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Review of Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop EP by The Mantells — February 23, 2016

Review of Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop EP by The Mantells

The Mantells are a 3 piece Indie band from Manchester comprising of Tom Barrow (Vocals/Guitar), Dale Moran (Backing Vocals/Bass) and Lewis Moran (Backing Vocals/Drums).

A couple of their previous singles have been featured on my blog – ‘Men in Suits’ as a video of the week back in December 2014 and ‘Payday Playboys’ was reviewed in May last year.

Since then they’ve been hard at work playing numerous gigs and featuring in Mike Staniforth’s film The Music Factory.   The question : “How far can an unsigned band get in 17 weeks? Manchester’s 3 piece indie band, The Mantells, were challenged to write, record, market and release a song with the aim of getting it into the Christmas Top 100 chart. 17 weeks is the average run time of musical reality TV shows where someone can go from an unknown to the Christmas number 1 and National fame. Featuring original music by The Mantells and interviews with Dutch Uncles, Blossoms, Augustines, The View and many more”.  You can read about the making of the film on  Mike Staniforth’s blog and also watch the film for free.

 
As if that wasn’t busy enough, they’ve also somehow had time to record their ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop’ EP. And it’s a brilliant release with 4 excellent songs, each of which has a really solid sound featuring great riffing, tight knit rhythms and excellent vocals.

Stop to Think
A great opening to the EP, an excellent opening riff over a brooding chord sets the scene really well. The drumming and bass give a great momentum. The vocals are excellent with a great energy and passion. The riff has surf / western qualities at times and there’s a great sing along quality to the chorus.

Human Touch
A great uptempo opening from the drumming and bass complemented by another great riff, the song evolves a great sound with excellent vocals again. There’s a brooding quality to the verses and a really nice change to more of a chord vamp feel in the chorus which also has a great sing along quality.

Sunshine
Has a really cool jangly acoustic opening, leading into an excellent strummed riff with a wicked call and response feel to the bass in the verses and great use of a chromatic chord run in the chorus. The vocals are superb again and I can definitely see this becoming a very popular live song.

Such A Shame
A great jangly riff to open, the song has a great momentum from drumming and bass and a kind of longing feel. There’s a really nice change in feel to a more distorted riff in the verses with the sound opening up again in the chorus. There’s a great momentum to this song which has anthemic qualities, some great harmonies and a solo too. This will no doubt also become a very popular live song.

The EP is available from a number of digital outlets including iTunesSpotify and Amazon and you can also see The Mantells live at a number of  upcoming EP shows which are detailed below:

MantellsEPShows

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Review of ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ compilation on Factory Fast Records — February 17, 2016

Review of ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ compilation on Factory Fast Records

 
This is a great compilation with a range of different styles from acoustic, grunge and stoner to prog rock. I really like how the songs are quite hard to categorise because it means that each artist has their own sound and they each bring a great energy and vibe to this compilation, an excellent mix of atmospheric openings, grunge riffing, uptempo chord vamps and an edge of angst at times too.

Room1Fourteen – Living in Dreams
A great atmospheric opening, I really like the piano and guitar riff combination. The song has a great momentum, the vocals give a feeling of angst and longing. There’s a cool solo too.

The Mad Sugars – Match Maker
A great uptempo vibe from the opening guitar chord vamp with solid bass and drumming propelling the song along. There’s some great vocal harmonies and a great solo too.

BisonSound – Sweet Tooth
A great distorted chord riff to open, the bass and drumming enter to give a kind of brooding quality. The song has a grunge vibe, vocals are more spoken which suits the style of the song really well. Some nice changes in feel too.

Anti – Taillights Fading
Opens with a sound like tuning a radio in leading into a stoner type of vibe with an excellent riff backed by solid drumming and bass. The vocals are great, a nice change in style to a more urgent feel in the chorus. There’s a great release to a laid back vibe which has an improvised kind of feel which builds tension to a final verse and release.

The Insufferables – Happy Now
The song has a bass riff to open with excellent spoken vocals. A great riff enters followed by a distorted chord riff and drumming to give momentum. There’s some good harmonies too. The lyrics are really sarcastic, they’re excellent and the vocals tell a great story with a simmering tension at times. There’s some really nice rock and roll soloing too.

The Harrison Brothers – Luminar
A great riff and strummed chords to open, it has a kind of celtic feel. I really like the arrangement, the guitar playing is excellent and the vocals are great too. There’s a nice change in feel to a more uptempo sound with drumming and distorted riff. The song has a kind of classic / prog rock feel.

Jude – Talk to Me
A great jangly trem riff to open, the song has a great momentum from bass and drumming. The vocals have a great angst to them which provides a great contrast against the more upbeat jangly guitar.

Factory Fast Records website
Factory Fast on twitter
Factory Fast on facebook

Room1Fourteen on facebook
Room1Fourteen on twitter

The Mad Sugars website
The Mad Sugars on twitter

BisonSound twitter

Anti on soundcloud
Anti on twitter

The Insufferables website
The Insufferables on twitter

The Harrison Brothers on soundcloud
The Harrison Brothers on twitter

Jude website
Jude on twitter

Review of ‘My Spirit Animal is a Goth Teenager’ by Owlbinos of Northfield on Romeda Records — February 16, 2016

Review of ‘My Spirit Animal is a Goth Teenager’ by Owlbinos of Northfield on Romeda Records

 
This is an outstanding album, the vibe is somewhere between ambient and drone with dreamlike qualities yet also with an edge of tension at times too. It’s quite hypnotic, like a daydream at times. I really like the way that field recordings (or spoken samples) sit really low in the mix giving the effect of a distant conversation that’s just about audible but you can’t really hear it properly.

The production is brilliant, great attention has been paid to the crafting and layering of sounds and at times there are sounds like artifacts from switching effects on and off for instance which really add to the feel, tending to grab your attention just for that split second making you wonder where you are before slipping back into your daydream again. It’s also one of those releases that the more you listen to it, the more you hear.

The primary release format is a limited edition high quality tangerine cassette, each side of the cassette is presented in a blended format.   The cassette comes in a card slipcase featuring artwork by Concrete Belly. Also included is an art-card featuring another Concrete Belly design and track-list details and info to the reverse, plus 2 Owlbinos badges and an exclusive ‘she always explodes’ postcard (each pack contains a different postcard!).

If that’s not enough, it’s sealed in a silver semi-translucent anti-static bag with stickers to the front and rear. The rear sticker features a scan-able QR code that accesses an exclusive to the cassette only Owlbinos bonus track ‘Dolphin Vomit’ to download or stream.  At the time of writing there are only 6 cassettes left so you’d better be quick!

A digital version is also available with the tape comprising of tracks 1 – 6 for side A and tracks 7 – 12 for side B.

U.T.M.N.I.D.B
A great evolving opening, I really like the pad type sound and vocal sample which sits really low in the background giving the effect of hearing a distant conversation. There’s excellent movement in the sound with an emerging bell type of synth sound and great use of delay. The emerging drone gives a great edge of tension and nice change in feel with some really well layered background sounds too.

Mike E Scum Must Die
Another great evolving opening, there’s an urgency to the pulsing synth sound and a background sample that sounds like a distant voice. There’s great looping and use of delay too. The bass drone adds a great tension against the more free flowing delayed sounds. There’s just a hint of a beat in the background.

Commute Shredder
Another great evolving opening with a swirling pad type sound layered over a field recording containing birds. The bass is quite harsh in comparison giving a great contrast. Really good use of looping elements and delay again. The heavily distorted sound is a great contrasting element too.

Hugging a Ghost (feat. Great Raven)
There’s an edgy quality to the opening synth and some great delayed background sounds. The vocals are excellent and have a real ethereal feel. Again there’s a great ambience contrasted with more edgy sounds.

Spirit Elderflower
This has an almost choir like feeling to the opening with excellent looping and use of delay. A brilliant soundscape.

He’s Magic and You’re Not
Great layering of percussive type sounds against a synth sound, a really hypnotic soundscape.

He’ll Get His Skeleton
The bass drone gives an edge of tension and a synth sound is really subtle, kind of weaving around the bass gaining prominence. There’s a great tension to the song, the background sounds are subtle and masterfully layered.

Halloween Debris
A synth drone and background looping sound (a cough?) with great use of delay give a great momentum to the song. A nice evolution with a great ending.

How Can Someone Who Wears So Much Orange Be So Dead Inside
I really like the gnarly distorted tone, it gives a great edge of tension. The background sounds are processed and layered really well.

You Have To Be Nice
The song opens with an atmospheric synth contrasted with a harsher drone type of sound. Again, there are excellently layered background sounds and great use of looping / delay to create an excellent soundscape.

Swim Meat
A slightly edgy emerging synth sound with a subtle percussive rhythm creates another great soundscape. There’s a glitchy feel at times, a great tension and contrast between the harsher and more ambient elements.

She Always Explodes
There’s great movement in the opening drone which has a nice edge of tension contrasting against the emerging synth sound. There’s almost an organic / mechanical feel to the contrasting sounds which works really well.

Romeda Records
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Owlbinos of Northfield
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Review of ‘It Was Nothing’ single by Meter Bridge on WEATNU Records — February 12, 2016

Review of ‘It Was Nothing’ single by Meter Bridge on WEATNU Records

 

Meter Bridge are a synthwave duo based in Nelson, Canada.  They have been playing together since 2011, gathering an enthusiastic following amongst music aficionados and lovers of classic and contemporary synthpop. In 2014, they released their eponymous debut EP followed by the ‘Slow Motion’ LP in 2015, both of them drawing significant attention on the electronica scene internationally and landing them in numerous ‘Best of’ lists in each of these years.

It Was Nothing is their latest single released on WEATNU Records today (12th February) as a free download. The B-side for this single features a remix by Rodney Cromwell, whose debut ‘Age of Anxiety’ LP (2015, Happy Robots Records) introduced electronic pop lovers to some epic retro future synth music. Hailing from Catford in South London, Rodney Cromwell is the project of Adam Cresswell, former main-man of John Peel favourites Saloon and the critically acclaimed Arthur & Martha.

Both Meter Bridge and Rodney Cromwell will be playing events occurring through the Electro London Festival. Rodney Cromwell played the Electro London concert at Electrowerkz on January 30th with Massive Ego, The Department, Johnny Normal and DJ Rob Harvey (Synth City). Meter Bridge will be playing the Electro London Festival on September 10, 2016 with Wolfgang Flür (ex-Kraftwerk), Shiny Darkness and others.

I’m a big fan of Meter Bridge and this is another excellent release from them. It has an excellent vibe, superb vocal harmonies and great synth sounds. The production is also excellent through layering and use of contrasting/complimenting sounds. I’d highly recommend checking out their previous releases which I’ve also reviewed – their debut EP and Slow Motion album.

It Was Nothing
A brilliantly atmospheric opening from a swirling synth sound and bass, the drum pattern has an edge to the sound which gives a great contrast and these are joined by excellently layered background sounds and a delayed arp. The vocals are superb, brilliant harmonies with great use of delay at times. The song is “about a public figure spreading lies that play on peoples’ heartstrings… for the purpose of getting millions of people supporting a false agenda” and the vocals reflect this kind of attitude brilliantly having a coldness, a kind of detachment to them. I really like the arrangement which creates a great vibe to the song with contrasting elements of ambience at times and a harsher edgier sound at others.

It Was Nothing (Rodney Cromwell Mix)
This is a great remix, it’s more uptempo than the original with a great opening synth riff, the drum pattern and bass arp give a great momentum. Again there’s great layering of background sounds which have great variety and movement in the sound. I really like the way that Rodney has retained the character of the original song yet has masterfully created a different vibe.

Keep up with Meter Bridge
Facebook | Soundcloud | Twitter | Website | Youtube | Bandcamp | iTunes

Keep up with Rodney Cromwell / Happy Robot Records
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Keep up with Shameless Promotion PR
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Review of Hologram Teen single Post Apocalypteacakes / Tracksuit Minotaur on Deep Distance — February 8, 2016

Review of Hologram Teen single Post Apocalypteacakes / Tracksuit Minotaur on Deep Distance

Hologram Teen has released a 2-track single on 7″ vinyl via London’s Deep Distance label. This is the solo electronic music project of Morgane Lhote, whose music can be described as ‘motorik disco’. This project was born in 2012 after a lengthy and colourful career in numerous other bands, including seminal band Stereolab.

The 2-track single has been released on a small London label called Deep Distance, the sister imprint of Great Pop Supplement. The first of these is more focused on releases in the kosmische / kraut / synth genres. Both labels are lovingly run from the corner of a Crouch-End kitchen and can proudly boast sold out back catalogues of stubbornly vinyl only releases. Great Pop Supplement is more known for its roster, which features Spacemen 3, Spectrum, Still Corners, Dean & Britta, Wooden Shjips, Damon & Naomi, The Soundcarriers, and more recently Eat Lights Become Lights.

To date, Deep Distance has released works by Expo 70, Colin Potter (Nurse With Wound), Cavern of Anti-Matter (the new project of Stereolab’s Tim Gane), XAM (new project of Hookworms’ Matthew Benn), Umberto, and Cosmic Ground.

Both tracks were written by Morgane Lhote and produced by Richard Bennett. ‘Post-Apocalypteacakes’ was mixed by Robert Fullum and mastered by Adam Gonsalves at Telegraph. ‘Tracksuit Minotaur’ was also mixed by Rich Bennett, and mastered by Justin Colletti, artwork by Alex Smith.

In the UK, the Hologram Teen 7″ vinyl is available through Norman Records, Rough Trade, Piccadilly Records, Hey Day Mailorder, Resident Records, and Covers33music online. In the EU, it is available through Clear Spot Distribution, Tommes Schallplatten, HHV Mailorder and Hafenschlammrecords, among others. Worldwide, it is also available directly from Deep Distance via email.

 

This is a great release, the songs are excellently arranged and produced with great use of contrasting or different elements. This gives them an eclectic feel but saying that they also have a great coherency and flow.

Postapocalypteacakes
There’s a kind of brooding feel to the opening bassline leading into ethereal vocals then an edgy synth sound and background arp. There’s great changes in feel and momentum with variation in drumming patterns, arps and vocals. It has quite an eclectic sound with excellent arrangement and production.

Tracksuit Minotaur
This song has a great bass arp to open against a 4:4 kick rhythm with contrasting drumming patterns with a more breakbeat feel. There’s great layering of sounds and use of different elements. The synth gives an edge to the song and there’s a great solo with layered background sounds. I really like the use of Vocoder on the vocals too.

Keep up with Hologram Teen
Facebook | Soundcloud | Twitter | Mixcloud

Keep up with Great Pop Supplement / Deep Distance
Facebook | Website

Keep up with Shameless Promotion PR
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Cities and Memory Dada Sounds project launch (5th Feb) — February 5, 2016

Cities and Memory Dada Sounds project launch (5th Feb)

05 February 2016 marks 100 years since the founding of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, and thus the beginning of Dada.

To mark the occasion, Cities and Memory: Dada Sounds marks a century of Dadaism by applying the techniques and practices of Dada to field recordings from around the world, bringing a Dadaist approach to the concepts of sound, place and memory and creating a new, Dada-inspired sound world.

The project has received contributions from 77 sound artists from all over the world using sounds recorded in 28 countries including some iconic Dada locations like Berlin, Paris and even the doorstep of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich.

The sounds use a huge range of Dada-inspired techniques to reimagine the sounds, from collage and abstraction to sound poetry and pieces based around the lives and experiences of some of the key figures of Dada.

Examples of techniques and approaches include:

  • Introduction of extinct languages including Ubykh, ancient Assyrian and Gothic;
  • Reimagining sounds using specially-made Intonamuri machines;
  • How to Make a Dadaist Field Recording – a rewriting of Tristan Tzara’s method How to Make a Dadaist Poem;
  • Multiple sound poems, written by artists themselves or drawn from Dadaist history;
  • Pieces bases around the work and lives of key Dada figures including Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Kurt Schwitters and Francis Picabia;
  • Pieces inspired by Orson Welles, David Bowie, Duke Ellington and myriad other sources.

This is one such entry, San Bartolo Dada Sound poem, created by Alan Dunn and Jeff Young. “These are the century year old ghosts of Kurt Schwitter’s sound recordings. DUNN + YOUNG are Liverpool-based artists with a large archive of voice recordings and these minute-long compositions, layered over four Cities and Memories field recordings, feature frail voices, those isolated by society or left damaged by military experiments with LSD. Two tracks have been exclusively mixed for the Dada sounds project by Liverpool-based artist Martin Heslop.”

I’d highly recommend visiting the Cities and Memory: Dada Sounds website which has further details, a fully interactive sound map and a complete playlist too.

I’m delighted to be a part of this project, it’s funny because I’ve realised that I tend use a lot of these sort of techniques without knowing their origins.

The intention with this entry was to focus on a couple of techniques, namely chance and collage. I really like the collage or ‘cut up’ approach to field recordings. They are a snapshot in time which makes them unique and interesting to work with anyway. However, using this technique offers new insights by making the recording non-linear and stepping outside of time almost. The element of chance is also intriguing, it can provide movement in sound and create patterns you wouldn’t otherwise use but there’s always the inherent risk of dissonance or sounds that don’t go well together.

In this song I’ve used chance for the drums, bassline and pad sounds. The drums are generated by ‘groove physics’. This is a box containing 8 balls which are assigned a drum sample. You set the speed of rotation and duration of sample and each time they collide or hit a wall the sample is triggered. The bassline is constructed from a midi sequencer with random pattern generation and there’s a pad sound created using a midi randomator.

A drone was created using a micro loop from the sample with automation on the speed / grain settings to give some movement and variation.

There’s a synth playing a chord which has a ring modulator effect automated by physics which gives great movement in sound from the chord itself to a distorted, bitcrushed sound at times.

I’ve also used collage on the sample with ‘groove matrix’. I loaded 4 instances of the sample and set loop points. I’ve then used a random sequencer to control how they are triggered and altered loop set points, pitch and sequence parameters during the recording to give different perspectives on the sample. There’s also a tape stop effect on the drums in certain places.

I created the song in Usine Hollyhock II DAW which facilities this type of sound manipulation making the process really easy. It contains a lot of sound manipulation tools and effects like granulators, delays, ring mods with easy automation of controls. It’s a modular system so you can create your own patches and routing with virtually unlimited possibilities. It’s primarily aimed at live performance so it copes very well with changing settings with no degradation in the sound, even for maths intensive operations like granulators and delays.

If you’re interested and would like to join in, Cities and Memory welcome submissions either as part of projects like this one or alternatively you can submit reimagined sounds of your own or from their collection. Full details can be found on their website.

Cities and Memory on facebook
Cities and Memory on twitter
Cities and Memory on bandcamp

Review of ‘Odds are Stacked’ single by Campbell L Sangster on Higuera Records — February 3, 2016

Review of ‘Odds are Stacked’ single by Campbell L Sangster on Higuera Records

Campbell L. Sangster is the new musical identity of the London-based singer/songwriter Lin Sangster who’s former bands include Send No Flowers, Kit and Bad Anorak 404.

Odds are Stacked
The song has a great acoustic opening with soulful vocals leading into a more urgent rhythm with a nice release of tension into the chorus. The sound is really hard to describe, somewhere between folk, singer-songwriter and western. The vocals are superb throughout and the arrangement of the song is excellent too, there’s some subtle layering and a natural organic sound with haunting qualities.

Lil Sis
The song opens with a strummed acoustic riff which works really well against the bass creating a great momentum. The vocals are excellent again, really soulful with an edge of tension telling a great story. Again the sound is hard to describe, somewhere between folk and singer songwriter. Another excellent arrangement.

Campbell L Sangster on facebook
Campbell L Sangster on twitter

Blue Soap Music website
Blue Soap Music on facebook
Blue Soap Music on twitter

Higuera Records website
Higuera Records on facebook