The first part of Emerging from the Mist focused on five contrasting artists and bands drawn from across the [broadly] pop music spectrum. All of these had submitted tracks to the Fresh on the Net uploader in recent times. But we also get a genuinely wide variety of genres coming into the inbox. Occasionally these even include some contemporary classical and leftfield music. Lately there has been an increase in modern Jazz-related music. We also get some interesting electronic and ambient tracks and material from other scenes – Rock, Punk, Grime, House etc. Some do make it through to the Listening Post and sometimes the Fresh Faves too but a large number don’t get into either. So Part Two is my attempt to pick out five slightly more unusual artists who I believe are worthy of your attention.
My five are London-based contemporary classical composer and recording artist Rob Lewis; Leicester’s Jazz Futurist Experimentalist Marcus Joseph; Chester’s Experimental and Leftfield artist and writer Luke Moore aka Operation Lightfoot; Devon-based Afro-Fusion collective Dakar Audio Club formed in Senegal with influences from Senegal, Mali, Congo and Zimbabwe and experimentalist and improviser Ben Vince from Brockley in South East London.
I was disappointed when, a short time ago, Rob Lewis’s innovative track Pines failed to make the Listening Post. It was interesting too that a track which had been played and raved about the previous weekend by none other than BBC Radio 6 Music’s Queen Bee of eclectic contemporary music Mary Anne Hobbs was not chosen by our moderating team. But of course it isn’t and never should be a given that the mods will vote for a track even if it has had flagship national radio exposure. I wonder though whether they might have looked at the track a little differently had they known about the process behind Rob’s extraordinary piece.
Pines uses a technique of solo looping cello put through a number of effects that alter sound properties and create some fascinating outcomes. The resulting textures and timbres are both surprising and soothing, based around a slowly building tremelo figure and gradually expanding modal harmonic language. The effect is a slightly vague impressionistic soundscape but in very much a contemporary style. In Orbit is piano-based but reflects the same evocative, slow building style. Arguably his most impressive work is The Sea which juxtaposes smooth legato strings, solo and sectional, against recurring pizzicato in a mystical, harmonically rich extended piece.
Rob Lewis’s new album Momentum is now released and is available from his website.
The fact that Marcus Joseph’s Soundcloud page bears the slogan “On a musical journey into the unknown …” tells you immediately what this talented young man is about. The virtuoso saxophonist and bandleader is on a mission to push the envelope through testing out ideas, deconstructing standard form and structure and pushing himself and his fellow musicians to the extremes of their techniques and ideas. In that respect he shares an attitude which has served the Post-Bop, Free Jazz and Jazz Fusion traditions from Charles Mingus to Miles Davis to Courtney Pine to Kamasi Washington. The good news too is he not only made it to the Listening Post in late July but to the Fresh Faves too where none other than Tom Robinson talked of “… his [Marcus Joseph’s] 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”. Who could argue with that?
Chester-based Luke Moore is a musician with his fingers in quite a few (mainly collaborative) pies; none more impressive than the excellent Operation Lightfoot. On Chains Luke has teamed up with vocalist Sophia Ben-Yousef. This is a more conventional song with a large dose of melancholy and a hint of oriental influence. Spider Eyes is funkier and reminds me a little of Portishead albeit in higher tempo mode.
Aerial View is arguably closer to the model of Operation Lightfoot that grabbed my attention when I first heard them, evocative harmony and intense, dynamic violin taking us into almost classical, filmic territory. Midgärd Mov 1: Instrumental is a few years older but again sits in that filmic, evocative space that has toes in the waters of popular and classical music. I have the feeling that Luke has taken recent OL tracks off his Soundcloud page but his website includes this section.
DAKAR AUDIO CLUB
In some ways Dakar Audio Club can seem like something of an enigma too. The multi-ethnic, multi-national group met in Dakar in Senegal (hence the name) and have brought flavours from Senegal, Mali, Congo and Zimbabwe. Then in 2011, they all moved en masse to Exeter in South Devon.
Dakar Audio Club are certainly one of the bands who have stood out since I joined the Fresh on the Net team (and who I was fortunate to review when they made the Fresh Faves a few months ago). The septet from Dakar in Senegal play Afro-Fusion music blended with a range of sounds and nuances drawn from a panoramic knowledge of music.
Despite the lilting sunny flavour of their music, Dakar Audio Club seem to adopt something of a lo-fi approach to their recordings which often sound as if they were recorded live in a rehearsal studio [or at a gig but with audience applause edited out]. Yet this adds to their appeal. There is no fancy studio-enhanced slickness here. What you see [or hear] is what you get and the focus is on infectious melodies, sweet harmonies, cool grooves and lovingly crafted arrangements.
DAC have had recent exposure via Tom Robinson on BBC Radio 6 Music and through Late Junction on BBC Radio 3. They have also been made featured artist by Angry Baby Music. With top dance tunes like their latest Yallai Boor, Diugou Yaa and C’est Ca and the more minimal but irresistible Aduna, they have carved out a niche that is completely their own. They maintain a busy live schedule so check out their Soundcloud page for details of where and when you can catch them at a gig.
I am particularly enthused about the work of Ben Vince who, like me, studied music at Goldsmiths, University of London. Two things struck me the first time I came across Ben’s music. One was that some of the percussion rhythms, textures and general ambience really reminded me of one of my all-time favourite bands 23 Skidoo. The other was that I was knocked for six by the quality, originality and energy of his work. I have subsequently found more info about Ben who is, by all accounts, a compelling live sax-playing experimentalist who has worked with the likes of Charles Haywood (who fans of leftfield music will know is the multi-instrumentalist genius from Post-Punk Industrial pioneers This Heat).
Ben’s track Assimilation blends a plethora of sounds in a gradually intensifying build-up of sonic layers. It is ambient but not in the dreamy calm sense, much more in the frenetic, emotionally agitated sense. As percussive elements join the mix, the sense of something urgent behind the creativity grows stronger and louder. It is a genuinely thrilling experience. By complete contrast Hessle Audio (with Joy O & Ben UFO) starts off quietly and builds through ambient noises, electronic percussion and bass and fragments of voices swooping in and out of audibility. This leans heavily towards Sound Art. What I Can See (featuring Micachu) is more ethereal with sparser application of sounds and breathy reverberant vocal that is deliberately not too high in the mix. Like most of his work, there are always sudden and surprising events that take the listener off in a new direction. Sensory Crossing (featuring Rupert Clervaux) particularly reminds me of 23 Skidoo with its frantic sax improvisations playing against constant syncopated percussion with Eastern overtones. And that, believe me, is a serious compliment.
The skill and creativity in Ben’s work is really impressive and he clearly possesses the kind of brilliantly warped imagination every innovative composer needs.