It was the first time in Cambridge for electro-popster Caswell, following on from playing a prestigious support slot at one of Ed Sheeran’s recent homecoming shows.
I missed the first two support bands but was lucky enough to see a fine set by Leicester-based singer Miša. With a relaxed stage presence and a seemingly effortless soulful voice her compositions were enhanced by two empathetic musicians – flowing, sumptuous bass and jazzy, sonorous guitar weaved around the vocal lines. I particularly liked ‘Good Things Are Coming’, based around a reassuring descending chord sequence. Her smooth songs went down well with the chilled-out Blue Moon audience.
I last saw Caswell at her EP launch in Ipswich earlier this year, reviewed at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/tag/caswell/. Tonight she took to the stage with confidence and flair, her three-piece band on top form and an excellent sound mix in this intimate venue. With these elements in place it is her songs and personality that shine through – each track is a polished gem of soul-infused electronica; with a subtle melancholia pervading some of the up-beat tempos. It is music to lose yourself in when the band kick in with thunderstrikes of sound as Caswell’s vocals soar with power but hints of vulnerability.
The superior pop anthem ‘Dance Sober’ is still one of the highlights of her set – Caswell was pleased to receive audience recognition when it started. The band had a real chance to shine on ‘Hurt Me Bad’ with the contrasting sections of light and dark and having heard a cover of ‘Glory Box’ on the Blue Moon stage the previous night here was another, taking the essence of the song and pushing it to the limits.
It was getting late on a Sunday evening so unfortunately no time for the classy last single ‘Surface’ but on the evidence of these shows there will be plenty more opportunities to hear this talented performer…
Emzae‘s previous release ‘Another Lesson Learnt’ was an introspective and hypnotic opus, driven by an electronica pulse and unrelenting percussive beat, winningly combining with a sensuous vocal and rich melody to complete the song. Like all of her work it was immaculately constructed and sculpted to maximum effect.
Now there is a new single from the Derby-based electronic composer/singer/instrumentalist and for this track she has thrown off the shackles to deliver a tight mid-tempo anthem with a perfectly timed dance groove. Emzae has complete control over her recorded output and each element is in place; a reliable root bass note, a dissonant fuzzy keyboard masquerading as a guitar and a chorus that shoots off in a different direction altogether, when some echoing background vocals join the party.
The lyric carries a pensive message; the narrator of the song is passing through crowds leaving work and contemplating their existence and consciousness – do we all share the same problems, dilemmas and perceptions? And taking this through to the conclusion in Emzae’s own words describing the song ‘…do any of us truly give ourselves the time to live in the moment? do we sit and enjoy who we are, become content in our imperfection and find enjoyment in the journey…?’
Whatever the potential truths of some of these thoughts this music is a powerful burst of energy to fully enjoy, savour and of course dance to…
A new single from Manchester-based writer/singer/producer/instrumentalist and all-round new musical force Caii. With a sound that is bold strikes of electronic percussion punctuated with synthesiser textures, her songs take their time to build an atmospheric lifeforce of their own – pulling in the listener as her rich singing voice flows and cajoles.
On her previous EP ‘Tease’, lead track ‘Rush’ moved from a conversational lyric-driven verse into a big bold stately anthem, while ‘The Carousel’ was a more playful, pulsing piece of electronica with multi voices and spiky percussion. ‘Slowly’ was an unstoppable cinematic ballad blowing in across the savannah and echoing with power and despair. She has also recorded a brooding cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’.
This new release ‘Fuel’ distills some elements from all of those previous tracks to create a monster pop song. The narration describes the corrosive balance of a relationship in uncompromising terms ‘…so insecure that you need me to be the same…you only treat me as a toy that you can break…’ and most disturbingly ‘….you’re only happy when you’re watching me in pain…..’. This is an emotionally strong lyric, delivered with conviction.
These heartfelt words are weaved into a constantly evolving tapestry of sound with unpredictable percussion adornments, swirling noise effects and sustained chords over a smooth bass progression. But towering above it all is the brilliant chorus, always driving the song to new heights. The synthetic strings build to a crescendo in the middle eight then back to the glorious hooklines; this is a majestic four and a half minutes of pop radiance….
Caii makes her live Cambridge debut at The Blue Moon on Friday 27 September 2019, see the link below…
Appropriately self-described as ‘…the sounds dreams make…’, this is a five track EP from electropop auteur Bug Teeth, originally digitally available in 2018 and now released as a CD version to tie in with various live dates including the Latitude Festival.
1. Confetti Death This starts with an insistent cello-like tone undulating in intensity that provides the key reference point for the track, other layers join then finally a distant voice appears, treated into an otherworldly, ghostly instrument. The overall effect is haunting and powerful, pulling the listener into a strange world.
2. Serotonin My favourite song on the EP, Bug Teeth garnishes the electronics with a guitar loop; this one glistens in the sunshine before it is joined by some persuasive percussion beats that take it to another level. Again the voice tantalises with parts of lines and words revealed, then disappearing into the ether.
3. Raspberry The synthesisers have an analogue eighties sound here with waves of sound washing invitingly over the listener before the inquiring, plaintive voice arrives. Like the other tracks there is a feeling of timeless and limitless space.
4. Forests on the Way There A short guitar-driven intro with a small jump in the loop to unsettle the sound, before other themes and lines interweave. While the strings are relatively untreated the vocal is echoing and weaving through the dark trees in this evocatively named track.
5. Moth (Jasmine’s Song) A pulsing synthesiser with slowly descending electric piano is the musical core of the finale. Bug Teeth does not compromise the sound and ideas, breaking conventions of song structure and vocal presentation every time to create something magical, involving and enduring….
After the critical acclaim for her debut EP last year, singer/songwriter and electropop performer Hydra Lerna releases a new self-produced single.
The resonant words paint pictures of love and loss, with some acute phrases ‘…our skeletons are kindred…’, ‘…the silence never rang so loud….’ The lyrics thoughtfully reflect the mood, beautifully framed by the sheer power of the music. Here the layers of synthesisers sound like they were recorded in a cathedral, filling the vast space above as a deep and organic bass pedal strides underneath.
The title evokes ambiguous sentiments; it could be applied to being lost in an oppressive relationship or the negative feelings created. But ultimately this is a song of optimism and moving forward – identifying the problem as a first move towards empowerment and importantly the realisation of not being alone in the situation.
Hydra Lerna is a talented harp player; on this track it is sampled and contorted as part of the sonic palette, but it is the overall effect of massed keyboards, subtle percussion and her pure, emotive singing voice that is mesmerising.
The narrator finishes on an upbeat but slightly sinister note ‘…he won’t get away…we’ll get justice…’ which fades away on the track but stays and lingers with the listener….
(Hydra Lerna plays at The Blue Moon, Cambridge on Friday 27th September 2019)
The Strawberry Fair – Cambridge’s highly regarded free festival of music and culture is a platform for a huge range of talented acts, many drawn from the local area. Featuring on the Cambridge 105 stage on this still and warm evening, Amethysts are two performers who continue to build a following for their interweaving of ambient, atmospheric electronics with sublime pop sensibilities.
Opening track ‘Stones’ sets up a sparse but smooth rhythm pattern as keyboard loops and embellishments are added by the duo. Creative live guitar parts played by Simon complement the brilliant voice of singer Clarice. ‘How It Is’ has an infectious chorus and some neat vocal harmonies to add to the atmospherics.
Early single ‘My Love’ has now amassed one million streams with its heartfelt lyric and subtle melody. As it was a festival audience the band played a cover; ‘Dreams’ is not my favourite Fleetwood Mac song but there is no doubt that they did justice to the longevity and classic status of this much-loved track with a restrained, echoing instrumentation and powerful vocal.
Recent single ‘Imitate Me’ is more uptempo with some busy percussion loops then the closing ‘Alone’ built up from a distant horizon of sound into a glorious finale with an impassioned emotional message and some bold pulses of electronic punctuation.
As the sun went down the band’s enigmatic and graceful set drifted away over one relaxed corner of the festival site…
(Amethysts will be appearing at The Blue Moon, Cambridge on 27 September 2019)