Thursday, 17 July 2014

Xander Duell - Earth On It's Axis - single review

There are plenty of things that can be said to grab ahold of your attention.

When discussing music,the obvious touchstones of comparisons are usually first and foremost... if you like blah blah you will like so and so, and so on.

But when you have already been alerted to the fact that one line of a song is as follows...

“Then in a drunken haze, stabbed her in the parking lot of a TGI Friday’s”


The shock value certainly worker for me.  I load up the soundcloud link and press play.

Thankfully the song works beyond the initial worm on a hook, regardless of the bizarrely violent imagery 'Earth On It's Axis' oozes well-worn and slightly rag-tag pop, it is utterly dreamy in the most jarring way possible.  A beautiful nightmare.

And it turns out Xander Duell has past form.  His debut solo album, entitled 'Experimental Tape No.2, Vol.1', was apparently a misunderstood masterpiece of musical brilliance filtered through a gritty reality that played out in a New York apartment, where Garage Band captured two years worth of drug damaged confessionals.

The lead single from what promises to be a more approachable sophomore effort smacks of so many fragmented musical geniuses that it is frankly quite embarrassing just reeling off the relevant 'sounds-like's yet there really is no greater praise when trying to put into words why you should spare a little of your time to listen to it if you haven't been convinced already.

It is a transposed 'Life On Mars', infused with a Beach Boys lushness, touches of Mercury Rev and even Blue Oyster Cult's 'Don't Fear The Reaper', entwined with the cracked-pop brilliance of Beck and Eels.  All in one harshly enthralling, brazenly awkward and sublimely offensive song.

It appears that we may have just stumbled upon the Chuck Palahnuik of pop.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

dissecting Body of Songs

Readers of a certain age will have particular memories upon hearing the phrase 'How My Body Works'.  

For me it brings to mind the complete set of educational books, published fortnightly, lined up across my shelf, it makes me think of the pretty rubbish scale model of the human body that came piece by piece with the volumes and included a number of fiddly organs that were liable to fall out from the plastic rib cage that was supposedly holding everything in place.

It also makes me think of the cartoon characters that accompanied the book series, cribbed from the nano-sized bodily based adventures of Once Upon a Time... Life.  Providing an introduction to the battles of the white and red blood cells against nasty viruses that rages inside each and every one of us.

Does Gemma Cairney share these same memories? I'd like to think perhaps it was the introductory priced first volume that inspired her to curate a similarly themed musical project with a part-by-part schedule of releases that will explore the human body, focusing on one organ at a time.

Collaborating with composer Llywelyn Ap Myrrdin and Professor Hugh Montgomery, Director of the UCL Institute for Human Health and Performance, the trio have drafted in artists to contribute a track each to what will eventually form a ten track album due for release in 2015.

Taking inspiration from internal organs was taken several steps further than expected however, meeting with medical experts including pathologists, neurologists, stem cell scientists, patients at varying stages of illness and even facing the organs themselves, the chosen artists formed an intimate understanding of why an organ works and fails and from these experiences ten songs were formed.

Of the collection so far, two tracks have been revealed, with drum and bass stalwart Goldie producing a synapse firing electronic beast of a track inspired by the brain, perfectly encapsulating the chemical rushes of a wired mind, and deep thinker Ghostpoet forgoes his usual style to closer inspect the liver, creating a dark and brooding dub-inflected woozy beat that shuns laid back rap in favour of snatches of sampled medical discussions.

Monday, 3 March 2014

the further adventures of Terry Emm

when you've been reviewing music for a while, you'll tend to find a number of the same names keep cropping up in your inbox, it is their job after all to push the client that is paying for their services into as many places as possible, by introducing you to new music, hoping you will in turn introduce others to this new music.

so it came as something as a surprise to see Terry Emm's name in the subject field rather than being the sender, as it turns out, around his normal nine to five, Emm has not one, but two musical outlets for his own endeavours that had been brought to my attention, and it certainly seemed to be doing him a great disservice if I overlooked his recent forays.

As part of Select All Delete Save As, a debut single is being readied for March, Modern Life is War is a wide-scope sweep of post-rock with a twist of Americana, serving not only as the next chapter of a developing band formed at university that started recording experimental rock, and now has a surer direction that seems suited to sound tracking that coming of age moment from your favourite hip indie flick.

Despite clocking in at a radio friendly three minute mark, Modern Life Is War feels more like a teaser than a complete song, leaving listeners with the feeling of unfinished business as it builds and sets the tone for the full length Ultra Cultura which is due in April.  And whilst Select All Delete Save As have engaged me and piqued my interest, it is Emm's solo talents that picks at the heart strings.

Clearly preparing for a busy 2014, March also sees the release of Starlight, the title track of an album that is also scheduled for an unspecified release date later this year.  It is a perfectly pitched song that plays out as an ethereal lullaby with a gentle swell of strings adding earthly gravitas, reminiscent of the distinct style that saw the world captivated by Damian Rice, Emm seems to fall fully equipped into a niche for male singer-songwriters that has been left hollowed by strong female personalities when the once burgeoning distinction became fraughtly clichéd. 

Obviously Terry Emm is not putting all his eggs in one basket, so if he doesn't ride a great wave of new troubadours in these twelve months, and a post-rock revolution hasn't gripped us by the summer, at least he's still got his day job.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

scraping the bottom of the reunion barrel?

getting older.

feeling nostalgic.

music obsessive.

self-confessed fan of 'pop'.

despite a cringe-inducing line-up, I could not deny the lure of The Big Reunion when it first hit our screens last year. part of it was pure curiosity, curating a bunch of bands that had been prevalent in my adolescent years and throwing the willing ex-members back together for a 'Big Reunion' certainly caught my attention.

but admittedly, it was the way in which it was done that provoked genuine interest.

sure, on some level it was probably a money-driven attempt to sell the very idea to arenas and maximising merchandising potential whilst back on the road, but it presented itself with more dignity than that on screen. early episodes focussing on the bands involved were rather full-on, warts and all popumentaries that really delved deep into the psyches of those performers that were only ever seen beaming at us from CD:UK and from the pages of Smash Hits.

sex, drugs and promo-pushing meltdowns were all part and parcel of the chart-seeking dream turned sour, forget Motley Crüe or Led Zep's well documented antics, this was the untold story of excess for the SMTV generation.

and as with any cash-cow winning formula, it would be ridiculous to think that the idea could be left alone, but as the format returns to our tellies and the recently reformed line-up was announced, I must admit to feeling disheartened by the news.

they didn't have quite the same 'big league' experience all round as 2013’s show had, the formation of a 'supergroup' featuring a reality tv winner and a faded soap star and the dubious inclusion of the forgotten 'Girl Thing' suggested that the bottom of the barrel was truly being scraped on only the second go around...

but to pay them their dues, one episode in and I'm responding well to it, especially since it's split-focus was on Girl Thing so early on, clearly addressing the obvious issue of reuniting a a band that barely anyone remembers, let alone cares about... indeed, what we got was a blow-by-blow account of the group destined to be 'the next Spice Girls', how millions of pounds was invested in their forthcoming chart dominance and how cruelly they were shrugged aside when the self-fulfilling prophecy remained unfulfilled after just two single releases, no rewritten pop history was needed, theirs is the cautionary tale of exploitation and how even debuting at number 8 in the singles charts is not good enough to seal your fate in the future of scrupulous record companies.

and tongue firmly in cheek, Andi Peter's ludicrous narration proved another winning move in the opening salvo of a series that perhaps knew that, just like Girl Thing, it could not take it's success for granted with its current crop of returned pop refugees.

i'm still unsure of where Girl Thing hope to move on from here once their story has been told and old wounds touched upon and possibly healed, but coming in from a sceptical standpoint that ITV2 may not have been able to deliver upon their promises a second time around, I currently remain suitably hooked on their career-rejuvenating arena filler.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Tayalarz vol.5: Lemons Rubik

so far, the emphasis of the Tayalarz mixtapes has been discovery, finding new artists and new music, but as is traditional of us muso types, as one year ends and another begins, we like to look back over what has shaped the previous 12 months

and so to put a Tayalarz spin on things, the January mixtape has tracked down unique versions of songs from some of the biggest artists of 2013, all available to download for free via various blogs and such

as always, the following tracklisting provides all of the appropriate links needed to garner these tracks from their sources and for the second month Ted Joyce has provided the wonderful artwork yet again

1.  Jay-Z - Tom Ford (Crizzly remix) (available via Music Ninja)
2.  Lordes - Royals (La Felix Remix)
3.  Katy Perry - Roar (Brillz radio edit) (available via The Music Ninja)
4.  Kanye West - Black Skinheads (Donovans Rewerk) (available via Nerdy Frames)
5.  Justin Timberlake - Suit and Tie (A Few Thangs Rmx) (via Mad Decent)
6.  James Blake - Retrograde (Minorstep remix) (available via Hilly Dilly)
7.  Arctic Monkeys - Just Hold On We're Going Home (Drake cover) 
           (available via We All Want Someone To Shout For)
8.  Haim - Let Me Go (Ancient Mermaids Remix) (available via Hilly Dilly)
9.  Silver Swans - Wrecking Ball (Miley Cyrus cover) (available via Indie Shuffle)
10. Daft Punk - Lose Yourself to Dance (La Felix Remix) (available via Acid Stag)
11. Robin Thicke - Give it to You (Trippy Turtle Remix) (available via Pigeons and Planes)
12. Angel Haze - Same Love (Macklemore and Ryan Lewis cover) (available via Brooklyn Vegan)

In the tracklisting above are links to the artist's bandcamp/soundcloud/website if you click on their name, and clicking on the track name or blog link will direct you to where I originally encountered their music, good luck hunting it all down...   
and shortly the Tayalarz series will be looking ahead at the artists others have been touting big things for in 2014 along with a few of our own personal discoveries

Thursday, 9 January 2014

in conversation with Malanda J. Poetry

after catching up with Ciaran Lavery, we thought it would be a good idea to regularly catch up with a number of artists featured on our Tayalarz mixtapes as a further way of introducing new artists and new music, by delving into their minds and getting them to speak to us after we've let the music speak for itself

and so, this time around we chat with Malanda J. Poetry...

to open the november mixtape we was looking for a strong spoken word piece and was completely floored by 'Story She Never Told', presumably your writing comes from a deeply personal place? 

yes, my writing is sacred to me. very personal, as a writer or a person who simply appreciates language, emotion is not foreign and it finds home in almost everything i experience and because of that, i have to pay homage and cater to things i feel that most people can quickly get over. it’s not like that for me. writing pays respect to my internal, it’s a reflection of what my insides would look like if cut open out of curiosity.

the album it is taken from 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' is made with a similar template, is this the first time you have combined words with music? 

not the first time, but certainly the first time i felt comfortable with hearing my voice tracing back to my ears. this time it felt right.

I love how the innocent 'music box' style accompaniment to 'Story She Never Told' is juxtaposed with a truly tragic story, was this an intentional set-up? who came up with this idea?

‘story she never told’ was extremely difficult to lay out, it was too honest, too raw and very personal. i wouldn’t call any of it a ‘set-up’ but ‘serendipity’ would be the right word to describe how it all came alive. just went with gut feeling, i didn’t really plan it much. it was all emotion.

the internet can provide a wealth of music and information, yet aside from the music on bandcamp and a few links, you remain fairly elusive, would you share a brief bio with us now to fill us in? 

i find pleasure in being able to move around and not get stuck. and having found the ability to remain a mystery to even those who’ve fallen in love with my writing or voice. in me being the complete opposite of stagnant is where i find my superpower. it’s easier for me to navigate through inspirations without outside noise. my internal is my sacred place to go. here’s my process: i get inspired, i create, i finish, i make my peace and move on to the next thing. i never stay in one place (mentally) long enough for anybody to figure me out so it’s only right that i keep up with my thoughts. it’s easier.

at the time of writing my questions, 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' was your only release, and 'Many Faces Of Her' dropped in early December just before I got in touch, do you see a change in yourself or the way you work in the year and a half between the two releases?

growth is for certain, immediately after i finished ‘many faces of her’ i took my mind back to ‘a series of unfortunate events’ and imagined what my younger self felt at the time to even write a project with such a title. my emotions were all over the place, but with my new project i found a better way to channel my internal, still raw, but more settled. there’s a lot more to talk about but…let’s see what time reveals.

and what are your future plans, are there to be any further musical projects from yourself? 

hopefully, if the future is in sync i hope to someday create more projects that are more potent.

we've been compiling mixtapes for three months now to reflect the ever colder seasons, taking in folk elements, chillwave and obviously spoken word and poetry, when was the last time you made a mix for somebody and what did it include? 

i host an event called ‘poetic justice open-mic’ and i compile the music to create the ‘feel’ for the environment and the chill zone i try to promote. the mix includes various artists from Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Wale, Big Krit. Iman Omari, Jhene Aiko, Drake, Dom Kennedy and the list goes on. it’s a mix of ‘feel-good’ songs.

aside from yourself, we also featured a spoken word piece by Kevlar, in the spirit of discovery that our mixtapes were made in, are there any artists you'd suggest we should check out for ourselves?

at the moment, nothing crosses my mind but there’s a number of great artists out there just keep your ears out and open. peace and love.

a massive thank you to Malanda J. Poetry for taking the time to answer our questions

and to stay up to date, be sure to check out Malanda on twitter, tumblr and youtube

Sunday, 29 December 2013

6&8 + Day Before Us - May Propre Fable, un Dimanche

sometimes, music stumps me.

basing my output on my ability to put my own thoughts, feelings and opinions into words, being stumped leaves me feeling rather redundant.

and mostly I tend to feel this way towards music when I feel that my own words will lessen the true experience of just listening.

this is certainly the case in point with 'May Propre Fable, un Dimanche', a startlingly ethereal experimental soundscape that shifts and mutates from dreams to nightmares within a heartbeat, played out across sonic environments that at first seem unthreatening, giving way to my own very human instinct of feeling unsettled by the sounds that I am surrounding myself with, and ultimately wondering if I can even bare to carry on listening, as the whirlpool of emotions dredged up across the space of a few minutes cause such a drastic reaction to the audio atmospherics.

and even putting aside the music, for now, let's focus on the jarring, creepy vocal jaunts that are strewn across the sparse thirty six minute running time, turning simple statements, sentences and facts into mantras that echo like a horror movie, an unemotional delivery that means nothing, yet left to our imagination, could mean anything.

there is power in the art on display here, exemplified in the fact that the release is presented as a number of rooms, rather than tracks bearing pretentious titles, and in fact, the ever more pretentious framing device, and the collaborative efforts of 6&8 (spoken word fleshed out with ambient electronica from the UK) combining with Day Before Us (French semi-classical dark cinematic ambience) reeks of high brow pretentiousness and enthusiastic chin stroking, and if that is the reaction you elicit from this kind of art, then so be it... because art is made to produce reactions, differing from person to person.

and art is made to be experienced, throwing my wayward attempt at a review into disarray, even I myself throughout the course of writing this have pondered how so much of what I have written could be perceived as negative, yet here is a collection that I have enjoyed.

'May Propre Fable, un Dimanche' by 6&8 + Day Before Us 
is available via Auditory Field Theory