Feature: The November Playlist (Part Two)

FEATURE:

 

 

The November Playlist (Part Two)

 __________________________________

THIS coming week I am going to be releasing a three-part feature…

That looks at some of the biggest names to watch.  I am going to be (in following parts) look at some great bands and solo acts; in total there will be around 75 different acts featured.  In a week that has seen some horror and violent atrocity around the world- in Beirut, Baghdad and Paris- and some unity and music distraction is much-needed.

Little Sparrow

 

 

Follow Little Sparrow:

Official:

http://www.littlesparrow.org/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/singinglittlesparrow

Echo Arcadia

 

  

Follow Echo Arcadia:

Official:

http://www.echoarcadia.co.uk/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/echoarcadia/

 

Melinda Ortner

Follow Melinda Ortner:

Official:

http://melindamusic.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/melindaortnermusic/?fref=ts

Sarah Collins

Follow Sarah Collins:

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/SazzleCollins?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/sallycollinsmusic/?fref=ts

Los and the Deadlines

 

Follow Los and the Deadlines:

Official:

http://www.losandthedeadlines.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/losandthedeadlines/?fref=ts

 

Sir Gant and the Invisible Force

 

 

Follow Sir Gant and the Invisible Force:

Official:

http://www.sirgantmusic.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/sirgantinvisibleforce/?fref=ts

 

Sophia Ben-Yousef

 

Follow Sophia Ben-Yousef:

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/sophiamusicuk

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/sophiamusicuk/?pnref=lhc

Lydia Baylis

Follow Lydia Baylis:

Official:

http://www.lydiabaylis.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/lydiabaylis/?fref=ts&ref=br_tf

 

Jonnythefirth

 

 

Follow Jonnythefirth:

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/jonnythefirth

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/jonnythefirth/?fref=ts

Spy from Moscow

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/spyfrommoscowmusic/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/SpyFromMoscow

Gemma-Louise Doyle

  

Follow Gemma-Louise Doyle:

Official:

http://www.gemma-doyle.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/gemmalouisedoyleprofessionalvocalist/?fref=ts

Terrorista

 

Follow Terrorista:

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/trrrorista/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/TerroristaMusic

Gypsyfingers:

 

 

Follow Gypsyfingers:

Official:

http://www.gypsyfingers.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/gypsyfingersmusic/?fref=ts

 

Gelato

 

Follow Gelato:

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/GelatoMusic/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/GELATOMusicYeah

False Advertising

 

Follow False Advertising:

Official:

http://www.falseadvertising.co/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/falseadv/?fref=ts

Emily Kay

 

Follow Emily Kay:

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/msemilykay

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/msemilykay/?fref=ts

RKZ

 

Follow RKZ:

Official:

http://rkzuk.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/RKZUK/?fref=ts

 

Issimo

  

Follow Issimo:

Official:

http://www.issimomusic.net/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/issimomusic/?fref=ts

 

Allusondrugs

 

 

Follow Allusondrugs:

Official:

http://www.allusondrugs.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Allusondrugs/?fref=ts

 

The Moth Lantern

 

Follow The Moth Lantern:

Official:

http://www.themothlantern.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/themothlantern/?fref=ts

 

Little Dove

 

Follow Little Dove:

Official:

http://www.littledoveband.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/LittleDoveBand/?fref=ts

 

Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers

 

 

Follow Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers:

Official:

http://www.archideep.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/archideep/?fref=ts

 

Josh Haynes

 

Follow Josh Haynes:

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/joshaynes

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/joshaynes?fref=ts

Ivy and Gold

Follow Ivy and Gold:

Official:

http://ivyandgoldmusic.co.uk/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/IvyandGoldBand/?fref=ts

Waiting for Wednesday

 

 

Official:

http://www.waitingforwednesday.co.uk/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/WaitingforWednesday/?fref=ts

Ellie Rose

Follow Ellie Rose:

Official:

http://ellierose.co.uk/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/theellierose/?fref=ts

Track Review: The Mouse Outfit (Feat. Truthos Mufasa & Black Josh)- Sit Back

TRACK REVIEW:

 

The Mouse Outfit

  

Sit Back (Feat. Truthos Mufasa & Black Josh)

 

9.7/10.0

 

Sit Back is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXLPWi1B5DI

RELEASED:
19th May, 2013

GENRES:
Hip-Hop; Funk; Reggae

ORIGIN:

Manchester, U.K.

____________________________________

HAVING had a good run of musicians coming to my attention it is…

great to see another come to the block.  Today I am reminded of a few different issues: among them is the variation and cross-pollination of sound; the bands and acts of the north in addition to Hip-Hop/Funk stylings.  To start with, I am amazed by some of the music coming through this year.  A lot of artists have taken the time to think about what goes into the music and its creation.  That said, there are too many acts and bands that are not being bold and varied.  I raise this issue, because a lot of bands and solo acts are simply producing simple and unimaginative tunes.  It is okay so long as those ‘simple’ songs are memorable and original.  The trouble is, not only are a lot of the songs unspectacular; what you find is they get stuck in a rut and never really push their imaginations.  When you limit and confine yourself you risk running out of inspiration and steam.  If you produce something narrow and limited then the fans will get bored and the music is a lot more forced.  Those with elasticity and freedom (to their sounds) are those with the greatest chance of success- and feel a lot more natural and relaxed.  I mentioned this as my featured act is among the best genre-splicing and creative I have heard.  I shall get to them but wanted to raise a sort-of ‘mini point’.  When it comes to experimenting with sounds and genres it can be a risky game.  What with the range of genres and sounds out there, you have to make sure what you are doing sounds true and meaningful.  If you just toss sounds and ideas together it comes off as unprofessional and insincere.  If it all hooks together- and you hit the nail on the head- the resultant music can amaze and inspire others.  Before I raise a couple of new points, let’s have a look at today’s act:

Members:

Chini – Production/Keys/Recording Defty – Bass/Videos Pitch – Production/MPC/Percussion Dr Syntax – Vocals Sparkz – Vocals Truthos Mufasa – vocals Joe Luckin/Adisa Allen – Drums Phil Ratcliffe – Guitar Sam Lewis – Sax Jack Tinker – Trumpet We also have occasional guest vocals from various MCs including Verb T, Black Josh, Dubbul O, Jman

The Mouse Outfit was founded in 2008 by Paul Hooley (Chini) + James Defty after they met at an audition in Manchester. They formed a band and began producing music with a number of local musicians + vocalists. Defty started a jam night, in order to meet local talent, called ‘In the Loop’ (where rappers would freestyle to live breaks from The Mouse Outfit band) Here, they began crafting a live show with hip hop and funk breaks combined with original grooves. The band started gigging locally and around the UK with various changes in line-up. Chini was a teacher at a music college in Manchester and noticed a talented student drummer Adisa Allen (Deese) who joined the band in 2010. After uploading a track to BBC Introducing they were asked to perform a session at BBC Maida Vale studios for the Mark Lamarr show on BBC Radio 6. Another of Chini’s students, Ian Garland (Pitch) joined in 2011 as a beatmaker. Pitch had been working with Dr Syntax and he soon started working with the band as well. ‘In The Loop’ regular Sparkz was asked to feature on a track and after recording several singles he also became a regular member of the live show. In 2012, Defty + Chini also began producing music videos after working with a local filmmaker Tom Doran. Defty took a greater interest in video and began filming + editing a stream of music videos. Chini continued producing music with local rappers + musicians and recording them in his studio over his own beats and beats from Pitch + the result was ‘Escape Music’ their debut album released in May 2013. The Mouse Outfit has remained independent and Defty and Chini continue to manage all aspects of the band including tours, merchandise, social media and promotion.

I was introduced to The Mouse Outfit by a music contact and peep- with a great standing and reputation- and baffled how they escaped my attentions for so long.  One of social media’s most ironic and jaded aspects is how great acts escape the radar.  Although The Mouse Outfit have a lot of fans and followers; it seems few people are sharing posts and spreading the word to others- thus ensuring newbies like me stumble on them by accident, sort of.  What the Manchester band offer is a myriad mixture of sounds.  From sweet-leaf bliss and peace to fuc***-up guerilla attack- across to mind-melting raps and riffs- you have a band that are getting rightful acclaim.  It brings me onto the subject of Manchester and the north.  I have mentioned how productive and fervent London is; it seems Manchester is not exactly slouching.  The northern city has always produced some of music’s very best- from The Stone Roses to The Smiths- but over recent years it is London that has been stealing some focus.  Whilst the capital is under the critical radar; Manchester gets a bit of a dim light when it comes to attention.  That is a shame, as The Mouse Outfit have a sound and talent that should not be overlooked.  Manchester is putting forth some of the U.K.’s best new bands and acts.  Due to the community music scene and the comradery the artists have; we are seeing a lot of relaxed and stunning music come through.  Less anxious and limited than most; the music of the north is among the most startling coming out.  Too many new bands and acts are getting hooked up with traditional genres and music configurations- guitar-bass-drums etc.- and not embracing something more interesting and unexpected.  The Mouse Outfit blend Hip-Hop hardness into Reggae mellowness; unite Rap’s street-wise and urgent messages with something electrifying and universal.  It is hard to really nail-down the sound (The Mouse Outfit) produce.  Safe to say you will find few other acts like them on the scene.  Having garnered a huge following across social media; the band are preparing new moves and a busy 2016.  One of the most inventive and exciting prospects in U.K. music; so many new faces and fans are flocking their way.

When it comes to looking at The Mouse Outfit in depth, it is pertinent to look at their back a catalogue- see what evolution has occurred and how they have developed.  Their E.P. Check Your Pulse was released in 2012 and was a blistering start to their music career.  Featuring Dr. Syntax; Get Ready starts with some heavy and military drums.  Mutating into horn blasts and screeched vocal- an ecstatic female voice- and you get an urgent and arresting start.  Something “busy brewing up” are some of the first words and you sense something quite dangerous and epic.  The fast-flowing rhythms are punctuated with horn blasts and rolling drums.  With M.C. Presto featuring on Who to Trust and you get another side to the E.P.  More laid-back and Hip-Hop based than other tracks; here is a song that features slick production values and a terrific central vocal.  Backed by tease and a sexy back-beat and you get a song that has a distinct kick and charm to it.

Shak Out was released shortly after (their debut E.P.) and featured Sparkz on vocals.  A low-down and elastic bass sound heralds a hard-hitting and determined Rap.  A street-savvy and attacking assault our hero has more energy than the Duracell bunny.  The raps are fast and high-energy.  Never stopping for breath or relenting, the song is a frantic and gun-fire attack that changes contour and sound as the song develops.  From the energetic beginnings, the song goes into Reggae territory with a more relaxed and seductive vibe.  Picking back up and continue its plight, the song has a great mobility and sense of the unexpected.

In 2013, the band united Sparkz and Dubbul O in one of the best songs to date.  A rolling and romantic piano line leads to a fresh and slick vocal that pays testament to vibing beats and exhilarating sounds.  Slicker Than Average is a song that sees “poisonous fumes” invade our heroes’ space and mindset.  Looking at some of the harsher aspects of life (and music) it is another song that alters dimensions and dynamic as it progresses.  Variating between free-flowing and hypnotic Rap; the track goes settles down into a more sedate and chilled groove.

This year The Mouse Outfit conspired with Bam (The Jungle Brothers) and produced What’d I Do?  A funky and feet-moving beat puts me in mind of classic Soul- James Brown and his peers- and unites with a commanding central vocal.  Profanity and home truths are laid down as the central vocal sees the hero swagger with braggadocio.  Doing “something right” that passion and energy bursts through the speakers.  Complete with attitude and intention, we see a rap that shouts its own name.  Boasting his credentials and musical flair; that confident lyric is juxtaposed with a smooth and memorable chorus declaration.  With Bam providing some restraint and contrast, it is a short track that stays in the mind.

Over the course of the years, The Mouse Outfit have changed their sounds to fit their ambitions and mood.  Ensuring the core sound remains true- keeping that cross-pollinating vibe strong- they address changing themes and new concerns.  By collaborating with so many artists you get new insights and voices coming to the parapet.  This allows the act to create restless and diverse music that is resonating with the listening public.  The musicianship and compositions are always daring and stunning to witness.  Whether fusing with Hip-Hop maestros and young rappers, The Mouse Outfit ensures their lead is giving a stunning backing.  The songwriting has grown in confidence and stature since their earlies days.  I find with each passing year the band widens their horizons and become more daring and brave.  It is the songwriting confidence and collaborative spirit that ensures that quality control is on the highest order.  I know The Mouse Outfit have released a double-vinyl release (that drew together a lot of their singles) but it would be great to hear a new L.P. next year.  They have plenty of ammunition and arsenal in their locker; seeing that spread across and album would give new listeners an insight into their mindset and future ambitions.

If you look at their SoundCloud account (https://soundcloud.com/themouseoutfit) it is stunning to see how many songs The Mouse Outfit have produced.  One of the most prolific and dependable acts in the U.K., there seems to be no end to their ideas and intentions.  Sit Back featured on Escape Music– the compilation they released in 2013- and is one of the finest tracks they have produced.  A perfect introduction for new listeners, the earliest notes really stand you to attention.  With Truthos Mufasa and Black Josh providing their support, you get some sedate and soul-soothing piano notes in the first instance.  Welcoming you in and teasing the senses; that captivating parable sound sees the beat notch up and the vocal come in.  Early words advise (whether the listener or a particular figure) “smoke dope” and go “watch cartoons”.  That idea of sitting back and chilling is prescient; that need to “slide into your heaven”.  You can picture the scenes and images as those words are elicited.  We will all have an idea of the type of person being ascribed.  Whether we are looking at Truth Mufasa or someone outside the circle, the commitment and urgency in the vocal cannot be overlooked.  You begin to smile as that arresting and captivating voice rides the beat wave and marries with that piano underpinning.  Uniting some Reggae-tinged vocal/vibe with a building beat and it is an opening salvo that will draw in every ear and mind.  Just as you think the song will continue along these lines, the Hip-Hop readiness and testament of Black Josh hoves into view.  Seamless linking together, the song changes its course and accelerates its heart.  We have “one for the mind/two for the money” (whether documenting dope or some other contraband) and there begins a riffling and rolling rap that catches you by surprise.  Making sure you can get your head around the words and idea- well, you may struggle.  Such is the fever and intention laid forth, you have to go with the flow and let the rap take you over.  Our hero has a spiked imagination and is an “extra-terrestrial” creating something daring and huge.  A resident of “M14”; there are dizzying scenes and declarations put to tape.  Filled with doubts and anger, there are so many ideas thrown into the melting point.  From profanity to religion; along to ambitions and the realities of the street, you are drunken by the hypnotic rhythms being put out.  Exhilarating and tornado-speed, it is a parable you go back to and unpick.  Our hero is filled with doubts and anger for sure.  He is separating himself from the crowd and trying to make his way, yet there are fears and stresses plaguing his thoughts.  As the walls start to close and that sense of suffocation reigns, it is the chorus that comes to the rescue.  That drop-smoking and relax-your-mind melting seems like sage advice given the circumstances.  Perhaps not the most medically-advisable solution to the issues at hand; it at least offers restraint and comfort for Black Josh.  The anxiety and passion with which he spits makes the song a sizzling and ballistic assault to the brain.  If the song continued along these lines- and simply extended the rap onwards- it would be tiring and rather overwhelming.  Breaking up the missives with something reflective and chilled and you get a song of contrasts and seamlessness.  It is never unnatural or strange- hearing those disparate sounds and elements come together- and you get a delicious fusion of Reggae and Hip-Hop.  Stating “you won’t know life ‘til you try to escape”, the blissed-out chorus gets a gradual kick-up through the gears.  Not returning to that rapid-fire scat of before; it is an ascent that sees a definite fear.  Looking at pissed and drunken visions- even tales of mermaid-kissing are in there- you feel like you are caught between a dope-fueled hallucination and a gritty insight into modern-day Britain.  There are a lot of street-level concerns and concrete ideologies; ravaged and wracked souls having to retreat from life.  Maybe assessing the population as a whole- people that are wasting their lives or self-destructing- or concentrating on a particular person; you get a real sense of reality and realisation.  It feels as though our man has seen too much and been through a lot.  As the song progresses, you get a drive-by view of fat-fried chicken and late-night drunkenness.  Each new verse offers fresh angst and anger.  Each presentation is salvaged by that reflective and caution-laden chorus.  As it is told- “it goes on and on…”- these realities continue unabated.  Ambulance sirens and pub debacles mix with stunned realisations and personal confessions.

Sit Back is a song that needs repeated listens to take everything in.  Such is the breadth and quality of the tune, you instinctively come back to reexamine and investigate.  That stand-out chorus becomes more relevant and impressive with each new view.  Those heady and head-spinning raps showcase some exceptional talents and lyrical genius.  Something that is not just reserved for lovers of Hip-Hop and Rap, you get a track that can be appreciated by all.  There is a definite funk that mingles with the edgy and straight-talking flows.  Each element works wonderfully together and nothing seems forced or out-of-place.  The production values are exceptional and do not give unsure focus to any aspect of the song.  The composition propels the vocal and gives it a wonderful backing.  Provoking such a sense of adventure and atmosphere; the beats are hot and the piano notes teasing and tender.  It is the songwriting and vocals that impressed me most.  Whether you absorb every word and sentiment- you would need to have listen a few times to pen them all down- it does not matter as it is that flow and energy that captivates the most.  The twin talents of Truthos Mufasa and Black Josh work wonderfully together.  It is almost like a father-son relationship with regards the chorus and verse.  Whilst the verses are heavy and angry; filled with anxieties and concerns, it is that chorus that brings it down to Earth.  Perhaps not the wisest fatherly advice you could hear- smoke some weed and chill- it at least advises relaxation and chance to breathe.  As a newly-bred convert to The Mouse Outfit, I have checked their songs out and that which best assesses their sound and appeal.  Sit Back is a song that is perfect for any season, reason and mood.  It compels the listener to pen their own tunes and write lyrics down (or maybe just me as a songwriter) but at the very least it gets inside the mind and compels something quite wonderful.  If you have not discovered a stand-out song from one of the U.K.’s most urgent and stunning acts, then make this the natural starting-point.

It is an exciting time for new music, in no small part due to acts like The Mouse Outfit.  I have been looking around for artists that are different and unique.  You get a lot of great act coming through, yet few differ from the pack.  I love Rock and Indie bands but find there are too many sound-alikes and a real lack of difference.  It has forced me to expand my horizons and looks at other genres.  Sit Back is a track that has been out for a while, yet shows the Manchester clan at their strongest and most arresting.  At the moment, the guys are performing across the country and conduction interviews/promotion etc.  Having just played Camden’s Jazz Café, they are on a real high.  The following year should see them producing new music and conquering new territory.  I am not sure how much of the world they have seen- when it comes to performing outside the U.K. – because they have a sound and passion that could translate well abroad.  I know finance is an issue that plagues every musician; The Mouse Project could well be future stars across the U.S. and farther afield.  It is vital we embrace and support the best new music out there.  When it comes to this Manchester outfit, the signs are all promising and exciting.  They have been performing for years and produced a string of dazzling and unforgettable moments- you feel their finest times are still ahead of them.  Before I finish up, I wanted to circle back to my original thesis: with regards Manchester, Hip-Hop/Reggae and new music at the moment.  Inventiveness and originality is something that is much-needed and lacking.  Aside from the originals and ambitious acts there are far too many that do not stick in the imagination.  Those that dip deeper and are braver get the biggest acclaim and remain in the mind.  The genres of Hip-Hop, Rap and Reggae are still genres that tend to be niche and under-appreciated.  Go into any music store and you have a proliferation of Rock and Pop- few aisle inches are dedicated to other styles of music.  Mainstream radio still strays away from going beyond safe and comforting borders.  With the likes of B.B.C. Radio 6 and others embracing the best of the underground, it is high-time other stations and outlets follow suit.  Music should be celebrated and promoted to the masses if it possesses quality and potential.  Too many stations are obsessed with what is mainstream and marketable: Music that rules the charts is not indicative of wider tastes and needs.  If you listen to The Mouse Outfit; they are an act that do not push people away and want to stay in a corner.  Embracing and pioneering, their music brings people into their dazzling and scintillating world.  The fast-flowing Raps fuse with jagged and pummeling beats.  The sun-drenched Reggae vibes unite with some Hip-Hop attitude to create music that defies expectations and easy labelling.  I know a lot of Ska and Reggae outfits that mix in elements of Hip-Hop and Rap yet none with the degree of success and wonderment of The Mouse Outfit.  Manchester is showcasing some wonderful musicians at the moment; it is an exciting time to be there and it will be wonderful to see what 2016 produces.  I cannot wait to see what the next year comes up with.  It is likely The Mouse Outfit will be creating a lot more buzz and excitement as we head into 2016.  I am not sure whether a new E.P. or album is imminent; I suspect they will be performing around the country and dropping a few tunes along the way.  It is only left for me to direct you their way and get involved in their multifarious and genre-splicing gems.  If you are a hardcore fan of the genres they play- Hip-Hop, Rap, Reggae etc.- then you will find authenticity and a lot of relatable sounds.  If you are not overly-familiar with the genres- or find the current crop rather off-putting and underwhelming- then you should not let The Mouse Outfit pass you by.  What the band provides is something wholly unique and brand-new.  They expertly cross-pollinate and tie-in genres to create something truly memorable.  For new music to inspire and motivate, we need to embrace artists that do things different and have their own voice.  Musicians with passion, energy and innovation are those that are going to survive and make it to the mainstream.  The Mouse Outfit are one of our finest acts and more people should latch their ears in their direction.  Too often one misses out on some truly wonderful music due to the worst traits of social media- sometimes great acts are not promoted and shared as often as they should.  Make sure you investigate The Mouse Outfit’s music and discover something fresh and alive.  Not just an underground act reserved for niche clubs and avenues they are a band that can…

TAKE the scene by storm.

_________________________________________________________

Follow The Mouse Outfit:

 

Official:

http://www.themouseoutfit.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/themouseoutfit/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/themouseoutfit

___________________________________________

Music:

_______________________________________________

Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/user/MouseOutfit

_____________________________________________

Gigs:

https://www.facebook.com/themouseoutfit/?sk=app_178091127385

Feature: The November Playlist (Part One)

FEATURE:

 

 

 

The November Playlist (Part One)

 __________________________

THIS coming week I am going to be releasing a three-part feature…

That looks at some of the biggest names to watch.  I am going to be (in following parts) look at some great bands and solo acts; in total there will be around 75 different acts featured.  Today I am kicking things off with some terrific musicians to watch out for in the coming year- and my favourite track of theirs.  In a week that has seen some horror and violent atrocity around the world- in Beirut, Baghdad and Paris- and some unity and music distraction is much-needed.

Ellene Masri

 

 

Follow Ellene Masri:

Official:

http://www.ellenemasri.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/masriellene/?fref=ts

Elena Ramona

 

  

Follow Elena Ramona:

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Elena-Ramona-323928237668916/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/elenaramona90

Yearbook

Follow Yearbook:

Official:

http://yearbookoldbones.co.uk/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/yearbookofficial/?fref=ts

NINA

Follow NINA:

Official:

http://www.ninasounduk.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/NinaSoundUK/?fref=ts

Jo Kelsey and Niels Bakx

 

Follow Jo Kelsey and Niels Bakx:

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/JoKelseyMusic/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/jokelseylalala

Vinyl Staircase

 

 

Follow Vinyl Staircase:

Official:

http://vinylstaircase.co.uk/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Vinyl.Staircase/ 

Chess Galea

 

Follow Chess Galea:

Official:

http://www.chessgalea.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/chessofficial/?fref=ts

Braver than Fiction

Follow Braver than Fiction:

Official:

http://www.braverthanfiction.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/braverthanfiction/?fref=ts 

Dana Mckeon

 

Follow Dana Mckeon:

Official:

http://www.danamckeon.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/DanaMcKeonMusic/?fref=ts

Jingo

Follow Jingo: 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/jingomusic/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/JingoMusic

Ina Reni

 

 Follow Ina Reni:

Official:

http://inareninow.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ina.reni/?fref=ts

Lucas

 Follow Lucas:

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/LucasMusicSceneUK/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/lucasmusicuk

Billie Marten

 

 Follow Billie Martin:

Official:

http://www.billiemarten.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/billiemarten/?fref=ts

Jasper in the Company of Others

  Follow Jasper in the Company of Others:

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/jasperinthecompanyofothers/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/JasperITCOO

Marisa Rodriguez

Follow Marisa Rodriguez:

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/marisarodriguezmusic/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/marisasingsalot

Gold Phoenix

 Follow Gold Phoenix:

Official:

http://www.goldphoenixband.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/goldphoenixband/?fref=ts

Lauren Housley

 Follow Lauren Housley:

Official:

http://laurenhousley.co.uk/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/laurenhousleymusic/?fref=ts

Meat Loving Vegans

  Follow Meat Loving Vegans:

Official:

http://www.meatlovingvegans.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/MeatLovingVegans/?fref=ts 

Elizabeth Ajao

 

 Follow Elizabeth Ajao

Official:

http://www.elizabethajao.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/elizabethajaomusic/?fref=ts 

The Updraft Imperative

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Track Review: Meat Loving Vegans- Bad Move, Stanley

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Meat Loving Vegans

 

 

 

Bad Move, Stanley

 

9.6/10.0

 

Bad Move, Stanley is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/meatlovingvegans/bad-move-stanley

GENRES:
Alternative-Rock

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

The album Lost in Fiction is available at:

http://www.meatlovingvegans.com/#!lost-in-fiction/citr

TRACK LISTING:

Bad Move, Stanley– 9.6

Plasticine Dreams9.5

The Ballad of Gosport9.5

YOU- 9.5

Darlin’- 9.5

Why?- 9.5

Daniella- 9.6

You Ain’t No Dog– 9.6

Together We Stand- 9.5

Goodbye Granda- 9.6

DOWNLOAD:

Bad Move, Stanley; Daniella; You Ain’t No Dog; Goodbye Granda

STANDOUT TRACK:

Bad Move, Stanley

Lost In Fiction is the debut album by London formed band Meat Loving Vegans. Recorded mostly in frontman Dex’s bedsit in Lewisham, South London, as well as Lounge Studios in Acton and mates houses in London, Woking and Gosport, Hampshire. FANX.

www.meatlovingvegans.com

Released September 19, 2015
© 2015 JSA Records.

Credits:

All songs written by Dexter Krenal except ‘You Ain’t No Dog’ written by Dexter Krenal and Ben Toon.

Dex – Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Drums, Synths, Percussion, Arrangements, Production, Mixing & Mastering.
Clayton Saunders: Backing vocals on track 3.
Maxine Stowe: Backing vocals on track 3.
James Quinn: Keyboards on tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 & 9.
Dario Corsetti: Tambourine on track 9.
Corinne Thomas: Backing Vocals on tracks 5, 9 & 10.
Charlotte Hodgson: Backing Vocals on track 10 & Viola on track 7.
Ryan Jones: Backing Vocals on track 9.
Vika Juganzon: Backing Vocals on track 9.
Mathieu Robert: Bass on tracks 4, 5, 7, 8 & 9.
Josh Haynes: Cello on track 9.
Xav Mingus: Backing Vocals on track 10.
Hann Clef: Trumpet on track 10.
Alice Bradley: Artwork.

Released by:

JSA Records

Release date:

   19 September 2015

____________________________________

FOR the past few days I have been concentrating on…

some rather eclectic sounds and something quite different.  Taking me all over the place, it has been great to hear what the music world is offering now.  Few can deny the range of music available at the moment, yet it is hard to get a real handle on it and discover all the great acts out there.  My featured act are one of the most distinct bands coming out of the U.K. at the moment and offer something quirky and eccentric into their Rock and Alternative motifs.  It would be hard to compare them with any other act which raises a few issues: concerning uniqueness of sound, London bands and making a sound that counts.  Music is at its very best when the artists involved go the extra distance and separate themselves from their peers.  I have bemoaned the lack of originality some artists produce; always depressing to hear, it puts you off investigating that act further.  With so much variation and possibility available, why would you want to sound like any other act out there?  I can see the temptation of embracing your icons and dedicating your music to them to an extent.  When you mimic another act then you are only going to gain a certain amount of respect and fan-base.  It is those artists that stand firm and think outside the box that are going to remain in the memory the longest.  It is hard to be truly original- a sad fact that is becoming more evident- yet it is paramount in a music world where there are dozens of acts emerging by the week.  My featured band have taken that on board and made great strides separating themselves from the pack.  That inimitable and odd sound has a strange beauty and a definite heritage to it.  Recalling Punk and Rock legends, you will struggle to bring a particular name to mind.  Before I continue on my point let me introduce my featured act:

Meat Loving Vegans are quirky alternative rockers from London formed in May 2015. Eccentric rough-around-the-edges vocalist, guitarist, songwriter and producer Dex fronts the band, and keyboard virtuoso James, madman genius composer Matt hammers the bass and insanely artistic drummer Sam complete the infectious line-up.

The band’s debut album Lost In Fiction was made over 4 months in 2015, and released 19th September 2015 on the band’s own label JSA Records. Lost In Fiction was mostly written, recorded and produced by Dex in his bedsit in South-East London, Lounge Studios in West London, a garage studio in Woking and other generous folk’s houses in London and Gosport, Hampshire.

Inspired by the front man’s colour blindness, the image is bright, colourful, clashing and striking, with a power house sound that matches the look. When you go to a Meat Loving Vegans gig or listen to a recording, prepare for in your face, engaging, and genuine tales of English council estate life and debauchery, to heart breaking send offs, sandpapered love songs, and everything in between.

Although the songs are based on rough subjects, ultimately they stand for pulling together with those that matter to make the most out of what you’ve got. Even if it’s not a lot”.

London is holding a lot of great bands at the moment and it is always great to hear an act so unique.  When you consider how many musicians are coming through at the moment (in London) it is challenging filtering them down to the very best.  Being a fan of Los and the Deadlines and a few other London stunners, I am always keen to add to the portfolio.  When encountering Meat Loving Vegans they strike me as an act that is not concerned with following others or fitting into any moulds at all.  There is so much lyrical and thematic variation in their sound they are restless and never sit still.  The subject matter ranges from social issues to love without stopping for breath.  When you listen to the vocals and instrumentation it is clear these boys mean business.  There is an urgency and passion I have not heard in a while; a real drive and sense of attack.  When it comes to producing harder and heavier sounds a lot of contemporaries do not consider emotion and atmosphere.  Too concerned with filling quotas and trying to fit into expectations, so many bands negate the importance of sonic depth and invention.  Meat Loving Vegans’ sounds are meaty and raw; they are vibrant and rugged.  Whilst no two songs sound the same, there is so much variation and colour to be discovered.  Their Lost in Fiction album is testament to the band’s range and talent.  A record packed full of tantilising offerings and fast-paced gems they are emerging as one of the country’s most promising bands.  When it comes to 2016 and seeing which acts are worth following, you can be sure eyes will be trained to Meat Loving Vegans.  Although their social media numbers are on the rise, they are one of these bands that will get true recognition in time.  The artists that show originality and something unusual are those that are going to stand the test of time.  Too many modern bands and acts lack diversity and a unique voice; the likes of Meat Loving Vegans are given the scene a much-needed injection of quality.

I chose to focus on Bad Move, Stanley as it’s the album’s lead-off track and the first experience of Lost in Fiction.  The song begins with bubbling and computer game-like electronic pips that go into meaningful and pioneering guitars.  That combination is quite a dizzying and nice touch that gets you invested straight away.  Just as you guess where the song is headed you get a rampant and Blues-inspired guitar pattern that takes it in a new direction.  Graveled and masculine, the notes strike through the speakers and give the song some emotional punch and urgency.  When our lead arrives at the microphone, his voice is filled with sarcasm-cum-direction as he is laying-into the central figure.  Stanley is letting people dictate his life and is “bank account friendly”.  Perhaps too soft and naïve for the world, it seems people are stomping him and getting into his business.  The “vampires” of life are creeping into his life and making him a different person.  A song that implores (the hero) to toughen and change his ways, you cannot help but sympathise for the lead.  With odd phrasing like “sonic letter” it is a song that mixes real-life with something more oblique and strange.  In the initial stages the vocal pace and sound remains static in its charge and delineation.  Backed by a propulsive and gravitational guitar pulls, the percussion and bass guide the song and create something harsh and dangerous.  As you go inside the band’s world- and what they are imagining- you get another shift in dynamics.  Moving away from the straight-ahead Punk attack of before; you get something more open and breezy.  As the chorus comes into life, important questions and concerns are asked.  Our man asks when serenity will come to him.  Tired of living off a “can of beans” it seems life is kicking him in the shorts.  Having just ascribed Stanley and his inability to make his way in life and you start to dig inside the lyrics.  Perhaps putting themselves in the mould of Stanley- the first-persona native of the chorus seems to be about Stanley rather than our frontman- the band asks when Stanley will man-up and take charge.  It is a track that does not judge or put the boot in; it implores the hero to rebel against the forces and struggle and find bravery and guts.  With a little bit of Blur in the vocals- and the merry swing of the chorus- and you get some British sensibilities and a semblance of the ‘90s.  Catchy and compelling, you are powerless to resist the lure and charm the song has.  After the diversion into open Pop and rousing vocals, the song goes back to its constricted and rushing sound.  Turning a 180-degree skid we are back into Punk territory as our lead is assessing the song’s subject.  Stanley needs to speak up and “grow some balls” it seems.  Perhaps lacking quite as much empathy as one would hope, the song looks to make changes for the better.  The anti-hero is being trodden on and dictated so the words are designed to bring about change.  Tired of Stanley being eclipsed and silenced, our lead’s voice is replete with meaning and passion.  His words are there to be heard and understood as the band whip a storm behind him.  That circling and rousing compositional sound adds meaning, focus and menace to proceedings- the song gets harder and heavier by the second.  As the emotions start to rise and swell, you have to wonder whether the song’s central figure will change his ways.  The architect of his own downfall, Stanley is being led down a bad road it seems.  As the lyrics end and the music takes charge you start to root for the hero.  It is quite sad to see someone being dictated and controlled; especially so here as the suffocation and potency grows as the song develops.  Whether it is a group of people (controlling Stanley) or society in general you get a real sense of dread and concern.  In the final moments, the opening lines are reintroduced and a final chance to hear the band stick it to Stanley.

Rich with musical invention and depth you have a song that shows how good Meat Loving Vegans are.  That Punk-styled vocal is direct and compelling throughout.  The entire band is in-step and tight from the beginning to end and Bad, Move Stanley is the highlight from Lost in Fiction.  The lyrics are filled with wit and venom; motivation and kick to inspire change in the hero.  A subject and scene we can all relate to, there is a sense of poignancy and patheticness to the subject.  A man (Stanley) being trodden-on and dictated, you cannot help but feel sorry for him.  The band ensure Stanley gets the message and tries to change his ways as the sonic assault rarely lets up.  Never predictable and one-dimensional, the composition switches from focused Punk to something richer and more colourful (in the chorus).  Reminding me of the likes of Blur, Sex Pistols and The Clash and you have something quintessentially British with a universal skin.  Tremendous and raw production allows the song to electioneer with full force and it is a track that will prompt you to come back and reinvestigate.  The lead-off and stand-out from Lost in Fiction, you cannot ignore the quality of Bad Move, Stanley.  With so many British bands suffering lack of inspiration and direction, it is wonderful to hear an act vibrant and original.  Plenty of nuance and depth can be heard and it will appeal to a wide range of music fans.  A song to blow away autumn cobwebs, make sure you check this gem out.

Being a new listener to Meat Loving Vegans I am pleased to hear a band that dares to be a little different.  They are not a divisive and ‘quirky’ band in a bad way at all.  What the guys do is stand apart with regards their sound but have a ubiquitousness and familiarity too.  Uniting the classic sounds of Punk and Rock, the compositions will strike an ear with those that really love their music.  With subject matter address key social issues and universal love, the band has a wide and striking palette.  I opened by stating how originality is waning and how few bands are going that extra mile.  Perhaps concerned with getting to mainstream level- and copycatting their idols to achieve this- the marketing strategy of artists is a little baffling.  The best way to gain long-term success is not to replicate the sound of (already established) acts but go the other way and do something new.  It is hard to be completely unique- given the sheer mass of other acts and how surprise is harder to achieve- but it doesn’t take a lot to stand aside from the crowd.  What Meat Loving Vegans do is synthesise bygone bliss with something very modern and relevant.  Their raw and passionate aesthetic boasts some determined and urgent vocals; compositions that pack nuance and emotion, yet never make proceedings too downbeat or unexciting.  Every track and moment resonates with strength and force; that crucial ingredient that gets the listener involved and motivated.  The capital is showcasing some of the country’s best and brightest bands, so it is no surprise to hear another (great one) come through.  Lost in Fiction is a collection of songs designed for the youth of today.  Tapping-into a rich vein of conscientiousness and awareness, the boys should be very proud of their achievement.  It is not often you get a band that balks ‘tradition’ and distinguishes themselves so.  I have heard enough acts that put me in mind of others and simply do what everyone else does.  Those that take the time to think of something personal and original are always the best to follow.  It is just left for me to assess the band’s future and give a small assessment of the album.  It is no lie to say the band will be ones to watch as we go into 2016.  Although they do not have a huge army of social media acolytes yet; this will change given time.  They are quite a new act and are still spreading the gospel across the Internet.

   Plasticine Dreams is a catchy and upbeat stomper that has some elements of The Clash and Blur in its sound and vocal flair.  One of the album’s more strained and melodic efforts, it is a distinctly British sound.  Looking at a man that leaves a fight with a “cut-up eyebrow” and a girl rebelling against her parents, we get mini-scenes from modern life.  The lyrics have an oddity and peculiarity but strangely they resonate with familiarity and reality.  From questions about life in space to dancefloor mellays, the song scans across the horizons and introduces us to some wonderfully engaging scenes and figures.  That central sound puts me in mind of Modern Life is Rubbish-era Blur and The Clash’s debut album.  One of the album’s highlights, it is a song that is hard to ignore.

   The Ballad of Gosport has some Dylan-esque harmonica amidst a serene and romantic sound that gets you hooked and seduced.  With our lead offering that distinct and accentuated vocal, you have a song that looks at the misery and boredom of Gosport.  Being from a town and area that I hate (shall not mention it) I can relate to the song’s core and themes.  Few bands really tackle home-town/local boredom with such humour and verve.   Combining underpinnings of Punk with Pop and Indie sensibilities it shows a different side to the band.  The guys always showcase humour and wit in their song; this number seems to be one of the most urgent and personal.  You can hear that fatigue and dissatisfaction of the “dodgy market stalls”.  The people on the dole are crowding the doorways and the people seem dead-eyed and lifeless.  Whether the Gosporters (if that is the collective noun for them) agree or not, it has made me curious (as to what the area is like).  A song that sticks in the mind long after it has finished, Meat Loving Vegans leave you with a smile for sure!

You starts with some bubbling bass before mutating with blissed-out and buzzed guitar.  The vocal is distorted and buzzing as we look at a central figure- the ‘you’ of the song.  A martyr for their cause and a real self-flagellating figure, the person is in danger of alienating themselves.  I get the impression the band are addressing a mutual contact as you cannot deny the conviction and menace in the voice.  The song never relents its determined down-dressing and warning.  Should they not heed this advice (the subject) is going to burn bridges and end up alone.  We all know someone that flails against common sense and logic.  The song has a great bounce and addictiveness to it that means you will go back and witness the song with new vigour.  Catchy and vigorous, it is one of the album’s shorter numbers; it never seems to escape the mind.  That stunning and meaningful lead vocal is impassioned and strong; the composition ducks and dives with purpose.  A beautifully British Punk excursion, you are hooked by the intergalactic strings and bursts of life.

Darlin’ is a calm and romantic thing to begin with.  A passionate and heartfelt song; it showcases the earnest and purity of our lead’s voice.  Laying his thoughts on the line, it is an upbeat and wonderful song that sees the band at their breezy and urgent best.  That punching and pressing beat drives the song and gives it a real heart and soul.  The song soon develops into something a little frayed and wracked as the couple begins to squabble.  Harking to better days- and when they were at their happiest- the love has turned a little sour.  Protesting for peace and common ground, our man wants to rekindle that spark and unity.

Why? begins with some yearning and languid strings that creates a woozy and romantic setting.  Showing some Alternative/Indie shades, it is a teasing and tender thing that soon builds upwards.  Imbued with Funk and Soul leanings, it flourishes and expands as the seconds tick.  A punctuation point for the album, it is a great instrumental that showcases how diverse and stunning the band.  Bringing in some cosmic and quirky electronics- together with a busy and restless beat- and the song keeps expanding and campaigning.  So much colour and life is brought in without a word being song.  You can imagine your own scenes and fill in the gaps.  Vivid projections and ideas come in and you can paint your own picture.  One of the album’s most impressive outings, it sees the band step away from the microphone and demonstrate what intelligent and tight musicians they are.

Daniella gets off to a woozy and scratchy start.  Hazy riffs then mutate into something melodic and upbeat.  The percussion and merry vibes spar with that head-hurting wooze that leads to our frontman’s vocal.  The song looks at a hero trying to write a love song (for Daniella you’d imagine).  Our frontman has ruined it and sabotaged the effort it seems.  The soon-to-couple are being put under the microscope.  Whether a former love of our hero, he is laying down some home truths.  With her new fella, their idea of romance is getting “high in Camden town”.  The two are embarking on an unwise romance that will obviously end quite badly.  The song’s heroine is not someone that would score most love songs; she seems to be one of life’s less attractive and appealing humans.  Our hero pisses over their bonfire and offer that wit and humour you expect from the band.  Whether the new couple ended up happily- you’d imagine not really- you are gripped by the story.  One of the album’s most full and brilliant compositions, the musicianship and sound is incredible.

You Ain’t No Dog kicks off with a primal and heavy slam.  The guitars are tormented and menacing from the outset.  One of the album’s heaviest and most concrete songs, the guitars chug and fight their way through.  Our lead’s voice is at its most spiked and political.  Asking us- and the people in general- if they are a “valued human being” there is a definite campaign at work here.  Are we valued and looked-after by our government?  Recalling the sound of Sex Pistols and their Punk snarl you get some gloriously additive strings and riffs.  Catchy and head-spinning it is a song that never relents it grasp.  Not a dog that should be kicked or overlooked, it is a track that rebels against suffocation and inequality.  Fight against societal ills and stresses; rally against the horrors of government and imbalance.  One of the best things about the song- aside from the chugging guitars and determined vocals- is that central message.  Showing another side to their songwriting; we have gone from love and ill-advised relationships to something modern-Britain and political.

Together We Stand gets off the ground with romance and tenderness.  That harmonica and serene string work leads to an aching and passionate central vocal.  The song looks at those that feel stuck and being empty.  If there is no one to catch you while you fall; we are all standing in this together.  One of the album’s purest and most tender offerings, you cannot help but be swept along.  You can hear that love and urgency in the vocal as our man puts his heart on his sleeve.  Whether addressing a particular friend, he is sending out positive vibes and inspirational messages.  Without cynicism and irony it is a track that compels you to sign along in unite.  Showing how much soul the band has, it is a nice contrast from their most angered and edgier numbers.

The album finishes with Goodbye Granda.  One of the longest and more widespread tracks on the album, it begins with an atmospheric and cinematic introduction.  Washing waves and the call of the sea; we evolve into some romantic strings and something quite soothing.  Mixing elements of Funk and Indie into the agenda, it is another pure song that lays its emotions on the line.  Perhaps another dear friend and comrade; our hero puts his voice into the fray with a heartfelt and direct plea.  Mixing wordless vocals with some of the band’s most emotive lyrics (“Can’t we have more time?”) and you  get a sad and reflective end to the album.  Like Blur’s This Is a Low, it is a sweeping and memorable number that addresses something quite haunting.  In the midst of remembrance and longing, you get plenty of energy and fantastic music.  Granda is being given a fitting send-off as the song mixes spoken vocals and some enflamed and passionate highs.  The band brings in some aching and choir-like backing vocals to bring the album to a terrific and wonderful close.

With a name like Meat Loving Vegans it is no shock the band is contradictory and diverse.  The album does not just rest on pure Punk and force.  From the scintillating opening to the passionate and emotional closing coda; you get a wealth of music diversions and colour.  Pop and Funk go into Soul and Indie.  It is a restless album that never suffers inconsistency and weakness.  Every track stays in the mind and compels you to come back for more.  One of the finest albums I have heard this year, the London boys deserve a much larger fan-base.  Given recent news in Paris- with regards the terrorist attacks and atrocities- we need to embrace something hopeful and positive.  Lost in Fiction has taken my mind somewhere safer and given me a chance to appreciate one of our finest bands out there.  Few can deny how dedicated and direct the band are throughout the album; the songwriting is so strong and focused at every turn.  It is not just the compositions that stick in the mind but everything about the music.  The lyrics mix wit and purity with something oblique and strange.  The vocal work is direct and impressive throughout and the band has such a connection and tightness to them.  If you have not heard Meat Loving Vegans I cannot recommend them highly enough.  An act (and album) you need to hear; make the day better and brighter and discover…

ONE of the U.K.’s finest young acts.

_________________________________________________________

Follow Meat Loving Vegans:

 

Official:

http://www.meatlovingvegans.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/MeatLovingVegans?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/meatlovinvegans

Instagram:

https://instagram.com/meatlovingvegans/

Bandcamp:

https://meatlovingvegans.bandcamp.com/

 ___________________________________________

Music:

https://soundcloud.com/meatlovingvegans

________________________________________

Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/c/meatlovingvegansofficial

_____________________________________________

Gigs:

http://www.meatlovingvegans.com/#!tour/c1677

 

This Week’s Albums: November 13th, 2015

This Week’s Albums

 

November 13th, 2015

 

 

 

 

IT is a case of “Something old, something new/something ‘borrowed’, something…

 

that doesn’t rhyme”.  I do a D.J. gig every week at The Stoke Pub and Pizzeria (https://www.facebook.com/TheStokeGuildford?fref=ts); I have the opportunity to play four different albums: one that is ‘old’ (to my mind, anything pre-1985), something ‘new’ (released brand-new that week); something influential (and has inspired a genre/other acts) – in addition to dealer’s choice (any album I choose).  Having done this for over a year-and played everything from Graceland to Pearl Jam; FKA twigs to Beastie Boys- it is enormous fun.  I get to talk to people about music; play some awesome stuff- turn people on to some great/forgotten sounds- well, I try to!  I shall publish this every week; try and highlight some fantastic albums- maybe some you have forgotten about.

The Old:  Midnight Oil- Diesel and Dust (1987)

 

8.5/10

 

I am violating my rules with regards ‘old albums somewhat- as this is not a pre-1985 release- but Midnight Oil’s sixth album saw the Australians create their finest work.  An album that was a concept based around the struggles of Aborigines, tracks like Beds are Burning are stunningly powerful and evocative.  Regarded as one of the best Australian-made albums ever- and one of the 1980s’ finest creations- Diesel and Dust is a calling-to-arms and a campaign for change.  Amidst the powerful politically-led numbers such as Beds are Burning mingle with passionate cuts  Dreamworld and The Dead Heart.  Front-man Peter Garrett is at his most essential on an album that differed from previous Midnight Oil work.  Whereas previous albums were harder-edged and esoteric; Diesel and Dust is more universal and varied in its ambitions.  An album that matched left-wing messages with a populist sound and nuance; few bands and albums have achieved as much.  The band insisted royalties from the album went to the indigenous Aborigines.  If you have not investigated this truly remarkable album that ensure you check it out.  Far from sounding dated or insignificant, it is a creation that grows more impressive and startling with age.

DOWNLOAD: Beds are Burning; Dreamworld; The Dead Heart

STAND-OUT TRACK: Beds are Burning

 

 

The New: Boots- AQUARIA (Released Today)

 

8.0/10

Boots’ Jordy Asher is a former New York nightclub D.J. who has been performing for two-and-a-half years now.  AQUARIA is a success because of its collaborative spirit as opposed to Asher’s unique talents.  Whilst a terrific writer and talent, his vocal is a little limited; this is evident at various stages but never a major drawback.  The Angel Deradoorian-backed title track boasts the immortal line “Don’t cross the river with an alligator underneath your knees” and is one of the album’s highlights.  Elsewhere, the subject matter shows a different shade of black on Only– complete with funereal beats and eulogistic piano lines.  The music never sounds suppressive and dictatorial in its darkness: It is a suffocating world for sure, yet one that shows beautiful chinks of light and plenty of heartfelt passion.  Having produced and moulded Beyoncé’s fifth album- and created a narrative and fairytale-like gem- Asher is no stranger to atmosphere and quality control.  With barely a weak track on AQUARIA you get ghostly vocals (Brooklyn Gamma) and introspective beauty (Only); romantic bleakness (Bombs Away) and C.U.R.E.’s insistence that there’s “cash in the rat trap”.  Whilst lacking a certain depth and variation of ideas it is an album that shows a step forward for Jordy Asher.  Definitely recommended.

 

DOWNLOAD: Brooklyn Gamma; AQUARIA; Only

STAND-OUT TRACK: Only

 

The Influencer:  Dizzee Rascal- Boy in da Corner (2003)

10/10

 

Exploding onto the scene in 2003, this Mercury prize-winning album is a remarkable feat indeed (considering Dizzee was 17 when the album was released).  Tireless, staggeringly inventive and packed full of ideas, quirks and power; it is an album that has not been topped in its sense of scope and ambitions.  The maturity on the album is stunning to behold.  Worrying about growing up and peers’ lack of maturity; Dizzee Rascal tackles the issues with a real dignity and strength.  Like a weaving boxer, the phrasing juts and ducks; the beats are always intoxicating and perfectly articulate the danger and flair of the streets.  Highlighting the irrationality of youth and the mechanics of modern-day society, Boy in da Corner’s moist dizzying moments- Brand New Day and Jus’ a Rascal especially- you get that mix of emotional outpour and hard-hitting truths.  The dense production and scattershot beats recall the likes of Bomb Squad whilst Dizzee’s East London delivery could derive from nobody else.  If you do not choke back a tear during Do It!’s mortality-and-me seduce- “If I had the guts to end it all, believe — I would”- then you may be technically dead.  Not since The Bends has an album that deals with so much emotion ended with such a redemptive and hopeful line- Do It! closes with “You can do anything”.  One of the decade’s most influential Rap albums, it shook up the (relatively tame) scene and forced contemporaries to up their game and behold a rare genius.

 

DOWNLOAD: Brand New Day; Jus’ a Rascal; Do It!

STAND-OUT TRACK: Do It!

The ‘Other One’: Suede- Dog Man Star (1994)

 

10/10

 

Few critics would have expected Suede to top their 1993 self-titled album.  Dog Man Star not only surpassed that album; it ranks as one of music’s all-time best.  Released in the midst of ‘Britpop’ the album eschews its virtues and introduced a wide array of influences and subjects.  With its grand, orchestral sweeps and theatrical gestures, the album shook-up the face of 1990s guitar music.  Messy at times; the inimitable guitar notes of Bernard Butler- he and Brett Anderson were at loggerheads during the recording- see The Power and Still Life packed with classic-Suede musicianship.  From This Hollywood Life’s grit-and-grab to The Wild Ones’ gorgeous balladry and you have an album that fully deserved its accolades.  Typically swooning, tragic and romantic, Suede created their chef-d’œuvre.  For an album plagued with strife- Anderson’s drug battles and Butler walking out before completion- it is remarkable the album is so lucid and consistent.  Dazed and dreamy, it matches Rumours in a sense (an album saw band squabbles result in a work of pure wonder).  Not just a relic of ‘90s bliss, it is an album that is influencing and enforcing modern-day guitar Rock ‘n’ Roll.  In the words of the immortal The Wild Ones: “We’ll be the wild ones, running with the dogs today”.

 

DOWNLOAD: We Are the Pigs; The Wild Ones; This Hollywood Life

STAND-OUT TRACK: The Wild Ones

 

Track Review: Pixel Fix- I Want You the Same

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Pixel Fix

 

 I Want You the Same

 

9.4/10.0

 

I Want You the Same is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCZMIIpHmGI&feature=youtu.be

RELEASED:
4th November, 2015

GENRES:
Alternative; Indie

ORIGIN:

Oxford, U.K.

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THE topics of musical depth, bands and innovation are on my mind at the moment…

as I witness a great new band.  Before I get to Oxford’s Pixel Fix, I have been looking at the detail and consideration artists put into music.  Looking around some of the mainstream new releases and there isn’t really as much depth and invention as one would hope.  Every time I check the press and online music sites- when they review a new release- there always seems to be something missing.  Maybe the songs are relatable and impressive enough but the consistency isn’t there.  Perhaps the compositions are interesting and varied but the vocals are lacking that kick and originality.   Very seldom do you find an album or artist put forward that has ticked every box and is firing on all cylinders.  I guess it is hard to please everyone- with tastes being subjective and all- but too few are putting the time into their music to ensure it is as good as possible.  With music being high-pressured and challenging there is that tendency to get your music and name out there as soon as you can- through fear you’ll be overlooked and overtaken if you take too long.  I raise this because my featured act seems to be the definition of ‘cool’ and ‘considered’.  You cannot accuse their music of lacking thought and detail.  There are so many artists around that produce music that goes in one ear and quickly exits the other.  The modern music consumer demands something with memory and staying power.  Too many temporary and flimsy songs are being put forward and it is getting a little tiresome.  This brings me to the band market who seem to be most culpable when it comes to my point.  There is a lot of demand from Alternative and Indie bands that can produce something anthemic and filled with great riffs.  A lot of music fans are casting their eye for the tried-and-tested ‘typical band sound’ which is causing a bit of an issue at the moment.  It has been many years since I’ve come across a new band (in the mainstream) who have really excited me and stuck in the mind.  Perhaps Royal Blood are an exception yet too many bands are getting stuck in a rut and playing the same old tired sound.  There is only so much inventiveness and surprise that can be issued from the stadium-seeking ambitions.  It is the bands willing to be more original and daring that impress me the most.  As with a lot of the best music, it is the underground and under-the-radar acts that are doing the best work.  Pixel Fix are traditional and standard in a lot of ways.  Their line-up looks like this:

Marcus (vocals, guitar), Clem (lead guitar), Rob (drums), Jarred (bass)

A southern band with four members and a standard guitar-vocal-bass-drum formation may not seem like unusual, yet this band do things differently.  Their ‘Soulwave’ sounds have more in common with R&B artists such as The Weeknd than they do Foo Fighters.  The Canadian singer- and his beautifully crafted music has compelled a lot of British acts to try the same sort of sound.  Although the Oxford boys have the look of a normal and everyday band, they go that step further to craft and hone their music; make something packed with little touches and layered.  That is not to say the music is a laptop-processed drone that lacks soul and bite.  Far from it, as their sounds have pricked the ears of critics and fans alike.  Other bands who have attempted the same sort of Weeknd-inspired music have succumbed to the worst instincts of expectation and laziness by betraying their ideals.  They have essentially packed their laptops and decadent motifs away for something lazy and guitar-driven.  I know it is hard to maintain a very unique sound and make every release sound original and progressive.  That is not to say you should just give in and get the amps out.  The scene has too many bands that can fill stadiums and rock-out but we need more artists such as Pixel Fix.  I hope the Oxford band do not capitulate and try to fit into Indie moulds as their blissed-out and becalmed creations are among the most inventive and original on the current scene.  The boys have been playing for a while now and have produced a number of E.P.s and songs.  Not much is known of the band- they keep their social media pages bereft of personal insight and biography- but the music certainly gives plenty of detail and information.  As 2015 starts to cool its engines and come to a close, we are all looking to the coming year and which bands to follow.  Having become slightly bored and uninspired by mainstream bands, I am basing expectations around the best the underground can provide.  Whilst Pixel Fix’s compositions and songbooks may sound transatlantic and foreign, their vocals are firmly based in the U.K.  It is that cross-pollination and blend that has seen so many people flock to their shores.  The boys are playing London in December- and have just done a session for Sofar Sounds- in support of their new track I Want You the Same.  Following from their triumphant and successful E.P.s the boys are ensuring they are going to be one of 2016’s biggest names to watch.

To get a complete picture of the band, it is worth looking back and seeing how far they have really come.  Rosa was released in 2013 and begins with atmospheric and intriguing electronics.  A bubbling and murky beauty mixes with something strange and haunted.  Growing in intensity, the processed beats clap and vibrate.  Whilst the vocals may be hard to decipher at times- there is an issue with intelligibility- the composition is vibrant and fascinating throughout.  Trading R&B seductiveness with something edgy and hard-hitting, the song changes skin and course to create something wonderfully rich and exciting.  Building and exploding towards the latter stages, it manages to mix Indie/Alternative anthemics with more detailed and intelligent electronic sounds.

The E.P. Fall was unveiled last year and its title track kicks off proceedings.  Another muddy and swooning introduction, it sees wordless and distorted vocals snatches jabber and echo with peculiarity.  Our hero is falling too far and crashing.  The chorus has a Pop/Indie sensibility that fits perfectly alongside the colourful and exhilarating compositional beats and details.  With a little touch of The 1975 in the vocal sound, it is a track that will appeal to the underground and mainstream alike.  Boasting perhaps the mist addictive and memorable chorus of their careers, the song gets better and more fascinating with every listen.

     Awake is one of Fall’s sexiest and most dizzying numbers.  Another full and detailed introduction puts you in a daze.  Our lead looks at disappointment and lies in the narrative.  The vocals are more decipherable and clear and the production allows the lyrics to come through more clearly.  One of the band’s most vibrant and vivacious compositions, there are so many details and threads in the song, it is another track that benefits from repeated listens.  That inimitable and British vocal gives the song a homegrown feel; the electronics and composition puts your mind towards the U.S. and Canada.

    Running Thin was an E.P. released last year and signaled a drive towards harder beats and more Indie-driven sensibilities.  Lungs is a song that boasts big and bold beats and chorus sounds.  The song unites the bands previous work with something more mainstream.  That is not to say the music is watered-down and temporized yet the boys are embracing more band-driven sounds here.  Less reliant on electronic soundscapes and laptop processing, we have a more organic and open song.  Allowing plenty of room to breathe and maneuver; it is a track that is filled with energy and momentum.  Never relenting its sense of drive and passion, it showed the boys develop and vary their sound a little.  That issue of decipherability is back and something the band need to work on.  On the E.P. the production means the composition is too high up the mix.  The vocal is getting buried and making it hard to pick out the lyrics and understand them clearly.  Not a modern-day concern for them, it means Running Thin suffered a few technical and production issues.

     Overflow is less Pop/indie-driven than Running Thin and saw them fully embrace their ‘classic’ and traditional blend of electronics and hypnotic beats.  The aching and rushing introduction leads to a vocal that is packed with intention and heart.  The mantra of “I’m trying” keeps coming back in and it seems our man is laying his thoughts on the line.  The song is built on few on few original lines; instead it lays repeats lines and thoughts to reinforce the song’s urgency and anxieties.  The composition is another detailed and multifarious creation that creates a wonderfully atmospheric and exciting.

It is clear the band have developed and evolved from their first moments.  The sounds have varied and become more innovating as time elapses.  Essentially the boys have not had much need to alter their core sound too much as it was pretty fully-formed from the offset.  A band concerned with texture and sonic innovation, the songs have grown in confidence and nuance as they progress.  Developing and growing as songwriters, the current offerings rank among their most inspired.  Few bands offer such detailed and colourful compositions that tie hard emotions, serene beauty and strange diversions into the same song.  Perhaps the biggest- and in fact only- issue for the boys is making sure the vocals are clearer and we can grasp the lyrics being sung.  There is a tendency to make the composition stand out above vocal and that is sacrificing clarity to a degree.  Whilst the odd lyric can be understood, a lot of the lines and thoughts are being buried and suffocated.  Maybe a production or performance issue but something that could be tweaked and considered on future releases.  It is a minor detraction as the boys have so many positives in their favour.  Growing and improving with every song and E.P. they are one of a few bands that are not only consistent but they become bolder and daring with each new release.

Having familiarised with the band’s past music, it was exciting coming across I Want You the Same.  Having garnered a lot of praise and paen so far, it is clearly a song that has resonated with people.  Knowing the quartet’s innovation and sense of ambition would be unwavering, I went into the song with high expectations and hopes.  The opening moments put me in mind of their Fall-era work.  The opening seconds of the introducing see fizzing and hissing electronics come into play.  Bubbling and delicate plinking sounds mix with that static fizz to offer something quite evocative and instant.  Having Google-d the lyrics to the song I at least would be able to tap into their meanings without having to strain too much and miss the odd word here and there.  That hard and varied composition mixes animalistic moments and tender beauty.  Spiraling and racing, the composition is so evocative and fascinating, you have to repeat it to get a full idea of its scale and meaning.  So much detail and intelligence means you are hooked from the offset.  I am pleased to say the lyrics and vocal sound is a lot clearer and intelligible.  The production means the vocal is not buried into the mix and is allowed to come up-front and pervade.  A smart and needed move, you get a much better and clear listening experience from the get-go.  Ridding a pulsing and heavy beat, our lead presents lyrics that are cryptic and oblique.  Words such as “No torturing my brain/Over ends of these things/You said before” have a certain quirkiness and unexpectedness to them.  It is clear there is a relationship being assessed and maybe a strain and crack has formed.  Maybe an old argument and conflict has resurfaced and causing the duo to squabble and argue.  Whilst your mind is trying to pick apart the lyrics and drill to their core and meaning, you are intoxicated and drawn by that fizzes and rushing composition.  Few bands take the time to ensure every aspect of the song is as good as possible.  Too many acts are concerned with instantaneousness and power and negate the importance of intelligence and textural depth.  Pixel Fix have always been masters of the fully-rounded song and there is no difference here.  Their most fascinating and instant song to date, it forces the listener to think about the subject matter and dive into their magic and majestic composition.  As the lyrics develop, you get the following insight:  “Now I can’t speak, I, I can’t be/You see, you see yourself in me”.  That internal struggle and torture is evident and you start to consider possibility there is relationship struggle.  Maybe our hero and his girl are still involved yet their contrasting intentions and hopes are causing conflict.  The heroine has her doubts and reservations perhaps wanting different things from the bond.  Our hero is struggling with his emotions and wants to step away and find some solace perhaps.  I am heading straight into relationship territory because the lyrics seem to be very heartfelt and emotional.  There is little room for ambiguity and misguided thoughts as the lines really strike a chord.  Ensuring the phrasing and original choice of words spikes the imagination it is a song that provokes you to think and imagine.  A lot of acts go for cliché sentiments and wording; that is not the case with Pixel Fix who have a novel and personal approach to common and everyday concerns.  Ensuring the composition has some lightness and breeze, the boys do not put too many dark notes and heavy beats into the sound.  There is an open heart and romantic appeal to the electronics, whilst packing plenty of power and force, do not become too forceful and foreboding.  When our man sings “And you change our soul/I vision the weather/I want you and I need you the same as me” there is a mixture of humour, quirkiness and intelligence to the sentiments.  There is that need for equilibrium and compromise in the relationship.  It is clear the two sweethearts have different agendas and are moulding the bond for their own means. Perhaps the heroine is trying to change things for the worse or has some false and high expectations.  Maybe our hero is expecting too much and not willing to compromise in this relationship.  Whatever the quagmire, it seems like a compromise is needed and perhaps unobtainable.  Drawing in the likes of The Weeknd and The 1975 into a vibrant and heady blend of electronics and beats, it is unsurprising the likes of Radio One have picked it up.  It does not stray too far into mainstream Pop territory but at the same time it is more universal and all-inclusive than some of their earliest work.  Whilst their initial songs and moments were perhaps a little darker and narrow, they expand their sound on I Want You the Same without losing their appeal and true identity.  A shrewd and welcomed move from the band who have crafted their best song to date.  The song title is a central mantra that is reintroduced with a passion and urgency.  That sense of separation and disconnectedness is evident and you wonder whether the lovers will ever reconcile and survive.  If we consider the next verse- “Or does it have me drown/When it’s all these things that you are told/And don’t make you turn lighter around/It’s always please, please, please/Don’t come around for me”- and it another verse filled with obliqueness and some strange wording.  Quite a fascinating and unique bent, it gives the listener a chance to decide their own interpretation and course of events.  Perhaps our front-man knows the real truth, and it is going to be near-impossible for the listener to get a true sense of meaning and understanding.  We know there is an imbalance and a dissatisfaction in the relationship that is causing friction.  It seems the heroine is concerned with herself and not really looking at the complete picture and the needs of our lead.  Ensuring the foreground does not become too intense and heavy, the composition it at its most sparse and light at this stage.  The band is always concerned with dynamics and emotional resonance and make sure the composition matches the lyrics/vocal.  In that way, the vocal drives the composition and there is a real unity and supportiveness from each band member.  Towards the final stages the boys repeat the chorus and central themes, adding to that feeling of dislocation and drift.  You wonder whether the relationship will ever get onto an even keel and resolve itself but are dubious to say the least.  A lot of bonds and relations are defined by some internal struggle and occasional indifference; it seems this particular pairing needs something quite big to save it from extinction.  When that chorus comes back to roost, the composition steps back up and expands once more.  Those teasing and punchy beats weave inside raindrop electronics and fizzing rushes.  Distorted vocals and spectral moans fuse with R&B sensuality to elicit something quite special.  As the song comes to its close, the urgency and dedication in the vocal performance is to be commended.  Perhaps the band’s most meaningful and impressive number, it shows just how inventive and accomplished they are.

I am glad I Want You the Same does not suffer the production/clarity issues of earlier works which means you get a much fuller appreciation of the music.  Marcus’ vocal is filled with emotion and intention from start to finish and his phrasing and projection is a lot clearer and more decipherable than the earlier band works.  Blending with Clem’s guitar the duo creates a brilliant guitar sound that brings in flavours of Indie, Alternative and R&B.  The entire band is at their best hear and with Rob’s percussion work sturdy and emphatic; Jarred’s bass guiding and creating melody and rhythm, you have a band that are tight and filled with quality.  By blending electronic sounds and sound snatches with something melodic, mainstream and ‘traditional’ you get a song that will appeal to a wide range of people.  The band understands the importance of commercial appeal but do not sacrifice their sound and originality by pandering to that.  Instead they provide music that has heart and honesty to it but is edgy and Americanised too.  They appeal to lovers of R&B and the credible music-lover who appreciates composition with balls, depth and intelligence.  By making sure warmth and elliptical moments punctuate when needed you have a song that cannot fail.  The lyrics have obliqueness but there is a universal sentiment to the themes and subjects explored.  With its terrific production values and nuance you have the best track Pixel Fix have released to date.  It means the future is very bright for them and it would be great to see where they head next.

If you are new to Pixel Fix you should definitely take time to check them out fully.  Their music is intelligent and well thought through.  They have Pop hooks and some sweet melodies; some detailed compositions and atmospheric moments.  Not your run-of-the-mill Indie band, the Oxford band has innovation and ambitions few of their peers possess.  I mentioned earlier how bands who are Pixel Fix-esque have retreated to the safe and predictable sounds of Indie and Alternative.  So far they have not abandoned the laptops and Weeknd-inspired sounds to do something anodyne and commercially-driven.  By staying true to their ethics and intentions they are not only compelling other acts to follow in their wake; they are impressing listeners with their originality and forward-thinking approach.  Before I bring things to a close it is worth looking at Pixel Fix and where they are headed.  With I Want You the Same gaining momentum- and being featured on Radio One- the boys are plotting an exciting future.  I would not be surprised to see an E.P. drop next year or an album perhaps.  There is so much demand and expectation in the modern scene so it is impressive to see Pixel Fix seemingly relaxed and cool about things.  They are producing great sounds and promoting them far and wide; free from the anxieties and stresses a lot of bands face.  If they remain true and loyal to their intelligent sound they will be gaining a lot more followers and support.  I started this review by looking at bands, depth and originality in the music scene.  Perhaps terms that do not go together naturally, there are some underground groups that are doing things differently.  I know there is a demand for Indie and Alternative music that is guitar-led and basic, but too many acts are performing this type of music.  A lot of listeners seek something more intelligent, detailed and varied.  As a balance and remedy to what most bands produce, artists like Pixel Fix are a breath of fresh air.  I hope they do not abandon their great work dynamic and on the evidence of I Want You the Same, they are in the midst of a hot creative streak.  The band market is that big earner that is always going to see new players come through every week.  Those wanting to remain in the mind and forge some long-term appeal should take a tip from the Oxford band.  If you are too concerned with guitar-drum-bass-vocals music and are simply concerned with ‘anthems’ and riffs, then you are going to struggle.  It is possible to be an Indie/Alternative band are not only create something familiar and powerful but inject some warmth and originality into the mix.  If you look back at the greatest albums that have ever been created; they are synonymous with depth and ambitions.  They do not lazily play the same chord and repeat the same song over and over.  I feel too many young acts are getting hung up on filling stadiums and trying to be as powerful and direct as they can.  As a result, their music is coming across as uninspired, anodyne and predictable.  That will only cause their name and potential to wane and erode as time goes on.  Pixel Fix are architects with a grand design and a very sterling vision.  Their cannon of music demonstrates a lot of nuance and thought that has certainly hit a chord with listeners.  Last year Paul Lester of the Guardian tipped the band as one of his ‘Bands of the Week’.  He was impressed by their attention to detail and thoughtfulness; how they differ from their peers and seem intent on being original.  Since then they have not been idle or succumbed to the instincts of their peers.  Who knows just how far the boys can go and what the future holds for them.  At the moment they are performing and interview across the country and getting their name out there hard.  Having dropped their latest single a few days ago it is still collecting plaudits and fond sighs of excitement.  Radio play and prestigious airtime is resulting in augmented social media numbers and a lot of buzz.  It is clear music needs more Pixel Fix-like bands who do not play the same sound as everyone else.  Too many bands are so disposable and boring they are making it hard for others to discover something fresh and worthy.  If you fancy music that is going to stick in the mind and ensure you are hooked and intrigued then you need to get on board with Pixel Fix.  I know they are going to keep busy for the rest of the year and it will be fascinating to see what they produce next.  Not just one of the best new bands emerging from the scene; they are one of the most innovative and intelligent bands full-stop.  Make sure you check the quartet out and I Want You the Same and…

HEAR a band unlike any other.

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Follow Pixel Fix:

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pixelfixmusic/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/pixelfixmusic

 ____________________________________________

Music:

https://soundcloud.com/pixelfixmusic

_______________________________________

Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCyf4ClkfGXeS2Cny5zR53Q

 

Track Review: Operation Lightfoot feat. Sophia Ben-Yousef- Chains

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Operation Lightfoot feat. Sophia Ben-Yousef

  

Chains

 

9.6/10.0

 

 

Chains is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/sophiamusicuk/chains

RELEASED:
September, 2015

GENRES:
Soul; Alternative

ORIGIN:

Liverpool, U.K.

____________________________________

WHEN it comes to today’s assessment I am going to be looking…

at collaborations and the solo market.  The music industry has a bad case of compartmentalisation and keeping to one’s self.  When it comes solo artists there are few that actually take the opportunity to collaborate with others.  One of the greatest joys and effects music can offer is when two (perhaps disparate) artists come together and form something new and unexpected.  If you look through history, it is littered with stunning collaboration and offerings.  Whether it is a simple duet or a full-on assault, it can yield some phenomenal results.  Acts such as Gorrilaz and Massive Attack bring in vocalists to their unique blends and produce stunning efforts.  Sometimes taking a very original and particular voice and adding it to your sonic blends- whether it is electronic and Hip-Hop or Trip-Hop- it can really get inside your head.   I do love the solo market but feel there needs to be more connection and reaching out.  With social media the unstoppable juggernaut it is, few people actually take time to really connect with others.  I am not sure if there is a music website out there that hooks musicians up, but there should be.  Somewhere where an artist can search for composers and collaborators and work together online- or at the very least converse and discuss ideas.  It seems like a no-brainer really as there are so many great acts out there who could benefit from a collaborative fusion.  It is not just beneficial to solo acts as duos and bands would see some great results.  It essentially opens and broadens someone’s sound and means they get to step away from their comfort zone.  If anything you get to meet another artist and perhaps begin a great and prosperous working relationship.  I mention this because my featured track joins together Operation Lightfoot and Sophia Ben-Yousef.  The former is a Luke Moore’s brainchild.  He is a composer who writes for T.V. and film and works with a wide range of musicians and artists.  Like The Cinematic Orchestra, Moore creates a range of beautiful and atmospheric compositions; bringing different singers into the fold to create songs filled with wonder and passion.  Sophia Ben-Yousef is an artist I am familiar with.  The gorgeous Liverpool songwriter is one of the country’s most impressive young songwriters and has a superb reputation already.  One of the most impressive and agile songwriters I have met, she boasts a truly captivating voice that makes everything she touches sound completely essential and seductive.  I am not sure how Moore and Ben-Yousef came to work together but I am glad they did.  Reviewers are noting the natural chemistry between them and I hope their debut collaboration leads to many more joint efforts.  The duo may seem quite different on paper, yet when joined in song, they seem completely intuitive and perfect.  Moore’s cinematic and skillful arrangement/production is a perfect mate for Ben-Yousef’s soulful and adaptable vocals.  Before I continue on my point, let me introduce the two artists:

Collaboration is perhaps the best way to learn, develop and produce something that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is central to Operation Lightfoot, which features some of the most outstanding musical talent from across the UK, each co-writing and recording a track and working on a video that will feature on a finished album of music and short films. 

Sophia Ben-Yousef is fast becoming a crown jewel on the Merseyside gigging circuit and her latest offering ‘I’m Yours’ showcases the songstress at her finest.

Sophia Ben-Yousef has firmly established herself as one of the North West’s breakthrough artists and has already been hotly tipped by critics and industry figures alike. Performing with many established artists, such as KOF, JP Cooper, Matthew Perryman Jones, Bill Ryder Jones and MOBO award winners Esco Williams and Jahaziel. This summer she performed on the ‘its liverpool’ stage at Liverpool International Music Festival and is just back from her London performance at Kensington Roof Gardens and Proud Camden. Sophia has regular airplay and live sessions on BBC Introducing Merseyside and BBC Radio Lancashire, and a variety of radio stations in Europe and the US.

Sophia’s song ‘ I’m Yours’ listed in the Top 30 Tracks in Merseyside 2014.

The solo market is seeing a lot of promising artists come through and it is a pretty saturated sector.  When choosing great new acts and those to pay attention to, you have to look to those who are willing to push their sound and expand.  Ben-Yousef is a young artist who has already established herself as one of our most special talents.  She is showing how willing she is to collaborate with other acts and add new dimensions to her rich and stunning voice.  I am impressed with solo artists that do not sit still and are very mobile.  Ben-Yousef is hungry with regards music and determined to work with a range of people and ensure she keeps busy and focused.  Operation Lightfoot is a fantastic outfit that has produced some incredible evocative and wonderful music.  Being a fan of the likes of The Cinematic Orchestra and artists that draw in multiple voices and musicians, I hope Chains motivates more similar collaborations and projects.  With the solo market getting full and highly competitive those who stand out are going to obtain the biggest rewards and respect.  Garnering a heady steam and some very effusive reviews, Chains is a song that boasts Ben-Yousef’s incredible vocals and songwriting talent with Moore’s songwriting and compositional skills.  For those unfamiliar with either artist, I would advise you to start here and work outwards.  I know there is a lot of demand for the two to work together once more; let’s hope this happens as Chains suggests two artists who have a natural bond and understand one another wholly.

When looking at Chains I guess we have to see how it fits in with Moore and Ben-Yousef’s previous work.  Operation Lightfoot is a project that is drawing in a wide array of artists into a to-be-released album.  Whether featuring on film or T.V., Operation Lightfoot looks to create a wide array of different musical experiences.  In that sense there is consistency to be found in Chains.  The song boasts a typically confident and impressive composition from Moore.  Differing from some of his other joint ventures, Chains stands as one of the most impressive hook-ups.  The production values are exceptional and the composition is varied and highly atmospheric.  This allows Ben-Yousef to let her voice soar and do its work.

In that regard Chains has common ground with previous work from the young Liverpool star.  A couple of months ago she released the track Heartbeat.  Soulful and pulsating, the track looks at our heroine losing her mind and control.  A certain song plays and the light goes down as a hero is making her heart beat strong.  In the grips of an urgent and insistent passion, there are racing piano notes and a great static beat.  It is an unpredictable composition that moves and twists to create a great weight of drama and nuance.  Filled with energy and lust, it is a song that boasts an addictive chorus and wonderful central turn.

  All I Need was released last year and was one of Ben-Yousef’s most emotive and tender tracks.  Beginning with a delicate and serene piano coda; it is a breathy and romantic song.  A soulful and beautiful track, it sees our heroine repeat the song’s title as a dizzying mantra to love.  In the midst of an intoxicating love, it is another track that sees our heroine buckle under the weight of desire.  So much beauty is instilled in the vocals it means the lyrics and sentiments stand out and are hugely meaningful.

    Chains represents a step forward for both acts.  In terms of Moore’s work he seems to have found a natural channel for his terrific work.  The most natural and stunning collaboration he has created, you cannot deny how wonderfully suited the two are.  For Ben-Yousef, she sounds as confident and meaningful as ever.  Heartbeat was a definite step forward and showed the young star filled with passion and panache.  Backed by a wonderful production and some terrific lyrics, her voice was at its peak and power.  On Chains she sounds completely in awe and entranced in the music and has produced one of her finest vocal performances.  Growing in confidence and quality with each release it not only shows a great evolution but means any future E.P.s or albums will be terrific.  I am not sure whether an E.P. is in the pipeline but I am impressed by Ben-Yousef’s progression and growth this last year.  Coming into her own as a singer and writer, you can really hear how much music means to her and how much she wants to inspire and touch people.  Chains is a terrific one-off that should not be left there: Let’s hope Moore and Ben-Yousef work together again and create something else.  The two are bedfellows who make one another’s music that much better.

Our heroine arrives to the microphone with one of her most sensual and smoky vocals.  Whereas previous outings have seen Ben-Yousef upbeat and filled with youthful energy and vitality; here we get something both mature and hugely evocative.  A strangely sexual and alluring husk to her voice, Chains is given a majestic and chocolate-rich beginning.  You start to tease images as our heroine looks at beginning souls and the need for emancipation.  “The way they hold themselves” and “bound by your chains” are early lyrics that could refer to a direct slavery and entrapment or an emotional prison that (the song’s subjects) find themselves in.  With Ben-Yousef entranced in the song, we hear the “old and young” are equal in their enslavement and capture.  Unable to shake that sense of foreboding and drama, you notice the supportive and evocative acoustic guitar play in the background.  Allowing our heroine’s voice to stand firm and buckle the listener, it is a perfect supportive sound that adds weight and tension to the track.  Sparse and haunting, you get caught in that smoky and inviting voice.  Imagining our heroine with her eyes closed in a dimly-lit room; I imagine her lost in dreams and the imagery of the song.  Some softly-spoken “twisted words” are sentiments that get the imagination working and conspiring.  As soon as you think the song will become softer and more whispered, it suddenly sparks into life.  There is an acoustic guitar slam that leads to impassioned strings as Ben-Yousef lets her voice rise and swell.  After the taunt and cruelty of the previous lines, there is a redemptiveness and hope.  Our heroine implores her subject to break the chains and escape their confines.  Whether she is looking at someone caught in an unpleasant situation and suffering heartache, there is that determination to set them free.  Advising to “break these chains/leave your game” it is both cryptic and fascinating.  You wonder what the chains refer to and what the game ascribed is.  Radiating with such a fire and ignition, that Flamenco-style acoustic guitar is a propulsive and energised heartbeat that gives the song such vitality and punch.  Our heroine’s voice is deliciously soulful and beautiful.  Such a rich and mature voice that says so much with very few words.  Few young singers have such a gorgeous and powerful voice that can make every word sound get inside your head.  As the song races and rushes, you keep imagining what is being referred to.  Maybe a harsh relationship is being told and the metaphorical chains that can result.  Perhaps the female party is unhappy and unwilling to run; in need of divorce and separation, you can hear that tension in the song.  Perhaps our heroine is speaking of herself and the need to get away from something making her unhappy and scared.  Our heroine claims that open cells wait as fate has blended with hurt and pain.  Imploring her subject to “hold strong your heart” it becomes clearer as to what is behind Chains’ mystery.  There is a definite personal struggle occurring and a situation that is creating heartache and tears.  As the song’s story progresses, so too does the composition.  After the initial acoustic guitars- that unite Flamenco and Arabic sounds together- yearning and orchestral strings come in.  Creating grandeur and building atmosphere, Operation Lightfoot ensures the backing perfectly support’s Ben-Yousef’s intoxicating and near-whispered voice.  Whilst the strings swoon and rhapsodise in the background, our heroine continues her inspirational plight.  Like a warrior princess leading her troops into battle there is a wisdom and maturity to the words.  There is that choice between light and dark; deciding what path you follow and how your situation unfolds.  Lyrics that seem personal yet can be a general inspirational message to those trapped and heartbroken; Chains grows and expands as the seconds progress.  By the time the chorus comes back around, you find yourself singing along and caught in the passionate performance.  As our heroine unleashes a wordless vocal of beauty and head-swimming confusion (there is deliriousness to the sound) the composure mixes in Electronic music elements to the Classical-cum-Soul sound.  Mutating and always working, the colour, contours and detail in the composition is hugely impressive.  The emotion and drama never relents and Operation Lightfoot and Sophia Ben-Yousef ensure their writing and composition never relents or is anything less than exceptional.  Aching and heavenly, Ben-Yousef’s vocals and entwined and multi-tracked to create something hypnotising and evocative.  Augmenting that sense of drama and tension, that vocal beauty is multiplied here.  After a sojourn of vocal layers our heroine’s voice becomes more echoed and ghosted.  At its most pin-point and haunting, that instant switch catches you by surprise.  Hooked into the stillness and reimagined chorus, our heroine is at her most direct and stunning.  Hugely sensual and gorgeous, the vocal contains fortitude and urgent meaning.  The casual listener may notice the vocal itself but those who listen will note the subtle compositional touches that proceed this moment.  Such consideration and attention to detail is paid to ensure Chains is always compelling and unpredictable.  Towards the final moments, that acoustic guitar comes back in as the chorus showcases multi-tracked vocals and huge drama.  Not resting on its laurels that compositional mobility and agility continues in the final seconds.  Following the dizzying strings and beats we get a piano coda that is imbued with delicate passion and a sensitive heart.  A fittingly stunning end to the track and you have a triumphant moment in music.

It is worth congratulating each party who very much sound perfect together.  A natural musical relationship, on paper you would not imagine Luke Moore and Sophia Ben-Yousef to come together.  Although residents of Liverpool they have different background and careers, so their commingling is impressive indeed.  I am not sure why I am skeptical as the musical results speak for themselves.  Operation Lightfoot is that unstoppable force that brings the best out of singers and musicians.  Showcasing one of the most interchangeable and stunning compositions I have heard this year, Chains is always moving and dramatic.  Reviewers have noted that ‘atmosphere’ that comes through and it is the most apt word.  Befitting of a song that deals with emotional struggles and torment, the composition would need to be sincere and prescriptive.  Neither autonomous not too reliant on the vocal strength we get a sound that could stand on its own feet.  I know Moore composes for film and T.V. and you can hear that here.  The notes and drama of the score could easily back a dramatic film moment or a tense T.V. drama.  Showcasing himself as one of our brightest and most multi-talented composers and writers, that compositions helps make Chains such a wondrous and brilliant track.  Knowing how strong a writer and singer Ben-Yousef is, I was not expecting such a gem from her.  Not in a short-sighted way but she seems at home and in her element here.  Songs like Heartbeat seem very personal to her and that passion and lustful vocal is matched by energised and effusive compositional sounds.  Here she sounds like a different woman and completely reinvented.  Such a maturity and sexual vibe comes through in the vocal it is hard not to be seduced by the breathy and smoky tones.  The lyrics leave you wondering and have obliqueness to them.  They could be personal and particular or could be words of support to a friend.  We can all relate to that sense of confinement and struggle and Chains is a song for those in need of freedom and escape.  When combined in song, the individual talents of Ben-Yousef and Moore sound even more startling and purposeful than they do isolated.  I know Ben-Yousef will pursue her solo career whilst Moore will be finding nee paragons with which to buddy-up with.  I hope our duo come together again next year and create another beauty like this.  Such songwriting quality and strength should not be left to the archives and stand as a do-you-remember-when-you-heard-Chains recollection.  I hope the two mega-talented stars have a chat and make a date for 2016…

When music becomes stale and predictable- which it often can these days- it is always refreshing to come across a fantastic moment that makes you rethink and reevaluate the craft.  I have followed the solo scene for a while and often have to pick-and-choose who I follow and who will keep producing fantastic songs.  A lot of solo acts seem to flounder down the line and produce one or two great moments- before disintegrating or giving diminished returns.  You cannot include Operation Lightfoot and Sophia Ben-Yousef in that statement.  Operation Lightfoot is a militaristic charge that is recruiting some of our bravest and most stunning artists.  Whether an album is forthcoming it will be great to see how Chains features.  That said, we could see the song score a T.V. or film scene as it has such a filmic feel to it.  Both serene and gentle but coded with a clear drama and weight, it is a song that could very easily go where it damn well pleases.  Sophia Ben-Yousef is a hugely confident woman with a stunning voice.  One of our best new artists, I have always had high hopes for her.  Knowing her music pretty well- and the fact she is studying at the moment- it will be interesting to see what 2016 holds in store.  I could well see her collaborating with other artists (maybe Operation Lightfoot?) again and coming up with some more gems.  Her voice is so adaptable and wide-ranging she could lend her tones to a Hip-Hop beat or anthemic Dance workout.  Maybe a dizzying Pop foray or introspective Soul hook-up?  Who know, eh?  What I do know is the Liverpool native has many years ahead of her in music and will be bringing new material to our ears in time.  Few solo artists have that triple-threat we weaponry of compositions, lyrics and voice that means each element is considered carefully.  Ben-Yousef is a skilled musician who understands the importance of composition and making sure it packs as much emotion and resonance as possible.  A terrific singer and wonderful talent, she shows a mature pen and has a very open heart.  Making her words universal and simple there is an underlying complexity and intelligence to her words that make her songs nuanced and hugely compelling.  Operation Lightfoot’s Luke Moore is one of this country’s most unique talents and someone keen to bring as many musicians and voices together.  Make sure you keep your eyes trained his way as there will be more exciting collaborations anon.  I love what he is doing and his particular vision- getting an artist to sing and co-write a song- and it is something more musicians should be doing.  Chains is the ironic sound of two artists unimpeded and free.  It is a song that is soft and welcoming yet beats with a very exciting and urgent heart.  You find yourself revisiting the song and trying to get to grips with various details and elements.  The lyrics implore fond investigation and the composition is one of the most impressive I have heard for a while.  Riding in the foreground is that typically assured and beautiful vocal from Ben-Yousef which, tied to all the other ingredients, results in something truly wonderful.  I hope there is a music website that exists where musicians can join together and create songs.  If there is not I shall get on it, as I worry too few Operation Lightfoot-Sophia Ben-Yousef songs and partnerships are happening.  What has been proven here is just what can come from pushing your boundaries and reaching out to fellow musicians.  There is a worrying dip in quality when it comes to solo acts and I fear too many are becoming complacent and not understanding the need to provide variation and range in their music.  It is left for me to predict the future of Moore and Ben-Yousef.  I feel the former will be kept busy with his collaborations and I cannot wait to hear what comes from it.  If there is an album afoot, it is going to be one to add to the collection for sure!  It would be good to see an interactive and official website for Operation Lightfoot (apologies if there is one already) and it will attract many musicians and writers in.  One of our most varied and impressive composers and writers, he is one of the U.K.’s few truly all-inclusive and ambitious talents.  Ben-Yousef is balancing a busy university life with her musical ambitions and I hope she finds a happy medium.  I love hearing her songs and she seems to be at her productive best.  Whether in a relationship or heartbroken, she seems to be able to tap into a rich vein and really speak to listeners directly.  Always complete with a smile and a soulful infectiousness, the Liverpudlian is someone we should all be keeping our eyes on.  Stunning to the eye and even more mesmeric when letting her voice reign, Chains sees Ben-Yousef at her very peak.  I cannot wait to see what the next year has in store for her.  Make sure you check out this wonderful collaboration and two disparate musicians coming together to create something truly special.  In a time where there is unpredictable returns and an inconsistency, you can always be sure Operation Lightfoot and Sophia Ben-Yousef will bring the good every time.  Sit back, relax and let Chains do its work.   A song that will motivate and compel both artists…

TO keep making wonderful music for years to come.

 

______________________________________________________

Follow Operation Lightfoot:

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/OperationLightfoot/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/oplightfoot

 ____________________________________

Follow Sophia Ben-Yousef:

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/sophiamusicuk/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/SophiaMusicUK

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/sophiamusicuk

 

Track Review: Jo Kelsey and Niels Bakx- Waiting for Rain (Live at The Park Studios)

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Jo Kelsey and Niels Bakx

 

Waiting for Rain

(Live at The Park Studios)

 

9.3/10.0

 

 

Waiting for Rain (Live at The Park Studios) is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SufjtE9qEk&feature=youtu.be

RELEASED:
8th November, 2015

GENRES:
Acoustic; Blues-Rock

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

The E.P. Growing Up is available shortly

____________________________________

THIS week is certainly showing just how diverse music can really be…

Yesterday saw me assessing a legendary U.S. producer and Jazz artist before going onto a young British songwriter.  Today I get to tackle two artists who I am very familiar with.  I know Niels Bakx as a member of London band Los and the Deadlines.  Having reviewed the band a number of times, I am familiar with his guitar chops and songwriting prowess.  The music Niels plays with Jo is quite different from his Los’ work and is among the most refreshing and impressive I have heard.  Before I introduce the duo to you I wanted to talk about London duos and the challenge of new music.  It may seem like an odd subject to raise but London duos are cropping up thick and fast.  From the likes of Ivy & Gold and Them and Us through to Gypsyfingers and Greenfield and Conder, there is a superb mix available.  The duos I have mentioned are all boy-girl duos and there is a great mix of music among them.   I am not sure what it is but I find that the boy-girl duos are much more natural and assured.  When documenting love and relations, their music has that extra relevance and conviction.  It raises an interesting point, but I love the range of duos coming through the capital at the moment.  I know Niels runs a live music night in London, so he has plenty of duo choices should he need them.  The reason I raise the issue of duos is because it is that balance between the solo artist and the band.  Being a solo artist is a hard job to carry whereas the band market is quite saturated and demanding.  The duos fascinate me because it gives the world a chance to see how two people interact and work with one another.  In bands there is usually the frontman/woman and the other musicians are in the background.  The duo formation is music’s purest and most interesting formation because you get something both personal and collaborative at the same time.  London seems to be showcasing some of the U.K.’s finest duos, ranging from Electro.-Trance and Pop through to Folk and Rock.  Before I continue with my points let’s introduce Jo Kelsey and Niels Bakx:

Jo Kelsey and Niels Bakx have been playing music together since 2011 and started writing songs as a duo in 2013. Their sound is a modern mixture of acoustic blues-rock with folk and psychedelic influences. Lyrics that deal with social commentary as well as exploring the darker side of the human mind float over hypnotic guitar parts that draw you into a different world.”

Birmingham-born Jo Kelsey started making music at a young age, playing piano and singing. With inspirations ranging from Etta James to Led Zeppelin and her classical training Jo creates a unique blend of soulful vocals, operatic outbursts and rock attitude.

After moving to London to pursue her passion for music further Jo worked with a wide range of artists and projects. She also sang on many vocal sessions and took every opportunity to play and perform.

After a couple of years in London Jo increasingly felt the need to get her own original music out there. This led her to start ambitious rock/metal band Kelsea. With Kelsea she brought together her varied music tastes to create a unique hard-rock sound that incorporated acoustic guitar and a soulful backing vocal section as main features. The band eventually split, but their sound can still be heard on a demo called ‘The Hidden Tapes’ (available on Soundcloud).

In 2013 Jo recorded an EP with acoustic arrangements of some of the Kelsea songs. This EP, titled ‘Matchbox’, was released at the start of 2014 and is available on Bandcamp.

Not willing to back down from creating her own music Jo continued working with former Kelsea acoustic guitarist Niels Bakx. Together they went down the path The Beatles once walked in Germany, playing regular residencies in pubs and bars across London, honing their performance and writing skills playing old and new cover repertoire. Behind the scenes they started writing new material, opting for a new, more acoustic based direction. The result is a mixture of blues, rock and folk that gives a respectful nod to Jo and Niels’ influences whilst also incorporating a more modern sound.

In the spring of 2014 they went into the studio to record their first 5-track EP ‘Lie To Me’ with producer Jay Stapley (Roger Waters, Mike Oldfield), the EP was mastered by Pink Floyd’s twice Grammy nominated engineer Andy Jackson. Jo and Niels were joined by Rotem Haguel and Jamie Murray on bass and drums respectively to complete the band. First single ‘We All Fall Down’ was released on October 16th followed by the EP on November 5th.

Expect a raw, acoustic blues sound with the energy of a rock-band and the occasional psychedelic moments. Lyrical themes that deal with the darker parts of your mind as well as some social commentary on modern life. Songs that seek to combine the intimacy of folk and singer-songwriter music with the energy and groove of blues-rock.

From reviewing so many acts I know how tough the music industry can really be.  I know people who have set up labels and venues; those that are starting out and some who are already established.  When entering music it is always a challenge and gamble as to whether an act will survive and how easy their careers will be.  I am always heartbroken seeing great musicians struggle but I guess that is the issue with modern music.  There are so many new musicians coming through, the challenge of defining yourself above your peers is certainly tricky.  You need determination and a unique sound in addition to some good contacts and a hard work ethic.  When it comes to Jo Kesley and Niels Bakx the duo have a lot of advantages already.  Niels is part of the stunning London band Los and the Deadlines, whilst Jo has released E.P.s already.  Both reside in the capital and have a tireless and committed passion to music.  Being experienced and skilled musicians, the duo blend together superbly.  It is not just their intuition and talents that make the music so special.  The connection and interplay are exceptional, which translates into their music.  With Jo up front on vocals and Niels on guitar, the Blues-Rock/Folk stylings showcase Niels’ guitar talents and Jo’s stunning vocals.  Jo’s gorgeous and multifarious voice- in addition to her unique and dark lyrical undertones- is a perfect suitor to Niels’ exceptional guitar work.  The E.P. Growing Up should be snapped up and investigated as it shows the duo at the peak of their powers.  Both studied and exceptional musicians, the way they combine and the range of subjects they cover distinguishes them from other duos out there.  That is quite important in the modern music scene.  You would be hard-pushed to hear any other act similar, so for that reason, it is well worth spending some time with Growing Up.

Having been familiar with the duo’s work for a while it is worth looking back and see how far they have come.  It is worth investigating Matchbox and Lie to Me.  Matchbox was released in March 2014 and was one of the first releases to feature the duo.  Free is a lead-off song with twanging and loose acoustic strings.  Reminding me of Led Zeppelin III’s best moments, the introduction leads to a busy and fast vocal from Jo.  With some superb backing vocals, the song looks at terrified themes and anxieties.  Lyrics such as “Scream, I’m falling, Hide, can’t catch me/I’m running out of air/Can’t scratch the surface/Can’t find the purpose” put the listener into the song and the urgency with which the lyrics are delivered is gripping.  Niels’ stop-start/quiet-loud guitar dynamics perfectly support the foreground.  Jo’s voice is filled with urgency and desperation, and juxtaposed against the Soul-like backing, creates a song filled with drama and tension.

The title track sees Jo on piano and boasts an emotive and passion vocal.  Words such as “These empty streets, never stop to question/How long we sleep, cos we’re never awake/You watched me leave, never stop to listen/Last time your words, scream tears on my face” look at relations and personal heartaches; backed by a wonderfully sincere and beautiful vocal.  This track is more of a Jo Kesley solo effort- Niels is producing but the focus is on Jo- and it shows just how fervent and talented she is.

   Monkee Feet is one of the more collaborative musical endeavours and has another rich and acoustic-led introduction.  When arriving at the microphone, the words again are quite tormented and anxious.  Boasting one of the E.P.’s most captivating vocal performances, the duo combine superbly.  Niels puts in one of his best performances with strings that rush and race- with a Flamenco sound at times- and the song benefits from quite a live-sounding and sparse feel.

   Lie to Me arrived at the end of last year and saw Jo and Niels joined by Rotem Haguel (Niels’ Los and the Deadlines cohort) and Jamie Murray.  The E.P. showcases five tracks of beauty and passion and this is kicked off with Bureaucracy.  Sounding harder and heavier than their previous E.P., it is a very Zeppelin-esque introduction that crunches and presses.  Jo puts her voice into Soul and Swing territory and is smokier and more sensual than before.  Letting her tones sound less rushed, she elongates and teases words.  Packing that punch and clout of the predecessor, the song sees Jo at her more determined and scintillating.  Niels and Rotem are a natural combination and provide some fantastic guitar and percussion support.  More Rock-tinged than Matchbox; Lie to Me is a great lead-off.

We All Fall Down sees teasing and delicate strings welcome the song in.  Again showing how much they have developed, the song sounds more insistent, urgent and nuanced than previous work.  Jo offers another entrancing and gorgeous vocal and memorable lyric.  The combinations of guitar, vocal and percussion is wonderful and the entire song brims with confidence and astuteness.  One of the E.P.’s most catchy and exceptional moments, it shows just how tight the music really is.

    I Won’t Go is a gentle and pastoral song that shows a softer and more sensitive side.  Jo’s voice aches and yearns as she looks in romantic territory.  Tired of running and hiding she is looking for peace and contentment.  The guitar is supportive and emotive but never encroaches on the vocal in any way.  You always are drawn into that beautiful and central voice that is awash with passion and beauty.  A fitting finale it shows a great step for Jo and Niels.  Matchbox put more focus on Jo in some songs; here the proceedings seem more collaborative and united.  Niels comes more into his own as a guitarist and that Zeppelin-esque sound really works well.  Jo sounds more rounded as a lyricists and vocalist and she seems more confident and comfortable here.

   Down to the River (from Growing Up) is another step forward for Jo and Niels.  With every release their sound more assured and accomplished and their latest E.P. is their finest.  Down to the River sees the duo unite perfectly to create a song that stays in the mind long after it has finished.  Whereas previous releases have been studio-created, the live-set atmosphere brings richness and atmosphere to the performances.  It is great seeing the music being performed and the emotions that go into it.  Stepping up a gear the music sounds even more assured and committed than on earlier releases.  The natural rate of progressions means the duo will not only be making music for years to come; it will draw in new fans and keep existing ones excited and satisfied.

    Waiting for Rain begins with a gorgeous and melodic acoustic guitar parable that manages to provoke imaginative and descriptive scenes.  Your mind gets lost in the tranquility and grace of the strings; it gives the song an instant sense of occasion and makes the song dramatic and beautiful from the earliest moments.  Leading in Jo’s vocal, Niels’ guitar is tear-stained and stoic; able to create a hypnotic rhythm that ensures every listener is going to be affected and seduced.  When Jo’s vocal begins her rich and emotional tones come straight to the fore.  “Teardrops fall to the ground” it is said, the emotion and sadness coming through in that vocal.  It seems like the song comes from a personal place as it sees a young woman not wanting to reveal too much or have people see her vulnerable side.  Maybe over-interpreting the song, but it looks as though our heroine has been going through a hard time and wants to hide away.  Maybe waiting for the rain to wash dark elements and doubting voices away, there are definite scars and raw emotions on the line.  The vocal begins very reverently and composed; at each stage the words are carefully projected and delineated with the utmost attention to detail and emotional resonance.  The guitar acts as a comforting hand on the shoulder and never becomes too rushed or overly-pressing.  Adding to the mood and creating something tender and serene, Niels lets his strings blend with Jo to create a song filled with beauty.  We get one of Jo’s most immediate and impressive vocal performances and see is completely committed to the subject matter.  When hearing her sing, you get images of Blues and Jazz greats like Billie Holiday who could make tormented and pained words sound ethereal and unforgettable.  Jo’s tones sound like no other and it is that originality and classic quality that makes the words stand out.  I have mentioned Led Zeppelin before and it is quite apt here.  The strings have that acoustic inventiveness of Led Zeppelin III and it when combined with percussion, you get some familiar blends.  I know Niels is a fan of the band and brings that influence in without ever compromising his unique talent and identity.  The gentleness and peace of percussion creates a heady blend that gives the vocal an extra layer.  With Indian/Asian-sounding vibes, the duo is supported by Rotem Haguel (bass) and Jamie Murray (percussion).  Also included is Leslie Phillips on backing vocals and together there is a fantastic and multicoloured sound coming through.  Jo remains firm and concentrated throughout as she looks at hard scenes and inner-reflection.  After the mid-way point the song steps up a gear and accelerates.  The guitar goes into a Flamenco fan and rushes with colour and passion.  It stops and starts creating tension and unexpectedness.  The percussion patters and rushes too, and when combined with a guiding and melodic bass, you get a bursting and exciting composition.  The composition itself not only augments the lyrics and vocal but creates an urgency that gives the song a much-needed rush of blood.  Jo elongates her voice and the word “I” is stretched and contorted like a pained mantra.  It is at this moment where the most wracked and affected delivery comes in.  Our heroine seems captivated by the mood and lets her voice wail and pervade without ever sounding forced or jarring.  It is that blend of beauty and emotion that makes her voice so impressive and nuanced.  Letting the wordlessness continue for a little, the song conjures images of rainfall and weather-battered pain.  The ‘band’ combines tightly to keep the momentum firm and manage to create a composition rich with life, story and suppleness.  That live environment makes the song sound quite bare and raw which definitely is fitting of the subject.  The words and utterances are not processed or polished and it means the lyrics really stand out.  Our heroine seems to be lonely and looking for salvation in a sense.  The song is a testament of a young woman who has seen better days and is seeking something better and fulfilling.  Ensuring the lyrics offer some redemption and hope you are always campaigning for our heroine and never feel a lack of sympathy.   By the closing moments that chorus is reintroduced and emphasised.  Our heroine is waiting for the rain to “wash you away again” and you wonder who is being documented.  Perhaps a former lover or old friend, it seems there is some history and a need for closure.  Always feeling heartbroken and anxious, you begin to wonder what events have unfolded and the history behind the song.  Waiting for Rain is another exceptional song from Jo Kesley and Niels Bakx.

A fascinating glimpse into Growing Up and you hear a musical evolution and a mature song.  Jo has come into her own as a singer and writer and sounds at her most stunning here.  Filled with soul and beauty, you cannot help but to be drawn into her voice.  Her lyrics look at personal pains but have a universality to them which means listeners can relate and appreciate.  Niels unleashes one of his most innovative and impactful guitar codas.  Adding so much colour, weight and conviction to the song, it is a wonderful combination that gives the song such a degree of nuance and impression.  After hearing the song several times, little details and threads reveal themselves.  The duo’s band members and support add to proceedings wonderfully and make the song such a full and captivating experience.  I found myself trying to pick the lyrics apart and drill down to the core.  I guess there will be some mystique and hidden truths but it is one of those tracks that begs for a critical ear to really get inside the words.  Whatever your take-away from the track and you will agree it is one of the best songs from the London-based twosome.  When Growing Up is revealed to the music-buying public ensures you get hold of a copy and see the videos on YouTube.  There will be new ones released gradually to give the public a full insight into the making of the E.P.  What Waiting for Rain shows is how superb and seamless the music is and what is can offer.  One of the most evocative numbers I have heard for a long time, make sure you do not let the song pass you by.

According to Niels:

We’ll be releasing the rest of the videos roughly a video a month over the next few months followed by the release of the E.P. on Bandcamp (with an exclusive video version of Growing Up only available with the E.P.)“.

It is always great to hear a talented come through that offers originality and a real sense of purpose to music.  Being familiar with Jo and Niels, I know how much music means to them and this comes through in Waiting for Rain.  Having released Down to the River already, there will be more videos released soon from Growing Up.  With every song the duos combines seamlessly and leave huge impressions in your mind.  The musicianship and serenity across Waiting for Rain is a fantastic and beautiful thing.  Jo’s voice glides and hovers through the notes creating something quite magical.  Combining the Blues-Rock of Led Zeppelin and the Folk sparkle of Fleetwood Mac and you have an act that is going to be in huge demand.  At the moment Jo is travelling Asia and I hope to catch up with her very soon.  With Niels taking care of the music side of things, the duo has a busy and hectic time ahead.  This is good however, because they make music that deserves wide exposure and fond ears.  There are so many new acts coming through and a lot of them just fall flat and rarely stick in the memory.  Before wrapping things up, it is worth returning to the subjects of duos and music’s challenges.  Without knowing it you come across a lot of great acts that are doing something very different and special.  I have mentioned duos and the variation you get in London and Jo Kelsey and Niels Bakx are among the very best.  The capital seems to be shining at the moment and is seeing a real revival and surge.  Last year I was worried about the lack of innovation and great music coming from the capital- Yorkshire and the north were producing more of music’s best.  This year there has been a shift back down to London and so many terrific musicians are proffering their intentions.  It is the duo market that is intriguing me most and you get a great alternative to bands and solo acts.  The duo bond is a perfect balance between the widespread and often impersonal band sounds and the individuality and loneliness of the solo life.  There is a great comfort and companionship (with duos) and a lot of music-lovers are relating to this.  I know a lot of great musicians are feeling the pinch and strain of the modern market, but it is worth hanging in and just focusing on the music.  There is a lot of financial pressure which can lead many to question their passion and purpose.  Musicians do their best work when they block out the outside forces and put their minds into the music.  With Jo and Niels you get artists who are determined to succeed and play for years; the lack of anxiety and stress comes through in the music.  Growing Up is a live-recorded E.P. that sees the duo demonstrated their talents and passion- supported by a group of fantastic musicians.  It is only left for me to look at their future and what 2016 will bring.  Jo and Niels have been performing together for a while and made some stunning music.  This year has seen their finest collaborations and a real insight into the coming year.  Knowing Niels has Live at TJ’s to focus on (https://www.facebook.com/liveattjs/?fref=ts); Jo will be busy planning new music and things.  It would be great to see the duo release an album and bring together their talents into something full-length.  Niels’ bandmates make heavy and classic-sounding Blues-Rock and it would be great to hear an album with some of that thrown in.  Jo is a master of Acoustic and Folk blends and that stunning voice can make anything something intoxicating and sensuous.  The duo has such a connection and wide talent they could create something quite wonderful.  It is the passion and determination the two put into their music that really comes across and resonates.  I think 2016 will see them touring a lot and taking their music to new audiences.  Both have busy work schedules and I am sure new sounds will be forthcoming.  If you have not experienced the musical unison of Jo Kelsey and Niels Bakx I suggest you go back and hear their earliest work.  From there, come forward and work to the present-day offerings.  It gives a complete picture of a musical force with a lot more to say.  Growing Up is a snapshot into two incredible artists that are going to be names to watch.  Making music that sounds effortless yet filled with details is a hard trick to pull off, but they manage to do it.  If you are looking for an act that can beat away the blues and inspire the mind, then check out Jo Kelsey and Niels Bakx.  When they are together and playing they create…

ONE truly special sound.

_________________________________________________________

Follow Niels Bakx:

 

Official:

http://www.nielsbakx.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/nielsbakx/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/NielsBakx

__________________________________________________

Follow Jo Kelsey:

 

Official:

http://xoxjojoxox.wix.com/jokelseymusic

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/JoKelseyMusic/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/kelseaband

_______________________________

Music:

http://jokelseymusic.bandcamp.com/

Track Review: Billie Marten- Bird

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Billie Marten

 

Bird

 

9.8/10.0

 

Bird is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smX6xCPDbrE

RELEASED:
13th October, 2015

GENRES:
Pop; Folk

ORIGIN:

Yorkshire, U.K.

The E.P. As Long As is available to pre-order at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/as-long-as-ep/id1036271735?app=itunes

TRACK LISTING:

Roots

Cursive

Bird

As Long As

____________________________________

I have just put down my electronic pen reviewing Dean Gant..

an Illinois-born musician who has worked with the likes of Outkast.  His debut album The Journey mixes Jazz, Soul and R&B into something mesmeric and genre-fusing.  A brilliant collection, it is great to hear an experienced producer and musician concentrate on musicianship and quality.  From a middle-aged black U.S. musician to a 16-year-old singer from Yorkshire is quite a shift in dynamic and focus.  I shall get to the arresting and stunning Billie Marten soon, but listening to her story compels me to introduce the topics of young songwriters, maturity and songwriting quality.  When I think of Pop and Folk music my mind always goes back to the past.  My favourite artists- from Jeff Buckley and Steely Dan; Fleetwood Mac and Bob Dylan- are very much of yesteryear.  I have been hunting for a modern-day paragon that could inspire my mind and add to my record collection.  Whilst there are some transitory and one-off gems to be found, that issue of longevity comes to the fore.  I find a lot of modern Pop music either too immature and woe-is-me or it lacks that necessary depth and musical affinity.  Folk music has always produced some awesome acts but I feel there are too few modern-day wonders.  I have a lot of time for the likes of Laura Marling but as she is ‘between albums’ I am looking for a second-in-command Folk singer who can soothe my heart.  I would be heard-pressed to name that many Pop, Folk and Soul acts that make me want to investigate them further.  There is some mature songwriting out there but it tends to be played by artists that have age and experience on their side.  Looking at Billie Marten amazes me somewhat.  Being a young and upcoming songwriter, public perceptions would assume a position of scepticism and cliché.  A lot of Marten’s contemporaries are mired in world of post-party arguments and teenage rebellion.  If you look at your One Direction fans, they would probably not take to Marten too well.  Whereas your One Direction songs have a very particular style and subject matter, Marten deals with more grown-up and inspired sides.  In a world where you have to go to the U.S. to find young singers with mature souls- perhaps the likes of Taylor Swift fall into the category- the Yorkshire based songsmith is one of our very finest young writers.  Not too much is revealed on social media, with regards Marten’s influences and biography.  Digging through an interview she conducted with Teen Vogue and you get some insight and layers.  At the time of the interview she was 15 and launching her E.P. Ribbon.  This year has seen that E.P. gain ground and support; the young talent has been gigging and preparing to release her latest cut, As Long As.  Looking at her Twitter account, you get a picture of a very intelligent girl with an exceptional taste in music.  From Jeff Buckley- who is my hero, and it means Marten is very much alright by me- and Fleetwood Mac (Rumours is one of the best albums I own) and you get a mature and cultured set of shoulders.  Reading interviews and you get someone entering the music world with a lot of dignity and pragmatism.  Marten began her music ascent covering songs on YouTube.  As she ascribed, her grandparents (who reside in France) would be sent videos due to the insistence of her parents.  Able to reinterpret and play with other artists, it motivated Marten to step into the limelight and indulge her own creative soul.  Ribbon is a four-track collection- and I will do a mini-review of that later- that was surprisingly accomplished and complete.  Her first real collection, it saw the young singer show incredible insight and ability.  Being a teenager should not cloud your judgements and expectations.  Too many media outlets fixate on tender years and teenage ideals.  Marten is very much a woman when it comes to music and her sound.  One listen to that outstanding and soul-buckling voice and you get embers of a young Buckley.  When I heard Jeff Buckley seduce crowds on Live at Sin-e (his live album that was recorded in New York in 1993) and you get reincarnated embers in Marten.  That same entrancing high and breathlessness radiates through the notes.  On the outside Marten is your average, if very beautiful, young woman who is a girl-next-door with an infectious smile.  After hearing her sing, you get images of classical Soul singers and Folk legends.  Touches of Buckley’s Grace-era transcendence- I could imagine Marten doing a mean version of Last Goodbye– and Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac come to mind.  Bits of Stevie Nicks and Marling show she has one ear on U.S. music and the other on current U.K. offerings.  Having immersed herself in music’s finest artists from a young age, this has been extrapolated and translated into something personal and hugely original.  As Long As’ cover is striking and beautiful to see.  The music contained within is equally affecting and wondrous.  I have long-reviewed Yorkshire music and from the likes of Issimo to Jen Armstrong, there is so much diversity and quality to be found.  Maybe it is the luscious and awe-inspiring views or friendly locals that make music such a natural thing.  Whatever is inspiring Marten, she should clear her calendar in 2016.  Being a teenager, she will have to decide whether she balances academic pursuits with music or dedicates her full attention to the craft.  On the evidence of her latest track, I would love to hear more from Marten.  She has a talent and voice that has left me speechless and is one of the most intelligent and fascinating musicians in the country.  That said, she is so young she could take time out and do music-part time.  Having already created two E.P.s, the Yorkshire musician deserves some time out and a break.  There is a lot of critical excitement and her social media ranks are buzzing with anticipation.  In a few days her new E.P. is dropped, and judging by her social media posts, Marten is excited and hungry for the future.  Bird is a fraction of her talent but demonstrates just what an immense talent she has.  In a Pop-cum-Folk world with too many effete and beige examples, Billie Marten has a voice, pen and grit that ensure she not only topples her peers- she ranks alongside some of the greats.  I have mentioned the likes of Buckley and Fleetwood Mac without hyperbole or insincerity.  I know Buckley’s music better than most living people and adore Fleetwood Mac.  In years to come I can see Marten performing to U.S. crowds and creating a Grace-esque masterpiece.  She has that natural lyricism and poetic soul which, when coupled with a haunting and gorgeous vocal, leaves the listener spellbound.

If you are new to Billie Marten, it may well be worth going back and starting from the beginning.  Both logical and revealing, it not only shows how she had developed but means you get a better sense of the young artist and what inspires her music.  Unaware reminds me of Pink Moon-Nick Drake.  That bouncing and haunting acoustic guitar sees that tremendous voice smokily declare.  “Pulling me in” with charm and seduction, Marten expands and builds the song into something hopeful.  With her mind clouded and covered in smoke, there are scenes of dislocation and break-up.  Whether inspired by fiction or a time in her life, her heart and soul are laid bare into a song of maturity and passion.  Whoever inspired the track has broken everything and caused some scars.  Bringing in some elements of Country and Folk, it is that husky and scintillating voice that gets inside the heart.

Ribbon builds from a riparian and racing acoustic motif that leads into a deliciously serene vocal.  Breathy and tender, our heroine walks a trail “leaving sparkling gold behind”.  Projecting so many vivid and fantastical images, Marten combines high-pitched beauty with emotional lows to create something naked and sparse.  In the midst of revelation and honesty, our heroine wants to belong and feel complete.  There is a sense of isolation and fitting-in the scene, as Marten is a nomad who likes to wander.  Drake’s lyrics come into play here, with Marten showing the same sort of beauty and poetry throughout.  Her delicate voice ensures listeners are seduced and transfixed with every note- perhaps the E.P.’s finest moment.

In for the Kill starts gently and seems to project the sound of the ocean (maybe I am over-reaching) with our heroine delivering one of her purist performances.  Fires and arguments rage and a love-gone-cold realisation is spoken of.  Whether addressing a particular subject or not, Marten makes La Roux’s song her own.  Stripping it back and reinventing it, the song takes on new relevance and meaning.  Down to its cold and naked bones, the emphasis is less on composition and more on voice.  That pure and mesmeric tone is beautifully supported by aching strings and plinking keys to create something shivering and spine-tingling.  You could imagine this song being a live favourite as it is sure to leave crowds speechless.  Having masterfully tackled Royal Blood’s Out of the Black, Marten shows how great she is as an interpreter.  Like Buckley, she can make any song she tackles sound her own and completely new.  Making rough-and-ready songs transcendent is a hard thing to achieve; she does it and sounds completely natural.  It is that singular and incredible voice that makes everything she approaches sound completely of-the-moment and essential.

Since Ribbon, Marten released Heavy Weather back in April.  The song continues Ribbon’s themes and sound but sees the young songwriter grow in confidence and concision.  The opening verse matches Nick Drake in terms of its my-God-how-did-she-think-of-that wonder- “When the sun rises silver/If it rises at all/Meet me there across the water/And we’ll start an endless storm”.  It is the sort of wording you’d expect Dylan to write let alone a teenager.  Such an intelligent and original take, you are breathless from the start.  It is that voice that reigns with majesty; ensuring every scene and lyric is given the utmost sense of occasion and purpose.  Caught up in the English weather and thunderstorms, there is that battle-against-the-odds mentality as Marten and her sweetheart will not retreat or be defeated.  It may be stormy but they have one another and are wrapped up in another.

Marten has grown and developed in a short space of time, and with each new release her lyrics get stronger and more compelling.  As Long As is another step forward and shows a young woman with a fertile and stunning musical mind.  Her compositions have developed and grown whilst her voice seems more rounded and unique.  From the start those gorgeous tones were her own; as of now, you can hear that growth and evolution.  The songwriting is at its peak and that passion is indefatigable.  Ensuring listeners will be asking for more, As Long As is a stunning achievement.

Bird begins with a little crackle and intrigue before a hearty and emphatic piano introduction creates a stunning blend of beauty and composure.  The opening verse sees Marten softly and gentle let her voice pull the listener in.  “She’s underwater again/Somebody’s daughter, a friend/In the night in the dark in the cold/As she walks far away” are the opening lines, which fuel vivid images and something quite haunted.  Drawing together some of Ribbon’s sounds into Bird, you get a crystalline and exceptionally beautiful song.  The vocal stands out once more and is allowed absolute clarity and free expression.  The production values mean Marten is unfettered and unimpeded; meaning her stunning pin-sharp voice goes directly into the brain.  So powerful and entrancing, you are mesmerised (a word I shall be using a lot) and those haunting images keep coming.  Whether speaking in a first-person sense- and recalling a low or dark time- or looking outward, the song’s heroine is ill-fated and lonely.  The mild water seems almost inviting as the song’s centre seems at the end of hope.  Whether using water as a metaphor for pressure and words, you get a tangible sense of mortality and hopelessness.  Marten lets her voice rise to a bird-like song as she takes us into the song’s unhappily beating heart.  There is some cryptic and oblique aspects to the lyrics.  When I heard the words “Hope is a distance unreached/Ink on her skin incomplete” I was instantly thinking of songwriting and music.  Perhaps an aim of fulfilment and obtainment, I was looking at those aspects.  After a few seconds, my mind came back to mortality and hope- the cessation of both perhaps.  The song has a multi-dimensional appeal that means the lyrics alone will put your mind in two different places.  You can imagine a heroine nearing water and the end of hope.  She might be alone and unaware of protesting and saviour voices.  Maybe she feels like she cannot go on for whatever reason.  On the other hand, there is the possibility that Marten is speaking about her own feelings and times where she has felt low and hopeless.  Whether aiming for musical completion or suffering personal heartache, that vocal does not break or crack.  Pure and child-like in its beauty, Marten ensures that enough honesty, sensitive and emotion comes through in the performance- you could never accuse her of being anodyne or unemotional.  There are few singers that possess such a beauty and cherub-like voice that makes everything around you disappear.  As you hear Bird you hear nothing else; the rest of the world stops spinning as you are drawn into that staggering voice.  Such a brave song, you admire the honesty and earnestness of the lyrics.  A lot of young songwriters cloud their emotions or cover them up.  Here we see Marten expose her feelings and put out a song that is unashamedly raw and confessional.  Perhaps the song’s true meanings are known only to our heroine, yet that is the purpose of the song: Each listener can extract their own truths and create their own interpretation.  When Marten sings “Where does her start go from here/Lost in the grip” that tangible sense of loss and hopelessness comes back again.  Channelling some of Nick Drake’s debut-album work into her own creation, Marten sounds completely true and dedicated to the song.  It seems as though it (Bird) holds a particular relevance to her.  Whether scorned or burned by a guy or subjected to a river of disappointment, you cannot escape that suffocation.  In the final moments, the vocal seemingly becomes more pressing and beautiful.  With a piano backing, our heroine is at her most affecting and gravely.  It is not to say the song is morbid or suicidal.  There is ample beauty and honesty and that is what makes it such a terrific thing.  Most artists cannot pull off such a feat and fewer who are of Marten’s age.  With such an exceptional set of lyrics and maturity, you are never anything less than amazed by Bird.  Images and scenes flow as that voice-and-piano combination create something both still and free-flight.  By the closing embers you are left helpless and heartbroken.  What of our heroine and the song’s lead?  Was her soul condemned to the waters or did her heart find hope in the dark?  It is those questions that are left that make you want to talk to Marten herself and ask if all worked out okay.  With a surprising amount of nuance to be found- you will need to play it a few times to get to the bottom of things- and you have a brilliant track from a tremendous young songwriter.

Perhaps not the most impressive review that Marten has received I hope at least I have done her justice.  Being fairly new to my ears I am staggered by her breadth of ability and talent.  She sounds as though she was born to do this and been performing for decades.  Few modern songwriters come onto the scene so fully-formed and confident.  It is that confidence and natural ability that makes Bird such an impressive creation.  The E.P. will expand upon this and see the young Yorkshire songwriter cover different subjects with that inimitable sound.  She has said (in interviews) that music means very little if it is not honest and meaningful.  You can tell how meaningful the words are to her.  This is not a song about partying or text-ing woes.  It is a testament from a young woman with a heavy heart and scared soul.  That fragility and vulnerability shows someone who can bear her soul and let the listener come into her world.  Not hiding behind facades and armour, Marten is a brave and sensitive artist who wants to inspire others.  On the evidence here, Marten is going to compel so many other songwriters to follow in her footsteps.  A tantalising glimpse into As Long As, it means few ears should ignore the forthcoming release.  Not an album solely built around tranquil and acoustic numbers, there is going to be plenty of passion and uplift.  Bird is one side of the Yorkshire heroine and one that should not be ignored.  One of the most ethereal and beautiful songs I have heard this decade; I cannot recommend and applaud (Marten) heartily enough.  One of the finest emerging talents this country currently houses.

I have only recently ‘discovered’ Billie Marten, but from the evidence laid out here, I will be following her with huge interest.  The blonde-haired teenage is not someone that will fade into any crowd of miss the eye completely.  Her music is some of the finest out there and showcases a dynamic and intelligent songwriter.  Having ensconced herself in the strings and dreams of her idols, you can hear her passion and ambition come through with endeavor.  Ribbon gave reviewers and listeners a chance to hear what the teenager was about.  That E.P. was greeted with great praise and fevered words of love.  It is no surprise the press are talking Marten up as one of the scene’s ‘ones-to-watch’.  The 16-year-old Folk artist makes sure she does not let her music stick with one sound or subject.  As she tells it, her music tries to marry Indie and Pop into a multi-faceted blend of song.  Where I have grown tired of a lot of mainstream’s Folk progeny; Marten is a breath of fresh air.  Make sure you snap-up As Long As because as long as you miss out on her music, you are doing yourself a wrong.  The focus on age and expectation should be singed and buried, you see.  Judge Marten on her music alone and you find a wonderful talent with many years ahead of her.  So much attention is paid, not only to the music itself, but E.P. images and design.  It ensures you are captivated by her photos and beauty but you remain and stay for that all-encompassing and all-inclusive music.  Her songs tackle love with maturity and a sharp pen.  Elements of a young Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan come through in Bird.  Marten introduces metaphysical and meteorological rhapsody to describe love’s proclivities and uncertainty.  Twisting ideas and words to great effect, she goes beyond her contemporaries to provide music of the highest order.  Looking at storm-battered scenes and elicit kisses; tranquil scenes and fascinating characters and you have a scriber with a stunning imagination and intellect.   It only leaves me with a few points to raise.  First of all, make sure you buy As Long As when it is released and see what all the fuss is about.  The E.P. will showcase Marten as one of this country’s best talents.  I was talking about maturity and the state of music in the introduction, so shall bookend it here.  There are so many Pop acts and artists that are lewd or crude; they have so little maturity and lyrical quality you wonder why they bother.  The market will always have room for vague and disposable acts, so long as the money keeps coming in.  The young audience needs something better, and in Marten, we have someone who can assuage our bad market habits and create something inspiring.  In time she could go on to join her idols as she has that quality and passion.  I shall be sure to see her in concert soon and pay tribute to her wonderful music.  With my fingers practically numb- been one of those busy days- I hope you share the merits and music of Yorkshire’s Billie Marten.  Not often does someone come along that compels you to drop what you are doing and be seduced.  I will leave you with Billie Marten and Nick Drake.  In Teen Vogue, Marten mentioned how- when she was growing up and discovering music- Drake’s music spoke to her.  This girl becomes more perfect and appealing by the minute and has such a rare and phenomenal taste.  As a D.J. and writer I have played Nick Drake on two occasions.  Pink Moon is that final and mesmeric album.  A very brief and stunning record- it was recorded in a few hours with Drake on acoustic guitar (except for the title track’s piano).  Drake was barely able to move, due to the severity of his depression.  What you get is unaltered beauty and transcendence.  I love Five Leaves Left especially and with voice-and-string  genius like River Man and Way to Blue and you understand just what an incredible artist he was.  That poetic and wonderful lyrical style mixed with a voice full of gravitas and world-worn experience.  Marten is a wise young woman who has had an exceptional music upbringing.  Drawing in Drake’s poetry and honesty with Fleetwood Mac’s eclecticism and beauty- with some Buckley-esque sensuality and transcendence- and you have someone with an incredible future.  The grittier and harder sides to her music suggest someone who loves her Indie and band music.  I would not be surprised to go round her house and see The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Radiohead and Muse among her collection (she may correct me).  Excelsior to the Marten who is not thinking too far ahead, yet has that ambition and far-sighted grasp.  I would not be shocked to see her produce an album in 2016 as she is clearly inspired and motivated to write at the moment.  Whether she is in a relationship or been heartbroken, she deals with love and lust in a very intelligent and original way.  Whether school, studies, London and music will result in something full-length we can only hope.  Marten is about to see As Long As to the general public and she should prepare herself for a cataclysm of love and affection.  Being someone who (I’d like to think) has an much passion for music as anyone walking, I adore what Marten has produced.  Bird is a terrific song that is the centrepiece to a remarkably accomplished and nuanced collection of songs.  No bullsh** or hyperbole, this girl is the real deal.  If you do one think this week, go buy her music…

AND see one of our brightest artists do something truly spectacular.

 

___________________________________________________

Follow Billie Marten:

 

Official:

http://www.billiemarten.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/billiemarten

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/billiemarten

Instagram:

https://instagram.com/billie_marten/

 ___________________________________

Music:

https://soundcloud.com/billie-marten

________________________________________

Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/user/billiemarten

_____________________________________________

Gigs:

http://www.billiemarten.com/gigs/

Album Review: Sir Gant and the InVisible Force- The Journey

ALBUM REVIEW:

 

Sir Gant and the InVisible Force

 

The Journey

 

9.5/10.0

 

 

The Journey is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/the-journey/id422111037

RELEASED:
28th February, 2011

GENRES:
Jazz; Soul; R&B

ORIGIN:

Illinois, U.S.A.

TRACKLISTING:

I’m Gonna Miss You (Piano Prelude)9.4

Let Me See You Work It9.6

I’m Gonna Miss You (Departure)9.5

I’m Gonna Miss You9.4

Hangin’ With Q– 9.5

Les Bleu9.4

I’m Gonna Miss You (Inst. Reprise)9.4

The Journey– 9.5

On the Dance Floor9.6

So Much in Love– 9.5

Peace9.5

I’m Gonna Miss You (Vocal Reprise)9.4

DOWNLOAD:

Let Me See You Work It; Hanging With Q; The Journey; On the Dance Floor

STANDOUT TRACK:

On the Dance Floor

___________________________________________

IT is rare that a musical project comes along that allows me to…

feature on what makes music beautiful and pure.  A lot of bands and acts I have reviewed have stuck in the memory, yet few concentrate on musicianship and passion.  Before I introduce Sir Gant and the InVisible Force I wanted to talk about the purpose of music and the importance of musicianship.  In a modern climate where there are a lot of fake stars and worthless examples, we all need to embrace music that is deep and meaningful.  I look around the mainstream and see false and plastic Pop stars, each of whom does not appreciate music and making it resonate with people.  They are concerned with collecting dollars and filling out arenas.  It doesn’t matter whether their music is inspiring minds or nourishing souls as long as the money comes in and they get column inches.  Naming no names (we all know who) but there are so many nauseating and insincere bands and artists that are in music for the money and have a team of writers behind them.  The committee-led and manufactured ‘musicians’ are polluting the environment and sending out a bad message to the up-and-coming musicians.  Talent shows such as The X Factor are not helping issues and are promoting the wrong ideals and way of working.  I understand that there are people out there that listen to Pop and plastic music that has an army of writers and producers behind it.  People will want to see those preened and airbrushed artists in a venue near them.  The only reason this upsetting trend occurs is because there are few alternatives and artists campaigning against the blight.  Being a huge fan of Steely Dan, I am a person who appreciates musicianship and the vitality of a stunning composition.  My favoutrite track of all-time is Deacon Blues: A song that is lush and delicious; filled with gorgeous saxophone and nuance in spades.  Other ‘Dan tracks like Night by Night (from Pretzel Logic) and Hey Nineteen (from Gaucho) showcase how stunning leads Walter Becker and Donald Fagen are.  It is a shame Steely Dan are not as revered by my generation.  They still seem a niche and underground sort of act.  I love Jazz acts like Coltrane, but have a soft spot for Miles Davis.  Albums such as Birth of the Cool, Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain showcase just how phenomenal Davis’ work could be.  Bitches Brew is an ecstatic and colourful swathe of horns and arrangements that whip-up a myriad wave of images.  Musicians that can say so much without singing (or saying few words) are the most powerful and impressive.  Too many genres like Jazz are still quite undervalued and reserved for lovers of the craft.  Some Pop artists try to instill Jazz elements into their music and ensure the genre gets appreciate, but for my money, more people should be into Jazz and discover what it has to offer.  There are a lot of modern artists that are capable of drawing-in young listeners with their stunning compositions.  People have stuffy and preconceived images of Jazz- and some consider it not to be that cool- which needs reevaluating somewhat.  Before I continue on my point, let me introduce Sir Gant and the InVisible Force:

Dean Gant, known professionally as “Sir Gant” has been recognized for decades as a first rate Music Producer, Arranger, Keyboardist, and Composer. Now, with the release of his debut project on his own label, ELEGANT MEDIAWORKS; 2011 will see Sir Gant & The InVisible Force emerge as a powerful presence on today’s music scene.

Gant’s project, THE JOURNEY, is a musical anthology that celebrates the genius he has lent to many top selling artists over the span of his career. His co-production and arrangement of Anita Baker’s Rapture LP, sold over 8 million copies and garnered 2 Grammys, (including best R&B song, “Sweet Love”) which Gant arranged and on which he played the song’s memorable piano part. On Madonna’s self-titled debut album, Gant ‘s signature synthesizer licks defined “Lucky Star” & “Borderline”–both of which launched and defined Madonna’s career.

Sir Gant is joined on THE JOURNEY by some of today’s most highly acclaimed musicians: Marcus Miller; Gerald Albright; Omar Hakim; Steve Ferrone; Ricky Lawson; Al McKay; David T. Walker; Nathan East, Paulinho da Costa and others who each contributed their unique artistry to the inimitable course of THE JOURNEY.”

I was introduced to Sir Gant and the InVisible Force’s music by Ellene Masri.  She is an artist whose album Music was one of my all-time favourite reviews.  Having been seduced and overwhelmed by her music- and keep in regular touch with her- I already knew a bit about Dean Gant’s music.  One look at his C.V. shows a man who has helped shape and defines some of music’s biggest legends.  One of the world’s most notable and impressive musicians, it is great to hear The Journey come to life.  After hearing him on Las Vegas radio discussing the project, I know how dedicated and passionate he is.  Music means the world to him and connecting with people is paramount.  So many musicians do not care whether they connect and strike a person.  Too many are concerned with copying others and not telling a story in their sounds.  Dean Gant is a man that wants to ensure his music not only digs deep into the heart and soul; he wants to make sure every person is told a story and gets a clear sense of beauty.  Gant’s music is some of the most descriptive and intoxicating I have ever heard.  The rich and sensual compositions mix with stunning and unexpected moments, all of which compel dizzying images and dreamy scenes.  Having spent so many years honing and supporting other musicians, Sir Gant and the InVisible Force is the result of Dean Gant at his most stirring and impressive.  With a terrific band of musicians behind him, The Journey is an album masterclass of emotion, passion and redemptiveness.

To showcase his own music in its best light, Sir Gant assembled a formidable roster of musicians for The Journey. Their collective bodies of work appear throughout the global market of popular, R&B and jazz hits. Among the stellar musicians are Marcus Miller, Gerald Albright, Paulinho da Costa, Steve Ferrone, Al McKay, Omar Hakim, Nathan East, Ricky Lawson, David T. Walker, Rahmlee Michael Davis, Dr. George Shaw, Charles Owens with the string arrangements of the legendary Benjamin Wright. The vocal stylings of Marc Nelson (founding member of Boyz II Men) and Tim (Tio) Owens (featured singer with the Al McKay All Stars) grace three tunes on the The Journey. Grammy winning engineer, Neal Harrington Pogue was brought on as co-producer to ensure technical balance and musical integrity of the project.”

I’m Gonna Miss You (Piano Prelude) sees The Journey begins its plight.  A soft and beckoning parable, the song is a tender and composed moment that perfectly welcomes in the album.

    Let Me See You Work It perhaps leaves little to the imagination.  This track was written by Sir Gant and Khaliq Jabari Gant and features Tim (Tio) Owens.  Very much a funky and hard-hitting jam, it benefits from some hugely powerful vocals and a stunning percussion.  Those beats and keyboards make the track and hot and sassy track that means business.  Stomping and seducing, you are caught in the infectious groove.  With Owens on vocal the song reflects Gant’s more sexual and sensual side.  There is a sense of chase and gameplay here.  You can imagine the object of his affections and the song’s heroine.  Burnishing with fever and intention, the vocal is a sumptuous and wonderful instrument that makes the song such an unforgettable thing.  The girl has our hero saying “yeah” and in quite a state of unrest.  The percussion and drum programming provide the song with that kick and punch that ensures the lyrics and vocals and given appropriate backing.  The bass and guitars ensure some seductive and shimmering lust.  The instrumentation here is among the album’s finest and each player is completely in-time and in-step with one another.  Like a classic D’Angelo cut, you get sweat dripping from the speaker.  Our lead wants to see his girl “work it” through the night.  Our man is lost and helpless to refuse her beauty and sex appeal.  Juxtaposing the composure and dignity of the opening cut, you get a song that puts its declarations and intentions right up-top.  An unrelenting paen to dancefloor lust, it is one of the finest R&B/Soul tracks I have heard in a while.  Boasting such a hugely emphatic vocal centre, each word comes to life and burrows into the mind.  Owens has a feverish and quivering voice that is utterly beguiling and stunning to hear.  Backed by an exceptional composition and vivid lyrics, and you have a song that is among the album’s very best.  Blending the funk and compositional mixes of Stevie Wonder with some Usher-via-D’Angelo-via-Prince vocal gymnastics and you have a song that bridges ‘70s Soul with ‘80s and ‘90s Funk.  A kick-ass and compelling jam, it is a song that can get dancefloors bouncing and lovers entwined.  Overtly confident and urgent, it is grinding sweat-maker that could score make-outs across the world.  Not a track to be overlooked.

   I’m Gonna Miss You (Departure) provided a break and cleaner.  A chance to throw some water over the steaming atmosphere, what we get is a beautiful transition.  After the rampant and sexual ambitions of its predecessor, that lilting and romantic piano is back in the fray.  Stefaniah McGowan plays the part of a flight attendant, as we get the most tangible sense of a ‘journey’.  Taking off to somewhere unknown, we get safety announcements amidst a tranquil piano- something not often tempted in music.  Advising the listeners to buckle their seatbelts and be prepared- bit late after the swagger that was Let Me See You Work It– and we then get a snippet of a voice message.  Our man leaves a message to his girl saying how much he misses her.  On his way to meet his lover and get to his hotel, it is a charming and wonderful touch that provides the album with narration and personal soul-bearing.  Some of the best albums mix narrative and spoken word snippets with instrumentals.  Over the space of three songs we have gone from a Classical-influenced instrumental to a sensual R&B jam to a spoken word insert that could have been seen on the most innovative Hip-Hop albums of the ’80s and ‘90s.  Taking the listen along with him, Gant has covered so much ground so soon.  You wonder where we will go next…

   I’m Gonna Miss You follows the aerospace departure.  Having arrived at his destination, here we get the full-length declaration.  Soulful and smooth from the offset, the track boasts an incredible vocal by Marc Nelson.  Written with Carol Van Brunt-Gant, it is one of the album’s most arresting and personal tales.  You can imagine Gant penning the song in a hotel as he thinks about his sweetheart.  As our lead talks about his intentions and wanting to kiss his girl “all night”, it is a romantic song that wears its heart on its sleeve.  It is another track busy with musicianship and terrific performers.  Here we have the likes of David T. Walker and Steve Ferrone lending their chops.  By recruiting another vocalist into the mix- rather than keeping the same throughout- we get a new tone and sense of perspective.  Perfectly suiting the subject matter, and backed by some terrific backing vocals, you have something that is aching and sensitive.  Contrasting with the sexual and masculine sweat of Owens, Nelson is more restrained and focused.  Both songs are terrifically addictive and memorable, with both saying different things.  Nelson has a hair-raising set of pipes that bring the images into life.  Tangled and united in each other’s dreams, there are no surprises.  Our lead loves his girl and wants to be with her.  Having arrived at his hotel, Gant has perhaps not quite reached his girl.  There is that sense of desire and longing that makes you feel sympathy.  Burning with passion and want, Nelson perfectly articulates that need and desire without histrionics and needless ululation.  A Soul seducer the likes of Luther Vandross would be jealous of and you have another song that cannot be forgotten or ignored.  Alight with endless passion and focus, it is another step in the tale that gets the listener invested and hooked.

   Hanging with Q is Gant’s tribute to Quincy Jones.  With Gerald Albright on saxophone and the likes of Charles Owens in the throng, it is a gorgeous Jazz track.  The trumpets climb and spiral as the percussion teases and beats with composure and calm.  Little tones and touches underpin the song and add life and conversation.  You can imagine Gant and Jones hanging and shooting the breeze.  Backing their dialogue and movements, the song projects hand motions and conversation topics.  A perfectly to-and-fro exchange, the composition reminds me of Miles Davis again.  It is hard to not see the jazz legend when the composition is at its most brilliant and divine.  That sax. work almost defines the song and gives it such a vitality and power.  A compelling and smooth groove that rises and falls; comes down to tease and flies with abandon, it showcases Gant’s compositional talents and clear vision.  Another natural progression and aspect to the story, we take a step away from love and desire to see our man hang with one of his heroes.  With ‘Q’ gets to hear the song is another matter but I’d like to think he has heard it and loves what it says.  An impressive and worthy tribute to one of music’s finest producers, it sees Gant mersmerised and caught in fantasy.  Not just reserved for Jazz aficionados, it is a song that has enough potential to grab fans of any genre.  Universal and all-encompassing, it is a song that stands among the album’s finest non-vocal cuts.

  Les Bleu I guess would refer to ‘the blue’ or ‘the blues’ Gant could be feeling.  Although the title may suggest a sense of longing and loss, the composition is an upbeat and rushing beauty.  The percussion constantly beats and pushes as the piano dances and smiles as it goes.  After a fabulous bass introduction, the song has an infectious kick that swoons and swaggers in equal measures.  As cool as anything across the album, it once more proves how adept and diverse Gant is when it comes to composition.  Here I got touches of Steely Dan and some of the greats of U.S. Jazz.  It is that piano sound that sticks in my mind.  Never losing its pace and beauty, you cannot help but be sucked into its wonderfully compelling sound.  Each listener can imagine their own scenes and what the song represents.  To my mind, Les Bleu is Gant reflecting and thinking about life.  Having been on the dancefloor and in delirium; after longing for his girl and hanging with Quincy Jones, we have a contemplative and pondering track.  Whether he is Las Vegas, Chicago or somewhere out of the U.S. each song represents a different moment in Gant’s life.  It is the quality amnd depth of the music that stands out here.  Not just a throwaway or insincere moment, you can tell how much detail and consideration has gone into the track.  Based on the ‘blues scale’ the song is a beautiful refrain that will delight lovers of Jazz.

   I’m Gonna Miss You (Instrumental Reprise) is a short number that sees Nathan East providing bass solo and Sir Gant on keyboards.  Reminding me of Stevie Wonder once more, the song marries twinkling lightness with something more primal and soulful.  Designed to provide punctuation and transition, the track is a delightful little number.

   The Journey is the title track and epicenter of the album.  Beginning with a rousing kick and sensuousness, it soon develops into something quite tribal and Africa-inspired.  With some African vocal samples, it perhaps harks back to Gant’s childhood and African ancestry.  Being based in the U.S. now, Gant takes us to Africa and gives us an insight into a different time in his past.  Uniting his multiple threads and musical tastes, you get a bit of World music and Paul Simon’s Graceland into the fold.  Standout beats and a Soul-infused bass groove give the song a cool-edged and addictive sound.  Those vocal samples punctuate rising strings and an atmosphere that bursts with life and vivaciousness.  So many colours and cultures come through in the music.  One of the album’s finest moments, it shows what an exceptional composer Gant is.  With an expert ear and eye for touching every listener, it is a song that is a perfect mood-setter and entrances you.  Drawing together Jazz horns and some Soul reflectiveness, the song is one of Gant’s best moments.  You are constantly moved by the unison of beats and strings.  Packing in a wealth of musical detail and finesse and it is as a result of serious study and thought.  Flugelhorn and bass sit with strings and percussion to create something wondrous and continent-straddling.

   On the Dancefloor sees the progression in the tale.  After the initial seduction and glance, our hero and heroine take to the floor and are locked in one another’s arms.  Given the proceeding tracks were gentle and romantic swoons, here we have something with a Funk kick and some definite R&B influences.  With Marc Nelson and Sir Gant on vocals, the track is a shivering and hugely powerful number that sees the velvet-voiced Nelson conspire supremely with Gant.  The story looks at the hero take his girl to the floor, asking her to “follow my moves”.  There is that instant relatability and every-day to the song.  You can see the images unfold and the stunning vocal build a captivating scene.  Our hero is in the groove and entranced by his love.  With elements of D’Angelo, Prince, Michael Jackson and Usher, the track will unite fans of each.  Packed with original intent and wonderful musicianship, the track is an undeniable smash that gets inside the head.   Our hero cannot wait to get his girl on the dancefloor as she is the only one he needed.  That chorus is a catchy and memorable proclamation that will have listeners singing along and remembering long after the song has completed.  Contrasting early movements, it is a welcome balance that sees Gant and his musicians expand their wings and take the listener into new territory.  Packing such a kick and soothe, it is impossible to overlook such a sensuous and romantic track.  Balancing Gant’s tones, Nelson’s mighty falsetto will draw comparisons with Stevie Wonder and the greats of music.  It is a song that is so strong in its convictions; it stands as one of The Journey’s finest and most immediate moments.

    So Much in Love starts with a tender and touching piano coda.  Relaxed and seducing, you lean into the speaker in an attempt to drink in its serenity and gentle kiss.  Whereas the music of Peace defined the title and could quell and calm any conflict, So Much in Love shows a burning and intense desire from the offset.  Even with subtle and even-toned restraint, you can sense that heartfelt passion and love from the initial seconds.  The opening seconds see the song build and swell; strings are introduced to showcase something classical and symphonic.  Reminding me of The Cinematic Orchestra at their most spine-tingling, the track grows and climbs.  Twinkling piano sits inside maternal strings that provoke images of floral bloom and a still-morning sunrise.  The percussion work (Paulinho Da Costa and Omar Hakin) perfectly unites with the string work and arrangement Derek Nakamoto.  With Sir Gant co-composing and performing the string parts in addition to keyboard work, the song has a personal edge to it.  You can tell the song comes from a very personal place and time in Sir Gant’s life.  After the shivering beginning, the track becomes more upbeat and toe-tapping.  The percussion is a static and stunning beat that supports the dancing and twirling piano line.  Jumping and waltzing, the song has an upbeat and divine sound that inspires you to dance with a lover or simply lie back and reflect.  Like Miles Davis’ great works, the listener can close their eyes and project their own course of events.  As the song reaches its peaks and high points, the full power and force comes through.  I can imagine Gant paying tribute to a special and wonderful woman.  Perhaps someone who is still with him, the song is a fitting tribute of undefeatable passion and tireless beauty.  Such a deep, full and busy composition, each player is tight and focused on the job at hand.  Like the finest musicianship you can hear, So Much in Love is a song that reveals its true beauty and potential after many spins and investigations.

  Peace is a song that begins with shimmering and glorious declarations.  Powerful and immediate, the strings are a romantic rhapsody that cannot help but to soothe and ignite the soul.  You instantly start to drift away and imagine beautiful and tranquil scenes.  When that compositional rush gets to you, you are powerless to refute its charms and force.  With Sir Gant on all instruments and Charles Stepney on vibes (the track is a tribute to him), the track sees delicate and touching piano mingles among the strings.  From that hot and dizzying opener, the mood starts to become more reflective and pared-down.  Allowing the song to evolve and move, the instrumentation has taken us from a heady and exciting dream to the peace of a new day (or perhaps a moonlit night).  As guitar strings strike and ask for a response, the piano is a lush and cascading flow that responds with immense beautiful and evocativeness.  Enraptured in the swirl and nuance of the surroundings, the listeners are guaranteed to smile and conspire.  Keyboard sounds add a Soul-cum-R&B edge to the song (reminding me of a Songs in the Key of Life-era Stevie Wonder composition).  Uniting modern-day U.S. Jazz with ‘60s/’70s Soul and you have a ripe and receptive track that showcases what a talent Gant is.  Ending with a blend of fast-flowing and passionate piano and vivacious keyboard, and Peace achieves it aims.

Completing Gant’s journey is I’m Gonna Miss You (Vocal Reprise).  Bringing Nelson’s vocal back into the fray, and we get a brief reprise of that central message and declaration.  By the final notes the listener is left wanting more having been taken into a beautiful and stunning world of music.

According to Gant, The Journey was so-called because:

  “I chose the title “The Journey” because it has special significance for me. I believe that “life is a journey, not a destination. It’s a continuous, evolving, learning process that takes many unexpected turns. You have to be flexible & adaptable in order to navigate without losing your way. I’ve had many incredible experiences and challenges, (there will be a book later this year). From being adopted as an infant by 2 incredible parents, to being a single parent with my daughter, my son suffering a serious spinal cord injury while playing college basketball, to finding my birth mom after decades of not knowing who or where she was. All of these things have brought me here today and have shaped me as a person and musical artist. So what you are hearing is my “Musical Journey” which is not one dimensional or really definable by traditional categorizations”.

My words cannot really do justice to the wealth of depth and ability projected throughout.  Bringing in a stunning roster of talented musicians, Gant has created something that is as personal as it is universal.  It brings in Gant’s musical past and present into a collection of songs that tell so many stories and will appeal to all.  From tenderness and longing to passionate sexuality through dreamscapes and reflection, you have an album that is packed with wonderful moments.  Boasting entrancing musicianship and exceptional compositions, The Journey also contains some wonderful vocal turns.  Without a weak moment or poor production element, each song is allowed to breathe and give the album a huge majesty.  If you have not discovered Sir Gant and the InVisible Force’s remarkable album, ensure you hear it now.

I opened by mention musicianship (the lack of it) in modern music and the disposability of modern stars.  It seems there are fake idols and talent show-chasing musicians that want the money and quick success.  Few take time to study and work at the craft these days.  Whether daunted by the financial and commercial pressures or unwilling to immerse themselves in music fully, the results are telling.  There are too few wonderful musicians that really show exceptional talent and ability.  Too many studio-based tricks and committee-written songs are muddying the waters and making it hard to find genuine articles.  Dean Gant has been in music for many years and worked with the likes of OutKast and Ellene Masri.  A man who knows great music and a true talent, this has been distilled into The Journey.  I love Jazz and Soul but find it hard to find artists and albums in these genres that really compel me.  Sir Gant and the InVisible Force is an act that ties in these genres alongside R&B and Classical to create something that should appeal to a wide sector of people.  If you balk at the idea of instrumental tracks then have no fear: On The Journey you get depth and nuance with plenty of upbeat and beauty.  It seems the U.S. is breeding some phenomenal artists that could benefit ears and eyes of the U.K.  We have some great composers and producers here yet few try anything that I have heard today.  One of the most compelling and stunning albums I have heard this year, it leads me to wonder the next steps for Gant.  Whether he chooses to unite with other musicians and create a new album (in 2016) or just produce, the options are there.  Having heard him alongside Masri on Las Vegas radio, I know how much passion he has for the music.  Fans and listeners love his work, so the demand is definitely there.  I for one would love to hear another album next year; something that continues The Journey’s plight and explores new stories and territories.  If listeners and music-lovers have not heard The Journey then they are missing out.  Perfect for any mood or time, it is a record that says so much and conveys so much emotional and passion.  In short what we have…

IS everything music should be.

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