Artists at a glance
THE DIRTY LIES
THE WITCH & THE ROBOT
CLOUD – Cherry Dip Jamie Halliday’s Audio Antihero Records deserve a medal for services to the world of alternative music. They specialise in lo-fi gems from the likes of Nosferatu D2, Paul Hawkins and Thee Awkward Silences, Jack Hayter, Benjamin Shaw and his alter ego the Superman Revenge Squad. Cherry Dip comes from Jamie’s most recent adventure – an album by the ungoogleably-named American artist Cloud and – at nearly six minutes long – this tune is screaming to be edited down to radio length and be released as a single. This cheerfully upbeat slice of twee summerpop garnered huge numbers of votes from readers and moderators alike on our Listening Post this weekend. For one thing it didn’t sound like everything else – in fact it didn’t sound like anything else – in the pile. For another, it’s larded with hooks. “You don’t have to be alone” – you’d need a heart of stone to resist a message like that in this cold dark recession-wracked month of January. Read more about Cloud and Comfort Songs – his album on Audio Antihero – in the Mixtape tracklistings for September 2nd last year.
Butler Reeves – Ome Team Freshnet (aka The FreshMods) is a collection of friends, bloggers and musicians who dedicate part of their free time each week to helping fellow artists get heard. Occasionally one of us quietly drops one of our own tunes into our inbox under an assumed name and romps into our Fresh Faves on musical strength alone – as with 3 Potato 4 in June 2012 – which turned out to be Prick’nDing main man Johnno “Snippet” Casson. So I’m delighted to reveal the musical mastermind behind Butler Reeves is fellow FreshMod Massimo Zeppetelli – a blogger, musican, photographer, interactivity consultant and longstanding friend who’s embarked on this new project to release his own music in 2014. This shimmering trance-like instrumental won hearts and votes over the weekend and no wonder – it sounds like the soundtrack for a movie that hasn’t yet to be written. Come on you film students and video editors – with Ome by Butler Reeves the gauntlet has hit the floor.
FJØRDS – Polymath According to the Bristol-based online magazine The Flux, Cardiff’s electro rock band Fjørds will be releasing this track Polymath as their third single on 1st March 2014 via Crookedman Records as a followup to their previous releases Domino and Russian Doll. I love the energy and momentum radiated by this band, and I bet they’re a storming live band. Clearly enough readers agreed to place Polymath in the top 50% of our tracks from the weekend’s Listening Post. Their web presence is great and the intensity of the group’s interaction with their audience is seriously impressive. If I was their manager though, my advice would be to come off the road after this single and focus their considerable energies into writing very much more distinctive material before the next push. Fjørds are a likeable bunch but personally I’d like to hear something considerably odder and very much more original from them next time around.
GENTLEMAN BRAWLERS – My Theory Somebody should send this to Craig Charles’s Funk & Soul Show on 6 Music without delay. A virtuoso live band of this calibre – grooving together like a beautifully engineered machine – topped off with silken female vocals is right up Craig’s street. I know nothing about Gentleman Brawlers and deliberately haven’t checked, in order to focus on the simply outstanding musicianship coming out of the speakers. Liquid and inventive township style guitars, micron-precision drum grooves, yes… but what’s nailing it all together is a bassist with the effortless rhythmic flick of a Norman Watt-Roy or a James Jamerson. I’m a sucker for great bass playing and – trust me on this – this bass playing is truly great. Top marks too to the the glistening production. What’s missing? Songwriting of the same kind of standard as the band itself. Pleasant as My Theory is, the day they write a Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick or a Reach Out, I’ll Be There of their own is the day they’ll take over the world.
JEMMA TWEEDIE – All This Fear Jemma Tweedie‘s song Draw The Line was voted into our Fresh Faves by readers back in October 2012 and it’s good to see this well-loved Scots songwriter make a triumphant return at the start of 2014. All This Fear is the lead track on her selfreleased three-track single which came out digitally – and on limited-edition physical copies – on December 23rd. Where Draw The Line lay in mainstream singer-songwriter territory with fingerpicked acoustic guitar underlaid with subtle production detail and vocal harmonies, All This Fear springs a few surprises. After 45 seconds of Jemma solo with her guitar the song makes a sudden drop into the kind of loping widescreen half-time groove beloved of Tori Amos and Kate Bush. When it finished playing, Soundcloud arbitrarily offered to “Play another track” and began autoplaying a Jake Bugg tune. Let’s hope it’s an omen.
MAX – Half The Day Move over, Glasvegas, here comes Max Taylor. Not the handsome and gifted East Anglian bassplayer of that name from Clor, Roots Manuva, Groove Armada and, er, the Tom Robinson Band I hasten to add. We’re talking about the no less handsome and gifted lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for the Kent band Zorzilla who graced our Fresh Faves in April and September last year. “Inspired by other one man recording projects such as Tame Impala & Jim Noir”, we’re told, Mr Taylor decided to do the same. Working under his solo moniker MAX, he’s currently deploying his considerable production abilities on recording a debut EP, the first track of which is available here for your listening pleasure: Half The Day. Judging by your votes on the Listening this weekend gentle readers, the pleasure was all yours.
NINA BAKER – Single Bed Nina Baker has been loyally supported over the last three years by BBC Introducing and was singled out to attend one of our 2013 Masterclasses. She recently came runner-up in MTV’s Brand New for 2013 unsigned competition, and has been making her debut album at Rockfield Studios and Red Kite Studios, mixing in London at The Church and getting it mastered at Abbey Road. The album – called Quite Frankly – is dedicated to her late grandfather Frank Baker and she describes it as “a big-scale, uncompromising production, a roller-coaster of soaring highs and wallowing lows due for release on 6th June 2014”. Hopefully it’ll hit the mainstream audience that Single Bed is clearly pitched at and I wish her every success. However I suspect there’s another side to Nina – who cites her mighty namesake Nina Simone as an influence. Next time around I’d be more interested to hear something far more raw and visceral – recorded in somebody’s shed by a producer we’ve never heard of. Without any polish or pandering to the music industry that Ms Simone so passionately reviled.
OLA SZMIDT – Flying Carpet This effortless 66 second gem hasn’t – as far as we know – been recorded mixed or mastered by anyone famous. Leicester based vocalist, pianist, flautist, composer and improviser Ola Szmidt is the real deal – one of those rare artists whose voice speaks heart to heart at a level deeper than words. We featured her recent collaboration with guitarist Andy Keeble on my BBC Introducing Mixtape back in November. Here, like the true artist she is, Ola plays just enough – and for just long enough – to make her point and then stops. Gorgeous and understated, Flying Carpet floats tantalisingly in space and leaves you reaching for the Replay button again and again. She’s looking to perform her daring music in small, unusual venues in the course of this year. If anyone has ideas, suggestions or contacts, she’d love you to get in touch.
SUPER SQUARECLOUD – Sanguine Back in 2012 a 6 Music listener in Chippenham called Ewan Merrett tipped us the wink about a new oddball Swindon outfit called Super Squarecloud – whose music he described as “Just a great blend of clever musicianship and cool catchy melodies”. Their tune JMPTHNFLYNW (“Jump then Fly Now”) – taken from an EP of peculiar music painstakingly recorded in various bedrooms on a shoestring budget – amply bore this out. It took our listeners by storm. Fast forward two years to this track Sanguine and both the band’s sound and reputation have clearly grown and developed. Fellow Freshmod and BBC Introducing presenter Sam Bonham has been vigorously supporting them at BBC Bristol, and there’s been a palpable sense of excitement at them appearing on this weekend’s Listening Post. Spelndid music by a splendid set of people – and a BBC Introducing success story to boot. Result!
TEGA AKPOD – Even If They Don’t
A fresh and authentic debut from young West London rapper Tega Akpod aka Mikayla Leerickal. As always, it’s a convincing vocal that carries the day over fancy production and expensive studios. Tega’s open and direct delivery takes you straight into her world – and a timely reminder, given the Mark Duggan verdict – that racism is still very much alive and thriving in supposedly cosmpolitan London. This track has already scored 500+ plays on Soundcloud and no wonder. With its sparse, jazz-tinged, Gil-Scott-Heron-flavoured beats and insistent hookline Even If They Don’t is a genuine homegrown DIY earworm.
THE DIRTY LIES – Shallow Grave
THE WITCH & THE ROBOT – Ayn Rand’s Grand Plan Now here you go – by listing the artists in alphabetical order we’ve ended up saving the most wildly adventurous outfit till last. Ayn Rand’s Grand Plan is just bursting with the ideas, fun and mad energy you get from a collective of musicians all sparking off each other live on stage and in the studio. Why am I not surprised that the individual members of Ambleside’s The Witch And The Robot are known to the world as: Venice, Dustin Goodnite, Blue Owl, Spaniella, Hen, JimmyT, Dobbin, and DJ Aesthetic Heartbreak. This sort of noise can never be achieved sitting in front of a laptop, hiring in session musicians, or even forming a band at school. It comes only from the interaction between inspired musicians of a certain age and competence – co-ordinated by a deranged mastermind with a wide streak of anarchy in their soul. Move up Misty’s Big Adventure, a.P.A.t.T. and Super Best Friends Club – and make room at your tea party for TWATr. They’re insanely great. As to what Ayn Rand’s grand plan actually was, try Wikipedia.
PS from TR: If you’ve submitted a track that hasn’t made the Fresh Faves you’re welcome to re-submit it again. But if you have been a Fresh Fave in recent weeks could you possibly hold back for at least six weeks before sending us another one. If you keep sending us great tracks every week it leaves less room for new names who haven’t had a chance yet…