TRUST THE DOC EDITION 49

TTD LogoTTD Radio-LOGO

Edition 49: 31st October 2020: A blog by Neil March

Welcome to Edition 49 of Trust The Doc. Please visit and ‘like’ the Trust The Doc Facebook page and follow us on Twitter and Instagram. Another 44 individual track reviews across a wide spectrum of genres this month. Also news about live music (including a link to a great Joyzine review) and my TV and Radio shows.

PART ONE: THE MONTH IN BRIEF

Live music returned to South East London on 15th October in the form of the first Trust The Doc Live gig since March. The event took place at the iconic Amersham Arms in New Cross under strict COVID rules with socially distanced seating and table service plus a 10PM finish. That, however, did not prevent it being a great night of new music thanks to inspiring performances from Emma Kelly; Everafter; Moses and The Fragile States

It is just a shame that, on the morning of the event, news broke that London would move into Tier 2 in 48 hours; absurdly short notice for venues like the Amersham Arms which have spent so much money and worked so hard to reopen and ‘get the economy moving’. The gig itself was amazing. Ticket sales were high thanks to the combined efforts and enthusiasm of the artists and those in their support networks. Fortunately the spirit of the event was captured in a fantastic article for Joyzine by PaulFCook which you can read here.

VANISHING POINT @ AMP STUDIOS CANCELLED!!!

Sadly, due to the decision to move London into Tier 2 od COVID 19 restrictions so soon after resuming live music in the Capital, the planned return of Vanishing Point on Thursday 5th November at AMP Studios is cancelled until at least early 2021. This is now the second time the proposed move to AMPs has been scuppered by lockdown; the last time being when the gig on 2nd April was cancelled. Hopefully we will be third time lucky with getting the move to this beautiful new venue done. I hope so because Dido, Jo and the team at AMPs are doing amazing work, transforming derelict spaces around South East London into creative arts hubs. They are such cool people and will make AMPs a success.

TRUST THE DOC TV: STANDARD KEEPS RISING!!

October saw another two editions of Trust The Doc TV and the standard keeps on rising. Not because of me but because of the amazing content the bands and artists involved keep giving me. The show is always available on YouTube from 8PM on the Tuesday (first and third of each month to be precise) and then remains on there indefinitely. If you have not seen the latest editions check them out for a great combination of live lockdown tracks, new videos, interviews and talk. Find all editions on our YouTube Channel.

TRUST THE DOC RADIO SHOW

Screenshot 2020-02-01 at 10.23.34

The Trust The Doc Radio Show is always inundated with new tracks these days! But I’m not complaining. October saw the total listeners to the podcast reach 11,000, Over 100 listen live every Saturday and many interact with me and with one another during the show. Another 400 listen to the podcast between live shows. Clearly New Music is more in demand than some would have us believe! I am hugely grateful to Ming & Jon for giving me the opportunity to present my show on such an amazing radio station. I recommend checking out the full schedule at Exile FM as there is such a unique collection of shows covering all kinds of specialist interests from Folk and Traditional to Electronic Ambient; from Reggae and Lovers’ Rock to deep grooves and much more.

My show 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 and expanding section of the independent music community who not only interact with me throughout the two hours but also with one another, mainly on Twitter. There are messages and shout-outs throughout the show, a Track of the Week poll, other weekly features and plenty of banter. It is all extremely good natured though and makes the show all the more fun to present. And if you miss the live shows you always have seven days to catch them here. 

A quick word to any artists [and their representatives] who are seeking airplay on the show. I am generally about two weeks ahead with planning each show these days so get your submissions to me as early as you can via dptmusicdigital@gmail.com. I do my best to play something by every artist I receive tracks from but I do occasionally miss the fact that I have not played something. On some occasions, it is physically just not possible to accommodate everyone, especially as the success of the show has meant I am now inundated with submissions from pluggers, PR companies, record labels and managers too. It’s all good news though and means I have the privilege of getting to play so much exciting new music, often before anyone else does.

TRUST THE DOC EXTRA

TTD Radio-LOGO

The Trust The Doc Extra pre-recorded midweek show is also enjoying a rapid increase with over 3000 accessing the podcast in just over 5 months and an increasing number listening at the time of broadcast. Obviously it doesn’t offer the opportunity for interaction, shout-outs, votes etc. But it does mean, with more music and less talk, I can cram 18 tracks into a 1-hour show (where the Saturday show sees about 26 in 2 hours!).

It also allows me to play tracks that I have not been able to get onto the playlist for the live Saturday show. That means I can 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. It feels like people have got used to the two shows being very different in character but being united by the amount of music by new and emerging acts playing alongside the best current tracks by more established ones and the odd classic. Listen every Wednesday at 8PM on https://exilefm.com or catch up via the podcast which is available for the ensuing seven days at http://exilefm.com/podcasts/trust-the-doc-extra-50

PART TWO: REVIEWS OF NEW MUSIC

October proved to be a bumper month for new music with another 800 tracks coming into my Fresh on the Net in-box and at least a further 200 being sent direct to me by artists and those representing them. There were also a load of fantastic new releases by more established artists although I will not be covering those in this blog. You can hear quite a few of them on my radio shows though. So once again I have divided the new and emerging tracks into twelve (12) broad categories to make it that little bit easier to locate them. Here goes then.

Pop Noodles

Kiera Bickerstaff: Delete us forever. Kiera is from Leeds, a hotbed of new music talent, and this is a sort of epic synth pop with keyboard arpeggios flying along over root bass and straight 4/4 beat while her voice is sweet and soft one moment, passionate and pleading the next. Shades maybe of Katy J Pearson, Andrea Corr and Dolores O’Riordan drift into mind but she has one powerful, rangey voice that is so appealing. She clearly knows how to pen an anthemic pop chooon too.

Beka: I’ll be there. Anyone whose Soundcloud page name is ‘BekaOnToast’ has to be worth checking out and this Beka certainly is. From the moment her soulful soprano voice floats into centre stage and the funky triplet (6/8) time backing track kicks in with its light staccato picking and tough beat, you know you are listening to something a bit special. Once the multi-tracked vocal harmonies arrive and we get to hear Beka’s melodic sensibilities adorned by her gracious vocal agility, I am totally won over. Pop at its energising best. Another one to watch.

Miss Kitty: Dream come true. Bristol-based Miss Kitty has been a regular on my radio and TV shows recently and when you hear Dream come true, you will get why that’s the case. Her strong, distinctive voice is increasingly bathed in lush harmonies, powerful chords, simple driving beat and a hook that is reinforced with persistence and passion. Check out her lovely album Kiss And Tell too.

AXLS: Discotek. I have written about AXLS before. The trio from the English North East play synth-driven Pop leaning towards EDM with strong female vocals at the forefront of their sound. They cite as influences contemporary artists like Chvrches and LCD Sound System alongside classic ones like Human League and Kraftwerk, al of which I can hear in their buoyant, dark but melodic style. Discotek has all those qualities and is instantly infectious. Their album is based on a Bladerunner-style story set in some dystopian future. Sounds like a lot of fun and worth delving into.

Jazz Lingard: Julie’s. Jazz Lingard returns with a Waltz-time Pop ballad that has her softer tones at its core accompanied by simple chords, sometimes just Acoustic, other times with piano and other sounds bolstering the overall texture. But the striking feature is the unusual harmonies as her multi-tracked vocals cross paths and intertwine to create something quite distinct and appealing.

Alt Rock & Indie

I SEE RIVERS: Grow and Grow. I was thrilled to hear this on Radcliffe & Maconie this month which is another reminder of how far I SEE RIVERS have come in the time I have known them and their wonderful manager Rosa. Grow and Grow is aptly named because it gets better with every listen. There is an agreeable intensity about the chorus with its tracked voices and nagging melody. It finds the Norwegian, Wales-based trio in fine voice as reflective verses play off against lively chorus and the arrangement builds towards a climatic finish. They are on the cusp of big success and hopefully 2021 will be huge for them. Deservedly so.

Demonstrations: King Craig. This track really grabbed my attention when it came into the Fresh on the Net in-box. Quirky Alt-Surf-Indie with semi-spoken word verses and infectious chorus, complete with cool B52s-like harmonies and guitars that also remind me of that band as well as others like Devo. This has a refreshing individuality coupled with tongue-in-cheek humour but [barely] masking something darker and more sinister. Surprise, surprise, another outstanding young band from Brighton. 

Lunar Bird: Swallow Man Aviary. The inimitable Italian-Welsh Dream Pop/Synth Alt wonders return with another striking melody set to a cinematic Alt Pop backdrop of big resonant synths, solid beat and Roberta’s alluring, agile voice splitting off into harmonies. I love their tendency to use certain devices, possibly unconsciously, such as ascending to augmented 5th chords or descending melodically towards a major seventh. This is more uptempo than some of their recent singles but is every bit as engaging and original. You can see why they have been winning awards and getting BBC Introducing support in Wales. 2021 could be a big year for them.

Third Girld From The Left: Oxygen. Making music in her rural Devon studio, Third Girl from the Left describes her music as ‘impressionistic, dark and intimate’ and ‘Indie Folk’. She also says ‘If Lotte Reiniger had made music this is what it would sound like.’ Oxygen is in triplet (6/8) time and rolls along with an airy lightness of texture that complements the translucent synths and TGFTL’s soft but assured vocals. It is refreshingly individual; shades of Charli XCX and Lorde in the interaction between backing track and voice. I look forward to hearing more from Third Girl from the Left soon.

Captain Tugboat: Day To Day. Such a combination of flavours and great harmonies. This builds from a quiet start. The melody in the verse more than slightly borrows from the Only Ones classic Another girl another planet though they are stylistically very different. What you get is lovingly crafted songsmithery (is that a word?), consummate musicianship and an imaginative arrangement to boot. They are proving to be a consistently excellent band.

The Perps: Bad way. Manchester band The Perps make a big, loud and joyous noise with epic qualities both in the enthusiastic male vocals and the raw energy that pours from the speakers. The guitars are fuzzed up, loud and melodic. Bass and drums are heavy but tight and disciplined. The production is bang on perfect, capturing the aura as if it were live on a stage in my living room. Music-wise it has a definite Punk influence but also an heroic quality too. Imagine early Kaiser Chiefs in a mash-up with The Ruts and PIL (minus Lydon) while IDLES officiate. Well something like that anyway! I bet they are awesome live.

Urban Flavas

EDBL (ft. Zach Said): Charmaine. London artist EDBL teams up with Zach said on an infectiously catchy slice of R’n’B with a memorable chorus that could be Gregory Porter mixing it with Usher while Craig David keeps score (maybe!). Eminently radio-friendly, I would expect to hear this getting some serious support from the likes of Kiss, BBC 1Xtra and Reprezent. Music that puts a smile on your face.

Treasure: Acceptance. Treasure are an intriguing band who mix R’n’B and Soul influences with Folk, Electronic and Experimental ones although, on Acceptance, the backing track is fairly sparse; the beat and synth coming in and out while picking guitar is the main constant and vocal harmonies dominate. The vibe is very dreamy and enigmatic. A rap delivers a nice surprise contrast towards the end. It is impressively individual and sophisticated. Well worth making time to listen to and it appears to be part of an EP so I will be listening to that too when I get a moment.

Mysle: Bones. Uniqueness is one of the hardest states to achieve in today’s post-everything epoch but Mysie has a distinct voice and a style that defies categorisation. This is interesting because, as a child, she found herself being compartmentalised by others. Clearly somewhere on her journey through those testing teenage years she blossomed into an artist who is bold and tenacious enough to plough her own furrow. The result is tracks like Bones that is urban in the sense that it has an unmistakable R’n’B-infused core but it also makes room for a rainbow of other flavours. Here is what I included in the blurb when I picked this as my Vanishing Point track on the Monday Night Ride Out.

Mysie is the grand-daughter of a well-known Ugandan Jazz musician and grew up in South London, making music from a young age and discovering the experimental tendencies of artists like NERD and Thundercat (the latter of whom is one of my favourite current artists). Last month she was invited by none other than Nile Rodgers to perform on his show where he also interviewed her about her music. 

Bones is a clever piece of jazz-infused R’n’B with a swinging feel, strong hook and cool harmonies while the instrumental backdrop is sophisticated and urban in feel but with a few keyboard chords that actually remind me of Scritti Politti. Her rich alto vocal puts her broadly in the same territory as the likes of Angie Stone, Erikah Badu and India Arie. The arrangement is spacious and makes clever use of breaks and quiet synth figures. And everything points to the catchy chorus that dominates proceedings throughout.

Danny G & The Major 7ths (ft. Tolü Makay & Jamel Franklin): D.A.R.L.I.N.G. This is a joyous track. Stabbing chords, funky deep and rich Bass Guitar and punchy beat accompany a soulful alto female voice singing a melody that has echoes of early Mariah and Mary J Blige. The male rap is Old Skool but rhythmically smart and effortless. Music that lifts me off the metaphorical floor and restores my energy levels. The piano chords and licks in the middle section are gorgeous and jazzy. Catchy too. 

Wolfgang Von Vanderghast ft Farma G: Oh what a carry on. Something slightly different this time. Wolfgang Von Vanderghast, an artist I know little about and who has no info or links on his Soundcloud page, has teamed up with Farma G who I presume is the rapper. It is a quirky, very British sounding take on Old Skool Hip Hop with humour and a refreshing breeziness. A surprise package perhaps.

Reggae Riddims

Mangoseed: Still believe. Mangoseed is a London-based Reggae artist whose style is quite traditional but fresh too. Lyrically his message is one of believing in love no matter how the Trumps and Johnsons of this world bring pain and anguish to our societies. It is lilting, soulful and melodic. No surprises but nicely done.

Boneyard: Thieves and Lovers. Brighton duo Boneyard appear to have started out as a Dancehall/Hip Hop act but became more interested in Alt Rock and Americana. Well that may be so but this track, for me, sits in contemporary Reggae territory on account of its beat and bassline and the vocal delivery too which has a Dancehall leaning. It is original too and infectiously melodic. Hard to categorise so you could argue that it belongs in a different section of this blog but what matters most is that this is striking and refreshingly different to most of what else I have reviewed this month.

Soulful Sensibilities

JUBE: Drag. Sheffield band JUBE are wasting no time in getting amongst it. With a documentary about their music, an appearance in the Top 3 of the iTunes Jazz charts and an album you can download, they are underlining their serious intent. Based around vocalist Julie Clarkson and keyboardist & vocalist Bennett Holland, they say they hope their music is an antidote to a troubled, dysfunctional 21st Century world by being ‘… timeless, unfussy, uncomplicated. Music with integrity, soul and passion’. 

That is certainly very much in evidence on Drag which is built around a simple chugging acoustic guitar figure in the verses and a slightly swung soul sensibility in the chorus that has a classic feel. Their dexterous voices blend beautifully and the sixties-style organ that joins in the chorus is a cool touch. Bennett and Bass Guitarist Darren Campbell have both toured with Groove Armada whose own laid back sophistication might be a reference point. Richard Storer is the drummer. I don’t think either are on this track though. Classy and very musical, this latest take on the always appealing concept of Acoustic Soul (from Van Morrison to India Arie etc.) is a true breath of fresh air and deserves some radio play. Check out the album too as it is crammed with classy tracks.

King Casio: Shadows. This is a hard song to place genre-wise with its sumptuous chords, cool resonant sounds, lazily cool baritone vocals and jazzy sleaziness. There is scant information on the band’s Soundcloud page but there are three of them (young white males to be precise) in the pics. The song is gorgeously spacious with a very straight beat, single sustsained keyboard chords and what could be a fretless bass rearing its head here and there. As a reviewer I always home in on those tracks that stand out for their individuality and flair. This is unquestionably one such track.

Club Culture

There is no question about the club-oriented track that has excited me the most this month. It sees friend and soulful House producer/DJ extraordinaire Pimlican team up with an artist I manage, Josie on the excellent Temptation. Pimlican’s tough, funk-gilted beat and deliciously dark House backing track plays off perfectly against Josie’s melody writing and soulful vocals and spine-tingling harmonies. The chemistry between these two fine artists is a joy to behold and the track is catchy and energetic; a floor filla for sure but a great radio track too. And the exciting news is it looks like there will be more collaboration between these two cool artists very soon.

I am always pleased to see a new track by DMP Tunes and Collateral Damage, part of a series of lockdown-inspired works, sees him mixing his trademark blend of epic Euro-influenced House verging on Trance with some mind-boggling ambient electronica in the mid-section. Big waves of Ibitha-bound synths play off against persistent beat and lovely breakz. Expertly done; a floor filla all night long.

Bashaya Soul: Magnetic (Radio Cut). A lovely uplifting Disco vibe is writ large over this slice of, well kind of Soulful House. Big stomping four-to-the-floor beat drives the track along while an appealing female voice is accompanied by jazz-tinged piano, classic light funky guitar and phat phunky bass. It has a nineties sensibility that recalls the likes of Shanice, Ce Ce Peniston and Jennfer Paige. But the sounds are fresh and relevant. A real radio track but one that will work in a club setting too. 

Popcorn Fiend: Remain. I could have put this in the Electronic & Ambient section but it feels like the kind of joyous slice of instrumental Electronica verging on Trance that would fill the floor of any banging club. Popcorn Fiend is Glasgow musician Michael MacLennan and he certainly has a talent for creating substantial synth-driven electronica that has the kind of structure, with contrasts between full-on EDM and laid back breakz that brings distant echoes of Paul Van Dyk in a jam with Disclosure (though without vocals in the latter’s case). A track that is made for the dancefloor but is also eminently listenable in your front room.

Amey St Cyr: Life’s too short (Rework). Amey has had an amazing year. She has been the subject of a Radio 4 documentary produced by her daughter, a regular on my radio and TV shows and is doing great musical work for mental health patients. Her banging House music is the perfect vehicle for her gutsy, rangey voice – deep alto one moment, rising up into soprano range the next. And this song, like all her releases this year, has a killa hook that burrows into the brain. Another winner from Amey.

Singer-Songwriters

Roisin O’Hagan: Us. I have reviewed Essex-bassed singer-songwriter Roisin O’Hagan before including her excellent solo live set at the Musicmakers Festival in Putney which Paul F Cook and I shared reviewing duties on (a day each) for Fresh on the Net. It seems hard to believe that was fourteen months ago! In the meantime, ‘Fender Undiscovered Artist’ Roisin has hit us with a new track which has her trademarks of easy-flowing singable melody, organic instrumental backdrop and her distinct, appealing voice. Lyrically it is thoughtful and carries a simple but important message about humanity. Style-wise it sits somewhere between Folk and Americana, conjuring up an atmosphere of long dusty roads with the radio playing as it breezes along with a refreshingly spacious mix and another fine vocal performance. 

I recall that Billy Bragg and his mate Wiggy used to play a live cover of Route 66 back in his early years which they had rewritten about travelling on the A13 to Southend! Thirty-five years later Roisin O’Hagan may have provided the kind of soundtrack that would be perfect for such a road trip!

Epic & Cinematic

Battery Operated Orchestra: Lady Megawatt. Battery Operated Orchestra has to be the best band name I have heard this month so it was a joy to discover their music is so good too. Buoyant, swinging and loud, Lady Megawatt is in uptempo triplet (6/8) time with squelchy buzzy synth bass accompanying a Kim Wilde-ish female vocal and melody. It adds layers of synth as it progresses and the vocals become fortified by harmonies on certain lines and phrases. The structure is almost 12-bar lending it a Silicon Teens comparison perhaps. The chorus is the icing on a perfect synth pop cake.

Iwan Gronow: On the mind. Iwan Gronow’s Soundcloud page locates him in Manchester which makes sense since he is Johnny Marr’s Bass Guitarist. However, he is born in Sidcup, raised in Cornwall with, as his name suggests, a Welsh father. Not that any of those factors are particularly relevant to On the mind. The track is swinging epic Alt Pop with big synth figures, big production and big vocals. The song fills the room and its melodic strength sucks you in from the outset. The arrangement is clever and Iwan’s musicianship enables him to create contrasts of timbre while retaining a spaciousness that really works. The song topped the Track of the Week poll on my radio show [by a mile] recently. It is not difficult to see why.

Kovak: Electric City Lights. Kovak are yet another fine band from Brighton. Imagine Blondie at their Discofied best in a jam with the Tom Tom Club and Dream Wife and you might get close to envisaging Kovak’s heartwarming Electro-Alt Pop. The beat is persistent and uptempo with occasionally elaborate fills while the synth plays cool melodies and the whole thing drives along with joyful intent. The female vocal is strong, distinct and melodic. Catchy, energetic, danceable. A pop cracker.

Cestra: Monument. A track that grows from sparse beginnings mainly due to Cestra’s unusual voice and ability to rise up the register adding to the mystical mood of the whole piece. The synth is mainly about slow-building tones and quiet ambience leaving plenty of space for the vocals to dominate. Some of the crackling, scorched synth sounds are rather lovely and the contrast with the dynamic and distinct vocal really helps this track to make its mark.

Electronic & Ambient

Regardless of all the artists on this track being close friends of mine, it would be one of my stand-out tracks of the month anyway. Why? Well listen for yourself and hear that I am not allowing personal bias to cloud my judgement. This track by PaulFCook ft. Project Blackbird & Andy Maclure entitled Tales of the Expected is a demonstration of how collaboration between creative artists can produce something truly special. 

Paul’s characteristically evocative backing track has his skillful guitar playing deployed in several contrasting roles alongside swirling synth and enigmatic ambience. Andy, of the band Sleeper in case you weren’t sure, drives it along with his thoughtful playing from the jazzy cymbals in the intro to the light-textured playing that sits at the heart of the track. To this combination Ming adds a sweet and melancholy upper range vocal melody to her whispered spoken word with beautiful results and Jon’s classy, resonant flugel horn playing is effortless, uplifting and lends the track another edge. I picked this to be my Vanishing Point track on Ming & Jon’s own show The Monday Night Ride Out on Exile FM (a feature I have had for nearly two years) both because I love it and because I knew they would be too modest to playlist it themselves. What a track.

La French: Cabrini Green. Preston artist La French has popped up on my radar in recent times with several very good submissions to Fresh on the Net including this one. Serene, enigmatic synth and ambience builds an otherworldly aura that is both detached in an experimental way and yet has an air of ruefulness that tugs at the heartstrings. This is music you can chill to but still feel its emotional impact too.

Minimums: Slipping Away (From You). I remain among the privileged few who know the real identity of Minimums, making it all the more amusing that others have not equated this enigmatic electronic sound with the artist in question! Slipping Away (From You) constructs and deconstructs in the form of a sonic arc as a translucent soundscape is populated with fleeting colours and dynamics before the components drift away and the translucent texture becomes sparse and quiet. Quite a catalogue Minimums is building (and no, that is not poor English in this context!).

The Chronicles of Manimal & Samara: The Descent. London-based duo Manimal & Samara (aka Daphne & Andrea) are a new name to me so I was pleased that they made direct contact to share this single and the accompanying video. Daphne’s spoken word takes centre stage in the opening section as the track rides along through a series of changes in mood, style and texture bringing in elements of Jazz, Funk, Electronica and international flavours. It is a fascinating track which I recommend you check out. I am also excited to have the video in the edition of Trust The Doc TV that hits YouTube on Tuesday (3rd September).

Panthalassa (ft. Lady): Loops. Panthalassa is musician, DJ and producer Tom Griffin whose locations are listed as Leeds and Liverpool. The track has a dreamy ambient feel despite an uptempo [big] beat and samples aplenty with high pitched voices and a female vocal appearing at various points. The dominant feature though is the keyboard playing extended chords against the persistent beat. Enough funk to be a dance track, enough substance to be engaging ambient pop.

Hannya White: Be my friend. Hannya White has a liking for quirky electronic experimentalism. Be my friend finds the Londoner in particularly playful mood. While the vocal is slightly barking [mad, that is!], the track has more bleeps and squeaks than an overactive vehicle parking detector. I imagine there would be people who would listen to this, shake their head and declare they don’t get it. But if, like me, you do get it, Hannya White’s music is a breath of fresh air in what can be safe and stale times in music. Good on her for being prepared to stand out.

Contemporary Classical & Sound Art

Dengue Dengue Dengue: Mu. Peruvian duo Dengue Dengue Dengue blend the influences of their ancient Peruvian past with that of contemporary American music to create an ethereal soundworld that is ambient and sparse with repeating vocal figures playing against held reverberant string and synth tones while spacy chords flit in and out of focus. I heard this track on Elizabeth Alker’s Unclassified show on BBC Radio 3 and I understand it is part of an EP although not one I could find on their Soundcloud page. I need to do some exploring.

Suzanne Chiani: A Sonic Womb. Suzanne Chiani has been astonishingly prolific with new releases in 2020 and the album A Sonic Womb delivers eight studio and one live track(s), using Buchla, that sit somewhere in the grey (though not dull grey obviously!) area between contemporary art music and Sound Art. The tracks are simply named after the album title and numbered parts one to eight. My recommendation is that you make time to listen to the whole work in one sitting as the diversity of ideas is immense, almost synth electronica at times, pure sound and ambience at others but always hypnotic, engaging and otherworldly. I also love her use of those glissando-like squeals that remind me of trying to tune in an old transistor radio across its different frequency bands. Another fine addition to her ever-expanding catalogue.

I am not about to start writing rave reviews of my own music (!) but, since tracks from my first contemporary classical EP in two and a half years have bagged airplay on Tom Robinson’s Saturday Night show on BBC Radio 6 Music, the Hello Goodbye Show on Resonance FM, the Monday Night Ride Out on Exile FM and hopefully a few more by the time this is published, I thought I should provide a link if anyone wants to check it out for free on Soundcloud. If you want a brief description of how I utilise environmental sound etc, click here.

Jazz & Internationalist Journeys

Theo Christo: Project Sunlight I Summer Jive – one of those tracks that is impossible to categorise but since it is from Greece and has a jazz sensibility at its heart, this throwback instrumental can be reviewed in this section. Theo Christo has been prolific lately and appears to take great enjoyment in delving into a sixties suaveness that is part spy-movie, part TV thriller and then mixing it up with more contemporary sounds. Interestingly he calls it Impressionistic Pop. The feel is more or less Bossa Nova, including the congas, horn stabs and open fifths bass figure but the sounds are edgy and unusual. It certainly conjures up some sunny smoky journey through exotic lands. The guitar tops it off with a Latin Jazz classiness.

Glenn Maltman: A Newcastle Night. Fresh on the Net regular Glenn Maltman, from County Durham, is a consummate musician and thoroughly likeable individual, never short of a kind word for others. A Newcastle Night sounds, in this case, like a quieter Newcastle night than some I have experienced! Smoky urban Jazz is the order of the day as a resonant solo sax introduces the scene before being joined by soft piano playing a chord sequence that has shades of Dave Brubeck in a mash with Carole King. Glenn has written film scores and I can hear this accompanying a scene in a movie. He has also been played over 50 times by BBC Introducing. I hope this track will join that list and pick up some plays.

Brendan Walsh & His Gastric Band: Here comes the love. It isn’t exactly Jazz but it is an almost perfect alloy of Jazz and Swinging Bluesy Rock in the form of a classy instrumental piece. Brendan has been ominously quiet of late but this signals a buoyant return. Crisp undercurrents, blasts of reverberant brass and a lush arrangement allow Brendan to showcase his considerable guitar playing skills whilst not straying too far from the lovely melody that dominates. I look forward to more new material from this talented artist.

Lizzy Hardingham: Blue, Lizzy Hardingham is one of those artists who, if you knew nothing about her, you might think she was from one of the hard-bitten Bible Belt States of the American South. Such is the edgy quality of her extraordinarily loud and powerful alto voice. But she is, in fact, from just down the road from where I grew up in West Herts. And she delivers with such consistency. Blue could be about a friend or lover who will ‘always have the Blues in your soul’ but then it might just as easily be autobiographical. Accompanied by skillful acoustic guitar and characteristically organic backdrop, the track showcases both Lizzy’s stunning vocal talent and her ability to pen an infectious, melancholy and wholesome melody. You can bet she is amazing live too.

Folk & Country

I don’t know why I have only just become aware of Amelia Coburn but the Ukulele toting singer-songwriter from Middlesbrough has clearly had plaudits from the likes of Tom Robinson and Mark Radcliffe who allegedly dubbed her ‘the voice of the future’. Listening to her new single Dublin Serenade I can see [or rather hear] why. Not only does she have an extraordinarily pure and powerful voice but, by combining sweetly evocative lyrics with a stunning melody and appealing chord arrangement, she pulls off the solo Uke & Voice concept with consummate ease and captivates throughout. 

Motel Sundown: Before Midnight. Motel Sundown are a new name to me but their lilting Country Rock style is both a throwback to the days of The Eagles, Emmylou Harris and the likes and, at the same time, has a driving contemporary freshness to the heartwarming [mainly] female vocals, rich harmonies, big chords and gorgeous pedal steel. The production is a bit distorted in bits and could do with mastering and there is no information about them on their Soundcloud page so I don’t know where they are from or whether they have any social media links. I just noticed a friend of mine follows them on Soundcloud. In the meantime this is a lovely track.

AND FINALLY …….

What a difference a month can make. In Edition 48, on 30th September, I was full of optimism about the return of live music and things gradually getting back to pre-lockdown levels. Now we are practically back in lockdown with London in Tier 2, different household members only allowed to meet outdoors etc. It has been devastating for venues who took Johnson at his word in order to ‘get the economy moving’ (remember that claptrap?!) and reopened with all the cost and risk of restocking, bringing staff out of furlough, filling the diaries with events etc. only to be kicked in the teeth just as it was starting to go well. 2 days’ notice is an insult and shows the self-proclaimed ‘party of business’ knows f***-all about business! They are a disgrace and should be voted out at the earliest opportunity. 

In the meantime I am staying as positive as I can; hoping the Arts Council will allow me another year’s backing to continue finding ways to give opportunity and exposure to talented new and emerging music artists. So thanks everyone for the amazing support you have also given me with this blog, my radio and TV shows and my live events when they have been able to take place. Your support for new music is awesome and that creative spark and urge to make music is one thing COVID 19 cannot wipe out. Let’s keep hoping we will turn the corner soon and not do do only to find another disaster lurking a few bends later! 

Till next time. Neil xxxx