Artists at a glance
ASTRAL CLOUD ASHES
SIMON D JAMES
ARMONITE – Clouds Collide
Instrumental prog duo Jacopo Bigi and Paolo Fosso are joined by vocalist Maria Chiara Montagnari in this tumble through the fickle fields of romantic memory, where cherry trees wither against indifferent horizons, meaningless as the ever-replenishing promises of abstract youth. The plucked strings stab like panicked breaths as we follow the central rememberer, tugged along like a child’s balloon, towards an ocean of eddying vocals, overlapping like conflicting conceits, tempering a lyrical naivety that threatens to plunge the song irretrievably into a whirlpool of fluffy nonsense, yet somehow Armonite manages to maintain a majestic course throughout.
ASTRAL CLOUD ASHES – Old Moods
Astral Cloud Ashes’ Old Moods is familiar territory trod honestly by Jersey songwriter Antony Walker. Beneath the debris of private references and evocations of past frustrations lurks a universal adolescence that can speak (or moan) meaningfully to all of us. In these murky times of doctored narratives Walker’s stream of consciousness delivery is effectively funnelled, dammed and canalised to power the emotional engine of this elegantly produced modern pop-punk artefact.
BROKENMOUNTAIN – Glory
The piano feels its way into the empty space, its dissonant resolve on the fourth chord mustering the musical equivalent of a raised eyebrow. The members of Australian three piece, Broken Mountain, give each other a lot of room – instruments take over from one another in turn, keys giving way to bass harmonics and later an understated cello before coming together to bring the whole thing home in a final catharsis. The pared-back choruses evoke the pre-dawn quiet of a landscape holding its breath. I’m not sure if he’s singing that the earth will absolve him or absorb him, but this is a song of softly won confidences, so whatever it is I’m sure he’s right.
GIZMO VARILLAS – One People
Straight in with a blur of activity, forms rush to and fro as the track establishes itself in the listener’s comfortably derailed train of thought. Gizmo Varillas is a self-proclaimed idealist and I for one am perfectly willing to accept this mantra of unashamed optimism cheerfully at odds with the relentless gale of demented nationalism the world seems intent on continually spewing out.
With its sights trained confidently on the quiet anthem of shared experience this track could go either way: taken up by the sun drenched festival set or press-ganged into the service of a travel agent commercial. Wherever it ends up, it goes there with a natural brightness, with each piano strike and percussive stab firing out like lens flares atop a sizzling vista.
NOVEMBER – Endless Summer
The most moving art is often that which does not include us, where we peer in through the cracks and glimpse a precious moment that the uninitiated may attempt to measure, yet those within regard as wholly infinite. Notionally an endless summer carries with it a tragic aspect, one of unchecked fantasies and wishful thinking, of a stubborn refusal to let go of something fleeting, a beauty defined by its very temporariness. In this track Montreal-based November has created a song as bold as Summer yet frail as Autumn.
SIMON D JAMES – In The Fields
The familiar front porch rocking chair exchange of fiddle and guitar belies a subsequent freshness of approach that sets this work apart from its colleagues in the bloated holding pen that is the modern folk circuit. The song takes an innovative, quietly urgent turn after its traditional opening, stepping away from the Appalachian cabin towards more knowing (though refreshingly unselfconscious) terrain – a comfortable modernity that sands back the veneer of old forms to apply a new finish. Deftly muscular strings underpin Simon D James’ voice, providing a pleasing counterpoint to the contemporary motifs, the production swells injecting a welcome saturation to what might have been an all too sepia scene.
STRAWBERRY MOUNTAIN – Set Back The Clock
I’m a sucker for this kind of dingy psychadelia, the synthetic pops and pulses busying around each other like a litter of jet-fuelled kittens, the dry central voice almost oblivious to the throbbing decay of exploding 8-bit one-ups supplying its retrogressive credentials. Tangled instrumentals suddenly exposed seem at ease in their extended kaleidoscopic murmurations before being snapped back on their elastic for a series of false endings. But although the sudden changes and drop-outs are no doubt fashionably schizophrenic, at almost six minutes in length this song by Strawberry Mountain veers a little on the self-indulgent side and perhaps needs to learn when to put its toys back in the box and go to bed.
SYLVETTE – Mars Song
The closing track on Sylvette’s debut album Waiting In The Bliss proves the theory that if you want to really size up a band’s proficiency listen to how they sound stripped right back. Uncomplicated yet interesting, delicate without being weak, the track’s judicious use of its component parts shows off a group at home in their sonic environment. It’s almost easy listening, but with a razor edge – the lightness of execution insulating us from the bleakness of the apocalyptic tableau receding in the rearview mirror. By the end we are left behind in the hazy slipstream, no doubt destined to be vaporised either by a solar flare or the band’s own dispassionate rocket thrusters.
TILLY GREENTREE – Pool Of Sunshine
Recorded as a GCSE composition exercise I suspect Tilly Greentree would have liked Pool Of Sunshine to enjoy flashier production standards, airbrushing its aural wrinkles to maximise its hit potential. But though the song naturally lends itself to the full bells and whistles pop-soul treatment I think the bedroom-studio simplicity has an allure all of its own. There is an irresistible clunkiness to the guitar tone and a confessional aspect to the vocals, evoking a sense that the sunshine of the title is being recalled from a basement rather than a rooftop. It is a privilege to hear pop music in its embryonic phase before labels give it the sophisticated makeover that all too often camouflages its charms among a sea of sameness.
WEATHER BALLOONS – Ice Cream
A pre-take fizzle of preparation, the background clack of clutched sticks and a sharp intake of breath nudge us gently into this wistful reminiscence. There is an intoxicating lopsided quality in Weather Balloons‘s Ice Cream that brings with it a grainy fog of managed delirium, the thrums and fizzles and fragile sleep-stung vocals giving way to a screaming distortion that clings to the rising banjo plunktions like a wet coat. Out of nowhere a sudden change in the midsection feels like abruptly sidestepping from one lucid dream to another, then the roof rolls back and we float out into the night sky on the redolent breath of nostalgia, probably straight towards the insect zapper.
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.