Artists at a glance
BLOOM DE WILDE
UNITY & ZEE ROCK
So it’s that time again. Usually I have something to say about current events in my Fresh Faves intro but right now, those dominating the news are too toxic and best left to others with greater expertise to comment on. So let’s focus on the music. The week just gone saw another stellar Listening Post. Once again our discerning readers have chosen their favourite ten tracks and it has been my turn to have the privilege of reviewing them. Without further ado then, let’s get started.
BLEDIG – Introduce
Brighton’s Bledig are returning Fresh Faves whose pedigree stretches back to 2017. Their Instagram account describes their music as Melancholic, Prog Hop, Space Jazz. The Prog Hop part relates to a hybrid of Prog Rock and Trip Hop. Formed by Richard Brincklow and James Purvis and featuring the vocals of Hannah Boulton, they have a new album out called Universe Arrangements from which this track is taken.
A shuffling syncopated drum beat, growling synth pattern and single piano chords accompany Hannah’s distinctive vocals on Introduce. The track develops from translucent beginnings, little synth figures appearing here and there while the vocals are tracked and harmonised. There is a cinematic element to the chorus and the busy piano that dominates the final stretch. Stylish, sophisticated and a strong start to this week’s Faves.
BLOOM DE WILDE – Clown’s Ride On A Kangaroo
Where do I start with serial Fresh Fave Bloom De Wilde? Bloem is a good friend of mine who has an amazing knack of contacting me whenever she is coming from Amsterdam to London and managing to coincide perfectly with when I need someone for a gig! As such, you can see her playing my next Hot’N’Fresh gig at the Fox & Firkin in Lewisham on 22nd November. It is a matter of record that Bloem and partner Sam (who plays trumpet on this track) once had a UK No 1 single as Sam & The Womp and Bloom De Wilde has an amazing history of her own both as a band and a visual artist. Live, she is the complete performer and always great entertainment.
Clown’s Ride On A Kangaroo begins with Sam’s trumpet playing reverberantly against a filmic backdrop before Bloem’s instantly recognisable voice takes centre stage. Syncopated synths and beat weave patterns behind her. There are clever drops and rises in dynamics and texture while the vocals also switch between upper and lower registers. The melody is characteristically striking and dextrously delivered, while the trumpet sparkles around it. Clown’s Ride On A Kangaroo is colourful and alluring. Shades of Bjork in a jam with Joanna Newsom while Kate Bush adds spice. Always a joy.
EMMA GATRILL – Seed
Another artist from the bottomless pool of talent that is Brighton on the English South Coast, Emma Gatrill becomes the second Fave this week (Bloom De Wilde being the first) to have a Wikipedia page! She has an impressive history that involves albums for several labels and work as a session musician with the likes of Samantha Crain, This Is The Kit and Nick Cave to name a few. Her own music has had rave reviews from The Line of Best Fit, Clash magazine, Drowned In Sound and others. A multi-instrumentalist, Emma plays Harp, Clarinet, Saxophone and Piano to a high standard, hence being in such high demand.
There is a refreshing lo-fi quality to the way Seed kicks in with syncopated beat, single harp chords and whirring keyboard melody against which Emma’s soft but assured voice sets out the song’s melody. Everything grows organically from there with subtle shifts in timbre, unexpected chord changes and a developing dynamic intensity. There is a goose-bumping shift into a particularly lovely middle section with harmonised vocals that are reinforced by the swirling instrumental interplay that ensues and engulfs the mix. Then a switch back to the original hook takes us to the song’s conclusion. The breadth of Emma’s creativity and attention to detail are absolutely evident here, resulting in a gem of a track.
GERAINT RHYS – Ymdrech
Fresh On The Net regular Geraint Rhys is a versatile and always unpredictable artist. He has won awards for his music and film-making and regularly appears on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and various independents. His website is awash with quotes complimenting his work and he has been featured on the BBC Music Introducing Mixtape with Tom at various points stretching back to about 2014. He is also regularly reviewed in my Trust The Doc blog.
Ymdrech was one of two songs sung in Welsh on this week’s Listening Post. The other, by Gillie, just missed out on the Faves. Ymdrech translates as ‘Effort’ in English. A shuffling beat underpins a Latin-infused track. Spoken word is contrasted by beautifully harmonised vocals in the chorus. The guitar has a choppy but delicately applied feel set against legato keyboards and busy bassline. The main hook is irresistible and the multi-tracked harmonies add to the international aura of this fine track. Once again, Geraint’s music is full of pleasant surprises.
JOCK – Moving
Jock hail from Belfast and take inspiration both from Contemporary Punk and Indie bands like Gossip, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Le Tigre and from Riot Grrrl acts like Bikini Kill, Babes In Toyland etc. According to their Instagram posts ‘Moving is a little slice of rage. A song about the claustrophobia of the rental crisis and all that comes with living in the middle of it’. The band is playing at McChuills in Glasgow on 10th November and have been keeping up a busy live schedule across the UK and Ireland over recent months. They are also associated with the excellent Loud Women.
Moving kicks off with agreeably power-driven drums and chugging guitar accompanying fired up spoken word vocals. A second layer of driving guitar joins the fray and the vocals are reinforced by the other band members. Everything drops down a notch in the mid-section before building towards a pile-driving, energetic finale. Rage as positive power.
JOE BEL – Your Own Hands
Hailing from Lyon in France, Joe Bel was born into a ‘… cosmopolitan family scattered all over the world’. She interrupted her studies in 2012 to begin performing her songs and, by 2014, was touring Germany. She names Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Fela Kuti among her influences (which is in itself a reason to take notice) and she continues to keep up a busy live itinerary.
Your Own Hands is built around single piano chords and Joe Bel’s strong alto voice. It begins as relatively sparse before the beat and picking guitar join in. Ghostly BVs add to a slightly mystical aura against which the busy melody is a big contrast. It is tuneful and expressively sung, with some attractive harmonies and unexpected changes that keep us on our toes. There is a cinematic aspect to the track, underlined by the rich orchestration in the instrumental response to the vocals. Cleverly nuanced, superbly arranged and topped off by a fine vocal performance.
NOÉ SOLANGE – Wilting
She may be a new name to most of us at Fresh On The Net but Noé Solange is wasting no time in picking up the plaudits from media folk with great reviews from Mixmag and Headliner and appearances on two Spotify playlists. In an interview with Headliner, Noé explains that she is Dutch, Indonesian, Surinamese and Czech and has lived in nine different countries. She has worked as a singer and lyricist for others while studying and is now based in London.
Wilting was one of my favourite tracks in this week’s inbox from the moment I heard it. It is a difficult track to categorise. Her appealing voice floats dreamily atop a fluid mix of ambient synths, electro-synth patterns and waltz-time beat. There is a Trip Hop sensibility about it but it could almost be described as electro-soul. Noé’s voice is soft-toned but commanding as sounds swim and swirl around her. Melodic and unusual with a fairy-tale aura, this is a stunning track.
OWEN DUFF – Jerolim
London-based singer-songwriter and fellow Goldsmiths music alumnus Owen Duff has Fresh Faves pedigree stretching back across a number of appearances to 2014. According to his website, he is influenced by ‘… chamber pop, folk, film scores, electronica and jazz with lyrics inspired by books, films, TV, philosophy, politics and personal experience’. Last year saw the release of his album Bed and performances at popular venues around North and East London. I am not going to try to summarise the detailed description of the subject matter in Jerolim, but you can pop over to his Instagram account if you want to see what he says about it, and I would recommend that you do as it is quite fascinating.
There is a classic feel to the way Jerolim rides in on a descending chord pattern with picking guitar, reverberant keys and Owen’s distinctive tenor range voice setting out a fluid melody and clever lyric. Flute plays a melancholy theme between the verses and a filmic backdrop expands and adds to the timeless aura of the track. Comparisons are tricky but maybe a hint of Father John Misty and a sprinkling of Grizzly Bear but also a nod to an earlier time of Scott Walker, Jacques Brel et al. Lovely either way.
SKINNYBOY TUNES FEAT EMILY WINNG & BOWEEVIL – Pictures
Piers Hunt is SkinnyBoy Tunes, a Fresh On The Net regular and versatile Norwich-based musician and producer. He is also a great champion of fellow grassroots music artists and a prolific artist with a fine track record of collaboration who regularly features on my Trust The Doc Radio Show on Exile FM. This song sees him team up with two other accomplished East Anglian artists, Emily Winng and Boweevil (of Dove & Boweevil with whom Piers made the Fresh Faves previously in May 2021).
Pictures centres around Piers’s sophisticated soul-jazz piano playing, which leads the line for an organic instrumental track. Boweevil adds guitar chops and Emily’s voice is bluesy, gutsy and even has a Country-ish edge. Bonnie Raitt meets King Kitty while Bonnie Bramlett adds grit perhaps! Her performance is dynamic and emotionally-charged and her harmonies are butterflies-inducing. The song has a slow triplet-time feel and allows plenty of space for the vocals to dominate. When Emily adds sustained ‘ooh’s, the sound is richly rewarding, and there is some tasty lead guitar work by Boweevil too. Scorched Soul meets bluesy Americana, this is truly sumptuous, substantial and satisfying.
UNITY & ZEE ROCK FEAT. FARAI, HUSH & JAFFA – Twin Aunties
Searching Google for information about an artist with such a generic name when there are no links on their Soundcloud page is a challenge to say the least! Her Spotify profile reveals that Unity grew up in Mid-Wales and influences include The Beastie Boys, Kae Tempest and Taskforce. She is a founding member of the Ladies of Rage network and she is internationally renowned for her understanding and analysis of Hip Hop culture. She has played some cool gigs and festivals (including a support to Kae Tempest) and has contributed to a book about global HipHopography compiled by academics from South Africa and Hong Kong.
Twin Aunties kicks off with jazzy keyboard chords and a punchy beat before Unity introduces a rhythmically free-flowing rap. Soon male voices join the fray and we get some great doubling up, call and response and fantastic rapid rhyming phrases. The backdrop changes very little other than the beat sometimes dropping out, but it doesn’t need to do more when you have vocalists of such effortless ability keeping events moving. Positive, poetic and driven by a great energy, this is a thoroughly engaging piece of imaginative UK Hip Hop and a fitting finale to a fantastic Fresh Faves list.
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.