Artists at a glance
MURIEL & BLAZQUEZ
Gosh, December is upon us already. So we are all getting in the Xmas spirit (whatever that is), right? Ahem, well not exactly. Trump is threatening to open fire on refugees. Russia is seizing Ukrainian ships. Parts of our planet are being torn apart by wars in which the people, as always, are the victims. And good old Blighty is tearing itself apart over a Brexit situation no-one is satisfied with and apparently no-one can solve. Someone get on the phone to Noddy Holder and fast. We need a stonking Xmas classic to cheer us up! Last week I was at an event where I saw and heard compelling evidence of the power of music to change lives, improve behaviour and build empathy skills. Well I’m no music therapist but I reckon we have some tunes here at Fresh on the Net to soothe troubled souls and lighten up lives. So are you hangin’ up your stockings on the wall? Okay, here goes then.
AFRIKAN BOY – Peppeh
Afrikan Boy describes himself as a “…child of Nigeria by way of South East London” and his sound certainly reflects that. His style is essentially Grime with elements of Hip Hop but the use of busy [cross] rhythmic percussion and brass stabs bring an Afro-Jazz aura to his sound. The same mix of London and Nigerian dialectic features also characterize his lyrical style. Overall it contrasts a lot of the sparser arrangements associated with other Grime artists by presenting a much fuller funkier palette. When you read that he cites King Sunny Ade, Shina Peters and the Godfather of Afrobeat himself Fela Kuti as influences alongside Dizzie Rascal and 2Pac, this all makes perfect sense. It may be winter outside but in his heart it’s… well, summer actually
Afrikan Boy has already begun making a noise with support from BBC 6 Music’s Morning (soon to be Breakfast) Show presenter Lauren Laverne and a touring schedule that has seen him play venues across the UK plus Indonesia, Korea, Portugal, Germany, France and Switzerland. By all accounts things are looking good. A Fairy Tale of New Cross perhaps (owch!).
AUTUMNMUSIC – Marilyn
Autumnmusic is the solo project of artist Rosi Croom. Her Soundcloud page displays quotes from Tom Robinson and Clash magazine, two stalwart flag-bearers for new music, and the ensuing biog focuses on the stories she tells and how they relate to wider socio-political concerns. Her Facebook page reveals James Blake, Kate Bush and Aldous Harding among her main influences.
Rosi Coom hails from the small Scottish town of Callander in the Stirling area of Perthshire, an area steeped in its own fine folk and traditional music culture. That earthy folkiness does seem to have worked its way both into her clear vocal delivery, the semi-drone quality of the bass in the verses and the booming percussion that conjures up images of sandy caves and fireside dancing.
Marilyn is spacious, atmospheric and makes fantastic use of the different aspects of Rosi’s vocal style. The harmonies that build as the track develops are lovely and the way her full-throated chorus voice overlaps the quieter one she deploys in the verses is dynamic and robust. Versatile inventive and evocative. If the weather outside is frightful, then I’m happy to say that the fire inside this hot cracker is truly delightful.
BARE JAMS – Fish Bowl
The label may be from Amsterdam but Bare Jams are actually a large band from the South West of England. Their Facebook page says they do “…this’n’that, here’n’there” which may explain something. Fishbowl is basically Reggae of the poppier variety so it is curious that the label’s Soundcloud page defines this track as Indie which it certainly isn’t! But hey, what’s in a name? There are shades of Bob Marley, Toots & the Maytals and, at the same time, UB40 and Aswad (circa 1988/89) about the buoyant instrumental play, minor key melody and horns that respond to the main hooks. The switch into frantic Ska led by horns and chanted melodies is more Special AKA though. Bad Manners (circa Lip up Fatty, Just a feeling etc.) also come to mind Too heavy for Bluebeat references.
Judging by the pic on their Facebook page there are eight guys in the band. They have booking agents for both UK and Europe and are self-managed. Their tour dates offer a rallying cry to “come all ye faithful” as they work hard playing venues around the UK. Hopefully the success of Fishbowl at Fresh on the Net will give them a well-deserved boost. Time to sing in exultation.
CATHERINE RUDIE – London is Changing
Catherine Rudie’s Soundcloud page tells us little other than that she is based in London and Edinburgh and describes herself as a Folk singer-songwriter. She does have an album out though (The Möbius Kiss) and is gigging. Her Facebook page adds that she hails from Bettyhill on the far Northern coast of Scotland and has a background of having been a gaelic singer and bagpiper before moving into Contemporary Folk. She has also been a recipient of the Burns Award for Songwriting.
The lyrics of London Is Changing are curious to say the least. It appears on surface to be a love song; one that is swathed in breathy harmonies with sparse backing. Then the chorus informs us that London is changing/It’s not the same, is it? Presumably not a subtle dig at increased cultural diversification (i.e. a typical reason for the statement London is changing usually emanating from disgruntled pensioners!) but just an observation that London isn’t the same without the activities accompanying a previous relationship! Confused? A little, yes! Still, it’s an intriguing Winter’s Tale of yearning, it seems, for how life was once in royal Liz’s city.
It is impressively individual too. Catherine Rudie’s striking voice dominates with multi-tracked harmonies. Beneath them sit subtle ambient sounds and minimal but skillfully deployed instrumentation all of which significantly impact the dynamic of the song. Folky, dreamy and very listenable.
FAMILY JOOLS – Don’t Know
It isn’t every day that I can say a song reminds me simultaneously of Squeeze’s debut single Take Me I’m Yours and Madcon’s Put Your Loving Hand Out, but the intro and verses to Don’t Know really do. There is also a semi-live feel to the vocals and an edge that could almost be Canned Heat or even The Lovin’ Spoonful! A glance at the cover art suggests a liking for retro style. For all that it is a track that would sound absolutely at home on Steve Lamacq’s or Marc Riley’s BBC 6 Music Shows.
Family Jools hail from Bristol, a city with a fine musical heritage. The Facebook link on their Soundcloud page appears not to be working but being of a tenacious mindset I discovered the correct Facebook link. I also discovered they are part of Kelly Munro’s vibrant End of the Trail Creative stable and Kelly has got them a deal with BNDR Records. You can catch them at the Good Mixer in January. They have already had airplay on Radio X and Amazing Radio, rave reviews in the Mirror and Clash magazine plus a host of music blogs. Now that’s what I call creating a buzz. And with Fresh Faves success to boot they will surely be rockin’ around the Xmas Tree. Good tidings we bring!
HAVVK – Always The Same
This was one of the tracks that immediately grabbed me when it came into our inbox earlier in the week. Energetic, tuneful and possessing a dynamic killer chorus whose loud staccato guitar and vocal stabs set against ascending hook provide a perfect contrast to the Cocteausish dreaminess of the verses. It has some lovely upper register vocals and simple but beautifully resonant guitars in the mid-section too. I’m not sure whether this represents “peace on earth and mercy mild” but it certainly offers up a Winter Wonderland of colourful guitar melodies heading up a pyrotechnic display of pure [Alt] Pop energy.
Described as “Grunge-fuelled Indie via London, Galway and Berlin”, Havvk are vocalist Julie Hough, guitarist Matthew Harris and drummer Sam Campbell and Berlin appears to be their main home. It is Julie Hough who has the Galway connection. They name Radiohead, Savages (which is not a bad reference point), Yeah Yeah Yeahs, PJ Harvey, Grizzly Bear, St Vincent and Warpaint as inspirations so Havvk are aspiring to emulate a very good pedigree of bands and artists across a wide spectrum which, in turn, is helping them to carve out their own niche. If you are looking for “joyful and triumphant” you have come to the right place.
JESS MCALLISTER – Silence
One of two tracks in this week’s Fresh Faves with the title Silence, it’s a slow triplet time piece with arpeggio guitar and minimal strings accompanying a soft vocal punctuated by stops and gradually building as the bassline takes on greater prominence, the strings become more constant and Jess McAllister’s voice begins to scale the registers and increase in both dynamic and dexterity. The sparkling splendour of this colourful canvas and alluring astral atmosphere carry me away in a manger of mystical joy to a musical Feast of Stephen.
Jess McAllister’s website opens its home page with a quote from one Tom Robinson (no less) who has talked of “… a ferocious emotional and musical intelligence…” as well as a sizeable complimentary comment from FRUK. She has toured the UK, Germany and Ireland and has been featured by legendary Whistle Test and Radio 2 presenter Bob Harris in his Under the Apple Tree sessions. Clearly one to watch.
LEWIS BOOTLE – Walking Away Ft. Sansha
Northampton’s Lewis Bootle is no stranger to the Fresh Faves and has been featured on Tom Robinson’s Saturday Night Show and the Mixtape on BBC 6 Music this year. His trademark combining of jazz-infused chords, funky rhythmic configurations and distinct soulful voice are all in evidence again here and he is joined by Sansha whose addition of an octave-up voice and appealing harmonies help make a superb track even better.
The song tells a sad tale of a relationship break-up set to a syncopated Soul/Pop template that is typically (for Lewis Bootle) funky and resonant. Catchy hooks abound while the bass booms and the drum track drives matters along. Their voices work perfectly as a unit too. It’s a considerable upgrade on Lonely this Christmas (apologies to Mud!) and hopefully they can find tidings of comfort and joy in the reaction of the Listening Post audience. This deserves to now be exposed to a wider audience. Hopefully that will follow.
LITTLE GRIM – Silence
South East London (Peckham in fact so we are practically neighbours!) Alt Rock outfit Little Grim like to mix it up. If you want proof just visit their Soundcloud page where you will find five mixes of this one track! The one they have opted to submit was clearly a good choice since it made the Listening Post (as one of two unrelated tracks called Silence) and subsequently the Fresh Faves too.
Little Grim have management and are currently maintaining a continually busy live schedule mostly around London. Their sound mixes a boisterous rock energy with crunching urban beatz and more “Ding Dong merrily on high” than you can shake a box of After Eight Mints at. At least that is what is evident on Silence. It was a track that I instantly warmed to when it arrived in my inbox on Tuesday as I was waiting for a friend in a cafe, and moderating tracks with my trusty headphones on. It is always refreshing to hear bands and artists who set out to blend influences in an original way. Little Grim fit that bill and these guys can pen a choon too.
MURIEL & BLAZQUEZ – Skin / Veil Me, Pt. 2
This week’s curious title of the week comes courtesy of Leeds duo Muriel & Blazquez, pictured in one shot as singer and pianist (though I couldn’t tell you which one is which). There is no information nor are there any links on their Soundcloud page but having tracked down their Twitter feed it reveals a single launch a couple of weeks ago. It also informs us that they are two young women influenced by both Pop and Classical music.
Now to the track and oh my word, that piano intro with its exquisite dissonances. So spine-tinglingly splendid. Next up a clear-as-a-bell vocal that takes me back to times when I would be transported to another world by Virginia Astley and her ethereal classically-infused Alternative music. Reference points might also include Julia Holter, Chlöe March, perhaps Lisa Gerrard. Harmonies to die for on top of aforementioned features mean that, despite a quality of recording that could really benefit from mastering (not least to eliminate hiss and slight buzz), this is just absolutely stunning. I am ashamed to admit I somehow overlooked this sensuously beautiful track when moderating. Thank goodness other moderators had the sense to see it through to the Listening Post. Do you hear what I hear? Time to deck the halls and get in touch with your inner Fa La La La La.
So that’s all the Fresh Faves for another week. It may be slightly early but Happy Xmas and we can only wish war was over. Thanks to our awesome and consistently discerning Listening Post audience. Your votes, comments and willingness to listen to so much new music are an inspiration. Thanks also to everyone who has sent in tracks and remember the competition is hard and the margins between those that make the Listening Post and those who miss out are miniscule. So don’t be disheartened if you are one of the many who are yet to be picked. As Noddy says, look to the future now – it’s only just begun.
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.