Artists at a glance
JUAN MARIA SOLARE
MORO AND THE SILENT REVOLUTION
THE KING'S PARADE
UNSTOPPABLE SWEETIES SHOW
Welcome to our final Fresh Faves of 2017. Our inbox will reopen for submissions on January 8th, 2018.
EYES & NO EYES – IG00156
This feels like the opening theme to a slightly disturbing existentialist film – the key word here being feels. Eyes & No Eyes serve up atmosphere and tension as much as harmonic elements and song structure. On the snappily-named IG00156, they draw us in with tribal but mechanical drums before laying out a constantly-evolving synth pulse that underpins the slightly detached vocals. That is until the breakdown halfway through where the alarm appears to have been rung at the asylum/laboratory/cult compound (you choose). It’s very involving and every bit as agitating as you would expect music from a band called Eyes & No Eyes to be.
Having formed at art school in Brighton through a ‘shared passion for explosive noise, surreal lyrics, driving motorik beats and free improvisation’, the quartet have toured extensively, playing shows across Europe in support of their debut album. This track is taken from their new EP, Extinction, where each track is about ‘the extinction of something — a fish, a bird, a language, a microchip’.
JUAN MARIA SOLARE – Mote Of Dust Suspended In A Sunbeam
Anybody wondering just how international Fresh On The Net is, listen up. Here we have the music of an Argentinian composer based in Bremen. And not unlike the mote of dust suspended on a sunbeam mentioned in the title, this beautiful piece has floated down the wires of the web through to us here in London.
Juan Maria Solare is a professor of Tango as well as the conductor of the Jacobs Chamber Orchestra in Germany, however, his own music has been performed in five continents (apparently Antartica is tardy to the party). He considers ‘art music’ and ‘light music’ not to be irreconcilable extremes but ‘poles in a force field’ and Sunbeam straddles both. Tender, bittersweet and hopeful by turns, Solare’s lightness of touch both as composer and pianist resonated strongly with our listeners this week. It’s great to see such an accomplished composer who is still able to really rock a pair of sunglasses.
LOCKS – Skin
With praise from Tom Robinson and Steve Lamacq and a spot at the BBC Introducing stage at The Great Escape under their belts it’s no surprise that Locks deliver a punch. Listing Tom Waits and skeletal blues as well as a subtle fixation on the darker, unnerving aspects of life and death among their influences, Skin bestride dark and light impressively.
Starting with a shuffling upright bass groove and intimate vocals, the chorus bursts into a whole other register — just try not to sing along — and features the best use of bells I’ve heard in recent memory. This is serious light and shade dexterity on display and a great negotiation of live, spontaneous atmosphere with a finely produced ‘record’ sound. As L Gear-Griffin sings “She’ll get under your skin”. She certainly will.
MAAIKE SIEGERIST – Where Do Sparrows Go?
If this track doesn’t chase away the December chill nothing will. You couldn’t ask for a warmer, more soothing tone than Maaike’s here and yet Where Do Sparrows Go is a winter wonderland in aural form – a lullaby of ‘sillouettes of trees’ and ‘distant quiet stars’. Gentle without ever approaching facile, Maaike’s ability to whisper directly to the listener’s emotions is impressive. And it would be so easy for the metaphor of sparrows flying away for winter in a love song to end up a seasonal fondue but, instead, this has genuine sensitivity and is a great example of staying on the right side of sentiment.
Based in London but originally from Rotterdam, Maaike Siegerist honed her musical vision by travelling the world, spending time in China before recording her debut in Bath and now settling in London. She is not a stranger to FOTN or BBC Radio 6 Music with her song Yangtze River Blues getting a spin on Tom’s show. This track shows a real evolution and bodes very well for the future.
MORO AND THE SILENT REVOLUTION – Sun/Dawn
Here’s another track that encapsulates its title perfectly. If I had to imagine an a cappella lament to the sun sung by a small group of men, it would probably sound a lot like this. This duo-sometimes-trio hail from Italy and London but make, in their own words, Anglo-American Folk-Pop that has been compared to Fleet Foxes (whose use of reverb is clearly an inspiration) but Moro And The Silent Revolution’s aim is to write ‘Paul Weller tunes with Leonard Cohen lyrics’.
I particularly love that this brief but charming interlude (I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that one minute and forty-two seconds is brief) includes an element of singing in the round, haunting baritone-register bass notes and exactly eleven seconds of guitar at the end, as if to finish on a bit of musical contextualisation. I also love the fact that they list two members with a sometimes third but include four people in all their promo photos. The Revolution is as mysterious as it is Silent!
N.O.U. – Signal From Noise
Another one of my favourites this week. N.O.U. is not giving much away. All we know about him is: ‘native South Londoner, old school evangelist, weirdo, misses the 90’s’. The weirdo bit is probably self-evident, but his affinity with the 90’s comes through loud and unmistakably clear. Signal From Noise is a big treat for breakbeat lovers. In fact, it continues a long honoured tradition of monster tracks that marry breakbeats with epic string sections like Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy or Rob Dougan’s Clubbed To Death. Is it 90’s? Well, the cycle of twenty years when styles or elements come back into public favour makes this about right on target but, regardless of all that, this sounds fresh.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this production for me is the mixture of pristine digital and low-res elements. I am never usually a hiss-geek but I have to admit that the tape noise at the start does make me inexplicably happy. Said hiss might stem from elements of this track being recordings of radio signals recorded in a project at Ohio State University in 1977 using a ‘Big Ear radio telescope’. Apparently, the signal bore the hallmarks of non-terrestrial and non-Solar System origin. You have to wonder if N.O.U. knows something he’s not telling us…
RACHEL CROFT – Only Dreams
This may be her debut single but Rachel Croft has been honing her sound for a number of years and this gorgeous number displays the fruits of that evolution. Her Soundcloud includes some stripped down covers like Sting’s Fields Of Gold or Lana Del Ray’s Video Games as well as a rendition of Fats Waller’s Ain’t Misbehaving complete with jazz trio. She’s got range. But, reassuringly, it’s her original that stands out and shows the uniqueness of what she has to offer.
Arrangement and production-wise Only Dreams comes on like an updated, sparse take on Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, but Rachel steers this somewhere more intimate and starkly personal. In possession of a voice that boasts several unique tones, she dances between gentle, angry and a Grace Slick-like mystique. She is sparing with her vibrato, only bringing it out when it’s most emotionally impactful. No wonder our listeners were enthralled. And what she says is true: we are only dreams left by the night.
THE KING’S PARADE – Night Calls
Here’s another voice that unveils its subtle delights at a leisurely pace. In fact, it took a couple of listens for me to really get this gem. Though The King’s Parade describe their sound as evoking The Black Keys, Michael Kiwanuka and Alabama Shakes, it was actually the idea of a slightly mellower Kings Of Leon that popped into my head at first (but maybe I’m suggestible enough that the word King was responsible for that association). Upon second and third listens, the full power of the songwriting and depth of emotion in the vocals got me.
The quartet have certainly earned praise in the independent music media and are clearly no slouches when it comes to hitting the road. As finely mixed and radio-ready as Night Calls sounds, you need only check live footage of the track on the band’s Facebook (taken on their tour of Germany which ended yesterday!) to see that the track – and the band in general – impacts just as much live. The King’s Parade seem to have all guns cocked.
TIGER RAGS – Flags And Messages
Mystique is a beautiful thing. It’s very much missing from most of the music scene (why did I feel like a great-grandfather when typing the words ‘the music scene’? Is that like one step away from saying ‘the hit parade’?). Tiger Rags aka Daniel Jenkinson clearly feels the same as, other than his name and the fact that Flags And Messages features Rob Songhurst on trumpet, we have no info about or around the project. But letting the music speak for itself is clearly working well for Daniel as his dubby, infectious track made it all the way from submission to faves.
For me there is a strong early 80’s flavour to the production here, mainly due to the Yoda-level use of reverb here. Featuring a haunting guitar riff that remains in your synapses long after the track’s end, a bass that has all the bottom you need and the synthy-futuristic touches which complement the aforementioned trumpet perfectly, Tiger Rags have the full range of the aural spectrum covered. All that’s left is for someone to shout for a rewind.
UNSTOPPABLE SWEETIES SHOW – Nice Guys Finish Pasta
I am so happy this got through to our Fresh Faves. We’ve saved the most certifiably barmy for last. And what a treat it is! The Sweeties, as I really really want to call them to their faces, say they are a ‘post-pronk ensemble – punk, progressive rock, psychedelic, free improvisation, jazz, spoken word, avant-garde, noise and comedy’ all of which they present in ‘three-minute nuggets for your convenience’. That’s a pretty good summing up but I’ll add that I can imagine this raucous cut soundtracking a comically surreal fight scene, maybe one of Tarrantino’s. Did I say surreal? Their debut album is called ‘Tuck: Town With a Cat Mayor’. Because of course it is.
Love the gutteral vocals that veer from grunts to squeels, love the psychedelic use of effects interplaying with the frantic prog horn riffs. And I love the fact that I actually started wondering – is the title a play on ‘nice guys finish last’? Or could they really mean that nice guys always finish pasta? What if an otherwise nice guy had a really big lunch and was then unexpectedly offered a very large bowl of tortellini by a friend’s mother? These are unwanted thoughts Unstoppable Sweeties Show forced upon me. This band ask all the biggest, most profound questions: they have a song called Where Are The Farts? Because of course they do.
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.