Artists at a glance
ALL SMILES IN WONDERLAND – Stranger
Bath/Bristol-based emo five-piece All Smiles in Wonderland graced last week’s Fresh On The Net inbox with Stranger, a bittersweet rocketship of surging six-string saturation, soaring vocal melody, and sucker-punch drums.
The opening track of their debut EP, State of Serenity (available via Bandcamp), the four minute fifty two second track arrives disarmingly adrift and absentminded, painted in hazy arpeggio and shifting shards of harmonic resonance; “The state of my bedroom represents the state of my mind when it’s messy and it’s cluttered, maybe I’m not quite alright”, lead singer Maddie Christy mouths in meanderings, dissociative and distant; her lyrics both beautiful in image and upsetting in implication, “I cycle late at night as my shadow trails behind, There’s no longer a connection. I have killed it, we have died.”
53 seconds and a great deluge of distortion, amplified, enhanced, and expanded by shifting ambients of shimmering reverb and delay, cascades upon the stereo field; guitarists Jack Dodge and George Clark playing off each other, left to right, with overdriven grind and fused up-the-neck riff. Chris Tucker’s bass hulking and hustling the groove in well-judged heavy turn and low frequency run, while kick punches and jabs, Tristen Gorman laying the snare in deep, with weight, and fierce snapback.
Stranger makes for a heady, intoxicating mixer of opposing energies, “I wish I wasn’t so easy to forget, I think I’ve outstayed my welcome”, stark and heartbreaking, but delivered at pace with percussive rush and desperate lift; a Jackson Pollock, a punk-rock mess of depth and complexity.
BOO – The Getaway
Indie-electropop duo BOO (Battery Operated Orchestra) channel deep space pulsars and interstellar gravimetric shift into sublime synthpop imaginings with their new single, The Getaway.
The second release taken from their forthcoming album, Yesterday, Tomorrow, and You, The Getaway was released on the 1st of May to coincide with Bandcamp Day. BOO describe the song as, “a dream of escape that’s about to come true”, and that “It feels right to release it now, with the world locked in,” explaining, “…it’s in the hope that we all escape soon that we’re putting it out without delay.”
Painted in dulcet electronic tones, the heart of the four minute thirty-three second track bubbles and simmers in modulating ARPs and pulsating sequence. Synth-sonics fizz and glimmer like headlights speeding by the central line of a midnight motorway. The instrumentation moves at an effortless, understated pace, as though propelled by magnetic drive. Brigette Rose’s vocals float in absent rush and cascade, caught between dream and waking.
The Getaway is accompanied by three B-sides, though only via Bandcamp. Passionate supporters of the Bandcamp model of music distribution, BOO limit their releases via the various streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, etc) to that of just singles, insisting listeners purchase their releases in full, rather than stream them broken into bits and pieces.
CATE FERRIS – Keep Going
Brighton-based independent artist Cate Ferris wraps rich musical textures and percussive flavours around inspired vocal depth and soul with new single, Keep Going.
Built in an ever-shifting collage of contrasting and lovingly crafted loops and stanzas, Keep Going ebbs and flows like landscape; subject only to the natural evolution of the changing seasons; at once, both compellingly complex and, at the same time, reassuringly natural. The instrumentation is keenly rhythmic, each riff and phrase adding dab, snap, and swipe of percussive energy to the bubbling melting pot of composition.
Cate Ferris’ vocals walk tall, working the beat quietly and at a distance; melodies tumble and rise, as cliff and hill. Inspired use of vocal double, harmony, hook, phrase, and scat add wondrous movement and depth to the production.
Seemingly without contrivance or compromise, Cate Ferris has crafted a direct creative experience from inception to listener. Keep Going arrives at your ears unhindered and uninhibited, making for a singular and quite simply beautiful musical journey.
CATHY JAIN – I See Us In Heaven
UK-Based singer-songwriter Cathy Jain delivers inspired vocals and stripped-down production with hazy soul-pop gem, I See Us In Heaven.
Six-string loop creaks and grinds, sat just off in the near ambient; dry bit-crushed beats cough and splutter the two minute fifty-eight second track in lazy strut, a laid-back Travolta, a ‘Saturday Night Take It Easy’. A marimba counts beats in protracted chromatic chimes, dull and warm (I’m a sucker for a marimba). Additional instrumentation arrives in flashes, and half-caught moments; teasing the ear and delighting the imagination.
Cathy Jain’s vocals stroll uber-cool and nonchalant through the verses, lifting into quickening, ear-catching rushes and great soaring melodies of depth and tone as the song unfolds; the young artist demonstrating impressive judgment in knowing when to sing well within the reach of her obvious and considerable talent.
Very much contemporary in production and old school in soul, I See Us in Heaven is a quietly accomplished record that hints at the considerable potential of this young artist.
CHERYM – Weird Ones
Derry-based pop-rock three-piece Cherym drop a dose of distortion infused bubblegum, stuck on the toe cap of a doc martens stomp, with latest single, Weird Ones.
With their sights firmly set on being “the biggest band in the world”, Cherym have cooked-up a radio-ready, chart-friendly, slice of pop-rock; saturated six-strings fizz and hustle in catchy riff and lick. The bass running the beats well in pushing dab and drive; kick and snare landing with textbook punch and smack; the production rocking to a post-Fall Out Boy, snapped to the grid tightness.
Vocals resonate and chime with auto-aligned precision and sizzle with the phased sustain of pitch correction. Once maligned, both have become part of the language of modern pop and, in doing so, carry their own artistic merit, effect and integrity. The three minute twenty-three second track unfolding in a series of ear-catching vocal hooks, each one building to the fantastically sing-along chorus, “Her friends think we’re the weird ones”, complete with enticing gang-vocal response, “You don’t even know her”, perfect for school discos (do they still have those?) and shout-alongs.
Expertly crafted for their target market, Cherym should delight teenagers in search of noisy, fun, jump-up & down anthems to sing & shout along to. It’s bright, it’s loud, it’s brash and bold. It’s everything that pop music should be. Cherym are talking about their generation. And if you don’t like it, you can f-fade away!
COOSTICKS – You Are The Sea
Indie folk-pop artist Coosticks crafts nostalgia in sonics and infinite horizons through shimmering ambient vista haze, with new song, You Are The Sea.
Expanding outwards in great gleaming tides of reverb and delay, You Are The Sea grows from a tightly packed centre of drum kit and hushed, whispered vocal; as electric guitars tremble and chorus, adrift in echo and overlapping sustain. As the four minute forty-two second track unfolds, layers of ambience breathe out in long, protracted sonic-waves of diffusion and haze.
The vocals begin contained and reserved, but soon break out and hustle about, like a beagle pup nosing the ground in the excited back and forth of scent-escapades. The vocal melody lifting above the expanding shimmer of the production; a rising sun expressed in voice; lyrics shifting through idea, memory, and imagining with the ease of water in gulf stream flow.
Quietly psychedelic and reminiscent of the very early works of Pink Floyd when Syd Barrett shone; and in those chaotic months after, Richard Wright sung Paint Box (a gentle gem), You Are The Sea is a musical moment in introspection. A warm breeze on a chilly day; a shaft of sunlight through overcast skies; a perfect moment to be treasured by those attuned enough to catch it.
CORMAC LOOBY – I Don’t Need Your Love
County Tipperary-born, Manchester-based Cormac Looby successfully translates the hard-earned graft and honest performance of a seasoned busker to a radio-ready dose of good old fashioned song-craft with latest single, I Don’t Need Your Love.
Recorded at SHED studios, I Don’t Need Your Love radiates the warmth and authenticity of a real band in a room, while benefiting from a commercial-friendly production of well-judged edit and overdub. The instrumentation has been carefully built around Cormac Looby’s soulful, yet compelling unassuming voice. All the instruments have a reassuring real world feel; guitars rasp and rattle, smart use of compression bringing out glorious fret and string noise. Bass and drums work in percussive surges and shuffles; brass adding additional width and depth.
Cormac Looby’s vocals retain the honesty of street performance; catching the ear and heart immediately. His voice idling and talk-singing through the verses; only to break out and open up in the choruses with impressive depth and range; yet all the while, maintaining an engagingly conversational feel.
Described in Cormac Looby’s own words as a song, “about the feeling you get when someone’s sick of your sh*t”, I Don’t Need Your Love takes Cormac Looby’s no-nonsense song-craft and vocal performance and successfully manages to package it with radio-ready production and arrangement; and in doing so, demonstrates Cormac Looby’s potential to become an artist of mainstream appeal and creative integrity.
Support Cormac Looby by buying his music via Bandcamp.
GRANDBABY – Clap Trap
Social media man of mystery and self-described polymath Mr. Jason aka Grandbaby concocts intergalactic synth-tastic-ness and grooves most funkalicious with his latest opus, Clap Trap.
Recorded in a 1939 WW2 bunker, with all the parts played, recorded, engineered, mix and mastered by Mr. Jason, Clap Trap ripples and grooves with a fuzzy flashlight strut and pitch-dropped multi-tracked vox. Immense expansive synth pads open the track, like great regal fanfare; soulful keys add texture, tone, and depth. Drums spit, burst and cough, with compression blunted crunch and spat-flat energy. Drum-machine claps rattle-echo left/right; the high-hat shifting and sniffing at the heart of the production, keeping the groove.
Mr. Jason delivers his vocals in ear-catching chants of swaggering vocal hooks and funk anthem. Pitch dropped grungy and guttural, they lack the hypersonic-timbre of Parliament’s own ultra-funky vox FX; and yet, suit the densely packed production; which itself, stands in contrast to funk’s typical use of sonic space. Audaciously funky throughout, with Clap Trap Grandbaby may have created his own sub-genre, “Bunker Funk”.
Support Grandbaby by buying his music via Bandcamp.
JESS FITZ – Saturday Night
South East London-based singer-songwriter Jess Fritz drops a soulful dose of smooth grooves and sublime musicality with latest release, Saturday Night.
Snaps and shakers gently grind the groove from the get-go; six-string arpeggio rattling out the left hand side in cranks and flexes. The instrumentation ebbs and flows in sudden and funky fits and starts; an electric bass pops and turns, shifting and simmering the groove. The drummer hangs the snare, blunt and wide, just off the back of the beat; kick working in tight jabs of low sound pressure. Soulful keys stab, sway, and smoove; colouring the groove with mood and grace; the musicians involved demonstrating hard-earned craft as they play off each with apparent ease.
Jess Fritz’s vocals hold the spotlight throughout, the depth and range of her incredible voice drawing and keeping the attention of your ear. Her voice talks, it walks, sways and swings; it works the room, and owns the moment.
Inspired as a teenager by the powerful voices of standout female artists such as Whitney Houston and Ella Fitzgerald, Jess Fritz spent her student years singing in a cappella groups and funk bands while studying English Literature at Oxford University; where her passion of female voices compelled Jess to promote her fellow female artists across the student music scene with the creation of all female-bands and music festivals.
PYNCH – Somebody Else
Chillburn’s finest four-piece Pynch deliver glorious lo-fi guitar grind, 8-bit sonics and hazy, lazy, indie sing-along-grooves with latest single, Somebody Else.
Born in lead singer, guitarist and synthist (is that word?) Spencer Enock’s parents’ basement in Ramsgate, the resultant demos earning radio play on both BBC Introducing and BBC Radio 6 Music for their “super cool, lo-fi indie vibe” (Abbie McCarthy), Pynch the band took shape once Spencer Enock had moved to London and met-up with soon-to-be bandmates, James Rees (Guitar), Jimmy Folan (Bass) and Julianna Hopkins (Drums); where they went onto support Pete Doherty and the Putra Madres at Kentish Town Forum and The Libertines on their 2019 UK tour.
8-bit sonics modulate and oscillate in blunt chirpings and lo-fi sizzles; their oddball timbre contrasted beautifully by the drag and grunge of roughly fuzzed and fused electric six-strings; overdriven to sweetly distort as fingers work the fretboard, protracted wailings of strangled guitar feedback cast long into the track; lazy evening sunshine and shadows etched in saturation. Drums bite and hustle, dry and on the shuffle; the snare coughing with Covid-cool (too soon?); kick and bass working in a well-practiced tandem of dab, punch and rush, driving the 5 minute thirty-two second track with a compelling ease; slacker grooves.
Spencer Enoch’s vocals are delivered in engagingly simple, conversational rushes; closely chased by a saturated double, splintering and bursting open into rasping distortion. His voice drawing your ear deep into the production, creating an impression of size and width; the instrumentation wrapping around your head, as though you’re stood in the crowd, between the PAs.
Inspired use of contrasting tone and timbre, achieved by well-judged application of FX and recording, and deceptively carefully processed dynamics and EQ, crafting depth and width, while quietly enhancing musicality, make Somebody Else both credible independent release and radio-ready/playlist-friendly single. Pynch’s time spent performing live bedding them in as a band, underpinned by impressive and stand alone song-craft.
There is something of Joy Division in this band. The shuffle of the drum beat. The drag of the bass. The gloriously unrefined guitars and raw electronics. The towering depth and melancholic drone of the vocals. The stark, abrupt honesty and disarming simplicity of the lyrics. Have we found our Joy Division for the 21st century? What a wonderful and terrible mantle. No, let’s not go there. Instead let’s say we’ve found our Pynch for the 21st century. Chillburn’s finest.
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.