Night Wolf- The Moonlight E.P.- Review

 

E.P. Review:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night Wolf-

 

 

 

 

 

The Moonlight E.P.

 

@playlist artwork

 

 

9.5/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gothic artistry and bloodied teeth, hide a softer heart and innovative spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

The Moonlight E.P. is available at:

http://soundcloud.com/flyproductionzltd/sets/the-moonlight-ep-nightwolf

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REAPPROPRIATING any misgivings about certain genres of music…

 

is essential, when diversifying tastes and horizons. Of course there are exceptions that disprove the rule. No matter how many examples I hear of rap or modern pop, the effect is still the same: no one is ever going to make it appealing to me. It is the nature of music, in all its open-arm, open-door lack of discretion and discrimination: everyone is welcomed. This causes a lot of trade, but a serious admonishment in quality controls and tariffs. The best results and nicest surprises, seem to emanate from artists and talents, whom are willing to mix styles and sounds; to create unexpected delights. Even if an act purports to belonging to one particular genre or style; by adding different effects and sounds: jazz or swing stylings; classical strings; blues guitars etc., then you have a greater chance of making interesting music and exciting waves. It is not an exact science, obviously: many have tried and failed. Muse’s recent foray into dub-step on The 2nd Law, was met with derision and projectile anger. It is a lesson for bigger acts and established bands, I suppose. If you get it wrong, it can take years off of your life expectancy and alienate a lot of fans. New acts have the least and most pressure, all at once. On the one hand, they have no critical or commercial expectations, nor any large swathes of fans to please. That said, survival and growth is a difficult achievement, and there is an innate and inherited tendency to be overly-cautious and unambitious when making your infant steps. Night Wolf is an artist whom I have been aware of for a few months now. Here was an example of a blue-collar human, with white-collar work ethics and promise. Definitely a man of the people, and one whom respects fans and non alike; he (Ryan Wilcox), has made a name and reputation for himself, after producing a string of incredible tracks. It is not just the subject and lyrical content; it is the sounds and sensations within those tracks. I, personally, was struck by the classical and operatic aspects of some of the songs. It is a difficult thing to pull off: mix classical styles together with modern themes and words, whilst pleasing the purists, and drawing in all sects of potential fans. Night Wolf has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. On the surface there is the imagery: the voracious night hunter; ruby eyes, with snarling teeth, and a carnivorous intent. It is when the beast is subdued and its belly tickled that the flip side is revealed: the diverse and daring composer, sans sharp teeth and claws; only a desire to please and inspire. It is a juxtaposition and contrast that excites and surprises.

 

The Moonlight E.P. is a release that displays those polar edges, with fervent abandon, and adventurous spirit. It was the previous E.P., Watts The Time Mr. Wolf, which cemented me as a fan of Night Wolf and Wilcox’s talents. There were myriads moves and shades within that record. I was hardly surprised when I happened upon the initial seconds of The Moonlight E.P., and realised that I was not going to be disappointed. It is 5 tracks of switch, unpredictability and above all, quality:

 

Chosen:  Its life begins calmly, and with portentous beauty. There are classical overtones, bordering along the edges of Romanticism. One could well imagine strings and an orchestra eliciting the same sound, only here the evocations are created by a punctuated electronic sound; to my ear it sounds like a grand piano, only with an echoed and electronic edge to it. There are hints and reminiscences of club tracks of the ’90s and early-’00s: you may be predicting some sort of synthesised pulverisation and reckless fury being revealed; designed to get the sweatiest and more fatigued of revellers, dancing. There is evidence to suggest that similar territory may have a Night Wolf flag planted. Classic reverence and majesty remains in focus for a little while. The mood and atmosphere slowly builds: the authour wants you to be cast asunder and seduced in the infant stages. When a xylophone twinkle is bolstered by a twirling and energised percussion, this, conjoined with the classical edges, builds a momentum and gravitational pull. The pace of the background string sounds is composed, but passionate. In the foreground there is a mixture of sensations: xylophone and percussive temporsiation, mingles with harder and tougher beats, as well as a piano line that skips and rides of a wave. It is the way that Night Wolf builds up a song: beginning on modest and striking foundations, and layering steps and floors as he goes, that is the most distinctive tattoo to be seen. Around about the 1:00 mark, a couple of components are scrubbed from the mix, as the xylophone and strings, are teamed with a skiffing and dancing beat; before long, a distinctly classical flavour takes centre stage. Brooding strings work away behind the central focal point: building up another round of momentum and movement. With little warning, something bordering on musical apocalypse is unleashed. With heavy dub step overtones, it is a pulverising sonic boom, that pulses at first; recoils and sits back, before pulsing again. It is almost a weaponised component: taking lives, moving on, before taking some more. The decision to keep the calmer elements in tact, and juxtaposing those with dub step heaviness works well, and creates an eerie and exhilarating clash. It is a song that- at this stage- will be loved by dub step followers, but has shades of Massive Attack and ’90s dance as well. It is heavy for sure, but has that same inventiveness and sensation. The beat, and tripping, nimble tail is a mechanical beast, that skips and pirouettes before letting out a double roar. Something more restrained and melodic takes its place, and changes the direction again- completed with classical edges. As if you were in safe waters, once more the monster rises from the waves, intent on taking further lives: the dub step line is repeated, sticking to the twin throb-calmer tip-toe structure, through to the end. The energy has been sapped and it is a song that is designed to lull you into a sense of false security and hit you by surprise. It mixes the sounds of the streets, with the melodic and cultured compositions of the classical music scene, and wins on both front.  9.4

 

Wasting Time:  Perhaps on the order of a physician, the first steps of Wasting Time are calmer, and much more meditative. There are feint strings in the back of the room, and a large classical influence again. It is an almost balletic main thesis that is present. Mixtures of Handel, Tchaikovsky, mingles with elements of modern composers; the overall sensation is one of calm, and romantic regard, once more. The string and percussive sounds act as a heart beat and blood-flow: flowing and beating where necessary and keeping the mood alive and breathing. A beat is dropped in, that picks up some momentum and infuses the atmosphere with tension and a hard hit too. Combining the punchy percussive beat and the swaying and pioneering classical lines together makes your heart race slightly, whilst your mind and soul are soothed. This combination spirit, and constant anxiety, really makes the track. You always think that there is something lurking, waiting to punch. It is the feeling of being on edge, made stronger but the bass-heavy beat, that keeps the song electric and invigorating. If you tie all this together with the beauty that is always present, the overall effect is striking and memorable indeed. It has a charm and authority that could see it as a soundtrack to a spy film or taut indie thriller. If I was to describe the perfect theme for a bold and daring drama, this would be it, and it conveys so much without a word being said. It is testament to the compositional skills of Night Wolf, as well as the innate ability to marry sounds and genres together to reveal a strange relationship, that means Wasting Time is another brilliant step. After the gut punches that were present during Chosen, this is a remedy: a relaxing and exciting slice of sound, designed to calm your nerves, and put a big smile on your face.  9.6

 

Burn The Money: Night Wolf was inspired to write Burn The Money after watching a series of videos. It was then that the idea to write a hip hop number, all be it a grittier, more diverse song. The first thing that happens in this song is the introduction of a vocal. It is not sung, however; it is spoken word. As the title may suggest, the minutia of the song is a financial figure; it is a relate-able tableaux for a modern age. The music underscoring the voice, begins life bearing dark, languid strings. It is an instant mood setter that does not dominate or even try to equal what is being said; instead lurks in the shadows. The recording itself seems to be from an American newscast or news programme; I am not sure. Instantly there is a sense of mystery about who this man is, that is prophesying imminent economic doom. He talks about interest rates on national debt will mean that, theoretically, by 2013 it could mean “total bankruptcy for the U.S. economy”. Instantly there is a immanency to proceedings. The message does not go on to bring us tidings of joy, but stays on message, explaining what the wider implications will be. At the 0:30 junction, the recording is stopped and the piano line is not in the spotlight. It is initially dark and funereal; reminiscent of Stravinsky and Raschmaninoff, with a hint of an audible shoulder drop. There is a build-up as lighter notes mix with dark; a feint drum cymbal is heard, before strings come back to play. They are playful and delicate, counteracted by a solid and militaristic drum beat. In a way the mesh and interplay of sounds and moods reflects the theme of the song and act as a musical countenance. The tone now has more of a hip hop theme; a bit of Massive Attack, Tricky, maybe later Portishead too with a delicate nod to Cypress Hill, The Progidy and Jay-Z. Just before the news recording recomposes itself, your mind is somewhere else. In mine at least, driving down a dark road heading for London, neon, multicoloured light beckoning my hence. Before I can be too entrenched in my own fantasy, we are back. It is only for a nanosecond, and the hip hop roll is in the fray; the synthesised night crawler is back; doing battle with a voice that says “the only way to make more money/Is to create more debt and inflation”. The combination of the two mileaux’s creates a psychotropic effect. The words affect the mind, soul and brain; the music raises the body, inflames the ears and brightens the eyes. It is a curious sexual call, from a curious allure. The sea has calmed slightly, and the infectious beat pitches tent in your limbic system. Just when you think that we are preparing to fade, Mr. Ominous, like Carrie in a 3-piece suit, rises bloodied from the water, to deliver another apocalyptic bromide. The coda of Burn The Money is that in spite of all the downturn, and fiscal tsunami, we need to “use it to our advantage”. Bloody Americans! The track as a whole has a sort of retro feel to it, that harks bark to the genesis of hip hop and big beat. Unlike many of the pre-pubescent shirt tuggers that are trying to acclimate base camp in your brain through a series of left turns, explosions and sample-laden perturbation, Night Wolf have pulled off a neat illusion. The track is quite uncategorisable. Sure there is hip hop, big beat, romantic classical with a light crust of old school rap. There is much to recommend for any lover of any genre of music. The spoken word segments are deployed effectively, punctuating the mood, and coming to the fore at the most effective times. The announcer is suitably anodyne and Mid-Western; in essence quite flat. This, coupled with the extraordinary soundtrack that levies the momentum, interject perfectly and the resultant song is spellbinding its efficiency and effectiveness. It is a tight number as well, and does not overplay its hand or descend into parody or morbid hyperbole. Instead, it is a tight manifesto that will long by remembered once the song has ended.  9.5

 

Darker Days:  It begins almost with a Morse Code sensation. Dark and bass guitar-like electronic points are instantly defeated by sparks and fizzes of electronic percussion. You are not sure what direction the song will take, but suspect that we will hear a similar number to that of Chosen. There is no ritualistic cliche when you consider Night Wolf. Just when I was thinking there may be a classic de tour, a vocal line rocks up hard. The opening words “I’m so sick of these dark, dark days” sets a lyrical tone, and the inclusion of a “fuck-you attitude” goes some way to strengthening this view, and balkanising against the majesty of tracks such as Wasting Time. There is grime, dub step and urban influence. The vocal by Conscious Pilots brings some hip hop influence and authority to the song. Where as the previous tracks, supported by Centrist, had melodic and augmented highs, as well as a combination of quiet-loud; there is much more direct attitude and spikiness here. The words are intended to hit home, and make themselves known. The lyrics are punched out, tumble, spat and rapped: tales of poverty and hard city street living are present and dominant. Musically, there is not a sole tendency to have hip hop and dub step beats in the mix. That may add too much weight and menace to the track. Instead there are darker strings, reminiscent of Bond Themes, Muse’s The Resistance work, as well as modern hip hop and urban flavours. When words about “the underground”: a place where “the police are aware/But they don’t come round“, are tumbled forth with angry intent, it is hard not to be both intimidated and won over. The themes are relevant and modern. Lyrics about government statistics and bloodshed paint a picture of a very real of modern Britain. The Queen is name-checked, but not for any positive reasons; the young voices are fresh and filled with world-weariness and burden. Our vocal representative tells of how the rich are forcing the working-class down, and taking away their money. Chaos is the prevailing theme: every man for themselves. Backed by propulsive and majestically subtle strings, the words resonate strongly. They are decipherable and very clear: a lot of hip hop artists slur and blur their words so they are unintelligible. The vocal interplay by the two chaps is impressive. They don’t fight for the mic. and attention: instead they join forces and a strengthened and purposeful unit. They are “tasting the pain” in a “catch 22″. It is a track that is not reserved for fans of hip hop, urban or street music. Vocally, it is very strong, but not too foreboding. Conscious Pilots are already popular and regraded in their own right, but with the teamwork of Night Wolf, add weight and edges to a fantastic track, that will speak to the youth of today. The lyrics are impressive and consistently sharp, and the atmospheric backing and composition gives the track a great foothold, and rises it above the parapet.  9.5.

 

Problem:  Completing our travels, and coming into land, is Problem. Now there is not a classical or orchestral start; nor is there any dub step thud or threat. There is almost a science fiction aspect to the intro. It begins with high-pitched and twinkling electronics, projecting the image of a ultraviolet robot. You are taken aback and intrigued at the same time. A building swing occurs: your feet and fingers start to tap and soon a more frazzled and frantic buzz joins in, and takes the song in a new direction. It is the mechanical and retro sounds, that combine, buzz, trickle and endeavour that captures you. There is no menace or violence from the start, only sparks and fires of excitement. Soon enough, the different lines and avenues are met with a tense and static hold. It is unsure if we will hear a dub step smash, or classical leanings. It is the latter which prevails. The foreground remains in tact (joined with percussion), but it is the backing and distant scenery that catches your ear. I am not sure what the ‘Problem’ is, but judging by the range of chaotic and composed sounds, one suspects it will not be resolved, even after the song has ended. A staccato and head-rush of electronic sound presents itself as well, adding to the mood and energy of the song. In a way there is again a retro feel: something in-between ’80s and ’90s dance, but given a lot of modern shine and touches. The track is evocative and politicising and scenes and images will be in your head right from the opening notes. Night Wolf strike a chord, and run with it. The pattern and structure that is cemented fairly early on, is ridden and rides along, drawing you in. It is the mastery and skill with which this is done that is most impressive. I myself can’t even begin to guess where the sounds were from, and how they were mixed, but it is the unique recipe that hits hard: almost a hallmark and expected step from Night Wolf. Pauses open up to allow the sound of strings to be heard. Our authour is not content to just stick with a sound and not deviate: little flecks and sparks are created, and diversions taken to allow the song to remain mobile, memorable and surprising. Problem has an epic quality and is a fitting closer to a brilliant E.P. There is no hard-hitting rush or dub step beats; you are able to collect your thoughts and contemplate. So much so that by the end of the track, you’d like another track to come along; such is the tease, that you are left wanting more.  9.6.

 

Another triumphant release from Night Wolf, that goes to show that he is always thinking, working, and making moves few others would dare. I know for a fact that he has a fervent and dedicated fan base and works hard to recruit new followers and potential fans. I was impressed by his previous release’s mix of styles, and surprised by how many changes and switches are to be heard in a single song, let alone an E.P. The Moonlight E.P. is a natural step forward and another release filled with innovation and style. There are so little artists out there whom are daring and pioneering when it comes to cross pollinating and mixing sounds and samples together. Within the 5 tracks, there is classical, dub step, urban, spoken word, as well as hip hop, and one suspects that a future release will expand even further on this. Who knows where E.P. no. 3 will take us: jazz? Heavy metal? Stoner rock? Disco perhaps? Any and everything is possible, and it is always exciting imaging what is in the mind of Wilcox and Night Wolf. Until the next steps are made, we have an E.P. of taut, tight and focused tracks, that display a keen and growing talent. Get on board now…

 

AND get lost in the moonlight…

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Twitter: 

https://twitter.com/ryanwilcox6

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/nightwolfuk?fref=ts

SoundCloud: 

http://soundcloud.com/nightwolfuk

Juliyaa- Tidal Wave- Track Review

Track Review:

 

 

 

Juliyaa-

 

 

 

 

 

Tidal Wave

 

@playlist artwork

 

 

9.3/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stars and Dragon’s magical/mythical blend, infuses and enforces a stunning sound. The E.P.’s second-born shows the Welsh-Ghanaian’s ambitious polyryhtmic mandate, in full flight.

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Tidal Wave is available via:

http://juliyaa.bandcamp.com/track/tidal-wave

The E.P. Stars & Dragons is available via:

http://juliyaa.bandcamp.com/

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NEW music is an art form that relies upon a number of different facets…

 

Most of the issues I have with new music, is a predetermined lack of knowledge of market needs. Many bands, artists and acts are too contented to produce the bare-minimum; not concerned with doing some necessary research to establish a number of things: what people want; what constitutes a great and worthy artist, and how to ensure that you stick in people’s minds. A big issue at the moment, revolves around the ease of which one can record music. There is no longer a reliance on studio sounds: bedroom motifs and tales are favoured as much as anything. If you own some basic record equipment, and have Internet connection, then laying down your sounds, and distributing them to the world, is simple and uncomplicated- and attracts swarms of participants. This is great. It should be simple to record music and let people hear about it; who wants to be restricted and frustrated by barriers and obstacles? Problems arise, when artists get it into their minds, that simply pressing record, equates to an inevitable quality: assumptions are that they will be heralded widely, and ensuing success will surely follow. I have born witness to a great deal of new talent, each of whom has done their research, electioneered hard (and wide), and have a strong and insatiable work ethic. It is those artists whom often succeed- and deservedly so. Still there are too many, whom sound exactly the same as several dozen others: diversity and individuality seem to be long-forgotten bywords for sustainability and memorability. The media is partly to blame as well. Every review I have seen for a new act- and I am guilty as well- starts off by saying: “They are the new…”. Half the battle is already lost, if the very first thought on the listeners mind concerns tribute and borderline mimicry. Artists get it into their head that hanging onto the coattails of their favourite act/band/artist will see them obtain a similar amount of respect and credibility: it doesn’t. Success and patronage arrives when the act imbues their tones with some influence and familiarity, but above all, it is down to key pillars: ambition and originality. Because of these- some would say, rigid- rules, many have fallen through the cracks, or less, been unable to find a market. For those whom put the extra effort and consideration into their palette, find that funding and opportunities can be a little difficult to come by.

 

Having been funded via Musicians Benevolent Fund and their Emerging Excellence Awards (that assists artists aged between 18-30; offering funding and support), Juliyaa is a curious case: for very good reasons. Her real name is Julia Suit, but her musical alter ego is every bit as fascinating as any other new act. She is a talent whom realises the importance and significance of an impressive online portfolio. The official website is easy-to-use, and informative; well laid-out and professional-looking. Her Twitter and Facebook accounts are filled with relevant and detailed biography, and chart her progress and ambitions perfectly. Welsh and Ghanaian are probably genetic combinations that are rare. Musically, socially and culturally they are diverse and share very little in common. With regards to Juliyaa, it instantly sets her apart from her contemporaries. From looking at her she is incredibly striking. Possessed with stunning beauty and a statuesque figure, she is a modern-day pin-up. That should not distract you from her personality and passion. From her Twitter feed, you can tell that she is extremely intelligent and sharp: words are not wasted, and all are correct and intriguing- almost unheard of in 2013. Home for Juliyaa is north London, and she has had a colourful- and sometimes difficult- road to prominence. She has labelled her sound as ‘Rhythmic Soul': a term that succinctly boils down her essence. Having released a number of singles in the run-up to late-2012, Juliyaa spent time honing her sound, and making her voice heard. Her E.P. Stars & Dragons, was released in November of last year, and is a tight and memorable collection of songs. One cannot help but be impressed by the E.P. cover. Boasting beautiful colours and an artistic and entrancing design, it will catch your eye and elicit a smile from your mouth. So few new acts neglect the need to produce an original and memorable E.P./album cover: choosing to scrape along, with a basic portrait or lazy design. It is details like this, that are so vital in drawing in people. Without having heard a song or note, you are intrigued and fascinated. The plaudits received off of the back of Stars & Dragons, has included airplay on BBC IXtra and BBC Radio 6. Very influential and prominent ears have been captivated by her sounds, and has been made possible by the combination of funding from Musicians Benevolent Fund. and her ambition and impressive range of tracks and styles. Twinning the fresh and vibrant sounds of U.K. urban music, alongside soulful harmonies, has resulted in a terrific blend, and one that has earned her fans from wide reaches of the country; as well as drawing in supporters whom would not usually be aware of the types of music Juliyaa purveys. Her influences include Alicia Keys and Outkast and you can hear a lot of the former’s vocal silks, as well as elements of the latter’s innovation and free spirit. In preparation for her new E.P., which is due out soon, I investigated Stars & Dragons, to see what delights and treasures could be found within.

 

The title track may have received the most number of plays, historically, and Iwihia is not too far behind. It is, however, the track Tidal Wave that caught my attention and compelled me to investigate further. The sense of adventure and intelligence is present imminently, when listening to the opening moments of the song. The voice is queen: up front and strong, showing strong soulful veins, with a tad of modern urban influence. However, there is an ominous and swirling sound, that builds momentum in the background and creeps further towards the front. It has urban elements, but also modern pop and soul touches too. That combination spikes interest straight away, and then prostrates to what follows. Energy and passion multiply and intensifies as Juliyaa’s voice is layered and harmonises with itself, creating a stirring chorus. Maybe with a hint of mid-career Beyonce/Destiny’s Child, the vocal choir eases and evaporates; giving way to the central, focused vocal line. The musical landscape changes to something more intoxicating and psychotropic. Electronic sounds and sensations swirl and contort, reminiscent of sonic blood-flow- backed by a sharp and edgy percussive beat. Words are offered and brought forth: “The water’s rising”, is the initial tristesse, and is the foreword to a chapter, speaking of sublimation, subversion and a metaphorical sense of drowning. It is clear that our heroine has anxiety and burdens to shoulder. The use of imagery steers from metaphysical temptations, and instead vividly paints a scene of a overwhelming tension. Thematically, it may well be ground that has had many footprints make their impression, but precious few have managed to combine the protestations and poetry, alongside such soulful and streetwise sounds. It is the way that the hallmarks of urban composition: stinging and punctuating percussion and electronic whirls and grimey sparks; are tied together in unity with soulful vocals and a strong prowess, that invigorates and inflames the bones. Gravity, momentum and energy are keywords that one cannot help but avoid. There are few gaps for breath or consideration: the song drags you in and pulls you along (perhaps appropriate given its title). Juliyaa’s voice swoons, trips and seduces; tying your tongues, as the rampant winged beasts that are the embodiment of the sound, clean rip it out. Before the 1:00 marker, there is a coda of “I’m calling”. The vocal performance has elements of Knowles, Keys and (at during its lightest moments) Sande. No needless histrionics nor wasted breaths: the performance is strong, passionate and convincing. Tales of the night, forces beyond our heroine’s ken and perception, are shaking her nerves and stirring her soul (“The power it calls me to stay”). In the past- as well as the present- I have been put off by a lot of urban artists for a number of reasons. Firstly their personalities and projection highlights them as people you’d rather not support or be generous towards; this is often galvanised by their words, which are often infantile or sloppily generic. Juliyaa has the sounds of the street in her arsenal, but in a locket around her neck, is a soulful voice and spirit, bonded by a chain that is strong and unyielding. It is those combination and flavours that means Tidal Wave supersedes expectation, as well as positions itself well above the offerings brought forth by many of her contemporaries. A hymn and calling card to her unnamed beau, Juliyaa has his love, and is falling. When she sings, she does so with intense passion, but treats her vocals with care: she layers where appropriate; elongates here and there; electronic slices it to create juddery staccato, and at its core is a tender and heartfelt serenity. Few urban or pop artists have a voice that stands up to such a workout, such is the ability of Juliyaa; even fewer are capable of melting their voice into a musical cauldron that bubbles with smokes of toxic, sweet-smelling, noisome and erotic. The sense of tenderness and honeyed annunciations is ever-present at the 2/3 mark. Here the mood is brought down, stripped and rests peacefully. “I’m falling” is repeated, backed by softer and less forceful sounds; the voice contains less anxiety; whether the falling refers to falling in love, or a free-fall into an emotional quagmire is uncertain: such is the allure and sly bait-and-switch. When it is said that “Your love is my calling”, doubts may have been cast aside from the listener’s perspective. When this confession is delivered, there is an air of Dangerously in Love/I Am… Sasha Fierce-Beyonce, mingling with As I Am-era Alicia Keys. Neither are overly-obvious nor overly-intrusive influences: their flavour notes and scents ruminate, but the most potent sensations are Juliyaa’s alone. The sing-along quality of- the unofficial- chorus will strike chords with urban and soul fans alike, and unify dance floors and venues, as well as draw in any disenchanted fans of N-Dubz (whom are probably not used to hearing any quality music).

 

The key themes of love and desire, as well as the associative side effects of its tribulations and reality, are all present and correct. Our protagonist brings a sense of autobiography in, and is clearly writing about something that is meaningful and relevant to her. Subsequently, the words are filled with conviction and authority. Her voice is able to remain composed and taut, but has a range and emotional spectrum that paints many scenes and pictures. In the current climate there are not many solo artists whom have an ability to integrate urban and more soulful sounds together, and make it work well. I myself am not a huge fan or follower of urban music, so there was a measure of apprehension. For those alike, there should be no fear, as the track, and E.P. as a whole is testament to a talent, whom is restless, inventive and bold. Juliyaa can unite different genres and sounds together to create a harmonious and intriguing whole; not losing focus or passion at any turn. The debut E.P. has shown that she has real staying power and potential, and it will be interesting to see what her forthcoming E.P. has to offer. For anyone unaware of her presence, and unfamiliar with her back-story and biography, should check her out: it’s free after all. The solo market is a difficult sector to crack, and with the help of the Emerging Excellence Awards and The Musicians Benevolent Fund, Juliyaa has brought her talents and visions to fruition. It may have been a less-than-easy transformation to where she is now, but the future will be bright indeed. Take a moment, and discover someone who will be familiar to many…

 

VERY soon indeed.

 

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The Musicians Benevolent Fund has been supporting musicians for more than 90 years. It helps young musicians at the start of their careers, professional musicians when an accident, illness or injury means they are unable to work and older musicians in retirement. In 2012 the Fund assisted over 2,000 musicians either directly or through partnerships. The Musicians Benevolent Fund is independent and relies on donations to underpin its work. For more information visit: helpmusicians.org.uk

Emerging Excellence Awards

: The Emerging Excellence Awards are open to artists working in any genre, from jazz to rock, urban to classical and folk to funk. The awards celebrate the diversity and entrepreneurialism of the UK’s exciting young talent. For more information visit: helpmusicians.org.uk/eea

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Debut EP from singer/songwriter Juliyaa

 

Credits:

Released 01 November 2012
Production: B.Hanson (1,5,6) Antony OTB (3,4) Moses “Mo-Keyz” Samuels (2)
Live Instruments Recorded by: Mike McGill, Tom Szappanos (SSR Studios)
Keys & Guitars: Niji Adeleye, Si Cliff, Jon Atterbury
Drums: Donna Thompson, Matthew Fox
Strings: Chris John, Abigail Davis, Susie Attwood
Brass: Josh O’Riordan, Dave White, Dan Hayter
Photography & Styling: Hilda Sackey, The Mother Plucker, Andree Marie
Design: SMB Studios

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Official:

http://www.juliyaa.com/

Twitter: 

https://twitter.com/Juliyaamusic

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/juliyaamusic

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDerv_LFWKdEvjGDBNnyBoA

SoundCloud:

http://soundcloud.com/juliyaa

 

 

Club 8- I’m Not Gonna Grow Old- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

Club 8-

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Not Gonna Grow Old

 

 

 

 

9.7/10

 

 

 

 

Swedish masters offer up a slice of discofied sunshine: something no one can argue against.

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

I’m Not Gonna Grow Old is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uXyFEbG_Hk

The album Above the City is available via:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/above-the-city/id624343942

____________________________________________________________________________
GAMBLING is legal in international waters…

 

where musicians are keen to roll the dice, and go all in, no matter what the outcome. I am not sure as to why there is less reluctance to be cautious or penned in overseas; or why there are fewer mundane or predictable acts. Obviously it is hard to say what the music scene is like through Europe and North America: what happens day to day, that means acts are more ambitious and varied. I suppose that one hears less about foreign music, simply because we do not reside there. For all I know there could be waves and scores of bland bands, generic solo artists, and a lot of white noise. It is when you do hear of great bands from overseas: whether they are from the U.S., Canada, Norway, Australia etc., that chords are struck; and struck hard. I have reviewed a great deal of acts within the U.K., and have seldom been disappointed. All the songs, sounds and E.P.s have been different (to one another), well produced and have displayed the talents of the associative artists very well. As impassioned as I have become of a lot of the artists, there is seldom variation on a theme. Genres are explored and tempted, but there is a great deal of two types of music: Indie/Rock, talking of street life, and broken love; or else acoustic/solo offerings that deal primarily with doubt, self-recrimination and the pitfalls of romance. It is when artists have broken away from the tired and well-worn moulds, that results occur, and fascination is implanted in the mind. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, there is not a great deal of mobility or diversification. I suppose the current music scene is to blame. New artists will- in the initial stages- parody or emulate an existent act, to some extent: in order to gain some sort of residual credibility. The issues are twofold. Firstly, too many acts stick too closely to a existent act, and come off sounding like a poor man’s approximation. Secondly, there is not enough risk-taking or experimentation. In the U.K.- and to an extent, the rest of the world- commercial and media expectation controls the mandate and output of new music. Few young artist are aware of great bands of the past; nary aware of what is possible, and what they are missing out on. At best it is absent-mindedness; at its worst- and most accurate- it is blinding stupidity. For all the exceptional music out there: acts whom are willing to be bold, or have an original and solid sound that cannot be slated; there are legions of new music that suffer from the same maladies. Few are willing to hunt through the great acts of the ’60s, ’70s, and even ’90s, looking for fresh innovation. Too few too, are prepared to mix and investigate genres like swing, jazz, funk, grunge, stoner rock, psychedelia, etc. There are precious few great or hugely impressive voice; not enough spectacular lyricists, and barely an act out there whom push the envelope and dissect expectation. In Europe, and the U.S., especially, there is much more to be impressed by.

 

I have been amazed by acts such as Highfields, as well as Anna von Hausswolff: imbued with European components and genes, that translate to stunningly daring and strange sounds. It seems, as a general rule of thumb, that the further north or north-east you go (from London), the greater the (exponential) quality of music. I am not a skeptic or cynic of London, or its potential; the fact is that the capital yields too few great acts and artists. In northern Europe, there seems to be a bit more of what is needed. Club 8 have been in existence since 1995: a year that was rife with Britpop fascination and some rather brilliant music. They have been regarded with critical acclaim, due to their mixture of dreamy pop, and experimentation spirit. The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Dreaming, released in 2007, was the first of their albums to receive a lot of positive feedback and attention. 2010’s The People’s Record was another big success, which saw them come into the sights of a lot of reviewers and media outlets in the U.K. The band consist Johan Angergard, and Karolina Komstedt- possibly one of the most alluring beautiful women in music. The band’s influences extend from The Smiths, to Mazzy Star, through to Leonard Cohen. There is a lot of introversion and introspection between those artists, and it is a facet that has been used- in small shots- by the band. Above all of that, there is an inescapable sense of fun and passion. There are few tales of depression, anxiety, woe-is-me histrionics, and self-flagellation- oh no, far from it. Looking at the track-listing, song titles such as Kill Kill Kill, Stop Taking My Time and Less Than Love, may hint at savage parables, glorious kiss-offs and sorrowful recollections, the themes and contents are less Leonard Cohen, and more… well, something far more optimistic. The duo are tight and focused, and convey a wealth of evocation and promise from just two members. There are no wasted bodies or movements; Karolina is up front and the teasing Siren; Johan has string duties. Their sonic outpourings and myriad shades and avenues points towards a band, whom want to be adored and regarded fervently outside of their native Sweden. It has taken a long while for us here, as well as a lot of the world, to be attuned to the wonders of the band. U.S. media and publications have known of Club 8 for years now, but I stumbled upon their sounds via The Girls Are: a constant source of contacts for me. Above The City is out this week, and ahead of its release, I settled down and in, to listen to the 8th track, from the forthcoming album.

 

Fun is a word that cannot be applied too confidently to much music at the present time. There has always been, and is certainly now, a heavy emphasis or personalisation and biography: most of the time this consists of navel gazing or maudlin displays of guilt and self-assessment. It is clear from the first second, that energy and punch rule the song. With electronic, disco infusion and invigoration straight from the off, there is no time to ponder or choose an appropriate response. Behind the clash and dance of the foreground, are wordless choursings and stutters: each of which punctuates the stability of the composition perfectly. There is an effervescence, bubbly youthfulness and child-like joie de vivre in Karolina’s vocals. The album has received words of comparison to Madonna and Florence and the Machine. There is evidence to be found, with regards to the former’s Like A Virgin (album)-era credibility and sound. Spirit and smoke of dance and club music can be heard loud and clear. Recollections of the likes of Groovejet are also present, but when word such as “I’m the loser/Love abuser”is sung, there are hints of Nina Persson and Kylie Minogue. There is that same dreaminess and sex appeal; a comparable firepower and fertility. I was struck by the structure of the track. Starting with the disco and pop composition and wordless vocals, between the verses this is employed again, adding potency and fascination. Whereas other bands and acts may plump towards verse-chorus-verse struck, with little deviation, Club 8 know how to build the mood and hold interest: there is a consistent energy and smile. Tales of silence and violence are heralded; backed by what sounds like a glass xylophone being played; a electronic percussion thuds, and the sound of rampant strings build, before the chorus is unleashed. When “Don’t want to be someone like you” is delivered, audio ecstasy is present; words are elongated, softly delivered and seduced: backed with vocal interjections, the effect is one of exhilaration. Subjects of the future and reminders that “I’ve been passing all these years” are introduced; our heroine showing no signs of anxiety or foreboding: everything is delivered with great expression and thorough regard for clarity and emotional effect. Combining Johan’s deft and impressive songwriting and ear for hooks, and marrying that to the vocal purity of Karolina yields brilliant results. It is true that there are a lot of modern touches: the production is current and the band are very much in the moment; but the quality and influence hint at the ’80s and early ’90s. Reminders of Madonna, and flavours of The Cardigans mingle seamlessly, with no sense of intrusion: there are hints of those artists but the abiding sense is originality and freshness. Sound and atmosphere are unquenchable, as there is a consistent movement and energisation: barely are there are pauses, gaps or silences. It has a model that is fit for Summer, the clubs, dance circuits, discos, or wherever the hell it wants to go. The breeziness and utilitarianism of the song means that it is difficult to fault anything about it; it wants to win you over, and will do so with some aplomb.

 

Allmusic have already given the album- Above the City- a glowing and detailed review. They mentioned the “super-discofied” majesty of I’m Not Gonna Grow Old, but went on to highlight that the band mix still and haunting tracks, with high-energy smashers, too. There is clearly a great range and ambition to be heard in the record, and the two key components: stunning and adaptive musical landscapes and melodies, and dreamy and beautiful vocals, stamp each track with authoritative and conviction. In the past, African sounds have featured in the pages of Club 8, as well as all sorts of different music and notes. Here is a group that love to innovate and keep moving: there is never any danger of being bored or let down. On the current album, there are icy ballads, heavy metal guitars as well as sunny pop, disco moves and Robyn-esque club gems. Samples and odd sounds are thrown into the mix, to add weight, cadence and majesty to the album. On the basis of I’m Not Gonna Grow Old, alone, it is is clear that 2013 is going to be another successful year for the group, whom show no signs of slowing or degradation. Due to their ideologies: keep things varied and fascinating; explore different genres and styles; never lose focus, the album is a triumph, and they are an inspiration to any new or future acts. I have long been banging-on about how narrow the focus is amongst new U.K. acts, but I suspect that the issue is present farther afield. In the same way that the likes of Damon Albarn travelled the globe and drew in sounds of the countries he visited into Blur and Gorrilaz records; Club 8 have picked up souvenirs from foreign climbs and integrated them into their compositions. I have long said that you need to do more than stick with one particular sound: having an ‘identity’ apparently means a homogeneous and unevolving constant. Club 8 keep their personality, but have created it by being adventurous, pioneering and wide-ranging. Different samples, instruments, styles and spectrums are experimented with and adored; the result of which, is a multi-genre golden nugget. If you want to be striking and memorable, then this is what you need to do. Without compromising integrity, focus or individuality, it is possible to gain the same sort of credibility and ardour, by not being honed in and stuck in a rut. As I said before, there have been decades of wonderful music, all sorts of incredible songs and albums, and a spectacular banquet of tastes and sensations. You do not need to rip anyone off, ape a band or be a cover band to elicit a visceral and impassioned response. Simply travel the world, listen to bands and albums you haven’t before, and get writing. When you separate yourself away from current bands and obvious ‘influences’ and ‘modern idols’ and actually open your mind and aspirations up, then that is when something special occurs. The greatest albums and songs resulted from this same process. Not a single one of the greatest songs, singers, bands or albums, contained, proffered or professed anything equivocal to what consists of about 90% of modem music. I long for the day when there will be contenders for the crown of the all-time best bands, acts, songs and albums: it seems less likely with every passing week. Band such as Club 8 need to be brought more into international focus, as they are capable of inspiring new moves and thoughts. Hunt down the album (and previous offerings), and listen to their music…

 

AND then everything will become apparent…

__________________________________________________________________________

Official:

http://www.club-8.org/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/club8music

Facebook: 

https://www.facebook.com/#!/Club8music

Spotify: 

http://open.spotify.com/user/angergard/playlist/3twmXttylFbULHMgOblSGO

Second Hand Poet- Little Sun- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

Second Hand Poet-

 

 

 

 

 

Little Sun

 

 

 

9.0/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surrey-based Bedroom Acoustics troubadour, presents songs of rare affirmation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Little Sun is available via:

http://secondhandpoet.bandcamp.com/track/little-sun

Bedroom Acoustics vol. 1 available at:

http://secondhandpoet.bandcamp.com/album/bedroom-acoustics

____________________________________________________________________________
THE solo acoustic ‘genre’/market is one that is safe from entropy…

 

and liquidation. It is simultaneously the most common form of modern music, as well as the hardest to crack. If you are armed with an acoustic guitar and little more, then there is instantly a high workload; and the results still need to reflect mandation. When thinking of bands, if you have a four or five-piece group (as well as more or less), then duties are shared; responsibility becomes a fraction, and there is creative and human support that eases the burden. Of course ‘the more is merrier’, or ‘strength in numbers’ can be seen as a false equivalency or an overstatement. The band involved have to have the quality and ambition for that to be true, otherwise larger quantities can have a detrimental effect. For the solo market, there are benefits and drawbacks. In terms of positives, there is creative freedom. You do not need to negotiate with a fellow writer, nor do you need to pass your ideas through a committee or voting process. Greater freedom, as well as augmented potential output are rewards. You can blend sounds, genres, styles, moods; without suffering vitriolic band feedback or any trade restrictions. If the results hit home, and there is adulation and success, then the feelings of self-worth and resolve, make for a great sensation. Of course, there are a greater number of hardships, hindrances and stumbling blocks. Parallel to life itself, music has inherent autosomal dominant issues for the lone ranger. There are no sounding boards to say if an idea has no validity or value; 100% of creative output derives from one person; fatigue and over self-assessment can lead to decay, as well as there been an ever-present danger of relegation and sublimation. The solo market is one that is ever-expanding and crowded. There are no quotas or controls, so the numbers rise, unabated. It makes perfect sense: it does not rely on hiring band members, thus making it easier to make personal and easily-accessible music. Issues arise, when trying to separate the good from the bad and the ugly. For all your legends: Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Neil Young etc., and your modern-day icons: Bon Iver, P.J. Harvey, Laura Marling etc. there is a disproportionately high number of superficial and plain awful examples of the breed. This is a point that bothers me most. For all the commendations that should be levied at the sole artist, it is not simply enough to record songs and hope for the best. The rules of the game apply equally, and unless you have a singular voice, set of lyrics, sound scape or collection of songs, then it is not worth turning up at all.

 

Duality and dichotomy of quality and quantity are inscrutably harsh mistresses: subject to fickle public minds, changing demands, and undefined limits. Getting a clear head and knowing what you have to achieve borders on the impossible, so the best thing to do (for the worthy and talented artist) is to believe in what you write, and make it the best you can. Hailing from Surrey, a much-underrated and underexposed county, Jamie, A.K.A. Second Hand Poet, is a brand new artist, with fledgling wings and hungry sights. His name, ambition and potential is built up from the aggregation of a steely ambition, modesty and charming back-story. His online presence is limited at the moment, consisting mainly of BandCamp, Facebook and Twitter coverage, but given the nature of his recordings and his infant steps, it is hardly surprising. The man behind the Poet has an air of mystery to him. Aside from his forename, and a few minor details being known, his biography is scarce and skeletal. As with my featured act yesterday (Surrey’s Nylon Sky), there is little indication as to the influences and idols of our protagonist; nor any signs of what is contained within the songs. The surprise and summations arrive when the tracks are unveiled, and reveal themselves. The title of the 5-track ‘mini album’/E.P.- Bedroom Acoustics vol. 1- has obvious derivations. The sounds you hear come courtesy of the four walls, floor and door of Jamie’s bedroom. It is not fair to call it ‘lo-fi’ or ‘outsider'; it is more accurate and concise to describe it thus: personal. Honest, personable and relatable. The likes of Morrissey, Nick Drake and their modern ilk, started out in the bedroom. It is the natural first step for all artists; and Second Hand Poet’s sounds make you feel as though you are there with him. It will be fascinating to see if he graduates and moves to the studio as adulation and appreciation arrives; or whether the sounds will be safely ensconced within four walls in Surrey.

 

The second track from E.P., Little Sun, has evocations- in the early stages- of authoritative sources. There are indie edges, lighter Britpop hints, and above all, a keen and sharp ear for melody and mood-setting. The acoustic scenes and lines, swoon and endeavour with riparian flavours. At once the atmosphere is light and sensual; there is a sense that the authour is trying to convey scenes filled with sun, Summer, and peace. The string-picking is impressively accomplished and solid, and displays a sharp and bright talent. So few solo artists, especially those whom purvey acoustic numbers, are not particularly notable for their guitar skills. Second Hand Poet has a clear passion, as well as a skilled hand, and is able to mix sounds and sensations over the course of a couple of seconds, making the introduction propulsive, as well as taut and emblazoning. The 23 seconds or so that it is present, is enough to build up speculation and intrigue, so when the vocal arrives, expectations are high. The vocal is strong and emotive. The fact that the song was recorded within a bedroom does not detract from the quality of the recording. The guitar is clean and clear, and the vocal has a clarity that shines through, but also a slight far-off quality that adds weight to what is being sung. With regards to the nature of the voice itself, there are certainly modern tones and influences within the flavour notes: comparisons can be drawn with some contemporary colleagues. Emphasis is largely on the timbre and weight of the voice, rather than the diversity of it. Lyrically, there is honesty and openness: “I’m not perfect”and “My whole melody is wrong”, point towards a young man with anxiety and unresolved tension. If the scenes and settings of the intro. hinted at lighter and brighter parables, the ensuing words and heaviness of soul, point towards doubt and uncertainty. The song has ambitions to linger within your mind, and it does through a number of ways. Aside from the vocal being rooted within 2013, and the subject being something everyone can relate to, the way that the words and intentions are expressed is impressive. Many artists would tell their tales, with little consideration lent towards projection and resonance. Second Hand Poet mixes diffidence with angry protestation: some lines are punctuated sternly, before being countered by an emotionally overwhelmed riposte or rejoinder. This unique hybrid is a key focal point, and something that adds gravity to the song. The chorus has an air of mystery and open interpretation: “Hey Little Sun/Look what you’ve done”; emotions run high and there is a suggestive shrug elicited. If some of the themes of personal dislocation and uncertainty are prevalent: “Feeling lost/And/Stuck on a cross”, for example, then the way in which they are presented does not bring you down. The voice does not wallow too much nor hide its scars beneath thin-veiled deceit; the guitar remains strong and focused: hints of Noel Gallagher can be detected in lighter-edged (What’s the Story) Morning Glory. Towards the latter stages of the track, the Little Sun is turned upon, put onto the stand, and given accusatory regard: “Burned away/Chosen day”, is delivered with an emphatic guilt-trip and disregard. The tension that mounts is temporised, slightly, by the ensuing guitar passage: it picks and strums with delicate touches, before being swallowed and replaced with the final vocal touches.

 

I hope that in the future Second Hand Poet gains wider appreciation. He has a voice and sound that is almost tailor-made for the live scene, and will win over local patrons and those further afield, alike. The title of the E.P. suggests that further volumes will be unveiled in coming months, and will be curious to see what moves are made next. Whether there will be a move to the studio, and an incorporation of percussion and strings; or the format and structure will remain in tact, is yet to be seen. In the initial stages, the decision to present bedroom sounds and summations is brave and smart. It shows that the authour is comfortable with his surroundings, and knows the vitality and importance of authenticity and narrative. The songs within Bedroom Acoustics paint the portrait of a talent whom could supersede the local scene, and make his way to festivals and larger venues. It is a very of-the-moment release, and one that does not suffer from the weaknesses of many within the solo scene and the associative flaws. The proficiency and striking acoustic playing is a highlight, and the lyrics are capturing and sharp. It is always interesting to hear where future talent may originate from, and what their core values and themes will be. Second Hand Poet is the sound of a heavy-heart, curious mind and endeavouring sound; above all it is a mandate filled with…

 

PLENTY of potential.

___________________________________________________________________________

Twitter: 

https://twitter.com/SecondHandPoet

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Second-Hand-Poet/417534431620189?directed_target_id=0

BandCamp: 

http://secondhandpoet.bandcamp.com/

Nylon Sky- Tell Me (They)- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

 

Nylon Sky-

 

 

 

 

 

Tell Me (They)

 

 

 

9.2/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Things, Bigger Picture band create epic sounds, with more than small wonder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Tell Me (They) is available at:

http://soundcloud.com/nylonskyofficial/tell-me-they-1

Little Things, Bigger Picture, is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/little-things-bigger-picture/id622632492

 

___________________________________________________________________________

LOCAL talent is always something particularly relevant…

 

to upcoming musicians, and home fans alike. From my perspective, it is always interesting to hear what sounds are being favoured, and- as a songwriter- what potential competition and supporters there are. I have focused my attention on a fair few acts and artists from the A.C.M. in Guildford, a town from where Nylon Sky hail. Historically Guildford has had a few notable bands make their mark, but not too many though. The Jam were formed just up the road, but The Stranglers aside, there has been previous little proffered from this old town. Plenty of history still exists within the town, and I have been baffled why this part of Surrey has not spawned more talent than it has. Surrey in general, in terms of producing the all-time great acts is a bit like a British Eurovision entry: never even close to the top 10, and producing acts of rather variable quality. Given the proximity to London, Surrey should do more, but is hoped with the likes of the A.C.M., there will be a lot of strong representation in years to come. It is probably that very music school (The Academy of Contemporary Music) that will foster our most likely local stars. I have displayed some ambivalence in the past towards music schools and academies due to the nature of the graduates. Historically, well, none of the all-time great voices have gone through this route, and in terms of the very best bands, they have always done things differently. It is very much a modern thing, and although there are some truly dreadful examples being brought forth (that accounts for a pretty high percentage), there are some genuine talents to be found, several of whom I have the pleasure of reviewing their work. For bands, I feel that the local scenes- pubs, venues etc.- will play a bigger role, and if there is going to be a modern-day The Jam equivalency, then they are likely to be cultivated and reared on the local circuit. In terms of the sounds of the bands I am aware of from Guildford, they tend to stray towards the heavier end of the spectrum. There is a lot of heavier Grunge-type sounds, as well as Metal and Punk. Never entirely sure why this is, as the solo talent sure as hell tend to be as far from that as possible. Bands of a certain age- late teens/early-mid 20s- were listening to the old masters such as Nirvana and Grunge in the early-’90s, and strangely detoured slightly towards the mid-’90s to incorporate Britpop and indie sounds. It is this collective memory and D.N.A. that enforces a lot of the band motifs: heavier and darker middles, with less menacing, and more melodic edges. It is an understandable phenomenon: every artist has influences and idols, and most will incorporate them into their own music. Trouble is, I have heard a lot of bands from the north- Manchester, Liverpool etc- that have been so close to an existing (or defunct) band, that it has sounded like a third-rate tribute band.

 

Through stellar fanbase, and a reputable and solid name on the live scene of Surrey and beyond, the four-piece: Tony, Tom, Stuart and Nai-ik, have a large and dedicated online following, and have surmounted a greater and more exhaustive fanbase than a lot of better-known acts. I am going to have to clutch at straws again, when it comes to band biography, as I know very little of them. In the same as my subject yesterday, Story Books, have little online biography, Nylon Sky have even less. I know they have been playing for a long time now, and have a legendary name and repute amongst the A.C.M. crowd and independents alike. Again the music has to do all of the talking, but would be nice to know more about the band: what their influences are, a few sentences on the members, as well as a few reviews here and there. In the very modern age of Facebook, Twitter and the like, the boys will gain new fans and catch the eyes of festival organises and venue managers with a few additions: promotional videos, a more in-depth official site, as well as some quotes/quips, etc. I can provide no further information, so will get down to the business of the music itself.

 

Their album Little Things, Bigger Picture (impressive title aside) boasts some striking artwork, in addition to 13 tracks; all with intriguing and curious titles. Track 4, Tell Me (They) wastes precious little time, in making an impression and cementing its desires. The opening strings have early-mid ’90s flavours: In Utero Nirvana/Superunknown Soundgarden, as well as something more soulful and sensuous (one could, at one point, picture Chris Isaak’s voice following the initial stages of the intro.). Following a brief percussive interjection, the vocals open the song up. The voice has some U.S. evocations, yet is not whiskey-soaked and tormented, nor lightweight and wandering: there are evocations of Anthony Kiedis, curiously. Following that parable, there are hints of Californian breeziness that The Red Hot Chilli Peppers have hallmarked. The initial strings and percussion have that same laconic but intentional authority. The lyrics, however- with a little Blood Sugar Sex Magik- have a painful past and present: “I’ve been born/I’ve been wasted”. Unlike the ageing U.S. band, Nylon Sky have a youthful energy and vigour that is tireless and infectious. The sound builds upon the quiet-loud dynamic: the initial four dozen or so seconds are calmed, and building, before an explosion is presented. There is passion and strength in our protagonists voice as he implores: “And they tell me not to worry”, is delivered with tremulous anxiety, as well as defiance. The drums slam like a storm, and guitar and bass whip up an electrical wind. Vocals are held, stuttered and elongated to create maximum emotional effect- there is an impressive power and capacity to the vocals during the chorus. The overall themes and lyrical subjects, mixed with the adventurous and engaging musical breaks, pulls any minds away from Californian wells. There is a uniquely sharp and focused sound; the band are tight and supported by some brilliant production values. A lot of tracks seem to have their structure and signatures established, by rarely wander. The vocal lines are predictably symmetrical, as are the instrumentations and verse-chorus-verse formation. Nylon Sky keep a restless energy and unpredictability at the forefront: vocals change presentation and lines; tics, raps and syncopation is blended in, for instance. From 1:42 there is a more light-hearted change. The words are rapped and trip along; there are ‘whoop whoops!'; subjects such as death and proclivity are given a blase and humorous disregard. After the chorus explodes once more, another twist comes into view. Unleashed is a wave of guitar arpeggios and excitement; wordless but ecstatic. It is hard to compare the sound and passage to anything else. There is the ’60s and ’70s spirit; Van Halen edges, and Hard Rock/Psychedelic underpinnings. It rides a crest and bides its time for a little while, before the vocal returns to the fold. In a battle to win the mood, and stay alive to the end, the words “Worry is all I do” is proffered: delivered intensely and with full-bloodied passion. Another side to the story has been told, and a further snaking turn has unfolded. When the track ends, it takes a little while to absorb the different sounds and sensations, and unearth what the track wants to say.

 

There is personal doubt and clear anxiety: not only about life, but about love and issues. Most bands put the vocal and lyrics far down in the mix, and it is often indecipherable and unintelligible. The vocals are clear so that you can hear what is being sung. The guitar, bass and percussion does not impose and drown the voice out; similarly out front-man does not drawl or slur: everything is enunciated finely so you get the best of all worlds. On that note, the band themselves are tight, focused and professional and it is clear that they have been working on their sound for a while, and, coupled with smooth and focused production, results in a great track. Having delved into the other tracks from the album, there is a lot of that same quality and ambition. The tracks do not follow the exact same path; there is movement, surprises and an overall feeling of brilliance and originality. Nylon Sky have splashes of other influences, from ’90s West Coast U.S., through to Home Counties Indie/Rock. They will be doing a great service to new music as well as Surrey; putting the county firmly back on the map, whilst making great waves much farther afield. In the current climate, there are few new bands whom can provide original and fresh sounds, whilst displaying a conviction for softer, more sensitive edges, as well as hard and dominant highs. In a scene, where the vast majority of exciting and superlative new music derives from north and Scotland, it is a relief to hear of a southern band, whom are capable of toppling them all. Seek out their album and Tell Me (They)…

 

BIG things are shortly ahead.

___________________________________________________________________________

Twitter: 

https://twitter.com/nylonsky

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/nylonskyofficial

SoundCloud:

http://soundcloud.com/nylonskyofficial

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/nylonskyofficial

Story Books- Knot- Track Review

Track Review:

 

 

 

Story Books-

 

 

 

 

 

Knot

 

Story Books, band

 

9.3/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is hard to hear the song beyond the pages of iTunes and The Guardian; luckily the band have a wealth of wonderful novelistic visuals, and stunning sounds.

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

Knot is available at:

http://soundcloud.com/storybooksband/story-books_knot-master/s-1OTQ8

Their E.P., Too Much a Hunter, is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/too-much-a-hunter-ep/id627529476

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KENT is the featured county today; and a new angle is apparent…

 

I have been subjecting any tired minds that will take note, that the south of England, and the Home Counties, have been a little slack and remiss, when coming to offering up new music stars. London and the south coast have been making tiny little movements: the odd band or act here and there, but by and large, activity has been hottest elsewhere. I suppose, historically-speaking of course, the southern counties have played host to a great deal of wonderful talent: Blur, Radiohead, The Jam etc; there has been no shortage when it comes to offering up and proffering forth curious smells, sounds and sensations. Each of those bands had a very particular identity and talent: ranging from Britpop, through to New Wave. It has been a concern of mine, that there is not enough diversity within groups. If you hear of a four or five-piece band, chance are they met when they were young, or live close to one another. Bands like HighFields are axiomatically atypical when it comes to predictability: multi-nationality, inter-gender and open-armed. In the U.K. especially, there is not a lot of mixing or multicultural blending. Various parts of the U.K., as well as being quite lax when it comes to pulling their weight, have other issues. It is important that have some local flavours in your group: pulling in relevance local noises, as well as looking further afield. Most new bands suffer issues of homogenisation. The band members tend to be of a similar creed, age and locality: there is scant range. I precursor to a new wave of invigorating groups, will be a willingness to in other and unexpected parts, with regards to recruiting members. At the moment, there is too much of a willingness to rest on laurels and be unadventurous. This is something I will allude to more later. Individuality is a more glaring and important concern, initially. I have heard many bands; ranging from northern rock acts, to southern pop acts, that do suffer a tendency to stick closely to other groups. It is a recurring thesis, but one that becomes no less relevant with each passing day. If you are a northern rock or indie band there is a reluctance to stray too far away from Arctic Monkeys and Oasis; if you are southern, then many will gravitate towards our best and brightest bands here. It is a tricky situation for a new band, or a group that has established a reputation, with regards to being achieve a high quality, and remaining original. Scotland are doing a better job of achieving this, than anywhere else in the U.K.; but there are a group of southern acts, that promise something that supersedes any expectations.

 

Story Books came to my attention via a feature piece in The Guardian. For all the publication’s weaknesses when it comes to reviewing new music, they at least are pretty potent when it comes to introducing great new acts. The London/Kent five-piece: consisting Kristofer, Robert, Joseph, Andrew and Jack, have an air of mystery with regarding to band history and biography. They have an impressive on-line representation (including a particular detailed official site), but say little about whom they each are, or where their influces arrive from. Whether this is designed to focus your mind solely on the music- effectively not having any preconceived expectations in your mind- or intended as a talking point, it is hard to say. It would be nice to know more about the guys; not any needless mindless tidbits, but where they came from, and what they want people to take away from the experience. Luckily, the music itself speaks volumes, and compensates largely. The band’s E.P., Too Much A Hunter, shows that the boys mean business, and this is enforced by the fact that they are soon to support The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park. The Guardian asks that they be filed next to Coldplay, Keane and Snow Patrol, which in itself will scare a lot of people. I am not sure why they have been lumped with these bands as their sound is entirely different and more impressive: I suppose that they have a comparable popular appeal. Paul Lester’s radar and summations have always been contentious and intoxicated, so I shall do a better job at arriving at noteworthy and accurate conclusions. The group are photographed a lot in black-and-white; they have a downcast projection, but no need to fear: there is not an ounce of any sort of monotonous drag in the music; everything is kept fascinating and integral to their qualitative ambitions.

 

Knot, is a difficult song to get hold of. It forms part of their E.P., but is featured- from what I can see- on iTunes and The Guardian alone. Simple Kids is the song getting most coverage and plays, but Knot has more intrigue, to me. It is hard to escape the intensity and rush of the song, as there is an immediate electric slam, that takes you be surprised. There is no build-up of suspense or a little acoustic or bass work: it is straight down to business. There is a little of the ’60s and ’70s in the sound: mid-career The Rolling Stones, mixes a little with The Kinks. It is a refreshing change to see some exceptional, older influences in the mix, rather than pick away and include only more recent reverence. There are just skeletal, basic tones that suggest any similarity- there is a distinct and original sound that pushes through. The intro itself mixes passionate and thumping drums with hard-strung electric guitar. Emphasis is put squarely on the shoulders of excitement and intensity. It is with a great rock spirit and flair, combined with a softer and more melodic guitar line, that creates a fascinating and unique intro. In one part of the scene there is a fight: bustling gangs square off against one another; in a separate scene there is a regarded calm: semblance of order and melodic discipline is unveiled. It is where the two combine that the greatest reaction is elicited. Very few bands would be able to pull off or even attempt this; choosing maybe to separate the two or stick with a single theme, and see it through. At the 0:22 mark, the electric sparks are calmed slightly. The guitar becomes calmer and more studies, whilst the drum still has a hard heartbeat. When the voice comes through, it is restrained and passionate. There is plenty of raw rock spirit lurking beneath, but there is something calmer at the start: “From the start/She’d never be pure enough”; are the first words, and an insight into our authour’s mind. Clearly there is a tortured back-story and past, and there is a weight in the vocals to suggest that there is lingering doubt and pain. The band support our protagonist sturdily and professionally. The bass, guitar and drum combination keep the overall tone light enough, whilst injecting some Wild Beasts-esque passion and innovation into proceedings. There is perhaps some relatable notes in the vocal; but the way that it remains essential and swimming draws you in, and- combined with a delicate and powerful composition- pushes the song on and on. Evocations and memories of a past love or paramour, points at some bad decisions “She chose a crooked path”; the words clear and concisely delivered, bolster the emotional edge. Our front-man is imploring that the future of his subject is kept safe, and secure: there is tenderness and thoughtfulness in the midst. With tints of Mumford and Sons- although only in spirit rather than sound- there is a musical rush and surge: guitars stab and flail; the percussion batters, and there is a storming distorted symphony elicited. It is introduced to signal difference between the two: separate lives and paths, as well as intentions, and the internalised anger that has been hiding in our hero’s mind and body. When it is sung: “Don’t expose her to the emptiness”, there is a pause in the vocals; the music fills in and creates an emotive response, before the lyrics return once more. The way that the mood is brought down, calmed- and a sermon is spoken- before being contrasted by a rapture and heady rush, is a selling point that few bands or acts have perfected. I guess- although I am as far from a fan of theirs as you get- there is some definite Mumford influences in the later stages; there is just a familiar sense. Not that it is a bad thing. The sharpness and openness of the lyrics, combined with an earnest vocal turn, are a winning formulae, no matter whose hands they are in.

 

The band achieve a rare feat of ticking a lot of boxes, with comparatively little being known about them. By achieving the honour of support The Stones, they will be heard by a huge number of new- and potential fans- people. Their sound is very much of the moment. If you factor out any lazy comparisons with Mumford, Coldplay, Keane, and so forth, and judge them with a cleansed palette, the effect is more striking. It is very much a band performance- the vocal does not steal focus. Every member is tight and focused, and expertly supports one another. When the words are suing they are clear and recognisable. So many acts seem content to have their lead mumble and splutter words beneath a fuzzy and under-produced racket, that you can not understand a single thing sung. It is becoming frustratingly acceptable and common and sure as hell needs to stop. Story Books make sure that their mandates and tales are understandable and tangible in equal measure. The themes of love-gone-wrong, dislocation, doubt, and anxiety have been worn well for decades now. If they are kept fresh and personal then there is a huge market. The voice is strong and universal; you cannot fault the geniality of the emotions and conviction, and convincing with your words is half of the battle won. The indie flavours, combined with a heavy and hard intro that suggests ’60s legends, blends wonderfully, to create a track that few could turn their noses up to. All you need to know about Story Books is that their E.P. promises inspiration and rewards, and stands up to repeated listens. A string of high-profile festivals and dates is sure to follow, and the guys clearly have a great deal of respect and understanding of one another’s roles and skills. This friendship and strong bond shows through in the music, and is a formula that yields surprisingly positive results. Before they head to Hyde Park, and after the dust has settled…

 

MAKE sure they are still in your mind.

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Official:

http://www.storybooksband.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/storybooksband

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/StoryBooksBand

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/storybooksband

SoundCloud: 

http://soundcloud.com/storybooksband/sets/story-books-player

Just Handshakes- London Bound- Track Review

 

Track Review:

 

 

Just Handshakes-

 

 

 

London Bound

 

 

 

9.1/10

 

 

 

 

A psedonym that hints at only a stiff upper lip; a monkier that reverbirates in their jocund sounds. From Leeds-via-the ’90s: and all the way to London.

 

 

 

 

 

Availability:

London Bound is available at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQiMYZB2OfU

Their album Say It available via

http://justhandshakeswerebritish.bandcamp.com/album/say-it-2

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IT is back to Yorkshire, and back to musical versatility…

 

that occupies mind-space and desire today. I have broken away, slightly, from Yorkshire, over the past week or so: in search of endeavouring bands from other parts of the U.K. Yorkshire is a county, that maybe historically, is not in many people’s minds, when considering the all-time greats. There have been some varied bands that have hailed from here- The Housemartins, Arctic Monkeys, Alt-J, The Music, Shed Seven etc. It is really over the last few years, that there has been a real surge of new talent from these parts. I have been studying closely, the goings-on in Leeds, Bradford and in-between. There are fevered dreams and strange avenues being explored: more than you would imagine. In a great deal of the U.K. there is a tendency to stick closely to your influences: play it safe and not stray too far from familiar soil. In Yorkshire, there seems to be a greater independence and pioneer. Many of the acts and new musicians seem far happier to go deeper, and produce unexpected moves. It would be dyscalculia, to assume that there is not similar mobility and motivation elsewhere: Scotland is particular hot when it comes to originality; so too is the West Coast of the U.S. The thing that separates Yorkshire from the rest of the U.K., is the range of sounds and styles from the musical patrons. The greatest natural resource the county possesses is its history- industry, coalmines, landscape and natural beauty. It is a county that has a fascinating- and sometimes difficult- history. This has been noted, and recognised by modern music acts. In the way that acts from large cities, feel constrained and subjugated- there is less of this strain further north. When there is more physical and emotional room to manoeuvre; as well as a more diverse and variegated history: this produces the most striking moves. I have heard some rather baroque styling from four and five-piece bands; Jazz/Swing sensations from a Leeds record label; Blues Rock sounds reminiscent of Detroit from Wakefield, and all manner of cross pollination. There are fewer closed circles and homogeneous clans to be found: a sense of identity and uniqueness are bywords that are adhered to closely. Personality and verisimilitude rules the hearts and souls of the local talent, and there is a much more professional and dedicated passion too. It is the sheer scale and range that sets Yorkshire aside, and to my mind, will see this part of the U.K. hosting the most celebrated and popular acts of next year.

 

Hailing from Leeds, Just Handshakes do nothing to discourage my plaudits, nor spoil the quality ratio. BBC 6 Music, Drowned In Sound and Rough Trade East have already paid tribute to the band, and noted their ambition and incredible sound. One notices that there is a little mystery with regards to the group themselves. They have an impressive online coverage, and an array of glowing reviews, but their biography and background is fairly anemic and bare: they have a need to let their music take focus, rather than the band members. Just Handshakes would suggest a rather British sensibility. There is not an inkling of knowledge of the links of “Discussing Uganda” and “Slipping my moorings”. A sense of cheeky candidness and sexual anomie lurks beneath the surface. I think, in the past their band name contained open bracket-We’re British- closed bracket. A rather wry and tongue-in-cheek smile is present, and the group are not your moody The xx-esque bunch: there is a joy and passion in the music, and Just Handshakes have been heralded by reviewers and fans: many of whom note that they have hints of the ’80s and ’90s in their sound. As well as having an impressive back catalogue of songs and scenes, they have been fortunate enough to have played with Mystery Jets and Veronica Falls.

 

The song that has been garnering the most attention, is their new album’s lead-off song, London Bound. It is an appropriate opening track to any album, as it invigorates and makes its presence known, straight away. Beginning life as an elliptical portrait of sound: electronic hold, reminiscent of Dance music, but promising far, far more. It is a deceptive side-step, and in your mind, you are predicting heavier and more forbidding sounds: there is an element of Kid A Radiohead, as well as Portishead to the ambition. It is when the soundscape supersedes to percussion, bass and guitar rumbling- soft, but with plenty of energy- that your thoughts are taken elsewhere. The presence of electronics persevere in the background, but the foreground has an Indie tone to it: sort of like Wild Beasts-cum-Alt-J. In the way that I have decried the XX for their down-turned moodiness, Just Handshakes can invoke a similarly understated epicness to their compositions. The strings and percussion- combined with the introduction of a new guitar line- result in a euphoric rush, that promises ensuing tales of curious regard. The introduction does its very best to build momentum, and draw you in and under. The bass and percussive line are filled with sparks and bounces: a gravity is developed, and draws all the sounds and sight into a central core, before the vocal arrives. When Clara’s voice arrives there is a delicacy and playfulness behind it. Instantly it seems belonging to a past time. Her tones remind me of a song that for the life of me, I can’t remember. There are hints of the singer to that song, and it will come to me no doubt, in a few hours of so. In any case, there is evocations of the ’80s and early ’90s: singers like Liz Fraser. The proscenium backing elevates her flavour notes, so that a distinct charm and curiosity is elicited. There is melody, and sounds of mature longings and revocations. I have heard many people say that during previous releases, the music has bustled for attention, and each band member were sort of on a level plain, with regards to adulation and attention. It is hard to argue against the relentless dance and sway of the music: the bass and strings that bounce and pop; the drum that keeps the mood in check, and surveys the scene. The voice is the star; and something that I was eager to hear even higher up the mix. It stands in the spotlight and coquettishly plays with its hair and smiles. There are audible swings and skips: the voice elongates and holds notes; wrestling with them and contorting them into beautiful shapes. If the nature of the voice, and the enthusiastic warmth of the music suggests a harmonious whole. If you studied the lyrics: “I don’t want to be on my own” for instance, suggests deeper loneliness and uncertainty. It is not clear if the title ‘London Bound’ refers to a preferred destination for our heroine, or whether there is a less literal relevance and ambition behind it. The lyrics go on to explain that our heroine’s friends: “They leave without making a sound” on their way to London. Whether there is longing to be with them; a regret that friends are flying the nest; or there is greater anxiety at heart, is hard to say. You would be forgiven for getting lost in the voice and musical concoctions: they distract you enough so you do not become too sad at our heroine’s plight; but are inclusive and intoxicating in the sense that you will be picturing what the lyrics are saying. There are questions: “Does it have to be this way?”; emphasising the dislocation and depersonalisation. Towards the 1:20 mark, there are drum rumblings that have ’80s indie jangle to them: evocations of The Smiths in the guitar work as well. With a triumphant and lifting rush similar to that pioneered by The Cure, London Bound has a very real mechanical rush and propulsion. When the rush and mini-chaos is temporised and calmed, the hopping bass has ’90s credentials: there is modern-day relevance but it has its heart rooted in the Britpop scufflings of ’94-’95. The drum fills gallop and pop their hips; the guitar signals are subtle, but sprinkle little touches on the shoulder, that supports the emotion, but shows a dignified personality too. When the line “Can we walk the long way home” is sung just before 3:00, there is a tangible pain in the voice and desperation: it is a plea to be in company, and not to left alone. It is the sort of line and subject Morrissey would write about, circa Viva Hate. If there is a sound of ’80s/’90s Manchester in some of the lines and notes; this is bolstered around 3:11; little bits of Joy Division (’70s if we’re being precise); tiny smatterings of Happy Monday’s (transposed touched of Step On), and a fond affection for the past masters. The final minute spends time making sure the chorus is embedded into your mind: it is a centre-point and the key mandate. That sense of our central figure wanting to take her time, so she does not have to go to an empty home (whether the “long way” refers to going home via London, may be lurking in the subconscious). The bold uniqueness of the song, with all its qualities; combined with tiny The Cure/The Smiths touches here and there, make for an authoritative and memorable song. It is the perfect lead-off for an album that promises much treasure and reward. London Bound opens brilliantly and builds up the atmosphere, and ends with a more meditative and calmer vocal plea.

 

If you are not a fan of any of the music, examples of influences I have mentioned here, then you should not abandon the shores of Just Handshakes. There is an incredibly modern and fresh feel to the entire effect. If anything it is more modern than anything out there at the moment. A lot of bands tend to not produce music with such a carefree and wistful energy; and combine that with lyrics that are imploring, yet not too dark. Emphasis today is put on heavy-handedness and a tendency to be a little moribund; unless you are a top-notch lyricist, there is always the temptation to become too insular. Just Handshakes are all-inclusive and open-armed in their loneliness. The voice is so warm and charming- with only slight emphemarability- that it is impossible not to be won over, and sympathetic all at the same time. The album Say It has- over its 12 tracks- a mixture of wanting to be near the bright city lights, as well as a fond love for home and for Yorkshire. There is a lot of personal stuff, as well as romantic strife and aching. On the basis of the evidence here, and having listened to the rest of the album, it is safe to say that the band will cement a wide appeal and gain many new fans. I hope that they rationalise and figure out their definition of home and belonging. There will be a temptation- outside of London Bound- to want to stray from Yorkshire, and move to the capital. London is where the money and record labels are based, by and large, and it is understandable. I have found, from reviewing bands from Leeds and Bradford, that that is where the creative juices flow, and where much inspiration is to be found. What 2013/2014 holds for Just Handshakes is evident: success and demand; it is what moves they make next, that will be interesting. Take a listen to the single, and to the album as a whole; because there are never straight interpretations to be drawn. Just Handshakes make music that is simply universal, but whose messages…

 

CAN strike and effect everyone for very different reasons.

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Official:

http://justhandshakeswerebritish.tumblr.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/justhandshakes

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/justhandshakes

BandCamp: 

http://justhandshakeswerebritish.bandcamp.com/