Artists at a glance
I SEE RIVERS
AJIMAL – I’ve Known Your Heart
Painted in graceful brushstrokes of carefully composed instrumentation, compelling contrasted by vocals delivered in fits, asides, and surges, singer-songwriter AJIMAL blesses this week’s Fresh Favs with new single, I’ve Known Your Heart.
Hailing from Newcastle, Fran O’Hanlon was working as a student doctor in a field hospital in Haiti, in the aftermath of the 2010 Earthquake when a chance encounter with a former infamous Voodoo Priest (houngan), inspired O’Hanlon to adopt the name AJIMAL.
The classically trained pianist qualified as a doctor during the recording of his first album, Childhood which earned him rave reviews from a host of tastemaker publications, including NME, The Line of Best Fit, and Clash. Working with respected recording engineer/producer Guy Massey, O’Hanlon released his follow-up album, As It Grows Dark/Light on the 26th June, 2020.
The ninth track out of ten, I’ve Known Your Heart fades into existence like a distant sunrise across an ocean. Piano keys adrift, bobbing and shifting, back and forth, on the water’s surface. Drums, heavy, open, and wide, pounding, pushing, and pulling like darkened undercurrents at unfathomed depth. Long, protracted lines of string instruments arrive, cold and life-affirming, like the morning air, lifted up from the ocean by the rising sun.
O’Hanlon’s voice wanders, preoccupied, lost almost entirely to soliloquy; his performance, an absent-minded walkabout of introspection and private reflection. The rambling fashion of his delivery, often at odds with the sublime grace of the arrangement. O’Hanlon seemingly only finding full voice when demanded to do so, by the rising presence of the instrumentation.
A trained doctor who took up the handle of a witch doctor, a classical musician who found artistic freedom in the open expanses of popular music, O’Hanlon’s work is as he, complex, contradictory and compelling. Supposedly opposing ideas, brought into imperfect harmony, bound together, by emotion and honesty.
You can support AJIMAL by buying his music via Bandcamp.
FAULTRESS – Shrew
Formed entirely out of her own voice, the singular and standout artist Faultress crafts a fragmented testament, in action, in isolation, in wreckage-inspired creation, and framed in dissociative stereo, Shrew.
Dating back to 1863, the now all but forgotten word, “Faultress” means female criminal and was adopted by Rosi Croom for her debut EP, the startling and audacious artistic tour-de-force, 5 Myths. Its stripped down use of sonic space, shifting ambient texture, percussive delights and unique vocal performance, making it an absolute gem of the 2019 independent scene and one of the most memorable and original debut albums in years.
And where others might have stumbled, in attempting to build upon the sparse production of 5 Myths, Faultress instead takes everything away, leaving only her voice. The sonic palette of Shrew is forged in molten pitch and formant smelted, slewed in phonic slur and shunt. A tonal landscape brought into existence by the sheer force of will of a single river.
Language cascades and rebounds, echoes warped, enchambered; an internal call / response, dislocated by psychoacoustic design and tool; an installation in stereo, kaleido-sonic and infinite in imagining. Poetic verse, panned left to right, right to left, and all across the universe.
In choosing “Faultress”, Rosi Croom has named herself a female criminal, but only if you know the import of the forgotten word. In act of the creation, Faultress explores the most private of thoughts and feelings; and does so, in public, but only if you can chart the musical landscape of her imaginings. A striking and singular artist, stand out and stood apart.
You can support Faultress by buying her music via Bandcamp.
FOLKATRON SESSIONS – My Son John
Six-string arpeggio count the passage, as vocal harmonies fall in cascading melody, and strings herald the dying time; assorted ensemble Folkatron Sessions come together with timeless lament My Son John.
An ongoing project of Paris-Born / Oxford-Based independent production company, record label, and recording studio, Upcycled Sounds; and current production team, Nicholas O’Brien and Hannah Jacobs, the Folkatron Sessions bring together an inspirational melting pot of talented, free-thinking musicians; drawn from the contrasting musical worlds of folk, jazz, and electronic, to create, by way of improvisation and organic collaboration, an experimental folk record.
First published in 1876, My Son John is an Irish Folk song that tells the story of a young Irishman who fell as fodder for cannon during the Napoleonic Wars. The Folkatron Sessions collective of artists brought their own interpretation of string, electric guitar, and synth textures to the 150 year old piece; and in doing so, added to the great number of existing variations, from marching to protest song.
Crafted with great care, attention, and respect paid to the old folk song, My Son John moves to the count of a rasping, rusty arpeggio played on electric guitar; sweetly overdriven to bring out the touch. Strings spiral and encircle in hopeless and sad serenade, while electronic ambient bubbles and fuses; shifting in the deep stereo, while fine electro-sonics pitch shift in sympathy.
The vocals float and hang in the centre of the track, adrift and forlorn, yet percussive and engaging. Well placed additional voices add depth and contrasting timbre; emphasising the lyrical, while, at the same time, underscoring the futility and loss of war.
Taken from their new album, which was recorded in just seven days, My Son John successfully captures a fleeting moment in time; a profound sense of document, a collection of performances belonging to specific time and place, preserved by sensitive and intuitive recording technique. Absent in so many modern productions, Folkatron Sessions hold at their heart that singular sense of privilege; the privilege of hearing a piece of music bespoke, unique and never to be repeated again.
You can support Folkatron sessions by buying their music via Bandcamp.
GLENN MALTMAN – A Newcastle Night
Spun in home-brewed tones of amber and mahogany, set deep into a smokey room of heavy textile and solid masonry; wrought iron grooves in brass and weighted key, Glenn Maltman composes a sultry, dirty mood with A Newcastle Night.
Credited on IMDB as the composer for a collection of film productions, many of which garnered nominations from major festivals, Glenn Maltman represents that oft ignored constituency of independent artists, plying their trade as composing music in the highly competitive field of soundtrack/sync work; and while the solo artists and bands attract the lion’s share of the independent scene’s attention, musicians like Glenn Maltman are often succeeding where their more high profile counterparts struggle most — to make a living from making music.
A Newcastle Night is presented in brassy tones of saxophone that drift and swell, in warble, sway, and surge. A tricky instrument to get right, Maltman delivers a saxophone with compelling integrity; sultry and just a touch dirty; a flirty, world weary, tart finding hard-earned, and well-deserved, escape in the brace and possibility of night.
The piano is dull and distant, muffled and thick with tone; as though coated in a layer of industrial grime. A heavy set of keys for a city, heavy set; working in a production line of short percussive phrases, before opening up to explore the great expanse of musical space made available by intelligent use of musical range and stereo placement.
The upright bass adds a framework of iron and steel; load-bearing, set deep into the ground, and built to task. Smartly placed stereo-opposite from the piano, allowing both instruments to sit rich with low-mids without frequency clash or overlap. The saxophone set adrift at the centre of the track, untethered from the solid structures to the left and right of it.
Every bit as much an expression of a mood as a piece of music, A Newcastle Night evokes the unique feel of a heavy industry city at night. The dull distant hum of machinery on tick-over, the brief passing of night trains and the necessary maintenance of the midnight hours; as you take a break from the grind, and lose yourself to it.
You can support Glenn Maltman by buying their music via Bandcamp.
I SEE RIVERS – Grow And Go
A great rush of instrumentation and beat, with vocals delivered at a compelling pace, Pembrokeshire-based trio I See Rivers deliver an irresistible mix of engaging songcraft and swift percussive drive, with new song Grow and Go.
Originally hailing from Norway, Eline (keys, vocals, percussion), Gøril (guitar, vocals, drum pad) and Lill (drums, vocals) met while studying in Liverpool and moved to Pembrokeshire after falling in love with the Welsh coastline. The trio enjoys a reputation as an impressive live act of beautifully blended vocals and instrumentation; having toured extensively, and with acclaimed performances at The Great Escape, Bergenfest, and Green Man festivals. I See Rivers has also attracted glowing reviews from a string of tastemaker publications from Line of Best Fit to Wonderland, Clash to Earmilk; the three-piece earning airtime on BBC Radios 1, 6, and Wales; and, most recently a spot on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch.
Taken from their 16-track LP, Deep and Rolling Green, Grow and Go shifts swiftly at pace and compelling light on its feet; the 3-minute 7-second track rushing like leaves caught in a sudden gust; Earth-deep kick/stomp, dull and round, plants well into the dirt; as snare smacks dry and stuck-up. The percussive pairing arriving in fits and starts, the song hustling to stand still, and yet, the groove ticks-over throughout.
Cymbals rasp, fizz-up, and explode in great metallic expanses of life and possibility. Electric six-strings working in tightly coiled lick and riff; as keys land deliberate, sometimes heavy, sometimes fragile, the instrumentation working contrast into the production throughout; and this, increasing the sense of fleeting time, passing quickly by.
Vocals, harmonized with impeccable finesse, tumble like torrents of water channeled tight through cracked rock, sudden drop, and resultant waterfall. The melody moving from trot, to canter, to gallop with well-practised effortlessness; lyrics shifting to wordless percussive form and back again, contrast, once again, being worked throughout.
Given the level of media coverage they have already enjoyed, I See Rivers are already much further on their way than our average FOTN artist. A band who have developed and established their sound; and have now begun to explore the musical world of their own creation, to great and exciting effect.
You can support I See Rivers by buying their music via Bandcamp.
LAURA FELL – Bone Of Contention
Moving in graceful stanzas of swaying acoustic six-strings and sat-back drums, singer-songwriter Laura Fell drops a dose of back-beat groove and understated melody, with new song Bone of Contention.
Based in London and a full time psychotherapist, Laura Fell only began playing music at the age of 25; a decade of writing poetry, having gradually morphed into a more lyrical form. Bone of Contention is taken from Fell’s forthcoming album, Safe From Me (due out November 20th) which she self-financed by working three jobs.
Shifting in a series of laid-back pendulum-like movements, the four-minute fifty five-second track seems to exist in a continuum sat just off linear time; a hazy, drift and sway of conscience and emotion. Strings drain outwards forever, great infinite expanses of protracted sound, filling and extending the ambient beyond the vanishing point. Acoustic guitars lap and rattle, lazing off the beat, in perpetual caught-up. The drums bedded deep into the production; kick deep, while the snare catches the ear with tip and wrist.
Laura Fell’s vocals flow in slow surges of breath, pushing her voice outwards into the track; ideas and introspections explored and expressed in graceful lyrical stanza, language contorting and reflecting subject and object in a quiet, understated dance or pronoun with phrase.
Woven together as one, vocal and instrumentation presented with equal emphasis, Bone of Contention floats and ambles; content to draw the listener in, rather than demanding their attention. Crafted with impressive, but barely stated, musical depth, the track holds many delights for repeat listeners; each playback offering a new element to notice, seize upon and enjoy.
You can support Laura Fell by buying their music via Bandcamp.
MATTHEW FREDERICK – Morning Smile
Gradually finding form from out of the noise floor, Matthew Frederick’s Morning Smile catches a single moment in intimate detail and crafts it into an infinite landscape.
As well as fronting Climbing Trees, the ever-prolific Frederick has released five albums, two EPs, and fourteen singles across various projects since his solo debut in 2012; in that time, earning sync placements with Netflix, Sky TV, and ITV, and has attracted glowing praise from Radio DJ and tastemaker publication alike.
Grinding out of the nothingness, Morning Smile chimes with brittle piano keys and deep-blunt, rusty six-strings, worked by fingers and thumb in delicate rushes and runs. A great, deliberate weight of bass stacked with lower piano keys, plumbs resonance into the darkness. Touches of sound design adding subtle, barely noticeable width and quiet sense of space.
Frederick’s voice is breathless and hushed, as though desperate to hold onto the moment for as long as possible without disturbing it. His delivery protracted and weary in pace, reflecting the great expansive nature of the arrangement around him; a moment of sublime simplicity elegantly depicted by dedicated force of creative will.
You can support Matthew Frederick by buying their music via Bandcamp.
SLEEMO – Bugs
Norwich-Based three-piece Sleemo deliver almighty noise and distortion most furious with rock ‘n’ roll strut and punk in-you-face attitude, new song Bug.
Sleemo they be. And they be Sleemo.
Huge, hulking, overdriven bassline bosses the middle ground; grinding and coughing like a muscle car in a trash compactor. Kick and snare landing blow by blow, with gut-punch and face-slap; cymbals fizzing and spraying metallic rasp across the stereo field. Electric six-string bursting forth from the feedback drain, like a wildcat pouncing covered in the hot blood of a fresh victim. The band rolling about the chassis like Nascar pushed to the limit and on the edge of going too far.
Vocals speed walking an amphetamine strut; coughed up in saturation or shrieking in acidic tease and taunt. Drums pound like semi-automatic howitzers; electric guitar rocketing like nitrous, blazing the straights and busting the rubber through the corners. Smart stops, shudders & pauses dropped beat-tight, add exploding and stage-stopping moments of dynamic and contrast.
Forged on and for the live show, Sleemo are a wild animal, barely domesticated by the studio, clawing at the speakers; a feral cat at the wheel of a street racer.
SUNKEN – Jupiter
London-Based Five-Piece Sunken cook up a dreampop drift of modulation and pulse, texture and vocals adrift ethereal with new song, Jupiter.
Scattered drum work stutters, splutters, and coughs in crisp, tightly worked pockets of stick and skin. The bass holding the line from the back, shifting in deep grooves, working the neck off the back of the beat; creating a drag and rush feel to the track. Layers of guitar and synth echo and flicker, simmering textures of seemingly formless sonics; projected pan-galactic and simultaneously introspective.
Vocals play off each other, providing depth and contrast to one and other; working the lyric in long, drawn out phrases and holds; their voices projecting across the shimmering, sizzling stereo field. Saturated keys landing blunt-fused tones and glorious deep fuzz. Odd tonal delights burst forth from the great ocean of electronic phonics.
A late night lava lamp cast deep into space and rendered quantum singularity, gravitational drift and cosmic folding; moving without moving, hyperspace, avoided. Texture and tone in manifest mood; a chill out-lounge imploded, collapsed popstar. Infinite.
You can support Sunken by buying their music via Bandcamp.
VYVIENNE LONG – A Glass Of Laughter
Vyvienne Long delivers a song for the people. A good old fashioned singalong for us to come together in the face of fear and uncertainty, beat the darkness with song and fill our hearts with hope.
Vyvienne Long began learning the piano at age 8 and soon after picked up the cello. She developed a deeply-rooted love for and understanding of orchestral and chamber music while studying classical music and playing with the National Youth Orchestra during her teenage years. Having graduated from DIT Dublin with a degree in Performance, Long took the decision to move to Barcelona to study with the renowned Catalan cellist, Lluis Claret. Upon returning to Dublin, she began touring with the National Symphony Orchestra where her stripped down rendition of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army became a firm favourite with audiences.
Moving in a tidal rise and fall of velocity, evocative of the jaunty gate of a player-piano, A Glass of Laughter conveys an instant sense of theatre and fun; and yet, equally, an odd, dislocated sense of being lost to an ever-revolving, but never evolving, daily grind; painfully familiar, yet disconcertedly alien; a sense of suddenly, and seemingly forever, trapped on a carousel of notes well known, played with accent unknown and off-kilter.
A composite of piano key and chromatic percussion conjures the role of split-personality mechanical piano, part forlorn and melancholic, part satirical and sad comic; Long’s vocals working in surges and bursts throughout the verses; a teasing, intricate parlour dance; that breaks open into the full bodied sways, swirls, and turns of a theatrical waltz in the choruses; the compelling melody inviting us to sing along in loud, drunken (probably) song.
A Glass of Laughter perfectly captures the disquieting absurdity, hope and longing of 2020’s roundabout of lockdown, social distancing, track and trace, R numbers and so much we took for granted, taken away from us. A good old fashioned sing along in the face of fear and uncertainty; a song for communities to come together in hope.
On the very week the UK government tells artists to retrain, Vyvienne Long demonstrates how vital the arts can be, and must be, at this most difficult of times.
You can support Vyvienne Long by buying album A Lifetime of High Fives via her website.
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.