Combining a pure folk voice with the lustre of electronic layers and a pulsing rhythm underlay, composer and singer/instrumentalist Jackie Beverly released ‘Sweet Goodbye’ earlier this year. This continued to build her reputation on the Irish music scene after the soulful tones of 2019’s ‘Someone Else’ (showcased to perfection on a live YouTube version).
Starting with acoustic guitar and vocal, new single ‘Sea Glass’ is a creative weaving together of timeless imagery ‘……. separate the sea glass from the sand….but the waves are strong….’, elegiac reflection (including a poignant sample of Marilyn Monroe ‘….I could easily be alone it doesn’t bother me to be alone….’) and attractive instrumentation. This includes the richness of a cello, echoing acoustic piano and some unhurried and sensitive percussion.
The video carries on the sense of melancholy but tempered with macabre fun as Jackie’s band and friends appear as ghost-sheeted figures in the background. They gradually multiply and take over until they are chasing Jackie down the road in Dublin’s Portobello as the repeated line ‘…..no-one ever told me that the days and nights would feel the same….’ brings this attractive but thoughtful track to an end.
With an electronic swoop, UK pop composer, singer, instrumentalist and producer Hydra Lerna presages her new single with words that get straight to the point ‘…you can’t say that I’m not damaged, the scars are on my back….you know that I come with baggage, we have to face the fact….’
As the percussion threads through the stark but lush synth notes we soon get to the uplift of the chorus ‘…I’m ready to be OK again…’. Hydra has a track record of dynamic, soul-searching singles where the often dark tone of the lyrics ( ‘…touch me like a razor, hold me like a bed of nails…’ from last release ‘Camera’) is always tempered by a gift for melody carried by her rich soaring voice which adds a balance of optimism to the whole.
This release is the last one before a creative break to realign her musical career and it is a fitting temporary finale; memorably the music rolls, pushes and pulls like gathering storm clouds before the sun breaks through. In the eye of the hurricane of swirling keyboard layers and textures the multi-tracked voices add a lushness and grandeur to the resolution of the title line.
The last acapella lines float away into the ether and her single unadorned voice is the final sound we hear for the present from this talented and enigmatic performer.
A welcome new release from Midlands based singer/songwriter/instrumentalist emzae.
She is a performer who never repeats herself and continues to push at the creative edges of electronic pop. She always has one eye on contemporary musical textures and lyrical themes, realising that the strongest statements come out of real life experiences.
From the pensive insights of ‘Another Lesson Learnt’ to the taut musical flexings of ‘As This Day Fades to Another’ and the most recent concise pop bite of ‘Waste Our Time’ her recent succession of singles maintain a high standard of content, brought to sparkling life by her self-production skills and attention to detail.
The words on this new track reflects the time when emzae realised the importance of being yourself, instead of endless circling to fit in with peers and the social difficulties that can arise. Also that maybe sometimes it is best to just have a dance and not worry too much.
Certainly this is a track to move to; it draws heavily on some retro-classic influences; from the minimalist electro grooves of the first Madonna album and the gloriously meandering funky keyboard bass that recalls some of Stevie Wonder’s early experimentation with deep and punchy synthesiser lines way back in the early seventies.
Add lots of immaculately timed clicks and beats, a winning vocal embellished with spoken voice and distant responses and a killer chorus line ‘…this is what it feels like to be free…’. Wrap this in a smooth sonic veneer and weave into a perfect song structure and you have her sharpest three minutes so far.
‘Camera’ is the stunning new single from singer/composer/musician Hydra Lerna, self-produced as always and this time moving into a lighter pop groove. Despite the summery flavours of the music, there is a darker side in the lyrical conflicts of the narrator being in a difficult relationship, not quite sure of the conclusion but aware of the positives (‘….It’s a hundred degrees outside…but in here it’s intensified….’).
Many of her songs show that Hydra Lerna has always been able to turn a lyrical phrase inside-out and use some evocative imagery ‘…hold me like a bed of nails… I think I found my holy grail…’ and explanation ‘….it is all in our flawed design…puzzle pieces with jagged lines…’. But the situation described here is sort of equal, with the slightly sinister pay-off ‘…when we’re hanging in the balance….I’ll have the photographs of you…’
It is a lyrically dense and thought-provoking song and the music reflects the ebb and flow of the words; based around two six note keyboard figures there is a deep bass counterpoint and subtle percussion.
Hydra Lerna is a talented harp player and has featured this on some of her previous tracks but this time the unique instrument has been left to gather dust in the studio cupboard; as she explains “There is no harp in Camera at all sadly, just synths! I moved away from it for this track because I wanted to be free to create something upbeat and dancey, without feeling like I needed to sit and write with the harp”
The innovative video features lots of secret filming in Norwich city centre shops, as Hydra links together the photography of the video-watcher, herself and the surroundings and looks like she is having great fun in the process!
The striking Love Hearts sweets artwork heralds a new single from Derby-based musician/performer/producer Emzae, a follow up to the contrasting ‘As This Day Fades To Another’ and ‘Another Lesson Learnt’ from last year.
Like all of her recorded work this new track is immaculately constructed, with the combination of lyric and music beguiling and inviting the listener in. Reflecting the sentiment of the title, Emzae’s vocal kicks in at the one second mark and then it is all action for the brief duration of the track as it packs in verses, spoken word, bridges and a double chorus ‘….if we get into it you have to be sure, don’t wanna be restless no more….’ and of course ‘…we don’t wanna waste our time…’.
The phrases roll over each other as the voices take on different characteristics; the brilliance of this song is that all of this meshes together so effectively, expressing the fun and urgency of a possible relationship.
This lyrical dance takes place over some sharp and sparse electronic beats, percussion interruptions and possibly an acoustic piano in there too, all adding up to a sparkling two minutes.
A new solo EP from JEDRIK, the singer from Cambridge pioneering dreampop trio Carolyns Fingers, who appeared on the scene in 2017 with some choice live shows and single releases. These four exquisitely crafted tracks blend electronic sounds and voice creating something very special…
1. Unfettered. Sung random-ish phrases roll over each other as a classically influenced chord sequence and bass move sedately on. It is an outpouring of emotion and love; uplifting, celebratory and fun ‘.…so happy I feel I don’t weigh anything at all….’ and winningly ‘… I’m a pair of trousers shy from true paradise….’
2. More Drreamscape. The bass keys and pure vocal start this off as a contemporary pop song but the foreboding atmosphere builds with insistent guitar notes and percussion until the track changes direction and becomes more of the dream of the title. Conjuring that half-awake drifting in and out of consciousness feeling other treated voices intrude, but the chorus dominates towards the end before a sinister coda unsettles the listener…
3. Seamsplitter. Structurally ambitious and ambiguous, this one is built around a descending guitar riff and features an addictive mix of claustrophobic beats and lyrical fragments. The turmoil of the music echoes the aspirations and feelings that don’t go as planned ‘….you say you’ll make me whole….’
4. Special. My favourite on the EP, a lo-fi gem of gentle percussion, low register guitar and a sultry, slinking melody beautifully sung. The chorus hooks will stay in your head ‘….what can I do to be someone you always find special…’
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….