Artists at a glance
TOMMY ASHBY & LYDIA CLOWES
WOJTEK THE BEAR
AUDIORATE – Final Night
I’d like to give you a little background information on Audiorate, but unfortunately after numerous searches on Google etc, the only thing I can ascertain is they are an audiovisual artist based in the UK. The Jason Bourne of the Fresh Faves it seems, completely off grid. Yes, it’s fine to let the music do the talking, but as we say week in and out, it does make our job a lot more difficult in trying to help you reach a wider audience if you are effectively invisible on social media.
Anyhoo, gripes aside, Final Night is tense, atmospheric EDM, vaguely menacing in tone with looping staccato female vocal samples, burbling synths, rumbling bass and a solid beat. A track that could sit quite happily as the theme to a futuristic spy thriller – maybe there is an intentional Bourne influence after all!
EMMA HOWETT – Schrodinger’s Heart
It would seem Emma Howett is extremely industrious. Not content with fronting rock band Chevy Chase Stole My Wife as well as writing and playing bass for Fix Me, Margo, she’s also a producer, prolific songwriter and solo artist AND has just pitched her first sci-fi novel at agents too. And to think I feel a sense of acahievement if I manage to leave the house with my trousers on…
We always get to hear about Schrodinger’s Cat, but not so much about his heart. Emma’s lyrics are akin to some of Neko Case’s finest, an incisive complex stream of consciousness, wry, oblique and intriguing. This is no mere throwaway pop song but something with far deeper layers, despite its instant bouncy accessibility. A very lovingly crafted piece of art.
Worcester-based Emma has said of the song “In broad terms Schrodinger’s Heart is a stream of consciousness on how we can’t assume that we are going to get answers to all of our burning questions, and how we cope with that uncertainty, making meaning out of the smallest things in a way that becomes our own personal mythology. Musically it’s a romantic, dreamy road-trip.”
GEORGE MOIR – Baked Beans
Having had our boiler do its standard annual trick of failing precisely on the coldest three days of this year so far, I sympathise with George Moir’s plight. It seems financial woes have not only robbed him of warmth but have also forced him into regular dinners of the 57 varieties. Hopefully a certain baked beans company will pick up on this clever little number and give him a sponsorship deal to enable him to try that caviar he can only dream of.
The track was based on George’s real life experiences when he first moved out of his parent’s house and realised that a freelancer’s variable income led to some real difficulties when it came to the food budget. George has created an amazing animated video to accompany the track which you definitely need to check out too.
His background gives some hints to his whimsical creativity, being one of eight home-schooled siblings, raised by a collage artist mother and honey farmer father. This unique environment encouraged his artistic side, initially going on to work as animator for a therapist, whilst spending hundreds of hours animating his own music videos which he still does to this day.
Baked Beans is taken from his new Guide To Growing 5-track EP, available now.
HAYSTACK MONOLITH – Magic Wool
We have a good showing of talent from Scotland and Haystack Monolith can probably lay claim to being the most quirky track submitted from the north and was a popular choice on the Listening Post. “Lo-Fi Sci-Fi from Fife” is his own description, and that’s pretty spot on. Magic Wool kicks in like Steve Mason on Prozac, playing all the Beta Band’s parts simultaneously on a single Bontempi keyboard. A Celtic Fable painted in Day-Glow and electroshocked into the 21st Century. It’s fun, relentless, and it’s brilliant.
Haystack Monolith is the new solo project from Mark Urban. He’s previously performed with his wife Claire as a duo under the name St Kilda Mailboat. They’ve also been busy over lockdown running online ‘Movers and Shakers’ sessions for pre-school children featuring traditional songs and puppets, and I imagine those kids are getting a fantastic musical education!
Magic Wool is taken from his The Future is Glorious album, released in February.
JONAS CARPING – Moonlight Parade
Sweden seems to be a country us Brits have an affinity for, be it flatpack superstores, gritty crime dramas or music.
Based in Lund in the southern part of the country, Jonas Carping is enviably blessed with the soothing resonant voice of a Nordic Johnny Cash and the physical presence of Thor.
Moonlight Parade is taken from Jonas’s fourth album, The YLA Sessions, which was recorded live in the studio of Amir Aly in Malmö, Sweden. His wife Sigrid lends delicate supporting vocals which sympathetically sweeten the song, and negate the potential for it to become too morose. The result is a pine-scented slice of Country Noir with an expansive sound that’s as elegant as it is mournful, despite only two musicians being involved. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this playing out over the end credits of the next Borgen adaptation.
LEWIS DANIEL – Why Me
Any track that treats me to Antmusic-style drumsticks and a steel pan followed immediately by a smouldering sax is instantly going to get my respect. Why Me is seriously difficult to label – a complex series of improvisations swirling over a plodding synth bass. Each improvisation starts rooted in a melody and becomes less structured, bordering on atonal as the piece proceeds. Things veer rapidly as a jacked electric piano, sounding like a climaxing Eight-Bit R2D2, heads for the cosmos, accompanied by a bold horn section as the French spoken word finally draws things to a conclusion.
This is bold genre-defying jazz, absorbing and mutating influences from the environment around Lewis, be it the Steel Pan reflecting his London Caribbean roots or the drum rhythms which edge almost into Drum & Bass at points.
Why Me is the first single lifted from Lewis Daniel’s debut concept EP States Of Being, planned for April 30th.
LITTLE RÊD – Apathy
Cardiff-born and now Bristol-based (so much talent in that city!) Ellie James is no stranger to the music profession, having performed under various guises from the tender age of 14. Now recording as Little Rêd, Ellie already has two well-received singles under her belt and has previously caught the ear of our very own Mr Robinson as well as Huw Stephens, receiving airplay on both BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Wales.
Apathy has taken a little while to be submitted to the Listening Post, as it was released last June, but I’m certainly glad it made it as it’s an achingly gorgeous track, a real slow burner that starts in the vein of a fragile Laura Marling-styled number, strummed guitar subtly augmented with simple keyboards and bass, but the track builds to reflect the confusion contained in the lyrics with a beautifully measured and restrained electric guitar cutting through the swirling harmonies.
Ellie says of the track “It’s about feeling frozen and helpless due to the terrible things happening in the world” – words that certainly resonate after the events that we’ve seen unfold this past week.
MADRAYKIN – Black Cat
Madraykin is the alias of another Bristol-based artist, Madeleine Harwood. A veteran of the folk circuit, She released her first album in 2017 and Black Cat is her second release as Madraykin. The song was co-written by Boo Hewerdine, longtime production associate of Eddie Reader. It’s a sultry swagger of a monochrome Torchlight ballad, with Madeleine’s confident vocals augmented by an orchestral arrangement by David Kernohan. The jazzy sweeping strings lend a 50s almost noir-esque quality, with the Black Cat replacing the usual canine version as a metaphor for depression. Black Cat is out now.
TOMMY ASHBY & LYDIA CLOWES – Happy Just To Know
Happy Just To Know is suitably titled as it’s certainly the optimistic happy song of this week’s Faves. There’s instantly a familiar and agreeable folk pop sound to it, unsurprising perhaps when you realise Tommy Ashby’s first EP was produced by Mercury Music-nominated Chris Bond, the man behind Ben Howard’s sound. Tommy actually self-produced this track in his home studio over lockdown, but he’s studied well as there’s definitely a touch of the Howards about it with those uplifting Woo-hooo’s.
He’s joined on the track by Lydia Clowes who he has worked with previously, and she’s the perfect compliment to his vocals. This is one of those earworms you’ll find yourself humming without even realising.
Tommy says “Happy Just To Know was written at the end of February 2020, I’d just moved in with my girlfriend and relocated to the Suffolk coast. Coming out of winter felt like a new beginning, but at the same time coronavirus was becoming pretty scary. I wanted to write a song about finding a true connection with someone and how that feeling evolves over time, I also wanted to draw reference to the changing of seasons along the way. The pandemic has made it apparent just how much we as humans value physical contact and interactions. Loneliness has been so prevalent and has made us re-evaluate all the things we took for granted. Since this is a song about the start of a relationship, I thought it would be interesting to get both points of view across on the vocals. It’s funny that everyone is nervous at the beginning of a relationship and we just don’t need to be.”
WOJTEK THE BEAR – Ferme La Bouche
Ferme La Bouche… a phrase that instantly reawakens forty year old suppressed memories, as it was the favourite explosive exclamation of the very aptly named Ms French, my French language teacher with a terrifyingly short temper and a masterful aim with the blackboard eraser. A 5ft nothing horn-rimmed Gallic Ninja in high heels. “Fear is the key to learning” was her motto and she certainly lived by it… but I digress.
Somewhat fittingly perhaps, Scottish band Wojtek The Bear’s track is also about abuse, but in the home rather than the classroom. The song is about toxic relationships and the effects they have upon us, although you might not necessarily pick that up immediately as the song has a misleadingly upbeat bouncy blue-eyed soul vibe, it reminded me of one of the grittier Style Council numbers, with its punchy brass and four to the floor drumbeat.
Wojtek The Bear were formed in Glasgow in early 2016 and have been featured by Lauren Laverne and Tom Robinson on 6 Music, Huw Stephens on BBC Radio 1, Vic Galloway, Roddy Hart, and The Afternoon Show on BBC Radio Scotland, John Kennedy and Gordon Smart on Radio X, and KEXP.
They have featured at numerous festivals across the UK and Europe and appeared at Belle & Sebastian’s Boaty Weekender festival in Barcelona in 2019 alongside the likes of Teenage Fanclub, Mogwai, Yo La Tengo & Camera Obscura.
The band released their debut album, a talent for being unreasonable, in mid-2018, followed by a string of singles in 2019. Ferme La Bouche is their first release in nearly fifteen months
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.