Artists at a glance
MARTIN & BELL
These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and reviewed by Fresh On The Net’s Rob Ball this week. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
Happy New Year everyone – and welcome to our first Fresh Faves list of 2019. If the coming 12 months continue giving us tracks of the quality of this week, then we’re in for a great ride.
This Fresh Fave list epitomises exactly what Fresh On The Net is all about. Giving as wide a range of musicians as possible the opportunity to reach a new audience.
All I can say is “strap in”… this week you’re in for a real rollercoaster ride as we switch this way and that, exploring differing genre and paces.
CALM – What You Saying
My fave of the week is this cracking indie rock track from Calm – a fairly new band based in South London. What You Saying has it all for me: pulsating bass, guitar riffs a-plenty, ferocious drums and cracking, anthemic vocals. When I was younger there was quite a lot of movement between bands and you would get “supergroups” forming such as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Well this sounds like a supergroup consisting of The Verve, Blur and Oasis all getting together to have one hell of a party.
Calm are a trio and were fairly recently advertising for a permanent drummer. With 2 great tracks now under their belt (both of them loved by Listening Post and BBC Introducing audiences), it’s likely they’ll have a long queue of applicants. They have yet to put on, or even announce, a live show. But when they do, I’ll be one of the first in the queue to buy tickets.
CAOILFHIONN ROSE – Unravelled
And now – to coin a phrase – for something completely different. Unravelled was hugely popular with our listeners this weekend. It’s a beautifully smooth jazz-influenced track with exquisite vocals that are almost fragile. Caolifhionn’s voice is like a fantastic chocolate fondant, light and pure with a rich hot filling. Just like a chocolate fondant, it’s all gone too quickly, being quite a short track at 2.05. But – again, like the fondant – it leaves us yearning for more.
Caolifhionn (pronounced “Keelin”) is based in Manchester and released her debut album last year. It got great support from BBC Introducing and was listed as one of the top five local albums of 2018 by the Manchester Evening News. There are gigs/ festivals listed on her website – the next is at The Crystal Ballroom in Glossop on 31 January.
GEORGE MOIR – Blame
Blame was recently Upload Of The Week at BBC Introducing in Devon & Cornwall – and it’s easy to hear why. It’s got a lovely bass groove running through it and has been perceptively described as “George Ezra meets Jamie T“. With its nice electro feel, it’s one of those tracks that isn’t overcomplicated .
George Moir has a soulful voice that perfectly matches the emotion of the lyric – which describes feeling a little overwhelmed – and wanting someone to blame. His appeal at the end is for “time and space to figure out how I’m feeling”. If the song’s autobiographical, let’s hope the support and positive reception he’s had for Blame will now be making him feel a whole lot better.
His online biog describes him as a “Plymouth based alternative artist. Piano and guitar and synths and stuff…” and there don’t appear to be any live shows coming up.
Let’s hope that changes soon.
GU-RU – Kingdom Within
Bloody hell – prog rock!! And Canterbury prog rock at that! Kingdom Within has all the required key ingredients and more: fast-paced bass licks, great soaring harmonies, a flute… and then there’s synthesizer running over the top of everything. Why, we even get a wonderful Rick Wakeman-esque keyboard solo. It’s all great stuff – and a real memory jerker for someone like me who was weaned on this stuff first time around.
GU-RU are a trio – and yes, you can get that huge wall of sound from just three people. Upcoming shows include Leicester on February 5th and a “British Prog Invasion” festival on the outskirts of Amsterdam on 6 April.
LEWSBERG – Terrible
To be honest, I’m not sure a 40 second intro with the same chords and bass repeated over and over again is a good thing. That said, the same chords, beats and bass remain constant for the whole track – except for a cracking 40 second guitar solo at the end. In the end the effect is hypnotic. The whole thing is overlaid with semi-spoken vocals, giving this tune a late 60s sound reminiscent of early Velvet Underground
Lewsberg are a four-piece from Rotterdam. Following an appearance at Eurosonic and a European tour they’ll be playing UK gigs in March 2019.
MADI – Dirty (Word)
Not sure if this is my thing to be honest… it’s all a bit here-and-there… very very different to the usual fare and… you know what, I LUUURVE IT!
Madi is the moniker of Welsh songwriter/producer Maddie Jones herself and also of the Cardiff-based “weirdo pop” quartet that she fronts. When fellow moderator Kerry JK reviewed their song All Work And No Play here last October he described its video as “Wonderously Bonkers”. To these ears that’s also a perfect description of this new single Dirty (Word).
This complex track gripped me from the first few seconds and made me feel I’d been put into a washing machine cycle. A quick gentle soak to begin with before being thrown this way and that, given a quick spin, then permitted a gentle rest before the door release clicks.
Amid all this there’s a serious message. Maddie says it was written in the wake of an argument over whether women “should expect to be assaulted” if they dress in a certain way. As the song’s message proclaims: “Don’t you care to understand? Can’t you see there’s nothing dirty about me…….I am not a dirty word”
Known for their spectacular visuals, Madi sometimes supplement their shows with circus acts when playing live… Expect the unexpected when they play Focus Wales in Wrexham on Saturday 18 May.
MARTIN & BELL – An Alternative Ulster 2018
Now I did warn you that this week’s playlist would take you this way and that, and from the madness of Madi we switch to the calm serenity of spoken word over music with Martin & Bell.
As soon as An Alternative Ulster 2018 appeared in our Listening Post I was sure it would be in the Fresh Faves, and immediately started wondering how best to describe it. Luckily the duo provide a perfect ready-made description on their website:
“The words of writer turned spoken word artist Gavin Martin find a perfect match in the music of multi-instrumentalist Martin Bell (also known for his work with The Wonder Stuff). A wistful rumination on teenage glory days, on the passing of time and on present day Northern Ireland, An Alternative Ulster 2018 is named after the legenary punk fanzine Gavin published in his hometown of Bangor back in 1977.”
“A year after the ‘zine’s launch, local band Stiff Little Fingers borrowed the name Alternative Ulster for what went on to become an Irish punk anthem. Forty years later, Gavin Martin expounds on the the original ideals expressed in the title. (‘An alternative must be waiting… Now is the time’). Martin Bell’s stately, neo-classical arrangement gives wings to the track.”
This is the lead single from the pair’s forthcoming release Utopia – an 11 track album of spoken word & music recordings – due out on 1 February. No live shows have been announced at the time of writing.
SAN SCOUT – Soap
Soap is a lovely track from London duo San Scout. It was launched at the same time as their new VR website which caused much excitement in the blog world. And yes, that may be pretty cool – but it’s not what drew our listeners to vote this into our Fresh Faves over the weekend.
The vocals are smooth – yet with an edge – and at first you might imagine you were about to hear a Snow Patrol type song, with a gentle acoustic guitar faintly strumming in the background. Then, having lulled you into a false sense of security, the synth bass kicks in and there’s a massive keyboard takeover.
San Scout are University friends Freddie Clough and Jonny Woodley who released their debut EP1 in 2016. They provide no information about their band online and don’t play live outside London.
SUNDER – Can’t Hold On
Can’t Hold On is a percussion-driven Drum & Bass track – with a bit of brass thrown in for good measure. It’s easy to forsee this being played in the early hours across many a festival field this summer. The vocals are minimal and not the real focus – it’s the driving beat that appeals to me – and did so for many others this week.
It’s no wonder the rhythm track is to the fore when you find out Sunder is the artist name of percussionist/producer Sunderraman Baskaran. Originally from India, he moved to the UK ten years ago and, after playing in a number of cover bands, set up his own commercial music studio Playfolly in East London.
YOJI – Twinkle Star
Finally, we have the beautifully calm Twinkle Star which in the words of Yoji herself is “a tale from the past, a London Lullaby of the misadventures on the way to finding true love in the modern world”.
There’s a definite Alicia Keys feel to the song, while her performance with just voice and piano reminds me of seeing (current rising star) Mahalia live for the first time. Yoji has a lovely voice that is full of soul and I can imagine her – like Mahalia – quietening many a room. My only question is whether her voice might sound even better with a little less of the vibrato runs – they simply aren’t needed.
Originally from Ipswich, Yoji Munuo is a singer-songwriter who has recently completed a Masters in Popular Music at Goldsmiths University. She currently has no gigs listed but in the wake of this brand new release that is sure to change soon.
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.