Artists at a glance
ELECTRO DUB TANGO
THE BAREFOOT BANDIT
Another week and I imagine a lot of us share the sense of not wanting to switch on the news because it is so rarely a positive experience. I am not postulating burying our collective heads in the sand but sometimes it is good, necessary in fact, to just lose ourselves in the sheer euphoria of listening to great music. Sure we will never agree about the criteria but that difference of perspective is part of what makes music, indeed all art, such a source of fascination. Fresh on the Net is a great reflection of that ability to somehow, despite our different musical outlooks, end up with such cool collections of tracks. So once again, our ever-discerning readers have chosen ten such tracks from a very strong Listening Post and this week it is my privilege to review them.
ALMOST EASY – Retrobates & Rejects
Hailing from Cannock in Staffordshire, where I once attended a rally supporting the Miners’ Strike back in 1984 and met some amazing people, Almost Easy have been picking up airplay from the likes of Felixstowe Radio and gigging far and wide (West Midlands, Manchester, London, etc). This year marks their tenth anniversary as a band, which is heartwarming news. And you can catch them live at The Station in Cannock on 16th April.
Reprobates & Rejects is constructed around a quickfire guitar and bass riff accompanied by punchy drumbeat. The vocals stay on one note in the verses while the guitar and bass dance around them via a staccato statement of the opening riff. Then we get a more anthemic chorus with hook and harmonies hovering over fuzzy guitars. There is more unison guitar and bass in the mid-section where things get a little more more elongated and elaborate including a higher pitched tune playing over the main riff before the chorus kicks back in at the end. A blazing bushfire of bristling rock energy.
CHALK – Them
A piece of well-intentioned advice is, if you are going to choose a band name as generic as Chalk, you really need to make yourself easy to find on social media and start by putting links on your Soundcloud page because you would not believe how many bands there are called Chalk! Or maybe you would! I don’t know! But this one is from Belfast and they are a four-piece. Included on the Chordblossom website, Them is their debut single so they have made a strong start and have clearly struck a chord with our readers.
Them is driven along by a cool popping octave-scaling bassline and persistent four-to-the-floor beat which, along with repeating staccato synth riff, starts like it will be a Techno track. But when the bass takes over the sound is more obviously Post-Punk influenced. We get deep deadpan vocals and, as synth adds an upper part and guitar chords crash the party, the vocals become dramatic and semi-spoken word. Imagine Do Nothing in a mash with Yard Act and you may begin to envisage their sound. Dramatic, highly contrasting in terms of mood and full of surprises.
CIEL – Fine Everything
Brighton’s CIEL hail from Netherlands, Spain and the UK but met at the English South Coast and are already blazing a trail. They landed their first BBC Radio 1 play last week with this very song, Fine Everything, courtesy of Jack Saunders, and have had reviews from Our Sound Music and Get In Out Ears (who made them single of the day). Charlie Ashcroft at Amazing Radio is on the case, and Steve Lamacq has previously played them on BBC 6 Music. It all bodes well for the young trio.
One of four tracks in this weekend’s Faves that I have already reviewed in my Trust The Doc blog, Fine Everything piles forward with growling guitars, buoyant bass and driving drums topped by strong, distinctive female vocals. It is major key and tuneful and sits somewhere between the intelligent Grunge Pop of Garbage or Juliana Hatfield and the melodic Alt Pop of The Mysterines in a jam with Alice Phoebe Lou. Infectiously catchy and pleasingly substantial and energetic. As instantly addictive as luxury chocolate.
DAVOLI – Sleep Deprived
Davoli hails from Nottingham. Another one with no links on his Soundcloud page, trying to track him down on social media is not an easy task. There is a linktree on his Instagram page but it only has three links on it and none are socials. However he handily provides a list of his influences on a Spotify playlist. Otherwise I am unable to report on any activity. But he has made our fresh faves so that is a pretty decent result in itself.
Sleep Deprived is set to a descending chord pattern with guitar jangle and low register vocals that could be Lloyd Cole and Kurt Vile in a mash with Lou Reed but it rises up into a poppier chorus that is closer to Willie J Healey in a jam with Neil Finn. Incidentally none of these artists appear in his influences playlist although I can hear the Bob Dylan reference. This is engaging retro Alt Pop with elements of Folk, Americana and 80s Indie in there. The hook, with its simple but effective harmonies, really seals it.
ELECTRO DUB TANGO – Ecosistema
Reviewing this for my blog last week, I did so using the artist name Jimena Fama because that is the artist name actually listed on the track on Soundcloud and it is quite explicitly a solo track, a point I will return to. Jimena Fama is an Argentinian multi-instrumentalist and composer who performs as Electro Dub Tango and under her own name. She is based variously in New York, Los Angeles and Berlin. Jimena has already had a long and distinguished international career. She has also had her music played several times by our own Tom Robinson on his BBC Introducing Mixtape Show on BBC 6 Music. Jimena runs her own label but records for others from time to time too.
Although Jimena is known primarily as a guitarist, singer and Bandoneon player, Ecosistema appears to me to be using the striking sound of the Handpan, an instrument I am familiar with thanks to my friendship with the amazing Rosie Bergonzi. However, I am unable to verify that Jimena plays handpan on this track so, if she has achieved that sound by other means, it is an extraordinary likeness. The track begins with sparse individual noteplay but soon settles into a meditative rhythmic approach in which there is a drone effect offset against fluid percussive harmonies. The ideas grow in ambition as it develops and, at one point, she pauses to hang on some goose-bumping harmonics. It is such an unusual track and has stood out for all the right reasons from the moment I heard it in the long list. Music to lose yourself in and feel soothed, refreshed and repaired by.
FABLE – Shame
Hailing from the South Coast of England, Fable is a returning Fresh Fave, and I have reviewed her before both on that platform and recently in my own blog in relation to this latest release. It is a measure of where she is heading that Chris ‘The Hawk’ Hawkins played Shame on his early Breakfast Show on BBC 6 Music. Clout Magazine also reviewed Shame and called it an “…endlessly artistic and seductive piece of harrowing pop gold” and it has had rave reviews from the likes of God Is In The Tv and Record Of The Day. Fable is quite the visual performer too, sporting a variety of elaborate outfits and masks.
So to the track. This is a slightly dark and alluring track that has a funky electro-synth undercurrent accompanying an edgy synthwave style and vocals that are breathy and slightly threatening one moment, then strong but ethereal the next. Echoes of Chvrches jamming with Cat Power but quirkier somehow. Even a hint of Prince maybe but ultimately these references are broad and subjective. Fable has her own sound and Shame is another fine example of her ability to mix technical mastery with irresistible choons.
FRANKIE ARCHER – Over The Border
Another of four artists whose tracks I also reviewed in the latest edition of my blog, Frankie Archer is a fiddle-playing composer and artist from Newcastle Upon Tyne (or Northumbria according to her Twitter, which is similar but not exactly the same). Anyway she hails from the North East of England and Over The Border is her debut single and, when you hear it, you will be astonished to know that. She has wasted no time in picking up reviews. Not just mine in Trust The Doc but Narc magazine too plus inclusion on Acoustic Prog. I predict it will not be long before we see the interest spreading.
Over The Border grabs my attention instantly with exquisite a capella vocal harmonies that remind me of Emily Hall (and a little of Verity Standen, another fresh fave I had the pleasure of reviewing). This is quickly followed by beautifully played multi-tracked violin with a subtle Celtic infusion before the harmony vocals take centre stage again, building a melody over ascending chords. The translucent texture and delicate playing allow us to hear every nuance and the composing and arranging skills that match her stunning voice and violin playing are breathtaking. For me, this has to be one of the most outstanding tracks by a new and emerging artist in 2022 so far. Even in a week as strong as this one, it is my standout track.
NIAMH REGAN – Late Nights
Galway’s Niamh Regan has just embarked on a tour of Ireland and, with nearly a thousand views on the video for Late Nights, she is clearly amassing an impressive following. She is picking up the reviews too such as in Totally Dublin, The Galway Advertiser and even the Irish Times. It is also notable that she recently played the Green Note in Camden, one of the live home venues used by my friends at Talentbanq. She has had recent airplay on BBC Radio Ulster too so, wherever you look, Niamh Regan is picking up the well deserved plaudits.
And, if you listen to Late Nights, you will hear why I say ‘well deserved’. Niamh has a distinct, warm and inventive style that is folk-infused but also gives out hints of Americana, Country Rock and an easy pop sensibility. It is rhythmically clever and the punctuating of phrases by emphasising the second beat and similar configurations immediately makes it more interesting. Add to that, the lightness of touch in the instrumental play, an engaging melody and Niamh’s rich alto vocals. Highly contemporary Folk-Pop that warms the heart like a smooth whisky (or, in my case, a top-notch coffee) on a cold winter [or early Spring] evening.
PROJECT GEMINI – The Children of Scorpio
The Soundcloud link takes us to Mr Bongo, the Brighton-based indie label, which makes finding Project Gemini online more of a challenge. However a Facebook page reveals that Project Gemini is, in fact, the solo moniker of Paul Osborne who describes his sound as “cinematic psych-funk, fuzzed up library, acid folk and breaks” which is not a bad shout. He has been included on the CinematiCA podcast and will be playing live at the Night Owl in Finsbury Park, North London on 8th April.
The Children of Scorpio is built around a repeating chord pattern and melody, adorned by an increasing array of guitars and other sounds. So we get interweaving intervallic patterns while the melody is harmonised and bathed in reverb to give it a trippy, otherworldly quality. There is definitely a psych undercurrent here. The pattern has a hypnotic intention but the fluidity of the instrumental interplay means it is actually in constant flux which makes for an interesting contradiction and one that works well. As the title suggests it all feels slightly spaced out like a subtle nod to the Canterbury Scene of legend.
THE BAREFOOT BANDIT – Big Guns
Firstly may I take a moment to praise The Barefoot Bandits for demonstrating how a band or artist should set up their Soundcloud page. Biog, social media links, website URL etc. plus tracks and playlists. Simple golden rule: make it easy for people (i.e. fans, reviewers, radio producers etc.) to find you and get the information they need. Hailing from the English South West, The Barefoot Bandits incorporate strong Reggae and Dub influences into their sound, which also looks to Punk and World Music for inspiration, leading them to have airplay from legendary Reggae DJ Dave Rodigan. They are regulars on the festivals circuit and have supported a string of well-known acts including Horace Panter & Lynval Golding, Dreadzone and the iconic Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.
Big Guns starts in classic dub territory with a gorgeous trombone melody playing over Reggae backdrop and going into open fifths, echoing drums and choppy guitar chords. But when the vocal comes in, it is upper register tenor range and more Rock in style. Then comes the chorus with sumptuous chord changes and cool harmonies. The dub elements add just enough to raise the whole thing up. Playing and production-wise it is classic Reggae while the vocalist is right not to make the mistake of attempting a faux Jamaican twang. Instead the whole thing is refreshing, unpretentious and lovingly crafted. A perfect way to round off another fine Fresh Faves selection.
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.