An EP of four top-quality new songs from Cambridge band Motor Tapes, moving into a more synthesiser based sound but as always paying meticulous attention to all aspects of the final production. The distorted tower block imagery on the CD sleeve reflects the simmering tension behind the façade as in the novel and movie ‘High-Rise’.
1. Shine The lead track is a deep synth stomp with dominant vocal and despite the doomy portents has quite an optimistic lyric about shining lights from mirror balls (I saw one of those at a show recently, it is such a timeless, simple special effect..)
2. Get On The drum machine and solid bassline drives this one along as the husky vocal urges and cajoles. Lots going on in the instrumentation and then brilliant guitar fireworks in the closing bars.
3. Storm Bouncy 80s electronic keyboard pulses give way to some smooth melodic lines and a great earworm chorus. Keep listening, one of the great strengths of the band is there are always some subtle musical twists as the songs progress.
4. Burn The band are currently playing a storming version of ‘Personal Jesus’ in their live show and this track lets the Depeche Mode mode of their current direction run free. Dense, deep and dark, with sampled panicking voices(?) at the end this is a dystopian nightmare, but is probably my favourite on the EP.
There is plenty of musical talent in the area not directly in the city of Cambridge; St. Ives, Haverhill and from Ely come Elma , named after singer Ellie Gillett and multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Mark Ellis. Tapping into a sixties revivalist sound, this duo comfortably inhabit several styles and contrast with the many current performers who pursue pure psychedelia from that era. For a concert advert they say ‘see us!! We’ll make you laugh, then cry, then we’ll put you back together again’ which seems a fair assessment based on these four fine songs.
1. Slo-Mo. Co-written with highly regarded songwriter Boo Hewerdine, this end-of relationship waltz builds well with repeated listens.The mostly acoustic instrumentation ebbs and flows and somehow the direct lyric really nails the emotional idea, (‘…I read your letter, the black and the white and suddenly everything’s grey…’). Check out the video, filmed at the Cambridge Union café/bar, all good fun.
2. Butterfingers. Another collaboration with Boo, this is my favourite track on the EP. With hints of Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love and Eric Carmen’s All By Myself it is a plaintive piano ballad with a stunning vocal performance from Ellie; heartfelt, vulnerable yet still powerful. I love it.
3. September. I usually quite like this month but may have to reconsider after the traumatic lovelorn reminiscences described here, set to a full-on Phil Spectorish backing with handclaps, multi-tracked vocals and a proper middle eight section.
4. Settle Down. A quiet end to the EP, both of the duo get to sing here, gentle verses and a catchy hookline underpinned by acoustic guitar.
The band are regularly gigging around the area, on the evidence of this EP I look forward to a full LP too….
Named after the most misunderstood of UK amphibians (often blamed for holding up infra-structure projects, with Ken Livingstone and Wodehouse’s Gussie Fink-Nottle as famous keepers) Cambridge power-trio Newts release a blasting new EP.
1. Losers. A mighty guitar riff, stately bass and drums, sorrowful vocal, it is like a strange industrial folk-tale to match the video of sinister doll heads and limbs being assembled. Crazy, disturbing but addictive.
2. Remains. The bass leads this more up-tempo track, with a distant vocal sounding a bit like goth-rock supremos The Mission, which is no bad thing.
3. Mission Creep. At five and a half minutes the longest track on the EP, the first slow section featuring a good build up of moody guitar picking and ultra deep sustained bass pedals. The drummer knows how to leave space between the flourishes. The song stops in true prog rock fashion then follows with a neat strummed bridge into a powerful descending line and heavy fuzz, my favourite bit of the EP.
4. Bone Wars. As summery as grunge rock could be, a short and sweet garage pop anthem, with added guitar solo.
Recorded with an on-stage sound, on the evidence of this EP the three-piece sound like they would be a bold live attraction….
This EP from Broadway Danny Rose is called ‘Passive Aggressive Post-Its’ and according to the band is the distillation from 14 hours of music; that sounds like plenty to choose from, which is not surprising given the range and scope of the music made by Joe Bell and his cohorts.
‘Rabbit Foot’ is an out-and-out rocker, it sounds like Wilko Johnson has temporarily joined the band to play along with the riff for a tale of gambling, debt and low-life deals. Worth the price of the EP on its own, it is a great opener.
We then go over to ‘Jeffrey’s Place’, a strange concoction of loud loping bass and driving guitar; also it includes the lyric ‘….For Jeffrey knows what’s wrong, haunted by mistakes… Rupert Brooke’s can charm but the sentiment’s misplaced….’ and other cryptic delights.
‘Organised Sport’ is a short blast of punk pop energy, with an opaque cut-up lyric where it is the sound of the words that count. I am lucky to own an early acoustic version of ‘Carrie Simmons’, on this release it is now filled out to form a swirling mini-movie murder ballad,‘….There’s something about the way you use that knife….Together in death as in life…’. Disturbing stuff; this is also a track of musical contrasts and shows the impressive versatility of the band.
I look forward to the album….
This EP is called ‘A Rum Old Do’ and is a refreshing dose of folky blues from Ricky Boom-Boom, a Cambridge guitarist named after the enduring song by the late great John Lee Hooker.
The opener ‘It’s Snowing In Hell’ has a driving acoustic riff with a lyric of bitterness capped off with the unlikely meteorological notion of the title line. As the singer sinks into despair (‘…Good will has jumped out of the window to a hundred storey fall….’ ) the blistering slide guitar of Tom Colborn bursts breathlessly into the mix.
‘Trouble Will Find You’ is a great blues title and the song is more mellow as the slide guitar rolls across the top of the chords. While the narrator is full of foreboding and warning on this song, the next track ‘Eyes Of Strangers’ is a lyrical sequel, a sinister and oppressive musing that there is no escape from destiny (‘…now you’re getting sleepless nights…You’re getting paranoid and won’t switch out the lights…’) , these words contrasting with the intricate guitar work from both musicians.
Beginning with the neat lyric ‘….wandered lonely in the crowd.. Until some eyes stared out aloud…’ the final track is the distinctive ‘Barbara’; a stately amalgamation of dense guitars and a lyric and vocal delivery reminiscent of Syd Barrett’s later solo material. A high quality finish to a stylistically rare and satisfying addition to the current Cambridge musical cornucopia.
https://rickyboom-boom.bandcamp.com/album/a-rum-old-do (Proceeds to National Autistic Society)
A seasonal offering from singer/guitarist Marika Hackman. After a short introduction it is ‘In The Bleak Mid-Winter’, one of the most haunting and atmospheric carols combining the words of Christina Rossetti with the memorable simplicity of the tune by Holst. The vocal gets some striking treatments but resolves into the pure voice in the end.
‘Driving Under Stars’ is my favourite track, motoring along nicely with some skittish guitar punctuation and multi-tracked and echoing voice. ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ is a favourite of the King’s College choir on Christmas Eve so it is as good a start to Christmas proper as any, this version sounding like the accompaniment to a long and hopeful pilgrimage.
The final two tracks are both a bit disquieting; ‘Paper Crown’ is a foreboding and emotional tale demanding repeated listens, then secular anthem ‘Winter Wonderland’ is given such an original, multi-layered and dark treatment I am left wondering what it is all about…
No clichéd ‘Merry Christmas’ here, but plenty to enjoy.
This is a mysterious new four-track EP from Cambridge musician Perfect Machine, with a set of contrasting songs mainly built around many and varied electronic sounds.
The opening song ‘It’s Love (Again)’ features guest vocals from Cail Baroni, which is about the only piece of information given by the CD sleeve and website (but they do feature some great images of stars!). A minimal pulsing beat and whispered voice starts off before building in intensity and a big late-period Depeche Mode style hookline from Cail.
If this is ‘love (again)’ it sounds a bit scary.”..we pierce our hearts, tattoo our skin with lies…”
‘Sunrise With Me’ is a peaceful concoction of keyboards, percussion and quiet lyrics, with some lovely descending scales like a waterfall of 80s synthesisers. The title track ‘Burn’ is a heavier prospect, with bassy notes and layers of vocals. The instrumental breaks veer into doom-laden prog-rock territory. Good stuff indeed.
My favourite is ‘Lost In The City’, a childhood nightmare of paranoia set to an electronic 1920s Berlin style soundtrack, featuring what I think is real clarinet, but who can be sure? The disturbing atmosphere resolves as the song continues and it ends in a sort of ambiguous but optimistic way. Probably.
Give this EP some repeated listens, it is unlike anything I have heard this year from the Cambridge music scene and not a guitar in sight…