ADVANCE NOTICE: FRESH ON THE NET DROPBOX WILL BE CLOSED DURING AUGUST FOR OUR SUMMER HOLIDAYS.
Last week our moderation team listened to 150 incoming tunes, and whittled them down to a shortlist of 25 for our Listening Post over the weekend. A big thankyou to everyone who came along and gave their time and expertise to listen to those tunes and tell us their favourites.
The weekend’s ten most popular tracks are reviewed here by your friend and ours Louis Barabbas of Bedlam Six and Debt Records fame. For your listening convenience you can hear all these tracks together in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
AZTECCORMORANT – And Lo
AztecCormorant is the name of an album and musical project by London-based composer/producer Matthew Gilbert Linley (who some of you may know from shoegaze/dream-pop band Engineers). While other tracks from the AztecCormorant project combine vintage analog synths/organs with orchestral instruments such as french horn, celeste and viola, And Lo sounds more like exit music from the hymn-sheet of a digital beehive cathedral in the intermediary levels of a Gameboy platform epic, with Maud Waret’s slightly distracted vocals bringing to mind Lætitia Sadier after a little too much Synthemesc at the Korova Milk Bar. And that’s good, right? Absolutely.
A BAND CALLED QUINN – You Know The Right People
A Band Called Quinn are an art-pop band from Glasgow, “mixing up film, theatre & music like space socks at a psychedelic laundrette” – sounds simple enough? Wait, those socks are about to get odd. You Know The Right People is part of an immersive multimedia performance piece centring on a woman’s journey through the music industry. This project is itself a response to Pippa Bailey’s BiDiNG TiME, which was in turn a response to economic and environmental crises that attempted to imagine how creative processes can enable systemic social change.
And if you think you’re down the rabbit hole now well, be warned, Louise Quinn’s show also features none other than a giant rabbit. Now uncross your eyes and forget about all that stuff for a moment because, quite simply, this song works in whatever context one attempts to shove it.
Usually I try to avoid records about THE MUSIC BUSINESS – the subject is steeped in “difficult second album” territory, along with songs about “the road” and songs about writing songs. But this pulsing, assertive and lustrous little piece of synthesised dynamite is the exception that proves the rule – or rather it would be if it wasn’t accompanied by an entire soundtrack’s worth of exceptions in the Biding Time (Remix) soundtrack album, a disarming body of work that feeds Quinn’s sturdily playful and intelligent pop hooks through a sort Vangelis filter and pops them out the other end on a speeding Tron light cycle. Brilliant.
BROKEN MEN – Hit Hard
Any band that opens a song with the words “you climb out of your own arsehole…” probably doesn’t need permission from the likes of me. Nor, I imagine, would any criticisms make too great a dent in their hides. The various blog blurbs and promo patter I’ve found online boast the same vagaries that pepper most young bands’ biogs – lots of unspecified momentum, uncited achievements and unverifiable praise – but I’m more intrigued by this group than I am by most swaggering, bearded garage rockers.
It’s the soul element that is their great strength. There is a big sound here, with meaty harmonies led by a big confident unapologetic lead voice. Volume is the easiest thing in the world to achieve but the real muscle in any rock track comes from the sheer indivisibility of the performers. These guys are definitely all pushing in the same direction.
True, Broken Men have selected the same battleground as many bands before them and are in danger of being filed away among a generational swarm of strutting pretenders. But they’re wise enough to have scoped out the terrain in advance and hidden a few secret weapons of their own among the bushes. “Hit now, hit hard, hit low” is the mantra of this song; I must say the band certainly hit hard and low but, without much of an online presence beyond their label website and a few social media platforms, whether they’ll “hit now” remains to be seen.
CANDYTHIEF – Time In The Tin
I’ve heard some critics say they can make their minds up about a song within ten seconds – some even say two seconds. Well I wonder what those braggers would say about Time In The Tin – a song that can’t seem to make up its own mind throughout the entire duration. I’m a great fan of triptychs in all artforms, broken three-part narratives that stumble between different hues and timbres. I think art is always in some sense schizophrenic in its delivery, especially where bands are concerned – there tend to be a lot of clamouring voices behind the loud obvious one in front.
All too often, however, the jump between genres/rhythms/arrangements is used to cover up a bland directionless song – there’s nothing clever about altering time signature merely to draw attention away from a derivative lyric or dreary chord sequence. Luckily Diana de Cabarrus possesses a natural authority that compliments the burly exuberance of CandyThief in full flow, effortlessly navigating between the quiet suggestive opening passages into the more Kinksy glee of the main hook.
JAMES FROST (feat CARMODY) – Nameless
In this track Nameless, Norwich’s James Frost fashions a melancholy narrative from the mingled mulch of the trusted folk motifs Nature and Memory, a context no less untamed for all the feet that have trod this creative path in the past. The guitar work driving the song is unflinching in its relentless trudge, the bass notes are confident strides through the wilderness, while the high-end finger picking twinkles like dew flicked off tapered bracken by the first rustle of fauna in a waking forest. Beneath all this lies a subtle growing drone like the gradual onset of ivy over old masonry. Deeper and deeper we go into the heart of this sylvan history, the skulking half-recollections proving as lethal as fungi on the woodland floor. Carmody’s beautiful harmonies offer the only hint of optimism among the encroaching trees and iced-over dwellings: the one airborne thing in a world of tangled vines, nettles and once-living matter sucked down forever into the earth.
KING CAPISCE – Shake The Dust
Say the words “Post-rock meets bebop” and I guarantee you’ll have a lot of doors close in your face. Well not mine. These Sheffield-based instrumentalists know how to make heavy things float high and fast. Shake The Dust is a gorgeous mess of influences and impulses, a shared hallucination under the dubious protection of spasming goatherds with mysterious pasts. I’m tempted to say King Capisce‘s recordings are music’s answer to trepanning (but I’m a little reticent about doing the required research). As with all confusing violent majestic things, however, there is an order and beauty at the core. A sort of depraved mathematics. Glorious.
LUCY KITT – Stand By
The hardest thing to sell is good solid songwriting. And yet it’s one of the rarest things out there. I’m not going to do Lucy Kitt the indignity of listing all the singer-songwriters she reminds me of: it probably happens with every review she gets and I know how irritating it is to have one’s influences secondguessed by smug critics. Let’s just say I am comfortable in the environment of her music because it is so familiar – indeed this is creative territory that has had so many flags planted in it that there’s scarcely room left for them to flap. But just because a thing is familiar that doesn’t mean it isn’t special. Kitt has a real talent for weaving words around melodies, of letting the internal rhymes tangle and unravel, leading the ear to a point of rest and then gathering the listener up again for another turn. Intimate, forthright and consummately assembled life-experience music you can believe in.
LOUIS ROMEGOUX/MILOU – Start A War
I’ve never before encountered an artist biography that included such exact coordinates: “Louis Romégoux is an Anglo-French folk musician born and raised in Sheffield but now living in Austria amongst the vineyards and orchards of South Styria in a little hamlet called Petzles, located in the Sausal hills 30 mins to the south of Graz and 25 minutes from Maribor in Slovenia”. It’s all pertinent stuff though: Louis’ singing here conjures something of the Nouvelle Chanson. Especially as the curtain lifts on a string section and muted brass in the latter half, evoking the opening credits of a 60s glamour flick – complete with open-topped classic car effortlessly careening around the winding corniches of the French Riviera with a bouquet of roses in the back seat and a sheer drop three feet to one side. It takes guts to embrace a genre so completely out of step with current trends – so I enthusiastically doff my chapeau to him. I like the boldness, the strong delivery (and the easiness to the arrangements), the clever hook – and the confidence to bring it all together without the ugly caveat of irony. This is very well done.
SAMUEL FRANCIS PROJECT – Okay Now
Whilst digging around the web for information about Samuel Francis I found this tweet from last month: “Good luck to everyone doing their GCSE music exam this morning!” Yes, Mr Francis is sixteen years old and has just sat his GCSEs. This means in a few months (assuming he passes) he will have more music qualifications than me so need not worry too much about what I think of his creative output.
Okay Now is the musical equivalent of gradually regaining consciousness on an empty beach – shifting round the furniture in your brain, before hesitantly reassembling the whereabouts and whenabouts – then stumbling back towards the noise of town. For me there is a lingering suggestion of threat in the aural focus-pulling, but a threat recently avoided rather than still-present or oncoming. It’s atmospheric and ambient – but more the sound of relief than of repose.
Samuel Francis describes his tunes as “warm, bubbly, gorgeous, put-your-feet-up noise” but this is a warmth tempered with the chill of dawn. The bubbles are stretched along the popped, bloated seaweed strands and the dragged remnants of ancient crustaceans. A case not so much of “put your feet up” as “dip them in the surf and trust that the tide won’t drag you away”.
SIOBHAN WILSON – Dear God
Whenever I see the words “Song, By Toad” amongst the Listening Post uploads I know there will be at least one track I will like. The tastes of that fierce little label so often chime very neatly with my own, irrespective of genre. In this case it was a promise that paid back more than I expected: this rendition of Dear God was recorded last year at the Insider Festival – in the main drawing room of Inshriach House, near Aviemore. No fancy production or Fixing-In-Post here… just a good song laid bare. I must admit I envy the ease with which Siobhan Wilson wields simple themes. Simplicity is a terrifying thing – so little to hide behind and so hard to mould to one’s wishes – like catching smoke. Simplicity is inarguable, intriguing, unsettling and alluring. So naturally Siobhan Wilson’s music is all of these things too.
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PS from TR: If you’ve submitted a track that hasn’t made the Listening Post you’re welcome to re-submit it another week. If your music has appeared on the Listening Post but not in our Fresh Faves, feel free to send us an even stronger track another week.
But if we’ve recently featured you in our Fresh Faves – or on my BBC Introducing Mixtape – please wait three months before sending us another track, so we have space to help other deserving artists… For more info see Robinson Has A Good Old Moan.