Dannii Barnes (feat. Ace)
No Fear of Falling
(Live at Sound Technology Sessions)
No Fear of Falling is available at:
23rd February, 2016
FRESH from reviewing a London-based Pop/Electro. duo (MissDefiant), I…
am stepping away from an ‘ordinary’ review and looking at a live performance- a song that was originally recorded by another artist. I make a general rule never review a cover version: It is near-impossible finding new insight- something someone else has recorded- and I always yearn for original compositions. Whilst this review will be a shorter one, it is perhaps no-less relevant than most: A great young talent is emerging in the underground. The point of this blog is to review musicians who deserve wider attention and focus: My featured artist has the talent and voice to make a big impression on the music scene. Before I come to her- and look into her music and current offering- I wanted to talk about music coming out of Surrey; artists that begin in music schools- finishing off with a bit about solo female artists. Being based out of Surrey- around Guildford- I often spend a lot of time looking at London artists and bands coming from the capital. To be fair, my mind often wanders there: Daydreams of wandering Covent Garden and tramping through Hackney: Along Piccadilly and getting lost in the tranquility of Hyde Park. As a music journalist, the musicians (of London) provide an equal sense-assault and mind-melting pleasure. You have the Grime rush of East/South London; some wonderful duos coming through; brilliant Rock bands who will be future stars- able to fill venues and headline festivals. With spring upon us- it is the first official day of spring, today- I am seeking the bright and hopeful: Those who will be making footprints in music and capturing the imagination. I have got a little ‘band fatigue’ at the moment: Having reviewed them for so long; it is tough finding one (a band) that stands aside from the crowd. Being a Surrey-born fella; I have a certain loyalty to musicians based in the county. While many are emigrating places larger/more exciting- lots to Brighton; others up to London- there is a loyal band that is putting Surrey on the music map. Hungry bands- like Vinyl Staircase- are doing good business: There are some phenomenal young solo acts pressing hard. Following the success of Emma Stevens- a Radio 2– championed solo act who started life at A.C.M. (more on them later) – there is energy in the local community. Being so close to London: It is unsurprising Surrey is generating quite a few hot and eager artists. There are some great local stations- the fantastic Brooklands Radio, for one- that constantly playlist the best Surrey has to offer. The Academy of Contemporary Music is based out of Guildford and is among the U.K.’s most impressive and noteworthy music schools. Whilst I am a bit of a music purist- preferring musicians to develop through feel and intuition; rather than teaching and direction- I cannot fault the quality that is being produced. Emma Stevens is just one example- from an exceptional school- and not a one-off fluke. Chess- A.K.A., Francesca Galea- is on my review list: She is about to launch her debut album, 1869. While I am looking to move to London as soon as possible- emigrate somewhere exciting and more lively- it is the local music that is keeping me rooted (in addition to financial restrictions). A.C.M. is one of the most reputable music schools around the country. Some of my social media friends- from Shaydes’ Marisa Rodriguez and Elena Ramona- have extolled the virtues of a wonderful house for young talent. Taking time to nurture and guide wannabe musicians: The music world is being treated to the best graduates A.C.M. provides. In addition to the aforementioned names- female musicians that are going to be making great shapes in 2016- you can add Dannii Barnes. You might not have heard of her before- unless you have proximity and connections- but you will in time to come. A ‘house band singer’ for A.C.M. – showing just what talent and reputation she has- the stunning young singer packs a hell of a punch. Bold, confident and soulful: Barnes has one of the most captivating voices I have heard in a while. With Boileroom just down the road (from A.C.M.) I can see Barnes taking to the just-around-the-corner stage: Bringing bodies in and giving new ears a chance to hear her do her thing. If you want to discover a worthy and nuanced female singer- I am always looking out- then the Internet is perhaps not that helpful. Unless you have great social media contacts- or are a music journalist- it can be tough unearthing the best female talent out there. Over the last week, I have unearthed two of Britain’s most exciting up-and-coming singers: Brighton’s Vanessa Forero- I shall stop mentioning her soon- and now Dannii Barnes.
At the moment, (Barnes) seems contented and comfortable at A.C.M.: Enthralling and exciting crowds with her gripping and beautiful voice. No Fear of Falling sees Ace collaborate with Barnes for a Sound Technology Sessions exclusive- Ace is Head of Creativity Industry Development at A.C.M.). The song in question first appeared on Ace’s 2003-album, Still Hungry. While that album might have slipped under-the-radar: The Skunk Anansie guitarist’s song sounds reborn and revitalised. Barnes gives the song a vigour, intensity and dreaminess (the original lacked slightly). Ace and Barnes seem like quite a natural combination: They melt together wonderfully and have a connection and intuition. When listening to the performances- I shall go into more depth- each performer drives the other. Barnes is in her musical infancy- climbing the ladders and learning her craft- but already has a certain star quality. Blessed with incredible beauty and an incredible voice: She is one of the most jaw-dropping singers playing right now. I know (Barnes is) being well looked-after by A.C.M. but it would be good to see an official website. Having that central hub- a Dannii Barnes music homepage- would put her covers/music in one place; make it easy for journalists and fans to discover her. On that note, augmenting her social media profile- an official Twitter account; a bit more depth in the Facebook account- would make her music more accessible and available. Barnes is a passionate and determined young woman- having a sneaky-peek of her Twitter feed- and someone who takes music incredibly seriously. Given the feedback No Fear of Falling is generating- accruing views on YouTube and getting a good response- it is just the start of things. I would love to meet Barnes as she seems someone in-love with music and eager to transcend to the mainstream. That gorgeous voice and enchanting power make every song (she covers) sound her own: She can make everything sound utterly natural and self-penned. No Fear of Falling shows the young singer give her heart and soul completely. I hope Dannii Barnes records an E.P. sometime soon- not that I’m trying to push her- whether it is a covers-only album or set of originals. On that side of things: I think Barnes has some great stories and songs inside her. Let’s hope they make it onto tape soon: Hear that voice tackle of varieties of subjects and avenues. Barnes is a mobile and adaptable talent that would sound tremendous backed by a band- maybe a Rock-y sounding group; maybe Ace could join the ranks?- or out-front as a Blues/Soul-cum-Pop chanteuse. I shall not race ahead- sounds like I am pitching to be her manager- but I can see her going the way of luminaries Emma Stevens and Marisa Rodriguez.
It is in this part of a review I look at past works (an artist has performed): Seeing how they have developed and whether they have progressed. Dannii Barnes is a singer who is very much in the sapling stages of her career. On her YouTube channel; there are a handful of cover versions for people to hear. Barnes is a singer who has an affection and affiliation towards Pop and Soul. Under the umbrella of A.C.M. – where a lot of their students favourite a more mainstream sound- I would love to see her employ some more edgy and Rock-inspired vocals. Barnes is very natural when covering Pop/Indie tracks: She has an authority and range that means her voice perfectly suits mainstreams acts (like Lily Allen). I am not sure whether schools (like A.C.M.) mould singers to sound like someone else- the need to construct artists to sound like mainstream Pop stars- but past graduates have subverted these fears. Barnes strikes me as a singer who could cover a wide spectrum of genres and sounds. When listening to No Fear of Falling– covering Ace’s original composition- I hear the variety and contours (of Barnes’) voice. She has a wonderful rawness to her: I could well see her transition into a more Rock-driven sound. That said; Barnes has soulful undertone- affection for older Blues and Soul singers- that could soundtrack Amy Winehouse-esque numbers. The best singers are those who are not too restricted and narrow. I see too many artists- usually playing in the Pop mantle- that are either sugar-sweet or have a slight huskiness. Because of this, there is little room to maneuver and surprise. On the basis of a few performances- most notably on No Fear of Falling– I can tell Barnes has a lot at her disposal. It makes the proposition of an E.P. quite exciting. I am not sure if she has considered it- I do hope she (at least) puts it in mind- but Barnes could create a wonderful, multi-layered E.P. Maybe mixing in a couple of covers- that are most personal to her- she could bring in some original material (if she is writing at the moment). Able to partner easily with musicians- Barnes and Ace blend with natural ease- Barnes certainly is in the right place- no shortage of potential cohorts at A.C.M. Whether Blues band rampancy- scoring a soulful classic- or a tight, Rock band performance- where our heroine lets her inner-vixen loose- who knows?
No Fear of Falling was a song that appeared on Ace’s- guitarist with Skunk Anansie- album, Still Hungry. That version saw Shingai Shoniwa lend her stunning voice. The Noisettes’ lead- an Indie-Rock band who did not get the acclaim they deserved- gives a wonderful performance on the 2003 version. I am a fan of the original so was keen to hear what Dannii Barnes could do with the song. Hosted by Sound Technology– where they give a platform for talented young musicians to shine- Ace opens the song with gentle, riparian finger-picking. Plucking his Larrivée D-50E: It is an entrancing and seductive opening that beckons for a beautiful vocal. When Barnes starts to sing, you are somewhat startled: Not quite expecting that voice to come through. Most like-minded singers- music school singers and Pop-based artists- have a very defined sound and vocal definition. Dannii Barnes is a bona fide star who just radiates and burns with passion. Our heroine is tongue-twisted and caught in knots- I am going to define/assess this song as though it comes from Barnes’ mind- and has fallen for a particular charm. “You are my weakness” is an (opening) line performed with eyes-closed intensity and a spine-tingling husk. Smoky and sensual- almost sexual in its delivery- you transport yourself into the song itself. The lyrics start to paint pictures and present something tangible and visible. With reason abandoned and her mind contorted: Barnes lets her voice soar and weave around the lyrics. Unable to see reason in the moment- whether saying goodbye to a sweetheart or going through a hard time- Barnes instantly bonds with the song. She is not a singer trotting a song out for the sake of exposure. You can tell how much each word means to her. Every note rings with emotion and (shows Barnes) intoxicated and haunted in equal measures. I am not sure the original interpretation of the song- what compelled its creation- but in Barnes’ hands, it becomes a transcendent hymn that makes you sit silently- that voice washes over you like a cooling ocean. A sly smile is being delivered- “Screw your pride”- and my mind looks towards love and romantic what-ifs. Maybe mistakes have been made in the past- the heroine has rushed in or been overly-cautious with regards love- and is getting over herself. That fear and hesitancy seem to be vanquished: She is ready to take a chance and follow her heart. Maybe I have misinterpreted- Ace could shed some light- but Dannii Barnes turns (No Fear of Falling) into a revelation: A personal insight into a passionate young woman. Guided and supported by Ace’s sweet arpeggio- a gorgeous progression of tender notes and emotive ripples- and the song gets straight inside the mind.
As authoritative and commendable as Ace is- the author knows the song better than anyone else- it is Barnes’ voice that evokes the biggest reaction. Not resigned to deliver a one-note performance- fearful of ruining the song- she trusts her own instincts and abilities. As such- and with confidence showing- powerful and emotive mixes with crystalline and child-like. When the mood calls for it (Barnes), you get blood-lusting power and knee-buckling rise. With nary an indication; that power then dips to something serene and soft. Able to kiss and seduce: Barnes then lets her emotions out and reaches towards the sky. Lesser singers would struggle to discipline themselves and control so many strands. Barnes is a studied singer who is effortless and captivating. Our heroine wants to close her eyes and has no fear: She does not want to fall; be taken to new places and take on the night. Throughout the performance- going to extraordinary places and abandoning an old way of life- hitting the right vocal notes can be quite a challenge. I have heard plenty of singers- tackling similar-sounding songs- present ululation, histrionics (too much) and over-emotiveness. Barnes puts me in mind of (A.C.M. former students) Chess and Marisa Rodriguez. Both singers are making waves and gaining huge applause- Chess has a huge fan-base; Rodriguez fronts the Reading-based band, Shaydes- so I can relate to Dannii Barnes directly. Whether she is enraptured and pained- aching and desperate for some escape- or allowing her chocolate-rich tones to rule- she always keeps the listener fascinated and hooked. Ace is by no means a bystander and lesser player. His shimmering notes propel Barnes and raise her performance to rarified heights. Both artists have push one another- the vocal sharpens the guitar-playing; the guitar inspires vocal experimentation- resulting in a wonderful collaboration.
I have mentioned how No Fear of Falling sounds like a Dannii Barnes song: Insight from a young woman seeking happiness, answers and a comfort net. Perhaps not what Ace had in mind- you’d hope not anyway! -but that is the mark of a great cover: Making it indistinguishable from the original; like it is your own creation. The 2003 album version elicits shivers- a different take but no-less awe-inspiring- but Barnes sounds completely in-love with the song. Despite the fact Barnes is her own singer; you get touches of other artists. Little bits of Nelly Furtado- not sure if she is a fan- and her Whoa, Nelly! work. Blues and Soul strands emerge- bits of the ‘70s queens- whilst there are shades of U.S. Pop stars (including Christina Aguilera). When there is a notable (guitar) key change- Ace introduces a new parable and stage- Barnes’ voice is ready and right there with him. It is that understanding- a near-telekinetic bond- that makes the performance so engrossing. From wordless coos- Barnes sounds deliciously dreamy- to near groans: She runs a gamut of emotions and ensures the listener is pulled straight into her mind. A lot of live performances have a sterile aspect and seem rather un-affecting: Dannii Barnes’ emotive performance ensures every lyric and scene are projected with colour, boldness and black-and-white (you get contrasts and juxtapositions). Adding nuance in unexpected places- the chorus sounds more relevant each time it is delivered- your heart goes out to our heroine. Such is the intensity and commitment through No Fear of Falling: It seems like a confession from Dannii Barnes to us. Ace keeps perfect timing- not rushing too much or too demure- which spurs Barnes to deliver her most memorable vocals. It is the second-half performance that provides the biggest chills and reactions. Almost scatting at one point: Barnes is at the precipice of desires and her voice seems to provide supernatural ability. Effortlessly transmogrifying and exhilarating: She contorts and confesses like she is stood atop a mountain: Screaming down at the world and ensuring everyone hears her. In terms of comprisable singers; I get shades of Bjork. The Icelandic legend is renowned for her cinematic and planet-straddling voice. If you check out albums like Debut and Post: These seem like albums that have inspired Dannii Barnes (subconsciously or directly). If you think about songs like Human Behaviour– and the album Post in a wider sense- it was lauded hugely (renowned as one of the best albums of the ‘90s). It wasn’t the idiosyncrasies- tics, growls and yelps- that resonated with critics: It was the emotions they conveyed and how they move the listener. Barnes has a similar talent at her disposal: She moans and growls- not sexually but sensually- and blows your away with the raw emotions coming out. An enchanting singer whose impish-cum-everyman contrasts make No Fear of Falling such a revelation. Barnes combines alien-like vocals- few other singers can match her range and abilities- with a sexiness and girl-turned-to-woman sense of discovery. That Bjork essence- apologies if Barnes dislikes Bjork- seems to have been transplanted into our heroine.
Dannii Barnes has a voice that can see her amass an army of followers. I have stipulated there are some everyman touches to it: Singers like Chess and Marisa Rodriguez (two A.C.M.-trained singers) have similar tones and gymnastic abilities. That is where the comparisons end, really. What you get from this Sound Technology Sessions video is a singer to watch very closely. Many will hail Barnes based on looks alone- she is a stunningly gorgeous woman- and ignore the talent that she possess. I hope the media/fans- the worst traits they display- just listen to that voice and close their eyes. When you do, you are in for a huge treat: A true star with an impressive confidence on display. Maybe it is where she is based- being an in-house singer at A.C.M. – that means she is chiseled, practiced and assured. Many young singers (of her age), come across a little uncertain and nervy. Dannii Barnes is as confident and convincing as any singer out there. This assurance and ability mean No Fear of Falling is a song you want to listen to time and time again. Ace marries his assiduous strings with a passion drive: He bonds spectacularly with Barnes. The duo does not make eye contact (in the video: Barnes is sat in front of Ace) but you can feel them vibing from one another: There is an unspoken connection that elevates the song to healingly heights. I was unfamiliar with Barnes as recently as one week ago. I am not dedicated to following her career and making sure she can go as far as possible- an artist I would love to interview one day. Whatever her short-term plans- staying at A.C.M. or looking to release an E.P. – she will win new hearts and followers. If you have not heard of Dannii Barnes now: You will in a very short space of time!
Having been contacted by Lizzie Cooley- P.R. Executive at A.C.M. – I am glad I have the chance to expose a wonderful rising talent. I have waxed lyrical and vacillated quite a bit- hopefully, Barnes will forgive me- but Surrey often plays second-fiddle when it comes to the best of new music. Sound Technology– and their wonderful live sessions- have seen a rotation of pure talent show what they are made of. Dannii Barnes and Ace must rank among the most memorable performances, for sure? The two have a simpatico and connection that channels into a scintillating performance. Just watching the video- for the live performance- so many things stand in the mind. Barnes is a captivating woman to see: Lost in the music, she closes her eyes and seems to go somewhere wonderful and magical. Not to sound too pious/wanky: She’s a woman who commits her soul to music. Ace- decked in leather and James Bay-esque hat- is the epitome of cool and calm. The two have this fire-and-ice relationship: That burning hot voice is perfectly controlled by disciplined and emotive strings. Ace’s 2003 song is given a work-over that makes it sound like a Dannii Barnes original: She owns the song and uses it as an exercise to highlight her vocal strengths. I genuinely hope Ace keeps playing with Barnes- I am not sure where he is based out of- as they fit like hand-in-glove. As for the voice behind the song: What can you really say? The fact she is a matter of metres down the road from me- I walk past A.C.M. most days- I must commit to seeing Barnes play in the future. I opened by recommended she get an official website drawn-out and formulated- I know a designer who could do a bang-up job! There are a lot of local joints- from The Star to Boileroom; The Stoke’ (my gaff) that would happily house her. I have a bittersweet relationship with Guildford- dismayed at the negatives but proud of the young music breed- but I am glad A.C.M. is in town. I have grown weary of the ‘best’ the mainstream has to offer. There are some cracking singers emerging: Robyn Sherwell and Elle King have enough intimacy-and-power contrast to them. In terms of the boys, Wild Nothing and Kano are among my current highlights. A couple of real (deep-rooted) problems linger within music. There is a lot of indeterminate at the moment. From Iggy Pop- his farewell album, Post Pop Depression– to Alessia Cara’s debut: There are too many two and three-star albums. Music- the mainstream at least- is struggling to throw up terrific newcomers and consistent mainstays. With every passing year, you really have to dig hard to discover some genuinely great albums: Something that is probably scaring a lot of under-the-radar artists. The second problem is this: Brilliant young singers have to struggle to get their names heard. I would love to see a site that brings together all the young artists emerging: Breaks them down by genre and location; makes it easy to discover fine talent. Right now, there is a lack of discipline, support and leading-by-example music.
I feel Dannii Barnes will be able to negotiate and hurdle every obstacle. There is a sea of determined singers electioneering: Barnes ranks among the most impressive and stunning of them all. Under the mantle of A.C.M. – her current school and artist-in-resident location- I can see her career blossoming and growing. Let’s hope the local pubs and music venues open their doors- hopefully, she has a manager who is taking care of that- I know a lot of people who would pay to come see her. I witness too many musicians who have so-so voices or overly-cliché songs. Barnes has proven herself an exceptional interpreter with a huge feel for the material: Someone who can take a song (from another act) and turn it into something near-transcendent and majestic. She is still a young woman, so there is not a great deal of pressure: Original material and E.P.s will surely come in time. Given the passion, potential and personality inside her: That could well translate into an ear-catching and brilliant selection of original material. It is great seeing a Surrey musician- although Barnes hails from Essex- showcase such incredible talent. There is a rabble of competition- even around Surrey- with everyone showing something slightly different. Among a throng of same-sounding solo artists, Barnes has a unique flair and a real edge to her. You get beauty and tenderness at the one moment: She can switch to primal and sky-scraping without any warning. Such agility and ability mark her out as one-to-watch. The future is very much hers, so let’s hope she takes her music as far as possible. Make sure you keep informed of Sound Technology: Their live sessions are promoting a lot of great young musicians. It is great seeing Ace back in the spotlight too- I have been a fan of Skunk Anansie since the ‘90s- and going strong. With Skunk’ still playing- their latest album (Anarchytecture) was released in January- I am pleased to see the guitarist in fine form. I am not sure how Ace and Barnes came to join forces- I shall have to ask that question- but I beg it is not a one-off. Dannii Barnes has covered artists from Passenger to Lily Allen. She is a singer who has a wide range of influences and idols. Effortless across a range of genres: The seeds are being planted for a wonderful future. No Fear of Falling shows Barnes in full flight: A song that seems perfect for her inimitable voice. Given the wide range of singers vying for attention and longevity; Dannii Barnes is a performer who could…
VERY well top them all.
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