The new album ‘Hemispheres’ (a homage to the classic Rush LP?) from Cambridge “Sci-fi Alt Rock band” Bouquet Of Dead Crows is to be issued in two parts; ‘Celestial’ now then ‘Cerebral’ to follow….
1. Terraformer Scary doom-laden introduction, a barren planetary landscape of distant guitar effects…
2. Before The Storm I think the storm has already arrived at the start of this track, then it goes a bit jazz-influenced interspersed with the heaviness through a packed two and a half minutes.
3. Caged The clear and strong vocal rides over a synthesiser guitar backing, duelling with the threatening purity of the full-on rock sound, suddenly unleashed towards the end of the track.
4. Left To Rot Featuring one of the most dynamic introductions I have heard for ages, this previously released song pushes all before it, with the explosives that this band can unleash with ease. I don’t know how anyone can play the drums that fast. It pauses occasionally with a 70s prog rock interlude.
5. Kaiju Hijinks With the listener exhausted from track 4 this new single maintains the pace and energy. The title refers to the Japanese film genre and the accompanying video stars Godzilla and the unfeasibly powerful Mothra. As the super-deep bass drives the sound the drums and guitar take on the monsters.
6. Hemispheres Martial drumming sits beneath some deceptively gentle verses and noisy prescient chorus ‘….it’s not the end of the world…this time…‘ Trading the rockier conventions for a more anthemic sound, with each of the instruments and voice given a chance to individually shine this is a multi-sectioned complex and rewarding track.
Relocating from Brescia in Italy to Manchester, Julia Bardo has absorbed musical influences and developed her cross-genre styling to great effect. I wrote a review of track 2, one of the taster singles from this EP for http://www.indiemidlands.co.uk, now the finished package has been released….
1. Into Your Eyes Gentle sound effects lure us into this classy opener. Julia’s voice is right at the front of the mix, expressive but somehow otherworldly as the guitar layers are gradually added to. Unhurried and melancholy, it is an outstanding track with a sound reminiscent of Canadian indie dream-poppers Alvvays at their echoing best.
2. Please Don’t Tell Me With a disconnected feeling in the music and lyrics, this starts with a distant vocal floating across an alt-country soundscape. This soon bridges into a catchier chorus ‘….. please don’t tell me who I am…please don’t tell me who you are…’ as a guitar figure sounds subtly jarring and dissonant, then goes into a short instrumental link.
And all of this in the first half of the song. There is plenty of musical activity in less than four minutes; add in the video too with the red and blue coloured versions of Julia’s conscience, the possibly deserted performance venue and the old portable TV and this is a rich, rewarding and thought-provoking track.
3. Lonely Morning A faster rhythm-driven song, with percussion and a spiky electric guitar setting the pace. With the sentiment of the lyrics never quite certain the chorus ‘….and when you wake in the morning lights are gone and you’re lonely….’ settles nicely in your consciousness and won’t leave.
4. I Wanna Feel Love This is a hybrid of 60s multi-layer torch song and moody dream-pop, complete with Italian spoken word section and retro instrumentation. The yearning and heartache in the vocals stays with you as this excellent EP reaches its end.
Creative indie experimenters Tape Runs Out release an excellent new EP, a companion piece to last year’s ‘Talking Through The Walls’.
The Cambridge-based septet have an armoury of sonic flavours they can employ, but can still play more conventional synth-rock as on opening track ‘Train Toy’. A waterfall of random sounds gives way to a stunning bass-driven chord progression; over this lushness a partly disembodied voice weaves strange, paranoid imagery. The instruments come and go (especially a roaring guitar sliding up and down octaves) over a spectacular, relentless but soothing six minutes.
A bit like an epic song by The War On Drugs, or a journey travelling on water, it takes the time to do what needs to be done.
‘Anklebone’ is a much shorter psychedelic interlude, but like the following track ‘Children Will Dance’ there is a pulsing power produced by this talented ensemble.
‘Into The Sea’ is built around an urgent guitar figure (or is it the hammered dulcimer that they use later in the track?), tempered by some rich synths and violin. There is a melancholy in the lyrics on this pivotal song, ‘…maybe I’m optimistic…or maybe I’m sleepwalking into a fire…’
A repeating bass note beneath a treated violin heralds baroque chants and progressive rock moodiness in ‘Even Colours Follow The Rule’ then finale ‘Flowers’ is a calming meditation to bring this generous (twenty-six minutes) and accomplished EP to a satisfying conclusion.
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…’
The new EP from Fightmilk singer/guitarist/composer Lily Rae performing as Captain Handsome arrives and according to Bandcamp is tagged as ‘pop, bedroom pop, country gloom pop, indie, lo-fi, pop revenge, country, sad pop’. All of this and more, it is a sublime and potent mix….
1. I Wish I Had a Dog. Detailed review of this first single at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/11/20/captain-handsome-i-wish-i-had-a-dog-single-released-november-2019/
2. Annalise. For this excellent track the narrator and the Annalise of the title seem to blend and separate in a tale of infidelity and disappointment, a sort of murder-ballad atmosphere with no specific crime. The sentiments are ambiguous ‘…..I carve his name into the trees….he gives me something to believe…..I paint his name his name across the walls he’ll be the ruin of us all….’
The melancholy chords resolve into something more positive for the chorus as the tragi-country rock pushes on, while underneath some mournful strings stalk the lyric. A violin solo finally emerges near the end as the song finishes with ‘…Annalise had a secret…’ and we are none the wiser?
3. Dolly Parton. A slower, introspective track as cymbals roll in and out and the sparse electric guitar is a platform for Lily’s raw and emotional vocal. It is all a bit sad, but there is still a glimmer of optimism in the haunting chorus ‘…there’s no point in being broken hearted…just pretend that you’re Dolly Parton….’
4. Halloween. The second preview single may initially recall the glorious Fightmilk song ‘Pity Party’ but the Halloween event described is a much darker affair for the narrator. There are many impressionistic phrases that help to evoke the mood ‘…..I felt my voice turn into vapour….everyone’s a diving board to nowhere….’ along with a shimmering but sinister violin build-up. The gentle guitar and poignant words make this a thoughtful and powerful song.
5. I Am Not An Animal. Initially delicately accompanied by a lone guitar this bookend to the EP moves from heartfelt plea to bitterness, expressed in the lyrics and by the crescendos from the band (driven by some spirited drumming!).
With words and music contributing equally, many of the elements and themes from the collection are distilled into this one song, probably my favourite track of the five.
A track by track review of ‘Lost Soul Music’ from James Brute, the long awaited follow-up to 2014’s macabre percussion and vocal single ‘Bury Yourself’.
1. Again-Again A stately but sinister blues guitar riff marches through the mix marking time like a giant swinging pendulum blade. The desperate vocals from James are a match for this moody music from the five-piece band, especially when the chorus bursts into life.
2. Here She Comes At nearly eight minutes this movie soundscape takes plenty of time to build the atmosphere and when the opening lines finally arrive ‘…I feel like Don Quixote…taking on the windmills in my mind…’ memories of the two albums by previous band The Brute Chorus are evoked with their lyrical density and plethora of references.
Like the classic desert horizon movie scene in Lawrence Of Arabia it is all in the anticipation of the arrival of the enigmatic figure and the gradually building power of the instrumentation.
With impressionistic phrases ‘….she swims among the fishes, she feeds me figs and dates and oranges and plums…..’ and the barely contained fireworks of the band and voice this is a spectacular track.
3. Danielle Opening with a gentle guitar figure and subtle cymbal percussion this meditation revolves around another mysterious character, the quasi-biblical Danielle, ‘….welcome back again, this is the lion’s den you’re walking in….while the others are asleep pull the thorns out of my feet and lead me away….’. It may end well ‘….I think this must be love but I’ve been wrong before….’ but the ominous bursts from the band indicate a darker future…?
4. Archaeologist Blues This loose, strolling blues is a vocal tour de force, packed full of imagery and ideas, namechecking cultural touchstones ‘….Time Team and Indiana Jones….‘ along with some sharp one-liners ‘….I’ve traded honey for a bee sting….‘ always leading to the haunting hookline ‘….give me one second I will try to reveal it….‘.
The band are given a real chance to shine around a guitar solo in the second part of the song before the vocal finishes abruptly, bringing this excellent EP to an end.
1. Better In the introduction the vocal and sparse instrumental backing draws us in, before the band fully kicks off on this strong opener. Alternating between the big chorus and back to the quieter moments this is a well-structured song, with a lyric of overcoming adversity ‘…now you’re standing your ground you can’t be torn down…everything that hurt you made you better….’ finally pivoting around a neat middle-eight with the clear statement of hope ‘….and I know rain comes on the sunny days…but it makes your favourite flowers grow…’.
2. Out This is an EP of variety, drawing on pop, poetry and folk influences and here on this track the simple piano accompaniment is infused with the melancholic optimism of the best country music, as a plaintive verse resolves into the positive longing of the chorus. ‘…if life’s an adventure, I wanna go with you…if you’ve got your worries, I’ve got mine too….as long as we’re together, we’ll figure it out……if life’s an adventure, let’s go, go, go out….’.
3. Giving Up on Love The brooding rock background underlines a lyric of the narrator’s emotional questioning and turmoil. The sharp rhythm of drumbeat and electric guitar of the verse escalates into the full-on chorus ‘…I don’t know if I’m doing wrong, but the guys I like end up in all my songs…’ and ‘…I don’t know if I’m doing right…’ ; the only answer seems to be the title phrase. The middle eight is a bit bleak too ‘…once you’re a cheater you’re always a cheater..’ but despite the downbeat sentiments this is still a powerful and involving song.
4. The Blue Currently my favourite on the EP, this is a rolling up-tempo country gem. Like many of the songs in the genre it is about leaving, travelling and arriving as a metaphor for a relationship. With the spirited vocal and relaxed but pacy backing this track must be a highlight in any live set.
5. Want to Love The other four songs have already been singles but this thoughtful piece is a new addition to Emily’s catalogue. Driven by an impressionistic melody and loose instrumentation featuring acoustic and slide guitar the mood is unhurried and mellow. The sentiments of the lyric are delivered with conviction and heartfelt emotion as this excellent EP fades away into the ether.