Artists at a glance
DEAD SLOW HOOT
A.N.J.A. – Monoxide
My research into the cool dark presence of A.N.J.A. has not yet uncovered what the acronym stands for. Maybe the full points are there to differentiate the German-born, Belfast-based Anja Romer from the Danish 2017 Eurovision contestant Anja. Maybe this A.N.J.A. is that Anja’s vengeful dark side. Maybe the acronym, once decoded, will reveal the words to bring about the apocalypse.
Right now my money’s on the latter, and if Monoxide is anything to go by I’m totally on board. A Cramps-style deathrock groove with limiter-pushing drums and fuzz bass supports a single note guitar riff scorching like the sun in the Death Valley desert, as Anja “chants doom for mankind” (her words) in a sultry piece of coquettish horror. Think of the vampire truck stop in From Dusk Till Dawn, relocated to Northern Ireland and summed up in four minutes of prime rock n’ roll.
“Grungy bassline drag & smashy bashy drums, raw guitars and uber-cool nonchalant vocals,” noted FOTN’s Tobi in the Listening Post comments. “What more could you want?”
CONAL KELLY – Really Don’t Like You
The nephew of Marillion keyboardist Mark Kelly and former frontman of the band Watercolours, Bristol’s Conal Kelly is a proudly self-sufficient multi-instrumentalist and producer working from his bedroom studio. The guitar performances lift this track to something truly special, ranging from a melodic counterpoint hook Johnny Marr would be proud of to a beautifully tight and rounded bass line, with perfectly placed strums, synths and electro-disco beats painting a sonic landscape around Kelly’s cool and cocky vocal, which puts me in mind of Prefab Sprout’s Paddy McAloon.
DEAD SLOW HOOT – Ocean On All Sides
BBC Introducing Mixtape alumni Dead Slow Hoot hail from Sheffield and have been delivering “bittersweet anthemic melancholy” from the steel city since 2013. Led by the husky power baritone of frontman Hugo Lynch, Ocean On All Sides is an atmospheric chunk of symphonic alt rock with acoustic piano and strings building around searing guitars, including a particularly tasty lead outro hook that will haunt you in the dead of night.
The gritty flip side of the arena rock likes of Coldplay and Snow Patrol, with lyrics reminiscent of Leonard Cohen. “An oppressor born out of unkind presumption / reinforced when you look for a bad day to happen”.
ELOISE FABBRI – Beauty
“If I was your version of beautiful / would I feel at peace inside / even smile in the mirror at night?”
Working out of Birmingham, Guernsey-born musician and visual artist Eloise Fabbri has serious vocal range, which she deploys like colours in a paintbox against lushly arranged trip-hop beats to contour Beauty’s message of self-confidence in the face of arbitrary societal expectations. A sweet, laconic soprano voice reminiscent of Minnie Riperton switches into cool assured rap in the verses, alternating back and forth like inner dialogue. Then she settles into the lower register to hail in the final refrain, building back up to a full choral harmony to cement the final message.
“Young minds are beautiful”, she asserts. So is this track.
FLO PERLIN – Baghdad
Iraqi-Belarusian Flo Perlin makes a welcome return to the Fresh Faves, having previously appeared in batches 233 and 333. A well travelled singer-songwriter, busker and ordained Buddhist nun, with Baghdad she considers her family roots through pieced together memories, journeys of discovery, cultural turmoil and imagined alternate timelines, all from a dreamlike third-person perspective of the person she once was or might have been. “She couldn’t bare the taste of mum’s tea,” we learn. “It runs through the roots of her family tree.”
For the past couple of years Perlin has been working with the Nest Collective, who awarded her a songwriting mentorship in 2019.
MARCH – Never Ruin
Londoner Kitty O’Neal chose the stagename March in tribute to her parents, taking her inventive brand of folk rock to the fields of the Glastonbury Festival and an impressive list of support slots on the way to her debut album, due for release this year.
There are shades of early Suzanne Vega on this one. A haunting dark guitar intro over a subtle drone builds into an engaging collage of layers tastefully supplied by guitarists Morgan Rickman and Joe Smith and arranged by O’Neal and co-producer Dan Keen. There are twists and turns throughout the 3:49 runtime that demand and reward repeated listening.
MIDDLE ENGLAND – Tongue Tied
“Band of Hope and Glory” Middle England are “what you get when a group of misfits are thrown together on a small island that can’t stand itself.”
It makes our job so much easier when a band troubles to provide a good bio, and the London quartet have written one of the best I’ve seen in some time. In three paragraphs I know who they are, what they stand for and what to expect from their sound, in soundbite-laden prose the right side of purple and/or conceited. Read and learn, folks, this is how it’s done. Check out the rest of the website while you’re at it, this is a band that really know their voice and how best to present it.
Taken from their current Lucky EP, Tongue Tied is a punky melting pot of musical influences in the 90s indie vibe of Black Grape and Carter USM. Singer Lucky Jones delivers his lines with assured swagger supported by funky duelling guitars and swirling electronica leading to a very satisfying delayed bang chorus (if there’s a technical term for withholding the drop on the one I don’t know what it is, so I hereby name it Delayed Bang).
SURYA – Rainy Daze
“I am no mere consumer of pop culture… but also a producer of it.” So wrote Matias Viegener in 2005 when asked to describe mixtape culture. Sixteen years later, Indian-born Londoner Surya has delivered us this fine specimen taken from the album Collage, his own love letter to the mixtapes that inspired him.
In this case a Lupe Fiasco freestyle inspired him to flip the b-side remix of Raekwon’s 1996 gangsta rap classic, which in turn sampled Harold Melvin’s You Know How To Make Me Feel So Good. The variety of interpretations between all of these sums up the take/modify/pass forward concept in a nutshell – Raekwon’s single alone contrasted the trapped brewing violence of the a-side with the sinister laid-back contentment of the remix. Surya brings the whole thing full circle to the chilled positive vibes of Melvin’s source material; “There’ll come a day when the rainy days shall be gone,” he promises, “and I’ll sing till you’re strong”.
“This track can be perceived as a conversation between two people, or within oneself”, Surya explains in the lyric notes helpfully provided on his Instagram page. The vocal sits at the centre of a trippy, atmospheric mashup of flipped samples and tumbling funk, like drops of rain on the window pane.
VENUS GRRRLS – Hate Me
Leeds riot girls VENUS GRRRLS caused Wired Radio’s Robyn Foley (who we were delighted to welcome to FOTN as a guest moderator this week) to express her inner Chistopher Walken. “Love the use of cow bell,” she commented on the Listening Post. “My favourite instrument!”
Walken’s belligerent producer “The” Bruce Dickinson would be proud of the attitude brought to Hate Me by all concerned. The performance is tight and powerful with a fist pounding chorus, well deployed backing synths, and a sassy lead vocal reminiscent of the Pretty Reckless, supplied by singer-guitarist Grace Kelly. They’ve been getting spins on radios 1 and 6 Music, have received plaudits across the board (including from our guvnor Tom Robinson), and have an impressive calendar of live dates coming up, particularly in November and February.
“VENUS GRRRLS intend to contribute to the elimination of age old interpretations and preconceptions toward women in rock,” they declare proudly on their website bio. Amen to that.
WOOLCRAFT – Big Red Key
An erroneous dawn raid by Teeside’s boys in blue inspired this tale of institutional oppression from self-confessed “miserable smart-arse” Michael Baines, veteran of 90s punk-skiffle-ska outfits Spit The Pips and Retardot, and current bandleader of Werbeniuk.
How to describe the sound here… Captain Beefheart and Thomas Truax springs to mind, with plonky guitar riffing over mechanical found percussion loops, sarcastic call and response and a cheery melodica hook rounding out the chorus. The song is written from the point of view of the titular Big Red Key (aka “the Enforcer”), the heavy metal battering ram deployed by police making house raids.
“I will splinter and shatter,” the key declares, “because you don’t f’n matter.”
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.