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The Cult of Dom Keller – The Second Bardo LP review — May 28, 2014

The Cult of Dom Keller – The Second Bardo LP review


The Cult of Dom Keller on twitter; Cardinal Fuzz on twitter

The Cult Of Dom Keller were formed in 2008 and this is their second LP.  It was released on 3rd March 2014 to coincide with their appearance at the heaviest and doomiest of all festivals –  Roadburn.  And it sold out on pre-orders. The good news is you don’t have too long to wait, a repress is due on 23rd June on Cardinal Fuzz (CFUL015) although I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it happened again. It is available from Cardinal Fuzz online shop 

The Cult of Dom Keller are described as ‘redefining the psychedelic band template’ and that is a good description. You can hear modern influences as diverse as ‘Seattle’ for want of a better term and indie guitar type sounds as well as a more traditional rock / blues influence too. But in a way, that sort of description kind of misses the point. Because the Cult of Dom Keller don’t need those limiting descriptions. They are a band who play with intensity and passion, creating great riffs and great grooves using killer guitar tones. And not just one, lots. There is often a contrast between the groove and intensity of the guitar parts which works really well, especially as they a modern sounding band yet still present a wide range of diverse influences in their sound.


Plague of All
This is a great opening track. It opens with a guitar riff which has somewhat of a western twang to it before the drums and very growly bass kick in. The vocals have a haunting sort of disembodied feel to them. It maintains a great groove throughout and returns to the riff to release built tension very nicely.


The Snake Keeps Changing
This track has a more laidback groove with killer guitar tone on the opening riff that provides a real intensity against the groove. Tension builds and releases through the track really well between riffs and solo parts.

Dead Seas
Another great vibe to this track, again tension builds and releases really well.

Into the Sky Volcano – Beyond Burning Skies
This track opens with some different almost ethnic sounds and with the vocals has a sort of eastern feel which gives way to a really intense riff. This track has an ethereal, dreamlike feel but the heavily distorted guitar tone and riffing give it a driving edge.

Heavy and Dead (demo version)
Starts with some great reverb on the drums followed by ethereal vocals which again give a dreamlike feel whilst the song is pushed along by very distorted guitar riffing.

This track raises the tempo and intensity somewhat. It has a great vibe and feel to it with a fairly simple riff and well created solo parts. It manages to suggest a wide range of influences from the 60s and 70s yet still sounds like a current track.

Ghost Bones
Great opening solo part, different again but still killer tone. Vocals again sound disembodied, great use of organ sounds.

The Second Bardo
Again opens with a great riff, building intensity through the track really well before releasing.

Killed in My Sleep
Track has a ‘twangy’ opening riff which suits it really well. Another track which has a laidback groove offset against distorted and intense guitar parts.

Think there isn’t a serious music app on Android? Think again – Caustic 3.1 — May 22, 2014

Think there isn’t a serious music app on Android? Think again – Caustic 3.1

Caustic has featured in several blog posts before but I’ve not blogged about it specifically.  Until now.

Caustic 3.1 was released at the weekend and introduces yet more features that mean if you haven’t considered Android as a bona fide music production platform you really should.  It’s also available on iOS.  There’s even a free windows version but this is not provided with any support.  If you’re not convinced, one thing that might sway you is that the software is free to try, the save and export functions are disabled but there is no time limit.  If you like what you see, and lets face it that will take all of about a minute, the unlock key is £5.99.

A massive amount of credit goes to Rej Poitier the developer.  He works tirelessly to improve the app, listening to user feedback and implementing frequent improvements.  There’s no confusing or excessive in-app purchases either.  Download the app, purchase the unlock key and you’re good to go.  Whilst you can download free and/or paid-for sample packs – some of which are very good – there are lots of free presets available from the forum.

In summary Caustic 3.1 brings AudioBus and virtual midi support for iOS; a brand new string modelling synth; machine routing; velocity drum pads; undo/redo; UI skins as well as a number of stability improvements.  The best way to see what’s new is via the ‘What’s New’ video:

I’d also recommend checking out the official youtube channel  for much better and detailed explanations of the various features than I can do justice to here.

In essence you’ve got 14 channels with 2 effect slots per channel; mixer console and master effects section.  You create patterns of 1, 2, 4 or 8 bars and arrange them into a song using the sequencer.  There are  9 synths plus a vocoder and a beatbox that can be used in any combination you like.  You can make pretty much any type of sound in these synths but if you need more you can load your own wavs into the PCM Synth (I do this a lot for sounds created in external VSTIs) or soundfonts too.  There are total of 16 effects that can be applied to the 2 effect slots on the individual machines; delay, reverb and EQ can be applied in the mixer and there are a further 2 effect slots that are applied universally in the master section.

Whilst Caustic comes with a very good range of presets, you can get more through free and paid packs, many are available but the EIPStudiosOhio packs on Google Play are excellent value for money and there are a number of free ones available.  Alternatively many are available for free from the forums.  You definitely should check the forums out, the user support is awesome, people are very friendly and freely offer help, advice, presets, tracks, tips and tricks.   They can be found here

It’s not just limited to one type of music either.  You can make almost any style of music.  A quick browse of the ‘show and tell’ section of the forums shows a lot of electronic styles such as ambient, industrial, minimal, experimental granted but a recent template produced by EIPStudiosOhio effectively provides you with a band setup – guitar, bass, natural sounding drums.






master effects

Dark Sounds EP (Pigfarm Recordings) review — May 9, 2014

Dark Sounds EP (Pigfarm Recordings) review


Pigfarm Recordings - Dark Sound - Dark Sound    Pigfarm Recordings - Dark Sound - Dark Sound Back    Pigfarm Recordings - Dark Sound - Pigfarm Disclaimer

Pigfarm Recordings is a collaborative enterprise represented by the performance centre at Falmouth University with the simple mission to produce, promote and showcase talent from their music courses but are also starting to showcase talent from the surrounding area.


Dark Sound EP on bandcamp (free download) :

If you really want to showcase a wide variety of styles and talent this is a brilliant way to do it. Creative use of elements from different styles to create songs without being typical of that style; very good arrangement and production; great playing and great vocals.  But not only that, there is a dark edge as you’d expect from the title and that helps to build the atmosphere and tension in a lot of the tracks, many of which have a bittersweet feeling of beauty tinged with sadness or melancholy.

Jamie Grimshaw –  Guilt

The track opens with a bit of a breakbeat / liquid Dubstep feel. When the vocals enter they are are not the typical processed style for this type of sound but they are very good and suit the song well. But then comes the drop which is totally unexpected and massive and the voice changes to one like you would hear in your head, well two actually, harmonised. Great groove. Lots of different elements blended together very well.

Abee Hague –  Now Breathe
This track starts out with a great sound effect like it’s going to be a massive dark ambient track but evolves with great percussion and vocals to a laid back groove.  The track has a great guitar solo too. There are quite a few different elements and the production is very good.  And I am slightly scared of Abee now.

Arthur Cunnington –  Loneliness Engine 
This track has a great arrangement of guitar, vocals, drums and bass. The vocals are great, telling the story really well. Guitar playing is very effective and well balanced against the other elements.  I don’t need to say much more other than it is a great track.

II – Let Go 
Very simple piano and vocal arrangement on this track but it is very effective with really good vocals and piano playing.  I really like the vocal harmonies.  It is a beautiful, if slightly haunting track.

Brano –  Interlude 
This is quite a short track so it’s hard to say too much about it apart from it is a great toned acoustic solo guitar piece.

Racquet –  Running 
Great electronic synth sounds and guitar in this track. Vocals are layered and harmonise well. There’s a kind of angst in the main female vocals. The track has a bit of an 80s feel. There is good tension building and release.

Colorless – time

This track has a great intro, vocals are kind of eerie and there’s a sense of not being quite sure where it’s going which adds a nice tension. But then an acoustic guitar part enters and the vocal ‘Ahs’ are well harmonised and work well against the vocals. The distorted guitar adds another layer of tension which works really well because it holds back from letting go completely which it kind of wants to do.

The Backhanders – Campfire & Down by the River (Double A side single) review — May 4, 2014

The Backhanders – Campfire & Down by the River (Double A side single) review


The Backhanders are a Manchester band consisting of Stephen Chadwick, Pete Clarke, Matty Owen and Ashley Taylor.


They formed 6 months ago and so have only played a handful of gigs but their first one at Academy 3 sold out within days and last month they supported Twisted Wheel at the Kraak Gallery sessions.  If you’ve seen them live already, I am slightly, no, quite jealous.

Local radio stations have also picked up on their early demo track ‘Memory Lane’ (including Terry Christian’s N.W.A. Show giving it regular airplay) and they’ve also made it on to John Robb’s list of bands to watch in 2014.  They’ve also been booked to appear on live streaming T.V. Show Vidzta which goes out on May 11th.  There are also some high profile gig dates due shortly and the band are supporting Sounds of The City at the Manchester Deaf Institute on June 21st. For more info on this gig:

This limited edition double A side (available from the email contact above) was recorded in Blueprint Studios and showcases their talents excellently.  What is so good is that considering how short the band have been together, this demonstrates a very mature sound.  Given the heritage of music in Manchester it would be very easy to rely on this sort of sound but they don’t. They have a developed sound and the more I listen to it, the more I can hear subtle influences from the likes of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton’s Bluesbreakers, Johnny Cash and even Creedence Clearwater Revival.  Of course this may be completely and utterly wrong but it goes to show how well developed their sound and songcraft is.

1. Campfire

The origins of this song are the stuff of legend.   It was inspired by and dedicated to Joe Strummer after the band received a photo album from Joe’s wife which included random lyrics underneath the photos.  With her permission, The Backhanders then added their own words to come up with ‘Campfire’.

There is such a brilliant opening to this track.  The track bursts forth with a sustained distorted chord straight into a riff accompanied by blues harp. We’re 5 seconds in and you can just tell something pretty special is happening.  At 10 seconds the bass kicks in and by 20 seconds there is a real groove.  The vocals sound effortless, at times are kind of laid back at other times more uptempo through some of the more spoken parts.  The track rounds off very nicely with a blues harp solo followed by a guitar solo.

2. Down by the river

This is a great contrast to Campfire and further highlights the talents of The Backhanders.  The track opens with a great jangly riff, establishing a great groove maintained throughout the track.  Vocals tell the story really well, again sometimes laid back and sometimes more urgent which really builds and releases tension.  The piano playing towards the end of the track suits it really well.  Bear in mind this track is 2:20 long yet manages to contain all the elements of a great song without feeling rushed or too short.

So in summary this is a brilliant showcase.  I think they have a very exciting year ahead and am sure that we’re going to be hearing a lot more of them in the very near future.

Triads revisited — May 2, 2014

Triads revisited

Over the course of my posts on music theory we’ve covered a lot of ground. This post takes it back to basics somewhat to explore triads in more detail.

Triads are the building blocks of most Western music.  But not only that, they’re also very versatile and for guitarists offer an excellent opportunity to explore the fretboard in a few different ways. This means they could help you out of a rut using chords in one position all of the time, for instance.

For now we’ll consider major and minor Triads. If we take a C major triad (C E G) as an example, we can play the triad as chords harmonically up and down the fretboard (audio here):

C major-page-0
You can of course use these shapes in different positions as the basis of chords by adding notes as required or layer them to produce a fuller sound.

Another way to use them would be to play the triad as an arpeggio across the fretboard (audio here):

c major arp-page-0

The same principles apply to the C minor triad (C Eb G).  The first example is to play the chords harmonically up and down the fretboard (audio here):

C minor-page-0

The C minor triad as an arpeggio across the fretboard (audio here):

c minor arp-page-0

Ideally you could work these out for all triads in all Keys to learn all the possible positions on the fretboard, you could do this chromatically or using the circle of fourths or fifths.