Hip Hop, Jungle, R&B, rap, Reggae, Urban

Celebration of Life – Legends of UK Jungle, Drum & Bass and Dance come together on Charity Single

 

Celebration of Life, a collaboration between some of the UK’s premiere talents from the worlds of jungle, drum & bass, reggae and dance; including Demolition Man; Jr. Dangerous; Navigator; Tippa Irie; General Levy; Alaska MC and Cowboy Ranger, not to mention it being mixed by Liondub at his own New York studios.

The is in support of Demelza, a hospice which provides support and respite for the parents and families of terminally ill children with special needs. The project is inspired by a little boy called Jaden who is suffering with an incurable brain disease. Despite his prognosis, he celebrated his 11th birthday in August, against all his doctor’s expectations, which has further inspired the project to achieve even greater exposure for the cause.

Watch the documentary about the project Below:

https://youtu.be/fuXbDleb310

Catch the artists headlining Jungle Fever at Ministry of Sound in London on December 22nd, where they will also be performing a second track in support of the project, “Think Positive” (produced by FLeCK, and also featuring the talents of Sweetie Irie, Ragga Twins, Joseph Lalibela & Johnny Dolla)

 

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Acoustic, Alternative, Electronic, experimental, Psychedelic, Punk, Rock

Johann Sebastian Punk ‘Phoney Music Entertainment’ Review

Anyone who’s been called “A bewildering lunatic” is probably a genius in my book, especially when you’re called a lunatic by Rolling Stone. Johann Sebastian Punk (great name) has just done a UK release for his new album ‘Phone Music Entertainment’ after bewildering audiences with it’s original release in his native Italy lets how it fairs to more developed (obviously) English Ears.

The album starts with a wash of synthesizers and trumpets, a clear sign of an artist who is striving for experimentation and to make something new. This sets the tone for album. By the time Johann’s voice comes in with some beautifully crunchy produced electronic drums, you know this is going to be no ordinary album.

‘Confession’ one of the singles taken from the album takes you on a slow dark journey through Johann’s mind, with cuts of wit (very characteristic of this strange, experimental punk) e.g ‘I don’t need a high graded school’. All this before reaching a beautifully pleasing crescendo.

My personal favourite ‘Manifest Destiny’ feels like a strange mixture between Radiohead, M85, Blur with Adam Ant on the vocals. Actual genius, enjoyable, creative, perfectly imperfect. Finishes the Album on a high. There’s something about Johann, he has a sound, if all falls into place he could be another David Bowie. Hes obviously a very talented writer and multi-instrumentalist, and an immensely interesting and slightly mad character.

Through experimentation, multiple instrumental experimentation, sampling and general madness Johann has created something rather magical. This is not everyone’s cup of tea and don’t get me wrong, Johann’s theatrical style is at danger of wearing thin, however the experimental instrumentation and sheer joy and charisma of how its done is what carries it through.

Listen to ‘Phoney Music Entertainment’ here.

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Indie, Rock

Ms Mohammad- “Alibi” E.P. Review

Born in Trinidad of South Asian descent, Ms Mohammad contorts fuzzy, knotty radio rock into her own beast, integrating the brutish thud of dhol drums and serpentine, winding melodies. The bleary garage rock of the Black Keys or the Cramps is never far from view, but it is swaddled in solid songs on “Alibi”, whose title track is a prime example of Ms Mohammad’s musical aesthetic. Blending a rather stock distorted riff with percussive battering and undersea, reverberant vocals, it is usurped by “Pandora” and its nonchalant juxtaposition of spiny, almost Metal-esque riffing with the dreamy, murmured phrasing of Wolf Alice.

The off-beat hi-hat snap of “Never Again” recalls the wiry briskness of Bloc Party, and indeed, sturdy pop songwriting rests just beneath the surface of “Alibi”. While “Written In Time” does sound like an escapee from a Two Door Cinema Club album, its fleet-footed robustness is undeniable. Throughout “Alibi” there is a palpable sense that it came out just a few years too late—if released in the early 2010s it could have cleanly slotted into the 77th exhumation of indie along with the Vaccines et al, but by late 2017 it feels somewhat at sea culturally. However, this shouldn’t detract from the music itself, whose brawny, sinewy garage rock is contrasted ably with the sleekness of Ms Mohammad’s vocals and the pounding inflections of the E.P.’s percussion. CO

Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/msmohammed

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Alternative, Emo, Rock

Weezer- “Pinkerton” Review

For a while, the NME ran a series called “Sacred Cows” in which revered albums would get cut, often sardonically, down to size as the victims of hype and the critical circle-jerk. A 2010 entry of “Sacred Cows”, with numbing inevitability, concerned Weezer’s “Pinkerton”: the album was derided as “fucking creepy”, “cringeworthy” and “pathetic”, and embarrassingly large quantities of lyrical ammunition were deployed to support this. The piece, with an admirably comprehensive understanding of its detractors, concluded “Bring it on, nerd boys.” Well, here goes.

Although far from perfect, the whole allure of “Pinkerton” is its unsettlingly candid confessionalism. Subtract that and you have an album of catchy, if a little generic, power pop with a thin veneer of grit. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when Rivers Cuomo first sang these songs in front of his bandmates. The drunken stumble of “El Scorcho” opens “Goddamn you half-Japanese girls/You do it to me every time”, while the fragile “Butterfly” implores in a whisper “If I’m a dog, then you’re a bitch”. Yikes.

With the critical consensus drifting leftwards, the lyrical indiscretions of “Pinkerton” have unsurprisingly, and often reasonably, had just about every “ist” and “ism” levelled at them in recent years. On elephant in the room “Across the Sea”, Cuomo describes, in uncomfortable detail, sniffing and licking the envelope of a letter sent to him by a Japanese teenage girl who is a Weezer fan, and imagining her masturbating. Immediately and almost comically there is a pile-up of content euphemistically considered “problematic” by most music writers: the fetishization of the female minority as the exotic “other” and idealised dream girl, the skirting of paedophilia in an adult pining after an 18-year old schoolgirl, the general air of creepiness in having gone to the effort of writing a song about what would have been a grisly embarrassment for most.

However, on some level even the harshest critics of “Pinkerton” must surely bear some admiration for Cuomo, however recalcitrant and grudging it may be. To not just do this, but to write a song about it and release it to the listening public, requires an enormous or perhaps just enormously stupid amount of courage and faith in one’s audience. Indeed, it would famously backfire spectacularly, with “Pinkerton” getting panned and a burned Cuomo retreating into the inoffensive, impersonal safety of “Blue Album” clones for the rest of his career, although that’s another story. The nervy rowdiness of “Pinkerton” transcends its proto-emo placement in history with the genuine vulnerability of a character on full display, ugliness, darkness and all. Cuomo is the drunk guy ranting about his ex at the party. It’s uncomfortable and after a while you just want him to stop. Is it “fucking creepy”, “cringeworthy” and “pathetic”? Yeah. But somehow you can’t look away. CO

B+

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okthJIVbi6g

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Blues

The NaveBlues- “The NaveBlues” Review

On the website of the NaveBlues, one phrase strikes the reader, italicised dramatically: “The NaveBlues is not the blues you knew”. A cursory survey of the band’s background should reveal this. Norway’s cool fjords are a far cry from the steaming marshland of the Mississippi delta, but it is nevertheless this draughty panorama that spawned the band, who were already an aberration as a blues band in 2017.

However, their commitment to the role is laudable. All the old accoutrements of the blues are wheeled out here, from the squalling harmonica to the biting, caustic guitar lines to the female backing singer to the steady, rolling tempo of a train steaming down to New Orleans. Singer Nave Pundik whispers, moans and ad-libs barked instructions like some Nordic Muddy Waters, at one point on the excruciatingly named “Sexy Kiss” letting out a strangled yelp like a cat being slung down a well.

Despite the music’s reverential fidelity to the blues, there are hints of Lou Reed in Pundik’s muttered, street-hustler colloquialisms, and weirdly also echoes of Lawrence from Felt in the vocal phrasing of the NaveBlues’ cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You”, which spirals into a sugar-rush summoning of the Rolling Stones’ “Love is Strong”. Despite soon slipping into a nonchalant shuffle, “Say My Name” strongly evokes Talk Talk’s “Spirit of Eden” in the plangent, still-pond arpeggios that open the track, unearthing a leisurely softness in the NaveBlues’ sound.

The only other song that really explores this is “In A Quiet Place”, which engorges a jazzy piano reverie into acidic, moody guitar soloing and doleful vocals falling somewhere between Benjamin Clementine and John Lee Hooker. However, the album’s plucky charm is partially vandalised by the temptations of slick, modern production, barring the punchy hoedown rambunctiousness of “The Ghost Collector”. The blues breathes atmosphere and grit, but this rangy ardency here feels throttled by the cleanliness of the mix, and the complete lack of ambience of the recording space.

Although inevitably prefaced by the “not the blues you knew” disclaimer, the distance of the NaveBlues, chronologically more than geographically, from the juke joints of the American South is palpable. Times have changed, and simply smartening up the presentation of the same music does not guarantee interest. The album falls into the uncanny valley between the eccentric pep of Jack White’s modern blues experiments and the unkempt passion of earlier blues recordings, hemmed in both by antiseptic production and a love of the genre so vast as to dissuade tampering. Something raw and untamed has been lost, and not replaced by anything new. However, this is a likeably spirited effort, and the band’s adoration of the blues is evident from every note. It’s “not the blues you knew”, but it warrants a try. CO

C+

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jt9uzozpzGQ

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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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Motown, Soul

Lawrence Preston- “Something for You” Review

With a storied musical history stretching back decades, Lawrence Preston certainly brings industry credibility to his excursions into buttery, retro soul. Having cut his teeth in family gospel groups, he was scouted by Freddie Stone of Sly and the Family Stone fame and wound up as the bass player in the band of Dorothy Morrison, best known as the singer of “Oh, Happy Day”.

His resurgence with “Something for You” snaps us firmly back into the wheelhouse of Motown and 70s soul in the clipped funk and prominence of the bassline, syrupy backing vocals and clip-clopping guitar licks. However, soul is a genre dominated by the voice, and Preston endures this scrutiny. There is a gentleness to his soft tenor, and a smooth timbre that blends well with the languid, supple groove of the music. Hints of Marvin Gaye or maybe the Temptations emerge in the choirboy purity with which Preston swoops up into his higher resister midway through the song, but this is not a showily virtuosic performance—rather than erupting into melismatic hysterics, the vocals build gradually from a sultry whisper into that limber, willowy falsetto.

However, there is a clinical, stock quality to the music here, mainly springing from its dogmatically tight adherence to the blueprint of vintage soul, almost as some Platonic ideal. Although somewhat counterbalanced by the sweet, if a little cloying, song-as-gift conceit the lyrics explore, “Something for You” falls so cleanly into the soul genre that any kinks and idiosyncrasies in the music are ironed out into a blank anonymity. For all its indubitable musical proficiency, ironically the one thing “Something for You” lacks is soul. CO

C

Listen here: https://www.vevo.com/watch/lawrence-preston/something-for-you/TIVEV1725150

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