Whispery Club: ‘We’ll Get By’

Whispery Club:

 

‘We’ll Get By’

 

Track Review

 

9.1/10.0

 

Speakeasy fascination, or arrested development? Or just a plain riot of elliptical wonder?

 

 

Availability: We’ll Get By’ is available at http://soundcloud.com/whispery-club

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Today has not been a good day, thus far…

 

and I have been awake only for 5 hours. Between useless employment agencies, not paying me what I have already earned; a government body being typically lacklustre and useless- again stiffing me out of a lot of money. That coupled with the fact I entered my favourite coffee spot this morning, and was greeted by a Germanic table of teenagers, lacking common courtesy. For some unbeknown reason they were bashing on 6 or 7 empty takeaway coffee containers, like some peculiar percussive tabernacle. When the patrons and I had the sheer impudence to glare at them, as if to say that their brand of travelling festivity, was de classe and unwarranted, I was greeted with a cocky smirk. Having been a loyal customer for 3 years, I couldn’t well grab them by the testicles and give them a damn good slap. Returning home and facing more annoyance, I decided to immerse myself in the creamy, cosmopolitan splendours of Whispery Club. Before I was condemned to explode like a pigeon filled with rice, I got down to business, and focus on something that actually matters. I will not entirely forgo my ruminations and finger-wagging on the state of music; because today it is as relevant as it was yesterday. The ‘band market’ is one that has been busting and bursting from the seams, and has been since the ’70s and ’80s. The ratio of quality to quantity is fungible, with many competitors having a geosynchronous lifespan, burning into the ether, and forgotten about forever. Being, perhaps the most subjective and fickle industries in the world, music have to conform to a lot of high expectation, feint praise and creative recessions. If you think about the band that still exist, and have been going for some years now; it will be a short list. Whether due to acrimonious splits, a natural entropy, or a response to market forces, it is an uncertain life. I guess young blood, fresh ideas and an inherent zeal are the rare spices sought by a rather picky, and some times pernicious, public. Of the current stable, the likes of Queens of the Stone Age and Radiohead cause the most anticipation and fever in me. Having seen Muse stumble drunkenly one too many times, Soundgarden being shadows of their former self, I am somewhat pinning my lust for the established bands on Homme and his crew, when they return for action in June. Because of this, you are forced to feed your soul any other way possible. Who of the new guard, are really, actually worth your attention?

 

Having been humbled by a potential vanguard of electricity, I have had good reason to be excited by the band market, once more. From Dead Sea Navigators, through to The Open Feel, there is a lot to get excited about for 2013. It is not just the songs themselves, and any face value that is causing me to smile, but the range of sounds. A vast proportion of the new talent is north of Liverpool, yet the inherited sphere of influence and diverse projectiles being launched are staggering in their scope and confidence. Perhaps with one of the most curious and image-provoking names in history, Whispery Club, leave everything to the imagination. I’d like to join their club, but would probably be castrated and cast asunder for being ‘too damn quiet’. Aside from the likes of The Proclaimers, Deacon Blue, Annie Lennox and a few other legendary acts, the flapping St. George’s Cross has been flying a lot higher than St. Andrew’s Cross. I would say that the last notable well-known act from these regions have been Biffy Clyro. I don’t care for them (Biffy), but that is for another day. Our three-piece heroes are intent on, and have the quality, to match any band currently circulating social media and the electronic super highway. They are a fresh-faced brethren, with a band photo (on Facebook) that is like the cover of Let It Be, only George’s face replaced by the company logo. They claim to be formed from the ashes of an ensemble of Glasgow-based bands, who deftly “beget melody from melancholy”. Sounds good, consider yourself up a member. A couple of their photos has them posed like Muse, but unlike the Devon trio, they haven’t lost their edge, and will not disappoint with any dubstep misfiring or plastic pretentiousness.

 

Settling down to investigate ‘We’ll Get By’; the merry bonhomie that I was hoping was evident from the first few seconds. Any memories of Teutonic apartheid were blown away by the tribal and savage drum slaps that greeted my ears. It is a similar one used during Bohemian Like You by The Dandy Warhols, but more menacing, meaningful and, just plain cooler. It is an impressive power that the likes of Dave Grohl and John Bonham would have started out playing, and sets the mood instantly. There is a bit of danger lurking within the luminous glow, and the rain and wind of percussion, are given breath and light by a rainbow of electric guitar. There is a little bit of a U2 influence, as well as a smattering of indie here and there. It is endeavouring and exploratory, which rouses the senses, and leaves you curious as to what the vocal will sound like. There is a certain breathiness and seduction to the tones. There is a distinct accent that comes through, with a bit of Gorbals and south-west Scotland coming through. Most bands native to certain parts may try to incorporate a trans-Atlantic drawl, or dilute their true voice, in order to seem ‘relatable’ or polygamous. It is admirable and necessary that Whispery Club are true to their home and roots, as it literally gives them a unique ‘voice’ and tone, that separates and distinguishes them from peers. The lyrics are delivered with tenderness and consideration; there is no stuttering, over or under annunciation or ululation. When the lines: “The radiator/Melts my shoulder” are sung, it is done so with Socratic reverence and an ellipsis between the lines, as if you let you absorb the images, and feel what the band feel. There is a lot of reading between the lines, tension, and an anonymous female holding our hero’s reflection in her Aviator sunglasses. Maybe in the way the band can blend cocktails of poetic imagery with tonics of modern, and hard life, owes as much to the shores of California and New York, as they do to Scotland. There is a small crew of rock and indie purveyors from the likes of San Diego, Manhattan and Burbank, who I know have been writing similar themes; but it is the way that Whispery Club imbue a distinct flavour of Anglo Saxon, that marks them apart from their State Route 1 journeymen rivals. Our protagonist is a modern-day Samson; weighed by the gravity of the world, and not liking it one bit. He is crumbling and thrashing against the waves. In the eyes of his female attention is a mere “child who’s lost his mother”; infantilised by a sneering and uncompromising beau. Whether this woman is a former girlfriend, a mate or common muse, she is causing much chagrin. The percussion and guitars never intrude on the moment’; instead keeping the pace charged and exciting, adding coloured feathers to the landscape: little sparks here, considered heartbeats there. It gives a new soul, to an old woe. The sound and sacrament of lyrical and sonic blend, straddles U.S. and U.K. without blurring lines or leaning too heavily on the former. The baroque guitar sparkles have a worthy hint of The Joshua Tree. After the 1:20 mark, there is an extended instrumental break, that has transposed classical influences, as well as shades of early ’90s rock pioneering. When the words: “And the kisses we catch/And the kisses we blew” are proffered, aside from some clever wordplay, there is an emotional longing. Our front-man may not show it in his voice, but there is regret and painful reminiscing in his tones. There perhaps is a bit of Biffy Clyro; perhaps unsurprising, as the Biffy boys hail from Kilmarnock, which is about 24 miles away from the shores of Whispery Club. The vocal balance is similar, but our chaps have more restraint and romance in their blood; closer to Crowded House in stylistic terms. As our protagonist crumbles “like a flower”, there are nebulas of light and dark in the composition, whilst the vocal remains definitely strong and impressively stoic. There is a defiance that runs through the blood of the song, and positivist spirit amidst the downtrodden memories.

 

The music of Whispery Club will appeal to those in need of a relief of stress and in need of a burden being lifted, which, if my maths is right, is about 95% of the planet. There have an air of light-hearted happiness to the music. It never intends to overwhelm or be the aggressor. The sound is intended to alliterate preemptively. The vocal hides its scars bravely, but a listen to the lyrics shows that there is heartache lurking beneath the surface. There is emotional upheaval and sadness for sure, but whilst many would emphasise this with moody guitar and pulsating percussion, the boys instead juxtapose the emotions in order to not only poll for a cross border, and mass appeal, but inject intrigue and an added level of quality to the song. The value of great music, is equatable to the ability it has to elevate you from a sour mood, and invigorate and compel you. Having been harangued by a tiny Devil on my shoulder, and generally annoyed by the human population to the point of explosion, I have instead been calmed and softened by the force majeure of spirit here. There is a lot to recommend, from the sharp and unique lyrics that mix modern life fables with ubiquitous romantic thematics. The band are tight and brilliant throughout; never jostling for superiority, instead they are a galvanised unit who unleash maximum velocity and force from a 4-minute track. I would advise a more detailed and studious listen to Whispery Club, as they have produced a variety of songs, with variegated themes and sounds. With future releases imminent, their stock is going to rise, and they will find themselves being references on T.V. soundtracks and mentioned in fervant and excited tones. If you like your music to be thoughtful, intelligent, melodic and memorable…

 

… you will want to apply for full membership to this fledgling club.

 

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Official site:

http://whisperyclub.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/WhisperyClub

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/WhisperyClub?group_id=0&filter=3

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/whisperyclub

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/whispery-club/id605058207

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abi Uttley: ‘Like You Do’

Abi Uttley:

 

‘Like You Do’

 

Track Review

 

9.7/10.0

 

 

You may recognise her from Coronation Street, but don’t think that the music is anything short of brilliant.

 

Availability: ‘Like You Do’ is available at http://soundcloud.com/abi-uttley

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Let me start with my daily overview of modern music…

 

because I know people would cry themselves to sleep, if I ever neglected to include it in any review. I am taking a different angle today. I have been curious about, and involved with, the female solo artists market for a few months. I have witnesses a great deal of young, fresh, and varied talent making a mark on the music world. Some have been up-and-coming Surrey talent, and there has been another sector of female wonders, who have combined jazz/swing, dark pop and rock. Each time I have been involved with reviewing the individual artists, it has staggered me what a range of sounds and sights are to be found. Not just with the lyrics and voices, but the incredible soundscapes that have been imagined and realised. Not that it should shock me, but compared to the male counterparts, the female market is so far ahead. Ironically two of the female solo artists I have reviewed in the last 2 months have been the least appreciative or enthusasitc about reading a positive review of their music. It is a fickle and unceratin industry anyway. I don’t review music for personal pludit, or kudos. It is as interesting to see how people perceive having their work written about, as it is hearing it in the first place. I feel that if one wants to know where the most intruiging and fascinating music will be eminating from over the next year or so, I would first concentrate on the female market. Although, historically there has been a tendancy for male bands to be amongst the greatest music of all time, into the 21st century, where it easier and more accesible now to record music, than ever, the shift will change, and future historians should look at 2012/2013, as a time when the change began to happen. The band market is general is a crowded and murky lake. It is where the most demand emminates from, with every band hoping to acheive stardom. The solo artist, or those in smaller bands, have less of a pressure. They are not subjected to quick entropy or friction with bandmates. Nor are they tied down with variable and interchangable commitments and relationships. That market is like a marriage. About 50% of bands end with divorce. If you fly solo, or have a casual relationship, there may be loneliness or you may have to work harder and more determinedly, but at the same time, you have freedom to express yourself; work your own hours, and make your own success.

 

Let’s get the unimportant point out of the way, first. Abi is extraordinarily beautiful, and not just in an everyday way. In a Hollywood, eye-watering way as well. I say unimportant, because it does not pertain directly to success, and has nothing to do with music. That said, it is probably due to a narrow-minded attitude in society, that stunning women, are given less thought and consideration, when concerned with music. In the current scene, those that are as stunning- Cheryl Cole for instance- are flyweight and plastic, and do not have the talent or personality to really win votes or credibility. Abi Uttley defies any glib characterisations and pigeon-holing, and lets her voice and music do the talking. She has had a varied and interesting acting career. As well as playing the somewhat arresting and vixen-like Cherry, in Coronation Street, she has enjoyed plaudit and recognition due to her roles on stage, screen and beyond. She is a multi-talented dancer and performs with Marc Otway, as part of acoustic duo Marc and Abi. They formed in 2011, and have been wowing Yorkshire and the north for a couple of years, recording a number of tracks, and gaining a sterling reputation. I could imagine if The Guardian, The Times, or the broadsheets were to be in my position, there would be imperious eyebrows and a lack of truth to their review. The fact that Abi is an actor would instantly cloud their thoughts, unaware that she is as capable of blowing people away with her music, as much as she is with her performances. For those like me, who are far more tolerant, and cultured, could not wait to hear her voice. It has been described, by freshonthenet.co.uk, as “a voice that melts chocolate”.

 

The intro is not what anyone may expect. There is a remarkable confidence in it. The likes of Jessie Ware and new Leeds-based talent like Little Violet and Rose and the Howling North would employ a similar punch. For anyone, so far, who was dubious as to the ability and potential of Uttley, are well and truly corrected and shut up within a few seconds. There is a toe-twinkling, balletic piano dance and twirl, combined with jazz accompaniment. It is a sound of swing, combined with soulful pop-cum-’60s and ’70s jazz, all in one. The effect is disarming and awesome, and put a smile on my face straight away, and straightened me in my seat. It sounds like something that could soundtrack a stylish and mysterious indie film, injected as the song is, with a similar smile and style. The voice that comes through has a Laudate Dominum affect on the senses. There is no twee and processed modern pop vocal; no bleated histrionics. Instead there is a smoky, seductive and gorgeous calm that emanates forth. In keeping with the sonic tone of the intro, the vocal is reminiscent of the jazz and blues icons of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s; there is a black and white, film noir scintillation to the atmosphere. Speaking of “silky thread of words you spin”, Uttley whispers and tantalises with her entreaty. The scene, one might imagine, could be set at a curious and romance-worthy bar such as The Mayor of Scardey cat Town. There would be low lights, quirky tableauxs, and a lingering tension. Our heroine is sat alone, ruminating, drink in hand. Whether we are in London, Bradford, Paris or New York, a man enters. Whether he is a boyfriend, friend or stranger, it is said that: “You catch me eyes/Just to watch me fall”. The vocal is at once teased and lured, before it is syncopated and felled by gravity. The lyrics are delicious wordplay, intelligent and witty, and the way the vocal delivery and words are close knit and apropos is clever and wonderful. As 0:30 mark passes, the vocal switches from sweet knee-tremble to powerful, yet controlled swell. The backing is delicate and low enough in the mix so it adds to the beauty and mood, yet never interrupts or steals focus. Uttley’s voice has pleasing tones of Chrissie Hynde (at her most composed), as well as Christina Aguilera, Yorkshire lass Cherie Gears, as well as shades of Eva Cassidy. There are a lot of Cs there, but they are all appropriate and well-informed. There is a wide appeal and universal brilliance to her vocals: beautiful and seductive enough to appeal to the stuffy media sect, metal-heads and pop/jazz/soul lovers, alike. When the song ramps up, and the pace quickens and bubbles, Uttley feels: “Maybe/I am just a fool”, unsure, as she is as to whether “the rhythm of your words/Beats to the rhythm of your heart”. There is a shift of temperament, as well as signature and sound. The brilliant words meet with beautiful little musical changes and avenues. Between 1:07-1:08, there is a pause, that comes after a fast-paced and energetic performance. From 1:08 on, the vocal again purrs, and licks its lips, as the piano and drum have a similar reverence and steadfastness. The tale of regret and heartache continue: “Feelings/That you stole from me”. It is delivered with an Aguilera-esque growl and gutsiness. It seems that the path of ill-gotten or forgotten love is never smooth or straight-forward. There are bumps in the road, but our leading lady is adept at surveying and beating the blues. When the chorus comes back in and it is claimed that: “When you sing it like you do/You make me feel it’s true”. The former-beau has a lot of never, and the lying skills of a sociopath; he has a way of fibbing for his own cause and making our heroine feel like any anger and regret is well-deserve or even unwarranted. It is perhaps not surprising that the song is so tense and sharp of narrative, seeing as Uttley is an (impressive) actor. There is an authentic conviction. Believing the words is half of the battle to win fans and minds, and Abi is already half way there, within only a few lines. As the chorus comes to swing back for another punch, there is another unexpected shift. There is a little sprinkle of piano/percussion, and a line; followed by music; followed by vocal. There is a call and response thematic that runs through. It is unexpected and pleasing, and keeps the song turning, twisting and fascinating. Not many artists would change the pace and composition of a chorus. The chorus is your U.S.P. and most memorable part of the track, and by changing the tone, it adds an extra layer of quality and conviction. When the mantra is repeated again, the vocal powers up, trills like a bird song, and hides any inner turmoil with a sexy and swaggering display of power. With a few glistening notes of Eva Cassidy/Kate Bush ethereal beauty, the song ends, and so does our film piece. The lights are down, the night is over, and all that is left is to retreat to bed, and take stock of life, love and the future.

 

Let’s get all the good vibes completed first. Uttley is indeed a startling and intoxicating beauty, with a variegated and varied C.V. In a modern market, sometimes that is all it takes to shift units, and gain drools from a fickle male mind, and gain jealous female bitchiness. If you go into the song, predisposed to be judgemental and narrow, you will ultimately look stupid. I was not expecting to be so bowled over as I was, but there is a tonne to recommend from such a tight and sharp song. The music acts like a heartbeat and blood flow; it ushers the song along, and supports it where needed. It acts as a ghostly chill and warm rain, that adds atmosphere and beauty in equal measures. The lyrics are capable of stealing the show completely. I am not stereotypical in saying that well over 90% of modern lyricists are incapable of penning intelligent or engaging words. Even in the solo market, a vast majority of lyric sheets lacks soul, wit, sparkle, sass and heartache. There may be an odd memorable line here and there, but ‘Like You Do’ never lets up the pace or quality. It is noteworthy and quote-worthy from start to finish. An impressive and wonderful achievement. As a songwriter of 11 years myself, I have been sneakily jotting down some of the lines, in the vain hope I can come up with anything quite as good. The vocal, to me, is the true wonder here. In spite of the fact that the song has a singular theme- in the sense that it is about a single subject- the vocal shifts styles, genres and time signatures at various intervals. There are nods to jazz, the blues and folk. At 1:16 there is a little hit of South London/Amy Winehouse. Abi’s voice dips and rises; tabulates and bursts, making the song ecstatic and gripping. She has an incredible power in the softer edges. She can match Aguilera, Bush and Cassidy when it comes to hushed and spellbinding stillness, and has the ability to project a huge belt and beat when required. In fact the voice keeps moving and electioneers thoroughly. It is impressive how the vocal delivery matches the lyrics, and certain tones and shapes are employed to bolster and highlight what is being sung about. Uttley has a clear understanding of emotional impact and impressing casual listeners, as well as 29-year-old music obsessives such as me. The track will appeal to nearly everyone, as there are no gimmicks, auto-tuning or pointless sampling. It is a straight talking and captivating little number, that never overstays its welcome or wander aimlessly. I am currently in love with the Cuckoo Records stable, based out of Leeds. They are producing a large crop of varied and staggering artists, and if Abi would be snapped up I am sure, should this track be sent to them. It is an impressive feat and memorable track. I even caught myself singing it just now, and sure I will have it bouncing in my brain and feet for a long time.

 

There are literally no real negatives; more constructive suggestions. I feel that Abi has such a strong voice and set of lyrics, that perhaps the music needs to notch up and challenge for superiority. If there was a bit of brass, a few strings or a guitar lines in the mix, it would add weight. If you listen to Little Violet, Rose and the Howling North, or even Jonnythefirth, who are based just down the road from Uttley, they have utilised this. None of those artists can match the lyrics or impact that Uttley puts forth. Little Violet has jazz/swing-era brass,m trumpets and sway; Rose’ has ghostly and dark guitars (the sort you hear on a Tarrantino soundtrack), whilst Jonnythefirth has White Stripes-esque blues guitar, alongside Jake Bugg/Arctic Monkey-style clout and electronic drawl and hammering. Whether there is a fiscal constraint, or a lack of willing and available musicians, but Uttley has the talent to employ these elements, and lift a song like this into the stratosphere. Marc Otway took care of guitar and piano, and does an incredible job. Just imagine how powerful and resonant the song would be with a few more elements. Whether too Uttley wants to keep it simple and showcase the lyrics and her voice, may be a reason too. It is the only thing I would suggest. If there is any sort of fuller band sound in the works, or keeping the sound faithful to what is displayed here, I for one will be encapsulated. There doesn’t need to be any sort of additional sound to make the sound or song come alive; maybe more instruments would clutter the song or distill the potency.

 

Abi has been performing with Otway for a while and they blend talents beautifully. I hope three things. One; that they keep working together and blending their abilities and tones, as they work wonderfully. I am keen to hear more songs. Uttley will be required soon enough to produce an E.P. This is not subject to public opinion. There will be a massive appeal and fan base waiting to pounce and embrace any new songs. She could fill a few E.P.s and a full album will little need to deviate too far from her personal and effective template. If this is in the works, or back of her mind, it is something that she needs to consider, as there is a definite market and hole to be filled. Thirdly, I am hoping that in the future she stays loyal to her hometown and part of the world. There is a temptation, usually- well you hit it big- to move to London or a bigger city. It is a bit cliche, but felt by those artists that that is where the money and contacts are, and where, ultimately, your market are waiting for you. I have mentioned Cuckoo Records, but there is a swell of Mancunian talent bursting through. The north is where the talent is, and Uttley will find many collaborators, labels, cohorts and supporters much closer to home. That isn’t to say that the lights of London will not call for her; they will. It is just that she can do a lot of huge and promising work in Yorkshire. There is a modern scene filled with female talent that only tick a few boxes on the checklist. In terms of the balance of quality and quantity, she has more in common with the likes of Jessie Ware, Laura Marling and Adele– guys that are making huge waves, getting a load of airplay, and selling a magnitude of records. On the basis of one track, it is difficult to say what the next step is, and whether the quality can be maintained. If you can produce a number like this so early in your career, then there will be little chance of a dip in impact. I cannot wait for the next move. I hope that there will be a lot of fans waiting for Uttley, because that will give her the confidence and ammunition to get into the studio again and make some beautiful music. For now, have a few listens of ‘Like You Do’ and check out what she is doing right now. Spread the good word, folks. Abi Uttley is a name you will be hearing for a long time, soon enough. I’m pretty sure…

 

 

… you will not disagree.

 

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Official site:

http://abigailuttley.com/

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/MarcAndAbi?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/AbigailUttley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Open Feel: ‘Kiss, Kill (Back to Love)’

The Open Feel:

 

‘Kiss, Kill (Back to Love)’

 

Track Review

 

9.6/10.0

 

 

‘Alternative, dreamy’ 2-piece U.S. rock band pervade a beautiful sound. Don’t expect any comparisons with a certain Michigan pair.

 

 

Availability: Kiss, Kill (Bang to Love)’, available at: http://theopenfeel.bandcamp.com/

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It was the modern-day philosopher Robert Zimmerman, who said…

 

in his seminal romance piece ‘Absolutely Sweet Marie’, that “well, anybody can be like me, obviously/But then, now again, not too many can be like you, fortunately”. These are not just well-spun words on love, and the nature of romance and kinship. They were written by a wordsmith of inherent genius and foresight, who was in the middle of a huge wave of a creative firestorm. Dylan had just produced the two finest albums of his young career, and had just completed a terrific trio, when ‘Blonde on Blonde’, was produced. The legend that is, was on a creative streak of unparalleled precision and drive, and, bolstered by the likes of The Beatles and The Beach Boys (whom were perhaps friends as well as rivals); the lyrics, mention above, had relevance on a personal level in 1966, and have a historical and modern importance now. Outside of love, in the cool waters of the music scene, there is little individuality. In the undergrounds and ‘alternative’ radio stations, much diversity and quality can be heard. In this country, the predominant mainstream is a beige murk of similar sounds, lack of imagination and purulent egos. Even if one were to have their ears, pressed intently against the rumbling concrete, and their eyes strained whilst looking into a neon night, it is difficult to find bands and artists who are truly captivating and peerless. I have been fortunate enough to have been directed to a number of rather special northern bands, by a rather special person. Short of that, there has been a bit of word of mouth publicity, that has alerted me to top talent, as well as a few rebels who have fallen from a band wagon; deciding to beat the dusky desert road, with little more than a pad of words, and a bag full of old clothes. There has- perhaps ironic to the key context here- been a few artists who have tried to capitulate and emulate Bob Dylan’s sound, Jake Bugg is one of them, and grabbing at his coat tails, is a veritable army of 20-something wannabes with guitars, vocals, lyrics, and… let’s be honest, little else. Circling to my primary point, whether the lyrics were intended to be ironic or a genuine declaration of passion, lives some mystery in the listener’s mind. I have seldom heard or seen any artist or talent who has been able to convey the same potency of Dylan. In the U.S. there is a clandestine room of talent, who have been trying to mount a counterweight trebuchet, and have their artistry embraced by us here in the U.K. I have heard little word of any key emerging talent across the pond… until now.

 

Following on from a liquidation of some bands and acts, it is invigorating to read about the history and folklore of The Open Feel. For one they have a unique, and rather open-to-interpretation band name, and striking band silks. The artwork to their 2011 E.P., as well as their new single, contains mauve, purples and pinks. There is a femininity as well as a striking romantic endeavour to them. It is not since The Coral’s 2004 ‘min album’ ‘Nightfreaks and the Sons of Becker’ that violet paintwork and dreamy and startling music, has been married so successfully. On their bio page, there is a fever-dream of a line up that included Muse, The Cure and The xx It is estimated that their balance of tones would effortlessly fit in at any venue or festival that housed these artists. Instantly there is a sense of ambition as well as quality. You get the sense that, whatever is lying in wait, is going to be something quite wonderful. It is this hypothetical aggregation of cohorts, as well as a fascinating back story, that demands you sit up and take notes. Vocal/guitar queen Katie Harris joined with her Byzantium band-mate outside of L.A. a little while ago, now. Drum and bass warlord Tom Brayton and his musical sibling embarked on a string of local gigs, before recording music. The couple have been with each other for a number of years, and Katie states that the reason The Open Feel came into existence, was due to a shared desire to see where they could go as a band “with no judgment”. Tom explained that the two had been in other bands, and were eager to see what beautiful and unique music they could produce. Having not seen the duo live, I was wondering if there is bass as well as percussion; I was curious if there was any sly flirtation and romantic bi-play between them, and then thought it would be best to curtail any preconceived comparisons The White Stripes. That Detroit pair has a similar allure. Aside from their bizarre insinuation that they were siblings (Jack and Meg used to be married), as well as a militaristic red and white band uniform, the pair had an unadulterated knack for producing fierce, primal blues rock, circa 1930. Aside from a gender-instrument switch around, and a slightly similar influence here and there (as well as a shared love of colour as a metaphor for their music and personalities); there are few similarities. For one, the band embrace technology and social media, instead of wanting to live in the ’50s and use the most dust-covered and antiquated recording equipment possible. Katie is blonde, gorgeous and (from corresponding with her a bit recently), approachable, down to earth and very appreciative to anyone willing to crtique and embrace her music. She is a fret wizzard without being aloof and mythical. She is honest and a skilled songwriter with a flair for brilliant titles, sharp and stunning shades, as well as a passion for being unique. Tom is a little less photographed, but no less alluring. He is not a near-mute like Meg was, nor sublimated or subjugated to the supporting cast; swept into a shadow and destined to play the pantomime role of The Heliotrope Sticksman. Since their eponymous release, and a spell of dates around Los Angeles and Los Vegas, the pair superseded the musical gentrification with their staunch work ethic, before they hunkered down to record, what is to become their knew album, ‘The Thunder Underground’. With a business plan that includes new singles every 6-8 weeks; a purple-toned paint chart, that would even have the mauve homonculous Prince green with envy; as well as a dynamic and cohabit a combination of intelligent lyrics, memorable tunes, and a noise that will stick in your skull for months to come, the pair are a giant prospect. The infinite regress, American bourbon and Baby Ruth flavour notes, and the intoxicating beauty, intelligence and surge of their front-woman, and mega talent of her male muse, means that the clubs, bars and hideaways of Orange Country may be a past curiosity reserved for prosperity and future homecomings. They are going to be embraced and pulled across the ocean by inhabitants of Landan (sic.) Town. From there Europe will catch on; Asia and Africa will fall lustfully enamoured, before the Australasians take them against their bosom and promise a safe and loving home.

 

The Open Feel, in itself, is a curiously interpretative name. Equivocal to their sound and sex appeals, the bank moniker could either be a self-help guide or a sex position. It has an undefinable curating of the sensual and spiritual. The duo have created a sonic Butterfly Affect. They are a winged insect with a shotgun; graceful and pure, yet armed with an arsenal of potential fury. They also, can cause a chain reaction of biblical proportions. When the music is more widely-heard the resultant snowball will roll; creating new songs for bands, as well as influence existing acts. ‘Kiss, Kill (Back to Love)’, has a reliably striking title, and spares no time in getting down to business. There is but the briefest intros- and electric and drum combination that swings and rollicks with the intent and strength of an icebreaker. Katie’s vocal has honey tones, but also some authoritative force to it as well. The drum is a gun fire, and is punctuated; which elevates and supports the vocal brilliantly; it is fun and loose at the same time. The lyrics are wonderfully oblique, poetic, and intelligent: “It’s like I’m walking on a wire/Above a two-sided face” is the opening gambit; and one of the sharpish and most interesting lyrics I have heard all year. Our heroine is able to take your mind somewhere else, and picture the words she is singing. I get the sense there is anxiety and fear in her heart, as well as an interchangeable emotional shift. She is, as she attests, “one breath from a smile to a cry”. The vocal tones have a pleasing originality. There is a little bit of Fleetwood Mac, a tiny bit of Alison Mosshart, The xx to the way the sultry is mixed with fiery. The chorus has an uplifting edge, and with some backing vocals, I am reminded of early career U2, as well as the guardians of the female solo market: Patti Smith, P.J. Harvey and Laura Marling. The chorus lifts the pace from the verses and adds a rawer and harder edge. Like U2, who used the words ‘kiss me’ and ‘kill me’ to great effect, it is safe to say that “Kiss me, kill me now/Break me down to dust”, is more thought-provoking and sterling than anything Bono penned for his song. The guitar and drum combination has an edge of Radiohead and Jeff Buckley. There is a edge of the former’s ‘The Bends’ experimentation, and the latter’s self-penned songs around the time ‘Grace’ was being toured. There is energy and a soulful kinship between the two; they are well rehearsed and completely in tune with each other, and create a splendid sound. I can hear influences of Patti Smith during the verses. There is a similar punk edge and smoky seductiveness, yet Harris has more sweetness and vulnerability. In spite of the forbidding and haunted edge to the lyrics, there is never any depression or horror to the mood. The sound is lighter and more uplifting- sort of Keane-cum-lighter xx-cum- The Pretenders. The entire track is under 4 minutes, and it manages to employ a verse-chorus-verse formation, yet rise above the current crop with ease. This is down to how the song is delivered. The music is engaging and well structured. The guitar is hard-edged and strong, but has a softer sensibility as well. The percussion is solid and intriguing; it aids and abates the mood of the track, yet never tries to steal focus. The lyrics are stunning throughout, and sway between saddened: “And the tiny light that remains in my heart”, mingles with redemptive (“Bring me back to love”). The chorus is memorable and will stick in your head for a while. This is a band who know how to send a message and be remembered in a short time, and combine lyrics, music and vocal to huge affect.

 

In a black market of music, there is little since of authenticity, quality or fair pricing. Musical ambition and success runs perpendicular to market forces and trends. Longevity relies upon being able to remain at the top of your game, yet able to move- if necessary- with any fashion changes. There is a sense of free-spirit mixing with neat (pun intended) intoxication. The song, ensuing album, and band will ensure a trickle-down, cobweb affect. Other bands will be invigorated and new acts will be inspired and revitalised, too. It is not an ‘aeroplane version’, Disney-esque, straight-to-DVD of a production. This is genuine, and plot-driven, with no holes or hollowness. If Pontius Pilate is the metaphysical representation of the fiscal strain and harsh force that operates and hovers over music, then it is bands such as The Open Force, which will force about a salvation, and Resurrection. Before I sum up, I’d like to use myself as a study in context, contradictions, juxtaposition and ill-fate. Aesthetically and looks-wise do not do too badly for attention or endeavour, yet hated by the camera and always self-deprecating and neurotic when it comes to assessing my looks myself. In terms of love, am single, yet fascinated and in awe of two different woman, neither of whom will ever be obtainable, or mine. I’d consider myself pretty smart, all-rounded and have great advantages over most people, yet am out of work, and unhappy. Vocally I have an odd, eidetic, ‘freaky’ ability- not boasting, I just disturb myself. Yet, have not the money nor sheer confidence to record, and the audio equipment has a similar disdain for me as the camera. Seemingly everything I should do or could do, I can’t or won’t achieve. Yet everything I already have or seem to posses, or subjected to modesty, personal uncertainty and lack of confidence and money. I do not believe in fate, destiny, karma, ‘everything happens for a reason’, astrology, psychics or any untested, improvable or sheer illogical or woeful concept. Yet at the same time I have a huge faith in the potential of bands who deserve it. I mention this parable, as the band have no agenda, or no personal contradictions. Anything they want; they will get. Any pains that are reflected in the song, will be blown away and validated by the like-minded and those in awe. They can do all they set out to do, and are not encumbered by personal demons. They can embrace them and employ them to beautiful affect.

 

In the words of Troilus and Cressida: “Fear not my truth: the moral of my wit is “plain and true”. The twosome have an honest and bare honesty, with a lot of truth, but also some fiction. Within their sharp and studied lines, and pioneering intelligence, there is nothing to be afraid of; it is all-embracing. There is a highly unique and original air to ‘Kiss, Kill (Back to Love)’. I am sure that there will be cross-Atlantic appeal and fanfare awaiting. I hope so anyway. Churchill said that “the English never draw a line without blurring it”. I shall do my best to get my countrymen and women on board, and spread the word. It is free to listen to, so listen to them…

 

 

 

… and fall in love with them.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Official site:

http://theopenfeel.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/TheOpenFeel

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/theopenfeel

You Tube:

http://www.youtube.com/theopenfeel


MySpace:

http://www.myspace.com/theopenfeel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Heron: ‘Picturesque’

‘Picturesque’

 

Track Review

 

9.7/10.0

 

 

Over-precise, nervy promotion, and the marble sheen of the modern market, could do well to follow the charming, everyman appeal of this sagacious Scot.

 

 

Availability: Picturesque’ is available at: http://www.youtube.com/user/steveheronofficial?feature=watch

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His existence began more-or-less the same time as mine…

 

but Steve Heron trajectory is a lot more prosperous and fascinating than me. He is a veritable James Dean, to my Steve Guttenburg. It would be too easy to be jealous of the lucky son of a biatch (sic.); but a little lesson in context, may go a way to steering away from any mythology and giving the (slightly) more mature statement, a thorough appraisal. No iambic tetameter; no glib NME-esque brevity; we need to delve deeper. First off, it is worth noting that once upon a time, music used to be imbued and defined by a marked maturity and professionalism. Not to come off as a premature old man, but back- I would suspect- in the ’60s and ’70s, bands and acts did not have to be subjected to any analytic vetting. The market was a lot more freewheelin’ and all-inclusive; there was little common cause or rash generalisations, when pertaining to age, ambition, spirit or talent. The demographic and creative shift, has moved perpendicular with an advanced technological age. If it weren’t for wistful retro-active needs to relive a past age, or a fervant underground, then the narrow brackets and narrow-mindedness of the music industry, could well neuter anyone over 30. The greatest lyricists alive today are in their ’70s; the finest and most pioneering bands are over 35, and the most noteworthy and revered examples of the breed are a lot more experienced than the likes of Ed Sheeran. Heron is a young man, with an older gent’s quality and integrity. He is able to come across as cultured and well-informed without the need to pander to the stuffy core. I mention age not as a study of longitudinals within music, nor as a study of the correlation between mortality, success and lifespan either. I do so because it is a sad and sorry state of affairs that what is considered trendy or fresh is seen as equivocal to deserved spotlight and focus. It is a false equivolency and should cause much shamed head-hanging amongst a somewhat fickle and discriminate public and media. It is a pleasure to discover acts and musicians with genuine personality, an innate understanding of the needs of the music-buying public, whom have no credence or time for pointless memetic epidemeology or sarcastic addendum.

 

Which, rather aptly, leads to be to a curiously-named Mr. Heron. Like the powder down monophyletic birds; Steve has a similar cosmopolitan appeal, he has a carnivorous hunger, and yet displays beautiful and striking plumage- brilliant sounds and fascinating insights are to be found. Unfortunately, there is also a rather indigenous and narrow colonisation to his influence and legacy. That is going to change, very soon. Let me give you a little biography, to set the scene. His Twitter account, rather colourfully and playfully begins: “You can stuff it up your arse for nothing…”; showing that our man has a refreshing proletariat appeal. He is no tabloid editor, as his assorted social media pages are professional, detailed; giving a great depth and appreciation for his lot in life, as well as where he came from; and, where is going to. A lot of southern contemporaries- and being from Surrey, I am as white bread and reserved as they come- are rather stuffy and conservative. Steve is a guy, and intent on having a bloody good time, taking his music to the masses. Angus McGuire, Simon Gibb and Alan Lamb, are noble comrades, adding colour to Steve’s songs. That said, Steve is a positive one-man-band, playing a range of instruments, including guitar and keyboard. He is, as attested to on Facebook, the creator of “Melodramtic Popular Song”. The chap enjoys Jeff Buckley, The Smiths and The Boss. But don’t go looking for scars and bruises under the clothing; Heron has a rollicking glee and reckless abandon to his sound that is quite infectious and joyful. I like him already as Buckley is my musical icon. Furthermore, Independant Music News praised him for “pushing the indie sound”; “Catchy as hell” is how The Buzz Stop described his sound, whilst “Edinburgh’s prodigcal son” impressed Bainbridge Edinburgh. Having released a successful and much-celebrated album ‘Honest One’ in 2011, Heron has gigged with the likes of Razorlight, The Cribs and The Marvels. It is through a staunch and imperious heads-down work attitude that has earned the guys a loyal following, and to be whispered in the same breathe as some world-class acts, is no fluke. It is the combination of such concentrated and stunning influences; coupled with a savvy utilisation of the local scene as well as social media, that has lead to such fevered anticipation for the new track. It will be nursed to the public bosom, and create a frenzy of speculative legions to drop their Beady Eye and East India Youth C.D.’s, and listen hard!

 

First impressions can- in the wrong hands- say little, or can be seen as a second sight. For me, being used to writing; and having been a devotee of many genres for nearly 3 decades, feel that I had an intuitive and informative edge, when listening to ‘Picturesque’. There is a rousing, closeness centrality, almost Motown-tinged blast to the intro’s initial stage. The percussion slams and kicks with steel to-capped boots, as the swirling audio feast unfurls, capable to exhume the deceased in its potent crack. There are shades of The Zutons– a lot of their debut album contained a similar energy and sound. With the breathless brass proclamations, combined with ‘Human Touch’-era Bruce Springsteen majesty and fun, it is an invigorating and mazzy dance which greets the eager listener. There is still a sense of the sound of funk, soul and blues in the style and sound. It is a wandering and friendly beast. The sway and dance continues with little sign of exhaustion or strain, as the vocal arrives to chaperon. There is a fleeting, yellow teeth grin to Kevin Rowland, in the rawer edge to the vocal. There is a similar undertone of merriment and revelry to the pronunciation and hew, yet plenty of sweetness, with a smidge of Robert Smith punk bite too. It is during the elongated, flighted vocal hold during “I don’t want/Anything else”, manages to transition between the ’80s parable with punk and pop, and elicits a little OK Social Club-cum-Ryan Adams hybrid. Steve displays a strong and unquenchable power and pureness to his voice. It is unaffected by the modern age, and balances a soul-tinged heartache with an Alpha Male rock swagger; never pitting the two against one another, instead infusing them; with combustible consequence. There is an indie sensibility, with modern-age tableuxs about false start sexual endeavour, clashed personalities and an inherent passion to have you hooked by its catchyness. In spite of the fact: “Hearts are like jaws/Sometimes they get broken”, there is little malice or ill intention. It is a matter-of-fact equation, and is the sort of lyric Adams might well pen. It is hard to shake off the perpetual motion of energy and excitement. There are relentless blasts of horns, subtle endeavouring guitar licks, hiding in the back, but holding the mood upright. The percussion is a combination of steady rolling and a forceful avalanche effect, which gives a solid and determined backbone to the track. The sound and innovations are definitely those of a broad-shouldered Scot. There is no androgynous, Lilly-sniffing, bootcut jean-wearing, hair-gel wasting feminine whimpering. Our man Steve has power in them there lungs, and could belt this song from the terraces, and be heard and respected. In spite of the fact that he a young man, with an educated, mature and developed mind, he has not lost the knack of being able to weave child-like glee into his notes and notation. “Your sorries/Get you caught” are the words of a man who has seen it before, and been there. With experienced conviction and perhaps a few scars for his troubles, the lines seem commonplace in his mindset. After the 3/4 mark, there is a musical interlude, complete with charged and focused drums and guitar, before we come back into the streets. There is some proffering from a wise heart, and a Newton’s Cradle of Motown/soul, before we end, and are given chance to sum out.

 

I am a new listener to Steve Heron, immersed as I have been in the sounds of Manchester, as of late. He has an impressive and stunning back catalogue, and a wide arsenal of sounds and shifts to his style. He has a rock heart and hard fists when he needs them, but is a lovable, gentle giant one would suspect. Based on the stylish flair and smile of ‘Picturesuqe’, he is imploring you to love him and his music. The lyrics can be sharp, but always witty; capable as he is of being able to blend Morrissey’s sharp barbs, and Marr’s curious and intelligent sense of music and sound. If you are not familiar with Mr. Heron, wake up…

 

 

… and make yourself happy.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/stevejheron

SoundCloud:

http://soundcloud.com/steveheron

YouTube:

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

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/steve-heron/id414581880

Reverb Nation:

http://www.reverbnation.com/steveheron

BandCamp:

http://steveheron.bandcamp.com/album/honest-one

 

 

 

 

 

The Autumnkind: ‘Temporary’- Track Review

‘Temporary’- Track Review

 

9.3/10.0

 

 

The arrested development of seasonal change, provides a chance for well-considered electioneering from barn-storming quartet.

 

 

 

Availability: ‘Temporary’ is available now at: http://theautumnkind.bandcamp.com/album/cartography

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4-piece bands are probably as old as Tom Jones’ chest hair clippers…

 

and like the rather put-upon follicle trimmers, the nature of musical quartets has been subject to prosperity, entropy and hairy times. The ’60s is probably when the beautiful baby boy was born forth. There were some rather sticky formative years; prepubescent struggle occurred at the arrival of the 1970s. During the 1980s, with one or two exceptions, it went completely off of the rails, before finding love, growing up, and settling down during the early ’90s. Time, fortune and fashions have passed, and over the last 10 years or so there has been a somewhat mixed bag of success in the market. The most successful and memorable wards of the state, tend to err on the heavier side; force and conviction are favoured over melodic and demure.

 

The circadian rythms of the scene have scene a lot of movement happening towards the north- particularly the Manchester and Leeds areas. There has been a lot of a much of a muchness. With all the faux-heartbroken front-men, swooning precociously about their disgraced former-beau, dragged asunder by the forces of melancholy and ill-fate. To be honest there is a little bit of a stale smell forming in the kitchen. It is about time someone cracked a window, and breathed some fresh life into the mix. Aside from the proclivities and swaggering there is something happening elsewhere.

 

The Autmnkind, are, in their own words a “melodic leftfield rock” assemble; and consist front-man Marc Ozall, drummer Simon Treasure, guitarist Adam Lunn, and bass player Martin Bradford-Gago. They released debut E.P. ‘The Shipping Forecast’ way back in 2009; following an impressive period playing some of London’s top venues. They managed to toppled Michael Jackson and Robbie Williams in the Amazon download charts, and following on from their second release ‘Words and Sounds’, they entered choppier, rockier waters. Following some tumultuous band changes over the next few months, including the departure of their bass player. After some negotiations and good fortune, a new, strengthened band was created, and a new lease of life and invigoration provided. In 2012, the band headed into the studio to begin work on their E.P. ‘Cartography’. It was unleashed into the public domain in August of last year, and has been gathering new fans, steady press and repeated plays amongst a loyal base. New followers have flocked to see the band perform, and it seems that the solid and revitalised group have an extraordinary confidence and ambition to them. They have a keen eye for names and design as well. I often have postulated in my head what the ‘Autumnkind’ refers to. It sounds like the kind of name, Hollywood whackos such as Tom Cruise would name their daughter; were any woman foolish enough to let that happen. A much cooler scenario would be former-Detective Autumnkind. I’d imagine a grizzled rogue cop, drummed out of the force for not ‘playing by the rules’. He would while away many a day, cigarette hanging from his mouth, staring from his London window, surveying the citizens below. Any day now, he would get the call from a desperate band of computer hackers, duped and tricked into a sticky situation they did not envisage. If only there were a man who could pound the streets, shake the lapels of all the loyal scum, in a noble, fervent bid to get results and answers. He would have his own show, and a suitably kick-ass theme song. Anyway, I digress! I’ll let the songs, or in this instance, song, do the theatrical, filmic talking.

 

With the intriguing and mysterious E.P. cover, and curious batch of awesome tunes, I am focusing my attentions on the ironically-named ‘Temporary’. I say ‘ironically’, as the indelible impression the track will leave in your hippocampus. The song is the penultimate track of the E.P. and begins with plaintive and explorative strum, it has an instant, subcutaneous allure. It is an intriguing and sweet guitar call. It reminded me of Jeff Buckley, and his early days wowing stunned audiences in the New York coffee house of Sin-e. There is also some The Bends-era Radiohead, and that influence, complete with an updated and cutting edge, adds authority and a huge credence to the intro. It is dreamy, with a country edge; beckoning with a soul fleck; an intertwining polygamia in its rock ambitions. The pulsing, break dance of guitar that enters the fray, shakes the cobwebs away, and invigorates a rush of blood to the head. It is the band’s Socratic Method of teaching their contemporaries, how to create a simple and effective intro. It runs a similar line, curiously, to that of Queen of the Stone Age’s ‘No One Knows’. It has that same bounce and pogo punch to it, albeit a little less muted. We have whizzed and perambulated from ’90s New York, to ’00s California, via ’70s London in the space of a short, few seconds. Perhaps there is a little bit of ‘Chelsea Dagger’ to the closing stages too. There promises to be a forthcoming singalong afoot, and the musical tapestry defies you not to throw your chair across the room and dance, regardless of how crazy it makes you look. Marc has a smooth and mature edge to his voice, and enunciates with clarity. The issue I have with a lot of bands is that they garble words, or bury them under a rubble of noise and chord progression. If you can’t well hear the lyrics, you only are aware of, and able to evaluate about half of the song. There is a pleasingly credible pop tone to the delivery as well. There is no brutish barbed-wired delivery, which so many employ, needlessly. It means that the sentiments and home truths resonate much clearly and with more heart, thus creating a more potent emotional response. Take the following: “… I can’t get it through to you/My petal/You’re not going to get your way”. The context suggests disharmony and a rather painful and complicated back-story between out hero and and out-of-favour former sweetheart. The content suggests a sharp tongue and a sarcastic wit. There has been a dissapropriation in the home town and our front-man is sending a clear message to our anonymous heroin(e). The vocal tones have, I’d dare say- and not in a demeaning way- elements of McFly. Those bobble-headed pop bozos were demonstrative and ineffectual to a tee, but had a knack of being able to convey a pure, populist manifesto, and make their irrelevant sentiments, stick. Marc and the boys have a mature, intelligent, and bon-mot infused wit, and are able to punctuate their sentiments, with a glorious simplicity and effectiveness. In the same way that there are stoner rock knuckles, able to cohabitate with genuine ’90s U.S. rock, they also can co-mingle classic British rock with a modernised pop-rock template. When it is said that “I could tell you that I’m sorry/But you know that it’s a lie”, the atmosphere is light and melodic, supporting the earnest and honest sentiments, profess. The sound manages to stay within the borders of ’60s pop, and modern rock; displaying no inferiority or signs of weakness. The band support their brother with fraternal understanding. The percussion is not too heavy-handed; instead it keeps an emotional heartbeat constant, and keeps the track level and straight-thinking. The guitar and bass work are statesmen-like and solid. Between them, they manage to conjure a sonic transmogrification that shifts the mood, from 1:20-1:28. The energy and strut keeps going hard, never missing a beat, and as the intriguing-cum-mysterious lines, “I’m only/A metaphor/For your direction” are stretched and syncopated, it adds another colour to the palette. The lyrics are not phoned in or given little consideration as to their pronunciation and delivery. Certain words and lines are infused with energy; others allowed to relax; alliteration here, modulation there. This means that there is a constant thoughtfulness and shape-shifting. The chorus is breezy and tinged with sunshine, which combined with the lyrical theme, gives it a white and blue collar appeal, and brings a smile to your face, whether that is the band’s intention, or not. The entire track is a little under 3:50, and it seems much shorter when listening, making it memorable, tight and a little bit of a tease.

 

‘Temporary’ is a fine and noble cut from the E.P. It is usually the track ‘Glasshouses’ that gathers most attention and plaudit (and it is a similarly brilliant track). ‘Temporary’ is neatly placed at the 3/4 mark, and acts as a propulsive and fresh sound, following ‘Glasshouses’ more serious and emotional nature; and comes before the harder, trippier sound of E.P. swansong, ‘Time Will Tell’. I was thoroughly impressed by The Autumnkind’s creative annals. They have endured a tough upbringing, with a changeable roster of members, and a bumpy road. They have a bright, promising future, and have a sound and popular edge that will see them transcend the boundaries of rock and pop, and unite and invigorate any tired camps, hungry for new tones and a fresh impetus. If you have a few spare moments, then they deserve a lot of attention, and based solely on the strength of ‘Temporary’; they will be gaining…

 

 

… a large, new following.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/theautumnkind

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/theautumnkind

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/the-autumnkind/id318192876

YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/theautumnkind

MySpace:

http://www.myspace.com/theautumnkindmusic

Reverb Nation:

http://www.reverbnation.com/theautumnkindmusic

 

 

 

 

Anna von Hausswolff : ‘Deathbed’- Track Review

‘Deathbed’–  Track Review

 

10.0/10.0

 

 

It is the combustive sound of a modern and agile talent, and the pleasing tones and childlike beauty of Kate Bush.

 

 

 

Availability: Deathbed’ is available now at: http://soundcloud.com/cityslang/anna-von-hausswolff-deathbed

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There is another shift happening in the female solo market…

 

at the moment. Well, maybe not a shift as such, but a definite segregation of tonality and quality. There is a- unfortunately majority- section of female singers who have quite fey and listless voices. I’m thinking of the like of Ellie Goulding and Lucy Rose. There is a mutated subsection, that begins evolution along the same aesthetic lines; then layers of makeup is applied, garish clothing is adorned, and purulent nonsense, and meaningless fluff is emanated forth. I am referring to the likes of Katy Perry, Lady GaGa and their ilk. Within that subsection there is a little redemptive quality, such as Little Dancer. The other, less subscribed group comprises the powerful and intriguing. Reigned by current head of state Adele, there are successors to the throne such as Jessie Ware, Laura Marling and so forth. The former have an inherent planned obsolescence. They suspect they will not be on the scene for a long time, choosing to spend their sojourn of creative existing creating high-energy and so called ‘feminist’ and ’empowering’ songs. They are fooling no one. For anyone who can read or hear, the songs and combined discography amounts to seldom more than sub-par Madonna posturing. The latter fare better; possessing impressive and diverse vocals, able to write provoking lyrics, with a keen ear for simplicity and effectiveness. The one thing I would say about this crew is that there is little…. shock. Good shock, that is. Rarely do you drop your head with exasperation and awe; eyes watering and mouth a rictus of catatonic glee. Of course that sort of visceral reaction is hard to come by; but when it does occur, it is worth talking about.

 

Having garnered some recent positive press from The Girls Are and The Quietus, Anna von Hausswolff is a seductive siren, with a business plan that contains a very promising profit and loss statement. She hails from Sweden, as you may have guess from the fore, and surname. She is incredibly striking, projecting a safe and seductive aesthete of a girl-next-door, but gorgeous and alluring as well; one suspects she could make men drop to their knees, from a shy look alone. Having just been signed to City Slang records, she is riding a creative and professional high. This label houses the likes of Arcade Fire, so you won’t need me to tell you that her music, is not exactly going to be sound-tracking an episode of One Tree Hill. She is a 26-year-old goddess whom has wowed and intoxicated her native land with her beguiling voice. That is something I will get to anon. Her debut E.P. ‘Track of Time’ was released back in 2010, and followed it with the album ‘Singing from the Grave’. Critics and fans were a combined mass of admiration, with notable comparisons made to Kate Bush and Antony Hegarty. Obviously there is a ferbile approximation to the latter, but it is the Bush comparisons that are most relevant, and spellbinding. I will add more depth to the analogy within the main body of the review, but you cannot help but to shake off that same breathless wonder you receive after witnessing a Kate Bush vocal turn. There is the same accumulative super-naturalness and infantile innocence, that strikes you hardest. Anna’s new album ‘Ceremony’ will be released on June 17th, and promises to stagger, bludgeon and woe you with an eclectic and heady mixture of that voice, fertile and inspirational compositions, and acute and memorable lyrics. As you may have guessed from the subsequent and previous album and E.P. titles, there is a funereal motif and uniformity to Anna’s work ethic. Don’t go expecting any Joy Division morbidity or suicidality to her personality, or ambitions. She is more than the sum of any predefined and prejudged parts. There is a parts Nick Cave, P.J. Harvey and Elizabeth Fraser to her, and the lead-off single ‘Deathbed’ promising, perhaps more than anyone would or could possible expect.

 

Any sort of safe and common adjectives that I was going to use, in order to give my initial impression of the track, have been struck through, and repatriated. The opening notes are produced by an ominous, yet intense. It is a church organ, that holds and floats magisterially above the congregation, and there were a number of avenues, perhaps, the song could take. The sound of the organ hold is similar to that heard on Wild Beasts’ track ‘The Fun Powder Plot’, only invested with darker, smokier flavours. I was curious if there would be a similar nimble vocal performance forthcoming, or something more restrained. With only a minuscule hint of quasi-modulation the organ holds for well over a minute. It is haunting, intergalactic, and reverent, in the way it shifts, confounds, intrigues, ennoculates and aneasthitises. Just after the 1:1o marker, there is a trippy and odd sounding guitar blast. If you listen to the end of Queen of the Stone Age’s ‘Make It Wit Chu’, it manifests a similar romantic stoner echoing. With a running time of 8:38, the track has the ambition of a ’70s rock classic. The guitar throbs appear as a counterpointed punctuation to the organ, which, although possessing less volume now, is an unerring and emotive element. Switching from emotive-less and monotone, the guitar becomes an ambiotic and more distressed animal. It wails and howls; cries and calls out to you. If you were to visualise the therianthropic brood of the track, I, for one was transported to a dark and damp street. There is nobody around, aside from the occasional passing car. The streets are dimly lit, and there is a noxious tension in the air. I am minded to clutch tight to my meagre possessions, in fear that they will be absconded. The tension is nauseating, and there is a relentless smell of tobacco smoke in the doorways. As I walk towards a familiar neon light, nestling between a closed bar and a theatre, there is a narrow alleyway, protected by a beaten and sturdy blue door. A pale woman stands by the door and nods with familiarity. The weather is becoming more hostile; the rain beating savagely, the wind is numbing and totalitarian. The sonic sound-scape really does conjure a myriad of strange and nocturnal scenes. There is an unpredictable and swaying aroma of dis-calm; tattooed with converse virtues of puritanical respect and voyeuristic bravery. It is what Byron would have created if he were a musician, rather than a poet. Around 3:20 there is the hallucinogenic buzz saw sound of flat organ; as a marching band drumbeat, with no consideration for the laws of the Doppler Effect, heralds a sea change. There is a lightning buzz of electrics, infusing the song with a Pirc Defense of structure. There is fuzzy, scuzzy guitar; withdrawal effect of organ; an ellipsis before a bullet hole drum slam. The guitar becomes more cohesive; there is a bluesy, beautiful string articulation, building a sense of Prog Rock-cum-’60s psychedelia. The vocal then arrives, and the unquestionable Bush memisis is an axiomatic tautlogy. It is evident there is influence, but the previous musical orgasm, combined with an alliterative lyrical tone, suggest that face value overrides skin deep, in any stereotyped summations. There are elements of ‘The Dreaming/Hounds of Love’-era Bush in the vocal style and adventure. The fusing of vocal balletic and musical pioneering is similar to P.J. Harvery and Massive Attack. The words employ a sense of emotional fatigue and love-gone-bad recollection: “I gave all/I gave in”. Anna has a glorious sweetness, but also a gymnastic and supple elasticity to her range, capable of portraying an anagrammatical array of emotions and shades. She can growl, and sigh; scream breathy, and dominates the mood with omnipotence and conviction. In the same way that Wild Beasts’ front-man Hayden Thorpe combines tenor and countertenor; barking, trilling, screaming, angelically growling, Anna has a similar talent, able to operatically summon up a riot of passion and pain. After the vocal passage, there is a gorgeous swim of organ and drum which is parts Groove Armada, parts The Doors. The organ continues to ride and purge, carrying the song to its exhausted conclusion.

 

It is not just the song as a whole which overwhelms you entirely; it is also the general unexpectedness of it all. I have written an 8:01 song called ‘Vanity Mirror’, in the- somewhat ambitious- mould of ‘Paranoid Android’. It consists of 7 distinct phases and parts, and combines interchangeable music and a lot of vocal. If you were to look at the running time of ‘Deathbed’, you’d imagine that there would be: a short but building intro; a traditional chorus-verse-chorus structure, complete with a large proportion of vocal and musical interplay. Anna’s masterpiece consists of 90% music, compared with a fleeting, yet ecstatic vocal interjection. The song is all mood, build, intrigue and eliciting the maximum amount of emotional resonance, from sparse organ and drum (and guitar of course). There is a sense of humour at the wake, and never a sense of dirge, depression or self-flagellation. It, instead, is magisterial and empirically stupendous. Anna proves that she has a remarkable voice that can blend influences seamlessly, yet never leans too heavily. It is one that is full of mystery and wonder, imploring you to fall still under her spell. The star of the show, may even be the music itself- which is unexpected. It is consistently engaging and hypnotic, leaving you spellbound and sweaty after the first listen.

 

Iceland produced Bjork, and near-neighbours Sweden have not produced a huge amount of similarly fascinating and gripping artists over the last 15 years or so. Anna is going to be hot property very, very soon. She may have gained a predominately localised fervour and adoring fan-base, thus far; yet has shown on the evidence here, she can deftly conquer and crush the comparatively meagre competition. She shares only a collegial relationship with her counterparts, and in a media scene with such much schadenfreude present, I am going to be one of the first to proclaim that her forthcoming album will be on the lips and tongues of many reviewers, critics and fans alike come June. If my proclamations and words have seemed like rank psychologism, I apologise, but rare are the occasions when one is presented with such a stunning piece of music. Perhaps it is a subjective viewpoint, considering my combined love for the likes of P.J. Harvey, Nick Cave, Kate Bush and the like, but the song spoke to me, and has genuinely inspired me. My pet projects and much-amended songs have been infused with new relevance and inspiration, and I personally cannot wait until the album is released. In fact, I may explode before then. For the time being I shall calm my nerves with a dose of liberal, restrained U.K. artists, and only dream of what Anna’s album will contain. If you are skeptical as to the perceived popularity that Anna has gained, I will referee. It is by being bold, different, and outside of the nucleus of modern music that herald the most incredible long-term rewards. To those uninitiated and virgins to this style of chamber music-cum-progressive pop, then it is quite normal to be afraid of the dark. It is perfectly normal, but I shall leave you with a quote from philosopher Herodotus: “Great things are won…

 

by great danger”.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Official:

http://www.annavonhausswolff.com/

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/annavonhausswolff

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/anna-von-hausswolff/id351852229

MySpace:

http://www.myspace.com/vonhausswolff

Last FM:

http://www.last.fm/music/Anna+von+Hausswolff

Spotify:

http://open.spotify.com/artist/1eiXrvua27VlWgZ9kiaIn6

 

 

 

 

Dead Sea Navigators: ‘Actors’ & ‘Crellin’

‘Actors’ & ‘Crellin’

 

Track Reviews:

 

9.8/10. & 9.9/10.0

 

 

They modestly claim to be ‘”not everyone’s cup of tea”. If that were true, that is going to change very, very soon.

 

 

Availability: ‘Actors’ and ‘Crellin’ available now via: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/uncharted-ep/id479659088

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A lack of innovation, personality and concern for design…

 

pervades a majority of the music scene right now. There is a lot of wayward egotism; a fervency towards the predictable, and a generalised fear of being labelled as ‘outsiders’ or ‘rebels’. This summation is garnered from an empirical evidence: there is a multitude of new acts, few of which tick every box you would like them to. If they have a barnstorming musical template and divine ecosystem of talent, they loses points when it comes to personality or ubiquity. Music works under an umbrella of the Law of Causation in the Law of Tort. There are a lot of great acts and artists who can project an air of confidence, and produce a cracking set of songs. Often that hard work is underpinned by the arrogance, and sometimes plain loconisism of the participants. They often seem unappreciative of any support, promotion or helping hands; purely concerned with recording, gigging and sleeping. For those whom value kindness and support to be tantamount to paramount, come across as the most worthy bands. In a hazy climate of mixed metaphors, profiteering and fickle fandom, there is one thing to be said. If you use music as a way of externalising your base desires, proclivities and negatives; your career will be brief, but will have moments of spark amongst the black skies. If you see music as a way of dramatising and turning your interalisations into something more fascinating, you may see fewer sparks; but you will stick around a lot, lot longer, and build up a more appreciative and awe-struck fan base. The bedrock of my point is, that you need to have a likable personality, as well as good music. If you treat music as a vacation and something that is inalienable and easy, you will be disappointed. I am always more intrigued when the facile element are subjugated and taken to task. Because when a band comes along that are instantly loveable, and have terrific audio samples to boot, the resultant rush of endorphins, brings about a bright expression that is impossible to lose.

 

This brings us to Dead Sea Navigators. I was made aware of their pure existence by a female friend. I shall leave her anonymous, as she is modest to a tee, and knows that the reason for the introduction was to make people aware of the band’s wunderlust; not self-promotion or kudos. I have been in communication with vocalist/pianist Steph Naylor. What impressed me most about him was he was so down-to-earth and modest. On behalf of his band-mates, he admits that the musical template may have detractors, or may be a slow-burning flame in many people’s souls. He comes across as warm, friendly, and genuinely thrilled to have support and appreciation for what he is doing. The band consists of Steph, alongside bassist Nik Williams, and drummer Claire Brock. The band have an inter-gender kinship, and a diverse geographical intinerary to their name. Steph hails from Sheffield, whilst the band themselves spent their formative years close to home, where it was said they started life sticking to a rigid and overpopulated guitar sound. They felt that that scene and sound had grown stale; balling the paper up, tossing it in the bin, and starting afresh. Deciding to break from the parable of ‘what every other band ever boringly does’ they were clear about their agenda: avoid falling into the quagmire of boring lounge bar music, the sort of thing you hear pipes like anesthesia into caffeine quads and wine bars, around the globe. They were determined, instead, to fuse melancholic piano with “distorted bass”, which consequently, would be a fitting discography for “the entertainment of late night drifters”. Music label The Animal Farm loved what they heard, and committed to record an E.P. with the group; subsequently a spiritual rebirth occurred and the ensuing ‘Uncharted’ was amassed. The band’s obvious, early epiphany follows the story of ‘Archimedes and the Golden Crown’. It is stunning how they have modernised and abridged that Greek genius’s fable. The glorifying “Eureka!” was not emoted by the protagonists- but instead by music critics. Time Out hinted at worthy comparisons with Nick Cave; Artrocker noted that they sound “bloody huge”. Before I refrain and focus on the songs, I would like to bring two more things to your attention. The band wrote “what they wanted to hear”, according to them; which, if you look at their Twitter page is “gob dribble”; Facebook (page) goes with “piano-led indie lounge”. They balance a sense of humour with a business-like didacticism, cleverly making you laugh with them, and infantilise and chide them for their modesty. Lastly, they have an artistic eye for simple and striking imagery. Their E.P. cover is a gorgeous sunset image, depicting what appears to be an industrial/railway landscape, which juxtaposes, beautifully the band name and E.P. title. They are Navigators of an ‘Uncharted’ Dead Sea. Whether the nautical christening is a cheeky insinuation that the current music scene is an ocean, rife with listless, floating bodies, unable to sink (but contented to lay artlessly atop a stale water); or whether they are explorers looking for new lands, spices and treasures is open to ambiguity. They inspire thoughtful rumination. One thing is crystalline: they are captaining a formidable Dutch Clipper; surging through the waters, guiding the listeners to a waiting and much needed nirvana.

 

Okay then, folks. I have selected a couple of enlightening cuts from ‘Uncharted’, which I feel best express and define the sound and philosophy of Dead Sea Navigators. The opening plaintive piano notes of ‘Actors’ has a little bit of Radiohead’s ‘Pyramid Song’. It introverts and syncopate’s the Oxford boys’ haunting cry, stirring in some mid-career Kate Bush magic, and adding a little of Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long Long Time)’ – before the modulation. This all follows after a spectacularly eerie, and almost psychotropic chorus of spirits. Whether it is a music recording played in reverse, or a linear progression, metomorphosised is curious. Just from the first few seconds your mind and soul have balkanised, refereed by a fast-beating heart. It is simply stunning. The swaying, almost Waltz-like piano punch, capitulates to a point mutation of percussion, that leaps from the waters and pirouettes gracefully. I can hear a Radiohead influence as the signature changes in the intro. There is an audible rise and fall of acceleration. The vocal interjection, however, contains little falsetto or femininity. Instead it is a classic baritone delivery, with nods to The National’s Matt Berninger. Like him, Steph has a similar velvet glory, yet does not suffer from Berninger’s oft-crestfallen depression. There is more light and lyricism to be heard, and when the words: “There’s no trickle down/No upside to this/That I’ve found”, it is spoken, backed by an almost Romantic-era piano accompaniment. The drum moves with supaventricular urgency, creating an emotional balance to the baroque/ballroom sway in the foreground. In the same way that Rufus Wainwright has blended golden vocals successfully with artisan, lush musical backing, ‘Actors’ has a similar ambition and quality. Naylor is able to invoke a little of the spirit of Gerry Rafferty too, possessing as he does, with a voice that is capable of tremulous quiet and televangelist power and passion with ease, never indebted to any influences; instead possessing a unique and soulful set of pipes. Beginning just before the 1:30 mark, is a brief call and response between vocal and piano. The former restrained and fatherly; the latter augmented and purring. The lyrics are consistently engaging and literal; seldom succumbing to axiom or obliqueness: “And if you had the nerve/You’d do your shopping underground” and ensuing couplets have a modern and wisps of dark fantasy and “hospitality overload”. With a backing of sighing vocals and a pointed and punctuating piano, the drum holds its nerve and keeps order as the mood and tension grows. Just then, a creeping electric guitar, probing stab of piano and vocal-cum-organ trip, both atmospheric and ghostly, bring the song to a close.

 

Completing the duo is ‘Crellin’. It pupates amidst a romantic and tender piano line, that again has hallmarks of Kate Bush, but also with the classical greats as well. I am not sure about the etymology of the song title. There is a Yorkshire-born actor called David Crellin, who has appeared in Emmerdale and Cornonation Street. Whether it a love letter to the soap bard, or has its origins elsewhere made me smile. I am sure there is a plausible logical to the title, but in my head it is a siren call to a 52-year-old Sheffield-born actor, who resides in Manchester. The romantic foreign indie film gives way to a gangster romp, as the piano is accompanied by a gutsy and bulging guitar and slapping percussion kiss of death. Our hero is telling his story, of how he has not written to Crellin, “in so long”. Hey, perhaps it is about him after all! Anyway; the tone of the track is quite reserved and scene-setting musically, letting the vocal and lyrics to keep your focus. The Berninger comparison seems apt, in the sense that the song manages to combine poetic and thought-provoking, and often humorous lyrics, with a cultured and consistent musical aesthete. As you’d expect with Dead Sea Navigators, there is a twist afoot, as there is a romping up of tension and atmosphere. Strangely it seems like an updated version of ‘Stan’ by Eminem, except with less psychotic undertones, and a transposition of key players and pertinent plot points and twists. Again the lyric’s wardrobe and attitude is modern and sharp; there is a tangible and coherent story that runs through the song, and is like a truncated version of a nervy film noir. There are slowing sways of piano, coupled with darker tones, as once again one thinks of ‘Amnesiac’-era Radiohead, and Nick Cave as well. Naylor employs a similar strange theatricality that Freddie Mercury did on ‘I’m Going Slightly Mad’. The repeated and shortened chorus mantra: “Would you throw us a bone/Now you’re out on your own?”, is effective and studded. Naylor’s voice soars and infuses a reverent and mannered tone to the track. If you picture the scenes that the track pertains, then you may imagine a kidnap scene, or creepy playlet. It is because of the commendable vocal, as well as driving and searing backing, that juxtaposes the palpable strain and adds an extra depth and intrigue to the track. Before the 2:00 mark, the vocal is held, and combined with the piano, drum and intelligent bass reminded me of ‘Muse’s coming-of-age gems on ‘Absolution’. There is a comparable authority and quality, which, when combined with the lyrics, gives the track a meritocratic punch. What follows is a beautiful intermission, which takes the form of sterling bass, powerfully emotive drums, and a transcendent and altered-voltage piano switch. The music dances in the rain, with its sweetheart in its arms, as the moon shines bright. The chorus coda comes back up, as a final few words are proffered. The vocal elongates and twists with a wordlessly, with operatic undertones in its power and conviction. There is a apocalyptic ending of the War of the Roses, as the piano is hammered violently for a brief moment, before there is calm, and we are in safe waters.

 

I am not a vengeful or spiteful human, but any person who is still credulous in their belief that a lack of huge guitar sounds, means a lack of appeal, I hope now has irrefutable cause to shut their mouths and open their minds. I have been reduced to a mess of intransetive verbs and a messy stupor after hearing the tracks. I am ressembling a special needs dog at the moment, tongue hanging from the corner of my mouth. It is hardly an over-exaggeration to say that Dead Sea Navigators are music’s best kept secret, as well as your new favourite band. They have been most modest in their assumption that they will be heard only in clandestine dens. They have a quality and might to their work ethic and results that suggest they can break a huge Berlin Wall of misconception and divided opinion, and ignite the current music scene. I have been staggered by the recent surge in quality acts and the diverse mix of sounds, palettes and voices. To my mind there have been too many guitar bands, and a small few have managed to distinguish themselves from the pack. Most climb and reach for heaven, instead they precipitate and fall to ground, cruelly subjected to the accelerated and fickle gravity of the music scene. Steph and his comrades said that they wanted to break away from the overcrowded and predictable guitar rabble, that has threatening to stagnate for some time. Instead they manage to fuse a classical elitism with a ubiquitous and indiscriminate modernity to their sound. The drums and percussion are authoritative and keep the other two in check. They elevate and punctuate the mood when needed, and when the lyrics, vocal and bass bend, the percussive spine remains strong and unbreakable. The vocal of Naylor is impressive and inspiring throughout, able to employ a range of emotions and shapes; ruminating and pulsating within the space of a few words. I’d like to sum up the review, by mentioning a couple of quotes from The Taming of the Shrew; which I feel lend weight to the group’s appeal. The first is: “There’s small choice in rotten apples”. The noun would refer to a small sector of the current music scene. The closer you traverse to the capital, the fewer quality acts you will find. Around London and certainly within the ‘mainstream’ or within what is considered ‘popular’ there is little variation, and plenty of ‘rotten apples’. I have never cared much for chart music, and the acts that pull in the biggest bucks. They are often bland, plastic and lacking teeth, guts or balls. If one wants revelation and a fulfilment of the pursuit of glory, you have to look hard, and search in all the right places. The location- if you are wondering where to find such hallowed acts- is the north of England, especially Greater Manchester and Yorkshire. This is where the healthy and ripest crop reside, and I believe that Dead Sea Navigators are the cream at the moment. The last quote concerns the sequestration of all of the finest and most worthy acts. In my exchange with Steph, I have been overwhelmed by his gratitude and appreciation at having his band’s work highlighted and given a thorough review. It has inspired me to do- what I hope will be- justice to the group’s talents. At the same time, I am sad that it has taken so long to hear of them, and hope that the forthcoming album, will see them elevated from the shadows, and brought firmly into the light, because I was blown away by both songs, and the E.P. as a whole. In respect to the cloistered nature of this fantastic trio, I cannot say it better than: “My tongue will tell the anger of my heart…

 

 

… or else my heart concealing it will break”.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Official:

http://www.deadseanavigators.com/

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/deadseanavigators

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/DeadSeaNavgtrs

BandCamp:

http://deadseanavigators.bandcamp.com/

MySpace:

http://www.myspace.com/deadseanavigatorsuk

Sound Cloud:

http://soundcloud.com/user6085507

 

 

 

 

Bauer: ‘Sky Turns Black’

 

Bauer:

 

‘Sky Turns Black’

 

 

Track Review

 

9.7/10.0

 

 

Near Google-proof Manchester mob, have a curiously analysable name, and an even more mystical track.

 

 

Availability: Sky Turns Black’ is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qtaibf8GUWk

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I’ll desist with any prefabricated ramblings on the state of music…

 

like I perhaps would on any other day. I have slowly made peace with the Devil on my left shoulder, who has an unquenchable desire to have the likes of Bieber, JLS and Ke$sha dunked slowly into a critical volcano. It is with lamentable misty-eyed regret that I am announcing that I will take a brief sabbatical from reviewing bands from Manchester. There’s nothing I like more, but feel that their superiority has been established and etched into the record books. Or I may return next week. I’m a bit like a ’70s band that way. I am quite pliable and interchangeable when it comes to music. I’m not quite sure if there is something in the water up that way, but I will take a sip of whatever bands are sipping. It is always curious and fascinating when keeping an eye on the migrating epicentre of musical sp0lendor. Like a meteorologist or storm chaser, there is little way to predict where the next storm or hurricane will emanate from; and one is always on ones toes trying to predict the changing tide. There is no fate, destiny, true love, ghosts, God, astrology, true love, love at first sight, someone for everyone, perfection, psychics, or any other associated vague science. Music does not rely upon spiritual declaration or a fungible mindset. There is always factual pride and a simple truth, whether the act or artists is terrible, terrific or ego-laden.

 

Bauer are a veritable life raft in a vast ocean. There is always trepidation and anxiety when approaching a new act. They are most tricky, when trying to collate their collective. There is a lot of Bauer intrigue. Big companies, obscure little avenues and boring irreverence. I was wondering whether there name derived from an amalgamation of Berliner Mauer (German for ‘The Berlin Wall’). Perhaps it was taken from the series ’24’, and the central figure, Jack Bauer. They are seductively elusive with regards to their nominal origin. It is a tantalising nugget I shall have to coax from them at a later date. The band themselves consist of Greg, Lee, Neil and Michael, and are a newly formed powerhouse of song. Since their creation last year, they have been purging and innovating, both speculatively and physically- managing to transcend any reticence or fallibility within the closed ranks of musical circles; bringing their infectious sonic chemtrail through skies, over horizons, and to the ears, radios and homes far afield. There have been a small handful of tracks present on Sound Cloud and the band’s site, for a little while now. It is clear that they have a proletariat work ethic, and have put their heads down, and focused hard on mastering a number of memorable songs that defies you to listen and becoming enamoured. Now they have an album out, called ‘Sleeping Giant’. The title is, one suspects as much a political manifestation as it is a name to a face. The tracks that lie within the gentle beast, are Calvinist and pioneering. I shall do my uttermost to do true justice to the album, by examining its lead off single.

 

The initial vitals are promising, and give me little to become concerned about. In fact, the soothing and colourful synthesising and electronic Jacuzzi has some stature to it. There is a little bit of Queen, strangely. If you imagine the intros to ‘Radio Ga Ga’ and some of the more epic numbers from the associating album ‘The Works’. Happily, Bauer’s flammable energy produces a more satisfying and intelligent effort than ‘Radio Ga Ga’. There is a strum and drang pulse, as well as a cooling breeze to the tones, before a cursive drum beat prostrates to the sparkling guitar haze that opens the track up, and gets the blood flowing. It puts you at ease, and puts you on the edge of your seat; unsure of what direction the lyrics and ensuing vocals will take. Before we get there, the introduction strides and twirls girlishly, the solid percussion joining and annotating the electronic threads and creating a combination sample that is both ‘radio friendly’ and independent, all at once. It is a sorcery that has been employed by the likes of The Killers, U2, Kings of Leon as well as contemporaries such as Keane. The drive is neutered to allow the vocal to share spotlight. There is a cross-gender appeal to the vocals of Greg Matthews. There is a masculine sensitivity to the delivery, with hints of Thom Yorke and Matt Bellamy. The sweetness lingers too in its mellifluousness, permeating smiles and sighs in the same breath. There is a soulful croon, which is backed nobly and professional by the rest of the band. They infuse enough energy to put a yellow highlighter through all of the lyrics, yet kneels as daipher, majordomo, falconer and almoner. The cohorts all play their parts and blend science with spirituality, as “the darkness in your eyes” is intoned softly. As the chorus come into force and our front-man proclaims that: “I can make the sky turn black”, with impudent irony, there are new colours and shades in the sound and structure of the song. We shift up into 4th gear, the pace quickens, and there is a stadium-ready accessibility to it. I have closed my hearts and tries to glimpse for adjectives within my subconscious. I hear shades of Boy George in the vocal, but being uniquely attuned to the subject of vocal genetics, I am hard-pressed to hint at any other comparisons. That combination duo of historical quality and a fresh and youthful. I was struck by the evocative strum of electrics. Maybe a little bit of classic ’80s and ’90s Manchester (The Smiths, The Stone Roses etc.), twinned with a singular and circular indie/rock snap, the ensuing British melting pot mothers a beautiful child, with prime D.N.A. With a repetition of the chorus- instigated and apportioned one suspects to elicit an emotional surge and bring the listener ‘up- there is a mood shift of tranquil somnambulist. There is a sprinkling of ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’-piano, that trips on tiptoes, and taps its crystal Morse Code into the musical Hippocratic Oath. If you think we are settling into a balletic intermission- think again! Revving its engine is the sound of synthesisers, and a repeated plea of “feels so easy now”. The chorus reinstates itself, hovering like a black angel, unfurling his wings over the fair city. Although there is a pervading sense of muted maturity and realisation (“Been wandering/’round your town too long”); the thematic elements consist of changes in romantic feeling; mutated landscapes, and doubts, there is no sense of depression. The music is always invigorating, and often highly-charged, whilst the vocals are impassioned and strong. We touch down in the land of the delta blues, flanked by a balanced buzz of guitar feedback, a little in the same way Radiohead’s ‘Sulk’ did on ‘The Bends’, only it is more empathic here, a bit more Queens of the Stone Age-cum-Muse.

 

I’ll sum up, without analysing what is already out there and where Bauer fit amongst their peers, in the grand scheme of things. On the evidence of this track, I am super keen to hear the album, and if there are more songs like this, regardless of the weather, this Summer will be bright and very hot. They have a talent for creating tight and stunning songs, never straying too far away from the genuine sounds of Manchester, yet integrating American and London tones, to bolster and feed their hungry monster of a curiosity. The vocals are unique and pleasing; strong, supply, wide-ranging and tender. I was impressed by the guitar and synths’ electronics, which never showboat or posed for photos, instead aid the swing of the song, and infuse it with curiosity, drive and emotion. The overall effect is one which will stir everyone who listens to the song, and will implore you to seek out other Bauer nuggets. There will be- I hope- heady anticipation and expectation with regards to the album. Manchester is producing a sterling squad of players, akin and equivocal to their football overlords Manchester United. I do hope thgere is a unity and brotherly loyalty amongst the slew of local bands, instead of any needless rivalry, as there is no need. Together, the associated talent can join forces and dominate the U.K. as well as take their sound across the Atlantic, and show the U.S. what they should be doing. Turns out I did end on a pontificating and historical note…

 

 

… Oops!

 

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Project Dirty: ‘RollerCoaster’

‘RollerCoaster’

 

Track Review

 

8.2/10.0

 

 

Today’s musical marvels hail from the U.S. Curiously their sound seems to emanate closer to Europe.

 

 

Availability: ‘RollerCoaster’ is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUofC23LHKg

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Social media seems to be one of very few ways that you hear about…

 

music and musical talent more than 20 feet from your front door. As I have documented, almost daily, there is a lot of exciting and varied acts proclaiming themselves forth, and ready to be absorbed. A lot of my recent attention has been drawn to music from the north- most especially Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. Originating from Surrey, I have been acutely aware of the summation and outpouring of youthful talent, spilling from the walls of the A.C.M. A lot of twenty-something solo artists, mainly female, each equip with a divine and powerful set of pipes, and all of them with an individual and personal set of lyrics and songs. Beyond that you get lucky I guess. I have a few well-placed and well-informed chums who can point me to the shores of refreshing musical lakes. There are a few websites- The Guardian, The Girls Are and NME– who have ‘new bands’ sections, that I can study and chase the selected stars; eager to see if I can review them. There is little forgiveness or bedside manner beyond these sources, for anyone looking for trans-continental talent. Twitter has come to my rescue. I have been in awe of a couple of Australian acts as of late, but very few originating from the U.S. of A.

 

This is where Project Dirty, fit into the parable. America, in their undefined role of ‘Masters of the Universe’, are a mass of contradictions. They have an unabashed frankness in their foreign policy and political agendas, an appalling attitude towards guns and violence, and yet have produced the most astonishing creative talents ever. As far as music goes, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Nirvana and Queens of the Stone Age, alone, prove my point. Obviously the U.K. is a fledgling sparrow in terms of size when compared to the U.S.’s vast and multitudinous geography, but in comparison terms, they have us beat. As of late there has been little whisper of any new talent emanating from the Pacific or Atlantic shores. Emphasis still remains on established acts. I am confounded, as there seems to be a segregated nature to the media, where, if you don’t live in America, you don’t get to hear of their new music. Let’s put a stop to this, shall we? Sorry. Our duo, were formed 11 years ago, when vocal and keys man Rhett Fisher, and his associate Micah Faulkner happened upon their shared talents and musical template. They have a slightly fractious and bi-polar back story. Spending their formative years playing in L.A. to the west, and Miami in the east; they then went on to record an album and were signed to a label that sound capitulated and succumbed to bankruptcy. At a loss as to what to do next, the friends decided to take a hiatus (or were forced into it). They decided to stuff relying on band labels, and ventured ahead by themselves. Creating an E.P. (‘E.P. 1’), and imbued with a renewed confidence, they pressed forward and battled for a solid fan-base. They have been tantalising fans and followers with the perhaps predictably-named ‘Act 2’ E.P. The twosome themselves are an intriguing proposition. The fellas have the looks and raw edge chisel of Hollywood playthings such as Gosling and Franco, yet have a down-to-Earth readability and close kinship that supersedes any narrow expectations. One slip of the finger, too, and a harmless Google search can become a rather humiliating court case. They are a sort of updated Project Manhattan, yet less secretive. Their hard upbringing and unhappy childhood, means that you are rooting for them before you hear any of their songs. It is impressive that when so many new acts throw the towel in, after the merest of critical scoldings, the boys have a hard backbone and a fervent inclination to succeed and impress.

 

I was, I’ll admit, a little concerned when their music was defined as being worthy of the top 40. There seems to be a contradiction in terms between ‘credible’ and ‘top 40’. The two are mutually exclusive. I shuddered at the prospect of a monstrous hybrid of The Script/Ed Sheeran/Maroon 5 and their ilk, and positively projectile vomited blood when I saw the word ‘commercial’ presented, without irony or facetiousness. I prepared to ink up my quill and write a big fan ‘0/10’ on this review. Being a devotee of rock, heavy metal, gorgeous soul and ’60s pop, I’d rather be trapped in an elevator with Danny Dyer, after having suffered a prostate exam from Edward Scissorhands, than witness the audio horror-show of anything that even reassembled ‘mainstream’. Luckily, once I had actually investigated the dynamic duo’s bank of songs, I was relieved and smiling. I think they may have undervalued and sold themselves short. This is why ‘RollerCoaster’ is a perfect prefect to have stand in the front of the school hall, and inspire the rosy-cheeked new students as to how to succeed in the modern world. A rictus of guitar punch sparks and ignites the song in the opening seconds. It has a pan-European evocativeness, and spirit. It churns and lunges, before the vocal comes in. Whilst ordinarily I would be adverse and affronted by anything resembling the current sound of R ‘n’ B and rap, there is an elemental nod to it in the delivery and atmosphere. The lyrics siphon a little bit left-field of an associated artists. They stick closely to the themes of roller-coasters and fairground fun, employing metaphors and sexual imagery to make their point. “Hey girl/I’m shaking/’cause you’re taking me on a ride”; is one of the first things we hear, and sets the tone for the track. There are a lot of things to recommend within the song. There is a propulsive and consistently upbeat swagger and positively to the song. This is reflected by the electronic beat and multi-track vocal. The guitar work is quite sterling, injecting a rock spirit to the proceedings as well, which works well with the vocals. The metaphysical imagery is continued, with our protagonist expounding that his companion is sending him into a spin, and causing him all manner of consternation and emotional turmoil.

 

There are a lot of plus points, as noted. The track has a surging swing to it. The pace and attitude never lets up. In a market of predominantly downbeat or ambivalent-toned tracks, it has an infectious and sunshine smile to it. It has a lot of charm and spirit to it, and as the lyrics sometimes point towards grey skies, that is never reflected in the music or vocal drive. It is also a tight and well realised number that does not overstay its welcome and wraps up its political message in expeditious and impressive fashion. The two-piece have a staggering amount of charisma and warmth to them as well, and will win fans amongst the young and old alike. It is hard to be critical of a song that is relentlessly pulsating and promising.

 

If I were to suggest any constructive changes, then they would be few. Sometimes the lyrics do stray towards the simplistic. It would be nice to hear a bit more depth and sensitivity. It is understandable that the song has ambitions to be heard on dance-floors, but the guys have enough combined talent to inspire dancing feet as well as get people thinking as well. I would have liked to have heard some depth amidst the excitement. There is a tendency, too, to stray dangerously close to mainstream. Whilst the boys manage to earn a credibility that few of their peers do, there is a sometimes over-produced and too-polished edge to proceedings. It would have been great to have heard more of the guitar sounds, and perhaps less of the electronic derivations. When it comes to reviewing there is always going to be subjectiveness, no matter what. I like what I know, and know what I like, and I like the duo. If they can score a succession of hits from ‘E.P. 2’ and work towards a multi-faceted palette of sounds and themes, then that will help them make strides between the pop market as well as put their footprints in the underground scene as well.

 

‘Project Dirty’ have had a difficult transition from their creation to today. They deserve to be heralded and gain a new following, and cement the one they have. It will be interesting to see where they go from here, and what moves they make next. ‘RollerCoaster’ is the sound of a duo who…

 

 

… have a renewed confidence and ambition.

 

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Mutineers: ‘Infidelity’ & ‘Shadow Kisses’.

 

‘Infidelity’ &‘Shadow Kisses’.

 

Track Reviews:

 

9.6/10.0 & 9.5/10.0

 

 

Manchester’s ‘soulful pop craftsmen’, present an intriguing duo of mood-capturing songs.

 

 

Availability: Tracks available athttp://www.youtube.com/user/armstrongthomas?feature=watch

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Geographical locality and a burgeoning local scene can work for or against…

 

a band from Manchester in 2013. I have reviewed a fair few of Mancunian wonder kids over the last week, including Turrentine Jones. I was blown away yesterday by the spirit, ambition and pure rock and blues spirit of Turrentine’. The 3-piece project an air of revelry and quality rarely-seen within the current climate. Today I am blown away by Mutineers. The comparisons, however, will be mutational. Although the two camps may be based within mere miles of one another, their styles, paths and futures are very different.

 

Formed back in 2011, they consist of Nicholas, Michael, Iwan, Charles, and Thomas. From their forenames, alone, you may be expecting a perhaps middle-class men, with an intuitive spirit of classical and jazz music. It is the diverse banners of REM, The Killers and The Smiths that are more likely to come to mind, when listening to their incredible body of work. Through a multifarious mandate of Internet and digital promotion, as well as tireless groundwork via gigging and door to door word-of-mouth, their reputation has been made, cemented and built upon. They are now the architects of a new musical Atlantis. As well as supporting slots in the company of Wintersleep and Pete Doherty, they are growing into something quite immense. Their album ‘Friends, Lovers, Rivals’ boasts a wide array of sounds, and shifts; with not undue comparisons to the likes of Neil Young and Echo and the Bunnymen being levied in their direction. The fact that they are not more widely-know may cause many an ostentatious interrobang, in minds and on paper. Having listened to the entire album, there is a ubiquity and ageless appeal to their tunes. It is not just the ‘sound’ that will cause your ears to prick up; they have a cannon of lyrics that is able to storm and conquer a pub load of Vikings. The likes of Alex Turner and sirs Dylan and Cohen, should watch their backs. The pioneering 5-piece have the words to ensure they have their names sculpted into an elite and hallowed history book. They are able to invoke and summon an array of synonyms, emotions and thoughts with a mere few words; so with that said, it is best to get down to business.

 

The pulsating electronic and percussive jurisprudence that begins ‘Infidelity’ is litigious and justice-seeking. It protests that you listen and wait for what is to come. The evidence is compelling and indisputable. With echos of the Bunnymen, as well as Depeche Mode, the mood is autumnal and exciting. When the vocal enters, you get the sense that something of an informal fallacy is beckoning. With recollection of self-doubt, feeling blue, and “all the years of self-abuse”, there is perhaps a shade of black, juxtaposing the lighter mood in the background. The vocal from our front-man has a light and lyrical edge to his voice. In the manner that Neil Young can counterbalance fragility, with angelic strength is in evidence here, and there are also hints of early-The Smiths’ Morrissey, with John Lennon nestling near, as well. The tale of woe and self-examination continue unabated. Anyone thinking that Ian Dury and Kurt Cobain have been exhumed, and were gatecrashing a rather formal dinner party, need to reassess any misgivings and stereotyping. The vocal- as expressed- is light, and unique as well; it alludes to musical heroes, but never becomes too similar. The lyrics are all wittily portrayed and apportioned. Nicholas manages to craft thought-provoking lines and startling paradigms of wit, that make you sit up and take notice. “It’s not my infidelity/It’s just you never suited me”, it is proclaimed, displaying a Turner/Morrissey composite of failed love and laughing it off, tongue firmly in cheek. You feel if those lines were ever to be uttered to a tear-stained girlfriend, she may be too conquered by the cheeky wordplay to kick you in the nuts with stacked stilettos. Maybe, but not a guarantee. It has soul and heart, but a little bit of sharp-edged de-humanisation. Our hero is caught in purgatory, and explains that, with regards to his lack of social skills: “My tired lines/They’re over-used”. This unfettered abundance of quotable tristesse, could adorn T-shirts, and cause music reviewers sleepless nights, haunted by over-analysiation and theorising. The protagonist is not a one-man army. The band envelope the mood with a clock of sonic innovation and fraternal shoulder patting. I am reminded most frequently of The Smiths in this track. Not in any way as a sobering detraction or to suggest the boys aspire to be them. They have the same abilities and characteristics: a magic box of sharp observations, an endeavouring and spellbinding guitarists, and a supportive crew of audio mould-breakers, who can provoke the most striking of emotions and outpourings from a mere few notes. The vocal bubbles and over-enunciates in Morrissey/Brett Anderson-fashion; it dips and pitches on its knees, and spins, exhausted in the rain. It is a solid, yet dizzying trance of a voice. The song grabs you, and provides an insight into the socialisation of northern love-gone-wrong. If you are lovestruck, single or without inclination, the words will lead you to an euphony, with a much-needed slow-walk. Whether our hero is remorseful of the situation and his state of mind, or at ease with events, is hard to say. The articulatory and astuteness suggest that there will be few regretful nights, and with a sharp tongue and self-assured assignation, suggest there will be few lonely nights in the future. Mutineers may take their name from an old French word meaning ‘the act of mutiny’, but on the evidence provided forthwith, they are on dry land, and happy to surge and leaves the townsfolk un-harassed. The retro and invigorating electro swirl and professional and stunningly tight group performance, sets this song apart from the swathes of rank and file drones who infest the charts with witless, toothless tales of reapproriation. One Direction, Bruno Mars and Jason Mraz take note! These are the sort of lyrics and music people want to hear, so do us a favour, and back the hell down!

 

Cracking on with the cocaine-fuelled, limb-flailing energy of Ace Ventura, I give ‘Shadow Kisses’ a good spin. It has been fabled that Mallin wrote the lion-share of the band’s lyrics whilst working in a Manchester book store. There is a contemporary romance, as well as an old-fashioned charm to the story, and one can only wonder whether it was the fortress of literature around him, or passing boredom that inspired the poetic brilliance. As impressive as ‘Infidelity’ is, ‘Shadow Kisses’ is no latch-key child. The intro may have a hint of incongruous disarmament with its paramour. The sound is that of ’80s electro, and a veritable heart monitor of interchangeable shifts. The electronics rise and fall; pull and push. Before you think we are settling in to a contemporary Enigma Variations, there is a clattering and stuttering drum blast that awakens the senses, and shackles the wrists. It is a confident periapt, that teams with a end stage-Smiths Johnny Marr guitar weave. It sounds like a hidden track from ‘Strangeways, Here We Come’, sans electronics. The vocal interjection, again has a reliable mix of sweetness and cautious reverence. Our protagonist paints another Art Deco landscape, complete with tales of a former flame being “easily concerned”, who was “an architect” of her own destruction. The band are reigning high in their own meritocracy. As well as another sharp set of lyrics, the music itself is equally intriguing and rousing. The guitar contorts and slingshots, shooting furtive glances and raising its blood pressure. The percussion, bass and surrounding environs of sound, grab, tug and hug gleefully, as our hero spins home truths, witticisms and fearless declarations. If you are looking for a tag-line for this motion picture I would suggest: “Death, love and squalor/The sorid details were removed/Straight from the heart/Of a suicide girl”. It encapsulates and defines the aesthetic of our front-man’s intent. On the subject of films, this track has a fully-formed omnipotence to its utilitarianism. It could score a charming northern drama, or a large-scale Hollywood film noir. There is a structuralism to its ambition, yet the track has a simplicity to it as well, that could see it becoming a firm fan favourite. Pessimism has not entirely been jettisoned from the track. There are reminiscences of tension, omitted details and painful confessions. There is no arid scorched-earth earnestness to the words; the sentiments are well-observed, challenging and intellectual. ‘Shadow Kisses’ has a heavy leaning on its chorus. But is anchors the narrative as well as propelling it. It is the core theme, and is repeated several times. Perhaps an additional verse would have salivated some somewhat dry mouths. It is another strong and critic-proof track, and leaves you wanting more for sure.

 

Okay, then, we are at an end. Manchester is becoming the U.K.’s capital for music culture, and is producing some fine and curious specimens. Mutineers may still have a sense of being a well-kept secret. Whether that adds weight to their legend and eventual legacy is to be seen, but it feels that there is still a large gap in an expanding market for the chaps. They can muscle to the top, establish their dominance and show other bands how it should be done. For a more complete and encyclopedic representation of the band, I would suggest you delve into their album, and take comfort and joy from a band who produce thrillers, and no fillers. The combination of epoch-defining and adventurous lyrics is a rare quality in the current climate. Away from the likes of the solo songwriter tribes, and the establish guards such as Arctic Monkeys and the ’60s pioneers such as Neil Young and Bob Dylan, there are not been comparable wordsmiths. The music is eclectic and worldly and has a conviction and impassioned drive throughout. Coupled with powerful and encapsulating vocals, that have a uniqueness and freshness to them; creates a group that should be on the tip of your tongues for a long while to come.

 

If you are a virgin to the sensual delicacies of the Manchester music scene, or a well-travelled supporter of their team colours, put Mutineers on your iPod. Morrissey is practically retired; Dylan, Young and Cohen may not survive more than 10 years, and it begs the question: who will take the diamond-studded crowns from their temples? Look no further. Nowadays there is a divisive split between rock and pop, R ‘n’ B and soul, and little intersection, Mutineers provide semblance and a sense of mature authority and guiding light. Do yourself a favour…

 

… and listen up.

 

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