Thursday, 29 August 2013

Clara Moto - ‘Joy Departed' EP

There isn't much time to form opinions when an email drops into your inbox on a Wednesday afternoon, the main gist of it being 'hey, would love your opinion on this new EP'.

So far, so normal.

'Oh yeah, it came out this week'.

So what you are treated to here is a breakneck review based on a couple of spins of what is thankfully an EP of music that I liked on the first listen.

I download the files, open the zip and bung it into itunes before being enveloped by a sonic experience that roughly equates to a spinning head in a dark room after too many whiskies, whilst being serenaded by Burial. To be absolutely honest, it is quite an unsettling listen... with haunted beats and clipped voices that pass through like echoes of a nightmare, this sounds like lounge music for a club full of movie maniacs, Freddie Kreuger, Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers all clinking their glasses of Bloody Marys and discussing their fondness of Twin Peaks.

Whilst all of the above may not sound overwhelmingly positive, I find a discovery like this to be rather thrilling, taking the chillwave template and subverting it, creating something wholly original from the key touchstones of The XX and Burial and taking them down darker routes, indeed, just consider
the cover version of Chris Isaack's already chilling Wicked Game that is now a rather terrifying prospect.

For The Love We Lost is a swooning atmospheric piece, providing breathing space before 6 minute plus closer Shade, that puts the bass back into 'basic four to the floor beat', neither of these matching the horrifying opening triumvirate for brooding terror filled genius and the darker aspects that delighted me.

Two listens within 24 hours, a quick turn around on a review, and now the whole world can read my hastily assembled assessment on exactly how I feel about the music of Clara Moto.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Benin City - Fires In The Park

Music and poetry collide spectacularly in a kaleidoscopic array on this debut album from trio Benin City.

And is is hard to know where to start singing the praises of Fires In The Park, so why not start at the start with opening track, People Will Say, a mid-tempo moody beast that lurches along with a loose jazz fusion groove, more than adequately taking the weight of the heavily thought through vocal delivery.

It is this enchanting way with words that provides just one of a handful of focal points on this release, taking the jam-packed nature of rap, which when used properly can say so much, and slowing it down to an almost spoken word pace that still manages to ride along with the music, and certainly, the comfortable pace gives the words room to hang in the air, ripe for picking, and almost every listen provides me a new favourite couplet or another line that I can relate directly to my own life.

Another plus point that works in the albums favour is the vastness of musical skills that are flexed across an everchanging soundscape, where the first track lurches, the second one bounces, fuelled by a driven pulse that grows into a full on electro-samba, Faithless quickly demonstrates Benin City's capabilities, and across just two songs they have grabbed my attention and refuse to let go.

The beautiful lament of Wha Gwan from which the album takes its title is a fragile and emotional plea that is as uplifting as it is heartbreaking, tugging at heart strings as it builds, and then Pencils drops with a slow bass walk that pulls us through a vitriolic vocal performance that is virtually spat straight into your face, switching from raised spirits to an almost confrontational throwdown .in a mere heartbeat.

This is surely why Benin City are ones to watch, and ones to watch closely, ones to study with great intent... because they are worthy of the attention.

I've only waxed lyrical about four tracks so far from a thirteen track album, and already I have said more than I ever usually find to say about almost any act I have had the fortune to review.

I could seriously continue breaking down the album into bite-sized chunks, but it is the full scope of this band that make them so appealing, for those yet to be turned onto Benin City, the shades of Wretch 32 colluding with Saul Williams should provide an ample jumping on point for both hipsters and mainstream hip-hoppers, whilst the musical diversity shown by Crystal Fighters and Faithless (the band, rather than the aforementioned track) should point you roughly in the right direction of an act that squirms against generic pigeon-holing.

And again we stumble upon another focal point, for Fires In The Park can simply be listened to, and enjoyed, or it can be voraciously consumed, taking the time to pick over the enjoyable experimentation of the band's productions, richly layered and magically uncompromising in its subtle nuances of strange effects and distortions that bleed faultlessly into the vaster picture, hiding in plain sight and demanding to be discovered.

Music and poetry colliding, that just doesn't do Benin City any justice at all, in fact it is almost demeaning to boil such complex tapestries of sound down to two simple specifics.

Those that merely read this review won't understand, and music and poetry colliding will be all they take away from this, but I'm hoping that it incites further investigation and that Fires In The Park will invite further word of mouth reactions in those curious enough to dig deeper.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Rizzle Kicks: and their part in the world of media's new slave labour

Hey you, youngsters!! You wanna join the shiny exciting world of 'Media'??

Well saddle up for what may well and truly be a slippery slope down shit creek without a paddle, or a paycheck!

I hope that others are likely to find an easier time of things than I have so far, and that everyone can land their dream job in a highly competitive market, but let's face it, a lot of people won't.

For too long I've meandered on the outskirts, quite content to do what I wanna do in my free time, and perhaps my life has happened at the wrong time, but it has given me a unique perspective on an industry that I wish would swallow me whole.

And perhaps the looming shadow of that nasty recession is still hanging over us and clouding our judgements, but even at the tender age of sixteen, when I was considering enrolling at uni in a course on journalism, I was first aware of the hard slog to 'make it' and the fact that you would have to put in a lot of time and effort, getting paid peanuts, just to gain the relevant experience, yet, now more than ever, I see the term 'internship' slung about.

This has always been the favoured route into 'the life you want to lead' and I know people that have travelled this route, and things are looking ok for them, but my life is different, I'm no longer at home with parents, I am reliant on an income to keep a roof over my head and the travel into London alone would be crippling before you double team it with the lack of pay.

I refuse to let this be the end of my dream tho, I want it too much and have let it slide for too long, but among the fiasco in the news about zero hours contracts that is cluttering up headlines recently I can't help but see the proliferation of internships across multiple job sites as taking advantage of this country's rather dire employment situation.

And amongst all this going on, my favourite pop-scamps, Rizzle Kicks have kicked off the campaign ahead of their second album by debuting a new video, proudly proclaiming that it was made by interns!!

The news made my blood boil, I bet it was bloody good fun, and a bloody good experience, but if the economic climate is gonna change for the better then I think we need to start providing opportunities and not just experience to those thirsty for breaking into the glamorous world of after show parties, powdered noses and overzealous exploitation...

Thursday, 8 August 2013

the pitfalls of living a disconnected life in a digital age

I've had a phone stolen, put one through the washing machine with my work trousers and lost one under about a foot of fake snow at a New Years Eve party at the Scala.

But when my HTC Desire decided to give up the ghost earlier the week, things were different. This was my first smart phone, my connection to the world that went beyond missing out an a few texts or the odd call. ok, it's a slight hindrance to the way I lead my life, but it's no big deal.

so as me and my girlfriend head our separate ways at Liverpool Street station with half made plans to meet again at a certain time if the fates allow, otherwise I'll see her at home.

I was out and about to witness a handful of Enfield's bands dragging themselves away from the Bush Hill Park Tavern for once, I've seen one of my boroughs most beloved bands struggle for attendance as close to home as Camden, so I thought I'd support my boys, support my friends and make the journey along especially. I'd made no promises to anyone, thought I'd just turn up and surprise them, but it was me that was surprised as I descended to the basement bar of the Spitalfields venue.

The doors opened at half 7, first band on at quarter to eight, it was now quarter past eight and I found myself stood in an empty room, just me and one other guy that told me through a muffled mouth of sandwich that the gig was cancelled.

'band members were underage' i just about deciphered before he swallowed.

I wandered aimlessly for a short while, hoping that a recognisable Enfieldian or two would be propping up one of a handful of nearby bars while I weighed up my options.

On any normal evening I'd have checked facebook and twitter for updates on the rather dire situation, texted or called one of my mates playing, been hopping on the train back to the more familiar and predictable surroundings of Bush Hill Park and let my girlfriend know the dealio.

Most normal evenings don't result in me nursing a pint of ale for an hour and forty minutes, sat on my own reading a book in a pub in Great Portland Street before descending down the stairs to the comic-book wallpapered lower level where my other half is among a roomful of uke players , merrily strumming away and singing their way through a songbook projected at the front of the room.

So whilst, unbeknownst to me, Decoy Jet, Building The Songbird and Echochain turn a soured experience into a show of solidarity in front of a rabid home crowd, I grabbed another drink and settled in amongst the well lubricated throng for mass singalongs of Oasis and Mumford and Sons before revealing my presence to my girlfriend.

Sure, it wasn't a normal evening, but sometimes the simple joy of the unexpected is just as rewarding.

(although all the missed instagram opportunities are killing me now)


Sunday, 4 August 2013

E.m.m.a: Blue Gardens

As an 80s baby, the 16 and 8-bit noises of old consoles and gameboys will always tug at my heart strings, wrestling me from this interconnected world and taking me back to a time when the Tetris end screen figured pretty highly into my life goals.

Enter E.m.m.a, wielding a debut album that swings wildly for my memories, taking swipes at my past both distant and more recent, Kirby's Dreamhouse and Streets of Rage are mashed up with the pirate radio stations that used to blast out of our 6th form common room and the garage nights where a friend of a friend that owned their own decks and a boxful of vinyls would provide the gateway drug to real going out when we'd finally all turn 18.

Chuck in some Notting Hill carnival vibes for good measure and a healthy dose of Burial style dubstep and that pretty much sums up the listening experience, an experience that feels tailor made to my own personal tastes. Whilst the experimentation with chip-tune may be nothing original, the way it is presented here certainly feels different, atmospheric yet edgy, a balance of light and dark, dreamy soundscapes and devastating bass.

And I doubt I could tire of it, seemingly fresh and yet overwhelmingly nostalgic, for me at least, those that haven't revelled in a fondness for clubbing and late 80s/early 90s gaming may not understand the virtues I am extolling, but others of my generation will surely find this to be a culturally rich sonic masterpiece.