Artists at a glance
SKINNYBOY TUNES FEAT EYERA
ADHARMA – Reign
Adharma kicks off this week’s faves with some polished alt/power Metal. Unfortunately, despite lots of links there is actually little information to be found on them. I’ve established that they’re neither the Sardinian Prog-Rock Trio that go by the same name, nor the Prog-Metal band from Atlanta, Georgia. Nor the misspelt commander of the Battlestar Galactica (OK, I admit I’m a little disappointed about that one). They are, however, fronted by one Charlie Draper, from Guilford, Surrey, who has already made her and the band’s presence known to BBC Surrey & BBC Introducing, but I’m still not certain if the name relates to her, or the band as a whole.
Adharma translates from Sanskrit as meaning disharmonious and discordant, but that doesn’t really apply to the melodic purity of Charlie’s vocals on Reign, a medium-paced cruncher with chiming guitars and slamming kick drums. Perhaps a little generic, but the polished production and energy more than compensates – the sound on this is absolutely huge! Her vocals are pure and powerful, cutting through the backing squall and soaring above the cascading layers of industrious fretwork. Charlie says of the track “After being fed up of being treated differently just for being a woman, I wanted to vent my frustrations and show that people have boundaries that you shouldn’t cross’” and I think she’s conveyed that perfectly with Reign.
AGENT STARLING – The Cordwainer’s Lament
The Cordwainer’s Lament is taken from Agent Starling’s winter EP, The Northern Lights Trilogy. Both self-produced and released December 2021. The group consists of Quentin Budworth on the hurdy-gurdy, Lou Loudhailer playing other instruments and voice, with her son Dexter Duffy-Howard guesting on violin.
The Cordwainer’s Lament owes its unique sound to the Hurdy Gurdy, that strange medieval instrument that’s part hand-cranked organ, part bowed string instrument, but sounds equally like neither. Capable of producing eerie drones as well as bowed melodies, it infuses the track with an atmosphere of the distant past, with an almost Eastern quality in its texture.
And this track really does have texture. Images of moss-covered cliffs, lashed by storm waves and haunted by souls lost at sea instantly spring to mind; you can practically smell the sharpness of the salty mist in the air, as Gulls whirl daringly above the sea foam. This is perfect music for a BBC costume drama or a film soundtrack.
Quentin and Lou both have strong musical provenance. Lou was originally in prophetic UK Indie band Red Guitars, and has gigged and recorded ever since, heading up psychedelic rock band Loudhailer Electric Company. Originally part of Suns of Arqa, Quentin is the force behind world fusion medieval rave band Celtarabia, also featuring Lou on bass. He spent the year before lockdown touring Europe meeting with other top hurdy-gurdy players exchanging tunes, techniques and experiences. The band usually play the alternative festival circuit throughout the summer, but due to lockdown restrictions on live music, Lou and Quentin joined forces to create Agent Starling and record their first album, European Howl, in May of this year.
ELLIE BLEACH – Doing Really Well Thanks
Ellie Bleach was born and raised in Leigh-on-Sea but now resides in North London. She made the Faves way back at the start of 2017, when our own feared & revered moderator Derv offered the constructive criticism that she was a great talent looking for the right song to show off her capabilities. She obviously paid attention and has spent the intervening years building her catalogue with a string of well-received singles that reflect her love of easy-listening and singer songwriters, There’s a definite 70s feel to the sound of Doing Really Well Thanks – think Carole King jamming with Elton John in a honkytonk diner somewhere along the Pacific Highway. This is effortlessly breezy pop of the kind you’d expect to hear blasting from the FM radio of an oversized open-top convertible as it cruises down to the beach for the summer vacation.
FREYR – Modern Ages
Freyr Flodgren also gets a gold star for having a lovely informative website including a comprehensive biography of his impressive musical achievements. Yes, it’s the music that is really important, but it helps us massively when you make the effort to promote yourself in such a way.
Freyr is a Swedish/Icelandic singer-songwriter now living and making music in Stockholm, and I think there’s a lot of that northern air contained in his music; it’s cool, crisp and refreshing. It’s funny how geography can influence the sound – I don’t mean in terms of genre, but I find there’s a certain tone, an atmosphere, that’s captured in the recording – I hear it very often in Antipodean music and also in Scandinavian music as here, like there’s actually some of the local light trapped in the track that’s released as you play it. You can sense the subtle influences of location in the very composition. I’m claiming it as my new sub genre, GeoAtmos music.
Modern Ages is taken from this year’s Nicotine Bunker album, and of course there are comparisons to the bucolic tranquillity of The Kings of Convenience here in the nature of its gentleness, as well as the hazy melodies of Mojave 3 – it’s a snuggly fair isle jumper of a song that you won’t want to take off, instantly warming and comforting.
JOSH SEMANS – Winter Heart / Relentless Gesture
Mr Semans provides us with both the second filmic track of this week’s playlist and another delightfully unique instrument – the ondes Martenot, which creates the unique tonal quality of Winter Heart/Restless Gesture. One of the earliest electronic musical instruments, invented by French cellist and wartime radio operator Maurice Martenot, the ondes Martenot combines the textural sonics of an analogue synthesiser with the otherworldly sounds of the theremin which, when played alongside piano, clarinet, guitars, drums and subtle electronics creates a track of solitary glacial beauty that shimmers as it builds steadily in intensity. The track was born out of months spent in isolation, and that sense of remoteness is captured here perfectly.
The track features on the Winter, Gesture EP, available now on Bandcamp.
Josh Semans is an ondes Martenot player, composer, and producer based in the northwest of England. His work is uniquely textured, employing a range of instruments, sound sources, and processes. A keen improviser, his creative process is a cocktail of exploration, repetition, and abstraction. He works tirelessly to bring the ondes Martenot to the attention of new audiences.
MELV!S – Provisionally Yours
Before I even begin to assess the music, Melv!s takes my annual award for the honour of having the most informative and humorous bio link on his website. This, folks, is how we like it!
Endearingly known as ‘The Shitman’, Melvyn Small left behind a world of civil engineering, storm drains and sewerage design to be lured into the lucrative and soul destroying world of Information Technology. He literally brought the SH to IT in fact.
He initially found a home for his repressed creative output designing funny slogans for a retail T-Shirt company before venturing into the field of fictional crime writing, which leads us neatly onto Provisionally Yours, the first of five songs that form the Perfect EP, a soundtrack designed to accompany Mel’s first full-length novel, due in the New Year. I’m a big fan of this approach – The recently departed Michael Nesmith pioneered this concept back in 1974 with his ‘The Prison’ release – a novella that came with a soundtrack album designed to immerse the reader in the material and convey the feelings captured in the words.
Provisionally Yours was my personal fave this week and captures that moody Film Noir jazz soundtrack perfectly, it’s Devil In A Blue Dress and Kiss Me Deadly in pure sonic form. The drums plod menacingly like a pair of scuffed wing-tipped brogues in a poorly lit alleyway, muted horns tensely descend down a darkened fire escape, alerting us to the approaching danger, while the electric piano encourages us further into the rat-infested shadows. This is the monochrome, nicotine stained, shadowy world of Chandler & Spillane, double-crosses, switchblades and blackjacks, cheap booze and broken souls looking for redemption at the bottom of shot glasses. My kinda people!
I’m really looking forward to reading that novel!
MUOWO – Tropf
Muowo brings the dirty squelching Basel beats to the Faves this week, and his brand of Swiss Techno is a very welcome addition to the playlist for these ears.
There’s little to be found about him online, and when I say little, I mean nothing, nada, zilch, apart from a small paragraph on his Soundcloud page that tells us he’s obviously a talented engineer as well as a talented musician, as he designs and builds his own analogue synths that he uses to make his sounds. Oh, and his name is David Heizmann. Although that may be some alias set up by Interpol to disguise his real identity as part of the witness protection scheme (I’m joking here, obvs).
Muowo uses field recordings as the basis for his sounds, processing them into the electronic bleeps and squelches that dance around the progressive rhythms and add a real texture to what could otherwise just be sterile beats. The tracks are recorded as live jams and then edited and arranged on the computer.
There’s a touch of early industrial in the sound, I’m instantly reminded of the persistent and aggressive edge of Front 242, the cycling polyrhythms and loops becoming almost hypnotic in their pattern. This is a track to be enjoyed at its best in a dark club, with a huge sound system generating so much bass you could use it as CPR to resuscitate a dead elephant. Although why someone would bring an elephant to a nightclub in the first place is anyone’s guess…
ONYDA – Like A Dog
The accompanying video to Like a Dog has Onyda stylishly dressed like dandy David Bowie, and there’s an undercurrent of Ziggyness running through the track, both creatively and philosophically as Onyda invents their own unique persona that acknowledges those who have gone before whilst announcing their own distinct identity.
The song has a slow-burning intensity, full of defiance and obstinate strength, and when you realise it was cowritten and produced by Ben Hillier, who worked with Nadine Shah on three of her albums, the pieces fall into place. This is very much Onyda’s own work, but I feel they’ve found the one producer who can understand what they’re trying to communicate perfectly.
SKINNYBOY TUNES FEAT EYERA – Where Do I Go?
Our favourite Norwich-based producer is back, and it’s with some synchronicity, as I reviewed his last appearance in the Faves back in May of this year.
Never one to stand still musically, Skinnyboy is constantly exploring new genre crossovers, a true sonic adventurer. This time he’s teamed up with another… err… Norwichian… Norwicher…Norwich resident, Nu-Soul singer and fellow future sound explorer Eyera to produce a soulful Balearic banger. If Muowo led us down into the basement, Skinnyboy takes our hand and guides us out of the darkness to embrace the sunrise as it appears above the waterline. Eyera’s double tracked vocals soar and dip effortlessly and the sound shimmers like those golden beams dancing on the surface of the sea.
TOBIAS SARRA – What We’ve Learnt
We’re heading back up into the arctic north again for our final track, this time for the tender heartfelt Nordic waltz from genre-fluid artist Tobias Sarra. I say genre-fluid because apparently he’s as happy fronting Latvian pop-metal bands as he is singing contemplative songs of troubled relationships!
What We’ve Learnt is suited perfectly for his intimate, emotive voice, sensitively backed by the brass and other instrumentation which combine to produce an achingly beautiful track that wouldn’t be out of place on a Ben Howard LP.
Tobias is a multi-instrumentalist, improviser, singer-songwriter, poet, performance artist and workshop facilitator based in Northern Norway. He studied both Master’s and Bachelor’s of Music at Newcastle University, and he is fascinated by art in all mediums, from painting, to poetry, to performance art and sound design.
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.