivers the kinds of contrasts that lift a track well above average. A band to watch.
There is sadly very little information on the Soundcloud page of Conchúr White and the only link is a hotmail account but the track Bikini Crops certainly caught my attention when it came into my Fresh on the Net in-box. A slow tempo Alt Pop piece, it builds gradually from translucent beginnings, grabbing my interest courtesy of such a strong melody and then adding some nice crashing guitars and other sounds. He also has a great voice that enables him to switch between registers and moods. Anthemic and alluring. Great guitar figures too.
Lack of direct information about the band was nearly a frustration in relation to the highly rated Pontefract trio Glass Caves and their fine new single Stephanie. This is because it is on Scruff of the Neck who are a great team of new music supporting people but unfortunately by putting music on their own Soundcloud page, they prevent readers being able to link to the band’s web and social media pages because all the links are about the label. However you can check out the band’s website here and they are easy to find on social media.
What I can alsotell you is that Stephanie is an epic Alt Pop track with big everything, resplendant guitars and a tune that lodges itself inside ones head. Try switching this off before the end. I tried and failed! A fantastic track and another fine example of their expansive Indie Rock soundworld.
Invisible Movementappears to be a solo artist and his track Soothed is a slow and relatively sparse track with a beautifully ‘live’ drum sound that drives the track along against the quite static keyboards and his engaging upper register tenor range voice which he multi-layers making use both of the different timbres and ranges and clever switching between multi-tracked and singular voices. Haunting and distinct.
We rarely have to wait long for a new release by The Happy Somethings and they have a new EP with the excellent title of Thinking is free part 1 (suggesting there may be a part 2 soon). One might think that is an obvious fact but, in the current era of Trump, Johnson and Fake News, it frequently feels as if such rights are under threat. Anyway the trio from the Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire borders have nailed it once again.
Stage Fright offers painfully honest lyrics about sweating and throwing up in response to having to go out on stage, all set to the most jaunty melodious slice of engaging Alt Pop. Whine Whine Whine is also poppy and a little Beatlesesque in parts with some sumptious chords and another naggingly cool melody. Parasitic Species has a retro vibe and a simple but welcome message, a rallying cry for the human race to treat itself (i.e. one another) better. As always the songs are infused with lovely harmonies, inventive riffs and instrumental figures and driven along with tight, crisp beats. Thumbs up once again.
Cumbria’s Def Robot are back with an absolute monster of an Alt Rocker called Straight Face. It starts off fairly subdued and quiet but it is just the calm before the storm. After that it is straight in with big big sustain guitar chords, loud drums and strong melodic vocals. Nirvana in a jam with Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs perhaps! Wonderful stuff which lifts the spirits.
Also back on fine form are Welsh act Bryde. The Trouble Is has more than a hint of Americana, especially in the way power chords lift the dynamic into a harmonised chorus. Shades of Sheryl Crow in a jam with Sharon Van Etten. Bryde is essentially singer-songwriter Sarah Howells although she is accompanied by two fine bandmates. Her influences are many and varied and it is that ability to draw from such a rich well of ideas that enables her songs to hint at familiarity without ever sounding derivative. Fresh and appealing as ever.
Information about Doviak appears to be somewhat scarce. No links on his Soundcloud page. But I gather he is James Doviak and a solo artist. Well anyway he has a mid-tempo melancholy slice of Alt Pop called Century. It has an insistent hook delivered in his low register voice and adorned with Chris Isaak-esque reverberant guitar twang and thoughtful arrangement. A quiet but resplendant gem of a track.
Reading band Talk In Codeare another new name to me but I am very taken with their track Talk like that which is melodic Alt Pop with an epic quality that breezes along with cool harmonies and intelligent musicianship. It also has a great chorus. Uplifting and energetic.
I almost reviewed Delights with their song One step forward (two steps back) under Pop noodles because it is a breezy slightly epic slice of well-produced and executed melodic pop with a lovely chorus. It has a slightly melancholy lilt and the upper register male voice is distinct and appealing. The harmonies are sweet and the band’s playing is accomplished and nicely understated. A radio track if it could get some exposure to the right programme makers.
Cheekbone are another band with no geographical information or links to other pages on their Soundcloud page but their track Deflect is a joyous slice of driving Alt Pop with great call and response between two male vocalists with appealing and contrasting tones and timbres. The guitar melody that takes a prominent role is instantly engaging as is the overall energy of the trio. It has a classic feel to it that recalls all sorts of bands including [but by no means limited to] The Magic Numbers, early Woodentops, even the Psychedelic Furs to name but very few. It sounds fresh too though and utilises the characteristics that will quickly enable them to establish their own individual sound.
Poppiness and jangle are in plentiful evidence in the music of Dayflower and the track Popping Candy. The Leicester band describe their sound as ‘… a friendly argument between Johnny Malkmus and Stephen Marr at a My Bloody Valentine gig, refereed by Ariel Pink and eventually won by the La’s’. Well that makes my job easier. It is tuneful, breezy and guitar-driven Alt Pop that wears a big smile and exudes energy.
Fauves are a band from Glasgow who make dreamy semi-psychedelic Alt Pop as witnessed on the track Bathe. It kicks off with reverberant suspended guitar chords that resemble Robin Guthrie in a mash with Andy Summers. Then the song develops into a chilled ethereal mid-tempo track with slightly spaced out female-led vocals and more rich guitar resonance. Influences are hard to pinpoint. Shades of Warpaint and Mazzy Star perhaps and even an undercurrent of Teenage Fan Club. Best to check it out and decide for yourself. It’s lovely anyway.
A band who have caught my eye (or ears maybe) in consecutive weeks at Fresh on the Net are Pandapopalypsefrom Oxford who describe their music as Alternative Dance. It is actually difficult to slot their sound neatly into any convenient box. Quite poppy but also quite guitar-driven and Indie and then Dancefloor elements too. Well anyway they have some great tracks on their Soundcloud page, not least the buoyant, upbeat and resplendantly produced Do you wanna which is catchy, energetic and packs a real punch.
Rhythm feels like home is sparser with vague elements of C86 Indie mixed in with a sweet synth riff and Fatboy Slim-like beat. Vocally it reminds me a little of The Big Moon in a jam with Vanishing Twin. Uplifting, engaging and thoroughly contemporary.
There are few artists who have appeared in this blog as frequently as Yxungtarzaan but there was no way I could have overlooked his latest track My Ting. It is his most beautiful, heart wrenching slice of tuneful R’n’B yet. From the moment the piano and synth intro comes in you feel like something special is about to take place. Then a crunching loud beat joins the mix and Yxungtarzaan’s distinct, powerful voice delivers reflective lyrics set to an instantly appealing melody and spacious but punchy production. Come on BBC 1Xtra and all the platforms who could and should be taking this talented artist to the next level. How many crackers does he have to produce before he gets the recognition he deserves?
Talking of soulful R’n’B artists from London Clo 9 feat. June Lizon have delivered a track called Real which came into my Fresh on the Net in-box just in time to make it into this month’s blog. Mostly minor key piano and light beat leave bags of room for the vocal which is low register, distinct and has an unmistakable London twang. The lyrics are reflective and intelligent. The second voice offers a registral [tenor range] contrast but similar style. The pair complement each other well and continue to keep things sparse but bang on in terms of the production style. Great track.
TTD favourite The Costi has another strong track in the form of Rock Show Featuring Vicar in a Tutu. It is intriguing on several levels. Firstly the use of wailing organ chords with funky Hip Hop beat to accompany an Old Skool style rap delivery is appealingly retro while simultaneously sounding cool and original. Then there’s the Vicar in a Tutu reference which is taken from a 1986 track by The Smiths. This, in turn, leads me to wonder whether there is a subtle dig at Morrissey happening here, fuelled by the lyric ‘… made a deal with the devil to be part of the Rock Show’ (given Morrissey’s lurch to the political right in recent years). Whatever the thought processes going on behind the track the Londoner is on fine form and this is another cracking choon.
Regular readers will know I love to hear Grime and Hip Hop artists who utilise their regional dialects in the shaping of their sounds and Shannon, Limerick’s GodKnows(or Godknows Jonas) is one such artist. Sounding a tad angry on the track Who’s asking (produced by SertOne), he delivers rapid-fire rap over a minimal but biting backdrop of solid beat, chanted vocals and translucent sound choices. It affords him complete centre stage to sound out his lyrical message. Energetic, refreshingly individual and impressive.
There is very little information on Mark Johnson‘s Soundcloud page other than a pic in which he looks a little like a modern take on a Norman knight. But his track Wet Shave is a heartbreaking paen to the loving father he lost at age six. This is Hip Hop at its most sensitive and beautiful. Painfully honest and heart-wrenchingly raw, it is more spoken word than rap and the feel is soulful and sparse.
Norwich artist Freya Roy has teamed up with Maya Hall on a single (released on 15th March) called Fantasies which has a smooth Soul-R’n’B groove allowing plenty of space for dexterous and appealing vocals to dominate. The song is brooding and has a sparkiness about it despite its laid back aura. You won’t find it on Freya’s Soundcloud page but, by the time you read this, you may well have heard it on my radio show (and hopefully others too).
Monogulo hails from Bucharest in Romania and has been on my radar for a while now. Their latest offering Deepora is mid-tempo Deep House with an operatic sounding tenor sampled and coming in and out of the mix. The backdrop consists of gradually expanding sweeps of synth chord, leaving brush strokes of sound across a repetitive beat and bleeps. This is inventive, meticulously produced and hypnotic. Very nice indeed.
Thomas Drum has a track out on Belgrave Road Records entitled Last One which sits somewhere between Techno and uptempo House. Crunching beat, hypnotic groove and a plethora of interesting sounds coming in and out of focus. Energetic and enjoyable, a definite floor filler.
Another Belgrave Road artist is the ever-consistent Pimlican. He has teamed up with a female vocalist on an irresistible slice of soulful House-Electronica entitled Never Runaway (Radio Edit). The sounds are appealingly resonant and buzz; hence the Electronica reference. The beat is consistent though not especially heavy and there is plenty of space for the vocal to take centre stage. A floor filler for certain but cool radio track which I am grateful to Pimlican to making available ahead of release for me to play on my radio show too.
It seems slightly surreal to be reviewing new music by a bass guitar legend but the amazing Joe Cangwas a surprise submission to Fresh on the Net with the track Drug Habits. Joe, whose bass playing I waxed lyrical about in a past edition under my Trust The Doc Classic section (now moved onto my radio show) in relation to the criminally under-rated Scritti track Faithless, now reveals another side to his talent. Namely that of a smoky-voiced dexterous singer with a lovely falsetto to boot who can pen sophisticated Soul and Jazz edged Pop but can also deliver a folkier choon as on Hungover you. This is the kind of subtle, lovingly crafted singer-songwriter fare that is perfect to chill out to in a variety of scenarios. Great to see him out there making fresh music.
Epic & Cinematic
I don’t generally review the same band or artist in consecutive editions but the latest track by L Space/Post Coal Prom Queen merits mention both because it is so good and also because in a few days’ time they were meant to be headlining my now postponed Trust The Doc Festival 2020 @ The Amersham Arms.Unit of Production is a slower more melancholy piece of cinematic Synth [Dream] Pop in complete contrast to the hyperactiveness of Karoshi. The vocals are soft and slightly sad sounding, floating above legato synth and understated guitar. I can’t wait to see them live which hopefully will still happen later in 2020.
It is no great secret that I manage Swindon area exile now based in High Wycombe Cholly but I took her on in the first place because she is awesome and her latest track Sky High underlines that point. An upbeat slice of slinky electronic cinematic pop, it is catchy, original and has a typically reflective and intelligent lyric. As always Chloe’s stunning voice and harmonies are in plentiful evidence and the synth-dominated backdrop is energetic and punchy. Another top tune.
Ghostly is one of the adjectives appearing on the Facebook page of Londoners Flies + Flies who are songwriter Dan Griffiths and DJ/producer Jake Williams. Dan’s haunting high register vocals underline that sense as does the spacious arrangement, ethereal synths and the unusual melodic style, all showcased on the excellent Colour Blue. They are an act well worth checking out.
Bolton’s Sam Leohmakes ‘introspective synth pop’ and maintains a busy live itinerary. At present her live shows are centred around Liverpool, Manchester and Wigan but when it is once again safe to gather, it would be good to see her beginning to get out and about beyond the North West of England. In the meantime she appears to be using self isolation for positive creativity.
Sam’s Facebook page lists a plethora of influences which are fascinatingly diverse (The Smiths, Fleetwood Mac, Chvrches, St Vincent, Robyn, Tame Impala & Wolf Alice being just some!). St Vincent is one I can certainly hear, maybe Robyn too. Live she performs with a trio including Connie Gwilliam (Synth & Guitar) and Mike Healy (Synth & Bass Guitar). Sam herself sings and plays synth. She has, not surprisingly, also had support from BBC Introducing in Lancashire and has been played on Tom Robinson’s BBC 6 Music Introducing Mixtape too.
Stay is built around three key ingredients. They are a busy drum programme that recalls some of the exuberant productions from the mid-eighties, big reverberant synths and Sam’s warm, refreshingly unaffected voice which has an element of brittleness that should not be mistaken for any lack of confidence or conviction. She can clearly pen a catchy choon too and this one took no time to occupy a significant space in my brain. Positive Pop that puts a smile on my face. Hopefully it will put one on yours too.
Electronic & Ambient
I have reviewed Veiilapreviously and the Russian duo are back with a new track entitled Farewell. It starts off slow and ambient before a triplet rhythm kicks in and it becomes a bit poppier and more upbeat. Even so it retains a darker, almost melancholy air, The female singer’s yearning voice delivers a striking, unusual melody. It has the evocative aura of Portishead but jauntier and synth-dominated. Atmospheric and brooding, hard to pigeon-hole. Dark synth pop at its finest. Also check out other fine tracks on their Soundcloud page including Shadows and Trust. They really do produce a high volume of quality tracks.
I was recently contacted by Dale aka Frostabout putting him on at a gig. I certainly will be doing that. So I was delighted to receive the quirky, crisper-than-crisp synth-electronic instrumental track Cluster Shuffle in my Fresh on the Net in-box. An exercise in how to use a series of close clustered staccato chord stabs over a quick beat and popping synth accompaniment, it is quite unlike anything else I have heard all month and as it builds in intensity and franticness (is that a word?) it makes for compelling listening. I half expect to hear this on a soundtrack of a documentary about a car chase or running race in the near future.
Liz Cirellihas been making music since childhood and has fashioned an electronic music style that is quite cinematic and poppy. She has also teamed up with Minski, a classical violinist to deliver a track called Idamante. It is part of an EP and it sounds like a very good piece of library music that could or should find its way into a documentary soundtrack, computer game or some such avenue. A cool set of electric piano chords, some well-chosen synth sounds and dynamic violin playing. Good to hear.
My close friend and talented music all-rounder PaulFCook has probably been reviewed under several headings in past editions of TTD; such is his versatility. His new single Hejhe (a title which he is happy for others to interpret the pronunciation of and which was inspired by an unidentified code on a scrap of paper which may have been upside down!) contains two tracks of ambient electronica. The opener is In the way out, over six minutes of gradually building soundscape infused with irresistible synth sounds and enigmatic harmony. It is testament to how Paul keeps events moving along that it doesn’t feel like six minutes plus of music.
The second track is Out the way in, just less than four minutes that opens with a mystical sounding drum figure resulting from a happy accident when Paul imported multiple drum samples into the track. The open fifths in the synth and corresponding fourths and fifths in the drone-style bass figure add to that mystical, Eastern aura. Those drums produce gong-like crashes of sound that suit the track perfectly while the distant feel of the emerging synth chords really works. So much thought has gone into making this as good as it can be including the staccato melody that appears and duly overlaps itself in contrast to the calm waves of sound behind it.
Both tracks demonstrate another side of Paul’s writing. No vocal samples or amusing playing about with words here. Just atmospheric sounds and textural contrasts that, like everything Paul does, is characterised by imaginative use of harmonic language and meticulous sound choices. Two stonking tracks in my opinion.
The ever-consistent Bruch is back with a mid-tempo enigmatic electro-pop track called Hold On. Warm synths with a syncopated edge accompany her agile voice and quirky melodic style. Reviews of her past works have thrown up a lot of comparisons including Bjork, Kate Bush and even Suzanne Vega but in reality she doesn’t sound especially like any of them and is quietly developing her own unique style as this track shows.
I wasn’t sure under which heading to review The Broken Orchestra feat. Melanie Pain and their track Dream but they call it electronic so that will do. It is a three-time piece which has a lengthy instrumental build-up of repeating synth, ambient and drum patterns before the vocal enters, gradually subject to more layers of harmony before the beat drops out and the track ends with a vanishing synth. It has a dreamy but dark aura that makes it impossible not to listen to all the way through. Melanie Pain’s yearning voice adds the icing on this appealing cake.
The marvellously named Violent Vickie is from Long Beach, California and makes dark brooding Electronic Alt Pop like the track Serotonin that allows her dexterous voice to swoop and swirl over a static buzzing synth chord, light beat and gradually crescendoing soundscape. It is haunting, dreamlike and has a daunting dystopian undercurrent that is impossible to clearly define but you know it’s there. I wonder if she really is violent! Either way she is certainly a talent to keep a watch on. Incidentally I selected this track to be my Vanishing Point track on Ming & Jon’s Monday Night Ride Out show on Exile FM and then duly played it on my own show too the following Saturday.
Contemporary Classical & Leftfield
The Portugese composer and artist Farwarmthhas a new album out entitled Momentary Glow and I caught the track Into the grey sea on Elizabeth Alker’s Unclassified show on BBC Radio 3. It utilises various recordings of family, friends and sounds of his environment alongside Flute, Cello, Keyboard and Accordion resulting in an enigmatic, ethereal atmosphere which is harmonically vague and rhythmically quite static, allowing chords to emerge and break up like waves on a shore while the music drifts in a semi-circular motion. It is original, appealing and thoroughly contemporary.
Usually a title like The Minotaur (Mesto in A minor) would fill me with dread and the expectation of cod-classical conservatism but I will make an exception for The Holy Road (aka Jonathan from Northampton). The piece is a sensitively composed and performed tribute to a departed friend and the proceeds from Bandcamp sales go to a mental health charity. It is rather beautiful and melancholic too, piano and strings dominating but with plenty of dynamic contrasts and switches in mood and tempo. I am delighted to add that it won a highly competitive Track of the Week poll on my radio show too.
Jazz & International
Hipology Sounds (Norwich) are an intriguing band. Their track Hunters Return falls more under the banner of Jazz Futurism. Sax takes the lead over enigmatic chords and ambient sounds with a beautifully fluid beat and bassline that drives it along. Reverb and other effects add an otherworldly quality and there is a Deep House remix on their Soundcloud page too. Definitely not your average Jazz combo! Worth the effort too.
Let Spinare also an unusual act. As their track Sketchdemonstrates, they are tight, fluid and quirky, introducing unconventional and hypnotic musical language that hints at Eastern influence and switching from mood to mood, tempo to tempo. Their sound is surprisingly sparse and translucent with a lot of unison figures to underline that. Expect the unexpected but also expect impressive musicianship and imagination too. They are a quartet from London and Berlin and when you read who they individually have played with you will see why they are so accomplished.
Folk & Country
Brigadoonmay be named after a Hollywood-inspired imaginary Scottish town that appears every hundred years but he is actually a Folk-infuenced singer-songwriter from New South Wales in Australia. His song Of The North is fascinating in that it is kind of Folk but it is also ethereal, Psychedelic and has some really interesting guitar picking producing spine-tingling harmonic outcomes. His voice is crystal clear and floats enigmatically, aided and abetted by plenty of reverb, above a hypnotic accompaniment. The final strummed single chord is a great ending to a cool track. It is taken from an EP called The Itch Factor which is well worth checking out.
I was delighted to receive a new track by the accomplished and highly rated artist, songwriter and fellow Fresh on the Net moderator Marina Florance. The Londoner, now residing in Norwich, makes lovingly crafted organic music that draws on a welter of influences that can broadly be linked to Folk, Country and Americana [provided that, by these broad definitions, we include a long lineage of great singer-songwriters]. Long Way Home is simply beautiful. Built around soft picking guitar, what sounds like shimmering mandolin and Marina’s distinct, expressive voice, it builds from sparse beginnings and the melody lodges itself in my brain and shows no desire to exit! Easy to see why she has had so much support and praise from the likes of Tom Robinson and FOTN’s Johnno Casson. Stunning.
The song Glycerine by Russell Moore is curiously described on his Soundcloud page as ‘Pop’ when it sounds most definitely like Folk to me! It also has an uncredited female singer whose appealing voice is a key ingredient along with a rather lovely song that is intelligently arranged with some sweet guitar parts and sensitive playing. The production is lo-fi but it works well with the organic character of the piece. Really good stuff.
I could easily have reviewed Sheffield artist Frank Birtwistle‘s Invisible in the Contemporary Classical & Leftfield section. It is another example of his ability to write resonant, shimmering instrumental guitar pieces and play them with effortless virtuosity. Beautiful and life-affirming.
AND FINALLY ……..
Well uncertain times are upon us and no-one knows how long this crazy COVID 19 situation will drag on nor how damaging it will be but in the meantime let’s support one another as best we can and keep finding ways to get our music out there. Love and respect to everyone and, as ever, thanks for reading this. Neil xxxx