Tag Archives: LP

Jo Ash : Constellations, LP released October 2018

Jo Ash is a singer and keyboard player from Ely, releasing her first LP of self-penned compositions. It is an album of introspection, intensity, imagination and above all of confident, well-structured song writing.

The first two tracks have a broad cosmological theme as referred to in the album title, with ‘Otherworldly’ a strong opener to the collection with its orchestral introduction before the acoustic piano and voice drive the song and lift its haunting chorus. Jo’s piano style is rich and compelling on many of these tracks, on ‘4D Journey’ it adorns a stealthy synthesiser bass pulse and another arresting chorus.
If the album generally tends towards slower tempos, in contrast the spirited ‘Story Behind Your Smile’ dances along briskly, ably supported by guesting guitar, bass and drums.

‘Adrift’ and ‘I See You’ are stately ballads where Jo gives full range to her clear, pure voice. ‘Her Eternity’ is a waltz led by some darker piano textures and tempo changes. ‘Smoke And Mirrors’ is a progrockish concoction with marching orchestra, spiky strings and a complex many-section arrangement.

‘Embers’ is a favourite of mine; with minimal piano and backing voices it still achieves a lush, emotive sound and it features one of Jo’s best vocals. ‘Blue Heart’ uses the repeating waltz rhythm of the echoing piano to great effect to counterpoint the abstract sentiments of the words.

For the final song a foreboding drum beat underpins a dark lyric musing on the inevitability of time passing and the idea that we only have ‘30,000 Days’ of life? The sombre chorus drives the song, ‘…here I am walking this Earth….’.
It is an unusual and haunting end to an impressive debut album.

http://joashmusic.com/

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Ember Rev : Premonition And Ruin, LP released Summer 2018

Cambridge four-piece Ember Rev are currently finalising their third LP, but this excellent previous release from early summer this year is well worth considering first. It is a concept album inspired by the state of the nation, with a feel of reflective and thoughtful protest.

1. Bring It Right Down Based on overheard conversations during train journeys by band leader Dan Ecclestone he has distilled the sentiments and current attitudes to political developments into a disruptive, edgy opus of powerful and personal imagery. The instrumental spikes are partly tempered by the rocking accordion of Chris Peckham and Dan’s vocals remind me of Tom Robinson at his protesting finest.

2. The Fear Another track where you can’t quite pin down the time signature this one broods into a descending guitar figure and hookline of paranoia and warning. There is a good featured voice contribution from Romy Gensale too.

3. Something Almost Imperceptible Relaxing acoustic instrumental passage with guitar arpeggios, glockenspiel and piano but with a sense of foreboding threading through. It is like something from an early gothic/pastoral Genesis album (eg Trespass)

4. Papillon The title is a reference to a quotation from Alexander Pope;’Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?’ and famously referenced when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were given a prison sentence in 1967. Mix those allusions in with a stately strolling accordion rhythm, loping bass, spacious drumming then suddenly a huge chorus crashes in. The pensive, questioning lyrics lead the song to its downbeat conclusion.

5. My Sentiments Exactly
The polyrhythmic undercurrents of much of the album are given free range here, with complex drumming driving the jazzy feel of the tune and another excellent vocal performance from Dan Ecclestone.

6. England’s Finest Hour The finale of the album unifies many of the musical styles we have heard previously. The forthright lyric links a historical context to the present day with the resigned multi-lingual words expressing solidarity with the European continent.

https://www.facebook.com/EmberRev

The Sunbathers : A Weekend Away With…., LP released September 2018

Acoustic indie band The Sunbathers release their debut LP ‘A Weekend Away With …..’, featuring a sea-related theme threading through the 15 tracks. As the duo hail from the East Midlands the geographical distance to all coastal areas adds an extra longing in the references to far-off places as the answer to yearnings and melancholic reflections. Beginning with wave and gull sounds the opening track ‘It Doesn’t Matter If It Rains’ sets the tone of wistful nostalgia explored in later lyrics.

The instrumentation consists of Paul’s sparkling acoustic guitar, with delicate arpeggios and multi-layered harmonic structures. An occasional ukulele and percussion fades in at times, with a melodica giving a reassuring DIY simplicity too on ‘Big Boy Now’ and ‘Shifting Sand’. The chance meeting in ‘If Only’ is a sad lament for a past relationship possibly given new life by a day at the sea, ‘…the wind sweeps in across the bay and takes my breath away and I’m willing you to stay…’.

The waltz time of ‘Girl You Left Behind’ gives an upbeat musical gloss to a brilliantly restrained lyric of disappointment, delivered with subtle emotions by vocalist Julie.
‘Don’t Go Home’ is a plaintive real-time cry from the heart over shimmering echoing guitar, as on many tracks the voice and music complementing each other perfectly.'(Waiting) For Trains’ is a realistic summary of long-distance relationships ‘…what can I do, now I’m a slave to engineering works at Crewe….I wish that one of us could drive, it might just be the only way our love survives..’ ‘Warmth Of The Sun’ closes the album with some sort of redemption from emotional insecurity, having finally arrived at the sea…

It is a beautiful, involving album to escape into, fragile and carefully crafted. Discovering its quiet secrets was a bit like hearing Nick Drake’s Pink Moon for the first time and I can’t recommend it higher than that.

http://www.thesunbathers.co.uk/

Elma : Dreamland, LP released September 2018

Retro duo Elma revive and re-interpret many aspects of sixties pop genres on their long awaited debut long-player ‘Dreamland’.
The title track sets the agenda with its sparse instrumentation, a leisurely waltz time, smooth melody and of course a lyric of regret and longing sung by the golden voice of Ellie Gillett. It conjures up the russet shades and faded grandeur of the deserted fairground and art-deco cinema on the album sleeve. Some of the tracks have been released before as inviting aperitifs to this full collection; the glorious stomp of ‘California’ and their four-track EP including the heartbreaking ballad ‘Butterfingers’.
(as reviewed on this site previously at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/07/01/elma-california-single-released-june-2018/ and https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2017/11/05/elma-slo-mo-ep-released-october-2017/)

Mark Ellis orchestrates a full band sound with plenty of brass for anthem of independence ‘On My Way’ (featuring another fine middle eight and instrumental break).
‘The Game’ is a beauty, the atmospheric introductory waltz creating an image of a rainy London street in the 1960s or a black and white TV detective series theme, then the jazzy vocal takes control and lifts it to another level, with a big chorus suddenly appearing.

Then the album ends with two excellent and contrasting tracks; ‘All I Want’ is an appealing and effortless lounge-music vignette, the voice floating above lighter-than-air electric guitar work, bass and brushed drums, with a piano solo too.
Finally, if ‘Butterfingers’ left the listener in emotional turmoil, then ‘Late To The Party’ has surpassed it with lines like ‘….you did all that you could boy, you wrote our names in the clouds, too bad that I wasn’t looking up…..’. Over simple and effective acoustic guitar chords, Ellie delivers a show-stopping vocal performance of nuance and emotion, worthy of this superb song.

Elma are launching the LP with live dates featuring a full band, including a show at The Portland Arms in Cambridge on 27th September….

https://www.facebook.com/elmaband/

Trick Bird : The Conversation, EP released May 2018

A new six track EP (LP?) of mystery and imagination from enigmatic Cambridge songwriter/performer Trick Bird. Who knows, it may or may not be named after the semi-cult Francis Ford Coppola movie, a film that portrays some of the paranoia that seems to pervade many of these tracks?

1. Holly Holy. Up-tempo opener rolls along nicely with some glistening guitar and irresistible hookline chorus. Not sure who the heroine is but she sounds like potential trouble, lovely sparkling short solo near the end.

2. Can You See Me? Overlapping and echoing vocals at the start then the ‘band’ crashes in to turn this into the most immediate track on the album, a sort of brooding, pulsing, melodrama in the style of underrated electronic troubadours Teleman.

3. Our Lives. An organ driven sound on this song, including some 1970s type built in percussion patterns. The different musical textures drift in and out and a wistful but sinister vocal describing scientific advances and their consequences.

4. The Conversation. The longest track on the album, staring with a country harmonica vibe it is a duet with talented guest vocalist Gabriella Davalos about a disconnected relationship (‘…when twenty-six letters aren’t enough any more…’). Another voice and a soundtrack sample is in the background; it is a complex, rich and rewarding track with a possible fantastical resolution (‘…you dream of riding wild horses in fields of gold…’)

5. Eye To Eye. A short and subtle ballad with combining voices backed with smooth and evocative strings from Cambridge musician Sharon Sullivan of the band Keltrix.

6. Another Heist. A simple descending chord figure on the piano is given plenty of space, driving the song above a montage of passing sampled sirens and featuring a floating, dream-like lyric.

And don’t forget the amazing cover art…


http://www.trickbird.co.uk/

Tragical History Tour : Aphorisms, LP released April 2018

Tragical History Tour is the stage name of Derrick Johnston, a singer-songwriter from the East Coast of Scotland who has substantial experience of performing in various bands and solo. With many stories to tell he is finally releasing his first long-player.

Opening track ‘Fight For Light’ sets the tone; a hybrid of folk, country and acoustic punk with a fiery, roaring vocal unleashed to great effect. The political message of ‘Come On Home, Hero’ is a previously released single, easing up a bit on the voice over a rockabilly backing.

‘Old Words’ shows a more tender side (‘….when I cut myself open in front of you to prove my heart was pure, but now not so sure….’) sung over a slow introduction, but then speeds up into a melancholic heartfelt song with an electric guitar line cutting through the acoustic.

‘What Would Vinnie Mac Do?’ has a cryptic lyric delivered over some sparkling guitar picking. The melody and arrangement of ‘It’s Cool, I’ve Got This’ is a highlight, an affecting and emotionally raw performance.

And there is much more, eventually reaching the epic conclusion of the album; ‘The Final Intervention’, an anthemic, wide-ranging summary of many of the elements of what has come before with the addition of well-judged piano, spoken voices and an almost orchestral ending.

Like the stark black and white landscapes featured on the cover art of this and his other releases the music can be agonised and angry, but always authentic and there is still a warmth to be felt from these ten tracks.

https://tragicalhistorytour.bandcamp.com/
http://www.real-records.co.uk/product/tragical-history-tour-aphorisms/

Gavin Chappell-Bates : Album Launch, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 24 March 2018

Opening the show at the constantly improving Blue Moon venue room was local singer/songwriter/guitarist Claudia McKenzie, otherwise known as I,Claudia, with a set of uplifting and varied tracks, based on her own experiences and anecdotes. Best of these was the blues of ‘Rain Down Hell’ though she can soon lighten the mood with the start-stop pace of ‘Staying In Tonight’.

Last seen playing outside at a freezing cold Mill Road Winter Fair, Louise Eatock, better known as Flaming June played a short selection of her extensive back catalogue of powerful folk tunes, tonight joined on stage by violin and cajon to add extra pulsing rhythm and soaring melody to her timeless lyrics. ‘Little Love In A Cruel World’ and ‘Wednesdays & Weekends’ sounded as good as ever, with final track ‘The Deviling Kind’ neatly weaving a sinister lyric around an irresistible instrumental backing.

Gavin Chappell-Bates has spent many months crafting the rare treat these days of a ‘concept album’, and tonight he played it in full. It is an ambitious theme; whereas Stevie Wonder’s ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’ attempted to describe the spectrum of all human existence, Gavin details the build up and consequences of the end of the world for an individual who literally becomes ‘The Last One’. It may sound a bit of a grim prospect but the music is generally uplifting and as he explains, the message to take away is that we should appreciate what we have and live in the moment.

The first optimistic songs are full of memories of growing up; the gradual building of musical layers in ‘The Philosopher’, the spirited romp of ‘Lovely Day’, ‘Young Lovers’ with its catchy hookline and a tribute to ‘Mother’. ‘Bad Faith/Good Faith’ sees an edgier tension across the lyric, but with another potent hook. The recorded versions of some of the tracks feature strings and keyboards, but they are not missed tonight; Gavin’s specially assembled band (The Singing Trees) have a life of their own with solid bass, 12-string electric and sparky drumming supporting his own guitars and harmonica.

‘Do What You Like’ is a topical and bitter summary of human disregard for the planet and as a consequence Armageddon arrives in my favourite track on the album ‘The Last One’……after all if the world is going to end it is good to set it to a 70s glam rock shouter, much enjoyed by the audience.
‘Cinematic Memories’ and ‘The Sanctuary Of Stars’ are moving and thoughtful big ballads, then guitar-led rocker ‘This Is It’ brings the album to a close; no triple gatefold concept excesses here, it is all very much to the point.

A quick cover of REM’s ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It’ was followed by final encore of Gavin’s older single ‘We Are The Ones’ and left us feeling fine.

Well played Gavin and the band. A triumph!

http://gavinchappellbates.com/
http://loui552.wixsite.com/flamingjuneuk
https://www.iclaudiamusic.com/