Artists at a glance
HELEFONIX FT IAN MCMILLAN
JOHNNY PANIC & THE BIBLE OF DREAMS FEAT. JIMMY ANDREX
SKINNYBOY TUNES FEAT DOVE & BOWEEVIL
THE GORSTEY LEA STREET CHOIR
BEA – In Circles
Despite her influences being cited as Phoebe Bridgers and Hozier, BEA’s vocal delivery on In Circles instantly reminds a little of Lorde, which is meant as nothing but a compliment. The track itself is reflective, full of vulnerability and doubt as BEA examines a relationship full of cyclical toxicity and emotional pain. The tone is mellow, but the subject itself is pretty brutal in terms of self awareness.
BEA describes herself as an Independent ‘hazy folk pop’ artist from Belfast (Well, someone else used the description and she liked it so much she kept it). Her influences range from the likes of Foy Vance and Hozier to Dermot Kennedy, Maggie Rodgers and Phoebe Bridgers. Her style has changed since moving to London to study songwriting, incorporating a smoother urban pop sound whilst still referencing the traditional Irish Folk her childhood was steeped in.
In Circles is her third single, co-written with her friend Evangelista Disco at the start of 2020 before we all put life on hold for the year.
EDWARD RANDELL – Wild Garlic
Edward Randell has appeared in the Fresh Faves before, back in March 2020 and I’m guessing he can still claim the honour of being the only artist to feature who’s been both an on-screen member of Hufflepuff and an active member of the legendary vocal group The Swingles (formerly known as The Swingle Singers – on a side note, check out their sublime version of Nick Drake’s River Man if you don’t know it, although this was recorded pre-Edward).
Edward’s alternate careers shouldn’t distract from the quality of his solo work however. Wild Garlic is a timely release, as I’m aware of the very distinctive smell of this lovely herb nestling amongst the bluebells on my current weekend walks. The song bounces along lightly, like a springer spaniel let loose in sunlit woods, playful and bright. There’s a Ben Howardesque feel to those uplifting ‘Oooh’ choruses, but this a different wood, filled with lyrical suggestiveness, and not just an old pine. Edward’s voice is far deeper, richer and controlled. Backing instrumentation is seemingly simple (I choose my words carefully here), restrained and fully effective, allowing the vocals to carry the song until the guitar break steps up the intensity. A real catchy number, this will definitely be in my head next time I get a whiff of that pungent little plant!
Somewhat a Renaissance man, Dulwich-born and London-based, Edward has sung on several film scores, writes and arranges for vocal groups and choirs worldwide, and also has a MA in magazine journalism.
FOLKATRON SESSIONS – An Bonnán Buí (Yellow Bittern)
An Bonnán Buí is an 18th century Irish poem, best known on these shores from Anne Briggs solo rendition (as Bonambuie) and it’s this version that has inspired Folkatron Sessions to reinterpret and update it. The poem itself is a tongue-in-cheek lament for a bittern that died of thirst, and is partially a thinly-veiled defence of the poet’s own drinking habits.
Hannah Jacobs handles lead vocals on the song with an appreciation and full understanding of the pathos contained in the original, as she states on their Bandcamp page: “This song is an old favourite, I’ve always loved the contrast of grief and addiction with tongue in cheek humour and hope, and it feels like a song for the times.”
The song was arranged remotely by fellow band member Joe Woods, who wrote the chords using a recording of Hannah singing it a capella. In his own words, “The trick was to fight the direction the tune wanted to go in, harmonising in a minor key and adding lots of ‘wrong chords’. That and the cross rhythm guitars, inspired by Congolese players like Franco and OK Jazz, helped to destabilise the tune and make it sound groggy and disoriented. The flute chords are meant to be the singer slipping into a beery haze towards the end.”
The end result is an incredibly complex and delicate piece that, despite its fresh approach, never loses sight of its Celtic origins. An accomplishment all the more amazing when you consider the track was assembled from separate, remotely recorded parts.
Folkatron Sessions are a collective of eight folk, jazz and electronic musicians from England, Ireland and France, who bonded over a love of folk music. Their sound refracts trad folk through electronic, jazz, ambient, sound art and prog rock lenses. They met in 2017 at an Upcycled Sounds experimental folk residency, spending an intense week arranging, performing and recording their debut EP Mais C’est Quoi Maman. Enthusiastic reviews from Folk Radio, Eliza Carthy and Ian Stephenson spurred them on to create their debut album Skiver in this same residency format.
HELEFONIX FT IAN MCMILLAN – How To Fly
Now this one threw Mrs Zipper, who walked into the room as it started playing and commented “Wow, the Blackbird is loud this morning!”
The beauty of How To Fly is instant, as Helefonix, aka Helen Meissner, throws open a sonic window to the British Countryside and lets nature provide the soloists. I’m fortunate enough to live in a rural village, and I instantly identify with the track, as it sounds just like a Sunday summer’s morning outside my window (minus the string quartet, Yorkshireman and hangover)
Poet, broadcaster and presenter Ian McMillan provides the spoken word over the soundscape, his words thickly looped and echoed, creating a slightly sinister and perhaps unintentional hint of Wickerman vibes that contrast with the innocent purity of the birdsong. The most remarkable thing is just how organic and natural the track is considering it’s been created using electronic samples.
Helefonix is better known in the music scene as Helen Meissner, promoter and champion of independent singer-songwriters for the past decade or so. She discovered her creative muse in the form of an iPhone App during lockdown, and a few months of perseverance has resulted in an extraordinary output of creative variety and uniqueness, fashioned from samples and sequenced loops. A previous track, Song Thrush Serenade has already received the accolade of being played on Cerys Matthews’ Sunday morning show on BBC Radio 6 Music.
To quote the good lady herself, she’s “The wrong side of 50 but the right side of life, a little bit left of centre and wide of the mark, I’m having the time of my life creating music for the first time.” Which is a mantra I think we can all aspire to.
JOHNNY PANIC & THE BIBLE OF DREAMS FEAT. JIMMY ANDREX – Clapped Out Anglia
Instantly attention grabbing with its Sleaford-style simplistic bontempi beat, Clapped Out Anglia updates John Cooper Clarke’s sense of biting ironic prose into something more subtly articulated, thought-provoking and poetic.
A reflective time capsule of the 70s, which cleverly alludes to the current economics and politics of Brexit Britain, there’s some wonderful imagery here with its references to tired old Teds, Nationalism and Morecambe & Wise — those of us who grew up in the grey decay of that decade remember with nostalgic affection (!) those long traffic jams to the coast, stuck in the back of a rusting estate, peering through rain-drizzled glass at abandoned amusement arcades and seagull carcasses (Clacton has lost some of its charm since then). All together now: “Fuming in a queue trying to get away to the seaside…”
Jimmy Andrex is a poet, playwright and performer from Wakefield. There’s not much information to be found about him online, but that he writes for Yorkshire Bylines online newspaper and is a co-founder of the Red Shed Readings group.
KATHERINE PRIDDY – Eurydice
Drawing its inspiration from Greek Mythology, Eurydice is loosely based on the tale of Orpheyus rescuing his beloved wife Eurydice from Hades. The mournful, tender nature of the song reflects Orpheyus’s heartfelt longing for his departed partner, and his unfathomable regret as he breaks the one condition upon which he was permitted to lead her from the underworld – that he must walk in front of her and at no point look back. Things were never going to end well of course, this being a Greek tragedy, and he turns to check on her progress before she crosses the threshold, dooming her to disappear once again back into the darkness.
Once you’re familiar with the tale, you appreciate just how Katherine Priddy’s powerful interpretation captures that disorienting, claustrophobic journey up through the brooding darkness, with a dizzying fragility that swells in intensity as the couple near the surface towards the end of the song. She has managed to take an ancient story, told many times, and make it so intensely personal that I feel like I’m intruding just by listening to it. This is a beautiful piece of intelligent songwriting.
Katherine has been already championed by BBC Radio 2 and our very own Mr Robinson on BBC Radio 6 Music, and her debut EP Wolf was chosen by Richard Thompson as his ‘Best Thing I’ve Heard All Year’ in MOJO Magazine in 2018. She’s since supported him on tour in Ireland. Eurydice is already getting attention, with the Gods of the breakfast underworld, Radcliife & Maconie giving it airplay this week on 6 Music, as well as Gideon Coe.
PAT – White Air Forces
Confusion turned to relief once I realised this wasn’t a song about aryan avionic defence organisations, but in fact an ode to a pair of crumpled trainers (let’s face it, my knowledge of fashion ended about the same time Bowie had a hit with it).
White Air Forces is actually a sweet look at young love, with Pat using his precious trainers as a metaphor for the different stages of the relationship – although I’m not certain the partner would fully appreciate being compared to a dirty old pair of shoes, even if it was meant with the best intent. Pat’s style is indie-rap, easy flowing on the ear, and catchy enough to hum along to.
There’s not much information to be found about him online. He’s Polish born, Bedford based and has a huge following on the likes of YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram and TikTok, which would indicate he’s doing OK without the normal bio page. He’s something of an influencer in the world of social media it seems, so I’ll forgive him for not posting details on his favourite type of seafood and sneaker size.
SKINNYBOY TUNES FEAT DOVE & BOWEEVIL – Barefoot
Skinnyboy Tunes is no stranger to the Fresh Faves and the Norwich based producer likes to keep us guessing what style and genre the next release will embrace. We’ve recently had dirty electro beats, Funk soul rave ups, and now Barefoot perfectly merges the chilled Trip Hop sounds of Zero 7 etc with the ambient electric vastness of Pink Floyd in one highly accomplished track. Beautifully produced, with a huge enveloping sound, this will be appearing on your next favourite chill-out compilation without doubt. You can almost feel the warm tide washing the sand from between your toes.
Skinnyboy is joined by fellow Norwich artists Dove & Boweevil, aka Lauren Dove, who provides the sublime, smooth, vocals and Mark ‘Boweevil’ Howes. who gives Gilmour a run for his money on that graceful understated guitar. To steal a quote about Albert King “He doesn’t play many notes, but the ones he does play are all HUGE”.
You can find Skinnyboy Tunes on the usual media sites of Twitter, Facebook and Bandcamp although he is rather elusive when it comes to personal information. Not that that really matters when you can let your music do the talking!
THE GORSTEY LEA STREET CHOIR – Bluebird, Hollywood… Domino
The Gorstey Lea Street Choir, rather than being a Staffordshire variant of Military Wives, is actually duo Michael Chapman & Russ Philips, and the story of their initial meeting, based around a bootleg C90 and a bummed ride to becoming an active recording musical outfit some three decades later will probably end as a screenplay someday. Expect to see David Tennant and Michael Sheen performing a lip-synched version of Bluebird, Hollywood… Domino at your local cinema in 2030 (if any are still open by then).
The pair/duo/group (?) have already been reviewed on several occasions by one of the most industrious of the Mod Squad, Mr Neil March, who described one of their earlier tracks as “Pleading, swirling Powerpop that clearly references the heroic Pop of the eighties but with a contemporary bent.”
Bluebird, Hollywood…Domino leaps into the Time Tunnel and takes us back further to the fragrant heady days when the best rock groups were experimenting with hints of psychedelia – and I’m not talking the twee, whimsical, dandyish variant that many English bands were partial to. This is powerful, windmilling Townshend, overdriven guitar style psych, shimmering with pounding intensity. There’s nods again to that powerpop sound with the big layered choruses, and also the revivalist Mod of Ocean Colour Scene, but G.L.S.C are very much doing their own thing here.
I think I’d better get my order in for the forthcoming LP if this is an indication of what to expect!
VALERAS – Rita
Punky and punchy, Reading-based Valeras appear to have streamlined the band down to a duo since they last appeared in the Fresh Faves back in February of last year, and although the comparisons to other guitar-based bands such as Savages, Skunk Anasie and Idles are still there, there’s another influence creeping into the sound that’s got both feet firmly planted on the surfboard. There’s a definite undercurrent of Surfer Rosa squall running through the guitar lines as well as a Latin influence on the tone itself, which becomes self explanatory once you learn that lead singer and bassist Rose moved to the UK from Venezuela at the age of 10. The group take their name from the Venezuelan city of Velera. Drummer Max puts all he has into giving the skins a real pounding workout, with a tribal Ventures style beat carrying propelling the song along.
The sound is crisp and powerful, and producer Tarek Musa, formerly of Spring King, has really focused the duo’s intensity to produce a single that is going to turn a lot of heads. I’m interested to see if the Valeras originally met at a ‘School of Rock’ style project in Reading way back in 2013 and they’ve built a huge reputation and following over the years since then with their incredible live sets. They’ve just featured on BBC Music Introducing in Berkshire in the past two weeks, talking about the new single. Hopefully you’ll be able to catch them performing it live at a venue near you soon!
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.