Friday, 30 May 2014

Music - Part 224 - Jack Cheshire



Jack Cheshire – Heavenly Bodies (Gun20/Absolute)
CD/DL
19 May 2014


Alternative folk master, Jack Cheshire releases his new single.  

From last year’s marvellous Long Mind Hotel album, Jack Cheshire returns with one of its finest cuts in the form of Heavenly Bodies.

It’s a slow, beautifully crafted affair with winsome guitars and gorgeous cymbal strokes which perfectly compliment Jack’s soft tones.  Superbly written by a poet in waiting, the track gracefully proceeds through lyrics that sometimes don’t quite fit into the gaps and rhymes that are few and far between.  Not many write a bit of alternative folk-pop quite like Mr Cheshire does.


It’s surely only a matter of time before he breaks through to a larger audience, or at the very least secures a support slot with a major artist.  Currently punching below his weight, he has oodles of talent on his side.

Backed by another fellow album track in the form of Postcards From Sedation which again moves at an easy pace with a smothering of organized jazz and tinkling keyboards.  Jack clearly cares about words and sounds in equal amounts and the time taken to ensure this is easily observed in the final product.

Heavenly Bodies deserves at least to be featured as a backing track to a TV advert or promo, and that push may well just bring him a well-deserved step closer to our homes.

8.5/10



Published on Louder Than War 23/05/14 - here










Music - Part 223 - SPC ECO



SPC ECO – Delusional Waste (Kaboom Music)
DL
Out Now


Father/Daughter electronic duo release their new single. 

London based SPC ECO (pronounced Space Echo) are back with the first track frolm their forthcoming album.  Origianlly released almost twelve months ago, Delusional Waste is an upbeat synth single fusing a Lily Allen accent with a modern electronic sound.

With more than a passing resemblance to Goldfrapp circa Black Cherry and Supernature (before they lost their way slightly) the single is a catchy, seductive number which is well capable of becoming one of the sound of th Summer after being inclided in the soundtrack of Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down.

Father half of the duo, Dean Garcia formerly of Curve uses his past experience to create a backdrop of sweeping sounds and heavy bass lines which compliment the almost whispery vocals of Rose Berlin with ease.


Flip side Push again has leanings to the Frapp duo, blissfully gliding from start to finish in an uninterrupted chug of delicious synth pop.  Clear an clinical sounds combine to make another sumptuous track which fits perfectly with the lead number.

Already bragging fans an supporters the like of Tom Robinson and Gary Crowley, they’re not short of radio play,  but a little more wouldn’t go amiss and would be entirely justified.

Delusional Waste is a lovely little number which is both infectious and entertaining.

8.5/10

Links
Kaboom Music
SPC ECO website
SPC ECO Twitter


Published on Louder Than War 23/05/14 - here




Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Music - Part 222 - Martyn Bennett



Martyn Bennett – Grit (Real World Records)
CD/DL
19 May 2014


The final album from music maverick the late Martyn Bennett is re-released.  

This is an album like no other, make no mistake.  Originally released in 2003, Grit has been re-released to coincide with the theatre production of the same name to celebrate the life of Martyn Bennett as part of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Cultural Project.

Just over eleven years ago, Martyn lost his fierce fight with cancer of the lymphomas at the age of only 33.  He left behind him a memory of one of the most original artists to have graced these shores where his music was both daring and exciting.

Sounding like a good Fat Boy Slim might have done if he hadn’t gone rubbish, Bennett goes the extra mile when he manages to make a mix of modern electronic music mixed with traditional Scottish songs sound like the perfect combination.  It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but ends up sounding like one of the most refreshing things you will ever hear.

The voices of traditional singers and travelers ooze with emotion over often powerful walls of sound which, it seems, were made for each other.

Lead track, Move starts gentle enough with a lone guitar and voice but soon thunders into existence with samples and a fiercely crunching bass and percussion sound which is quite characteristic of the album.  It’s a quite incredible beginning and sets the standard amazingly high from the beginning.



Whilst Martyn found himself unable to play on the album, it remains a truly unique vision which he successfully transferred from mind to studio.  The combination of old voices, new music, and random soundbytes and shouts is perfectly displayed on Chanter, a powerhouse of a track which is as remorseless in its booming backbeat as it is in its refusal to lie-down.  Nothing short of amazing.

Nae Regrets again fuses the incomprehensible blend with a rousing string accompaniment.  Why slows the pace somewhat and allows a breath of fresh air to the otherwise manic proceedings as does Wedding which completes a sandwich between Ale House - clearly a pub that must be visited!

Rant is the sort of thing that the aforementioned Norman Cooke should (and could) really have been aiming for as more crashing, crunching and varied instruments combine with traditional Gaelic instrumentation and singing.

The close to the ‘original’ album is a strange affair and whilst it may have had special meaning to Martyn, Storyteller requires particularly patient listening. A man tells a tale in a broad accent with a simple backing.  Unfortunately, to an outsider it’s often difficult to understand but is rescued slightly by a throbbing moon stomp of a beat.  At almost ten minutes, it’s a little long.

This re-issue contains two extra tracks – a remix of Peter Gabriel’s Sky Blue from the album Up which was the last thing Martyn worked on, and a truly beautiful piece Mackay’s Memoirs performed by The City Of Edinburgh Music School for whom it was written.  The final recording was completed the day after Martyn died.

A quite superb album from an artist who was clearly at his peak, and is sorely missed.



9.5/10

Links



Published on Louder Than War 21/05/14 - here





Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Music - Part 221 - The Ree-Vahs


The Ree-Vahs – Geordieland (Clare’s Sons Music)
CD/DL
19 May 2014

Traditional Tyne folk group release their debut album.  

Geordieland is an album that has been discussed for quite some time in our household, and it’s an album that is so simple in its own simplicity that is the thing that makes it such a special collection.

As with most folk music there’s a story behind the band and The Ree-Vahs are no different.  Lead singer Andy Loan is descended from Irish heritage with a Grandfather settling in Stanley in County Durham between the two World Wars.  Tommy O’Loan created a new style of localised singing which found its way down to Andy. 

Similarly, each song on Geordieland tells a tale or a story about everyday life, love and death in charming Durham accent which adds authenticity and interest in abundance.  Local music is dying and a part of our musical heritage, it’s important that we don’t lose it.  Albums like Geordieland should be heard and treasured by many, not only by the folks of the North East, but by anyone with a passion and interest in music.

Opening with lead single No One Naas Us Anymore, there’s a modern twist to the traditional sound with the group which often varies from two to twenty members.  Andy returns to the place of his childhood and knows no-one in a toon (sorry) so descriptive you could almost have held his hand. 


What follows with the title track, is one of the most fascinating lyrics you’ll hear this year.  If there’s more that could have been packed into it then I’d like to see how.  You’ll feel as though you were there with Bernadette and Michael and Roger in a rousing tale of the Tyne on a Friday night (Andy was particularly keen to point out the image of a vomitting figure on the album sleeve!)

There’s a story everywhere, Never Been Before is heartmelting and Beautiful Girl is upbeat and rousing.  A lone piano backs Andy on Until I Fall Off This Earth again displaying the knack of knocking out a damn fine song. 

With album closer I Believe In Thee And Me a fine tribute to the Border towns ends.  It’s also a fine tribute to a dying breed of music which we should all support and preserve.  A big pat on the back to The Ree-Vahs – the lads have done good.

8.5/10

Links

Published on Louder Than War 20/05/14 - here



Music - Part 220 - Sontag Shogun



Sontag Shogun – Tale (Luau Records)
CD/DL
Out Now

Brooklyn experimental trio release their debut album.

Before we start, let’s just call this album beautiful.  Absolutely beautiful.

Three years in the making Sontag Shogun have created something so gorgeous and luscious that it’s a stunning aural delight.  Largely instrumental the new album, Tale, uses grand piano, oscillators and a nepenenoyka  harp (no, me neither), to produce soundscapes that are pitch perfect, semi-ambient, explorations in a quite stunning sound.  To be honest, there have been several times when I’ve started writing this review but ended up just listening to the album.  Again.

Recorded while the trio were based in separate locations around the world, Tale evokes senses of loneliness in locations that can be interpreted only by the listener.  Maybe a trip with a crew of a fishing trawler or a solemn walk across bare, misty countryside, the album’s ability to transport you and transfix you elsewhere is unique.

There will be comparisons to Kate Bush’s 50 Words For Snow, and it’s completely justified.  Timeless, spacious and the work of genius, it wistfully glides from track to track in an effortless swirl of breathtaking ease.  The Musk Ox is simply delightful.



Various sound recordings of voices and noises are subtly included which add to the overall mystique of the album as they seem to serve no logical purpose but to add texture and character to every one.  Hungarian Wheat is stunning and conjures up memories of Michael Nyman’s soundtrack for The Piano.  A track that is jam packed with simplicity.

Heavily influenced by the likes of Philip Glass and Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sontag Shogun blend both the modern classical with gentle ambiance.  Orbit Insertion takes us into outer space, whilst Beyond Wynd Gey goes anywhere your imagination will allow. 

There are no boundaries with Tale – “they make music to dream away to, or from”.  A quite exquisite album of wonderful emptiness.

9.5/10

Links


Published on Louder Than War 18/05/14 - here










Friday, 16 May 2014

They Wear It Well! - Rosie Bans



Who was I to resist when the wonderful Rosie Bans asked for a hiapop badge?  The final hiapop badge too (Note to self – order more badges!).

Here is a photo of the said Ms Bans sporting said accessory shortly before performing to an undoubtedly impressed live audience.

Her spiffing Be Bold EP is available completely FREE by clicking here in return for your email address, and she’ll be whizzing around the UK shortly delighting the general public with her aural delights.


She’s ginger and proud of it, and we are too.





Links


Music - Part 219 - Rose Redd



Rose Redd – Girl In A Cafe
DL
Out Now


Teenage singer songwriter, Rose Redd releases her new single.

Influenced by the likes of Kate Bush and Martin Gore, Rose Redd is an observationist lyricist which is hard to find these days.  Taking an everyday scene and describing every movement, sound and smell so precisely that you could almost have been there is a talent that can only be given at birth.  The new single Girl In A Café sets the scene for a waiting game by, well, a girl in a café.

Unfortunately, nice lyrics a song does not make.  The pride taken in the expressive words are slightly overshadowed by a weak instrumental backing which is ordinary and predictable.  The performance by Redd, whilst she undoubtedly has a voice that is capable of great things, is under par.



It’s a shame because as a nineteen year old solo artist she is brave and unquestionably talented.  Producer Gavin Monaghan (Editors, Robert Plant) claims she is “an artist who effortlessly transcends genres” and that is great praise indeed, so maybe there are better things to come from Rose.

It’s also uncertain whether a song like Girl In A Café is suited to a British audience.  An American audience would (wrongly) call this modern R&B or Soul and maybe they would embrace this single and buy it in their droves.  Perfectly Useless, her rock-dance single from 2013 is maybe where she should head for the time being as the style suits her better, but in the meantime Girl In A Café is close but no cigar.

7.5/10

Links

Published on Louder Than War 7/05/14 - here






Music - Part 218 - Rosie Bans


Rosie Bans – Be Bold EP
DL
Out Now


Scottish singer-songwriter, Rosie Bans releases her debut EP. 

It seems we’re being bombarded with female singer-songwriters at the moment, and some pretty bloody good ones too.  Where have they been hiding, and what have they been putting in their breakfast?  Rosie Bans is the latest to come to our attention (not difficult given her head of proud ginger fire), and the latest to expect big things from.

Writing the sort of music that seems to drip effortlessly from your stereo, Rosie has an ear for a great tune and melody, and also the ability to combine that skill with lyrics we can all associate with – breakdowns, honesty and deceit.  Indeed, EP opener Arguments is a rip roarer of a pop-rock affair with gripping guitars and thrashing drums accompanied by the Bans roar and an incredibly effective string section.  A toe-tapper if ever I heard one, hell more than a  toe-tapper, it stirs an amount of energy that makes me want to go and hit something.  Hard.


Interestingly, what follows is a complete change in style where Rosie moves to a sophisti-pop-soul mood and some quite startling similarities to the incredibly underrated 80s brother duo of Hue & Cry.  In fact such is the likeness, I had to check that they brothers Kane weren’t actually involved somewhere along the way.  Make Believe is the sort of thing they were great at, punchy beats and strong Sinatra/Darrin stylized vocals, even the instrumentation and vocal style of Pat Kane are echoed.  Maybe there’s something in the Glasgow water, the city from where they all hail.

The comparisons to the duo are a compliment.  A huge compliment to an act who were never fully recognized as the talent they were.  Maybe Rosie can make up the lost ground, the time is certainly right for her as her superb songwriting skills are a breath of fresh air.  Bold Light is quite a minimalist affair as keyboards are tinkled behind another assured performance. 

Westbound Ghosts ends a quite brilliant EP and hopefully paves the way for more of the same from a quite undisputed talent.  Her voice rises and cries beautifully with the confidence you wouldn’t ordinarily expect from someone so young. 

Prepare to hear and see more of Rosie.  Prepare to be impressed.

9/10

Links

Published on Louder Than War 7/05/14 - here



Music - Part 217 - Ceiling Demons



Ceiling Demons – Dual Sides
CD/DL
Out Now


Yorkshire hip-hop trio, Ceiling Demons release their new album. 

There’s something very unnerving about a British rapper or Hip-Hopper trying to sound like someone from Americky.  Ironic too, that they profess to be close to their roots like J Lo still being ‘from the block’, whilst they tell us about their urban life in a false accent.  Point one - Ceiling Demons have honesty on their side when they rap in their broad Yorkshire accents.

None other than Arrested Development have said that Ceiling Demons are ‘bringing sincerity back to hip-hop’.  High acclaim indeed, and they’re right.  Point two - the trio rap in an Old Skool sort of way about things that affect them and their lives.

It’s also refreshing to hear samples and sound bytes used properly in the context of the song not repeated over and over again because there isn’t a hook anywhere else.  They’re not interested in showing off their golden teeth or huge medallions (just like all the kids wear, yeah right), they instead cover their faces in almost tribal looking masks.  Point three - they’re just normal lads.

So, as the song goes could it be that ‘three is the magic number’?  It would appear so.

Like good a old fashioned rap trio, there are two MCs – Psy Ceiling and Dan Demon – and a ‘beatmaster’ in the form of Beat Demon (what else?) and they make that good old hip-hop sound.  Samples are cleverly used and inserted into heavy sounding backing.  They’re incredibly well polished in sound and the overall production of the album is slick and clinical.  Ceiling Demons clearly know what they’re doing.



What is interesting and perhaps original is that they rap about optimism a doing things right, almost scared that they may turn out to hold a Bible in the air soon, they are just lads with a good attitude and a handful of caring spirit. 

Album highlights are Every Step Is Moving Me Up and The Mirror’s Image, but for two different reasons.  The former cleverly uses the hook from Arthur Russell’s This Is How We Walk On The Moon.  Cleverly because their sample is of a far better quality that Russell’s 1994 recording.   The Mirror’s Image ironically shows a side of The Ceiling Demons which I suspect they aren’t comfortable with.  It seems out of place and lyrically it relies on negativity.

Ending with the lovely orchestral backing to Heartstrings the album is a breath of fresh air.  Spoken in their real accents rather than some faux rap crap, they are what they are, and that is very much the key here. They aren’t pretenders, they just do what they do and do it well.

8.5/10

Links

Published on Louder Than War 7/05/14 - here




Music - Part 216 - Ian Prowse


Ian Prowse – I Did It For Love (IRL)
DL
Out Now


Former Pele front man, Ian Prowse releases his hew single. 

On first listening, I Did It For Love sound as though it’s ripped the melody and brass line straight from Low Rider by War, because it probably has.  Bearing in mind however, that the 70s classic is one of the finest tunes ever written, it’s no bad thing.

The new Ian Prowse single is a samba esque affair with an absolute ripping chorus from a fifty-year old Scouser showing today’s kids how to sing.  From the off it roars into being citing a tale of the late great Gil Scott-Heron and blistering along with a killer hook and an even bigger chorus.  If there’s any justice in this Cowell world then it will be a huge hit.  If there isn’t then buy it for yourself and smirk.



If you’re of a certain age you’ll know who Prowse is.  Former front man of Pele who gave us the superb albums Fireworks and Sport Of Kings in the early 90s, he’s been round the block few times and has performed and worked with many music luminaries.  Now lead singer with Amsterdam (who also once troubled the UK Top 40 with The Journey), he’s also found recognition as a solo artist too.

The Amsterdam single Does This Train Stop On Merseyside was featured in the final John Peel Festive 50, and Peel’s wife Sheila claimed the song made him cry every time he heard it.  Prowse has also worked with Del Amitri, The Pogues and Elvis Costello who described the Peel favourite as a ‘classic’.

From the forthcoming album Who Loves Ya Baby, I Did It For Love is a fine fine single and deserves to be heard all over the Summer.  It has balls, big ones at that, and it’s a rare thing nowadays – a perfect pop song.

8.5/10

Links


Published on Louder Than War 10/05/14 - here









Music - Part 215 - Daisy Victoria



Daisy Victoria – Heart Full Of Beef EP
DL
Out Now

Punk Poet, Daisy Victoria releases her debut EP.  

I like Daisy Victoria, I like her a lot.  Her punk attitude appeals to me and her non-conformist approach to music is a breath of fresh air.  The sort of fresh air that you feel like gulping in as you sprint across open countryside until your lungs feel like they’re going to burst.

She’s making waves too.  Already advocated by BBC Introducing and the NME, it’s easy to see why.  Her voice at times is like an operatic Lene Lovich, rolling up and down scales, sometimes unexpectedly but always beautifully.  He debut EP gives several insights into her styles.  Opener, Cloth showcases her voice which can rise from low to high with extreme ease, and compliments the thumping drums and heavy bassy guitars perfectly.  There are moments of intended ‘out of tuneness’ too which are fascinating.

The title track, aside from having a wonderful title, included a fabulous throbbing synth bassline which underpins screaming vocals and screeching guitars.  Maybe a little bit Cramps, a little bit 70s New Wave, it’s a fabulous interpretation with a brilliant modern day twist.  At times you think that Daisy will tear her vocal cord and she belts out her superb punk poetry.



Macbeth To My Lady has already received some airplay and it’s slightly more commercial edge is appealing to any radio station that is prepared to take the ‘risk’.  With lines like “and when did you become to spectacularly abrasive” it’s no wonder I’m loving her attitude and her metaphorical balls.  Her varying styles make her hard to categorise too – maybe post-punk-Indie-poet-shoegazing-rockers could be the future?

Secret Garden Path has almost rockabilly or Country undertones but still supported by that Daisy Victoria twist.  Again, the words are nothing short of pure poetry and an absolute delight to listen to.  Unpredictable guitars riffs and racing melodies.

Ending the Heart Full Of Beef EP is another change of direction as the pace slows for Tree.  Daisy’s angelic voice reaches up majestically and it’s a perfect closer.  Rolling drums and occasional background echoes effortlessly combine and take this collection to a stunning close.

Daisy Victoria makes fine music, and this could just be the start of something rather special.

9/10

Links
Daisy Victoria on Twitter


Published on Louder Than War 3/05/14 - here









Music - Part 214 - The Senton Bombs



The Senton Bombs – Chapter Zero
CD/DL
Out Now


North West Punk Rock ‘n’ Roll band release their third album.  

I’m not entirely sure about what The Senton Bombs are or want to be.  Equally I’ve never really been a big fan of ‘metal’, but having recently heard (and thoroughly enjoyed) the new Damn Vandals album I was up for a listen.  Describing themselves as ‘punk rock n roll’ gives a  certain impression but to me they’re that aforementioned brand of music that I’ve never really been able to ‘get’.

Let’ not be negative though, there’s clearly an audience for this stuff as the Bombs fan base and seemingly endless touring will testify.  For me, it’s a pastiche of what’s gone before.  Alice Cooper, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Guns N Roses, clearly show influences but I can’t help thinking that the ‘tributes’ are lacking a little. I’m not really sure where the ‘punk’ element makes any appearance on Chapter Zero, I’m thinking more spandex trousers and headbands.

But come on, what’s on show here?  To be fair, they’re pretty slick.  Guitars are well up-front and solos are what you’d expect, but they are accomplished and clearly not something that is taken lightly. Similarly, the percussion is loud and raw and it no doubt serves as a great spectacle when they play live.  Joey Class provides strong vocals which compliment well.



The songs are well formed and arranged, but dare I say, formulaic, and I think there lies the slight problem.  Once you’ve played track 1 you’ve really heard all eleven, and whilst what they do is good there really isn’t much substance.  Fans of the group will love this and that is really all that matters, but for the non-believers, it’s all been done before.

6/10

Links
Damn Vandals album review


Published on Louder Than War 4/05/14 - here









Friday, 9 May 2014

Music - Part 213 - My Little Brother


My Little Brother – If We Never Came Down
CD/DL
Out Now


Alternative acoustic band My Little Brother release their debut album.  

Let me introduce you to – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Well, not quite but let me tell you that there is something happening in the Lake District that is rather special.

My Little Brother were apparently formed ‘when a group of people met and drank gin’, and if that’s the case that I wish I’d bought a round because the resulting sound is nothing short of impressive.  With one foot in the 60s and the other in today’s music scene they have a perfect blend of uplifting, sometime humorous sometimes sad songs which are a lesson in songwriting. 

Front man Will Harris already has impressive name checks on his CV – including working with The Charlatans and Teenage Fan Club, but it’s as My Little Brother that success is undoubtedly just round the corner.  Their album launch at The Geltsdale Brewery in Brampton last Saturday was so well attended that people had to overspill onto the car-park.  This is from a group who had yet to release the album they were promoting.

Already championed by BBC6s Gideon Coe, Cerys Matthews and Tom Robinson they have also been described as ‘capturing the spirit of the 60s’ by none other than Laurie Beebe Lewis former vocalist with The Mamas And The Papas.  Why the praise? Songs are perfectly arranged and produced, words are beautifully written and instruments are expertly played.

Album opener, Lovers Of Life, Unite is textbook Pepper. George Martin would have been proud to have been involved.  Harmonies are infectious, vocals are layered superbly and with a piano hook that accompanies a chorus that you’ll be singing for ages it’s a cracking start. 


It’s not just a similarity to the Fab Four either, Nosedive could be from the Simon & Garfunkel back catalogue. Simple acoustic guitars and rising vocals strum and strut from start to finish.

What is truly fascinating about the album is the sheer quality of each song, you’d really be forgiven for thinking it was an album of classic cover versions and that’s no exaggeration.  There’s something very fine about the songs and something that (if there is any justice) will see My Little Brother propelled into our lives in just a matter of time.  Part serious, part humorous My Hypocritical Friend finely demonstrates the merger between the 60s and 2014 with the music and lyrics respectively.  Over The Hill is nothing short of a superb vocal performance and Paintwork is the perfect album closer, as it rises and rises and would undoubtedly be a stunning finale to a gig, but it isn’t.  Instead, the album ends with Song About Amsterdam about the things we should appreciate in life and what to include on our bucket lists.  It’s a great song and ordinarily a fitting finish, but Paintwork is more suited.  A small criticism on an otherwise faultless album.

Growing up I had a little Sister, I love her dearly, but  now I have My Little Brother too.  Welcome to the family!

9/10


Links


Published on Louder Than War 1/05/14 - here