Monday, 25 November 2013

Tayalarz: The Fanfaronade of Guido

Welcome back to the third in our recently established series of Tayalarz mixtapes.

For November's instalment, a slightly different approach has been taken, for both Volumes 1 and 2, the tracks were sourced exclusively via popular blog aggregator, hype machine, searching for words that reflect the particular time of season, and hunting down recommended tracks via blog posts.

This time around i decided to sniff out the good stuff myself, heading straight to bandcamp in order to siphon another 12 tracks that the artists themselves have made available for absolutely zilch, or on a pay-what-you-like basis.

Prior to compiling this mixtape, i had not heard of any of the artists featured, and i hope that their inclusion here will help to shed a little more light on their cause, and yet again i have been overwhelmed with the end product that plays as a complete musical journey from start to finish and back round again.

And i must admit, that in the course of compiling this labour of love, i think i may have crafted the best mixtape in the series so far...

Opening with an astonishingly heartfelt and bereft piece of spoken word,  Malanda J. Poetry sets the tone for a bleak wintery soundscape that shrugs off the joyful summer frivolities and yearns to nestle by the fire in your soul, a thoroughly modern, down-tempo journey across oceans and genres, embracing hip-hop, folk, poetry, hypnotic beats and downright experimental sound collages that may prove conducive to hibernation should you wish to wait out the cold weather until spring.

And since this has felt so wonderfully thematic as a whole, i am also looking to share a unique vision with you in the near future, with previous volumes, i have reworked the tracks so that they run into each other in one cohesive long mix, mostly for my own ends, however, Volume 3 leant itself to this practice so well that it seemed emphatically absurd not to share it with you.

I shall allow you to track down the components of this mixtape and discover the artist involved yourself before gracing your ears with the definitive article, and conjoined version of previous volumes will also present themselves at such time.

but for now, wrap up warm, pour a soothing dram of whisky and dive into November's handpicked selections.

11. Shak - Dmnds

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 take you directly to the track in question, once again, artwork for this volume was provided by Ian Byford, good luck hunting it all down...

Saturday, 16 November 2013

in conversation with Ciaran Lavery

The main aim when starting the Tayalarz mix series was to create a cohesive compilation of music that is currently up for grabs and won't cost a penny to source, offering a little guidance as we pull together a playlist to save you the hard work.

Yet, as we have been putting the finishing touches to November's instalment, Volume 2 from last month has still been on heavy rotation and one artist's efforts in particular have stood out and caused persistent earworms.

So we caught up with Ciaran Lavery to discuss cover versions, musical discoveries and to further spotlight a singer/songwriter that we feel fortunate to have found in the process of plucking ripe mp3s from the unfathomably large world wide web.

my approach to this mixtape in particular was to simply search hype machine for particular words or phrases and see where it would take me, i came across yourself after searching for 'killer', influenced by halloween that was right around the corner and finding your version of Psycho Killer, what is the strangest way or place you have stumbled across music that has truly impressed you?

I most usually find my music on amazon, I have been doing that for years. I like that feeling of stumbling across something new to my ears, for a brief period it feels like I'm the only one in the world who knows about them, then when I research further I tend to find I'm the last to know and it takes that magic feeling away. If I had to say the most random though it would maybe have to be finding a Grateful Dead LP inside a Wu Tang Clan CD couldn't make that up

were there any cover versions that didnt make the cut, or that you wanted to make work but couldn't find a way?

I had originally tried to re-work just random covers of all decades but it just so happened to work out that the most appropriate were in and around the same time. I think around that time I had demoed some Lykke Li and New Order but they never made it to studio

i have only discovered you recently, but your debut album was released in march of this year, what has the reaction been to it so far?

The album was such a great thing to make just on a personal level. I have read some really nice things from people I've always respected in the music world who seemed to think it was quite special, and I still randomly get people coming up to me and telling me how much they enjoy listening to it. The other day I heard how someone has listened to the album for a straight week - that's kind of mind-blowing. At the end of the day when I finished recording and the day it was released it's no longer mine anymore, but rather it belongs to whoever bought or downloaded or copied it. At the same time I didn't expect it to be welcomed in with open arms by all types of music lovers, it can be a very personal album. In other words it's never going to be played at a party, unless the idea is to clear the place

presumably the Covers EP is a stopgap between the album and your next full length project or release of original material, what plans are you developing right now and when will we next hear the fruit of your labours?

I think it's pretty typical of songwriters to always be writing and scheming some sort of plans and I'm no different. I have a lot of songs that I've been test driving at gigs over the past while and initial plans to record again are in place so I'm excited about that. I would never want to go in and record the same sounding record so the covers EP was important for me to get away from a sound I could have been pigeonholed with and I intend to do the same when it comes to recording my new material

any plans for a christmas single perhaps? get it right and you could see those Noddy Holder style royalties rolling in each year... 

No, no - I think it's hard to beat Noddy Holder's effort. Christmas singles can be really hit or miss these days, it's not like the 80s when there were so many good songs out every year competing. When you think of those compilation CD's at Christmas time, a hell of a lot of the good stuff is based in that decade. There will never be another Wizard or Slade single, which is sad. At least Christmas jumpers are's a step in the right direction

do you have a favourite cover version? 

That's a tough one because there are so many and probably a lot that I have yet to hear but based on the knowledge of them that I have I would have to say it's a toss up between Bon Iver's version of 'Love More' originally by Sharon Van Etten and Rage Against The Machine's take on 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' by Bruce Springsteen

what was it that drew you to record those songs featured on 'Other People Wrote These'?

It was a project I had wanted to do for a long period, but the chance never really reared its head until maybe a few weeks before I went in to record the tracks. One day I said to myself "ok, it's time to do this for real" and that was that. The whole process was like that really. There was no massive time lapse between any part of the process, the whole thing was started and finished inside three days. I wouldn't have it any other way. The songs weren't particularly personal to me before the process, but I knew that when selecting them I wanted to have the room to almost reshape them, and these songs just seemed to lend themselves to the process best. I also felt it important to break down any boundaries on song selection that may have been there based on my own self written material

Our mixtapes so far have skirted between down tempo beats, trap music, folk, dubstep and a few other genres besides, when was the last time you compiled a mixtape and what was on it?

Ah god, I'm not entirely sure. I used to help compose travel CDs that ranged from the most outrageous, to the cheesy. But I guess a would have been a long time ago. I was actually clearing out in the attic the other day and I found a cassette tape, it got me thinking about mixtapes and how much effort went into making them. Maybe one day I'll make one real soon just to say I did it and feel nostalgic again

and in the spirit of discovering new music, we think that you should perhaps check out Benin City and what they have been doing recently, who would you suggest we take a listen to that is deserving of the exposure right now?

In no particular order check out The Emerald Armada, Joshua Burnside and Ian O'Doherty - each amazing in their own right

a massive thank you to Ciaran Lavery for taking the time to answer our questions

and to stay up to date, be sure to follow Ciaran on Twitter and Facebook

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Holidays are coming: the Christmas advert rush...

is it not bad enough that I am sat here surrounded by people watching the X-factor?

how special to sit here in their company and suddenly, barely one week into November, to be treated to the premiere of John Lewis's bloody Christmas advert.

and before it even begins, I know exactly what to expect from it...

in fitting with the standard Christmas advertisement formula, the rules dictate that we must have a rather twee and whimsical female voice trotting out a cover version in a rather twee and whimsical style.

we've already had Ellie Goulding selling her soul to cover Elton John and gain herself unrivalled access to Royal shindigs and recent years have seen The Smiths and Frankie Goes to Hollywood surely secured a few extra quid in their pockets after the same saccharine fate befell each of them in the extended advent season.

Surely Lily Allen (or at least her shrewd management team) have spotted this trend and jumped on the prematurely departing bandwagon, arriving just ahead of the brightly lit Coca-Cola lorry that is bound to be with us any minute now, and don't be surprised if a Keane greatest hits finds its way in amongst your stocking fillers alongside Morrissey's autobiography, otherwise the combined might of these Naughties stars has been squandered.

Frankly, I'm sick of the usual tricks trotted out by the usual suspects... a snow flurry and a cover version gift wrapped in a female vocal and a quick tug on the heart strings, chuck in some mince pies with a pre-December 'use by' date and our modern, expertly marketed christmas is complete.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Concerning Britney Spears and Time Travel

I've reached the age where so many of my views and opinions are informed by nostalgia for the way things used to be.

I remember Bloc Party's headline show at Heaven before the release of Silent Alarm, I remember when Arctic Monkey's demos were shared between curious and rabid fans alike before NME began sticking the band on their front cover every week, I remember a time when Simon Cowell didn't rule the world and when ticket prices were reasonable and when music channels actually showed music videos.

I remember when a sweet and innocent girl in a school uniform was kicking her foot against the leg of her desk and tapping her pencil on the table top as she impatiently waited to be saved by bell, I remember being equally smitten and seduced by this visual enticement in the glorious hey-day when it was a usual teenage past-time to flick intermittently between MTV and The Box.

Britney Spears had the perfect mixture of catchy pop and an undeniably calculated image that thrust her to the forefront of the record buying teen market and simultaneously sold the doe-eyed jail-bait sensation to the rest of the world that simply couldn't ignore that knee socks and skirt combination that had accompanied a sure-fire hit.

If, for a moment we enter the realm of sci-fi and hypothesise that instead of just using current technology to play Angry Birds and make new photos look like old photos, I had actually developed time travel in the year 2013, imagine if I travelled back to show my 16 year old self exactly what Britney Spears is up to these days.

I would be shocked for a number of reasons, the time travelling I could probably accept without too much problem, but the fact that Britney would still be plugging away at a music career 14 years later would be harder for me to swallow, yet anther example of my poorly predicted 'one hit wonders' that would never amount to much, which over the years have also included The Spice Girls, Katy Perry and Justin Beiber.

But the biggest mind-fuck would be the alien music that has morphed to an unrecognisable degree over the intervening years, to the point that former pop sirens are embarrassingly coerced into grasping at straws and riding the coat tails of current trends where at one time they would have lead instead of followed.

Of her contemporaries from the turn of the century, Britney is likely ranking higher than Christina Aguilara in the relevancy stakes, yet lagging behind former beau and former N-Syncer Justin Timberlake by a sizeable margin.

Yet the days of knotting a shirt and wearing your hair in bunches in order to win hearts is long behind us now, the game has changed beyond recognition and now supposedly provocative riding of industrial demolition tools, heightened misogyny and product placements are de rigueur in exchange for record industry infamy.

Perhaps the record buying public at large are still willing to swallow whatever swill Britney's people have insisted she should be selling, but I for one am unconvinced and underwhelmed by her latest effort, it works (no pun intended) to some degree as a lowest common denominator 21st century Saturday night at Yates' dance anthem, but for a former pop princess who let her tiara slip, I expect better.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Benin City, live @ Electrowerkz, 30th October 2013

So, this 'urban' band that I came to review step out on stage in matching printed suits that evoke leopard print and flintstone couture with an African twist before my view is obscured by a massive white-fro. Certainly, the audience here is as diverse as the music of Benin City.

On record, they are tantalising and boundary pushing, on stage, new elements of their set-up become much more apparent whilst others slink off with respect into the background to allow these more visual prompts to take hold and lead the way through the musical furore.

The case in point is the way the three piece dynamic catches the eye and the mind, whilst a sly backing track is present, Theo Buckingham on drums provides the rhythmical backbone with a tight precision that humanises what could have easily been construed as programmed pre-sets, and the divergent styles and influences are now more visibly anchored by the sax playing skills of Tom Leaper not only does it sidestep the usual expectation of guitars or bass as a given in the live set-up, and now also informs future listens of the album, raising the stakes of the nature of the brass and emphasising a more prevalent force.

Another transformation that occurs is within my belief that spoken word as a medium is shy and introverted, an outlook that can be taken from pouring over introspective and heartfelt lyrics, yet when Joshua Idehen bounds onto the stage, hidden from the world behind mirrored sunglasses, he could be mistaken for the spirit of Stevie Wonder given sight, dancing and moving as if it were a long forgotten art that had been rediscovered without the obvious obstacle of various trip hazards.

I had already tried to bottle lightning once when I reviewed Fires In The Park, an album that deserves to be heard for itself in order to pass judgement rather than hanging onto pulped opinions, and yet again I've put myself in the position where I lose myself to something so full of passion, clearly ticking all the right boxes for me, that I occasionally catch myself dumbfounded that I need to put this experience into words.

I nod my head, I tap my feet, I dance, I sing along, and when my favourite lines are uttered I feel my heart catch a little and a spark in my soul ignites, those lines I relate to, those lines I have felt for myself.

And this is my revelation, eventually I realise just how Benin City have curated a beautifully committed audience when I see the girl in front of me turn to her friends, shouting above the music, 'this is my line!', stirring that emotion inside here that I had felt previously, and those connections are likely there in nearly every line, in nearly every person in this room, I realise that witnessing Benin City live is more than can just be put into words, it is more than just seeing and believing, Benin City exist through feelings.