experimental, Folk, Singer-songwriter

From Leeds to Tokyo – A Harpists Tale

A beautiful soundscape that takes you on a real trip through time and the imagination, Julia Mascetti’s In Bloom is an auditory treat full of intrigue and mystery from beginning to end.

Listen to a live version of her track In Bloom here:

Combining everything she learnt as a music student in Leeds with her more recent experiences living in Tokyo, the song is a real mish-mash of culture and atmosphere that is a treat to listen to. For fans of Kate BushMarina & The Diamonds and Joanna Newsom, the track builds in a theatrical, clever way, creating a haunting, spidery atmosphere that wouldn’t be out of place in a grainy, art house film. Her use of traditional, Japanese sound to decorate the mix is also really effective and has you listening to every second trying to work out what exactly it is that’s going on!

The end result though is something that is truly unique, emotive and haunting and showcases the storytelling of someone who truly loves and respects their craft

Keep up with Julia’s journey here:

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/juliamascetti

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliamascetti

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JuliaMascetti

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/juliamascetti

Website: https://tokyoharp.blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Folk, Singer-songwriter

Cholesterol Jones- “Satan’s in Heaven” Review

In all the hopelessly optimistic discussions about a revival of punk in the Trump era, it seems unlikely that anyone envisioned the most likeable and gently funny protest music thus far emerging from the mouth of a nonplussed folk singer named Cholesterol Jones. Over a pleasant, inoffensive and largely acoustic backing reminiscent of late-period R.E.M. or a pasteurised Sufjan Stevens, Jones voices his discontent with the current regime and whatever else crosses his mind with benign understatement.

Vocally, Jones resembles Mr Harvey from down the street singing in church. There is a little of Moby in the flat drabness of his vocals, but here it lends a laconic, bemused wryness to his indictments of the stop-the-ride-I-want-to-get-off surrealism of modern politics. Even the title track, whose title feels glaringly direct, is perhaps the only political diatribe to open, rather wonderfully, “You have got a droopy face”.

Emerging far closer to the offbeat poptimism of They Might Be Giants than the snarled rancour of punk, the childlike, Daniel Johnston-esque simplicity of Jones’ lyrics itself becomes a source of placid humour throughout the E.P., with “You are fun and lovely, I’d like to know your name” on “Bradford Street” standing out as particularly, almost antagonistically, banal. Although the more forthright title track was released as the single, the true standout here is “The River Styx”, which ebbs with a soft melancholy, evoking the more thoughtful moments of Pavement or Wire. Rest assured, this isn’t your father’s protest music, but it may well be your grandfather’s protest music. However, for all its almost glacial placidity, there is a warmly endearing realism to “Satan’s in Heaven” that will win over the layman far more effectively than any 2-minute power chord tirade. CO

C+

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Classical, Rock, Singer-songwriter

Natalie Kocab/Michaela Poláková- “Ellis Island” Review

The gateway for 12 million immigrants into the United States, the symbolic potency of New York’s Ellis Island is instantly, powerfully applicable to Natalie Kocab and Michaela Poláková’s album of the same name. In its fusion of Poláková’s classical kudos and Kocab’s writerly grit, “Ellis Island” plausibly bridges rock and classical, as well as the pair’s native Czech Republic and the USA, with a svelte elegance, without ever resorting to proggy indulgence and 9-minute organ solos.

However, despite its titular evocation of the American dream and blustery, bohemian New York, “Ellis Island” keeps one foot in the austere European arthouse. It is a resolutely icy and sombre album, shepherded by the taciturn, steely gravitas of Kocab’s voice and the insidious seep of Poláková’s string arrangements. “Underwater” opens the album with oozing peripheral-vision dread: Kocab’s whisper of “I’m the fish you cannot catch” over distant peals of guitar and muted piano, before “Ellis Island” fountains into the grand, cataclysmic “Kiev”.

Vaguely reminiscent of Savages or Autechre in its frosty curtness, “Ellis Island” thunders impassively into the gothic waltz of “I Am The End” or the crackling “Feeling Falls”. “These Years”, both musically and lyrically, bears a strong resemblance to Kate Bush’s album “50 Words for Snow” in its flinty, glacial solemnity. However, this oppressive coldness forces the album’s blushes of warm, opulent orchestration into greater contrast. The velvety reverb of “Social Affair” a is startling foray into spacious atmospherics, and there are hints of late-period Radiohead in the sweeping fluidity of “Zadnej Kod”.

The most remarkable achievement of “Ellis Island” is its almost miraculous ability to brave the inevitable discontinuities and divisions of the collaborative project scot-free, emerging as a remarkably contiguous and cohesive work. Notably, “Carry On” is marked by the superb integration of Poláková’s strings into an up-tempo rock song, not as some ornamental afterthought but as the track’s core melodic framework. The compatibility of the pair is hammered home on the taut, weighty balladry of the title track and its deft interplay of Poláková’s swelling arrangement and the stark mournfulness of Kocab’s vocals.

Although the murky chill of “Ellis Island” is not immediately inviting, it succeeds whether viewed as the interpolation of classical elements into a rock album or vice versa. The seams here are surprisingly invisible for a collaborative work, and both parties emerge with their credibility intact. As document of this collaboration, “Ellis Island” is an imposingly spartan and desolate album, but one that is also at times stirringly beautiful in its bleakness. CO

A

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omx-6V6hbk8&feature=youtu.be

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Singer-songwriter

Benjamin Clementine- “I Tell a Fly” Review

Of all past recipients of the Mercury Prize, Benjamin Clementine possesses perhaps the most intriguing and improbable life story. A Londoner who sojourned to Paris at 19 and wound up staying for several years, sleeping on the streets and cultivating a cult following in the Parisian music scene, his 2015 debut “At Least for Now” netted him the Mercury and critical adoration, if not serious commercial viability. Despite flirtations with the musical mainstream—notably, a guest appearance on the recent Gorillaz album—“I Tell a Fly” ultimately hauls him further out onto the peripheries. Rooted in a startling description of Clementine on a visa as “an alien of extraordinary abilities”, “I Tell a Fly” sieves narratives of unease through a grandly and eccentrically mannered musical backdrop, somewhere between baroque and Broadway. As Clementine commented when interviewed, “I wrote this album as a play. It was a tale of two flies travelling, and they discovered so many things.” The hearts of record executives are doubtless fluttering.

However, for all Clementine’s antipathy towards popular accessibility, “I Tell a Fly” at least feels defiantly, almost iconoclastically his. Although the album synthesises the king-of-the-junkyard mucky grandeur of Tom Waits’ “Rain Dogs”, the sepia-toned soulfulness of Leon Bridges and the slurred cockneyisms of King Krule, Clementine’s distinct musical voice remains intact. In “Phantom of Aleppoville”, he skids between the histrionics of a pantomime villain theme, a slice of pastoral classical and a mordant gospel reverie, all set over a squalling vocal scrum. “God Save The Jungle” bulges into a quasi-operatic crescendo, Clementine now framed, as if by a single onstage spotlight, as a torch singer in the vein of Aretha Franklin or Michael Bolton. At times such moments feel contrived and alienatingly actorly, but they tend to be counterbalanced by the album’s subtler tracks: the juddering density of “One Awkward Fish” or the loose, late-night sweetness of “Jupiter”.

The real theme of “I Tell a Fly” is dislocation, be it the mental dislocation of the self during childhood bullying (“Phantom of Aleppoville”) or the physical, geographic dislocation of refugees (“God Save The Jungle”). This is paralleled in the unsettled musical environment Clementine conjures, but this impulse isn’t necessarily congruent with a cohesive album. For all its showy trappings, “I Tell a Fly” often feels slapdash, held together by the idiosyncrasy of Clementine’s vocals and an unspecific, all-encompassing weirdness that isn’t anchored in any sense of musical continuity. However, it’s difficult to truly dislike an album so bold, inventive and almost pig-headedly obstinate. Clementine may not be an alien of extraordinary abilities, but he certainly has a few interesting tricks up his sleeve. CO

B-

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aslr9B87wPs

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Rock, Singer-songwriter

The Sounds, Style And Life Of Lady Geraldine

 

 

Drawing inspiration from the likes of Stevie Nicks to Don Henley, Lady Geraldine is a fresh face to the classic rock scene, but has carried her style and repertoire of sophistication through to her music.

Lady Geraldine’s style can be seen as a mix from different artist’s, as well as drawing from her cultural experiences and own personal life. Travelling around, from starting in England, to then moving to North Africa, to then residing in Venezuela in South America, Lady Geraldine has definitely gained a wide range of attributes from each place and time.In her music, there is a sense of wisdom, that comes with the passing of time, as well as a relatable theme, that draws from things such as love and emotion.

Lady Geraldine Elliot, 8th, September, 2017

Lady Geraldine now lives in Edinburgh, where she writes and records her own original material. But is also very professionally active, she works on oil paintings, as well as jewellery designs, which are down to her business savvy, letting the music explore the emotional and creative side.

She is set to release her new album ‘Little Miss Blue’, the single that goes by the same name, is also available on Soundcloud and her website.

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-666459112/sets/little-miss-blue

Website: www.aero-records.com

 

 

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Alternative, Singer-songwriter

Eels- “Electro-Shock Blues” Review

In a 1999 CNN interview Mark Oliver Everett, the creative motor and sole permanent member of Eels, described “Electro-Shock Blues”, with dry gallows humour, as “the party album of the year”. This was perhaps gently over-stating things by a light-year or two. Following the critical and commercial success of Eels’ 1996 debut “Beautiful Freak”, the band’s nascent fame was promptly derailed by a string of personal tragedies for Everett that are far too deeply saddening to delve into thoroughly here, basically comprising of the deaths of his remaining immediate family.

It was this deep well of sorrow that Everett was to plumb on “Electro-Shock Blues”, its title a reference to his sister’s electroconvulsive therapy. The album catalogues virtually every facet of human suffering, from the giddy paranoia of “Going to Your Funeral Part I” to the hideously pretty and almost unbearably desolate title track. On a musical level, the use of plinking xylophones and tinny music boxes—for instance, on the Beach Boys-esque “Baby Genius”—signifies a regression into a numbed, distorted childhood, which jars incongruously with the natural weariness and grain of Everett’s voice.

Although its intimately personal idiosyncrasy is inherently resistant to placement in a wider musical context, “Electro-Shock Blues” is truly the “difficult second album” amplified to almost farcical proportions. Everett, who surprisingly and laudably retained his self-deprecating sense of humour, is prone to droll, blackly funny quips about this. On “3 Speed” he remarks, dry as the Sahara, “Life is funny, but not ha-ha funny/Peculiar, I guess”. This deepens into the hard-won, utilitarian optimism of “Last Stop: This Town” which opens, with wonderfully deadpan flatness, “You’re dead, but the world keeps spinning”. The song is the album’s triumph, spinning pure, joyous pop of abject dejection. Especially in contrast to the songs that precede it, “Last Stop: This Town” attains a glorious transcendence, both physically and emotionally: “Why don’t we take a ride away up high through the neighbourhood? Up over the billboards and the factories and smoke?”

“Electro-Shock Blues” is an album inseparable from grief, but one that is ultimately about progression. As Everett enthused with startling candour in the aforementioned interview, “I started to get excited about it creatively, because I felt I could tie my own experience together and make it meaningful to everyone.” Whether you’re just on safari or know the sleepless nights and vodka bottles first-hand, the album is an uplifting assertion of the essential durability of character. From the maniacal samba of “Hospital Food” to the wistful lushness of “Going to Your Funeral Part II”, “Electro-Shock Blues” is a lost masterpiece of unflinching introspection. Drink it in. If he can stand it, you can. Perhaps it really is a party album. CO

A+

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TfqbuTBqX8

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Pop, Prog-Rock, Singer-songwriter

Steven Wilson- “To the Bone” Review

Despite a career spanning more than 30 years, you probably don’t know who Steven Wilson is. Described by The Daily Telegraph as “the most successful British artist you’ve never heard of”, he rose to relative prominence as frontman of the band Porcupine Tree, as well as working with a plethora of storied bands playing prog or off-kilter pop, from King Crimson to Tears for Fears. However, the cover of “To the Bone”, his fifth solo album (although he has produced endless work through other names and projects) implies a literal and figurative stripping down. Rather than the studiedly moody Porcupine Tree album covers, here a shirtless Wilson is simply lit blue against a red backdrop in a repudiation of his previous tetchiness about publicity.

In some ways, “To the Bone” does seem to amalgamate all his divergent creations and influences: for instance, in dazzling highlight “Refuge” there are echoes of Rush in Wilson’s soft vocals—Geddy Lee but less shrill—or perhaps Tool in the mechanised, vaguely Eastern clatter. However, “Permanating” is weirdly reminiscent of ABBA at times, illuminating an underbelly of pure pop that intermittently surfaces throughout “To the Bone”. The album also strays into fleet-footed metal at times in the maniacal, jazzy riffing that concludes “Detonation”, or the trebley bite of “People Who Eat Darkness”, whose riff’s similarity to that of Metallica’s “The Memory Remains” is difficult to ignore.

However, this constant genre-hopping proves surprisingly stylistically durable. Even the broody Depeche Mode affectations of “Song of I” dovetail into typically maximalist string swells, snapping the song cleanly into the album’s track listing. The exception to this rule is the arpeggiated restraint of “Blank Tapes”, whose resemblance to Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” isn’t too tenuous given Wilson’s prog credentials. The track is a welcome avenue of quiet prettiness, coming off more like “Ghost”-era Devin Townsend than the glittering bombast of “The Same Asylum as Before”, which balloons from tastefully bluesy soloing into a scalding climax somewhere between A Perfect Circle and The Chameleons.

However, despite the musical smorgasbord Wilson unveils, his undeniable technical skill sometimes struggles to gloss over a dearth of emotional engagement. The album’s lyrical opacity occasionally gives way to bland sloganeering: “I float above the stars, and I feel the rush of love” he gaudily declares on “Nowhere Now”. Nonetheless, “To the Bone” is largely carried by its musicianship, which is thankfully and necessarily excellent. Wilson’s virtuosity electrifies the album, providing it with its integral heft and invention. However, it is maybe this slightly alienating reliance upon technical ability that keeps Steven Wilson as “the most successful British artist you’ve never heard of”. Or then again, maybe he just likes it better that way. CO

B+

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0dLypToLzE

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