Artists at a glance
BETSY & BALLOON TWISTER
E L L
LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES
These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and reviewed by Peter Donnelly this week. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
I am delighted to be invited once again to review this week’s Fresh Faves. As ever, this week’s batch has quality writ large; it is a pleasure to discover new acts which come through the ever-evolving cycle of new music releases each week.
ALEX HIGHTON – Leonard
Alex Highton has already been the subject of critical acclaim in the music press, having been bestowed with the honour of having a “Sufjan Stevens-like audacity” by the Mojo Magazine. Given his Liverpudlian roots it is easy to see how that city’s rich musical heritage influenced a young Alex.
On this track, Leonard, which has recently received airing through the BBC Introducing programme on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, dreamy strings and vocals combine to conjure an atmosphere of escapism juxtaposed with the imagery of appreciation for someone who has been close to the speaker’s heart despite the ominous undertones which accompany trying times – “There’s nothing they could say to me, nothing they could do, if anybody could have saved me it would have been you.”
Its Leonard’s stripped-back, stringed simplicity which makes it as touching as it is irresistible. This is definitely one of the highlights from this week’s Fresh Faves.
B-AHWE – Next Spring
“I long to sing of happiness but I am never content, I gave it all to me […] I showed you all of me but you chose what you wanted to see.” These lyrics in Next Spring certainly speak of a complicated and conflicted caricature which the speaker may have encountered along life’s way. A strong jazz sensibility underpins this track which is coupled with that distinctive trip-hop sound which shows how both traditional and “nu-era” sounds can coalesce to create a solid song.
It is evident that the gifted voice behind the B-ahwe pseudonym, Bethany Herrington, has received an eclectic musical education given the multitudinous influences which are evidently on display on this track. Bethany interprets and delivers these influences as her own. She is certainly in good company with none other than Melbourne-born jazz head Lewis Moody lending expert advice on production duties on her work.
The musical style Bethany records is definitely my “go-to” choice and I am delighted I have discovered her to add to my listening bank.
BETSY & BALLOON TWISTER – Like A Northern Girl
Like A Northern Girl is the recent excursion, released on 16th October, from Betsy & Balloon Twister. Despite the track’s title, this group is not based in the north of England, but firmly in the south, specifically the scholarly surrounds of Oxford. The song, as much as the outfit’s enigmatic name, simultaneously evokes a delicate, dreamy and zany quality etched by the moody guitar picking and the vocals of Berry Brown and Betsy Sweeny.
Balloon Twister have also been fortunate enough to collaborate on one of their other recent tracks Dream Tangerine with none other than Andy Partridge of the band which had such a central influence on the Britpop and modern indie sounds, XTC. You can probably do next to nothing wrong musically with a CV endorsement such as that.
CONSCIOUS ROUTE – Code Red
From London, now resident in Edinburgh, the MC behind the Conscious Route moniker is exactly that – conscious of societal dynamics and the forces which can save and destroy. Youthful disadvantage, prison and mental health all feature in Code Red. Conscious Route has previously received airplay by our very own, Mr. Freshnet, on his BBC Radio 6 Music Introducing Mixtape.
This cut is indeed furnished to us with red hot lyrical energy and production flourishes, courtesy of Conscious Route’s friend and long-time collaborator from their native hip-hop scene, Forest DLG, from South London who has produced and engineered tracks for artists and acts such as Rag N’ Bone Man and Roots Manuva.
Despite the sobering themes, Code Red also has an ironically freestyle flow and feel – with the MC in search of “a new normal nothing too formal” lifestyle – which all good hip-hop tracks should possess.
E L L – Then And Never
Then And Never is a new cut taken from London-based E L L’s upcoming LP entitled Eloquent Void. There is a distinctly folktronica feel to this artist’s work on Then And Never which gives his sound both a novel yet established atmosphere. Whereas on other songs from this LP he showcases his ability to deliver full-throttled indie.
The man behind the E L L alias is Elliot Nicklin who, away from E L L, scores music for various documentaries such as American Dream and a feature on the artist, Claudette Johnson.
It is Elliot’s earthy vocals which rest upon a tight percussive brilliance that gives Then And Never its attractive properties and delivers them to the listener. This is definitely tailored to the subjects which he often touches upon within his lyrics which traces, as his brief Bandcamp bio aptly states, “existential themes through a diverse array of sounds and influences.”
KAŚKA – Not Afraid Anymore
KAŚKA is an intriguing artist. Profound and touching are not just qualities limited to the lyrics such as “When minds collide I believe in hope”, but also to the expertly organised and structured ambient arrangements. I think there is definitely more than a passing similarity to the transcendent vocal qualities of Björk.
Originally from Poland, KAŚKA now lives and works on her music from one of the epicentres of music culture, London. She releases Not Afraid Anymore as part of her ten-track debut album, having previously released a series of singles.
She describes her own sound as a “sonic collage” which combines disparate musical genres ranging from synth pop, jazz, electronica and the ambient. All those elements can be heard in this tasteful blend.
LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES – Autumn Fall
Aptly tailored for our current season, this track by Legend Of The Seven Golden Vampires has to be one of the standout performances on this week’s batch. There is no doubting that this band possesses, that “rock n’ roll four to the floor” ingredient which propels the song from commencement to conclusion. I would christen this sound as being of the British “nu-funk” variety which would sync well into the Saturday selection on BBC Radio 6 Music. The track has been released by independent record label, Prank Monkey Records, which I have came across before, known for its quirky and often peculiar array of artists.
This Legend crowd, whose band name is more than ironic allusion to the 1970s film of the same name, are certainly a tight group of musicians, and the introduction of the boozy brass, certainly evokes a haunting Hallowe’en feel – again very appropriate for the approaching All Hallow’s Eve.
This is definitely a must listen tune.
NATURE TV – Self Esteem
From the outset, Self Esteem by Nature TV captures the listener – it is that infectious riff which drives this quirky, and permit me to say, anti-love playful ballad. This Brighton-resident group, which skilfully straddles the alternative and psych indie spectrum, can certainly lay lyrics on the line, which is evident from their most recent outing on Self Esteem. “I love your face and your self esteem” – it is something about that lyric which does it for me.
The subtle instrumentation, aside from the lyrical excursion, is a highlight and it is these dynamics which have earned them almost 70,000 monthly listeners on Spotify (other streaming platforms are available).
Again, this is another act that is a fresh name to me and I am glad that I have caught them as they release their debut album. I look forward to hearing more of their material.
RUTH LYON – Clown
The best songs are often soundscapes which take listeners by the hand to familiar wildernesses we have all at one time or another inhabited. This is what Ruth Lyon accomplishes with such skill capturing that all too familiar emotion – anxiety, about past, present and future- which can often appear almost unconquerable. “When I hit the ground and I come crashing down” are sentiments captured by the lyrics which many of us can identify with.
Ruth is a gifted lyricist, musician and disability activist whose music has been described by music blog Postcard Elba as combining “shades of Regina Spektor, but Lyon makes it their own with a vibe that is unique.”
This track is bounded by a firm rhythm section, guided by lush piano tones, which interplays with a haunting violin to give this track a truly melodic soundscape yet confident and defiant quality.
SPIRIT FOUNTAIN – Two Legged Dog
Spirit Fountain, hailing from Norfolk, are clearly a band enchanted by a punk ethos which, from the genre’s foundation over four decades ago, has given the listener a perpetual source of untapped musical energy. For a young band like Spirit Fountain, being together for only two years, and having only released a couple of singles to date, their sound seems remarkably mature and developed.
They are now regular fixtures on the local Norfolk underground scene, supporting acts such as Monica Guarnieri, also from Norfolk, and SUDS. When you can detect that maturity from their music you know that this is a group that is on the road to greater acclaim; there will be plenty more I have no doubt.
Incidentally, who in the band lays claim to owning a two legged dog?
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.