Emzae is a singer and electronic musician who has been recording and performing her own songs since 2014. After various demos her debut long-player ‘Double Life’ was an ambitious concept album about a fictional pop singer. It showed her versatility and range; from the frenetic 80s synthtastic pace of ‘Alter Ego’ and ‘We Hate You’ to the leisurely atmosphere of ‘Lounge’ and compact pop template of ‘Star Sign’.
Impressive indeed, then follow-up singles opened up new landscapes – starting with the much streamed ‘Lucid Dreaming’ (a dream during which the subject is aware that they are dreaming) which was a simple structure with a seemingly infinite number of textures and colours to frame Emzae’s entrancing vocals. Four experimental remixes added to the intrigue.
Recently ‘Glory’ started with an electric piano introduction then added echoing semi-ambient keyboards and bass lines. As the track built up with percussion and strange slowed-down vocal interventions weaving with a catchy hookline it was a darkly satisfying composition.
So now we have a new single to accompany some live dates in the UK. ‘Another Lesson Learnt’ is an atmospheric, assured track; throughout an electronic drumbeat drives the narrative with the words addressing the idea that society pressures all to find love in order to be secure and complete and how that can lead to wrong choices.
‘…I want to belong, just like anyone….in our quest for unity we get ourselves burnt….’, like many of her lyrics, the heartfelt emotion comes through in her haunting vocals. The instrumentation is complex and confident, the messages strongly expressed. Finally that pulsing beat stops, leaving just the multi-tracked voices to drift off into the ether…..
A belting new single from Cambridge trio Pink Lemonade. On their previous outing the stratospheric ‘Space Girl’, they were out in the cosmos for two and a half minutes of power pop ‘….surfing the waves of the Milky Way…not your usual Friday, hey!…’, a burst of energy featuring a na na na na chorus, fuzzy guitar and as much outer space terminology as they could cram into the grooves. Follow that!
They have – although back to Earth lyrically the energy level has been maintained and probably increased. An insistent guitar line drives the song from the start, introducing a lyric of fitting in and alienation, a story being told over driving drums liberally adorned with cymbals, busy bass and a punchy lead vocal. The rest of the band join in on the vocals for a killer chorus which will lodge permanently in your brain.
The song structure is suddenly disrupted with a surreal spoken and shouted call and response middle eight before we return again to the security of ‘…sugar and spice and all things nice….’. The trio seem to have a gift for writing excellent choruses and as the track goes into overdrive it finally ends with the line ‘…love, love, love makes the world go round…’. Indeed it does, listen and enjoy!
A new single from acoustic dreamy duo Astralingua, a forerunner of their new album to be released in March (see excellent cover artwork below). They use a broad canvas of strings, woodwind and gentle effects as a platform for the distant but compelling vocals.
Composer Joseph Thompson and vocalist Anne Thompson sing all the lines as two-part harmonies and make the whole piece into many strata of gorgeously textured ethereal musings. Beginning with awe and wonder at the cosmos ‘… staring through a polished glass…all the shining stars…wonder could I truly grasp….’ the narrator soon becomes overwhelmed at the prospect of the scale of things ‘…endlessly vast…aeons roll past…’ and as happened in the most famous celestial song of all (Bowie’s Space Oddity) it ends badly ‘…the silence roars…I want no more…of life behind these doors…’
We don’t know if there is a way back from oblivion for the astronaut but this beautiful song ends wistfully as the instruments beam out into the distant galaxies. With a calm psychedelic insistency that recalls Pink Floyd’s ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’ this is as good an evocation of the mysteries of the cosmos as you could hope to hear.
The long-awaited new EP from acoustic indie-folk band Flaming June; driven by the compositions of singer/guitarist Louise Eatock. In the spirit of traditional folk themes of protest and comment these four excellent songs champion ‘…female spirits that break the mould…’
1. Firework Maker’s Daughter A mid-tempo rousing track, with the violin interweaving its magic through the acoustic guitar and restrained percussion. Based on a short story by Philip Pullman, Louise delivers an adventurous lyric that on the surface describes the title character aspiring to follow an unconventional career path but spreads into broader imagery of justice and ambition.
2. Oblivion Instantly conjuring up images from Hogarth’s ‘Gin Lane’ and edgier parts of historic novels this brisk music takes the listener into the midst of communities where the downtrodden escape from a difficult real life in the 19th Century. Short instrumental punctuations, an excellent double-tracked vocal, the dense texture of the violin again and especially a chorus of ‘…laudanum lovers love like no other…but they can’t remember how it feels…’ lift the three minutes into something special.
3. Drunken Assassin A lighter and more upbeat atmosphere musically but the words move into dark territory of introspection on loneliness and addiction within a relationship. The lyric pulls no punches ‘…if only you weren’t drinking yourself half to death we could live happily ever after…’
4. Women’s Battalion The pivotal track on the EP, a commemoration of the centenary of the 1918 general election, the first election following the enfranchisement of middle-class women over the age of 30. It was also the first time that working class men, although not working class women, were allowed to vote, so the song includes the continuation of the struggle for equality, extending it as far as the present day. The relentless marching pace of the song and spirited vocal performance push all before it, with fine contributions from cajón and violin.
As a final prelude to a new LP ‘Motus Octo’ in November, Cambridge quartet Bouquet Of Dead Crows release an alternative version of the album’s second track.
The phrase “the good God is in the detail” is generally attributed to Gustave Flaubert, but less certain is the author of its satanic counterpart. Whatever the origin the Crows have turned it into a hookline for a stately slice of highly-charged rock. Making full use of the stereo separation in the mix, Neil Bruce’s dissonant guitar in the introduction lays down the devil’s own riff, the bass and drums crash in and away we go.
Many diversions and subsections come and go and masquerade as new directions for the song before it keeps returning to that ultra-catchy title line. There is even time for a quick guitar solo, a bit of stabilising bass and a genuinely different middle-eight.
The angelic voice of Antoinette Cooper is the serene influence on this organised mayhem, leading the way over musicians at the heavenly height of their noisy powers.
The band are launching the album with a show at the Blue Moon in Cambridge on 24th November, with other shows being added. See you there!
Following on from a release of double track single ‘Baby Listen Here’/’I Go Crazy’ last month on which self-described ’21st Century Singing Cowboy’ Jack Rundell unleashed his inner Hank Williams with two up-tempo stompers he now follows with new track ‘Stinking Cloud’.
I don’t think Hank would recognise the subject matter of this ode to the human impact on the natural world but he would probably identify with the thread of resigned disappointment interwoven in the music and lyrics.
Over a bass guitar, low-fi keyboard and glockenspiel Jack wanders ‘….lonely as a stinking cloud…’, keeps his cowboy credibility with ‘….wondered lonely as the tumble weeds…‘ and brings the references more up to date with ‘….a cloud of mustard gas and microbeads….’.
It is a gem of a song, with a catchy chorus, at least two key changes and an accompanying video in the Suffolk countryside featuring some neat backwards photography, so what’s not to like?
(The mood of the song also reminded me to re-listen to classic Talking Heads reverse-environmentalism classic ‘Nothing But Flowers’…!)
Jonathan Beckett is a singer/songwriter/guitarist, revisiting some of his earliest work with his band Moscow Circus.
This new recording of a song from 1987 shows the timeless appeal of his work; he is not afraid to challenge with his thoughtful lyrics, this time using various train metaphors as a platform(!) for philosophical musings on mortality and destiny. The messages are wrapped in some surreal imagery, as demonstrated in depth on his 2016 long-player ‘Resounding’, previously reviewed on this site.
On this excellent outing he is given formidable backing by Peter Temperton on bass and Tom Parratt on drums, with Jonathan providing extra keyboard texture to counterpoint the serpentine guitar figure around which the song is built. The wordplay is used to good effect throughout the song and particularly in the hooklines of the chorus ‘…the pain in my head is a train running red…life’s so short anyway…it sure stops me dead in my tracks….’
There is the possibility of two more songs to rescue from the archive and then hopefully some new material and more live dates to follow….