Artists at a glance
CAPTAIN AVERY & THE COSMIC TRICERATOPS OF INTERGALACTIC PEACE
THE FRAGILE STATES
Hi again everyone and welcome to what will probably be my last Fresh Faves reviews of 2021. It is always a pleasure and a privilege to review the tracks our readers have chosen from the weekend’s Listening Post. I believe this is my 24th time since I joined the Fresh On The Net team in January 2018 and I look forward to reaching a quarter of a century in the new year! I thought about whether to include a topical theme in these reviews, as I sometimes do, but it’s been both a depressingly dull and doomily depressing week in the news! So I would rather just focus on the fantastic array of great tracks coming at us from grassroots independent music artists week after week. So much talent out there. Anyone who tells you different simply does not know where to look for it (or has stopped listening).
BLACKWOLFOSCAR – Immortal
Brixton’s BlackWolfOscar makes thoughtful, intelligent music that brings together influences from Hip Hop, Soul, Cinematic Pop, Jazz and Rock. He has also been putting out a lot of music and videos. The impression is that he is patiently building the foundations before launching his music out to a wider audience. Hopefully making the Faves will be a step towards doing just that.
Immortal is a spoken word open letter to a friend who passed away, and the lyrics are moving and poignant, set to a backdrop of dreamy electric piano/synth chords and long tones. The beat is quiet and minimal; mainly focusing on hi-hat on the second and fourth beats. Unique, reflective and from the heart, this is a beautiful track and one I am glad to have had the opportunity to spend more time with.
BLÁNID – Dead Men Dancing
Hailing from Northern Ireland but based in London, Blánid has already caught the attention of BBC Radio 1, and this very weekend she has been performing at the Liverpool Irish Festival. Her live itinerary is pretty full-on generally, and she is picking up reviews from the likes of Music Geeks and a certain Fresh On The Net. There is an unmistakable buzz about Blánid around the Indie-Folk scene in the UK.
Dead Men Dancing is in Waltz time. I have seen people use this term a little lazily (or at least inaccurately), but this genuinely is waltz time with with the bass on one and the responding chords on two and three. Blánid uses this simple but striking backdrop to build a melodic Folk song with a strong Celtic aura in which the guitar is light and reverberant while long synth chords float around in the ether, and her strong voice dominates, bolstered by harmonies here and there. Distinct and dexterous, she delivers the dynamic contrasts and nuances with effortless grace.
CAPTAIN AVERY & THE COSMIC TRICERATOPS OF INTERGALACTIC PEACE – Space Is Tropical
There seems to be some confusion over the name of this artist. It is listed as the above but on Soundcloud, it is shown as Oliver Porpoise Firefly. In the meantime there are no links on the Soundcloud page either and finding much about either of these names is not easy online. But I have unearthed that Captain Avery & The Cosmic Triceratops Of Intergalactic Peace describe their vibe as “…mutant disco, cosmic afrobeat, glitterpunk, party skronk, space funk & intergalactic balkan (along with a smattering of avant-garde reggaeton & tropical DJs…”
Sounds like fun and there is certainly a lot of excitable shouting, Afrobeat energy, and party feeling about the uptempo, international flavours on offer here. The musicianship is of a high standard too. The song is catchy and infectious and sounds like it would be a whole heap of fun in a live arena. They recently played in Sheffield and the live clip on the Facebook page (of Captain Avery & co) underlines the sense that this is a band you should really want to check out.
FLORIE NAMIR – Piece Of My Soul
Florie Namir is an award-winning singer-songwriter with a PhD in music composition. Based in London, she has been notching up the rave reviews from the likes of Sinusoidal, RGM, Roadie Music and others. She is also a returning Fresh Fave. Born in Tel Aviv, Florie describes herself as a “…1940s Jazz-Pop singer” based in Camden Town in London. That 1940s reference explains my immediate reaction on hearing the track Piece Of My Soul.
It reminds me of the piano-accompanied jazz songs of artists like Rosemary Clooney and Dinah Shore who I grew up listening to from my dad’s record collection, yet there is a Latin infusion that nods towards Baharach or even Jobim. The way she packs so many moods, tempi and ideas into just over four minutes is impressive. At times it could almost be Doris Day jamming with Norah Jones while Eartha Kitt keeps watch. The saxophonist brings an additional layer of quality. A breath of fresh air and a highly musically accomplished work too.
HEDGE GODS – Alligator Grenade Party
North Welsh “Gypsy Jazz Trio” Hedge Gods only use acoustic instruments, which means they are making seriously imaginative use of the timbres, textures and percussive possibilities of those instruments. They recently played the Audio Farm Festival in Kidderminster and, in a career so far spanning nine years, they have played a variety of similar events as well as supporting the likes of Jah Wobble and Transglobal Underground.
Alligator Grenade Party is a shuffling, syncopated sonic journey through a series of contrasts in the way they utilise the guitar, double bass and percussion (cymbals being of particular importance here) to achieve maximum variety. Col Legno, pizzicato, glissando and bowed double bass mix with box-drumming, picking, chord play and melodies on the guitar and cymbals mixing with minimal percussion. The Bo Diddley-ish rhythm continues to repeat as the principal theme but interspersed with a variety of configurations that keep me engaged throughout. Intriguing and original.
LOTUSBLISS – Hurricane
Billed on Instagram as “noise from the garden of England” (which is Kent for those who are not familiar with the nickname), Lotusbliss come from Canterbury but, before you leap to any conclusions, their music is a far cry from the Prog-Folk-Psych traditions often associated with that particular town. Recent gigs have included The Water Rats in Kings Cross, The Dark Horse in Birmingham and a church in Liverpool. Before that they played in Brighton and Margate, so clearly these guys get around. They have also had support from the Introducing Show on BBC Radio Kent.
Hurricane is a driving mid-tempo epic 80s-stye [Indie] Rock track with shades of The Waterboys in a jam with Friends Again while Del Amitri add ingredients. The guitar jangles in the more translucent verses while the instrumental arrangement and vocal harmonies are spirited and opaque in the chorus, reminding me a little of Soul Asylum. Despite these retro references there is a freshness about the sound and production that brings this firmly into the current epoch. It fizzes with energy throughout.
MACHINA X – Silent Now
Machina X hardly need much introduction. They are regular Fresh Faves and, over the past two years, have amassed an impressive catalogue of meticulously recorded and produced tracks despite Annie being in Sheffield and Cyrus being in Myanmar. During that time, they have had support from BBC Radio 6 Music (thanks to Tom Robinson) and BBC Radio Sheffield, and were recipients of the New & Emerging Artists of the Year award for 2020 on my Trust The Doc Radio Show on Exile FM. Silent Now is a track from their new EP, The Art of Letting Go, which was released this month and received a great review in Joyzine courtesy of Paul F Cook, who said “Although the band […] coax warmth out of cold circuit boards it is the icy shimmer that is most affecting […] you might find moments when you can see breath”. It also received high praise from Fresh On The Net’s Del Owusu in his Platinum Mind blog.
Silent Now is the fourth track on the EP and has a squelchy 80s-style synth pop bassline underpinning a characteristically clever web of interlocking synth patterns and ethereal ambient sounds courtesy of Cyrus that swirl around and interchange, while Annie’s instantly recognisable and appealing voice commands centre stage, yearning, expressive and clear as a bell. Her wordless vocal hook in the chorus is really effective and has echoes of Black In A Jam with Julia Holter, while the driving electronic energy brings to mind earlier (c. 2013) Chvrches in a jam with Ladytron while Hot Chip add chops. Well, there are a few references to ponder over. But really Machina X have already established such a unique and distinctive sound that comparisons are hardly needed. This is contemporary electronic cinematic pop at its absolute best. The standout track in this week’s batch for me.
THE FRAGILE STATES – Swimming Pool
The Fragile States formed in South East London in 2020 just as the first lockdown was happening. They are neighbours who all happened to have been in successful 90s bands and then became involved with the beautiful indoor/outdoor venue AMP Studios (where I am fortunate to put on my monthly Vanishing Point event). The band started out as Dido Hallett (vocals & guitar), ex-Tiger; Julian Cope/Salad legend Donald Ross Skinner (guitar & drums) and Dan Cross, ex-Perfect Disaster (bass & vocals). Dan has subsequently taken a step back due to being so busy, but is on this track. Another AMP Studios stalwart and band manager Maria Perez-Manrique has since joined on percussion and vocals. They have played two of my Amersham Arms gigs since, one with the original trio and one with Dido and Maria as a duo. So it is fair to say the band’s membership is fluid! Also, in that time, they have previously made our Faves and been played on Tom Robinson’s BBC 6 Music Introducing Mixtape show.
Swimming Pool is produced by Donald Ross Skinner, who plays guitar and drums on the track. Dido takes the main lead vocal but hands over to Dan during the mid-section. The song is characteristically sweet-flavoured Alt Pop with an infectiously catchy chorus. Imagine The Marine Girls in a mash with Dream Wife while Our Girl add key ingredients. A track I find it hard not to smile when listening to. Uplifting Alt Pop.
THE TRUSTED – Vellichor
Essex band The Trusted dub themselves ‘“.. punked up Indie Rock” but there is considerably more to their sound as we will discover shortly. Recipients of support from BBC Introducing in Essex who have given them star billing at Chinnerys in Southend-on-Sea for a gig in November, the young quartet have a penchant for identifying interesting ways to achieve particular sounds on their recordings. Their Instagram account includes an explanation of how they approached this very track in fact.
On Vellichor, they have focused on a driving bass sound that is achieved through chugging guitars, long synth tones and staccato notes plus solid beat. The instruments rise up a notch in the chorus with a synth melody low in the mix. The vocal throughout is distinct and tuneful. Vellichor has shades of Everything Everything in a jam with Bombay Bicycle Club while Metronomy drop by with spices. Smart Alt Pop with cinematic ambitions.
TREVAS – Stretch
Trevas, or Trev as I know him, is a South East London-based musician who has been knocking on the door of wider recognition while quietly building a catalogue of intriguing tracks that make imaginative use of synths, drum programmes and ambient noise, always with a futuristic electronic bent. He is also a generous supporter of other grassroots music artists, a regular attendee at live events and always prepared to use his Twitter page to shout about other artists’ music.
Stretch is a deluxe chocolate box of spacey sounds, bendy synth tones and futuristic noises. It is both engagingly melodic and subtly disarming and otherworldly. One might even imagine The Clangers, all grown up and having built their own studio in space! In one sense it harks back to early electronic pop pioneers like Space (the French 70s band not the Liverpool Indie band) and The Rah Band but the sounds, and his manipulation of them, are highly contemporary, nodding to the likes of Four Tet, Bicep and Ejeca. Needless to say, I love this.
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.
The Trusted photo by Sweet Sugar Brown