Welcome to Edition 46 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
BLACK LIVES MATTER: ANTI-RACIST CAMPAIGNERS WILL NEVER BE SILENCED !!!
It is fair to say that June 2020 should be remembered as a significant month in international history. If you have not been touched by the events that were sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of white police officers in Minnesota you must have slept for the past thirty days and more! That is unless you are one of the people who thinks it’s all a big politically correct fuss in which case maybe this is not the blog for you!
Inevitably there has been a sustained campaign by the political right to undermine and discredit the Black Lives Matter campaign but I believe history is not on the side of the racists. So if you are one of those people who has never made much effort to condemn racism publicly or get involved in campaigning and yet you can find bags of energy to join those trying to undermine BLM and Topple Racism with dumb arguments, you should take a serious look at yourself in the mirror and ask what your real priorities are. If you go along with slogans like ‘All lives matter’ or ‘British Lives matter’ as a counter to Black Lives Matter, you are siding with the racists. Don’t try to kid yourself otherwise. There is no evidence that British lives are routinely taken in unjustifiable circumstances at the hands of the authorities. Nor that being British is some impediment to being judged on a level playing field. So get over yourselves. Read my review of Rosie Bergonzi‘s excellent I’m not a hashtag (see Urban Flavas) which is a track temporary white liberals should listen to as well.
The need for fundamental change across the whole planet [and not just the USA as some would like to pretend] is indisputable. Black and minority ethnic peope have had enough and so too have those of us who have fought side by side with them for years to end racism. George Floyd’s death may have been the catalyst for mass protest but it was one of countless deaths of black people in unacceptable circumstances and it has awakened a strength of feeling and unity that this time the establishment is not going to find so easy to sweep under the carpet with a few token gestures and weasel words. We need a national conversation and a thorough rewriting of our history and narrative that no longer excludes black experience. You can be part of the solution. I hope you will be. #BlackLivesMatter
THE MONTH IN MUSIC
In the meantime you may have seen me using the expression ‘New Music never sleeps’. Well that is true! And June saw more great new tracks pouring into my Fresh on the Net in-box. It has also seen more artists sending me tracks and videos for my radio and TV shows and more pluggers, PR companies, labels, managers and agents also contacting me seeking opportunities for the artists they represent. Of course, that means it has been a little stressful at times and difficult to accommodate everyone who wants airplay. But it has also meant I have had the privilege of hearing so much new music before others and being able to select as many artists as possible to give exposure to. This blog plays an important part in that process too and this month I have reviewed over 50 artists and tracks across the widest possible spectrum of genres. So I hope you will have time to read them all!
MORE EXCITEMENT FOR DEMERARA RECORDS ARTISTS
More news on EP releases by Chollyand Josie. Both went worldwide on digital platforms in June. Cholly also played the BBC Airwaves Festival, a festival broadcast by BBC Radio Wiltshire featuring artists, including some famous ones, performing short live sets in social isolation. And later the same day she played another one for Crystal Palace Artists in Lockdown too who subsequently invited her to perform again a few days ago! Both have also been picking up airplay and social media support. So fingers crossed that this will keep their music on the radar of music lovers while we wait for lockdown to be over for live music (which may take some considerable time). Since then we have however had the sad news that Sam & Richard, the proactive new music-supporting team at BBC Radio Wiltshire are being replaced in July. I challenged BBC Wiltshire over this bizarre and sudden decision but, to date, they have opted not to reply.
FRESH ON THE NET: MY REVIEW OF THE ‘FRESH FAVES’
On 1st June, it was my turn to review the winning ten ‘Fresh Faves’ for Fresh on the Net Listening Post. It also happened to be Tom Robinson‘s 70th birthday so, as well as including birthday wishes, I also decided we needed a themed review which involved getting references to recent debacles involving Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings and Donald Trump into the intro and each of the ten individual reviews! It certainly gave some of our readers a giggle as well as allowing them to read my reviews and background research on the ten fine winning tracks in our public vote. You can read the review here.
TRUST THE DOC TV
June 2020 saw another two editions of Trust The Doc TV hit YouTube and the reaction continues to be positive with good levels of engagement and lots of lovely comments posted on the YouTube pages and across social media. If you haven’t got into it yet, please check it out. When I created the programme I was mindful that people were getting weary of live lockdown gigs. That is why I curated a magazine-style show that mixes new videos, recordings of live lockdown tracks, interviews and other bits and pieces including a plug for my radio show. It breaks up any monotony, keeps everything short and snappy and mixes up the media for your maximum entertainment. And crucially it is a platform for new and emerging music talent.
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. The official listening figures certainly say that is exactly what is happening. 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
The Trust The Doc Extra pre-recorded midweek podcast increasingly allows me to play more tracks that I have not been able to get onto the playlist for the live Saturday show. But it is also developing its own individual character as a fast-paced show with less chat, more music that allows me to test out a lot of previously unheard material by new artists. Audience stats show it is gaining more listeners every week which I am really grateful for.
A QUICK WORD ABOUT AIRPLAY
It is great that my radio show is attracting so much attention and I certainly want to encourage people to continue sending me music to play. But there is always a small downside. Namely that, in the small amount of time per week I have for playing new and emerging artists, it is becoming hard to accommodate everyone and even harder to give repeat plays which are so important for new artists. I do try to use the podcast show to help with this and its audience is growing weekly which is great news. But it does mean having to say no to some artists which I don’t like having to do. If I am ever in a position to broadcast more hours, I will be able to ease the situation but, at present, that would not really be practical. But hey, never say never! 🙂
PART TWO: REVIEWS OF NEW MUSIC
Well I said it had been another bumper period for new music so here I go with this month’s reviews.
Brighton’s Big Cat never fail to deliver intelligent, lovingly crafted Pop with a large dose of retro cool. So it is with Rainy days in June. Jaunty piano playing chords sets the scene as the arrangement fills out and intricate harmonies overlap with other intricate harmonies like the Beachboys in a jam with Ben Folds Five. Like all Big Cat tunes it is strong on melody and deploys plenty of extended chords and fluid rhythms as the instrumental parts interplay. Pop that lifts the spirits.
The ever-consistent Phoebe Cocokeeps coming up with new tracks that contrast each predecessor and Brick Wall continues that run. The London-based singer and keyboardist who, like me, has roots in the Welsh Valleys too, is on fine form.
Where Saturday Night was perky minor key piano-infused Pop, Brick Wall is more of a full production sophisticated pop track with socially aware lyric and an immediate earworm of a chorus. It has distant echoes of artists like Zoe, Nelly Furtado and maybe a tougher, deeper Ellie Goulding in a jam with Katy Perry (on a good day!). At the same time Phoebe’s beautifully rich alto tones have a soulful edge. Moreover she has a distinct and recognisable voice and that, in an overcrowded contemporary pop market, is a great asset. Great track too in case you hadn’t already guessed! No surprise then that Phoebe is becoming a regular ‘Fresh Fave’.
Derry-based artist Kid Apollosays he is about ‘providing melodies in a desensitised world’. Well, I can’t claim to see the world as quite so desensitised as to be void of all melody in 2020 (!) but nevertheless the world might benefit from enjoying the classic pop sensibilities that infuse Kid Apollo’s music on the track Likes. Fresh on the Net readers shared my enthusiasm and voted him into our Fresh Faves.
The lyrics, like the choice of sounds and production values, are very contemporary but there is an aura of mid-seventies pop about his sweet upper register delivery. Dare I mention Randy Newman, Elton John and even Kevin Ayers in the sense of the croonerish edge (ooh I love a tenuous reference!)? There are shades of Ben Folds and even a little of Daniel Powter about the resonant piano chords.
Most important though is this boy knows how to pen a lovely melancholy tune over simple but effective major and minor seven piano chords, sustained synth strings and a pretty light-textured synth melody. It nearly gets into Carpenters territory but with a hint of lo-fi that could be Soul Family Sensation as the synth strings go into overdrive near the end! Lush loveable melodious Pop.
Another new name to me in June was Purpl. The artist from the English South Coast area caught my ear with the song Hawaii which subsequently missed out on the FOTN Listening Post by the narrowest of margins. The song was inspired by her Aunt’s successful battle with Breast Cancer and her decision to fly out to Hawaii and marry her partner of 15 years. That touching sentiment explains the dreamy upbeat feel of this refreshing piece of pop.
Proving the song is no fluke, I discovered another gem in the soulful Luv U on Purpl’s Soundcloud page. She has had strong support from BBC Introducing in Solent who made Hawaii their single of the week and the track has subsequently been played on two shows on Exile FM (mine and also Ming & Jon’s Monday Night Ride-Out).
London-based Anna Pancaldi has a rich and rangey voice that perfectly suits the simple but sad piano pop balladry of How do I live with the Blues. Her lower register is gutsy and soulful while her upper register is softer and has an element of Mariah Carey about it. The backing track keeps it simple, all long piano chords, lots of pedal use and ritando where needed. All this allows her fine voice to dominate.
Staying in London Carrie Baxter has an earthy alto range voice with a gritty edge that soars at times and sits lower at others in a dynamic and highly contemporary Pop track called Forbidden. Octave apart vocals fortify a catchy bridge and carry the song into a climatic chorus. Meantime there are some sweet subtle funky bits of guitar picking and popping bass too as well as a strangely low-mixed but beautifully played sax solo.
Alt Rock & Indie
In Edition 44, I reviewed a track by Found Instruments and said I could find no links on the Soundcloud page. Well a lot can change in two months. Since then not only has Jack Joseph (aka Found Instruments) populated his page with all the relevant links. He has also had a video in Edition 3 of my Trust The Doc TVshow but he also sailed into the Fresh Faves with the same track [as the video].
Cause and Effect is a pretty accurate hybrid of the influences Jack cites on his Soundcloud page with elements of Post-Punk, Psychedelia, Synth Pop and electronic music amid the driving guitars, forward flying rhythm section and swirling electro-synth figures that accompany his strong, melodic singing style. The track has an epic quality, spacious and loud with an effect on the vocal track that is both a little Bowie-esque and a little like Lennon too. He captures the energy really well and the tune plays well against the sustained synth chords and slightly darker guitar. The relentlessness of the track is a real joy too.
Kekalhail from Indonesia and if Zoe is any indication, they make noisy but very clever Psychedelic Alt Rock filled with ambient sound, picking guitars, sustained keys and powerful bass and drums while the vocals are strong and enigmatic. Trippy for sure and probably awesome live. This is a track that is impossible to ignore. I look forward to hearing more from this intriguing band.
The Denver, Colorado-based band Knucklepupsmade a big impression on listeners to my radio show when I featured the song California a few weeks ago. Kicking off with female backing ‘ooh’s’ over minimal beat and picking banjo, it progresses through a kind of drawling male vocal, chanted unison hook and evolving arrangement, always with the banjo at the centre of the mix although, when the guitars arrive, they are loud and rocking. It’s a masterclass in how to build a track through contrasts, nuances and breaks. The harmonies are the icing on the cake. A real stand-out track.
Busy and prolific as ever The Happy Somethings have kept their promise to follow the Thinking is free (Part 1) EP with Thinking is free (Part 2). Another joyous quartet of songs from the sardonic and uptempo Alt Pop of Millionth Girlfriend to the Beatles-esque bounce of Hi there Sunshine! In between we have Just call me with its thoughtful lyrics and engaging melody and the sixties-ish Something you might call love. As ever Joy’s distinct and appealingly edgy voice is accompanied by tight harmonies and energetic instrumental play. This highly likeable trio from the Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire borders really do epitomise consistency in modern music. Another band who keep making the FOTN faves.
Featured in Edition 4 of my Trust The Doc TVas the opening video track was a collaboration between three teenage girls all living in different places. Two, Abby K (Guitar & Bass Guitar) and AP Tobler(Drums) hail from different parts of the USA while singer Victory Vizhanskais from Ukraine. Together they have written and recorded a driving energetic slice of Alt Rock called Orange Bang.
Now you might think that sounds like the title of a statement about environmental destruction. But actually it’s about Victory’s desire to be on stage making Rock music! It has shades of Linkin Park in a mash with The Breeders while Victory’s voice lends it something unique too. The two Americans, Abby and AP, produce a loud, joyful helping of perfectly played Rock, thoughtful and never overdoing any aspect. I don’t know whether the trio plan any further collaborations but they are all artists worth keeping an eye and ear out for. Very impressive as is the video.
AlsoAP Tobler (AP short for Annapuma) has a solo track out called Lazy Eye on which she plays all the instruments and provides all the voices. A melodic and powerfully produced slice of Post-Grunge Alt Rock showcasing her multi-instrumental and vocal talents, you can see why she gets called the female Dave Grohl although don’t mistake that for any lack of individuality. AP Tobler is making great strides and has youth on her side. Exciting times ahead.
Black Lakes hail partly from Wales and partly from South West England. Their single Break the silence was included in the Track of the Week poll on my radio show where, if there had been any justice in terms of who bothered making an effort to support the show, they would have won (which they nearly did anyway). The song switches between half-time laid back moments and full on guitar-driven Rock that could be Nirvana in a mash with Queens of the Stone Age. It is strong in every department – melody, vocals, instrumental interplay and inventiveness. Modern Rock at its finest.
Staying in Wales but the Northern half, Wrexham’s Kidsmoke have been gathering a reputation and following over recent years and are regulars at the Fresh on the Net Listening Post. Their latest offering is an absolutely gorgeous piece of summery Alt Pop jangle entitled Layla’s Love which sees a tenor-range male vocal take most of the lead but with female voice elbowing him out of the centre for a short time too. The song has appealing vocal harmonies throughout and the infectious melody rides along on the band’s driving momentum and shimmering guitars. Another belter from Kidsmoke.
It is always good to hear a new track by Bloom De Wilde. Bloem recently moved home to Amsterdam after many years in London but tells me she will still be able to play gigs for me once we are fully out of lockdown which is great news. On Do & Be she is in fine voice, her quirky style and Sam’s subtle trumpet combining with a strong hook and imaginative keyboard playing on another slice of intelligent, individual and interesting Alt Pop. FOTN readers clearly agreed.
I have written about The JoJo Man Band and its inventor Nick Woodgate in past editions. Nick seems to have found a happy medium with this project alongside fellow musicians Tim Maple and Accy Yeats, settling on a sound that mixes vocals put through a phased effect with guitar-driven semi-Psych Alt Pop that mixes classic influences (Beatles, Beachboys, Kinks, Velvets) with others that seem to me to lurk in the shadows like Comsat Angels (particular, the glissando guitar melodies), Oasis, Bowie, maybe a touch of Paisley Punk too (Dream Syndicate, The Rain Parade). I wonder whether Nick would consider any of these artists to be conscious influences but these things are so often in the eyes and ears of the beholder.
What I can say with confidence is Nick has an innate talent for combining infectious melodies with lovely chord patterns and driving energetic songs. the video for the song Indie Love closed out Edition 1 of my TV show which shows how much confidence I had in it. So it was good to see it arrive in my Fresh on the Net in-box a few weeks later. It has all these elements in spades, joyously riding along on an unstoppable momentum mixing guitar-dominated Alt Pop with a synth-electronic backdrop that underlines its contemporary use of these older influences. Heartwarming stuff.
Since writing the above review I have also had the pleasure of playing another track Ghost Faced Killer which mixes the trademark JoJo Man Band sounds of indie-psych melody, filtered vocals and electronic backdrop with a bubbly Ska rhythm possibly inspired by Nick’s brother’s band, the amazing Madness.
Yakima are a quartet from Glasgow who, judging by Sheep Boy, Cry Man play driving semi-psychedelic Indie Rock with strong melodies, cool harmonies and joyously clanging guitars. It has shades of Jesus and Mary Chain (circa April Skies) with a hint of Peter Hook in the melodic double stopping Bass. The melody is infectious and the chemistry between the musicians keeps it fluid and buoyant throughout.
Also from Glasgow are the trio Garlands. Former fresh faves they also appeared at the first Scottish Fresh on the Net Live event in 2019. You might think a Scottish band called Garlands must be named after the Cocteau Twins album of the same name. Well, they might be, I don’t know! But I do know their music, as demonstrated on new single Play Games, is energetic Punk-Pop with singable melodies, harmonies that echo great bands of the past such as The Jam. Their sound is punchy, guitar-driven and has the tight chemistry of a good three-piece. Music to lift the spirits.
Staying in Glasgow Peploare a new name to me but one I hope to hear more from. I put their track Katerina got my tongue for the Monday Night Ride Out on Exile FM after Ming and Jon had been too busy to check and choose tracks from the FOTN Listening Post. They make uplifting melodic Alt Pop. Singer Cit Lennox has a strong and dexterous voice and she soars in the harmony-enhanced chorus while the band deliver an energetic backdrop of tight drums and bass facing off against reverberant guitar jangle. Sounded good on the radio too.
There is precious little in the way of information or links on the Soundcloud page of Aimee Steven but last time she submitted a track to Fresh on the Net she made enough of an impression for me to remember her and her latest offering Darling is a buoyant, grungey shuffle time Alt Rocker that grabs me right from the outset with the simple but agreeable guitar chord intro. She is in fine voice, echoes of Phoebe Bridgers in a mash with Courtney Barnett while Belly look on. Uplifting, energetic and enjoyable.
One thing I never thought I would hear is a cover of Scritti Politti‘s Hegemony (from the Peel Sessions EP before Green discovered Smooth Soul, Reggae & Disco!) but that is what we have courtesy of Sussex band Chalk Horse Music. It is an imaginative take on the edgy Post-Punk original, infusing it with a Coffee House folk-jazz vibe, sweet chords, cool guitar lines and distinct female voice. Well worth hearing.
Regular readers will know I am a big fan of Hull’s Loudhailer Electric Company, the band formed by former Red Guitar Lou Duffy-Howard and her husband Richard. On As my sun continues to set she mixes spoken word with her distinct vocals and her son Dexter takes centre stage with some clever and imaginative violin playing. Lyrically deep and reflective, the song has a quiet intensity that is enhanced by Dexter’s haunting slurs and tremelo. It has a folky edge too. As usual, full of ideas that keep you hooked.
Hastings band Somniansmake a big and resonant noise that mixes powerful instrumental play with passionate vocals as shown on the track White Noise Itch. There is not much in the way of information on their Soundcloud page but their music is melodic Alt Rock with epic intentions.
No such problem of lack of info where Big Beardis concerned. The Gourock-based artist is a former member of several bands and says his main problem is lack of recording opportunities. Shame because Gasoline is an epic slice of resplendant post-Psych Alt Pop with a subtle aura of Edwyn Collins despite it being quite unlike him stylistically. It also has shades of the Bunnymen and more recent references could include Bombay Bicycle Club and the reformed Close Lobsters. The spacious production and vivid colour offsets a slightly melancholy vibe in the long deep vocal lines. Top marks all round.
There is no musical category within which to obviously place the amazing Rosie Bergonzi. One half of the unique World-Jazz-Futurist duo Boubakiki and a member of Neneh Cherry‘s band, I first came into contact with Rosie in 2011 when she was a brilliant young percussionist studying at Goldsmiths University where I was studying for my PhD. Since then she has achieved so much in such a relatively short time. Now the Handpan exponent has turned her talents to spoken word and produced a Handpan-accompanied BritHop anthem in I’m not a hashtag which, speaking as a young black artist, challenges all those white liberals and corporations currently typing #BlackLivesMatter at every opportunity to demonstrate their sincerity by retaining current degrees of passion and commitment when the campaign is no longer fashionable.
Lyrically she gets straight to the point – I don’t trust you white folk/I don’t trust you to stay woke before eventually shifting to I want to trust you white folk as the track progresses. Rosie turns out to be something of a natural poet and the use of the handpan in urban territory is stunning too. I will be showing the video of this track on the next Trust The Doc TV on Tuesday 7th July. But you can check it out on YouTube here.And while you’re there check out the equally hard-hitting and original All lives not to mention plenty of other excellent examples of Rosie’s extraordinary talents.
Black Wolf Oscaris the artist name of South Londoner Oscar Acilam. And he has a cracking slice of tuneful Hip Hop entitled Friday. It contrasts Old Skool rap with his distinct and appealingly deep voice. The production is perfect, allowing sufficient space for the vocals to dominate. A catchy hook rounds off a great track.
This is my perpetual bee in the bonnet but it is annoying that the link for Rod Rantz & Yomi Ace ft. Steffani Milan takes you to On Da Beat Managementand all the links are about them and not their artists Consequently I can’t tell you much about the three named artists except that, in Low Profile they have come up with a bright, syncopated slice of R’n’B-Pop with Hip Hop and Dancehall undercurrents. Steffani Milan’s voice is sweet, soulful and versatile while the male vocalists deliver the goods with great voices and clever nuances. There is plenty of use of familiar effects which they could probably do just as well without but it does have a summery radio-friendly vibe and would fill the floors of most clubs. I hope the likes of BBC 1Xtra and Reprezent pick this up and give it some support.
Who doesn’t love a bit of experimental Hip Hop? And that is essentially how I would describe the Bristol artist Dizraeli‘s I freak out (Everything’s Fine Remix) featuring Orifice Vulgatron (and there’s a name!). The Bristol-based artist has gone for intense rap over a fluid assortment of lively programmed beats, ambient synths, plenty of percussion and sounds that echo and swirl across the mix. Trippy, tormented and dark, this is compelling listening. And original too.
Experimental Hip Hop is also how I would describe Tremr‘s Insomnia. At some points it is seriously noisy; at others quiet and minimal. Vocally it switches between desperate intensity and reflective soft focus. All the while a slow beat accompanies a goodie bag of resonant sounds, ghostly synth chords and keyboard melodies. Trippy as f*** and very appealing.
There was a gorgeous slice of melodic R’n’B in my in-box earlier this month in the form of Veda Black‘s Call it love. Laid back with minimal beat, single piano chords, light echoing synth tunes and plenty of space for soft backing vocals, it really allows her voice to shine through. It is quite traditional in one sense recalling the likes of Shanice, Deniece Williams and maybe even a touch of Janet Jackson. That said, the clever use of effects and the sparse arrangement lend it a much more contemporary vibe. In any case sweet Soul music has a timelessness that is very evident here.
Liverpool-based Satin Beigeis back with a track called Neon Stars which is almost Jazz rather than R’n’B although her characteristically dexterous soulful vocals and backing vocals place it just about in Urban territory. It’s just her voice (multi-tracked as needed) with a guitar playing jazzy, sweet chords while the lyric is painfully honest and slightly masochistic in the metaphorical sense. I hate it more when you make me smile she sings. Well it’s a cracking song and another demonstration of her very special singing and writing skills.
Lady Bis Sarah Bouchier from Ledbury, Herts but fronts the Manchester-based San Pedro Collective. She also records as a solo artist and this month I had the pleasure of receiving her track Distant Shores to play on my radio show. It is an uptempo, uplifting slice of melodic House with a funky undertone that provides a great and expansive backdrop for Sarah’s soulful dexterous voice. Produced by Martin McClaren it represents the beginning of what she hopes will be a fruitful partnership. They have certainly got off to a flyer here.
It is rare for me to write about any band or artist in consecutive editions of Trust The Doc but West Country-based artists Siddhartha Sayshave been busy bees with a new Techno track called Visions which narrowly missed out on the Fresh on the Net Listening Post, driven along by a repeating synth melody that alters through some form of filter, some disguised spoken word and a beat that occasionally breaks off in just the right places.
Meanwhile they also provided me with the Deep House track The Ferryman for my radio show. It is hypnotic Electronic House that, midway through, suddenly introduces an altered spoken voice telling the story of the Ferryman. But not being inclined to rest on their laurels they have hit us with the Eastern mysticism of Bhavana with a twisting snake charmer of a tune playing over agreeable beat and chords. Three contrasting and well executed tracks that I had to give a shout out to.
Gurpreet Sehmbi records under the name Goodge. And the High Wycombe-based artist has delivered another agreeably jazz-tinged piece of Soulful House with a female vocalist. The track is called Step Forward and it flows along on the momentum of a crisp House beat, jaunty Electric Piano and a fine vocal performance. A floor filla once there are floors to fill again.
Regular readers will know I have a big soft spot for a bit of Euro-style House with big resplendant synths playing melodic riffs loudly t the centre of a track and that is what you get with Promis 3 on the track Simulated Paradise. The male vocal is slighty melancholy and shifts nicely between whispery and quiet to upper register and dynamic. But it is those classic 90s synths that nail it for me. Another floor filla in a post-lockdown world.
It was difficult to decide what section to review Lost Sound Club‘s track Computer Head in. In essence it is a kind of laid back funky groover that has shades of Big Beat, Acid Jazz and Fusion about it. A funky bassline and corresponding drum pattern underpins a track characterised by funk-influenced chords and improvising guitar all adorned by a repeating two-line hook sung by a chorus of kids which is the icing on the cake. There is zero information on their Soundcloud page but I think I found their Twitter account and, if it is them, they are from New York which is what I kind of expected upon hearing them. And it’s a cool track worthy of seeking out.
The endlessly consistent and prolific Londoner Pimlican is at it again with another sassy Soulful House track on his excellent Belgrave Road Records containing accomplished female vocals. Give me a sign should be filling floors all summer and would be in post-lockdown conditions. Fortunately it has a radio-friendly aura too and will hopefully get itself heard. Certainly he is picking up regular airplay through the likes of BBC Introducing, Amazing Radio and others including a certain Exile FM. He remains on fine form.
I was pleased to be contacted by the UK-based American singer-songwriter Annie Dressnerwho 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.
One song that has captured the attention of some of my radio show listeners is Juliette & Nanette‘s Somebody stole you away. A soulful jazz-tinged piece that has more than an echo of Tom Waits in a jam with Todd Rundgren, it is an emotional song delivered in Juliette’s gritty bluesy voice while her classy piano contrasts with Nanette’s rich Cello. A duo who are very much out on their own with a distinct and appealing style and sound. My friend Billy Brown of the band Friends Of Gavin loves this track so much he has been getting them airplay from the likes of Radio Caroline.
It is always good to hear from Bristol-based Dutch singer-songwriter Maaike Siegerist and her latest track Clockmaker sees her rich and versatile voice accompanied by tasteful picking guitar, occsional synth ambience and understated backing vocals. Her voice rightly dominates and she duly delivers a scorching pop ballad with trademark class.
Epic & Cinematic
Melllois 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.
Darlington’s Moodbayare back with another killa pop choon in Like Nobody Else. Anna is in fine voice, quiet and breathy one moment, pleading and intense the next. The song reflects these contrasts too, a slighly eighties-influenced epic synth pop playing off against minimal keys courtesy of Alfie and ambience. The chorus is straight up and at you with a hook that instantly annexes your brain. Brooding cinematic and appealing modern pop.
Worcester’s Lower Lovedayare 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.
London-based artist Kaskahas come up with a wonderfully dreamy piece of Soundscape Pop in the form of her song Insomaniac(a term she originated). Her voice is soft but powerful with a subtle grittiness while the music is echoing overlapping synths and ambience that swirls and crackles around her. It is melodic and engaging too. Music to improve your mood.
Manchester singer-songwriter Caffs Burgis performs as Test Card Girl. As well as having a great name, she makes thoughtful music like the track Holds me down which brings to mind Donna Lewis (remember her?) in a jam with Enya and Regina Spektor. Synths bounce over a syncopated drum pattern and spine-tingling multi-layered vocal harmonies take centre stage throughout. Caffs has a strong alto voice and an easy dynamic range that enable her to achieve the nuances and textural contrasts that make a multi-tracked song like this really work.
Electronic & Ambient
The Evolving 9th Hour is the recording monicker of musician and producer Simon Horsefield and the London-based artist is a consistent provider of thoughtful, evocative ambient electronica that never outstays its welcome. Such is the case with Waterloo Embankment which builds in a double arc of sound from quiet beginnings. It blends synthesizer with ambient sounds to create a gradually emerging soundscape that has the sense of clouds slowly fading as the sun rises over the Thames. Shades of Brian Eno, a little of Floating Points perhaps too. No beat required. Pure ambient music at its most appealing.
Simon has also shared two further new tracks with me. One is the slow-building Burwash Common & Sussex Fields which lights up like a sunrise or a distant beacon in the penultimate segment of the track. The other is the more arc-shaped crescendo and descrescendo of Magic Garden mixing more ambient synths and sounds in a soothing, pre-sleep electronic lullaby. New album impending too.
Scottish artist Backlash After Backlashmakes enigmatic electronic music with hypnotic beats, minimal synth playing repetitive single note themes as ambient sounds circulate around them. On the curiously titled \\\\\ – 15:29 this process accompanies a slow build-up with semi-melodies appearing. It follows classic minimalist principles but style-wise is ambient electronica. Interesting and compelling.
I remain among the few who have the inside knowledge on who Minimumsactually is! In the meantime he keeps pumping out new tracks. The latest is Against better judgement. Once again it builds from a quiet start, blending enigmatic ambience with carefully crafted synths forming a virtually perfect arc of sound that peaks at its centre and gradually deconstructs. As always, it is done with skill and love.
The same can also be said of Belfast’s Transpacifica. His track Praesodymium begins quietly and enigmatically with a bunch of ambient sounds and synth before a striking, slightly rueful sounding melody takes centre stage. Sounds squelch and echo around the main theme and the beat comes and goes. All very nicely done.
Sunderland’s Matthew Jamesonis becoming another TTD favourite and his latest track Tape Machine Broke (Short Edit) is a must for anyone who loves buzzing, burning electronic sound with bleeps and fuzz as themes come in and out over a hypnotic looped figure. Tangerine Dream in a jam with Kate Carr perhaps. Great stuff.
Contemporary Classical & Leftfield
Regular readers will be aware that I am a big fan of Newcastle Upon Tyne-based composer and pianist Paul Taylorso I was both delighted and pleasantly surprised to receive the track Blodeuwedd; surprised only because, whereby Paul has been composing a lot of fantastic piano music lately, usually infused with his advanced improvisatory technniques, this is dreamy electro-classical music. Its central theme is based on resonant synth playing elaborate glissandi, piano adding single notes and strings arriving mid-point as timbres and textures come in and out of focus. Like everything Paul composes, it is beautifully crafted and perfectly played. Music to take you somewhere much more exotic than the four walls of your lockdown front room.
Emi Jamesis a new name to me. From Edinburgh he has put little on his Soundcloud page but there is a pic of him, a young man with a beard, and he is described simply as ‘A Composer’! Well anyway his track The Bravery of the Cuttlefish is intriguing. It starts off as quiet, enigmatic and slow-burning ambient electronica but then takes on a much more filmic mock-orchestral feel as the track develops. It has the feel of soundtrack music so possible sync opportunities there for him. An impressive way to announce himelf anyway.
Jazz & World Journeys
It isn’t every day that I receive a track like Gibbon‘s Zigg which, in a matter of just less than four and a half minutes, takes us on a high speed trip through a series of contrasting musical states, each characterised by breathtaking musicianship, exciting harmonic concepts and distinct rhythmic configurations. At times the wailing organ could be James Taylor Quartet while the musical language in the opening section also has echoes of Jean-Luc Ponty (albeit no violin).
The brass players with their ascending figures in semi-tones could be the Brecker Brothers in a mash with Tower of Power while Denys Baptiste looks on but, as soon as the mood changes to slow and lush, the vibe is more lounge jazz. The guitar melody has elements of Larry Carlton and perhaps a little of Mike Sembello and there is some rapid-fire trumpet that Kamasi Washington would be happy with. Drums could be Billy Cobham in a jam with Dennis Chambers. And in terms of the fluidity of the band and their confidence in a continuously changing sound world, a little Mahavishnu Orchestra comes to mind.
Enough references I feel! What you really need to know is this is just magnificent. One for anyone who mistakenly believes contemporary Jazz can’t be thrilling.
Leeds-based saxophonist and writer Emma Johnsonhas teamed up with Manchester-based singer Nishla Smith (aka Nishla) on a slick, slowish and gently swinging piece of soulful modern Jazz entitled Where were you hiding? which also has some beautifully played guitar a la Carlton or Ritenour amid the dexterous vocals, scorching sax and delicate piano (and corresponding bass and drums). Really really nice stuff.
Folk & Country
There is very little in the way of information about The Choco La’son their Soundcloud page; not even where they are from. But their song Firebreather was a stand-out track from the outset when it came into my in-box. Folky, jaunty but a little melancholy too, the female vocalist has a lovely edginess about her delivery that brings to mind The Staves in a mix with Laura Marling. The band’s harmonies are lovely and the arrangement and production manage to blend the organic with a subtle ambience that underlines its contemporary feel. It also has a killa hook to boot. Their Facebook page tells us they are two brothers Jake and Luke with Bryony as ‘surrogate sister’! But even that doesn’t tell us where they are from! Eventually I discover a post that says they are from the Surrey Hills. But I’m not familiar with the term Surrey Hills in relation to the English Surrey so is this a US location? Or neither? Anyway, great track. I look forward to hearing more.
London-based artist Enjoyable Listens may have chosen a somewhat unusual name for a solo artist who describes himself as a Folk singer-songwriter but there you go! His track International Space Station is as much Indie as it is Folk, punchy guitar with slight swing feel and a lovely key change into the chorus. Vocally it is a bit Edwyn Collins meets Kurt Vile (both great references) and the production is agreeably loud. It is also very melodic and adorned with nice harmonies to boot. Big, brash and very appealing.
AND FINALLY ……..
Well that’s it for another month folks. Once again it has been packed with new music from across the widest possible spectrum. Events and uncertainties continue to destabilise and cause concern and consternation. Equally there is cautious optimism around the battle for an end to racism and discrimination. Either way we have music. Thank heavens I hear you say. Till next time then. Neil xxxx