Dear Reader: ‘Down Under, Mining’- Track Review

‘Down Under, Mining’ Track Review:

 

9.1/10.

 

 

South African-born chanteuse has an important political compass that urges you to follow.

 

 

Availability: ‘Down Under, Mining’ is available now via:https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/dear-reader/id299724538

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Gold is to be found, when you dig down deep…

 

as it is a song that demands repeated listens. It initially will soothe and lull you into a sleep, but builds and expands in all directions, projecting a Bjork-like experimentation and boldness, minus the histrionics or the same malevolent oddness. The voice behind the South African outfit is singer-songwriter, Cherilyn MacNeil, who were formed back in 2006. They changed their name to Dear Reader, from The Younger in 2008, and have been suitably garnered and celebrated in their native land. Looking through the Internet, Dear Reader has an impressive amount of real estate, and music old and young is available widely. I was made aware of their heart-stopping back catalogue via reliable friend The Girls Are. It is a mystery as to why Dear Reader has perhaps a rather muted subscription in the U.K. In the a lot of Europe, especially Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland, Cherilyn will be bringing her unique blend of musical mystery and political assiduity to these nations through most of 2013. Her last album was 2011’s ‘Idealistic Animals’, and struck quite a mixed chord with a lot of the music press. Clash Magazine labelled the release ‘quirky and sincere’, and commended MacNeil’s ‘warm vocals’. Perhaps less effusive was Drowned In Sound, who noted at the album’s loss of cohesion towards the mid-point of the album, suggesting lyrical wandering was in need of some honing; but they did celebrate her bold and experimenting sound and odd, but fascinating time signatures. NME went on to say that her zoological-themed song titles were too niche, and the album’s pervasive themes: loss of religious faith, self doubt, and reflection were going to be too alienating. The point of the album, was to explain why she lost faith in religion; something that initially made her believe she was someone. The machinations within the album were not supposed to deville faith, but give a toned down execration of her changing mindset; explaining to the listening the catharsis and personal ambiguity and fear one goes through when something so meaningful becomes meaningless.

 

Critics, or as I like to label myself, ‘music lovers’, seek different forms of artists and bands, to keep their mind interested, and being a songwriter myself, I look for talent to inspire me. Adopting new music is scrutiny to personal taste and subjectiveness. Many reviewers and critics are more praise-worthy of artists who best fit their CD collection, and are familiar to them. I am a big fan of female talent, and have been impressed by a huge raft of new artists: Nadine Shah, Fake Club, Emma Stevens, Chess, Little Violet and Rose and the Howling North, who between them cover a large spectrum of sounds and styles. All of them, with little exception are relatively unheard of and maybe not music I would have thought about listening to before I heard them. That is the point when reviewing new music. Whether it is largely po-faced or introverted or fun and frivolous, the idea is to accentuate the positives and look deeper. If you are too margialinsed and unmoving, then you will never accept or love anything new. So long as (new music) stands between at least one of key five pillars: good lyrics, interesting music, interesting sound, great vocals and memorable songs, then reappraisal and repeated listening will be in order. If you are too calumniatory because the music is consistently downbeat or mournful because you don’t wasn’t to think or feel sad, then it is an inexact parallel to what I have described. If none of the five criteria is met, then fair enough. But if many boxes are ticked, then it is rather narrow-minded and uneducated when being too reproachful. To matters at hand, then.

 

Ahead of the release of new album ‘Rivonia’ (released on April 8th on City Slang) I listened to ‘Down Under, Mining’. The lyrical and thematic shift over the last 2 years has gone from personal examination to political commentary, particularly about Apartheid-era South Africa, which is what this track focuses on. It does not take a huge gasping about the history of South Africa, nor a first-hand recollection of Apartheid, to understand or appreciate the song. It begins with an appropriate immediacy. In the foreground is Dear Reader teasing with a bubbling and springing chorus of ‘uh-uh-ohs’, whilst behind her, is a somewhat reflective, and to my ears, Gregorian hum. When she gets down to cohesive lyrical intent, the first thing that strikes me is her voice. It has a delicacy and playfulness or modern stateswomen, yet has a lot in common with Bjork. There is an equivocal kookiness to her aesthete, a childlike jour de vivre and joyful over-pronunciation. There is a similar tribal feel to the percussion in the song as well, which propels the vocals wonderfully. Whether acting as a sonic evocation of a gang mining sorrowfully, or just intending to emphasise the overall mood, it is very effective. Perhaps suitably, the lyrics have a striking sting in their tail and are quite foreboding. “Mother/My Brother/Is Dead in/The gutter”, is a especially bold and unforgettable lyric, and given extra reverence and chill, due to the brilliant delivery: punchy, studied, making sure you hear and understand every line. The words are intend to resonate, and haunt, and given the sparsity of musical or vocal accompaniment during the 1st half of the song, what is being sung earns an unnerving starkness that will stick with you for a long time. The theme of the song- as you can probably detect from the title- is about mining, and particularly miners dying and suffering whilst digging for coal and treasure for “the white man”. The chorus consists mainly of the song’s title being sung calmly: no hyperbole or exasperation, bolstered by an army of backing vocal and gutter-punch percussion. There is a political bite to the manifesto laid forth, and through vivid lyrical painting: “Your spell is upon us”, and grave foretelling: “Dust chokes above”. It is a gloomy tableaux of choking and dying workers (or borderline-slaves); toiling and in pain, as the greedy and tyrannical white man watches from above. It is quite a short song- well, 3:21– and are it does leave you wanting more. Another verse and chorus perhaps, but in a good way: it makes you seek out more and wonder what the album will produce. Special mention should go to the accompanying video. The video uses shadow puppets, painstakingly crafted by Berlin artist Barbara Steinitz, and follows the songs lyrics faithfully and effectively. It is a gorgeous, breathtaking achievement and grips you to watch it over and over again.

 

Overall it is a brilliant song. Dear Reader’s voice has touches of modern artists such as Little Boots; it has a sweet and naive tinge to it, but is much more authoritative and impressive. The Bjork comparisons are not foolhardy; there is a very similar tone and majesty to her singing. Lyrically it strays away from the ethology angle and doubts about religion and self, and concentrates on social politics and repression. Whether this is a direct response to lacklustre critical response or reflective of the authour’s interest and mind-space is hard to say. Whilst I did love the tenderness, playfulness and innovation from her ‘Idealistic Animals’, I love the directness and boldness of ‘Down Under, Mining’. All of the key vocal and playful elements are in play, but the lyrical and thematic shift is interesting. It is less downcast and hopefully will strike a universal and respective core amongst music lovers and uneducated core of music critics. The subject matter is still relevant and timeless, and it is a brave shift for any artists to stray from the love/relationship/self-interest plateau that accounts for about 95% of all releases today. I cannot wait to see what other delights are in store when the album is released, as Dear Reader deserves a lot of attention and reinvigorated focus.

 

There is a new single- ‘Victory’- released on 8th April. It has a gorgeous and spine-tingling vocal chant, of male and female parts, and accompanies a suitably innovative and stunning video. I hope there will be fewer shrugged shoulders and imperious eyebrow-raising from critics in a few weeks. The people that really count: the buying public, know a great artist when they hear one, and have shown support, faith and passion for the music of Dear Reader. I hope she goes forth, boldly, and continues to build on the sheer momentum she has now. In a world where most talent fits neatly into a prefabricated compartment, with little shock, awe, or distinctiveness, it is reviltalising to hear a bold and striking track. ‘Rivonia’ will be a fascinating study, of an artist who is restlessly moving forward and making bold strides. Listen to her music and make up your own mind about her. But promise me one thing, is you are the kind of person who ‘likes what they like’, and turns their nose up at anything out of their wheelhouse. Listen to ‘Down Under, Mining’, and don’t feel guilty…

 

… when instead of uncovering coal, you find a diamond.

 

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Official:

http://dearreadermusic.com/music/

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/dearreadermusic

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/dearreadermusic

YouTube:

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

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/dear-reader/id299724538

Last FM:

http://www.last.fm/music/Dear+Reader

BBC:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/dc70bf33-5c52-4699-871b-0008126ba88b

Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dear_Reader

 

 

 

 

Rose and the Howling North- Cuckoo. Album Review.

Rose and the Howling North

Album Review:

 

 

‘Cuckoo’.

 

9.7/10

 

With a ambitious scope and concept, Leeds-based artists delivers a Tarrantino-esque soundtrack wonderpiece.

 

Availability:

Album ‘Cuckoo’ is available now from

http://www.cuckoorecords.com/store/#

Single ‘Cuckoo’ is available via

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cuckoo/dp/B00BPFJPLO

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Too much fascinating music, is hidden askance a muddy quagmire…

 

making it practically impossible to uncover. Through sleight of hand and pure dumb luck, one often stumbles upon some of the most special music they will ever hear. The mainstream, or what is deemed ‘popular’, is prefabricated to fit a distinctly round hole. It is okay if you are a round peg, but, if you even have a modicum of innovation or range, success and mass appeal can be hard to come about. Every Mercury Prize winner or ‘Next Big Thing’, never, initially, grabs the media’a attention, nor that of the general public at large. If you want to reappropriate the wisdom of crowds and perform a coup against the likes of One Direction and Ke$ha, then you need to get the word out to as many people as possible. Social media has been instrumental in helping a few deserving souls, but it shouldn’t be serendipity that one discovers such huge talent.

 

This is where Rosie Doonan, A.K.A Rose and the Howling North fit in. They are fresh from the prodigious and beautifully stocked stables of Leeds-based record label Cuckoo Records. They are home to a wonderful array of hot young talent. I have been lucky enough to have reviewed Swing/Jazz sensation Little Violet. Also present at the Cuckoo campaign is Swing/Boogie Era sensation Cisse Renwick– who is also Rosie’s sister. Rosie is a more experienced musician, and has been straw-polling and editing her manifesto for a long time now. She is a flame-haired siren with a powerful voice, but don’t expect any comparisons with Florence Welch. Rosie is a more ambitious and fertile musician, as I discovered after listening to the debut album.

 

It is with a cheeky smile that Better Days presents itself. With what promises to be a musical Redomptorist from the get-go, the track has evocations of Bernard Herrman and his work on the Kill Bill features. The intro will be instantly recognisable, as it has a cocky guitar swagger to its opening seconds. You can imagine Uma Thurman walking out of a dusty, putrid saloon, flanked by bearded recidivists, samurai sword in hand, and blood between her teeth. The album’s cover is presented like a movie poster, our heroine staring you down, straddling astride the footnote credits; which neatly introduces her co-stars. The intro, in a way also has hints of hard-edged country rock as well. Rosie’s vocal enters the scene, and is a smooth, seductive vixen. She has shades of Eva Cassidy to her lower notes, and has mellow hints of jazz and blues legends, such as Billie Holiday. Our opening scene sees Rose back with the Howling North, toothpick between her teeth, walking from prison, meagre possessions in hand. “If I feel cornered/If I feel fooled” is sung with intently assignation and is filled with intent. The song has delicious transversion and epic sweeps. Before soon, the vocals rise and are multiple as “There’s a change around our hearts” is projected as if sung by a choir. There is Aretha Franklin-like soul and force in the vocal and is at once purring, and the next awash with gospel finesse and reverence. She is testifying and imploring the skies to bring her sunshine, as the chorus is repeated to stunning emotional affect as the percussion propels, and a distorted fuzz of electric guitar, creates a metaphorical rain. The song is atmospheric and cinematic, and with hints of Welch to some of the vocals, it has a chart-worthy appeal but supersedes any expectations in its simple effectiveness. Quite a stirring and epic opener. 9.7

 

There is a mood shift for scene number 2. Things are calmer, and with an intro that has whispers of ‘Apple Blossom’ by The White Stripes, it shakes off any White comparisons with a thudding percussive beat that blends with guitar splendidly. Rose and the Howling North promised something Kill Bill-esque and huge and they have a awe-inspiring knack for creating scenes and images in your head with just a few notes. The narrative is more of a 2nd person, and recalls a tale of a girl that should have been making waves, but “the waves are moving too fast”. From its punchy opening moments, with a Blues Rock feel, transcends into Soul and Blues, with the intro repeated. There is a great call-and-response between the vocal and music during the verses. It has funk, rhythm and a beautiful kick to it. Lyrically, the mood seems to be one of judgement. The song talks about a girl who is never satisfied and “all the things she could have tasted” have passed her by, and her broken soul lays in pieces. Rosie stands over the weeping girl, shaking her head, and walking from the trailer park, and into her muscle car, tyres screeching. Our movie is rolling and our heroine is cutting people down to size and keeps rolling forward. It is a gloriously assured 1-2, and I am amazed at how confident, tight and polished the song is. It is like the band have been playing this number for decades. I adored it, and is could see it cropping up in a big Tarrantino film very soon. Imagine the music video one could come up with; would like to pitch an idea myself! 9.8

 

Scene 3, and it is the title track, and victim number 2 is going being honed and hunted down. The track opens with a simple strum and has a Nancy Sinatra feel to it. It militates a wealth of mood and is sweat-bleak. It has comparisons with ‘Bang Bang’ , and has a similar crepuscular skin to it. There has been press written about the track, and it has been played on BBC 6 Music and many radio stations, garnering massive positive reviews, and perhaps appropriately, has sent Twitter aflutter over ‘Cuckoo’. Its modus opeandi- set a mood, and take your mind to a far off place, works brilliantly. Its familiar sound and destined-for-soundtracks confidence and quality has you hooked straight away. The credits have started, and the infectious chorus bounces forth as the camera pans across an old bar, tracking our protagonist as she makes her way to a cellar and turns on a light. On a table are photographs of hated enemies, as she puts a cross over 2 photos, and smiles. The chorus has a spring and dance, and onomatopoeic sweep in its feet and the repetition “An old cuckoo/an old cuckoo/(that) fell into my room” is infectious and provocative, and employs Gothic and wind-swept imagery throughout. The idea here is that a former beau arrived like a rarely-seen bird, had a primal and ecumenical effect on her and just departed, never to be seen again, leaving out heroine glum and heartbroken. The camera moves and we pan up through the floorboards to outside the bar, as Rose and the band hit the dirty trail, with intent and revenge in their heart as the sun sets. The vocal becomes electric and ecstatic after the 2/3 mark and has a veracious and powerful prowess, becoming almost strangulated in its passion and intensity. The band are up to the task, and instead of restraining our leading lady, egg her on and support her brilliantly, enveloping the track with a haunted and hypnotic bait and switch, that will put a smile on your face. No drop in quality; this thing is on! 9.7

 

Now we are aware of the meat of the plot, the apropos ‘Changes’ take us into the first night, as our heroine is pensive and in a reflective mood. There is a great guitar sound to the intro, again recalling Herrman, but with a Western, sand-tinged sound. It twangs and flexes, and sets its own scene: city streets, lovers hand-in-hand and bright lights. Our heroine is thinking of her man and admits: “Oh darling/This bed is made for two/But I’m lonely without you”, but says that she is through with him. There is a cheeky nod to David Bowie’s track of the same name, when, in the chorus, she stutters the ‘c’ to ‘changes’, with a sly wink. It is an infects and memorable track, and there are patterns of Kate Bush to the vocal as well as K.T. Tunstall. The mood is more reserved, but the theme is probably the most personal and sensitive yet. Rose and the Howling North know how to balance an album and keep you hooked. To my ears the band is the star here, and it is the blend of different guitar sounds, and propellant and soul-soothing percussion, that keeps the song compelling throughout. Their concision and talent is displayed wonderfully during the track’s coda, and leaves you wanting more and more from this song. 9.0

 

The morning rises and a new day begins as ‘Shame on Me’ plays. It has personal touches as well, and is perhaps the most romantic and delicate tracks, our protagonist playing the role of curvaceous chanteuse. The song begins calmly and tear-stained: “Take a measure to the bed/That we won’t lie in”. It is a gorgeous vocal display, reminiscent of Kate Bush, Beth Gibbons and conveys a cut-glass soprano that can melt hearts. Just then a drum thuds- and again. There is a sprinkle of piano that reminds me of Jack White’s ‘Blunderbuss’. The sharp mood change has hallmarks of ‘Third’-era Portishead and a ghostly, howling wind blows in the background; combined, creating a heady and intoxicating sound. The interloper and villain has entered the room, and things could well get very tense. The track was probably made to soundtrack a film, reassembling parts James Bond, part Kill Bill and has pretensions to join the great all-time themes- it is already better than Oscar-winning ‘Skyfall’! The chorus swells; a wild cacophony of emotion and sound; with a mix of double-tracked vocals, electric swells and a percussive crescendo; the halfway mark notes a sea change. The mood intensifies and the vocal emotion ratchets up to a good 8.5. It has picked the mood up from ‘Changes’ and danger, once more lurks. 9.2

 

With a lilting strum that put my mind back to the early ’90s and Jeff Buckley’s ‘Live at Sin-e’ album, ‘Rest Easy’, sets a fresh scene during a new day for our assassin-in-waiting. Perhaps this talk of bleeding hearts and lost romance has made her reborn, and she is dreaming of a quieter life? The vocal has a slight distorted, which gives it a far-off sound and makes it sound more ghostly than the intro would suggest. The lyrics paint homely images: “Our second-hand bed/Our self-built shed”. Once again, the album has a purely tender heart, and you will imagine yourself in a coffee shop on the Lower East Side of New York, listening to this track, as the rain beats down outside. In our movie schematic, enough wounds have been created so far, and our heroine is resting, thinking about the future. The vocal is a cross between Nancy Sinatra and Buckley in tone and tenderness and shares a lot with Bob Dylan as well: not just the guitar strum and sound (which sounds like a ‘lost’ track from ‘Blood on the Tracks’) but the lyrics as well, share his talent for fusing obliqueness and directness into the same verse. To my mind it is the most beautiful track on the album, and at the half-way mark, provides a resting spot in a romantic shade, and leaves you wondering just what the next track will bring… 9.4

 

Okay then, we are back in the Corvette, as victim number 3; whom perhaps had ideas of a long happy life, is forced to redress their naive mind and asses their lot. A bit of ‘Stripes, a little ‘Songs for the Deaf’-Queens of the Stone Age there, is how the ambitious ‘Cherry Ride’ begins. The title I guess is appropriate to my analogy thus far, and glad I am on the same page as the band! It is quite a transmogrification, given what had come before, but such is the nature of the beast, nothing can be predicted. It is a huge scorpion with a stinging tale. Before you envisage a storm brewing, the mood is sedates and becomes a tune with a flavour of Boogie and groups like The Andrews Sisters. There are blasts of horns, at once jubilant, the next, composed; sparks of ‘Lullabies to Paralyse’-epoch Queens of the Stone Age; fuzzy and gin-soaked. It is an admirable cohabitation; modern mixing with vintage. The words are simply effective: “Tears fall down these rosy cheeks” and heartfelt: “I need you”, but convey a direct honest and longing. The journey continues and the track has all the atmosphere of a truncated road trip; one of reflection, eventfulness, but also fun. There is trouble afoot, but for the moment, there is a smile and the sun is shining on the open road. 9.1

 

The lovely little intro is at first Jake Bugg; then The Rolling Stones, with a bit of Led Zeppelin. It manages to pack a lot of intrigue and potential into such a short space. ‘Demands’ has a slight country twang to it, and has a very contemporary and fresh sound to it. Whilst a lot of the album’s tracks share D.N.A with the past, here the song is a 21st century creation. The percussion rolls and the mood is always up and propulsive. It is a short track as well, and leaves you wanting more, but says all it needs to say at the same time. 8.9

 

‘All These Years’ gets out heroine back on the reflective trail: “These days washed away the pain”. There is still an aching heart beating, and, again, is quite a soft, romantic track. The vocal is soulful and full of conviction. Again it is quite a modern track and shares similarlitys with Emile Sande and Jessie Ware in its lyrical themes and vocal delivery. Towards the end of the track there is a repeated lyric: “The boy don’tlie/Tell me you needed me”. It builds and builds and has a hypnotic sway to it that will grab you. 9.0

 

Taking us down to land, and ending the movie, plans of a rampage have ended, as real life and praticality have gripped out leading lady. ‘Time to Leave’ is a sad and emotional end. With spatterings of Eva Cassidy again in the vocal; especiaslly ‘Over the Rainbow’, it is a wistful and aching track: “I pushed for your love/And now that we’re through”. Our heroine is looking back and looking on and tells how she has put up with so much. You are hooked into the sublime vocal and simple strummed backing, and it will have quite an affect on you. It is a wonderful end to the album, and who would have guessed that it would end like this. It shows what a range and bag of tricks Rose and the Howling North has. 9.3

 

The credits are rolling, but our masterpiece has another tale to tell, in the form of bonus track ‘Glory Girl’. It is a spine-tingling and haunting, and fits under the banner of the Kill Bill diatribe and the movie arc. Spirits from the past and memories are flooding back and the vocal is delicate and Sintra-like. There is a pop sensibility, albeit it at the top of its game. It rises and falls and is an emotional number. “Oh Glory Girl/Take me home” is its most repeated message and the atmopshere ends quite upbeat and definat. Bonus tracks can often ressemble a bit of a mess. A tossed off idea or half-finished flyweight in need of a home. ‘Glory Girl’ shows just how many ideas Rose and the Howling North has. It is strong and beautiful and infuses their romantic astehe with energy and diversity. The song is a great way to bring evrything to a conclusion and it will be intriguing to see how this album will be bettered when the sophmore effort is produced. 9.3

 

So then…what an album! It started with quite a bang and you think that you are in for a Kill Bill thrill ride of blood, guts and action; it mutates into a tense and nervy thriller, before ending with romance and longing. It is a testament to the band, and the range of influences that they have, that they have created such a terrific opus. There are a lot of positives oin display. Rose’s vocal is superlative. She can go from a delicate soprano, to the bellow of a soul queen, right through to a solid rock performance. It is quite a feat and not one that is going to have too mnany equals. The songwriting is mature and intelligent, as well as incensive and varied. There is no clumsy hyperbole or vaugness, and simplicty is blended with mixed metaphors and vivid scene-setting lines. The band as well are close to stealing the show. They bring life to each song and demonstrate a wealth of talkent and innovation, creating an orchestral epic sweep to the first few tracks, and a romantic soulful edge to the latter tracks. The entire album gripped me, and had never heard of Rose and the Howling North until recently. I am proud that they are English and shows what talent this country can produce when you look away from talent show dirge. It is a bold and brave call to say that an album can have filmic proportions, and that you could ever picture scenes to go with the songs, and make it cojent, consistent and gripping. This has been acheived with aplomb and many of the tracks could easily score a huge budget film, and wouldn’t be surprised if many of them did in the future.

 

If there are negatives, it is constructive. I think the album may be a bit front loaded. Whether this is to make a huge impression early on, or is just a part of a wider plan, I am not sure. I am a bigger fan of the bigger, more energetic numbers, and these are all in the first third of the album. There seems to be a bit of an emotional lull towards the middle of the album. The tracks are spellbinding, but you are so drained after track 3 that you need an energy boost about 3 or 4 tracks on. Perhaps placing the title track further down the mix would acheived that. I would also like to see the band incorporating more symphonic elements. They have a seemingly limitless bag of talent, and a few more strings and larger sound would emphasise sonme of the numbers. Whether this is a plan for a future release I am not sure, but would be nice to hear more strings and orchestra.

 

If you haven’t seeked out Rose and the Howling North then do so. I am baffled why a band of such magnitude have been kept a secret. The media and public in general need to start looking towards bands and acts like this, because they have the legs to be standing many years from now. I am a fully fledged fan of Rose’ and have been staggered by the quality and originality of their music. They have come from seemingly nowehere…

 

… and have made one of the best, and certainly the most fascinating album of 2013.

 

Key Tracks: ‘Better Days’, ‘Broken Souls’, ‘Cuckoo’ & ‘Time to Leave’.

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Cuckoo Records (Official):

http://www.cuckoorecords.com/artists/Rose-the-Howling-North

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/events/294828140623979/

Twitter (Rosie Doonan):

https://twitter.com/rosiedoonan

Myspace (Rosie Doonan):

http://www.myspace.com/rosiedoonan

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-8x25mT2q4

Band to Market Site:

http://band2marketsites.com/rose/

SoundCloud:

http://soundcloud.com/rosehowlingnorth

 

 

 

 

House of Hats: ‘House of Hats Compilation’ – E.P. Review

 

House of Hats Compilation

 

E.P. Review

 

9.1/10.

 

 

4-piece band deliver gorgeous harmonies, sweet dreamy music, that is irresistible.

 

 

Availability: E.P. is available via http://houseofhatsmusic.bandcamp.com/

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It is hard to rise to the top of the pool, of an ever-expanding musical swarm…

 

not that the increase in talent is a bad thing. A implied false equivalency in people’s attitudes to a more is better ideal, is often not dispelled. Music goes through cyclical spells of creative alchemy. To my mind 1994 was the last time, such a wealth of staggering music was on offer. As it is easier now to record music cheaply and simply, often from the comfort of your own bedroom, people from all corners, are declaring their intentions known. A lot of times, the act or band are a facsimile of their idols and influences; many lacking either lyrical and musical innovation, vocal light speed, or market perspicacity. The heart grows heavy, the mind casts shadows, and belief runs dry. I have been smiling a little more as of late; as it seems that there is a consistent core of credible and incredible acts, breaking through. I have been privileged to review a lot of stunning new acts over the last few weeks, everything from metal, to soul, through to jazz, and have been amazed at the quality and convivial ambition of each of them. Today is no exception.

 

With one of the most distinctive and evocative names in the business, House of Hats are a name to be excited by, for a number of different reasons. The group are based in Brighton, and have been playing together for the past 2 years. Their sound has been described as a conglomeration of Crosby, Stills, Nah and Young as well as Fleetwood Mac. They share the former’s gorgeous harmonies and possess a similarly heavyweight cache of impressive and memorable songs. Like Fleetwood Mac they contain siblings- Alex and Rob; together with Noddy and James. They posses 3 dapper and fine looking gents, and one gorgeous and alluring woman; but expect no Mac-style tempestuousness, drug-fuelled histrionics and sexual upheaval. The band are focused and tight knit close friends, and if they are to achieve an album as genre-breaking as ‘Rumours’, it will be down to their talents and quality, with no close scrutiny and dissection of the song’s origins and the member’s demyelination. The gang are influences by modern paragons such as Bon Iver and Dry The River, as well as the established old guard of the folk genre: Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Johnny Cash.

 

The likes of Zoe Ball and Maverick Magazine have extolled the virtues of the band’s unique blend of soothing, lilac-scented vocal harmonies and folk aesthetic. The E.P.’s lead-off track is ‘Never Lost’. It is a complication-free, beautiful birth, delivered as it is with gloriously gentle and evocative acoustic strings. There are early hints of Young and Iver in the intro., which never feels subordinate or disingenuous; it is reassuring and a statement of intent. There is already a definite mood set, and the scene is nimbly instigated: calm streams, sunshine smiles and tall grass in empty fields. The inter-gender vocal melt that proceeds it is equally calming and tender. The lyrics are imbued by their fashion choices: neutral colours, mo0desty, but always eye catching and thought-provoking : “The tenderness of home” and “The streets I used to roam”, are picturesque (“The sky is black as coal” is particularly defined) and aching sentiments, delivered with a whispered evocation. The guitar sound, and in a way, the vocal construct and melody has common ground with Kings of Convenience, yet posses a richer flavour and are more captivating. If one is hunting for a companion piece to this song, I would advise The Cinematic Orchetra’s ‘To Build a Home’. That song manifests an unadulterated charm and child-like innocence, as well as a credence concerning the safety and familiarity of home. The vocals swoon and glide across the blue sky and caress your soul. The conscientious gentility and descriptive scenes transcend your mood, and makes you close your eyes and picture all of the things that the band sing of. There are plural possessive nouns, vivid recollections and poetic longing: (“The air as still as stone”) It is a very definitive folk number that fans of Fleetwood Mac’s more langouresness numbers will adore, and its warm heart will find you at your best; calm and at peace with the world. Just before the 3:00 mark there is a sound of harmonica as the chorus is delivered once more. The mood is slightly more intense, as there is an increase in passion and urgency. The message overall is, that however far they are from home, House of Hats will never be lost; the memories stay with them and that will never change. It is one of the most harmonious and spellbinding tracks on the E.P. and a brilliant opening salvo.

 

Like The Beatles track of the same name, ‘Across The Universe’s intro manifests a similar transient mystique. It shimmers with beauty and its acoustic propagation trickles dlictaerly, its riparian delights flow to and forth before entering the sea. The vocal is by Noddy and glistens magnificently. Her soft caress and otherworldly vocal is reminiscent of Eva Cassidy and is pure and crystalline. It pervades a sense of comfort and stability to its sound as well as its lyrical message. “Seasons may change/But still you always remain” is an early example of the potency of a simple and well delivered message. The vocal elongates, floats and purrs feline, seducing and quivering. At one point the vocal sounds like Kate Bush in her upper reaches, and possesses an impressive range and cupboard of emotional delight throughout the song. The guitar punctuates the mood and has a loyal folk aesthete to it, but within the chorus does have flecks of a more introverted version of psychedelia and ’60s experimentation. The song does not break too far from the theme of longing and wanting what is familiar and reliable. Lyrics such as: “As you’re not nearer/Every darkness is clearer”, convey an air of loneliness and wistfulness. Our heroine longs for the day where she can cross the universe and redress her unbalanced heart that haunts and pulls her down. The song is superbly tight and concentrated, and gets its message out in just over 2:30. The vocal is the type that can send shivers down the hardiest and most unmoving of people, and the Cassidy parable is especially prescient. I am confident the song will be remembered in similarly revered tones and covered extensively by artists from many genres. It is an exceptional performance and to my mind is the strongest song of the E.P. Its universality and romanticism will strike a chord with everyone and is the kind of song one can be cheered by when it is wet, and sing along to when the sun shines.

 

With its modulating arpeggio, Sewing Machine caresses and intrigues in equal measures within the intro. The vocal duties are once more shared and enter with quite a burst and possesses more of an energy and country-tinge. The folk elements are still predominant, but there are sadder touches here and there. One can sense the spirit of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young as well as Bon Iver in this haunted little number. The themes of the songs range from regret (“Missed out opportunities”) to optimism (“Hope is always close to me”) to lost opportunity (“Somebody stole my sewing machine”). The vocal harmony is brilliant and when they combine at 2:20 and rise into the heavens the effect is amazing. The two leads support and link up perfectly, giving the song particular authenticity. It seems like a lover’s call; a kind of duet that will put you in mind of a romantic movie, the heroine and hero divided by time, geography and circumstance, calling to one another from across the divide. The musical backing is effectively studied and concise. Piano lilts pop up to elevate sentiments, and the guitar varies in pace and signature, giving a sense of movement and storytelling to the track, and also contextualises the lyrics brilliantly. The song has a admirable constancy to it, and mixes metaphor and the literal with great aplomb. Whilst many contemporary acts may tell a similar tale with a needless edge of licentious cynicism, House of Hats are restrained and mature, thus meaning there are no wasted words or breathes. There is quite a modern sound to the track as a whole. Whilst it has a lot in common with the classic folk of the ’60s and ’70s, I was reminded of Dry the River and Laura Marling; the celestial rise that arrives just before 4:00 sounds, however like nothing else. It is the longest track of the quartet, but does not feel forced and plodding.

 

Conversely, the shortest track completes the journey. I am particularly fond of the band’s handy knack of nailing titles. The brilliantly-titled ‘King of the Average Pace’ hits you immediately. There is no mood lighting or build-up, the song has no time to spare! The harmony again has touches of Crosby’ in its fullness, with the entire group joined and mobilised to uplifting effect. Perhaps it isn’t world-weariness, but maybe taking things at your own speed is the mission statement for the track. In the band’s own words: “Give me time to find my place/I am the King of the Average Pace”. The mood of the song is more upbeat and revitalised. I was thinking that the track would work brilliantly well on a full album. It is quite the tease in its flirtation. I would have happily heard about 3 more minutes of the track, but as the group say: “Give me patience and show my grace”. They have earned and expect to be left to do things at their pace. It is an invigorating number and ends the E.P. with virulent satiation. That said, it provides a tempting glimpse at what could be on the album. The band have shown quite a range of sounds and emotions over 4 tracks.

 

I was incredibly satisfied and won over by The House of Hats. I have been slightly disheartened by the sect of musicians purporting themselves to be ‘folk’ or ‘acoustic pop’. It is a section of the market that is vastly subscribed and variable when it comes to quality. It is down to the band’s fantastic vocals, concision, grace and talent that means they not only bring a fresh dynamic to a crowded market, but are also pleasingly familiar at the same time. They have a great range of influences and adopt a little one of each, without ever being too heavy handed or in danger of pastiche. They have their own unique style and incorporate their idols seamlessly. The track order and weighting works very well. It is quite shrewd to end the E.P. with the shortest track as it leaves you wanting a lot more, and the numbers are arranged with precision, that means the emotional balance and overall effect is greater than if they had ordered the listing any other way. The entire band are brilliant and incredibly passionate, precise and talented, and for a relatively new band, they have an incredible confidence and maturity to them. It is the vocals and the overall vocal effect that struck the biggest chord with me. When harmonising or isolated, the vocals are gripping and striking and they feel a lot more exciting and porteneuous than their peers. The band are tight and you can feel the closeness of the members; everything and everyone are in perfect time, and they have a great respect for each other and that shines through. They can also balance a fun mood with a more emotional sound, but they never allow themselves to become maudlin or overwhelmed.

 

Their debut album is released this Spring, and will be interesting to see what direction they take. Whether they are going to remain true to the four tracks here, or expand or alter their sound, will be interesting. It would be great to hear more tracks like ‘Across The Universe’, mingling alongside the more collaborative songs, as shows the full range and palette that the band have. I can point at no negatives at all and was left wanting more and coming away a fan of the group. I hope that they experience resounding success and longevity, as in today’s market, there are few bands or acts that can compel you to be inspired, revisit past acts or influence your own songwriting with a mere few songs. The House of Hats, however, have managed to do this, and whilst not overly-familiar with folk myself, sans Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, I will now be seeking out more new music like this. Make sure you give them a listen and patronage, because they are deserving of the attention they are sure to receive. Listen to the E.P. and put yourself in a good mood…

 

… because how much music can achieve that with such ease?

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Official website:

http://www.houseofhatsmusic.co.uk/

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/houseofhats

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/houseofhats

SoundCloud:

http://soundcloud.com/houseofhats

You Tube:

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

Last FM:

http://www.last.fm/music/House+of+Hats

Noise Trade:

http://noisetrade.com/houseofhats

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fake Club: ‘Do What You Gotta Do’- Song Review

‘Do What You Gotta Do’-

 

9.6/10

 

Five-piece female band are hard to categorise, and impossible to ignore.

 

 

Availability: http://www.facebook.com/#!/fakeclubband/app_178091127385

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It will take the wind out of you, and make you want to not catch your breath…

 

not so much my assimilation, but a less than verdant paraphrasing of Art Wednesday’s judgement call. They go on to describe their song, ‘Over and Over’, as a mythological “Doc Martin stomping bitch-slap right in the gob”. It is a vivid and augmented reality of the experience one received from listening to Fake Club. No hyperbolic ‘angst’ or pseudo-rebellion; the five-piece group are a genuine article. Albeit it, one with tears in their tights and blood in their hair. That track, is filled with the band’s clench-fisted auteur; sound clips and distortion, mingling with collegiate passion and jittery assassination. The riff that baptises the song in a lake of fire, is staunch and invigorating. It is reminiscent of Arctic Monkeys, circa their debut; fresh and street-smart. When the vocal swings into action, it is all guns blazing. There is a little distortion, giving the tones and edges nods to the likes of Alison Mosshart, during her Dead Weather days. The guitar is barbaric and domineering; it wills you to stick your head in its jaws; and makes you tremble with fear and excitement as it crawls away. The percussion is staccato and pummeling; I could imagine the likes of Dave Grohl and Gary Powell exchanging fervent glances of jealousy. It is a stampede of a track, but not simply one of bluster and effect. The words, vocals and overall mood of the track is enforced to educate, enunciate and seduce as well as slap you. The track is quite chorus-lead. In the sense that the words ‘over and over’ are mixed with ‘under’ to create clever lyrical twists and catchy, chant-able snippets. There is no chorus-verse-chorus. The title and chorus is queen, and the sound chaperoning, is its abiding king. What you take away from that song, is a huge respect for the originality and zeal of the group; who also manage to integrate and incorporate elements of ’70s punk, creating a resultant head rush. I shall talk about the new single anon; a little more about the girls in the band…

 

Fake Club, are, consequently, Aicha, Chloe, Carmen, Rosie and Vicky– a London-based quintet. Perhaps sardonically done, or intended to be ironic or understated, the girls have ascribed themselves “Spice Girls with instruments”. It may be a fey piss-take or insouciant rebellion. The girls are a five piece likes the girls of spice. They are each undeniably gorgeous and heart-breaking; they have distinct and varied personalities, and are a close-knit band. The label is not altogether flippant. They have the potential and star power to be hugely popular and inspiration to a wide demographic; not just the premiated teenage market. They are not management tools or prefabricated characters; they are intuitive and headstrong, and intend to make a mark and exorcise message of encouragement, inspiration and meaning. In a sense they are a more mature, 21st century equivalency of The Spice Girls. Less concerned with the business of ‘fun’ and ‘catchy’, with all its ephemera; they have politics, passion and stacked heels. They admit themselves that they want to- some one imagine literally- kick against the odorous sub-culture of ‘fame’, ‘celebrity’ and all the assorted talent contests, prurient tail-chasing and noxious glossy magazine covers. They share ideologies with the punk pioneers, and in a sense they sound something quite brand-leading. The prevailing ideology amongst female solo artists and groups, has been towards a soul/pop leaning, with perhaps a hint of rock to its demeanour. To my mind there are seldom few, especially all-female, groups that can convey such a raw and authentic edge of punk, blues rock, metal and everything else you care to mention. Having looked at a rather fully-fledged and comprehensive article by The Guardian, I discovered that Fake Club are in the process or recording and finishing a debut album. That will be present, shortly, and will contain an intriguing and inscrutable mixture of sounds, attitudes and messages. Now, then; to the business at hand!

 

It is not with a bang or trumpeting nor punk thrash that begins ‘Do What You Gotta Do’. Instead it is studio chatter and ad lib. It is a little like Let It Be, only less tumultuous. One of the band are remarked to say: “Okay…when should I go?”, before a close-mic order of: “We’re rolling, whenever you’re ready” orders the music to begin. A subterfuge of a scream is let rip before an almighty riff beacons from the heavens. It is a swampy, staggering, wounded Joker, hunting for Batman on the streets of Gotham City. The street is on fire and the good people run, nullified by a denigrated cannonball of an intro. There are shades of Jack White; I’m thinking the White Stripes debut, and later The Dead Weather. It is moody and a real blues stomp. In, what will become a repeated requisite during this review, Queens of the Stone Age linger in the mix too. Also Superunknown-era Soundgarden crackle with furious intent. Seeing as some of those bands contain the greatest and most innovative guitars of the last 10 years, it is a remarkable feat. After the spoken word beginning, the fierce introduction shocks ever harder and the band display a keen and mature understanding of the importance of psycho-acoustics. If you hook the listener in before a word is sung, you are on to a winner. The drumbeat is fastidious and primal and ballasts the guitar beautifully as a metal toe-capped manifesto is pinned to the door of the Church of Celebrity, written in Dejavu Sans Condensed blood spatter. As the vocal cuts in, the overall sound fuses ’90s grunge and metal, together with Suzi Quatro ’70s glam; shifting and conflagrating the two in a wild tryst of sound. The lyrics: “I’ll tell you a secret/I’m afraid of lightning/put it in the shoebox” are quite dadaesque in its philosophyy, but perhaps is the beginning of the Fake Club’s modernisation of Parable of the Sower. I especially like the howling bursts of guitar played lower in the mix, punctuating the lines in the verses. It gives a great blues rock touch, and adds atmosphere and firepower too. The lyrics ride the line between Mosshart’s tenure during ‘Weather’s ‘Sea of Cowards’: all fuzzy drawl and cigarette store conversation. There is a fraction of Quatro, as well as rough-edged Patti Smith and Brody Dalle, and a more utilitarian Joan Jett. Just before the 1:00 mark there is a wordless vocal call and the mood becomes less aggressive as the chorus arrives. The title is repeated, delineated like a motivational mantra amidst chaos. It is catchy and grunge-tinged all at once. It is the sort of line the likes of Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell or Kurt Cobain would utilise. However, Fake Club give it a slight pop edge, an air of accessibility. Almost to counterbalance the fight club of fused electrics that have assaulted your brain; the chorus sweeps in to invade your heart. It has an everyman appeal, and a simple message for a modern age: “Living isn’t easy/When you’re growing up/In the town”. There is a distorted whoops and an insidious chuckle as we are back to the harder sound. Against the ghosts of White, Mosshart and Quatro stand at the doorway as a more Gothic tableaux is unveiled. One that talks of graveyards, floral theft, moonlit rebellion, where out heroine explains she “put kisses on (your) forehead“. The chorus comes back up, and the displaced elation of ’90s grunge and modern pop combine gloriously. Where as the song’s initial stages reassembled a killer stalking her victim in the shadows, the closing stages are more jubilant and crowd-pleasing. The lyrics are given a less anxious feel to them and the sisters-in-arms spirit of The Spice Girls is influential.

 

I have gone into so much detail, as I was blown away by the band. They have the stunning looks what you would expect from a ‘girl band’, but are more mature and sexier and have brains and guts to their aesthetic; they are not plastic fake-ness and vapid-mind ambitions. They are strong, independent women, making incredible music. It is rare to hear an entirely female band making such authentic blues rock/metal sound, whilst able to infuse it with a populist edge that will appeal to the masses and underground, alike. The guitar work is inspired and enthralling from start to end. There is a lunging, staggering grunge punch to it. You can almost smell the rain of Seattle percolate lustfully. During the intro as well as towards the chorus there is an essence of stoner rock and metal. Blues rock is a common thread and the sound of Detroit and Mississippi join the party. There are a lot of modern influences too, and the guitar has a new and urgent aura to it. The bass and drums are superb, and help propel, levy and emphasise the lyrics wonderfully. Special kudos must be given towards the vocals. Although there are clear influences from The Kills, The White Stripes as well as glam and punk, again there is a uniqueness to them. They are intent and stick in your head a long time after the song has ended. The band are incredible tight and studied, and create a motivational monster of a song. I can’t think of any negatives, but it will be intriguing to see if any softer tones are present when the album is released, as I believe Fake Club have a vast array to their arsenal and can span genres and moods effortlessly with authenticity.

 

Get into the club, as it were, and hear everything they have recorded. It attests to a challenging and restless group of young woman, who could quite easily top charts and rule BBC 6 Music, XFM and Aboslute Radio’s play-lists for months on end. I loved the track and was not expecting such a feast for the ears and minds. If you are looking for something fresh and bombastic with a modern message of relevance and incredible reverence…

 

… Check out this wonderful single.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Official site:

http://fakeclubband.tumblr.com/

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/fakeclubband

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/fakeclubband

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/fakeclubband

Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/nov/13/new-band-fake-club

Google:+

https://plus.google.com/117766536300221820254#117766536300221820254/posts

Art Wednesday:

http://artwednesday.com/2013/02/12/fake-club-over-and-over/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katsuo (remixed by Night Wolf): ‘Stereo Jesus’-

‘Stereo Jesus’-

 

Song Review

 

9.5/10

 

The Dynamic Duo join forces, and create an audio smash that lives up to its title.

 

Availability: Track will be available from 1st April.

___________________________________________________________________________

 

It’s the combination of wolf and masculinity that defines this remix…

 

because a lot of remixes add nothing to the original. There are a whole host of DJs and producers that will take an existing song- some good, some dreadful; and really not improve upon it. It is a waste of time and effort and rather than emit seminal flow of awfulness, you need to make it better; add something new. There are some worthy trysts of artist and collaborator. Whilst searching Google, I hit upon a remix of ‘Paradise’, reconfigured as a dub-step monster. What was once a listless wandering tramp of a song, with no real USP or destination, was at once put in a suit, shaven and is a borderline-paragon of innovation. It takes a bold astuteness to tackle a song and make it sound new and engaging.

 

Katsuo and Night Wolf are fairly disparate in context; the former is a rock step maverick, fronted by Alex Larkman. The latter is multi-faceted artist, displaying feathers of dub-step, classic and political spoken word to his plumage. It’s chairman, Ryan Wilcox has shown a great diversity in his music and producing, and have been impressed by his alma mater’s output as of late. Together, they appeal to a wide array of music lovers. I am usually entrenched in indie, rock and stoner rock and as of recently, hadn’t broadened my pallet to include the pairs respective genres. It is at the intersection of their audio venn diagram where the remix flourishes. It is guaranteed to thrill the old faithful, as well as pull in the po-faced, and undecided voters, alike. I was wondering whether this wonderful one-night stand would birth an apoplectic progeny; a guaranteed long-term romance, or a metaphysical testosterone brew of sweat, blood, tears; or simply a bloody good track.

 

There is immediate validation from the remix. Before you can compose your thoughts and get comfortably seated there is a sledgehammer execration. The electric guitar sound shreds and kicks, and is a bucket of acid to the face. The vocal is quite high up in the mix, which is prudent, as it gives a chance for the lyrics to profiteer. Katsuo is up at the mic., fully intent on telling you what’s what: “I could be a rock star/Or just your mate/Take away the mic./And I’m not so great”, is the intriguing lead-off. I have heard the lyrics before, but notice, that given comparative isolation, the lines have an added piquancy to them. There is much more of a sting in the tale; somewhat of a rap/hip hop spit to it. That instant combination of guitar catapult and vocal sucks you straight in. That guitar is played to great effect; punctuating and teeing-up the vocal, and creating its own cacophonous brew in the background. straddling the first two vocal segments is a cocksure, almost rebellious laugh. As the chorus comes in, the mood is slightly lighter; not timid or overly-‘radio friendly’, but calmer and studied. There is an effective and stern drumbeat that italisises the mood. The chorus is given considerate tenderness. In the original it was catchy and had a euphoric spirit to it, and lynch-pined the song. It was a strong track from start to finish but it is the chorus that sticks in your head. Now there is a competing meritocracy within the space of 30 seconds or so. Sounds, ideas and moods campaign for your approval. There is a guitar hold and the drums come to play; then the vocal comes to the forefront and when the lyrics “And when the music gets loud/And you’re out of your mind/You better get down and testify”, are sermonised, they are given additional fervor and pertinence; I gave a sly grin during the word ‘testify’- the 3rd syllable is elongated. I could imagine Alex given a similar reaction in the studio! There are great moments of varied interjection; some of the syntehsiser/electronic sounds lower in the mix reassemble the New Romantic pioneers of the ’80s; it has a romanticism to it. The drums that accompany it are pulsating but have a hollow sound to them; this way it gives the mood a tribal air and the vocal becomes less a mission statement, and more of an election promise, that they will definitely keep. The lines: “Would you put me on a pedestal/like a diety” are given particular reverence. The song retains a lot of its original influence: Skrillex, Example, Chase and Status, but new sonic influences come to the fore. There is a harder rock sound, maybe reminiscent of early-Muse. When the lines: “And when the music is loud/And you’re out of your mind/you better get down and testify” are delivered and we float down to land, the experience ends.

 

Overall it is a triumphant result. The two display an entrepreneurial spirit and dispel any antiquated notions or cliches, of what a remix should sound like. Katsuo has recently completed a remix for Chess, and tackled one of the songs from her debut E.P. It will be fascinating to see what comes from that. In the same way that acts such as The Avalanches can take sounds and songs and create a light and fascinating mood, Night Wolf’s Ryan Wilcox has achieved this. Similarly, artists like Moby who can weld older sounds and voices and make it sound retro and alive is another influence I would point to. The mood shifts effortlessly between dream-like trance, dark streetlights and danger, through to hardcore rock step. The key components of the original are kept in place. The lyrics are sharp throughout. In the chorus there is a simplicity to them, to make sure they lodge in your head. In the choruses there are messianic declarations, self-doubt, confidence and the result is a mixed causality. The vocal is confident and strong throughout. Katsuo has a more lyrical voice than a lot of his contemporaries. The music is fascinating and ever-changing. Night Wolf have come into the fray and shown respect for the author. Soundscapes and ingenious touches are added; vocals are emphasied where appropriate and far from suffering from questionable cause; the song is intensified and made that much more daring due to his input.

 

Katsuo is touring London over the next month, and has new music and intrigue afoot. Night Wolf have released E.P. ‘Watts the Time Mr. Wolf’. The two are good friends and have a mutual respect for each other’s music. This shows through on this remix. It will be interesting to see if they work together more extensively or not. I would certainly like to hear more of their collaborative innovation. It is post hoc ergo propter hoc to assimilate that this close kinship is the reason for the resultant smash. It is in part true, but is mainly due to the strength of the original. All the foundations were in place. It is Katsuo’s comrade who weaves his magic and adds shades of light and dark where needed; tampering with the mood and making it more electric and interesting, thus creating a song that sounds new in its immediacy but familiar and safe too. 2013 will be a busy and successful year for both artists, and, truly…

 

… it will be fascinating to see what moves they make next.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Katsuo:

 

Tour dates:

 

March 21st:

Dear or Alive @ The Buffalo Bar, London

April 9th:

The Dublin Castle, London

April 30th:

The Good Ship, London

 

Official site:

http://www.theycallmekatsuo.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/callmekatsuo

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/theycallmekatsuo

YouTube:

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

 

 

Night Wolf:

 

Check out Night Wolf’s E.P. via:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/watts-the-time-mr-wolf-ep/id607001115

 

SoundCloud:

http://soundcloud.com/nightwolfuk

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/ryanwilcox6

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdicASr89xZUiCQdNF-eEiQ

PureVolume:

http://www.purevolume.com/nightwolfhome

ReverbNation:

http://www.reverbnation.com/nightwolfuk

 

 

 

 

The Shakeouts: ‘Straight Edge’ – Track Review

 

The Shakeouts- ‘Straight Edge’- Track Review. 

 

8.7/10.

 

 

An Australian band in their infancy, are displaying a fierce, rebellious maturity.

 

 

Availability: ‘Straight Edge’ is available at http://soundcloud.com/theshakeouts

___________________________________________________________________________

 

This is just one selection from about half a dozen available on SoundCloud

 

which is probably the most relevant website showcasing their unique sound. They have featured in the press of their native land, Australia. They themselves have colourfully described themselves as an ‘eight-tentacled surf punk’ of a curiosity; backed by an octopus woman, death demon, and puffer fish. It sounds like a nightmarish mix of David Lynch and Home and Away. At the moment, they are campaigning to win a slot at a prestigious festival in Brisbane, and currently have 163 ‘likes’ on Facebook. In the developmental lifespan of their aquatic crossbreed, there are at the larvae stage. Don’t be fooled by thinking that ‘new’ is a synonym for unfocused or half-baked. It is true that there is but a mere smattering of songs available via the Internet, but they have a tireless blue-collar campaign spirit; a 21st century Manifest Destiny to their ambition, sound and combustible firepower.

 

When one thinks of the music of Australia, once you get the impression of didgeridoos, Rolf Harris and surf scenes, complete with long-maned guitar strummers exculpating their prurient end-game. There is no Summer Bay or Ramsey Street middle-of-the-road indie and over-emotive balladeering; nor any novelty or indigenous noise making. Whether it is the British influence (back in a time where the British had colonised the country) that enforces the sound of The Shakeouts, or whether they are inspired by equivocal U.S. acts is an enigma I’d love to unravel. If you dip back into the catalogue of their native output over the last 40 years, a large swathe of worldwide mega talent has emerged from the wizards of Oz. INXS, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Kyle Minogue, Silverchair, Crowded House, Midnight Oil, The Avalanches, AC/DC, and most epically of all; wife-collecting, body oil salesman and nightclub opener extraordinaire Peter Andre. Although he lives 5 miles from me, so Australia got lucky on that one!

 

Upon being greeted with The Shakeouts’ back catalogue I notice they have a glorious knack for titles. ‘Octopus Woman’, ‘Night Surfer’, and most memorable of the lot, ‘Surfing with the Death Demon’ spring to mind. I was tempted to review them as well to see if the music could live up to the slightly Baroque titles. The track ‘Straight Edge’ begins like a harder edged interpretation of the intro. to The Cure’s ‘Close To Me’. It is an intriguing smoke signal, that beckons you closer, unaware of the hording nautical army, waiting over the precipice. There is a slight indentation of The Doors, circa ‘Riders on the Storm’, albeit a looser, less tempered version of it. The drumbeat, cymbal and build up is reminiscent of some of the modern British rock crop, such as Kasabian and Cold War Kids. As the sea bubbles and froths, from a ’60s rock vibe to a beast of bouncy candour, the vocal enters the mix. It has a punk edge to it, chained and subservient to begin with as the opening line, “I love the way that you smile”, is proclaimed; the ‘smile’ elongated, with a pleasing familiarity to its diction and enunciation. Just when you think we are heading off to a punk thoroughfare, all broken windows, cigarette ash and piercings in the most inaccessible nether regions, the tone shifts again. Electric guitar comes in to supplement the solid bass-line. It is scuzzy, blues-indebted, corpulent and distorted. Put in your mind ‘Black Math’ from The White Stripes’ ‘Elephant’ and you get a sense of the lo-tech awesomeness that is about to be unleashed. The guitar is altogether funkier and- in a White Stripes analogy- has flavour notes of an introverted ‘Hand Springs’. It punches and pounds at the senses, and is an instantly likeable and memorable hook. It is guaranteed to pitch stool on your tongue for the foreseeable future and announce itself at the most embarrassingly inconvenient times. There are tones of the ’60s hit ‘Money’, as performed by The Beatles, as if they had been given full access to an electronic arsenal of grunt and innovation. In just over a minute, the band have introduced the players, presented a number of different twists and turns, and unfurled a cocoon of barbed wire, before standing their singer up to survey the wreckage. She has a pleasing individuality to her voice. There are influences of Joe Strummer and The Kills, but with fewer rough edges, and an overall more soothing tone. She has a raw authentic blues edge to her sound and has a great range as well. As the song progressing, there is a brief injunction; a fuse of The Lizzards’ ‘Money That’s What I Want’ and The Clash’s ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’. It is a great testament to the band that they produce such a fresh sound. Sure there are hints of this and that to the trained ear, but everything here is new and alive. It does not wistfully long for days and bands past. It has a clear white testament and is begging for your attention. The infectious riff is riden for maximum affect, defying you not to dance and fist-pump along with it. The vocal comes back in and a real vivid sense of anarchic storytelling comes to play: “If I hit the bottle every night every day/You would get up and leave/You would not stay“, starts us off before she explains that she would “go straight edge for you”. Nota bene, the title refers to a song of the same name, by 1980s band Minor Threat. In that track, Ian MacKaye’s explains his straight edge philosophy. He had better things than to hang out with dead-heads and wasters. It was revolutionary, as it emerged from the dungeon of hardcore punk hedonism and excess of the time, and propagated the abstinence of alcohol, tobacco, promiscuous sex and drug use; extending as far to promote a vegan diet. In the case of our Australian friends, the heroine of the song is saying she would commit to a clean life and give all of her bad habits and proclivities up, if it meant a stable relationship. It is a clever allusion to a tangible past, and quite a radical and underused sentiment during the ‘oos. Our heroine goes on to implore that “all she wants is you and me“. Around the 2:20 marker, there is a great moment of free-form solo work. It wails, contorts and belches black smoke, staggering locomotive and tattooed. The volume is turned down, and the awaiting army is seen in the distance. The lyrics tell of how sobriety and stability are better than pills, booze and chaos. Just then the guitar and drums pick up and gain more momentum. In a way it is like ‘Zorba The Greek’ in its pattern and sound. You can imagine a taverna filled with rambunctious revellers, plates smashing all over the place, arms flailing and legs kicking in a wild dervish of revelry. It goes a bit ‘The White Stripes’/’White Blood Cells’, a little ‘The Stooges’, and begs you defy it. And like that it is done. It is over 3:30 minutes, but damn it, I wanted more!

 

There is much to recommend about the track. It blends punk, blues and rock together brilliantly. The central riff is memorable and a striking thing. Sort of sounds like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and ‘Rush Hour Soul’ slowed and given knuckle dusters. I love the guitar work throughout and is effective and gives the song a necessary swing and bite. The entire band are brilliant, and each player simultaneously create a fresh live sound, and a studied studio feel to things. The vocal is strong and raw where it needs to be, composed and subtle at other times. It is fantastic that there are so many different shifts and sounds within one song, and the track is tight and muscular.

 

If I had to point at suggestions, maybe giving it a crisp edge would help bring out the overall effect. If it were put back into the studio and cleaned up slightly, it would not take anything away from its hard edge and guts. The song itself is brilliant; it’s just a track I would love to see on an E.P. very soon. I want it louder, crisper, perhaps with the drums given more prominence, and the vocals brought higher into the mix. The vocal is strong but would like to hear a bit more force and volume to emphasise the lyrics. There are not many great hard rock/punk female singers on the scene at the moment, and The Shakeouts have one. I would like to hear that highlighted. Maybe double-track some of the chorus, have backing vocals, and to assimilate itself with the catchy riff, possibly giving some of the vocals echo or re-verb, would add intensity and sexiness, whilst staying true to the lyrics. The lyrics themselves are great, and I was impressed by the theme and context of the song. Contained within are noble sentiments, home truths and inspirational messages, if you are willing to look for them.

 

And you should look. You should check out the remainder of their tracks too, and try to liberate their unique and refreshing sound to a wider sphere. There are plenty of people in the U.K., U.S. and Europe who would take to the band passionately, and there is plenty of room for them. It is with support and fan patronage that they will accomplish this. I will safely and confidentally rubber stamp this track with my fondest approval. They are at an early stage and the band admit themselves that the songs they have, including this one, were written a few months ago, and are pretty raw. But that is the sound they are going for. With a bit of studio polish (but not too much), and a legion of fans ready to snap up their music, The Shakeouts will be huge. Take the band into your hearts, and seek them out…

 

… before Peter Andre covers one of their tracks.

 

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Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/TheShakeouts

Last FM:

http://www.last.fm/music/The+Shakeouts

SoundCloud:

http://soundcloud.com/theshakeouts

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Violet- Track Reviews

‘Don’t Stop’

&

‘Shut Up’

 

 

9.7/10 & 9.5/10

 

 

Electro swing queen delivers knockout blows, on this superb, defiant double-A side.

 

 

Availability: Tracks available now via https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/shut-up/id576530246?i=576530835

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If you like your music edgy, exciting and shapeshifting; then you need to hear…

 

Little VioletShe came to my attention fairly recently, via online music website, The Girls Are. They are the unequivocal brand-leaders for promoting great female talent in the music industry, and I also was made aware of fellow allumnae Nadine Shah, and her single ‘Dreary Town’. I was blown away by that song;s unabated consistency and its ethereal langurouness. I was surprised I had not heard about Shah before, and it was with a similar awe, that precipitated my discovery of Little Violet.  The act, consists of male backing; dapperly dressed multi-talented musical wing-men, reminiscent of the sort of musicians who would accompany Ella Fitzgerald or a swing idol of the ’40s. They have a similar intellectual integrity.  In the spotlight, providing the voice is a young Northern lady with a hell of a curious aesthete. She has an undeniably remarkable beauty. Jaw-dropping yet with a vulnerability or shyness about her, she has a Siren’s allure. Unlike her equivocal beauty paragon, Cheryl Cole, Little Violet is a very different kettle of fish. From reading interviews and watching video clips, she is much more accessible. She told The Girls Are that she can be shy and sensitive, and she speaks with a smile; banters and jokes, unafflicted by the need to pander to anyone’s expectations. She adores music and expressing herself through this medium. She is incredibly cerebral and immensely likeable. She explains that she hails from a family with a musical background. Her childhood home was awash with sounds of the greats such as Sinatra; but there was a great range of genres heard emanating from the homestead, from doo-wop, to glam rock, and almost everything between and beyond. It is with a fervent admiration of the authentic jazz swing age, that Little Violet tries to reflect in their songs. There is a tangible sense of authenticity ensconced within the tracks. It is above everything, fun, lively and unexpected.

 

The first thing I would mention about the song ‘Don’t Stop’ is the video. It has quite an authentic mise en scène, with our heroine, battling against the tide, trying to catch her man’s attention. He is more concerned with an advert for burlesque dancers and sets off to catch the show, unaware that his wife has similar lasciviousness intent. It is a comical and fun video, and ‘fun’ is an adjective that best sums up the mood of the song. As soon as the scat introduction trumpets forth, your mind is immediately transported to the swing jazz age, and your toes tap and you want to get up to dance. The vocal is passionate and strong, and lyrics like: “Take control of what you’re worth” emit a steadfast refusal to be subjugated; with “Take it easy/just one step at a time”, imploring some ambition restraint. The theme of the song concerns not being content to stand still and taking the step to break the mould. “Keep on moving/Don’t stop” is the motivational mantra of the track. Special kudos goes to the band, who genuinely emit an appreciation and understanding of the jazz and swing greats, and yet add a retro, updated sparkle and kick to the sound, fusing a little bit of modern jazz to its supreme bodywork. The sound is tight and mesmeric throughout, and does what any great song should do: not only want to make you smile and dance, but dive into the jazz swing annals, and hear the original purveyors as well. On a positive note, the vocal as well has pleasing shades of Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, as well as a little touch of Paloma Faith. In a way too, one can cross reference Little Violet with Caro Emerald. She too has a great talent and passion for a bygone, better age, but is similarly capable of modernizing the sound and making its appeal devoid of boundaries and labelling. It is such a fresh and lively drag, and blows a multitude of mental cobwebs away as you listen. It has no hidden agenda or skeletons in its closet. It wants you to jive, dance and get happy; employing a demonstrative edge to it. It grabs you by the hand and implores you to become involved. Reinterpreting the vocal again, I was impressed by the skilled improvisation throughout: there is sexy, pouting scatting, cohabiting with elongated notes, syncopated delivery and a sense of adventure. The heart and soul of the vocal, mind, is authenticity. Whilst it pays homage to its idols, it has an electioneering spirit and proves what an exceptional voice is on display. It is sweet, zesty, bonhomous, and bloody sexy, as well. There is an austerity to the cocktail as well (Remember how you made it here/A game of truth or dare), advising you to “keep your eye on the prize”. Although the path to Greenwich Mean Time has been fractious and risk-laden, as you are where you are now, take it easy, be true to yourself and you’ll be fine. It is a simple and inspirational mandate, and one that has a personal relocatability, and universal in its efficacy. One suspects that there is a personal relevance to the lyrics for Little Violet’s front-woman, who you can tell, loves telling this story and suspect that if she weren’t, her life would be listless by comparison. The trumpets percolate, the mood is indigo, and the words“If you can find that leap of faith/Then let the games begin” whisper in your ear. Before you can allow yourself to become seduced the chorus beats back in, rides the waves and keeps the Cheshire Cat grin where it should be. Back in the video, our protagonist- at once Grecian and Amazonian in equal measures, is back in the kitchen of their home, and rebuffs her houndog husband, before coyly turning and flashes a huge, alluring grin. It is a great metaphor for the song itself, and completes an exhilarating listen. But I have rambled too long, I will sum-up later.

 

Okay, then; next up is the flip of the double-A side. It is a more flagellatory animal. The sequin-adorned chanteuse Jekyl has, by the moon’s pearly light, transformed into a leather clad vixenous Hyde, in a missed heartbeat. Thematically, of course. From a cursory viewing of the video to ‘Shut Up’, the sequins and sparkle are in fashion, but where as before there was a sense of open palms, here the claws are out. The song slithers confidently forth, with the words: “He finds it easy to critise”, its in utero mindset, the babe born forth has a pugnacious cry. Its father was a no-good; not appreciating what was right in front of him; in his lover’s own words: “You’re too late/And you finished last”. The chorus wears its sleeve on its heart. The man has blown it, and his friends, and former paramour does not want to hear any excuses; all she wants to hear is “ssshhhhh!”. If I can break from the cautionary-tale and speak of the track’s D.N.A. Firstly it is quite a juxtaposition of ‘Don’t Stop’. Instantly the band have shown that there is more than fun and dance to their demurrage. The sound is slowed down, and smoother, allowing the vocals and lyrics to resonate appropriately. The band are tight and stunning throughout. As the chorus fades I can hear echos of Miles Davis’s ‘Kind of Blue’ (particularly the track ‘Blue in Green’). The band turn Lyrebird in their range of sounds. Davis can be seen, also shades of ‘Life in a Glasshouse’ by Radiohead can be detected; a little of Glenn Miller’s ‘In The Mood’; a smidge of Fletcher Henderson and Cab Calloway show up in the blood count. The band do not try to parody or replicate them. The sounds, spirits and perfumes are poured together and stirred to give a heady blend. It updates the genres and revitalizes them for the ’00s. The vocal does not suffocate or feel forced. At its most demure, it evocates Carmen McRae and modern singers such as Adele. When the tempo rises, Amy Winehouse, Sarah Vaughan and Nelly Furtado. It is a smoky and gutsy performance and has incredible soul and veracity to it. Our single lady talks about how (her former beau), had “a temper, which could break a heart”; who’d: “babble at you/Make you want to scream”. The chorus is deployed effectively between the heartbreak tableau vivants; the entire track is a bloodstained parable telling the story of a woman who is less Moll Flanders and more gangster’s moll. In the video, the heroine is fed up and looking for vengeance. She looks undeniably resplendent as she head into a smoky alleyway, as the disgraced hero drops his cigarette, and subsequently, drops to the floor, as she walks away.

 

My earliest musical memory was around about aged 6. I had a red co-kart my late grandfather built. Myself and a couple of my friends would speed along with racing pretensions listening to a red cassette player. If it wasn’t T-Rex being played it was an old compilation called; ‘Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers: The Album’. It was a novelty act that would fuse swing and jive classics from the likes of Glenn Miller and Chubby Checker. I loved it and was fascinated by the sounds and fell in love with swing and jazz before any other form of music. For a number of reasons, the music has a personal relatability. I love the snatches and snapshots of sounds and moods the band collate to produce a visceral and chemical reaction amongst the listener. For a genre of music that was once roaring, it is somewhat of an underground niche. There is no need for a reappropriation; more of as revilalisation, and Little Violet are going to make big strides to achives this. The mix of brass, drum, upright bass and piano, delivers authenticism and a passionate love letter to the past swing and jazz era. The combination of band and singer works wonderfully. No one is too high in the mix; each are given equal weight to tell their tale, and both tracks are diverse and brilliantly impressive. The music is positively Newtonian. The band want you to be inspired and to smile and to get as much pleasure out, as they put in. They can close caption a relatable malaise in ‘Shut Up’, a track, one suspects will resonate more strongly with a female audience. In ‘Don’t Stop’ acts as a premiate; it gives you self-belief and implores you to get up and be inspired. I would advise you to listen to the tracks with the videos as well, as the films are brilliant shot, projecting a very noir feel to them. They are miniature tapestries and tell the stories perfectly. Although both tracks have been available since November of last year, there is new music afoot; and I for one, cannot wait. I have been so depressed and uninspired by a lot of new music and hunted for something fresh and invigorating to sleep soundly in my brain. I have found it, and has inspired me to write and experiment with my own music.

 

Little Violet deserves huge success and plaudits. She gives a great appraisal and recognition to her cohorts and comes across as thoroughly cultured and intelligent and thoroughly likeable. She is fun and upbeat and, whilst following her Twitter and Facebook feeds she is good to her fans, and has an accessibility and savviness to her. Complete with a maturity and worldliness that belies her 20-something years, she is someone who understands the importance of saluting her musical heroes, whilst updating their sound; in order to allow for cross-border popularity; thus drawing in new listeners and not betraying the roots of the core sound. Combine this with a voice that can melt hearts and inspire minds, and a beauty that is genuinely staggering, success and popularity will not be hard to achieve. Not to gush, but the songs I have heard today, are amongst some of the best tracks I have heard this year. Little Violet explains that she has a constant stream of lyrics and melodies building towers and planting seeds inj every corner. She explains that the only way to block these out and get to sleep is, curiously, by using the sound of a hairdryer to create a white noise affect. This is something I can sympathise with. I have been writing lyrics for 15 years and still not peaked. I find myself drifting off with a couplet in my head, and have envelopes filled with vaguely decipherable lines of various songs on them. My main passion is vocals and often have various vocal lines and key changes struggling to get out. I have not perfected a method to stop me seeming like a madman and singing to myself all day. I will have to try a hoover or hairdryer! In the meantime, I am going to fall in love with YouTube all over again and revisit my passion for blues, swing, jazz and the all-time greats. Little Violet is the flag-bearers of a new wave of exciting and inspiring music. Listen to their songs now, and wait with baited breathe, because…

 

 

… something truly special awaits.

 

 

Key Track: ‘Don’t Stop’.

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Official site:

http://www.littleviolet.co.uk/

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/cuckoorecords?feature=watch

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/littlevioletmusic

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/_Littleviolet

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/shut-up/id576530246?i=576530835

The Girls Are:

http://www.thegirlsare.com/2012/11/08/introducing-little-violet/

SoundCloud:

http://soundcloud.com/little_violet