Fresh Faves: Batch 414

Cassie Rytz

Artists at a glance

BADBELLY FT. FERAL SERGE
BLONDS
CASSIE RYTZ
EDBL
FAMILY JOOLS
KOMET RAIN
LARIZZLE & RAYSTYLIE
NWANDO
STERGIN FT. PHILLIPE NASH
USE

These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and reviewed by Fresh On The Net’s Neil March this week. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.

In the weekend that summer has arrived with something akin to a vengeance, I find myself with the privilege of reviewing the winners from another top-notch Listening Post. This week we have once again seen some of the best and worst of how people can behave towards one another. A low point was the racist abuse of three brilliant young black footballers whose passion and ability had helped their national team reach its first international final in 55 years. The best has included an entire community coming together to take action to repair a mural defaced by brainless bigots. It is also today that COVID restrictions are dramatically lifted despite a great deal of anxiety across society and the disarming sense that the UK could be about to tear the lid off a Pandora’s Box of unforeseen troubles. Thank goodness then for music; itself one of the most under-rated unifying forces in today’s world. The diverse selection you are about to experience, especially given how this platform is about new and emerging music talent, should genuinely give us all something to smile about. If there is one group of people we can always have faith in, it’s our discerning Fresh On The Net readers.

BADBELLY FT. FERAL SERGE – Fanfiction

Mark L aka Badbelly is described on his Soundcloud page as being from Southampton / Cwmbran suggesting, at some point, he left the greenery of the Welsh Valleys and headed for the blue sea of the Solent. Now he has teamed up with rapper Feral Serge on the track Fanfiction. The backing track is relatively sparse; long synth tones, light electric piano chords and a beat that comes and goes. Against this soundscape Feral Serge sets out a fairly frank picture for the song’s subject. Harsh realism intelligently and imaginatively organised into different lengths of phrases and couplets that keep a rhythmic flow going throughout. Elements familiar to Grime but this is more of a Hip Hop tune.

Badbelly has previously been on the radar of our own Tom Robinson and featured on BBC Radio 6 Music. His timeline says he spent about 8 years “loving life” before 2020 saw him bring the music and ideas to life. If Fanfiction is any indication, the notion that he will continue to bring the noise is most welcome. A voice of reason amid the summer madness maybe.

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BLONDS – Something Nice

One of two Californian acts in this week’s Faves, Blonds is the performing name of Luciano from Long Beach. He was touring before lockdown so I am not sure whether that involves a live band or whether he plays as a solo artist. His sound is very much that of a band. Imagine Blink 182 in a mash with Busted and you will get pretty close to the Blonds sound. It has the driving guitar energy of Rock married to a very poppy, melodic songwriting style.

Something Nice most definitely falls into that ballpark. A clever guitar figure punctuates the verses and when he rises up an octave with the vocals, it accordingly lifts the hook. It is almost jangly in parts, perhaps an air of Willie J Healey about the two contrasting guitars. Pop Rock wearing a wide smile in the sizzling sunshine.

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CASSIE RYTZ – Count That

Londoner Cassie Rytz has a video for Count That which looks to me like it was filmed around Moorgate on the Eastern tip of Central London and the City (though I could be wrong!). There is also a pic on her Instagram page of Cassie performing at a festival in Germany. So she has been putting herself out there. Her Facebook page has a link to an excellent article about her in The Line of Best Fit which talks about her journey from teenager to young woman, leaving the petty vindictive world of school behind and channelling her frustrations into developing her sound.

That sound is essentially Grime in so much as a sparse backing track affords plenty of space for Cassie’s rapid-fire delivery. Flohio comes to mind with a dash of Little Simz and even a smattering of Lethal Drizzle maybe. It’s very much a London sound and style with a no-nonsense lyrical style that carries a few warnings for anyone thinking they can take her for a ride. Cassie Rytz is certainly not in the mood to pull her punches. Count That fizzes with energy and attitude and her delivery is fast, in-yer-face and free-flowing like a chilled sparkling summer wine, laced with something spicy perhaps!

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EDBL – No Pressure

EDBL is singer-songwriter Ed Black. Originally from Chester and a graduate of the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, he hangs out in Brixton in South London these days where he has honed his funky Soul-influenced Pop sound that is very much in evidence on No Pressure. Already the recipient of support from BBC Introducing in London, he is also clearly in good physical shape as he is running the London Marathon to raise money for pancreatic cancer, and has a link where people can chose to donate here.

No Pressure is built on simple but slightly jazz-infused electric piano chords and Miller Blue’s dexterous vocals which have echoes of early Jamiroquai in a jam with Jungle while Thundercat adds vibes. The verses have a Stevie Wonder-ish edge too. It is a light-textured and unfussy backdrop that picks up in terms of the crisp Latinesque beat and brass stabs in the chorus. A warm summer vibe yet cool as a cucumber.

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FAMILY JOOLS – California Sunshine

Bristol’s Family Jools are familiar to Fresh On The Net readers. Managed by Kelly Munro’s End of the Trail Creative, and featured on fellow moderator Big Jim Cambo’s latest Evolving Tunes playlist, the band have been on Sky TV this week talking to Mark Radcliffe on his show about live music. They have also had support previously from BBC Introducing in the West.

Now they have the track California Sunshine which adopts a sixties-influenced Psych Pop sensibility, even down to the slightly lo-fi production. The descending chord pattern while the hook remains where it is brings to mind the likes of Vanilla Fudge and The Lovin’ Spoonful but mixing it up with a more contemporary vibe that nods perhaps to King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and The Murlocs. The chorus is catchy and there is an engaging guitar-driven energy about the track. And as the title suggests, it is well timed for a hot summer weekend.

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KOMET RAIN – What My Heart Has To Offer

Described as a “Brave Pop” band from London and Oslo, Komet Rain all met on a University course in London this year. They released their debut single in April and list their influences as Nick Cave, M.I.A, Chet Baker and BLACKPINK. They also say they like to blend Vintage Pop with Contemporary Dance.

Certainly What My Heart Has To Offer has a strong sense of vintage but more in Latin Pop territory with echoes of Astrud Gilberto guesting with Everything But The Girl and a very subtle dash of Drab City. I was unable to determine who is who out of Leo, Thea and Vetle, but part of the song is in another language. Might that be Norwegian? Sadly, my language skills are appallingly basic so I can only guess on that one! Whatever language it is certainly brings a poetic classiness to an already pretty classy track. The I – V bassline and jazz-infused chords nod to a lineage that goes back at least to Antonio Carlos Jobim but the song and the style are as fresh as the morning breeze while the vibe is your favourite chilled-out music bar on a warm summer night.

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LARIZZLE & RAYSTYLIE – Emotional

“Multi-award-winning DJ, Broadcaster & Music Producer” Larizzle is founder of Larah Records. The Londoner has not hung around with new single Emotional which has already featured on Tom Robinson’s BBC Radio 6 Music Introducing Mixtape and on BBC 1Xtra. Originally from Ghana, he describes his sound as “UK Afro House” which, he says, is derived from “Amapiano, Tribal House and UK Funky”.

The above statement explains the blend of four-to-the-floor beat with shuffling Afro percussion sounds and the single one-bar chords on the keyboard, doubled by synth in the chorus. RayStylie’s vocal style is part-rap, part-sung. He appears to have some romance issues or is it commitment issues since the chorus line complains that “… they get too emotional”? Shades of Rik Rok there both in sound and style. Also a touch of Skee-Lo about his delivery. Overall it has a funky vibe, too light on its toes to be House in the sense that we usually understand that term but this is Larizzle’s own unique vision. It bubbles like freshly poured cola fizzing up around the ice cubes in a tall glass. Perfect for that summer party mood then.

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NWANDO – I Seduce

The Soundcloud link submitted with the track takes you to Accidental Records but actually there is no shortage of information out there about the extraordinary UK artist Nwando. Already gathering a genuinely international reputation for her energetic multimedia approach and highly distinct hybrid of influences, her website tells us that “Nwando works across media, genre and artforms creating mythopoetic metanarratives and alternate realities. Her work is a drawing together of the pieces that she is in a frozen moment of ever-living infinite regress. Always political and grounded in a mytho-scientific perspective she invites viewers and participants to join her at the Crossroads. At the crossroads where you can choose to pass through the cosmic mirror and touch alternate realities. The realities of what could have been and what should have been and what may possibly be. She works with speculative fictions, possible dreams and lucid worlds.” Well, who doesn’t?!

This drawing together of the pieces and invitation to participants can be clearly heard in the joyous controlled cacophony of I Seduce. It was the track that leapt out of the inbox at me on first listen. It is very broadly Afrobeat but the backing vocals could be derived from Japanese Art Pop and there are layers of busy percussion parts playing off against trumpet stabs and what sounds like (and, judging by what her website tells us, probably is) a large crowd of people! Spoken word mixes with unison chanting, handclaps and melodies that come and go. Events are generally fluid. The sound is live and the percussive drive is powerful and punchy while the backing vocals are enigmatic one moment and sarcastic the next as we get repeat crescendoing cries of “You’re so funny”. In moments it brings to mind Esperanza Spalding, Lizzo and The Frank Chickens but it is much edgier than any of those three. Nwando describes her style as Afro-Futurism which is a great shout and an exciting idea. My stand-out track of the week. Get the summer party started.

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STERGIN FT. PHILLIPE NASH – There For You

London-based artist [Vinzenz] Stergin says he plays a couple of instruments and likes “…the mountains and the motorways”. Not that mountains are a feature of the London landscape but we have a few motorways to keep him happy! The quote from Clash Magazine calls his music “oddly infectious” and refers to the “alien sounds”, which makes me think perhaps some of his past work has been on more of an edge. Interestingly Tom Robinson talked about a track of his being something so current that it simply could not have existed a few years earlier. All of which suggests it may be worth going through some of Stergin’s back catalogue to see what gems you may unearth.

For now though, our concern is with the track There For You featuring Phillipe Nash presumably on vocals. This is a gentler affair that leans towards R’n’B with a guitar figure playing in singlets and couplets over a syncopated quiet shuffling beat and a bassline that mostly follows the guitar line an octave or two below. It has shades of Karl Benjamin in a jam with Lewis Capaldi while Bill Withers drops in. There is some recorded spoken word in conversation form low in the mix during a slightly trippy middle section before the original theme returns. Reflective and a tad rueful. A salver of Soul for late on a summer evening.

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USE – Clam

USE stands for Untitled Social Experiment and the L.A band say this is because they don’t believe anything’s real and are testing it in case they/we are “… in the middle of a coma”. Iggy magazine says of them: “Like a UFO with the appearance of a Barbie but with the soul of an old feminist rocker, USE dazzles us with its musical talent and its perfect form.” Incidentally, the video features USE’s singer naked on horseback, which was not something I was expecting, but a reference to vulnerability perhaps? Certainly she has also commented on Twitter about how everything she does with her body is for herself and her art. Fair enough then.

While you ponder that conundrum, let me tell you about the song Clam. A slow burning Alt Rock track, it has shades of The Breeders in a mash-up with Hole as a descending four-chord figure builds from acoustic guitar beginnings over understated bass and drums. The vocals have a laziness about them that is both delightful and disarming. As the track builds with almost ghostly backing vocals and tougher drums and bass, there is a Nirvana-like feel about it too. Meanwhile her West Coast drawl (if I can call it that) is so perfect for the track. Like a fizzy drink from the fridge on a hot day, it is cool as hell but has a real kick too. A memorably hot finish to a fine set of Faves.

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USE

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.

Neil March

Neil March is a Composer & Artist with a PhD and Masters in music composition from Goldsmiths University, who has pursued careers in the contemporary classical and pop worlds, and has been supported by BBC Introducing, for whom he performed with his live ensemble The Music of Sound at Latitude in 2017. Read more.

11 Comments

  1. Sue

    A wonderful bunch of reviews Neil – and what a fab final playlist!

  2. Thanks for including Family Jools. Excellent stuff x

  3. Thanks Sue & Kelly. Defiitely a great list of tracks. 🙂

  4. … or definitely even!

  5. As my previous comments appear to have ben chewed up, I will say again thanks Sue and Kelly and yes, definitely a strong list this weekend. 🙂

  6. Mark Toal

    Great reviews Neil, as always!

  7. Ah thanks Mark. 🙂

  8. Erudite and entertaining as ever Neil.

  9. Ah thanks Tony. So kind. 🙂

  10. HW

    Superbe intro and so nice to hear the words and music

  11. Ah thanks Hannya. Very kind of you. 🙂

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