TRACK REVIEW: Tamu Massif – OK

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Tamu Massif

 

 

Ok

 

9.4/10

OK is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYD0LxE4MxA

GENRE:

Alternative

ORIGINS:

Weston-super-Mare, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

July 2016

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SCANNING about the wave of solo artists emerging right now…

and there is, it goes without saying, enough variation for everyone. I feel today’s music is a confusion battleground where we are only really exposed to a small percentage of artists out there. In order to establish who the very finest out there are: radio and the Internet are the best two options; it can be tough getting on top of it all and keeping track. I am an ardent fan of 6 Music and find their proffered artists are among the best in the world – I do wonder how many artists they miss out on, though. It is impossible playing every fantastic artist out there but I guess that is the good side of doing a blog: you get to see another side of the music world that escapes a lot of radio stations and press outlets. Before I come to investigating my featured artist: I wanted to talk about emotion through music; artists from less-known counties of the U.K. and inspirations for song subjects. We all love a musician that digs deep and presents something emotional and introspective. So long as the music is not too heavy and draining: getting a glimpse into an artist’s soul is one of the finest aspects of music. Too many artists write about love dislocation and inner-searching but hide it behind heavy beats and electronics – it can distill the true emotions of the song and come off somewhat cheap and insincere. One of the problems about being truly open and tender is losing people’s attention. It is a hard balance to assess something raw and harrowing whilst keeping the focus of the public. As such, a lot of new artists coming through are changing their pens away from deeply personal (and harrowing) subject matter and concentrating on other concerns. It is a shame but I guess having lyrical diversity is only a good thing. If we go back to the theme and seeing what the solution is: new artists like James Blake (although he’s been around for a few years) is a good example of how it should be done. Take his current album, The Colour in Anything, and it is rife with deep and textured songs that are among the finest this year. Previous Blake albums have been more maudlin and romance-based – assessing damaged love and trying to piece it together. Never one for direct lyrics and obvious storylines: metaphors and oblique touches are sat aside tremulous, atmospheric vocals. The Colour in Anything yearns for happiness and self-improvement; spaciousness and drama run throughout but above all is sheer beauty and majestic shimmer. He is one of those musicians that not only takes control of his songs, and does not let scores of producers tamper with them, but is able to pour his heart onto the page and keep the listener entranced. For those musicians that want to balk against acoustic guitar-led sounds and a one-dimensional approach: Blake has shown what can be achieved with compositional variation and intelligence. I bring up this (rather lofty) aspect up because of my featured artist, Tamu Massif. That name is actually a moniker of Weston-super-Mare artist Dave Dixon and he has got me thinking more about music and standing out from the crowd. His latest track, OK, recalls a rather upsetting time – more on that later – but the way he puts that on the page goes beyond the routine and predictable. Not quite putting as many elements into the mix as James Blake: he manages to elicit a range of ideas and possibilities through the composition; mixing sound effects and harder sides with elliptical, light-seeking moments.

OK casts its inspiration to a dwindling friendship and fractious time for our hero. Relationship break-ups are common concerns for musicians but usually centre around love – friendship erosion is not as widely covered as you’d imagine. We all experience times when treasured acquaintances and mates drift away or there is an argument. I feel too few songwriters do not cover these kinds of topics because they fear it is too personal – damaging a friendship beyond repair perhaps. If a relationship ends, you are not looking to get back with that person – so it is okay to put it down in a song. Maybe trying the same with a friendship drama is risky business? I am not sure but Massif has shown bravery and insight but capturing a stressful and fraught time, and in the process, bringing something new to the realms of break-up and split. What stuns me about a lot of modern artists is how rigid they are lyrically: often going for lowest-common-denominators and easy answers. We all have busy and complicated lives so one would imagine there is enough food for thought? Of course, love is important and we all can relate but that is not to say the consumer wants to hear about it all the time. You do not need to look too far away or reinvent the wheel: just take the time to concentrate on something less expected; something nobody else is covering. Those musicians that stick in my mind are the ones who introduce you to fresh horizons and rebel against formulaic topics. Massif has looked at love in the past, but as his latest single proves, he is an artist that captures of-the-moment events and places them on the page. The only way music will push forward and inspire future generations if we become less rigid and defined. It is an area I want to go into more depth about but it might have to wait for another time.

It is good finding a musician that comes from outside of London. I love London but have focused quite heavily on the city the last few months. Massif will be playing a lot of London shows in the future but his base and home is Weston-super-Mare in Somerset. I have reviewed acts from around the U.K. but is has been a while since I have stepped outside of London and its environs. When we think of upcoming artists, perhaps Somerset is not top of our considerations. I feel we often get too obsessed with the big cities and forget there is a whole world of towns and villages with fantastic musicians in. Historically, there are not a lot of legendary musicians that hail from Somerset – I might be wrong but I am struggling to think. The likes of Tamu Massif will not only help put Somerset in the mind but raises a good point. Music is not exclusive to the cities and London and we all need to realise the full scope of British music. I said early on how difficult it is to discover all brilliant new musicians coming through but one imagines a little dexterity and flexibility will go a long way. I had never really thought about Weston-super-Mare for music but am compelled to look more and see what other musicians come from there. Further than that: I will look at other less-represented musical counties and discover what is out there. It is vital we support artists from all over the country and ensure we do not overlook areas outside of the city. I feel one of the reasons we get obsessed with cities like London and Manchester is that is where so many musicians end up. Personally, I know a lot of musicians who flee to London due to the lack of opportunities where they live. Maybe there are not enough platforms or too few people: how realistic is it remaining in villages and towns if you are an artist? Naturally, the more people that pack into cities the harder it is to find opportunities: the cities become compacted and it leads to musicians being squeezed out and suffocated. It is difficult making it in the industry so can appreciate the lure and attraction of the city. Tamu Massif records at his Weston-super-Mare studio but gigs in London too: seemingly striking a wonderful blend and not too overwhelmed by the rush of the city; finding inspiration and creative outlet at home. I am digressing but it is another point that we need to address: providing more money to towns so musicians do not have to move out; easing the burden in the big cities to ensure musicians there have chances.

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Looking back on Massif’s work and you can see how far he has come in the last couple of years. Azora was released just over two years ago but showed a promising young talent and someone who differentiated themselves from the mass of artists out there. The composition is quite sparse but the racing beats and delicate piano notes create a lot of emotion and story on their vocal. When listening to the vocal, you are hard pressed to compare it with another singer, and instead, are introduced to a soulful and emotion croon. A singer that is capable of delicacy and power in the same breath: Azora is a song that gets into the head and has so many different layers and sides to it. Perfect for contemplative times or a solitary drive during sunset: it has that self-assessing mood and tranquility to it but enough energy and spirit to stand up to repeated plays. An impressive song no doubt. More recent work like Holding Back has shown how adaptable Tamu Massif is. A more traditional, acoustic-based number: its emotional resonance and gorgeous vocal get the hairs standing up. Despite a certain pastoral mood: Massif injects fizzling electronics and colours into the song to ensure it never becomes sonorous, boring or unengaging. The song draws processed, hypnotic female vocals in and warped sounds: juxtaposing against the reverent beauty of the opening; Holding Back grows into something complex, busy and spectacular. Listening to the opening minute and you assume you have the song figured out. Each line and verse find Holding Back grow and expand; taking in new sounds and ideas and demonstrates what a talent he is. OK takes that a step further and is, in my viewpoint, the best song Massif has created so far. It has strands of Holding Back’s D.N.A. and is a new phase for the artist. Alba was wonderfully received last year but I feel the 2016 output from Tamu Massif is stronger, bolder and more arresting. I am not sure if certain influences and experiences have led to this evolution – you can definitely hear a slight improvement and new inspiration. I am sure the upcoming E.P. will contain similar songs to Holding Back and OK and be up to that level. Early on, I mentioned James Blake and you can detect that as an influence in Holding Back and OK. The Electronic/Alternative/Post-Dubstep musician is compelling a lot of new artists and that is to be commended. Tamu Massif does not replicate Blake’s themes and sounds: using him as a bit of a guide; he creates his own version of that foregrounded Post-Dubstep sound and put his own stamp on it.

OK is the latest song from Tamu Massif and recalls the closing phases of a fading friendship. While visiting friends in Naples (last New Year’s Eve); that is when inspiration struck. Hearing and watching the fireworks burst from his balcony: he got thinking and ensured he captured the sounds and explosions of the night. Rather than dwell on the pain and loss; it has gone into a song that is mature and intelligent. Massif (or Dave Dixon, I should say) knows relationships and friendships can be temporary and unpredictable at the best of times. OK begins with oddly child-like, processed vocals that make you think straight away. Perhaps the sound or sample of the friend in question (it is a female voice) is a weird and machine-processed opening that gives you an insight into OK’s mindset. Distorted, hazy and confused: such an instancy and urgency can be discovered straight off. There is little time to reflect and predict as the song comes straight to life. Subtle but powerful electronics create a brewing storm whilst the beats crackle without becoming too heavy and insistent. That vocal opening seems like the other side of a conversation of a voicemail being played – not quite real but very relevant to Massif. When approaching the microphone, the voice is typically emotive and powerful – power and strength seem to define the work of Tamu Massif. Although some of the early vocals suffer some intelligibility issues – slightly drawled which means it can be hard to pick up on the lyrics – it is the fervency and passion of the vocals that matters most. A stunning voice that has ample beauty and grace to it: our hero does not want to settle down and rush in life. You get thinking about the dynamic of that friendship and what has caused this drifting apart. I am not sure whether our hero’s friend is male or female but one senses it is a female. The two used to be close but have not been in touch for a while now. It is not necessarily anyone’s fault and perhaps they are different stages of life. I sense the bond was quite important and perhaps has romantic possibility. It seems like the two were serious at one point, but now, they are reduced to scant conversations and the odd communication. Our man might not have been that smart and a bit lackluster; maybe remiss and ignoring the importance of the friendship. “Is it okay?” our hero asks if he doesn’t settle down: it gives you impressions of romantic domesticity or a shared agreement. Perhaps the two had plans or she was getting a bit too firm – perhaps wanting him to commit to a way of life or spend a lot of time together. Massif is a free and creative young man that is dedicated to music and this might have been a breaking point. Unable to commit to a time and place and predict the future: it seems like differing interest has found them separated and on barely-speaking-terms.

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OK has two distinct halves to it. The first is reflecting on what has happened and asking pertinent questions (whether they can start over again); trying to piece things together and wondering what went wrong. The lyrics, those that are clear and come through, sort of offers apologies and explanation but seems confused and lost – it was a pure friendship but has just drifted away out of control.  The vocal and lyrics are placed in focus and our hero wonders if he is becoming sentimental and over-thinking perhaps. The second phase of the song places more emphasis on the composition: perhaps our hero is spent and too emotional to carry on; steps away from the microphone. After the first couple of minutes, we learn a little about how the friendship broke down. There is a regret but no real answer as to what happened. It just seemed like the two were on different pages but there is that desire to rekindle things and regain that closeness and connection. Knowing it is beyond repair or slipping away: the second half of OK lets the music speak. Electronics trip and persists; they trip and swoon and shimmer – occasional beats add a little spark but keep in the shadows for the most part. A song that has sensuality and loneliness to it: you imagine the time that inspired the song and what Tamu Massif was thinking about. After the pitch-shifted vocals and melancholy of the opening: it all develops and changes. There is chaos and celebration in the street, but on the balcony, a sense of twilight eeriness and thoughtfulness. You transpose yourself into the song and are stood alongside the hero – looking down from the balcony and lost in his own thoughts. Towards the closing stages; that New Year’s Eve celebration and rapture comes more into the song. Before that, there are twinkling and odd electronic notes: they ping and twinge; quite a strange but inviting sound that makes you wonder what influenced them. Oddly, you get a flavor of Japan and Asia in some of the composition: as though you were walking through a Tokyo night and the local sounds, strangeness and beauty of the city. Against that, some more defined and sturdy beats come in and OK gains new light and traction. It is difficult creating a song that is composition-heavy and pulling it off. So many modern musicians lack necessary inventiveness and intellect to captivate the listener. Tamu Massif presents a composition that has so many different stages and elements together but retains a singularity and focus. Into the final minute, the hero comes back to the microphone and seems like he needs answers still. Maybe his friend was kinder and purer; their paths never meant to continue together but it seems painful none-the-less. Despite the fact there are decipherability issues to some of the vocals, that is part of the appeal. The sheer emotion and weariness are more potent and memorable than anything: our man aghast and tired in the night; weighed down by the heartache and emotion on his shoulders. OK ends things with firework samples and crackling: those Italian firecrackers provide a suitably authority and appropriate finale. You have to sit back and take it all in when the song ends and might take a while to listen to it again. It is a personal and important song for Tamu Massif and one that will surely strike a chord with listeners who have gone through the same sort of experience. The finest and most compelling song in the Tamu Massif catalogue: let’s hope it features prominently on the new E.P. It is commendable pulling away from relationship dilemmas and concerning something else. OK is a fascinating number and one that will see Tamu Massif exposed to a wider audience and gain lots of new supporters and radio attention. Already, the song has picked up some great reviews and that will give it creator heart and inspiration. Mixed by Youth Lagoon & Perfume Genius associate Ali Chant (produced by Tamu Massif): OK is a stunning song that announced a very fine talent.

Tamu Massif has already achieved quite a lot in his career to date. Having been tipped by NME and enjoyed airtime on 6Music and Radio 1: not many new musicians can claim that. It is hard to get recognition and exposure on the nationwide stations so when it happens that honorific should not be underestimated. Massif will be doing no such thing and capatilsing on that momentum and patronage. There is an E.P. out soon and plenty of excitement and expectation surrounds it. Following his well-received E.P. Alba, I am sure his upcoming E.P. will build on that early promise and show new inspiration and influences. OK shows Massif is not a musician that stands still and is always developing his work. Supporting the likes of C. Duncan and The Japanese House live; there will be headline dates and key gigs in his calendar. All exciting times for the young artist. Dave Dixon’s alias is an intelligent, emotional character whose music has registered with a lot of people already. I feel Massif is deserving of more attention and followers. His social media numbers are solid and building but, when compared with some artists, one wonders whether his forthcoming E.P. will redress this. I see a lot of lesser artists with thousands of supporters and they do not deserve it. Perhaps they are image-heavy or get more focus on radio: Massif is a more honest and hard-working musician and I am sure his talent and graft will be richly rewarded. He will not quibble over social media numbers and such concerns: the demand and appreciation he is receiving prove how much love and support there is. OK is a fascinating glimpse into a wonderful musician who has taken a harrowing deterioration and turned it into something strangely gorgeous and inspiring. OK is not just a simple, acoustic-based song where the hero pours emotion out and is tear-stained and wracked. Massif understands this approach is likely to appeal to a certain listener, and because of this, consideration, intelligence and innovation have gone into his latest single – ensuring it registers and appeals to a wide range of music fans. It is a brilliant window into the as-yet-untitled E.P. and is certain to put Massif firmly in the musical forefront. He has already had his music played on our most influential stations but I have the sense he will grow even bigger and be afforded more chances further afield.

One feels Tamu Massif has an audience waiting internationally and is capable of breaking into new countries and continents. I am sure he will want to focus his attention in the U.K. for now: finance might be an issue and it is not practical jaunting abroad and performing around the globe. That said, one gets the impression it will not take too long before fortunes change and international gigs are going to be a reality. I say this with a lot of British musicians but there are U.S. opportunities and audiences who are latching onto our best acts. Looking about social media; I have seen a lot of British artists put their songs out and get heady praise from U.S. listeners. Perhaps there are quite a few British musicians playing across the U.S. but I am wary not as many as there should be. Again, perhaps another discussion for another day. It is hard to sum up Tamu Massif as there is a lot of mystery and intrigue about his music. That nom de plume is the name of a dormant subaquatic volcano: it gives you an insight into the emotional blend and dichotomy of his music. You have that beauty and safety but always feel like there could be an explosion at any moment. Thinking about the volcano, and where it is situated, it seems like a very apt name for OK’s author. He splits his time between Weston-super-Mare and London and is one of those artists you know is going to be playing for years to come. It is hard to stand out in the industry as there are so many like-minded musicians aiming for the same goals. Tamu Massif seems stress-less and relaxed against the pressures of the modern age. Although OK looks at a friendship on the rocks: you feel, away from the studio, Davie Dixon has a plan and knows where he wants to head. I urge people to go see Tamu Massif live and be brought into a very magical and entrancing world. The reviews he has already accrued speak for themselves. I have talked about cliché and predictable subjects in music and I feel it is a problem that will blight a lot of new music. We have all heard the Pop star talking about bad love and these tropes are putting people off – many of us want something new and less obvious. Tamu Massif has gone through relationship quandaries and knows it is important to assess that. OK stands out because it moves away from that and addresses a unique and idiosyncratic event. Not only does the originality stand out but the way it is delivered. Not just confining himself to vocal-and-guitar easiness: sound effects, bass, and electronics are weaved together to create a tangible and evocative number. If you have grown weary of the unsophisticated and simple musician that is incapable of connecting with the heart and soul then you should definitely spend some time with Tamu Massif. The dormant-volcano-under-the-water-cum-Somerset-innovator is a curious blend and incredible young talent. OK will lead to an E.P. and that E.P. is going to mutate to future releases. It is a good time for Tamu Massif: his latest single is…

THE start of some very big things.

 

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Follow Tamu Massif

 

Official:

http://www.tamumassif.co.uk/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/tamumassif/#_=_

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/tmassif

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/tamumassif/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/tamumassif

FEATURE: When Music Ruled the World: 14 Essential Albums from 1994

FEATURE:

 

 When Music Ruled the World:

 

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14 Essential Albums from 1994

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DEPENDING on when you were born will often determine…

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which albums and artists mean most to you. I was born in 1980-something (let’s just say Duran Duran were big back then) and grew up on a combination of ‘60s master like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones with plenty of Steely Dan, T-Rex and sounds of the day – running through New Romantic darlings and pop kings such as Michael Jackson. I feel I was born in the absolute pinnacle time: when the ‘90s hit I was 6-years-old. When 1994 started to throw up some truly wondrous albums I was 10, and just the right age to let music seduce and conquer my soul. The 1980s, by and large, was a little variable but there were some stunning albums from the time. The ‘90s, unlike any other decade, seemed unstoppable and completely beyond reproach. Sure, there were bad albums and songs like any other time but in terms of sheer quality: can you think of any other decade that gave us so many classic albums? I am not sure what was in the water and how influential the 1980s was: musicians were producing new genres and pushing boundaries; helping to create movements (Britpop among them) and change the face of music.

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I have covered the topic before – https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/feature-a-love-song-to-1994-the-year-that-changed-everything/ – but felt compelled to revisit – plus, I included The Bends on the list despite the fact it was released in 1995 (close enough, eh?!). That being said; Radiohead were working on The Bends and just about to release their (in my view) finest album ever. They were the outsiders of the Britpop move but an essential band who contributed so much. It is hard to distill a phenomenal year into 14 L.P.s, and it might be an arbitrary number, but a way of showcasing just what variation and quality came along that year. If you prefer today’s music or the bands of the’60s: few can deny just how astonishing and peerless 1994 was. No single year has produced so many world-class albums and game-changing creations. Sit back and let the 22-year-old time of wonder flood back: a collection of the albums and songs that shaped 1994.

 

Jeff Buckley Grace

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Jeff Buckley did not arrive out of nowhere by the time of his debut, Grace. A celebrated fixture of New York’s café/bar scene: he had a loyal and awe-struck following fully aware of what he could create. Released on August 23rd, 1994: Grace remains (sadly) Buckley’s only completed studio album – he died three years later. Only reaching 149 in the U.S. charts and suffering poor sales figures – a record that gained huge popularity after Buckley’s death. Critics were not aware at the time but Grace remains one of the most impressive albums by any singer-songwriter and the introduction of a truly peerless talent and golden voice.

 

Download: Grace, Last Goodbye, Lover, You Should’ve Come Over, Dream Brother

 

 

Manic Street Preachers The Holy Bible

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Manic Street Preachers were well under the critical radar by the time The Holy Bible arrived. The group’s third album was the last to feature lyricist and rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards. Fighting severe depression and self-harm: the enigmatic figure would disappear soon after the album’s release – Everything Must Go was the first album after that not to feature Edwards. Perhaps the album’s subjects of anorexia nervosa, depression and anger were a cry for help from a young man suffering the weights of the world. In musical terms, it is a stunning album whose lyrics and stories draw you into a strange and dark world – compelling and utterly engrossing some 22 years after its release.

 

Download: She Is Suffering, 4st 7lbs, Mausoleum, P.C.P.

 

 

Hole Live Through This

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The sophomore album from American Alt.-Rock band Hole: the record was released a week after the death of Courtney Love’s boyfriend, Kurt Cobain. With Grunge’s godfather departed (Hole’s bassist Kristen Pfaff died two months after the album’s release), it was a difficult time for Hole’s lead. Live Through This is not hardcore, hard-hitting and unrefined – the band’s debut album played very much in this aesthetic. Instead, there is polish, refinement, and thoughtful song structures. Love, infatuated by notions and ideals of beauty, turns her pen to subjects of motherhood, anti-elitism, and domestic violence. Despite the tragedy that would befall her after Live Through This was released: the album itself remains a beautiful, beguiling and one-of-a-kind offering from a tremendous songwriter.

 

Download:  Violet, Asking for It, Doll Part, Softer, Softest

 

 

Green Day Dookie

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Still going strong and about to release their album Revolution Radio: it hardly seems like the boys have changed at all. Dookie, although some might agree, remains their finest creation and a Punk-Rock classic. This was the album that put Green Day into the public forum and truly elevated them to superstardom. It would reach number 2 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and helped put Punk-Rock firmly in the mainstream. Dookie has since exceeded 10 million copies and, even in a year like 1994, topped many critics’ end-of-year polls. Listen to songs like Welcome to Paradise, Longview and album-highlight Basket Case and it is not hard to see why. Electric, intense performances, and complete conviction from a band with plenty of attitude and anger – all brought together a truly remarkable album.

 

Download: Longview, Welcome to Paradise, When I Come Around

 

 

Suede Dog Man Star

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Another one of those bands that perhaps were slightly outside the Britpop movement happening in 1994. Whilst contemporaries Blur and Oasis were releasing their career-defining albums – and embroiled in spats and rivalry – Suede sat outside of that and got on with their own thing. The sophomore album from the Alternative-Rock legends: this was the last album to feature guitarist Bernard Butler. Tensions between him and frontman Brett Anderson reached untenable levels – you can hear on the album – and Dog Man Star’s themes, not a shock, were dark and juxtaposed the optimism of Britpop – bringing influences like David Bowie and The Smiths together. Suede would make more harmonious albums but none better than this.

 

Download: We Are the Pigs, New Generation, This Hollywood Life, The Asphalt World

 

 


Pavement
– Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

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What is striking about this compilation (unintentionally I might add) is how many sophomore albums appear on the list. New York’s Pavement followed from their equally-brilliant debut Slanted and Enchanted with Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. This, unlike their debut, was a more accessible fare and less lo-fi – their debut was more ragged, raw and undisciplined. Going on to sell more than 500,000 copies: it was a critical success but did not achieve high chart placings and sales. Showing how irrelevant show considerations can be: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is one of the ‘90s’ greatest albums and a bold statement from a band who helped redefine the scene at the time, and with it, influenced scores of upcoming bands. A priceless and treasured album from a band whose relevance and genius should not be undervalued.

 

Download: Cut Your Hair, Haunt Me Down, Gold Soundz, Filmore Drive

 

 

Weezer Weezer

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Not a sophomore album this time but a (defiant) debut from Rock band Weezer. Released in May 1994 it entered music at a busy and competitive time yet remains one of the year’s best albums. Produced by Ric Ocasek (front-man of Cars) and recorded at the legendary Electric Lady Studios, N.Y.C.: the album saw Undone – The Sweater Song, Buddy Holly and Say It Ain’t So as singles. Buddy Holly’s innovative, groundbreaking video helped put the album into the history books but the band’s slice-of-life tales and witty suburban conversations – the fine pen of Rivers Cuomo – helped it to be a chart success and set the band aside from their peers. Their similar-minded, ‘70s-Rock-aping contemporaries went for obvious influences whereas Weezer favoured Bubblegum Power-Pop acts like Cheap Trick. Geekdom has never sounded so divine and universal.

 

Download: My Name Is Jonas, Undone – The Sweater Song, Only In Dreams

 

 

 

Portishead Dummy

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Portishead came into music with an emphatic album in Dummy. Released in August and released by Go! Beat: the album went on to win the 1995 Mercury Music Prize. Not only did it single-handedly help to popularise and promulgate British Trip-Hop but it stands as one of the landmark albums of the 1990s. Although Dummy was certified gold in 1997 and sold millions of copies: when it was released, it enjoyed modest chart success. What we can discover from this list is how slow the public of 1994 was to embrace stunning albums. Perhaps too forward-thinking or unusual: thankfully, subsequent years and generations have been far fairer. Of course, we all know where Portishead would go and the effect they have had on music. Massive Attack – another Trip-Hop band that helped shape music – would bring their brand of dark and dramatic elements to the genre – Dummy is an album that helped launch Portishead’s career and is often seen as one of the essential albums of any genres and year.

 

Download: Sour Times, Numb, Roads

 

 

 

Nirvana Unplugged in New York

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Unplugged in New York was released following Kurt Cobain’s death and one of the final recordings he ever undertook. Acoustic versions of classic Nirvana cuts were interspersed alongside band favourites and legendary Blues songs. Unlike other Unplugged shows; Nirvana went for a lesser-known set-list that put mood, emotion, and variation ahead of hits and radio-friendly gems. Going on to win the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 1996: it is regarded as one of the greatest live albums in history. You are mesmerised by the band’s performances (Cobain especially) and the reaction from the audience – alternately delirious or awe-struck by what they were seeing. Cobain’s death might have put a tragic dimension on the album but nothing can distill or dampen its legacy and brilliance.

 

Download: About a Girl, Jesus Don’t Want Me for a Sunbeam, The Man Who Sold the World, All Apologies

 

 

Blur Parklife

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Blur’s third and most exceptional album: Parklife was released the same year as the equally-amazing Definitely Maybe. With Blur and Oasis entrenched in competition and civil war: you were even in Camp Blur or Camp Oasis. Oasis’ northern influences and songs of youthful optimism and Rock ‘n’ Roll excess were contrasted by Blur’s southern suburbia and more emotional insights into love and domesticity. In truth, both bands help define Britpop for very different reasons. After Modern Life Is Rubbish’s disappointing sales the previous year: Parklife was the rebuttal that showed just what Blur were capable of. Over five million copies have been sold and, alongside Definitely Maybe, it places Britpop/Cool Britannia on the map.

 

Download: Girls & Boys, End of a Century, Parklife, To the End

 

 

SoundgardenSuperunknown

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Superuknown was Soundgarden’s fourth album and their greatest achievements. Few bands hit their stride that late in their career but hardly surprising given its background – especially the death of Kurt Cobain. Grunge’s leader was gone and Nirvana contemporaries Soundgarden reflected the mood of pessimism and fear in the music industry. Employing a greater range of influences and sounds than before. Although Cobain died a month after Superunknown was released there was something in the musical air: a sense that the troubled genius was not long for the world. Songs about suicide, depression and turmoil are not often easily digestible. Soundgarden’s incredible performances and exceptional songwriter – Chris Cornell’s planet-straddling voice at its most raw and unshaven – turned the album into a strangely uplifting and hopeful experience.

 

Download: Fell on Black Days, Spoonman, Limo Wreck, The Day I Tried to Live

 

 

The Prodigy Music for the Jilted Generation

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By 1994, the rave scene in Britain was becoming corrupted and ruined: Music for the Jilted Generation was a vivid and angry reaction that. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 criminalised raves and put the kibosh on a lot of clubs at the time. Fueled and incensed by this insanity: The Prodigy reacted with a blitzkrieg record that rebelled against the stupidity and ignorance of the establishment. Lead songwriter/producer Liam Howlett has gone on to disassociate himself with the idea (Music for the Jilted Generation) was political – he hated the title and felt it petulant and misleading. Raw, dark and carnivorous from start to end: Music for the Jilted Generation is seen as a Big Beat/Rave masterpiece.

 

Download: Poison, No Good (Start the Dance), One Love

 

 

Beastie Boys Ill Communication

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Following the genius of Paul’s Boutique (1989) and Check Your Head (1992): pressure was on to repeat the trick on Beastie Boys’ fourth album. Ill Communication responded with a typically assured, mesmeric and cross-pollinating set of songs from New York’s finest. Perhaps not up to the lofty heights of Paul’s Boutique and License to Ill: there is plenty to recommend about the album. The rhymes – one of the elements pushed back in previous albums – was hard and firm in the mix. Renewed with a confidence boost and fresh intention: Ill Communication’s sharp lyrics were all present and correct. If the album as a whole doesn’t quite match their best work; you cannot argue or call the album a failure. In fact, it is one of the best albums from 1994 and boasts plenty of standout moments – not less the sensational Sabotage.

 

Download: Sure Shot, Root Down, Get It Together, Shambala

 

 

Oasis Definitely Maybe

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Few band’s since Oasis have created a debut album as confident and world-class as this. Definitely Maybe took everyone by surprise and helped to revive British guitar music – making it super-cool in the process. Alongside Blur’s Parklife: Definitely Maybe scored 1994 and proved British music was some of the finest in the world. More optimistic, celebratory and excess-reveling than some of more dour, hopeless and moody U.S. albums – Grunge and Alternative-Rock bands culpable – it was just what the public needed. Live Forever has been listed as one of the best songs ever for good reason. That optimism and hope; the simple message to live while you can and make anything possible – few bands or artists have penned a song like it since. Oasis would go onto split not long after 2008’s Dig Out Your Soul but they never sounded as fresh, inspiration and together than on Definitely Maybe. No doubt about it: one of those albums that should be in every record collection.

 

Download: Rock ‘n’ Roll Star, Shakemaker, Cigarettes & Alcohol, Slide Away

 

 

It is clear just how truly spine-tingling albums arrived out of 1994 and I cannot fathom why. Perhaps one of those inexplicable years or just a general feeling running through music – when its best artists really stepped up and shone. I would love to hear of suggestions and albums people think should be on this list. What a joy re-discovering some of the best albums of my formative years. It may be 22 years ago, but the finest albums of 1994…

Image result for nirvana unplugged

ARE still inspiring to this very day.

TRACK REVIEW: Gold Phoenix – Oh So Hard

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Gold Phoenix

 

 

 

Oh So Hard

 

9.5/10

 

Image result for gold phoenix oh so hard

Oh So Hard is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/gold-phoenix-1/oh-so-hard-single/s-obcsl

GENRES:

Garage-Rock

ORIGINS:

Surrey, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

8th August 2016

Recorded at Rockfield Studios

Lyrics and Music by Gold Phoenix

Produced by Nick Brine

Engineered by Jon Constantine

Mastered by Pete Maher

________________

I have been meaning to review Gold Phoenix…

for a while now and for good reason. I shall introduce the boys soon, but at the moment, they bring up topic around real Rock; characters and personality in music and the difficulty in squeezing life from certain other bands. Many have been debating whether Rock and all its sub-genres, really has any life left and is as good as it was. I feel there are a lot of bands coming through but you have to wonder how many actually have the guts and glory needed to give Rock a good name? Many play Alterative-cum-Indie sound which is an excuse for crowd-pleasing choruses and songs about love and heartbreak. That is all very well, and we all need that, but you yearn for a bit more grit and power in the music. I admire bands that can whip up some meaty riffs and 10,000 volt charges but ensuring there is melody, emotion, and discipline in the music. There may be a lot of those bands around, but for my two-cents-worth, they are few and far between. I suppose there have been so many Rock bands through the ages; it is challenging doing something new and differentiating from what has come before. Bands think too literally when they approach Rock and decide what their music will sound like. They get it into their heads that audiences want it loud and sweaty without much nuance and intelligence. The modern consumer is more intelligent and discerning and demands something a little more layered and structured. That, as a band, gives you more breathing room and chance for maneuver. Indie and Blues-Rock are ways of taking a solid template and adding new shades and sounds into the mix. One of the reasons some say Rock is dead is due to the one-dimensional nature of some groups. They are too rigid and defined and do not understand what can be achieved by pushing the genre slightly and mixing other elements together. With so many new artists entering the fray: we are seeing a turn away from Rock and Alternative bands (as the majority) and welcoming a lot more solo musicians in.

Perhaps there is more to be found in other genres or (bands in general) are less stable and long-lasting than they used to be. I have seen so many groups call time due to the demands of the modern industry – the strain on the relationships becomes too much and they have to break up. It would be foolhardy to assume Rock and bands are a dying commodity as that is not the truth. The fact of the matter is, and why critics raise that heated question, is a watered-down, safe approach to Rock music. So many artists lack that necessary spark and fire which is sad to see. My featured act understands this and is responding by bringing Rock back to its roots. They are not just an un-distilled, straight-ahead Rock band, but instead, lace Blues into their work and come up with something popular but unique – packed with vitriolic riffs and exceptional performances.

I will continue – and raise a new point – soon, but for now, it is worth getting an insight into the awesome Gold Phoenix:

Jamie – Guitar – Vocals

Fred – Bass

Ed – Drums

Surrey’s Gold Phoenix expresses large doses of raw, riff heavy Garage-Rock. The trio release their upcoming single, Oh So Hard, on August 8th with a video to accompany it, filmed by Joe Parker, at Full Tang Visual. The band were contacted by Producer Nick Brine (The Darkness,Oasis, Ash,Thunder) which followed in the recording of the single at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Wales, and mastered by Pete Maher (Jack White, U2, The Rolling Stones). Musically, Oh So Hard pays a powerful homage to the bands that have influenced their sound, with flicker of Queens Of The Stone Age, Placebo and She Wants Revenge, the seemingly dark lyrics pray amongst a heavy fuzz fuelled bassline that
drives the song through its powerful mapped out arrangement. Oh So Hard is the follow up to the bands debut self titled EP which gained great reviews, airplay and recognition. The single Back To You was played on shows including BBC Introducing South’s saturday show, and Belgium’s Equinoxe FM.

Following the successful response of Gold Phoenix’s debut self titled EP in late 2014, the band spent the year playing shows around the UK. This included shows with international touring bands such as The Weeks and Thomas Truax, a London show supporting WWE Legend X-Pac and they supported UK upcoming bands Dolomite Minor, Eva Plays Dead and Armchair Committee. The band also toured the UK in August 2015 playing prestigious venues including The Jacaranda Club in Liverpool, Bannermans in Edinburgh and The Boileroom in Guildford”.

One of the reasons some of mooting Rock’s future is the bands/artists that are representing the genre. In a social media age you have to wonder: how easy it for personality to shine through? We hide behind screens and communicate electronically; it makes it hard to forge any sort of human identity and that can affect the music. One of the best things about a truly great band is the characters and personalities of the members. It is not sufficient to make your music connect: the people making it are expected to stand in the mind and connect with their audiences. Social media is a mixed blessing and double-edged sword with regards that side of things. Many musicians assume they can get away with a lack of character because they are speaking behind an electronic platform. So many bands put minimal information and biography on Facebook and Twitter; they do not give you a glimpse into their influences and, when it comes to the live setting, have a weak connection with the crowds. I am not suggesting all bands should be happy-go-lucky, in-your-face types that proactively throw themselves into the spotlight. There used to be a time, perhaps towards the Britpop/’90s era, when you got some truly exceptional bands – those whose members were as interesting as the music. In the last couple of decades, there are fewer and fewer band that get into the mind and can charm you with their personnel – perhaps the Internet is to blame or maybe it is sheer numbers. Music is becoming packed and crowded so it can be hard truly defining yourself and getting into the memory. Gold Phoenix have shown you do not need an army-sized P.R. campaign to register in the imagination. The three musketeers or Blues-Rock are hirsute, down-to-earth and funny: their personalities shine and they are as real and genuine as one would expect. Not hiding behind egos or letting other people speak for them: the boys captivate with their humour and true Rock spirit. They have a, as their Facebook page attests, a fondness for goats and cowbells – who doesn’t, I say! The boys are almost a trio you can see coming out the Deep South of the U.S. They have that façade and demeanor: good ‘ol boys who live the simple life; drink merrily and raise havoc – ensuring their music is a ball-kicking, groove-laden and in the impure side of things. You see what I mean about personality coming through – they have created these personas, to an extent, that makes them a fascinating prospect. When playing live, they connect with the audience and do not just bluster through the songs: keeping things light and upbeat; a good rapport with the audience. It goes a long way when putting your music and brand out there. If you can make the prospective fan smile and spike their curiosity then you have already won half the battle.

The other half of the fight concerns influences and the overall sound. Few bands/artist come into music and are completely original. There are a few, but for the most part, you can always hear a little bit of someone in their work. Everyone, whether you are a musician or fan, is inspired by other artists and takes them to heart. When embarking on a music career, you are always going to have them in your back pocket. So long as you do not replicate them or water them down enough – and are essentially ripping them off – then it can make the music cross-generational and wonderful. Everyone yearns to discover music that is fresh but has some familiar, legendary elements to it. Gold Phoenix are a trio that prefers their music hard-hitting and Blues-inspired. As such, they have a gamut of bands and artists that they could bring to mind. Unsurprisingly, it is the American heavyweights Queens of the Stone Age and The White Stripes that leave the lasting impression. I have discovered so many bands, local colleagues Gelato among them, who use Q.O.T.S.A. as a guiding point. To my mind, Gelato are a little too close to Queens’ and that sort of begs the question: if you duplicate another band then how original and distinct are you going to be? Gold Phoenix, like me, are fascinated by the band. One of my favourite albums is Rated R (an underrated Queens of the Stone Age gem) and I have plenty of time for Songs for the Deaf – I even love the much-unappreciated Era Vulgaris. Josh Homme’s crew always bring the goods and are among the most innovative, macho and talented bands of our generation. The White Stripes, sadly defunct, are another of my all-time favourite bands. I cannot imagine my record collection with Elephant and White Blood Cells nestling in there. Gold Phoenix must have been drooling in tandem: listening to these titans and being in awe of their majesty and musicianship. As such, it would be understandable to copy the bands to the letter. Given how many other bands are influenced by Queens of the Stone Age and The White Stripes: Gold Phoenix know there is not a lot of mileage left in that particular tank and are not a band who want to toss off some sub-Queens’ sounds. They use the boys as a starting block and then take it out: putting themselves into the music and ensuring they are not a covers band.

Starting off with a military step and sense of authority: Oh So Hard begins life quite light and rhythmic. The percussion patters and rolls and provides instant gratification and appeal; the listener hooked by the catchy drumroll and kick. Not going for a simple riff and adding too much energy straight on – instead, you get restraint but enough intrigue and fascination too. Just then, a buzzing, hacksaw fuzz emerges to add lightning to the thunder. Juxtaposed against the dignified and imperious percussion: the guitar and bass swing in without much seduction and restraint – they aim straight for the throat but ensures the song does not get too heavy-handed and loud. Oh So Hard has drawn comparisons with Smashing Pumpkins and you can hear a little bit of Bullet with Butterfly Wings/Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness in there. That is not meant to contradict my early points or do a disservice to the band. It is great hearing something that emotional, dark and grand. It brings together ‘70s Heavy Metal with Blues into a rictus of avalanche and harsh weather. Without a word being sung, you are in the kung fu grip and helpless to shake it off. The first minute-or-so is designed for the live crowds and seems like a set closer. You can play the E.P. tracks and they know what to expect – stunners that are familiar and they can sing along to. As Oh So Hard is new, it takes time to bed-in and register. For that reason, open with an appealing and head-banging riff that does not require sing-along and chorusing. For a glorious minute, you are caught in a riptide of strings and percussion. The drum smacks and keeps firm whilst the guitar spirals, snakes and stings its way through the undergrowth – bass keeping the song moving, together and fluid. You never get bored or think you have heard it before: a stone-cold sizzler that packs punch and groove in equal measures. Once you have surrendered to the balkanised attack of the introduction: you prepare yourself for what is to come in the first verse. Our hero steps up to the microphone and ensures his vocal hits the mark without delay. The song’s subject, whether a friend or foe, is strung-out and abandoned – perhaps overwhelmed by a situation and unable to keep their head together. I often jump to themes of love and romantic untangling when I approach any new song. Here, it seems like a friendship is being attested: the fall-out and struggle one person is facing at the moment.

Photo: Joe Parker

Given the song’s artwork – the black lipstick dripping down against a pink-and-yellow background – a femme fatale seems a likely explanation. Her “black heart” and red lips are firmly in the mind. If the crimson-coated lips have been telling lies and deceiving: her coal-dark, murky heart has been causing pain and upset. Not your average, idealised heroine: here is someone undesirable but strangely alluring at the same time. The anti-heroine is not a fairytale queen but a bit of a double-crossing vixen. Oddly, our man seems to find common ground or some sympathy with his subject. Maybe the two have a backstory that is hard to ignore. You wonder, given the song’s lyrics, whether an old romance is being described or a friendship. There is never too much negativity or bile; strangely, you get a sense of relaxation and seductiveness in the vocal performance. With the other two players stepping back slightly – to allow the voice to be high in the mix – it is a dramatic and confident without losing intensity and focus. Most songs of this kind would sharpen the vocal and polish it: putting it right in the centre and putting it on level terms with the instruments. Here, the voice (whilst high in the mix) does have a bit of a somnambulist quality and slight weariness. It is like our lead is fighting against the composition and battling to be understood. Maybe a conscious move by the band or a note from the producer: by putting the vocal where it is and delivering a certain way; it gives Oh So Hard a wonderfully delirious tone and wins you with its unique delivery. Our man is struggling against his thoughts and instincts. It is hard to walk away and move from this woman. She is clearly quite toxic but perhaps not intentionally so. If you look back (or up) to the song’s artwork; it gives a little glimpse into her looks and fashion. She is a sexy and eye-catching woman but someone who has some poison on her lips and acid on her tongue. Whether a shake-up against conventionality and boredom or a rather addictive love: it is not easy getting (the muse) out of the head and making a clean break. I may be overreaching and looking too hard but that’s what I get from the song.

Oh So Hard is the new single and one that did not appear on their eponymous E.P. Perhaps (the new track) is the signal another E.P. is coming: perhaps just a one-off track to keep fans happy and show how the trio has evolved. Look at the Gold Phoenix E.P. and you witness some stunning riffs and lightning-strike performances. Anyone thinking they are the sum of their influences needs to listen carefully and realise how original the boys are. You get nods to U.S. Blues-Rock and Desert-Rock bands but it is never too obvious or strong in scent. Gold Phoenix’s songs sound like live jams and have that loose and ragged appeal. Complete with solid and professional production sound and it is quite an intoxicating and heady blend. Oh So Hard, as opposed to tracks like Mortal Man and Where Did You Go, say, is the change of sound. The trio has moved slightly away from the Queens of the Stone Age-cum-intense blend and moved towards (a song) that brings more depth and darkness into the agenda – perhaps artists like Placebo and Smashing Pumpkins are more evident. As I say with regards influence: they are just spices and flavouring rather than the majority; the trio knows the importance of originality. Oh So Hard has the same straight-ahead attack of their E.P. work but goes through stages and seems more developed. The song shows how much their live experience has fed into their recording. Completely engrossing and packed with details, lovely little asides and nuance: the sound of three musicians hitting their peak and stepping up. Their E.P. was a terrific five-song work that has a variety of lyrical inspirations and colourful riffs: plenty of fantastic performances and wonder. Oh So Hard could easily sit on the E.P. but sounds like it is Gold Phoenix 2.0. It could be the sign of a new stage for them and fresh influences in their sound. Whatever the trio has planned, it is great to hear them productive and not standing still. Not content to just continue what they did on their E.P.: Oh So Hard proves how amenable and malleable Gold Phoenix are. Throwing another biblical riff into the mix: the band manages to emphasis the harsh emotions and stress with one of their most compelling instrumentals yet. It is though the strings represent the tangled and painful feelings inside; the stress headaches and racing heartbeats. Guitars yowl and strain; they stretch and race – so many different sides that bring life to the song and keeps the listener hooked and imagining. Not your simple, knuckle-dragging riff: Gold Phoenix have expended time and thought and come up with something quite special and multi-layered. Oh So Hard is just shy of six minutes, and as such, some might see it as over-ambitious and long. That would be the case were the band not up to the tasks and the lyrics were too vague and stereotyped. In fact, the track is instrumental-heavy and spends a lot of time telling story with strings and percussion. After the intriguing and curious first verse: the boys open up the taps and go on the charge. You are dragged into the performance and the impressive kinship of the trio. Guitars are fierce but agile; bass leading and tying each element together; percussion sturdy and meaty.

PHOTO CREDIT: Brennan Woollands

It may be a bar-set song or a date: our lead comes back in and reveals more pieces of the puzzle. The girl is drinking red wine (or both) and caught in each other’s web. Furtive glances and sly smiles are coming out. “Your place or mine?” is the question posed and you can feel the heat rising. Maybe it is an ill-advised ‘liaison’ about to occur but one that our hero is not refuting. It is hard resisting such a woman and something we can all relate to. It seems like mistakes have occurred in the past and the two have gone through the doldrums. Maybe that bond and connection between them is so strong they fall back into bed. It seems we “burn gasoline” as it’s said. That can be taken one of two ways. The combustibility and unstable nature creates possibilities of fire and explosion- harming others and ravaging everything around them. That suggests a rather flammable and harsh relationship that does not seem to benefit anyone – just scold and affect those outside of the lovers. On the other hand, gasoline propels the internal combustion engine and creates well-timed sparks in an engine – me being a motoring bore. Because of that, it seems like this love is productive, necessary and life-enhancing. You cannot listen to Oh So Hard without thinking of sex and a hungry desire. The title itself suggests engorged double-entendre and raw passion. Lyrics are kept quite simple and honest but get the listener wondering and guessing. Each line seemingly has double-meaning and does not reveal itself too easily. The hero is the ghost in a machine and almost like he’s having an outer-body experience. I mentioned how the vocal seems quite faded down in the chorus but that adds to the effect of the song. Were the song title to be delivered too sharp and angrily then it would not be as effective. By leaving it quite drugged and tired it emphasises the pure confusion and pain our man feels. Like the conclusion of verse 1: the next verse is followed by another gritty riff that keeps the story going. The verses suggest sex and imminent togetherness but never fully revealed and exploited. The composition goes for the gut (or bone) and is the sonic representation of the passion and flirtations. By the end, you wonder how things worked out between the two and if they got into things too deep. It is clear there is past and history that has caused scars and torment. Unable to resist and listen to his mind: our man is following his gut and embarking on something quite dangerous and compelling. Gold Phoenix keep things simple and intriguing in the lyrics whilst creating a composition that has complexities and multiple shades. The trio has crafted another stunning song and one that is sure to get the live crowds jumping and together. Oh So Hard would suit a larger venue and one imagines thousands moving and singing along to the chorus.

It has been long-overdue coming to Gold Phoenix, so I am glad I finally got there. Being a local band, there is no real excuse to overlook them and there are many reasons why they will become a mainstream proposition. In a sea of Rock-inspired bands: you are always looking for that act that shines above and distinguishes themselves. The trio has been travelling the nation and bringing their music to a variety of audiences. The future is looking assured by they know the graft they have to put in. Every modern band, unless you are in the mainstream, tirelessly works and gets themselves out there. It is impossible to arrive in music, release a few songs and has a record deal fall in your lap – unless you are biblically good. As such, the promotional side of things can take over from the creative one. Touring and the demands of the road have swallowed so many bands. It is a harsh and severe industry that demands its players be resolute, thick-skinned and fit. If you arrive and assume the odd gig will get you into the public consciousness then you are in for a shock. Gold Phoenix know the demands in front of them and are responding with plenty of spirit and ammunition. Gigging across the U.K.; there is no stopping their juggernaut right now. The fans and crowds are responding and there is a great buzz surrounding the trio. Of course, it is a tiring and draining process and the guys need their downtime and relaxation. Oh So Hard is going down well and getting a lot of love right now. Hardly shocking when you hear the song: that gives them another live gem in their treasure chest. Where do the lads go from here, then? Well, there is going to be more touring throughout 2016 and they want to capitalise on their recent form and reception – getting as many gigs as they can. As the year ticks to a close, they will be looking at what 2017 has in store. I have not heard any rumours of an album but you feel the boys have an L.P. in them. Knowing the work that has come before – including their eponymous E.P. – one feels the lads might look at another E.P. next year. Perhaps a full-length record might be too costly and there are not enough new songs to put on there. Oh So Hard would be a great lead-off track to any E.P., so it has to get you thinking. That will be down to them but exciting to see what next year holds for them. In their career so far they have played some great gigs and conquered quite a lot of ground.

PHOTO CREDIT: Brennan Woollands

There is a lot of brotherly love and bond in the Gold Phoenix camp so you know they will go the distance and last many more years (often a curse but I can feel it). That desire and hunger has already seen them accrue a solid fan-base and talked-about in fond tones. Although they are inspired by the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Placebo and The White Stripes: it is their individual, gold brand that stands in the mind. They work hard on their music and have exceptional musicians in their ranks. It would be encouraging to think they can go onto to get international dates and carve some influence across the U.S. and Australia. Maybe it is money that is the issue as I feel there’s definite demand and audiences that would eat their music up. For now, their touring is a bit more modest and they are making sure they put their songs out in the ether and pick up invaluable live experience. I opened the piece by looking at Rock and whether it is on life support. There are a good many bands that try to write hooks and riffs and, finding they have nothing, copy someone else’s. Those bands that are adding fuel to the debate – and those who think Rock is dead – are muddying the water and doing a disservice to the genuinely great bands that are keeping the spirit alive. Of course, Rock is not dead and has plenty of life left in it. I feel the real issue is the lack of originality and the easy temptation to copy a band in order for vicarious success and fandom. We often underestimate how difficult it is writing a hook or coming up with a compelling three-minute jam. Bands that have true talent and guts have patience and know the moment will come: they do not rush their music and have a resilience and faith in what they do. Too much fear and impatience rules modern music. Perhaps the consumer is too impatient and fickle and will abandon an act if they do not keep cranking out great songs. It is a hard debate to settle and one for another day. I just know the drama and swagger of Rock is not dead but definitely needs to proffer its finest examples. Gold Phoenix are one of those bona fide bands that have started promisingly and have many years ahead of them. Battling and slogging it out to get their music heard: their sheer work-rate and passion for what they do will find them rewards and mass appreciation. Oh So Hard is a typically impressive cut from the boys of the Deep South (of Surrey). Aside from their cowbell-appreciating, cider-swigging, pig-tipping (maybe me going to the hillbilly cliché well) antics: plenty of music will arrive from the trio. What form that takes is up to them but many eyes are on them right now. Given the fact bands like Royal Blood are working on new material: there is a hunger and zeal to hear like-minded, similarly hard acts fill the (temporary) void. If you have not discovered the beardy brilliance of Gold Phoenix then you owe yourself to get involved and latch on. Building a solid local reputation: they are not going to be confined for long; their legacy and abilities will resonate across the country and abroad. Oh So Hard is a song-title with many meaning, but at its heart, the raw energy and powerful aftershocks stand out – just how intense and commanding the trio is. If you think Rock is under palliative care…

I know a three-piece that can bring the genre empathically back to health.

 

_______________________________

Follow Gold Phoenix

 

Official:

http://www.goldphoenixband.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/goldphoenixband/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/goldphoenixband

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/goldphoenixband/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/gold-phoenix-1

FEATURE: Inside Lark Recordings

FEATURE:

 

 

Inside Lark Recordings

________________________________

 MANY people assume, when thinking about new music, that the best…

and most worthy artists are exclusive to the city. We forget how many great artists and studios are available locally – supporting some wonderful music and stars of the future. One such studio is Lark Recordings. Based in Surrey: I was afforded the opportunity to visit them and gain an insight into the work they do – meeting the people that produce the music and support the artists (that record there). I was fortunate to chat to Producer/Owner Andy and  Marketing Assistant Elena – and the fantastic Jacqui Brown.

____________________________

ABOUT LARK RECORDINGS

Lark is a digital content company that produces audio and video products for global distribution via all major digital music and video outlets including iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and YouTube.

We own a portfolio of digital labels that specialise in curating albums and playlists by combining new recordings with strong catalogue material across Pop, Rock, Classical, Jazz and New Age genres. We also operate Lark Studios, a high quality audio and video recording facility in Surrey.

Founded in 2007, our team has over thirty years experience in the recording, production, music and entertainment business. Our team are experienced in all aspects of sound engineering and music production from recording intimate acoustic sets with bands such as The Stereophonics, Nick Heyward, Everything But The Girl, The Manic Street Preachers and Squeeze to classical recordings and staging and recording ‘Party in the Park’ over a period of many years.

We feel very lucky to have an experienced team of engineers and producers who have worked with renowned artists across a wide spectrum of musical tastes but are equally passionate about working with the fantastic array of local talented community and youth groups.

 

Landa at Lark

A HISTORY AND LOOK INSIDE LARK RECORDINGS

I got the opportunity to chat to studio Producer/Owner Andy about how Lark Recordings got started. He explained how the studio has been running for eight years; three years in its current location in Artington.

Helping to builds careers up; Lark Recordings help artists “gain a following” as Andy explained; a way for talent young stars to gain a foothold and get valuable experience. With regards the range of recordings/genres that have been laid down in the studio – everything from Classical recordings to Pop has been recorded at Lark.

Andy explained how much great local talent there is throughout Guildford and Surrey – Lark Recordings is a way of promoting them and ensuring they have recording facilities and expertise available at their disposal. It is not just a case of artists coming into the studio, recording their music and going off into the world. The guys at Lark Recordings help musicians get their songs just right, but it doesn’t stop there. It is expensive to rent in Guilford, as Andy explained, which can put artists and people off – the reality of living and performing can be a daunting balancing act. Lark Recordings is an affordable and supportive space: Andy, Jacqui and Elena (who I will introduce later).

EQUIPMENT

Our studio is based around a 24 channel analogue Allen and Heath (GS-R24M) desk with a selection of analogue outboard equipment including:

Microphones: Nuemann U87, SE Z5600 Valve, ElectroVoice RE20, Avantone CV-12, SM57s, SM58s, Sontronics Halo, Shure Beta 52, SE GM10, Shure PG48s, matched pair Oktava MK012, SE X1.

Pre-amps: Trident Series 80B, dbx286, Focusrite Liquid Saffire, Allen & Heath.

Analogue Outboard: Urei LA4 Compressors, Thermionic Culture Phoenix Valve Dual Channel Compressor, TC Electronic Finaliser, DBX channel strip, TL Audio 5013 Ivory Dual Channel Valve EQ, FMR RNC1773, Joe Meek MC2.

We run both Logic X and Pro Tools 10 and our plugins include:
Melodyne, Waves Gold Bundle, PSP Vintage Warmer and Old Timer, Slate Digital Virtual Channel, Isotope Ozone 5 & 6, RX 3, Nectar 2 and Stutter Edit.

In addition to our studio, we have a 24-track digital mobile rig for recording in any venue”.

Chelsea Hart

ARTISTS RECORDING AT LARK

When at the studio; Andy gave me an insight into the musicians that come through the doors. I was curious to know whether it was unfair areas like Guildford get overlooked when it comes to great musicians – as opposed to the larger cities.

Andy stated how the A.C.M. (The Academy of Contemporary Music) and the University of Surrey are producing so many great young musicians – those that can more than rival the best the cities provide. In conjunction with high rent prices (and cost of living) is the comparative lack of local venues – there are a few, Andy pointed out, but not a hugely thriving scene.

Bars like The Star Inn and the legendary Boileroom provide a platform but there not a huge amount. I got a chance to listen to one local artist, Meg Birch, and a couple of songs she had performed at the studio. The single Feel Alive has Country vibes and a real flair of Nashville: one of the slickest, catchiest and most impassioned Country track I have heard all year. If you have not heard her music: she is an artist that is well worth a look. Her E.P. is out in October but will be proceeded by a single release next month. A huge, soulful voice – that recalls Adele and Amy Winehouse – she is one of the most exciting musicians playing locally.

Meg Birch has recorded at Lark as a solo artist and as part of Megana

Karizma Duo is another top act that has recorded at Lark. They have a terrific repertoire of songs and turn tracks inside out. Andy explained how songs can be saturated and how hard it can be to successful cover a song. Karizma Duo reinvents songs and gives such a new spin on them- making them sound fresh and original.

Image result for karizma duo

Karizma Duo

Chelsea Hart, Chris Snelling and Alice Lamb are a trio of names Andy tipped to me: to be honest; there is a long list of fantastic young musicians that have recorded at Lark; all demonstrating what a variation of talent is performing across Surrey. Other stunning upcoming acts like Elena Ramona, Max Tanner and Chess Galea have recorded at the studio and created some of the finest moments there.

 Alice Lamb is a young artist to watch very closely

 

ALWAYS THE SUN

Lark Recordings are involved with the inaugural Always the Sun festival in Stoke Park, Guildford.

Lark Recordings is thrilled to sponsor a buskers’ stage for up and coming local acoustic artists at the Always The Sun, Guildford’s first Community Music and Arts Festival to take place on Stoke Park on 10th -11th September”.

Andy explained how (the benefit of the festival) is that it is “what musical festivals for the communities should be about”.

Always the Sun will bring together established acts like Mystery Jets and Tusks but provide exposure for local talent. The Buskers’ Stage is a way for Lark to become directly involved; promulgate and showcase artists they have worked with; some of the best musicians performing in the county. It is an affordable festival set up for the community and those who live in the area.

COSTS AND SERVICES

Studio Hire with Engineer

Studio and Live Room with mirrored wall suitable for up to 8 musicians

From £50 per hour.  Daily rate from £250.

Dry Hire

From £25 per hour.

Rehearsal Space

During non-peak times – £35 per session of up to 4 hours.

Peak times – £25 per hour.

Mixing/ Mastering

Have your track mixed through our outboard analogue EQs and compressors

From £50 but please get in touch for a more detailed quote.

Custom produced backing tracks

We can tailor a package to meet your needs and budget.

Chris Snelling is a regular face at Lark Recordings

YouTube video studio

Our live room is set up for video production including green screen, lighting, cameras and director from £25 per hour.

All prices plus VAT at 20%

Discounts available to students and non-profit organisations

Music Production

We’re able to offer access to a range of music producers who can work with you to produce recordings ready for distribution and sale. Our aim is to get an understanding of your music, direction and ambitions and then introduce you to a suitable producer who can help you capture your sound.

Musicians and Backing Tracks

We have a team of musicians we can call upon if you don’t have your own band and would like professional accompaniment or a backing track, from a single guitarist to a full band in any style.

CD/Digital Packages

We can provide a full 360-degree recording/distribution/publishing package. We are able to take care of recording, mixing, mastering, album artwork, assigning ISRC and barcodes, digital distribution to all major download and streaming services, registering your works with collection societies and publishing.

Soundtracks and Music for YouTube Videos

We have an extensive catalogue of fully cleared production music including specially composed repertoire. Our albums of material include Dance, Chill out, Documentary, Classical and many more.

We can also produce bespoke compositions for all your needs: whether its background/mood music for a television programme, youtube video or film, advertising, social media activity or location music such as specially curated and composed playlists for your workplace or business“.

In this photo: Elena Ramona

BEYOND THE MICROPHONE: MARKETING AND PROMOTION

After speaking with Andy and getting a rare chance to listen to recordings; an insight into the daily life at Lark – I got the opportunity to speak with Marketing Assistant, Elena Ramona. She has not only recorded at Lark but she works at the studio and helps market artists – she has been there for almost two years now. In addition to working at Lark; Elena works in retail and brings those customer skills to the role. She has a lot of passion for her work and talks keenly about some of the acts that have come through Lark. Elena told me how Josh Franklin (one of the artists to record at the studio) has had a couple of tracks appear on Love Island. Name-checking Meg Birch and Karizma Duo: Elena has edited videos for the acts and talked fondly about the artists.

Elena became involved via A.C.M. – she found Lark via the A.C.M. Industry Link (when she was a recording artist in the studio at A.C.M.). Elena was able to come to Lark and tie together her experience in music and retail. She is very much a people person and finds the job a “good challenge”. In the future, Elena is keen to expand and work more in marketing – working at Lark is a great experience and has, in her words, “helped me with my own promotion; seeing from different perspectives how you can promote your own stuff”.

Always the Sun will see Elena promote the competition and work closely with the artists (appearing on The Buskers’ Stage).

 Chess Galea has recorded several times at Lark

 

THE LARK PLAYLIST: ARTISTS WHO HAVE PERFORMED AT THE STUDIO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FUTURE: GOING FORWARD

Andy, Elena and Jacqui are excited about the future for Lark Recordings and the musicians coming through. It is a studio space filled with charm and distinction – a comfortable, affordable and hospitable space. There is a warm, supportive vibe at Lark and a real passion for discovering new talent.

I got to speak with Managing Director Jacqui, who has great enthusiasm and passion for the studio and the musicians that have recorded there. We get too obsessed with the big cities and the musicians there and forget what a chest of local talent is available.

Visiting Lark Recordings has not only given me an insight into the range and depth of musicians around Surrey – it has provided the opportunity to discover how a studio works and what is involved with recording/promoting an artist. It is well worth keeping your eyes on the artists that come through here – some big names to watch for the future. The team who work there are filled with enthusiasm and dedication for what they do – this is evident the moment you walk in. My time there was invaluable and gave greater insight into the workings and energy that goes into a recording studio. Against the backdrop of expensive, city-set recording facilities; it is wonderful discovering somewhere charming…

 NESTLED in the heart of Surrey.

__________________

FURTHER LINKS

Official:

http://larkrecordings.com/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/larkrecordings

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3lGArTLjp25ytI3teRu55A

Spotify:

https://play.spotify.com/user/larkrecordings?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open

TRACK REVIEW: The Trend – Going Under

TRACK REVIEW:

 

The Trend

 

 

Going Under

 

9.2/10

 

Going Under is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dB1Nz4rge8&app=desktop

ORIGINS:

Glasgow, U.K.

GENRES:

Rock; Indie; Alternative

RELEASE DATE:

17th January 2016

The E.P. Something to Shout About is available at:

__________________________

ONCE more, and without resorting to a mock Scottish accent, I…

am looking at a much-rated Glasgow band. I will come to the band themselves anon but it is prudent to reflect on the great music that has emanated from Glasgow; the difficulty of creating Indie/Alternative songs with originality; a bit about expansion with regards music tastes and areas that are burgeoning. As I am back into Glasgow; it is prudent reflecting on all the fantastic music that has come from the Scottish city.  I guess, when we look at Scottish music, we often think of Glasgow and Edinburgh: forget that there are a lot of other wonderful towns/cities with terrific musicians. It is not down to laziness that we herald Glasgow and its music – just taking a gaze back to history makes you realise how many of the best British bands of the last few decades came from here. Franz Ferdinand – if they are still making music? – call Glasgow home and perhaps are one of the best examples of a great Post-punk/Indie band with an arty, slightly pretentious twist. There is something both common and elitist about the group. One of those ‘00s bands that swept you away with anthemic songs but got you thinking – a lot deeper and more compelling than most of their peers. Orange Juice, a bit older but same sort of aesthetic, are another terrific Glasgow band. Many, particularly of my generation, pass them by but you cannot underestimate how vital and influential albums like You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever (their debut) were. Leader Edwyn Collins remains one of the most consistent, unique and intelligent songwriters of his generation. Primal Scream, one of the titans of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Their sophomore album, Screamadelica is a classic creation that has influenced so many bands and remains one of the greatest albums from any period. You can add Deacon Blue to the list of great Glasgow bands. Not quite as bracing and experimental as other Glaswegian groups: they had a knack for crafting accessible Pop with huge choruses and heart – songs Real Gone Kid and Chocolate Girl are familiar to all. Other Glasgow legends like Simple Minds, Marmalade and Belle and Sebastian are definite stalwarts – among the finest bands from the past twenty years.

It is not just established bands that have made Glasgow such a wonderful city for music. The Yawns, been playing for years but still relevant, are a group that created bedroom-made, D.I.Y. albums and showed you did not need industry cash to make music happen. 1990s are led by John McKeown, have plenty of hooks, wit and native narrative at their disposal – a group that are distinctly Glaswegian yet have a universality and everyman quality to them. Like the aforementioned, and not brand-new-new, The Delgados  were/are an intellectual band with a bookish edge. A band who put huge imagination and intellect into their music – they went on to establish their own record label. The Deathcats put Glasgow in the consciousness with their head-spinning, electric saw riffs and reverb-heavy gems. Instant, urgent and laced with plenty of attitude: another band that shows the variation and multiple sides to Glasgow. Perhaps the likes of Happy Meals and Catholic Action are more relevant. The former fuse minimalistic Disco vibes with French vocals of Suzzane Rodden – alluring and sexy but instilled with groove, dance and beauty. Catholic Action, aside from their awesome name, are masters of the hook: capable of dragging the listener in and seducing them without breaking into a sweat. That is just the tip of things really.  Neon Waltz are an upcoming six-piece who have ties to Glasgow but have toured throughout Scotland. Honeyblood, Paws, and Strange are a Glasgow trio worth money, time and focus – all capable of being mainstream propositions for years to come.

The Trend fit into Glasgow pretty easily and have a distinctly local, read: anthemic, sound to them. I have listed quite a few bands: one wonders how many of them featured in the band members’ thoughts as youngsters. We often see a band/artist and what genres they play in and think we have them pegged. If they are an all-male Indie band they are all going to sound the same, for instance. It is narrow-minded to think every group will be predictable and lack necessary originality. I agree, there are so many groups that replicate one another or come across uninspired and predictable – sticking too closely to their idols or incapable of crafting songs with hooks, kick or any electricity. The Trend have a lot of similar bands playing near them so have had to work hard to forge their own path and stand out from the crowd. The boys have ample energy and passion which means their songs have anthem status and come swinging with instant hooks and sizzling guitar work. Our Glasgow band call for other bands to do something useful and meaningful with their platform: get up and say something new and purposeful. The boys can knock simple songs together but go deep when the mood calls for it – not your average one-dimensional band. Whether you are a fan of Indie, Alternative and Rock in general: you will be impressed and affected by the band’s musicianship and compelling connection. The music comes across as fresh and enlivening but has enough emotion and vulnerability at times – even the most crowd-pleasing and anthemic numbers do not merely reproduce what has gone before. It would be naïve to suggest the band have redesigned the wheel and are completely unexpected. Part of their appeal and popularity hinges on some familiar edges and embers of other bands. Comparisons have been made (among others) to Oasis at times. The same way the Manchester band could get crowds together and singing loud: The Trends are a group that pen universal songs that demand you get together and sing along. Memorability and catchiness are important commodities but can be cheapened by copy-catting your idols. The Trend take a sprinkling of some heavyweight artists but ensure their most prominent trait is a new and original sound – something that is distinctly theirs. In genres that have been accused or stagnation and homogenisation: it is pleasing finding a band that understand the need for originality and respond accordingly.

I will get to the Glasgow band’s work in a minute but wanted to look suggest people get out of preconceived comfort zones. I feel most of us, I am culpable, get used to certain artists and cities; do not stray beyond those walls and get into our own little rut. It is definitely worth getting behind home-based artists and supporting the local music community. Naturally, London gets a lot of exposure and is, as I see things, the British epicenter for music – the finest acts and biggest hitters reside here. Manchester and Liverpool get attention (not as much as they deserve) but our adventurousness and energy levels stop there – we often do not spend too much time digging any deeper. It is impossible to cover every town and city in Britain let alone the world – we have to be rational and sensible about this. I just mean there are some very obvious areas that are being ignored by large sections. I would argue Edinburgh should be on the list; Oxford and Bristol are productive and interesting; Glasgow certainly should be there. Often, our tastes and recommendations come from radio: following the tips and teasers they put our way. It might be like pulling Excalibur from a stone: one day we’ll get a website together that compartmentalises music by town/county but encourages users to spend time and find some genuinely unexpected music – from parts of the country/world we had not thought about before. Until that time comes (if ever it does) it is worth being a bit bolder and accepting the likes of The Trend are worth your time – imploring you to seek out more of Glasgow’s musicians.

Something to Shout About is their new E.P., and you get a full impression of where they came from, it is worth looking back at their earlier stuff. The E.P., as I will look at in more detail later, has great hooks and plenty of arena-primed songs designed for maximum impact and getting the crowds roused and lifted. Going Under has bristling, stabbing riffs and a swaggering mood. Reminding you of Artic Monkeys to an extent: something modern and Alternative-based; bringing together influenced from the north and Scotland – whilst keeping a distinct character and sense of self. You can hear those sorts of mixes in songs like Act of God. A warping, spacey opening leads to a racing arpeggio. The song tumbles and spoils out the gate and unleashes something fiery and determined. The kind of people that don’t know they’re born, as the lead attests, there is trouble brewing and something happening. The band ensures the song is provided maximum energy and electricity with a tight and commanding performance. Departing from your average Indie/Alternative fare: the lyrics go deep and you wonder what influenced them. Our hero looks at cynicism and problems around and wonders how things got that way. Whether directed to a government or ruling class; an individual that is blind to what is going on around them – a track that hits on multiple plains and gets you fascinated and addicted.

Falling Apart, recorded about 3 years ago, has that gritty and gravel slam to it. A fast-paced, Punk-influenced song: it was cut around the time of Act of God but does not stick too closely to it. Proving they have variation and different sides to their game: The Trend creates something fiercer that aims to hit the gut. Perhaps attesting domestic drama and a relationship falling apart: a song that swings and throws around but is controlled and nuanced. Every song The Trend plays is defined by their chemistry and incredible bond. The vocals are gutsy and intense – some of the lyrics get lost under the composition – but you get carried away by the sheer energy and catchiness of the song. Falling Apart is a song designed and aimed, once more, at festival crowds and for live audiences. It is hard to ignore them as a band because each track carries so such conviction, weight, and invigoration. Here, they have bits of Oasis to their sound but never come across too similar to them – merely employing them as an influence. Other songs like Free and Beauty Queen, recorded during the same time period, once more push their boundaries whilst retaining that core sound. Elements of ‘60s Power-Pop and Punk; Alternative and Indie: you get so many different shades and sides to the band. What stands out then, as it does now, is how different they are and gripping. I have mentioned that word but it seems very apt. So many modern bands are slight and weak when it comes to sound. The Trend burst from the speakers and grip you by the collar – bringing you into their world and taking you off their feet. Songs move the bones and get the voice singing proud. Having started so strongly, it would be foolish to suggest the band step it up and improve their game. Tactically, the guys have created (with Going Under) have improved on their foundations and sound at their very peak. In terms of sound, there has not been a huge leap nor did there need to be. What you notice is the production is slightly crisper and cleaner whilst the performances are sharper and more engaging. Perhaps extensive touring or new inspiration but the boys are intoxicating and expert; sounding like a group that has been gigging for decades now. Going Under is the centerpiece to their E.P. – and why I wanted to focus on it – as it assesses where they are now and what they are about. I wonder, given the material was recorded a little while ago now; if there will be anything new by the end of the year. You can hear the passion and energy in the ranks and just know they will keep building, crafting and producing exceptional songs.

I want to concentrate on Going Under as it seems like the truest and concentrated example of the E.P.’s themes, sounds, and shades. It has been released as a single, and has a video, so the boys have a lot of faith in the song. That faith is not blind and it is a song that signifies its dominance without much hesitation or foreplay. The bass and percussion unite once more and show what natural partners they are. Few bands lead like this and certainly never put the bass out front in their music – it is often left to work in the background and rarely gets the exposure it deserves. A tense and nervy start: The Trend keep it light but there is a definite element of danger and caution in the opening moments. Teasing, testing percussion gives anxiety and nerviness to the song; the bass adds to that environment and, without overloading the song and being too heavy, you feel the emotion build. Before long, the riffs break out and The Trend crack out their scintillating jams. It is hard to describe and define the riff but it has that definite classic quality and recalls the likes of Artic Monkeys and Paul Weller. Vibing from the spirit and essence of those stalwarts: The Trend create something instant and captivating. Before a single word has been sung: the music has said so much and the feet are moving; the brain is ready and the body is already invested in the music. Just after the percussion crackles and smacks again: you are primed for the first vocal offerings and just what direction the song will take. Our man is heading into the night (away from the light) and slipping away. You wonder what is being sung about as the lyrics have quite an oblique quality early on. Perhaps emotions have got the better or a romance has fallen away – maybe just a general feeling of losing control and not being who he thought he was. Ensuring the voice has plenty of meaning and conviction: it never runs away but remains focused and direct; ensuring each word can be heard and understood. Early songs from the band have suffered a little from clarity but here it is very clear and concise: the production values mean every note is understandable and not lost in the mix.

With any great band/song, there is that mystique and indirect charm to the song. You are left to come to your own conclusions early and draw your own impressions. The band joins their voices in the chorus and you are curious (once more) just what the song is looking at. Of course, there is a lot of fear and uncertainty from our hero – not sure if he is going to be okay and what the future holds. I was imagining a general malaise and struggle against the pressures of life. Not necessarily defined by creative or romantic abnormalities: it is a song that brings home the obstacles and realities of the modern-day existence. He is feeling the pinch and needs some relief and space; get away from the hurly-burly and find some comfort and quiet. I may be off the mark but that is what Going Under does: registers different interpretations in the listener and has a broad lyrical basis. At the point “of no return” and aware of his situation: the fascination builds and you cannot help empathise with the lead. Despite the vocal never being sad or affected – you just know that need for answers and salvation is burning. Before you get too invested; the band step in with that opening riff and give the song a break and chance for the band to come together. Whereas other tracks on Something to Shout About (title track for instance) are specific and make their intentions very clear: Going Under is always an enigma and casts its net pretty wide.

The hero is moving on and looking at thought racing away; at the back of the mind and niggling him. Nobody is “safe anymore” and you feel the song is looking at general society and a building danger. With the way things are going – the general state of affairs – few of us are truly safe and secure in our lives. Perhaps Going Under reflects that dread; the lead is staying in the hole and is struggling to come out. Despite the negativity and repressed lyrics and sense of dread: the song is never bogged down or a hard listen. The sheer spirit and resilience of the band keep it light, defiant and engaging throughout. Like classic Punk and Rock bands: they are in a crap situation but are damned if it going to define them. The Trend’s determined spirit and combustible performance puts the song in your head and compels you to sing along – or move your feet at the very least! Working around the central riff and all its alcohol-fueled, swaggering assuredness – the band lace in some lovely touches and riffs. With the percussion and bass continue to drive the song and give it an accelerated heartbeat: guitars allow some colour, vibrancy, and sexiness to strut through. Towards the end, the song has an optimism and sense of hope to it. The hero is finding his way home and seems to be in a better place. Perhaps disconnected from home and somewhere he is unsafe: that desire and endless spirit is in the mind and you are with him all the way. Going Under has a simplicity to it which will make it easy for fans to sing along and makes it accessible and direct. The words, despite their oblique touches, get you thinking and everyone will have their different views. The Trend are a band who always bring exceptional compositions to the fore and here is no exception. So many details come out and the central riffs are exceptional. If you want to be cheered and find a song that will put the smile on your face: Going Under does that and introduces one of Glasgow’s finest young bands in the process.

It has been good discovering another great Glasgow band. I am sure the city has plenty of incredible solo artists but it seems like the bands rule the roost. Few cities are synonymous when it comes to band concentration. That is not to say Glasgow is narrow and limited: if you look closely; there are plenty of solo musicians (duos etc.) that are making their presence known. It just seems Glasgow are well-stocked for bands and there is a lot of variability and choice. If you prefer your music band-made then you need to spend more time investigating what the city has to offer. The Trend are certainly one of the most exciting and hard-working; grabbing the attention of critics and fans – signaling themselves as potential mainstream stars of the future. It will be interesting seeing how they develop and what their plans are for the coming years. I have looked, at the top of the review, at the great artists that have come out of Glasgow. It is easy to be fixated with the likes of London (and what it has given us) but Glasgow’s legends cannot be understated. I am not sure what it is that differentiates Glasgow from the rest of the U.K. Perhaps a sense of community or a different way of life: greater performance opportunities for its musicians or a feeling of freedom and support. Whatever it is; many new artists are adding to a very solid and impressive foundation. Indie and Alternative are words thrown around a lot when describing a fresh band. I mentioned how those genres gained a reputation for rigidity and a sense of weariness – musicians perhaps not as original and impressive as they should be. There is some truth in that, but we shouldn’t assume every new Indie/Alternative band suffers that fate. It is a hard style to truly redesign and shine in – one of the most popular and defined by a particular sound and lyrical style. Luckily, The Trend manage to make something (potentially forgettable) stand in the mind and brim with personality and addictiveness. Critics and fans have pointed out what a proposition they are live: their studio prowess can be found throughout their E.P., Something to Shout About.

Something to Shout About has gained some great reviews and clearly strikes a public chord. The title track is a spiraling mesh of riffs and strings; it howls and burst with intention and spares no time in making an impact. It “don’t flow through our veins no more” and you know the band are talking about their contemporaries – bands that are not saying anything new and making an effort. They are afraid to say what’s on their mind and are playing things safe. Carried under the wave of anger and passion: the band is at their most together and meaningful. They are looking for something to shout about and a band they can rely on.  Drug-free and lacking Rock spirit: there is tepidness and fear among groups; nobody is going out their way to create something special and brave – not saying what is on their mind. The Trend attack with venom and show, ironically in the song, they are something to shout about. The composition is detailed and emotive. Bass shines and provides melody, grumble, and emotion; the riffs sparkle and bristle; psychedelic and explosive. Percussion notes pummel and make sure the song beats hard. Not your predictable or average track: it dies down and comes back up; there are diversions and asides; change of course and subversions of expectations. A classic call-for-action and rallying cry from the group. By the final notes, you are left with a smile but also compelled to think. Complete with wordless chants and a classic feel-good vibe: a perfect insight into the band’s mindset and artistry. Take Me Away is bellicose and avalanche right from the off. That percussion comes through and gets straight into the brain. Building with the guitar and bass: Take Me Away has a sense of smile and sunshine early on. Bright-hued and vibrant; little elements of ‘60s Pop, The Libertines, and other bands – whilst keeping The Trend’s definite sound solid and sharp. “I’ll never understand a word that you say” leads you to believe there is another look at society or other bands. Our lead wants to be taken where the skies are clear and wants to get away. If it is looking at a relationship or romance, then you can hear the boredom and dissatisfaction. The same conversations and routines unfolding; that desire to go somewhere better and different – escape the dull days and not return. It is an intriguing song that reigns clear and gets into the heart. The band, once more, shows their malleability and is less foreboding and intense than the title track. “Don’t want to see it anymore” declares our man: you speculate what is being referenced but just know he is not going to stick around.

Tonight begins, as one might hope, with an intriguing compositional build. The percussion spatters and patters, while a growing, groaning riff starts to stomp and make its impressions felt. An odd combination that works well for the song. In terms of sounds, you get the sense of early-career Oasis and their anthemic tracks. Guitars and vocals have an element of the Manchester band but the lyrics very much play into The Trend’s camp. Unlike other tracks, there is a sense of romance and hope and you get affected by the purity and desire in the performance. The soul is being nourished and the blood is rushing: the hero is embracing Rock and music; feeling alright and pushing on. Others say he is out of his depth and battling the waves – curious to find out why that is – but that sense of defiance and rebellion comes out. Music is the focal muse and perhaps the salvation against a backdrop of uncertainty and struggle. His life is falling apart but he has music and surrendering to Rock and all its beauty. It is a subject matter that has been covered but not quite the same way as here. A perfect way to complete Something to Shout About. It is a song that will definitely resonate with audiences and you can see people chanting it and joining together in celebration. Tonight is not a dead-ahead and one-dimensional song. Going through stages and having a sense of evolution running through it: you are kept on your toes and always surprised; the band is masterful when it comes to throwing curveballs. Something to Shout About lives up to the title track’s desires and necessities. That song looks at bands who say nothing new and do not get the mind engaged – too timid and cautious when it comes to subject matter. By addressing that subject head-on, the Glasgow band show they are not like them. Never sticking with romance themes and everyday tropes: the E.P. covers more important subjects and hits you much deeper. The title track makes you think and makes a point. It could be arrogant to write a song like that and would be a disaster if The Trend do not live up to their lyrics and differ from their peers – luckily they do and make their point know. The entire E.P. is packed with gems and potential future anthems. I know the songs have been played live and imagine the crowds are lapping them up. One of those bands that tie together some familiar bands – Oasis for one – but never copies them; merely lace in some of their magic; they are one of the freshest and most distinct groups of the moment. Exceptional musicianship and comradery break through and every song has its own voice and will stick in the head for a long time. I know the boys have been touring hard and getting out there. Those dates, with a terrific E.P. under their belt, is just…

THE start of many great gigs.

 

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Follow The Trend

Facebook:

www.facebook.com/thetrendglasgow

Twitter:

www.twitter.com/thetrendglasgow

SoundCloud:

www.soundcloud.com/thetrend-1

FEATURE: The August Playlist: Vol. 4

FEATURE:

 

the august playlist VOL. 4 musicmusingsandsuch

  

The August Playlist: Vol. 4

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PERHAPS it is a testament to unexpected single drops….

Image result for bastille band

and great albums out this month: August has turned into one of 2016’s best months for music. I thought I’d be wrapped up with three volumes of The August Playlist – I wouldn’t be surprised if I got juice out of a fifth. There have been a few great singles out; some terrific albums, and to celebrate the anniversaries of Jeff Buckley’s Grace (22-years-old) and Blur’s Leisure (25-years-old) – a couple of classic tracks in there.

Enjoy…

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Image result for frank ocean

Frank Ocean (ft. Beyoncé) – Pink + White

 

 

Image result for empire of the sun

Empire of the Sun – Two Vines

 

 

Chromatics – Dear Tommy

 

 

Image result for grouplove band

Grouplove – Traumatized

 

 

Dua Lipa – Blow Your Mind (Mwah)

 

 

Image result for kate tempest

Kate Tempest – Don’t Fall In

 

 

Image result for jimmy eat world

Jimmy Eat World – Get Right

 

 

Image result for glass animals

Glass Animals Season 2 Episode 3

 

 

Image result for jack garratt

Jack Garratt – BYSKB V2M2

 

 

Image result for ezra furman

Ezra Furman – The Refugee

 

 

Image result for bastille band

Bastille  Good Grief

 

 

Image result for thom sonny green

Thom Sonny Green – Beach

 

 

Image result for cassius band

Cassius (ft. Ryan Tedder & Jaw)  The Missing

 

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Crystal Castles – Sadist

 

 

 

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Jeff Buckley – Grace

 

 

 

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Blur – There’s No Other Way

 

 

September is upon us next week and I can just smell the paint drying on some fantastic albums and musical revelations. Frank Ocean has dropped Blonde and took everyone by surprise. Next month, Jamie T. looks set to make another huge statement – Trick is already gathering some rather heated praise and bold proclamations. Of course, there will be singles released at a moment’s notice and who knows what: another exciting month beckons us.

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FEATURE: Electric Vinyl

FEATURE:

 

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Electric Vinyl

 

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SO what is the concept behind the idea?


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I have been inspired by some developments in music recently. Hearing about Laura Marling’s new series, Reversal of the Muse, has got me thinking. That interview/discussion concept brings women together (musicians mainly) to discuss the lack of women behind-the-scenes in the industry – how few engineers, producers there are, for instance. It is a much-needed spotlight on an issue that, has until recently, been cloistered and hidden in the shadows. If you really think about it: how many women are employed in studios and away from the microphone? Perhaps many assume (these jobs) are male-dominated and there’s never been a problem with that. It may not be the case there has been deliberate discrimination but not enough is happening to encourage women more – reduce stigma and barriers and make changes.

We often focus on musicians and what they do without giving kudos to those who work away in the background; making sure the songs get to us. Whether D.J.s, promoters or journalists: these people are often overlooked and do not get the recognition they deserve.

There are not too many (if any) web series that brings together these people. It would be great to see a fantastic promoter celebrated or hear the insight of a London D.J. – sitting alongside a musician and trading experiences, insight and revelations. Maybe this sort of things happens in daily life but often takes the form of short interviews or online interviews. I cannot recall ever seeing an interview series like this: one where musicians and the unsung face one another and give us a glimpse into their day-to-day life. It got me thinking about a concept: Electric Vinyl was what came from it.

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TITLE/EPISODES

Electric Vinyl: When (    ) Met (   ).

EPISODES PER SERIES

10 per series; 1 hour per episode.

LOCATION

For a sense of centrality and ease-of-access, it would be set in London. In terms of locations and accessibility, it would make sense. I hope to recruit guests from areas like Brighton and Manchester but London seems like an idea centre. Most of the innovators and upcoming musicians (in Britain) are based in London so it makes sense to come from the capital. I have not decided what part of London it would be based and that is open for discussion. It seems like east and central would be best: perhaps somewhere like Shoreditch or Hackney, but once again, it depends on available sites and costs.

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SET

My feeling is to give it a bar setting but not having it crowded and busy. The aim is to have an intimacy but a general feeling of conviviality and comfort. Inspired by music-themed bars – hope to set one up myself – the décor and furniture is going to be important. The guests would sit on a chair each but they would get to select the furniture. They could have a bar stool or beanbag; a sofa whatever they choose – a chance to create a bespoke environment and give the set a sense of character and individuality. It would be a basic concept and have the interview subjects sat opposite one another. The name Electric Vinyl would be a bar name, in essence. We would see a sign – perhaps neon or painted – that is near the bar and there might be a few people in the background – a bar person or patrons (only a few) to ensure there was a bit of motion. While the bar is in the background, in the foreground we would have an electronic jukebox to the right – one that would play guest selections and give the ‘Electric’ side flesh. On the other side would be a turntable/record player (‘Vinyl’) where the guests’ vinyl choices will be spun – more on that later. Because there will be solo artists/bands coming together; a small stage would be there – opening and closing the episode with live performances. The filming dynamic would change to become more active and mobile – the stage would be located opposite the bar.

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LENGTH AND FILMING STYLE

Each ‘show’ or interview would last for 60 minutes (the Happy Hour) – that might increase if the demand is high. It would be a filmed series that keeps things simple but has a sense of style to it. We would have a few cameras: one that shoots proscenium; another one that is mobile and films guests’ faces/reactions and another that would be mounted near the ceiling – an overhead view of the location and people coming and going. There would be a mix of colour and black-and-white to give it a modern and vintage mix – as befits the title. Varying between static shots and close-ups: it would aim to give some fluidity and motion to things but never compromise or distill the interview; always emphasising mood and emotion over flair and needless flash. In essence, the aim is to give it a professional feel and differentiate it from other examples on the market.

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START OF EPISODE (0-5/10 MINUTES)

I am hoping there is a small animated opening sequence as a title page. It would see a series of well-known and new musicians interact in a comical sequence and would head towards Electric Vinyl. There would be a theme but this would most likely be instrumental and have a funky/upbeat vibe – perhaps meshing Blues, Rock and Hip-Hop. From the sequence, it would then open on the set/bar and the empty chairs. The two guests (either two people or band and another guest) would come from the bar and shake hands – set their drinks down and sit. Almost like Made In Chelsea (not in a bad way) there would be light music playing – a series of songs would play each edition – and the guests’ names would appear and their title.  Before they get down to talking they would introduce their drinks. Each guest can have any drink they like but there is a full cocktail menu – ingredients and name would appear on the screen. It gives the episode a sense of pub chat but, again, is quite stylish and modern – cosmopolitan and homely at the same time. Nothing will be scripted and the only thing interviews plan is their song choices and music. From the off, it is encouraged they be relaxed and chat. The opening couple of minutes would see them introduce themselves and what they do (pieces to camera) before they open things up with casual chat. As they are getting into things, their food arrives: usually a small dish/starter but delivered to them. Of course, they are discouraged from eating whilst talking but it gives it a more social feel.

MAIN BODY OF EPISODE (5/10-40 MINUTES)

The interview series will mix musical choices/inspirations and deep topics together with insights into the music industry and casual chat. Every edition will have a set format and give the guests an opportunity not only to discuss what they do and highlight important issues but introduce new songs (they are loving) and the music that inspired them.

The opening ten minutes or so would see each guest talking about what their job entails and how they got into it – links and information would appear on screen like websites – and their day-to-day life.

From 10-20 minutes the guests would choose a new song/artists that they are listening to. It would either be an unsigned artist or mainstream but essentially be their Brand New Headies. Every segment would have a music slant/pun and this would be the first one. We would then either cut to a music video or hear it on the electronic jukebox. After each song, there would be a link (social media) to that artist and any necessary information.

After the 20-minute mark, there would be a section about their favourite music. Throughout there would be a chalkboard menu behind each guest (at bottom of shot in front of the furniture) and each person(s) would get to talk about their favourite albums/songs from their childhood; their favourite song of all time . It is, in essence, an insight into that person’s musical upbringing and the music that matters most. The songs would be played on the jukebox and each guest would take turns. As each song plays the title/image would come up. If there is a music video then we would cut to that, but if not, the cameras would move around the bar/set or capture the guests’ reactions. After each song ends, and before the next, they would say why it is relevant to them.

From 40-50 minutes there would be discussion about a topic that is relevant to each. Whether it is women in music or mental health; the urban scene or lack of finding for new artists – a chance for the guest to discuss with one another.

Throughout each discussion, there would be relevant links to appropriate websites (mental health charities etc.) and tweets (followers letting their voice contribute; more later).

The final 10 minutes would be a blend of social media questions and vinyl choices. Of course, and like all segments, this would appear on the chalkboard. The questions come first and would be collated from Twitter and Facebook. Before each edition is filmed, a week’s notice, you can pitch questions to each guest – they can be serious or silly. For bands and artists, it might be aimed at touring and new records; for D.J.s and promoters it would be geared towards their influences or questions about their jobs. The questions would appear on screen (there would be one to the side of the set but it would appear on the screen large) and a way to get others involved. The last segment would be a vinyl choice for the guest. It can be a vinyl that means the most to them or sounds great on that format. It would be loaded onto the record player and maybe there would be information about that song and facts.

To end, the guests would finish their drink and food; they would embrace/shake hands and conclude however they like. Either heading out of the bar into the night or back to the bar for another drink. The credits would role as their social media links would come up – the lights might come down and that would end things.

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MENU CHOICES/SEGMENTS

Rhythm and Booze – the drinks the guests have chosen

9-5 – job discussions

Brand New Headies – a selection of new tracks to enjoy

Consensual Grooves – music that means most to the guests

What’s Going On – the guests shine a light on an issue/discussion topic that needs addressing

Stage Dive – Q&A from social media

Drop the Needle! – the vinyl selection to end the show

Closing Time – the guests say goodbye and depart

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GUEST IDEAS/DYNAMIC

I do not want it just to feature musicians: the idea of the series is to have non-musicians featured heavily. Of course, we would have bands, solo artists and other acts but it would not be a promotional tool – it is a chance to learn how they got into music and guidance for those following suit.

It is aimed at a younger audience, so most of the guests would be between 17/18 and 40, say. That rule can be extended but Electric Vinyl aims to be a cool, breezy series aimed at a younger audience but one that would engage older viewers. Having just interviewed RKZ, a London-based mental health advocate and musician, he is an ideal choice. I want to bring it to be a diverse and varied platform that brings together different music genres and professions. In terms of music guests, it would not concentrate on Rock/Alternative: Hip-Hop/Grime acts; Soul solo singers and bands are all encouraged but the emphasis is on highlighting variation and those artists that do not usually get focus.

With respect of non-musicians, this is an opportunity for real scope. I know people who are event organisers and book acts; those who work in P.R. and are journalists. They would be encouraged, and Electric Vinyl emphasises fascinating characters, colour and energy. For example, one episode could pit a Grime artist/Rap musician with a D.J. The people would not have met before so it is like a first date – a chance for two unique personalities to converse and shine. Again, there is a focus on ethnic diversity and gender diversity – not just young men.

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OTHER IDEAS

In addition to the bar setting: maybe having a resident D.J. there. I like the idea of the guests’ songs being played on an electric jukebox but it might be cost effective/better to have a D.J. there who would interact (only when songs are mentioned) and play it. It is a possibility but would perhaps clutter things – wondering what the general feeling is regarding that.

Songs would play in the background – like a bar and it would not be intrusive – but perhaps could lend to the conversation. If a guest notices a song that they like it could be discussed, but again, it might detract from the focal points and be surplus.

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GOING FORWARD

It would be easy to get guests, I am hoping. I know enough people from all musical walks that would be fascinating to see on the screen – bringing together great personalities and seeing how they interact. When things become difficult (costly) is the filming equipment, personnel and location. The setting need not be an actual bar but made to look like one. It might be unfeasible to clear a bar out an hour a week for filming so it could be a studio space/abandoned warehouse that could easily be furnished and utilised. I have mentioned the electronic jukebox which is a prop rather than a working thing. The song might be typed in and would come out a speaker but the actual song would be fed from a laptop – an MP3/YouTube clip so cost-wise, that would not be huge. There would be additional players/’staff’ that would work the bar, serve food and be extras.

For bands, and with regards live performances, the stage would be quite simple and small and the backline/equipment would be hired. Ideally, it would be great to film in an existing music venue that is set up to cater for the specifications and demands. I am going to enquire nearer the time but if it is too costly then alternatives will have to be arranged.

Electric Vinyl would be uploaded to YouTube and have its own channel. The only other real costs are the cameras/equipment and clearance rights. Quite a few songs will be featured throughout the episode so will have to ensure we do not infringe copyright and have clearance/permission before featuring every track. I have mentioned how the show would use three cameras, so purchasing/hiring them would be a consideration. It is not going to be an overly-expensive series but would have definite costs to consider.

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KICKSTARTER

This would be the way to raise money to get the series funded and realised. It would (success) rely on the campaign being shared as widely as possible. I am not sure the exact budget but for a single series (excluding music rights) it would possibly be a couple of thousand pounds – covering equipment/location and small guest fees.

It might not sound like a huge amount but if everyone (who pledges) puts in a couple of quid – we would only need 1,000 people to be involved.

Again, that sounds like a lot but consider the potential audience – you’d imagine many would want to see a series like this come to life. Should the campaign be unsuccessful and fall shy then I will either source a less-expensive option – hire equipment or fewer episodes in a series – or self-fund it.

Rewards will no doubt be the incentive for pledging. When it comes to an album or film finance: you can offer rewards, merchandise or credits (on an album linear notes for instance). With a web series, bearing in mind there is no audience or outside physical interaction, it makes it a little harder. Interview subjects would receive a small fee for appearing so it is hoped, as a quid pro quo, they would be able to offer reward. Either a signed album or merchandise, perhaps. I guess the easiest way to attract people is a combination of musician reward-based incentives and appearance in the episode. Live performances will happen so there’s a chance to see that artist/band play; opportunities to be in the background (near the bar) as it is being filmed.

FINAL WORD

Projects like this only become a reality is people get involved and show their support. I hear from a lot of people – musicians and non – who want to see artists on the screen and gain more insight into music and various sides. We see printed interviews and YouTube/radio interviews: each gives us a window into a performer. Rarely do interviews stray beyond simple promotion; most are quite concise and short. By bringing musicians and music professionals together: it is a new incentive but allows (the viewer) to learn what happens away from the microphone; the realities of music and also hear some great music – inspired by the guests’ choices and selections. I am hoping to get a ‘pilot’ filmed as a demonstration for the Kickstarter campaign – something that is barer than what it will become but gives a semblance of what will follow. Ideas/feedback/opinions are always welcome and let’s hope…

A YOUTUBE SERIES BRINGING MUSICAL FIGURES TOGETHER: electric vinyl ...

ELECTRIC vinyl becomes a reality.