Tag Archives: Cambridge

Bouquet Of Dead Crows : Hemispheres Part 2 – Cerebral, EP released October 2021

A new EP from Cambridge quartet Bouquet Of Dead Crows, following on from Part 1 ‘Celestial’, released back in April 2020 (see review below)……

1.Idle Thoughts : Don’t be fooled by the quiet intro, the deep dark guitar and bass soon steers the track into raw rock territory, as the vocal calls across the wasteland in this ever-changing epic.

2.Standing At The Precipice : Faster work-out for the band, especially the fireworks drumming, but full of surprises with time signature and dynamics changes all packed into two minutes thirty.

3.One More Sunrise : Straight into the soulful tones of a thoughtful ballad structure which alternates with some of the heaviest rock on the collection.

4.The Longest Road : The Crows are adept at creating longer conceptually rich pieces; this elegantly brooding anthem has the time and space to deliver the full emotional impact.

5.Somewhere In The Static : Built around the most satisfying bass and guitar riff at the start the vocal builds over the descending chord pattern to a false finish part way through. This song has many moods; weaving together the finesse of some of the prog rock directions of the band with sections of sledgehammer power to make it a fitting end to the double EP.

https://bouquetofdeadcrows.bandcamp.com/

The Staves, Junction J1, Cambridge, 24 September 2021

Live music at last!

First onstage was US singer/songwriter Samantha Crain, a performer with a quiet authority evident from the first track ‘Joey’; a languid leisurely waltz with the gentle instrumentation as a perfect platform for her rich vocals. The tempo was increased for ‘Pastime’ and through her short set her accompanying musician played pedal steel, second guitar and keys to add extra colour to the involving narrative strengths of the songs. A highlight was the emotive tale told in ‘Elk City’, sung to a solo guitar as her overall performance effortlessly won over the audience.

The Staves create an intimate and welcoming musical atmosphere; opening song ‘Failure’ features the harmonies and indie folk rock ambience that instantly draws the listener in. Sisters Camilla and Jessica (Emily is currently not touring) are joined by an empathetic band that knows how much to push the sound forward or keep in the background more for a track like ‘Good Woman’; the title song from the 2021 album that makes up most of the set.

The songs can move into moody territory like the walk through a dark forest of ‘Blood I Bled’ or luxuriate in the deceptively simple beauty of ‘Make It Holy’. It all flew by in a delicious haze of ethereal melody and musical textures, a triumphant performance after too long away..

https://www.thestaves.com/

https://www.samanthacrain.com/

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Tape Runs Out : Ode to Barry, single released 8 September 2021

A new single from Cambridge ensemble Tape Runs Out is a dreamy tribute to the bearded dragon belonging to lead singer Liam.

Starting with a hypnotic figure generated by the haunting sonics of the hammered dulcimer the track adds layers of acoustic texture to produce a stately paean to the precious pet ‘….Barry you know we’re here for you….Barry won’t you stay with us…’.

The song gently eases along but continues to build the boldness of the sound with strings, a guitar solo and overall a feeling of melancholy and lost prog-folk drifting off into the ether. Watching the video it doesn’t seem like the languid lizard is going to wander too far away anyway, but this track acts as a splendid showcase for the instrumental possibilities and otherworldly viewpoint of future recordings from this unique group of musicians.

https://www.taperunsout.co.uk/

https://www.trappedanimal.com/home

review of 2020 EP ‘Sleepwalking Into A Fire’ here

Various Artists : Cambridge Calling Volume 5, released 23 July 2021

Compiled by renowned Cambridge105 DJ Dave Hammond, Cambridge Calling Vol 5 is a new and varied compilation of tracks from musicians based around the Cambridge area, with proceeds going to Cambridge Aid | Helping local people in financial crisis since 1880

  1. BansheeVa – Janus. The title character can be described as ‘….god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and endings…’. That just about sums up the mind-expanding pathways of this jumpy psychedelic instrumental extravaganza.
  2. Death To Slow Music – Pressure. Two minutes of minimalist punk single line bass and guitar erupting into an explosive chorus.
  3. People Look Like Dogs – Allan Thinks We Don’t Move. Probably the best combination of band and track name on the album for this untamed cacophony of guitars, drums and wild vocal.
  4. Jaymotts – Love Paralysis. Retro jazz-funk, sounding enigmatically timeless.
  5. Collars – Hey Lizzie, Lay It On Me full review here
  6. Creepy Neighbour – The Optimist. Striking but slightly disturbing piano-led ballad featuring a strong vocal from Max Taylor along with lush string stylings.
  7. Naomi Randall – Cabbage White. Lovely indie folk; evocative and effortless with the acoustic guitar adorned with other subtle instrumentation and echoing voices to frame Naomi’s sublime vocal.
  8. Dom Howard – Cascade Mix. Like a coda to the previous track, a sparkling guitar chimes out a repeated riff over the lightest of jazzy backing before an introspective solo.
  9. Lady Birdface – (I’m Gonna Give You) The Clap. DIY pop splendour from creative multi instrumentalist and songwriter Kate Shore, full of barbed edges and sparse couplets ‘…don’t you look too close or you’ll feel morose…’
  10. Sunday Driver – Time Machine. Classy acoustic steampunk fusion and sinuous vocal whisks the listener into a cabaret club of the future.
  11. Percy Black – Code Name Covid-19. If you need reminding about the subject, this is as pleasant way as it could be, super-smooth reggae with golden-voiced lead and backing vocals and laced with brass and sax; the messages are clear, ‘….give the scientists the wisdom to eliminate Covid-19….’
  12. Tom Bainbridge – Nocturne. All-acoustic multi-layered piece, built around a gently swinging pendulum rhythm and a chorus of voices.
  13. Keith Somerville – Red Angel. A loosely structured prog-psych song pulls the listener into a spiral of mellow musings, interrupted by a surprise electric solo.
  14. Helefonix – Song Thrush Serenade. Pure atmosphere of delight here as sampled birdsong tonally competes with the semi-ambient electronics.
  15. The Routine – Come Knocking At My Bedroom Door. Strong rock-pop anthem from Cambridge/London quartet with the upfront vocal and musical intricacies giving way to a huge chorus.
  16. Star Pixel – The Circle. full review here
  17. Shambertans – Wallflower. Likeable summery pop song driven at pace by the rhythm section and a busy guitar.
  18. The Mardlers – Mad To Live. Full of desperate punk-fuelled energy; the as-live sound pushes all before it through continual musical changes..

Volume 5 – German Shepherd Records

Cambridge Calling Volume 5 | Various Artists | German Shepherd Records (bandcamp.com)

Fuzzy Lights : Burials, LP released 2 July 2021

A new LP from Cambridge folk-psych collective Fuzzy Lights delivers on many levels. Opening track ‘Maidens Call’ threads a contemplative vocal over a loping bass line with violin interludes, but it is the second track ‘Songbird’ that opens the consciousness into a ten minute psychedelic workout, full of energy, colour and a voice that inhabits the darkness.

‘Graveyard Song’ strips the sound back into a sinister medieval acoustic ballad gradually building into a big instrumental coda. There is so much going on in this excellent album, like the languid interlude and speculative history of ‘Haraldskaer Woman’ contrasting with the sweeping folk-rock momentum of ‘Under The Waves’. ‘Sirens’ is possibly my favourite; with the descending chord sequence, timeless and mysterious vocal, dissonant chorus and enough noise to lose yourself in.

Ending with the ‘The Gathering Storm’, using all of its nearly seven minutes running time to build atmospheric musings over a persistent bass note this album pulls you in for an unchartered musical journey….

Welcome to Fuzzy Lights

Fuzzy Lights (bandcamp.com)

R.J. Archer & The Painful Memories : ‘Who Am I Supposed To Love Now?’, single released 14 June 2021

From the angst of the band name to the opening tension of the lyric, ‘…tell me I been walking a thin line…and I’ll be towing it as soon as you say…’, R.J. Archer & The Painful Memories are back with a blistering burst of troubled blues rock. Last heard from on their self-titled EP from 2019 (reviewed below) featuring the edgy majesty of lead track ‘It’s Snowing In Hell’, this new release is a forerunner to their delayed debut long-player ‘Hot Mess’.

A punchy, up tempo cut from this Cambridge trio, ‘Who Am I Supposed To Love Now?’ is firmly rooted in the groove of the sort of cool and credible blues-infused record that would appear regularly and successfully in the pop charts of the late 1960s and 70s. It is a summary of lovelorn discontent set to sparse instrumentation, emotionally raw vocals and featuring twisty guitar links, a roving bassline and drums always on the verge of being fully unleashed. And, of course, all in less than three minutes…

R.J. Archer & the Painful Memories | Facebook

R.J. Archer & The Painful Memories, EP released July 2019 | cambridgemusicreviews

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Apteekii : What’s Real?, single released January 2021

The debut single from Cambridge band Apteekii starts with a gentle but moody piano punctuated by restless electronic pulses. The lyric soon sets the tone of the message of this track with the bleak ‘….just another Saturday…as you scream into the void…..alI I hear is birds that tweet….’. It is portraying a swirling mix of the pernicious influences of fake news, distorted messages and the exploitation of negative social media. This is chillingly shown by the infamous comments that scroll behind the song words within the video.

It is not all downbeat – despite the despairing ‘….the more I read, the less I see, the less I understand…’ of the chorus the music sounds more optimistic. It is lifted by layers of synthesiser with a rich cello sound and there are glimmers of hope; ‘…so be my guide…to know what’s right…before it’s washed away…’ could be a fragment from a tender love song.

This is a complex, immaculately produced and thoughtful debut from this talented trio.

Apteekii | Facebook

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The New Fools : Papillion – The Complete Lock Down Sessions, LP released September 2020

Cambridge band The New Fools have continued to consistently produce and perform new music in recent years and have not been stopped by a pandemic; with a combination of back and forth recording technology and determination they recorded a succession of singles through the lock down which are now collected on this new mini-LP.

As always with their work there is a variety of styles showcased here; the rocking ‘Solowly’ is heralded by a fuzzy guitar riff which gels the sections together on this comment on wealth and happiness, while ‘Sunday Night’ is a gentler, dreamy lyrical meditation from a nostalgic musical narrator featuring an empathetic guitar solo and flugel horn. ‘Another Way of Thinking’ is a languid companion piece to an earlier track, contrasting with the dynamic pace and urgency of imaginary film theme ‘Witch’.
‘Nothing Toulouse’ is a thoughtful melody and guitar line driven pop song with hints of the psychedelic tone that used to thread its way through 60s chart songs. ‘Old Bones’ features some rich sustained Hammond organ notes and a shade of Bob Dylan in the delivery and timing of the lyric phrases, followed by the joyous skiffle minimalism and even some whistling on ‘D.N.S.’

So far there has not been much direct reference to the strangeness of recent times but on longer track finale ‘We’ll Meet Again’ (not the Vera Lynn ‘classic’!) aspects of this theme are covered, accompanied by a discomfiting drum and piano waltz. The flugel horn makes another welcome appearance then eventually the song ends with a reference to the Beatles world-unifying song ‘All You Need Is Love’ with massed vocals and the richness of the instruments brought to the fore too.

https://www.thenewfools.co.uk/

Various Artists : Now That’s What I Call The Portland, LP released May 2020

A compilation of tracks by Cambridge-based bands old and new, curated by Ian Perry of Aaahh!!! Real Records, the aim being to help financially support much-loved pub and music venue The Portland Arms through these difficult times (see link below!).

1. The Portland Brothers – Invisible Love. Poignant, acoustic country-folk from a band named and formed after a meeting in the venue.

2. The Judge Reinholds – Stars and Satellites. Distant musings take their time to erupt into an impressive onslaught of spectacular noise.

3. Grieving – Bow and Arrow. Continuing the noisy theme and capturing their distinctive live sound, this restless rocker is punctuated by more contemplative interludes.

4. The Baby Seals – Vibrator. Contributing one of their supreme tracks, the mighty trio deliver a concise and singalong powerpop single.

5. Old Man Boom – No Longer Alone. As a contrasting backing to the affecting vocal, the waltzing banjo takes on a life of its own before the whole band crashes in.

6. Model Village – Eulogy. A wistful new track from the much-loved Cambridge collective. As always the voices, acoustic and electric instrumentation are an irresistible combination.

7. B-Sydes – Good Times. With a committed vocal performance pushed on by pure band energy, the track continues to build the momentum to the end.

8. Goldblume – Husk [Live]. One of the rock trio’s best tracks; complex, edgy and rewarding as it twists unpredictably.

9. Beverley Kills – Walk With Me. Blistering introduction, razor sharp sound, machine-gun drumming, strange abrupt middle eight and a vocal soaring above all. Unbeatable.

10. Freedom Faction – What’s it All About? According to their bio the band ‘… inject liquid punk directly into your brain via your earways…’ Agreed.

11. Heartwork – The Used. Roving softer-rock track, the complexity of the musical structure and a passionate vocal gradually pulls the listener in.

12. DoYouThinkHeSaurus? – Lipstick Teeth. Experimental punkish brooding guitar keeps you guessing until the chorus hits home.

13. Mammoth Penguins – Dick Move. Taken from their brilliant 2019 album, the trio deliver a short, precise slice of emotional angst. Powerful, catchy and possibly my favourite on this collection.

14. Just Tom & Pete – Sweet Ass Voice. A gentle meandering with spoken word, acoustic guitar and a winning emotional intimacy from this unassuming duo.

15. The Pony Collaboration – Close Enough. Last seen in Cambridge supporting The Wave Pictures, this easy-going ensemble were a real treat to hear, with tracks that roll along like this pop-perfect meditation.

16. The Travis Waltons – Year of the Snake. With a third album due out soon, the trio remind us how well they can structure a single as the distorted guitar riff and the emotional disappointment in the voice drive towards a chorus line that will stick in your brain.

17. The Grey – Silent Man. Dense layers of guitar and drums introduce this rock epic, the trio make no compromises and take their time delivering this doom-laden but thoughtful anthemic finale.

https://theportlandarms.bandcamp.com/album/now-thats-what-i-call-the-portland
http://www.theportlandarms.co.uk

The New Fools : Mershmellow, LP released April 2020

The second album from Cambridge-based band The New Fools; again it is a mixture of styles, textures and well-crafted song writing.

1. London ’66.
A melancholy waltz to open the collection, swirling acoustic guitar and plaintive piano for a biting lyric ‘….winter ’66, a cold London street disturbed from its dream by the sound of a woman’s scream…’

2. The House of (Having) Fun. A Northern Soul stomper, the lyric celebrating nothing specific ‘…and I feel like a mystical man selling dreams from the back of a van….’ but acting as the glue for a perfect pop song structure.

3. Summer Rain. The pace of the band drives this mini road movie along, the meditative recollections of the vocals drifting above the rhythm guitar, organ and spirited drumming. ‘…autumn leaves fall from the trees…settling around my feet…sweet memories…’

4. The Story 0f Me.
40 years of biography in three and a half minutes, the waltzing carousel sound given extra emotional resonance by guest folk-infused violin, a brilliant counter to the disappointment expressed in the words, ‘…now I’m 50 years old I can hardly breathe for the weight of the guilt and the shame that surrounds me…move on will you please there’s nothing to see….’

5. Model Village. This could be a diversion for the character in track 4, spending many hours building a model village as a metaphor for escape. It solves nothing, after all ‘…what you gonna do when the rain comes…what you gonna do if it pours….pick up the pieces and start all over again…’. The band don’t let up in their intensity until a sombre coda that fades into birdsong.

6. Something About Jane. Suspicions about the breakdown of a relationship infuses the pounding rock momentum with a paranoia from the narrator. Another viewpoint is presented in a surprising reggae section, before the doubts re-establish.

7. John Candy Talking. A strident punchy anthem that musically unlocks a bit of REM and glam rock in memory of a largely forgotten cult actor as a metaphor for emotional confusion ‘….I’m going round in circles without you…I can’t help the way I’m feeling….the modern world is not forgiving…’. This track was pre-released as a single earlier in the year.

8. I Got on a Train. I’m not sure that the railway ticketing system allows for the random sense of escape that this track inspires ‘….I got on a train don’t know where it’s heading…anywhere is fine…I got nowhere to run but I’ve a ticket to ride…’ but it is a thoughtful and well-judged finale to this richly creative album.

https://www.thenewfools.co.uk/