FEATURE: The Review Round-Up

FEATURE:

 

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The Review Round-Up

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THERE are always those albums and singles that get overlooked…

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or deserve a second look. There are a three distinct records – as part of a new thread – I feel deserve fresh ears and investigation. Either brand-new or an album/single that has caused some critical excitement in the last few weeks. In the first installment, I look at releases from Run the Jewels, The Radio Dept. and Julia Jacklin.

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SINGLE REVIEW: Run the Jewels – Talk to Me

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The American hip-hop supergroup formed in New York in 2013 from the mind of rapper Killer Mike and rapper/producer El-P. Their eponymous debut album gained huge critical acclaim but it was the follow-up, Run the Jewels 2, that really put them on the map. That record showed Killer Mike and comrade El-P were worth of the hype and capable of topping a brilliant, original debut. Building the natural chemistry and simplicity of their opening salvo: that bond was solidified and found Killer Mike controlled and centered; giving room for El-P to maneuver and campaign. At the time, the album gained respect and praise but a few years down the line it is considered a pioneering hip-hop record and one of the finest (of its genre) of the time. Not only is the connection of the two stars rock-solid and combustible: the songs are uniformly splendid and nuanced.

That album laces traditional hip-hop put-downs with storytelling and personal insights. Run the Jewels spit rhymes at the rate of knots while the songwriting and lyrics are consistently spellbinding and peerless. You have to take a few days out to really enjoy the album and lets its multiple stories, diversion and ideas sink in. Not only the mark of a truly impressive musical force but two minds who knows what it takes to create the kind of music that remains in the mind – and will inspire generations to come.

Following the panicked and urgent Run the Jewels 2; the guys have been working with other artists and keeping themselves busy. They supported Jack White (at Madison Square Garden) back in 2015 and performed at events such as Bonnaroo Musical and Arts Festival. Not only that but they made a positive and huge impact to Nobody Speak – the lead single from DJ Shadow’s much-awaited album, The Mountain will Fall. It has been announced the third album from the hip-hop army will arrive before the end of the year. Talk to Me is the first single to be lifted from that album and coincides with the second anniversary of their Run the Jewels 2 record.

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The song’s introduction is certainly edgy, compelling and adventurous. Squelchy electronics and jagged beats; rumbling protestations and street-level neon – all blended into something swaying and swaggered; break-neck yet restrained. Before a single word has been sung you are in the midst of another classic Run the Jewels introduction/song. Bad spray tans and toupees; wars with the Devil and gunplay – the words tumble out and you dive into a fast-flowing world of anger, violence and bizarre players.

Addressing terrorism, white-on-black racism and plane hijackings: subjects are close-to-the-bone but relevant. The guys rip the mask off fear and hesitation and let their words shoot into governments, corrupt politicians and the lesser species – those who perpetrate hatred and bigotry. You all gripped by the lyrics and stories but left dancing and head-nodding with a wave-crash combination of electronics and teasing beats. Despite a reliable attack of profanity and confidence, the song is never crude or petulant – another frantic, angry delivery and immense statement. In a time where Trump and political monsters threaten to exert influence and leadership – their music and brand of music are not only demanded but NEEDED. If Talk to Me is the typical sound of their third album: it will be another genius offering from one of the most pioneering acts in the world.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Radio Dept. – Running Out of Love

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It has been some twenty-one years since Elin Almered and Johan Duncanson got The Radio Dept. started – named for a gas-station-turned-radio-repair-shop called Radioavdelningen. Following a three-year hiatus (until 1998), the duo reformed and brought Lisa Carlberg – girlfriend of new member Martin Larsson – and by 2001, Per Blomberg on drums and Daniel Tjäder on keyboards, the two-piece had swollen to an unwieldy band – skepticism as to whether there would be necessary intrigue and intensity with a five-piece. The band began modestly (in 2001) and gained positive reviews and were featured in Sweden through magazines and radio stations. Striking the ear of Labrador Records: the band was signed and their debut album, Lesser Maters, not only resonated because of its clever-clever title but the stunning music within. Many magazines (including NME) awarded it near-top marks and proclaimed it as one of the best albums of 2003. From there, the band had the momentum and critical praise – Per Blomgren and Lisa Carlberg departed the group around the time and were not on the L.P. The band opted to use digital drum tracks and decided to draft in a bass player.

The Radio Dept. progressed and blossomed into 2006 and, buoyed by the widespread recognition of 2003-singles Pulling Our Weight and Keen on Boys, took in new sounds and directions. Gone were the early-days distortion and in its place was synthesisers. Little touring and insufficient exposure meant Pet Grief didn’t get a huge reception and gained mixed reviews. A lot of sources were less-than-kind and noted how the lack of discipline, too many changes and reinvention did not favour the band – yearning for the beauty, consistency and quality. Inter-album E.P.s were released prior to Clinging to a Scheme (their third album in 2010) but perhaps with less critical nod and excitement than their debut album. This slightly deteriorated attention has not deterred the band who announced their fourth album earlier in the year.

The band connects with multiple genres – alternative-rock and shoegazing among them – and bring more innovation and structure to their current work. Rather than reclaim and retreat to their debut album sounds: the band have gone more into electronic/synth. territory on their fourth L.P. Almost dispensing entirely of rock and electronic guitars: what we have now is a slicker and more polished collection of songs. Some have noted how professional and rough-around-the-edges some of the songs appear – enough fizz, fuzz and kick to evoke images of rock and recklessness. Now a trio – the band wrote and discarded an album of guitar-based songs prior to Running Out of Love – they are back and entering a new phase in their careers.

Sloboda Narodu is a confusing and hard-to-spell title (annoying when you’re reviewing) but redeems itself by being full of interesting, patterned beats and percussive clash. Blending tribal pitter-patter with rousing, sea-crash clash provides the introduction plenty of guile and fascination. The vocals do get a little weighed under the composition-production and can be hard to decipher – maybe, in small part, due to the accent and delivery. The opening track has plenty of interesting diversions but is not the rousing and all-encompassing lead-off song one would hope. Swedish Guns fares better in that respect with its syncopated electronic stutters and militaristic jump – quite intense and swaggering to start; growing and becoming bolder with time. It is a song that has elements of hip-hop and rap – the instrumental delivery – but retains its colour, youthfulness and spirited dance. Again, some of the vocals get lost but there is more emphasis on texture and sound – the vocals add extra instrumentation but are never too revealing or vital to matter (if they are lost).

Thieves of State is one of the most interesting passages from Running Out of Love and a title track, perhaps. One gets romantic, tender electronic keys – signifying something passionate and hopeful – but the racing (background) synths. portray someone fleeing and elusive – perhaps impatient and bereft. It is a brief instrumental that is a sort of mid-way point and a chance for reflection. The band blend modernism with diasporic dread; banging, rousing jungle codas alongside something elliptical and graceful without ever losing their heads and sense of direction. Occupied recalls their early work but adds new strands and threads on top – mingling clapping percussive beats with luminous, enticing backing synths. It is a long and ambitious song that seems to (in theory) unify their previous work into one moment – for the most part, it works. Sometimes beach-set and seduced; at others, it is spirited and ready for a good ol’ dance; it will appeal to those who like their electronic music spiked and lacking inhibitions and those who prefer something more intelligent, controlled and engaging. Can’t Be Guilty does not really add much to their album and is one of the forgettable cuts. The title track (the actual one) suffers a bit from being low down the pack (the penultimate number) and is another song that never fully grips the senses.

Running Out of Love is nowhere near the peak of the band’s debut but is stronger than their last couple of albums. It would be nice to hear the vocal higher up and some stiffer editing – take out one or two tracks – as it can feel bloated and exhaustive at times. Some of the songs sound too alike and rehash the band’s older work. What shines is plenty of promise and plenty to draw you in. Emphasis and attention should be paid to the compositional ambitions which say so much without a word being sung. More a story/concept than ten individual songs – it is one you will want to get involved with and stick with until the end.

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Running Out of Love is available now via Labrador Records

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let the Kids Win

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Julia Jacklin considered a career in social work, as the story goes. Raised in the Blue Mountains to a teaching family: Jacklin’s exposure to music and revelation was, rather oddly, Britney Spears. In addition to being a peculiar Muse – and making many of us feel rather old – she realised Spears has achieved a lot by the age of twelve – an impressionable and ambitious youngster felt rather unaccomplished and procrastinating compared with a pre-teen Spears. That mixture of charming precociousness and instant foresight saw her take classical singing lessons. Learning voice control was a key lesson – one she brings to her music – but soon found Jacklin yearning to join a band – whereupon she would daub herself in surf clothes and rock along to Avril Lavigne covers. Luckily, Julia Jacklin has grown into a cooler and more original artist; not someone who you’ll find aping a Canadian punk wannabe.

Her unending and unerring passion to sing and perform has defined her music career: few contemporaries have that lionised, all-consuming passion to give themselves to music. Her changing music tastes – as she grew into her twenties, Fiona Apple was an inspiration – meant by the age of twenty-five (whilst residing in a garage and selling essential oils) she was mixing the headiness of Fiona Apple’s words; the spicy and cutting electric guitar of Anna Calvi; natural interpretation from Angel Olsen. Despite all the name-dropping and fellow musicians: Julia Jacklin’s debut album, Don’t Let the Kids Win, is as much about her travels, growth and backstory than anyone else’s. She is still discovering and living life; searching and probing: this curiosity, emotion and self-discovery emanates beautifully throughout the record.

Recorded at New Zealand’s legendary Sitting Room studios with Ben Edwards: Don’t Let the Kids Win unifies heart-aching alt-country with spirited indie-folk; all topped and augmented by Jacklin’s distinctive, rich voice and keen wit. Critics have been seduced by her heartfelt music and star quality: the embers of Angel Olsen and Fleetwood Mac; a relatable set of lyrics performed by someone who transcends expectations and the ordinary. Latest single Leadlight – a video directed by Jacklin herself – has garnered positive reviews and gives the listener an impression of what the record is all about. Having quit her factory job to pursue music, and being excited about its imminent release, she will embark on a string of tour dates. Currently in California; she will hit Portland and Vancouver; over to Germany later in the month before reaching Brighton on November 3rd.

Given all the colourful and unique road-to-now build-up; Don’t Let the Kids Win ensures it makes its impressions in the first track. Pool Party details pool-side substance abuse but is given plenty of humour and wit. A staple of the coolest and savviest stations around the U.K.: many will be familiar with the song’s swaying vocal and country-meets-indie composition. Although some of Jacklin’s words can come across slurred and lack decipherability; you are enticing and graced by a beautiful and refined voice and insightful, story-filled narrative. Although the heroine wants the love (of her drug-taking boy) her heart is heavy when he’s high; she gulps with nerves every time her man jumps into a pool. Rather than going along with the unwise lifestyle choice: she is looking from the sidelines and knows how reckless it is. Pathos and humour mix; clever wordplay and stark emotions. Leadlight best frames Jacklin’s voice and is one of the most committed, beautiful and soul-baring performances on the record. In terms of the composition; it is a softer, more restrained take on Pool Party’s waltzing drum-and-guitar combination. Once again, the voice does get a little distorted and suffers from intelligibility – the listener might need a lyric sheet at certain points. That said – and similar to the opening track – the mood, performance and delivery compensate for any short-fallings.

Wrestling with relationship qualms and the admonishment of a friend; Elizabeth deals with tough concerns. “So shaky” are the first words and the heroine promises loyalty – even if it “all falls through”. Whether that is directed at her friend or a misjudged lover; you are transported into the song and act as a spectator as the events unfold. Involving, bare-naked and fragile: a song that boasts incredible evocative and varied guitar playing; a definite album standout. More electric drive and energy is added into Motherland. It finds Jacklin working over calm-strummed blues strings and is one of the most pressing and determined performances across Don’t Let the Kids WinL.A. Dreams documents the banality of a relationship breakdown in slow-motion: a song that asks why her man went to the grocery store on the day he planned to leave. Left with an abundance of food – she is unable to eat –there is a little humour that emerges from a sense of huge loss and confusion.

Although the album is quite top-heavy and the vocal clarity (unable to understand the lyrics on some songs) can be a concern: there are many positives to take from Julia Jacklin’s debut album. Conceiving it as a heartbreak album; she realised it was a retrospective investigation – someone hitting 24 and feeling nostalgic about youth. Not the planet-saving social worker she imagined: that singular decision to consecrate herself to music is under the spotlight. If Jacklin is funny and relaxed in person: her serious subject matter and frank emotions might seem at odds and disarming. The album is Jacklin freaking out a bit. With her peers settling down and knowing what they want in life: she is the confused artist reconciling with her new choices.  Don’t Let the Kids Win confronts the issue of growing old but realises things will be okay – everyone feels the same. What one gets is a consistently revelatory and personal album run-through with heart-melting vocals and sonic richness. If Jacklin is unsure whether a life as a musician was a wise choice: Don’t Let the Kids Win should ease her mind and settle that debate.

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Don’t Let the Kids Win is available now through Transgressive Records.

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FEATURE: In the Spotlight: RKZ

FEATURE:

  

In the Spotlight:

 

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PHOTO CREDIT: Mr. Odin

 

RKZ

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In addition to other monthly features; I am keen to put an artist into the forefront – someone doing great work and making waves in the world of music. In the first edition, I focus on London-based singer-songwriter-photographer-spokesperson RKZ. A true Renaissance man and one of the most exciting talents around. With new work out and more in the pipeline: a perfect time to investigate the many sides of RKZ.

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WHO IS HE?

RKZ (pronounced ‘Ricks’) is a singer, writer and visual creative from Luton – currently based in Shoreditch, London. He began dabbling in rap music in 2008 before pursuing the arts professionally the following year. Developing his craft, RKZ became known for his singing-led live performances and eventually transitioned into a singer-songwriter. A stubborn determination to further develop and fine-tune his brand, he learned the ropes of video, photography and design which culminated in RKZ creating his own visuals, plus music videos for artists from various industries.

 

WHY GET EXCITED?

RKZ is not a man who takes days off or limits himself to one discipline. Latest tracks Remix of the Mack and Bad (which unite) Handbook and Supreme Sol with RKZ – are gaining huge respect since their launch. The London-based multi-disciplinarian has also been photographing at London Fashion Week and recently spoke with Impakter – I got to speak with him about his work with CALM and how he wants to bring mental health into the precipices. The below is a sample of what you get with RKZ:

 

Music

From the release of his first single in 2009 – whilst he studied Commercial Music at the University of Westminster, London – to date, RKZ has released fourteen records including five mixtapes and three EPs. No stranger to media, he has received radio play on BBC Radio 1/1Xtra, BBC 6 Music, BBC Radio 4, BBC Three Counties, BBC Asian Network and more. He has also performed at T In The Park, Reading + Leeds, BBC London and Manchester Mela as well as music events at The Water Rats, Ace Hotel, Boxpark and Cargo.

In August 2014, RKZ released the highly-anticipated mixtape Science X Soul with Still Oceans, Think of Me and CLASH-premiered record Favourite Song as the lead singles. Following this, he released various one-off singles through Soundcloud (predominantly produced by Handbook) before his acclaimed single with the York-based producer called Visionaries.

Let me add that Nujabes and J Dilla are here. Somewhere in the afterbeat, looking over their legacy.”- Neonized, on Visionaries.

 

Creative

After shadowing visual creative S Sid Ahmed, RKZ began editing short films and vlogs with S Sid before venturing into music videos. The first was the remix of his single Gonna Be That. This opened the doors for music video productions for artists including GV, Little Simz, Cashtastic, Preeya Kalidas, Sophia Thakur, Roach Killa and more.

Through various video projects, RKZ built on his photography skills and has freelanced for various clients spanning fashion, music, retail and FMCG industries. He is currently part of BORN SOCIAL’s Creative Team.

 

Writing & Philanthropy

An early passion for journalism pulled RKZ into creative writing, initially through music and poetry. He expanded this, becoming a feature writer for hip-hop blog Sampleface before taking over as UK Editor.

In 2012, RKZ was announced as Ambassador for CALM. The charity aims to reduce the suicide rate with men in the UK, particularly London. Suicide catalysed by depression and stress is the single biggest killer of young men aged 20-45 in the UK. He contributes to CALM’s website and monthly CALMzine as a guest writer, focusing on depression, society and youth culture.

He has self-published an online series called Motivational Prose, which is dedicated to instilling a positive mentality and outlook for young people.

Interview snippet taken from http://impakter.com/interview-musicianmental-health-ambassador-rkz/:

RKZ: I got in touch with them not too long after they set up in London. Suffering from depression for a long while, CALM was the first movement I saw that actually spoke to young men properly—without feeling intimidating or scary. I got involved and wanted to utilize my status (as a creative and musician in the U.K.) to help raise awareness with the audience I had. I performed at CALM events, wrote for the CALMzine and the website and started giving talks to young people and local communities to raise awareness of depression in young men. I still do a lot of that whenever an opportunity arises.

CALM:

The Campaign Against Living Miserably is a charity working to prevent male suicide, currently the single biggest killer of men aged 20-45 in the UK. Nearly 8 out of every 10 suicides in the UK in 2013 were men. We campaign to break down the cultural barriers which prevent men from speaking out in times of crisis. We believe that if men felt able to ask for, and find, timely and appropriate help then hundreds of suicides could be prevented every year.

I joined CALM as an Ambassador in 2012, where I’ve extensively focused on promoting the cause through the mediums of music, writing and social media. I have contributed to the website and CALMzine as a writer covering the stigma of depression in youth culture and the Brit-Asian community. In 2015, we were proud to announce Professor Green as our new patron, as well as partnerships with Topman and Lynx“.

CALM host a free, confidential and anonymous helpline and webchat service for men, which provides support for those in need of help – open every day from 5pm – midnight; on 0800 58 58 58 (national), 0808 802 5858 (London). For further information, you can follow them on Twitter (@theCALMzone) as well as head over to their website: thecalmzone.net

BIGGER ISSUES

In November 2015, CALM launched the #BiggerIssues campaign with Lynx. Through the power of Thunderclap, they created an initiative to park the small talk and discuss the bigger issues of mental health and men’s health overall. With an overwhelming amount of press coverage and online support, the campaign reached 23.4m+ people. Find out more about Bigger Issues: click here.

 

NEWS:

17.08.16 | Interview — RKZ talks Music, Social Media and Mental Health with Impakter

14.08.16 | Music — So Gone Challenge

30.07.16 | Photoset — #KPSheenaWedding

30.05.16 | Music — BAD Official Music Video

08.08.16 | Article — It’s Okay To Talk

03.04.16 | Article — A Passionate Discourse

02.04.16 | Photoset — Ísland

04.03.16 | Article — RKZ writes about London Fashion Week for CALM

03.03.16 | Music — RKZ releases the TRIAD EP with Handbook and Supreme Sol

01.03.16 | Feature — RKZ features in the March issue of CALMzine

22.02.16 | Editorial — London Fashion Week for The Rakish Gent

29.01.16 | Music — RKZ releases his cover of WORK by Rihanna

22.01.16 | Editorial — London Collections: Men for The Rakish Gent

18.01.16 | Article — RKZ writes about the State of Instagram for BORN SOCIAL

16.01.16 | Photoset — Sophia at London Collections: Men

09.01.16 | Feature — RKZ features in Mashable Fashion’s coverage of London Collections: Men

All biographical information taken from http://rkzuk.com/

TWEETS:

 

 

REVIEW SAMPLE:

“TRIAD is formed by York-based producer Handbook, St. Louis rapper Supreme Sol (part of thePragmatic Theory collective) and Luton singer RKZ. Handbook, a prolific representative of theROOTNOTE collective, was perhaps the catalyst for this collaboration as he has worked with the other two on previous tracks.  His production for Sol dates back long time ago and have continued throughout the years with releases like “One More Time” and “Values”, while him and RKZ recently teamed up Chino XL for their collab “They Don’t Know Nothing“. It appears that it was only a matter of time till the universe brought them in the studio together”.

Review taken from http://www.stereofox.com/album-review-handbook-x-rkz-x-supreme-sol-triad-ep/

 

THE FUTURE:

RKZ will continue to work on new music and help campaign for CALM. He is a man who wants to highlight the plight of those who suffer mental health – a sector who often go unnoticed and overlooked. Away from his charity endeavours make sure you keep your eyes open to his SoundCloud page – new songs will be dropping. He is one of those rare musicians that seems incapable of dropping a beat and creating anything less than astonishing, imaginative music. More photoshoots and vivid portfolios will arrive and the fashion icon-cum-musician-cum-photographer is a serious credit to the music industry. His various traits, talents and personalities mean he is sure to be a mainstream proposition in years to come and is just what the music industry needs.

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FOLLOW RKZ:

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PHOTO CREDIT: Alice Cooke

Official:

http://rkzuk.com/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/rkzuk

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/rkzuk/

YouTube:

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

INTERVIEW: I Am Willow

INTERVIEW:

 

  

I Am Willow

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MY love and respect for Maltese music is established and boundless…

in no small part due to the huge diversity and quality. Whilst Malta might not have a huge scene – something addressed in the interview – I Am Willow is someone who not only compels one to think deeply about Malta but music in general. Her debut single, Satellite, is out in December and has already gained the approval of a certain Annie Lennox. The Eurythmics legend has lauded I Am Willow and recongised her talent. It is early days but there are signs to suggest she will be a prominent and original talent of the future. I was lucky to ask her about Malta and the differences London provides; insight into Satellite and what we can expect over the coming months.

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Hi. How are you? How has your week been?

I’m better than ever. My debut single is coming out in December and I’m already getting so much support. It’s been a week of preparation for my live shows and of songwriting. I’ve even had the chance to see my friends, which these days, doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. So it’s been a really good week!

For those new to your music: can you give us an introduction, please?

Of course. I consider my music Cinematic/Pop.

The concept to everything I write relates to being able to look at the world and see it through your own unique perspective.

In my opinion, this is what makes the world so interesting and so beautiful – but I don’t think we’re often encouraged to really be ourselves. I guess you could say my music represents a gentle protest to the limitations society often brings upon us.

You were born in Malta – a nation that has quite a thriving music scene. What was it like growing up there and how does the music scene differ to that of the U.K.?

Well. I wouldn’t call the Maltese music scene ‘thriving’ – although, I believe the island carries some incredibly talented singers and musicians.  I often hear people say “there must be something in the water”. However, the Maltese are extremely rooted in

However, the Maltese are extremely rooted in tradition which, I feel, limits a certain creative way of thinking.

Before I moved to London I used to feel as if I had to fit into a box in order to be understood. In fact, London was quite the culture shock. It shook me awake! I believe I truly found myself here in London.

Now based out of London, you must notice a difference. What is the city like for a young musician? Does the pace and variation of the capital help the music in any way?

Absolutely! It’s a completely different life here. I love the diversity and integration of various communities – it’s inspiring, to say the least. It’s no surprise that comparing the rush and flavour of London life to the easy going, traditional Malta has inspired the very foundation of my music. To find that special space that’s all yours (mine is under a willow tree on top of a hill) and simply watch the world the way only you can see it. There’s no right or wrong way. This process has helped me connect with myself.

There are a lot of promising female singer-songwriters emerging at the moment. How would you say you differ from them?

All I know is that I’m not trying to be someone that I’m not – and I definitely know I’m the only me around.

 

Satellite is released on December 16th. What can you tell us about it and the inspiration behind it?

Satellite came about due to a chance encounter. In a way it was karma. I had found a phone lying alone on a café table so I took it to the café owner. He had seen the person at the table and knew who it belonged to. I was still at my table when the phone was returned and when the café owner pointed me out Jon walked up to me to say thanks. Turned out he was a songwriter and producer who lived on my block. We booked a session and wrote Satellite. This was definitely one of the most random things that has ever happened to me!

At the time I was also getting back with my boyfriend and had all sorts of mixed feelings about it.

Writing Satellite made me realise I had to break down my walls and trust that everything would work out – and that’s what the song is about.

Will we see any new material into 2017? What are your plans for the coming year?

There’s a lot more where Satellite came from. I’ll be putting out a few more singles in 2017 and planning the follow-up E.P. It’s nonstop!

Your vocals are particularly impressive and standout. Which singers and artists were you inspired by as a youngster?

I think the first artist that really woke me up was Kate Bush. I must have been around fifteen/sixteen at the time. She was doing something I had never heard before with her voice and her songs were equally unique. That’s when my journey really started.

Annie Lennox has come out as a fan of yours. How did that make you feel? Are you a fan of her music?

Of course I’m a fan. In fact, I love to cover the Eurythmics song Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) at my live gigs – but I never thought I’d be called in to perform privately for her. That made me feel all kinds of nervous! But, after my shaky performance she gave me a hug and offered her studio space for a while. It was amazing!

The likes of Q, BBC Introducing and The Line of Best Fit have heralded and tipped you for big things. How important are accolades like that with regards your music and your development?

To be honest, I had been so focused on writing for other artists, that when that happened to me, I was kind of taken by surprise.

It’s such a big honour and it really makes me want to live up to their expectations. I’m working harder than ever not to disappoint!

Can we see you play live anywhere in the coming months?

I’ll be performing at The Hospital Club on the 12th November; A Vin’s Night In event. It’s guest list-only so P.M. me on my Facebook page to get on the list.

Which albums, in your opinion, have been most influential with regards your music and sound?

It’s not so much albums as much as individual songs – but artists like Kevin Garrett, M83; Woodkid, Seinabo Sey and Lana Del Ray certainly played a huge part in helping me develop my own sound.

Are there any new musicians coming through you recommend we check out?

Kevin Garrett, Rotana Tarabzouni and NAO are some of my current faves.

It is Halloween. Did you get involved with it at all or avoided it?

Yeah. Actually, my housemates and I carved some wicked pumpkin faces and organised a little candlelit night with friends. Our neighbours set off some amazing fireworks so we watched from the garden. One of my favourite Halloween nights to date!

For any new musicians coming through: can you give them any advice or guidance?

The main advice is to persevere. Just trust that you’ll find where you need to be and never quit.

There’s more than one way to make it.  If one doesn’t work, try another way.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name any song (rather than your own as I’ll include it) and I’ll play it here.

Kevin Garrett – Coloring

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Follow I Am Willow

 

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/IamWillowmusic

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/iamwillowmusic/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/iamwillowmusic

 

LIVE REVIEW: #BLOGTOBER at The Finsbury – Meat Loving Vegans, Words & Noises; Saints Patience and SALT

LIVE REVIEW:

 

#BLOGTOBER at The Finsbury

 

 

 

Meat Loving Vegans, Words & Noises; Saints Patience and SALT

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THERE are few things worse than facing the rigours…

and ‘realities’ of a Monday workday having squandered and threated-away the previous evening. It (Monday) is an omnipresent, unforgiving crypt keeper that seems  to show little mercy to a single soul – and, as such, is dreaded and derided by all. It is lucky; therefore, #BLOGTOBER exists and is there to ensure Sunday night goes off with a bang. I was invited to curate the penultimate night of #BLOGTOBER: a series of October nights curated by the finest tastemakers of the media/blog world. I say it rather modestly but it is quite daunting sharing promotional space with the likes of The Line of Best Fit and the finest writers in modern British music. Disposing of any modesty (false or otherwise) it was wonderful being at The Finsbury for Lost in the Manor. You can still make your way down to the final date tonight – Temple Turtle curates – and unwind after the start of another (gruelling) week. Walking into The Finsbury – the first time I had visited – was a welcome contradiction to the sites, smells and sounds of the neighbouring streets – a rhapsody of acrid smoke, continental cuisines and a myriad of accents and conversations. Walking the streets (near the bar) is quite an experience: N4 is one of the most genuine and heartwarming parts of the capital; one of the few areas that has not been over-gentrified; some honesty and reality remains.

The bar itself was a welcoming and warm place – light around the windows and a cosy, homely feel – and one feels instantly soothed and comfortable there. Meeting Chris Sharpe – Lost in the Manor; organiser of #BLOGTOBER – and there was an instant fear – Meat Loving Vegans’ keyboard player was A.W.O.L. Despite the missing keys man; the band were first up and played to a small, if fervent crowd. The heaviest and most direct act of the night: they ran through a collection of songs and mixed it with some jamming and improvisation. Taking material from their debut album, Lost in Fiction, it was an explosive and tight set that was done and dusted in about twenty minutes – a perfect kick-start and way to get the energy levels up. Despite it being a Sunday night there were more people there than expected – quite a few turned up and the reception was good. Meat Loving Vegans certainly are a band in tune and connected: throughout their set, they had that kinship and bond that saw all three players really push themselves and bring out an exhilarating turn.

 

Despite my voice going – the sheer force of the music rendering it inaudible inside the venue – it was just the way to kick off proceedings and get the place rocking. The London band will be bringing their second album out soon but, if rumours are to be believed, might be one of the last gigs they played. If that is the case – and let’s hope it isn’t – they certainly gave it their all and brought new life to their album tracks. Goodbye Granda – a personal favourite of lead/guitarist Dexter was performed with gusto and verve – a more rabbled and pugnacious interpretation than appears on the album. For those dreading the commute and hollow empathy of Monday were given a shot of tequila to the brain – a performance that is still buzzing in the brain. Despite it being a short set, the boys had their fans in and showed what incredible musicians they are. It would be nice – if they do more gigs – to do a few acoustic numbers as they have that range and ability. The lack of keyboard player limited their set possibilities but they adapted well and rose to the challenge.

After the dust had settled – and the smoke machine had billowed out its last blast – there was a brief pause to dash to the bar and get another beer in – affordable prices and a good range even for a London bar; not many continental beers and drafts but plenty of choices; the food was rather fine, too. Words & Noises are one of my favourite discoveries of the past year and their new E.P., The Collector, shows what a brilliant duo they are. Having chatted with Chris and Simon before and after the gig: the guys were saying how this was a rare London gig for them. The duo have performed a selection of gigs this year but geographical distance – Simon is based in Manchester – means they are limited to where they can perform and how much they can do. Simon’s impressive trek from Manchester was made worthwhile with a fantastic set that showed how natural they are in the live environment. Chris is a naturally assured and witty conversationalist – few bands speak between numbers; nice to find – and his voice was in top form throughout the set. Simon’s percussion duties were more stripped-back and tribal than normal (not sitting behind a full kit) but, if anything, was more effective with box-beaten jams and punchy, compressed beats.

 

Following the volume and beer-scented Punk of Meat Loving Vegans: Words & Noises offered a more melodic and calmed affair. Chris Selman’s voice was record-clear and had the same quality and sound as The Collector. It is rare to find an act that can not only sound as good live as in the studio – the songs are given extra gravitas and atmosphere in a small and intimate setting. Running through a selection of their best-known tracks, they premiered an unheard song – one that was going to feature on the E.P. but never made the cut. Chris explained the song, one that looks at the state of the U.S. and the sorry state of affairs, was a gamble; maybe people would not bond with it. As it stands, it is a song that could easily have featured in The Collector. Let’s hope the guys give it a full workup and consider it for a single – it is a memorable number that fits into their catalogue and sounded great at The Finsbury. The boys went down well with the crowd and I, for one, would definitely come see them perform more. The Finsbury seems like a natural setting for them – despite it being rather hot on stage apparently – but Words & Noises were a much-needed addition and provided some of the most tender and affecting moments of the night.

Saints Patience, like Words & Noises to an extent, have modest about them. Humbleness seemed to be a connection that linked all four acts of the night. Speaking with Mudibu just before their set: he explained how excited the and were but was wondering how they would be received. It was not a fearful revelation but an assessment of a Sunday night gig – how the people would react and if they would get the bodies in. As it turns out, they were one of the biggest surprises on the night. Not because they were better than one hoped (that is true) but because of the reaction they got. Mudibu’s stage presence is heartwarming and entertaining. He has “only two moves” as guitarist Spencer joked – not too bad if I may say so! As the music kicked in, his hips shaked and he danced about the stage – making the tiny platform seem like a dancefloor; shifting and shaping; jiving and grooving. A commanding and fine singer: his soulful and powerful tones made sure every number was given huge passion and fortitude.

 

Break of Dawn is their latest single and one recorded when the band were just a duo (Mudibu and Spencer). The newly-formed quartet put on a stunning display and one that got the crowd dancing and involved. Spencer’s guitar chops were evident and stunning: gaining gasps from the crowd and showing his full historic range. Taut and funky basslines held the music together and drove the entire band forward – making sure the addictive, memorable songs were even more defined and nuanced. It was drummer Amanda Dal that provided some of the biggest talking points of the night. A “lioness” as Mudibu explained to me: her rampant, pummeling stick-work cannot be ignored or overlooked. Consistently multi-limbed, staggering and immense: comparisons were made, by more than a few people, to the likes of Dave Grohl and the titans of Heavy Rock. The band’s energy, affection and talents were fantastic to watch – another band I would love to see more of. Speaking with Spencer and Amanda after the set; they explained how they want to gig more but were planning a strategy and getting new music together.  If you can see them live, I urge that as they are a sensational band to see in the flesh. They prepare to release their debut album, Weather the Storm, and that will be a much-needed additon to anyone’s collection.

SALT were the headliners and certainly brought some theatre and visual arrest to the night. If Meat Loving Vegans’ green-haired lead was not striking enough: the London boys’ matching uniform approach brought some self-mocking jokes but gave them a strange synchronicity and identity. Rather than being another anodyne, faceless band: they showed presence and strange allure – sort of like a more high-minded look of A Clockwork Orange (minus the excessive eye make-up). The five-piece did not seem unwieldy or cramped on stage: they managed to transform the modest stage into a veritable arena – their music blasting from the speakers and filling the room. If Saints Patience got the room dancing and entranced in an orgy of Funk and Soul: the SALT boys got it rocking out into the night.

The guys have been grabbing the attention of press and bloggers over the last few months and small wonder. They are able to banter but when it comes to the music, they are serious, in-control and tight as any other band. Memories and threats of a Monday morning seemed distant when listening to the band and they managed to banish the blues and get the crowd engaged and excited. SALT brought a mini bus-full of support with them and it they went down well with the audience. The guys are also looking to gig more (I learned when speaking with lead Frankie following the gig) and will find themselves in demand as we head into 2017. They are a fairly new proposition so are just making themselves heard and trying to carve out as much real estate as they can. In a competitive and busy industry, they have the gravitas and performance chops to get regular gigs and their studio material has found its way onto radio and under the microscope of some of the most respected music writer in the country. How they develop and evolve is going to be interesting to see.

Heading back into the busy North London night, it was a great night that bore witness to four unique, fantastic bands. Each has their own merits and surprisingly – given how diverse they were – effortless shared the bill and made impressions. Sunday nights are always hard to fill and get people involved with but the people turned out and showed their support. It would be wonderful seeing the bands return on a weekday and play together again as there was shared affection and mutual respect among the ranks. The Finsbury provided a perfect space and is one of the most underrated small venues in London. In a city that is seeing so many lauded spots close their doors: bands and new musicians should be aware of fantastic little space. I will be coming back to The Finsbury and keen to curate and promote other acts – a few I have in mind and want to see on that stage. Among them would be the likes of REWS – who seem readymade for The Finsbury – but also the quartet of groups that graced the stage last night. After rolling in at 01:30 today and ‘enjoying’ a few hours’ sleep – I felt compelled to get it all onto page and document the night (apologies for any loquaciousness or typos). Congratulation to Chris Sharpe and the guys at Lost in the Manor for hosting me and allowing some of my favourite acts a chance to shine. The whole #BLOGTOBER event must have been a logistical challenge and provides its fair share of anxieties and nervy moments. Thanks go out to Meat Loving Vegans, Words & Noises; the guys of Saints Patience and SALT for a great evening that made a potentially average night…

INTO something rather special.

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FOLLOW THE BANDS

Meat Loving Vegans

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/MeatLovinVegans

BandCamp:

https://meatlovingvegans.bandcamp.com/releases

Words & Noises

Official:

http://www.wordsandnoises.com/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/wordsandnoises

Saints Patience

Official:

http://www.saintspatience.co.uk/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/SaintsPatience

SALT

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/saltukband

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/saltukband

TRACK REVIEW: XamVolo – Foolish Kids

TRACK REVIEW:

 

XamVolo

 

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Foolish Kids

 

9.5/10

 

Foolish Kids is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/xamvolo/xamvolo-foolishkids-chirality?in=xamvolo/sets/xamvolo-chirality

GENRE:

Jazz-Soul; Neo-Soul

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

September 16th, 2016

ENGINEER:

Tom Longworth

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THERE are so many great musicians bursting through with an array…

of sounds and fusions – capturing it all and putting the best of it on paper is a challenge indeed. Before I come to my feature artist, I wanted to look at Liverpool as a music hub – as XamVolo hails from here – artists that take care of every aspect of music and combinations of Jazz and Soul. I am interested in focusing on music away from London – although XamVolo is based in London – and the sort of artists that are making terrific sounds across the U.K. In the coming weeks, I will look at smaller bands and artists: musicians that are working under the radar and playing smaller venues around the country. As I traverse over the landscape of British music, one cannot help but stop in at Liverpool and the accomplished and sensational musicians emerging. If you look at the historic acts that have made Liverpool famous, you really don’t need to look far beyond The Beatles. That is a subject and dissertation that can be reserved for another day but many people, when thinking of Liverpool, instantly spring to The Fab Four. Their legacy and genius will remain in perpetuity and they have inspired generations of bands to take up music and aim high.

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The sound of 2016 Liverpool sounds a little different and there are new bands to take the imagination away. Gigwise ran a poll/piece earlier this year tipping fifteen great Liverpool bands for success. If one looks at it then you will see some future stalwarts for sure. Windmill are a band that are subtle and atmospheric but are atmospheric and pensive – one of those groups that take a bit of time to get into the bloodstream but make their way there with a big hit. The Vryll Society are an intriguing proposition bulks against the jangly Pop and Psychedelia of The Zutons and The Coral and embraces something darker and more shadowy. They have been paired with Wolf Alice and Joy Division and that is a good place to start. If you like the Madchester sound and long for the days of Happy Mondays at full chat – you should investigate The Tea Street Band. The guys are fully-formed and already collecting passionate reviews and tips from critics. The Hummingbirds are proud of Liverpool and often reference the city in their songs. Reminding one fo the early-1960s Beatles: the boys even have a fanbase in Berlin and update that joyous and evocative mixture of Pop and Merseybeat. Just from a cursory list, you know there are so many different options in Liverpool. It is a city that has lost a bit of ground (compared with London) but should not be overlooked and ignored. I feel many assume Liverpool artists will make their way to the mainstream eventually so why bother following them? The thing is; if you do not support these artists from the start then they will not make their way to you to begin with.

It is fair to say there is an emphasis on bands from Liverpool but there are some fantastic solo artists and duos. XamVolo is a musician that has taken the energy and variation from the city and is putting it into his own music. Before I carry on – and raise a couple of new points – it is worth meeting him:

I can’t really think of much else outside of music day-to-day,” says singer/songwriter and producer Sam Folorunsho a.k.a Xam Volo. “I thought that it must be possible to become a musician, so I decided to put my all into it.” At the age of 21, Xam Volo seems wise beyond his years. A true artist, he oversees every element of his music, which he describes as “a messy mind over raw, dark jazz grooves”. Since moving to Liverpool to study in 2012, the Londoner has embraced himself in the local music scene with his unique and enigmatic take on Neo-Soul and Jazz. Influences from Erykah Badu, Miguel, Frank Ocean and Maverick Sabre echo in his music, with a gospel-infused sophistication and often abstract lyrics. “I was into Grime when I was younger,” Xam Volo says. “Slowly I developed a taste for RnB through Hip Hop, before discovering Jazz and Soul and really falling in love. Neo-Soul may be a newer genre, but it captures all the elements that I love about music, and it’s home to such a distinct and timeless sound.” While studying for his degree and craving a more creative way of life, he began taking his music seriously before deciding to make it his chosen career. “An older friend gave me his copy of music software FL Studio 7 and I began making my own songs, “ he says. “I haven’t looked back since.”

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He describes growing up as “hard, identity wise,” but adds that his childhood experiences have made him become a better artist today. “I lived fairly comfortably, but even as a child I was made aware that material things weren’t everything. The experiences I had growing up are a part of who I am, and for that I am grateful.” With one younger brother, he says that his family is close but “isn’t too involved” in his music. As his career began to take off, and with a number of self-penned songs under his belt, Xam Volo began playing gigs in London and Liverpool. He performed for a few gigs held at the members-only GH Bar, which saw him perform acoustically with the resident jazz band around Soho. It was live performances such as this that gave him the confidence to apply to perform alongside other local unsigned artists at the Liverpool International Music Festival (LIMF). As one of the five overall winners – chosen from thousands of hopefuls by a panel that included Grammy Award-winning producer Steve Levine – Xam Volo was deemed by the judges as ready to embark on a professional career in music. The five winners, along with 10 other finalists, performed on the LIMF Academy Stage in the Sefton Park Palm House over the 2014 August Bank Holiday weekend, in front of thousands of music lovers. Describing the event as one of his career highlights so far, he says: “It was brilliant to receive so much exposure for my music at the festival. I’m really proud to have been a part of the 2014 academy, and I’m looking forward to seeing the artists that emerge as part of the 2015 event.”

Xam Volo also released his EP Binary In Blue in 2014; something that he admits was intended as a darker project but was re-started because he wasn’t happy with the original. He chose the name for a few reasons – binary as meaning ‘two parts,’ because he viewed the EP as having “two widely relatable songs and another two calmer and artier tracks”. Despite it not being Blues in genre, he picked topics that he felt paid some level of tribute to Blues music and its culture. Described on Soundcloud as ‘alternative Hip-Hop, Soul and Jazz,’ the Binary In Blue EP can be downloaded at Xam Volo’s Bandcamp page.. As well as his growing music commitments, Folorunsho has another creative talent, as a graphic designer. “I’ve done that longer than music, but it isn’t as interesting,” he says, adding: “I guess I get to design my own album covers.” With music where his heart truly lies, he believes firmly that “there are so many musical needs to cater to – any sound will resonate and fill its own gap. There’s always someone out there who will crave your sound.” Looking to the future, Xam Volo hopes to gain more exposure, grow his team, and learn more through performance and collaboration. He says: “Ultimately, I want to create a community sharing the mindset I express through my art. Whatever happens, I’m excited to find out if the path I end up following gives me a career even more suited to my character than the one I can fathom currently. Then, who knows how much further I will be able to aim?

XamVolo is a man who takes care of everything in music and has quite a team behind him too. You find a lot of new musicians either have to shoulder all the responsibility or have a big team working for them and taking control. The latter is rare and you do not often find an artist backed by an army or P.R. and promoters – you do get it but not often. One finds a lot of new acts have to work hard and get their voices heard with little support. Because of this, we are finding more acts becoming involved with every stage of the recording and producing process. XamVolo conceived, performs and produces his own music and, bar a few other voices, is that singular vision and determination comes out in the music. I am not sure whether it is a personal decision – someone who knows exactly how he wants the music to come across – or a circumstantial but hats go off to XamVolo. I admire any musician that has the bravery and talent to take the helm and responsibility. He has been performing for a few years now and is growing in stature and confidence. I imagine a germ and acorn would appear in his mind and that need to see it through and have it sound exactly as he imagines – that will be the reason XamVolo is a one-man writer-producer-musician. It is not down to lack of support – others would love to produce his work – but would not be able to give it the same personality and humanity he does. There is a lot to suggest we are going to see this happen in a lot more new artists – producing and writing all their own music. It used to be the case musicians would do this without thinking but so many upcoming artists have a host of writers and studioheads working on their sound and helping them get it out there. That is okay if you are not capable of doing it – makes one wonder why they are in music – but I feel a lot are being lazy and insincere. If you want to connect with the audience and get people following you: your music has to sound like it came from you and not anyone else. That is an axiomatic point but it is not resonating with a lot of musicians. It is sad to see but the likes of XamVolo are showing how it should be done and will change people’s minds – let’s hope so, at least.

PHOTO CREDIT: Robin Clewley Photography

One of the most intriguing facets of any new artist is the sound and style of their music. I always love delving into lyrics and finding out where they came from but it is the instrumentation and feelings that burst from the speakers that have the most immediate and profound effect. It is near-impossible crafting a sound that will appeal to everyone and be unstoppable. So many musicians are developing and adapting their music: looking for that alchemy and reacting to feedback and  reviews. XamVolo has experimented with his music but he sounds as fresh and natural as the day he arrived in music. The music he makes is a combination of Jazz and Soul: darker shades and some freestyle; bits of Grime in places and luminous Pop edges. One of the main reasons I latch onto certain musicians is because they are different and completely unique. That can be applied to XamVolo who has few contemporaries able to provoke such reaction and magic. It will be interesting to see how he flourishes and develops in the future, but one has to say, not a lot needs to be done. There are so many vague and generic Pop acts and artists that really do not linger in the mind. In terms of bands, you do get those that step outside of predictability but a lot that seems to follow their idols and really do not expend that much effort. I am not sure whether the band dilemma is because of their size and discipline. When you are in a band, you have to listen to the other members and it is hard having a consensus. Maybe (a band) will form after being inspired by others and have that instant need to pay tribute but injecting a similar vein. The solo artists might suffer this same fate although there are fewer voices to listen to. More singular, focused and varied – they have that room and do not get influenced by other voices and contradictions. I know XamVolo grew up listening to an array of different artists but has stepped away from them and listened to his internal monologues and instincts. The result of hard graft and inspired moments: what we hear is a young man who is solid and ready for the challenges ahead of him.

Chirality is the latest E.P. from XamVolo and one that follows from tracks like Rescue Me and Sapphires – work that arrived last year – but one of the most complete and impressive pieces from the young hero. What I find, when you compare the older work with the E.P., is how much more assured and adventurous it all sounds. A four-track E.P. brings familiar songs Down and Runner’s High into the fold and new cuts Gold Leaf and Foolish Kids. It is a sensational body of work that emanates from a mercurial musician that has seen a lot and puts that all into the E.P. Singles are a great way of hearing what an artist has in mind but are limited by time and even the finest have to work hard to really stand out. With an E.P., one has more time and options; the opportunity to create something full and complete. That is the case with Chirality. XamVolo does not overload it and make it too full or make it too short and slight. You get a solid quartet of songs and so many different contours and sides from a fascinating artist. One is left with a feeling of satisfaction and nourishment also has a lot of questions and things to think about. Chirality poses the listener look into their life and the world around them – few artists manage that with their music.

PHOTO CREDIT: Robin Clewley Photography

 

The Liverpudlian brings Jazz and Soul together in a blend of hypnotic beats and recalls the merits and nuance of contemporaries Anderson Paak and Kaiyote. Raw and dark Jazz grooves discipline a messy and mindful collaboration of thoughts and feelings. That is all the background one would need when it comes to Foolish Kids. The introduction is alarming, arresting and seductive. The beats are packed and tight but have certain slightness to them. Like pounding a pen against a desk or hearing a percussive jam through a single speaker – it is trippy and hollow but ample power and precision joins it. There are keys and Classic edges but one gets rawness and prowl early on. That mix off sophisticated contemplation and rude and edgy shrug opens the song up and already gets the imagination working. Foolish Kids has a vocal delivery that recalls Beat poetry and freestyling. There is a focus but no two lines are presented the same. At once accelerated and heady; the next, slinky and soothing – a compendium of speeds, angles and points of view.

The hero has nobody to blame if it all goes wrong. Opportunities may come but you/he has to grip them all. Maybe times are hard and there are obstacles in the way but there is nobody you can point the finger at. That is a mature and commendable attitude but one feels there is a lot of pressure and weight in the soul. Maybe the hero is trying to become a better man or progress in his career: perhaps love is a struggle and there is imbalance and imperfection in the bond. The vividness and drama the song presents is quite incredible. Visions of being torn apart and ripped asunder – a young man/hero whose feelings and hopes are being shredded – is balanced by a controlled and pastor-like delivery. Some of the lyrics are repeated and processed which gives echo and emotion to the song – some groove and catchiness, too. Those teasing and tense beats keep firm and create plenty of atmosphere and drive whilst you detect underground piano and electronic suggestions prod to the surface. The vocal is never too high in the mix: it sort of sits on a level plain with the composition which means some words do get buried but it means XamVolo does not deprioritise the composition and its potential. That considerate and balanced mix sees the music create its own life and work seamlessly with the vocal.

As the track develops, you get a sense of conflict and struggle. The young protagonists – when XamVolo or a fictional figure – has to grab those opportunities but is being weighed down by some fears and struggle. I am not sure whether there is a punctuality fall-out – “You know he’s going to be late” – in the sense a contact or peer is being assessed or whether the hero lacks that reliability. Before you delve too deeply into meanings and truth: a rousing, carnival-of-skeletons brass blast comes in. Being Hallowe’en; it is as though ghouls, specters and blood-seeking vampires are united in the Orchestra of the Damned. It is never too powerful or intense: quite quirky, New Orleans-tipping and intoxicating. It not only takes the song up a level but it provides more insight and emotion. That musical parable allowed me to get into the mind of XamVolo: that doubt and niggling anxiety; the urgency of grabbing opportunity and not being let down. I hear elements of Too Many Zooz – the New York collective who perform Psychedelic Jazz in the city’s subways – and some contemporary Neo-Jazz.

It is a coffee-scented passage that tees XamVolo up for another investigative confession. Women are, as it is said many times over, challenging and inscrutable at times. Perhaps there is a bit of romantic scarring and that has left the hero with some confusion and anger. Maybe it is a general rumination on love and its uncertainties: one feels the hero has had his heart damaged and is trying to collect the pieces from the roadside. When you put this all together – with what has come before – the track seems to take on new meaning. From a look at grabbing opportunity; it has developed into a reflection of the self and romance. I may be overreaching but I always look deep into a song and see what I can come up with. The words roll fast and pure and one swims inside the riptide. The composition is never too insistent: it is a perfect companion and keeps its mind level and restrained. XamVolo delivers his words almost Rap-like and ensures it flows and kicks with rhythm and poetic flair. Looking at various subjects – who tell him he will be back at square one if he falls and does not see the truth – you find the hero looking for a place to sleep and a place in life – if things fall through and he does not live for the moment. At every stage, I wonder whether Foolish Kids looks at career opportunities or the complexities of love. If the hero/XamVolo does not get on it and recognise the chances befalling him – that could lead to a downfall and spiritual capitulation. Maybe there is a lover in mind and the struggle to maintain common ground.

Those backing, repeated vocals pay dividends towards the closing moments and seem to represent a sense of questioning – the mind throwing up memories and conversation to add to that tension and confusion. There is a woman being assessed who is laying down truths and causing the hero to have some doubts. You get hooked and spellbound by the composition and wonderful Jazz-cum-Soul blends. It keeps pressing and eliciting reaction and response. You cannot listen to the song and not be involved and impressed by the sounds that burst and swoon in the ears. XamVolo ensures his voice and words are not overlooked and he continues to provide Foolish Kids plenty of intrigue and wisdom. Never wanting to give in and submit: the young man realising how you cannot let opportunities go. In the final exchanges, the momentum and fascination is kept firm. When you think the song has ended; there is sort of ‘hidden track’ or moment – a lo-fi recording of XamVolo speaking and delivering a sort of impromptu song. It is a sobering and calm creation after the drama and cinema of Foolish Kids. It is another incredible song from XamVolo and the perfect way to end his E.P. It is a fine example of an artist who keeps growing and improving with every release. Chirality is a fine and exceptional E.P. yet I feel Foolish Kids the jewel in the crown.

XamVolo is a musician that already has gathered a lot of critical respect and acclaim. Looked after by a great P.R. company and performing across the country: Chirality is an E.P. full of story, plot progression and personality. You are invested in the songs and dive into the lyrics and scenes being projected. There is redemption and wisdom; questions and answers; passion and pride and confessions from a musician that digs deep into the soul. You would be forgiven for thinking XamVolo has been around for decades and releasing just a regular E.P. – such is the confidence and ease in which he manages to impress and resound. The truth is a lot different: his best days are still ahead, but what we have now, is an E.P. bursting with sensational songs and incredible talent. I will wrap things up shortly but it is worth looking at my initial points – Liverpool music and taking control; the combination of sounds one can make – and declaring XamVolo’s future.

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With that in mind; one can see him becoming a mainstream star and someone able to shake the charts up. I am seeing a lot of similar musicians already celebrated and playing some huge stages. I can imagine XamVolo playing a live set on ‘6Music (if not already) and making his way to their attentions. He has that cool and wonderfully rich sound that is impossible to ignore and will strike a chord with everyone. Chirality is an E.P. solid and focused: it has so many different strands and colours; a range of emotions and lyrics that stick in the mind. That is a rare thing to see in music and certainly from one so young and new. I have already reviewed XamVolo before – a song from the same E.P. – and was keen to come back to him and one of the newer tracks from Chirality. The swansong is both epic and inspiring; touching and urgent – a track, once you taste it once, will want to come back to. It only leaves me to advise people to investigate artists outside of London. Although XamVolo is taken care of by a London-based P.R. company, one feels Liverpool will always run through the blood. I opened by looking at a few bands that will define the next year and already making waves. It is well-worth following them and the solo acts that are coming out of the city.

In so much as Liverpool is an area we should all keep an eye on – those that command dominance and faith in their own music should be celebrated. I opinioned so many artists are letting others into their music and is taking some of that control away. It is okay for one to bring in a producer or engineer: that can give new light and voice to a song and it is good to have another opinion on something. When it comes to writing and that side of things: I am never keen seeing a band or musician shell out that chore to someone else. XamVolo would not consider that and is a bright and talented writer who puts his heart and soul into every song. A writer whose voice and ideas are like no other – a real treat for the senses and wonderful revelation. I love the sounds he makes and the genres he teases together. Little Jazz and Soul touches; some little bit of Pop and other elements in there. It is a real treasure listening to a track like Foolish Kids and all the components that go into making it. Deconstruct the track and you can see the thought process and how it all came to be. Essentially, a song that looks at a man/person not getting the respect they deserve. Whether it is autobiographical or based around XamVolo one is not too sure. I assume there is a little bit of self in the song but it is a message to the world and those who have that same struggle and lack of acknowledgment. What one gets – from the song and E.P. – is a masterful musician that has a lot of years still left in him. I have been following XamVolo for a little while and can see that development and growth. It is wonderful to witness and something that is likely to continue. In a turbulent time where there is little certainty – not just in society but in music – XamVolo is…

A man you can always rely on.

______________________________

Follow XamVolo

 

Official:

http://www.xamvolo.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Xamvolo

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Xamvolo

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/xamvolo/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/xamvolo

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDglc3xX1jE

INTERVIEW: Amy Allen of Amy & the Engine

INTERVIEW:

 

 

Amy Allen of Amy & the Engine

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FROM reviews and interviews with British-based artists…

it is back to the U.S. and a wonderful New York band. Amy Allen fronts Amy & the Engine alongside Vinny DaSilva (lead guitar) and Manuel Ruiz. The trio has an incredible bond and has taken their music all across America. Previous E.P., TandeMania, represents their talents at a blistering peak  – a deeply personal work that announced the arrival or a very special trio. Since then (last year) the guys are putting together new work and performing across the country. I got the chance to learn more about Amy & the Engine’s lead and how the guys came together; the importance Fleetwood Mac are to her and how the new E.P. is coming along.

________________________________

Hi Amy. How are you? How has your week been?

Hey Sam! I just got back from L.A. a few days ago. Was there for some writing sessions so that was good fun – but I’m glad to be back in N.Y. so I can do some writing on my bed

For those new to your music: can you give us an introduction, please?

We are called Amy & the Engine and we formed in Boston, MA at Berklee College of Music. I write the tunes and have always drawn inspiration from music my dad raised me on – a la Classic Rock and any/all girl groups from the ‘50s/’60s. Right now, we are recording a new record which is more rock-influenced than the first, and I’d say, it sounds like the Cranberries-meet-The-Cure.

Vinny DaSilva and Manuel Ruiz are part of the band. How did you meet them?

We all met at Berklee two years ago through a mutual friend and they’ve become my best friends and brothers. Vinny is a phenomenal guitarist from Londrina, Brazil and Mano is a killer drummer from Lima, Peru. They’re my Rock’n’Roll stud muffins… and will, for sure, be annoyed I just called them that in an interview.

I know there is new E.P. coming up. What can you tell us about it and the songs/themes that will appear on it?

Yes! I started writing the new E.P. last January and it’s actually pretty different than TandeMania – which was our debut record. This new one (still untitled) is a bit darker and heavier than the first. I’ve been referring to the record as the ‘Chasing Jenny E.P.’ because out of the fifty-or-so songs I wrote for it; I’d say probably one-third of them had this Jenny character somehow finding her way to the surface. I was a little weirded-out by it at first (who is she and why do I keep coming back to her?), and then, the more I thought about it, I realized she was symbolising this idea of a person I always felt I should be – whether it’s just on my own or in a relationship. It all started making complete sense to me about halfway through my writing process, so now, looking back on the group of seven-or-so songs I picked to actually track; it’s pretty cool to see how the whole record developed around this one character, Jenny. (To be clear: I don’t even know a Jenny, but if I meet one, I’ll be happy to play one of these songs at her wedding or something… for free – just so I have an actual tangible person to connect it all with)

Having heard a few cuts; your voice is at its most soulful and funkiest. How do you think you have developed as a singer in the last year or so?

We started recording the first record before we were even playing shows as a band (really) so I think having two solid years of gigging as a (Pop) Rock band has helped me heaps. I’ve also grown into my songwriting over the last couple of years so I connect more with my songs now

TandeMania is an E.P. I love and have been listening to in preparation for this interview. It has gained a lot of love and great reviews. Are you surprised by the reaction is gained and how do you feel about the E.P. looking back?

TandeMania will always be one of the most meaningful projects I’ve ever worked on for so many reasons. It showcases the first time I ever stepped into a studio with Mano and Vinny – back when we were still getting to know each other and figure out our sound together. It also captures the first time I ever worked with two of my closest friends in the world (and insanely talented producers) Andrew Seltzer and Griffin Emerson. They produced the record with me; helped me navigate ‘the Engine’s sound and got me through a LOT of shit, haha. The morning we started tracking Patience (my personal favorite song off the record) I had just gone through such a terribly bad breakup only a few hours before we started tracking – pretty funny to look back on now, haha. I was legitimately on the verge of tears that entire day of tracking vocals and I think Griff and Andy were probably terrified to ask me to sing another take – fearing I’d have some crazy breakdown or something, haha. And now, when I hear that song, I’m immediately taken back to Andy’s bedroom we were recording in and a song I wrote about growing up takes on a completely new, wonderful meaning to me.

A lot of media sources feature all-male bands and male-led bands. Do you feel female-fronted acts have to struggle harder? Have you had to face any obstacles as a female musician?

I think it’s pretty funny actually because we are still in that age where if it’s an all-girl band or even just a female-fronted band: a lot of people/press will hyper focus on that aspect, saying ‘FEMALE-FRONTED Rock group Amy & the Engine’; as if ‘female-fronted’ is some type of music genre or something, haha. I’ve never read an article or heard someone say “oh yeah, this ALL-MALE group is fucking awesome; I love them“, haha. I think there are still FAR fewer women in the music industry as a whole but someday – not too far off I hope – there will be just as many female producers, engineers; managers, etc. as (there are) male.

Your guitar skills are particularly impressive and varied. How long have you been playing and which guitarists are especially influential to you?

Ah, thank you! I started playing in 4th grade so that I could join the Jazz band and I faked my way through rehearsals for about three weeks before they realised I wasn’t actually reading the sheet music (because I had no idea what I was looking at) – so then I got booted. BUT later that year I took up electric bass so I could join my older sister’s Rock band (no sheet music needed there…) and then eventually found my way back to guitar (when I started writing songs)   As for my favorite guitarist: I think probably Lindsey Buckingham. My life changed the first time my dad put on the Rumours record in the car.

Over the years, you (and the band) have been labelled as one of the finest new bands to watch; you have gained award nods and achieved a lot. Which accolades have meant the most or has it all been a bit dizzying?

Hmm. I think for me there are two standout experiences we’ve had:

1) Opening for one of my all-time FAVORITE bands, Guster. I’ve known every word to every song of theirs for as long as I can remember and we got to play with them in this beautiful theatre in Massachusetts with our family and friends there.

2) Our Sofar Sounds Midwest tour last spring. We had so many insanely funny, eye-opening bonding moments on that trip… Oy.

You are based in New York but hail from Boston. How does the music scene differ (between the cities) and what is New York like for a young, ambitious musician?

Boston was very kind to us and we will always be a Boston band at heart but New York has a lot more of a scene for us at the moment. Very happy to be here and still just a short drive away from our O.G.s in Boston The music scene is obviously just much bigger in N.Y., and of course, with more people comes more diversity; so there’s more of a thriving Pop-scene which is great for us. In addition, I also do a lot of writing sessions for other artists so that is much more accessible here as well.

I notice Fleetwood Mac are big in your life. I am a huge fan of Rumours and Tusk. When did you first discover the band and have you any favourite albums/songs of theirs?

I have two older sisters and my dad raised us all on Classic Rock. He started playing Fleetwood Mac, The (Rolling) Stones; The Who, The Guess Who; Rush etc. – on our long drives home from figure skating and ballet lessons.

Rumours will always take the cake for me. I could listen to that record for the rest of my life on repeat, haha. I saw Fleetwood Mac live two years ago and my hands legitimately seized when they played The Chain. I’m aware that sounds a little aggressive but it was clearly very impactful on my body, haha.

In that vein: which musicians and albums were important you growing up?

Dionne Warwick; The Guess Who; (Bruce) Springsteen; George Harrison; ABBA and Everclear, haha. Mixed bag! What can ya do?!

Going a bit off music for a bit, I see you have run half-marathons are quite sporty – I have run a few marathons myself. What is it about running that attracts you and have you run for any charities?

Haha, woah! This has never come up in an interview before! Props to you for doing your research, hahah. I love running because I can clear my mind from my own writing and listen to new music that inspires me.

My oldest sister and her husband are professional runners (she was in the Olympic trials for the Marathon last winter!) and the rest of my family is really athletic as well – so, by default, I find myself agreeing to sign up for marathons, half-marathons – though I can’t say I particularly enjoy them while I’m running them; I do love the feeling after, haha. And, yes, I have done races for charities! The one that’s particularly important to me is called Team Kroot!

Back to music and you have been performing a lot of great gigs lately. Which ones stand out in the mind and which cities/states do you love playing the most?

I love getting back to Maine (my home state) for shows because I get to see family and stay at home! We also had some pretty memorable shows in Toronto and Nashville


You’d get a lot of love in London. Have you been to the city before and can we expect to see you here in the coming months?

I have been before for writing sessions but never for shows! We are hoping to get over there for a run of shows in 2017!

For any new musicians coming through: can you give them any advice or guidance?

Make music that YOU love. Don’t give a shit about what’s hot right now . Great songs last forever.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name any song (rather than your own as I’ll include it) and I’ll play it here.

Woo! Ok. My friend Luke just turned me onto this group from the late-‘80s/’90s called the Cocteau Twins. I’m 100% late to this party but I LOVE it. All their records are a good listen, but if I have to pick one song, probably Heaven or Las Vegas.

________________________

Follow Amy & the Engine

PHOTO CREDIT: Shervin Lainez

 

Official:

http://www.amyandtheengine.com/

Facebook:

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

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/AmyAndTheEngine

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/amyandtheengine/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/amyandtheengine

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdoIhztkQYovFM4K4-moDCQ

TRACK REVIEW: EBSON – Adapt to Thrive

TRACK REVIEW:

 

EBSON

 

 

 

Adapt to Thrive

 

9.4/10

 

Adapt to Thrive is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/ebsonmusic/adapt-to-thrive

GENRE:

Alternative-Soul

ORIGIN:

London

RELEASE DATE:

July 2016

PRODUCER:

Charlie J. Perry

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THIS will be one of the last times I’ll be….

ebson

looking at brand-new artists and their first single. There is a slew of hopeful and bright musicians that are laying down their marker and taking that all-important first step into music. As far as I can tell, there are no real definite standouts – those that are so far ahead of the pack others have to catch up. There is an immense amount of competition and variation in music right now. Before I come to my featured artist, I will look at brand-new artists emerging in London right now; the blue-eyed, modern-day Soul artists around and the importance of visibility and connection – another gripe/theme that I shall air for the final time. I’ll start with that point, actually, as it is something that irks me about modern artists. Being a reviewer who often uses fourteen/fifteen photos in a review: it is galling and sweat-making fleshing out a review for artists who only have a couple of snaps on their social media pages. That point is applied to today’s featured artist as he has immense potential but needs to get himself out there more. It is not a big issue but one yearns to connect with an artist straight out the traps. As there are so many people playing, it is imperative those entering music do so hard and meaningful. It is all well and good having a song or two but photos and personal revelation are paramount in order for the prospective fan to gain an understanding of the artist. My featured act does have a firm and full biography but is a little anonymous when it comes to visuals and photography. I often speculate as to why certain acts call time and others struggle to get off the blocks. I am not suggesting a lack of photos will end a career but I like to discover a musician and actually see them – how they come across on camera and gain more knowledge of what they look like. For a journalist, I am always leaning on visuals in order to make reviews more illuminative, stylish and less wordy – at least punctuating sentences and blocks with photos. Anyone hoping to make early breaks in the industry needs to get that side of thing sorted. In addition to this, a full and respectable social media portfolio needs to be cemented.

It is not good enough ignoring outlets like Twitter and Facebook – they are there for a reason and will help gain support and followers. Maybe it is me moaning, but get those photos and images sorted and you are already overcoming hurdles and potential problems early on. Photoshoots cost a bit of money but there is always the space and need for a few candid, personal snaps – maybe the odd fan shot or gig photo. I wanted to raise this point; not just to gripe about something but highlight a vital thing. I do wonder whether music is affordable at the moment and what new artists have to endure. One of the reasons so many bands and acts have short lives in the industry is the financial imbalance and struggle. It is a challenge generating funds and enough money to continue to perform but the audacious costs of getting music together is, quite frankly, astonishing. I have mentioned photos but wonder: how expensive would it be getting a set of professional shots together? Even if you have a P.R. company behind you, you will still have to fork out some serious money for promotional shots and a website. From there, you have to think about the recording and production of songs. We have reached a stage in music where the cost is starting to outweigh the benefits and profits. With so many venues closing down, it is getting harder for new musicians to perform and find opportunities. Alas, I shall leave this for now but just wanted to talk about that issue – it is something that gets to me and needs to be addressed.

Before I come to my next point – and raise another one – I shall introduce my featured artist:

EBSON is a new Alternative Soul artist drawing on deep rooted soul sensibilities that resonate through blues infused vocals and a fearless engagement to grand themes of power, struggle and the journey of realisation.

An ear for multi-layered arrangements and the insight of a storyteller, EBSON takes inspiration from the world around him, combining to create a distinctive sound that is as much a product of the environment we live in as it is the personal experiences and insights of one man.
Over the last four years EBSON has patiently dedicated himself to his craft, defining and honing the vision for his sound leading to the release of his first single 
Adapt to Thrive. In that time EBSON has worked alongside and collaborated with award winning creatives not only from the music industry, but also the worlds of British film and visual art. Musically, EBSON cites a broad range of influences from both sides of the Atlantic; from D’Angelo, Anthony Hamilton and Gil Scott-Heron, to James Blake, The XX and Hans Zimmer.  

There is enough in that biography to suggest a young man that has the drive and passion to see if through. Aside from the word ‘journey’ being used – the most overused and nauseating word any musician can employ in their lexicon – I have a lot of faith in EBSON. He is a bit hard to find on Twitter – there may be an account but I can’t track him – and there is only a single shot of him on Facebook – a few other photos to go alongside it. When that side of things is rectified and expanded; one can only imagine how far he will go. I’ll come to talk about Soul music, but right now, it is interesting examining all the shades and colours coming from London. The capital is at its busiest and most productive right now. I am struggling to keep a track of all the artists coming through and making sure London is in the public forefront. Maybe there is a sense of quantity over absolute quality but some definite future talent showing their wares. What stands EBSON apart from the throng of musicians coming out is the subjects he is addressing and the way he is going about things. London is seeing a lot of like-minded artists – in terms of sounds and dynamic – yet EBSON is someone I wanted to look at because his subject matter and production sound ensures his debut single gets right into the memory. If you had to compile a list of the top -fifty London musicians of the minute – something I might try to do at some point – where would you start and what would your parameters be? For my money, you have to look at the originality and urgency of the music. From there, one considers the vocal sound and how soulful or stunning it is.

Take it a bit further and look at the words being sung – just how distinct are they and do they stray beyond the familiar? Again, you need to look at the overall package and truly unearth a unique talent – rather than someone who sounds like everyone else. I love the music coming out of London but feel there are too many sound-alikes and indistinguishable musicians. What I love about EBSON is his themes and lyrical ideas. He is a man that triumphs over adversity and compels others to do so. Among the zeitgeist of young, ambitious British Soul artists right now – eyes will surely turn to EBSON and one feels there is ample room for him to nestle into the mainstream. London is the best place for a new musician to grow up and get their voice heard. I fear for those that stay outside the capital and try to make strides. Perhaps bigger cities – Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool – have more chances and are less harsh on the new musician but the towns and villages seem rather limited and empty. I have mentioned the dwindling venues and club scene in London but there are still ample destinations the young artist can cut their teeth. Aside from bars and venues, there are enough spots about London you can get yourself out there. There is also a community spirit and a shared love among musicians – eschewing and subverting social ideals about the capital – and there is no place like it. In that sense, EBSON has started off in the best place and has worked hard to get where he is already.

Before I get to EBSON (and his debut single) it is worth taking a closer look at the Soul artists emerging. I mentioned them, in rather ironic terms, as ‘blue-eyed’ but there is some truth in it. That term – blue-eyed Soul – was employed during the 1960s to artists who has the flair of Stax and Motown to their music without being what one would expect. There was a time when a majority of Soul artists were black but there has been a shift the last couple of decades especially. It is not a racial stereotype to say black artists – when it comes to Soul – have richer and more astonishing voices. Maybe it is their upbringing and musical tastes; something hard to describe, but I always think you cannot beat voices like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Smokey Robinson. There have been some British, white versions of these acts – Paolo Nutini and Sam Smith – but they lack the authenticity, command and presence of those artists. Perhaps those that go for direct Stax-like Soul sounds are always going to struggle. It is not perhaps the voices we should highlight – the greats of the genre will always outrank the newcomers – but those established themes and dimensions. I am hearing so many great Soul voices that are adding other genres together to produce something sparkling and pioneering. Maybe it will be a fusion of Electronic or Pop cores; some Rock edges or something in the way of Indie. What EBSON does is take the groundwork of Soul and updates the sound. He is being compared to the likes of James Blake and The xx because of his vivid and luscious compositions and striking vocals. I proffered how few white soul voices there used to be – it is a genre that is reserved for the finest voices and most alluring artists. For that reason, it is quite challenging coming into Soul and simply throwing something average together. You will be found out and your day will be limited. EBSON is not a man who is in for the short haul and has, not only the determination and talent to see it through, but embers of great Soul artists and D.N.A. that will draw in multiple generations and music fans.

Before arriving at Adapt to Thrive, I usually would look at an artist’s back catalogue and how they have come along. That is hard for a young man who has just released his debut yet one can predict his future and what direction it will take; the artists that go into his music perhaps. I have mooted artists like James Blake and The xx: they are two names you will hear in Adapt to Thrive. Jamie Woon is someone else who one hears but, to be fair, EBSON is his own man and only uses these artists briefly and as a guide. It is positive finding a musician that has that quality and comparison early – you never feel like EBSON is a second-rate version of any of these acts; always committed, assured and incredible throughout. If you are a fan of the cinematic, atmospheric Soul of Woon and Blake then you will love EBSON and what he is producing. Similarly, anyone who favours their Soul genuine and emotive will find much to love about Adapt to Thrive. You get a touch of the ‘60s and ‘70s legends but something very modern and 2016 with it. I feel EBSON will be producing a few E.P.s and albums in the future and every new release will expand and develop from the other. In the early stages, one can hear a lot of confidence and bravery in the music. He has not gone in with limited sounds and a rather cliché song – what you get is plenty of scope and vision; a song that has positive messages and does not stray to the well-worn themes of relationships and love.

Adapt to Thrive is a song that starts with echoed and haunting vocals – wordless and trance-like in their delivery. In a sense, one gets little hints of artists from Faithless and Roots Manuva from those notes. They are quite dark and urban but have soulfulness and coolness to them. You get hooked into a very luscious and intriguing sound that soon mutates into a concentrated vocal and thought-provoking lyric. Addressing the need to survive and the struggle one faces: the hero has no room for his voice to be heard but has “so much to say”. That message and thought could apply to EBSON or society in general. Having been inspired by London and the rabble one faces: you feel it is hard, in a modern city, to get yourself heard and find room. Backed by sparse piano notes and a general aura of shadows and darkness: the hero is fighting through the mist and trying to reach the light. EBSON is not someone who will take ‘no’ for answer and simply watch someone surrender. There are a lot of challenges and struggles we face on a daily basis. It can be hard finding resolve and strength but that is the point of the song: finding that courage and dispensing with the weaknesses. In fact, that idea – shifting the weak side of us – is almost emphasised and becomes a mantra. We often get bogged down by our hang-ups and doubts; the feeling we cannot carry on against the pressure and hardships. You are compelled by EBSON’s voice and what he is laying down. That deep and striking voice gives the words gravitas and strength; you close your eyes and picture the Soul greats and how they could grip you with their voices. I have mentioned the legends of Soul and how engaging and entrancing their voices are – that same label can be applied to EBSON. He might take some time to ascend to their heights but you hear plenty of promise in Adapt to Thrive. While you get an unmistakable reflection and sound of the capital: one also can hear embers of the U.S. and the greats that emerged from the country.

ebson

Combining these contrasts with the relentlessly impressive production sound and (bare but haunting) composition and the song keeps on igniting sparks and getting into the soul. EBSON’s voice is multiplied and creates a humming, twilight choir that gives a smoky allure to the positive messages of fight and hope. Our hero wants fear abandoned and the causal listener to think carefully. Those timid or unsure sure reevaluate and extinguish that in them that causes trepidation and doubts. Not only does Adapt to Thrive have and inherent survival mechanism and rebellious streak: it is a universal message we can all abide by and take heart from. Many of us feel trapped and doubtful; never sure of our worth and potential. In that sense, the song has multiple facets and can be applied to so many different feelings and scenarios. As those vocals layer and climb: you feel the chills come but also something warming, romantic and graceful. It is easy to hear shades of Jamie Woon and James Blake: that same resonance and timbre; the coffee-rich sound and low-sounding tones. The song gets faster and more street-level as it progresses. Unlike artists like James Blake: EBSON seems to cast his stories directly to the London streets and the commuter population. That distinct accent and affection for the people is balanced with a scepticism and unnerving fear of the wider world. The hero actually asks what has happened to the world, and one feels, that is a reaction to recent atrocities and terrorist attacks; the fact humanity seems to be slipping. All the composition does is provide chimes and the odd note: effectively, the vocal is king and the most dominant instrumental in the emotional orchestra. By the half-way stage, you get a sense of EBSON and his abilities; what he is trying to say and the music he produces. It ensures the final two minutes find the hero pondering and striking against meekness and fear. Those that kneel should not do so through fear but gratitude: overthrow those negative thoughts and embrace something more positive. EBSON’s voice simultaneously could have been found in The Tabernacle (from the Hebrew Bible) but is very much at home at London’s The Tabernacle – in the sense you get something old-world and profound but modern and British.

As the song ticks, it grows in stature and sound. The vocals and more prescient and that general combination of beauty and fear becomes evident and inescapable. It is the beauty that resounds and will leave indelible impressions. EBSON is a man who wants the world to castigate the hatred and violence and discover something purer and more human – a preacher fighting against the smog and anxieties of the modern world. Adapt to Thrive is local and universal; personal and everyman; haunted but transcendent. As the hero points the finger at the world – not having learnt from mistakes and growing – the beats come in thick and fast and add new layers. You get caught into the bellicose slams and the pastor-at-the-pulpit declarations of the hero – a man that stands atop spirituality and is not passing judgement but trying to decipher humanity and mankind. You never get the sense EBSON thinks life is too short and time is waning – always the feeling there is so much to do and enough time to affect change. Few artists, especially on their debut, present something as deep and embracing as this. Usually, they address heartache and sorrow and it can feed into that pandemic of doe-eyes musicians who are too keen to jump on the psychiatrist’s sofa – a little selfish in a way. Those that reserve those complaints for future releases are to be applauded. Because of that, Adapt to Thrive is a more relatable song and has positivity in every note. You never feel suffocated, bored or awkward as you hear it: constantly uplifted and made to ponder life and the self. By the time the song ends, you are urged to repeat it and reinvestigate. Not only is this because of the clear nuances that can be found – not just in the lyrics but the subtle yet accomplished composition – but the instantaneous quality. Adapt to Thrive is a confident and solid song from a bright talent who impresses right from the very start.

I have put a great many words together to try and explain the talent and abilities of EBSON. It is rather evident, from listening to Adapt to Thrive that he will do fine without my words. The young London-based artist is already getting into the vision of some rather prominent stations and reviewer. It is always a huge challenge making yourself known from the debut single and that is putting a lot of talent off. They see the realities and hardships involved with promotion and it can be rather upsetting and sobering. EBSON has been lucky to get the attention of Brick (a P.R. company in London) and is being looked after and taken under their wing. It cannot be too long until he is being played prominently on the big stations and getting some rather hefty gigs under his belt. Before I wrap things up – and assess the future of EBSON – I wanted to come back to the original points of exposure and transparency; the Soul singers coming about and the importance of London. The capital is a thriving and boiling pot of cultures, sounds and wondrous musicians. I have never seen a time when the city is so alive and bright as it is now. I am not sure what has caused this explosion but maybe it is a reaction to the dwindling club scene. The musicians are, maybe, feeling a sense of disconnection and separation and are coming together strongly. There is a definite desire to prove the Government wrong and show how needed the small venues and clubs are. They (Government) are negligent and naïve with regards this point and do not understand how vital that side of music is. Aside from some drug-related deaths besmirching the good name of fabric: there have not been many other issues that could rationlise closing a club. Perhaps finances and a lack of support are condemning some venues but there is a bigger problem that must be addressed. I know it is a complex issue but it is courageous the musicians of London – and the U.K. as a whole – are banding together and showing common strength and unity.

EBSON has arrived, in many respects, at a rather peculiar time. Never has the scene been as busy and varied as it is now but never has it been as fraught and uncertain. One of the ways music will continue to overcome and inspire is the talent and commitment of the young generation emerging. Some genres are suffering strains – the purity and survival of Rock can be questioned; mainstream Pop is rather stagnant and commercial – but there are others that are blossoming and evolving. ‘British’ ‘Soul’ are two words that one could not have placed together at a certain time – almost like foreign counterparts with no shared history or relevance. Over the past few years, the promulgation of artists like James Blake has ensured British Soul is not to be sniffed at and overlooked. Not purely connected to the forefathers of the genres: the new presentation of the genre is modernised and of-the-moment. Not reliant of heavy strings and emotive palettes: there seems to be a preference for dark and cinematic swathes; something a little edgier and twenty-first-century, one could barter. Adapt to Thrive is a rallying cry from a young man that has put an anthem for unity and defiance on the page. The cinematic landscape and fight-against-the-odds strength is something that will connect and resonate with many. Those layered harmonies and Gothic elements; the cinema-screen width and raw emotions all go together wonderfully. Charlie J. Perry has joined with Grammy-nominated Alex Evans, and between them, helped produce and mix a track that announced a sensational new talent. The ascending melodies and themes were inspired by a trip (EBSON took) whilst negotiating the bustling streets of London. I have stated London is heaving and busy but that has a couple of different sides to it. In terms of productivity, you cannot fault it and there is a huge and ambitious music scene developing. On the other foot, there are so many people crammed into a city which can provoke the need for survival and keeping your breath. Perhaps suffocated and struggling against the sheer number of bodies in his path:  a song has been born that is one man’s assessment of this – creating something inspiring that will get into the listeners’ hearts and bring some raw emotions to the surface.

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It is a wonderful song that one hopes will form the part of an E.P. That might be at the back of his mind, but as we head into 2017, one feels that will be a concern. Arriving hot with a song like Adapt to Thrive and there has been a lot of attention put the way of EBSON. Maybe a four-track E.P. or similar is in his thoughts or maybe something full-length and album-like. After that, there will be the considerations of touring and taking the next steps. These are all things to ponder, but for now, the attention for the debut single is strong and continuing. Let’s just wrap things up by saying EBSON has navigated early hurdles and has come out strong and defiant. Here is an artist that is unlikely to struggle and find it tough getting focus from the media and radio. The music is already established, confident and authoritative and you get the sense he will be around for a very long time to come. What form that takes will be interesting to see but one assumes the Alternative-Soul route is one with a lot more juice left in it. I hope EBSON gets a few photos taken and puts them up as it would be good, not only for a reviewer or interviewer; but give the public a chance to put a face to the music. That is almost as important as making terrific music: creating a persona and putting a human element behind the songs. If you cannot get a sense of what the artist looks like it can be hard bonding and finding any real connection to them. For now, and before all those considerations are debated, enjoy a song from a London artist who is one to watch. His song might look for strength in the face of adversity but it seems…

THERE will be no struggle for EBSON.

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Follow EBSON

 

Official:

http://www.ebsonmusic.com/

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

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/signalofficial/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/ebsonmusic