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…
Gina Leonard writes and plays dream-like, enigmatic alternative folk music, based around acoustic guitar, some atmospheric effects and vocals that weave gently through. This five track EP starts with ‘Playing Dead’; a voice and distant guitar drifts in, giving way to the impressionistic words of a melancholy ballad, fragile and a bit troubling too. A lovely acoustic guitar threads underneath, as it does on the following song, the title track ‘Catch’, with some soft percussion and bass and a hook line that lodges in your head.
‘Red Hands’ is a haunting narrative about a couple whose lives take some wrong turns; with many contemporary resonances it is ambiguous and ambitious. There is some well-judged synthesiser to add to the otherworldly atmosphere. ‘Glass Eyes’ is more up-tempo, with playful and flirtatious lyrics over a jazzy groove.
My favourite is probably the simplicity of ‘Every Time’. It is just vocal and guitar and Gina sounds like she is in the room with you. Confessional words about the potency of music “singing in those harmonies..it gets me every time”. I agree.
This impressive EP finishes all too quickly…..(If you need more, listen to Gina’s heartrending cover of Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ on YouTube….)
Ben Garnet aka The Organ Grinder’s Monkey returns with his guitar and palette of creative ideas, mutated by his laptop in all directions.
As the introduction to ‘Take A Step Forward’ jumps between the speakers the multi-layered guitar and staccato bursts of percussion are embraced by an electronic mandolin sound and treated vocal. All a bit lo-fi, but strangely addictive. ‘Up, Down, Left, Right, A-Start’ is an up-tempo twist on an 80s video game soundtrack with retro vocoder voice. A nice synth (or is it guitar?) break ending and a catchy chorus. ‘Falling In Love With A Cartoon Character’ is a strange nightmare indeed, with less electronics and plenty of vocals.
The title track is more mellow, quite soothing but those electronic ‘glitches’ keep invading (of course) to give it an edge. The final song ‘Christopher’ has an atonal marching piano figure behind a nostalgic lyric with a downbeat ending. Lots of keyboard textures here, subtly drawing attention to the words.
Distinctive and bold artwork by Amy Deer complements this welcome new EP, with a sad-looking character emerging from the water, possibly followed by icebergs/bottles/people..? This ambiguity reflecting the music perfectly…