Little Doves is available from:
Brighton-based chantuese is exotic and striking to behold; her music is filled with darker crevices and starburst of hope. Her overall sounds mark her out as one of the boldest and most restless talents we will hear all year.
THIS week- in particular- has been one of the most fraught and nerve-shredding ones…
I have ever had to go through. I’ll not go into the testimonial details, but it has been a 7-day period where I have cogitated and re-evaluated more than ever. Transitions and self-doubt has exasperated the overall mood, yet the abiding point is this: music is a constant that always manages to dig my mind out of a hole. I have been investigating material from the past as well as some current-day stuff. Music has the ability to transcend any negativity, and stabilise inner turmoil. When things are particularly unpleasant and unpredictable, it is always a comfort to have a reliable matriarch, ready to balm wounds. Over the past couple of weeks I have surveyed everything from Surrey-based Pop; through to London Rock- right across to female Soul/Pop. At this very time, I find myself looking for something both primal, yet soothing. There tends to be polygamy and narrowness in modern music- which is understandable. New music is the burgeoning sector that will see the future kings and queens crowned. With so much variety and choice being offered forth, it is quintessential that the best and brightest should be synonymous with keywords: surprise and range. It is all well and good having an individual ‘voice’- a distinct sound and indentity- yet too many times we have witnessed a new band (or solo act) burst through, filled with promise; only to disintegrate and capitulate after an album or two. When you consider all the greatest acts of all-time, they have been defined by their bold fearlessness; the ability to conjure a myriad of movements and sounds- yet keep their inner core solid and relatable. I mentioned last week, that ‘the voice’ tends to dominate most of the music-based attention: we have been somewhat remiss. There is a lot to be said with sheer lyrical talent; compositional flair- as well as a strong consistency. I feel that if music is to grow and evolve with as few abnormalities and defects as possible, the entire whole needs considering- not a single facet. My last few reviews have been so ‘glowing’ because the participants have latched onto this point (by themselves, not with my assistance). Alison Levi has a voice that has evocations and whispers of the late (and great) Eva Cassidy. Her songs are intelligent and awash with nuance; lyrics speak of poetic darkness as well as girlish highs. The sonic backing is invigorating and full of life- her overall sound creates a mesmeric awe. Elena Ramona has a more straight-forward model, yet delivers her material with as much conviction and passion as any I have ever heard. Her lyrics are personal and honest; simple and catchy- her music emotive and solid. When I surveyed Crystal Seagulls and their new E.P. (last Saturday), I knew I was going to hear some quality (I had reviewed them several times before). Their guitar-based majesty is ever-changing and surprising; concentric and hypnotic; focused yet louche. In future weeks I will be investigating some European Indie, as well as U.S. music: trying to see what the wider world has to offer. I have little time or interest in musicians and acts whom play it safe: contended to present mediocrity as a viable alternative. In terms of a career projection and progression, it is invariable that side-steps and shifts will be made. If you look at current players such as Beck, he has managed to keep his unique identity intact, yet change his sound and soul between albums. Little has altered in terms of quality- there have been few misfiring L.P.s- but the diversions and differences have been phenomenal. If artists such as Beck take a retrospective glance, they can be comforted by the fact that their embryonic steps were solid and daring- meaning that their longevity is not the result of luck or market shifts. As I type this, I am listening to a trio of acts: Arcade Fire, Laura Marling and Radiohead. No D.N.A. lineage connects these three disparate acts, yet they have a genealogical tie. Each of the artists started quite strong (even Pablo Honey was not a complete write-off). Their initial movements were intentful and stunning, and their ensuing careers have been steeped with a similar quality. Radiohead have been a little dormant as-of-late; Arcade Fire’s latest L.P. was a qualitative departure and back-step perhaps (aside from the stunning title track, Reflektor). Marling- tender of years and cynical of tone- has managed to keep her pyschotropic treasure chest burning brightly. With so much choice and variance being proffered by new music, it is vital that the first movements- tracks and E.P.s- mean business: making their points with hob-nailed boots. For every dozen vague and yawn-inducing artist, there seems to be only one or two genuinely startling counterpart. As a result entropy and consequence will extinguish the most lipid; and offer up a hungry market for those whom display the most imagination. This is a cyclical process that sees many new internships and regencies- some survive; most don’t. In a blood-thirsty amphitheatre, the lions will feed upon the bones of those unconcerned with fighting hard; those that battle and re-invent will be victorious. I have every faith that 21st century music will see paradigm shift and new genres crystalised- I just hope that a lot of the music twenty years from now will be made by some current competitors. Over the last few months I have heralded some pretty unique artistry that leads me to think that the modern-day masters will have some worthy successors. It is difficult to know what public’s gastronomic desires will be in years to come (fickle as we are), yet if large imprints are created early on, then there is every chance that adoring ears will not waver far from their sides.
This brings me, rather ineloquently (as is my nature), to a prosperous young artist. Her moniker may be steeped in images of Carthage and smouldering pyre; yet her projection and sound is even more fascinating. Before I get into biography as well as any analysis (regarding her music), the name itself beckons interrogation. When I came across the two words ‘Salt’ ‘Ashes’, I was struck by the neatness and sympatico; the division and autonomy; the stark contrasts and vivid imagery. My brain- being a rat’s nest filled of attention deficit proportions- scurried in different courses. I initially pictured a bonfire being extinguished by salt; one that played host to a ceremonial burning of a historical figure. That seemed far-fetched, so I then summoned up scenes of a strange cartoon-ish figure having been melted; maybe still with a smile on their face. It is a name (Salt Ashes) that grabs your brain and focus- before any music has been heard. I have bitched- with eternal damnation- about a sin of omission: inventiveness. Soo many acts have a name or title that does nothing to compel your attentions. Ensuring that your song titles (and band or artist name) is original and thought-provoking is as important a virtue as any in the world of music- yet one that most negate. Salt Ashes obsesses your thoughts and imagination right from the off. When you have a name that is so expressive and inspiring, then in turn your L.P. (or E.P. and song) titles demand similar ingenuity. Once those components have been galvanised, then the ensuing cover art (yes 21st century kids, artwork and hardware still exists) is eye-catching (as well as polarising). Once the ‘peripheral’ itinerary has been ticked-off then that gives creative energy to the artist; whom then can inject that gravity into their music. As a result, the overall package is a stark and capable of fond affection. It is not only the music of my featured artist that grabbed me, but the attention to detail provided towards her outer skin. The artist in question is one Veiga Sanchez. Paul Lester of The Guardian opened his feature (of Sanchez) recently, pondering “What on earth would possess Veiga Sanchez to change her name to Salt Ashes, we have no idea. Maybe Veiga Sanchez is too Eurodisco, too pop, when really she’s using a heavier sound to seek a heavier reputation“. It is a protestation that I find baffling, as I have always felt that (when you’re a solo artist) it seems second-nature to use your real name. It is fine, yet why should only bands employ a fictional nominal device? Salt Ashes is so much more evocative and mysterious, and something that Sanchez knows well enough- tongues out to you cranky Mr. Lester! Sanchez is a 22-year-old solo act whom has drawn comparisons to the likes of Kylie Minogue and Kate Bush. It is perhaps an unlikely pair of names, yet Salt Ashes marries their individualised qualities into her own pallette- mixing in plenty of original colours and sensations. To look at her is to be startled. In terms of looks, there is some Hispanic and European influence. Smoky-eyed and gorgeous, Sanchez is an artist that can warrant breathless sighs of admiration, yet she has a natural aesthete that is ready-made for European, U.S. and Australian audiences alike. It is axiomatic that she is a beautiful and striking woman, yet is someone whom has a savvy intelligence. When you look at her official site (http://www.saltashes.com), there are links to her social media portals of course, yet in the foreground are video images of our heroine, writhing with a semi-naked male. Salt Ashes is an act whom will grab your attention with vivid imagery, taut and compelling titles and stylish design. There is no need post-teenage histrionics and media-seeking activities- that so many of her contemporaries have chosen to employ. Our young heroine is as natural an artist as we will see, both one whom will grab headlines with her music. On her Facebook page, the following is displayed: “Obsessed with Giorgio Moroder’s blend of disco and epic dark atmospheres, Salt Ashes first sprang to attention with her cover of Depeche Mode’s “Black Celebration.” Salt Ashes, aka 22-year-old Veiga Sanchez, has spent the past year honing her own songs in the studio, creating her signature electronic grooves, and drawing influence from artists as diverse as Madonna, Kate Bush, Daft Punk and MIA“. Gleaming details from this paragraph, it is clear that Sanchez has dedicated a great deal of time getting her sound just right; making sure that her resultant outpourings are as striking as possible. It is not only the intuition and intelligence of Sanchez that has led to brilliant music, but also her (diverse) list of influences. There are some whom see her as Kate-Bush-cum-Kylie-Minogue; yet this is myopic in the extreme. That mix of disposable Disco and by-gone Pop glory is not what Salt Ashes is all about. There are darker, brooding and more fascinating creatures to be discovered underneath the earth. Our heroine has employed her icons- from ’90s divas through to contemporary French masters- to maximum effect. Her new single Somebody has been garnering a lot of attention and praise, but I wanted to focus on its B-Side: Little Doves. It is true that Salt Ashes has gained some mixed press. The majority have latched onto her sound and intentions, and met it with excited reverence. Middle-class, middle-aged critics such as the previously-mentioned Paul Lester have been a little more damning (with regards to Somebody): “…with a linear groove that takes little account of any rhythmic developments of the last two decades – think 1986 Depeche (Mode), again“. Lester sort of misses the point, which I shall expand upon whilst masticating the sounds and thoughts of Little Doves.
Pulsing nebulas of electronics are the first impressions we are presented with. There are glimmers of Depeche Mode, yet also of modern Electronica. In a sense there is also some embers of Radiohead’s Kid A work. It is almost as if an electronic Morse Code is being tapped out, perhaps spelling out a secret message. The pace and slowness of the intro. is not recalcitrant or moody: it allows for a build of intrigue. Anyone expecting any Thom Yorke-esque musings to be presented to a microphone will be left disappointed. The vocal we witness is a lot sweeter and romantic. Our heroine tells that “pages turn grey/When you are paler“; her voice slightly distorted, but filled with clarity, concision and emotion. There is plenty of conviction within Salt Ashe’s gorgeous voice- it drips with honey and sex appeal. It is a combination of distortion and repeated vocals that builds the early fascination. Whilst our heroine tells tales of her sweetheart subject (“Patiently you follow the ghost“), her voice is layered and spars with one another; sounds and lines weave and intertwine. Past the 1:00 mark there is an sweetly-elicited coo that will bring to mind two previously mentioned subjects: Kate Bush and Kylie Minogue. There is more suggestion towards the former (hints of This Woman’s Work are brought to mind); yet the latter’s late-career work is also hinted at. There is an abiding theme of dark Disco; gorgeously vocals juxtaposed against a slightly downbeat implore. When Salt Ashes lets the emotions do the talking, there is some earnest confession: “I’ll be waiting for you“. The way in which our heroine’s voice is distorted and become more electronic creates a mixed blessing: it augments the words and makes their meaning felt, yet it is often harder to distinguish the words. Some comprehensibility and concision is lost in the machine, yet the overall effect and sound is more starling and alive. The combination of bubbling and percolation synths. and secretiveness, combined with Sanchez’s alluring voice, creates a gorgeous effect. As our heroine continues her thoughts (“I’ll be waiting/For you to change me“), the sonic interspersing is all twinkle and burst. There is influence from the likes of Daft Punk in the way that the track manages to blend different strands of electronic sound together; it is modernised and amended to fit around our heroine’s unique words and voice. Little Dove is the type of track that has epic potential, and could score a moody drama or scintillating thriller; yet has plenty of heart that could see it sound-tracking a romantic scene. As much as influences have been mentioned and comparisons made, the overall sound is unique. You would not listen to the track and think of anyone particular. As the song enters its final third, there are some semi-primal percussive beats elicited. The atmosphere gets a little heavier, yet it is kept from being too foreboding or dark due to our heroine’s vocal. In terms of lyrics, there is a sparsity; words are effectively deployed where needed; repeated to ensure they stick in your mind. The song itself is as catchy as it is emotive, and the way in which lines and sentiments are deployed and delivered are catchy and highly effective. The winter years of Little Doves is reserved for some slight temporizing. Vocals take a back seat, and sonic lines are allowed to work and play- wrapping the song up neatly.
Salt Ashes is, according to her Twitter bio., a “Songwriter. Singer. Lover. Bleeder“. It is a succinct distillation of her varying shades and sights. Sanchez clearly has worked her socks off in order to ensure her music is as focused and memorable as possible, and this is evident within Little Doves (and Somebody). She does integrate swathes of ’80s Depeche Mode; something that may not be familiar with, or appeal too wholly with many young listeners; yet it is a facet that is under-used in music. Whilst there may not be a co-joining of several decades of shared music, there is a concentrated essence of past glory; intrigue and fascination a-plenty- as well as the brave and unique voice of a worthy talent. Too many new artists project predictability and straightforward vibes: neither delineated nor peculiar. Salt Ashes’ blend of mystique, romance and darkness is plentiful enough to soothe the strictest perturbation and anxiety. The bailment of Salt Ashes’ music is something fresh and urgent. Her voice is one of the stars of the show; steeped and enamoured in beauty and lustre. The sonic storms that accompany her voice are rich with emotion and compelling. Sanchez reminds me of another artist I have reviewed: Nadine Shah. In the case of Shah, I was won over by her fascinating biography and attitude to music- and life in general. Her music related to more introspective scenes; darker moments and cigarette smoke-strewn avenues- the overall effect of this concoction has left indelible marks. Salt Ashes is a talent whom will leave the same sort of tattoos upon music’s conciousness. At the moment her Twitter and Facebook pages seem woefully under-subscribed, considering her talent and quality. I guess she is new to the music scene, so I hope her fan base and army will multiple and duplicate rapidly. She is on the precipice of a year that will see her make some important decisions. I am sure that an E.P. or L.P. is in her mind (or already in the works), which will see her sound and music stretched and fully represented. This year is going to see some interesting and potentially wold class albums being dropped. The likes of Jack White and Bob Dylan are amidst a whirlwind of media speculation, regarding the timing and nature of their forthcoming work. Bands new and established will be planning movements, and the job of new talent is to challenge for votes, but also learn from what is being made. Diversity and mobility are paramount elements every new artist should adhere to, and Salt Ashes is doing just that. The likes of Little Doves are the molecular basis of a restless talent, whom will be enjoying some critical acclaim very shortly. Many have already attuned themselves to her brand, and reviews and adulation she is receiving tell you all you need to know. The likes of Lester and the hardened souls may require a little more persuasion and assurance; and the next few months will surely see their cynicism re-appropriated and extinguished. Whores of potential supporters and fans are up for grabs, and the undecided voters are always looking for new inspiration. Salt Ashes has the ammunition and intention to grab the spotlight, and I am looking forward to what she produces next. I shall end the review, quoting- once again- with a quote from The Guardian‘s ‘New band of the day’ segment. With regards to Salt Ashes, Paul Lester stated the following: “Little Dove also alludes in its use of slo-mo electronics, even its language, with its reference to being “stripped”, to Depeche’s mid-’80s output. It’s nice – maybe too nice – and probably not noir enough or poppy enough to appease those at either end of the aesthetic spectrum. Nor does it find a happy (that is to say, darkly erotic yet commercially appealing) balance between the two“. This particular music feature has alerted me to some great talents- many of whom I have reviewed. I do not always agree with Lester’s findings, and in this case, strongly disagree. I am predominately fascinated by Rock; heavier sounds- as well as classic ’90s-present bands such as Blur, Radiohead and the like. I enjoy dipping my toes into foreign waters; yet I usually do not embrace all styles of music. I will be waiting to see what Salt Ashes produces over the course of future releases, but on the basis of the material I have heard, new genres and sounds have made their way into my brain- and have urged me to seek out similar music. Although my retched mood has not been fully abated, it has subsided a little- in no small part thanks to Sanchez. Music is perhaps the toughest market there is to ‘break’; to get a foothold in and ensure future success. Too many acts enter with a whimper and never break out of second gear. In order for profitability to be ensured, one must set their sights as high as possible. From Brighton, to your ears, comes a young woman whom will be making music years from now. Her formative echos hint at a musician whom has a fond appreciation for past days (and acts) yet has her heart and mind firmly set in 2014. Her labours and hard work will not be in vain, and there will be plenty of new listeners flocking to her door in the coming months. What her intentions are going forward, I am not too sure, yet it will be fascinating to see what is afoot. If the weather and personal circumstances make 2014 unpredictable and shaky, then at least music can redress the balance. As much as I cherish and adore my favourite acts, it is always better if there is some fresh sounds amongst the mix. We are only a couple of months into the calendar year, yet there are some electric noises being made. If everything else is uncertain, this is fact is carved in stone:
THIS year will be a very exciting one indeed.
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