Review – No Dakota – New Bronze Age

No Dakota’s debut LP ‘New Bronze Age’ is, essentially a post-rock ‘concept album’, musing on the nature of AI and human identity, it takes us on an imagined journey through time as Talos, the original automaton, mutates and reinvents. Drawing from diverse sources – the Colossus of Rhodes, ‘Hel’, the robot in Metropolis, and eventually in to the future android world of Blade Runner and Ex Machina – the album draws on both instrumental and elliptical lyrical narratives. Dark, cerebral, cinematic, immersive and surprising.

The project was conceived during lockdown 2020 by soundtrack composer noh1 / George Taylor (fratelli brothers, Dutch Head, The Ting Tings) and drummer / multi-instrumentalist Martyn Barker (Shriekback, Goldfrapp, Will Gregory, Adrian Utley, Alain Bashung) with guitarist Jez Coad (producer Simple Minds, Lost Boy, Surfing Brides) and guest appearances from Vienna’s Mira Lu Kovacs (Schmieds Puls 5K HD) and Berlin-based thereminist and vocalist Dorit Chrysler (Trentmoller).

If you like your music with more than little mystery and so far from the mainstream that it could be in another dimension then this release is really going to appeal to you. If you follow this music blog then you know the vast majority of the music I like and write about is progressive rock and folk with some hard rock thrown in just for the hell of it. However I really like music that is intriguing and asks questions of the listener and, while not melodic in the traditional sense, the notes all go together in a designated order to deliver something that you can really enjoy. ‘New Bronze Age’ fits that brief perfectly, it’s absorbing, beguiling and very, very puzzling in equal measure.

Opener Anima is electronic, pulsating and thought provoking in equal measure with more than a hint of Krautrock, mixed with a large dose of cinematic ambience. Cima brings some stylish EDM into the mix with a drumbeat straight from the canon of Prodigy (if not quite as mad!). It’s a real uplifting, high energy track with a subtle sci-fi vibe that gives it a really cool feel. The enigmatic shoe gaze/trip hop of Hel is so hip it hurts, the laid back, mellow vocals are perfectly judged and the whole song is as wistful and chilled as they come. Ichor has the feel of 60’s experimental psychedelia where you could literally get away with anything you tried and call it music and people would believe you. It’s creepy as hell, in a darkly delicious kind of way and really makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

Title track New Bronze Age is hyperactive and on edge, like a Cardiacs track that’s been given a huge dose of paranoia and psychedelia and, you know what, it’s utterly addictive and I have no idea why. Maybe it’s the energetic staccato guitar or the hypnotic beat? whatever, you just have to listen to this song! Poseidon is just a captivating piece of music, a sparse, mournful piano plays over an irregular beat while a haunting note repeats in the background. It’s like a modern, cinematic composition, almost classical in feel and has layers of comprehension that are gently peeled away. Re-Turn/Suspension Bridge is the big track on the album, over nine minutes of cleverly constructed music that builds with every note into something darkly primeval and daunting. The diversity of musical styles on show is breathtaking as this brilliant collective take us on a musical journey of majestic proportions that leaves you feeling subdued, as if in the presence of a greater being. The album closes with the pulsing, experimental wanderings of The Letter Z, a profound, echoing end to what has been an intense listening experience.

Music like ‘New Bronze Age’ teaches us to take the musical road less travelled, to stretch our mental boundaries and challenge what is said to be conventional. It is not an easy listening experience in places but it is a very rewarding album that gives a lot more than it takes. No Dakota write music that makes you think and music that is ultimately enjoyable, you just have to make the effort and, in my opinion, you really should!

Released 5th August, 2022.

Order from bandcamp here:

New Bronze Age | No Dakota (

Review – Shriekback – 1000 Books

“A book read by a thousand different people is a thousand different books” – Andrei Tarkovsky

“1000 Books is Shriekback’s 16th album and boldly marks the band’s 40th birthday. Big numbers for a big record – this is Shriekback in depth and detail, nine songs by turns majestic, elegiac, confrontational and just plain funky. The lyrical reflections on mortality, sensuality and the world we live in are carried along on impeccable multi-layered grooves, lucid and lunatic. The contributions of core members – Barry Andrews, Martyn Barker and Carl Marsh – are supported by the passionately precise backing vocals of long-time collaborators Wendy and Sarah Partridge, the assertive bass of Scott Firth and sonically framed with wide-screen vision by producer Christoph Skirl. Take something from this record and plant it in your life: it will grow with you.”

Shriekback have been doing their thing since the 1980’s but I got introduced to them by Martyn Barker, founding member and guitarist extraordinaire, after reviewing his wonderful solo album ‘Water & Stone’. The music couldn’t be farther apart with Martyn’s solo work being folk and Celtic influenced and Shriekback being, well, totally different! Electronica, experimental, indie-rock, funk and ambient, just about everything makes an appearance in ‘1000 Books’ forty-one minute running time.

If I’m being brutally honest, I could not make my mind up about this album on the first few listens with it being both intriguing and challenging at the same time but that’s what is so wonderful about a lot of music, sometimes it requires you to give as much as you take from it. With repeated listens this compelling and provocative album will finally open up and reveal its inner glories to you and, while it may not be for everyone, I found it utterly fascinating, thought provoking and, in a very good way, strange.

There’s a Victorian grandeur to opener Space In The Blues, all majestic with its faded pomp and splendour and a feel of ‘Pablo Honey’ Radiohead to its mesmerising rhythm. A funky bass, drums and guitar open Unholiness, a song almost too cocksure for its own good but, as it opens up, it has real good time vibe to it, I can almost hear an influence of the The B-52’s creeping in, an invitation to join the wild ride and it’s damn infectious too! Portobello Head is a venture into the unknown with a mad professor edge to it and a feel that David Byrne could have written this slightly maniacal song. It is utterly brilliant and darkly delicious, the band seemingly enjoying themselves way too much!

With lyrics delivered as if in a lecture, Slowly At First Then All At Once opens with a relatively calm facade and carries on with whimsical and wistful overtone. I’m waiting for that tongue in cheek enthusiasm to erupt but Shriekback surprise me by delivering something that wouldn’t be amiss on an early Pink Floyd or Gentle Giant release. That David Byrne influence mentioned earlier makes a return on the silky, stylish grooves of Good Disruption, a slice of New York indie-funk at its finest, sharp suit, white shirt and pencil tie a must. Edgy, earthy and hip, there’s a dark undertone to the moody and impulsive Everything Happens So Much, cabalistic disco rhythms abound as the menacing vocals raise the hackles.

Different Story is just joyful, swirling keyboards and a superb drumbeat underpinning a rather impressive song with a really catchy chorus. There’s an 80’s pop music polish to this really engaging piece of music. A hushed wonder seems to herald title track 1000 Books as the majesty and grandiosity of the opening track makes a return. There’s a tense atmosphere as the song seems to rumble on inexorably in its own mysterious fashion, “A book read by a thousand different people is a thousand different books”. The album comes to a close with the futuristic, almost alien, wonder of Wild World, an entrancing four and a half minutes of music that makes you look inward at your own self and invites a feeling of calm inquisitiveness.

‘1000 Books’ is not a just 9 tracks of music, Shriekback have created an engrossing and magnificently offbeat musical experience, at times intensely serious and at others, beuatifully chaotic. It may be a wild ride but, my friends, it is one that I would urge you to take because you will never have heard anything quite like it. On a most basic level, it just made me smile for a very long time and you can’t really ask for much more than that, can you?

Released 1st December, 2021.

Order direct from the band here:

shriekback – STORE

Listen to the album here:

Review – Martyn Barker – Water & Stone

Martyn Barker is an English drummer, percussionist, multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer, best known as the drummer for Shriekback. He has also been a member of King Swamp and worked with many of the world’s best known and loved musicians. He currently has co-written and co-produced two records with songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Talitha Rise, as well as producing and drumming for acts worldwide.

Water & Stone‘ celebrates the miracle of water; its rhythm, its music, its journey, its myths, poetry & its beauty. The album contains wondrously spiritual folk-scapes created for television by Martyn in collaboration with Emily Burridge (cello), Nick Pynn (violin) and Astrid Williamson (vocals). 

I first got to know of Martyn through Jo Beth Young who recorded as Talitha Rise and he really is a consummate and extremely creative musician so, when he asked me if I’d be interested in a new collection of music he had written for television my answer was always going to be a resounding yes.

Despite the premise that the album was written specifically for TV, it can be taken as a singular recording in itself. There is a wonderful flow and spiritual feel to the music as it permeates your whole being one track after another.

To my ears this ethereal, wistful and contemplative release should be listened to in one sitting as each track tends to segue into the next and draws you in to its quite delightful web of beautiful music.

Oft plaintive and mournful and oft playful and nostalgic, it caused a welling of emotions in this weary listener and calmed my soul at a time when the world is a very strange place indeed.

Particular highlights for me are the wonderfully emotive The Selkie featuring Nick Pynn’s expressive violin playing, the sublime and divine Time and the Sea with Astrid Williamson’s dreamy vocals, the reflective splendour of the compelling Ocean of Prayers and the elegant charm of Calandra’s Dance where you first hear the rarefied brilliance of Emily Burridge’s cello.

Emily is an excellent foil for Martyn, collaborating on eight of the album’s thirteen tracks but it is the haunting grandeur of the music that stands out across the entirety of the recording.

You are unlikely to hear a release as graceful and spiritual as this at any point in 2020, it will move and delight you in equal measure.

Released 16/2/20

‘Water & Stone’ is available at Apple Music and from 7digital here:

Review – Talitha Rise – An Abandoned Orchid House – by Progradar

“Some people have lives; some people have music.”
― John Green, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Music is what makes my life complete, it fills the holes and spaces in time and I honestly couldn’t be without it. Some music is so compelling that it can take over your life, pausing you in a moment in time, not caring or worrying about anything else and the elfin, ethereal vocals of Talitha Rise (better known as Jo Beth Young) definitely belong in that category.

Following on from the beautiful EP ‘Blue’, Jo is releasing her debut full length album ‘An Abandoned Orchid House’ on June 1st. It is a release full of captivating, wistful songs wound around themes of isolation and abandonment.

Ten stripped back creations full of emotions, sometimes dark and despairing and often passionate and full of desire, this is a sentimental and uplifting soundscape that leads, through sacrifice and estrangement, to hope and optimism.

Jo Beth Young has a sublime and refined voice that has a haunting aura and reminds me of an early Kate Bush or Tori Amos and it is her most potent weapon. When added to the intelligent, captivating lyrics it gives wonderful songs. ‘An Abandoned Orchid House’ was recorded in many locations from living rooms and kitchen tables in Devon to a beautiful manor house in Sussex.

“I like to think this has given them some real sense of isolation, even when the tracks are very big.” Jo says, “I wanted them to feel like a personal and intimate conversation between myself and the listener.”

That is exactly what you get. Listening to this enchanting record, you feel like you are cocooned by the music and living in your own, private performance of the songs, very intimate indeed.

There’s a who’s who of guest perfomers including Juldeh CamaraPeter Yates, Arnulf Linder and Rory McFarlane and everything is complemented to perfection by long time collaborator Martyn Barker.

The nostalgic wonder of songs like Valley and Incantation and the Clannad-like River leaves you mesmerised and lost in time and space in your own mind. The profound imagery comes to life in your head as you listen to the soulful music and beguiling vocals, these songs are written for the pure joy of music and you feel a surge of love rise up in your heart and soul as you hear every bewitching note.

There’s a stark elegance and charm to songs like Orchid House and the stunning Chapel Bell, an honest melancholy that filters through and captures you in its embrace and you feel every emotion and affectation.

Every song on the album is a mesmerising moment in time but my personal favourite is the utterly wonderful The Lake, a spellbinding song that lingers long in the memory after it comes to a fascinating close.

I’ve been waiting for this new album for a long time and have not been disappointed by what Talitha Rise has composed, it comes to a close with Twisted Tree and the haunting Lifeboat ,two more exceptional and captivating pieces that complete the amazing musical tapestry.

In my humble opinion everybody needs music to complete their life, to give you a reason to get up every morning and go out to work and Talitha Rise has delivered one of those perfect moments in time, an album of songs of such rare quality, delivered by the most wonderful voice, that stands out like a ray of light in the darkening world that increasingly surrounds us. My music loving friends it just doesn’t get any better than this!

Released 1st June 2018

Pre-orders for ‘An Abandoned Orchid House’ will open soon, order here


Review – Talitha Rise – Blue EP – by Progradar

“There is beauty in the unspoiled innocence of music, a beauty that cannot be quantified but one that fills the soul with empathy and love.”

I wrote that after my umpteenth listen to the first EP from Talitha Rise – ‘Blue’, I like music that has pomp and circumstance and power and glory but I also love music that has the power to move me with it’s grace and beauty and ‘Blue’ fits perfectly in the latter category.

Talitha Rise is the solo project of Jo Beth Young, Jo Beth has been likened to artists such as Tori Amos, First Aid Kit, Mazzy Star and Stevie Nicks all the while remaining a striking and unique voice that hypnotizes the ear.

Whether recorded or live her music grabs the listener from the first few notes and plunges them into the deep with a combination of diverse and haunting vocals, melodical journeys that makes you wonder where on earth you have been for the last 30 minutes.

Her EP ‘Blue’ (co-written and co-produced by Martyn Barker (Shriekback) introduced a forest of unfurled noise where a plethora of strings and lush unexpected sounds wind themselves around stories and understated guestings from artists such as Juldeh Camara (Robert Plant) and Chris Difford (Squeeze).

Six atmospheric songs of understated grace, ‘Blue’ opens with the dreamlike Magpies, a track with an otherworldly feel to it and one where the ethereal qualities of Jo Beth’s gorgeous vocals just draw you in. It’s Folk music but like nothing you’ve really heard before, the pared back rawness of the music adding a primal gloss to everything. Shadow Navigation carries the theme further with a delicate guitar and strings guiding the haunting vocal along a hidden path. These songs were conceived and inspired by the surrounding nature of East Sussex and you can almost feel the life-force running through them. A plaintive violin adds pathos and humility to the stark beauty at the heart of Jo Beth’s elfin-like voice.

There’s an impish tone to Golden Moon, a track with a more traditional folk edge to the music, Listening to Jo Beth I imagine myself in a mist-shrouded dawn as her elegantly lilting tones bewitch you. This song has a more serious overtone, darker, more intriguing as it segues into progressive-folk with its allegorical connotations, slightly devilish and wild. The most pared back song on the EP, Deadwood is a delicate and sublime piece of music, the fragility barely held back as Jo Beth delivers her halting vocal like an ancient troubadour, backed by the bare essentials of instrumentation. There’s a ghostly, intangible sensation that hangs over the whole track and you find yourself getting lost in its inestimable charm.

Wide-eyed innocence flows from Jo Beth’s voice as she sings the opening words to Morning, another simple and yet delightful piece of music that plucks at your heart strings with its naiveté and guilelessness. Perhaps more Art Pop than folk, it fits in with the rest of the songs perfectly. There’s no complications to music when it is as simple and unpretentious as this and it lifts the heavy weight of life from your soul. Too soon the EP comes to a close with Doves, perhaps the most progressively tinged track with its enigmatic aura. A passionate and ardent song, Jo Beth gives us her most powerful vocal performance and yet she never loses that childlike innocence from her voice. The vibrant music delivers a colourful soundscape that envelops all and closes out the EP in elegant style.

Captivating and bewitching from the first note, the ethereal beauty and childlike grace of Jo Beth Young’s vocals are at the core of ‘Blue’, a wondrously engaging collection of songs that serve notice of a musical talent to watch out for. She is currently finishing the debut Talitha Rise album due for release in late  2017. The Lake is the first single of the album.

Released 14th February 2017

Buy ‘Blue’ from bandcamp