Artists at a glance
GEN AND THE DEGENERATES
NATURE OF WIRES x MACHINA X
THE ORIGINAL RABBIT FOOT SPASM BAND
WHITEQUBE & OCTOPHONIC
In a week that has provided a horrific reminder of the potential human consequences of age-old power struggles and simmering resentments, the unifying power and idealism of music has been a welcome antidote. That includes the 200 tracks submitted to Fresh On The Net from which we picked 25 for you to choose from, and it is my privilege to review the 10 tracks our always discerning listeners have chosen in the week where we are celebrating a decade of the Fresh Faves being a thing. So a big thank you to our founder Tom Robinson and to our endlessly patient site manager Steve Harris as well as all the mods, past and present, who have contributed to this amazing platform.
ELKYN – Fell
Elkyn is the Leeds-based songwriter and musician Joseph Donnelly. Born in an old brewery and formed in a basement is how the project came about. With a new album out imminently and recent BBC Introducing support, it is an exciting time for Joseph. He also appears to have two different labels releasing single and album, plus vinyl distribution sorted out involving Rough Trade. He literally has everything taken care of.
Fell is built around a straight beat and reverberant picking acoustic guitar accompanying the lead vocal. It builds in layers, bass joining in the first verse, keyboard chords a little later and the drums becoming more fluid and syncopated, particularly in its use of the snare. We then get octave apart vocals here and there. It is expertly arranged and produced and the melody is engaging and major key, topping off a fine track.
GEN AND THE DEGENERATES – Girl God Gun
Liverpool quintet Gen And The Degenerates are ecstatic, as well they should be, to have bagged a support tour slot with Indie Rock legends Skunk Anansie — that is just the kind of audience they will relish playing to across the UK. Having previously played The Great Escape and kept up a busy schedule, they are clearly moving in a positive direction. They have a cool look too, in which the singer (presumably Gen) already looks like an icon-in-waiting with shaven head, decorative make-up and elaborate outfits.
Their Soundcloud blurb talks of them being ‘… party starters and agents of chaos … Degenerates by name and nature’. Girl God Gun gets straight down to business with a spoken vocal over bass and drums that sounds like Wet Leg in a jam with Idles while the chorus brings a punkier edge. Against Gen’s dominating voice and lyrics, guitars snap and snarl away and add melodic strands. In one sense it reminds me a little of The B-52s in a jam with X-Ray Specs albeit without Polly’s penetrating soprano tones. Humorous but a little daunting, it is catchy and persistent. Enough energy and attitude to retain its Post-Punk credentials, but it is also poppy, full of ideas and nuances and ultimately thoroughly entertaining. If this is anything to go by, those Skunk Anansie devotees are going to love them.
JADE THUNDER – Alchemy
Chester-based artist Jade Thunder released her first EP in 2016 and has been patiently building her reputation for emotionally charged songs about real life experiences incorporating an array of influences. Now she has her debut album out, also entitled Alchemy, and her first [rave] review courtesy of Liverpool Sound and Vision to follow her interview with Wirral Life. Exciting times then.
Alchemy has a folky retro feel that instantly recalls artists like Joni Mitchell and Anne Murray, although there is enough about the beat, the syncopated guitar chordplay and the synth melodies that appear and disappear to place this in a contemporary context. There is an appealing toughness to the instrumental texture and Jade’s voice is agile and expressive. Shades of Laura Marling perhaps in a jam with Maddy Prior, pointing to a very strong lineage of Anglo-American singer-songwriters from which she has shaped her highly likeable, listenable sound.
LANGKAMER – Teeth
Bristol band Langkamer were brought to my attention in recent weeks by Sgrcube PR, and first appeared on my radio show a fortnight ago, so I am pleased to see the same track Teeth now in our Fresh Faves. The band are in the midst of an extensive UK tour which tells you things are going well for them. They were also listed in Wax Music’s Top 30 albums of 2021, and they are picking up airplay in between their busy live schedule.
Their Facebook blurb describes Langkamer’s music as ‘a little bit Country, a little bit Rock and Roll’ which explains why, despite the shimmery, bright and tuneful Alt Pop sensibilities of Teeth, there is a subtle aura of Americana in the background that reminds me of Teenage Fanclub in a mash with Gengahr while HAIM drop by with spices. The hook is instantly infectious and their sound is solidly energetic and jangling. Uplifting and spirited, I imagine those live shows are a joy to be at.
MAYA LANE – Still The Same
18 year old singer-songwriter Maya Lane has been performing since she was 12 and takes influence from a great historic evolution involving artists from Joni Mitchell to HAIM and Fleetwood Mac to Kacey Musgraves. Managed by Ferocious Talent, she is signed to The Orchard and has a publishing deal with Stellar Songs. Already she has a growing black book of prestigious names that she is working with, and now the single Still The Same offers the first opportunity to test her music out on the wider media.
The song starts with a picking guitar and bass figure that allows Maya’s strong, dynamic voice to dominate from the opening bar. Then, as the full instrumental backdrop kicks in, we get multi-tracked vocal harmonies to lift a strong, slightly melancholic melody. Shades of Natalie Imbruglia in a mash with The Staves if you can imagine such a configuration. Her voice is yearning but it is also rich and dynamic, enabling her to impressively carry off a lovingly crafted song. The harmonies are goose-bumping too.
NATURE OF WIRES x MACHINA X – Dance With Me
Gary Watts from Hereford is Nature Of Wires and he is busy collaborating with and remixing other artists including returning Fresh Faves Machina X, the duo of Annie in Sheffield and Cyrus from Myanmar. Gary is about to play a warm-up show before flying out to perform at a festival in Mexico while Machina X have been picking up the plaudits from BBC Introducing, Exile FM, and a growing army of supporters within the vibrant grassroots music community. This is Annie’s second collaboration with Nature Of Wires and, from what she has recently told me, it will not be the last. The links below are for Nature of Wires but you will find Machina X on all the key social media too.
On Dance With Me, Nature Of Wires’ trademark electronic buzz, warm whirring synths and crunching beats are very much in evidence. Annie’s distinct and expressive voice demands our attention and the melody has a highly Eastern aura, utilising elements of Raga scales and vocal flourishes around the fifth note of the scale while flattening the second to emphasise that oriental infusion. It’s a track that amply demonstrates the dexterity of Annie’s vocal abilities and Gary provides a spaciously produced and fluid backing track which, at one point, inadvertently references (Melle Mel & The Furious 5’s) White Lines (and he has confirmed it was unintentional), which makes it one of those accidental references that really works. This is an exciting, exhilarating slice of Cinematic Electro-Pop by two talented acts.
RICK LEIGH – Are You Living In Your Own Skin
London-based artist Rick Leigh studied popular music at Goldsmiths University (where I studied music composition, incidentally). Last year he performed a gig for the Arts Council England and London Contemporary Voices. Since then he has been releasing singles and making videos so his work is paying off with our readers clearly taking to the new track.
Are You Living In Your Own Skin is a slow, slightly dreamy track with resonant single keyboard chords playing over programmed beat and quiet bassline. Rick’s voice is clear as a bell and the octaves and harmonies sound great within the spacious soundscape. Influences are hard to pinpoint but there is a contrast between very modern sounds and production ideas playing off against more traditional and subtly jazz-infused piano chords. Delicate but sophisticated with an otherworldliness about it too. Intelligent, enticing and very enjoyable.
STILL CORNERS – Far Rider
For some of our readers at least, Still Corners will scarcely need much introducing. Having played their first Radio 1 session over a decade ago, they have been regulars on BBC 6 Music over the time since and past accolades including being named Pitchfork’s Best New Track winners in 2012 and signing with the classic US label Sub-Pop before forming their own Wrecking Light Records in 2016. They are Tessa Murray and Greg Hughes and recent years have seen their sound evolve away from a more Dream Pop-oriented one towards what they call Desert Noir on account of the dusky Americana influences now sitting alongside the Indie and Shoegaze references.
That brings us to their new track Far Rider. The desert aura is established literally with the opening note, a bendy echoing guitar a la Chris Isaak on Wicked Game before a chugging guitar, bass and drums backdrop accompanies Tessa’s distinct vocals; husky and hungover one moment, dreamy and ethereal the next. As the song opens out, sumptuous slide guitar punctuates phrases and a break in drums and bass ushers in a few bars of enigmatic backing vocals. The changes between fuller texture and moments of fragile transparency are very effective, and the resulting aura is of a bumpy but beautiful ride along open sandy roads as the sun melts into the hazy evening sky. Leon Bridges and his collaborations with Khruangbin come to mind at times. It is expertly done, continuously unpredictable and thoroughly satisfying.
THE ORIGINAL RABBIT FOOT SPASM BAND – Vine Street
Stuart MacBeth may not win any awards for conciseness with his recording name The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band, but he should be confident that no-one else will pinch that moniker on social media platforms! Strangely, where his Soundcloud page is concerned, he is a man of few words. His bio reads simply “Original music from the UK”! There are no links on the page but, after tracking down the band’s Facebook page I find that, having formed as a Skiffle trio (I kid you not!), they are now a Septet with three horn players (Sax, Trumpet and Trombone). They have also been getting airplay from BBC Oxford and stations across Europe. BBC 6 Music’s Gideon Coe has called them “dangerously sexy”, OMS called Stuart “the Joe Strummer of Jazz” and the Oxford Times dubbed them “the most exciting live band on the circuit today”.
So we have Vine Street. It begins like an odd and very un-Reggae-like take on Reggae with electronic beat and Reggae rhythms played in the form of a 12-bar chord arrangement. A female voice talks about the London West End streets she will visit when she is “let out of here”. The style is a mashup with hints of Dub playing off against an almost music-hall dramatism and swirling Prog-like effects floating into the centre of the mix. The chord progression continues to follow 12-bar principles, albeit the minor key equivalent, and sometimes we get synth arpeggios echoing downwards like they have fallen from a passing plane where the pilot is the keyboardist from an 80s AOR act! It is certainly an unusual and creative coming together of influences but one that really works. An interesting and imaginative track.
WHITEQUBE & OCTOPHONIC – Reverse Psychology (Octophonic’s ‘Just Say No’ Remix)
Somewhat confusingly the below links are about 50:50 Octaphonic and Whiteqube, the former loosely being the latter’s label although they are different entities in similar territory. For example I recently reviewed a very good track by Octaphonic, the artist. Whiteqube hail from Los Angeles and their Twitter blurb talks about juxtaposing “… intricate synth sounds and intense beats with dark vocals”. It goes on to list their genres as EBM (not sure what the B stands for), Techno/EDM and Rock and Pop which could almost be summed up as “a bit of everything”!
So to the track Reverse Psychology. It starts with electro-buzz synths and very slightly syncopated beat accompanying spoken word samples about young people saying no to drugs. As it heads into what you might call the chorus, there is a bendy riff that reminds me a little of very early Human League in the way it takes us through the equivalent major I and IV chords and down to V then back to the original minor. As the track goes on, sounds come and go and more intense spoken word samples join the fray. If I am honest, I am not entirely sure how it is ‘reverse’ psychology but it is an interesting piece and something quite different and entertaining to round off a strong list of fresh faves.
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.