Review – The Winterlings – American Son – by Progradar

Music touches us, affects us and moves us every day. It doesn’t have to be up-beat cheerful music to make us happy and mournful, sorrowful songs won’t always make you sad. Music has a beauty and grace however it is sung and played.

I’ve been listening to the fourth album from American roots and folk duo The Winterlings and, it must be said, ‘American Son’ is not a release full of mirth and frivolity. What is is is a collection of songs from the heart, delivered with honesty and sincerity and one that will move you on a most personal level.

Wolff Bowden grew up in a house on stilts, fifteen feet above a Florida swamp. In Wolff’s dreams it was always winter, stood beside a bonfire, singing to half-animal, half human beings called Winterlings. Two decades later they had come to symbolise life’s deepest callings and he abandoned medical school for visual art.

Around the same time Amanda Birdsall was working on a doctorate in psychology when she looked down to find her notebook full of song lyrics. Walking out of class, she grabbed her guitar and drove to Canada to work on organic farms in exchange for food and tiny rooms to write songs by candlelight.

After meeting at a Buddhist fire ritual, Wolff and Amanda drove from Florida to the Pacific Northwest where they soaked up seven years of rain to give birth to over fifty songs. Singing from the depths of the American wilderness, The Winterlings shine their literary lyrics on subjects ranging from trangender Civil War soldier Jenny Hodgers to a friend’s lung transplant…and the life story of a housefly.

‘American Son’ is an intense experience from start to finish, opening track The Ghost of Leonard resulted from Wolff being visited by the ghost of Leonard Cohen while deep in meditation and it is quite a dark and yet deeply moving song with Wolff’s deep vocals reminiscent of the great man himself. Mournful and fragile, accompanied by the ethereal beauty of the violin and acoustic guitar, it is incredibly poignant and left a rather large lump in my throat. Title track American Son is songwriting at its basic and very best with an addictive chorus and a feeling of regret running throughout. The sparse instrumentation is the backdrop on which Wolff’s distinctive vocal weaves its story, Amanda adding her more lustrous voice in a great harmony.

Gold has a feel of the Old West to it with the opening languid harmonica and Amanda’s vocal brings in a real 70’s folk feel. Wistful and nostalgic at heart, there’s an unhurried frankness to the song. The easygoing guitar brings your pulse rate down and a calmness and composure envelops your very being. There is a sombre grace to both Birthplace and The Dead, imbued by Wolff’s excellent voice and the basic grace of the music. Touching and sentimental, these songs really get to you on a personal level, I find myself stopping whatever it is I’m doing and just listening. They are captivating and bewitching and the ability of Wolff and Amanda to hold you in their spell is incredible.

There’s more of a lighthearted feel to Owl Mountain with it’s childlike charm and innocence. Amanda’s voice is a great counterpoint for Wolff’s more earnest and austere delivery and the sparsity of the instrumentation works perfectly. With a feeling of regret and loss, Puget Sound really tugs at your heartstrings with its raw heartache and yet it really touches you with its candid sincerity, you can’t help but become caught up in the story that is being laid out before you.

Sunspeech takes the allure of a simple acoustic guitar and Amanda’s wonderful vocal to give you a song that seems to be able to cleanse your soul. The plaintive strains of the harmonica add a real wistful, sepia tinged atmosphere to this absorbing piece of music and a touch of sadness fell over me when it came to a close. Wolff’s vocal has a rueful almost remorseful edge as he sings the opening lines of World To Change, there’s a feeling of restful change about the lyrics, “We won’t wait for the world to change…”. A plea to the world to change before it’s too late. That Was Alaska closes out the album on a thoughtful and reflective note and ,as the last note is played, I realise I’ve been at the centre of an utterly inspiring and satisfying musical journey.

With ‘American Son’ melancholy and wistfulness have never been so beautiful. A beguiling and entrancing musical journey through love, loss and regret where you feel every high and every low. The Winterlings have delivered a superb collection of songs that will stay with me for a very long time.

Released 1st November 2017 in the UK.

Order ‘American Son’ direct from The Winterlings store here

 

  

The Way Down Wanderers All Set for UK Debut – Tour Includes Leeds and Otley Dates

They’ve been spreading a particularly infectious brand of joy on their travels across the USA with a camaraderie that’s rare and joie de vivre that is simply inspirational.

Voted Chicago’s best Emerging Artist in 2014, the band captivates audiences with a lively stage show that lifts the spirits…and has created quite a buzz with unplugged, off-stage encores and propensity for performing self-titled, “rest-stomps” – free acoustic sets at rest & truck stops along their tour routes.

There is an overwhelming feeling of generosity that is driven by lashings of youthful love-of-life zest that’s bursting with sincerity. Watch the faces of those heading home at the end of the show and what you will find is a sea of smiles

Playing, performing and writing together for just four years, The Way Down Wanderers have built an enthusiastic and fast-growing following and were finalists in the 2015 International Song-writing Competition.

In the States, they have important sections of the media on their side and have been winning compliments such as “enchanting”, “uplifting,” “vibrant,” “luxuriant,”, “exquisite,” “barn-burning” and “sparkling.”

The band first threw down the gauntlet and created an impressive early impact when they delivered two EPs – “Path to Follow” and the ‘live’ offering, “Wellspring.”

The first full-length album, produced by Mike Marsh of the Avett Brothers and recorded at Sonic Ranch in El Paso, which got its Stateside release in mid-2016, was said my many commentators to be their highlight of the year – both in American and Europe too.

When they played showcases in Nashville that entire tough-to-please town went totally gaga with delight.

One reviewer concluded they were “set to take the world by storm” – and that’s precisely what we’ve been thinking too.

One of those to catch them in action showcasing was the BBC’s Ricky Ross, himself, of course a successful musician and composer and when he learned they were coming over to the UK, he invited them into the studio to record a live session for his popular Another Country radio show. That will be the first event on this agenda after they fly in.

Other prominent figures in the UK media have been singing their praises.

“They grabbed me from the first track,” said Spencer Leigh, when he reviewed their album for Country Music People. Writing for Acoustic magazine, Paul Strange told readers they could look forward to hearing “something different.”

“A talented bunch – a band to watch,” said Peter Churchill at AmericanaUK, while Mike Morrison at American Roots UK said they were “a welcome breath of fresh air in roots music,” adding: “a young band that could well be destined for great things.”

Tour schedule:

Wed Nov 22: Another Country with Ricky Ross – BBC Radio Scotland, Glasgow

Thurs 23: Birnam Arts, Perthshire

Fri 24: CatStrand Arts Centre, New Galloway

Sat 25: Tumbleweed at Seven Arts, Leeds

Sun 26: Selby Town Hall

Tues 28: The Forge, Anvil Arts, Basingstoke

Thurs 30: No 8, Launceston

Fri Dec 1: Grayshott Village Hall, Surrey

Sat 2: Square & Compass, Worth Matravers

Sun 3: Whitstable Sessions, Kent

Tues 5: The Green Note, London

Wed 6: The Atkinson Theatre, Southport

Thurs 7: Acoustic Music Club, Kirkcaldy

Fri 8: Otley Courthouse

Sat 9: Performing Arts Centre, Kilbarchan

 

Review – The Novel Ideas – s/t – by Progradar

Ever since I met Iain Sloan and was introduced to the Americana of The Wynntown Marshals I have been hooked on that sound and the heartache and melancholia of love-and-loss that is at the heart of country-folk. Music that tugs at your heartstrings, there’s nothing more wonderfully emotive than a well played lap or pedal steel guitar in my opinion!

The next release from Loudon Temple at Bloody Great PR that I’m investigating falls slap bang in the middle of that territory, the self-titled release from Boston, Massachusetts country-folk quartet The Novel Ideas. Incredibly plaintive 4- part vocal harmonies and that blend of pedal steel, guitar, fiddle and organ which produces such a distinctive and American sound.

Four friends – Sarah Grella (vocals), Danny Hoshino (guitar, pedal steel, vocals), James Parkington (bass, vocals) and Daniel Radin (guitar, vocals) – who contrive to convey honesty and intimacy through their music. Capturing the renowned spirit of their live performance in recorded from was a challenge, but the result is a heartfelt representation of who The Novel Ideas are.

There’s a real feel of love and longing at the core of The Novel Ideas and it produces a sound that is utterly addictive. The vocal harmonies are at the entre of the band’s unique sound and they imbue everything with a dignified and refined grace. Wistful nostalgia and melancholy are at the heart of songs like opener I’m Not Waiting and the tone of the pedal steel guitar is full of longing and sentiment.

The great fiddle playing of Eva Walsh adds country polish to I’ll Try, a touching song that speaks of regret and loss and the vocal harmonies take centre stage on the pastoral Americana of Old Ways. This record is an immersive musical epxerience and you find yourself becoming more and more involved in the stories of small town America, the beauty and fragility of  Broken Glass is superb, a song that tugs at every single one of your heartstrings and will produce a lump in your throat with its ethereal grace.

Music that speaks of broken hearts and the ending of life’s journeys but that does so with sympathy and compassion, the mournful grace of Sarah Grella’s vocals really stands out on Lost On The Road but it is when the four-part vocal harmonies take centre stage that this refined quartet are at their absolute best. Take the wonderful The Blue Between Us, here the vocals are used as an extra instrument to give one of the best tracks on the album and Danny give sone of his best performances on the pedal steel, there’s something heartwarming about the music that The Novel Ideas create and while its themes might be regret and loss, there is always the hope that love will be our saviour.

The warmth and humility of the music shines through on Farm which has a more straightforward country sound to it, although elegantly polished, again Danny’s pedal steel stands out, this time accompanied by the sublime fiddle playing of Eva Walsh. Additional kudos must be given to the fantastic drumming and percussion of  Elena Bonomo and the piano and organ skills of John Waynelovich throughout the album. The calm unflustered grace of Dena is another standout track, the dignified, melancholic vocals accompanied by the captivating music that soars above you, its feels like a sad song but it is sadness tempered by real beauty.

Every song leaves its mark on your heart and your soul, Calling You Out  and Mountain are both incredibly heartfelt pieces of music that hit you on a basic emotional level, grace, beauty and elegance combined in a simple musical package. Incredibly accomplished musicians who can wonderful write songs of love, loss, grief and joy that interact with you and your emotions perfectly, the album closes with the simple brilliance of the spiritual I Was Not Around. It’s a bittersweet poignant song whose fragile grace is tempered by the feeling of loss and sorrow. An emotive track to close out an album of emotional highs and lows.

Such an emotional rollercoaster, The Novel Ideas have created a beautiful collection of songs that hit you hard on a basic emotional level. Incredible musicians as well as highly accomplished musicians, Americana and country-folk has never been more appealing.

Released 1st November 2017 in the UK.

Buy The Novel ideas direct from the band here

 

 

 

 

Review – The 4 Of Us – Sugar Island – by Progradar

Discovering new music is an incredible journey that has become an important part of my life. There is a massive seam of untapped material out there and I can mine just a little so when I get a message from a PR company I’ve never dealt with before, asking if I’d be interested in their releases, my curiosity is mightily piqued.

That message came from Loudon Temple of Bloody Great PR and, true to his word, a week later a large envelope arrived with a selection of new releases. The first one that I picked from the pile was from Northern Irish artist The 4 Of Us and their new release ‘Sugar Island’.

This is music I’ve never heard or heard of before so I am embarking an a real musical voyage of discovery. Formed by Newry-born brothers Brendan and Declan Murphy, they have developed a strong musical identity which has produced original and award winning recordings, as well as a large and loyal fan base.

The 4 Of Us shot to fame with their 1989 debut ‘Songs For The Tempted’ and, to date, the Murphy brothers have notched up an enviable catalogue of timeless songs, including 6 Top 20 Irish charting albums.

‘Sugar Island’ is their seventh studio release and explores the brothers’ early years growing up in Northern Ireland and includes tracks reflecting on their childhood, in and around a border town during the height of the troubles.

Mainly focusing on the trademark interplay of their acoustic guitars, the brothers have also worked with a few gifted musicians to fulfil their vision. Enda WalshSharon Vaughn, Peter McKinney and Yvonee Fahy all helped to bring this recording to life.

(Picture by Will Rolls)

I have to admit to being blown away from the very first song, pop/folk roots music which is played with consummate skill. Bird’s Eye View opens the autobiographical release with aplomb. There’s a wistful and nostalgic feel that runs throughout the album, the lyrics are incredibly perceptive as you would expect from two musicians who lived through the worst of the Northern Irish troubles. The pared back acoustic simplicity of the Murphy’s two guitars borders on genius.

The vocal harmonies are note perfect and add even more of  polished sheen to the superb music. There’s something incredibly compelling about the simplicity of the arrangements and their melodic accomplishment which often verges on American roots music. I was a big fan of Chris Stills (son of legend Steven) first solo album and these guys really remind me of the flair and intimacy of that release.

There seems to be rose-tinted memories of those early days as the whole album has a reel feelgood and sentimental aura to it. Highlights for this reviewer (as well as the opener) are the incredibly emotive Going South, the title track Sugar Island, the raw, sparse and touching Argenta and refined closer Hometown On The Border but there are no bad tracks on this elegant release.

‘Sugar Island’ is a collection of beautifully refined songs that tell the story of Declan and Brendan’s formative years where they grew up among adversity and a nation divided and at war and it feels like a privilege to be invited to relive it with them once again. Music full of longing, regret and yet an album that leaves you with hope in your heart.

Released 20th August 2017.

Buy ‘Sugar Island’ direct from The 4 Of Us here

 

Review – The Emerald Dawn – Visions – by James R. Turner

This is the 2nd album from the St Ives based prog quartet and I admit I was a little lax in getting round to reviewing this, as the album has been out since August, and as is often the way with those of us who have day jobs and hectic lives, time often gets the better of us.

This album is a beautifully contructed 4 parter, clocking at 45 minutes, which to a child of the 80’s & 90’s like what I am, is perfect length, one side of a C90 tape, ideal for the bus. Job done.

Their sound is very much widescreen expansive prog, and this album is a real grower, there are some amazing musical pieces that hit you the first time round, but it’s when you listen more, there is so much more going musically that it grabs you and continues to grab you as you play it.

Starting with the 20 minute opus Musique Noire, this is an fantastically wonderful slow burner of a track, that to these hears has echoes of Pink Floyd’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond track, maybe it’s Ally Carters wonderful sax that runs through the piece like Bridlington runs through rock, or the keyboard and piano work of Tree Stewart that is both symphonic and intimate, whilst her vocals throughout are sublime.

The band as whole, with Jayjay Quick providing not just bass, but also cello and violin, Tom Jackson on drums and Ally and Tree also providing guitars and violins, means their musical palette is a wide one to draw from, and adds to the complexity and musical layers the run through this album.

As Musique Noire builds to it’s fantastic climax there are some sublime languid solos, and the piece is a fantastically bold way to open an album, and is a statement of intent from the band.

A Vision Left Unseen, is a more gothic noir kind of track, the vocal counterpoint between Ally and Tree on here, and the slightly darker edge is fantastic, again running at 7 minutes it’s the shortest song on here, and still packs more musical and emotional clout that some bands fit into an album.

Waves, is a fantastic piece of guitar driven music, with some absolutely sublime soloing, whilst Tree puts her stunning vocal range to great use, over some heavily symphonic synth sounds that have echoes of classic Moody Blues or Strawbs epics, again not so much influenced by, but more evoking a mood that those bands operate in.

The closing 9 minuter Stranger in a Strange Land, is all shimmering synths, and slow build as it starts until an absolute belter of guitar solo kicks in, before it pares right back down to some stunning flute and violin interplay, the way the band blend the sounds together to create songs like this are a joy to listen to, and closes a mighty fine album with style and grace.

In this genre it’s hard not to reference bands, and The Emerald Dawn are very much their own beast, and the sound this album pulls together makes a shoe in for any record collector who likes their prog widescreen, their sound epic, and their musicianship taut and on point throughout.

The performances on here are exemplorary and the production is sublime as well, it’s so often you hear bands who are self financing, and they have the songs and musical chops but lack a sympathetic producer who knows how to get the best sound out of the album, luckily being produced by Ally and Tree who also wrote the songs, they have a specific vision of how they want their music to sound, and how to present it, which is carried throughout from artwork, to lyrics, to sound and production and they should rightly be proud of this record.

Released 21st August 2017

Buy ‘Visions’ from bandcamp

Review – no-man – Returning Jesus re-issue – by James R. Turner

A long awaited welcome re-issue from the 4th album by the No-Man pairing of Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson, ‘Returning Jesus’ was the follow up to 1996’s ‘Wild Opera’, and was originally released in 2001, which was quite a big gap for the group, due to Steven Wilson’s profile raised somewhat by the success of Porcupine Tree no doubt.

Fully remastered and expanded to a double disc set, including a new remaster by Steven Wilson of the album, and plenty of b-sides, EP material and unreleased tracks, this is the definitive edition you might say.

As a connoisseur of remastered products, particularly those where Steven Wilson has been given a free hand, it’s a little disappointing that there isn’t a 5.1 mix, as No-Man records are perfect for 5.1 (the mix on ‘Together We’re Stronger’ for instance is sublime) still, that’s my only quibble with the reissuing, and as ever it should always be about the music and not the medium.

It’s hard to talk about ‘Returning Jesus’, as I tried it once but didn’t have the receipt, so Jesus is now living in my cupboard, still it’s nearly his birthday so I might get him out then…

I digress, the music maketh the album, and this is an excellent example of the collaborative skills of Bowness & Wilson, I have long stated the opinion that Tim Bowness is one of the finest vocalists around today, and having seen him perform with Henry Fool and his own solo shows, I can without a doubt keep repeating that opinion without fear of contradiction. Here, the beautifully haunting low key, almost minimalism of the opener Only Rain (which features performances from guests like Ben Christopher (guitar) the late Ian Carr (on plaintive trumpet) and David Kosten (synths) is the perfect symbiosis of Bowness’ vocals and Wilson’s music, the slow build and the evocative imagery is sublime.

The hauntingly wistful No Defence is one of those song stories that Tim specialises in lyrically and with some wonderful trumpet from Ian Dixon, it is another one of those wonderful No-Man songs that could be from a soundtrack.

In fact No-Man specialise in making movies using music, and these albums with their evocative lyrics and sublime widescreen performances transcend the normal, and take music into a different stratosphere.

(Both pictures of Steven and Tim by Carl Glover)

I adore the work of No-Man, and love the trilogy of albums that Tim has done recently, however I understand that this kind of music is very much mood music, you have to be in the right space mentally and emotionally to listen to No-Man, and bittersuite slow burners that grow like Close Your Eyes (8 minutes long on the main event, 7 minutes on the EP version from 1998 included here in the bonus tracks) is one of those heartwrenching songs that will either have you sobbing with the melancholy, or fill you with some kind of uplifting joy, and the guitar solo in there is an absolute belter by the way.

Music like this from No-Man seems to grow organically, and the length of the tracks show this, the shortest Slow it All Down being cut from the 5 minute demo on the 2nd disc to a 3:43 song on the actual album. I know some people think bonus tracks that weren’t originally released , were unreleased for a reason, but as an anorak I do like hearing demos and seeing how the final piece ended, it gives an interesting insight into the songwriting process, and whilst for some it’s the equivalent of breaking the 4th wall, for others it’s a part of the process we don’t always see, and I don’t see it as breaking the spell, for that reason the 5 demos on disc 2 are an interesting place to visit.

The fact that only 2 songs clock in at under 5 minutes shows how the music on this album grows into itself, there’s plenty of soft sounds and spaces that give the music room to live and breathe, and is very much a fantastic example of where less is more.

The star of the record is undoubtedly Tim Bowness’ vocals, and Steven Wilson sensibly allows the music to build around these, and on this album (and their others) the lyrics are as important as the music, and lets face it, when you are making an album with Tim Bowness singing, you don’t want to drown his voice out in a sea of instrumentation do you?

Carolina Skeletons, with its wonderfully evocative title, it’s laid back groove and it’s reprise (Carolina Reprise on disc 2) is one of the standout songs on the album, and showcases all that is good about No-Man.

Returning Jesus, the title track is full of low fi percussion, bubbling electronica and metronomic beats that skitter and pulse, whilst Tim’s voice again pulls the song together, one of the more experimental tracks on the album, it seems to fit the flow, despite it jarring slightly in parts.

The fantastic Lighthouse, features guests like Theo Travis and Colin Edwin, whilst Steve Jansen (who drums throughout) out does himself here. The track builds and grows into an absolute treat throughout, foreshadowing Tim’s later solo work, and work with Henry Fool.

This album ebbs and flows throughout with sublime musical work, and Tim’s fantastic vocals, and I have always found that people either love No-Man or have never heard of them, this re-issue is an excellent place to dip your toe in if your new to the band, and as a long time fan, is a fantastic addition to the catalogue.

Released 3rd November 2017

Order ‘Returning Jesus’ from Burning Shed here

Beatrix Players announce headline show and Carl Palmer support!

Beatrix Players are a London-based all-female trio whose unconventional but evocative   music straddles the boundaries of folk, prog rock, acoustic, classical and pop music.  The band have now announced they will be supporting Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy (In Memory of Keith Emerson, Greg Lake & John Wetton) at The Stables in Milton Keynes next  Sunday November 19th. They will also be performing a warm-up London show at  Camden’s Green Note on Friday 19th January; before heading to The Robin 2 in Wolverhampton on February 11th next year to support Serpentyne.

Beatrix Players recently released double A-side single All That Thinking / Hurt in October. All That Thinking being taken from their 2017 debut album, Magnified, while Hurt is a previously unreleased studio recording of the Nine Inch Nails song, famously covered by Johnny Cash on his American IV: The Man Comes Around album.

The trio recently won the Limelight Award at the 2017 Prog Awards which took place at London’s Globe Theatre on September 14th, and performed Hurt live to an audience of peers, critics and industry insiders. The Limelight Award highlights the best of the talent that has emerged over the past 12 months on the progressive rock scene.Previous winners of the coveted award include The Anchoress, Messenger and TesseracT.

Through their enchantingly dark and evocative melodies, expansive arrangements and empowered orchestral sound Beatrix Players tell stories of real life and fantasy. Citing influences as diverse as Michael Nyman and Regina Spektor and drawing comparisons to the likes of Kate Bush and Einaudi Ludovico. There are tempestuous passages in the bands’ music that you can imagine being delivered by traditional rock instrumentation but it is the veryabsence of guitars and drums that means there’s nobody out there quite like Beatrix Players.

BEATRIX PLAYERS UK SHOWS

 

Sunday 19th November

The Stables, Milton Keynes

(supporting Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy: In Memory of

Keith Emerson, Greg Lake & John Wetton)

SOLD OUT

Friday 19th January

Green Note, London

(Serpentyne warm up show)

www.wegottickets.com/greennote/event/420455

  Sunday 11th February

Robin 2, Wolverhampton

(supporting Serpentyne)

www.therobin.co.uk

Review – Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate – Broken But Still Standing – By Progradar

A brooding, damaged cube, like something from The Borg of Star Trek fame, mysterious and enigmatic, a lone, shadowy figure walking towards it. I’ve long been a fan of great album art and the cover of the new album from UK Art/Prog rockers Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate is another one that really caught my eye.

Cryptic and original, like all the best album art, it really does invite you to wonder about the music behind it and knowing what this imaginative and inventive set of musicians are really capable of, I was very intrigued to find out more about ‘Broken But Still Standing’.

Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate are Malcolm Galloway, on his own, or with his colleagues Kathryn Thomas (flute), Mark Gatland (bass), Rudy Burrell (drums) and Ibon Bilboa (guitar). They are based in London, UK.

Malcolm and Mark have been playing together since they were at school. Malcolm and Kathryn are married. This album also includes spoken word and backing vocals from their children James and Ethan Galloway, and James co-wrote two of the tracks.

Their music combines progressive rock, classic rock, acoustic, blues, metal, folk, funk, minimalism, and electronica and often explores scientific and philosophical themes.

‘Broken But Still Standing’, Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate’s third album, is a science/science-fiction themed concept album. It follows the story of human evolution, from LUCA, the last universal common ancestor of all current life on earth, via Lucy, one of the possible precursors of our species, to conflict and eventual symbiosis with artificial intelligences. The general theme of the album is that life has progressed by forming coalitions, whether between the primitive cells that engulfed each other to become the cell and the mitochondria (the power stations of the cell), between individuals to form communities, or between different forms of life in the future.

This band really know how to deliver a seriously complex and yet ultimately rewarding concept album, this is what I had to say about their previous release ‘When The Kill Code Fails’,

“I love it when new music lands on my desk with no fanfare or previous knowledge. Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate may have a brilliant name but they also produce excellent music. Sometimes progressive, sometimes more rock orientated but, overall, it is an enthralling listen.”

So, without any further ado, let’s dive in…

(Photo by Jaz Dhillon)

The opening instrumental Vent is dark and almost elemental in its low brooding delivery with the haunting flute making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and an apprehensive feeling seep into your mind. There’s a seamless segue into the deeply atmospheric Almost Familiar with its vocals that drip with passion and longing, ethereal flute and the achingly bluesy low-down guitar. Unashamedly progressive in its outlook, it’s a slow-burning piece of musical storytelling for dark nights and open fires. Kathryn’s emotive flute solo is a piece of genius and closes out the track to perfection. There’s an alien, science fiction tone to the next two tracks, Luca to Lucy opens with an uneasy, unerringly off-kilter soundscape before the music seems to creep in like an ancient dawning of time, all measured, deliberate and low-key. An exact and infallible life force that has only one motive, to exist. Lucy sees Kathryn’s flute take centre stage on this short piece, all mysterious and enigmatic with its late night jazz feel, asking questions of the listener.

There’s nostalgia in spades about Last Man On The Moon, a wistful, almost melancholy song that gets under your skin with its elegant music and heartfelt vocals, especially the excellent harmonies between the male and female voices on the captivating chorus. Thoughtful and yet somehow forlorn, it’s a great track with a wonderfully plaintive and meandering guitar solo that leads you on a reflective musical journey. Advancing On Snailback is a trance-like ambient instrumental that gets inside your head and mesmerises you with each well considered note, Serious, discerning and meditative, it leaves you lost in thought. That reverie is broken by the edgy, almost punky guitar, drums and bass of Anywhere, Malcolm’s vocal has an angsty tone to it and the whole song seems to have discordant, uneasy feel. A short, sharp shock after the more refined and gentle feel of the first few tracks. There’s a jazz lounge aura to the opening of One Day When before the vocals begin and the energy builds to another catchy chorus, to me there’s a real vibrancy and energy that has infiltrated the music now, an addictive and harder note more akin to modern punk and alternative rock.

I love the intoxicating ambience of I Fell In Love With A Mechanical Dragon, rock infused electronica with high octane keyboards and a vibrant guitar note that combine with the urgent vocals to give one of the grin inducing highlights of the album. It does feel slightly absurd singing the chorus out loud in the middle of Morrison’s but that’s what great music does to you! The most overtly heavy track on the album, Let Me Out is dark and deliciously dangerous in its outlook. The in-your-face riffs and impassioned vocals drive the song on towards the dissonant flute solo and special mention must go to the superb drums and funky bass that are the engine room of this song. More electronica that almost verges on drum and bass underpins Under The Skin with its clever use of female spoken vocals that almost break into rap. A really inventive piece of music that makes me nod in appreciation every time I listen to it. That electronic vibe really comes to the fore on the retro grooves of Lucid Assassin. A high energy song with some rather excellent synthesisers that work on a  hard working drum and bass foundation to give a special 80’s ‘laser show’ ambience.

Broken But Still Standing Till I Fall is another hard-edge, punk rock soaked track with a take no prisoners attitude. The vocals have attitude to them and the music just rocks, especially the dynamic and vivid guitar solo, another short sharp shock to the music system. The metaphorical lights are turned down low as we segue into the melodramatic All Alone Together, the heartfelt vocals give real poignance to the song and the music adds not a little tension to proceedings. Take some 70’s jazz funk, add some 90’s Happy Mondays Madchester vibe and you’ve got Host, one of the more upbeat songs on the album. The blues-rock imbued guitar solo is worth the price of entry on its own and the restless energy of the song soon finds itself manifested in your dancing feet. Transient Stars is an intelligent instrumental with a cinematic quality to it, you could imagine this as being part of the score for a high-brow, cerebral science fiction film. An enlightened piece of music that had me musing about all sorts of unfathomable things. Things come to a close with the astute progressive rock of Close My Eyes, dextrous musicians showcasing their skills and a contemplative vocal performance culminating in the simple but eminently memorable chorus. A cultured close to  what has been an engrossing musical experience.

‘Broken But Still Standing’ is a brilliantly perceptive and original work of art that enthralls with every listen. Taken as a whole it is an utterly immersive musical experience that will captivate and enlighten the listener, Hats Off Gentlemen Its Adequate has to be one of the most creative and innovative artists out there today.

Released 7th October 2017

Find links to order ‘Broken But Still Standing’ at the band’s website here:

 

 

 

BLACK MOTH ANNOUNCE FEBRUARY UK TOUR DATES AHEAD OF NEW ALBUM ‘ANATOMICAL VENUS’

RELEASED 23rd FEBRUARY 2018 VIA CANDLELIGHT RECORDS

Following two recent shows in London and Leeds to celebrate their latest single ‘Moonbow’Black Moth have announced a run of UK tour dates in February next year ahead of the release of their upcoming album ‘Anatomical Venus’. Vocalist Harriet Hyde comments:

Black Moth eagerly anticipate February’s UK tour to promote our 3rd album, ‘Anatomical Venus’. Some days the prospect feels like an ideal opportunity to exorcise some demons and inflate our egos a little to see us through the dark winter months. Some days it fills us with morbid anxiety and existential dread. Nevertheless, we will hit that road and play you our music hoping that you like it or otherwise formulating psychological defences against your hypothetical disapproval.”

While their first 2 albums were released by New Heavy SoundsBlack Moth will have their latest / third studio album issued worldwide via Candlelight Records on February 23rd 2018, the result of an alliance between Candlelight and NHS.

Produced by Andy Hawkins (Hawk Eyes, Maximo Park) with Russ Russell (Napalm Death, Dimmu Borgir) handling the mix, this 10-track affair sees the Leeds / London outfit – vocalist Harriet Hyde, guitarists Jim Swainston & Federica Gialanze, bassist Dave Vachon and drummer Dom McCready –  further honing the various elements of their sound to make the hooks more barbed and the focus more collective.

Latest single ‘Moonbow’ – recently played on Daniel P Carter’s Radio 1 Rock show – provides the first taste of things to come, successfully combining wide-eyed wonder with true metallic weight, the whole thing supported by a clip that delivers from the off in both intensity and colour. Watch the video here:

What’s for sure is that ‘Anatomical Venus’ is the heaviest Black Moth album to date, taking the signature Mothic sound – a dark and heady swirl of garage rock, mind-blowin’ psychedelia and amplified over-drive – down a more targetted path, effectively opening a new chapter in a career that stretches back to an inaugural single in 2010 and a debut album, ‘The Killing Jar’, in 2012.

For ‘The Killing Jar’ and its 2014 follow-up, ‘Condemned To Hope’, the band brought in Jim Sclavunos (a member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds since 1994) to handle production and mixing duties, and the results immediately connected with fans and media alike…

“Like Electric Wizard meets Band Of Skulls, in a dungeon” is one press description that sticks in the mind, with other points of reference including Black Sabbath, the Stooges, PJ Harvey, Melvins, Kyuss and Patti Smith; however, with ‘Anatomical Venus’ Black Moth are seeking to forge their own path, both musically and conceptually. The album’s name and central theme, arrived at when Hyde was introduced to the 18th century wax models of the female form employed by male surgeons to learn their craft, provides a strong platform for both the artwork and the lyrics, allowing the singer to take command and truly find her voice…

The Anatomical Venus spoke volumes to me,” she reflects. “She embodies the male gaze, a history of men dissecting women in an attempt to understand her, reveal her magic, snuff out her unruly flame, while all the time needing her to be beautiful and aesthetically pleasing to their taste. These models are not simply practical medical models for education – they are fetish objects, women stripped back as far as you can go. But there is a look of defiance in their eyes as if to say, ‘keep looking if you like. I dare you. Peel back my skin and peep behind my ribcage, you won’t find anything unless I choose to tell you’.”

Pre-order now on CD, vinyl and digital along with exclusive bundles –  https://candlelightrecords.lnk.to/anatomicalvenus

 On the live front, Black Moth have appeared at a number of high-profile UK festivals (including DownloadReading & Leeds and Bloodstock Open Air), and guested – in the UK and Europe – with artists such as L7Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats and The Sisters Of Mercy.

FEBRUARY 2018 TOUR DATES:
7th February: Hope & Ruin, Brighton
8th February: Boston Music Rooms, London
9th February: Rebellion, Manchester
11th February: Garage Attic, Glasgow
12th February: The Cluny 2, Newcastle
13th February: Mama Roux’s, Birmingham
14th February: Fuel, Cardiff
15th February: Waterfront Studios, Norwich
16th February: Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Tickets avilable here: https://dice.fm/artist/black-moth
22nd December 2017: Electric Ballroom, London (Orange Goblin Xmas Show)
2018
May 4 – 6: Desertfest, London

 

Death, Politics & American Standards- Phoenix metalcore band comes together to release an album about falling apart

Sometimes strong emotions can make you lose focus. That’s not the case for Phoenix, AZ based four-piece American Standards. After losing their founding guitarist to suicide, then shortly after the vocalist Brandon Kellum’s father to cancer, the chaotic hardcore band founded in 2011 released their most emotionally and socially poignant album to date.

ANTI-MELODY” released on April 28th, 2017 displays the political noise-punk outfits ability to navigate the troubled waters of depression and loss while still incorporating the social commentary that the band has become known for. More so, once signed to an imprint of Victory Records, the band took a new approach of self mixing, producing and independently releasing the album after recording at Kingsize Soundlabs (Mars VoltaLetliveBad Religion). The result is a raw and powerfully resonate glimpse into the group’s minds during the troubled times.

Now more focused then ever, American Standards has hit the road playing over 300 DIY booked shows to date, sharing the stage with bands such as; Every Time I Die, Norma Jean, Zao, Comeback Kid, Stick To Your Guns, Stray From The Path, Knocked Loose, He Is Legend, Emery and Atreyu.

‘ANTI-MELODY’ which had premiers on Revolver Magazine, Alternative Press and Lambgoat; is available now on iTunes, Google Music, Amazon and Spotify or you can pick it up along with exclusive merchandise through the American Standards Bandcamp page.

BANDCAMP:

http://AmericanStndrds.bandcamp.com

FACEBOOK:

http://www.facebook.com/AmericanStandards