Trust The Doc Edition 45

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Edition 45: 31st May 2020: A blog by Neil March

Welcome to Edition 45 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

Well it’s been another strange month. Government advice about COVID 19 has been increasingly eccentric and, at times, cynically populist. Surely Boris Johnson wouldn’t put being popular above the health of ordinary citizens … oh wait!! Still, at least we can all be reassured that, even in extraordinary times, there is still one rule for the entitled, over-privileged pricks and another for the rest of us. Yes I know this is a blog about new music, not politics but sometimes it is worth reminding ourselves what an unrelenting, unrepenting, hypocritical, entitled, irresponsible and ultimately nasty party this is. More so than ever under their current leadership.

So thank heavens for music. And if nothing else, this ongoing COVID crisis is bringing out the creativity across the new music community. Tracks have poured into my in-boxes from every direction. So despite having been up to my neck in other media activities [as you shall shortly see], I have found a fair amount of cool new music to blog about once again. I hope you enjoy reading it and checking out those that interest you.

EXCITEMENT FOR DEMERARA RECORDS ARTISTS

It has been an exciting month for me as manager of two talented artists Cholly and Josie. Despite the disappointment of their first part-UK tour being curtailed with several dates remaining due to the COVID 19 situation, both have had a productive month.

Not only did they both provide live lockdown tracks to the first edition of Trust The Doc TV. But Cholly was invited by BBC West to perform in their online Airwaves Festival. The event took place over the final weekend of May with artists performing from their lockdown locations. And it coincided with the digital worldwide release of her previously limited edition CD EP Ruminations on 12th June 2020. Later the same day Cholly also performed a live isolation set on camera for the Crystal Palace Lockdown Live.

Meanwhile Josie has released the digital version of the Josie EP which was previously only available on CD at her live shows. The EP, put out by my label Demerara Records, is now available from all digital platforms worldwide. To date it has had airplay on a number of radio stations including my own show and others including RKC and Lonely Oak Radio in France and California respectively. Also check out her Instagram account which has plenty of additional video content and news about her unfolding story.

TRUST THE DOC TV !!!

May 2020 saw the first two editions of Trust The Doc TV hit YouTube and the reaction has been overwhelming. So much love pouring in from all directions. I would love to take the credit as the curator-producer and presenter but the truth is this success is down to the amazing array of talented bands and artists who provided me with so much great material. The show mixes recordings of live lockdown performances (including multi-screen band tracks using Zoom), new videos, interviews and other features. If you haven’t seen it yet you can watch Edition 2 by clicking here. Please do subscribe to the Trust The Doc YouTube Channel too if you haven’t already done so.

FUNDRAISER

Also given the ongoing uncertainty about funding for the foreseeable future with COVID-19 leading the main bodies to cancel applications and pour their resources into emergency grants, I am trying to launch a fundraiser to enable me to keep spending the time and resources necessary to support new music across all these media. If you are in a position to and would like to make a small contribution (and please don’t feel you should), the link is paypal.me/trustthedoctv

TRUST THE DOC RADIO SHOW

The Trust The Doc Radio Show continues to grow its audience. It goes out at 5PM (UK/BST) every Saturday on Exile FM. I always play a mix of new and emerging artists, current tracks by more established artists and a few older tracks linked to specific features. It has also become a popular gathering point for a large chunk of the independent music community. There are messages and shout-outs throughout the show, a Track of the Week poll, other weekly features and plenty of banter. The fact that I am being approached by more and bigger pluggers, PR companies, labels and agents looking for airplay for their artists is a good sign. Hopefully the show’s reputation will continue to spread. It is a joy to present the show and interact with so many lovely fans and purveyors of cool new music. If you miss the live shows you always have 7 days to catch them here.

TRUST THE DOC EXTRA

Such has been both the success of Trust The Doc Radio and the volume of track submissions, Exile FM have allowed me to launch an additional podcast show that goes out midweek called Trust The Doc Extra. It is pre-recorded so no shout-outs or interaction [other than on social media] but it is usually an opportunity to hear some of the highlights from the Saturday show plus tracks that didn’t make that playlist. There was also a special afterparty show for the TV show on 20th May. And I will sometimes use it for themed shows as appropriate. It’s only an hour long so check it out when you have time.

PART TWO: REVIEWS OF NEW MUSIC

Pop Noodles

The Ipswich band Underline The Sky grabbed my immediate attention with the gigantic epic Pop Rock (to use their own term) of Headlights. A powerful distinct and clear female vocal, soaked in harmonies rides atop spaciously produced synths, guitar, bass and big big drums. The musicianship is excellent which helps but it is also just a glorious Pop choon that is easy to imagine blaring out of car stereos, cafes and shops all over [were we not in lockdown] as Spring turns into Summer. This deserves to be given a proper chance by the big radio stations.

Surrey-born London-based artist Emma Kelly will be a guest on Edition 3 of Trust The Doc TV where you will see me interviewing her about current and future plans. You won’t find her latest single Drunk on her Soundcloud page yet but I have been playing it on my radio show. Emma is represented by my friends at Lume Agency and Kimwaves PR so she has a good team around her and deservedly so.

The hardworking young songwriter has put her hand in her own pocket at times to make sure she can afford to hold onto a classy backing band when playing live. Her music is uplifting contemporary pop delivered in a distinct, agile voice with cool harmonies and instantly infectious hooks. Check her out if you enjoy a quality pop choon.

Jaonere is a new name to me; a London-based singer-songwriter whose track Hopeless is soulful, tinged with jazzy chords and highlighed by his sweet falsetto contrasting with a more baritone-range lower register. The melody and accompanying chords are refreshingly unusual and he has a truly fantastic voice. I could have put this in Urban Flavas but it is ultimately a slice of sophisticated, classy Pop that deserves some support. An artist I will be keeping an eye and ear out for as things develop.

Alt Rock & Indie

I have written about the Japanese Alt Pop band Hodges before. They are an outstanding act who mix great melody writing, intricate instrumental interplay and ability to switch tempo or mood at the drop of a hat. This is all in evidence on the fantastic Hierarchy with its Beatles-esque harmonies and an XTC-ish Sophisticated Pop undercurrent. The guitars sparkle and crash around joyously over fluid bass and driving drums. The production is loud and spacious. The term ‘life-affirming’ is sometimes applied a bit too liberally [and lazily] by reviews writers but in this instance, it is actually appropriate. Music that lifts the spirits and leaves me mouth open in awe at the same time. If there is any justice they are going to be huge.

Californian band The Corner Laughers were a stand-out act in my Fresh on the Net in-box this month with the wonderful The Accepted Time which flows along thanks to gorgeous chord play on what could be Ukelele mixing it up with guitar and keyboards while a sweet alto range female vocal brings immediate appeal with a gorgeous melody and occasional harmonies to boot. It is folky, a little Alt Pop too and has some twangy guitar between the verses. The icing on the cake is how it switches between sunny major key and shadowy minor key. This is songwriting at its best and the way the band members interact and create such a fluid, imaginative arrangement [replete with Beatles-style final chord loveliness] is what great Pop music is all about. Check out their Soundcloud page because there are more cool choons on there too.

I had to do some digging for information about Italian quartet Black Flowers Cafe as their label sent a track from their own Soundcloud page which inevitably contains no links to the band but plenty to the label. Does a month ever pass where I am not moaning about at least one label indulging in this poor PR practice where their bands are concerned? Fortunately I found them via their Facebook page and even that tells us little! Shame because the track Who is a joyous celebration of reverberant Alt Pop jangle that recalls a lineage of great bands from the early [guitar version of] The Beloved and James through to Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and Kasabian. Vibrant intermingling guitars driven by punchy rhythm and topped off with heroic vocals. Spirit-lifting Alt Rock.

The song Night Bus by DA brings back some rather unsavoury memories of my youth but set to an almost cinematic kitsch Alt Rock style that could be Kurt Vile in a jam with The Divine Comedy while Antonio Carlos Jobim looks on. The song is inspired by riding home on the 176 from Penge to Forest Hill, areas local to me, and namechecks others like Camberwell Green! Stylish, tongue-in-cheek and impossible not to love.

Dirty Orange  also have no information or links on their Soundcloud page so I cannot tell you much about them other than Fold is hard-edged Alt Rock with baritone range male vocal drawl, riffing guitars and bass and punchy drumming. It nods to Grunge but also has a contemporary vibe that brings to mind the likes of Pigs x7. Powerful and dark, two reasons to love it.

Wot? Another cool Alt Pop band from Brighton?! Does that town’s music scene ever sleep?! Well it is indeed another cool band from the seaside capital of new music. Slant have delivered a track that is fun, quirky and interesting with an unexpected middle section that adds to its quality. Haircut has the noisy exuberance of Dream Wife mixing it with the off-the-wall adventurousness of Delta 5 in an unlikely mash with Honeyblood. Or something. Intriguing, energetic and makes me want to put it on again … and again.

I have subsequently discovered they are another band formed at the wonderful BIMM Brighton and have been championed by my long-time  friend Andy Maclure who lectures there. They are also appearing in the new edition of Trust The Doc TV on Tuesday (2nd June) with a behind-the-scenes video from the studio accompanying this very song. I am really excited about Slant. We could be looking at a band who have a big future.

… and talking of cities with vibrant music scenes, Bristol band Penfriend have come up with a driving post-Grunge anthem called Everything looks normal in the sunshine. There is a cool contrast between the slow minimal feel of the verses and the big stomping chorus, all dominated by strong female voval. The mid-section sees the climatic feel reinforced by melodic guitars. The final chorus and how it ends on an unexpected chord change is a great final flourish too.

Staying on Bristol bands Cosmic Ninja are a band I have blogged about previously. Their music is an intrguing mix of riffing heavy rock, electronic synth pop and punky Alt Pop. Strong female vocal leads the charge on Break the silence with subtle synth riffs and sustained chords one moment, rock guitars the next. It has some male spoken word too. Climatic, epic and bristling with energy, this is just the ticket.

Pale Oaks hail from Athens. That’s Greece, not Georgia! They describe their sound as ‘Heavy Pop’ which is fair enough. The song Muddy Waters is, alas, not a tribute to the great Bluesman but it is nevertheless a thoroughly engaging track. Powerful driving drums and bass underpin the track with powerful guitar chords, jangly guitar figures and pretty keyboards filling out the background. The male vocal is distinct and appealing, adorned with harmonies mostly in an upper [tenor] range that recall The Police although the band are closer in style to the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club in a jam with Teenage Fanclub while Tame Impala throw a few moves too. Definitely one to watch.

London-based band Earthsea hail variously from Cheshire, Herts and Shropshire and have had praise from my fellow FOTN mod Derval McCloat for their adventurous spirit. I am not surprised because on Four more years they deliver a spiky socio-political commentary on our horrid government and current events to the backdrop of a rhythmically fluid, cleverly constructed track that has the kind of guitar interplay and dynamic contrasts that could be early Franz Ferdinand or Bloc Party jamming with Bloomers and The Districts. Not that they sound like any of those bands individually. Energetic, inventive and exciting Alternative Pop at its finest.

Urban Flavas

The irrepressible Gambino Akuboy is back with an uptempo slice of contemporary Dancehall with a chorus perfectly designed to be sung arms aloft on dancefloors across the land(s). Punchy production, syncopated grooves and simple 1 – 4 – 5 – 4 chord arrangement suits its summery Caribbean vibe. Music to make you smile.

NTHN makes interesting cinematic Hip Hop with reflective, thoughtful lyrics on Conflicted. It also has a great use of subtle dynamic contrasts. The soundscape is both dreamy and intense [if that is not too contradictory!] and the reverberant vocal production and filtered effect add to its intensity. There is precious little information on NTHN’s Soundcloud page but he is described simply as ‘UK Producer’. One I imagine we will be hearing more from soon.

Club Culture

The Soundcloud page for DMP Tunes is a tad confusing and I am still not entirely sure whether they are a band, a label, a collective or a single producer! But what I do know is they sent in the track Dreams from the album Ludum Vitae and it has a Robert Miles meets Paul Van Dyk vibe but with sufficient state-of-the-art sounds to bring it back into 2020. As it builds and the classic Euro-Synths briefly wash over the piano, it is both nostalgic and fresh. If we weren’t in lockdown this could be tearing up dancefloors all summer.

To listen to Flava & Stevenson with the track Nobody I am frustratingly directed to a page belonging to a label so there is no information nor any links about the artists. Regular readers will know this is one of my bees in the bonnet when it comes to labels failing to promote their artists in the right way. But it is what it is. The track is a 90s-influenced slice of syncopated Soulful Dance that could almost be Garage. The vocals are soaked in effects but still sound appealing and the hook is infectious.

If Trophy Wife seems a somewhat odd name for a band or artist making mystical House music, there is nothing odd about the track Dreams of an alternate self. Its soft core and slightly Eastern aura draw you in and the contrast between fluid sonic events and persistent beat and synth riff do the rest. A late night floor filler that could double as a chilled after-party groove.

Hailing from the English West-Country Siddhartha Says makes chilled Deep House with consistent grooves; sustained sweep chords, hypnotic basslines and what I presume are mainly sampled voices. This is all perfectly showcased on the track Lucid which landed in my Fresh on the Net in-box and immediately grabbed my attention. Careful attention is paid to the contasts of timbre and texture while each break is an opportunity to tweak the drum sound a little. It is engaging and listenable whether to chill to or to groove to. Your choice.

The ever-consistent and prolific Amey St Cyr has another happy-go-lucky House track out called Don’t explain. Amey has been a bit of a star of my Trust The Doc TV series so far. She had a video in Edition 1 and I interviewed her in Edition 2. So I also know that she is planning to hit us with some Reggae and Drum’n’Bass shortly which will be cool. In the meantime Don’t explain is another upbeat chunk of soulful House to sing along and groove to. Also another demonstration of her strong and dexterous vocal talent.

Singer-Songwriters

I was pleased to be contacted by the UK-based American singer-songwriter Annie Dressner who has a new single out called Pretend. You won’t find it on Soundcloud yet. It has a free-flowing Folk sensibility at its core, tinged with Country (or maybe more Americana) but the gritty guitar chords and punchy production lends it a Rock element too. All this is perfect for Annie’s edgy, powerful and individual voice to swoop and soar, buoyed by an appealing melody and intelligent lyric. Annie Dressner sets high standards for herself and then continues to raise them as this fine track reminds us.

Epic & Cinematic

Melllo is Marianthi from Marsheaux, now resident in London where she has teamed up with Nikonn on a new track called Disconnected which is a chugging mid-tempo Synth Pop gem that brings the legacy of names like Visage and Moroder to mind whilst being contemporary and cool too. An infectious melody is delivered in soft but sturdy female [harmonised] voice. The synth groove buzzes and breezes along and the beat is suitably simple. Music you can choose to get up and dance to or just lie back and enjoy the dreaminess of.

Worcester’s Lower Loveday are described as ‘Indie’ on their Soundcloud page but I would say their track I’d do anything sits more comfortably in the category of epic synth-driven Pop. Big drums, big sounds all round and spacious production allow the singer’s appealing tenor-range vocal to stretch out. There is an air of the band Talk Talk about this although overall it is much more contemporary. The hook is catchy and they combine an heroic Pop sensibility with an undercurrent of melancholy. It works very well.

Electronic & Ambient

When I reviewed a track by Minimums in the last edition I had no clue who they were or where they were from. I now know it is a new project of a very good friend of mine whose band will be familiar to regular readers. But I am sworn to secrecy so I’m afraid I cannot tell you anything else except that his latest offering is a lovely ambient piece called Small Hours with lovely extended synth chords and cleverly chosen sounds that brings a welcome chill to another stuck-indoors early summer day.

Survibers describe most of their tracks as Electronic so I have reviewed them in that section although really the striking melody and equally striking female vocal in the track In Heaven place it more in Cinematic Pop territory. Imagine Bat For Lashes in a mash with Regina Spektor but remixed by Floating Points and you might get somewhere close to the vibe of this track. It is imaginative, slightly otherworldly and instantly likeable. Again information and links are non-existent. The way things are going in lockdown, they will turn out to be another of my friends recording in secret! Very good anyway.

Contemporary Classical & Leftfield

The Icelandic composer and multi-instrumentalist Gyða Valtýsdóttir us a former member of experimental band Múm and now composes the most delicately conceived and ethereal works in which the harmonic language is unique and the sounds and textures are stunning. This is all true of her latest piece Unborn which you can still catch if you don’t leave it too long on BBC Sounds from a recent edition of Elizabeth Alker‘s wonderful show Unclassified on Radio 3.

Composer David Dexter is a respected and prolific musician whose music has a post-romantic aura that lends it a very filmic quality as demonstrated on the piece Icebreaker with its dramatic orchestration and thoughtful part-writing. The harmonic language is entirely diatonic and he is not attempting any revolutions in technique or style but it is very well executed and evocative of vast landscapes.

Howard Skempton is a little more well-known than the composers I usually cover in this blog but I so enjoyed hearing the exotically modal harmonic language in the Largo third movement of his Clarinet Quintet on Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone on BBC Radio 6 Music that I felt compelled to give it a mention. Beautifully scored with great dynamic and textural contrasts but mostly I was struck by the language which was interesting and unique but alluring and beautiful too.

Jazz & World Journeys

I am not sure how The Good Manners would categorise their music as many of their influences suggest Soul rather than Jazz but the Latin inflluences at the heart of Mi Amor brought to mind some kind of mash-up of Antonio Carlos-Jobim, Grupo Niche and Los Lobos! Persitently sunny, effortlessly tuneful and driven along by sweet jazzy chords and uptempo bossa-infused rhythm, it is music to brighten up even a sunny day. Pour yourself a cocktail and enjoy the vibe!

Berlin-based composer and producer Rashad Becker has a piece entitled Worry Terroritory whose hybrid wordplay in the title speaks for itself. It utilises an intriguing mix of sounds, part-Eastern, part-industrial, creating a strangely alluring and yet unsettling soundscape. Hopefully it is a sign of a new album on the horizon.

Folk & Country

Lizzy Hardingham is an artist I have blogged about previously. The Hertfordshire-based singer-songwriter has a voice that could demolish buildings, such is its shuddering power and penetrating tone. But don’t take that the wrong way. It is a distinct, appealing and emotionally affecting voice that can reduce hard-hearted warriors to a blubbering mess! And on the poignant Memorial for a glacier the combination of dynamic vocal, thoughtful composing and accomplished playing adds up to a stunning piece. Lizzy builds from soft organic guitar backdrop and calm, if instinctively edgy, voice to a climatic and commanding performance that cuts through the enamel shell of ones emotions and sends the butterflies into full flight.

Staying in Herts it is a fact that the aforementioned Lizzy Hardingham once sang in a rebel choir with Becky Lee-Richards of Hemel Hempsteead quartet In The ForestIt is also a fact that In The Forest were involved in tour dates I organised, one of which took place before the last part of the tour was curtailed by COVID 19. So I have had the pleasure of experiencing their lovingly crafted songs and dreamy harmonies live.

Fortunately, prior to lockdown, they recorded new tracks for a June single release. So we have the slow burning, piano-led Means to an end which has the mystical aura and close harmonies of The Staves in a jam with I SEE RIVERS watched by the Mamas and Papas perhaps! By contrast White Wash is jauntier with what sounds like Banjo or Uke playing upper register chords along with picking guitar while vocal harmonies dominate from the outset. As the upper harmonies overlap and spread out over the melody it is quite beautiful; like a vibrant watery rainbow of sound.

I can also bring you exciting news that, since I first penned this review, In The Forest have signed with the awesome Last Night From Glasgow; Ian Smith‘s fully crowd-funded, not-for-profit indie label which houses the likes of Cloth, Foundlings and legendary bands like Close Lobsters and Bis. This is an amazing achievement. The future is looking [deservedly] bright for this lovely quartet of fine musicians.

I am not sure Hector and Gavan would consider themselves to be a Folk duo but the song She Knows arguably creeps into that genre. Also, since they have elected to put no information or links on their Soundcloud page, that rather gives me license to decide for myself! It has, oddly enough, shades of the Everly Brothers and Jeff Lynne about it and is characterized from the outset by picking guitar and constant vocal harmonies in male upper register which is dreamy and sweet. There is an air of melancholy about this three-time tune. It is lovely anyway.

AND FINALLY ……..

Well that’s it for another month folks. With an increasingly eccentric government that has already lost the plot in power, I would not like to predict how things will be looking by the time of Edition 46 on 30th June but at least the new music keeps on coming. So let’s enjoy as much of it as we can. To that end please do check out the TV show (2nd & 16th June for editions 3 & 4), my weekly radio show on Saturdays at 5PM which is proving so popular with the new music community and the midweek podcast show which brings you something extra (hence its name!). And keep on rocking the lockdown. Till then …….

Neil xxxx