Artists at a glance
It has been a full-on few weeks at Fresh on the Net with such a volume of top tracks landing in our uploader. This week, even after withdrawals, there were 207 prior to moderation and the standard remains as high as ever. So commiserations to those who missed out on one of the 25 places in our Listening Post. The margins between the ones who make the cut and those who don’t are honestly so fine. No surprise then that the process has culminated in ten absolute belters in this weekend’s Fresh Faves. In fact the standard was summed up by Fresh On The Net moderator Paul Kerr (aka @thedevilstuna), who quipped “Stop making it so hard to choose by being so bloody brilliant people”!
0171 – 1000 Words
Hackney’s 0171 are a duo consisting of Joe Bedell-Brill and Georgie Hoare. Their track 1000 Words is all they have put out on Soundcloud to date but gosh what a debut! A review in The Line of Best Fit describes the repeated vocal tone as like “…Gregorian Chant for the digital age” and points out that nothing quite like this has been heard before. The band explain: “We’re building memories upon memories, and storing them. Like the pile of old phones you have in your parents house. Or all the stuff you’ve made, which you record on hard drives but leave in a room. There are all these forgotten fragments.”
I love to hear artists actively seeking to innovate and this is a shining example. 0171 made the decision to have Joe’s entire lead vocal part singing one pitch (one thousand times I presume; not that I was counting!) throughout nearly four minutes of track in semi-robotic style while the events develop around and behind it. The result is that it’s both highly original and a risk that has proved to be successful. I say semi-robotic because there is an air of ruefulness about the vocal delivery that betrays what are clearly very human emotions. Georgie’s vocal response weaves harmonic webs providing an appealing antidote as the song expands.
The chords are simple but the use of contrasting textures and small sonic nuances contribute to a slightly unsettling atmosphere. When the drum track suddenly switches midway through and a popping synth melody appears, the lead vocal splits into two-part harmony while continuing with its monotonic theme. It just adds a final layer of intensity to a thoroughly original and compelling piece of cool contemporary electronic pop. The fact that it attracted such a mouth wateringly high number of votes shows our readers emphatically agree.
ALCABEAN – Red
Proving once again that Fresh on the Net’s footprint is growing outside the UK too, Denmark’s Alcabean (from Copenhagen) are brothers Julius and Victor Schack. Alcabean have already enjoyed acclaim for their first two EPs including rave reviews in Clash Magazine, Classic Rock and Overblown. Now with their debut album Confessions due out in March, they have won the approval of our discerning Listening Post audience too.
Not being familiar with their previous work, I cannot say whether nor how Alcabean have changed since releasing the first of those EPs in 2016 but Red is mid-tempo dreamy Post Psychedelic Pop. A striking upper tenor voice delivers an inventive melody line over bright shiny guitars while the bass and drums blow hot and cold, changing the mood between laid back and full on. Ambient strands adorn parts of the track too. The instrumental roles are fluid in terms of who leads the momentum at different times. These contrasts along with their flair for writing a good tune further lift the overall execution of a really strong track.
CRUSHED VENEER – Denial
Crushed Veneer are a trio (two guys, one gal) from London who cite influences from Beach Slang and The Gaslight Anthem through to Dinosaur Jr and The Pixies although I should point out that their sound is quintessentially English and also has its roots in the British Punk tradition. They have already been the recipients of lavish praise from none other than Tom Robinson when playing them on BBC 6 Music and Rokline.com compared them to Husker Du. Well there you have it. Some pretty fine reference points.
Denial is a short but sweet driving modern Punk choon in which the singer fantasizes that the partner he broke up with still loves him (though he’ll never know). The musical backdrop is simple but right for the track. Energetic drums and bass, snarling bar chords on the guitar and unashamedly London-edged male vocal with a memorable hook and harmony. A welcome burst of cathartic energy that lasts just 57 seconds. Fantastic.
F.F. IVANOVSKI – I Wish All You Pretty People Well
F.F. Ivanovski is the alias of Alfie Newman, a West Midlander now studying in Manchester whose Soundcloud page declares that he only posted his tracks so he could upload them to Fresh On The Net. Well it’s proved to be a pretty successful strategy then since he not only got through to the Listening Post but to the Fresh Faves too! He describes his music not unreasonably as ‘ambient-folk-alternative-bedroom-pop’. Influences are particularly stressed as being the Welsh ‘Strange-Pop’ scene including Cate Le Bon and H.Hawkline as well as others including Devendra Banhart, July Skies, Talking Heads and This Is The Kit. Sounds good doesn’t it? And the results concur.
I wish all you pretty people well has an agreeably lo-fi quality (which will be the ‘bedroom’ bit of the above description) but also reminds me of semi-psych songsmiths like Kevin Ayers and [early] Robert Wyatt though the echo on the voice makes him sound a tad like Gene Vincent! It is indeed Folk and Alternative influenced all the same and he achieves a slightly hypnotic quality with the retro-sounding keyboard doubling the vocal melody which repeats its main theme throughout. The keyboard, now sounding more like an electric piano, rises up the register late in the track playing a sort of solo-cum-melody. All the while a reverberant percussion track pops away behind the strummed chords and ambient noises. Clever, original and slightly resembling a strange but tranquil dream, it holds my attention throughout and leaves me with an agreeable feeling.
GALLI – Sabika
Galli record for Norwich label Drongo Records. I have commented on this before in Fresh Faves reviews and will do so once again. It is quite frustrating when all the links provided with a track submission turn out to be about the label and not the artist. Consequently we have to go digging on Google to discover, via a website calling itself Top 40 Charts.com (!), that Galli are also from Norwich and are the brainchild of singer-songwriter and guitarist Georgia King. In 2018 she recruited bassist Ash Woolnough and drummer Alex Elliot (which, if you think about it, is probably how they arrived at the name Galli). Their influences mix alternative rock, jazz and soul.
So to the song. Sabika starts off with a minimal backdrop allowing Georgia the space to immediately introduce her strong, rangey voice. There is a subtly oriental feel about the open harmonics and single guitar notes and the track develops through a syncopated half-time semi-shuffle beat, fluid bass and open guitar figures all the while topped by Georgia’s distinct voice which swoops menacingly and echoes eerily off into the distance. It is strong, original and very musical. Great stuff.
PETER SANDBERG – Deep
Continuing our international cast of artists this week is Swedish composer Peter Sandberg. Peter’s website defines him as a ‘neo-classical/electronic multi-instrumental composer’ although, on the strength of Deep, I would proffer that his style has more than a hint of American Minimalist influence too. His music responds to a combination of the inspirational and unique Swedish landscape and the complex emotional and intellectual challenges of the modern world. 2018 saw him sign to London-based Ambient Music label Phases Records who plan to release his eponymously titled debut album in 2019.
Deep kicks off with the kind of patiently building string chords that might typically be heard in a minimalist piece but as the textures thicken and the warm melody begins to weave its circular path, there are shades of Ólafur Arnalds and Henryk Górecki. It is essentially a piece of tonal pastoral contemporary classical music that nods towards ambient electronica. There is a subtle hint of melancholy but the overall effect is a warmth and calmness that make this a perfect Sunday sunriser track.
SUDS – Evergreen
The Eastern Counties are more than adequately represented this week with the aforementioned Galli and now also Peterborough’s Suds. Already supported by BBC Introducing in the East whose Hayley Ritchie has called them “…something special”, Suds are a quartet of three women and one man whose Facebook page explains they hail from Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. Their story is intriguing too. Drummer Isabella is a piano tutor. Guitarist Danielle (Dan) is a dog-walker. Bassist Tom works in a cinema. Singer and guitarist Maisie-Mae’s job is not revealed but the songs are described as being accompanied by “…hand-crafted moody words and gentle vocal lines.”
No matter how thorough I try to be in rating tracks both at the moderation stage and again when I check out the 25 tracks at the Listening Post, there always seems to be one I have overlooked and which I am grateful to others for flagging up. This week that track is Evergreen by Suds. Shimmery guitars accompany appealing vocals and a melody that is as sweet as it is unusual. Influences are hard to pin down but certainly appear to include a strong helping of 1980s Post-Punk jangle. Like all the best bands they have allowed the melding of their individual styles to produce its own sound world and their instincts appear to take them towards soft-voiced melodic pop placed within a light-textured but cleverly configured and flavoursome mix. There is a brittle vulnerability about them too which is reassuringly human. I could listen to this inventive, imploring music all day.
TALL TALKER – Chris Floates
The brilliantly named Tall Talker are an “…experimental rock band sometimes labelled as ‘math’ or ‘prog’. Fusing influences of Jazz and Funk to create a unique blend of groove-driven melodic complexity while remaining accessible and danceable.” So says their Soundcloud page. They are a trio of Zach (Guitar), Joshua (Bass) and Sam (Drums) and they hail from Leeds. They are signed to Said for Life Records and they have a booking agent so clearly they are getting on with things. Interestingly their Instagram blurb puts greater emphasis on their jazziness and certainly I would say their music has more than a few toes firmly in contemporary jazz waters.
Chris Floates is a mind-spinning instrumental in which Zach twists his hypnotic guitar riffs around the busy and robust bass and drums of Joshua and Sam. They make an impressive and abundant noise for three people and the oft-repeated three note figure reminds me of Gang of Four’s Ether except jazzier and less paranoid! Influences are hard to pinpoint because their style is such a melting pot of flavours but I hear a real affinity with another Fresh Faves favourite (sic.), the Bristol Jazz Futurist trio Hippo, albeit that they use a very different instrumental combination. I imagine Tall Talker are great live because their success in translating their music onto a recording without losing any of its energy and vitality is a joy to behold. Thumbs up all round.
TARANTINA – Hunter
Tarantina is an artist who has clearly been working hard to build the right infrastructure around her. Her Soundcloud page lists contact details for management, PR, booking agent and even her lawyer. Her website informs us that she is a self-taught singer, producer and videographer recording “dark polished pop” in a home studio in Camden Town. It also talks about her parents’ influences on her via the music they listened to including Portishead and Leftfield (with whom she has toured) in Mum’s case and crooners like Sinatra and Bennett in her dad’s. She has also performed on BBC Radio 4 (yes, 4!) on Loose Ends with Clive Anderson and Sara Cox. She has additionally had support from the PRS Foundation and Women Make Music.
All pretty impressive, but what about the track? Hunter is a slow-burning ballad that immediately introduces Tarantina’s distinct and appealing voice soaring and sliding over synth chords which are fortified by the appearance of a drumbeat and further layers of synth. There are shades of Julia Holter about the long echoing notes and a dynamism that could be Alison Goldfrapp. Some of the wordless vocal flourishes also hint at Kate Bush. Well, all pretty good reference points for sure. The outcome is stirring, climatic and contemporary electronic pop that is rich in subtle flavours. Really very nice indeed.
TOMMY – Pyre
Tommy is a young man whose Soundcloud page offers all the usual social media links but on exploring them, information doesn’t exactly pour off the page! He appears to have management though and seems to have a liking for slightly abstract art with sparse, sometimes monochrome auras.
That may point to a clue or two about his music which is not sparse but is built on enigmatic sustained synths and an atmosphere of gentle winds and sounds appearing and disappearing in the distance. His voice is strong and well honed. He achieves a wide dynamic range and impressive vocal agility. Pyre is an emotionally charged epic pop ballad that is very easy to envisage being aired on mainstream radio.
Well that’s it for another week. But wow what a week. If you ever needed proof that Fresh on the Net is a platform with sufficient width to accommodate a diverse spectrum of genres and scenes, this week’s Fresh Faves and associated Listening Post provide all the evidence you could need. A reminder too of what a privilege it is to be a moderator and reviews author for this amazing team and to comment on the choices made by such a discerning, well-informed audience. Thanx all. xxxx
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.