ONE of the most promising young artists to come through…

right now: 20-year-old sensation Nzilani is preparing to release her debut album. Never Be is a song that demonstrates what a captivating voice she has. It will be released on Friday (pre-order it here: and introduce a host of new faces to the stunning, London-based musician. Few emerging talents have the same ability with emotions and texture: the talent to be able to draw a listener into a song and introduce them to new worlds and emotions. I was excited to catch up with the stunning singer and see what the future holds…


Hi, Nzilani. How has your week been? What have you been getting up to? 

Fantastic, thanks. Honestly, I’ve been taking advantage of the good weather as much as I can. I’ve really missed the sun!

For those new to your music: can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

I’m 20-years-old, and whilst was born in London, grew up mostly in Switzerland. I was in two episodes of Peppa Pig when I was/and currently can’t stop listening to Sing a Happy Song by The O’Jays.

Never Be is your new single. What inspired you to write the song? 

Actually, the lovely producer Tam and his team were the ones who actually wrote the song- but I can tell you the inspiration behind it. Growing up for most people, you always feel a need to fit in; to conform: to be this person or another. I feel like that’s not really an image you can give up until you stop comparing yourself to that other person- have that realisation that you can only be the version of yourself you can.

The single has some seriously addictive beats and gorgeous vocals; plenty of catchiness and emotion. Which modern-day artists have inspired you and your music? 

Well, first off: thank-you for the kind words; I really appreciate it. I’ve always drawn inspiration from older musicians, especially those of colour. My mother taught me to sing to artists like Aretha Franklin with strong emotions-starve behind their words- though I have to say Michael Jackson has always been one of my major influences- one of the artists I look up to the most. His charismatic energy and passion for absolutely everything he did translated and affected so many people – I can only hope to be an artist as sensational as him.

Never Be is the lead single from your debut album. What can you tell us about the album? Will it sound like Never Be or have a variety of sounds/moods? 

It was very important to me to try and include a variety of sounds on the upcoming album; to try and not only show diversity; to see what worked and what didn’t. Though a majority of the album is ballads: I hope there’ll be something on there for everyone to enjoy.

You have just recorded at Metropolis Studios. How was that experience for you? 

Incredible. There’s honestly no other word that comes to mind. Can’t imagine the session having gone any better. Everyone at the studio was an absolute joy and they made me feel completely at home- not to mention recording in the same studio as the late, great Amy Winehouse (it was as humbling as it was exciting).

Acting and theatre play a big part in your life. Do you think acting helps when it comes to music? Are you able to use your acting skills and discipline in your songwriting? 

Oh, definitely. Singing is all about tone- when you’re singing you’re telling a story, and as any good storyteller can tell you, even if you have the best voice in the world- without tone, you’re lost. Without that meaning and weight behind the words, you may as well be speaking gibberish. The exact same thing goes for singing. This also applies to the second part of your question: a lot of songwriting and what I do (which is mostly poetry) relies completely on the story. The emotions evoked from telling that specific tale: the memories that resurface; all of those feelings dictate the way the melody turns; the words used whilst you’re penning. It’s all vital, and a fantastic ability that acting grants you is being able to examine those emotions, and pick them apart. I wouldn’t say it helps. I’d say it’s an intrinsic skill.

Being teenage- Nzilani is just 19- do you think there is a lot of pressure on young artists ‘to succeed? Do you feel that expectation on your shoulder at all? 

Well, l m technically a fully-fledged adult now, actually. I turned 20 just last week (oops). And,  absolutely. This industry is pressure, and it comes from every side- not just from the people around you, but also from yourself. It is an immense farce that my friends experience it and whilst, at times, it can be a tad overwhelming, it can also be that little ‘push’ you need.

You’re based in London right now- having spent the last 8 years in Switzerland. What compelled you to move to London? How does the music scene in Switzerland compare?

My art. Pure and simple. It was always my plan to come back, and as someone who is slightly more used to the English language, it was definitely a big motivation to came back. There is a very rich and diverse underground music culture in Switzerland.

I feel that whilst Switzerland is a truly fantastic starting point for musicians boasting a diverse, multi-cultural music scene, it wasn’t for me- especially as someone who was more used to singing and writing in the English language. Certain people have different opinions on London. Some find it too intense and overcrowded; others lively and cosmopolitan.

As a songwriter and performer: how vital and inspiring is the city to you? 

I’ve always had a deep love and appreciation for this city. As much as I do miss the fields and the hills and the wide open spaces, I couldn’t imagine London any other way. It’s always been this fantastic meeting point for different cultures and ethnicities and experience. As an artist, that is the most vital thing you can do. Collect experiences and stories and ideas: find a way to translate that into your art, to make you mark diverse; more open. It’s one of the best places to get inspired as inspiration can quite literally come from anywhere. It’s what makes London great.

Aside from your forthcoming single (and album) what other plans have you for the coming months? 

Work. Work and travel. This whole crazy performing dream has always been just that. My dream, and anything and everything I can do to work towards making this my bread, butter and air are my biggest focus. I’m hoping in to get a couple of trips, however, later on in the year. Being a third-culture kid: travel has always been in my blood, and going to an international school means I have friends scattered all over the world (that I would adore having the opportunity to see them)

What does music mean to you? How important is it in your life? 

Everything. I know, it sounds corny, but I didn’t have very many friends growing up; music was always there. I was and honestly still am plugged into my music library at every single opportunity. I was always imagining music videos and choreographies; singing every chance I could get. It literally saved my life when I was going through troubled times. It lifted me up when things were going better. It’s well and truly everything to me.

For those who do not know much about you; could you tell us a secret: something nobody knows about you.

This may sound a bit silly, but when was about 15, I ran away from home to audition for X-Factor – believe it was the first or second year that I auditioned for it, and I remember being given my and some feedback. I was gutted. I kept on thinking of ways I could have responded; of perfect answers that I was convinced would have gotten me on the show. So, I packed my bag, looked up train times and had this insane plan of flying from Geneva to Luton. Then, taking the train from London up to Edinburgh; sleep on the train and be back home with my ‘yes’ and a shot at my dreams. My parents found out before I was even in British airspace, and I promptly got stopped at the border- and put on the next flight back to Geneva.

Do you have any advice for any musicians coming through; those in the same position as you? 

Don’t let anybody tell you different. Follow your instincts. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have recorded at Metropolis’, and I certainly wouldn’t be answering these questions. Your gut knows more than you think, and you should definitely listen to it. That, and keep going back. You’ll get that yes sooner than you think, just watch.

Finally- and for being a good sport- you can select any song (and I’ll include it here)

You Are Not Alone by Michael Jackson. It was one of my mum’s favourites and it holds such a special place in my heart.




Follow Nzilani













Give Me More





Give Me More is available at:

April 2016

Indie; Electronica; Experimental; Psychedelia; Synth.-Pop


Brooklyn, U.S.A.


STAGGERED if I can recall the last time I examined a band…

from the good ol’ U.S.-of-A. Not only do I get to look at an awesome new act- who I shall come to soon- but take my thoughts to one of my favourite music avenues: Brooklyn. Here is a region of the world many of us (in the U.K.) would not usually consider. Perhaps your mind does not instantly spring there: we always think about New York as a whole; rather than divide it into boroughs. In previous posts- criticizing our lack of adventurousness and short-sightedness when it comes to music- I have extolled the virtues of Brooklyn. If you think about the likes of Grizzly Bear and Dirty Projectors; LCD Soundsystem and Sleigh Bells: each of us would have had some exposure to these bands. Whether through various degrees of separation: most of us are aware of Brooklyn’s output and potential. What I love about the music here is its unpredictability and freshness. The bands I have reviewed from Brooklyn- Falling Birds among them- impressed me with their hard-hitting songs and tight performances: the originality of their songs and stunning energy. There are a lot of great Brooklyn Rock bands but much more than meets the eye. Whilst mainstream artists like Sufjan Stevens put Brooklyn on the map: Stranger Cat, Black Marble and Norwegian Arms are making big impressions.

Many of us would consider Brooklyn to be all about danger, violence and something rather unsettling. Unless you have been to a city- or borough in this case- you cannot judge it. People do that with London: assume every area is the same; all the people are rude and obnoxious; turn their noses up without knowing what they are talking about. A certain ignorance is levied towards Brooklyn: many have not even been there; how can we possibly know what it is like? I happen to know- from those who live there- how inspiring and cosmopolitan it is. Sure: there are some rough spots; just like everywhere else in the world. If you walk the streets and hit the cafes; absorb the cultures and feel the place run through your veins- it is hardly surprising Brooklyn has such a solid and stealthy reputation. Aside from the Indie and Alternative bands: there is a wave of stunning Electronic-inspired artists that are putting texture, colour and darkness into music. If you want sounds that have drama and emotion; mix genres and experiment: you will find much to enjoy within the motifs of SKYES. At the moment, the trio is still building their social media numbers. They have a loyal following around New York and are starting to get their music noticed in Britain. Here is a group that is going to be gaining a lot more attention very soon. The way they mix genres and experiments: their inimitable blend of Indie-Synth, Pop and Psychedelia go into songs that gets into your mind- filled with brooding emotion and gorgeous scenes; the vanguard of New York’s Electronica charge. Little is known about SKYES beyond their music. Their social media pages have plenty of photos and links: they provide scant details about the individual members; who compels their music. In a way, this is good, as too much exposure and revelation might dampen their music. What you are left with is the music alone: bare-naked and raw; it tells the stories and paints plenty of pictures. Quarks is their new E.P. and will be released on Friday. I urge you to go get it as it contains wall-to-wall quality. I am a recent follower of the three-piece but find myself irrevocably hooked. There are few bands that have the same quality and style: go deep into your bones and elicit something rather wonderful. Too much of today’s music is defined by laziness and chart-seeking submission. Artists see what is being touted by the press: they feel the best way to succeed is to rip that off. I can understand the appeal of getting under the critical microscope. If it comes at the expense of difference and distinction, then what is the point? The most successful and impressive artists are those that do things their own way: trust their instincts and go much deeper.

I am surprised SKYES have not amassed more followers and attention. They are being heralded in their native U.S.: Few of us in the U.K. are that familiar with them; let’s hope that changes in time. With Quarks imminent: it seems like the Brooklyn trio is on a meteoric rise. Give Me More has been reviewed with fevered admiration and astonishing passion. From London-based magazines to the big players of journalism: everyone is keen to pay tribute to one of the most exciting and stunning acts in the world. I have very little time for the so-called ‘Best of the Year’ lists we see published. Those acts- apparently, the best we have- always seem to be aimed at the radio-friendly sectors: that corner of music reserved for people who want something safe and palatable. I am not an iconoclast but am someone who wants more from music: not just something that seems pleasant on the surface but promises little return. SKYES are one of those acts you just know will grow bigger and bigger. They have a busy next few weeks ahead: it will be good to see the guys get the acclaim they deserve; make their way to the attention of new fans; get their latest single reviewed. What the Brooklyn threesome provide is some of the most cerebral and emotive songs around. Quasi-philosophical revelations and stand-in-the-brain-for-eternity imagery are matched by intense and involving compositions. This is not just the diary entries and confessions of a Brooklyn band: this is music that will speak and resonate with everyone.

Give Me More is Quarks’ lead-off single and a fine representation of what they are about. Their 2016 output keeps defined sound solid: if anything, there is more quality and surprise in their new E.P. (as opposed to their debut). The group’s debut E.P. saw them burst onto the scene with a huge confidence. The eponymous record was a four-track collection that mixed Pop and Indie; Electronic flavours with experimental synthesiser music. Tracks like Burden and A Girl Named Jake were applauded by fans and highlighted as standouts. If anything, there is a leaning towards Pop (in these songs). The newer work- throughout Quarks– is less reliant on Pop/Indie avenues and goes in harder and faster. SKYES had plenty of raw emotion and experimentation: Quarks takes that to new plains and sees the guys produce their most assured and astonishing work. Tracks Dry and Lullaby see the vocals augmented and more in focus- this is the most compelling vocal work Knightly has performed. The boys ensure the beats are harder and sharper; the electronics more colourful and playful. Keeping some Pop semblance- fans of the previous E.P. will be pleased- there is more candour and pizazz; embers of ‘80s Synth.-Pop and solid lyrics throughout. SKYES did not need to improve or change their music too much. Their debut E.P. was packed with memorable tunes and distinct individuality. What they have done here is simply build on that and keep the momentum going. The songwriting has sharpened and the group seems at their more confident and bold. Touring and critical approval have provided the kick to keep going and push themselves. Quarks is going to get a rapturous reception and provide the Brooklyn band with new opportunities and exposure. I can see the E.P. being featured on stations over here. We do not have many artists that play the same sort of music: it will be great to hear the guys come over here and perform the tracks live.

Realising Give Me More has collected its fair share of impassioned reviews: it was quite a daunting task being faced with the song. What could I say that stood apart? Would the song disappoint perhaps? The first question is answers like this: you just need to hear the track and the words flow; getting my feelings and thoughts onto the page is the most vital thing. In regards to the second quandary: you kidding me?! The Brooklyn three-piece seems incapable of dropping anything less than red-hot music. Things begin with the sound of a percussive heartbeat: something very tangible and direct. In the first seconds, you think about the human heart and emotions swirling around the body. Thinking of the song’s title- that need for something more- and you picture our heroine standing alone; looking out to the world with fear and uncertainty. That tense heartbeat is counterbalanced by a romantic and lush piano line that sweeps in with grace and beauty. The two mingle in a rhapsody of passion and energy: you are hooked-in and already seduced by the stately keys and 120 B.P.M. heartbeat. A very human and earthly beginning: SKYES show amazing control, discipline and restraint early on. That swelling heartbeat becomes more defined and exposed: growing louder and harder; there is a palpable tension that encroaches upon the piano; a strain of emotion that threatens to lead to an explosion. Among absent breaths and heartbeats: in the city streets our heroine is looking for answers and undergoing a transformative and unpredictable time.

Unable to hide- and searching for something she cannot have- there is a mixture of beauty and suffocation to be found. The vocal is one of the most spine-tingling the group have come up with. Combing their voices together creates something harmonious and empathic. It is like a lovers’ call: the duo trying to find clarity and yearn for something intangible and distant. I am not sure whether love influenced the song- perhaps a relationship that was particularly relevant. Interpretations will be split between romance- the need to rekindle something extinguished; get more from the sweetheart- and a general malaise and directionlessness. As you conspire and interpret: SKYES ensure your mind and body are being fed and enraptured. As the chorus comes into view- a bracing and rushing announcement of the title- a carnivorous guitar line cuts through the mood. Like an animal pouncing in the night: it comes from nowhere and is a direct hit to the senses. Whilst the piano and percussion acted like metronome and soulfulness: the guitar is a blood-rush and anxiety attack- the most vitriolic and real utterance. Fear comes into play and you cannot help but lean forward- get inside the speaker and give the heroine a supportive hug. A perfect world in-hand- “It was just as we planned”- there is something conspiratorial and oblique in those worlds. Maybe two lovers had high hopes for the future: they saw the years ahead and assumed happiness would reign. Unfortunately, they have reached an impasse: unable to move from intractable realisation. There is almost a drug-like craze in our heroine’s voice. SKYES do not deploy their words with anything other than the utmost care and diligence. The phrasing is expertly judged: words are delivered calmly; ensuring the listener has the chance to absorb every last syllable. There is never any ululation and histrionics: the vocals are controlled and disciplined; allowing emotion to rise to the surface.

When it comes to the composition: it is such a wonderfully rich and multi-layered thing. That heartbeat remains constant and undiminished; piano continues to thud and strike (slightly muted) in the background- electronics swirl and dark anthemics. We might never know EXACTLY what the lyrics refer to. As Knightly explained- in an interview with The Line of Best Fit– the song’s heroine (her perhaps) could not hide. Whether running from love’s woes or a rut: there is that need to find something better and pure. With every ticking second, hopes of salvation seem a little hopeless. Give Me More’s chorus is as emphatic and determined as you will hear. The heroine lets her voice strike with impunity and desire: that hunger to obtain something missing from her life. As the chorus is repeated and reinforced: the band distort the vocals (creating a demonic and hostage-taker-muffling-their-voice-on-the-phone sound) and take the song up another notch. With every passing phase; the band introduce something new and build the song up- never keeping it still, static and predictable. One-third of your brain is enamaoured by the gorgeous and beautiful vocals; another by the haunted and desperate lyrics; the final by the striking and stirring composition. The final moments of Give Me More see accelerate beats and electronics keep the urgency and blood-rush going. The heroine seems at her most nervy and angst-ridden towards the end: still looking for something; not giving up hope. That is the thing about Give Me More: there is desperation but a light at the end of the tunnel.

Let’s hope Knightly found what she was looking for: I am in no two minds the song reflects a part of her; such is the conviction of the performance. The entire trio is compelling, united and tight throughout. The instrumentation is extraordinary and filled with so much detail and story: you could isolate it and still come away with the same hit and reaction. Throw in a sublime and immersive vocal and you have the finest song the Brooklyn group has created. A wonderful, rich and professional production means every contour and aspect is not only mixed perfectly together- they shine and burnish without distortion, obstacle or distillation.  Being particularity affected by the song- someone who digs a hole looking for a way out- Give Me More left its mark and caused me to think hard. I am one of those people who always pines for something more fulfilling and better: trying to escape a certain depression and confinement. Many others will get the same shivers from Give Me More: ubiquity and universality can be found in a song that seems very personal and revelatory.

On Friday: Quarks is released and will expand upon the promise of Give Me More. The song’s title is an ironic thing: many people will want more after hearing it; keen to get more from the Brooklyn trio. Dallin Knightly is one of most arresting singers I have witnessed in a long while. Her lyrics are self-confessional and soul-baring. Whilst there may be some distancing- the song’s subject might be a composite of people- there is definitely some first-hand experience and fears in there. The heroine is hiding and digging a hole: trying to find treasure and light at the bottom of (a black) pit. Inside the haunting anxieties and uncertainty shines a very penetrating hopefulness. SKYES are not a group that wants to bum-out the listener and wallow in a depressive crapulence. They are fighting and yearning for a better future: always hoping to make their way to better things; cast-off the oppression of doubt and emptiness. Whether Knightly finds what she is looking for- an honest love, success or happiness- you are always rooting for her. Most singers- when making similar music- seem reluctant to lay their hearts on the line: they hide behind metaphors and similes; clichés and stereotypes mix in a rather stodgy mix. SKYES suffer no such eventuality: their lyrics are among the finest and sharpest you will hear this year. Many reviewers have said how their hairs stand on end- when hearing Give Me More– and that is no over-exaggeration. SKYES tackle Milkboy in Philadelphia (on May 14th); Pianos N.Y.C. on June 9th– they will travel to Bonner Springs at the end of July. It is safe to say there are plenty of venues waiting for them here in the U.K. London would keep them busy for months alone. Having just seen The Vim Dicta (of L.A.) come to Britain: I know for what I speak of. Those guys- another fantastic trio- assumed they’d be here for a few days- barely worth getting your toothbrush out of the suitcase. What they have found is an inexhaustible lust for their music: an unslakeable thirst that they seem incapable of quenching. People have been turned onto their unique brand of music (they call ‘Psychogroove’) and wonderful stage presence.

SKYES could find themselves in a similar predicament. Not only will we adore them here in the U.K.: it seems like the three-piece could find popularity around Europe; across Australia and Asia. I am sure financial realities are going to limit the horizons. They need to build a local fanbase up- although they have done this already- and will want to focus on America. Among the 50 states at their disposal: they still have quite a few to tick off the list. There are a lot of enterprising acts that play Electronic-cum-Psychedelic music: none that does things the same way as SKYES. The guys blend science and emotion together. In interviews- when asked what defined their sound- they explained how they wanted to evoke the sound of a quark- is that was even humanly possible. Odd drum machines and synthesisers were thrown together in an orgy of experimentation and alchemy. Trying to get that epiphany laid down on tape: the trio spent a lot of time ensuring what you hear was the finest they could create. This integrity and work ethic blends with lyrics that compel you to look inside yourself and question your own happiness. I do not mean it in a suppressive way: Give Me More is a stark and haunted sermon from a young woman that is unsure of herself; desperately trying to find something (she might never discover). When you have music that offers that much; that digs so deep and true- how can you refute its beauty? It has been a pleasure being back in Brooklyn: connecting with a brand-new trio- to my ears- that have a golden future ahead. Quarks will be their second E.P. and their most authoritative work so far. The three-piece is at their most astonishing and nuanced, now: they have built from their earliest work and added an extra spark, imagination, and direction. The group ensures their lyrics have a certain simplicity: are not too artful; can be understood by every listener. I am not sure whether the trio is going to be considering a full-length record in years to come. They seem like humans that just live for music: could not imagine any other lifestyle. I am excited to see where SKYES can go: they are only just beginning their attack. Make sure you check-out Give Me More: snap Quarks up on Friday; follow the Brooklyn trio with much interest. It has been a pleasure getting out of England- in musical terms, anyway- and going back to the U.S. Every time I review an artist (from America) it provides me with something life-affirming and wonderful. When I can afford to get to Brooklyn- might take a while- I shall be spending the time discovering as many local acts as I can. If you are unfamiliar with Brooklyn- or just wrinkle your face up at the mere mention- then there is more to the borough than Brooklyn Nine-Nine (although it is a freaking-awesome sit-com). SKYES are not the limit: they are the forerunners of a wonderful, diverse music scene. Get your minds out of the mainstream; away from the stolid radio output- to a group that will change your thoughts about music. Give Me More is a song you…

WILL struggle to forget.



Follow SKYES







FEATURE: ‘6’ of One; Half a Dozen (the Others)





‘6’ of One; Half a Dozen (the Others)



I have written a couple of features regarding (the understated) joy…

of radio. In the 21st century, we are relying on radio less and less: more and more on the Internet and social media. My discourse and anger is not going to abate: why are we starting to rebel against (the natural source) of music? In the past- as recently as a few years ago- people turned into the radio to hear the latest bands and artists. With the proliferation of social media and streaming services: radio seems like an outdated and lumpen form of fact-finding. At the click of a button we can find music from around the world; play any song we wish- make our own songs if we wish.

The reason I am bringing up radio- and this subject as a whole- is my conversion to ‘Radio 6 Music. I have always been a fan of Absolute Radio– and continue to be so- but have begun to embrace a rather special radio show. For those of you unaware: ‘Radio 6 Music is part of the B.B.C.– one of their more underrated stations- and was threatened with closure a few years ago. The problem was to do with anonymity: many people did not know about ‘Radio 6 Music. Not widely advertised and promoted- how many stations are?- it was doomed for extinction. Gladly, the station has survived and continues to grow in popularity. Whilst ‘Radio 1 has its demographic- the 18-30 audience; those who hate music- and ‘Radio 2– the slightly ‘mature’ and unadventurous type- those who adore music (of all ages) need something to fill the void. I am not a fan of ‘Radio 1– it is immensely flawed and unlikeable- and I find ‘Radio 2 is too safe and family-friendly. Absolute Radio– in terms of mainstream options- is the next-best but has its flaws: the music played is perhaps the biggest one of all. I love Absolute Radio– Frank Skinner’s Saturday morning show is the highlight of the week- but (the station) gets bogged down in chart music and predictable ‘oldies’.

Radio 6 Music is a cutting-edge and ‘cool’ option- I have not heard Travis, Coldplay or Keane played- and is a natural sanction for those who pride the quality of music above all else. I understand why ‘Radio 2 is the nation’s most-popular station. It provides comfort and familiarity to a large sector of the population: those who want to be soothed and eased into the day; have a friendly voice coming from their radio. It may sound like I am being patronising- so hard to intone in print- but I am not- I have no issues with the station. My brain starts to boil when we look at (‘Radio 2’s) sister station, ‘Radio 1. The blare-the-music-right-in-your-face approach- tied with ‘youth-orientated’; loud D.J.s- is hardly conducive to the kind who want to keep music’s dignity and value ablaze. Aside from the predictable playlists- mainstream Pop and Dance- and tendency to embrace new music- very few older tracks make it into the mix- it is hopelessly derivative, shallow and handicapped. The station has a great roster of talent- in terms of gender and race; much less white than every other station- but is squandering the chance to inspire the young generations. This is where ‘Radio 6 Music comes in…

If you want to start your (week)day off with a smile: Shaun Keaveny’s gruff northern tones- the wit and everyman quality- is the perfect pick-me-up. Follow that with Lauren Laverne- someone I can hear talk all day; about anything- and you have a perfect combination. Between the two; there are great features- Desert Island Disco among them- that gives listeners the chance to submit music and explain their choices. The D.J.s themselves feature a wonderful selection of tunes: from Miles Davis to D.J. Shadow; ‘60s classics to too-cool-for-school Indie darlings- every taste and genres is catered for (except for Country and Death Metal). I have been introduced to songs I’d forgotten about: every day, something new clicks in the brain; your musical imagination becomes richer and more astonished. It is not just the D.J.s that amaze me: they are warm and witty; have a great humour and affection for what they do. I love the fact ‘Radio 6 Music is still an underground treat. Splitting their talent between Salford and London- Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie (among others) is in Salford; the rest in London- you get a variation of accents and voices. Aside from a lack of racial diversity- a problem that blights most commercial stations- there are very few faults.

The music is the most important thing: it is the reason Radio 6 Music rules them all. Not fitting into moulds and marketing strategies: there is a freedom and mobility that few others possess. This lack of boundaries means the station can go from strength-to-strength. Every day, there are terrific shows and informative documentaries: a wide variety of songs and endless entertainment. I could not get through the working week without an (unhealthy) dose of Radio 6 Music.  This might sound like an election pitch- it is; in a subtle sort of way- but it acts as a general concern. Too many of us are relying on the Internet for music and a certain type of sound. Too many young people are not dipping into the past: there is a general ignorance of so much music; a snobbish refusal to embrace anything before 2006. If you are bored and uninspired by B.B.C. Radio 1 and 2; the limitations and negatives inherent- you should turn yourself to Radio 6 Music.

Being based where I am- in a white, baby-proofed part of the U.K.- the local stations are, to understate it, somewhat boring and staid. Catering for the young families and middle-class audiences- the most nauseating demographics you could hope- the airwaves are filled with tripe and cloying D.J.s; inane competitions and hideous adverts. I have given up discovering anything vaguely credible: it is sad London has to provide the solution. On the flip-side- the lameness of the local radio scene- it is great this country has such a great station- long may it reign! It has inspired me to follow suit and think about my own alternative: a similarly-themed podcast that would play the same sort of music and genres; interesting features and consistent quality.

If you have a true affection for music- and want to get a grasp of multiple genres and decades- doing it on your own can be a challenging feat. The most popular stations in the U.K. can be, on the whole, somewhat lacklustre and overrated. There are some great local stations in London- the D.I.Y. approach always yields great talent and music- but they have their flaws (budget and consistency among them). Radio 6 Music is the natural champion in my view. Not only are the D.J.s in love with music and hugely likeable: the songs they play cater for multiple tastes and ages- they exclude nobody. One of the problems with new music is how unprogressive and original it can be. Too many artists are obsessed with the Radio 1-approved acts: as a consequence; they are missing out on a whole world. The listenership of this country needs to be more bold and adventurous. I am not saying you abandon other stations and convert to Radio 6 Music: just incorporate it into your regular rotation. When we all show much bravery and discerning taste; mix things up and forsake the overrated options- music’s true beauty will reveal itself. Those who have the most passion for ALL music should head to ‘Radio 6 Music

IT is the station for you.


Follow ‘Radio 6 Music





E.P. REVIEW: The 48ks- The End’s the Start Where We Begin



The 48ks 


The End’s the Start Where We Begin




24th June, 2016

Rock; Indie


Doncaster, U.K.


Do As I Say9.4

Out of Time– 9.5

Return the Favour9.3

Take It In9.4


Out of Time; Take It In


Out of Time


I am just trying to recall the last time I…

reviewed a band. It is always nice looking at solo artists (duos and trios) and seeing what is out there. I stepped aside from assessing bands because of the sheer flood coming through. I felt there was very little distinction among the masses: few examples that came to the surface and sounded new, distinct and promising. Maybe it was just fatigue- or bands not stepping up and being good enough- but enough time has elapsed. Before I get to The 48ks- a band I have reviewed in the past- it is worth looking at the bands that are emanating right now in Yorkshire; the importance of employing the ‘right’ influences- which acts could be making their way to the big stages in years to come. Hailing from Doncaster (Yorkshire) you would be forgiven for struggling to name too many artists from this town. Whilst neighbours Sheffield and Leeds have their fair share of legends: Doncaster is not the first name you might associate with blistering-hot bands. In the area, there are some great, hungry young acts: few that we would have heard of. Sheffield is facing a resurgence and gentrification to an extent: that prosperity is providing housing and opportunity for bands and artists to play. Venues are springing up and older ones are surviving: ensuring the music culture there remains strong and prosperous. Doncaster is undergoing changes and could end the same way. Right now, the town has Cask Corner and Diamond Live Longue: two places where a young artist can cut their teeth. For ‘real’ exposure; I guess there is more opportunity to be found in cities like Sheffield. I have mentioned Yorkshire as often as any other county/area: a part of the world that is among the most fertile and variegated. In the past- and mainstream acts playing- Yorkshire has produced everyone from Arctic Monkeys and Pulp; Moloko and The Cult; The Cribs and Gang of Four. It is clear to see: Yorkshire is one of the leading lights with regards legendary artists. There is less attention paid to the area right now: focus tends to stay on cities like London. It is foolhardy to overlook Yorkshire and the treasure to be found. If Sheffield legends ABC, The Human League and Def Leppard have proved anything: Yorkshire is a part of the U.K. that has changed music for the better. In 2016, there are some great bands- playing under-the-radar- that could make it to the mainstream in years to come. The 48ks are one such act. I have known there for a while now, and am impressed by their kinship and tunes: the energy and tightness each song is imbued with. Before I carry on- and look at other avenues- let’s meet Doncaster’s brightest, The 48ks:

Living in the shadows of noisy neighbours Sheffield, Doncaster has its own Phoenix rising from the ashes of closed mines and Thatcher’s Britain telling stories of their lives and times. Whereas Sheffield has the musical heritage of Pulp, Arctic Monkeys, the Human League, Def Leppard Doncaster’s famous sons are Kevin Keegan and Jeremy Clarkson. No bands. The 48ks aim to change this. Their manifesto is to “provide proper tunes”, “proper songs that mean something to someone, songs you and your mates can sing together and you believe every word” and purge the charts of soulless, lifeless rubbish. With songs in the classic style of Lennon/McCartney Jagger/Richards is there any reason why Lightfoot/Dale of the 48ks can’t join their heroes. They’ve certainly got the tunes. The 48ks formed in late 2009 and after various personnel changes they have grown into their own shoes with relentless gigging and songwriting. Combining their collective influences and adding their own individual ingredients they are intent on bringing the guitar and vocal harmonies back to the forefront of modern music. Their love of their heroes The Beatles, The Kinks, The Stones, The Jam, The La’s, Led Zeppelin, Oasis, The Who, Ocean Colour Scene and Cast is the standard which they aspire to. The 48ks write tunes for the people. If they were not in the band then these are the boys they’d be rooting for. They’ve put the hard work in, they’ve worked for a living so people can relate to what they are saying. They all love a beer, a flutter on the gee gees, a night on the tiles, going the footy and their clobber but music is their passion. In March 2013 they released their self-funded debut album “For Every Day a Memory” to rave reviews and catching the attention of BBC 6’s Huey Morgan
The band have gigged relentlessly at venues big and small including 02 academy, The Plug, Sheffield City Hall, The Cockpit, Doncaster Dome, Doncaster Racecourse and various local festivals. Acts they have supported include The View, The Enemy, Reverend and The Makers, The Milk, Babybird and John Power from Cast and The La’s. On November 8th the 48ks release their brand new 4 track ep “Caught up with the Wrong Crowd” which has already caught the attention of BBC6’s Steve Lamacq who reccomended the band as ones to check out. They will follow this up with gigs and festivals to spread the word. The 48ks are made up of Ryan Lightfoot on vocals, Simon Katuszonek on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Steven Dale on lead guitar and backing vocals, Adam Golightly on bass guitar and backing vocals and Chris Morris on drums

Caught Up in the Wrong Crowd was released a year ago and was a bold quartet of songs. Having been busy since; the boys have been rocking the local crowds- making their voices heard and their intentions known. Over the years; the guys have attracted attention from huge radio stations and local venues. The guys have stayed cemented and not cracked- a lot of their contemporaries have called time. That blend of big areas and intimate dates has cemented their performances and reflects on their latest E.P. I have heard few bands that sound as focused and urgent: every song cuts to the core and leaves an impression. It is always hard predicting which artists will make it to the ‘big time’ in years to come. With huge patronage and backing behind them: who would ever bet again The 48ks? The early signs are all promising: the consistent records; the approval of big names; the string of gigs. I find there are few bands in the mainstream that are really providing any excitement and originality. Whilst The 48ks where their influences on their sleeves- from The La’s to Oasis- they are very much their own band. They are everyday blokes that make music for the masses: that desire and hard-to-ignore business statement will stand them in good stead. The End’s the Start Where We Begin– the guys never do short E.P. titles- is a cryptic and fascinating work: one that shows development and progress; keeps all their fundamental strengths intact. It is the way the band employ their influences that result in such universal, strong songs. Too many modern acts stick rigidly with certain examples: the likes of Foo Fighters and Arctic Monkeys are among them. Sure; they are great acts- well, Foo Fighters aren’t- but it seems like a cynical ploy- replicating modern-day artists that are a proven success. Maybe it is just admiration funneling itself: I feel some bands lack inspiration; they steal that of others. When it comes to The 48ks: the band has a passion and appreciation for the acts that have compelled them. You can hear ‘60s touches of The Beatles in certain moments; ‘70s shades of The Who, Led Zeppelin and The Kinks; ‘90s legends like Oasis and Ocean Colour Scene. All of these touches and incorporations- tied with their own, unique flair- has meant their music crosses generations and boundaries. Fans across the spectrum are picking up The 48ks- not just the younger audiences- and their fan numbers are climbing, by the year. More importantly, their music straddles the heydays of the ‘60s and ‘70s; tied with the innovation and urgency of modern-day music.

Over the past few years, the band has enjoyed support slots with the likes of The View, The Enemy; Reverend and the Makers, The Strypes; Cast, Space; From the Jam, The Crookes and The Milk. That is quite an impressive list from a group that, are right now, underground heroes. I have seen their music strengthen and evolve from the early days. Their L.P., For Every Day a Memory was unveiled in 2012 and was a strong statement from the fledgling band. The crisp and clean production meant every song leapt from the speakers. The boys mixed Oasis-esque guitar squall (Lead the Way) with singalong choruses and Punk energy. It is that mixture of Punk, Mod. and Rock- drawing influence from the ‘60s-present- that hanged together so well. The energy and catchiness (especially Time ‘n’ Again) translated brilliantly in the live arena. By penning some familiar jams- with a unique twist- the guys gained a solid fanbase rather quickly. For Every Day a Memory caught the ears of many- including Huey Morgan- and the boys toured it widely. These live dates cemented their craft and gave the band confidence and impetus. All of these pluses went into Caught Up in the Wrong Crowd. Arriving some time after their debut L.P.: the song sounded a lot sharper and more honed. Their album was a treasure trove of wonderful songs and hook-laden jams: if anything, their E.P. was even-more-infectious and compelling. The performances were tighter and more honed; the choruses bolder and more emphatic- the overall sound more nuanced. Tracks like Changing bulldozed their way from the speakers: the guys were in rich and determined mood. If anything- and the change between the releases- was the originality to be found. The album was a mixture of their influences: Caught Up in the Wrong Crowd showed more of the boys’ personalities. The percussion gained more attention; the riffs were sharper and attacking- the vocals bolder and more scintillating. This rate of development has continued into The End’s the Start Where We Begin. Again, the guys present a four-track E.P. The songs do not outstay their welcome; they are sharp, crisp and concentrated. Whilst the subject matter and sounds do not differ too much- having cemented that previously- what you notice is that confidence and tightness. These are words and thoughts I levy in most reviews. Bands that are truly together and passionate seem to improve and grow between records. In the next few weeks, the guys take on Sandall Park Fake Festival (Doncaster); The Leadmill (Sheffield) and The Donkey (Leicester) – that takes us to the end of June.  After that, the guys go to Sheffield and Doncaster (playing to their home crowd on August 6th). These gigs will strengthen them more: the audiences will respond to the new material and give the band the confidence to keep going. I hope there will be another album soon enough- maybe in 2017, lads? I can see the band grow and solidify with every new release. The End’s the Start Where We Begin is a stunning E.P. that contains all the tried-and-tested ingredients you would expect and demand. The boys have sprinkled in some more magic; this is their finest recording yet- who knows just where they can go from here!

I am excited to be (one of the) first to unpick the latest ‘48ks E.P., The End’s the Start Where We Begin. I will start by apologising to the guys: I sometimes put apostrophes where they shouldn’t; vice versa, too. I have not put an apostrophe in ‘The 48ks’- I have seen it written as ‘The 48k’s’- and not sure whether there should be one (apostrophe) in the E.P.’s title.  Anyway, that is an aside: it is great to see the guys back with a new release.

  Do As I Say kicks the E.P. off with some echo and attack. Little suggestions of Pixies mix with Ocean Colour Scene. Whilst the guys are charging and intent (from the offset) they have shown a departure from their previous work. In past efforts; I could pick up clear influences and bands. Here, that task is a lot harder: the guys sound more ‘themselves’ and unique; tighter and sharper than I have ever heard.  “The future’s here/it’s catching up on you” as our frontman attests.  Advising (the subject) to “Do as I say”: you start to wonder what has inspired the song. Maybe he is talking to a lover or former flame: someone that has pissed him off or is causing some ruction. There is plenty of mystery and room for interpretation in those early moments.  “You say I’m telling lies” leads me to believe there are issues within a relationship: perhaps the pair are going through conflict; on different pages and balkanised. Even from this opening track; you can sense the attack and determination in the ranks. The vocal performance bursts with passion and panache; the percussion slams and pummels; the bass guides the song and ties it all together- the guitars create thunder and lightning; perfect backing for the angst-ridden lyrics. Patronisation and condescension could be seen in some of the words- “Am I talking to fast/for you to understand?”- and there is some snide rebuke underneath the surface. Maybe this is just confidence and clarity: our hero is in ripe voice and no mood to suffer fools. As the lyrics tumble and hit: I was still wondering about the inspiration behind the song. The guys ensure that chorus- infectious, catchy and uplifting- comes around as often as possible- it is one the live crowds will be repeating when the song gets a public airing. Towards the final stages- the guitars and percussion come into the spotlight- you get more pieces of the puzzles. Games are being played and deception is clear: our hero has had enough of his target. Props must be given to the guitar which is truly scintillating in the final third. Here is a song where every band member gets the chance to stand out front and shine.

Out of Time has already been unveiled- and getting some good feedback- and it seems like a logical lead-off single. The opening riff- echoed, mixed-down and hollow- gets the ears ready and the mind prepared. It is not long before the coda becomes more emphatic and bold. The guys all sharpen and unite- the introduction twirls and dances with abandon. Elements of The La’s and The Kinks come together- pleasing to those who loved their previous work- and we get another set of curious lyrics. Whilst the predecessor might have been trained towards love’s woes and imbalance: here, there might be something more personal and positive. New horizons are beckoning; a new script has come to pass- our lead is looking to the future. Maybe love has not worked out- and relations have been unpredictable- but there is positivity and hopefulness shining through. Whereas Do As I Say was a sharp, snarling and heavy track: here, there is more texture, restraint, and melody. The lads balance the energy and rush of the opener with something more considered, slower and more introspective. The 48ks show how gifted they are when it comes to composition. Here, there is a melody and sound that recalls the Pop glory of the ‘60s: you cannot help but smile; there is something familiar and comforting; plenty of depth, colour and rouse.  Our man does not need “a new reaction”- the song’s subject cannot see “the old attraction”- and more mystique is fed in. The 48ks match everyday lyrics with some rather thought-provoking lines: there is no exception within Out of Time. The song contains another, reliable singalong, chorus: plenty of opportunities for crowds to jump, sing and bounce with enthusiasm.

Return the Favour opens with softer and more reflective strings. Ensuring the E.P. contains necessary contrast and range: the guys turn down the volume and offer something more settled. The strings twist, bubble and smiles- a gorgeous, tender line that gets the hairs standing on end. That is perhaps an ironic statement, as the opening lyrics ask just that: “Sing me something/sing me something/that makes my hair stand up on end”. That initial courtesy and paen make way for something more deflated- wanting to be shown something that drives (our man) “round the bend”. There is clear humour in these early phases: you start to picture the scenes and arguments. Our boy is going to return the favour- “Another moment for us to savour”- and you can sense that balance of tension and admiration. Whether speaking directly to a lover- or a dear friend- there is something rather charming and pure about the song. The sentiments are true and the delivery is filled with heartfelt passion and energy. The composition remains fairly light- compared with previous tracks- to allow the vocal to stand out-front. The song’s structure- repeating lines and bringing the song’s title in regularly- ensures the words get inside the mind very quickly. It is a song (once more) that will appeal to the crowds and get them singing along. The 48ks are masters when blending simplicity with personal. Return the Favour always has a smile on its face. The hero wants to meet the girl- “Name the time/and the place”- and is looking forward to their rendez vous. You get clear suggestions from ‘60s and ‘70s Pop. Artists like The Beatles and The Kinks have gone into this song: a track that emanates from a purer and more innocent time. Perhaps not the most instant and memorable track from the E.P.: it is one of those songs that grows stronger and more addictive with each listen. Return the Favour affords the band a chance to take down the lights and offer something heartfelt and gentle. While there are plenty of romantic sentiments: the band inject plenty of variation, spark and potency into the composition. The percussion remains sturdy and pared-back- still strong and sturdy- but it is the guitar and bass that takes the lead roles. You get caught up in the delirious and beckoning strings; the delightful sound soothes the soul.

Take It In begins with a clatter and slam. The boys are back in rampant mode and ensure the opening seconds pack plenty of punch. The percussion rolls and the guitar stings: introducing a track that ends the E.P. with a glorious tattoo. The song’s subject- whomever that might be- is “leaving tomorrow”. Whilst the E.P.’s opening two tracks has some negativity lurking: the final two numbers are a lot more positive, supportive and open-armed. The 48ks are not a band that accuse and hate: even their most ‘angered’ songs have hope and light in the tunnel. Take It In sees our hero keeping his door open: whomever is leaving is very dear; they will always be in his thoughts. Simple lyrics and that blend of ‘60s and ‘70s Pop purity ensure smile are on faces; listeners are hooked and invested to the final notes. Leaving forever- in a few hours, it seems- you start to wonder whether a sweetheart is being assessed. Maybe they are going onto better things- new lands and opportunities- but there is no recrimination and tension. Glasses are being raised and celebration is in the air: it is wrong but “it feels so right”. It is here where the E.P.’s title- The End’s the Start Where We Begin– is brought in. Maybe this is an ending, of sorts. With this end, there are new beginnings: perhaps a chance for both parties to improve life and discover something wonderful. The 48ks always fascinate me with their lyrics. The composition captures the heart and compels you to drift away: the lyrics get the brain spiked and in interpretative arenas. I started to picture scenes unfold and the story progress- where these two people were going. The rules are meant to be broken- “So what you waiting for?”- and there is a real sense of taking the bull by the horns- taking a chance and not looking back. Past the second half, you wonder whether there is any way back (for the duo) or if their future has been decided. Take It In ranks among the E.P.’s most memorable and crowd-uniting songs. Every note is very much born in the U.K. So many bands take influence (too heavily) from U.S. artists: here, there is a true Britishness that rings through in every note. By the song’s finale, the band leaps into the fray and give their instruments a chance to fill the gaps. Guitar notes wail, stretch and dance; the percussion spatters and spits; the bass is solid and leading- keeping all the layers together and strong. It is a wonderful end to a stunning E.P.: the boys are back in force!

The 48ks have created- in my view, at least- their finest E.P. The themes of love and moving on; hope and togetherness- these will ring true with fans of the band. Singalong choruses and standout moments will enflame the crowds and bring in new supporters. The band is at their tightest and most together- it seems like touring has solidified them and strengthened their music. There are no weak moments in The End’s the Start Where We Begin: each song earns its place and will get inside the memory. Ryan Lightfoot, Steve Dale; Simon Kato, Adam Golightly and Chris Morris are a superb five-piece that are in peak form. If you are not a convert of The 48ks: The End’s the Start Where We Begin is an E.P. that will change your mind and have you hooked.

The End’s the Start Where We Begin marks another triumphant release from Doncaster’s The 48ks. I have always been a fan of the boys and that is not going to change. With every new record; the band cover new ground and seem to strength and grow. There is no sense of let’s-do-this-the-same-way-as-before: each E.P. contains new layers and stories; fresh sounds and something new- retaining the inimitable and distinguished sound they have cemented. Out of Time– the E.P.’s sophomore track- has been unveiled on social media and met with acclaim. My ambivalence towards social media is not going to change. Looking at The 48ks’ social media pages, you have to ask yourself: why do they not have more support? Their fans numbers are pretty decent; the reception and feedback they get- when a new song is unveiled- seems underwhelming. The guys have a great fanbase, yet, when a fresh cut is released, few people comment or share- maybe it is just a sign of general apathy? I see many bands (inferior to The 48ks) whose numbers go nuts when a new song is released. Maybe it is not something that irks The 48ks: I feel the band deserve more recognition and social media awareness; something that befits their stature and reputation. Oh well, I guess! The boys will not quibble as they have already captured the imagination of some of music’s biggest names- bands like Reverend and the Makers and ‘6 Music’s Huey Morgan. I am a little cold with regards the bands in the mainstream right now. I have always found unsigned/lesser-known groups more compelling and capable. What we have right now- in the spotlight- is not good enough. There are some heroes, for sure, but not nearly enough.

The greatest promise is emerging from under the surface: the bands that play the local scene; putting their towns on the map. The 48ks are one such act. They have been playing for years and are a cemented and galnavised band. They are progressing nicely and proving to be one of the most interesting and arresting bands on the scene. The End’s the Start Where We Begin is another stunning record that will gain them new attention and followers. From there, where will they head? There are dates and gigs to conquer- both locally and out-of-town- whilst radio-play and media attention will surely come. At the heart of things is the commonness of the band (not in a derisive way). The guys are your ordinary, friendly type. They work hard- all hold regular jobs; making sure they pay their way- and are the kind of lads you’d chat to down your local. This relatability and strong work ethic goes into their infectious songs: once heard; they are damn-near-impossible to shake off. I would love to see the boys come down to London: whether that is on the itinerary, I am not too sure. The capital would welcome the Yorkshire band to the bosom. Make sure you snap-up The End’s the Start Where We Begin in June: an E.P. that signals clear intent and desire. The 48ks are content to infuse and enthrone their local reputation, yet I can sense that hunger. The guys want more; they want to join their heroes: transcend from the underground and make their way to the biggest stages in the country. You would not bet against The 48ks finding their way onto the bill at Leeds Festival. For now- and before we get carried away- enjoy what is out there (the single, Out of Time) and prepare yourself for something special. Those who loved Caught Up in the Wrong Crowd will love what the band has done this time. There are common threads and a very ‘48ks-esque’ sound: there are new themes and fresh energy that has gone into their latest cut. That mixture of familiar and progressive is what defines the band. Few of their contemporaries have such a strong set of material, so for that reason, we should help propagate the music. If The 48ks do make their way to a London venue; one thing’s for sure:

I will see them there!



Follow The 48ks






E.P. REVIEW: Tsinder Ash- The Carbon of Your Delight



Tsinder Ash



The Carbon of Your Delight




The Carbon of Your Delight is available at:

5th March, 2015

Experimental; Blues; Folk; Drone


London, U.K.


The Carbon of Your Delight9.4


The Sparking– 9.5



The Carbon of Your Delight; The Sparking


The Sparking


All tracks written, performed and recorded by Tsinder Ash
Mixed and Mastered by Mitch Girio at Slaughterhouse 754 
Additional Vocals by Clara Engel on The Sparking
Cover Photograph taken by AJAMU 
Cover model, design and cyanotypes by Tsinder Ash


FROM the Electro.-Pop-via-Alternative debut smash of…

RAY (A.K.A. Rachel Wilkinson) I get to look at someone completely different. Perhaps not in terms of location- the two acts are not based far away from one another- but stylistically and musically. RAY’s heartbreak-affected lyrics are still bouncing inside my head: making me wonder; I am trying to get down to the nub- just who has inspired them.  Right now- and for this afternoon- it is time to investigate one of the most individual and multi-talented artists around the capital. Before arriving at Tsinder Ash: it is worth looking at the musicians that do things differently; the necessity of mixing light and dark- standing out from the pack. I have a definite fondness for musicians that keep traditional alive: instill the sound and flavor of past masters; ensure that heritage and sound is kept intact. Whether you are a fan of Folk or Pop- and look for artists that do things purely- you are spoiled for choice. Over the last few years, there have been few acts that go out of their way to be distinguished. I think there is a general fear of ‘fitting in’: needing to sound a particular way to please critics and labels. It is important to appeal to the masses, but that is coming at the expense of originality and evolution. I am not one of those people that dismiss new music as doomed: something that is never going to grow; fated to fall. I feel 21st century sounds are not at the peak of past decades- I feel music hit its peak in the ‘90s- but that is not to say what we have now is inferior. There are plenty of artists that are definitely promising and can change things. My previous review- when looking at the delectable RAY- examined the most influential radio stations in the U.K.- focusing on ‘6 Music especially. I feel Britain- and the U.S. to an extent- is beholden to the lame, over-subscribed stations- those who play the least imaginative and stale music around. It sets a bad precedent for musicians and is causing listeners to be less adventurous and daring with their musical choices. I love an artist that can come to the scene with bravery, uniqueness, and certain quirkiness. Before I continue my point- and invariably, raise a couple more- let me introduce Tsinder Ash to you:

London-based recording and performance artist TSINDER ASH has played venues throughout the UK, Europe and the US. Collaborating with musicians from London, Canada and the States.

Having little regard for the confines of the stage, live performances are spontaneous and confronting. With vocals that range from a deep blues to whimsical folk and a style that derives influences from a range of musical genres, live shows extend beyond the bounds of traditional songwriting performance.

Tsinder is currently playing live throughout London and beyond and working on a brand new LP titled THE ECSTASY OF MAKING THINGS WORSE due for release in 2016. Please check Bandcamp or Facebook for updates and information on upcoming performances”.

A few weeks ago; I was foreign to the wonders of the London-based musician. Ash is an artist you can hardly ignore: everything about his music sort of leaps out of you. Aside from the somewhat ‘personal’ cover to The Carbon of Your Delight– certainly stays in the memory- the music contained within has been causing quite a splash. I have not heard many musicians that do things the same way (as Tsinder Ash). You could never accuse Ash of being anything other than visionary and different. Not one that follows the flock- or tries to distance himself from people- you get music that integrates light and dark; hopelessness and hope; genre-fusion and immense ambition. Having collaborated with Clara Engel- an artist I have reviewed a couple of times before- I was keen to dive in and see what was on offer. On paper; there are very few that compare with Ash. A singer classically trained at a young age: his formative years was spent performing in West End productions; moving on from Opera to foster a love for Jazz and Folk. Taking to the genres naturally: he taught himself a variety of skills; mastering saxophone and clarinet- adding stringed instruments to his instruments.  Now- blending off-kilter melodies and dark tones together- that multifarious appreciation of music comes together in a vibrant feast for the senses. I am kind of jealous when thinking of Tsinder Ash. He has done so much already- a younger man that I- and led quite an epic life. He is the sort of person whose progress could be adapted into a screenplay: a young musician that has experienced adventure and heartache; discovery and self-actualisation- turning into the man he is today. Incorporating Jazz and Folk into his repertoire: in a way, Ash is a sort of ‘anti-Folk’ artist. He can retain the structures and dynamics of Folk; he goes so much deeper. Not atonal or off-putting: his fusion of darker hues and impossible-to-define sounds is setting him aside as an artist to watch closely. While early work embraced U.S. Blues and older sounds: the modern-day Tsinder Ash mixes in more Urban integrations and street-level grittiness. That change of direction can be attributed to living in London: a city that is sure to change your views and dreams. With every E.P. and album; Ash evolves and does something new- keeping his distinct sound ablaze and strong.

Although The Carbon of Your Delight was released last year: it shows how much Tsinder Ash has developed as a musician. His eponymous album- released back in 2012- was jammed with fascinating tracks and odd avenues; incredible inventiveness and arresting songs. From the chanting mantra of Thunder; the scratched and head-spinning Drum for After– one of the most impressive vocal turns on the album- you get to see many sides to the hero. Inertia, You Moved Me (those contrasts and contradictions) boasts a spirited piano line: backed by a trembling and off-kilter vocal. Pacific and Disaster give us a window into a different side: darker edges that bring in great drama and vivid imagery. The 11-track record was well-received by critics and fans. Comparisons to Tom Waits were made- you can hear nods to the gravel-voiced maestro- and Captain Beefheart. Ash incorporates the quirkiness and heady-smoked trip of Camden; the Blues and Jazz magic of New Orleans- the darkness and uncertainty of the city. Tsinder Ash’s songs were typically tight and focused (aside from the 5:38-long Under Your Shadow). What we have now- The Carbon of Your Delight– is a shorter work that manages to be more experimental. The tracks are longer and a little more indulgent without being too bloated and unfocused. Even though the songs are less concise and brief than their predecessors: by the end of the E.P. you are still wanting more; keen to hear  more from the London-based musician. The biggest change- over the last few years- is the rise in confidence and direction. I say this about most musicians- when assessing their new and older work- but you can see change in Tsinder Ash. His self-titled album packed plenty of beauty and darkness: The Carbon of Your Delight ups the game and brings all Ash’s strength to the foreground. The songs are more nuanced and compelling; the performances more impressive and deep- the lyrics hold even-more fascination, memorability and variation. I know The Ecstasy of Making Things Worse is due this year: I am not sure what direction Tsinder Ash will be taking.  Maybe enforced by love and break-ups- the title does beg for those interpretations- it is likely to follow the same paths as previous work. Ash is keen to keep consistent and dependable- not shifting his dynamic too much- but with every release; you get something fresh and unexpected. I cannot wait to hear what is next. If it is anything like The Carbon of Your Delight: it likely to be one of the finest cuts of the year.

The Carbon of Your Delight’s title track begins with a quaking, tremulous vocal. Our hero has his mind in the grasp of a somewhat alluring Siren- a sweetheart that is compelling hyperbole; awed affectation and submission. The opening lines- “I would collapse into you/like a dying star/become nameless, genderless mould/on which touch can leave marks”- are delivered in operatic tones. Having that background: it is not surprising Ash can sound so masterful in that arena. Trembling and raw- a blend of Anthony Hegarty and well… who knows?! There is something wonderful evocative and familiar about the voice- although you cannot pinpoint a name- that gets you smiling and dreaming. Backed by slight strings- and no other accompaniments- the focus is placed on the voice. The song’s lyrics are among the most vivid and impressive I have heard in a long time. Stark and brash images- “Just the throb of your proximity/will keep the organs in” is among the best- mix submission and love; mortality and darkness. Our hero wants his body filled with resin; surrender to his girl- just so he could follow her shadow. The poetic lyrics are matched only by that central vocal: something that gets inside the head and stays there. Ash sounds like an older man singing from his deathbed. There is a frail and brittle quality to the voice: it quivers and trembles like a leaf yet possess so much power and passion. Wanting to fill himself with holes- so he can fit more of the girl in- you have a song that documents a desperate need and desire- through a distorted and vibrant prism. Ash’s lyrics are sometimes disturbing; always powerful and image-heavy. Given the song’s title: it is no shock the lyrics strip things to the bone; bring you right into the song. You will be hard-pressed to forget The Carbon of Your Delight when you hear it: it has that effect on you. As the verses progress; the pace picks up and the song gets busier. The strings become more punctuated and the urgency starts to creep in. Soon enough, you fall helplessly in love with the song: struck by the unique delivery and the strength of the lyrics. While the hero would “crumble to chalk”; become a body on which “fractal meanings dance”: you start to wonder about the song’s influence. One starts to imagine the sort of girl that is being represented: someone with immense beauty but a strangeness about her. That might be me jumping to conclusions- the song has a rather quirky charm- but it is impossible to hear it and not come to conclusions. By the latter stages; our hero seems even more immersed in the grips of love and desire. Wanting that ecstasy and kiss; the bond and touch: few people will be able to hear the song and not shed a sly tear. A powerful and gripping opening to the E.P.: one of the most impressive songs of Tsinder Ash’s career.

If the opening salvo mixed dark lyrics with the hopes of love: the sophomore track is a more frightening and suppressed thing. Unlike its predecessor- which opened with tremulous vocal ripples- the compositions leads Weapons. The opening seconds sees cosmic electronics take your mind to the skies. Although the song’s title might get you imagining something ballistic and violent: the compositions has a more heavenly and delicate touch. There is plenty of power and urgency; enough beauty and candour to put the mind in a positive place. When our hero comes into the spotlight: the opening words might change your mind. You get some banjo and Deep South finger-picking; New Orleans funereal stomp and something haunted this way comes. Our man is plagued by “Rivers of stone” and a “bloody dawn”. It could not be a Tsinder Ash song without something apocalyptic and mystical being detailed. The hero is a brave warrior that is fighting evil forces and demonic influences. Grief is coming for him; flesh is being torn from the body- our man is not going to leave this world unscathed and without impact. The song could almost take place in Game of Thrones: all manner of torture instruments and bloody scenes are laid bare. Of course, the lyrics are meant more metaphorically than literally. There are deep emotions haunting the soul; painful days that are taking their tolls- perhaps the aftermath of a break-up? The E.P.s opening contained affection and heady declarations- you could sense the spark and passion in the air. Here, we have something more downbeat and defeated. Entranced by the strings are you will be- you cannot help but transport yourself to some Deep South porch in the sun- the lyrics will certainly get int the brain. A masterful lyricist and poet: scenes of bloodshed and weapons intertwine; mingling with defiance and fight. Our hero has power and fight in his bones; he will not depart the world without making a statement. A song that could fit onto Rain Dogs (by Tom Waits): it blends the U.S. master with something distinctly Tsinder Ash.

The Sparking begins with haunting and dark beginnings. Those words are practical synonyms when it comes to Tsinder Ash and his music. Within the shadows and dusk is beauty and light to be found. Under a mother-of-pearl moon; our man is bringing home the bones (of the heroine). Again, you get ideas of battle-strewn lands and old-time scenes: something quite classic and mystique. Even in the early phases I was sucked into the song and its power. Ash’s voice has that dusky and smoky quality- again, Waits comes to mind- while the lyrics take your mind somewhere special. I have encountered few lyricists that have the same style and nature as Tsinder Ash. The hero wants to be at the sparking- whatever that refers to- and would never “beg your pardon”- only beg belief. Joining with Clara Engel: the duo combines their voices and combines in an odd- if rather wonderful- duet. It seems like a lovers’ call: two souls that are floating on a fiery sea and heading towards lands unknown. Silkworms hang by the hundred and are turning (our hero) into all sorts of forms- shapes that are foreign and unwelcomed. I can see why Ash hooked-up with Engel: the two have similar styles and affection for the English language. Among the entrancing vocals and immersive compositions: you get some very rich, detailed and lugubrious language. Perhaps the most startling moment from the E.P.: the song takes you in and does not let you go. The composition, once more, remains fairly sparse in places- a lot more detailed and full than other tracks. Engel and Ash are a perfect combination and have a special blend: one that gives the song gravitas and conviction.

Antipode closes things and brings The Carbon of Your Delight to a triumphant close. “You are the water’s edge/I crawl around” are among the most arresting and standout lines from the E.P.  The record is split between songs of love and fights against pain. If the opener was a blend of dark and light- a dark composition with light lyrics- the follow-up reversed that balance. The Sparking redressed the balance and adds new voice to the mix. Antipode has more in common with The Carbon of Your Delight– there is hope and professions of love; among introspection and pain. Tsinder Ash is a writer never overtly positive or negative. Every song and lyric will contain contrasts and layers: he is a complex person that never reveals himself too readily. ‘Antipode’ means something that is the exact opposite: a fitting title for an E.P. that contains contradictions, opposing emotions, and scenes. Antipode contains a typically whiskey-soaked and moonlight vocal- a man that is exposing his soul and looking for answers.  Our boy wants to be taken back to “shaded trees”; a place where “your leaking eyes formed the blackest years”- perhaps the most cryptic set of lyrics on the set.  Byzantine and oblique; you cannot resist projecting images and casting your own story. Whatever the song details: it is one of the most mysterious and appealing from the young master. The composition has plenty of beauty and light to it. You get beautiful strings and fused genres. Americana and Folk sit alongside Blues and Jazz- a rich and sumptuous palette. In the final phases; that composition becomes more lustful and romantic; aching and shivering. Ash is at his most concentrated and focused here: a song that provides a fitting finale and ensures the E.P. stays in the mind for a long time.

I am glad to have discovered Tsinder Ash- well, he found me actually. There are so few musicians that can sound both traditional and hugely different at the same time. The charts are awash with music that hardly sparks the imagination. You can discover some exciting and bracing musicians: their numbers are very rare and few. Look further afield and you fight hard to unearth an artist that strays from the pack- and causes a big reaction. While not everyone will instantly warm to Tsinder Ash- that music can take a few listens to make its beauty known- he is someone that is going to be around for a long time. The multi-instrumental wunderkind gets stronger and more confident with each new record. I adore the way he splices genres and owns every song on record. The performance values are extraordinary; the instrumentation stunning and beautiful- the vocals consistently engaging and beautiful. Boring people are, well, boring. The most interesting folk are those who change things are lead- rather than blindly follow with no direction. Tsinder Ash is a musician that will give inspiration and direction to many new artists.  Like Kiran Leonard- another young musician that has insane talent and reach. The Carbon of Your Delight is a beautifully-titled E.P. that showed a young man with a definite passion and talent. The four-track release brims with special moments and stands-in-the-brain memories. The Ecstasy of Making Things Worse– another beautiful title; a man who likes contrasts and vivacity- there is no telling just what will be contained. That L.P. – which will be dropped this year- is likely to expand upon The Carbon of Your Delight: take that base and add more colour and dimensions. It has been great investigating a musician that throws the rulebook out of the window: someone that grabs you by the neck and provides music of the highest order. The rest of this year is likely to be a busy and productive one for Ash. I cannot wait to hear the new album: just what it contains and how it will be received. If you are like me- and crave something special, different and bold- then discover what Tsinder Ash is all about. I have been highlighting the fact I have not been able to get out of London- with regards reviewing- and I am here once more. It is not to worry, mind. Although Ash’s body might be based in the capital; his music is far less planted. You get trips to the southern states of the U.S. thrown into the mix. Tsinder Ash is not someone you can pin down and predict. All of these qualities and sides go into one of the most interesting artists of the moment. Set aside some time to listen to The Carbon of Your Delight; drink it all in and allow the music…

TO do its work.



Follow Tsinder Ash


















Bullets is available shortly

Pop; Electro.; Alternative


London, U.K.


LOOKING at today’s (first) review subject and it got…

me thinking about new ventures; the importance of radio exposure and attention- looking at the competiveness in the industry right now. RAY is the venture of former Ivy & Gold frontwoman Rachel Wilkinson. Having followed the London duo for some time: I was upset by the split and quite shocked.  One of the most ambitious and beautiful duos making music: they combined an essence of London Grammar with something unique and distinctly theirs. I am not sure of the circumstances behind the split- whether they have reached a musical impasse- but I mourn their passing. The magic and mystique created by Ivy & Gold left deep impressions on the fans- those that are upset at their passing. I will not dwell too much on their cessation: it is great Wilkinson has regrouped and attacking music on her own. Aside from a heart-stopping beauty:  Wilkinson’s voice is filled with intense passion and desire; a bucket-load of strength, clarity and colour. Her alma matter was able to ascend to dizzying heights because of that striking and stunning voice. Having already gathered quite a few fans- Ivy & Gold supporters will flock to her new venture- it looks like the London-based heroine is in safe hands. I wonder how RAY will start her career: what plan of action she will employ. With an amazing single under her belt- I will come to shortly- it has the potential to reach a wide audience; resonate with thousands of listeners. Based in London: there are plenty of radio stations that could lend a hand. I have been thinking about radio and how important it is to new musicians. Social media can only do so much: it has its audience but it does have its limitations, too.  Whilst RAY is accruing fans right now: there is a much wider audience out there that would love to hear her music. Where I live- it shall remain nameless- the local stations (the few of them) are pretty bad. Whilst concentrating on local talent- and giving them a platform- the playlists and presenters put you off music altogether.

I am not sure what it is with local radio: it seems intent on catering to a rather uncool, desperate demographic.  The middle-class, middle-aged white audience is well accommodated where I live: if you want to hear the same dull songs several times a day; enter some crappy call-in competition- you will love the stations. London is slightly more prosperous: there is a great range of stations that push boundaries and are pretty cutting-edge. I bring up the point- with regards radio- because I am an acolyte of ‘6 Music: the best stations we have in this country. It is not just the D.J.s that appeals to me- they are knowledgeable, warm and hugely engaging- but the music they feature. Combining classics and rare gems; brand-new, under-the-radar tracks; a range of genres and decades- how many radio stations give such consistency and quality? The short answer is ‘zero’. Not only (do ‘6 Music) keep the true music lover satisfied: their focus on new music is admirable. I can well see RAY being featured on the station. Her debut track has a great contemporary sound: it would perfectly suit the station’s ethos and demographic. I have heard so many artists struggle to get airplay and recognition: struggle to get the attention of stations around the U.K. Social media is a useful tool for new musicians.I feel radio is even-more-vital with regards promotion and development. I know Wilkinson has a great reputation- her work with Ivy & Gold- and a talent few others possess. Those qualities will stand her in good stead; she has a passion for music and will ensure Bullets makes its way to your ears. Saddened by Ivy & Gold’s split- and the connection they shared- I was glad to see RAY emerge from the flames. The central light and lead of the duo: regrouping and focusing can be a hard task. Not content to sit there and let the dust settle: Wilkinson has come out of the blocks and is setting her sights towards the future. I am not sure if she has management behind her- or a P.R. company- but she is establishing a solid social media base. Bullets will be released shortly- a teaser is available across Facebook and Instagram– and the fan numbers are starting to climb. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are all primed- the song will drop to her SoundCloud account- and I am sure there will be a music video for her single. Plenty of people are excited and primed for RAY’s debut.  Knowing what an extraordinary talent Wilkinson is- and the effect she made with Ivy & Gold- you would be forgiven for thinking she will rest on her laurels. Quite the opposite, in fact. What you have with RAY is an outfit that has some familiar shades but is a different proposition. There is a lot of competitiveness in the modern game: RAY is not your average Electro.-Pop-cum-Alternative artist. Bullets provides so many different angles and avenues: colour mixes with black-and-white; ‘90s touches mingle with the modern-day- an explosion of intention and passion. I am very excited to see what comes next for the young artist. Photo shoots will surely come- a chance to see the vision and look of RAY, as it were- and maybe an official website (that would be awesome). More fans will come to the Facebook and Twitter pages; the Instagram numbers are going to rise- new music will be unveiled as the year progresses. We have the makings of a stunning and long-lasting solo artist. Make sure you back RAY and await Bullets. Its arrival is imminent and it will show what a force Rachel Wilkinson is.

Bullets begins with appropriate gusto and authority. Tribal drums pitter and patter: there is something bellicose and dangerous that beckons. The listener is pulled into something edgy and urgent right from the get-go. Keeping things impressively controlled and level- the percussion does not get intense too early- the introduction builds slightly- before our heroine is at the microphone. In the space of a few seconds; Bullets has announced its presence and planted the seeds. RAY steps to the microphone with some rather cryptic and fascinating insights. The opening line- “What is the cost of the unknown?”- promotes images of uncertainty and trespass- people coming into your life and creating hostility and unsure feelings. Taken at a different angle: maybe RAY is addressing changes in life (musical transitions and rebirth)- addressing her own fears and what the future may bring. With every new line; perceptions begin to change.  When singing “You are lost now/but never alone” I start to get a deeper insight into the heroine’s heart. It seems like- perhaps not intentionally- there is a nod to the end of Ivy & Gold. The frontwoman has undergone a break-up (in musical terms) and is seeking settlement and comfort- knowing she is not on her own. My brain is always caught between two plains- that of the emotional and musical; combined with a commentary on the world at large. I know Rachel Wilkinson has had to reposition her compass and rebuild her career- after the death of a wonderful and successful act. “What would he do?/What does he know?” are even-more-cryptic and arresting sentiments. I am not sure who the ‘he’ is in the lyrics- a fictional character or personal acquaintance- but the lines are delivered with verve and accusation.  Clearly, RAY has some anger and burden to get off her shoulders: Bullets is the sound of a young woman wrestling with her feelings and intuitions. When the chorus come to the light- in all its passion and splendor- you hear that voice rise and explode. Fans of mainstream Pop- especially U.S. idols- will find something for them in the song. While Wilkinson is a songwriter who has always produced something that transcends mainstream limitations: she is someone that wants to bring in as many people as she can. Bringing in American influences- the female power vocalists of the charts- with her own stamp and vision- a track that is likely to inspire a huge demographic. The chorus sees a hundred bullets in the heart: a very vivid and unforgettable image that assesses the full height of her emotions. When it does arrive; there is a bit more clarity that arrives: it seems like the song is looking at love break-down and struggle. If inspired by her own life- a past or present love struggle- your heart goes out to RAY. The emotion and lustre put into the lyrics show conviction and truth. Backed be electronic swathes and punching percussion: the heroine needs to “Keep breathing” and survive. It is clear recent events have compelled this song. Whether a direct addressment of Ivy & Gold’s break-up- a more general commentary on a relationship ending- you cannot ignore the relevance and timeliness.  “I have a heavy heart for you”, it is said.  The song’s hero was turning into “someone new”: perhaps a rather unlikeable and strange version of what he was. Maybe a relationship has turned sour and the duo is on different pages- wanting different things are seeming distant.

Examining the turmoil and exorcising her demons: RAY allows her voice to climb, flow and fly. Without histrionics and losing focus: the vocal remains engaging, powerful and impressive throughout. Bullets is a song that will seem familiar to everyone listening to it. I do not mean in terms of its sound: more to do with the themes and emotions that are being addressed. The heroine is clearly aghast and affected by a rather hostile time. Her heart is pierced and bleeding: the song is an execration of a painful time. When the chorus comes round for the second time; it carries more weight and compulsion. RAY’s vocals are layered and wordless- creating a rather hypnotic chorus- and the song picks up new insight, weight and meaning. Not just reserved to a particular audience- you might think the female, teenage audience- it is a song that will compel every listener. In spite of the rather personal struggle: RAY is a singular artist that will reach the heart of everyone. It is very clear this is “not a dream”- an idea that is repeated- and the hurt is very real. Maybe my earlier interpretations- about being about split and change in RAY’s life- might be a bit short-sighted. If you dig down- and hear the song a few more times- it is more outward and less insular than you’d imagine. Bullets is a song that is designed for a much wider audience: a song that represents all those heartbroken and angered; a track that can be interpreted and understood by damn-near everyone. The chorus’ proclamations of bullet-ridden hearts is a metaphor that we can all sympathise with. Whether you have felt the sting of love’s uncertainty- or has to reevaluate life- this song will make an impact. I myself- who has experienced change and uncertainty- was invested in the song and the lyrics. RAY’s performance is consistently impressive and powerful: that voice never drops and continues to sparkle and ignite through every stage. Backed by a canvas of pummeling beats and explosive electronics: the combination is stunning. By the final notes, our heroine seems drained and completely overwhelmed. Each time the chorus swings around- it is repeated at the end- you sense new anger and pain; that anguish and drama become more electric. Congratulations must be provided to RAY who has managed to transitions between the distinct sound of Ivy & Gold: stepping out alone whilst not completely abandoning her roots. Embers of the London duo can be found within Bullets. The song throws off the dynamics/constraints of Ivy & Gold and is a bold and unique track. Rachel Wilkinson knew she had to go in hard and strong: that is exactly what you get with Bullets. Backed by exceptional production values- that give the song a polish without distilling the power and verve- RAY is allowed to breathe and sing freely. Bullets is a track that could easily find itself across Radio 1– it has a sound that will resonate with listeners- but has more intelligence and depth than that. I mentioned ‘6 Music earlier: the quality and range the station provides. Bullets could make its way to their playlists- I have heard some like-minded tracks lately- and appeal to that listener base. I have no fears when it comes to RAY’s debut track. It will gain a lot of appreciative votes and pick up plenty of new fans. Radio stations will be lining up and that will- let’s hope at least- give her the confidence to produce new tracks and material. Few artists go in with such an authoritative and memorable debut. Whilst Bullets has a simplicity and familiarity to it: it never sounds like it could come from anyone other than Rachel Wilkinson. That blend of familiar and individual is a precious commodity in music. Make sure you stick closely to this London-based treasure.

I am sure RAY is excited by Bullets: seeing how it resonates with fans and what reception it gets. I hope radio stations give their backing and get behind the song. Bullets is a song that is filled with fiery and lust; there is  tenderness and reflection- all the ingredients the savvy music consumer needs and demands. Few artists are as arresting and stunning as RAY. A solo artist that combines exceptional, accessible songwriting with a desire to influence people and make them think deeply. It is heartbreaking to see Ivy & Gold break and go their separate ways. I am just glad Wilkinson continues in music and shows no signs of slowing. That brings me to the questions of the future. I know Bullets is the first song out of the traps- and a rather superb one at that- but she must be thinking about the coming months. I am confident there will be some gigs forthcoming. After that- and with the local audiences suitably hungry- can we expect some more material? RAY has a lot to say: from past pain to new hope; ample ammunition for a rather vivid and varied E.P. I shall not put too much pressure on her but it is something to think about. Bullets is a song that appeals to the ‘6 Music lover in me. It is true: there are some chart-friendly vibes in the track. If you dig deeper there is a song a lot more cultured and layered than that- something that might miss the minds of Radio 1 listeners, for instance. I can detect influences of the past- some of Wilkinson’s music icons- and great nuance and depth. I am growing weary and bored of the predictable fly-by-night artists. Those that rock-up and toss-off the same plodding songs- filled with bad metaphors; clichéd sentiments and one-dimensional compositions. If music is going to progress and develop; we need to start fostering artists that have the promise of future existence. London is putting out a rafter of wonderful musicians this year. I was not hot on the output of 2015: I felt it lacked a certain spark and gravitas. Few artists (from last year) have stuck in the imagination. This year seems a lot more prosperous and promising. The capital’s qualities are ensuring its musicians are putting out some extraordinary sounds. Among the bustle and hustle- the rising property prices and intensity- creative endeavours are rising, unabated and without subjugation.

RAY is a down-to-Earth and sweet human that is likely to hook and seduce fans- she is an incredible musician in the live arena. As a songwriter: she combines the everyday with personal; heartbroken anger with more hopeful motifs. If you add all these ingredients together we have a musician that has a clear path ahead of her. I have speculated as to the rest of this year- if an E.P. is forthcoming- but I can see some great things beckoning. If you are restless for Bullets– there is snippet available from social media- you will not have to wait too long. Wilkinson’s past confidence and experience puts her ahead of her peers. I know (in future records) there will be touches of Ivy & Gold’s sound- that multifarious blend of Electronic-Pop and Alternative; stunning production and striking vocals. It is only left for the listener to get behind a truly excellent artist. I know RAY’s best days are still ahead: Bullets is a tantilsiing and confident song that will make its mark, for sure. Ivy & Gold fans will find some familiar strands- that lush production and assured vocal- but Rachel Wilkinson has thrown off a lot of her past- she has evolved more confident and sensual than ever. If you look at her Facebook page (for RAY) there are some provocative black-and-white shots: sexual and beautiful; graceful and alluring.  For me- and perhaps not others- Ivy & Gold had a sense of grace, sweeping drama and love. Now, we have a singer that has burst from the chrysalis and is more bold, direct and potent than ever. Congratulations to RAY on creating an authoritative and memorable debut tracks. I know social media mouths are watering and eager- the fans will not be disappointed. Those who bemoan the rubbish-ness of local radio and the samey songs; those who find more comfort and joy in ‘6 Music and the quality they feature- RAY is  someone you will want to get behind. The sun is out- although it could snow at any minute- and Bullets seems like a perfect Saturday soundtrack. Sure; there is some anger and loss under the surface. There is plenty of joy, strength and rush to be found: a song that will get inside the head upon first listen. Ivy & Gold might have (sadly) been consigned to the dust, but when it comes to its lead voice…

THE future is just begun.


Follow RAY





E.P. REVIEW: Hunting Bears- Foolish Love



Hunting Bears



Foolish Love





Foolish Love is available at:

18th April 2016

Baroque-Pop; Alternative


Leeds, U.K.


Sweet Anthony9.6

Foolish Love– 9.6

First in Line9.5

Bronze, Silver and Gold9.4

In the Afterglow9.5


Sweet Anthony; Foolish Love; First In Line


Foolish Love


IT has been a fair while since I reviewed Hunting Bears…

but it is good to return.  Before coming to their new sounds- and how the band has developed- I wanted to look at the understated (and underappreciated) nature of Baroque-Pop; the way things have shaped up in 2015- the need for beauty and contemplation in music.  I like to think I am a lover of many kinds of music:  there are few genres that I will overlook.  To be fair, I have little time for Country, Dub-Step; Classical and World- but will not ignore these genres altogether.  Even inside those (rather divisive) types of music there is plenty to recommend and enjoy.  That is the great thing about music in general:  there is an enormous amount of choice and beauty to be discovered.  What irks me most is how confined some musicians are.  I have bemoaned this fact before- and shall not whip that horse too much now- but get angry at certain musicians.  If you are coming onto the scene- fresh and eager for success- it is not good enough phoning it in and doing what everyone else is doing.  Technology has advanced to the stage where we can incorporate any sound and instrument into a song.  There are limitless possibilities and unbridled potential.  This criticism is not just levelled at bands:  solo artists are just as guilty when it comes to the matter of diversity.  If you feel Rock/guitar-based bands are becoming too formulaic and stifled:  the same must be said at many emerging Pop acts.  Yesterday, I reviewed two very different artists:  each of them is pushing boundaries and creating something exciting.  From London, Lola Coca is a Hip-Hop/Pop artist who puts tales of creepy guys- slimy city types- inside addictive and catchy songs.  By contrast; Fifi Rong creates haunting Electronic sounds that detail forbidden love and longing- wrapped up inside mystical electronics and thudding beats.  Pop is a wide genre that has the potential to make a big difference in the music world.  I feel the mainstream’s ‘best’ are not setting a good example to underground artists.  Instead of setting an example; they are rather lackluster and unspectacular.  The best Pop music around is that which can mix beauty and tenderness together with something exciting and fresh.  Hunting Bears came to my radar a while ago- I cannot remember the exact date- and I was instantly hooked.  The Leeds-based collective describe their music as a mixture of Baroque-Pop and Folk.  If those words send shivers down the spine- some rather snobbish music fans might balk- then you need to get over yourself a bit.  Too few of us are adventurous, and when you start listening to Hunting Bears- the effect is rather special.  The guys focus on love and its perils; fascinating characters and cherished heroes- slice-of-life digressions and fantastical dreamscapes.  At the core is that reality:  heartfelt songs that tackle the balance of love and how capricious it can be.  Rather than present (such themes) with predictable measures- listen to any new artist on

The guys focus on love and its perils; fascinating characters and cherished heroes- slice-of-life digressions and fantastical dreamscapes.  At the core is that reality:  heartfelt songs that tackle the balance of love and how capricious it can be.  Rather than present (such themes) with predictable measures- listen to any new artist on Radio 1– there is serene beauty and tenderness; stirring strings and gorgeous vocals- music that will strike and seduce every listener.  Little is known about the band- in terms of their biography- but the guys are a very slick, professional and busy group.  All their social media sites are updated:  their songs are readily available; they are a very accessible band.  Foolish Love is a five-track E.P. that is going to rank among 2016’s most-essential releases.  I am not saying this as a fan of Hunting Bears:  Foolish Love is a wonderful release from a band that is making big strides.  Leeds is a city that has often been in my sights:  every week, there is another Yorkshire gem in view.  Although London might be leading the new music race- in terms of invention and quality- Leeds is one of the most consistent and surprising areas for music.  I feel the mainstream is rather spotty and unpredictable.  Last year, we saw the likes of Kendrick Lamar make big footprints.  This year, there have been a few good albums:  on the whole, we are still waiting for that explosion.  In the meantime, eyes are cast to new musicians- those unsigned or under-the-radar- for something special.  I have seen a great deal of fantastic artists emerge this year.  Hunting Bears certainly rank among the most interesting artists in the U.K.  I mentioned their sense of beauty and reflectiveness:  there is so much more to the band than that.  West Coast melody and Neo-Soul sits with Folk:  Gospel strands and ‘70s Pop nestles in sensuous tenderness and romance.  A wonderful group with a very clear future ahead of them.

Those that are new and fresh to Hunting Bears’ music:  you might want to see how far they have come and where they started.  The band have been playing together for a while but Foolish Love is their most complete and authoritative statement to date.  I have been aware of their music since hearing Sweet Anthony a couple of months back.  That track makes it onto Foolish Love- ranking among the finest moments on record- and shows what the guys are made of.  Foolish Love is the natural starting point for new listeners.  It combines ‘older’ songs- a few months old- and newer inclusions.  Throughout the five tracks you hear that consistency and range.  Each song has its own personality and position:  there is not a sense the band have struggled for inspiring material.  The quintet of songs hangs together beautifully and assuredly.  I hope the group goes onto create more E.P.s- and an album perhaps- as they have a wonderful kinship and connection.  Follow their progress on social media; find their music on SoundCloud– watch how they develop and grow over the years.

Sweet Anthony opens Foolish Love with urgency and passion.  Tribal-like vocals echo and strike from the speaker.  The listener does not have time to reflect and guess:  the band get things underway with intention and headiness.  The opening moments see vocal harmonies- gorgeous, feminine and lustful- melt with pulsing electronics.  You get a mixture of Baroque-Pop and Electronica; little shades of Rock, too- a terrific blend of rushing deceleration and immense beauty.  After early harmonising; our heroine comes to microphone to tell a (rather sad) story.  At heart, there is a need to reclaim some former love:  a feeling and connection that seems to be missing.  “This fight”, it seems, it “our own creation”.  The lovers are undergoing turmoil and are at loggerheads, it appears.  Separated by distance and contrasting desires:  you get a real feeling of longing and anxiety in the vocal performance.  Backing the vocal iare lush strings and pattering percussion.  The composition never gets in the way of things- intruding in the foreground- but ensures the lyrics are given plenty of colour and emotion.  The entire group show that unbreakable intuition and connection on the first track.  Not just confining itself to a single line and sound:  the song goes through movements and changes pace as it progresses.  Providing nuance, unpredictability and beauty:  Sweet Anthony dives, sweeps and swims in the mind.  Augmented by a truly stunning vocal performance- lead and harmony- you get a song that goes into the heart and evokes true emotion.   Whilst it is a personal song; you cannot help but feel effected and reflective.  The heroine provides apology- backed by sensual vocal backing- and seem to regret what has come before.  Here is a song that has plenty of depth and maturity.  It is clear the band has a love of U.S. Folk and Pop.  You get a clear taste of West Coast Pop and Folk uniting in Sweet Anthony.  If that chorus does not stay in the mind forever- there is a very clear danger it will- then the band’s tight and impassioned performance will.  At one moment you will hear embers of Country and Pop; the next you witness high-pitched guitar lines and rousing strings.  The band pack so many ideas into the composition:  it never sounds forced or too crowded; everything fuses completely naturally.  A wonderful start to the E.P.

The title track arrives next and starts with a funky kick.  The strings shiver and shimmer; the percussion kicks and drives- I get little tastes of early-career Steely Dan (oddly).  When our heroine arrives in the spotlight, you are already hooked.  Being a “Fool to trust only one”; there are regrets and doubts early on.  Again, some U.S. strands make their presence known- bit of ‘70s Soul and Californian Pop- that sit with homegrown lyrics or disconnection and bad romance.  Hunting Bears are synonymous with their incredible vocals.  Here, we get one of the most beautiful and tender performances across the E.P.  The band does not pack the song with too many lyrics:  keeping things economical and simple.  “This heart” is a duo of words that are repeated and gain new meaning with each presentation.  Containing pain, loss and sensuousness; romance, loss and need- so many contrasts and ideas can be found with such a simple idea.  Not only do the vocal harmonies make you smile and calm the soul:  the instrumentation and band performance is filled with wonderful little details.  Again, we get some Folk-inspired strings; plenty of drama and darkness.  Hunting Bears are never too introspective and moody:  their music contains plenty of optimism, beauty and energy.  So much time and attention has gone into the song.  The composition starts and stops.  There are stunning little moments and passages:  the track has a fluidity and progression; it demonstrates stunning musicianship and thoughtfulness.  Whilst the lyrics will affect and compel:  it is the composition that elicits the biggest response.  The band are completely on-step and on the same page:  it is one of the most tight-knit and complete performances I have heard in a long while.

First In Line starts with aching and languid strings.  Juxtaposing the rousing and sprite predecessor:  here, we have something more down and haunted.  That repressed energy does not last:  it is replaced by a spirited vocal that changes the mood in a heartbeat.  In spite of the sweet vocal and spirit:  there is some honesty and humour to be discovered.  The heroine admits to a certain lack of bravery- certain spinelessness- and lack of kindness.  Maybe going through a tough time- or confessing to some character flaws- you wonder who the song is directed at.  Maybe a sweetheart or friend is bearing the brunt of this anger.  Our girl has been “playing this game too” long as you can detect a certain fatigue and boredom.  Whether going through the motions- stuck in a loveless bond- there is a certain tongue-holding occurring.  Strangely honest and confessional- few musicians turn the gun on themselves- you are impressed by the boldness and originality.  Remiss to blame things on fate- which doesn’t actually exist- the song acts like a confessional.  Foolish Love seems like a concept E.P.; one that revolves around a particular romance.  If you take the first two tracks as the start- the break-up and stress; then to being trapped in an unwise bond- here is that realisation and ending.  The cracks are showing and there seems like little way back.  Most bands- when faced with the same situation- would put too much negativity and anger into the music.  Hunting Bears ensure everything is bright and receptive.  If anything; this is a cleansing ritual.  The spikiness and bristly temper is a way of dealing with pain and heartache.  Before you get too involved in interpretation:  those heavenly vocals make their presence known.  You get a brief sweet of etherealness before the composition steps up a gear.  Organ notes come through and the percussion tightens.  It lasts for a few seconds but keeps the song agile and mobile.  First In Line boasts one of the most effective and memorable choruses:  in no small part down to the deliver and uplifting vocals.  Completing the song; the band pull together strings, percussion and guitar.   At once classical and refined; powerful and driving- these contrasts make the final section hugely effective and emotional.

Bronze, Silver & Gold starts with a wonderful kick and sense of cool.  Flecked guitar notes and teasing percussion notes ensure the penultimate track starts with a smile.  The heroine speaks of “sweetness and sickness” and “reciprocal forgiveness”:  again, there are some regrets and mutual indemnification.  The band present one of their most sun-kissed and cool-sounding compositions across the record.  It has an almost Jazz-like quality to it.  Breezy and West Coast; romantic and lush:  it is so easy to get lost inside the song.  Perhaps not as strong as other cuts on the E.P. – some of the vocals get buried in the mix- it does showcase how diverse and effective Hunting Bears are.  That stunning musicianship and command comes to the fore, here.  Like Steely Dan- flecks of them come through again- you just know how much attention has been paid to getting the sound just right.  Hunting Bears can sound perfectionist and loose at the same time.  Bronze, Silver & Gold is the perfect song for those that need their mind eased and calmed.  It has such a relaxing quality to it.  No listener will be able to hear the song and not feel soothed and awed.  Bronze, Silver & Gold’s ending is perhaps among the E.P.’s most memorable and sensational revelations.  The composition comes into its own and shows (once more) how talented the band is.  Things get heavier and more domineering.  The strings layer and build; the volume increases and the song is filled with rainclouds and shadows.  In such a sweet and serene song:  the climax is rather unexpected and haunting.  Full marks must be given to the band, who subvert expectation and ensure every song has a twist in it.

In the Afterglow ends the E.P. and ensures the listener is left wanting more.  Bringing the song up slowly- a very delicate and dreamy fade up- our heroine’s vocal is at its most stunning and committed.  Basking underneath an “empty moon” and stars that “have nothing to lose”- the lovers are exposed and revealing themselves.  Blame is in the air and the duo has surface wounds.  Whilst there are scars and tense emotions- some rather vivid scenes unfolding- love can come through and solve things.  Here is a song that got me thinking and curious.  Previous tracks (on Foolish Love) looked at split and recriminations.  Maybe there is room for hope and reconciliation.  The song’s title suggests something quite sexual and climatic:  maybe it is a metaphor for when the lovers at their most vulnerable and exposed.  The band provides an ample soundtrack for a song that looks at variegated emotions and romance.  One-half of me look at something positive and redemptive.  Two lovers in the openness of nature:  succumbing to each other and rekindling a special connection.  On the other hand; I got thinking about truths exposed and old arguments coming to the surface.  Hunting Bears put us into nature and bring the song into the open air.  The moon, stars and heavens are a backdrop for one of the most impressive vocal performances on the E.P.  In The Afterglow is a song that will compel you to keep playing it:  be entranced by the beauty and try and get to the bottom of things.  A gorgeous song that ends Foolish Love on a high note.

Mary-Jane Walker, Reece Jacob; Richard Bennett, Alice Phelps and Sim Walker have spent a lot of time on Foolish Love.  Kudos goes to the band who has created a wonderful E.P.  Filled with stunning songs and detailed lyrics:  emotional compositions and beautiful vocal harmonies- few band are as unique and effective.  This record has been in their minds for a while and they have not rushed its release.  Every song has been worked over and rehearsed.  That is not to say the songs seem tired or drained.  On the contrary, in fact.  Every one of the five songs sounds like it is being played for the first time.  The guys sound completely dedicated to the subject material and deliver exceptional, energetic performances.  The musicianship is exceptional throughout.  Every instrument adds depth, colour and emotion to the song; each performance turn has its own merit; when combined, the band sound unbeatable and peerless.  Hunting Bears are one of the most individual groups around but are never niche or confining.  They explore multiple genres and make music for the masses.  Foolish Love shows how special the Leeds clan is.

Foolish Love is out there and already collecting praise and applause.  The five-piece have played Green Man– and other prestigious gigs- and are growing by the year.  If you are looking for a band that does things different:  that goes the extra mile and digs deep inside the soul:  you should investigate Leeds’ Hunting Bears.  They are not just a Baroque-Pop act:  they mix so many genres and colours into a scintillating aroma.  At heart, there is that beauty and tenderness; songs about longing and love- delivered with spine-tingling purity and grace.  I am not sure what the guys are planning for the forthcoming months.  Clearly, there will be some touring demands and big gigs arriving.  Hunting Bears are an act that is used to playing mainly-local gigs.  They have performed across Yorkshire and you feel they should be acclaimed and dragged further south.  I have seen many (lesser) groups hit their stride in London: perform across the U.K. and even find some U.S. dates.  Hunting Bears could happily enthrall and delight audiences across New York and California.  That said; they could easily fit in London venues and clubs:  there is a lot of fans waiting for the band.  I am unsure whether financial restraints- being able to afford trips around the nation- are seeing them perform closer to home.  It would be great to think the quintet is planning some ambitious gigs this year.  I would love to see them (in London) and so would a lot of others.  Not to put ideas and dreams in their head:  I feel the guys have a big future waiting.  What marks Hunting Bears aside- compared contemporaries- is their depth and variability.  They are not just confined to a single genre:  they have mobility and endeavor; capable and expert in so many areas.  At the core is the band chemistry which ensures every song is as beautiful and strong as possible.  Foolish Love is the result of a lot of hard work and commitment.  There are too many musicians that are following the herd and not taking enough trouble to do things differently.  You do not have to complete reinvent music to stand out in the mind.

There is- as I stated at the top- so many possibilities that artists can exploit.  We are in the position where everything and anything is possible.  Technology is ensuring musicians have easy access to a range of sounds and ideas.  Social media makes it easy to connect with fellow artists:  collaborate and share ideas over the Internet.  Maybe there is TOO much choice available- musicians feel intimidated by the sheer volume of options.  Whatever the reasons- behind the lack of adventure- there needs to be some sort of change and campaign.  The best and brightest new acts are those that have a clear-cut sound but do not limit themselves.  Hunting Bears (on paper) might sound like your average Folk/Pop act:  a group that sounds like so many out there.  When you dig deep, you find this assumption rather naïve and foolhardy.  This Leeds five-piece make music for everyone.  Not reserved to Baroque-Pop aficionados and a slightly older audience:  their songs will effect and resonate with a huge demographic.  Defining this is a huge quality control that goes into Foolish Love.  The songs mix universality and quirkiness; stunning beauty and immediacy- so many different emotions and ideas.  It would be wonderful to see the group produce an L.P. sometime down the line- I feel the best work is still ahead of them.  They are young and ambitious so it will not be long until the band is hitting peak form and sitting alongside the best of the mainstream.  Right now, they have created a stunning E.P. that will please existing fans- pull in new supporters and listeners.  It is great seeing the Leeds group come big with a huge statement.  There are so few musicians that have that six-month longevity- where their music will still be in your head that far after hearing it- but Hunting Bears are among them.  That being said; I have to ask this:

WHAT are you waiting for?



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