Artists at a glance
These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and reviewed by musician, BBC Radio 6 Music presenter and Fresh On The Net founder Tom Robinson this week. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
BEATS & PIECES BIG BAND – Nois
Blimey. Working in the jaded world of music radio at the age of 68 it’s not often your jaw hits the floor at the sound of something unlike quite anything you’ve ever heard before. The first 25 seconds of wild fuzz guitar and busy syncopated drumming on Nois don’t even hint at the serious sonic treats in store. The brainchild of musical director Ben Cottrell, the Beats & Pieces Big Band first met for a rehearsal at Manchester’s Royal Northern College Of Music on 27 January 2008 – where exactly ten years later they reconvened to record a ten-track anniversary album called Ten, from which this astonishing opening track its taken.
Its extraordinary achievement is to combine discipline with anarchy, and rock’n’roll energy with textures from the entire canon of big band jazz history. The sound is every bit as as wild as early Charles Mingus yet tighter by far. Milestones-era horn lines suddenly jag into stabs of dissonance that might have given even Ornette Coleman heartburn. The album’s first post-release gig is this Friday at the Manchester Jazz Festival for which there are still (as of today Monday 23 July) just a few tickets left here.
ECKOES – Black & Red
When we first featured the British-born Nigerian artist Eckoes at the beginning of last year she was already something of a hot property, having opened for The Streets and Sister Sledge – and been acclaimed by tastemakers ranging from Q Magazine to the MOBO Awards. You only have to hit ‘play’ on Black And Red to hear why. This is a thoroughly modern sonic creation with a full 21st century sound palette that would have been unimaginable even ten years ago in the pre James Blake era. Eckoes credits David Ezra at Hilltop Recording Studio with the production. Adventurous, brooding and deeply atmospheric the song itself is delivered with a voice of startling power and purity.
“A hit, a very palpable hit” (Hamlet Act 5, Scene 2)
FAIRHAZEL – Steady Man
Fairhazel takes inspiration from the many different cultures surrounding him during his youth. The cobbled streets of Paris, the openness of Cape Town and the introversion of London all feed into his music. He attended Boston’s Berklee College of Music, following in the footsteps of artists from St Vincent and Quincy Jones to Ramin Djawadi of Game Of Thrones fame. Releasing music under his birth name Hugh Macdonald for several years, he has performed at TEDx talks and for Sofar, as well as gigging across the US and UK. Settled now in London, his new music project as Fairhazel has fully taken shape. This first release Steady Man premiered on Clashmusic recently and proved highly popular with visitors to our Fresh On The Net Listening Post this weekend.
HANNAH SCOTT – No Gravity
I first met Hannah Scott ten years ago on a songwriters’ retreat – and have been following her career pretty much ever since. While retaining her solo artist name, Hannah now works with Italian musician Stefano Della Casa as her musical partner and their album Pieces Of The Night was recently launched with show at London’s Bishopsgate Institute. From it, we featured Signs Of Life on my BBC Introducing Mixtape earlier this year, while the album’s intense production approach can be heard in full effect on this latest tune No Gravity. Hannah has opened for the likes of 10cc and Seth Lakeman and was supported from the PRS Foundation for a recent showcase appearance in New York. Catch her live at The Green Gathering at the beginning of August, followed by the Purbeck Valley Folk Festival and a show at the Coast Cafe Des Artistes in Worthing on Friday 31 August.
KIZZY CRAWFORD – Progression
We’ve been fans of Welsh Songwriter Kizzy Crawford here at Fresh on The Net ever since she first made our Fresh Faves in 2013 at the age of 16 with her song The Starling. Since then she’s also appeared on my BBC Introducing Mixtape at least half a dozen times: her energetic three minute nugget Shout Out gives a good flavour of what this gifted performer is capable of. A hardworking, prolific and well-connected artist (Amy Wadge produced her debut EP), Kizzy has a great voice, youth, charisma and considerable songwriting gifts on her side.
Progression is the first result of her recent signing to the London soul & jazz record label Freestyle Records. It’s a well-written single, with high production values that will win friends and allies at Easy Listening radio both here and overseas. For me, it lacks her emotional bite and directness that we’ve come to know and love over the years, but that’s my problem not hers. Every artist has the God-given right to change and develop their music in any way they see fit – particularly if doing so promises to deliver the wider audience they richly deserve. Progression certainly appealed to readers at Fresh On The Net this weekend and I sincerely hope it will do brilliantly for her.
MARCUS JOSEPH – Paradigm
What a totally fantastic f*cking noise – Paradigm is my personal record of the week by a country mile. It comes from Major Ruse which is both an EP title and the name sax wunderkind Marcus Joseph has given to his killer trio with the amazing Jamie Sykes on drums and Joe Egan on either bass, guitar – or possibly some combination of the two. The ferocious playing on this spiky, uncompromising instrumental kicks up an absolute storm. The track itself comes, I think, from the trio’s educational project Paradigm Rhymes: Beyond the Dome – billed as “A Live Jazz Comic Book Adventure: a futuristic, fast moving performance of spoken word narration, live jazz music and projected comic book digital imagery.” More power to their elbow.
MIDÉ- With You
London songwriter Midé blew me away in May with the gobsmacking vocal perfomance on his single “Wonder” It’s the unadorned sound of a gifted writer stepping up to the mic with his electric guitar and delivering the kind of blistering emotion that brings tears to the eyes and any sentient audience to its feet. Here – as with Kizzy – we have the eternal singer-songwriter dilemma writ large. With talent and ambition but limited resources, how does an artist of this calibre break through to the audience that is undoubtedly out there waiting for them?
My own feeling, for what it’s worth, is that it’s going to take a breakthrough song: the kind of OMGWTF song that whole careers get built on, and which I’m 100% convinced that Midé is capable of writing in time. (Think Oxygen, Fast Car, Crosses, Love & Affection etc). But at this early stage in his career that song is perhaps still a little way off: he’s still casting around, trying different styles and approaches – for instance this low-key piano ballad With You. Give the man a couple of years, plus room to grow and find the direction that works best for his talent, and he’ll be off and running. When that day comes, as with Ed Sheeran, we won’t see him for dust.
SHARON LAZIBYRD – More For Less
Sharon Lazibyrd is a longstanding favourite with our readers and listeners here, and the crackling energy of More For Less was always going to be a popular pick on this week’s Listening Post. While some might argue that the second verse perhaps lacks Sharon’s usual lyrical subtelty, as a songwriter who once sang “If Left is right then Right is wrong” I’m in no position to lecture anyone about lyrical subtlety.
One of my favourite-ever Brian Eno quotes is that “an arrangement is when somebody stops playing” and More For Less is an object lesson in sparse understated arrangement, which actually gains – rather than losing – energy and impact as the instruments drop in and out. All credit to the driving violins of Kate Bridge and Sharon herself, Tom Cory‘s underpinning bass part and multi-instrumentalist Damon Bridge on accordion, percussion and, um, radiator. This track comes from her acclaimed debut album Half Shame And Half Glory – the title track of which got a rave review from Bobby Colcombe here at Fresh On The Net in April.
SPINN – It’s Not Getting Better
If upbeat and gorgeously produced youthful Mersey janglepop is your thing – and for many of our readers this week it definitely was – you can’t go far wrong with the lovely Spinn. Jonny Quinn, Andy Power, Sean McLachlan, and Louis O’Reilly signed to ModernSky UK in 2017 and have been on a roll ever since. Upcoming dates include Gopsall’s 110 Above Festival next weekend (3-5 Aug).
SWINE TAX – Thorns
You’ve gotta love Swine Tax – the Newcastle trio fronted by Vince Lisle with the rhythm section of Tom Kelly and Charlie Radford. A band with a vision, a band on a mission. “Do you crave ’90s indie inspired chaos?” they ask – yet their stylistic nod to 20th Century US college-rock is perhaps the least interstesting thing about this brave and uncompromising band – whose first release was just just 16 months go.
Super-prolific, with a great grasp of visuals, their releases to date have included titles like New Normal, Chronic, Brittle, Empty Life, Feels Like, and Tory Water – leading up to this track Thorns – their current double A single with the much longer Never Ending which I personally prefer. Their masterpiece to date is the fast and furious aforementioned Tory Water – available in four flavours on their EP here.
Nick Roberts (bless him) managed to slip Tory Water past the compliance police at BBC Newcastle to play it on his Introducing In The North-East show. Catch them live if you possibly can – their next appearance is at the riotous Mousetival 2018 origanised by the band Mouses at The Georgian Theatre in Stockton-On-Tees on August 11.
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.