Artists at a glance
ROXANNE DE BASTION
SNIPPET AKA JOHNNO CASSON
Hi all. So, depending how pedantic you want to be, this is either the last Fresh Faves reviews of the summer or the first of the autumn. And while the leaves may be turning brown and the trees looking a little bare, no such issues are detected in the continuing volume of great tracks coming into the evergreen Fresh On The Net inbox. This week it has been my honour to review the top ten tracks you have chosen from a stellar Listening Post. Whichever ten you went for, it was guaranteed to be a pleasure to listen to them again and find out more about the artists. So without further ado…
ASHA MCCARTHY – Love Surrounds You
Cello-playing singer-songwriter Asha McCarthy writes and plays in a style that blends North Indian, Western Classical and Folk music. She has performed at some prestigious venues including Glastonbury, Royal Albert Hall and India Habitat Centre. She studied at the world-renowned Chetham School before receiving a scholarship from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations to study Hindustani classical music; an area that, among others, captivated the great French composer Olivier Messiaen. Since then Asha has performed with a dazzling array of leading musicians linked to Indian and Western music and has demonstrated her versatility; writing and playing for a variety of media. Her music has also been featured on BBC Radio Lancashire.
Love Surrounds You certainly reflects her diverse and unique journey. The cello plays a prominent role throughout, interweaving with picking guitar, rich string chords and understated bass while her clear, beautiful voice brings both a folkiness and a breathtaking dexterity. The ensuing vocal harmonies are butterflies-inducing, and the sudden and continuing increases in tempo add an intensity after the relatively tranquil opening section. As this process plays out, her lead and backing vocals intermingle and the cello plays glissando figures, some high up on the A and D strings as well as giving us a taste of her technical excellence with rapid, legato scales. Altogether it is a stunning cocktail of ideas and influences and she delivers it with delicate virtuosity and expertise. Asha McCarthy has just become an artist whose music I need to get to know more of.
BRODIE MILNER – An Open Letter
Singer-songwriter Brodie Milner hails from Yorkshire, and cites John Martyn and Sharon Van Etten among his influences. He recently played Inner City Sesh, and has been building a live following around Yorkshire. He was also the recipient of support from Honk Magazine.
Brodie’s voice on An Open Letter is particularly striking. It reminds me a little of Calum Scott in a mash with Paddy McAloon. His style is interesting too, Folk-influenced and yet leaning towards an epic synth-driven Pop like Bibio jamming with Future Islands. There is a little of Bombay Bicycle Club about this too. He pens a great tune for sure. A song that is built on some clever contrasts and a fine balance between the earthier quality of the verses and the more cinematic chorus.
CHINWE – Scar Tissue
East London artist Chinwe is no stranger to the Fresh Faves. Indeed I reviewed her in Batch 376 almost exactly a year ago. Since then she has kept busy with interviews and guest playlist curatorships. Recent examples include Fred Perry’s Sub-Culture; Kaltblut Magazine and Noctis magazine. She has also made the EP Top 5 on Jamz Supernova’s show on BBC 1Xtra and played the How The Lights Get In Festival this month. Last but not least, she was recently the subject of an interview on Fresh On The Net conducted by our own Del Owusu.
Scar Tissue is laid back in a mid-tempo groove. Long synth chords play over a crisp programmed beat while Chinwe’s distinct voice takes centre stage, sometimes solo, sometimes harmonised. The soundscape is translucent and the quiet synths in the background have an almost watery quality. Her singing is syncopated and, at times, has an agreeable laziness that speaks to her musicianship as she goes against the beat. Shades of Erkah Badu in a mash with Ms Dynamite while Yasmin Lacey adds flavours. But moreover it is a track that stands out for its originality and class.
LEG PUPPY – Turn It Up Keith
It is great when two artists I have regularly supported collaborate on a track. And so it is with South London’s Leg Puppy and California’s Violent Vickie. In the case of Leg Puppy it is barely a fortnight since they played a barnstorming live set at my Vanishing Point monthly gig at AMP Studios. Their live set, like their music, is lively, theatrical, bristling with energy but laced with humour too. Violent Vickie sometimes gets called on the apparently intimidating nature of her moniker but, in fact, it is a play on her name, Vickie Valent. Both artists have been busy amassing a reputation for making hard-edged, imaginative electronic music with room for an array of influences. Leg Puppy, in particular, have become regulars on BBC Radio 6 Music and their creative master Darren Laurence is both a performer and a promoter (and boy, does he know how to work a crowd!). Incidentally Leg Puppy are also serial Fresh Faves.
The result of this collaboration is Turn It Up Keith. Vickie does her best telephone operator impersonation while deep ambient synth tones accompany her spoken voice along with a four-to-the-floor electronic beat. The sound is sparse, the beat coming and going with Vickie’s voice repeating the same lyric and sounds drifting in and out of the mix. By both artists’ standards, it’s comparatively laid back but it has a dark, menacing quality that keeps me engaged throughout.
LIINES – Keep On Going
Manchester trio LIINES are also returning faves and appeared first thing this morning on Tom Robinson’s Introducing Mixtape Show on BBC Radio 6 Music. The love and support they have built up over recent years is summed up in a review published last week by Even The Stars following a gig at Manchester’s Bread Shed to launch this single. They also won the hallowed Audition poll on Charlie Ashcroft’s show on Amazing Radio and were Manchester Evening News City Life’s Breakthrough Act of 2020. That is quite some momentum.
The title Keep On Going has never seemed more apt against a backdrop of instability as a more or less permanent state across the entire globe. It builds around persistent echo drums and a unison guitar and bass riff that reminds me a little of Dream State in a jam with Honeyblood while the vocals could be a young Ari Up. The song is energetic, short and punchy, making its point and leaving us wanting more.
ROXANNE DE BASTION – Ordinary Love
It is four years since the release of Roxanne De Bastion’s debut album, and in that time she has won praise and support from such iconic broadcasters as Janice Long, Tom Robinson, Chris Hawkins and Gary Crowley. She has also played extensive tours of the UK and North America where she supported the likes of Lambchop. The Wainwright Sisters and Thea Gilmore. Her live itinerary has included the Acoustic Stage at Glastonbury and the Cambridge Folk Festival. When not performing, she is a member of FAC (Featured Artist Coalition), where she sits on the Board of Directors with Imogen Heap, Ed O’Brien, Katy Melua and Dave Rowntree. Roxanne also created FM2U, a music conference specifically for aspiring musicians whose aim is both to support artists and enable music entrepreneurs. A pretty impressive resumé by any standards.
Fortunately for us, Roxanne has nevertheless found the time to work on new material and now we have Ordinary Love. It kicks off with picking guitar, long keyboard chords and Roxanne’s alluring voice before the beat picks up and the guitar begins to jangle. The tracked effect on the voice works well and the harmonies lift an already bright hook although, in essence, there are two hooks. Roxanne makes smart use of textural contrasts between the beginning of each verse and the more full-on choruses while affording her vocals plenty of headroom in which to soar. Quality pop.
SARAH MCQUAID – The Day Of Wrath, That Day (The St Buryan Sessions)
Also returning to the Fresh Faves is Cornwall-based US singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid, who I think I can reasonably say is one of the kindest people in independent music. Sarah, in pre-lockdown times, retained a punishing live touring schedule despite having to balance this with family life, and she continues to work tirelessly to get her music out to a wide, appreciative audience. October will see her set out on another extensive tour kicking off with an album launch gig, fittingly at St Buryan Church. The St Buryan Sessions have proved to be an amazing supply of individual tracks, capturing Sarah performing with the most stripped down of instrumental accompaniments in a room where the acoustics perfectly complement her highly distinct and impressive alto voice. However, this track is an instrumental.
The Day Of Wrath, That Day consists of resonant and expertly picked guitars setting the dark, reflective scene with a mystical, almost oriental-sounding figure that is like a folkier take on The End by The Doors with direction by Anoushka Shankar. If you are familiar with Sarah’s music you will be surprised not to hear her instantly recognisable voice appear at some point, but the track allows her to demonstrate a different side of her creativity. Clearly it grabbed the attention of Fresh On The Net readers too, and rightly so.
SNIPPET AKA JOHNNO CASSON – Here Come The Freaks
Snippet aka Johnno Casson scarcely needs much introduction; at least not to long-time regular readers. He was, for a good number of years, a moderator for Fresh On The Net. He has also appeared on national TV for his work with the Warm & Toasty Club, which supports elderly people through music, arts, history and community, and has had his music played regularly on BBC Radio 6 Music. Originally from East London but firmly embedded in Colchester these days, Johnno’s accomplished career has seen him tour as a singer with a variety of bands. He has worked with such luminaries as Adrian Sherwood, Andrew Weatherall, James Lavelle and David Harrow. Johnno has battled through a chronic health condition, and built an amazing new life through his work and creativity. He has been championed by Tom Robinson and had rave reviews from Louder Than War, Folk Radio UK, Angry Baby and a host of others.
So now we have Here Come The Freaks. It kicks off with unison synth-brass stabs before a Latinesque beat joins the fray and the instrumental layers are added gradually, while the hook is presented early in the track. It has a dubby Trip Hop-ish feel about it, and there is an agreeable lightness of texture in the way the unison synth-horn sound plays its riff and Johnno’s multi-tracked vocals focus on the hook. Original, slightly dark, but with an unmistakable pop sensibility too; it’s a breath of fresh air and a reminder of his unique talent.
WILDEST – Parasol Shopping
Wildest are from Leeds, a city that seems to accommodate a bottomless well of grassroots music talent. It took all my (admittedly limited) Google searching skills to uncover their social media though, since there are no links on their Soundcloud page and Wildest is a pretty generic term! Got there in the end though. They have appeared on Oporto TV and previously had support from BBC Introducing in Leeds.
Parasol Shopping begins with piano chords and popping bass that recall the likes of Nu Shooz and Loose Ends although the style of the song is less dance-oriented. Male vocals soaked in harmonies dominate over loud synths and staccato bass tones. It is a very eighties-infused sound like Prince jamming with The Style Council. A more contemporary reference might be NZCA Lines with a dash of Tom Misch. The hook is repeated numerous times and certainly gets inside your head. A track that will work well on radio.
YAKUL – Wrong Way
Brighton quartet Yakul are a young band on a mission. Currently playlisted by Jazz FM, they are set to go out on their Indigo Rises tour. With some festival stages also in their live performance diary, they are looking at a busy Autumn and Winter period. Previously they sold out the Jazz Cafe in Camden Town immediately following the easing of lockdown restrictions and they have been building a solid base in Brighton too.
Wrong Way is an unequivocal banger of a track. Funky, jazz-infused Pop, it exudes both a high level of musicianship and the ability to match spine-tingling chord changes to killer tunes. Influences are hard to pinpoint but there is maybe a little of early Jamiroquai, a sprinkling of Corduroy and elements of Mark Ronson mashing it up with Thundercat. They describe their sound as Future Soul which, given the epic production and ethereal synths and harmonies, is a good shout. They sit alongside the likes of Prime Panda, Kenna, Jealous Tina and Juices and a Drum as one of a growing number of young bands fusing innate pop sensibilities with high quality Funk-based, Jazz-infused music that also lets in a psychedelic undercurrent. A great way to round off another fine Fresh Faves list.
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.