Tag Archives: LP

Ember Rev : From The Country To The City To The Sea, LP released 20 September 2019

A new album from Cambridge art/folk rockers Ember Rev, a complex mixture of acoustic mystery and thoughtful intensity. It is said there are only seven basic plots for any story, this presumably applies to concept albums too; here it is the ‘quest’ and the ‘voyage and return’ that give an arc to this set of songs and instrumentals.

‘Like Dreamers’ places the story in possibly an imaginary context, a floating ethereal landscape where the cymbals roll in and out and the accordion becomes a haunting meander. ‘From The Country ‘ describes the optimistic and youthful narrators setting off on an odyssey across the countryside into Cambridge ‘….and with our hip flask full and boots tied tight we set off to search for gold….’. The groove of this track stays restless and Dan Ecclestone’s vocals immediately pull you into the action.

‘To The City’ jumps ahead to a surreal interlude of a parade of lanterns in the capital, a metaphor for moving on. The most uptempo track here, it has a satisfyingly loose structure with a neat hookline and guitar figure, eventually dissolving into an extended workout with guest clarinet making a welcome contribution.

Two instrumentals follow, the first a short scene-setter with extra tuned percussion cameos then ‘Walk/Don’t Walk’ is a more ambitious piece, with terrific drumming driving a late seventies Brand X influenced piece of jazz fusion. ‘And So To The Sea’ hints at a tragedy to come on the final stage of the journey/quest ‘…..but I waited, I waited there at the water’s edge you never returned….’. The acoustic guitar gleams with melancholy and dominates the song. ‘Be Still’ is a wordless meditation where the mournful voice becomes a darker instrument to counterpoint the light of the accordion.

‘Ultramarine’ is a multi-sectioned piece with surreal musings on life and death with the inevitable draw of the sea for the central character ‘…let’s swim with the fishes tonight..and dance to their ebb and their flow…had you asked me jump I’d have jumped; and the waves would’ve welcomed me under…’. Instrumentally there is lots going on here – all of the band making an excellent contribution to this affecting mini-movie.

As Dan performs the Peter Gabriel-esque final track ‘Like Dolphins’ he leaves the listener in no doubt that the allusions in earlier songs reference a tragedy ‘….for though we slowly came of age you remained…and of your bones are coral made…’; one that lingers with those involved, as does this very personal and thought-provoking album.

https://www.facebook.com/EmberRev/

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The New Fools : Brilliant, LP released June 2019

A track by track review of the new album from Cambridge band The New Fools (their name drawn from a Bob Dylan lyric…)

1. The Big Wheel A cracking opener – rolling along and relentlessly driven by acoustic guitar. With sharp similes to describe the excitement of a new relationship it is a warm and engaging lyric ‘….like the first page of your diary…you make me feel brand new….’. There may be a darker twist at the end but the Wave Pictures/REM groove makes this one of the best tracks on the album. I saw the band play this at the Cambridge NCI club back in February; it is an excellent live track too.

2. A New Way of Thinking Optimistic but tinged with regret; a manifesto for starting afresh and moving on over jazzy bar room piano and some neat brass lines.

3. Singalong A fun but searing indictment of the modern music ‘industry’ and hopeful recollection of a possibly non-existent past when ‘…we were happy enough to just singalong…’. The acquisition of money and fame for its own sake leading to decay brings to mind the seminal 1974 film ‘Stardust’, touched on again in recent Beatles-themed movie ‘Yesterday’.

4. Martine (and Me) There is plenty going on in this song, a sort of mini dramatic opera where the narrator lives a normal drab life while fantasy partner Martine is on a different plane altogether. The track succeeds in blending these worlds together over an ever-changing musical background featuring a cello sound and lots of interesting guitar work. After a gradual picking up of pace it ends with ‘…when the cops burst in they think they’re gonna find Bonnie and Clyde…but all they find is Martine and me….’ and a playout guitar solo completes the circle.

5. Everything This track is a bit of a grower – a thoughtful meditation on the passing of time and our cosmic insignificance. Perhaps they are depressing thoughts but lifted by a strong melody and a stealthily building guitar-driven rhythm and keyboard colouring.

6. George & Adele More comment on the media, music industry and its distortion by reality talent shows (I think?). A distinctive brass fanfare and some angry-sounding electric guitar provide the tension while you ponder on who exactly is George?

7. The Boy You Met On Holiday This is the melodic and emotional highpoint of the album. A simple tune goes straight to the heart with an evocative timeless lyric of longing and loss. The mournful and well-judged flugelhorn solo gives that flavour of melancholy like a long-forgotten colliery brass band.

8. (Waiting for the) Good Times Irresistibly catchy but different in tone to anything else on the album. An anthem of procrastination (always an uncomfortable trait to admit to!) juxtaposed with a jaunty call and response vocal and rolling along instrumentation. As an album closer it is certainly a memorable end to the collection.

https://www.facebook.com/thenewf00ls/

Psychic Lemon : Live at the Smokehouse, LP released May 2019

Recorded at The Smokehouse, Ipswich’s venue for the discerning listener and pursuer of truth and authenticity in music, here is a new live album from Cambridge-based Psychic Lemon.
This consists of three tracks from their second album ‘Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay’ (see review below) and two new tunes. The band have dispensed with vocals on this live performance, distilling their psychedelic onslaught into its purest form.
This is clear from the opening ‘Interstellar Fuzz Star’; as the guitar effects go crazy in the first minute like an ending to the track instead of the beginning, but fear not! the drums and bass lay down their groove and propel the sound along at a mighty pace for all of its ten minutes.

Straight into ‘Satori Disko’, a more mellow-ish, languid offering with a looping guitar figure and some extravagant cymbal smashes as the bass spans the octaves. There is a conventional guitar solo too to tempt the palate. Favourite track of mine ‘Hey Droog’ is driven by a pounding drum pattern with some dark choral sounds adding an atmosphere of doom. Like all of their live performances, the music seems to take on a life of its own, the band merely servants of the greater cause.

New track ‘Jonny Marvel at the Milky Way’ is a pastoral interlude, like an instrumental from mid-period Pink Floyd the keyboard provides the texture for grand guitar experimentation over an unhurried rhythm backing. As the atmospheric colours fade away, the finale bursts in; ‘White Light’ is a frenetic work-out – a high energy end to an immersive and impressive performance with the music firmly embedded in the walls of this excellent venue.

http://www.psychiclemon.co.uk/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/01/01/psychic-lemon-frequency-rhythm-distortion-delay-cd-released-january-2018/

Tom Williams : What Did You Want To Be?, LP released April 2019

A track by track review of the new LP from singer/songwriter Tom Williams, a varied collection of anthems, ballads and late night musings. A formidable live performer (see my older review https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/tom-williams-and-the-boat-29th-may-2014/) with a fanbase that continues to grow, this is his sixth album of original material, produced by Tim Rice-Oxley of Keane.

1. Run Down A big live show opener, with full band backing and a chorus that pushes all before it as musically it travels down an open highway. ‘… I’m a bit run down at the moment…I let the days get away from me….’

2. Rock & Roll A bitterish tale of the pitfalls of life in the lower echelons of the music ‘business’, the downbeat thoughts boosted by another anthemic chorus with dominant keyboard chords underpinning ‘….I don’t believe in rock ‘n’ roll no more….’.

3. Dawned on Me This one is a bit special, a relaxed ballad with some jazzy textures of various acoustic instruments and quickly arriving at an addictive hookline sentiment reminiscent of a latter period John Martyn song. Lovely.

4. Graveyard More of a pacey country-rock feel to this track, the band pounding along relentlessly driven by the key line ‘…there’s a graveyard in my head where all my dreams are dead…’. A thoughtful middle eight takes the song in another direction ‘…you’re kicking down the door…you’re living in a constellation….’

5. Stay Afloat A change of tone here with many delicate guitars filling the mix, synthesiser tones and a subtly urgent drum track. Tom’s vocals and harmonies drift along as light as air.

6. Keeping It In Moving along at a smooth pace, with short lyric lines and the instruments drifting in and out like a song by The War On Drugs, there is a ringing guitar solo at the end to add to the atmosphere.

7. Early Morning Rain One of the first songs written for the album back in 2016, with a hint of darkness in its chord sequence and a big chorus hookline as ‘…the early morning rain washes your pain away…’

8. Some Time A pure, compact song, accompanied by gentle acoustic guitar and a cello sound. Returning to the key line ‘….some time in the future none of this will last…some time in the future all of this will pass…’ It is a moving, emotive vignette.

9. It’’s Dark Now A preview single for the album, this is a punch-the-air big anthem, built around percussive guitar and piano with a call and response chorus. The narrator is suffering the tribulations of late night excesses and broadening it out into wider social commentary.

10. Crying at the TV This is a dissonant nightmarish rocking workout, with a guitar simulating sirens, Tom’s voice filtered and distorted and generating an atmosphere of paranoia and ennui.

11. Real Slow Back to the country-rock pace, a jaunty song but with a serious intent and lingering message ‘….depression its a new low… days are drifting real slow….winter’s coming in and my windows are broken…’

http://www.tomwilliamsmusic.net/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/tom-williams-and-the-boat-29th-may-2014/

Various Artists : This Is The Sound Of Sugar Town, Vol 3, released March 2019

Another excellent compilation from the musical cauldron which is ‘rock city’ Bury St Edmunds, also known as the ‘sugar town’ of East Anglia.

1. Gaffa Tape Sandy – Water Bottle Premier Bury trio start the LP with one of their best, exploding and distorting from the speakers.

2. Tundra – Walking Stick Noisy opening leads into loose grungy punk guitar topped with an angry rant ‘…shut your mouth, stop talking, I’ve heard enough and I don’t want to hear any more…’

3. Sun Scream – Extract Sinister introduction soon gives way to some heavy fuzz guitar and a mind-bending lyric. The psychedelic tones include some synth-type bubbling and a general good-time atmosphere.

4. Sam Eagle – The Things You Taught Me Multi-instrumentalist/singer Sam with a small-hours jazz groove, coaxed along by smooth guitar, languid brass and a counterpointing vocal.

5. Kulk – Fix Me With only vocals, guitar and drums Kulk produce an all-enveloping sound that is so heavy it generates its own gravity field.

6. Stretch Soul Gang – Earache Jazz-funk from six-piece combo, not afraid to give each instrument some space to contribute to the tight sharp mix.

7. The Interesting Times Gang – Wayward Navigator With a theremin giving its usual mysterious sound this is a mix of proper prog and folkrock. It is a tale of roaming the cosmos on some strange quest; by the end of the second middle eight I was completely under its spell.

8. Kyanos – Lost In Blue Peaceful, playful psychedelic jazz with gleaming, ringing guitar figures leading the sound. The instrumental break is a thing of beauty leading into a thoughtful, fading coda.

9. Druids – Up To Mars The spirit of Hawkwind classic ‘Silver Machine’ lives on in this space-rock extravaganza, featuring countdowns, voiceovers, a driving riff and a ruthless instrumental break. Get on board!

10. The Catch – Tie Dye Short and to-the-point power rock from this trio, featuring a strong hookline chorus and neat lyrical rhymes around the title, with a decisive blast of rhythm at the end.

11. Amethysts – Wreckers Beautifully created electropop, with stately but delicate synthesisers descending the scales and floating beneath the exquisite vocals. Gorgeous.

12. Thy Last Drop – A Rake’s Tango Great fun here as this hybrid of Divine Comedy, Tom Waits and the Pogues tells its tale of lurid woe. You keep expecting to speed up and it does to great effect, driven by a sparkling featured mandolin.

13. The Glitter Shop – Fizz This one moves along like a road movie, with pace and energy. There is a big catchy chorus and an effects-drenched guitar solo too.

14. B.U.H. – No More Lines First recorded song (apart from a seasonal ‘butchering’ of Fairy Tale Of New York on YouTube!) from Bury’s leading noise exporters. A calm intro then with two vocalists, frenetic guitars, bass and drums all hell is let loose on this environmental epic.

15.Enterlude – British Dream Full-on indie rock from energetic five-piece. Big chorus, swirling keyboard, punching bass and drums; a fine end to this compulsive summary of the local scene.

Many of these musicians can be seen at the Hunter Club alternative music nights run by local promoters ‘Washing Machine’, see you there!

https://repeatfanzine.bandcamp.com/album/this-is-the-sound-of-sugar-town-vol-3
http://www.washingmachinebse.co.uk/
http://www.hunterclub.org.uk/

Moonstrips : We Love You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, LP released January 2019

A recently released album from Cambridge quartet Moonstrips; a follow up to ‘Glimpses’ from 2016.

1. Heading For Dust Kicking off the collection is this riff-driven burst of rock energy, motoring along like a late 60s Who single. A brilliant effects drenched guitar solo kicks in near the end.

2. Suzette Previously released as a single this sublime two and a quarter minutes of garage rock has the constantly frustrated narrator detached from the mysterious Suzette ‘….you have so many faces, I always see them in many different places…’. There are plenty of instrumental and melodic twists and turn crammed into this compact track.

3. Ride To The Centre The original trio has now added a saxophone to the line-up and on this medium-paced track its plaintive theme line punctuates the vocal and threads effectively through the whole song, finally letting loose at the end.

4. Out Of Phase A lyrically dense, thoughtful piece with a riff reminiscent of Bryan Ferry’s twisted version of ‘The In Crowd’. Lounge music with sharp edges as the sax snakes subtly into the song.

5. Had To Find Out This is my favourite song; heard live it is a tour de force as the slow waltz time is pushed to its limits. Starting with just guitar and sax and a suppressed drum beat, the bleak lyric gradually builds up the tension of the narrative. Finally the guitar jumps to the front of the mix with a strident solo, counterpointing with the sax.

6. WLYYYY
The title track is as strange and striking as the cover art, where a giant hare bestrides a motorway blocking the transit of an ice cream van following a sign directing it to moonstrips airport. It is an instrumental spectacular; busy bass and drums, yearning saxophone notes and guitar using all the tools and noises in the box to thunderous effect.

7. Reasons To Be Fearful Back to basics riff for this one, the faster tempo giving it a lighter, funkier feel than the rest of the album. Enigmatic lyrics keep an atmosphere of paranoia ‘…don’t read that book, throw it on the fire, its message hurts you and the author is a liar….’ The sax punctuates the track with a jazzy solo, before the big finish.

8. Think Happy Thoughts
A pastoral, relaxed end to the album, built around a repeating guitar figure and pedal bass note. Never straying far from this structure the track eventually drifts off into the ether.

A formidable live band, Moonstrips have attempted to crystallise the energy and intrigue of their stage performance into these grooves. I think they have succeeded…

https://www.moonstrips.com/

BansheeVa : debut album, released February 2019

The debut long player from BansheeVa, one of Cambridge’s premier live psychedelic bands finally arrives. The album starts with the pacey fire of ‘F.O.Y.C’, a short burst of instrumental power built around staccato drums and a stop-start guitar figure. Clocking in at less than two minutes ‘Woman From Mars’ is more of a retro piece with full-on late 60s sound. It is ‘Space Invaders’ when the trio go into controlled power-drive with a full band propulsive riff and the welcome appearance of some indecipherable shouted vocals blended into the mix.

‘Janus’ is the god with two faces, looking into the future and back into the past and so represents a perfect manifesto for the psychedelic genre; on this track the core musical idea is a repeated single note but adorned with complex drums, a manic guitar solo and ultimately bludgeoning the listener into submission. In a good way.

Every Cambridge band that inhabits this musical territory is going to be aware of the ghost of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd and I have seen BansheeVa play ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ as a feature of their live set. I sense that the languid ‘Sleep When I’m Dead’ is a spot-on tribute to mid-period Floyd with its laid-back instrumental colours, distant vocal and loose but always interesting guitar touches.

The final fourteen minute track is a widescreen, cinematic epic – the solo guitar arpeggios introducing the piece are gradually blended with a stately bass then the thunderous laying down of solid metal chords builds an effective platform for some more otherworldly vocals. Over this first third we get a guitar solo and dive-bombing synchronised with the bass. The track does not let up; the doom-laden bassline sounds like a portent to Armageddon and a deceptively quiet section allows some contemplation before it all kicks off again.

This is a loud and louder unrestrained debut, well worth the wait.

https://www.facebook.com/BansheeVa