E.P. REVIEW: Tsinder Ash- The Carbon of Your Delight



Tsinder Ash



The Carbon of Your Delight




The Carbon of Your Delight is available at:


5th March, 2015

Experimental; Blues; Folk; Drone


London, U.K.


The Carbon of Your Delight9.4


The Sparking– 9.5



The Carbon of Your Delight; The Sparking


The Sparking


All tracks written, performed and recorded by Tsinder Ash
Mixed and Mastered by Mitch Girio at Slaughterhouse 754 
Additional Vocals by Clara Engel on The Sparking
Cover Photograph taken by AJAMU 
Cover model, design and cyanotypes by Tsinder Ash


FROM the Electro.-Pop-via-Alternative debut smash of…

RAY (A.K.A. Rachel Wilkinson) I get to look at someone completely different. Perhaps not in terms of location- the two acts are not based far away from one another- but stylistically and musically. RAY’s heartbreak-affected lyrics are still bouncing inside my head: making me wonder; I am trying to get down to the nub- just who has inspired them.  Right now- and for this afternoon- it is time to investigate one of the most individual and multi-talented artists around the capital. Before arriving at Tsinder Ash: it is worth looking at the musicians that do things differently; the necessity of mixing light and dark- standing out from the pack. I have a definite fondness for musicians that keep traditional alive: instill the sound and flavor of past masters; ensure that heritage and sound is kept intact. Whether you are a fan of Folk or Pop- and look for artists that do things purely- you are spoiled for choice. Over the last few years, there have been few acts that go out of their way to be distinguished. I think there is a general fear of ‘fitting in’: needing to sound a particular way to please critics and labels. It is important to appeal to the masses, but that is coming at the expense of originality and evolution. I am not one of those people that dismiss new music as doomed: something that is never going to grow; fated to fall. I feel 21st century sounds are not at the peak of past decades- I feel music hit its peak in the ‘90s- but that is not to say what we have now is inferior. There are plenty of artists that are definitely promising and can change things. My previous review- when looking at the delectable RAY- examined the most influential radio stations in the U.K.- focusing on ‘6 Music especially. I feel Britain- and the U.S. to an extent- is beholden to the lame, over-subscribed stations- those who play the least imaginative and stale music around. It sets a bad precedent for musicians and is causing listeners to be less adventurous and daring with their musical choices. I love an artist that can come to the scene with bravery, uniqueness, and certain quirkiness. Before I continue my point- and invariably, raise a couple more- let me introduce Tsinder Ash to you:

London-based recording and performance artist TSINDER ASH has played venues throughout the UK, Europe and the US. Collaborating with musicians from London, Canada and the States.

Having little regard for the confines of the stage, live performances are spontaneous and confronting. With vocals that range from a deep blues to whimsical folk and a style that derives influences from a range of musical genres, live shows extend beyond the bounds of traditional songwriting performance.

Tsinder is currently playing live throughout London and beyond and working on a brand new LP titled THE ECSTASY OF MAKING THINGS WORSE due for release in 2016. Please check Bandcamp or Facebook for updates and information on upcoming performances”.

A few weeks ago; I was foreign to the wonders of the London-based musician. Ash is an artist you can hardly ignore: everything about his music sort of leaps out of you. Aside from the somewhat ‘personal’ cover to The Carbon of Your Delight– certainly stays in the memory- the music contained within has been causing quite a splash. I have not heard many musicians that do things the same way (as Tsinder Ash). You could never accuse Ash of being anything other than visionary and different. Not one that follows the flock- or tries to distance himself from people- you get music that integrates light and dark; hopelessness and hope; genre-fusion and immense ambition. Having collaborated with Clara Engel- an artist I have reviewed a couple of times before- I was keen to dive in and see what was on offer. On paper; there are very few that compare with Ash. A singer classically trained at a young age: his formative years was spent performing in West End productions; moving on from Opera to foster a love for Jazz and Folk. Taking to the genres naturally: he taught himself a variety of skills; mastering saxophone and clarinet- adding stringed instruments to his instruments.  Now- blending off-kilter melodies and dark tones together- that multifarious appreciation of music comes together in a vibrant feast for the senses. I am kind of jealous when thinking of Tsinder Ash. He has done so much already- a younger man that I- and led quite an epic life. He is the sort of person whose progress could be adapted into a screenplay: a young musician that has experienced adventure and heartache; discovery and self-actualisation- turning into the man he is today. Incorporating Jazz and Folk into his repertoire: in a way, Ash is a sort of ‘anti-Folk’ artist. He can retain the structures and dynamics of Folk; he goes so much deeper. Not atonal or off-putting: his fusion of darker hues and impossible-to-define sounds is setting him aside as an artist to watch closely. While early work embraced U.S. Blues and older sounds: the modern-day Tsinder Ash mixes in more Urban integrations and street-level grittiness. That change of direction can be attributed to living in London: a city that is sure to change your views and dreams. With every E.P. and album; Ash evolves and does something new- keeping his distinct sound ablaze and strong.

Although The Carbon of Your Delight was released last year: it shows how much Tsinder Ash has developed as a musician. His eponymous album- released back in 2012- was jammed with fascinating tracks and odd avenues; incredible inventiveness and arresting songs. From the chanting mantra of Thunder; the scratched and head-spinning Drum for After– one of the most impressive vocal turns on the album- you get to see many sides to the hero. Inertia, You Moved Me (those contrasts and contradictions) boasts a spirited piano line: backed by a trembling and off-kilter vocal. Pacific and Disaster give us a window into a different side: darker edges that bring in great drama and vivid imagery. The 11-track record was well-received by critics and fans. Comparisons to Tom Waits were made- you can hear nods to the gravel-voiced maestro- and Captain Beefheart. Ash incorporates the quirkiness and heady-smoked trip of Camden; the Blues and Jazz magic of New Orleans- the darkness and uncertainty of the city. Tsinder Ash’s songs were typically tight and focused (aside from the 5:38-long Under Your Shadow). What we have now- The Carbon of Your Delight– is a shorter work that manages to be more experimental. The tracks are longer and a little more indulgent without being too bloated and unfocused. Even though the songs are less concise and brief than their predecessors: by the end of the E.P. you are still wanting more; keen to hear  more from the London-based musician. The biggest change- over the last few years- is the rise in confidence and direction. I say this about most musicians- when assessing their new and older work- but you can see change in Tsinder Ash. His self-titled album packed plenty of beauty and darkness: The Carbon of Your Delight ups the game and brings all Ash’s strength to the foreground. The songs are more nuanced and compelling; the performances more impressive and deep- the lyrics hold even-more fascination, memorability and variation. I know The Ecstasy of Making Things Worse is due this year: I am not sure what direction Tsinder Ash will be taking.  Maybe enforced by love and break-ups- the title does beg for those interpretations- it is likely to follow the same paths as previous work. Ash is keen to keep consistent and dependable- not shifting his dynamic too much- but with every release; you get something fresh and unexpected. I cannot wait to hear what is next. If it is anything like The Carbon of Your Delight: it likely to be one of the finest cuts of the year.

The Carbon of Your Delight’s title track begins with a quaking, tremulous vocal. Our hero has his mind in the grasp of a somewhat alluring Siren- a sweetheart that is compelling hyperbole; awed affectation and submission. The opening lines- “I would collapse into you/like a dying star/become nameless, genderless mould/on which touch can leave marks”- are delivered in operatic tones. Having that background: it is not surprising Ash can sound so masterful in that arena. Trembling and raw- a blend of Anthony Hegarty and well… who knows?! There is something wonderful evocative and familiar about the voice- although you cannot pinpoint a name- that gets you smiling and dreaming. Backed by slight strings- and no other accompaniments- the focus is placed on the voice. The song’s lyrics are among the most vivid and impressive I have heard in a long time. Stark and brash images- “Just the throb of your proximity/will keep the organs in” is among the best- mix submission and love; mortality and darkness. Our hero wants his body filled with resin; surrender to his girl- just so he could follow her shadow. The poetic lyrics are matched only by that central vocal: something that gets inside the head and stays there. Ash sounds like an older man singing from his deathbed. There is a frail and brittle quality to the voice: it quivers and trembles like a leaf yet possess so much power and passion. Wanting to fill himself with holes- so he can fit more of the girl in- you have a song that documents a desperate need and desire- through a distorted and vibrant prism. Ash’s lyrics are sometimes disturbing; always powerful and image-heavy. Given the song’s title: it is no shock the lyrics strip things to the bone; bring you right into the song. You will be hard-pressed to forget The Carbon of Your Delight when you hear it: it has that effect on you. As the verses progress; the pace picks up and the song gets busier. The strings become more punctuated and the urgency starts to creep in. Soon enough, you fall helplessly in love with the song: struck by the unique delivery and the strength of the lyrics. While the hero would “crumble to chalk”; become a body on which “fractal meanings dance”: you start to wonder about the song’s influence. One starts to imagine the sort of girl that is being represented: someone with immense beauty but a strangeness about her. That might be me jumping to conclusions- the song has a rather quirky charm- but it is impossible to hear it and not come to conclusions. By the latter stages; our hero seems even more immersed in the grips of love and desire. Wanting that ecstasy and kiss; the bond and touch: few people will be able to hear the song and not shed a sly tear. A powerful and gripping opening to the E.P.: one of the most impressive songs of Tsinder Ash’s career.

If the opening salvo mixed dark lyrics with the hopes of love: the sophomore track is a more frightening and suppressed thing. Unlike its predecessor- which opened with tremulous vocal ripples- the compositions leads Weapons. The opening seconds sees cosmic electronics take your mind to the skies. Although the song’s title might get you imagining something ballistic and violent: the compositions has a more heavenly and delicate touch. There is plenty of power and urgency; enough beauty and candour to put the mind in a positive place. When our hero comes into the spotlight: the opening words might change your mind. You get some banjo and Deep South finger-picking; New Orleans funereal stomp and something haunted this way comes. Our man is plagued by “Rivers of stone” and a “bloody dawn”. It could not be a Tsinder Ash song without something apocalyptic and mystical being detailed. The hero is a brave warrior that is fighting evil forces and demonic influences. Grief is coming for him; flesh is being torn from the body- our man is not going to leave this world unscathed and without impact. The song could almost take place in Game of Thrones: all manner of torture instruments and bloody scenes are laid bare. Of course, the lyrics are meant more metaphorically than literally. There are deep emotions haunting the soul; painful days that are taking their tolls- perhaps the aftermath of a break-up? The E.P.s opening contained affection and heady declarations- you could sense the spark and passion in the air. Here, we have something more downbeat and defeated. Entranced by the strings are you will be- you cannot help but transport yourself to some Deep South porch in the sun- the lyrics will certainly get int the brain. A masterful lyricist and poet: scenes of bloodshed and weapons intertwine; mingling with defiance and fight. Our hero has power and fight in his bones; he will not depart the world without making a statement. A song that could fit onto Rain Dogs (by Tom Waits): it blends the U.S. master with something distinctly Tsinder Ash.

The Sparking begins with haunting and dark beginnings. Those words are practical synonyms when it comes to Tsinder Ash and his music. Within the shadows and dusk is beauty and light to be found. Under a mother-of-pearl moon; our man is bringing home the bones (of the heroine). Again, you get ideas of battle-strewn lands and old-time scenes: something quite classic and mystique. Even in the early phases I was sucked into the song and its power. Ash’s voice has that dusky and smoky quality- again, Waits comes to mind- while the lyrics take your mind somewhere special. I have encountered few lyricists that have the same style and nature as Tsinder Ash. The hero wants to be at the sparking- whatever that refers to- and would never “beg your pardon”- only beg belief. Joining with Clara Engel: the duo combines their voices and combines in an odd- if rather wonderful- duet. It seems like a lovers’ call: two souls that are floating on a fiery sea and heading towards lands unknown. Silkworms hang by the hundred and are turning (our hero) into all sorts of forms- shapes that are foreign and unwelcomed. I can see why Ash hooked-up with Engel: the two have similar styles and affection for the English language. Among the entrancing vocals and immersive compositions: you get some very rich, detailed and lugubrious language. Perhaps the most startling moment from the E.P.: the song takes you in and does not let you go. The composition, once more, remains fairly sparse in places- a lot more detailed and full than other tracks. Engel and Ash are a perfect combination and have a special blend: one that gives the song gravitas and conviction.

Antipode closes things and brings The Carbon of Your Delight to a triumphant close. “You are the water’s edge/I crawl around” are among the most arresting and standout lines from the E.P.  The record is split between songs of love and fights against pain. If the opener was a blend of dark and light- a dark composition with light lyrics- the follow-up reversed that balance. The Sparking redressed the balance and adds new voice to the mix. Antipode has more in common with The Carbon of Your Delight– there is hope and professions of love; among introspection and pain. Tsinder Ash is a writer never overtly positive or negative. Every song and lyric will contain contrasts and layers: he is a complex person that never reveals himself too readily. ‘Antipode’ means something that is the exact opposite: a fitting title for an E.P. that contains contradictions, opposing emotions, and scenes. Antipode contains a typically whiskey-soaked and moonlight vocal- a man that is exposing his soul and looking for answers.  Our boy wants to be taken back to “shaded trees”; a place where “your leaking eyes formed the blackest years”- perhaps the most cryptic set of lyrics on the set.  Byzantine and oblique; you cannot resist projecting images and casting your own story. Whatever the song details: it is one of the most mysterious and appealing from the young master. The composition has plenty of beauty and light to it. You get beautiful strings and fused genres. Americana and Folk sit alongside Blues and Jazz- a rich and sumptuous palette. In the final phases; that composition becomes more lustful and romantic; aching and shivering. Ash is at his most concentrated and focused here: a song that provides a fitting finale and ensures the E.P. stays in the mind for a long time.

I am glad to have discovered Tsinder Ash- well, he found me actually. There are so few musicians that can sound both traditional and hugely different at the same time. The charts are awash with music that hardly sparks the imagination. You can discover some exciting and bracing musicians: their numbers are very rare and few. Look further afield and you fight hard to unearth an artist that strays from the pack- and causes a big reaction. While not everyone will instantly warm to Tsinder Ash- that music can take a few listens to make its beauty known- he is someone that is going to be around for a long time. The multi-instrumental wunderkind gets stronger and more confident with each new record. I adore the way he splices genres and owns every song on record. The performance values are extraordinary; the instrumentation stunning and beautiful- the vocals consistently engaging and beautiful. Boring people are, well, boring. The most interesting folk are those who change things are lead- rather than blindly follow with no direction. Tsinder Ash is a musician that will give inspiration and direction to many new artists.  Like Kiran Leonard- another young musician that has insane talent and reach. The Carbon of Your Delight is a beautifully-titled E.P. that showed a young man with a definite passion and talent. The four-track release brims with special moments and stands-in-the-brain memories. The Ecstasy of Making Things Worse– another beautiful title; a man who likes contrasts and vivacity- there is no telling just what will be contained. That L.P. – which will be dropped this year- is likely to expand upon The Carbon of Your Delight: take that base and add more colour and dimensions. It has been great investigating a musician that throws the rulebook out of the window: someone that grabs you by the neck and provides music of the highest order. The rest of this year is likely to be a busy and productive one for Ash. I cannot wait to hear the new album: just what it contains and how it will be received. If you are like me- and crave something special, different and bold- then discover what Tsinder Ash is all about. I have been highlighting the fact I have not been able to get out of London- with regards reviewing- and I am here once more. It is not to worry, mind. Although Ash’s body might be based in the capital; his music is far less planted. You get trips to the southern states of the U.S. thrown into the mix. Tsinder Ash is not someone you can pin down and predict. All of these qualities and sides go into one of the most interesting artists of the moment. Set aside some time to listen to The Carbon of Your Delight; drink it all in and allow the music…

TO do its work.



Follow Tsinder Ash























Bullets is available shortly

Pop; Electro.; Alternative


London, U.K.


LOOKING at today’s (first) review subject and it got…

me thinking about new ventures; the importance of radio exposure and attention- looking at the competiveness in the industry right now. RAY is the venture of former Ivy & Gold frontwoman Rachel Wilkinson. Having followed the London duo for some time: I was upset by the split and quite shocked.  One of the most ambitious and beautiful duos making music: they combined an essence of London Grammar with something unique and distinctly theirs. I am not sure of the circumstances behind the split- whether they have reached a musical impasse- but I mourn their passing. The magic and mystique created by Ivy & Gold left deep impressions on the fans- those that are upset at their passing. I will not dwell too much on their cessation: it is great Wilkinson has regrouped and attacking music on her own. Aside from a heart-stopping beauty:  Wilkinson’s voice is filled with intense passion and desire; a bucket-load of strength, clarity and colour. Her alma matter was able to ascend to dizzying heights because of that striking and stunning voice. Having already gathered quite a few fans- Ivy & Gold supporters will flock to her new venture- it looks like the London-based heroine is in safe hands. I wonder how RAY will start her career: what plan of action she will employ. With an amazing single under her belt- I will come to shortly- it has the potential to reach a wide audience; resonate with thousands of listeners. Based in London: there are plenty of radio stations that could lend a hand. I have been thinking about radio and how important it is to new musicians. Social media can only do so much: it has its audience but it does have its limitations, too.  Whilst RAY is accruing fans right now: there is a much wider audience out there that would love to hear her music. Where I live- it shall remain nameless- the local stations (the few of them) are pretty bad. Whilst concentrating on local talent- and giving them a platform- the playlists and presenters put you off music altogether.

I am not sure what it is with local radio: it seems intent on catering to a rather uncool, desperate demographic.  The middle-class, middle-aged white audience is well accommodated where I live: if you want to hear the same dull songs several times a day; enter some crappy call-in competition- you will love the stations. London is slightly more prosperous: there is a great range of stations that push boundaries and are pretty cutting-edge. I bring up the point- with regards radio- because I am an acolyte of ‘6 Music: the best stations we have in this country. It is not just the D.J.s that appeals to me- they are knowledgeable, warm and hugely engaging- but the music they feature. Combining classics and rare gems; brand-new, under-the-radar tracks; a range of genres and decades- how many radio stations give such consistency and quality? The short answer is ‘zero’. Not only (do ‘6 Music) keep the true music lover satisfied: their focus on new music is admirable. I can well see RAY being featured on the station. Her debut track has a great contemporary sound: it would perfectly suit the station’s ethos and demographic. I have heard so many artists struggle to get airplay and recognition: struggle to get the attention of stations around the U.K. Social media is a useful tool for new musicians.I feel radio is even-more-vital with regards promotion and development. I know Wilkinson has a great reputation- her work with Ivy & Gold- and a talent few others possess. Those qualities will stand her in good stead; she has a passion for music and will ensure Bullets makes its way to your ears. Saddened by Ivy & Gold’s split- and the connection they shared- I was glad to see RAY emerge from the flames. The central light and lead of the duo: regrouping and focusing can be a hard task. Not content to sit there and let the dust settle: Wilkinson has come out of the blocks and is setting her sights towards the future. I am not sure if she has management behind her- or a P.R. company- but she is establishing a solid social media base. Bullets will be released shortly- a teaser is available across Facebook and Instagram– and the fan numbers are starting to climb. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are all primed- the song will drop to her SoundCloud account- and I am sure there will be a music video for her single. Plenty of people are excited and primed for RAY’s debut.  Knowing what an extraordinary talent Wilkinson is- and the effect she made with Ivy & Gold- you would be forgiven for thinking she will rest on her laurels. Quite the opposite, in fact. What you have with RAY is an outfit that has some familiar shades but is a different proposition. There is a lot of competitiveness in the modern game: RAY is not your average Electro.-Pop-cum-Alternative artist. Bullets provides so many different angles and avenues: colour mixes with black-and-white; ‘90s touches mingle with the modern-day- an explosion of intention and passion. I am very excited to see what comes next for the young artist. Photo shoots will surely come- a chance to see the vision and look of RAY, as it were- and maybe an official website (that would be awesome). More fans will come to the Facebook and Twitter pages; the Instagram numbers are going to rise- new music will be unveiled as the year progresses. We have the makings of a stunning and long-lasting solo artist. Make sure you back RAY and await Bullets. Its arrival is imminent and it will show what a force Rachel Wilkinson is.

Bullets begins with appropriate gusto and authority. Tribal drums pitter and patter: there is something bellicose and dangerous that beckons. The listener is pulled into something edgy and urgent right from the get-go. Keeping things impressively controlled and level- the percussion does not get intense too early- the introduction builds slightly- before our heroine is at the microphone. In the space of a few seconds; Bullets has announced its presence and planted the seeds. RAY steps to the microphone with some rather cryptic and fascinating insights. The opening line- “What is the cost of the unknown?”- promotes images of uncertainty and trespass- people coming into your life and creating hostility and unsure feelings. Taken at a different angle: maybe RAY is addressing changes in life (musical transitions and rebirth)- addressing her own fears and what the future may bring. With every new line; perceptions begin to change.  When singing “You are lost now/but never alone” I start to get a deeper insight into the heroine’s heart. It seems like- perhaps not intentionally- there is a nod to the end of Ivy & Gold. The frontwoman has undergone a break-up (in musical terms) and is seeking settlement and comfort- knowing she is not on her own. My brain is always caught between two plains- that of the emotional and musical; combined with a commentary on the world at large. I know Rachel Wilkinson has had to reposition her compass and rebuild her career- after the death of a wonderful and successful act. “What would he do?/What does he know?” are even-more-cryptic and arresting sentiments. I am not sure who the ‘he’ is in the lyrics- a fictional character or personal acquaintance- but the lines are delivered with verve and accusation.  Clearly, RAY has some anger and burden to get off her shoulders: Bullets is the sound of a young woman wrestling with her feelings and intuitions. When the chorus come to the light- in all its passion and splendor- you hear that voice rise and explode. Fans of mainstream Pop- especially U.S. idols- will find something for them in the song. While Wilkinson is a songwriter who has always produced something that transcends mainstream limitations: she is someone that wants to bring in as many people as she can. Bringing in American influences- the female power vocalists of the charts- with her own stamp and vision- a track that is likely to inspire a huge demographic. The chorus sees a hundred bullets in the heart: a very vivid and unforgettable image that assesses the full height of her emotions. When it does arrive; there is a bit more clarity that arrives: it seems like the song is looking at love break-down and struggle. If inspired by her own life- a past or present love struggle- your heart goes out to RAY. The emotion and lustre put into the lyrics show conviction and truth. Backed be electronic swathes and punching percussion: the heroine needs to “Keep breathing” and survive. It is clear recent events have compelled this song. Whether a direct addressment of Ivy & Gold’s break-up- a more general commentary on a relationship ending- you cannot ignore the relevance and timeliness.  “I have a heavy heart for you”, it is said.  The song’s hero was turning into “someone new”: perhaps a rather unlikeable and strange version of what he was. Maybe a relationship has turned sour and the duo is on different pages- wanting different things are seeming distant.

Examining the turmoil and exorcising her demons: RAY allows her voice to climb, flow and fly. Without histrionics and losing focus: the vocal remains engaging, powerful and impressive throughout. Bullets is a song that will seem familiar to everyone listening to it. I do not mean in terms of its sound: more to do with the themes and emotions that are being addressed. The heroine is clearly aghast and affected by a rather hostile time. Her heart is pierced and bleeding: the song is an execration of a painful time. When the chorus comes round for the second time; it carries more weight and compulsion. RAY’s vocals are layered and wordless- creating a rather hypnotic chorus- and the song picks up new insight, weight and meaning. Not just reserved to a particular audience- you might think the female, teenage audience- it is a song that will compel every listener. In spite of the rather personal struggle: RAY is a singular artist that will reach the heart of everyone. It is very clear this is “not a dream”- an idea that is repeated- and the hurt is very real. Maybe my earlier interpretations- about being about split and change in RAY’s life- might be a bit short-sighted. If you dig down- and hear the song a few more times- it is more outward and less insular than you’d imagine. Bullets is a song that is designed for a much wider audience: a song that represents all those heartbroken and angered; a track that can be interpreted and understood by damn-near everyone. The chorus’ proclamations of bullet-ridden hearts is a metaphor that we can all sympathise with. Whether you have felt the sting of love’s uncertainty- or has to reevaluate life- this song will make an impact. I myself- who has experienced change and uncertainty- was invested in the song and the lyrics. RAY’s performance is consistently impressive and powerful: that voice never drops and continues to sparkle and ignite through every stage. Backed by a canvas of pummeling beats and explosive electronics: the combination is stunning. By the final notes, our heroine seems drained and completely overwhelmed. Each time the chorus swings around- it is repeated at the end- you sense new anger and pain; that anguish and drama become more electric. Congratulations must be provided to RAY who has managed to transitions between the distinct sound of Ivy & Gold: stepping out alone whilst not completely abandoning her roots. Embers of the London duo can be found within Bullets. The song throws off the dynamics/constraints of Ivy & Gold and is a bold and unique track. Rachel Wilkinson knew she had to go in hard and strong: that is exactly what you get with Bullets. Backed by exceptional production values- that give the song a polish without distilling the power and verve- RAY is allowed to breathe and sing freely. Bullets is a track that could easily find itself across Radio 1– it has a sound that will resonate with listeners- but has more intelligence and depth than that. I mentioned ‘6 Music earlier: the quality and range the station provides. Bullets could make its way to their playlists- I have heard some like-minded tracks lately- and appeal to that listener base. I have no fears when it comes to RAY’s debut track. It will gain a lot of appreciative votes and pick up plenty of new fans. Radio stations will be lining up and that will- let’s hope at least- give her the confidence to produce new tracks and material. Few artists go in with such an authoritative and memorable debut. Whilst Bullets has a simplicity and familiarity to it: it never sounds like it could come from anyone other than Rachel Wilkinson. That blend of familiar and individual is a precious commodity in music. Make sure you stick closely to this London-based treasure.

I am sure RAY is excited by Bullets: seeing how it resonates with fans and what reception it gets. I hope radio stations give their backing and get behind the song. Bullets is a song that is filled with fiery and lust; there is  tenderness and reflection- all the ingredients the savvy music consumer needs and demands. Few artists are as arresting and stunning as RAY. A solo artist that combines exceptional, accessible songwriting with a desire to influence people and make them think deeply. It is heartbreaking to see Ivy & Gold break and go their separate ways. I am just glad Wilkinson continues in music and shows no signs of slowing. That brings me to the questions of the future. I know Bullets is the first song out of the traps- and a rather superb one at that- but she must be thinking about the coming months. I am confident there will be some gigs forthcoming. After that- and with the local audiences suitably hungry- can we expect some more material? RAY has a lot to say: from past pain to new hope; ample ammunition for a rather vivid and varied E.P. I shall not put too much pressure on her but it is something to think about. Bullets is a song that appeals to the ‘6 Music lover in me. It is true: there are some chart-friendly vibes in the track. If you dig deeper there is a song a lot more cultured and layered than that- something that might miss the minds of Radio 1 listeners, for instance. I can detect influences of the past- some of Wilkinson’s music icons- and great nuance and depth. I am growing weary and bored of the predictable fly-by-night artists. Those that rock-up and toss-off the same plodding songs- filled with bad metaphors; clichéd sentiments and one-dimensional compositions. If music is going to progress and develop; we need to start fostering artists that have the promise of future existence. London is putting out a rafter of wonderful musicians this year. I was not hot on the output of 2015: I felt it lacked a certain spark and gravitas. Few artists (from last year) have stuck in the imagination. This year seems a lot more prosperous and promising. The capital’s qualities are ensuring its musicians are putting out some extraordinary sounds. Among the bustle and hustle- the rising property prices and intensity- creative endeavours are rising, unabated and without subjugation.

RAY is a down-to-Earth and sweet human that is likely to hook and seduce fans- she is an incredible musician in the live arena. As a songwriter: she combines the everyday with personal; heartbroken anger with more hopeful motifs. If you add all these ingredients together we have a musician that has a clear path ahead of her. I have speculated as to the rest of this year- if an E.P. is forthcoming- but I can see some great things beckoning. If you are restless for Bullets– there is snippet available from social media- you will not have to wait too long. Wilkinson’s past confidence and experience puts her ahead of her peers. I know (in future records) there will be touches of Ivy & Gold’s sound- that multifarious blend of Electronic-Pop and Alternative; stunning production and striking vocals. It is only left for the listener to get behind a truly excellent artist. I know RAY’s best days are still ahead: Bullets is a tantilsiing and confident song that will make its mark, for sure. Ivy & Gold fans will find some familiar strands- that lush production and assured vocal- but Rachel Wilkinson has thrown off a lot of her past- she has evolved more confident and sensual than ever. If you look at her Facebook page (for RAY) there are some provocative black-and-white shots: sexual and beautiful; graceful and alluring.  For me- and perhaps not others- Ivy & Gold had a sense of grace, sweeping drama and love. Now, we have a singer that has burst from the chrysalis and is more bold, direct and potent than ever. Congratulations to RAY on creating an authoritative and memorable debut tracks. I know social media mouths are watering and eager- the fans will not be disappointed. Those who bemoan the rubbish-ness of local radio and the samey songs; those who find more comfort and joy in ‘6 Music and the quality they feature- RAY is  someone you will want to get behind. The sun is out- although it could snow at any minute- and Bullets seems like a perfect Saturday soundtrack. Sure; there is some anger and loss under the surface. There is plenty of joy, strength and rush to be found: a song that will get inside the head upon first listen. Ivy & Gold might have (sadly) been consigned to the dust, but when it comes to its lead voice…

THE future is just begun.


Follow RAY








E.P. REVIEW: Hunting Bears- Foolish Love



Hunting Bears



Foolish Love





Foolish Love is available at:


18th April 2016

Baroque-Pop; Alternative


Leeds, U.K.


Sweet Anthony9.6

Foolish Love– 9.6

First in Line9.5

Bronze, Silver and Gold9.4

In the Afterglow9.5


Sweet Anthony; Foolish Love; First In Line


Foolish Love


IT has been a fair while since I reviewed Hunting Bears…

but it is good to return.  Before coming to their new sounds- and how the band has developed- I wanted to look at the understated (and underappreciated) nature of Baroque-Pop; the way things have shaped up in 2015- the need for beauty and contemplation in music.  I like to think I am a lover of many kinds of music:  there are few genres that I will overlook.  To be fair, I have little time for Country, Dub-Step; Classical and World- but will not ignore these genres altogether.  Even inside those (rather divisive) types of music there is plenty to recommend and enjoy.  That is the great thing about music in general:  there is an enormous amount of choice and beauty to be discovered.  What irks me most is how confined some musicians are.  I have bemoaned this fact before- and shall not whip that horse too much now- but get angry at certain musicians.  If you are coming onto the scene- fresh and eager for success- it is not good enough phoning it in and doing what everyone else is doing.  Technology has advanced to the stage where we can incorporate any sound and instrument into a song.  There are limitless possibilities and unbridled potential.  This criticism is not just levelled at bands:  solo artists are just as guilty when it comes to the matter of diversity.  If you feel Rock/guitar-based bands are becoming too formulaic and stifled:  the same must be said at many emerging Pop acts.  Yesterday, I reviewed two very different artists:  each of them is pushing boundaries and creating something exciting.  From London, Lola Coca is a Hip-Hop/Pop artist who puts tales of creepy guys- slimy city types- inside addictive and catchy songs.  By contrast; Fifi Rong creates haunting Electronic sounds that detail forbidden love and longing- wrapped up inside mystical electronics and thudding beats.  Pop is a wide genre that has the potential to make a big difference in the music world.  I feel the mainstream’s ‘best’ are not setting a good example to underground artists.  Instead of setting an example; they are rather lackluster and unspectacular.  The best Pop music around is that which can mix beauty and tenderness together with something exciting and fresh.  Hunting Bears came to my radar a while ago- I cannot remember the exact date- and I was instantly hooked.  The Leeds-based collective describe their music as a mixture of Baroque-Pop and Folk.  If those words send shivers down the spine- some rather snobbish music fans might balk- then you need to get over yourself a bit.  Too few of us are adventurous, and when you start listening to Hunting Bears- the effect is rather special.  The guys focus on love and its perils; fascinating characters and cherished heroes- slice-of-life digressions and fantastical dreamscapes.  At the core is that reality:  heartfelt songs that tackle the balance of love and how capricious it can be.  Rather than present (such themes) with predictable measures- listen to any new artist on

The guys focus on love and its perils; fascinating characters and cherished heroes- slice-of-life digressions and fantastical dreamscapes.  At the core is that reality:  heartfelt songs that tackle the balance of love and how capricious it can be.  Rather than present (such themes) with predictable measures- listen to any new artist on Radio 1– there is serene beauty and tenderness; stirring strings and gorgeous vocals- music that will strike and seduce every listener.  Little is known about the band- in terms of their biography- but the guys are a very slick, professional and busy group.  All their social media sites are updated:  their songs are readily available; they are a very accessible band.  Foolish Love is a five-track E.P. that is going to rank among 2016’s most-essential releases.  I am not saying this as a fan of Hunting Bears:  Foolish Love is a wonderful release from a band that is making big strides.  Leeds is a city that has often been in my sights:  every week, there is another Yorkshire gem in view.  Although London might be leading the new music race- in terms of invention and quality- Leeds is one of the most consistent and surprising areas for music.  I feel the mainstream is rather spotty and unpredictable.  Last year, we saw the likes of Kendrick Lamar make big footprints.  This year, there have been a few good albums:  on the whole, we are still waiting for that explosion.  In the meantime, eyes are cast to new musicians- those unsigned or under-the-radar- for something special.  I have seen a great deal of fantastic artists emerge this year.  Hunting Bears certainly rank among the most interesting artists in the U.K.  I mentioned their sense of beauty and reflectiveness:  there is so much more to the band than that.  West Coast melody and Neo-Soul sits with Folk:  Gospel strands and ‘70s Pop nestles in sensuous tenderness and romance.  A wonderful group with a very clear future ahead of them.

Those that are new and fresh to Hunting Bears’ music:  you might want to see how far they have come and where they started.  The band have been playing together for a while but Foolish Love is their most complete and authoritative statement to date.  I have been aware of their music since hearing Sweet Anthony a couple of months back.  That track makes it onto Foolish Love- ranking among the finest moments on record- and shows what the guys are made of.  Foolish Love is the natural starting point for new listeners.  It combines ‘older’ songs- a few months old- and newer inclusions.  Throughout the five tracks you hear that consistency and range.  Each song has its own personality and position:  there is not a sense the band have struggled for inspiring material.  The quintet of songs hangs together beautifully and assuredly.  I hope the group goes onto create more E.P.s- and an album perhaps- as they have a wonderful kinship and connection.  Follow their progress on social media; find their music on SoundCloud– watch how they develop and grow over the years.

Sweet Anthony opens Foolish Love with urgency and passion.  Tribal-like vocals echo and strike from the speaker.  The listener does not have time to reflect and guess:  the band get things underway with intention and headiness.  The opening moments see vocal harmonies- gorgeous, feminine and lustful- melt with pulsing electronics.  You get a mixture of Baroque-Pop and Electronica; little shades of Rock, too- a terrific blend of rushing deceleration and immense beauty.  After early harmonising; our heroine comes to microphone to tell a (rather sad) story.  At heart, there is a need to reclaim some former love:  a feeling and connection that seems to be missing.  “This fight”, it seems, it “our own creation”.  The lovers are undergoing turmoil and are at loggerheads, it appears.  Separated by distance and contrasting desires:  you get a real feeling of longing and anxiety in the vocal performance.  Backing the vocal iare lush strings and pattering percussion.  The composition never gets in the way of things- intruding in the foreground- but ensures the lyrics are given plenty of colour and emotion.  The entire group show that unbreakable intuition and connection on the first track.  Not just confining itself to a single line and sound:  the song goes through movements and changes pace as it progresses.  Providing nuance, unpredictability and beauty:  Sweet Anthony dives, sweeps and swims in the mind.  Augmented by a truly stunning vocal performance- lead and harmony- you get a song that goes into the heart and evokes true emotion.   Whilst it is a personal song; you cannot help but feel effected and reflective.  The heroine provides apology- backed by sensual vocal backing- and seem to regret what has come before.  Here is a song that has plenty of depth and maturity.  It is clear the band has a love of U.S. Folk and Pop.  You get a clear taste of West Coast Pop and Folk uniting in Sweet Anthony.  If that chorus does not stay in the mind forever- there is a very clear danger it will- then the band’s tight and impassioned performance will.  At one moment you will hear embers of Country and Pop; the next you witness high-pitched guitar lines and rousing strings.  The band pack so many ideas into the composition:  it never sounds forced or too crowded; everything fuses completely naturally.  A wonderful start to the E.P.

The title track arrives next and starts with a funky kick.  The strings shiver and shimmer; the percussion kicks and drives- I get little tastes of early-career Steely Dan (oddly).  When our heroine arrives in the spotlight, you are already hooked.  Being a “Fool to trust only one”; there are regrets and doubts early on.  Again, some U.S. strands make their presence known- bit of ‘70s Soul and Californian Pop- that sit with homegrown lyrics or disconnection and bad romance.  Hunting Bears are synonymous with their incredible vocals.  Here, we get one of the most beautiful and tender performances across the E.P.  The band does not pack the song with too many lyrics:  keeping things economical and simple.  “This heart” is a duo of words that are repeated and gain new meaning with each presentation.  Containing pain, loss and sensuousness; romance, loss and need- so many contrasts and ideas can be found with such a simple idea.  Not only do the vocal harmonies make you smile and calm the soul:  the instrumentation and band performance is filled with wonderful little details.  Again, we get some Folk-inspired strings; plenty of drama and darkness.  Hunting Bears are never too introspective and moody:  their music contains plenty of optimism, beauty and energy.  So much time and attention has gone into the song.  The composition starts and stops.  There are stunning little moments and passages:  the track has a fluidity and progression; it demonstrates stunning musicianship and thoughtfulness.  Whilst the lyrics will affect and compel:  it is the composition that elicits the biggest response.  The band are completely on-step and on the same page:  it is one of the most tight-knit and complete performances I have heard in a long while.

First In Line starts with aching and languid strings.  Juxtaposing the rousing and sprite predecessor:  here, we have something more down and haunted.  That repressed energy does not last:  it is replaced by a spirited vocal that changes the mood in a heartbeat.  In spite of the sweet vocal and spirit:  there is some honesty and humour to be discovered.  The heroine admits to a certain lack of bravery- certain spinelessness- and lack of kindness.  Maybe going through a tough time- or confessing to some character flaws- you wonder who the song is directed at.  Maybe a sweetheart or friend is bearing the brunt of this anger.  Our girl has been “playing this game too” long as you can detect a certain fatigue and boredom.  Whether going through the motions- stuck in a loveless bond- there is a certain tongue-holding occurring.  Strangely honest and confessional- few musicians turn the gun on themselves- you are impressed by the boldness and originality.  Remiss to blame things on fate- which doesn’t actually exist- the song acts like a confessional.  Foolish Love seems like a concept E.P.; one that revolves around a particular romance.  If you take the first two tracks as the start- the break-up and stress; then to being trapped in an unwise bond- here is that realisation and ending.  The cracks are showing and there seems like little way back.  Most bands- when faced with the same situation- would put too much negativity and anger into the music.  Hunting Bears ensure everything is bright and receptive.  If anything; this is a cleansing ritual.  The spikiness and bristly temper is a way of dealing with pain and heartache.  Before you get too involved in interpretation:  those heavenly vocals make their presence known.  You get a brief sweet of etherealness before the composition steps up a gear.  Organ notes come through and the percussion tightens.  It lasts for a few seconds but keeps the song agile and mobile.  First In Line boasts one of the most effective and memorable choruses:  in no small part down to the deliver and uplifting vocals.  Completing the song; the band pull together strings, percussion and guitar.   At once classical and refined; powerful and driving- these contrasts make the final section hugely effective and emotional.

Bronze, Silver & Gold starts with a wonderful kick and sense of cool.  Flecked guitar notes and teasing percussion notes ensure the penultimate track starts with a smile.  The heroine speaks of “sweetness and sickness” and “reciprocal forgiveness”:  again, there are some regrets and mutual indemnification.  The band present one of their most sun-kissed and cool-sounding compositions across the record.  It has an almost Jazz-like quality to it.  Breezy and West Coast; romantic and lush:  it is so easy to get lost inside the song.  Perhaps not as strong as other cuts on the E.P. – some of the vocals get buried in the mix- it does showcase how diverse and effective Hunting Bears are.  That stunning musicianship and command comes to the fore, here.  Like Steely Dan- flecks of them come through again- you just know how much attention has been paid to getting the sound just right.  Hunting Bears can sound perfectionist and loose at the same time.  Bronze, Silver & Gold is the perfect song for those that need their mind eased and calmed.  It has such a relaxing quality to it.  No listener will be able to hear the song and not feel soothed and awed.  Bronze, Silver & Gold’s ending is perhaps among the E.P.’s most memorable and sensational revelations.  The composition comes into its own and shows (once more) how talented the band is.  Things get heavier and more domineering.  The strings layer and build; the volume increases and the song is filled with rainclouds and shadows.  In such a sweet and serene song:  the climax is rather unexpected and haunting.  Full marks must be given to the band, who subvert expectation and ensure every song has a twist in it.

In the Afterglow ends the E.P. and ensures the listener is left wanting more.  Bringing the song up slowly- a very delicate and dreamy fade up- our heroine’s vocal is at its most stunning and committed.  Basking underneath an “empty moon” and stars that “have nothing to lose”- the lovers are exposed and revealing themselves.  Blame is in the air and the duo has surface wounds.  Whilst there are scars and tense emotions- some rather vivid scenes unfolding- love can come through and solve things.  Here is a song that got me thinking and curious.  Previous tracks (on Foolish Love) looked at split and recriminations.  Maybe there is room for hope and reconciliation.  The song’s title suggests something quite sexual and climatic:  maybe it is a metaphor for when the lovers at their most vulnerable and exposed.  The band provides an ample soundtrack for a song that looks at variegated emotions and romance.  One-half of me look at something positive and redemptive.  Two lovers in the openness of nature:  succumbing to each other and rekindling a special connection.  On the other hand; I got thinking about truths exposed and old arguments coming to the surface.  Hunting Bears put us into nature and bring the song into the open air.  The moon, stars and heavens are a backdrop for one of the most impressive vocal performances on the E.P.  In The Afterglow is a song that will compel you to keep playing it:  be entranced by the beauty and try and get to the bottom of things.  A gorgeous song that ends Foolish Love on a high note.

Mary-Jane Walker, Reece Jacob; Richard Bennett, Alice Phelps and Sim Walker have spent a lot of time on Foolish Love.  Kudos goes to the band who has created a wonderful E.P.  Filled with stunning songs and detailed lyrics:  emotional compositions and beautiful vocal harmonies- few band are as unique and effective.  This record has been in their minds for a while and they have not rushed its release.  Every song has been worked over and rehearsed.  That is not to say the songs seem tired or drained.  On the contrary, in fact.  Every one of the five songs sounds like it is being played for the first time.  The guys sound completely dedicated to the subject material and deliver exceptional, energetic performances.  The musicianship is exceptional throughout.  Every instrument adds depth, colour and emotion to the song; each performance turn has its own merit; when combined, the band sound unbeatable and peerless.  Hunting Bears are one of the most individual groups around but are never niche or confining.  They explore multiple genres and make music for the masses.  Foolish Love shows how special the Leeds clan is.

Foolish Love is out there and already collecting praise and applause.  The five-piece have played Green Man– and other prestigious gigs- and are growing by the year.  If you are looking for a band that does things different:  that goes the extra mile and digs deep inside the soul:  you should investigate Leeds’ Hunting Bears.  They are not just a Baroque-Pop act:  they mix so many genres and colours into a scintillating aroma.  At heart, there is that beauty and tenderness; songs about longing and love- delivered with spine-tingling purity and grace.  I am not sure what the guys are planning for the forthcoming months.  Clearly, there will be some touring demands and big gigs arriving.  Hunting Bears are an act that is used to playing mainly-local gigs.  They have performed across Yorkshire and you feel they should be acclaimed and dragged further south.  I have seen many (lesser) groups hit their stride in London: perform across the U.K. and even find some U.S. dates.  Hunting Bears could happily enthrall and delight audiences across New York and California.  That said; they could easily fit in London venues and clubs:  there is a lot of fans waiting for the band.  I am unsure whether financial restraints- being able to afford trips around the nation- are seeing them perform closer to home.  It would be great to think the quintet is planning some ambitious gigs this year.  I would love to see them (in London) and so would a lot of others.  Not to put ideas and dreams in their head:  I feel the guys have a big future waiting.  What marks Hunting Bears aside- compared contemporaries- is their depth and variability.  They are not just confined to a single genre:  they have mobility and endeavor; capable and expert in so many areas.  At the core is the band chemistry which ensures every song is as beautiful and strong as possible.  Foolish Love is the result of a lot of hard work and commitment.  There are too many musicians that are following the herd and not taking enough trouble to do things differently.  You do not have to complete reinvent music to stand out in the mind.

There is- as I stated at the top- so many possibilities that artists can exploit.  We are in the position where everything and anything is possible.  Technology is ensuring musicians have easy access to a range of sounds and ideas.  Social media makes it easy to connect with fellow artists:  collaborate and share ideas over the Internet.  Maybe there is TOO much choice available- musicians feel intimidated by the sheer volume of options.  Whatever the reasons- behind the lack of adventure- there needs to be some sort of change and campaign.  The best and brightest new acts are those that have a clear-cut sound but do not limit themselves.  Hunting Bears (on paper) might sound like your average Folk/Pop act:  a group that sounds like so many out there.  When you dig deep, you find this assumption rather naïve and foolhardy.  This Leeds five-piece make music for everyone.  Not reserved to Baroque-Pop aficionados and a slightly older audience:  their songs will effect and resonate with a huge demographic.  Defining this is a huge quality control that goes into Foolish Love.  The songs mix universality and quirkiness; stunning beauty and immediacy- so many different emotions and ideas.  It would be wonderful to see the group produce an L.P. sometime down the line- I feel the best work is still ahead of them.  They are young and ambitious so it will not be long until the band is hitting peak form and sitting alongside the best of the mainstream.  Right now, they have created a stunning E.P. that will please existing fans- pull in new supporters and listeners.  It is great seeing the Leeds group come big with a huge statement.  There are so few musicians that have that six-month longevity- where their music will still be in your head that far after hearing it- but Hunting Bears are among them.  That being said; I have to ask this:

WHAT are you waiting for?



Follow Hunting Bears












E.P. REVIEW: Fifi Rong- Forbidden Desire



Fifi Rong



Forbidden Desire




Forbidden Desire is available from 29th April 2016:




London, U.K.


Forbidden Desire– 9.5


You Hurt Me9.5

Forbidden Desire (Turnipbeet Remix) – 9.5


Forbidden Desire; You Hurt Me


Forbidden Desire


THERE is no denying what choice and variation…

academy show april 2016

you can discover in music.  If you get bored and tired of mainstream Pop and its limitations- there is no shortage of them- there is something waiting for you.  In my previous review- looking at Lola Coca’s latest track, GQ– I stated how many great female artists are emerging.  It is pleasing to see something positive happening in music right now.  Many have stated how music is in a decline and not up to its previous peak.  Maybe things hit their heights around 2002/3:  following from the ‘90sl there was a residual energy that bled into the 21st century.  Maybe things are not quite as prestigious and wondrous as once was:  that is not to say music is not worth time and energy.  If you keep listening to Radio 1 and 2; you might start to get jaded and defeatist.  The mainstream/nationwide radio stations tend to focus on a particular audience and demographic:  the choice of music leaves a lot of listeners cold; does not push many boundaries.  Take a trip to stations like 6 Music and you see just what a breadth of music is out there.  From underground Indie bands to blistering solo talent:  a full spectrum of wonderful acts and musicians.  It is great to see Fifi Rong back on the scene.  She is an artist who has been in my sights for a while now.  Violently Silently was unleashed at the tail-end of last year.  An E.P. that provides emotion, colour and danger:  a myriad mix of emotions and sounds came together in something primal, raw and beautiful.

The reception- the E.P. gained from critics- was positive and effusive.  Fans and followers responded with praise and love.  Before I continue my point- and raise another one- let me introduce Fifi Rong to you:

Fifi Rong is a unique artist and producer based in London.

Eccentric, deep and honest, Fifi brings pure emotional intimacy into her songs with a mesmerizing voice, nuanced with the flair of her Chinese heritage. Fifi incorporates a wide range of genres such as Electronica, Jazz, Dub, Hip Hop, UKG, Soundscape into her production, resulting in a singularly unexpected musical hybrid that draws its beauty from its one-of-a-kind unearthliness.

Fifi has been collaborating with many exciting artists including Tricky, Phaeleh, Skepta and Yello to name a few, and receiving vast support from a stream of blogs and radios including The 405, Clash, Fader Magazine, Hype Magazine, Pigeon and Planes, BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1 Extra, BBC Radio 6 Music and so on. She was also nominated as the best Electronic Music Artist and publicly voted into China’s Top 10 of most popular new artists of 2014.

Having already established herself internationally as a stand-out live performer, with headline shows throughout the UK, Europe and China/Hong Kong, she released her much-anticipated new EP ‘Violently Silently’ in December 2015. Fifi’s new EP Forbidden Desire will be released on 29 April 2016 with a special launch show scheduled for 28 April 2016 at O2 Academy Islington in London”.

In spite of Violently Silently’s progress and quality:  Rong viewed it as below her personal best.  Proud of what she had achieved:  there was the feeling that the best work was yet to come.  That new work arrives in the form of Forbidden Desire.  Whereas her previous E.P. (and its title) encouraged images of contradictions and self-discovery:  the follow-up has passion, lust and dangers at its heart.  Hybrid-Electronica is a genre that Fifi Rong fits perfectly into.  Here is a passionate and committed artist who has a lot of emotion and ideas inside her.  Were she restricted to Pop and Folk boundaries; one wonders whether she would exist as a musician.  It is all well and good playing these genres- there some exceptional artists to be found- yet Electronica provides a canvas for some of music’s bravest and boldest.  Rong releases Forbidden Desire in six days and will give the world a chance to see how she has evolved and developed.  Ensconcing herself away from the noise of the outside world:  Rong immersed herself in silence to create the E.P.  With an album in-the-works; this is a statement that provides a window into what’s to come.  It will be exciting to see where Rong goes after Forbidden Desire’s release.  There is talk of an album and that will be wonderful to witness.  One of the most celebrated and exciting artists out of the capital:  no wonder the likes of Radio 1 and Clash have featured her music.  Everything about the heroine is striking and unforgettable.  In the flesh, you are captivated by the unique fashion and make-up.  Blending her Asian heritage with a bespoke sense of identity:  you get colour and contours; eye-catching clothing and something mystical.  Delve deeper into Fifi Rong and the music takes you even deeper.  A captivating voice is just one of the weapons at her disposal.  I feel there is a general move away from Folk and Pop artists- the like that are championed by the mainstream press- and towards more unique and edgy musicians.  Given the year that has unfolded- the passing of some musical giants- a new breed is emerging.  If music is to recapture its flame- and reach the heights of the past- we need to start breaking out of moulds and being more adventurous.  Too many listeners are selective and limited when it comes to finding music.  2016 has been a bit of a strange one.  While some of music’s greats have left us:  new music has shown a marked improvement.  I hope this growth continues unabated:  we need a bit of a refurbishment and overhaul.  For now- and whether that sticky issue will ever be resolved- we should protect and foster those who deserve it.  Fifi Rong is one of those musicians who dedicates her life to the craft.  Every song resonates with nuanced flair and intricate details:  burning passions and total command.

Wrong was released in 2013 and is a 15-track creation that announced Fifi Rong with a bang.  Containing a wonderful blend of Jazz, Electronica; Trip-Hop and Folk (with so much more thrown in there)  Being one of her earliest works:  you might think there would be some nerves and weaker moments.  Surprisingly, not only does everything hold together and gel beautifully:  Wrong sounds completely effortless in every genre.  Next Pursuit was released in 2014 and was a more honed- six tracks here- and greater confidence.  The production values were reliably glossy and atmospheric- not too shiny; allowing room to breathe- whilst the songwriting hit new peaks.  Themes of broken love and hopeless desire were being explored in more detail.  By the time Violently Silently was unveiled (last year); Rong was even-more concentrated and committed.  Again, love was explored but with a  more haunted and unsettling set of lyrics.  The earliest work explored relations and discovery but had some light at heart.  Although Silently Violently’s compositions contained range and contrasts:  the lyrics stemmed from a mind overcome with anger and uncertainty.  Forbidden Desire sees the heroine evolve and present her most accomplished and assured set of songs.  The compositions contain a reliable inventiveness and flair; the nuance is all present and correct- the vocals dependably sturdy and emotive.  What we get- on the new E.P.- is the linking of past and present.  Elements of Wrong and Over You (her 2013 single) fuse with Violently Silently electricity and darkness.  That contrast of light and dark; emotive and defiant:  all coalesces in a wonderfully rich and vibrant E.P.

Forbidden Desire begins with bubbling beats and a real immediacy.  Things get underway right off the bat:  the listener is involved and gripped.  The song looks at a particular subject in our heroine’s mind.  Whether a current sweetheart or lusted-for hero- you are never quite sure.  What you do get is an immense amount of emotion, passion and shiver.  The vocals do not so much strike:  they seduce, whisper and slur.  Rong is at her most affected and dreamy:  one of her most awed and affecting vocals to date.  Even though it can be hard deciphering some of the lyrics- mixed down a little low inside the composition- you get caught and captured by the stunning sound.  The composition dips and rises:  little electronic beeps and thudding beats unite in a fury of movement and emotion.  As the lyrics unfold- and you get more involved in the story- you wonder whether Forbidden Desire is strictly about a particular bond.  Maybe a metaphor for the desires of life and music- passions of Rong- you start to wonder and imagine.  The song’s title is delivered with incredible lustre and breathlessness.  With every piece of the puzzle- stark images and dreamy scenes- you start to conspire.  Part of my brain was committed to that husky and alluring vocal- that seems entranced and deep in a state of desire- whilst the composition continues to spark and ignite.  The chorus is one of the most memorable and catchy Rong has ever created.  The desire that runs deep and wide- whether towards a man or something taboo- is delivered like a mantra.  You can tell l how much this song means to Fifi Rong.  Being the title track; it is essential it makes an impression and represents what the E.P. will contain.  As lead-off songs go, it is a stunner that will bring in the new listener and keep her existing fanbase very happy.  Combining elements of Lana Del Rey- especially the vocal sound- it has a very current and contemporary vibe.  Although Rong has a great love of past music:  her sounds are ostensively ultra-modern and contemporary.  From the hard-hitting, burbling electronics; to the stunning production values- a song that could sit on any radio station.  Not just a revelation upon first listen:  Forbidden Desire grows stronger and more astonishing with every new spin.  I know Fifi Rong wanted to change her sound after Violently Silently:  explore new ground and cover new themes.  Gone are the accusations, anger and torment:  here, there is something more optimistic, redemptive and hopeful.  There is still pain at her heart- anyone who feels that much love and passion will hurt to a point- but the music is less suffocating and intense.  The openness and lack of repression lead to a more natural and effective performance.  It seems (some men) want to lie- whilst others just pass on by- and you always wonder what inspired the song.  Maybe the dissolution of love- a previous bond that has gone sour- sees Rong reflect and look around her.  Whatever the true catalyst for Forbidden Desire:  it kicks the E.P. with a real sense of authority and drama.

   Holy starts life with a lot of tenderness and tremulous desire.  Like Forbidden Desire:  there is that blend of heartache and hope; longing and reflection.  Our heroine is here to learn and teach; discover and play.  The coquettishness and kitten-like delivery prove what a unique force Rong is.  Once more- and perhaps an unavoidable issue- is the decipherability of the vocals.  Being so entranced and immersed (in the weight of the song) it can be quite hard to capture certain lyrics and ideas.  When the E.P. is officially released- and available on BandCamp– there will be accompanying lyrics- and a chance to cast new light on the songs.  It does not seem to matter- the clarity issues- as the effect of the song is fantastic.  Every Fifi Rong E.P./record shows new aims and stories; new emotions being revealed and fresh desires explored.  Holy is filled with contradictions and honesty.  Our girl has been strong and weak; she walks alone and wants to be set free.  A lyrics sheet will give full clarity, but early investigation is spent falling for another stunning vocal performance.  Holy is quite a sensuous and tender track.  Violently Silently had plenty of rush, explosion and fire.  Here- and across the E.P. – there is a move to something more scenic, restrained and tender.  Like Bjork- an artist that comes to mind when looking at Rong- every record has a new sound and sensation.  With the heroine’s heart beating on- you start to put yourself directly into the song- the beats scuttle and tease; the electronics sway and breeze.  A song about discovery, soul-searching and dreaming- one of the most affecting songs across the E.P.- it sees Fifi Rong in a new state of mind.  Having experienced new events and feelings since her last work:  all these are brought into the music.  Maybe the anger and mordant reflection has gone:  it has been replaced by something almost spiritual and thoughtful.  Of course; Holy (and Forbidden Desire) explore dark themes and deep concerns:  the abiding feel is of light and hope; something primal and naked.  The composition- across Holy and the entire E.P.- is light and aerated whilst packing plenty of power and nuance.  Rong’s voice is the star of the show and floats over the horizon.  Previous Fifi Rong records have put the focus on composition and sounds:  here, there is more concentration on vocals and lyrics.  With that being said, Rong injects enough colour and layers into her compositions.  Fizzing, rattling electronics sizzle inside sturdy percussion:  there are plenty of subtle details that go into a wonderful song.

You Hurt Me is perhaps Forbidden Desire’s most overt and pained song.  Beginning with a degree of eeriness- fragmented vocals and finger-click percussion- it is a dizzying and entranced beginning.  Echoey vocals and ethereal chills lead to a sudden rush:  our heroine comes to the microphone and has a lot on her mind.  Having been hurt and disappointed; she is keen to let that fact be known.  It seems she will “never be the same” again.  That simple idea- being heartbroken- is repeated and built.  With every delivery you sense the tears flowing; the body is broken and aghast.  Few lyrics go into the song- it is built around codas and repeated lines- whilst the vocal is one of the clearest and most concise on the E.P.  Uniting some of her earliest sounds- together with shades of Violently Silently– this is Fifi Rong at her most engaging and urgent.  The E.P.’s most bracing and unsettled track:  our heroine has been scarred and trying to make sense of things.  Whereas the previous tracks had some light and hope in the lyrics- earthiness in the composition- here there is a contrast shift.  The foreground is a lot more suffocated and dark; the composition has anxiety and neon-lights-danger- a marked contrast that proves what depth and range Forbidden Desire has.  “You break me” is one of the starkest messages across Forbidden Desire.  Lesser musicians would throw vitriol and anger into a similar-themed song.  Rong does not get overcharged or too emotional.  Instead; there is  deliriousness and disquiet that makes her lyrics even-more-effective and memorable.  Past the half-way mark; the song gets more endangered and harassed.  The beats tighten whilst the electronics grow in stature and menace.  Everything gets darker and more shadowy.  By the closing moments, that sense of walls-closing-in does not abate.  Our heroine gets more lost in the mix:  her head is spinning and her heart is pulsating.  You are drawn into a troubled mind that is struggling to overthrow painful memories.

Fifi Rong 2463 1

The Turnipbeet Remix of Forbidden Desire closes the E.P.:  giving new spin and light to the title track.  Instilling more clarity and concision into the song- the vocal and lyrics are clearer and more resonant- it ends Forbidden Desire with an impressive bang.  Here, the beats and electronics are sharper and more exciting.  There is more energy and dance; a swagger and coolness- that was absent from the original- which brings new perspective and spin into the song.  It is a perfect way to close a wonderful E.P.  Turnipbeet has shown faith and love for the title cut.  The interpretation and remix not only keeps the song’s cores faithful and unchanged:  new beauty and passion is unearthed; Rong’s soul seems more exposed and raw.  Congratulations must be given to Rong who has created a hugely impressive and memorable E.P.  Each track plays with different emotions.  From the lustful-cum-mysterious opening; through to the floating, spiritual sophomore cut; then the haunted and harrowed third track- ending with a beautifully reimagined take on the title.  Rong is at her peak as a singer:  she explores new territory and shows her full range.  Whereas previous releases have relied on one facet of her voice (or a few): here, every side is uncovered and brought sumptuously to life.  The compositions- compared to Silently Violently– are less abrasive and direct.  That is not to say there are fewer experimentations and innovation.  Rong is more subtle and assured on Forbidden Desire.  Not only does she bring in her previous sounds- the multicoloured electronics and myriad emotions- but introduces romance, soulfulness and lustfulness into the palette.  The overall effect is both unsettling and enriching.  Every song will make an impression and provoke the listener into reflection and contemplation.  Like all great records:  you have to keep playing it to get the bottom of everything.

I was a big fan of Violently Silently– even if its author felt she could top it- but Forbidden Desire is a step-up and topper.  It builds on Violently Silently’s magic and mystery and adds new layers.  Fans of Rong’s early/previous work will find much to love.  She has not created a huge departure, here:  instead, you have a record that has enormous consistency, nuance, and depth.  Forbidden Desire’s title track is available and creating quite a buzz.  On April 28th, Rong will premiere her E.P. at O2 Acdemy2, Islington.  If you are in the vicinity, I advise you come along and check out that show.  There is still a sadness and anxiety that lingers in the world.  Following the deaths of David Bowie and Prince- alongside Lemmy for that matter- we realise how fragile and unpredictable life can be.  Those massive events have made us all feel a bit lonelier and empty.  If anything, the world has come together and shown how much (the music of those artists) truly meant.  Music will never stop inspiring and aiming to change the world.  The very best artists of our time have inspired legions of followers and youngsters to put pen to paper and enter the music world.  Given enough time; music will start to hone and focus.  At the moment; there are waves of artists and variable quality.  It is tricky deciphering the good from the bad:  finding treasure is a massive reward.  Fifi Rong is a musician that will never disappoint fans and lovers of great music.  Even in his earliest days; you could hear that desire and ambition.  Each new record marks an increase in confidence and quality.  Violently Silently was a firecracker release that captured many hearts and mind.  The depths within each song- beautiful details and repeatability- resonated with fans and brought in new ones.  Forbidden Desire’s title track has been dropped and sees our heroine up her game and truly encapsulate herself in music.

Brushing the distractions of the world aside- and being locked-down and focused- you can hear the concentration and intensity in the record.  Not only do you get raw passion and energy:  there is beauty and tenderness underneath that beating (drum) heart.  I am not sure when Rong is putting her album out- or, indeed, which tracks will feature- but it is likely to include some of her past maneuvers.  I am excited to follow the career of one of music’s most fearless and dependable artists.  There is a lot of love for Electronica/Electro.-Pop right now.  Take the time to listen to the lead from Forbidden Desire.  Once you immersed yourself in that gem:  anticipate the release of the E.P.  It is hard to really select that ‘best track’- they all carry a similar weight- but the title cut would be my choice.  In reality, every listener will adore a different track:  there are so many variations and nuance to be discovered.  After the initial listen- sure in my assumptions and experience- I went back in to see if there’s anything I missed.  Like all great music:  each new listen uncovers something; certain songs stand out and come into their own.  I can tell how much time and energy Fifi Rong has put into Forbidden Desire.  I am sure the E.P. will gain a lot of great reviews and fervent fan feedback.  From there, where does she go?  The question and speculation surrounding an album will always be there- followers are excited to see what a Fifi Rong L.P. will contain.  Until that day arrives; we have another stunning E.P. in our midst.  Forbidden Desire might be the finest thing she has created- no small praise when you look at her past work- and you feel an even-better record might be in the future.  If you are one of those listeners that is fearful of change- stuck in the comfort zone- I urge you to show some bravery and embrace something new.  Fifi Rong is one of those musicians that makes music for everyone:  she never excludes anyone; always drags people right inside the music.  For those nervous and unsure.  The water is very inviting:  make sure you…

TAKE the leap.



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Lola Coca







GQ is available at:


21st April, 2016

Pop; Hip-Hop; Indie; R&B


London, U.K.


THIS week has seen music suffer a huge tragedy.

That sentence is something I am (sadly) getting used to saying.  Say whatever you want about 2016- and its rather cruel mindset- but it has not been forgiving.  You cannot ascribe it to a curse or conspiracy; an act of God-like intervention:  it has been an unfortunate year, cut and dry.  With Prince’s death; it has left an irreparable hole in music’s fabric.  As the years progress; music’s legends are always going to be taken from us:  you cannot predict what is going to happen.  While you could forgive old age taking its toll:  that was not the case with Prince.  It seemed like such a lightning bolt:  nobody could see it coming; the world is feeling its shockwaves still.  One of the positive things about this loss (there are very few, to be honest) is how people have been brought together.  When Prince died, the world seemed smaller and larger at the same time.  We all felt a personal hit- whether we were huge fans of his- and lonely.  At the same time- and across that parallax- a unity and cohesion were formed.  Social media’s fervent outpouring- messages of grief and tribute- have shown just how much feeling there was for the U.S. legend.  When a music icon leaves us; there is that need to not only embrace their music (lest we forget); but look to the new generation- the best artists about right now.  One of the most exciting parts of my ‘job’- and something I will be continuing later today- is embracing the best female artists around.  I feel we need to be more open and conscientious when it comes to gender equality.  Too many of us are celebrating the bands- usually male-led- and overlooking some stunning female talent.  Perhaps things are not as bad as they once were- the comparative lack of critically-acclaimed female singers- but there is still an imbalance.  I feel the boys’ music- particularly the band market- is getting undue spotlight- leaving the girls to have to shout twice as loud.  Some magazines and publications are putting (the girls) in the spotlight:  ensuring they achieve celebration and patronage.  In my mind, the girls are showing the boys how things should be done.  If you want to find passion, ambition and originality; music that differs from the been-there-seen-it-got-the-T-shirt-several-times-over examples- you have plenty of options available.

While Britain’s towns and villages are producing a number of wonderful solo artists:  it is London’s bright lights that are shining with the greatest radiance.  L.A. and New York are not far behind:  I feel London is having a remarkable year for new music.  Maybe the state of modern music- the inconsistency of artists- is having an effect.  Perhaps the loss of music legends is spurring on a creative process:  a new wave of eager musicians is making firm impressions.  While I take critical ‘ones-to-watch’ proclamations with a pinch of salt- sometimes an entire shipment of salt- you cannot deny the magic of Lola Coca.  On paper, she gets the mind, heart and soul jumping.  Whilst she has stated in interviews- she has a slightly androgynous quality; with regards her features- she (to my mind) is one of the world’s most beautiful women.  A jaw-dropping, angelic face; a cheeky and captivating smile- the girl is going to break a lot of hearts.  Whilst not important to music itself:  Lola Coca is a journalist’s dream.  Not only does her beauty stun and create blushing:  her sense of style is distinctly hers.  You can never accuse the London-based artist of being boring or lacking colour.  In photo shoots- and were you to catch her walking the streets of Shoreditch- you will discover someone that wants to stand out in the world.  Whilst our purple Prince may have departed- his reign will go on forever- we have a turquoise princess coming through; a young woman that reminds me of Prince (I shall come to that later).  What is as impressive- and perhaps more relevant- is our heroine’s infectious personality and music.  Recently- moments before Prince’s death was announced- she conducted a Periscope session with her fans- I was watching with a big smile.  It was one of the rare occasions to see Lola Coca in her element:  taking questions from fans and just relaxing (after some initial technical issues).  From that session- not only did we glean more about her creative process- we got to learn more about the woman behind the music.  Whilst her social media pages are slight- when it comes to biography and personal revelation- it is nice to know more about her.  Lola Coca is not a committee-made musician- all boxes ticked; put together like Frankenstein’s monster- but a very natural and relatable woman.

Down-to-Earth, witty and sassy- she has a salacious and honest tongue on her- it is refreshing seeing a musician that is free from pretention and ego.  It is Lola Coca’s modesty that strikes me:  during her Periscope session; she still sees herself as experimental and growing- not sure if music is going to be her future.  I know there are nerves and anxieties at her heart- someone who wants to make everything perfect; doubting just how good she is- but Lola Coca will have to accept the realisation:  music is going to be her future.  Having released a string of diverse, wonderful singles:  the fans are flocking and standing behind the Portsmouth-born stunner.  In a music scene that creates few TRULY fascinating artists:  we have someone that is going to be a mainstream fixture, very soon indeed.  GQ is the latest offering from Lola Coca.  Bad Girlfriend– Lola’s last single- was received with huge enthusiasm and praise:  it is a song that gets inside the head and compels you to listen relentlessly.  A stunning and memorable song:  how was she ever going to match that?  Fortunately, GQ takes off from where Bad Girlfriend left off- it seems like a continuation of a theme- and has equal magic, power and nuance.  That sharp tongue and observational wit are sharp and ready:  our girl is not someone who falls prey to the come-ons of the city’s well-tailored businessmen.  Whereas Bad Girlfriend saw the heroine refuse a rather eager and shallow boy- expecting sex on his birthday- guys are once more in the spotlight.  It is wonderful hearing a young woman emerge in music that is showing the guys how it’s done: a boss that has the music world by the scruff and is unwilling to let it go.  Whether she doubts her potential and appeal- those nervy days when she reflects on life- I cannot encourage her enough.  There is nobody quite like Lola Coca:  she is a very rare artist we need to embrace.

Love Songs was Lola Coca’s first single.  That laid-back, grooving vibe was supported with a beautiful vocal performance.  Full of life, passion and charm:  it was a song impossible to ignore; filled with quotable moments and vivid details.   Bad Girlfriend lost some of that innocence and saw the young girl mature into a very defiant woman.  Rebelling against her no-good boy- who just wanted to get his end away- it took her core strengths and augmented them.  Whereas Love Songs’ cool-edged beats and island-seeking vocals- images of Fiji and tropical climates come to mind- Bad Girlfriend was L.A. and Rio.  Carnival beats and electronics mixed with something sparring, stuttering and street-level.  Bonding concrete  rawness with multifarious sonics- a whirlwind of genres and ideas- few could deny the potency of the song.  GQ is somewhere between Love Songs and Bad Girlfriend (in terms of pace and energy).  In thematic terms, it owes more to Bad Girlfriend.  Whereas its predecessor was a party-set tale of sex-denial and emancipation (our heroine was not going to be seen as a present to be unwrapped); GQ takes its feet to the streets.  Compelled by the suit-wearing types you’d see adorning GQ’s cover- those that stand there smoking- undressing Lola with their eyes- and feeding cheesy lines.  Our girl might fall for the wrong type:  more your leather-clan Rock gods; not the smarmy suits that thing they are God’s gift.  Bad Girlfriend’s anti-hero seemed like a smarmy, tattoo-covered wannabe:  someone who could be seen cruising through Essex in a Ford Focus.  GQ sees us in L.A. and London.  The street-dwelling city boys might be more financial prosperous:  they are no-less snake-like and sleazy.  Lola Coca is always looking for true types of mature love.  Men that have decency and maturity- a bit rough around the edges and edgy at heart- are in her sights.  With each passing song, you find new confidence and reveal.  Perhaps live gigs and radio interviews have inspired the music.  Lola Coca seems at her most confident and potent:  vibing from her social media love and at her most natural.  Perhaps there were nerves at the beginning of her career:  she is more assured and comfortable than ever.  Whereas songs do not stray too far from love and sex- and the no-good types encountered- each song has new skin and stories.  There is no cliché and sameness.  Lola Coca blends ‘90s Pop and Dance with U.S. Hip-Hop and Rap.  Few artists are as confident and capable when blending time period and genres.  Our heroine’s affection for music- and the artists she fell for as a child- have gone into her songs.  Who knows just what the future holds?  If she carries on creating songs like GQ:  it will be a very bright and successful one.

Two days old; GQ is gaining plenty of social media headwind and love.  The fans and followers have all stated the same:  another typical and stylish cut from Lola Coca.  Not sparing much time with an introduction- no scratched vinyl or teasing beats- Lola is straight in.  At her most insistent and angered, the early words leave little to the imagination.  “You’re a man without a backbone” suggests smutty, paramecium who toss crude innuendos and hide behind their pay cheques.  In that first line I could already picture the gelled hair and cocky attitudes; the high-paid dicks who cat-call and come-on.  “You really think you’re something special” is Lola assessment:  one that has a very clear and defined answer.  In the early exchanges, there is emphasis on the vocal and lyrics.  The performance is clear and concise; plenty of oomph, grit and control- ensuring every word is delivered with maximum strike.  Many have (lazily) made Lily Allen comparisons (perhaps I have at times).  Just because the two reside in London and have sort-of-similar voices; that is where the comparisons end.  To my ear, Lola Coca blends Missy Elliot and Neneh Cherry with a bit of Amy Winehouse:  base notes that are all topped by cherry, cream and honey.  There are bedrocks of U.S. Hip-Hop and ‘80s-‘90s R&B- maybe some Gwen Stefani in there- but riding high is a unique personality with few comparable.  Bad Girlfriend showed what wit and lyrical originality Lola had.  Too many modern artists mix hyperbole and cliché; boring lines and few memorable moments.  Lola Coca displays swagger and cool, throughout the song.  Laid-back- almost to the point of being laid down- our heroine assesses the distant and cold guys trying to grab her attention.  The budget value Elvis Costello types (one of the most stand-out lyrics) are packed around and thinking they are IT.  These arseholes and pompous egos think they deserve a medal:  the heroine is having none of their crap.  Laying down the law- you can see her turning up her face as she passes a line of suit-wearing businessmen- the chorus swings into view.  If you were captivated by Bad Girlfriend’s head-swinging, singalong chorus:  GQ will not disappoint in any way.  Perhaps a more cool-headed and nuanced alternative- I find GQ’s chorus to be more effective and catchy- it is not long before it gets in the head and starts bouncing around.  Another song that demands multiple assaults- like the guys in the song- our girl is “no fool”.

Not your girl-next-door type:  the guys are “barking up the wrong tree”.  Up until this point, the composition remains fairly light and sparse.  Continuous beats propel the vocal but do not encroach.  It is when the chorus hoves-in do we get more electricity and colour:  scratched sounds and vocal snatches come into the mix.  These legends-in-their-lunch-hour types are going to get nothing from Lola Coca:  she is putting her foot down and subsequently grinding it into some overpaid nuts.  The genuine personality- barbed tongue and attitude; wit and energy- rules every line of the song.  Other musicians- that play similar types of music- lack authenticity and appeal.  Lola Coca is not someone betraying her personality, soul and roots.  The dichotomy of vocal and subject- a rather sweet vocal at times portrays something sexual and gritty- makes the song even more stinging and layered.  Few female artists step up and assess such themes- putting the cocky boys in their place- and do so with confidence and swagger.  Lola Coca is not another Lily Allen-type artists.  There is no sugary-sweet vocalisation and cloying sentiments.  GQ is a song that has more ibn common with Neneh Cherry and Missy Elliot’s inimitable brand of hard-hitting R&B with a conscience.  It is impossible to resist the allure and hypnotising scent of GQ.  That chorus gets ridden to dizzying heights.  Blending sweet backing vocals- cooing and harmonising- there are some brilliant squelching electronics.  In the late stages- when those electronics mix with honeyed vocals- I got ideas of Aaliyah’s eponymous album.  Playful and textured- avant-garde and sizzling- it is amazing sprint-to-the-finish.  Those that were compelled by Bad Girlfriend and Love Songs’ invention and personality will recognise similarities and familiarities in GQ.  It is a song that builds on past tracks and shows new strength and ideas.  If anything, Lola Coca sounds even more confident and stunning here- that opinion will divide camps- and has produced (perhaps) her finest work.

I am a huge fan of Lola Coca’s back catalogue.  Love Songs amazed me the first time I heard it:  I knew we had a very special artist on our hands.  Bad Girlfriend was dropped and that expectation was blown away:  it announced the arrival of Lola Coca.  A defiant and rousing call-against-sex-hungry-lads:  the song is still being talked about in fevered tones (five months after it was released).  GQ is a slower song that is equally potent and addictive.  Lola Coca is someone who concentrates on love and relations with a very personal eye.  Too many songs romanticise love and have very predictable lyrics.  Whether wallowing in heartbreak and guilt; pining for someone you cannot have:  it seems a lot of modern artists are not exactly reinventing the wheel.  We all need those kinds of songs- they are the backbone of musical history- but for God’s sake, mix it up once in a while!  Lola Coca is not someone who fills out her diary with stories of cheating boys and heart-bleeding sympathy-seeking.  What we have- when it comes to Lola- is someone who takes her experiences and puts them direct on the page.  There is no polish and fitting-into-a-mould penmanship:  raw and real-life events are slammed onto record; a bucket of cold water the music world needs.  Before closing things up, it is worth talking about Lola Coca’s future and the way she does things.  I may have waxed lyrical about her beauty and looks- something she must get tired of hearing about- but she really is the complete package.  Having started out as a dancer- in Heaven, no less- it was when in L.A. that things started to ‘click’.  Perhaps searching for answers and directions- what she was going to concentrate her life to- it was a retreat that would impact the rest of her life.  GQ was written in L.A. – when you picture the lyrics; it makes sense- and it started the ball rolling.  From there- basing herself in East London- things have got bigger and hotter for the young star.  These are early days, but things are really hotting up.  To me- and this is a personal analogy- Lola Coca is a cross between Gwen Stefani and Missy Elliot; Kermit the Frog and Neneh Cherry- a movie heroine thrown in there.  A girl that is perhaps attracted to the wrong sort of guy- as songs like GQ and Bad Girlfriend will attest- there are bits of ‘50s heroines and modern-day Indie D.N.A. in Lola Coca.  She has a very classic cool but is someone modern and of-the-minute.  Maybe she does lend her heart to undeserving boys:  music is the way of grabbing it back and letting it be known who is in charge.  There is  infectious kookiness and charm to Lola, too.  Energy, honest and fun are just a few words you can levy at Lola Coca:  she is someone that bounces off the screen and into your heart.  As awed as you are by her sound bites, interviews and insights:  it is the music that leaves the biggest impression.  I am very much a boy of the ‘90s:  someone who grew up listen to that golden age of music.  Lola Coca has a very modern ethos about her but reminds me of the terrific music of the 1990s.  I mentioned Neneh Cherry and that seems like an apt comparison.  An in-charge and strong woman:  Cherry’s late-‘80s/early-‘90s work was some of the most electric of its time.

GQ seems like a 2016 version of Buffalo Stance (from the album Raw Like Sushi).  A song that deals with similar themes- gigolo-type guys that think they are God- I can see some lineage.  Cherry- and on her debut especially- dealt with materialistic guys and shallow types; those that should be expelled to shallow graves.  Raw Like Sushi showed Cherry could blend R&B, Pop and Dance into a colourful and hypnotic blend.  If the Swedish-born star is not your bag- strange if she is not- then how about Missy Elliot and Gwen Stefani.  Lola Coca has U.S. D.N.A. and inspiration inside of her.  Like Missy Elliot and Gwen Stefani:  you get that sassiness and swagger; the authority and unpredictable compositions.  Missy Elliot’s Supa Dupa Fly (her 1997 album) sparred fat Dancehall Reggae with aggression-cum-passion flips:  an intoxicating ride that marked her out as one of music’s most astonishing talents.  Toss in some 1995 No Doubt and you have an artist that could well be one of our leading lights.  In fairness, it would be foolhardy to compare Lola Coca with anyone else.  Sure, there are ‘90s strands and bits of others in her music; if you cut to the core you find a wonderful woman doing things her own way.  I would love to see an album emerge from Lola Coca.  She could go down the Kickstarter route- the funding and faith would be there- or fund it herself.  An album that spars cheating boys and suit-laden smarm artists; sex-expectant boyfriends and the scenes of East London- a record that would grab critical attention and seduce the masses.  Lola spends a lot of time walking Shoreditch and London’s most colourful areas.  I am not sure what her diary looks like:  it would be great to see an E.P. or L.P. come before 2016 is done.  A nice, tight five-track E.P. would be a great thing:  a cool title; wonderful artwork and stunning songs.  I am sounding like Lola Coca’s P.R. company- she already has one of those- but I am excited to see how far she can go.  I am sad so many music colossuses are leaving us.  Prince’s death struck a nerve and made us realise just what a genius he was.  That legacy will influence a wave of new musicians and reign for decades to come.  Prince mixed sweat and sex with astonishing musicianship and authority.  Those kind of musicians are a rare breed:  will we ever see his like again?  Lola Coca is an artist that has many years ahead of her.  Backed by a terrific team- producers, writers and P.R. bods- she is in very safe hands.  She is not an artist that produces the same kind of song:  with every release, you get something new, fresh and bright.  Love Songs and Bad Girlfriend were two astonishing cuts:  GQ completes the trio and proves what a proposition (Lola Coca) is.  Colour and shade are ruling the landscape at the moment.  Red hearts and turning black- haunted by the tragic news regarding Prince- and many are feeling blue.  My suggestion- to banish the sadness and bring some light to the party- is to embrace a turquoise-loving woman; someone that is creating wonderful music.  Spin GQ; sit back and…

LET it do its thing.



Follow Lola Coca












TRACK REVIEW: Sky Cathedrals (feat. Florence Glen)- Elysium



Sky Cathedrals (feat. Florence Glen)








Elysium is available at:



Sky Cathedrals / Florence Glen


Stefan Nathan Gandhi (Copyright Control/BMI) James Booth (Copyright Control/PRS) Florence Elizabeth Edith Glen (Copyright Control/PRS)


Sky Cathedrals


Florence Glen and Paul James


Tom Woodhead (www.hippocraticmastering.com)


Thomas Stoop (www.thomasstoop.com)


Yutaru Records


April 18th, 2016




Leeds, U.K.


IT is unusual to review an act that is essentially…

fresh from the womb.  My featured act has just released their debut single.  In terms of social media followers, the numbers will climb:  At the moment; a smattering of people are fans of Sky Cathedrals.  Before I come to them I wanted to look at the group, it is worth looking at the importance of early impressions; cinematic/widescreen music- finishing off investigating bands from around Leeds.  I am seeing many young bands/acts emerge with their own sound and ideas.  As music becomes ever-more crowded and competitive:  It is increasingly difficult making an impact and separating yourself aside.  What I find with a lot of acts- with regards negatives and naivety- is the social media and music side of thing.  When it comes to social media, too many acts are uninformative and bare.  I get fed up with musicians that arrive and simply put a song out there:  No information or background; no links to other social media sites- just the song dropped out there.  Obviously, the music is the most important thing but what is the listener to do?  You have a track out there but, given the lack of band information and context, it seems rather inconsequential.  With tonnes of artists coming out by the week:  There is no excuse to negate base-level considerations.  I am not suggesting (musicians) have epic paragraphs and reveal too much of themselves:  Just take the time to inform the fans and give them a window into your world.  Musicians’ defence- when it comes to this oversite- is the fact they don’t want to become too open and transparent.  If you provide some biographical information- musicians that inspire you; plans for the future- and some photos, it is hardly opening the pages to your diary.  Music reviewers are not tabloid press:  They want information to help their reviews seem more authoritative and detailed.  As a fan, I am curious to learn about a band/artist’s influences and where they came from.  I raise this point because Sky Cathedrals- even though they are making their first step- have taken the trouble to put the work in.  The band (duo, technically) have a SoundCloud and Instagram account set up:  Ready for music and photos to go in there.  Before I carry on my point, let me introduce Sky Cathedrals to you:

Alongside other bands and projects, Mighty Kid and Paul James have created a musical style of their own using their combined multi-instrumental, songwriting and production skills. Here is ‘Elysium’, the debut single from this rousing new duo, Sky Cathedrals. The single will be released with Bside remixes by TIGERBLOOD and Maukoe.

Raised in Portugal and born in North Yorkshire, folk singer/songwriter Florence Glen cowrote the song in between recording her debut solo EP. Her vocals serve up a tender but colossal performance exploring the loss of love and perfect state of bliss in an almost cinematic style of composition, combining orchestral and contemporary musical elements underpinned by a trip hop style beat.

The production value of this piece is remarkable, incorporating sound effects and dense reverbs that create a monumental soundscape of emotion for Florence to deliver her message; the song builds throughout and culminates with a resounding chorus complete with brass section and strings, which lend themselves perfectly to the silver screen.

The boys of Sky Cathedrals will stick in the mind of many listeners.  Not just because they have put the graft in with regards social media.  The music they create- demonstrated across Elysium– is instilled with cinematic beauty and drama; stunning originality and wonderful, orchestral touches.  I have heard many duos, yet none has the same sound as this Leeds outfit.  What the guys do is to incorporate lush, moody compositions with sharp beats and sound effects:  A gamut of emotions and genres feed into the music.  Describing their sound as ‘Cinematia’; it is a very apt term.  Like cinema- the contrasts and conflicts- the music embraces so many different ideas and emotions.  There is no excuse- in this modern day- to replicate what everyone else is doing.  I get fed up of new bands/solo artists arriving who knock-off other musicians.  It is tempting to ‘fit into’ the scene; if you are doing that by lazily ripping someone else off, then what’s the point?  You can never accuse Sky Cathedrals of being sound-alike and uninspired.  Linking up with Florence Glen; Mighty Kid and Paul James have created a gorgeous and unforgettable song in Elysium.  Before getting to the song- and the fact Sky Cathedrals hail from Leeds- it gets my thinking about the Yorkshire city.  New York, L.A. and London might seem the obvious places for the best musicians around.  Defined as epicenters for culture, music and arts, they might have to relinquish their grasp.  Leeds might not seem the obvious rival for L.A. and London:  In terms of music; they are very much leading the way.  Once Leeds was hampered by a lack of venues, financial and opportunities (for music).  Inspired by the successes of Kaiser Chiefs- one of the most notable bands to emigrate from the city- more chances are being offered to Leeds’ artists.

Leeds has the fastest-growing economy in the country; musicians are taking advantage of this.  Utilising social media- spreading the word and promoting other acts- one-night gigs and new music venues are sprouting up.  No longer is Leeds the impoverished, ghost town for musicians.  Although the Yorkshire city still has its dark side- like any city in the country; not everything is picturesque and perfect- there has been development, improvement and resurgence.  This determination and evolution are showing in the music of Leeds.  Over the last few years, I have assessed dozens of Leeds-based musicians.  What always strikes me about them- compared with artists from other parts of the U.K. – is the originality and nuance that is presented.  Whether Electro.-Swing or Indie-Rock:  You always get something a little special and unexpected.  I am not sure whether certain factors- the city growing and becoming more attractive- has led to this wondrous music revolution.  There is still some way to go- Leeds is growing and expanding by the year- but eyes are no longer fixated with London and Manchester.  If anything, Leeds is the most important music centre in the country.  Over the coming years, bands like Duels and The Ivories- the former mixes the likes of Madness with David Bowie; the latter is one of the hottest female bands in the land- are ensuring Leeds gets the recognition it deserves.  Throw in The Research- considered Britain’s answer to The Beach Boys- and you have a city that is watering mouths are producing some exceptional talent.  Sky Cathedrals seem very Leeds-like in their approach.  I would be shocked to hear a duo like them arrive from London or Liverpool, let’s say.  Although there are capable musicians in these cities- that can get their mind away from Indie, Alternative and Pop cores- Leeds’ artists are much more inventive, experimental and original.  Elysium is a track that marks their arrival with fanfare, determination and huge impact.  Whether you are a fan of cinematic-based music- that ties together Hans Zimmer with The Cinematic Orchestra- you need not be wary.  The duo present music that has that universal appeal and is not confined to certain audiences.  Widescreen and expansive; tender and personal:  You get so many different strands and ideas in the music.  I am not sure what the guys have in mind this year- a new E.P. or a debut album- but I am going to be waiting with baited breath.  If they can replicate their successful blends across an E.P.:  The boys will see thousands of fans flock their way.  I feel there is a move against the tried-and-tested duos/bands of the mainstream.  Listeners want something deeper, more long-lasting and memorable.  Sky Cathedrals are the perfect example of a Modern British Act:  Those that can appeal to the population at large; coming across as wholly unique along the way.

It is hard to compare Elysium with any previous Sky Cathedrals material:  This is their first cut and introduction to the music world.  As debut singles go; it is empathic, stunning and hard to escape.  Their cinematic sounds work wonderfully on their own (in single-form) but could easily sit together in an E.P. or album.  Sky Cathedrals spent a year creating Elysium and honing the sound.  After auditioning multiple singers- to get that essential vocal- they found Florence Glen.  I know a lot of instrumental-based acts/producers who have the same recruitment problems.  When you have that composition laid down; you have a very distinct view of the vocal that should support it.  This attention to detail and perfectionism shows throughout Elysium.  I would be excited to see what the duo does next.  Given the time it took to complete their debut single; it might take a while for an E.P. to come through.  Maybe Paul James and Mighty Kid have other songs-in-progress and brewing.  If you are new to the producing duo- many people would be- you might be looking around for comparable acts.  On their Facebook page; Sky Cathedral lists the aforementioned as influences:

Aquilo, M83, Ludovico Einaudi, Nils Frah; The Cinematic Orchestra, Hans Zimmer, Keaton Henson; London Grammar, Woodkid; Luke Sital-Singh, White Royal

The best three names- that tie together through their debut song- are The Cinematic Orchestra, Hans Zimmer and London Grammar.  The sound effects, cinematic scope and drama- that you can hear in Elysium– put me in mind of Hans Zimmer’s work.  The beauty, intensity and sweeping moments- you can hear throughout albums Ma Fleur and Motion- reminds me of The Cinematic Orchestra’s best work.  The British Nu-Jazz/Electronic group was masterful when it came to matching songs with singers.  The lush and gorgeous vocals of Florence Glen (across Elysium) put me in mind of London Grammar’s Hannah Reid.  With Glen- unlike Reid to an extent- you get more depth, originality and beauty to the voice.  I have always been impressed by Hannah Reid’s huge power and spine-tingling voice.  Florence Glen has more sides and dynamics to her voice.  I would love to see Glen and Sky Cathedrals collaborate in future releases.  It would be marvelous to see how the artists can evolve and grow together.  Whatever Sky Cathedrals have in mind- looking for radio play and planning another single, maybe- their fan numbers will grow.  Right now, there is a modest following for the Yorkshire act.

Arriving at the song in question; the very first moments present stately notes and immediacy.  Piano notes slam whilst a ghostly (electronic) wail lingers in the background.  In the space of a few seconds, you get a perfectly fitting introduction to Florence Glen’s voice.  The listener is free to imagine scenes and find out what the song is really about.  Myself, I was looking at far-off oceans and an odd serenity.  Maybe bedecked in twilight mystery:  You find yourself floating on the waves and submitting.  “I’m drifting on an ocean” are the first words that are sung.  Our heroine is stepping before someone:  Hearing the words they have to say.  Whether a God-like figure or something more personal- a sweetheart or friend- there is that need for confession and revelation.  Listening to the “words you had to say” there seems to be that emotional confusion and doubt.  That initial ambiguity gets the mind wondering and speculating.  I was wondering whether our heroine was speaking with a lover- and professing affection- or revealing something quite harrowing.  Elysium- a restraint in Leeds, incidentally- is that state of perfection and bliss, so it would be wise to say there is some happiness and positivity emerging.  Underneath the smoky, powerful vocals is that edge of mystique and double-meaning.  Glen’s voice has that atmospheric, rousing strength that puts you in mind of London Grammar’s Hannah Reid.  The sparse punctuation and nighttime intimacies recall If You Wait (London Grammar’s debut album) at its finest.  Our heroine has teariness to her voice:  Her love is far away and did not realise “what you mean to me”.  Imploring “What have we become?” there is that sense of dismay and heartache.  Whatever the circumstances behind the rift- and why they are separated at the moment- you start to imagine and conspire.  Glen never lets her voice become too wallowy and self-obsessed:  In fact, it has an openness and grandeur that is impossible to ignore.  Moving mountains and overcoming obstacles would have you believe (this relationship) has fought the currents and seems doomed.  Maybe the distance between them has caused strains and irreparable damages.  In spite of the problems and realities; there is that burning passion and determination.  You can hear that affection and dedication in every point of the vocal.  The hero still belongs to the heroine- he is a piece of her- and you start to empathise with Glen.

Every word seems born from a very personal space; a true tale that has left impressions on her soul.  The brittle beauty and stunning vocals (by Glen) is supported by ghostly electronics and understated beauty.  Sky Cathedrals have expended a lot of energy ensuring the composition evokes huge force and potential.  Not just reliant on Glen’s vocal:  The score has its own majesty and constantly gets inside the head.  With the heroine bereft and pining for her man- trying to forget him but unable to shake the bond- the producers allow their composition to speak.  Yearning, aching strings sit with foot-stomp piano and shimmering soulfulness.  It is hard to define the composition in pure terms.  There are so many different ideas, strands and emotions that are packed in there.  Despite (the composition) having a discipline and controlled power; there is so much nuance to be found.  The production skills are exceptional; allowing the song to breathe and campaign without sounding over-produced and glossy.  Glen is a singer I have not heard from but showcases what a set of pipes she has.  It would be remiss to compare Glen with London Grammar’s Reid:  The two have different sound yet share common threads.  That voice threatens to explode but never does:  There is intense passion but everything is kept in check and never gets too carried away.  Many singers ululate and let their voice swoop, dive and lose focus.  Florence Glen is not the only star of the show; it is the collaboration of the trio that makes Elysium such a star.  The exceptional production and slow-burning composition- there is subtlety and intention working in contrast- are the perfect backdrop and evoke a range of colours and ideas.  I can tell how much work has gone into Elysium’s creation and the attention that has been paid.  Mighty Kid and Paul James have a tremendous air for cinematic sounds and sound effects.  Lesser producers would either pack too much into the song or leave it too wanting.  Happily, the Yorkshire duo gets the balance just right and have created something quite wonderful.  The composition could stand on its own legs- perfectly score a dramatic scene or Indie drama- but it is the unity of Sky Cathedrals and Glen that makes the song so scintillating.

It is clear; Leeds is still one of the most relevant places for brilliant new music.  The D.I.Y. culture of the city is seeing masses of young musicians get up and make the best music possible.  No longer seen as a minor player in Britain’s music scene:  Leeds is now THE place to find the finest musicians from around the U.K.  Leeds has that odd blend of growing economic pride and existing poverty.  The high streets are booming and there is a resurgence happening.  On the other hand, you still get these pockets of deprivation that seem conflicted with Leeds’ economic prosperity and improvement.  In spite of the improvements happening around the Yorkshire city:  There is a sense of familiarity and the generic creeping in.  The high streets stores are the same as everywhere else; not saying Leeds is becoming gentrified, yet it is not the most inspiring backdrop for the musicians hailing from here.  As a result, Leeds’ finest are rebelling and putting character into the mix.  Whether it is via band night- at charming, quirky pubs- or utilising social media to full effect; I can see something wonderful happening.  Leeds’ musicians are growing bored with the sameness that is creeping in.  Unlike any other part of Britain; Leeds has that diversity and originality that is extraordinarily rare.  It is hard to draw a line between alt-J and The Wedding Presents; Kaiser Chiefs and he Mekons- just a small handful of bands that call Leeds home.  White Royal mix chills and mournful refrains inside their impactful music.  Eaves (the moniker of Joseph Lyons) sees sensational vocals- impossibly high notes and an unerring beauty- with genuine warmth and beauty.  Zealous Doxy’s Acid-Psych-Folk blends captivating vocals with stunning banjo performances.  Allusondrugs- a band I keep mentioning in my reviews- are a sensational live proposition whose songs have captured the imaginations of their growing fans- the band is getting stronger and more popular by the month.

It is clear:  Leeds does things differently to other parts of the world.  The musicians here have a way of working that other (areas) should take note of.  I am proud of London and the prosperity it is experiencing.  I love the capital’s finest musicians but feel they lack the unique edge and wonderful characters you get from Leeds.  Whether this trend will continue- and see Yorkshire’s finest go from strength-to-strength- it all bodes very well.  Sky Cathedrals seems like they have the potential to go a very long way.  Not your average Rock-cum-Indie band- talking about the same things with the same compositions- they have an originality and impression that remains in the memory for a long time to come.  Mighty Kid and Paul James are producers whose knowledge of music filters through the voice of the best singers out there.  Elysium shows what a prospect Florence Glen is.  In a way, the most direct comparison (one can levy at Sky Cathedrals) is The Cinematic Orchestra.  Influential to the duo:  You can hear familiar shades in the music of Sky Cathedrals.  Those incredible and varied compositions soundtrack your life in a very gripping and beautiful way.  Let’s hope the guys create something akin to Ma Fleur:  The Cinematic Orchestra’s third album that saw them bring singers Patrick Watson and Fontella Bass into the music.  Hugely affecting and bracing:  The album brings mini-masterpieces together into a brilliant record.  Some have criticised Ma Fleur for being a little tiresome and testing.  I feel Sky Cathedrals will suffer no such drawbacks.  Elysium is one of the most confident debut singles I have heard in a long time.  It shows (the duo) want to make their voices heard and have plenty more music left inside them.  I can see an E.P. arrive very soon- whether that is already in progress- and highlight what music really needs.  There are so many predictable acts out there; the listener becomes very jaded and uninspired.  Music needs more artists like Sky Cathedrals as they offer that depth, drama and intense beauty.  Unlike a lot of sapling groups; Sky Cathedrals have ensured they are accessible and forthcoming.  Too many groups put a song into the ether and leave their social media pages bare-naked and empty.  In this time of music- where there is intense competition and unpredictability- you need to reveal a little of yourself to the listener.  More photos and shots will arrive in time- this review has the same photo repeated many times- but you cannot fault (Sky Cathedrals) when it comes to biography and insight.  I am not shocked to see Leeds produce a wonderful, original act.  The city keeps exceeding expectations and showing how things should be done.  I am confident Sky Cathedrals will be a producing music for many years to come.  If Elysium is anything to go by, the results will be…

GLORIOUS to behold.




Follow Sky Cathedrals











TRACK REVIEW: James Robb- Flamethrower



James Robb









Flamethrower is available at:


29th March, 2016



Hitchin, U.K.


THE last week has left me rather vexed by the…

general public.  In the midst of the Stephen Fry furor- where he stated abuse victims need to be less self-pitying- it has made me wonder about social media; people in general- rather dampened my faith in humankind.  It seems like an odd start to a music review, but shall remain.  In that case, it is a classic case of overreaction and misinterpretation.  Fry’s comments related, not to a general abuse-victims-need-to-get-over-themselves discussion, but something very specific.  The outcry and hysteria that has greeted his comments- the vitriol and abuse hurled his way- proves Fry’s point- how society has become infantalised.  I shall leave this argument aside- it boils the blood- but there is an ignorance that we can apply to music.  There are too people that overlook artists based on social media numbers or early offerings.  The mainstream stations are not pushing new music as much as they should:  doggedly sticking with the tired-and-tested musicians of old.  Local radio does it best to rectify this but they have small listening figures- and not surprising really.  I often wonder how often people go beyond their comfort zones and investigate brand-new music.  We have all become rather lazy and safe regarding music.  I know music is not as reliable and stunning as past decades- we probably peaked in the ‘90s- but there are still so many fantastic acts and songs to be discovered.  My featured artist is someone putting the edge, soul and magic into music.  I have been a little harsh with regards the male solo artist.  Too often I hear the same sort of musician:  the acoustic strummer with whiny tales of getting their heart broken.  To be fair; if you’ve heard one you’ve heard them all!  The mainstream’s ‘best’ are hardly helping at all.

I myself have been guilty of narrowness and false assumptions:  there are some wonderful artists if you are prepared to ferret about.  If the girls are leading a charge- in terms of quality and ambitions- the boys are not giving up without a fight.  I shall continue my point, but for now, let me introduce James Robb to you:

With a voice and tone beyond his years, UK singer / songwriter James Robb is a young man on the rise. With original music rooted in his love for pop and r&b, Robb manages to captivate us with the authenticity of his songwriting, driven by his rich soulful voice. Raised in a musical family, Robb was quick to realise the importance of learning his craft as a songwriter and artist. He started to join writing sessions at an early age and performed a lot of gigs around his hometown Hitchin. In the past year Robb headlined gigs in Ibiza as well the UK, including performances at London Fashion Week and Gordon Ramsay restaurants.

James Robb has recently released ‘Flamethrower’, the first single taken from his forthcoming EP. Flamethrower is a track written by Robb and produced by Malaysian artist Kuizz. As for the meaning behind the song, James states ‘It is a song about being burned in a relationship. The horrible feeling when you know one of you cares more than the other, but you’re too attached to do anything about it. The song’s a release of all the frustrations in that moment. It’s definitely something I’ve experienced before and I know lots of other people have too.’

James Robb is currently in the studio recording his second EP set to be released later this year.

It is impressive to see such consistency from a young musician that is able to grow and amaze with every fresh release.  Flamethrower is a vivid title fleshed-out with ever starker musical missiles.  The Hertfordshire native has been scolded and is not afraid to show the scars.  Many songwriters talk about love’s burns- it is the most-common subject for discussion- and it can lead to quagmire, cliché and juvenilia.  I guess heartache- being scorned and cut by a lover- is something that bonds many people.  A well-oiled source of songs:  not enough artists are doing something different in my mind.  I feel so many musicians are moaning about things:  imbuing so much blame and anger into music; it leaves me somewhat cold and annoyed.  If you are going to be base your songs around love’s wars:  at least take the time to do something new and inventive.  Luckily, James Robb is not an artist that follows the herd.  He is not someone (I hope) that would describe his career as a ‘journey’- the most nauseating, wanky form of pretension; get over yourselves, musicians- and has his feet planted on the floor.  The intelligence and originality are reflected in Flamethrower.  Taking influence from ‘60s/’70s Soul greats- the spirit of Sam Cooke hovers in some moments- together with current favourite Musiq Soulchild- you have a musician with a superb pedigree.  Few can deny the improvement that has come into music the last few months.  The last year was a somewhat spotty one for new material:  this year is a lot more sturdy, varied and impressive.  While social media users/the public are their reliable self- showing most love to the media-approved; ignoring those who toil and deserve more- I wonder whether things will change.  James Robb is a perfect Exhibit A.  The Hertfordshire star is an example of a musician who improves and evolves with every release.  One of the most original and emotive voices in current music- with a lot more besides- he is someone that needs more exposure and opportunities.  With a new E.P, in-the-works; it will be great to see Robb mature, expand and amaze.  I have heard his early work and am amazed by the maturity and confidence throughout.  In 2016, he seems even more assured and ripe:  a musician that has grown so strong and determined.  Even though his heart has been incinerated- charred to the point of ashes- that has not dampened his songwriting ability.


Flamethrower is the latest track from a musician that shows so much variation and nuance.  Sleeping With the Lights On was unveiled a few months ago and brims with radio-friendly hits and underground grit.  The title track repeats its name with determination and intoxicating chant.  Our hero is haunted by visions (of his sweetheart) and can’t get any rest.  Backed by pattering percussion- relentless and powerful- you get some tender piano in the mix.  A track that could comfortably sit on a Radio 1 playlist- and across a more credible station- it has universal appeal but something distinctly personal and meaningful.  Every Day Is Golden has a catchiness and sense of reflection.  Our man is down after a split- it seems the E.P. is a recounting of a bad split- but there is more optimism and light in this track.  The composition breathes more easily and seems to have a skip in its step.  Despite the pains and woes- the hero is unable to get over a break-up- you cannot help but be caught by the infectious spirit of the song.  Within the E.P., you get to hear Robb explore pain and relationship cessation with maturity and defiance.  Whilst the odd moment does see the protagonist wallow a bit too much:  the overall feeling is of someone trying to work their way to better days.  Backing these fight-against-the-tide sentiments; the compositions are constantly energised, direct and variegated.  Tight and feet-moving beats are the constant:  piano and electronics are added to augment and enthrone.  With embers of Stevie Wonder coming through- especially in Every Day Is Golden– there is a nice mix of Soul legends and modern-day production values.  That E.P. – to my mind- was primed towards the Radio 1 demographic- the 16-30 market, perhaps.  The polished finish and lyrical style is aimed at the younger listener, largely.  What Robb does/did with Sleeping With the Lights On is infuse the modern with classical.  This is not an E.P. by a boyband member trying to prove himself.  Flamethrower is another step from a young man that is getting better with each song.  The E.P. had some rough edges and missed chances- could be a little rougher and tough; a little polished and cliché in places- but the signs are all good.  Building on solid foundations- especially the honey-dripping voice- it seems Flamethrower is a sign of things to come.  Keeping his core sound intact; instead there is an extra degree of confidence and quality.  The song is not too reliant on predictable lyrical ideas- there is more thought and originality- whilst the composition has greater depth, nuance and appeal.  I feel Flamethrower– and the forthcoming E.P. – will aim at a wider audience and show great promise.  Robb was always excellent and promising from the very start.  What we are seeing- and will see towards the end of the year- is another step forward and greater solidity.  Flamethrower is (perhaps) the finest track Robb has created and he seems to be in rich form.

Having already accrued some great reviews and passionate feedback:  I was determined to get into Flamethrower and see what all the fuss is about.  The track begins with a little bit of mystery and mis-step.  You would imagine a track called Flamethrower might start with blaze and attack.  Contemplative and reflective notes- almost lullaby-like in their tenderness- ensures the opening moments are calm and composed.  Lesser artists would rush in and show too much eagerness- too keen to lay their feelings on the line.  “A heart of ice/a sacrifice” are the opening words:  heralded by a punchy beat; Robb is in the spotlight and keen to lay down his thoughts.  Surveying the wreckage- and the girl who broke his heart- his words are deployed with caress and attention.  Never hurried or overly-emotive:  you have a performance that drips with soul and beauty.  Whilst the composition tightens and gets more teeth-baring:  our hero ensures his voice is levelled and controlled.  Channeling elements of Marvin Gaye and Robin Thicke in a very unique and personal way.  At no point do you imagine those singers- you just get feint hints and impressions.  I am amazed a white guy from the Home Counties can sound like a bona fide Soul singer.  A lot of our ‘best’ examples- Sam Smith for one- sound forced and suffer ululation and over-emotion.  Robb is one of those singers who sound completely natural and loveable.

There are no wild notes or needless screeching.  For that reason, Flamethrower remains essential and impressive to the very end.  Our hero has waited in the “pouring rain”.  You can picture the scenes as they are spoken.  Unsure of where culpability lies- who is to blame for the break-up- you readily sympathise with our lead.  He seems so honest and open in his performance it is hard to cast aspersions his way.  The girl is burning our man without consideration or humanity.  “It hurts” seems like an understatement under the circumstances.  Asking the same questions- why she does not want the relationship to last- you get multi-layered vocals and something hugely alluring.  Robb lets his voice glide and cascade like a caramel waterfall.  It is hard to get sucked into the voice and ignore the composition and vocal.  As they stand, there is a real economy and memorability to them.  The beats remain sparse yet effective.  The production values are exceptional, which means the vocal can stand up top without detriment to the other components.  Flamethrower is a very contemporary track.  It is the sound of 2016 but is not a lamentable Pop-based, chart-friendly write-off.  Like Justin Bieber and Zayn- two artists you didn’t think I’d be applauding- there is a seamlessness and authority.  You have a young man that has a Pop basis but offers much more depth and appeal than his contemporaries.  Ensuring the lyrics are simple and easy-to-recall- the image of being burned is a particular standout- it will appeal to listeners of all ages and tastes.  The universality- the lyrical themes and easy-to-digest vocals- is matched by a clear nod to masters of Soul.  Those who yearn for the days of Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye will find much to love in Robb’s rich and luxuriant tones.  Such obvious songs- that have very clear meanings- can often be bogged down in a wave of predictable lyrics and forgettable vocals.  Not the case with Flamethrower.  The inspiration comes from a very raw and painful place.  Rather than lace the track with accusation and vitriol:  you have a very considered and disciplined performance that leaves you rooting for the hero.  I am not sure how things worked out between the duo- and whether reconciliation arrived- but you cannot help but wonder.  A centerpiece and lead-off from the forthcoming E.P.:  James Robb is hitting his peak form right now.  Maybe his best moments are still ahead but you have to tip your hat to his progress and evolution.  Social media/press backing has clearly sparked something in Robb: a young artist that is hungry for success and longevity.  If he keeps creating tracks like this, who would ever bet against him?

Kuizz (a Malaysian artist) has come to the producer’s chair and brought the best from the Hitchin boy.  Ensuring Flamethrower is not too gleaming and slick- but not too bare and sparse- a fine balance has been struck.  The only thing I would suggest- and not a slight on either party- is to indulge the composition a little more.  Robb’s vocals are exceptional but even finer when coupled with an atmospheric and dramatic score.  At times, Flamethrower relied too heavily on Robb’s assured voice.  Expanding the electronics and heightening the beats; a piano lift and a bit more crescendo- give the song that extra bit of primacy and teeth.  That is a minor qualm in a mass of positives.  Any oversites are sure to be ironed-out and straightened (when the E.P. arrives).  Flamethrower is a wonderful example of where James Robb is now:  standing tall and determined to grow bigger and bolder.

Flamethrower confirms James Robb’s arrival in the world of music.  I will be exited to hear what Robb’s E.P. contains:  I know so much passion and self has gone into it.  The lead-off single is not a self-pitying testament of a down-trodden soul.  It is filled with fire and purity; there is hope and strength- someone that recognises the pain but wants to move past it.  In today’s scene, you’d struggle to find too many (young, especially) artists that tackle love’s stresses with that much dignity and self-respect.  As the weeks go by, I am finding more and more wonderful musicians.  I am one of those people that gets safe and happy immersed in bygone music:  the artists and albums that are reliable and established.  While new music can never reach the dizzying heights of the ‘glory days’- to me; 1988-2003- we should not give in and just shrug the shoulders.  Sure; there are hordes of acts emerging by the week.  Having to do battle with so many rivals- in a disorganised social media sea- we are starting to see some future stars emerge.  2015 was not the best for music and it led me to be rather dismissive and pessimistic.  I am seeing a lot more quality and consistency through the first-third of 2016.  James Robb is someone we need to keep our eyes on and lend support.  I know it can be a difficult quandary:  so many musicians are coming out:  how can I be sure Robb is not overlooked?  Flamethrower is a song that should be saved and added to playlists.  Keep it somewhere safe and make sure it is (at the very least) in the back of your mind.  Bookmark Robb’s social media pages and follow his progression- the E.P. is not far away- and do not let him pass you by.  It seems the Hitchin-based musician is in no short supply of followers.  The social media numbers are solid and rising:  his P.R. agencies are promoting (Flamethrower) with aplomb and passion.  In wider terms; radio and the media are lending their praise to the cause:  recognising what a proposition is in our midst.  It is great discovering an artist that hails from outside London- only just in this case- and I wonder whether James Robb will relocate.  The Staves, Enter Shikari and Friendly Fires hail from Hertfordshire:  Gallows and Deep Purple can be added to that list.  Not many Hertfordshire natives actually remain there.  The lure of London- and other, similarly-heeled cities- is too powerful and potent.  I know Robb has some important gigs in the pipeline:  how long until he is seduced to London, Manchester or farther afield?  That is down to him but I feel like there is a real opportunity ahead.  The public need a collective slap and have their eyes opened to some stunning music.  It is hard navigating the choppy waters of music:  there is so much out there it can be a daunting challenge.  Whether we can overcome this hurdle- and create a more organised and disciplined way or working- that is for another day.  James Robb draws together the Soul heights of the ‘70s with something contemporary and fresh.  Never indebted to anyone, we have a singer that is at his very peak.  I feel things can only get better and stronger.  Flamethrower is a dazzling song from a young man that wants to show the music world what he is made of.  If you have any sense at all…

YOU won’t deny him.



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