FEATURE: The Ones to Watch (Part One of Two)



The Ones to Watch



(Part One of Two)



THIS year is not even at its half-way mark and…

there are some many great, new musicians coming through. Whether you prefer your sounds reflective and calm; rambunctious and chaotic- or somewhere in the middle- you are well catered-for. I have been luckily enough to review and support some of the most unique musicians around the world. In coming additions- two more arriving soon- I will be looking at artists like Elena Ramona, Kirbanu and Duke of Wolves; Grime and Jazz artists; Pop and Folk stars- taking in acts from all around the globe.

In the first installment, I highlight wonderful solo artists and bands; D.J.s and Electro. artists-in-the-making: wonderful voices and unique talent. Sit back, relax and discover some musicians who will be making big moves through 2016/’17.

Here are the first bunch


The State of Georgia



After reviewing No Man’s Land (in February) I was compelled to check-out The State of Georgia’s album, Roses & Swallows- https://thestateofgeorgia.bandcamp.com/. The title track features flowing piano notes and lyrics that intrigue the mind (“The Roses and Swallows will know where I’ve been/They’ll know where I’m going and what I have seen/They’ll make time stand still and the world shy away”). The Wolf packs bellicose percussion and features a heroine/central figure that howls at the moon. Maybe documenting a former friend- someone who has changed for the worse- it is one of the finest vocal performances on the album. Tracks Father, Brother and Mother deals with a trilogy of familial insight. Father is filled with fatherly advice and caution; Brother is a darker and more disturbed beast; Mother a redemptive and beautiful piece that sees a motherly bond transcend trouble and pain- “when you light up all the bad is gone and I am fine”. An incredible album that mixes Tori Amos-esque flavours with Regina Spektor grandeur: Roses & Swallows (is one of 2016’s) most captivating records. The self-funded L.P. not only shows what faith fans have in Georgina Jakubiak: it demonstrates an incredible talent at the peak of her abilities. The Leeds-based musician is someone you will want to keep a very close eye on.




Follow The State of Georgia







Steve Heron


I have long-adored Edinburgh’s Steve Heron and his stunning blend of ‘80s-isnpired Punk and beautiful, heartfelt songs. It has been a while since Heron has posted new material: Three of Swords is a demo. That has just been released. A bouncing, rousing guitar supports lyrics that look at mortality, love and introspection. Our hero dreams- despite having no tradable looks to fall back on- of a particular girl: recalling a time when her lips were on his; the two were in each other’s arms. Having hesitated and come this far: you feel that desire to rekindle love and gain something precious. Heron’s soulful and commanding vocal brings the song fully to life- it would be wonderful to see it given a full studio treatment. Let’s hope there is more material (and E.P., perhaps) from the Scot. in the coming months. Three of Swords is classic Steve Heron: earnest, honest lyrics that blends romantic longing and humour; a sense of defeat and a need to succeed. Edinburgh is the home to some wonderful and multi-talented musicians: few are as memorable and impressive as Heron.





Follow Steve Heron









Rews consist of Belfast songstress Shauna Tohill and beat-making London-dweller, Collette Williams. The extraordinary chemistry and understand the girls share feeds into their electrifying, Pop-Rock stunners. Songs that look at real-life issues and unusual characters: radio stations, fans and causal listeners have been entranced by their incredible, bold songs. Rews remind me of a female Royal Blood: they have epic tunes and an undeniable bond; they have the potential to be one of the U.K.’s biggest duos. Shake Shake– their most recent single- is notching up the YouTube views: there is no denying what a following they have. Tohill is one of the most consistent songwriters and unique singer-guitarists around: Williams has been signed to the Tama U.K. brand; one of the most passionate and talented drummers around. The girls are playing a host of festivals this year- including a prestigious spot at Glastonbury– and are busy on the promotional circuit. The girls’ kinetic energy and incredible live performances have created huge buzz around London. Few would bet against them conquering Europe and the U.S. in years to come- a string of high-profile gigs will go a long way to achieving that goal.


Follow Rews







Universal Thee


The Scottish Alternative-Rock band their sophomore album, Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace in February. The ten-track album followers from their debut, Back to Earth. There have been changes and challenges within the band’s ranks- creative doubts and personal alterations- but this has not dampened and distilled their quality. The Pavement/Pixies-inspired songs see twin-leads James and Lisa Russell deliver an incredible set of songs- each with one eye for the live crowds. Their singalong choruses and incredible band performances have got critics talking and fans enthralled. I have followed the guys for several years and see how much they have evolved and strengthened. A determined and intrepid quintet: they have achieved a lot over their five-year careers. Each track (across Watched Over by Machines’) has a sense of uplift and positivity. Even if the central messages look at something fraught- anxieties and doubts- you get warmth and comfort in the vocals; an electric riff that enthralls the bones- a rousing kick that invigorates the senses. After a busy last few months, the guys are showing no signs of slowing. So many bands and musicians have stumbled at hurdles and called time: the fact Universal Thee have steely resolve- and continue to roll on- shows just how much desire they have. Of course, it helps if you have exceptional, ready-for-the-eager-crowds tune: the Edinburgh have this is shed-loads.



Follow Universal Thee






Jen Armstrong


Yorkshire’s Jen Armstrong is one of the most distinct musicians I have ever encountered. Her songs mix witticism and humour: an upbeat and quirky take on modern life; a rarified and exceptional songwriting talent. Sound-tracking these songs is that incredible, versatile voice: something capable of heart-breaking purity and sky-scraping intensity. An exceptional pianist and musician- she works at London’s The Piano Works– her commitment to music is non-stop. When she is not performing live- which she does as part of her job- she is formulating new tunes and working on fresh cover versions. Having relocated to London: it marks a new stage in Armstrong’s career. Having performed in the U.S. – she has spent a lot of time in L.A. and Nashville; wowing the crowds there- and New Zealand: that experience and travelogue blends into her characterful and beautiful songs. Whether an album/E.P. is due this/next year; that will not matter a jot: Armstrong is always creating music and keeping herself busy. A few seconds after she starts singing; she can silence a crowd: get the jaws dropped and attention grabbed. London is a lonely and large city: with Armstrong in it; it seems a lot happier, friendly and magical.



Follow Jen Armstrong







Eden Jones


Between radio appearances- having just appeared on Sussex’s B.B.C. Introducing- and releasing new music- the track, Nikki, was unveiled a month ago- Eden Jones has had scant time to put her feet on the ground. Jones is one of the boldest and most confident musicians I have encountered in years. Previous tracks Our Time Is Now and Wild Hearts are complete with bubbling electronics and gorgeous vocals: exceptional production and stirring emotions. Wild Hearts is particular affecting: a stunning, symphonic song that boasts one of Jones’ most captivating vocals. Previously based in L.A. – in love with the city and its vibrant atmosphere- Jones has gained a lot from her U.S. residency. Now in the U.K., we are lucky to have in our midst. This is another musician I am watching closely and excited about. Every performance- whether live or on record- leaves me emotional, thought-provoked and affected. There are many excited and fascinated to see where Jones heads next. Such a complete and fascinating talent: she has a warmth, down-to-Earth demenaour and sweetness- a readymade, girl-next-door musician that can easily win hearts.



Follow Eden Jones






Lydia Baylis


Baylis is another musician I have been following for several years. An Oxford graduate with a fascinating past- her family and background is the stuff of novels- her incredible beauty and strength goes into music that gets into the soul and registers some serious emotions. Baylis has just released You Don’t Love Me: the second demo. from her forthcoming E.P. That E.P. will be a relief and welcomed addition to the back catalogue of a singular musician. Previous tracks such as Into the Water have been replete with cinematic drama and vivid lyrics: her new material sees new inspiration and motivation come to the fore. Her voice seems more lustful and full- a raw passion has replaced the sweetness- and fragmented relations arrive in her songbook. With Ross O’Reilly in the producer’s seat: Baylis’ new material ranks among her very best. Despite a gap between original material: Baylis has been touring and performing relentlessly- taking her incredible tracks to crowds across the U.K. If you want to back a musician that can go all the way- and continue to produce amazing, deep songs- then you will not go wrong with Lydia Baylis. The Wiltshire-born heroine is an arresting and tantilising proposition: one of those musicians you hope will achieve everything she sets her mind to.



Follow Lydia Baylis







Robb Powell


My first non-musician inclusion: Robb Powell is a taste-maker-cum-D.J.-cum-blogger. Retiring his Band of Badgers blog- that brings together the best, genre-spanning Indie music into one place- Powell continues to be a part of #RKC: where he presents a weekly podcast/show. Keen to support new musicians and bring us the freshest, finest sounds around: make sure you check out Powell’s work and guidance. An altruistic, intensely passionate music-lover: we could all learn a lesson from this guy. If you do not have time to investigate his podcasts: make sure you read the blog and discover artists of extraordinary calibre; the commitment and focus (Powell puts into) his work.




Follow Robb Powell

Official (Band of Badgers):






Echo Arcadia


It has only been a couple of days since I reviewed Echo Arcadia’s latest album, Visions of Symmetry. Another great Scottish band- bit of a theme occurring here! -the group’s blend of atmospheric introspection and gorgeous melodies makes the album one of the most-essential of this year. Leigh Moyes and Jenna White’s vocal combination- White is no longer part of the band- create some of the biggest reactions imaginable- sending the songs into hyper-drive. The entire band has grown in scope and ability: they have grown stronger and galvanised since their debut album, Beauty in an Average Life. Ensure you pick the L.P. up and discover a band like no other. Although the lyrics can err towards s certain weariness and defeatism: there is always hope, light and inspiration waiting; plenty of beauty, passion and determination. The music industry is filling up with promising bands and artists that could succeed to the mainstream. Echo Arcadia seem ready for the task at hand. They have the musicianship, bonds and tunes all in place- all they need is that break. That will surely come soon enough: there is a determination and work ethic in the group that deserves rich rewards and long-term success.


Follow Echo Arcadia







Jo Kelsey Music



Performing with Niels Bakx: Jo Kelsey is one of the most arresting and alluring singers I have heard. She has recently been traveling the globe but is back in the U.K.  New music will arrive soon enough, but for the time being, there are plenty of tracks available online- underlining what a duo (Bakx and Kelsey) are. The chemistry and combination works just right. Bakx’s assured and confident guitars- he is part of London band, Los and the Deadlines- gives Kesley the drive and support for her voice to flourish and fly. Whether speaking of love’s imbalance or the struggles we all face: every performance is delivered with a tremendous amount of soul, heart and expression. The Folk-cum-Blues bases are instilled with Rock and Acoustic contrasts- a duo that does not like to stick to one (rigid) sound. Based out of the capital, I am sure their music will take them all across the country. It is always hard finding artists that will survive and continue to exist in music. Given how far they have come- and how long they have been playing together- there is no danger of imminent split. In fact, I know the guys will be looking to the future and fresh ideas- hopefully just in time for the summer. Leading Us Home is the latest track available online: check it out if you get a chance to.



Follow Jo Kelsey Music







James Edge and the Mindstep


After reviewing On a Red Horse recently- check it out on my blog- I was left somewhat crestfallen and stunned- not in a bad way. The experimentation and psychotropic elements- not to mention the dark, unforgettable music video- certainly made its mark. There are few acts that can mix in Jazz and Rock; put Prog.-Rock in there and make something, not only credible, but extraordinary. The clamour and franticness of On a Red Horse is only the start of things. Look back; and you have a compelling and varied back catalogue. Edge’s wistful and commanding tones make every song (within the On a Red Horse E.P.) sound essential and special. His band- Avvon Chambers on percussion; Andrew Waterworth on double bass- add colour, energy and mysticism. Many have made Radiohead comparisons- the band have a bit of The Bends/OK Computer-era Radiohead to them- so if you are a fan of the Oxford legends- you will want to check out James Edge and the Mindstep. An incredible musical force with plenty more music to come- watch this space…



Follow James Edge and the Mindstep










Beyond Memory is the latest offering from German-born NINA. Based out of London: she is one of the most exciting and beautiful talents in the city. The Synth.-Pop artist is just as stunning covering material as she is writing her own- NINA’s version of Blondie’s Heart of Glass is a stunning thing. At the moment, NINA is getting settled in Greenwich- moving into a new studio there- and preparing more material. Taking influence from the likes of David Bowie, Depeche Mode and Cindy Lauper: a wonderful artist who can mix genres and sounds; without compromising her own identity. Towards the end of this year, NINA will be touring around Germany- ensuring her home nation get to see her in the flesh. That brings us to the subject of new music: when can we expect some? Head over to iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/beyond-memory-ep/id1101787845- and you can get her Beyond Memory E.P. Perhaps there will be a new album (towards the year’s end) or another E.P.- NINA is one busy girl! Whatever comes, you can be guaranteed this: you will definitely want to get your hands on it!



Follow NINA:








Carly Wilford


I have a lot of admiration and respect for Carly Wilford. She has achieved more in the past few years than I have my entire life. An influential D.J. and presenter: she is one of the most influential movers-and-shakers in the country. As the creator of I Am Musichttp://iammusic.tv/- she has created a platform where upcoming artists can link with producers and record labels. Driven by a clear passion for music: Wilford wants to leave a legacy; create something that will inspire musicians to come onto the scene and dream big. Outside of I Am Music, there is Sisterhttps://soundcloud.com/itssister- presented with Shan McGinley. Global. Rave. Material. for the masses: make sure you head over and see a true talent at work. Whether doing D.J. work or reviewing; presenting or voiceover stuff: there seems to be no slowing-down for Carly Wilford. Someone who puts her heart and soul into music and its possibilities.



Follow Carly Wilford





Liam Aitken and Jack Butler


Very soon, Liam and Jack will be presenting (a weekly show) on Kane F.M.http://www.kanefm.com/. I have always been a critic of local radio- not having the quality and showmanship to rival the best of the mainstream- but that could well change. Bringing their dedication for music- not to mention plenty of banter, fun and energy- their show (Wednesdays, 9-11am) will be worth tuning into. Individually, both are respected and incredible musicians. Jack’s Mania Productions Ltd. Will soon be the home of his new music and output- a Surrey-based D.J. and musician who has a big future. Liam’s alma mater, Next State, are on the verge of releasing new music. Having sequestered himself in the studio: we will soon see some Electronic bliss. Having heard previous Next State material- and knowing what kind of songwriter/producer Liam is- it is sure to be a summer-ready smash for the masses. Be sure to check out Liam and Jack- on the links below- and catch their Kane F.M. show- the result of their hard work and passion for music; I am excited to see how far they can go.



Follow Jack and Liam:


Jack Butler (Mania Productions Ltd.)


Liam Aitken (Next State)



Siggy Smalls


I ‘discovered’ Siggie Smalls the same time as Carly Wilford. Here is another (incredible) D.J. and talent that easily put a smile on the face. As D.J./Host for MEATtrasMISSION– her Sunday shows are a definite highlight- Smalls delves into the annals of Disco and beyond. With every show you can hear that passion and spirit come through- there are few people that become so involved in the music itself. I would love to see Smalls take on a bigger role- it seems like she can have a great career in radio- and make her way to the mainstream. Whether that is in her mind- or she prefers to be where she is- you can just see her commanding the decks of a popular station like 6 Music. There are a lot of great D.J.s in London- I am a fan of Hoxton Radio especially- but few can rival Smalls’ captivation, charm and personality. I am not sure what the rest of 2016 holds for her- whether she is making plans for new music or has any plans- but I know she get bigger and more popular- she already has a loyal band of social media followers behind her. What we have is a multi-talented young woman with a lot more to offer.




Follow Siggy Smalls








Duke of Wolves


The London band have only been playing for a matter of months but are already shaping up to be one of the most exhilarating and snarling bands in the U.K. Their love of Queens of the Stone Age, Led Zeppelin and Rage Against the Machine comes out in their explosive, fists-in-the-air tracks. Songs It’s Real and Hollow are to-the-throat smashes: songs that make you want to take to the floor and lose yourself in their potency. Hard-hitting percussion and solid bass link with ferocious, swaggering guitars- all topped-off by Jim Lawton’s impassioned and gripping vocals. The quartet is making their first steps but already have confidence and ambition. With the gigs mounting and praise coming through: that patronage and experience will make the material even sharper and more incredible. It will be fascinating to see an E.P. from them- a four/five-track record that shows just what they are made of- and more gigs. The gang will be performing on the Hard Rock Stage at the Isle of Wight Festival. That is quite an honour for such a new band- not really a shock when you hear their material; let it blow you away. Once all the dust has settled- it will be a crazy, exciting summer for them- they will be looking to new material and audiences: expanding their horizons and thinking big. With the talent and ability they have in the camp- they are an act you can see hitting the big-time.



Follow Duke of Wolves







Lola Coca



Music has few characters as bold and memorable as Lola Coca. The Portsmouth-born artists is a colourful, cheeky and intoxicating human- guaranteed to make you smile inanely. Previous tracks Bad Girlfriend and Love Songs showed what an innovative and compelling proposition Lola Coca is. GQ– perhaps her finest song yet- looks at suit-wearing businessman and a smarminess that pervades. Walking down the street- eyed by these well-oiled types- you can hear her disdain and disrespect. She has just played- and throughout loved- the Chill-Out Festival in Istanbul: people around the world have fallen for her music, hard. Blending ‘90s Rap/Hip-Hop- Missy Elliot is someone you can detect in the music- and around Pop-cum-Ska avenues: you get a balance of laid-back groove and tight beats; swirling, jagged electronics- commanding vocals and stand-in-the-mind lyrics. Sassy, witty and in-control: Lola Coca is a class of her own. As is common- as I have done with other artists in this feature- I am curious to see whether an E.P. is coming out. Songs like GQ and Bad Girlfriend have captured the imagination and have connected with her fans and followers. Clearly on one hell of a roll: this year very much belongs to Lola Coca.




Follow Lola Coca








Meat Loving Vegans


With bits of The Clash; little elements of Jazz and Experimental: Meat Loving Vegans is an act that does things very different. On paper, they could have rubbed shoulders with the likes of The Clash and The Buzzcocks. Front-man Dexter Krenal formed the band from his South London bedsit in 2015. Having had a tough upbringing- raised on a council estate; he turned to a life of crime and misbehavior- he started again and built from scratch. Reaching out on Facebook: the band started to take shape. It has not been the easiest ride, but things are starting to blossom. Performing in a number of venues in the capital: the quartet are working on their second album. Their first L.P. – Lost in Fiction– is one of the most extraordinary albums I have heard in years. You get short, sharp Punk jams; longer more introspective numbers: songs that look at weird characters and gritty neighbourhoods- there is romance and hope among the dirt and grime. Coming away from the band- after hearing their music- you, somehow, feel better. There is an odd medicinal quality to the sound- few artists can provide that.



Follow Meat Loving Vegans








Ina Reni


Reni has just released her new single, I Thought You Were Gay. I was fortunate enough to review the song. What amazed me was the detail, story and quality of the lyrics. So much humour and comedy in a track that emanates from a rather embarrassing scenario- misreading romantic signals from her gym instructor; thinking he was gay. As Reni admits it: her sexual compass is perhaps not the most accurate of things. This awkward encounter has gone into a brilliant song that has gained a lot of praise and effusiveness from the online community. Putting her everything into music and the pursuit of her dreams: you get that feeling Ina Reni will be a mainstream star of the future. If you want to support Reni and her music career: there is an online crowd-funding campaign- https://vimeo.com/162746942. By donating, it will afford her the chance to make videos and launch her music: afford her more opportunity and development. There are few singers and musicians that have her determination and talent. A varied and extraordinary songwriter: it has been quite an eventful and productive year for her.



Follow Ina Reni









Natalie Gray


This stunning redhead has had a varied and busy career so far. Not only is she a songwriter and dancer: she appeared in a production of Last Night a D.J. Saved My Life– appearing alongside David Hasselhoff. Just yesterday, a cryptic picture of Welcome to the Show (her album) appeared by a B.B.C. Radio 1 microphone. It seems that some pretty impressive airplay is about to arrive for the young musician. Little Secrets is an insight into a very special and assured songwriter: someone who can put so many emotions and dramatics into a song. Given her theatrical background: Gray already has an advantage over many of her peers. A natural and consummate performer: this all translate into her songs; they are some of the most direct and beautiful around. A few days ago, Gray performed at Pride in London: there will be more great gigs and new coming very soon. Now is the time to familiarise yourself with a British talent who is getting a lot of attention and focus. You can sense her career is about to take-off and explode.




Follow Natalie Grey







The Vim Dicta


This American trio is touring the U.K. at the moment and seducing the crowds here. Having arrived from the U.S.: there was the expectation they would only be here a few weeks. Their live performances and incredible music has enthralled audiences- leading to increased demands and new tour dates. Their ‘Psychogroove’ music brings together multiple genres- from Grunge and Punk to Alternative- in a fiery, wonderful combustion. An extremely tight and memorable live act: if you are in the area (they are due to appear) I suggest you get down and see them. Cori Eliot, Matt Tunney and Chris Infusino are on a noble charge right now. Alongside their U.K. dates; the guys are looking to release new material in the future. If they can find time to get into the studio- they might be here for the rest of time!- they will also want to take a breather- it has been a hectic and busy last few months. There are few bands that can arrive here- without much of a foundation and support here- and go down a storm. The Vim Dicta will give impetus to other (American or international) bands that have trepidation about coming here. The audiences are out there, and as The Vim Dicta have shown: you get the music right and the people will clasp you to their bosoms.



Follow The Vim Dicta






The Updraft Imperative


My favourite Australian band is another who has had a very busy year. Pieces of My Past was released a little while back and showed how consistent they are. Since Chair (their debut released a few years back) I have been longing for new material from the Christian-Rock band. They are tight-lipped about a future album- only that one will come down the line- but there is likely to be plenty of demand. The fact Chair is being talked-about so long after its release: it goes to show their messages and music transcends the borders of faith and religion. They are not your archetypical Christian-Rock band. In addition to rocking as hard as any out there: their lyrics apply to a larger world; they tap on universal themes and pains; imploring uplift and spirit in the face of adversity. Away from the music, the chaps are fun-loving and funny- perhaps fitting into an Australian stereotype- but this only heightens their appeal and effect. Let’s hope the band come back to the U.K. – they were here a while ago- and play a few gigs around the country. I know there are audiences waiting for them- perhaps the sheer expense is restricting their itinerary. Few bands- Christian-Rock or not- promote ideals of togetherness, bonding and brotherhood- they seem a juxtaposition to the state of the world. For that very reason; we need to embrace The Updraft Imperative: a rare group that are hugely inspiring and influential.



Follow The Updraft Imperative







Alexandra Amor


The gorgeous American pretty much exudes allure and fascination. Mama is her latest track and is already notching up the YouTube views. With a combination of Amy Winehouse’s soulful, whiskey-soaked voice; Alicia Keys’ soothing beauty- we have an artist that is causing ripples and excitement. Over 40,000 Twitter followers! It is clear the Florida-born star is made for bigger things. Consistently impressive, stunning and accomplished: her blend of raw and passionate is a big-ticket draw. Having emigrated from Florida to L.A. – the lure and opportunity of the city beckoned- things are going from strength-to-strength. Once more- I will say this a lot- I would love to see her come to the U.K. as often as possible. There is no doubting she would have a residency in London: there are plenty of clubs and bars that would house her. Alexandra Amor oozes star quality and sensuality; a confident and determination to succeed- the confidence in every song she releases. Her songs reflect on personal struggle and stories- moving to L.A. and overcoming hurdles- in addition to misjudged love. If that insatiable and staggering voice does not sweep you up: the lyrics and composition surely will. I am hoping to get to the U.S. sometime this year: I will be sure to come to L.A. and see Amor play live.



Follow Alexandra Amor






Vanessa Forero


My final inclusion- for this part- is the half-Colombian, Vanessa Forero. Her mother was abandoned in the Colombian jungle as a child- where she was raised by monkeys- and that is only part of Forero’s extraordinary background. The Brighton-based musician- until recently she lived in Yorkshire- released the album From the Uproar: a stunning album that unites her heritage (Colombian percussion and pipes) with a more tradition Folk/Indie core. Forero is a one-woman-band that wants to encourage girls to pick up percussion: becoming more involved with instruments that are commonly seen as boys’ toys. An inspiring human who can melt hearts with her incredible voice- take a listen to her music- the next year-or-so will see her rise and conquer. With comparatively modest social media numbers- someone who deserves a lot more people her way- she is a very rare artist. Deep, busy compositions- instruments from around the world- score gorgeous vocals and thought-provoking songs. There are few musicians as individual and special as Forero. After such an amazing and unbelievable background: it is amazing how grounded and level-headed Forero is. She has come a long way in a short time: for her, acclaim and stardom awaits…



Follow Vanessa Forero







TRACK REVIEW: Colornoise- She Was Machine






She Was Machine




She Was Machine is available at:


23rd May 2016

Experimental; Noise-Rock


Heredia, Costa Rica

Produced by Jorge Noguera & Colornoise
Recorded and mixed by Jorge Noguera @ Conquista Records, Costa Rica
Mastered by Alberto Ortiz. San José, Costa Rica


IT is unusual I get to check out a band from North America…

based outside of L.A. and New York. My featured artists hail from Costa Rica: a first for me. Before I come to them, it is worth looking at musicians from unexpected countries- places you would not look to normally- the importance of embracing distinct artists- how the best acts evolve in order to bring the best from their music. If you are thinking about great music and the most forward-thinking acts: perhaps Costa Rica is not at the top of the mind. Too many of us get caught up at ‘obvious’ nations for our music- the likes of the U.S.A., U.K., for example. Over the course of the years- reviewing music far and wide- I have not had many opportunities to ‘travel the world’ as it were. Costa Rica is a nation that has become a centerfold for international Rock and Metal bands. Everyone from Aerosmith and Pearl Jam have played here: throw in Deep Purple and Night Wish. Costa Rica is not as prominent on the world stage as it deserves. Its native Calypso and Mexican music are very popular: the nation has a thriving Disco scene (notably in the capital, San Jose). Aside from that, Folk and Rock- British and American- are popular among the youth population. Bands like Gandhi, Malpais and Evolución have national regard. Whilst Costa Rica has been keen to embrace the Rock and Alternative sounds of Britain and America: those sounds have had an influence on the upcoming movement of bands and musicians. Colornoise take inspiration from those foundations but go much further.

Inside their intrepid and multi-layered sound you get native elements- flavours and notes of Costa Rica- in addition to broader, widescreen Rock; tight and intense Punk oeuvres- experimental jams and multifarious songs. Before I raise a new point (or two) it is worth introducing Colornoise to you:

Sonya Carmona (Guitar, vocals)

Alison Alvarado (Drums, vocals)

Mari Navarro (Guitar, Synth)

Colornoise are an experimental Noise Rock band from Costa Rica.

Sonya Carmona (Lead vocal, guitar) and Alison Alvarado (Drums, vocals) released their first eight-track LP Fake Apocalypse in 2011. Later in 2012 they released the single Time. Their second album Polychronic was released in September of 2013.

In May 2015 they released the single Amalie after third member Mari Navarro (Synth, guitar) joined the band. One year later, She Was Machine is released as a second single for their forthcoming third album, out in September of 2016.

I have raised this argument before- and shall do again- about the rigidity of our musical tastes. We often get caught in a rather predictable bubble: not daring enough to push beyond boundaries and look further afield. Colornoise’s transference of British Rock and U.S. Alternative is not the only reason we should investigate the band- it provides an opportunity to get to know the Costa Rican musical culture more widely. At the moment, the stunning trio has a solid following across social media. It is no surprise they have such a loyal core of Costa Rican followers- they are starting to gain a reputation farther afield. The girls started off with a solid and incredible sound. Having taken it is as far as possible; they have grown and developed their music. She Was Machine is the result of hard work and days of experimentation. The trio hs been away from the scene for a little while: the latest single is a brave and triumphant return. Going for a more direct and raw sound: they fuse P.J. Harvey-esque vocals and a ‘90s Post-Punk style. The resultant concoction is (perhaps) the best thing they have ever created. A third album is mooted for the second-half of this year. It will be fascinating to see how the girls have adapted and developed. Their new music favours a more direct approach in general. Previous work has built in texture and been more experimental. Perhaps changing with the current scene- where Indie and Post-Punk is becoming more prominent- you still get their unique D.N.A. and personalities coming through. Colornoise- on their latest release- mix single-minded, hypnotic lyrics- essentially, they repeat lines to create a mantra-like sensation- with insatiable, primeval attack. Over the last few months, I have been looking for a great act outside of the U.K. – I have been spending a lot of time with homegrown artists. I know Costa Rica has not produced legendary, well-known musicians: that could well change with Colornoise. There are very few female trios on the scene: they fill a gap and provide something fresh to the market. Those familiar strands- bits of U.K. and U.S. music- and local influence makes them one of the hottest upcoming acts around. Following Navarro’s inclusion: the trio has grown in confidence and become more daring in their songwriting. A lot of female-produced music tends to be from solo artists. Maybe it is not the case outside the U.K.: we do not see many female trios/bands emerge. The boys pretty much cover the spread in terms of formations and styles. How many female trios and quartets do you see on the current scene? Acts like Colornoise are not only a much-needed breath of fresh air: they will inspire other musicians to come through; those that feel there is no place for them. She Was Machine has the potential to make it onto the British airwaves. There is that ready and spoiling sound: a primal and foot-stomping swagger that is impossible to ignore.

In order to get a full assessment of Colornoise’ currtent offering: one should have a look back and see where they began. Fake Apocalypse was their debut album and a rude awakening for the local scene. Few acts had come in as hard and confident. Costa Rica is not used to the likes of Colornoise. That album provided plenty of fast shocks and head-pounding jams. The tracks contained few lyrics- a selection of words that reinforced their ideas- and put the emphasis on vocals and compositions. Indoors is an insatiable and sweaty beast that brags drunken percussion and razor-wire guitar. Complaint is a more composed- by the standard of Indoors- that has a twirling guitar riff that sees our heroine in pensive mood. Having been “lying to myself” there is plenty of self-investigation and recrimination: oblique words and some fascinating diversions. Mind Hunters ended the album with composed beginnings and gradual build. A true Post-Punk gem: the addled and ghostly vocal highlights images of soul-return and floating in time. It is a song that acts as a perfect swansong and showed what range (the girls) had. Whereas their debut took more from the likes of Bad Brains, Nirvana, and Grunge: their sophomore album, Polychronic, has more of a P.J. Harvey-Hole vibe. In the interim, the girls changed their sound- from the more direct attacks to something dreamy and lugubrious- and altered their lyrics. Gone were the cryptic and anxious words: replaced by something more fantastical, character-based; less personal, perhaps. The girls- despite the longer, more experimental numbers- were just as direct and raw on Polychornic. In Trance has that fuzzy and guttural sound: the track bounces and springs from the speakers; it grabs you and takes you into a strange world. Being Colornoise, the lyrics are no-less straightforward and clear.

The heroine is living in a trance “Living in the clouds”- and can see the future- you never get a full sense of what is being said and uttered. That is the beauty with Colornoise: they inject mystery into all of their songs. Pieces is a strange, psychotropic song that is among the trio’s most distinct offerings. Weblocks takes us into cyber insecurities and the digital age. The danger and vulnerability we all face- details and personal data is not secure- is explored and laid-bare here. Since then, the girls have gone back to their debut-days sound. Polychronic’s variegation and experimentation is replaced with something to-the-bone and Punk. The Progressive edges have been smoothed to be replaced with jagged and sharp corners. Amalie- the last single; released in April- mixed sweet tea, beer and wine- a drunken (misguided) cocktail. Given the trio’s new ideal- to return to something raw and base- Amalie has a developed and soft approach to it. Not as rampant and violent as you’d expect: it suggests (their new album) might contain layers and range. That track was received with acclaim and celebration in Costa Rica. With She Was Machine following in its wake: the girls are determined to get as much music out there as possible. They want to make a mark this year: She Was Machine will ensure they are in the memory for a long time to come.

It only takes a few seconds before She Was Machine gets inside the brain. Punchy and heartbeat percussions give the song and instant energy and unleash. There is no slow-build and layered introduction: the track goes on the attack and spares no time with casual introductions. The girls have ensures low riffs and layered textures: ensuring they hit a balance and formulate something new and forward-thinking. Whilst you get whiffs ad suggestions of Post-Punk and ‘00s Indie- Arctic Monkey’s sophomore album comes to mind- you will struggle to bring any other bands directly to mind. Sure, there are embers here and there: the girls are determined to stand out in their own right. The introduction consistent of gradual build and layers. The drum remains pulsating and imperative: the guitars layer and that springing centrifuge grows hotter and harder. Before you delve too much into the introduction- which has nods to the likes of Teleman, P.J. Harvey and The Ramones- the heroine approaches the microphone. The opening lines repeat the song’s title: the words have that coda and brainwash quality. The projection and phrasing changes across time: it builds an oddly unsettled mood and sense of unease. Carmona turns her vocal into something overwrought, haunted and imprisoned. Combining with Navarro: the twanging strings and Punk-y vibes create something wonderful and strange. Rampantly riding Alvarado’s tribal drums: you immerse yourself in the lyrics and speculate as to the origins. The trio has ascribed the song- with a bit of vague interpretation- as the struggles one faces with their mind; that constant push-and-pull. To me, I get ideas of modern-day consumerism and culture. The way we can be addicted to machines and a digital form of sociability. I type this review knowing I will be on my laptop most of the day. The way we communicate and connect with the world has changed- not necessarily for the better. While we have greater access to music, information, and other people: are we negating the importance of getting out there and seeing the real world? The Internet and technology is an odd religion that is growing in dominance and influence. Think of it what you will: She Was Machine’s early offerings take your mind in all sorts of directions. The girls are instantly bonded and on the same page. Given the experimentation and time expended- getting the sound right and hitting gold- their latest single sound like nothing they have done before.

There are suggestions of their debut work but they are more confident and together here. When Carmona and Alvarado unite their vocal: we enter a new phase with fresh possibilities. “She took my money/she took my honey” are words that will leave you scratching the head. Again, I was thinking about social media and something less tangible. Maybe you can attribute the words to the complexity of the mind- the way our thoughts and decisions affect the way we live. The brain can take the money- we make rash decisions for no reason- and tie us up in fear and sadness. Even by the half-way mark, you are picking the song open and coming up with your own storylines. The performances are universally close-knit and stunning. There are no needless decorations and solo-ing: everything is compact, regimented and disciplined. Even in the structured and raw vibes: the girls are playful and loose when they need to be. The drums have a great contrast of stiff and curious that keeps the song intense and edgy throughout. The girls- between verses- create wordless chants that add a sense of delirium and hopelessness to the song. When returning to the microphone, we hear (Machine) “She was all the way in” and “in-between”: those contrasts and contradictions resurfacing. This force and spirit is always in the mind; interchangeable and unpredictable. When thinking about consciousness-related avenues: our thoughts and internal struggle are a daily battle. I am not sure where the song originated from- whether the trio had a shared experience that made them write this- but they are thoughts that will be common to us. The way Colornoise match oblique lyrics with direct compositions elicits such a huge response. She Was Machine is a little over two minutes: in that time it covers a lot of ground and will get you thinking. Carmona’s voice is at its most intense and determined- never has she sounded quite as confused, fearful and impressive. Whilst She Was Machine might put you in mind of some Post-Punk record and modern-day Alternative: the trio’s distinct personalities and exceptional musicianship separates them from the crowds. If you are searching for a band outside the U.K. that can deliver the goods and leave the music rattling around your mind- you will not go far wrong with Colornoise. She Was Machine sets the tone for their upcoming album- let’s hope there are more jewels like this.

When their third album is released- I am not sure it has been titled yet- it will provide an opportunity for British and American media sources to familiarise themselves with an amazing new act. The chemistry between the girls is tight and solid: this reflects in their music and live performances. I began looking at Costa Rica and its undervalued status on the musical stage. The titans of Rock and Alternative have played the country. It is clear there is a desire and market for music in Costa Rica. Perhaps the more ‘traditional’ sounds- Mexica music, Folk and Calypso- are more favoured. I feel there will be a transition and shift in the country. With acts like Colornoise capturing the media’s focus: how long before there is a revitalisation and development of the music industry? Having fallen for British and American Rock/Punk- the acts that have played Costa Rica show that- homegrown artists are incorporating these elements into their music. Outside the Spanish-speaking country: there is a lot of love for their universal, relatable music. They tale bits of Post-Punk and Rock and sprinkle in something distinctly them. Their lyric books highlight familiar concerns- struggles in love and struggles with one’s own mind- and cast it outwards- bringing so many emotions and strands to their songs. Their first two albums captured the nation’s attention and established them as one of the hottest bands in Costa Rica. Their forthcoming L.P. will see them transition and flourish beyond Costa Rica. I can see them getting requests from around the world. With (U.S.) bands like The Vim Dicta (another tremendous trio) doing sterling business in the U.K.- how long before the Colornoise girls enjoy a string of gigs here? Given their proximity to the U.S.: you would imagine they’d go down a storm there. With that in mind: they are close to South America; a huge market for upcoming bands. Nations like Brazil and Argentina are welcoming in the best and brightest from Britain and America. I have high hopes Colornoise will be taking their music all around the globe: the juggernaut is sure to roll up and onwards. She Was Machine is not a complete departure for the girls.

Those who loved Fake Apocalypse and Time will be able to bond with She Was Machine. The latest single is a more immediate and unshackled thing: embracing a raw and animalistic urge. The girls are as tight and together as ever- few acts have that bond and connection. A lot of acts break-up because they are not brave enough to change their music and grow with their times. Maybe they get too used to a way of working and are reluctant to change. As a result- running concurrently with prevailing market shifts- they can become stagnated and out-of-touch. Colornoise know what music fans look for and adapt their music accordingly. Over the past few days, I have been in a slightly mournful mood. My music idol, Jeff Buckley, died 19 years ago (yesterday). I have been remembering those musicians we have lost this year- including Lemmy, David Bowie and Prince. It seems the music world is becoming larger and smaller- a point I have raised before. The new generation is expanding and filling gaps: the impression left by legends passing should not be forgotten. The best thing we can do as musicians and music-lovers is keep that flame alive. As a result, I am looking about for musicians that put me in mind of those lost. Perhaps Buckley and Bowie are names Colornoise know in principle- without necessarily incorporating them into their music. You cannot say the same about Lemmy. His- and Motohead, by extension- spirit is very much alive and well in the Costa Ricans. Colornoise’s  Sonya Carmona has highlighted how the trio is evolving and embracing fresh direction. Having surrounded themselves in P.J. Harvey and Post-Punk; the new acts enflaming the music world- all of that will come together in their forthcoming album. Not only (will that record) go down a storm in the homeland: it is going to get under-the-radar of U.S. and U.K. critics.

I would love to see the girls come to London and play. We have some great Rock/Experimental acts here- you can never have too many! Who knows what is in the air right now?! Britain- and London especially- is starting to heat up: the music scene here is really exploding and producing some sensational acts. It is not just British-born artists, either. They are welcoming in international musicians and giving them a platform. I shall keep an ear out for Colornoise and make sure they get some exposure over here. There are radio stations and festivals that could include them: hungry and eager crowds that would pack into venues (in order to see them up-close). She Was Machine is an assured and granite-hard stomper from Costa Rica’s premiere band. Having been championed by 89decibles– a hugely influence blog there- it looks like 2016 will be a bonanza year. If you are missing the likes of Royal Blood- a duo that should be dropping new music this year- the likes of Colornoise provide restitution and solace. Congratulations to the trio on a fantastic and accomplished single. Given the upset and upheaval 2016 has provided: it is rewarding and wonderful discovering musicians…

WHO can put the positives back into music.



Follow Colornoise














TRACK REVIEW: Joshua Luke Smith- Carry Me



Joshua Luke Smith



Carry Me




Carry Me is available at:


30th April 2016



Bath, U.K.


HAVING just completed a review of 17-year-old Folk artist…

Billie Marten: it is to a 25-year-old Bath-based Hip-Hop artist. Anyone who says music is predictable, samey and unadventurous should be in my shoes- over the course of a day, I am looking at two remarkable, if very different, artists. In fact, I could see the two coming together in collaboration. Marten’s silky, tender voice- and her tales of greed and love- could fit well with my featured artist’s inimitable brand of music- the two would make a great, if unlikely, partnership. I will stop putting ideas into heads, but that is my point: great musicians are exciting; they get you thinking and imagining- just what can be achieved by bringing two souls together. I shall not labour that: I wanted to look at motivation and inspiration in music; Hip-Hop and Bath/Bristol; finishing with a bit about talents with strings to their bow. It is rare you get to see a musician that promotes self-love, motivation, and improvement. Modern music is mired in insularity, accusations, and heartache: rarely do too many positive messages make their way into songs. Away from love-based tropes- she/he-broke-my-heart-how-will-I-live types of songs- there are an awful lot of negative and downhearted tracks. I understand the instinct to do this. A lot of musicians pursue their dreams because they see themselves as outsiders and alone. Emanating from depression, uncertainty and anxiety: musicians are often affected by mental illness, fears, and scars. Whether hurt or affected by relationship breakdown- or haunted by their own, inner-turmoil- they write about what they know (that is the thing they say, right?). Personal reality and relatable themes are not to be discouraged: we all need to hear about everyday things; subjects we can understand and connect with. That said, we need to embrace artists and musicians that are more positive and outward-thinking. Behind-the-scenes, how many musicians concern themselves with connecting with the world: giving something back and being a positive role model?

Sub-consciously, there is a wave of artists who are sending out great messages: I am not seeing enough acts engaging in extra-curriculum work; engaging with society and being a spokesperson. Music is a powerful format that allows a rarified platform: one where artists can use their influences and make changes in this world. Joshua Luke Smith is a musician who is making changes and inspiring many people- connecting with thousands out there. Before I carry on- and raise some new topics- let me introduce Smith to you:

The 25-year-old wordsmith’s self-produced debut E.P. landed in the top 10 of the U.K. and international iTunes charts and has led the young poet and record label founder to receive BBC 6 Music radio-play as well as features with B.B.C. 1xtra and the London Roundhouse.

With his sophomore E.P. “Your Beauty” recently released, accompanied by a string of live shows Joshua Luke Smith is fast becoming an inspired and important voice for his generation.

From such common names- ‘Joshua’ ‘Luke’ and ‘Smith’- you get a man who is anything but ordinary. The hirsute Hip-Hop star is one of the most talked-about new names on the block. Here is a young man that goes beyond predictability and expectations- in terms of the music he makes and sound- and delivers punch and drama; tenderness and reflection- so many different ideas and elements at work. When thinking of Hip-Hop- Smith hails from Bath- it gets me thinking about the legends of the genre. Bath and Bristol are areas of the U.K. that have produced some of music’s greatest. Portishead and Massive Attack are two Trip-Hop-Experimental-Rock acts that put the South-West on the map. In the ‘90s, there was an explosion of wonderful Trip-Hop artists: this has resonated with the current generation; those who are carrying on that legacy. Although Smith was born in Bath- a short drive from Bristol- he has been influenced by the Hip/Trip-Hop acts of the ‘90s: his sounds put you in mind of the past masters. What you get (with Smith) is a combination of bygone sounds and current-day immediacy. Little embers of U.S. Hip-Hop moulds with a distinct Britishness. Smith suffers dyslexia and dyspraxia (a condition that affects movement and balance) which has made life very difficult. Far from hiding away and letting the illnesses affect him: Smith has funneled this struggle into the music; encouraging others to break from their limitations and be whoever they want to. One of the sharpest and finest wordsmiths in music: the young artist is ensuring we do not have to suffer; music can provide an outlet for those affected- if he can make a career in music (given the problems he faces) then anyone can. It is this kind of strength and resilience that should be encouraged more.

Smith is more than Hip-Hop songwriter. Blending Soul and Hip-Hop together- reminding me a bit of James Blake- we have one of the most startling artists around. His self-produced, debut E.P. (Your Beauty) is a six-track collection that made its way into the top-10 of iTunes‘ Hip-Hop/Rap charts- mere hours after it was dropped to the world. You get substance, motivation, and philosophy (Smith is a philosophy graduate); wonderful stories and one-size-fits-all codas- much more depth and wisdom than most musicians are capable of. Founding Orphan No More– a record label that encourages the finest young talent to embrace who they are- their ethos is simple: Everybody Has a Message. That is the tagline and mission statement that drives their artists and leads to some wonderful music. Joshua Luke Smith is a name that will continue to grow and develop in years to come. Carry Me is the latest cut from one of the bravest and boldest musicians around Britain. There are few negatives you can attribute to Smith (he, in addition to thousands of musicians, call their careers a ‘journey’: I would make that an arrest-able offence): you get an honest, open and defiant young man that wants to change things and support musicians- anyone suffering and ‘different’ can be whoever they want to be. Smith’s sophomore E.P. has just been released and will kick-start a string of dates and appearances. Already appearing at the B.B.C. 6 Fringe Festival– gaining support from J.P. Cooper- and there is no telling where he can go. 2016 has been a productive and golden year: I feel the best days are still ahead. Having been out there for a few weeks: Carry Me is setting hearts alight; showing just what a force of nature Joshua Luke Smith is.

I am a fairly new convert to Joshua Luke Smith. Carry Me is taken from the E.P., Your Beauty. Younger and Dead Man have just been released. The former contains rapid spits and fast flow: young-days philosophies and reflections on life; days that mix “flames with fuel”. You get an assessment of life’s uncertainties and someone who believes in “hard times”- not star signs and everything fake and meaningless. It is a raw and relevant song that contains truths and meaning. Everyone who listens to the song can extrapolate guidance and direction. Dead Man is another short and sharp track (both never outstay their welcome) and boasts another assured, confident vocal. With sparse backing- electronic strings and a steady beat- the emphasis is on that vocal. Our hero has been reading philosophy pages and learning a lesson: since the dawn of time, man has been suffering the same pains; facing the same tests and trials. These tracks are new cuts that show just how far Smith has come. He has grown as a songwriter and sound utterly confident and comfortable in his skin. Every song is delivered with conviction and authority: meaning the words explode from the page into your brain. Carry Me’s companion songs are recommendable and stunning. Jack of Spades is a busy track that has a heavy beat and a real sense of menace. Our hero introduces himself (he is a jack of spades) and is struggling with his identity.

Having struggled- and struggling still- Smith is bursting and exploding from the seams- laying down a declaration of intent. A song that is instilled with Grime edges and Rap centres; Hip-Hop and Trip-Hop contrasts: an edgy, rapid song that gets the head nodding and the imagination working. After All is a softer and more contemplative song. Smith looks out at the proclivities of the world- nothing “natural about a natural disaster”- and struggles in a relationship. Unlike his contemporaries- who would tackle such common themes with predictability and cliché- you get hard beats and multi-tracked vocals (I am not sure who his female collaborator is). After all the struggles and problems: he still loves the girl; will fight for her. The Garden takes biblical ideas- Adam and Eve aren’t far away- and declare how were all born naked- we need to let go of our stones “and walk away”. Self-doubt and guilt see us looking into the mirror- doubting who were are- and is something we need to overcome. Your Beauty– as the title suggests- is about embracing who were are and not judging others; being assured of what we can accomplish and reaching for dreams- embracing the positive and redemptive aspects of life. Elements of The Streets and Massive Attack come through in the E.P.: a combination of ‘90s-Trip-Hop and ‘00s-Grime.

The jewel- in my opinion- of the Your Beauty E.P.: Carry Me has been gaining a lot of buzz and attention so far. It is hardly surprising given the stature and reputation Smith has. Rumbling percussion and distorted electronics welcome the track is. Fading in and out: you get sudden sparks and electronic drive; something teasing and dangerous lurks in the shadows. It is the compositional equivalent of being followed home on a dark night. You are not certain who is following you: every siren blare shocks you; ever noise unsettles you- there is a constant threat and menace (in the video version: the SoundCloud version is shorter). When our hero comes to the microphone, his heart is on his sleeves. Hating hearing his mother crying- he is more sensitive and restrained than on other tracks- there is that sense of vulnerability and loss. Maybe his mum was the one who supported (Smith) and helped him in life: understood what he was going through and gave him strength. Now the hero has left home- or is away right now- he can always go back. Maybe his absence has caused heartache a sense of loneliness (in his mum); his struggles and problems carry weight- she was the one “who used to carry me”. Your Beauty is an E.P. that contains a lot of hard-hitting and Hip-Hop tracks: those with fast rhymes and a constant pace. Carry Me is a more tender and reflective moment- the equivalent of The Streets’ Dry Your Eyes or Weak Become Heroes– that grows hotter and heavier. Never needlessly exploding or getting too quick: Smith quickens the pace and takes the song up a notch. Looking at his life- like he was walking through a cemetery- and how he has struggled. “I’m just a boy with some poems” underlines the simplicity and honesty of his life. A young man that wants to create songs and makes changes in the world: the streets were/are filled with fear and uncertainties. Walking past cars with steamed-up windows- whether masking late-night sex or joint-smoking crews- you get vivid images, smells and sounds.

In his Fred Perry polo and temporised fashion: Smith is out-of-place in the grime and edginess of the street. Intimidated by “renegades and imitators”- I get lyrical embers of The Streets’ Let’s Push Things Forward and Turn the Page– our man was hunched-over and fearful. Even in these early phases, you involve yourself in the song and close your eyes- watching the scenes unfold; the urban theater and the smoke-filled air. Someone who was afraid to fight- turning “right and left like indicators”- you get that sense of anxiety and building fear. Backed by static, driving beats and piano flourishes- they push the lyrics forward and provide a subtle, neo-romantic backdrop- the song never loses its energy and swagger. Having been (as a child) expelled from the classroom- maybe unruly or bored by the simplicity of education- Smith found himself staring down stairwells: on the estates; facing an uncertain time. That need for home and comfort- a million miles from the savage haze and danger-at-every-turn streets- is paramount, here. You picture the young man struggling to find meaning in the world. Maybe influenced (negatively) by modern artists and beat makers: the hero becomes a Breaking Bad-esque anti-hero: someone who contradicted his mother’s messages of grace and humanity.

Mrs. Smith would be disappointed to find her boy so far from the tracks: a stranger to the boy she raised; someone who has taken some wrong turns. Having dyslexia and dyspraxia: school life would have been a struggle and hard place. The world- those who do not know the realities of the conditions- shows no mercy and what options would one have? Smith is not rebelling or trying to fit in with the cool crowds: just struggling to cope in a world that does not understand him. Smith hates to hear his mum cry- the reason he is on Earth- and his sins must feel “like murder”. I admire the honesty and bravery that comes through in the song. Revealing some very personal and hard times: few artists have the courage to commit that to tape. Smith seems genuinely mournful and sorry about his actions: perhaps he was just misguided and misjudged his actions. Knowing the daily struggles he faced: who could blame the way things turned out? In the past- those wild, teenage years- lies were told. A mutual indemnification (between friends) and conspiracy: they would tell their mums they were sleeping around the other’s place. This deception was a front for drinking and hitting the town: chasing girls and getting into scrapes. Seemingly part of natural development- most teenagers go through that phase- the more mature man regrets his deceit. Maybe (thinking) this would balm his pain- drinking and fun was the way to ‘fit into’ society- our hero is apologetic and tearful. When confessing full disclosure to his mum- expulsion from school and drunken flights- you can feel the tension in the air.

The truth’s totality is causing distance between mother and son. At the time, Smith was subject to peer pressure: he wanted to belong and be accepted by his peers. What is important- and realised too late, perhaps- is making his mum proud; doing right and carrying the virtues she installed in him. Maybe Carry Me is a confessional that demonstrates family disorder: blackening the name and causing disappointment in his mother. Truthfully, Smith has not committed a huge transgression or crime- he has gone through a common course and regretted his foolhardiness. The fact he is willing to confess his shortcomings and naivety is to be applauded. The song will give other writers a much-needed spiritual reawakening. Too many get caught up in promoting their own ego or engaging in accusations with their (former) lovers. There are few that look at their past- and family connections- and address that. Smoking and drinking- being in a jungle and warzone- the young Smith never felt natural in that environment. A sad ritual that claims many innocent souls: Smith has taken a long time to discover his best days; man-up and follow a purer path. When “Diablo is your best mate” it is near-impossible to remain virginal, spiritual and kind: you get drawn to into a black culture and troubled path. The people that follow this road often get lost and claimed- turn to crime and become recidivists.  Smith has wised-up and realised his shallowness.

Having made his way in the music world- and turned a corner- this song is a guide to the teenager out there. On the surface, a life of smoking, sex, and drinking may seem cool: it is a temporary release and is a drug; that way of life is not conducive to being productive and functional- it is the antithesis of kindness, humanity and respectability. As Smith points out: “I used to be knee-deep in a sea of different faces”; he is not here to preach. What started as a Hip-Hop track, transcends to something Gospel and divine. The mantra “I’m free” is delivered with a choral uplift: it is a soulful release that will affect every listener; the summation of years of guilt, frustration and lacking direction. The older Smith (still a young man) has broken the shackles and has become a man: something his mother would be proud of. The final moments layer the vocals and provide lovely little touches. Liquid strings and testing percussion backs Smith’s final confessions. Having walked in the wrong direction, the future is now: that is all in the past and things are different. Driven by a grooving bassline: when sh** gets real; you can go home and realise where you should be- and who is there when you need them. Exhausted by the rawness of his song: our hero finishes his confessions and lets the dust settle. What we are left with is an extraordinary moment from a young man who regrets the past- a human that does not want others to fall into the same trap.

I often get depressed at the hyperbole and false affection the media level at certain acts- a point I raised in the Billie Marten review. You get reviewers and stations- naming no names- that go bat-sh**-crazy for certain musicians: you wonder whether their ears are blocked; maybe they have suffered a blow to the head. I guess we get all look for that superstar: the act/band that is going to change the music world. Too much of the time, you see musicians that seem promising at first: over the years they start to lose that spark and seem very ordinary. Some would see Joshua Luke Smith and be unsure of his future: is he going the same way as every other musician out there? Perhaps that energy and talent will wane; the gold with start to tarnish- he will be off the scene in a few years. That is not going to be the case. Anyone who comes in that sharp and committed- his debut E.P. is a symphony of quality, depth, and assurance- is not going to slow anytime soon. I believe Smith’s finest work is still ahead. He has such a nimble and varied talent: able to go in any direction and achieve anything. Carry Me is the latest slice from a wonderful, rich artist. Intricate, detailed beats and layered compositions: vocals that get straight to the heart; lyrics that open the mind and urge you to think about the wider world. Orphan No More has a few artists on its book.

From Esther Moore’s Israeli-rooted, multicultural upbringing and Christocentric background: music that highlights social issues and personal experiences. Timothy is a 20-year-old poet that follows the Smith ideal: wonderful, wise words wrapped around gorgeous and soul-touching music. Let’s hope O.N.M. continues to grow and flourish: we need to embrace labels that emphasise rare and real talent. There are so many fake and over-privileged artists around: those that never struggle and provide very little to the listener. Smith is at the vanguard of a new wave of musicians: those that look at societal issues and promote positivity and fight. If you are afflicted with illness or disability; that does not mean you have to hide away and accept limitations. Music is a sanctuary that allows creative types to reflect their struggle and pain: turn their experiences into something positive and inspirational. Carry Me carries important messages and guidance for those similarly affected. The song sees the hero realises home is turning into the person you are supposed to be- not what convention and society dictates.  Away from the love-only songs and negativity in today’s music: it is wonderful finding a musician that rebels against such things. I know we all need to hear about love and splits: when you’ve heard one song (about these things) you’ve heard them all. Step forward a young man that is writing music with more importance, originality and depth- this will give credence and kick to new musicians coming through.

From the mean (or quite pleasant, in fact) streets of Bath arrives a musician that has a glistening future ahead. I started by looking at the Hip/Trip-Hop legends that arrived from Bristol in the ‘90s- the artists that have inspired so many modern-day musicians. Smith is one of those people who was growing up in the 1990s: witnessing bands like Portishead and Massive Attack come through- a few miles down the road- and how they changed the face of music. Fast-forward to this decade and U.S. Hip-Hop acts and U.K. Grime artists have made their mark: all of this goes into music that fuses danger and grit with immense beauty and nuance. For me- being a bit poetic and that- I am hooked and enthralled by Smith’s way with words. A true wordsmith that can make the mundane very special: not somebody you’ll forget anytime soon. Make sure you get Carry Me– buy it is possible- and experience the wonder and worldliness of Joshua Luke Smith. A homegrown megastar-in-waiting that…

EVERYONE should make part of their lives.



Follow Joshua Luke Smith











TRACK REVIEW: Billie Marten- Milk & Honey



Billie Marten



Milk & Honey




Milk & Honey is available at:


20th May 2016 (Video)



Ripon, Yorkshire


THE last time I reviewed Billie Marten…

she was preparing the release of the single, Bird. That song seduced critics and got tongues chatting wildly. I shall continue on- and give more details on the young heroine- but before I do, it is worth looking at the ‘best’ music has to offer; the importance of fostering young talent- how personality and charm can take you a long way. Every year, I view (with skepticism, let’s face it) the so-called ‘best of’ lists- the likes B.B.C. and other media bodies submit. Based on nothing but subjective guesses and intuition: the artists promulgated are a rather mixed bag. Maybe it hard to really get a true sense of which artists to watch: there are so many acts out there; it can be a mind-boggling proposition. Everyone from N.M.E. to Gigwise have released their (2016) lists for the year- extolling the virtues of their hand-selected finest. B.B.C. proclaimed Jack Garratt their pick from this year: Blossoms were fifth; Alessio Cara was in the mix, too. Although Garratt has been hyped- yet to deliver anything special and extraordinary- the likes of Blossoms and Cara are worth more time. I find B.B.C. is keen to promote those that are Pop-based and radio-friendly. Take a scan of their Sound of 2016 list and the fresh-faced, smiling artists are all mainstream-potential stars. Cast your net to other sources and you will find more bands and something grittier. I am not rubbishing people that release lists like this- they are doing their best to find great acts worth watching. I feel the true best and brightest are not giving recognition. Billie Marten is someone who made the ‘longlist’ of B.B.C.’s tips: sadly, she did not make it to the shortlist. Perhaps it is her tender years- she is still in her teens- or perhaps they had to make the cut somewhere. To my mind, their short-sighted omission was a very bad one: Marten supersedes and outshines everyone on B.B.C.’s list- the reviews and love paid proves that.

Few artists have started as brightly and determinedly as Billie Marten. Beginning her musical career as a young child- she started playing guitar and singing at 7; her own YouTube channel was cemented by age 9- and the momentum has hardly stopped since. Being a super-young and tender talent: Marten has not had much time to be a ‘normal’ girl. Whilst she makes time for studies and socialising: the majority of her time is dedicated to her music career and artistry. Having just turned 17 (a couple of days back) Marten is going to have a busy few months ahead. Having toured with the likes of Lucy Rose- over the last year- who needs B.B.C. patronage, eh? Marten (real name Billie Tweedie) has taken charge of career and is making waves with ease. Little is known about Marten- she has an obsession with alpacas- but she has done plenty of interviews. What you gleam from these is a young woman who has a very determined and positive outlook. There is modesty to her- Marten makes sure she completes coursework and puts home life top of her list- and is a shy and girl-next-door musician. There is no pretense, ego or social media slanging. You will not catch her embroiled in feuds or shedding her clothing for YouTube views: she is a true musician that lets the songs do all the talking.

We need to promote and safeguard young talent on the music scene. Given the ease and accessibility of music- cheaper and simpler to record songs from your home- there are a lot of artists coming through. By the year (these artists) are getting younger: it can be a scary and daunting proposition for them. D.I.Y. acts like Jack Garratt are showing how easy music-making can be: just a laptop and talent are required; you do not need to fork out thousands for studio sessions. Whilst it is paramount we promote young artists: I am fearful a lot of pressure is being placed on their shoulders. The media loves a young musician: keen to label them prodigies and ‘the-next-best-thing’. When said musician is launched: there begins a vortex of promotion, gigs and recordings. The modern music reality is somewhat scary. The amount of gigs a musician needs to undertake- in order to make money and gain a foothold- is staggering. Having to juggle domesticity- studies and growing up- with the harshness and exhaustion of music can burn-out the brightest of souls. I worry we are pushing musicians too much. Marten is someone who started making music as a hobby- she recorded videos to YouTube so her French-based grandparents could see her- and it has all sort of taken off. Someone who is daunted by the lights and rush of the city- much safer and contended among the countryside- the heroines in-demand and sought-after. I know Marten has her feet on the ground: she is not somebody that will take too much on and become exhausted. As she gets more popular- by the release of each new song- her diary is going to be full pretty soon. What I love about Marten is her down-to-Earth, loveable personality. She is a girl that seems at-odds with expectations and 21st-century ethos. You see (female artists) like Rhianna, Adele; Beyoncé and Ariana Grande and you would expect someone similar. Those stars have expensive, under-the-spotlight existences: they command multi-million-pound deals and have party lifestyles. Billie Marten is someone who adores vinyl- her record table is among the most prized possessions- and lionises musicians like Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake and Radiohead. If you did not know her age- and did not see her photo- you would picture someone in their 20s: perhaps a city-goer; not a teen who prefers the safety and quiet of the country. It is rewarding and wonderful discovering a young musician that has vast maturity and quality control. Being a fan of such great musicians- so many young artists have little knowledge of historic acts; they consider modern-day Pop the best of all-time- that quality feeds into her own music. Vibing the acoustic brilliance of Drake and Mitchell: we have a 2016 mixture of the two; a Folk artist that is as arresting and entrancing as her idols.

Those just discovering Billie Marten might be starting with Milk & Honey– unsure of where she started. I urge people to check-out (if they are available) Marten’s early YouTube videos- to see where she came from and how she has progressed. Heavy Weather– released a year ago- has a gorgeous lo-fi sound to it. It is as though you are in the room with Marten- sat with her as she plays guitar. Marten’s voice is crystalline and silky. You are enticed and overwhelmed by the beauty and purity of the voice: it is whisper-soft and absolutely delicious. Caught-up in her lover- “Together we walk the English winter”- we hear a literary version of young love. There is no cheap sex or seediness: the song has a purity and innocence to it. While the lyrics paint some dark images- “We might be frightened but we won’t run”- you get sucked into a scene of wind-swept sweethearts battling the rain. Whether a metaphor for stresses and obstacles- employing the weather to hide hard truths- you will put yourself in the song and imagine everything unfold. Marten shows what a songwriter she is. The lyrics are simple yet have an intelligence to them. Many artists have used meteorological terms and weather to describe love and longing- few as effectively as uniquely as Marten. Simple finger-picked acoustic guitar marries with a sensuous and caramel-smooth voice. By the end of the song you are blown away and compelled to listen again (and again).

Before that- in 2014- Marten unveiled Ribbon. Here first single, it perfectly outlines all the key components: the aching acoustic sounds; that staggering voice and well-honed pen. Her lyrics look at being a city stranger- caught in a rush and being stared at- and feeling dislocated. Images of train tracks and countryside see the heroine calm, pure-at-heart and relaxed. “Home ties me up”, it is said: yearning to be back there again; the city creates an “aching in my heart”- Marten longs to belong but never feels she fits in. The Ribbon E.P. – where the song appeared- is a track that looks at the conflicts of city and home: a girl making her way in the world and finding where she belongs; feeling uprooted and affected by the busyness of the city. You get a sense of strain and loss in the song- a girl looking aghast; shoved by commuters whilst trying to be happy and feel connected- which comes out in the strings. The voice remains buoyant and beautiful throughout: a safe harbor that keeps the song from being too harrowed and strained.

Bird– a song I reviewed when it was released last October- was her finest work to date. Appearing on As Long As (an E.P. that will surely see one or two more single releases?); it is a fantastic song that shows a leap from Marten. The voice is at its very peak: sounding more staggering and beautiful than ever before. The composition is more developed and full. Marten employs piano- songs before have been largely acoustic guitar-based- to mesmerising effect. Previous songs have seen the likes of Nick Drake make their mark. The acoustic guitar and feather-light finger-picking- that puts you in mind of the ‘70s master- is replaced by something more modern and feminine. Whilst Drake utilised piano in some of his recordings- Pink Moon’s title track for instance- you get embers of Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush. Bird is a song that looks at someone “Drowning in words so sweet”; “Somebody’s daughter, a friend”- you speculate who is being represented. Earlier numbers- like Ribbon and Heavy Weather– assessed different sides of Marten- the city-wandering hopeful and teenager in love. Here, you wonder whether the words document our heroine’s struggles and views- or whether it is a third-person song that looks at (a tragic and ill-fated) figure. Marten assessed the song thus: “A song about how words can truly affect people, not always for the right reasons”. Maybe she has experienced so intolerance and hurtfulness- in love or growing up- or has seen friends hurt and scared. Whatever the true source: you cannot deny the majesty and beauty of the song.

Milk & Honey is a song that shows another development and step forward. Marten returns to acoustic-led territory- the percussion is more evident and prominent here- and the vocal seems more free and open. Previous numbers have showed such a sweet and precise vocal. Songs that detail loss and heartache; cruel words and intensity- backed by performances suitably suffocated and intense. Milk & Honey sounds freer and less pressured: showing a new side to Marten; a young woman that sounds more relaxed and happy. The new track is a more positive and enlightened thing: perhaps new romance has sparked inspiration and contentment; that is not to say the effectiveness and beauty is lacking. Marten shows how varied and consistent she is (as a songwriter). Let’s hope this quality and desire continues over the coming years- every Billie Marten song shows new sides and stories; fresh impetus and tenderness.

I am reviewing Milk & Honey– a little late to the party- because its video has just been released. “Honey, here we are/dreaming in the dark” are the perfect words to open the song. You get the impression of two sweethearts- whether Marten is documenting her current romance or something fictional- sleeping and dreaming; perhaps not in the same room, the duo are letting their imaginations run away. After the initial positivity and romance: the lyrics take a slight turn; towards less contented and satisfied ways. “Their thoughts were ours/but now we dream apart” have oblique edges but lead you to think about separation and split. Maybe the themes are not confined to love and bonds: more, a wider assessment of society and its ills. Marten sees the song as a rally against greed and the shallowness of the consumer climate. We live in a time where advertising is thrown at us and there is a zeal for status and possessions. The human touch and honesty of life is being replaced by something cheaper and nasty. Our heroine is content with “time well spent” and happy with just sugar (you get images of Marten sat with a cup of tea; watching the world pass by) whilst her sweetheart (or a friend) wants “milk”- something more. We get a nod to Marten’s earlier work- looking at the safety of home and satisfaction with modesty- and it is fully explored here. Her friends and suitors always want more- slaves to the consumer society and shallowness of life- and this is causing annoyance and frustration. As the boy wants (“More than you can drink”) the sting will be felt. Marten is masterful when it comes to mixing direct words with the oblique. Knowing the origins of the song- what compelled her to write it- there are mysterious lines and open-for-interpretation thoughts.

Delivering her lines with bird-song call- the words flow and dip- the percussion rifles and patters- creating a constant movement and sense of anxiety. One-half of you get caught in the serenity and beauty of the vocal- like a rainbow waterfall in the sun- whilst you are struck by the urgency and desperation that lingers beneath. The video for the song is a bit of light-hearted fun. Wandering in gardens of flowers- Marten speaks the language of flowers (花言葉) – there is a Japanese theme to the video (not sure which flowers are in the video: showing my lack of knowledge). Approached by a samurai- who kicks and gestates into thin air; there is a comical silliness to things- our heroine is in a more serious frame of mind. Her thoughts and mind are troubled and harrowed: a young woman that wants things to change; she loathes the shallowness that is being displayed. I am always thinking what motivated the song. Whether she is affected by a lover- that wants more than he can handle; cannot appreciate what is in front of him- or the world at large- how we all become consumed in goods and products; not satisfied with what we have. Poetry, beauty and wisdom runs through Milk & Honey. The song’s subject- again; whether a boy or a larger sect- live for overkill. “All you want is honey”- something sweeter and less healthy- “well, honey I tried” sings Marten- her voice at its most raw and affected. Whilst the percussion tumbles and rolls; Marten lets her voice hover and float in the air. Such a gorgeous and startling vocal makes every word sound compelling and urgent. It is clear- at this point, anyway- a particular fella is in mind. Someone that is “so kind”- the virtues are being extolled- but it seems “all the roses have died”. What was once rooted, beautiful and pure: it has been replaced with something sour, distant and dying. Maybe her sweetheart was tempted by another- a girl that was cheaper and more shallow- or he has been lured by the shininess and neon-lit buzz of the city- casting-off and pursuing challenges afar. With every Billie Marten song, you are left to make you own mind up. The heroine wrote the song based around greed and selfishness: you hope Marten never becomes one of those people. Everything we know about her- the maturity and how she spends her time; the zeal for home and her love of the simple life- suggests a young woman that is not going to sell-out and change at all.

Maybe wealth and attention will change her- maybe relocate to the U.S. or London; embrace a certain excess- but one hopes she remains grounded and humble for years to come. In a music world where the best of them succumb to something fake and shallow- grabbing all the money they can get; excess and gaudiness. Marten is looking out on the world and baffled to an extent. She has her home pleasures and is happy in her life: the way others lust with greed is causing a lot of upset. The way she used milk, honey, and sugar as metaphors for levels of greed- the fat of milk and sickliness of honey; she wants something simple and basic- is beautiful. You get a very homely base that has biblical and literary links. The land of milk and honey is a term applied to Israel: when God spoke to Moses at the burning bush; he informed him he’d redeem the Israelites and bring them to a spacious land (one flowing with milk and honey). The Book of Exodus-referencing title gives the song multiple levels and possibilities: such is the quality and artifice of the song. Showing depth and wisdom belying her years: Marten is a stunning writer who can make simple language deep and complicated- songs that compel the listener to unpick the words and interpret their own way. If you follow the video- which every listener should- Marten is dressed in a kimono. Karate and samurai fighters spar and tussle behind her- earlier, she is eating rice from a bowl and watching things go by- as she has a very serious look on her face. A charming and humour juxtaposition of the song’s cores: it provides lightness and comedic touches. Marten’s boyfriend/friend yearns for more- “You make it worse”- and is never going to be satisfied with a normal and happy life. It seems self-destructive and foolhardy- chasing a carrot at the end of a mile-long stick- but such is the way of the world. Milk & Honey sees Marten embrace instrumentation and elements more. Previous songs have been more sparse and uncluttered.

Whilst the vocal is mixed high and the star attraction: we get rolling percussion and horn blast; something contoured, rich and luscious. Marten’s voice is that weapon that will always be sharp, dangerous and fascinating. Maybe suitable of the video’s themes- the samurai warriors and playfulness- there is that blend of attack and beauty. Bedecked in fine robes and sat in beautiful gardens: almost metaphors for Marten as a woman. She is an eye-catching and stunning beauty: someone whose voice has sweet scents and floral beauty; there is gracefulness and serenity- an edge of huskiness and world-weary fatigue. Whilst the chorus is addictive and memorable- the way Marten pronounces words “All you want is honey” is charming and gorgeous- you are motivated and captivated on a deeper plain. Our heroine brings the most from the lyrics. Whether elongating a word- “rumours” is a two-syllable, well-held note that has such gravity- or girlishly twirling lines- few artists have such economy, depth and talent. By the time the song ends: one wonders how things worked out for Marten; whether she will ever be the same again.

It’s “all gone” as Marten attests in Milk & Honey. A song that looks at general greed and consumerism- although, one imagines, a certain boy has left his mark- it is another wonderful song from a rare musician. Few artists- so young, at least- are so effective and consistent. As Long As was an E.P. that got people talking and boasted wonderful moments- Roots and Cursive are underrated gems- and now she has come up with Milk & Honey. Whether this signals a new E.P. – or part of an album- you know Billie Marten has more to come before this year is through. I would love to see an L.P. from her: bringing together past songs; some new material thrown in there. Such an imperious and peerless talent will have weight put on her shoulders. As much as anything, it is vital Marten remains grounded and gives herself time to be a woman. She is studying and has enough on her hands: one hopes the demands and rigours of music do not affect her negatively. I know how mature and level-headed she is: able to balance commitments and know where her priorities lie. Milk & Honey is something that would sound perfect on vinyl- appropriate given Marten’s love for old records. You get shaded of Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake- two artists that are very important to her- but you are hard-pressed to think of any other singers. Such a pure and un-distilled voice has few equals: her glorious tones are unfurled and explored in her latest track. A song that is already garnering airplay and attention- Radio 1 and 2 have spun it, I believe- it will be exciting to see where the 17-year-old goes from here. The U.S. will come calling- she would have plenty of fans out there- and she could pretty much conquer any part of the world. Few musicians leave such an impression in the mind: Billie Marten is a young talent we should encourage, support and look after.

A lot of attention has been put to Billie Marten’s voice. I have- over the course of my reviewing life- heard some splendid, luxurious and knee-buckling singers before. To my ear, there are few that rival the Marten. The pin-sharp beauty and etherealness is something you will not forget for a while. When you hear Marten sing: you are transported to ‘70s Folk and some of the greatest artists who have lived. While the likes of Mitchell are divisive- a hard voice to truly bond with- there is a warmth and addictive quality to Marten. It is not just the voice that entrances and seduces. Her songwriting- especially for someone so young- is mature, intelligent and poetic. Having studied English and Art at school: those subjects bleed into her songwriting. The lyrics and phrasing is beautiful and thought-provoking: Marten paints pictures and scenes with her voice; someone who takes the listener somewhere special and magical. Milk & Honey is a non-E.P. track that makes you wonder what is coming next. As Long As– her four-track E.P.- housed Bird: a song that amazed critics and raised Marten’s stocks. Before then, we had the likes of Ribbon and Out of the Black (a B-side recording of Royal Blood’s stomper). The Rippon lass has come a long way since her YouTube beginnings- she confesses, with modesty, they were not her best performances- and is shaping-up to be a future legend. Having played festivals and important gigs- gaining the paen and ear of Radio 1 into the bargain- who knows what the coming years holds in store? Songs like Heavy Weather and Bird– put Milk & Honey into that list- show a wondrous talent with a spellbinding voice. A mercurial human that lives, loves and drinks music: Marten is going to go a very long way. I can see (in 2017) an album coming- she has enough material- and inspiring hosts of young wannabe musicians. Marten has stated- in interviews- that the city can make her feel hopeless, scared and lost- among the Tube and rush of people- and day-to-day bustle. Milk & Honey is a song that will ensure Marten is not lost to us. She is a musician that is growing and spreading her wings; a rare songwriter that is relatable and loveable. If that smile, warmth, and personality (the love of alpacas too) does not grab you; the stunning, beautiful music surely will. Milk & Honey is a song that marks the arrival…

OF a stunning young talent.



Follow Billie Marten















ALBUM REVIEW: Echo Arcadia- Visions of Symmetry



Echo Arcadia



Visions of Symmetry





Late-June 2016



Edinburgh, Scotland


Into the Shadows9.5


Setting Sun and Sinking Sand9.4

Beautiful Imperfections9.5

Rising Sun (Interlude)9.4


Get Out of Here9.6

All Things Must Fall (Interlude)9.4

Occasional Bruises9.5

Voices– 9.6

The Last Time9.4


Broken Knuckles9.6


Into the Shadows; Cinderella; Get Out of Here; Voices; Hurricanes; Broken Knuckles




THIS is going to be a busy one so I better…

get things kicking off. Not before I have had a look at a few things: the Edinburgh music scene; music endeavor (and ambition) – looking at the bands that have the fortitude to survive in the industry. Stating Edinburgh is a bustling climate for great music might be reduction ad absurdum– although it is something I feel myself coming back to. I find it startling that more people- critics and music lovers- do not come to Scotland’s capital for musical inspiration. London, L.A. and New York- the three biggest musical hotspots- are always going to gain favour and preference- at the expense of other, wonderful areas for musicians. The U.K. is a nation (or collection of countries) that has so much variation and diversity. Like our geography and climate: there are so many different layers and aspects; a rich, unpredictable thing. London is an evergreen, dependable place for music- my favourite city on Earth- but we should not negate other areas. I often seek-out Mancunian and Yorkshire acts: I know these areas are among the most fervent and stunning in Britain. Many people forget Scotland hosts so much tantilisng music. Even if you limited yourself to Glasgow and Edinburgh- forgetting all the other towns and cities that hold awesome artists- you can find so much wonder and gold. Edinburgh is proving to be a huge contender. If we look at the musicians who hail from here, to begin. Boards of Canada, The Incredible String Band, and Young Fathers- acts I have mentioned before when making this argument- are a trio of geniuses. Between them, we have a Mercury prize (Young Fathers) and downtempo bliss (Board of Canada’s album, Tomorrow’s Harvest, was among 2013’s greatest albums). Broken Records, Beta Band, and Josef K call Edinburgh home. You can see what diversity and mixture the city boasts: a cavalcade of brilliant, inspiring musicians. Echo Arcadia sits in the scene like the bearded, smiling chaps they are. One of the most distinguished and affable collection I have known: they are certainly (one of Edinburgh’s) finest bands. Reminding me a little of The Gothenburg Address and Board of Canada: they have a lo-fi, Shoegaze sound that blends into something rousing, symphonic and emotional. That is what I love about the guys: they do not pigeon-hole themselves; their music has such dexterity, range and heart- you would be hard-pressed to pin them down to a single sound or genre. Before I continue my point, let me tell you a bit about the band.

I have been following the guys since their earliest day. Having recently released the E.P., Into the Shadows, there is a lot of productivity and desire in the camp. Their 2014-debut, Beauty in an Average Life was among my favourite reviews from that year. The album possessed that- rare and inimitable- combination of gracefulness and potency. Songs build from sapling roots: growing and nurtured by a band simpatico; they blossomed into something wing-spreading, mature and staggering. Few artists come up with debuts as assured and complete. No loose edges and indecisions: an album that brooded and swooned; so many colours and threads went into its creation. There have been some changes in the Echo Arcadia ranks. Jenna White- who has featured prominently in their back catalogue- is no longer in the band- she is making her own material right now. This alteration has not affected the workflow and consistency. The band has retained their sound and composure: their latest L.P. is among their best and boldest work. White’s input has been valuable and hugely effective: her absence has challenged the band; they have come out fighting and inspired. Since Beauty in an Average Life, I have noted how the confidence levels have increased. The material has grown in stature and the group’s connection- the bond and understanding between them- has tightened and solidified. What we have now- with Visions of Symmetry is their finest work yet. They have managed to take the essence of their debut- and interim E.P.- and take that sound to new heights. Their survival instinct- in the face of change, upheaval, and financial strain- has been to focus on music and knuckle-down hard.

I have witnessed some serious fine bands crumble and dissipate without much warning. Maybe inter-band squabbles and egos have caused cracks- maybe something else. It is sad to see great musicians feel the pressure and call time. Quality and determination- in this modern time- is no guarantee of longevity and safety. There are so many other factors and considerations one must negate. Luckily, Echo Arcadia has weathered storms and prevailed: strong, steely and determined the boys are: who can stop them?! Most bands tend to go for the direct and unadulterated. With scant subtly and beauty: the instinct is to go for the jugular; present something attacking, fists-in-the-air, trousers-around-the-waist. The seedy, what-if-we-get-caught rush of music is one of the world’s great pleasures. I love nothing more than hearing a band really go for it: give us music that brings out the caveman- compels us all to unify in a throng of abandonment and unruliness. The trouble is this: with so many having that same idea; how can you distinguish what is good or not? In the end, you have a lot of Indie-cum-Alternative-cum again- Rock bands that all sound much-of-a-muchness. Those that challenge the zeitgeist- and dig deep into their hearts and souls- are those that win my affection. Subtlety and intelligence are not synonyms for boredom and beigness- quite the opposite, in fact. Artists that take time with their sounds- concentrating on atmosphere, emotion and depth- are a rarity, indeed. Echo Arcadia are perfectly capable of delivery a two-tonne missile to the guts: they are practically peerless when it comes to providing everyday soundtracks with that extra drop of beauty. Visions of Symmetry is an album that does what it sets out to do: grabs the listener and draws them into something personal, immersive and universal: a mass of contradictions that will not confuse- only inspire and amaze.

Into the Shadows ensures proceedings are undertaken with kick and urgency. Rampant, galloping guitar fuses with kinetic strings and burnishing electricity: the introduction gets you ready, primed and curious. Our hero is caught among “gentle declines”- that “hurt so much”- and is somewhat rattled. Risking an eternity in the shadows- as opposed to a “moment in the light”- one wonders the song’s origins. Maybe this is a reflection on musical success and exposure: the stresses and strains that can come with ambition- feeling the effects and pains of tortured days. Perhaps it is a wider assessment of love and relations: that need to keep your heart at bay; putting it on the line can lead to pain and loneliness. Whatever the origins, there is expression and soul in the vocal- Jenna White provides backing vocals here- that gets into the mind. The under-the-surface-seeking lead is hiding behind noises and keen to elude attention- the curiosity grows more and more. Echo Arcadia ensure their lead-off track is filled with tightness and mystery: they create a song that has a catchiness and depth; something revelatory and mysterious- a song you keep coming back to. Leigh Moyes’ tender burr gives every word a gravitas and conviction. Tony Dalton and Euan Mushet are a sublime guitar-and-bass combination. Between them, they create so much rhythm, discipline, and drive: giving Into the Shadows a grooviness and sense of flair. Dan Cieselski keeps the percussion rumbling and tense: Andrew Gray’s violin adds yearning romance and spine-tingling tenderness. The band is at their strongest when everything comes together: the vocals layer and the composition is at its most heated. Around a refrain of “Tell me tomorrow”; the listener will have their own interpretation and conclusion- as to what the song is about.

Cinderella begins with a more Country-sounding beginning. Aching strings and southern-fried electric guitars have certain tenderness and waltz to them. In a castle “made of marble”, the song’s fairytale heroine has an inner solitude and destruction. Her castle is crumbling and the ‘perfection’ of the tale is at odds with the reality of life. The band takes a well-trodden and familiar story and apply it to a real-life scenario. A beautiful piece of storytelling- telling the heroine not to “wait until midnight”- once more, I was thinking about love and relations. Perhaps documenting a band friend- or close associate- who should take a risk and go for it. “Cinderella moments never last”, as they attest. Moyes is at his most affected and focused here. Looking at a dishonest man- the girl is a trophy to him- there is a hopelessness and sadness throughout the track. Juxtaposing the idealism and false-reality of Cinderella: Echo Arcadia take it to street-level: a 21st-century equivalency that is imbued with relatable conflict and harshness; an updated, abridged version that is more relevant and honest. The Edinburgh band is masters when it comes to the hook-laden, singalong chorus. Cinderella has depth and wisdom to it: it boasts a heartfelt and swooning chorus; one that will get the crowds united and singing. Among the debris and deceitfulness: there is dreaminess and purity that makes the song so nuanced and stunning.

Setting Sun and Sinking Sand is among the album’s most reflective moments. Our man is searching for words and answers. Caught in the rain- and the rush of an incoming train- you get that danger and anxiety. The band are expert when it comes to metaphors and imagery: the ability to translate their inner-pain into something filmic and tangible. Inside a gorgeous, melodious vocal- one of the purest on the record- the band show what a focused, tight unit they are. No player steals the limelight: Echo Arcadia are at their peak when everyone is level and together; showing what a group they are. Caught between the setting sun and sinking sand- their equivalent of being halfway between the gutter and the stars- it is nice to hear White on the song- adding her beautiful and sweet-hued tones to the fold. A track that- hope the band don’t mind- Deacon Blue: you get touches of ‘80s Glasgow and modern-day U.S.- a wonderful blend of Pop and Country. Elements of Raintown (Deacon Blue’s debut masterwork) can be heard here. The group keeps cards close to chest, to an extent. You get images and unfolding drama: the hero is sinking and caught in a miasma; a strange purgatory that he cannot extricate himself from- the speculation and theories come thick and fast. Maybe assessing some turmoil and break-up- problems in life and obstacles faced- there is that blend of contentment and uncertainty: at every stage, one eye is focused on strength and progression; the other at lingering danger and something painful. Usually- and in lesser bands’ hands- you would get a series of muddled metaphors and lacking focus. Echo Arcadia turns Setting Sun and Sinking Sand into a well-crafted, memorable track.

Beautiful Imperfections starts with a haunted, affected piano. Solemn and punctuated: this is one of the few tracks that feature White on lead. Allowing her voice to shiver and rise- it is a heavenly, delicious sound- she is struggling with her consciousness. Unable to see the “darkness from the light”; reality is slapping her around the face. Among the beauty and etherealness of the vocal: the percussion gallops through; electronics swoon and vibrate; the bass keeps everything teasing, tight and controlled. The heroine (directed to her man) implores release and caution- to take his hands away from her. Maybe reflecting on uneven love and relationship qualms: there is a definite heartbreak and upset beneath the surface. Those entranced by White’s vocals might overlook the tumultuousness and pain in the lyrics. A tableau of tug-of-war and contrasts: it is another track that will mean different things to different listeners. The title (Beautiful Imperfections) suggests love/life that is flawed but satisfying: there are dark days but, at the end of things, there is plenty of comfort and safety. Beautiful Imperfections shows what range Echo Arcadia has. After the opening Shoegaze-via-Indie sounds; we now have something that blends U.S. Pop with classic Soul- the group never stay in a mould; they have such diversity and range in their arsenal.

Rising Sun (Interlude) is a well-timed, appropriate punctuation. After the heaviness and emotion of the previous number: we get a lovely instrumental that provides plenty of reflection and progression. As the title suggests, you get images of the sun rising: a new dawn breaking; the album reaches the end of one day- into the haziness and uncertainty of the new one. Squalling, fiery guitars have rapture and howl: a perfect representation of the breaking light; full of heat, promise, and rebirth. Whilst the guitars steal focus early on: towards the latter stages, the drums pulsate through; possessed of such energy and leadership. Being such a prominent component of the album (the percussion) comes through with strength and attack. Combined- that tense percussion and psychedelic guitar- you get contrasts, and weather; temperature and temperance- few bands are as brave (and assured) when going into instrumental territory. A needed and stunning palette cleanser: Rising Sun (Interlude) carries plenty of weight and repeatability.

Ghosts arrives next and is, by no means, transparent (ghost puns, hey!). With a little bit of Prefab Sprout at work- I can see comparisons between Paddy McAloon (Prefab Sprout’s lead) and Leigh Moyes- Ghosts has poetry and impressionistic touches: the word-picture sentiments are among the most vivid on the album; arresting and relatable to all. The band- like a young(ish) McAloon/Prefab Sprout- are full of invention and previous- delicate, beautiful songs that provide elegance and humanity. Take a gander of Steve McQueen (Prefab Sprout’s sophomore album) and Ghosts: you can hear comparisons and common threads. Aching guitars and consistent percussion- keeping the backbone tight- is augmented by multi-part vocals- White and Moyes unified and harmonious. Desolation and empty rooms pervade: deep emotions and scars are revealed; a troubled soul and sense of loss come out. When the song gets shadowy and foreboding: the vocals rise and the composition takes charge- spiked notes and spacey diversions; ensuring the track has evolution and relief. Demons are coming (for our man) among “debts that cannot be sold”. Echoes of ‘80s Post-Punk/New-Wave can be heard: to be honest, Echo Arcadia do not sound like they belong to any genre or time- they have that freedom and individuality that distinguishes them from their peers.

Get Out of Here ensures (Visions of Symmetry’s) second-half begins with bang, kick and rouse. After the emotive and spiritual predecessors: Get Out of Here deftly joins shimmering strings with rabbling percussion; a mix of romantic and street-level concrete. With the hero “crashing downwards” and crying- nobody had heard him- the time has come to fall away and disappear. Echo Arcadia is a band that trade in heavy emotions and a sense of depression. Most bands that do this- especially in the modern era- do not provide much musicianship, beauty, and hopefulness- even the darkest moments from Visions of Symmetry have hope and light. Maybe an assessment on musical or personal struggles- caught in a heartbreak haze and grip of anxiety- there is that desire to break free and flee. Inside the tales of woe and pain, there is plenty going on. Spacey electronics and elongated strings provide something curious and tantalising: the percussion and bass are consistently engaging and busy. Another song with that White-Moyes dynamic: you get one of the most personal and haunted songs on the album. Whether the duo is assessing their own relationship and love- and the way it has progressed- I am not sure. Moyes needs a place to rest- exhausted and exasperated by unfolding events- whilst White has a Siren-like grasp to her voice- something that pulls you in and does not relinquish. The band’s equivalent of When Love Breaks Down– more kids should taste Prefab Sprout (I’ll stop now!)- you have something bare-naked, honest and raw- a soul (two, including White) that have experienced upheaval and transition- they need clarity, grounding and happiness. Cavalier, adaptable songwriters- the band switch from Country vibes to stately grandeur- the songs never get too trenchant and mordant. The lush production and incredible band dynamics keep the songs from becoming too bogged and sad- Get Out of Here is one of the standouts from Visions of Symmetry.

   All Things Must Fall is an obvious-origin, and needed, interlude from the band. Ensuring the listener gets relief and rest between dramas- keeping fascination high and attention primed- it is another wonderful instrumentation. A more spiked and Progressive-Rock-sounding jewel- compared to the comparative restraint of Rising Sun (Interlude) – it is a short (55 seconds) song that is an emotional parable- a transitory assessment of the album thus far.

Occasional Bruises begins with a very tender and slight opening. Building from elliptical, sparse notes- that hover in the sky light an orbiting satellite- it is a nod to Beauty in an Average Life– the band’s debut album. White takes the lead and feels “stretched so thin”- someone remembered only for their sins. Feeling angry, obscene and stressed: again, you get impressions of love and relationship cessation. In the past- whether documenting a past or current relationship- there is that need to move on and re-evaluate. A missing puzzle piece- the whole album seems like a puzzle you piece together- one empathises with the heroine. You can hear a degree of strain and tiredness come out in the vocal: someone who has been through the ringer and wants things to change. Having White as a feature- she is not part of the band anymore- you get contrast and a different perspective. Moyes’ voice has its charm and exceptionalness: White brings in new colours and possibilities in Occasional Bruises. A pin-sharp and honey-rich voice: it sounds extra-wonderful when assessing something so biting, tortured and unsure. Amidst the confessional verses, the band ramp up the energy and tension. The guitars wail and rain with power; switching to something more sparse and pure- it is a song that has a constant flow and sense of unpredictability. At the song’s end- another fine mantra from the band- you get a unification of “Take me home”. Echo Arcadia are adept at the multi-suite, blossoming song. Occasional Bruises starts with sparse notes and room; it builds its emotion and weight- ending with something choir-like and epic.

Voices is a striking, lumbering beast that takes you by surprise. The heaviest track on the album- nothing has exploded out the gates as hard- it is another turn from the Edinburgh band. Voices inside are eating the flesh- the song is full of stark and demonic images- and there is a battle inside the mind. Our hero is wrestling with a lot of pain and confusion: perhaps appropriate the composition has that unfettered, to-the-bone sound.  The demons have been let in and are unruly tenants: the sort that call the name (of our man) are take up residence in his soul. Among the torment and devilment of what is happening: you get a sense of hope and fighting-against-the-tide. The band keeps the song sharp and fascinating: one of the most complete and intriguing compositions across the album. Twirling, barbed wire guitars sit with pizzicato strings; the percussion fires and lurches forward- the bass keeps everything in order and solid. Voices boasts one of the most impressive vocal turns: from both Moyes and White. Filled with emotion and personality- you discover new sides and avenues from both- it is another song that demands more time and attention- sure to be a live favourite. One of the longer songs from Visions of Symmetry: you feel it could be longer, still. Progressive-Rock guitars and spacey elements make you think of Pink Floyd: the lyrics and vocals might put you in mind of Prefab Sprout- uniting some of music’s finest from the last few decades. By the time the song ends, the listener is left exhausted and affected- it is a song that is both personal and universal. Everyone can relate (to an extent) to what is being laid down and sung.

The Last Time is, rather sadly, the “last time I’m going to depend on you”. Once more, there is regrets and anger: our hero has had enough; having to rely on someone that has not been true and loyal. Delivering the words with a definite, rhythmic wave: that line- about depending on you- has that chant-able quality. Allowing Celtic-flavoured strings to come into the mix: the song has a blend of accusation and reflection. The twin vocals- from Moyes and White- are natural bedfellows. Having worked together for years: that combination of tones finds new ways of exploiting beauty, light and brilliance. Whereas previous numbers have been in-depth, intimidated and harassed: there is a sense of looseness and breeziness to the track. Although its messages- the lack of mistrust and moving on- are hard-hitting and serious subjects- you cannot resist the vocal delivery and its warmth. The Last Time sees the band embrace the Country-cum-Celtic side more prominently. Throughout the album- and up to this point- there have been explorations into various genres. The strength of a great band is one that can experiment and still remain focus and true to themselves. Rather than stick with a stolid and inflexible sound: Echo Arcadia stretch their wings and investigate all music has to offer. The Last Time builds in intensity and is one of the album’s biggest attractions. Those electrifying and affected vocals: the huge composition: the sticks-in-your-head-for-ages melody. Everything is present and correct.

Hurricane has been released to the world. A song the band is very proud of: you can see why it has been released as a single. The tender and compelling beginning kick-starts one of the most full-bodied tracks across the album. Our hero’s voice is at its purest and most focused. Impure spirits are flying overhead: his skin is being grabbed and his heart is being tugged. Inside “Deep regrets and tidal waves”- there is no end to the hurt in Camp Arcadia- there is always the chance of improvement and redemption. Whilst the hero looks for answers and fights against dark omens: you feel the best days are still ahead. Hurricane manages to be evocative and powerful with words and control- rather than needless explosion and histrionics. The band keeps things bubbling under the surface. They are never too full-on or undercooked: just the right amount of power and emotion. The need for pain to disappear- waves eradicating the struggle- you can empathise with our lead (White features in the song, too). Assessing a Devil-like figure- who has pulled him into quicksand- images and storylines come to the fore. Inside such a meaningful and personal song- Moyes provides one of his most emotive vocals- the band treats it with dignity and respect. Percussion, once more, is a domineering force: always looking for space; crackling and keeping the backbone strong. One of those songs that defines modern-day Echo Arcadia: it brings all their strengths into one song. By the closing notes, you know how much attention and ‘self’ has gone into the song. The writing/creation process must have been a hard thing- it is a very personal and dark song. Such is the nature of the album: you can tell how much the band has sweated and worked on every number.

Broken Knuckles builds ever-upwards. Growing from faded and sapling roots: it becomes more intense and intense as the seconds elapse. The listener is given time to reflect and breathe- the song is an instrumental. It is a number where the instruments and composition take charge: create a huge amount of story and emotion without any vocal interjection. Once more, there are nods to the Beauty in an Average Life-days recordings. The floating-around-space vibe comes in hard. Nobody will be immune to the gracefulness and epic-natured strings; the scenes and ideas that are painted. In a few notes, the band is able to conjure so many scenes and thoughts. Similar to the ‘Interlude’ numbers: it gives you a chance to fill the gaps and come up with your own ideas. Having explored so many sides to love and life- the struggles faced- it is nice to kick back and embrace something ornate, orchestral and filmic. Those expecting Broken Knuckles to be the end; they need to keep listening. Like Nirvana- and the hidden track that appears at the end of Nevermind– the band is not done. Fast-forward six-or-so-minutes and you get a final utterance. An angry and Spoken Word presentation- where our hero concludes the album’s themes and angers- it has a spooky and unease sound. The listener is made to listen and pay attention to the song. Although the hero is “At one with the darkness” you feel like a lot has been learned. Having gone through such an eventful past- an epic self-discovery- we get an unexpected closing sermon. A suitably impressive and memorable way to end the album- cliffhangers are left and questions hang. One wonders whether the band- and the lead, especially- have found happiness and answers- or whether that voyage continues on.

Every member of the band should be applauded for such sterling and dedicated work. Each player adds huge weight and importance to the album. From the dilligent and powerful percussion work to the leadership bass parts; the varied, colourful guitars- along to those rich and stunning vocals. Backed with incredible production values and consistently engaging songwriting: Visions of Symmetry sees Echo Arcadia hit new form and reach their peak. Across the 13 tracks, the band explores new territory but keep their core sound intact. Existing fans will find continuation from Beauty in an Average Life: new listeners will be provided with new treats and explorations. The Edinburgh clan sequestered themselves away when recording the album. Toiling over subject matter and deadlines; looking for fresh inspiration: the time and torment have paid dividends. What we have is a solid and fantastic album from one of the U.K.’s most underrated acts. Maybe the single-minded themes- that tend to err on the self-reflective and negative- might seem challenging to some listeners. The hardship and darkness is shrouded in beauty, hopefulness, and light. Although each song shows struggle and pain: you never feel bummed-out and off-put at any point. What you do get- and the biggest takeaway from the record- is a group with a very bright (and long) future ahead.

Echo Arcadia ensure their sophomore album is packed with memorable songs and stunning moments. Having faced transitions and challenges: the Edinburgh elite have produced a focused and deep album: one that provides immediate beauty, relief and urgency- revealing layers, nuance, and revelation across time. I have heard Adele has secured a- gaudy and monumental- recording deal: the biggest-ever in musical history. Whilst music’s battling struggle to get gigs and focus: it seems flabbergasting that one of music’s, let us say it, mediocre stars is commanding such prestige. Where most consider self-preservation and survival a goal: Adele is commanding riches and multi-million-pound deals. Her best days are past- since 21, she has been treading water and becoming rather dull- and it is a sad reflection of music- there is such an imbalance and inequality. I wish some of that money- God knows how many millions it was- was invested to the great new acts emerging. The likes of Echo Arcadia promise much more depth, quality, and potential: they have to struggle in the trenches with the rest. That said, the hirsute boys have been busy interviewing and performing. They have built a name and reputation in their beloved Edinburgh. The video for Hurricanes has been released: the fans and media are keen to extol the virtues of the track. It shows how far the band has come. Beauty in an Average Life contained plenty of gems and highlights: Visions of Symmetry promises to best their debut work.

In late-June- when the album is released- ensure you grab a copy and discover something fantastic. It is great to be back with a terrific group that has many more years left. They will not suffer the ill fates of the industry: where Rock gods call it quits and promising Pop stars pack their bags. There is such a warm bond and connection in the band: they love what they’re doing and that comes through in the music. Having put their heads down to record Visions of Symmetry: that hard graft and dedication has paid off. The L.P. overflows with immaculate beauty and raw passion. In spite of the 13-track (plus hidden song) length: there is never a sense (the album) is bloated or unfocused. Each song buys its way into the mix. Where next for Echo Arcadia? They will be releasing the album in a matter of days: a chance for the world to hear some of 2016’s finest songs. After that, there will be tour dates and promotional duties- the obligatory interviews and press trail. I hope their touring sphere extends down south. It would be great to see the guys seduce London: they could get a series of gigs lined down here. In fact, they have the potential to amaze far and wide- both nationally and internationally. Given their progression and reputation: I can see the boys enjoying success in the U.S. Maybe money and personal plans will limit that- or put it on hold for a few years- but it is something to think about. Visions of Symmetry is a welcomed return from a terrific group. In a year that has seen the mainstream steal focus- the Radioheads and James Blakes take top honours- it is good to see an under-the-radar band…

PRODUCE something that is could rival any of them.



Follow Echo Arcadia















FEATURE: Radio Adage- From the Basement, Up



Radio Adage



From the Basement, Up


IN the coming weeks, I want to feature more on…

interviews, features (The Classics Series especially) and the like. Having completed my latest review- Ina Reni’s doggerel gem, I Thought You Were Gay– I am looking at a new concept- much more than a vanity project- that fills a real-world gap. I have got more into radio- until recently I was a devotee of C.D./digital music: no radio exposure- but I understand how vital its existence is. I have always balked against local radio- semantically null chatter and repetitious, middle-of-the-road music- and some of the national alternatives. Without radio, today’s new starters (in music) will struggle to get exposure. It is all well relying on social media and the Internet- you will only get to see a certain amount of bands and acts. Due to the compartmentalised and in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time nature: radio is a more successful, disciplined and dependable form of music streaming.

One of the reasons I have fallen for radio is B.B.C. 6 Music: the station that provides music the people. There is no political affiliation and leaning: they do not have to promote the mainstream; focus on brand-new talent. What (‘6 Music does) is sets aside from the crowd. The over-played and lame artists take a back seat: in its place you get an eclectic range of old and new songs- quality is the paramount consideration. It is not just the music that compels me: the D.J.s are among the most knowledgeable, witty and interesting you will hear. No inane chatter and half-arsed jokes: you get unadulterated quality and consistency.

There are a number of Internet stations cropping up. For those that state radio is dwindling in popularity: that assertion could not be further from the truth. Perhaps certain demographics are spending less time listening to mainstream stations. The proliferation of music-sharing websites means a lot- the younger audience- get their music from the Internet. With that said: there is a wave of new stations that are attracting younger listeners. Not dependant on ticking boxes and playing chart tunes: they are unencumbered and free from restraint. From Radio Hoxton and its uber-cool hosts: there are options for any type of music-lover. B.B.C. 6 Music will always be king for me: the inspiration behind my own ambitions…

Radio Adage is a way to distill the station’s ethos and charms into a once-a-week, four-hour (could be trimmed) show. Essentially, it would be a podcast that went out the same time each week- pre-recorded but something that engaged the listeners. At this moment (the station/show) is in its ideas stage. It is newly-born and not ready to walk. Aside from the logistics of costs, equipment and co-hosts- I will be doing more a producer’s role- I am excited anyway. In terms of features: I have got a few lined up:

NEW TRACK OF THE WEEK: A song from the mainstream- a single released that week- that is the week’s best.

NEW ALBUM OF THE WEEK: The best commercial album of the week- 2 tracks will be played from the album.

CLASSIC ALBUM: An influential or memorable album that deserves more exposure- 2 tracks will be featured from the record.

In the first show, I will be going with The Cardigans’album, Life. Future weeks will see the likes of Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Wonder in-focus. The first show will see the Swedish band’s sophomore album. A Pop gem from the ‘90s: it is one of the most underrated albums from that period.

CONTINENTAL DRIFT: Each week (Radio Adage) will feature a new act from a different continent. Whether Australia, Asia or North America: we will bring you an astonishing artist.

LISTENER POLL: In the week leading up to the show: a head-to-head poll will be launched via Twitter. Putting two artists against one another: the winning act/song will be featured on the show.

The first broadcast will put The Smiths’ Girlfriend in a Coma against The Ramones’ Swallow My Pride.

UNSIGNED HEROES: A chance to play a new track from an unsigned band/artist.

INTERVIEW/PERFORMANCE: This will involve a musician/band coming in and performing a couple of tracks; a small interview- they get to choose a song to end the feature.

ELECTRIC ROULETTE: Each week will see a new subject being addressed. It may be Soul or 1980s music: a certain artists or album. A small discussion will take place before a song plays.

The first week will go to the 1990s: its influence and how it has shaped modern music.

DROP THE NEEDLE! A chance to feature a terrific L.P.: something that benefits from the immersive experience of a record player.

The first album in the spotlight will be Miles Davis’ epic, Kind of Blue– and a track from that record.

CONSENTUAL GROOVE: A way to get collaborations occurring. This section will see a new collaboration: artists coming together to create a new song.

THE ORIGINAL: A mixtape from a selected listener. They can select three tracks and why it is special to them.

FEATURED ARTIST: Playing a song from a featured act- and talking a bit about them.

The first show will see Fleetwood Mac under the microscope.

COCKTAIL CLUB: We select a cocktail and find a song that matches its ingredients.

Show one will see a boulevardier selected: Louis Armstrong’s Mack the Knife fits the description well.

THE LONG SONG: A chance to play a six-and-a-half-minute-plus track in full.

The first song on the board will be Black Sabbath’s War Pigs

There are quite a lot of features there: I want to include more. Bringing listeners in more- the way B.B.C. 6 Music does- it would be good to have some like-minded features (a Biorhythms-cum-Desert Island Disco thing; The Chain-meets-Small Claims Court perhaps?). The best and more potential-laden features will feature- I will be asking people which sound most appealing. The idea- behind the show and station- is to have something that fills a market gap- an Internet station that does things unlike anyone else.

The show would try to mix the humour and fun of ‘6 Music– especially Sean Keaveny and Radcliffe and Maconie; The Frank Skinner Show on Absolute Radio– whilst playing exceptional music and the best sounds around. The breakdown of music played will be: 60% mainstream/older; 20% brand-new, unsigned acts; 20% new, under-the-radar sounds- artists like Beach House, Yak and Rozzy Plains.

My first song- that will open the show- will be Lauryn Hill’s Superstar: we will end with The K.L.F.’s Last Train to Transcentral. In terms of playlists and songs; I have a few acts in mind: Leftfield, Steely Dan, The Streets; Chemical Brothers Michael Jackson, Queens of the Stone Age; Everything Everything, Lana Del Rey, Tears for Fears; Funkadelic, Prince, Beck; Neneh Cherry, Beastie Boys, Pearl Jam; Stevie Wonder, Black Box, Paul Simon; D.J. Shadow, Janis Joplin- and that’s just the ‘older’ artists. There will be a great range of fresh songs and unexpected gems.

What about going forward? I need to look at costs and studios: a place around London I can set things up. I have mentioned the music features (above). There will be other aspects, too. The London Underground will see go to a Tube station destination and focus on the community there. A spotlight topic will put various issues in focus- like mental health and animal welfare- and talk about them. There will be film reviews and a comedy segment. I am not sure which are the best features- from the ideas above- but I am determined to get the thing started- find a mixture of presenters (a two/three-person team) and get it all started.  I will be up in London in a couple of days: formulating ideas and putting more work into it. Any feedback/opinions/ideas would be much appreciated. I will come after bands and people- to help and feature- and start the ball rolling. I am one of those who feels radio needs more attention and focus. If the wave (radio pun) of Internet stations has proven anything:

THERE is a huge demand out there.

TRACK REVIEW: Ina Reni- I Thought You Were Gay



Ina Reni



I Thought You Were Gay




I Thought You Were Gay is available (to pre-order) via:


25th May 2016

Pop; Soul; Jazz


Berlin, Germany/London, U.K.


EVERY time I look for a musician- in order to review them- I seek something…

different, unique and special. These may seem like words that can be applied to a whole host of musicians: you’d be surprised how few actually fit under that banner. I am not suggesting the majority of new musicians sound like others- little distinction or personality- but it is getting harder and harder to sound truly fresh and without comparison. Today, it is easier to record music than ever before. The cost involved- to create something quite basic, at least- is fairly inexpensive. You do not need to go to a studio and fork out thousands of pounds: the bedroom-trained, D.I.Y. musician is becoming more prevalent and in vogue. Because of this: we are subjected to so many different kinds of artists. Those that remain in the memory- for whatever reason that is- should be promoted and applauded. I hear so many artists that can be compared with others- they do not stand from the crowd and give anything we haven’t heard before. My featured artist is someone who has her influences: she is one of the most idiosyncratic musicians I have heard- you’d be hard-pressed to think of anyone else. Before I come to her, I wanted to have a quick look at international artists- those hailing from Europe, especially- and why London is providing a second home. When we think of brand-new music: often, our minds go to the U.K. or U.S.- maybe Australia- but do not really concentrate on mainland Europe. German bands- Ina Reni was born in Germany- like Dagobert and Karies are two laudable German bands: the latter is fresh out of Stuggart. Der Ringer, Cro and Susanne Blech are providing what a diverse and strong musical economy Germany has. The likes of Granville, La Femme and My Friend Is are putting France on the map- from a nation that has provided M83, Phoneix and Nouvelle Vogue. Europe should not be overlooked- with regards great, innovative sounds- and ignored. What I am finding- besides the proliferation of great, European acts- is a pull towards London. The capital is an alluring and tantalising pull for so many musicians: a city that provides opportunities, fascination, and cosmopolitanism. If you are one of the London detractors- I hate those people- who whine about pollution (I don’t often walk down the streets choking on exhaust fumes) and overcrowding (what do you expect?!); the ‘rudeness’ (I live in a small place where the people are far ruder) and high costs (the wages are higher: there are affordable parts) really get on my nerves.

Those who bemoan and criticise London have not given it time and really spent time there- musicians are realising what a city (London) is. Ina Reni has a fascinating, rich D.N.A.- half-German, half-Bulgarian- who is based in London. Finding inspiration and spark in the capital: it looks like she is here for a little while at least- let’s hope she stays a lot longer. Before I raise a new point: let me introduce Reni to you:

London based German/Bulgarian singer-songwriter Ina Reni breezes in with her own brand of cool, sassy humour. 
Having performed widely across London’s important music venues and festivals, Ina made
herself known for her distinct vintage inspired pop sound. Her debut single “I thought you were gay”,
in which she describes the awkward situation that results from misjudging your best friend’s sexual
orientation, will be released on 25th May

Having been involved in the Berlin Jazz scene- as a 14-year-old she was bitten by the Jazz bug- Reni relocated to London last year. Since then, she has been immersed in live performances- taking in some of the most charming, hospitable parts of the city- and making big strides. I Thought You Were Gay is her debut cut- her E.P., Plan A, will be unveiled later this year- and marks the arrival of one of music’s most exciting talents. On paper, Reni is pretty much your ideal musician. Her music has originality and memorability: humour, stand-out lines and a true Pop core- plenty of power, soulfulness and upbeat. She has those girl-next-door looks: a gorgeous young woman who captures the heart pretty readily. It is when you dig deep- looking at her past and what she is capable of- does your heart start to skip a bit. I have encountered so many artists that are rather pedestrian and one-layered: when you dig deep, there is not much to wet the appetite. In Hungary, artists like Compact Disco and Amber Smith have come through- it is a nation that has produced a lot of fine and stunning music. Reni has a fond love for Eastern Europe and the music there- you get shades of that in her single. Throw in an admiration for Jazz; a love for 1950s and ‘60s Pop- mix that with modern-day Hip-Hop and Reggae. Reni is making strides and working hard to achieve her dreams. Realising music is a battlefield- you need a huge budget and team behind you most of the time- she is not willing to compromise creativity for quick success. Her goals are to remain in music for a long time: forge a successful career and get her music into the charts. Nobody would bet against the young star getting there. She is one of the most determined and passionate artists I have seen. Constantly working and crafting material: I am confident Ina Reni will be a big star in years to come. Anyone that is expecting your run-of-the-mill, committee-directed Pop starlet should think again: Reni is her own boss and calls the shots- she is not someone that does things like everyone else.

The opening seconds of I Thought You Were Gay have a certain charm and playfulness to them. The piano notes dance and skip with merriment and infantile abandon. It is hard to listen to the sound without having a smile on the face. Such a care-free sense of alacrity comes out. After the introduction- that has Jazz shades and elements of Ella Fitzgerald to it- our heroine comes to the microphone. The song looks at a particularly personal moment. Recounting her gym trainer- who will remain anonymous- there is that recollection of the initial meeting. Ensuring her voice is determined and clean: “You were so funny/and I loved your sexy elephant tie” compel myriad images and something quirky. Knowing some history behind the song- Reni disclosed the origin in an interview with FM– the listener will be picturing scenes and seeing the story unfold. Reni has admitted how her sexual orientating compass sucks- trying to guess whether someone is straight or not. In this case, she is somewhat off the mark. Finding the guy cute and funny: he is good for an afternoon’s fun/training- not someone that would be interested in her, necessarily. Having become “best friends” and having a lot of fun: the assumption is everything is fine and dandy. It seems- as far as Reni is concerned- there will be no sexual tension and misunderstanding. The guy started getting “all weird” which caused confusion and head spin. Initial impressions- the guy being gay perhaps- is contrasted by a very clear come-on and flirtation. It seems (the guy) has romantic intentions and is interested. Praying it is not true: our heroine delivers the realisation with a sense of shock and weariness. The penny is dropping and the truth has come out: a rather ironic choice of words, perhaps? I can imagine that moment- when the guy reveals he’s straight- would have caused embarrassment and blushes.

It is not clear what would have caused the initial impression- about him being gay- but perhaps it was the fashion sense and a playful manner- maybe a muscularity (TOO much time in the gym) or just a general aura. Whatever led to this assessment has come back to bite. Reni hums and purrs: she puts so much expression and conversation into the song. Not just delivering her lines with a formulaic approach: there are tender little utterances and accentuation. The chorus mixes ‘50s Jazz with ‘60s Pop: horn blasts that recall the glory-days of Bacharach and David. Composition-wise, you could imagine the likes of Dusty Springfield or Dionne Warwick tackling such a sound. The warm, brassy blasts sit beautifully against punctuated piano and scuffling percussion. The band is tight and in-step throughout- ensuring the chorus is as big and urgent as possible. Reni brings in syncopation to give the story a sense of rush (perhaps blood rushing to her head) and nerviness. Finding out her trainer is straight- it would be interesting to see how that conversation went- there is a sense of backing out and stuttering. Few would be able to reverse the chat with much dignity and good excuses. Being in a sticky situation- “I didn’t mean to turn you on”- there is a distinct Englishness to the track. Idioms and phrasing would lead you to think Ina Reni was a British artist- she reminds me a lot of Yorkshire musician, Jen Armstrong. As I Thought You Were Gay progresses and caresses: you fall in love with a very pure and silky voice. Sexy and velvet-smooth on the one hand; sharp and cutting on the other- such a striking and gorgeous sound. There are no histrionics and needless baubles: Reni keeps her voice level-headed and straight (again, poor choice of word) throughout. Having entrenched herself in a mess of confusion: she now has to explain herself without sounding cruel and callous. “This really goes beyond my area of expertise” shows a truth and humorous side. Not used to these situations- although her sexual-compass-clumsiness suggests there might have been occasions like this- it is a very embarrassing and fraught scenario. Whether recalling a German man- or whether this happened in London- there is no going back. Once again- something few artists do- there are idiosyncratic tics. Certain words are repeated: the pace changes and the song is constantly fresh, nuanced and unique. So many Pop artists deliver verses and choruses with a very basic and unsophisticated approach.

Ina Reni is a musician that brings the most from her lyrics. Ensuring her words hit the mark- and the song compels endless replays and repeats- she provides a wonderful vocal. For a man that wore “purple skinny jeans” and weird fashion- that is from a “different galaxy”- you could understand the assumption. If I saw a man wearing clothes like that, I might (falsely) assume he were gay. Being straight- but having a certain flamboyance to him- others are likely to make that mistake- Reni should not be too hard on herself. Not your average love song: I Thought You Were Gay is one of the most individual and original songs I have heard in a very long while. Nobody who hears the song could have it on in the background- it is something that demands full attention and imagination. I could see our heroine and instructor conversing and training. Sending her topless images- he seems like a bit of a sleaze to me- the ‘replay’ button was always hit- thinking the guy was gay and had no sexual intentions. Knowing the full truth- the guy was hitting on her- it is all-the-more embarrassing and awkward. There is a charming naivety to Ina Reni’s plight. If the tables were turned- and I, or someone like me, gained such attention from a woman- you would not (I wouldn’t, at least) assume she were gay.

If the truth were different- and she was sending pictures and flirty texts are harmless fun- it would be quite a shock. There is something about the dynamic here that keeps the song from being too tense or controversial. Every line will produce a smile; a stand-in-the-mind line and a modern-day Wildean witticism. For those laboring national stereotypes- that those of Germanic origin lacked a sense of humour- will have that myth dispelled. Ina Reni is not someone who goes for cliché and easy tracks: those that point the finger at guys and go for the woe-is-me-like songs. Turning a rather red-faced scenario into something productive and cathartic: few musicians have the skill and nous to do this. Whether Reni has heard of Jen Armstrong- one of those singers that go for the humorous side of life- the two should share a stage. Clearly, London has had an effect on our heroine. Vibing from the British sense of humour; the playfulness and oddity of the streets- I Thought You Were Gay is blends ice-cold cut with warm, sunny vibes. The guy has misunderstood all the signals and words. The two parties are on different plains with different agendas: she wanted a professional bond; he wanted something more romantic and sexual. In a way, you feel a sense of sympathy for the heroine. She has done nothing wrong and has been rather honest throughout- unknowing a guy was into her. In retrospect, the signs were all there: the topless snaps and forthrightness; the unfiltered flirtations- the misguided fashion was a red herring. “My hottest friend”- the guy will take this as a compliment one, day- you cannot deny one thing: many would have assumed he was gay. Among these heated and retrospective words: the composition continues its plight and offensive. Those parped horns still recall Bacharach/David gems; the percussion has a Jazz sensibility; there is deliriousness and infantile smile- an infectious and joyous soundtrack. Such a rich and colourful musical cornucopia: so many different genres, themes and ideas are presented in the song. Knowing what a strong and memorable composition is at hand: it is repeated with passion and delight; I can see the song being a live favouirite. The closing seconds see Reni layering her voice- “I didn’t mean to turn you on”- and harmonising. A very soulful and spine-tingling vocal choir: it is the perfect way to end the track.

I have always loved Ina Reni’s voice but it really hits its peak here. Constantly beautiful and smoky; honeyed and sensuous- so many different emotions can be found. The production values ensure the words are clear; the voice is high in the mix- so many artists distill their vocal; making it hard to decipher the lyrics. The composition does not get second billing at all. All those gorgeous strands are given proper representation and attention. Each element is blended together expertly to ensure I Thought You Were Gay is a stone-cold hit. It is a track that could easily make its way into the charts- embers of Meghan Trainor and U.S. contemporaries come to mind. Reni blends Americanisms and British witticisms together. The Pop sounds recalls California and L.A.; the lyrics have a British sensibility whilst the composition bring ‘50s and ‘60s Pop together with Jazz and Hip-Hop strands. You know how much attention and dedication have been put into the song. It is not a track that has been lazily slung together to get YouTube views and airplay. So much heart and work has been put in: for that reason, I Thought You Were Gay deserves acclaim and applause. Reni’s voice is one of the most stirring and striking in current music: someone who could make any subject sound intoxicating and essential. Few musicians bring humour into their music- and get away from straight love songs- so that’s another reason we need to hold Ina Reni close. Make sure you grab your copy on iTunes (on Wednesday) as it will put a smile on your face- you will be quoting the lyrics for weeks to come!

I have known Ina Reni for a while and am excited to see just what she can achieve. Right now, she has a crowdfunding campaign- at https://vimeo.com/162746942- that will help ensure her career can continue and grow. Reni arrived in the country with ambition and determination. She has had to busk and perform on the streets: gaining experience and ensuring her voice is heard. Now- and for the coming months- she has gigs booked and a chance to seduce new crowds. She is someone that can easily seduce and get people hooked. There is an honesty and openness to her: a woman that wants to succeed and bares her soul through her music. A brilliant voice and rare talent: few people will be immune to her charm, strength, and drive. I can understand the lure of London: it is somewhere I have always yearned to live; will figure a way to work there very soon. Reni has many stories to tell- that will come to light in Plan A– and I feel we all owe her time, attention and consideration. Her backstory and upbringing has seen her travel from Europe to the U.K. She has tirelessly worked to get her music heard: the story is only just begun. The rest of 2016 will see I Thought You Were Gay being released, performed and (let’s hope) widely celebrated. After that, what is in store? An E.P. will be out and more gigs, for sure. So many new musicians are being dented and demotivated by the sheer cost of making music: the day-to-day reality of getting your ideas onto record. A hierarchical and money-intense industry: a lot are being scared off and limited. I guess there is no quick fix or easy resolution. Those who want it most- success and attention- have to keep going and battle. Reni is someone that will not give in and knows what she wants. Support her crowdfunding campaign as it will allow her to make music and get videos/songs made- without having to worry and stress.

That is the goal for any musician, I guess: being able to make music, unconstrained- free from the shackles of financial woes and struggle. I Thought You Were Gay highlights a unique artist with a sly humour at work: someone who works beyond the boundaries of been-in-love-got-my-heart-broken-the-guy-is-a-jerk songs. Plan A– when it is released- could see some heartbreak among the humour: Reni is not someone easy to pin-down and predict. For a debut single: I Thought You Were Gay is one of the most vivid, stand-out and original I have heard. I opened by looking at the appeal of London; the European music scene and artists that distinguish themselves from the flock. Ina Reni is not going to give up on her dream: she will find a way to do it and remain determined. London is the city to make music in- it is quite an expensive place to live/exist in. I can understand the coax and seduction of London: it is one of the world’s finest places; where young, ambitious people go to- to escape the boring and pointless towns/cities.

This year is going to be an exciting one for the German-born artist. She has already achieved a lot- her social media numbers are climbing; a few great gigs under her belt- and there is a lot of love, online. Fans are lining up to pay tribute to a very special musician. She is not someone who hides behind production teams and is told what to say. She is a very real and relatable person that opens her heart and speaks directly to the people. There is no fakery and ego: no pretense and controversy. What we have is a determined and strong woman who has left her birth nation to forge a new home. It is a scary and daunting prospect but have no fear: we will hear a lot more from Reni very soon. I cannot wait to hear new music and have loved investigating I Thought You Were Gay. You get- with the song- a gorgeous blend of modern-Pop and ‘60s sounds: ice-cool sassiness and something quite delicate. It is hard to distill and define her song- I have tried my best- because there is so much depth and layers in there. At its heart- I Thought You Were Gay– is a singalong, fun song that has plenty of memorable lines. For all the talent show-bred Pop stars out there: we need to start backing those doing things honestly- those with talent and longevity. I Thought You Were Gay is available to buy on Wednesday- it is available on SoundCloud– and worth every penny. The best and brightest musicians need funding and ongoing support. Such a competitive and expensive industry: we need to be more vigilant and aware of musicians’ plights. Ina Reni knows what she wants and is striving to achieve it. Having released such a bold and standout single…

WHO would bet against her?


Follow Ina Reni











TRACK REVIEW: The fin.- Through the Deep



The fin.



Through the Deep





Through the Deep is available at:


April 29th 2016



Kobe, Japan

The E.P., Through the Deep, is available from June 3rd:



Lost in the Manor


Joe Lambert


White Breath


Through the Deep


Anchorless Ship

Night Time (Petite Noir Remix)


Divers; Through the Deep; Anchorless Ship


Through the Deep 


THIS review marks a bit of a milestone for me…

as this is my first Japan-based review. Such a large and populous nation: I am shocked this is my first Japanese band. I know the country has such a rich and busy music culture: rarely, do we get to see too many Japanese acts make their way to our shores. Before getting to my featured act: it is worth looking at the music coming out of Japan; the genre, Dream-Pop- focusing on what the rest of this year holds. Whether you have heard of Dir En Grey and The’s: Maximum the Hormone or The Pillows- Japan has created some seriously great acts. Arashi and An Café can be added to this- rather long- list. Many of- when thinking about Japanese music- get two ideas in our head. We think of Heavy-Metal and Rock: heavy and hard bands that leave little to the imagination. A lot of people- rightly, to a degree- think of Japan as quirky, strange and bizarre- there are many Japanese musicians whose music reflects that stereotype. While Japan does things differently- and has a unique way of life- that is not to say we should assume stereotypes and clichés. In the same way Britain is not a stiff-upper-lipped, repressed nation of red phone boxes, posh-speaking toffs and chimney-sweeping East Londoners: Japan is not a country filled with neon-lit signs and head-melting oddness- there is subtlety, beauty and grace to be discovered. If we label a nation- thinking we have their number- then it closes the imagination and limits our expectations. In the same way, U.S. perceptions of Britain is way off the mark- very few Americans bother to visit us- we are just as naïve about Japan. While I have listed some awesome acts- that play things with grit and anger- the likes of Jinn, Luna Sea and Nightmare (a trio of Rock acts) are not the ‘norm.’ Japanese Pop music- or ‘J-Pop’ as it’s known- is its own culture. Country Girls and Buono!; Juice=Juice and Dream- just a few names (among dozens) that have made Japanese Pop music synonymous with invention, quality, and originality. I am a big fan of Perfume’s blend of Bubblegum-Pop and Synthpop: I love their bright fashions and instantaneous songs. In that spirit: Morning Museume are one of the freshest- and most distinct- girl groups in Japan.

It is great discovering The fin. They are a band you know will transcend to the big leagues and travel the globe. Before I carry on, let me introduce them to you:

Hailing from the vibrant Japanese port city of Kobe, The fin. are a reputed and singular attraction in their homeland due to their stylish Europhile blend of synth-pop, chillwave and dream-pop, complete with English lyrics addressing universal themes of everyday uncertainties. Often referenced alongside the likes of Beach House, Phoenix, Metronomy and M83, the quartet have, since forming in 2012, performed before thousands of rapturous fans at major Japanese festivals including Fuji Rock, Rising Sun and Viva La Rock. Not content with such acclaim in one country alone, Yuto Uchino (vocals and synths), Ryosuke Odagaki (guitar), Takayasu Taguchi (bass) and Kaoru Nakazawa (drums) set their sights worldwide and in 2015 embarked on a major tour of the US, which included a performance at SXSW, before making their first forays into Britain with a handful of dazzling shows in support of their debut UK EP, ‘Night Time’. Their much-anticipated return to these shores this spring comes in the wake of a second British release and a growing recognition that there’s an act of rare, sophisticated beauty creating a big noise in the East. It’s time to turn your gaze to The fin.

There’s a theme running through the beauteous new EP by The fin. that permeates more than just the song titles. Oceanic imagery features heavily in Yuto Uchino’s lyrics, as references to ship, shore and submersion loom large. The singer articulates these tales of impermanence and transition to a shimmering, sophisticated indie art-pop backing that will be familiar to fin. fans, even though there’s a greater electronic influence to this EP, as synths carry more of the weight, melodically and rhythmically.

Opener ‘White Breath’ builds on its vehement piano/vocal intro to envelop a cropped hypnotic groove with springy keyboard stabs, dubby fx and, of course, Uchino’s soaring harmonies. “I saw you jumped into the sea/What could you see from there?” the singer then questions to the symphonic arpeggios of ‘Divers’, set to a characteristically minimalist beat and crunchy bassline that segues into a second act of controlled yet quietly euphoric trance-pop.

The title track, ‘Through The Deep’ opens with a swell of surf guitar and thump of percussive kick drum that evolves into a stylish, deceptively complex composition that hums with sonic exploration and an ambient energy that will only tease the listener with its brevity. Even shorter is the 67 seconds of ‘Heat’, which finds The fin. at their most stripped down, just a wash of sine-waves, a sparkling melodic refrain and Yuto’s distinctive tones proclaiming the sudden onset of intensity. Finally, ‘Anchorless Ship’ is a modest masterwork of smooth, uncluttered funk built on a sustained pulse resembling the sonar ping of a submarine’s radar. A wash of synth then announces a change of course towards the tune’s expansive, ecstatic coda, as Yuto sings about deeper immersion in dreams.

The compelling video to ‘Through The Deep’ depicts a colourful traveller in a post-apocalyptic landscape, who happens upon a decrepit fairground and its ageing inhabitant. It’s a video full of grace, space and mystique, and as such is the perfect accompaniment to the ethereal wonder of The fin.’s new EP.

The band is in the U.K. at the moment. Tonight, they are in Brighton: taking part in The Great Escape 2016. They take on Tooting Tram and Social on 26th– visiting Hull in the meantime. After that, the band visits Portsmouth: they head back to Japan in June. The Kobe-born band mixes English lyrics with a Japanese sensibility: ensuringng they translate across the globe and have a wide fan-base. There are Japanese acts that sing in Japanese: there is that danger they will not be fully appreciated by the English-speaking world. The fin. have no such issues: their fan numbers are rising and their stock is rising. Going against expectations and predictions: Yuto Uchino, Ryosuke Odagaki; Takayasu Taguchi and Kaoru Nakazawa mix J-Pop with something more European (U.S. flavours in there). We in the U.K. have our share of Dream-Pop artists: it is a delight to see a Japanese act come through with similar sensibilities and ideas. That is not to say The fin. are westernised and betray their roots- Japan has a growing number of Dream-Pop acts. Sugarplant and Lemon’s Chair are a couple of acts that you should seek: showing just what Japanese musicians can do. The fin. are able to unveil Through the Deep (released on June 3rd) and its title track is seducing a lot of people. I have been lucky to receive the E.P. – one of the first to hear it in full- and can pay testament to the stun and beauty throughout.

Through the Deep’s title track is available on YouTube– complete with a gorgeous and unique video- and has gained a lot of praise. Whether you see The fin. as dreamy and surreal; hazy and pretty- few people will come to the same conclusion. Such is the strength of their music: so many different emotions and adjectives reveal themselves. Through the Deep opens with a shimmering and endeavouring sound. The guitar shivers and vibrates- oceanic and land-straddling- whilst a heartbeat-like percussion drips with emotion. After seeing the song’s title- and hearing the initial notes- I get impressions of self-actualisation and discovery: a band that is looking for answers and looking to brighter skies. The song’s composition does nothing to dispel that assumption. Yuto Uchino wanted The fin. to be seen as borderless and without boundaries- not rigidly defined and clear-cut. Through the Deep sees a haphazard wandered stumble upon a (abandoned and desolate) fairground (the video).

That light-and-shade contrast can be found in the first phases. Whilst the song’s video sees a wide-eyed girl run to the fair: the song’s lyrics look at “emptiness” and sentimentality. The fin. are masterful when it comes to emotional outpouring and meaning. They are revelatory and open yet always keep the full truth inside. Through the Deep could be seen in a number of different ways. Perhaps it is a tale of finding love and direction in life. You can see it as a general assessment of solitude and pain- each listener will have their own views. One thing that cannot be disputed is the unadulterated beauty and emotion that explodes from the speakers. Even when insular and self-examining: The fin. are a stunning and constantly engaging and mesmeric. You get vibes of The xx- whatever happened to them?!- and something cinematic and twilight. We hear of ships “with no destination” that are “drifting on the waves”- themes that run through the E.P. as a whole. I was thinking about a break-up and distance in a relationship. Maybe the duo- if it is taken from personal memories- are going through the motions and seem rather fragmented. There is that desire to rekindle an old spark or find common ground- knowing that things will never be as they were. Such evocative music calls for deep analysis and speculation- well, from my standpoint it does- and you cannot help but imagine and conspire. Before the half-way mark; the vocals become more unified- colour and layers come together- as the beat (that heartbeat pound) become more defined and clear. Elongated, stridulated electronics fuse with ocean-side waves- the resultant cocktail is one that cannot be beaten. Few bands are as astonishing and talented as The fin. There are a lot of Dream-Pop examples on the market: few have the originality and authority of Kobe’s masters.

When The fin. released their debut E.P. Glowing On the Red Shore– around the same time as their L.P.- they were fighting against being on the outside. Unconventional and brave: the Japanese band have never had the full backing of the media and movers-and-shakers. Through the Deep’s self-titled anthem sees them in uncompromising and dazzling mood. You will be hard-pressed to discover a song as gorgeous and fascinating. The band has grown in popularity in Japan- although they weren’t a couple of years back- but write music that has international appeal. They do not stick to J-Pop moulds and limitations: their music breaks beyond Japan and is intended for the wider world. Having traveled the globe- across the U.S. and Europe- The fin. have picked up a lot of inspiration and influence on the road. Through the Deep is an intense and fleshed-out diamond that shines with determination. Uchino demonstrates what an extraordinary visionary he is- the rest of the band take a back seat when it comes to songwriter- and what a talent he possesses. Awash with reverb and soulful vocals: they evoke so much emotion with so few instruments. The keyboard and percussion are matched with subtle guitar strings- a veritable painting unfolds before your ears. Through the Deep is a song that could mean everything and nothing: a look at love, life and death; each person will take something new and special (from the song). By the end notes, you sit back and struggle to capture everything- you need to come back to get a full reign on the song. Although the quartet have not fully captured the Japanese mindset- there is a need (in Japan) to quickly release songs; lest you leave things too long- they are a huge hit overseas. When they return home- and finish touring- they hit the studio for album number two. It will be exciting to see how far the guys can go. They have such a bond and talent on-board: few other acts are as consistent and limitless than them. Through the Deep shows just what a force of nature The fin. is. They have few equals and no limitations: by freeing constraints; they allow their imaginations and thoughts to run free, unhindered.

The fin. released Days With Uncertainty in 2014 and showed how formed and united they were. The 11-track album sported no weak moments and possessed a huge amount of diversity and urgency. Even at their dreamiest and most seductive points: the band was fully capable of stealing the breath; taking you somewhere (almost) spiritual. Forward two years- with a bit of music in the interim- and there is a blend of evolution and consistency. The band has not changed their sound too much- they didn’t need to- but sound more confident and adventurous than before. Sonically, they employ more risks and have expanded their palette- the same goes for the subject matter and themes. The performances are tighter and the vocals contain more emotion, layers and nuance. What we have- with Through the Deep– is an E.P. that will please existing fans- able to recruit plenty of new followers. White Breath is awash with swooning vocals and layers of sound: the track is an instant energy-burst and takes you by surprise. The beauty-assault grabs you by the scruff and demands your attention. One of the band’s only- forgivable and understandable- weaknesses is the accessibility of the vocals. Being Japanese: their English vocals can suffer some indecipherability and clarity loss. That is a minor quibble inside music that is more about mood and feel- the concision and lyrics are almost second-nature. You get embers and waves of ‘60s sunshine: Psychedelia and melancholy entwine in a rapturous and cohabitate bond that sparks with life and lust. The casual listener will be enthralled by the goosebumps-inducing vocals and dreaminess: those more serious will appreciate the subtle composition: one that adds extra emotion and grandeur to the track. The guitars flick with subtlety: the electronics buzz and burble- the percussion drives things; the bass packs plenty of groove and kick. That blend of expression, rhythm and purity combines in a stunning opening track.

  Divers begins with a more gradual and subtle pace. The electronics start to rise: leading to a very ‘Japanese’ sound. When hearing the cascading electronics: your mind is transported across the oceans to the city of Kobe (Japan’s sixth-largest). That contrast of mountains and the metropolis come together: the rush and crowds; the space and fresh air of the open. Listening to the- entrancing and elliptical- electronics and you swim in a very pleasing and warm sea. The percussion claps and slaps: the waterfall-sounding ‘tronics flow and smile. The band pulls all their key strengths together. The harmonious vocals- the blend of male and female tones is a pleasing contrast; a consistent high- and twanging bass ensure Divers drives and swoons- a verbal embodiment of the song’s ideals and values. Whilst lyrics look at ocean depths and discovery: the band take your mind with the song; allow the listener to become ensconced in its tenderness. The fin. display their incredible musicianship throughout the song. The bass features prominently- a pounding and bouncing centrifuge- while those electronics continue to evoke chills and sunshine. Mixing ‘60s-Pop with something modern and city-bound: one of the highlights from Through the Deep.

   Heat sweeps into life with an intent and direct vocal. The band layer the voices to create something heavenly and brief- the song is the shortest on the E.P. (1:07). Showing how economical the band is- they do not allow any track to outstay its welcome- you get a song that is by-no-means a filler- it is one of the most beautiful pieces on the E.P. Mysterious and wise- the lyrics could be taken literally; perhaps attest a romance- the listener will have their own take on the song. Sometimes the band’s vocals get buried underneath the compositions- that clarity issue- but, once more, there is more emphasis on the complete sound. Judging it on pure motives and merits: Heat showcases how effective the four-piece is. Few groups are able to write a 77-second song that puts so much emotion and evocation together.

  Anchorless Ship is (perhaps the E.P.’s) most direct and hard-hitting song. The light-baring and sunny vibes are there: everything is tighter, louder and firmer. The electronics plink and flash- rather than stretching and flowing- and there is an underlying fear and uncertainty. The song’s title suggests a rudderless and lost soul: someone floating in the ocean without gravity and destination. For that reason: the vocals are more one-dimensional and distilled. It would be disappointing to discover an E.P. where every song sounded the same: each track has its own soul and way of working. Anchorless Ship is the most unique and distinguished song from Through the Deep. The band’s most ‘serious’ revelation:  there is still playfulness and comfort to be found. That combination of electronics-and-percussion (with some mean and cool bass) sticks in the head. A regimental march that builds momentum as time elapses: a powerful swan-song that will want you desiring more (such is the definition of a truly great E.P.). Anchorless Ship moves through different stages and movements. After the tense and introspective opening: a building- delirious and cinematic- middle unfurls its wings. At first, the electronics hop and jump- an innocence and sense of playfulness- before it fizzes and bursts into life. The band raise the stakes and inject everything they have into the song. The bass swaggers and dances: the vocals become more defined and deep- a beautiful blend of ‘80s Synth.-Pop and modern—day J-Pop.

A few weeks ago: I did not know who The fin. were. It has been wonderful unravelling and inspecting a stunning and dream-like band. The fact they hail from Japan makes it much richer and interesting. I love getting stuck into London music and the sounds of the U.K. We should all support our home-grown artists and what is happening on our doorsteps- not forgetting to promulgate the best international sounds. It has been so long since I have been in Asian waters: the last review (in this continent) was when I assessed Indian artist, Antriksh Bali. It is not often I get to go beyond Europe and North America- Australia is a rare treat- and witness a great act that is producing stunning music. The world of music has become poorer over this year. With the loss of so many great artists- from David Bowie and Prince- we look to the new generation for inspiration and guidance. Whilst we might never witness those kind of titans emerge: that is not to say music, in general, cannot inspire and amaze.

As listeners/purveyors: we are too defined and restrained with regards musical experimentation (besides those who really have a burning passion). I would never have thought to check-out a Japanese Dream-Pop band- luckily I am in a position where these kind of musicians come to my attention. From this serendipitous discovery: I have been compelled to investigate Japanese music and the acts coming through. The fin. have set tongues wagging with the track, Through the Deep. The same-named E.P. will get the senses tingling and buzzing. A five-track (plus a remix) shows what consistency and talent is in The fin. camp. The bond- between the players and instruments- results in some of the most scenic and soul-baring music you can imagine. I will keep an eye on the Kobe-based band and what we can expect. I have not been able to see them this time- they head back to Japan in the coming weeks- but I will check them out when they return to these isles. The future is looking very bright for them. They could have a residency in the U.Ss or Australia- two nations that embrace the kind of music they play- and the U.K. has been gobbling them up like sweets. If you are unfamiliar with the quartet- and I’m guessing you will be- then check out their single, Through the Deep. When their E.P. arrives (in a few days) grab it and let its magic entrance you. That is one of the beauties of the music industry: there is so many variation and unexpectedness out there. With Japan’s The fin…

THEY epitomise that statement… and some!



Follow The fin.















TRACK REVIEW: Kindest of Thieves- Wanda



Kindest of Thieves








Wanda is available at:


Americana-Blues; Ragtime; Roots Music


Leeds, U.K.

The E.P., Cul-De-Sac, is available via:




White Feather

Bones to the Gurney

Baudelaire Black

Want You Something Rotten


Wanda; Baudelaire Black; Want You Something Rotten




OVER the next couple of days, I am reviewing everyone from a…

Japanese band to a Germanic solo artist- with some Trance/Electro. music thrown into the mix. You cannot say music lacks variety and range. My featured act- before I formally introduce him- embodies charm and originality. In modern music, there is that need and desire to be ‘ultra-modern’: sound of-the-moment and urgent. Consumers are not as predictable (as many artists) assume. The charts and mainstream are filled with artists that are like-minded, staid and overly-familiar: modern-sounding but without much distinction and colour. I would like to see more artists look back at the past and incorporate that into their music. There are musicians that blend decades and genres into their sounds: to my mind, even that can be limited and tame. Maybe it is seen as ‘uncool’ to revert to past days: it is 2016, so why would we want to hear something based out of the ‘50s, for instance? Well: consider this. Music (as we hear it today) did not just come out of nowhere: it has evolved over time and owes a debt to the early Blues masters of the ‘20s and ‘30s. The only reason music stands the test of time- and has mutated through the years- is from that initial basis. Who knows whether we would have a music industry at all were it not for those bygone performers? The best and most innovative albums/songs have drawn from a variety of sources and sounds. We cannot just look at music and assume it should all sound chart-ready and instantly digestible. The greatest albums of 2016- James Blake’s The Colour in Anything and Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool– were/are packed with sonic innovation, changeable moods and stunning invention. The Pop charts are far too flaccid, rigid and distilled. I yearn for artists that put something interesting and unique into music. Christopher J. Fox- not the most eloquent way of introducing someone- deftly manages to be ultra-modern and vintage at the same time. He is a one-man-band of force and beauty. Taking his inspiration from an array of genres- Blues, Ragtime; Folk, Gypsy-Swing- we have an artist that certainly stands out from the crowds.

It is with pleasure- perhaps invariably- that my attentions return to Leeds- can never seem to escape the darned place! Having moved to Leeds- born in Manchester- Kindest of Thieves (Fox’s mysterious alter ego) has found a natural home. The Yorkshire hotspot is synonymous with embracing retro. music. Over the years, everyone from Electro.-Swing revivalist Little Violet- A.K.A., Cherie Gears- and The Holcombe Family String Band (sadly defunct) have come under my radar. I am not sure what it is about the city that breeds such a wave of rare musicians. While the likes of London and L.A. have a variation of acts: Leeds seems to surpass them all. With a lot of bands calling time- lack of popularity or the pressures of the game- we need to start paying attention to artists that are worthy and have the potential to last. I was sad to see The Holcombe Family String Band- a similarly-quirky and brilliant Leeds bands- disband recently. Their Hokum-cum-Ragtime sounds possessed swing, flair and something innocent. Looking back at simpler days: the group combined the romance of the past with modern production values and ideas. Kindest of Thieves does things in a similar manner. He (Fox) dips into the music’s past and shines up some (long-forgotten) sounds: stylising them and adding shine. Keeping faithful to the original text- making sure the genres still have their soul and heart- we get something eclectic, electric and new. It is like going into a fashion boutique. Kindest of Thieves scours the racks for various colours, fabrics and styles: experiments- with age and design- to come up with something dazzling and unexpected. Perhaps that was a little pretentious of me, but you know what I mean? He is a mixology and cocktail-making machine; he’s an innovator and risk-taking musician: however you see Kindest of Thieves you cannot deny this: there are few other acts that do things the same way! Before progressing- drilling down to the music and Cul-De-Sac– I am always impressed by a musician that can take things into their own hands. The musicians that impress me most are those that can transgress the biggest problem of (in my opinion) today’s music: the lack of ownership and personality.

So many artists are committee-written and have packs of writers on their albums. Even Beyoncé- an artist whose album Lemonade documented her rage at Jay Z (her ill-advised and disloyal husband)- had so many cooks in the kitchen. That vexed me somewhat. Why would you put something so personal onto record and have other people write it? Beyoncé is a woman who is capable of writing a song: does she need a dozen other people to make her (personal and distinct) messages come to life? If you are not able to write music yourself- or need a glut of producers to help you out- then you should not be in the game to start with. Those who have the talent and capacity to create music- from the initial germ to the finished product- gain my respect and adulation- regardless of the resultant quality. Kindest of Thieves is an artist I have been watching closely for a number of months now. Fox impresses me with his passion and authority of older-days music. Cul-De-Sac is a five-track E.P. that takes us to the ‘40s and ‘50s: a slight detour to the U.S.; a saunter to the northern coasts of the U.K. That is why Kindest of Thieves resonates and affects: you get so many places, decades, and genres in a single song. We need to start appreciating the musicians that want to keep history alive. Those ignored and overlooked types of music- Ragtime, for instance- deserve respect. At Cul-De-Sac’s heart is something contemporary and ‘today’. The songs combine a D.I.Y. charm with something slick and professional. If you have not followed Christopher Fox’s imaginative machinations: you owe yourself the opportunity to discover something rare and brilliant.

The Taxidermist (the E.P. released in September 2015 showed what a talent we had in our midst. The three-track record laid-out Fox’s stunning imagination, workmanship and wordplay- the way he could entwine personalities and portray love in a new and unexpected way. A fine and astonishing work: Cul-De-Sac expands that (early) promise and turns it up a notch. Right from the very first song: you are captivated and hooked. Whilst other songs (across the E.P.) have some oblique edges and mystery- not directly aimed at a particular person- Wanda is one of the most heartfelt and clear songs on the E.P. Our man wakes up to the morning and begins Wanda with bleary-eyed charm and rouse. If you thought Wanda was a pure and dedicated love song: there is teeth and humour to be found. The hero does not wake to “your leather hands”. Right there, you might imagine an ‘older’ female in the song- perhaps a misguided tryst- or someone that is not a typical heroine. The morning has come and there seem to be regrets and mistakes made. With any Kindest of Thieves songs: right from the off you start to get imagining and conspiring. My mind went to a sunlit bedroom- a small room in a quiet town- where our man is tip-toeing and collecting his clothes. Maybe my mind is starting shallow: there might be something more innocent and chaste at heart. The composition instantly evokes the glory-days of Ragtime and early Blues. Christopher Fox is a musician that has surrounded himself with old vinyls: you can imagine him spending evenings sat, embroiled in scratchy 45s- needle-jumping records from U.S. Blues champions and British Ragtime bands. With each passing second, the smile broadens on the face. The rather ‘uncontoured’ breasts and supple wrists are matched by a questionable girth: our boy’s bed has been ground to the floor- the mattress is getting a severe workout. In a year where love songs either sound sworded and seedy- drizzled in sweat and tongue- or distant: here, we have something charming (a word that will be used frequently in this review) and funny. Whatever caused this comical mismatch: you cannot help but jump into the song and imagine the parties in the morning. Fox is a man that has regrets and pain- having been struck in the eyes with various (loose-fitting) body parts- and is documenting his ill-fated congress. Compelled and energised by the spirited composition- it keeps cherry and heel-clicking right the way through- every listener will come away (listening to the song) with images and words bouncing around the brain. Wanda seems like a girl blighted by age, weight and gravity-defying size- someone that could appear in the pages of Viz. While our man stands back and assesses the wreckage- both metaphorical and literal, it seems- there is never any malice or cruelty.

Wanda has that old-skool Ealing comedy vibe to it: there is tongue-in-cheek and wit brimming to the surface. The cruel mistress- bedecked in furs and strange fashions- cause shivers for our hero. It would be great to know what motivated the song to come to life. With every Kindest of Thieves song: you know there must be some back-story to it. Wanda seems like a song that could only exist in the ‘30s and ‘40s- few modern-day writers have such a storytelling talent. Maybe Fox shared a bed with someone unglamorous and cruel: translating and modifying that experience into something vintage and humorous. Whatever the inspiration for Wanda: it is the perfect way to kick-start Cul-De-Sac. Nobody will be able to resist the spirited performance and stunningly pure vocal from Fox. I had to listen to Wanda a few times to let those words and scenes seep into the mind. The first listen was dedicated to embracing the oddity and quirkiness of things. Repeated spins saw me get into the lyrics and really dig deep. Even now- upon the fifth time- there is some mystery beneath the surface. The hero can “barely stand no more”- of the romance or life in general? – and he wonders how Wanda manages to carry on. By the two-minute mark, the song reaches its peak: the vocal is at its most inflamed; the strings sharpen and spin. Wanda consists of few original lines- codas and ideas are repeated for maximum effect- but that shows the economy and skill of Fox’s writing. He manages to make such a compelling and busy song with very few lyrics. The commitment of the performance and wide-eyed sense of surprise makes Wanda a real winner. It is a wonderful introduction to Cul-De-Sac and its finest moment.

After immersing myself in the likes of Radiohead, James Blake and Yak (there artists that are filling my head with all sorts of pleasure) I needed to step away from them and embrace something different- give my mind a chance to discover something new and lesser-heard. Kindest of Thieves- aside from the clever name- is a name you should familiarise yourself with. Other, similar-natured artists have (sadly) split: I feel Christopher Fox will not have the same problem. His social media numbers are solid: he is gaining new supporters by the week. There is a loyal band of fans that follow and cherish everything (Kindest of Thieves) does. The next gig- for those interested- will be the Warrington Music Festival. Fox is staying local at the moment: keeping himself in the north, at the very least. I would love to see him come down to London and play some gigs around here. I know there will be venues and pubs that would love to host him- clubs and spots that would go crazy for his music. That said, areas like Brighton would readily embrace the quixotic and heart-melting music- potential and possibilities around the U.K. Right now, Fox will be concentrating on the E.P. and ensuring people hear it. If you head over to his BandCamp page- the link is at the bottom of this review- you can hear the E.P. in full. Cul-De-Sac packs so much story and substance across its five songs. White Feather– one of the barest and most ‘live-sounding’ tracks on the record- begins with finger-picking and a delightful rush.

Compelling you to tap feet and get moving: the song spares no time in being aloof and wallflower-like. I am unsure whether white feather- the subject of the song- is a current sweetheart or a dream. “I want to take it out on you” and “perversion disrobes you” paint something dark and disturbed- other lyrics look at something more heartfelt and passionate. With every line of the song, the listener starts to imagine scenes and possibilities. Fox delivers the words with such passion and strength- marking himself as one of the most underrated singers in British music- ensuring White Feather sticks in the mind.  I was thinking about love and romance: maybe a particular girl is in mind; someone that is quixotic and strange; you never quite know the absolute truth. Kindest of Thieves is an act that combines mystery and direct: every song has layers and room for interpretation. White Feather has such an effusive kick and swagger to it: no listener will be immune to the rush and energy of the song. Fox grumbles, growls and rises (with operatic splendor): encompassed in gentle notes and a seaside-adjacent scene- embittered and affected by the “cold and rainy weather”. His heroine has a war within her- she seems quite restrained and bottled-up- whilst the hero wants something more explosive and expressionist. Maybe I have got my theory wrong: perhaps the ‘white feather’ is more a concept or emotion- perhaps something intangible and more theoretic. It takes a number of plays for the song to reveal its truths: when it does, you will be hooked on its unique blend flavor.

Bones to the Gurney swims, swallows and lurches into view. A drunken merriment brings the song to life. Again, you wonder whether love is in the midst: perhaps our man is looking at an object or chattel. Bones’ possess one of the most complete and busy compositions across Cul-De-Sac. There is rambling, train-hoping brass sounds; punchy and tight percussion- heartfelt acoustic strumming. This one-man-band puts such originality, invention and beauty into the music. An accomplished and intuitive musician: Fox displays an affection and understanding of everything he performs. A musician that has one foot in the past- the ‘40s and ‘50s especially- and one in 2016- there are few musicians quite like him. Bones to the Gurney puts thoughts and ideas into the imagination, no doubt. Our hero wants to be looked over one last time: perhaps a romantic supplication or something different? With every line, you wonder whether romance is being documented- Fox keeps his cards close to chest. Listening to Bones to the Gurney and it is like you are in the room with Kindest of Thieves. Listeners are brought directly into the listening experience- without periphery and baubles- and you are fully immersed in the song.

Baudelaire Black starts with a racing kick: getting off to the races with no thoughts of walking or calm. Strings twirl and nod- almost Grecian or Hispanic in their sound- whilst our hero wipes blood from his body (again, you wonder just what he gets up to in his spare time) his heroine wears a startling dress- the colour, Baudelaire black. Charles Boudelaire was a French poet (1821-1867) who remains one of the most influential essayists and art critics ever. Given that context: you start to imagine various scenarios and ideas. Baudelaire Black is (actually) one of the most straightforward and direct songs on the E.P. It is about a heroine- someone that is quite exotic yet relatable- wearing a dangerous smile. Fox makes sure his voice is compelling and impassioned to the very last note. Representing a heartfelt- if somewhat odd- love note: you picture the heroine and the exchanges that take place. My mind- and yours will be- was taken back to the 1940s- the juke-joints of the U.S.: where cigarette smoke fills the air and the hat-wearing suave lean against the bar- maybe I need to stop watching so many old films! One of the most stunning tracks on Cul-De-Sac– second, only to Wanda– and you have to tip your cap to Kindest of Thieves. Over the course of three minutes (and two seconds) you are taking into a dazzling mini-epic with anti-heroines and blood-shed: double-cross and deceit; head-spinning strings and something spider web-alluring beauty.

Want You Something Rotten brims with northern charm and accent. Even pronouncing the song: you will do so with a distinct accent and angle. Even before the song starts, I get images of ‘40s music hall stars with ukuleles: ditties about special girls and lampposts (got to stop listening to George Formby so much!). The track begins with our man at his most helpful: he has been “teaching slaves to kneel” and sets his sights on the girl. The hero has been lonely and lost for a little while: he needs something fulfilling and exciting- he is setting his mind on getting the girl. With a busy and special mind: the boy is not going to relent or demure. Once more, Fox combines a bedroom-made sound- again; you are in the room with him- with exceptional musicianship and dedication. The vocal brims with spark and urgency: the composition combines contrasting emotions and sounds; a compendium of dance, fever and exhilaration. By the closing moments, the listener has taken in so much. The words tumble and you envisage the conversations taking place. The music gets the body motivated and the senses primed: one of those songs that’s destined for the live crowds. Want You Something Rotten has a singalong quality that would translate brilliantly to larger audiences. Whether Kindest of Thieves sticks to intimate, home-based crowds- or expands the horizons to something more intimidating- few can overlook what a treat Cul-De-Sac is. The five tracks whizz by and leave a deep impression- you are seduced into repeated investigation. Whether you are a fan of U.S. Blues and Gypsy-Swing- and the other sounds invested- you cannot refute the charm and memorability of the music. There are so few musicians doing what Christopher J. Fox is doing. If you want a smile put on the face- who of us doesn’t?!- then you need to do this: listen to Cul-De-Sac and…

HAVE your day brightened, thoroughly.



Follow Kindest of Thieves












INTERVIEW: Laura Saggers




Laura Saggers



SHE may have been born in the home counties- and lived in one of my favourite places, Chesham- but Laura Saggers is ensconced in California. After leaving the U.K. to pursue her dreams: Saggers has been building up a solid reputation- marking herself as an immense talent. A classically-trained pianist- one of the most stunning and jaw-dropping pianists I have heard- she boasts a tremendous Pop voice a rare accessibility. Add an infectious personality and huge passion for music: she seems ready-made and primed for the big leagues.

In a state- and part of the U.S.- where competition is fierce: the British-born musician stands above her peers. Having performed a range of stunning cover versions- and original singles including Summer Fling– there are few musicians quite like Laura Saggers. I was keen to chat and find out what the future holds: whether we will see new (original) music; how the U.S. compares (to the U.K.)- and whether talent shows are good for the music industry…


For those new to your music: can you tell us a bit about yourself? You were born in England but live in California. What compelled the move to the U.S.?

I fronted an Emo/Heavy-Rock band back in the day (Sennah) and as the scene started to fizzle I decided it was time for a change. I packed my bags; bought a flight and literally never looked back. Honestly, can’t believe it has been nearly 7 years since I did that. It has been such an amazing ride.

I spent a lot of time in Chesham- where you lived: my aunt owned a business there- and can imagine it has a warm and alluring pull. Do you miss places like this or prefer the excitement and expansiveness of California?

I love this question: it is like asking someone could they live without cheese or ice-cream- if that person were obsessed with both (I can’t live with either F.Y.I.). I adore England and will always consider it home. I love the sarcastic wit of the English people and the countryside is stunning. London is a vibrant, eclectic hub of awesomeness but California had a scene for music that, for some reason, I wasn’t being able to locate as easily in the U.K. I would say L.A. is the toughest town (socially) to move to and can really bring the most-optimistic person down at times. The opportunities it offers are absolutely endless: you have to be a ridiculously determined person and prepared to work your butt off in order to benefit from what it has to offer. I guess I am lucky that I was born with two stainless steel testicles- metaphorically speaking of course 😉

Are there any local artists you could recommend at all?

YES! Of course. L.A. is a hub for aspiring artists. I have played and met with some great ones. My top-3- at the moment- are:

Ari – amazing girl from Canada. Heart of gold, a hustler: a hard worker; her Power-Pop voice is crisp and ripples with woman power. https://www.facebook.com/iamARImusic/?fref=ts

Brian Davis – an amazing songwriter. Every time I go to a show I get absorbed by his lyrics- such a great storyteller. http://playingforpennies.com

Everett Coast – just heard these guys last week and the harmonies are ON-POINT. Sounds something like a ’90s Acoustic-Rock band (and oh-sooo-good). http://www.everettcoast.com/

Dreams is your latest cover song. What compelled you to tackle that number? Is Rumours– where the song features- one of those albums that’s particularly special to you?

I have always loved Fleetwood Mac. My voice suits their songs and she (Stevie Nicks) was just- and still is- so incredibly bad-ass- who wouldn’t want to cover her? I also chose Dreams (as) when playing around with it in the studio it really suited the patch sound on my keytar.

Each of your recordings is defined by a very sultry and stunning vocal. Which singers/musicians were key to you growing up?

I love voices. I am always attracted to the voice before anything else. Ella Fitzgerald has always been a huge top contender for me. I also love Norah Jones, Meiko, Lenka, Jasmine Thompson; Tracy Chapman, Hayley Williams. Anyone who can sell a song to me when it is stripped-down and in its rawest form shows true talent to me. It is easy to play loud but give me a piano or an acoustic guitar- and one beautiful vocal- and I’m happy.

Summer Fling– released via Snapchat last year- showcases a unique style and vocal. Was there a particular time/person that inspired that number?

Ha, yes. I had just come back from a trip to England where I met the most dashing of young men and got whisked away into a summer frenzy. I felt like I was 16 on some super-random summer vacation. The trip ended; I came back: wrote a song about everything we did as a kind of diary entry and that was that. It was very unexpected: very unlike me; the experience was awesome.

On the subject of your own music: can we expect a Laura Saggers E.P./album anytime soon?

The album is done: ready to release. It has taken me two years to perfect but I am soooo excited about it and can’t wait to share it with everyone.

Having been performing/recording for a few years now: which memories stand out in your mind?

I played with an ‘80s cover band for a while and we played some massive stage. Some were in front of 20,000 people and I remember looking out to the crowd and dancing with keytar and thinking: damn I made it! This is what I came for and then instantly feeling proud and grateful all at the same time.

You are a classically-trained musician. You have had a very rich and impressive musical background- making your name honestly. Do you think the decline of (music) talent shows is a good thing? Are they- the contestants that appear on them- good or bad for music?

Hmm. I have been begged by family members to go on these shows and I actually did a few auditions for a couple of the massive shows and got through- but after reading the contracts I politely declined. The reality is this: those shows have a purpose. They are good, live entertainment. Nothing more. If you are 15-year-old and have nothing to lose then absolutely go for it- but you may notice that you will never find an actual professional musician on those shows. The contracts involved are so dangerously one-sided that it hinders the growth and ability for musicians to have an actual career. Don’t believe me? Name 5 artists in past two years that came from those shows that are now huge stars…. nope? Thought so!

I came here to live the dream as a real musician. If I don’t make it- in the commercial sense of the word- then so be- at least I will be happy with myself. But I’ll be damned if I sell-out and crumble to a huge corporation that cannot guarantee me a future but profit from my talent.

Are there any plans to play in the U.K. this year at all?

I hope so! Working on it!

What advice would you give any aspiring singer-songwriters looking to follow in your footsteps?

Go take a business course in music. Go understand the industry you are trying to succeed in. The industry has changed so much over the years and it is so (so) crucial to understand what you are getting yourself into. You say you want to earn money by making music? Then understand where that money comes from and work your way backwards.


Follow Laura Saggers