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Review of Stagdale EP by The Hardy Tree on Clay Pipe Music — February 26, 2020

Review of Stagdale EP by The Hardy Tree on Clay Pipe Music

This is a superb EP.  It’s mellow, warm and nostalgic with a hint of mystery and reflective qualities.

Stagdale is a graphic short story and soundtrack EP available as 250 limited edition flexi disk with download and 36 page booklet from Clay Pipe Music

Theme to Stagdale

An atmospheric flute type sound to open, subtle percussion and piano give momentum and the glitchy sections add a great change of feel. It gives the impression of a peaceful, gentle country village with an undercurrent that everything isn’t quite as it seems. 

In the Museum

Chime / Bell riff to open with an edge of tension from a drone. Bass and percussion give momentum. It’s a folk infused electronica song with a hint of mystery. 

After the Rain

Field recording of rain with synth and bass, it’s a slow groove with an edge of tension. The emerging melody and plucked string build into a more defined rhythm with subtle percussion. A reflective feel to the song. 

Klevgrand releases free public alpha of KRETS – build your own VST plugins. Experimentation encouraged and feedback welcomed! — February 13, 2020

Klevgrand releases free public alpha of KRETS – build your own VST plugins. Experimentation encouraged and feedback welcomed!

KRETS is a modular environment that can be used in any DAW compatible with the AudioUnit or VST format.

The application is based on a set of modules that can be connected in different ways, where focus is on low level audio DSP processing. There are (almost) no ready-made effects to hook into an audio stream, the purpose is for the user to create these more or less from scratch.

By combining mathematical expressions and functions (available as modules) a plethora of audio effects can be created, anything from a compression algorithm to generative soundscapes.

Although in an early development phase, Klevgrand would love if you would like to play with it. Maybe you’ll find a couple of bugs, maybe you’ll invent a killer distortion algorithm by accident. (true story: An accidental algorithm is actually the reason that Klevgrand started making plugins in the first place)

In order to use KRETSyou’ll need a Klevgrand account. It is very free and lightweight. You’ll also need a Internet connected computer to run it.

Note that KRETS is currently in a Public Alpha version, meaning two things:

  1. A lot of things may change, including functions, graphics & other features.
  2. Anything created with Krets may be lost or broken in upcoming releases.

Knowing and understanding this, you’re invited to try it out yourself!

WARNING!

When working with signal generators and complex signal paths, there is always risk for unintentional high level audio signals. It may very well damage your hearing if things go wrong. Make sure to turn down the volume if you’re unsure about what an interaction may result in.

Further information is available from the dedicated KRETS webpage

Review of Lupin Fear EP by Letters from Mouse — February 11, 2020

Review of Lupin Fear EP by Letters from Mouse


This is an excellent EP, the original song and two remixes all have a distinctive sound that’s really difficult to classify. 

At it’s heart it’s electronic with ambient, IDM and sci-fi vibes amongst others. It’s very atmospheric, an edge of tension and a dystopian, sinister feel at times too. 

Lupin Fear

An Ambient synth track with a chilled vibe from swirling pad, superb bassline, synth lead line and drumming. The public service announcement quote leads to a darker feel returning to the original vibe.

Lupin Fear (Chaos Studio remix)

This remix has a more upbeat feel from the arp, excellent synth sounds too. It has really good changes on feel.  The field record of children playing gives it a sinister edge. 

Lupin Fear (Greg Blades remix)

Atmospheric opening from birds, synth sounds which have great movement and pad sound, drums and bass enter to give momentum. Change in feel adds tension, resolved by a release to an ambient vibe with an edge of tension. 

Review of Bowie’s Books – The Hundred Literary Figures Who Changed His Life by John O’Connell published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) — February 8, 2020

Review of Bowie’s Books – The Hundred Literary Figures Who Changed His Life by John O’Connell published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ)

Many thanks to Bloomsbury for providing an ARC for review via Netgalley.

It might seem strange that I’ve chosen to read and review this book when I’m not particularly a big Bowie fan. That said, growing up in Britain during the 80’s meant I was never too far from a Bowie song or film and it’s testament to his artistic genius that without being a huge fan, I know a lot of his music and admire his ability to change and adapt to different styles. 

This book seemed the perfect opportunity to read more about the influences behind his creativity which is always interesting to read as a musician and recording artist myself. 

The author has pulled off something of a minor miracle.  It’s a hugely enjoyable and thought provoking read.  Bowie left us with one hell of an impressive list, containing an huge diversity of subjects from classic literature, occult, history, satire, science fiction, art and music.  They helped me learn and understand a lot more about different parts of his career.  I found it fascinating that I have read a few and own some others and they had a similar impact on my thoughts and world view albeit in a more personal and insular way.  

It’s important to remember that this list of books are the 100 that influenced Bowie the most, rather than being his favourites.  Some entries such as The Beano, Viz and Private Eye might seem strange choices but when you think about it, a comic such as The Beano would have had a huge influence on its readers at a young age.  I remember discovering Viz as a 17 year old and was instantly addicted, the outrageous characters and toilet humour left a lasting impression.  The same can be said of Private Eye, such a satirical view of current affairs and public figures can be quite a revelation.

Other titles on the list are maybe more expected such as A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess), Inferno (Dante), The Iliad (Homer) and 1984 (George Orwell), whilst others are likely to be much less known such as Berlin Alexanderplatz (Alfred Doblin), As I Lay Dying (William Faulkner) and Passing (Nella Larsen).  

It’s a massive achievement to review 100 books, outlining some of the history and linking them to different parts of Bowie’s career.  Each review is concise, thorough and very well balanced and if there’s a book that you really want to read but don’t want to spoil the experience by reading a summary beforehand then you can always skip that particular review and save the book for your own judgement.  What’s really good is that following each review there are ‘read it while listening to’ and ‘if you like this try’ suggestions that help you explore different aspects of Bowie’s music and suggestions for other books that you might also like to read. 

After reading the book I’ve subsequently re-read Kerouac’s On The Road after some considerable time and dug out a couple of others that I’ve not read for a while.  I also now have a fairly long reading list, a lot of these have captured my imagination, especially ones about Germany, some post-modern literature and there are a number of new authors to discover. I suspect some will be difficult to find.  Now where’s the nearest secondhand book shop?  

Review of Welcome to Beet Knife! A Compilation Album — February 4, 2020

Review of Welcome to Beet Knife! A Compilation Album

A brilliant introduction to Beet Knife, a varied collection of songs highlighting the talent of this new label.

From upfront and intense to acoustic, ambient and shoegaze these six songs are excellently crafted creating a range of vibes – edgy, laid back, mesmeric, haunting – and I’m really looking forward to future releases. 

Suck City – Talk

Intense sound from drumming, bass, guitar chords and riff, tension builds through the song with vocals adding a great edge. 

First Responders – The Ballad the Sugar Mama

A western / surf guitar feel to this song, an epic tale with an edgy vibe with great changes in feel, like chapters of a story. Don’t mess with the sugar mama! 

Mosquito Boy – Inside the Moon

Atmospheric, ambient sound from a field recording of insects and twinkly riff, great change of feel to a jazzy / lofi hip hop groove. 

Common Law – Missoula

Slow guitar riff, huge sounding guitar chords from delay / reverb and beautiful vocals create a slow groove with a haunting feel. 

Moss Jaw – Shy Skin

A shoegaze feel with drumming, bass and reverb soaked guitar chords, vocals are floaty and dreamy, great contrast and edge with the distorted sound. 

Soft Shell – Thorn

Slow strummed chords and subdued vocals, harmonics lead into a more defined rhythm. A superb arrangement. 

Review of Help Yourself by BBGuns on Crafted Sounds — February 3, 2020

Review of Help Yourself by BBGuns on Crafted Sounds

An awesome vibe to this album, it’s the sweet spot between lo-fi, old school hip hop, indie and dance. It’s what I loved listening to growing up in the 80s but without the Internet and living in small town England, it was really hard to find and if you did manage, everyone thought you were weird. 

It’s a funky uptempo opening with singalong qualities that reels you in and keeps you hooked through the album. Excellent grooves, laid back and more intense and reflective moments it’s a superb album. 

Valley

Uptempo groove to open, a funky upbeat vibe with great contrast between vocals and rap parts. Superbly catchy with singalong qualities, a great opening to the album. 

Stanley

More of an edgy sound to this one, bassline, drum pattern, keys and vocals that have a great edge. It’s a solid indie vibe complimented by the rap part. 

Honey

Distorted guitar, sound effects and background vocals create a psych kind of vibe with a solid groove, excellent vocals again. Really like the change in feel between rap, stripped back parts and full groove. 

Backspace

Funky groove leading into drum machine pattern, vocals have an edge contrasting against the laid back groove and keys. Subtle building of tension through the song. 

Rose Gold ft. Shay Park

An Eastern feel to the opening, it’s a looping riff with drum pattern and vocals that create a laid back vibe with an edge. 

Visions

A lofi hip hop groove contrasting between sung and rapped parts. Propelled by drumming and bass, there’s a looping quality to the riff. 

One Piece

Superb upbeat vibe to this song, a contrast between rapping and house type chords and an indie dance vibe creates a foot tapping groove with singalong qualities. 

Cell

Choppy, looping drum pattern accompanied by rapping and jazzy stab chords, it’s an intense sound with subtle releases of tension. 

Xanadu

Superb vibe to this song, it’s really hard to describe, a funky guitar riff, a looping riff with a bell / xylophone sound and rapping are contrasted against with female vocals and acoustic guitar parts. 

Magik

This has a kind of 60s laid back pop feel contrasting against with rapping in a kind of call and response feel. 

Blister ft Hubbs & Moemaw Naedon

A more intense feel to this one, looping riff creates a brooding quality, rapping adds a tension with nice changes in feel. A foot tapping groove with an indie vibe to finish. 

Review of Buck II: Where Do You Want it? by Buck Young on No Rent Records — February 1, 2020

Review of Buck II: Where Do You Want it? by Buck Young on No Rent Records

This is an excellent album, it feels like a ride across America through deserts, small town drunken episodes and a return to the wild west.

There’s an ambience to the album but also an uneasy feel from choppy, looping elements that often have a glitched or broken feel. 

Woke Up In Reno

An edgy opening from looping riff and chords, glitchy background sounds add a great element, really harsh at times. If that’s what’s it’s like to wake up in Reno, not sure I want to go. 

Heist (Barrel Tonk for Nancarrow)

A scene from a western with a gunfight, staccato, choppy looping piano riff and glitch for good measure.

Stop Motion Mississippi

Slide guitar riff with looping piano chord, there’s a great contrast between the laid back ambience of the guitar and urgency of the piano chord. Excellent use of loopers and nice return to a glitchy loop of ‘Heist’ and what sounds like a quote from a film. 

Twister

Growly bass rumble to open, birds and continuation of ‘Heist’ / film loop interspersed with extreme noise / distortion. 

It Is What It Is (Incorporated)

Slide guitar riff, it has looping and detuned qualities that are used to create almost rhythmic elements. An excellent contrast to Twister. 

Quiet on the Frontier

A looping slide guitar riff with pauses to create rhythmic elements and detuning  creating an edgy feel that contrasts with a superb sounding slide riff. 

Ballad of Bruce McClain

It’s a superb arrangement of slightly over driven guitar playing western infused bass / chords / riff with harmonised vocals telling an excellent small town tale. Beware the whisky. 

Reclusive Kingdom

A looping, choppy guitar riff leads into a clean loop, similarly processed.  It’s a theme through the song with various processing. 

Long Distance Phone Call

An acoustic country song with superb harmonies, it’s a tale about a break up and the subsequent drunken phone call. 

Sonoma

A broken, choppy riff, looping qualities and an ambience that’s quite unsettling. 

Scorpion

A distorted riff with looping qualities, layered sounds give a captivating ambience yet equally it’s unsettling and edgy with a haunting and trippy feel to a welcomed, slow release. 

Bell Jar of Whisky

A lonesome vibe to this song with acoustic guitar and vocals that have a huge presence at times. It’s a drunken tale of heartache and despair. 

Gunslinger’s Lurk

A field recording of someone outside, an unspecified location but you hear insects, dogs and presumably the gunslinger preparing for something, leading into a looping radio type of broadcast. It creates an anticipation, a sense of foreboding. 

Where Do You Want It

Slide guitar with a glitchy, edgy, looping feel accompanied by a narration, sounds like a conversation you’d hear in a film, it’s really unsettling. 

O’er The Years

Full sounding slide guitar riffs give an ambience with an edge of tension and a cautious optimism.