Fresh Faves: Batch 352

Afro Cluster

Artists at a glance

AFRO CLUSTER
AUSTEL
ELIZA SHADDAD
FILTON ABBEY WOOD
HALLAN
NANCY
RECORD/START
SEX CELLS
SHEEPY
WREKIT88

These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and reviewed by Fresh On The Net’s Andy Page this week. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.

AFRO CLUSTER – Back Into It (Ft. Ty)

Kicking off my first review is the Cardiff-based collective known as Afro Cluster. Their biography states they’re known for their unique and exciting blend of Afro-Funk and Hip Hop and that does a fully accurate job of describing their sound. You wouldn’t necessarily anticipate that the city that gave us Charlotte Church, Catatonia and Shakin’ Stevens would also produce a truly authentic Old Skool style Hip Hop ensemble, and yet that’s exactly what Afro Cluster are.

A mellow Rhodes-style piano starts proceedings, some classic Old Skool scratching and the song kicks into a distinctly Jazzy groove courtesy of the horn section, updating the Hip Hop sound into something far more soulful and organic. The rapping is delivered with equal empathy, not trying to dominate or upstage proceedings and not trying to be anyone other than themselves. These are extremely competent musicians who blend their talents into a unique urban cocktail.

Afro Cluster are playing at the Hootannany Brixton in London on Feb 28th and playing live dates across the South West and West through March. Catch up with them via their Facebook page.

Official | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

AUSTEL – Dry

Dry has a haunting quality reminiscent of a waking dream, opiate and intangible. Starting with the poignant theme delicately picked out on a piano, Austel’s remorseful voice is allowed space to be the main instrument here, layered with building reverb as the song progresses to produce a series of yearning gossamer echos as her voice soars, rising, resonating and finally collapsing on themselves in a shimmering haze. Think Buckley’s Song To The Siren, only much more fragile, personal and delicate in content.

Beautifully recorded, there’s as much attention to the space around the notes as the notes themselves, giving the song a sparse, intimate vulnerability.

Austel is otherwise known as Annie Rew Shaw. Although Devon born, the Austel moniker is inspired by St. Austell in Cornwall where she spent a lot of happy summers. Relocating to London at the age of 19 she started performing with local bands such as Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. She’s since toured the UK extensively, performing at Glastonbury and supporting Fleet Foxes in Ireland. Her debut EP, Unfold, was released in 2018 to critical acclaim from the likes of BBC Radio 6 Music and numerous music magazines.

You can catch her live next at the Victoria, Dalston If you’re lucky enough to be in London on Feb 12th.

Official | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

ELIZA SHADDAD – Same As You

Same As You starts with a dry, chiming guitar line that has a distinctly 90’s Alt-Rock feel about it; familiar and catchy. There’s an instant affinity with this song, it sounds like on old favourite from your record box that you haven’t heard for a while.

Poor Eliza wears her heart on her sleeve on this, her vocals vulnerable and imploring, yet also defiant. Her lyrics tell of sheltering behind emotional walls, hinting at previous failed relationships and the scars they have left. The guitar refrain gently reinforcing her repeated lilting mantra ‘Same as you…same as you’

Born to Sudanese and Scottish parents, Eliza Shaddad was raised across Europe and Africa and is now based in London. She’s already released an album and four EPs. Same As You is lifted from Eliza’s brand new EP Sept-Dec, which is available now.

Eliza has just finished touring Europe with Keane and will be playing a string of dates across the UK in March, finishing at the Scala in London on March 19th.

Official | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

FILTON ABBEY WOOD – 1990

The singularly most intriguing song of this week’s selection, Filton Abbey Wood are a relatively new musical duo, seemingly formed in 2019 in Junior Robinson’s kitchen. This track was recorded and released at the start of this year.

Primarily a spoken word piece, it initially relates (as far as I can deduce) the tale of a station platform guard’s encounter with an aggressive drunk, presumably at the train station in North Bristol that the artist is named after. The words are delivered in a nonchalant, almost bored tone, like an apathetic fly on the wall, and yet it’s captivating all the same. A ghostly subconscious voice in the background offers advice on the situation whilst a synth couplet and looping drumbeat keep the story moving along hypnotically. Totally unique! I was actually disappointed when it ended – I’d quite happily purchase the album to find how the tale unfolds.

Describing themselves as an electronic math rock band from South England (Glynde near Lewes, East Sussex to be more exact) Filton Abbey Wood comprise of Junior Robinson (all music and lyrics) and Joe Shoubridge (emotional support). You’ll possibly find them travelling somewhere on South Western trains, researching the next chapter of the tale.

Soundcloud | Twitter

HALLAN – Habit

Habit comes gunning out of the traps at full velocity like a gurning greyhound, except it refreshingly seems that this particular bunch of Portsmouth yoofs prefer their kicks to come out of a pint glass rather than via their nostrils.

Simmering with youthful frustration, Habit is full of scathing disdain for the herd mentality of the conventional Pompey Pub folk. There’s certainly a hint of Sheffield attitude about the sound here — the buzzing guitar, the repeated, building chorus and the perfectly measured pause, underpinned by a low slung, amphetamine fuelled Peter Gunn Bass line, fuzzier than young Joshua’s chin.

But Hallan are no mere Monkey clones, in fact vocalist Conor unintentionally reminds me of Slow Thai, with his stylised, indignant delivery. And it’s this very reason that makes Habit instantly so enjoyable – there’s numerous influences absorbed, yet it still manages to sound fresh, invigorating… and fun! Economical in approach and concise in message, I’m reminded of those post-adolescent years of animosity when you still viewed most of your contemporaries with… well, contempt!

Hallan have been playing together since 2018 and are Conor on voice, Josh on Guitar, Joshua on dirty, dirty Bass and Adam on drums. They’ve already caught the attention of BBC Introducing Solent and have recorded a Live Lounge for them.

Sadly I’ve just missed them in London where they were playing as part of Independent Venue Week, but they’re constantly gigging at venues around Portsmouth and the South Coast. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for more info.

Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

NANCY – It’s Just You

I’m starting to be concerned for the emotional wellbeing of our artists this week. Nancy is the third to have partner problems. It’s Just You is, as fellow moderator Tobi remarked, reminiscent of prime Mazzy Starr with its wavering fragility.

The song is instantly alluring. Starting again with a delicately strummed guitar, Natalie’s vocals are delivered with intimate desperation, telling a story poignant and disillusioned. The song builds in intensity, growing steadily in its conclusion both vocally and instrumentally to a gorgeous tortured crescendo. And then silence.

The band explain that “This song is about letting someone know that you’re not always looking for advice or some way to be fixed. Sometimes you just need the people closest to you, to just believe in you.”

Again agreeing with Tobi, this is the kind of angst I can contentedly wallow in for hours. Expect to hear it as the theme song to next big teenage drama series on your favourite streaming service soon…

As a band, Nancy are a little mysterious when it comes to information. They comprise of Freddie and Natalie, a duo from from North London although it seems Freddie now resides back in his native city of Berlin once more. They worked on It’s Just You with producer Noah Booth (Ratboy). There don’t appear to any live dates lined up in the near future but you can follow them on Facebook.

Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter

RECORD/START – See You In The Well

See You In The Well builds from a looping staccato keyboard underpinned by synths into something much more colossal. Guitars join the sequencers to produce a burbling wall of sonic squall, reminiscent of the hardened Glass industrial landscapes of Koyaanisquatsi as the song builds in intensity to its conclusion.

Record/Start is the solo project of Simon Cowan who resides in Brighton. He records, performs and produces all his music on the worlds most temperamental recording gear in his own home studio. Prior to Record/Start, Simon used to be the singer and songwriter for Manchester alternative band Carlis Starr who gained regular BBC national radio plays and performed at leading summer festivals around the UK.

Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter

SEX CELLS – Deranged

Deranged announces itself with a rumbling bass line, so deep it sounds like it’s permeating up through the pavement from some basement nightclub. There’s a deviant dark disco going on down there, and SEX CELLS are out in the middle of the packed dance floor, strutting their stuff. The atmosphere is claustrophobic, the strobe lights too bright and there’s a uneasy feeling of paranoid menace as the beat intensifies. It would seem things are definitely getting strange!

Deranged is one of those addictive tracks that perfectly blends glacial electronica with dark underground psychosis and demands your body responds to it immediately. Fellow moderators Mark & Louise know of my love for Dark Disco and this track is going straight onto my playlist. My only complaint? It all ends too soon! This track is crying out for an extended 10 minute Dance floor mix.

Oh, and SEX CELLS, you owe me for some new glow sticks…

SEX CELLS make twisted dance music for outsiders. The duo comprises of Matt Kilda and Willow Vincent, who initially started making music together back in 2015. SEX CELLS have become regular fixtures at nights around London, sharing bills with the likes of The Rhythm Method and HMLTD. There doesn’t appear to be any events lined up in the near future, but keep an eye on their Facebook page for events.

Deranged is the first single to be released off their forthcoming album. We eagerly await its arrival!

Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

SHEEPY – Balloons

Balloons surfs in on a wave of mutilated guitar feedback before the vocals kick in and suddenly we’re into melodic pop punk with plenty of hooks and some wonderful PowerPop harmonies. It ticks all the boxes for a perfect 3-minute single. I was left waiting for the hand claps that sadly never happened (I’m a sucker for a Powerpop hand clap).

Looking at their biography, Sheepy cite influences ranging from Green Day, Weezer & The Pixies and you can certainly hear elements of all those in Balloons, but the one thing that carries the song and gives it its own identity is its homegrown Liverpool Pop charm. It’s simply a great tune! Is it something in the air up there? Perhaps the water? Who can say, but there’s definitely a Mersey heartbeat powering this finely crafted song along.

Sheepy are Liverpool school friends Luke Jones (guitar/vox) and Ollie Phillips (drums) aided and abetted by Irishman Villy Raze (Guitar) and Katy McGrath (Bass/Harmonies) . Luke is a prolific songwriter, recording numerous solo albums in his bedroom before deciding it would be best to perhaps start a band. They already been played extensively by Steve Lemacq, Gideon Coe and our very own Tom Robinson on BBC Radio 6 Music

Sheepy have just released their third album Get Out Of My House on Blang Records, having been discovered by the London label when playing at a pirate radio festival in Mayo, Ireland. The band are constantly gigging around the Liverpool area and will be next playing the Fulford Arms in York on Feb 12th.

Official | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

WREKIT88 – Promises

Wrekit88 are becoming regulars in the faves list. A project launched by Welsh songwriters Chris & Neil, they invite vocalists from across the globe to work with them, resulting in music that is always varied, always fresh and always immediate.

Promises joins the other tracks this week that fall under the poisoned relationships category. Fortunately what’s not good for the heart is great for producing highly emotive songs. The contrast between the restrained, slightly over-driven tone of gently strummed guitar and the vocal is lovely. The voice instantly demands your attention with its pleading sincerity. A subtle baroque string section builds gradually helps to add a sonic tug to the heartstrings. This is highly skilled, finely honed and beautifully produced songwriting.

Soundcloud | Twitter

SEX CELLS

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.

Andy Page

A repressed DJ from birth, my earliest childhood memories are of stacking up 7" singles on a beat-up old Dansette which is probably responsible for the two greatest passions in my life - Music & Hi Fi. Read More about Andy.

5 Comments

  1. Great reviews! Really eclectic bunch of tracks in this week’s Fresh Favs – which is nice to see/hear.

  2. Louise Toal

    Brilliant reviews Andy!! ❤

  3. Great reviews Andy. So informative, eloquent and well-researched.

  4. Mark Toal

    Nice one mate, great reviews.

  5. Bit late to the table this week!

    Great bands and loved top 25 again. Faultress and Cow coming so close. Nice work Andy, great well written reviews. Afro Cluster are brilliant and Wrekit88 is a regular here and well earned.

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