Artists at a glance
AILBHE REDDY – Fingertips
Dubliner Ailbhe Reddy has come a very long way since 2014 when her home-demo was first picked up by Irish radio station Today FM.
Tipped as THE Irish breakthrough artist of 2017, Ailbhe (pronounced AL-VA), who crosses-over from pop through folk to indie, is just weeks away from the worldwide release of her EP, Attach to Memory. A record widely regarded as the vehicle that should take the singer to the next level, it features recently released single Fingertips, a track that focusses on female sexuality, a topic Ailbhe wanted “to push forward and explore from a position of strength and confidence.”
An infectious, uptempo track with an energetic rhythm, Fingertips is the perfect showcase for the young Dubliner’s incredibly controlled, and powerful vocal. With its warm tones and intelligent nuances, her voice is never lost amidst the track’s intricate melodies and robust instrumentation.
Fresh from a stint at the Music Cork festival, Ailbhe is set to peddle her wares at The Great Escape, Latitude, Body & Soul and the venerable Electric Picnic as well as a plethora of ‘venue’ dates including The Slaughtered Lamb, London, on 24th May.
Fingertips is out now, while EP Attach to Memory is set for release via Kobalt/AWAL on 24th May.
BEFORE BREAKFAST – Fat Child
With echoes of the bygone glory days of vocal harmony groups like the Beverley Sisters and Mamas and Papas and nods to the more recent successes of the likes of TLC and Extreme, Sheffield based trio Before Breakfast take a cappella, anchor it with an acoustic piano, and smash it… to pieces!
The first minute of their track Fat Child is sung in a blaze of harmonic layering and vocal syncing of a purity and perfection not often heard this side of Covent Garden. From there on in, there’s little else added to this ‘less is more’ production other than additional keys and some cello. For someone with little time for acoustic productions, I was sucked in and my heart won over, before my prejudices could get their act together.
Maximum impact with minimal ingredients seems to be their modus operandi, and the result is folksy understatement with a classical polish, given a final golden sheen by those pristine vocals. There is an innovative interplay of strength and delicateness, a clever technique that gives the song both earthy and ethereal qualities.
Gina Walters, Lucy Revis and Debra Finch are Before Breakfast (whose name they must explain… why?). They’ve already played Sofar Sounds this year, and per their FB are lined up for more gigs… hop on below for details.
Their Fat Child single is out now on Bandcamp.
BELLATRIX – After More
Let me start by saying that over eight thousand people like Bellatrix on Facebook. Sadly, I’m not one of them. Happily, wonky funkster Nao is. That in itself should tell you everything you need to know about Bellatrix’s musical style.
The Londoner, who is a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music where she studied jazz double bass, takes her ‘fluences from a rather disparate list including the late Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes, Joanna Newsom and Belgian Afro-pop artist Zap Mama. Could a citation be any more eclectic?
She says she has a “really chaotic brain” and that cerebral chassis seems to have seeped somewhat into her music which has such a haphazard pulse and wonky randomness to it that one could say its essence is that it defies classification.
Bellatrix has an EP on the way entitled Real Stuffed Owls which should be right up your local taxidermist’s street. Electro-pop for extroverts and post-Primark poseurs, if you’re ‘After More’ than a bit original and beyond different, this is the sound for you!
DAN COOPER – Chicken
I think I might actually burst into tears! Rarely, have I come across a track that has reduced my mind to a blank canvas, but Dan Cooper’s production has done just that. Words simply fail me.
“I’ll never get you like I’ve got the chicken, on drugs… “
Sorry but I’m in a different headspace to Mr Cooper and I think I’ll stay there thanks.
Apart from being a lover of KFC chicken, Dan Cooper is an “open format DJ, performer, improviser and spoken word artist” from Cheltenham. Chicken which is his latest single, is lifted from the album U OK HUN? which is out now as a pay what you like download on bandcamp.
FIFI RONG – The Same Road
Yo! One for Eurovision junkies.
Exit stage left, turn a corner and fast-backward to a time when Starship Trooper was being choreographed around the ToTP studio by Sarah Brightman and her Hot Gossip galpals (seeing is believing).
Behold Fifi Rong, an “eccentric” and “unique” (her words) London-based artist and producer of ‘hybrid electronica’. Of Chinese extraction (hazy on the detail), the singer, who has collaborated with a host of artists unknown to this reviewer, featured on the title track of Skepta’s 2016 chart smasher, ‘Konnichiwa’.
Her song The Same Road for which she is currently running a PledgeMusic campaign, is set for release on 16th June. Ahead of schedule, you’ll find her performing at The Great Escape and post-release at Wilderness Festival in July.
The Same Road is four minutes of breathy electro-pop that would blend seamlessly into the late ’70s/early ’80s world of a young Martin Gore or Stock Aitken & Waterman. Notwithstanding Rong’s extremely charming voice, the result is harmless, easy on the ear forthy-pop that will neither offend nor beguile.
HUGH – Go
Producer Andy Highmore, Benin City frontman Joshua Idehen, guitarist Tino Kolarides, and singer-songwriter Izzy Brooks make up unsigned Londoners Hugh.
Their thang is R&B vibing electro-soul which to these ears comes over a bit like Faithless with the dial turned down and foot off the trance pedal. There’s also a serious slice of Maxi Jazz to Idehen’s sultry vocal.
There’s a whiff of Nordic noir trip-hoppery meets house to this slick and seductive song – think Sgrow with the pop sensibilities of Lykke Li and smooth of Frank Ocean.
Electronic music often gets a lot of bad press for being too samey samey, cold, uninspired or if you’re a certain reviewer in tQ comparing unfavourably with The XX. However, when music with an electro-pulse is done as well as this, it’s impossible to either fault or resist.
A debut album, ‘Love, Hugh’ is open for pre-order on Bandcamp. It features Go amongst other already christened singles.
JAY RILEY – Smiles
Next up is Jay Riley – the man with the Midas touch, literally.
A saxophonist from Bromsgrove in the Midlands, with a degree in Music & Arts management, he has toured the world, released multiple records, played with various ensembles, worked as both tutor and teacher, and can blow his brass at me any time he fancies.
His track Smiles is a breath of fresh air after multiple doses of electronica. I like me a bit of jazz and this fruity blend of jazz and piano is a wonderfully textured, punchy energiser. As uplifting as its name suggests, this golden-deliciousness comes replete with urgent, intricate piano sequences and some very healthy jazz drumming across which Riley’s stunning sax notes dance and swagger.
Proving that instrumentation can often tell a story as well, if not better, than lyrics, Smiles simply oozes happiness, vibrant energy, positivity, and optimism through joyful brass notes, laughing piano and upbeat percussion.
From Zoot to Clarence Clemons, John Coltrane to Jean Toussaint, there isn’t a black belt of ‘saxophony’ I won’t listen to. Jay Riley’s no exception.
Smiles is taken from the album Light from Dawn due for release on 26th May, details here.
MAYA YIANNI – You + I
What’s become increasingly apparent as I work my way through these nine songs, is how non-mainstream this particular playlist is. Usually there’s a few rock cum indie cum general poppery to be found, but not here! Idiosyncratic is the order of the day and our penultimate artist, Maya Yianni, doesn’t buck the trend.
An alumnus of Goldmiths (do you know our Benji then?) Maya Yianni is an artist who has her roots in the past while keeping her sights fixed firmly on the now. Her vision is latter-day vintage, steeped in the jazz tradition which she has adorned with modernistic touches and twists.
Featured track You + I is a gorgeously wistful ode to failed romance. Perfectly contrasting hues of light and shade create a subtle yet dramatic atmosphere wherein the iridescent, graceful charm of Yianni’s vocal curls around and caresses the inkier shadows of the song’s instrumental physique. Failed romance or nay, this is the music of seduction.
The song, along with the other tracks on the accompanying EP, takes its inspiration from a myriad artists including Julia Holter, Portishead, Anna Calvi and the sumptuous Susanne Sundfor (all faves of this reviewer), as well as Broadcast and Solange. In fact, if you’re into it, Yianni has pulled together quite a snazzy inspo-playlist over on Spotify – we like!
STU COOPER – Table Where
Quirky and eclectic to the last, we end this week’s faves with Stu Cooper and his utterly addictive Table Where. Straight up – no need for hyperbole [I’m fine Steve, honestly!] – I LOVE IT.
This has all the ingredients I look for when choosing my next musical meal – charismatic vocals, hyperactive, peppery percussion, clever, intricate guitar playing, spasms of Jethro Tull-esque woodwind and a few clouds of breathy harmonies. Like, what’s not to love?
Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Stu Cooper is based in colourful Brighton where his personality-filled music is bound to fit right in with the thriving, vibrant local music scene. His oddball style is in perfect sync with his quirky honesty as evidenced in his soundcloud bio:
“I play, sing and record instruments myself, which is why there are questionable guitar/recorder solos occasionally… I just want to produce catchy off-kilter little tunes, havn’t [sic] got time for beard stroking”
What better way to round off our slightly bonkers and left of centre 240th Fresh Faves playlist than with the kooky charm and endearing honesty of Table Where.
Soundcloud [Stu! Where are you? We can’t find you on t’internet!?]
PS from TR: If you’ve submitted a track that hasn’t been picked for the Listening Post, our team has definitely listened to it and there’s no need to send it again: feel free to send us an even stronger track another week. The same goes if you were picked for the Listening Post but didn’t feature in our Fresh Faves.
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.