Groove Tunes

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Scorn - Yozza

So far, all of the reviews I've done have been favourable so I thought it was about time to write one that is less so.

I don't know anything about Scorn but I got hold of the Yozza EP after being recommended it by a friend. I have to say that I really am not impressed with it at all. I first saw the artwork and was excited as it looked very cool, just my taste in art.

However, my excitement soon ended when I listened to it. I suppose the artwork is a good representation of the music; cold, dark, industrial, bleak. These are usually qualities I like in music but not so much with Scorn. I'm not even sure what kind of music it is. There is an element of dub in it, although very minimally so.

The focus is the beats. The first track starts with some live(ish) sounding drums that set the tone for the rest of the track. They're distorted and compressed and smashed. There are vague basslines that come and go, the sound of them definitely dubstep, as well as shimmering pads and melodies that just float around.

The EP just goes on like this really. It never seems to drop and there is always the distorted sound on the drums, obviously intentional to add grit and darkness to the music. The whole thing just lacks any kind of focus though.

I suppose this is slightly unfair. If you were completely off your face then you might enjoy this but I find it boring, it doesn't go anywhere, the drums aren't particularly imaginative, and the bass is too subtle.

It reminds me a little of some of Muslimgauze's tracks, and even very early Aphex Twin, the rough and experimental edge creating something you probably haven't heard before. But with this I don't necessarily want to hear it again.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Jackson C. Frank - Jackson C. Frank

Although certainly not a new album, Jackson C. Frank's self titled album is a fairly recent discovery for me. I have heard his songs for a number of years though, as will many other Nick Drake fans. 

Nick Drake, undoubtedly
a fan
Drake recorded some cover versions of Jackson's songs which, in some ways, became more famous than the originals after the Drake family started to hand out copies to fans which and subsequently made their way on to numerous bootleg releases. 

There is good reason for Nick Drake to record the covers. You can hear Jackson's influence on all of Drake's album, and they share a very similar style. Jackson, like Nick, was a solo singer/guitarist/song writer with some deep roots in both blues and folk. 

The tracks on this album almost seem to be too short even though the are mostly over three minutes long. I think this is because there's something so captivating about his voice, the power and the slight drool quite reminiscent of Tim Buckley. 

This has to be one of the most influential albums of the folk genre, even though a lot of people have never heard of him. The production credit going to Paul Simon certainly attests to the standard of the album, not only in production but also in song writing and musicianship. 

Get this if you haven't heard it before. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Ghazal - The Rain

Ghazal is quite an unusual group. Not only because of the style of music that they play but also because of who the members are. Shujaat Khan is part of a musical dynasty.

His legendary family has produced a line of seven generations of musical geniuses. His father, Vilayat Khan, is one of the most highly regarded sitar players ever, a giant in Hindustani music.

As far as I know, Shujaat is the first member of this family to break away from the confines of ragas to explore other genres of music. This is not the first non-raga music that he has made but it could well be the most impressive.

His partner in this project is Kayhan Kalhor, a Kurdish Iranian musician who plays kamancheh. The kamancheh is a Persian violin-like instrument that is not played like a western violin but rather standing up, rested on the leg of the player.

Kayhan is a virtuoso in his own right and makes an excellent match for the skills of Shujaat Khan. They combine to make a formidable super-group.

The music is quite unusual as well. As I mentioned, this is not raga music such as Shujaat is most widely known for. The band is based on the idea of improvising around a blend of North Indian and Persian classical and folk melodies and traditions. This is the last album that they produced and is all recorded live.

The music is spellbinding from the opening chord of Shujaat's sitar. The two players weave around each other like they were born to play together, echoing one melody and then taking it in turns to expand and improvise around the theme. Shujaat also sings in places, always fairly softly but more than enough to be powerful and prominent at the same time.

Needless to say, the sitar playing is stunning, but as is that of the kamancheh. In fact, the range of sounds that Kayhan draws out of his instrument is amazing. He alternates between plucking and bowing, both techniques producing very different sonic effects.

The three songs on this live album are lengthy, with none of them being less than fifteen minutes long, but these two masters know how to keep the interest up and before you know it the track is over. It is simply mesmerising.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Ozric Tentacles - Yum Yum Tree

The Ozric Tentacles have been around for years and years. They have only one remaining original member since they formed two decades ago but have released twenty eight albums in that time. They are one of the most prolific and original bands of the past fifty years yet they have never achieved mainstream fame. 

You could be forgiven for never having heard of Ozric Tentacles. Although giants at an underground level, they are barely known by the majority of people. That said, they are a legendary band and you will almost have heard an artist or group that have taken inspiration from them. 

When I heard that Ozrics were playing in the my city, only a few hours before they were due to walk on stage, I was somewhat surprised. I live about as far away as you can possibly be from their roots in Somerset, England and I didn't expect to ever see them again when I left the UK. 

However, they came to play two shows on consecutive nights, both of which were packed to capacity. It turned out that the band are quite famous here. This is mainly due to the virtuoso guitar skills of Ed, the main founder of Ozrics. 

I had not realised that they had previously released yet another album so soon after the gig I went out and got it. As with all of their albums, I wasn't disappointed. There are a couple of albums that are not as strong as the others but generally you can buy any Ozric album and rest assured that haven't wasted your money. 

I was always fond of the band's line up when they have guy who played flutes and whistles (and occasionally some strange vocals), circa Become The Other, but their sound has become even more refined with the production getting stronger and synths getting more futuristic, if that's possible. 

Yum Yum Tree sounds excellent, the quality of the recording and the production is top notch and the songs themselves match. It is perhaps not as hard as their previous couple of albums as there is a definitely chilled out sound to this one. 

The formula is the same and all the usual components are present, from Ed's incredible guitar licks and leads, to the floaty pads and arpeggiated synths, and the live drumming pushing the Ozric sound somewhere between and beyond the boundaries of psychedelic progressive rock and dance music. The formula works well and the band obviously enjoy playing it so why change it?

The most recent line-up
There is, of course, lots of world music influences throughout the album. This isn't anything new but somehow it still sounds quite fresh, the textures and clarity in the production making everything as clean and well produced as any modern dance music. One track has a reggae/dub skank and, naturally, it spirals off in to psychedelic and hazy aural madness/loveliness. 

Yum Yum Tree doesn't disappoint at all and proves that Ed Wynne and the rest of the band have still got it. If anything I would say they are getting stronger and stronger with experience. They are not veering off in experimental directions as some bands do, they're sticking to what they do best and continuing to do it well, and getting better at it all the time. 

Saturday, 4 June 2011

New Design

I've been playing with some templates and the design of the blog. I think it looks a bit better but I'd love to hear your comments about it.

There will be a new review later, I haven't decided what yet though.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Liquid Stranger - The Arcane Terrain

I've been a fan of Liquid Stranger for a while. He is quite a mysterious character. hailing from Sweden, he claims to have little interest in listening to music, aside from his own presumably, and that his main influence is the music from early computer games. In his early works you could hear this clearly but his albums managed to cram in styles such as ambient, jazz, dubstep, psychedelica, reggae, dub, and dancehall.

The Private Riot
His previous two albums, The Private Riot and Mechanoid Meltdown, were almost masterclasses in dubstep. They were both powerful, clean and very tightly produced albums that set very high standards for other dubstep producers to follow. However, his two albums previous to these were more of a dub affair and this is the direction that The Arcane Terrain has returned to.

There is a touch of the Liquid Stranger dubstep sound on this though. The production, is incredibly clear and precise, as good dance music should be and all of Liquid Stranger's releases are. It is slightly heavier than the earlier dub albums, undoubtedly a sign of the dubstep influence seeping through.

In fact, this sounds remarkably like a perfect crossover of his dub sound and that of The Private Riot with the driving and dirty basslines swelling and wobbling, and the heavy and tight drum punching through the mix, both fitting perfectly with the psychedelic sounds swirling around in the background.

The Intergalatic Slapstick, of Liquid
Stranger's dub albums
The second track features some deep and dancehall-esque vocals coming in when the elastic bass cuts out. The mix on this track is so spacious and tight, it really shows off Liquid Stranger's style and skills in making an absolutely banging track with multiple influences and polishing it in to one of the most pleasurable listening experiences you can have, like sweet candy for the ears.

The seventh track, Totem, starts off with some kind of Asian sounding flute before the track goes completely bhangra, Liquid Stranger style of course. The female vocals throughout are beautiful, again the incredible production making everything stand out and shine.

The influences continue to come, quite often in Asian flavours, but all the time fitting well with the dub, dubstep and psychedelic framework. Liquid Stranger seems to be heading in the right direction and getting stronger all the time. This album makes me think of artists such as Shpongle, Infected Mushroom, Ott, Hallucinogen (the dub remixes album) and Younger Brother.

I can't recommend this enough, it has some of the finest dub and dubstep I've heard in a long time. I didn't think Liquid Stranger could top The Private Riot but I think he has done it with The Arcane Terrain . A true masterpiece and a modern classic in my opinion.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Murcof - La Sangre Iluminada

Mexican producer Murcof produces ambient electronic music that is rich in textures and imagery. This is his sixth album and is a little bit more spacial and ambient than his usual offerings.

The last album I heard from him was Remembranza, which was excellent, full of glitchy, orchestral and almost dubstep pieces, many of which went on for seven or eight minutes.

This album has a very similar sound except without the glitchy dubstepness. The album is made of twenty tracks, generally only a minute or two long. There are more textural sounds and more of a focus on the ambient element, the result being a rather well put together, thought out album with a continuous theme running through each track.

The third album, Remembranza 
There are multiple versions of the same movements but this doesn't get as repetitive or boring as you might expect. The flow and pace is kept by the tracks being mixed in with each other and the samples and textures constantly evolving to keep it fresh. Murcof explores the sonic soundscapes of each mini theme within the grander idea, and does it successfully.

The general sound of the album is quite dark and perhaps depressing, but strangely, also uplifting at the same time. The orchestral samples work as well as ever with the electronic parts that float in and out, stabbing here and there, the difference in origin and tone between the two somehow being blurred in to a coherent whole, densely packed with flavours and colours.

As far as ambient albums go this is really quite good. The tracks might be too short for some, which is understandable, it's not unusual for song lengths in this genre to be in the ten to fifteen minute region. Having said that I think most fans of ambient and electronica in general could like it when given a chance in the right setting and time.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Back To Normal!

After a slight technical hitch I've managed to get the blog back to normal so go ahead and read my latest review of the Venetian Snares EP, Cubist Reggae

Venetian Snares - Cubist Reggae

I can't say I'm a huge fan of Venetian Snares, I've heard couple of albums but a lot of it is a bit too intense for me. Reggae is the last thing you (or I at least) would expect them to do. But sure enough, they have made some reggae. Well, of a sort.

I doubt very much that many die hard reggae fans would even call it reggae as it is actually more like electro dub than anything else. I suppose it is exactly what you would expect if Venetian Snares listened to a lot of dub and used it as an influence.

It is not even straightforward electro dub. The first track is the only one that really resembles reggae but it is like some futuristic computer-gone-crazy kind of reggae. There are loads of edits and glitches, and only a very vague melodic theme weaved through the track, but also a definite skank and lovely bassline.

There is also a strange and slightly creepy pitched down vocal line, not singing but talking. Towards the end you hear some massive reverbs, typical in dub, and some echoes which remind you that this is some kind of an attempt at dub. I can't imagine how long it took to make this, it sounds like it was started with a regular electro reggae track and then remixed and edited for hours and hours.

The second track is the one that resembles dub the most. It starts with an almost conventional skank and upbeat but quickly descends into glitchy edits again, although this is done with focus and doesn't sound completely out of place or unnecessary. The echoes and reverbs are there but there is also a very dark sound or theme that comes in halfway through the track in a luscious pad breakdown . The track fades out to leave this pad but comes back in again with a vengeance, taking the hyper-editing even further, which actually adds quite a lot of pace and even drama to the track.

The other two tracks on Cubist Reggae go back to a more typical Venetian Snares style with less of the dub and reggae influence, although it is still there, just much less so. I don't listen to a lot of this type of music so I don't have much to compare it to but the last track reminds me of Aphex Twin a lot with the unbelievable hyper-editing and the dark yet beautiful melodies floating behind a foreground of madness.

For me, this is the best music that I have heard from Venetian Snares. As you would expect, it is highly original, genre jumping, intense, and incredibly unusual. If you're a fan of electronic dance music and/or dub then you should check this out.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Late - Phantom Papers

There's something about Scandinavian music. It seems to almost have an inherent cold beauty, often composed of delicate and floating melodies. Finnish dubstep producer Late is no different.

This isn't the usual kind of style that most people think of when they hear the word 'dubstep'. This four track EP doesn't sound like it's trying to compete a Most Aggressive Bassline award. There is none of what often gets termed brostep. In fact, it couldn't be much gentler while remaining danceable.

Sounds Familiar...

There are a fairly obvious comparison to early Burial that has to be made. Although it's not likely that you would hear this EP and mistake it for Burial, there are elements of his influence weaved into the sound.

The soft female vocals, the lo-fi crackly old vinyl sounds and the similar type of clean yet minimal beats are certainly reminiscent of Burial's first album sound but at the same time sound original and fresh. It would be unfair to disregard this artist as just another Burial clone as it deserves so much more attention and respect than that.

Future Garage

The Future Garage genre is veering off in a different direction than it's cousin, dubstep. Some would say this is a very good thing and tend to agree. It's fresh to hear music like Late's EP. It is melodic, has the classic old shuffle in the drums that always used to be characteristic of dubstep, and at the same time does sound new.

Phantom Papers is a beautiful collection of tracks which I would recommend to anyone. Fans of electronic music in general, who perhaps don't really like dubstep, would enjoy this EP as it isn't your typical run of the mill dubstep. Chilled, cleanly produced and full of melody, this is definitely one to check out.

Monday, 30 May 2011

The Third Eye Foundation - The Dark

It's been a while since I've heard anything from Third Eye Foundation. The last I heard was excellent Little Lost Soul and although I have taken a keen interest in the solo/side project of Matt Elliot, it's not been the same without Third Eye Foundation around.

The Third Eye Foundation produce something quite unusual. It is primarily dark drum and bass but it could be said that it is more IDM but it is more than either of those genres, sometimes bordering on ambient, sometimes almost classical. A common theme to the sound is the haunting operatic vocals that are warped and twisted, swirling around the complicated and dissected beats. And this album is no different.

It opens with some lovely piano softy tinkling away as more sounds, the characteristic eerie vocals gradually fading in and the beats growing in complexity and edits. As with nearly all Third Eye Foundation tracks, there is a soft and melodic chord progression pinning the song down, holding the song from escaping in to complete abstraction.

The album seems like it is intended to be listened to as a whole as all the songs are mixed in to one another and change seamlessly, creating a forty three minute epic sound-scape. The songs are quite lengthy but the don't get boring, even though they have no definable structure, with the edits and the constant changing sound keeping your interest all the time. The pace builds throughout the album, peaking at almost a wall of sound.

The title is very apt, dark it is. It is the kind of music you can imagine going through the head of someone completely unstable but it is focused, cleverly written and strangely ambient at the same time as being intense and not the easiest record to listen to. It may not be an album that you will love the first time you hear it and you probably have to be in the right mood for it but when you are in that certain frame of mind, this is a masterpiece.

Maybe not for everyone as it is fairly avant-garde in its own way, but you should give it a chance, it will probably grow on you.

This video is quite short but it sums the album up well, showing the orchestral and melodic beauty as well as the intense beats.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Nought - self titled

Where do I start with Nought? I doubt many people reading this blog will have ever heard of them. The band formed in Oxford, UK in 1996. They were loved by John Peel and apparently they toured for a while in Russia. They've never become very widely known, which is a shame because they are an extremely talented bunch of individuals.

I'm not even sure quite how to describe their music. The sound is experimental, noisy, has elements of prog-rock, math-rock, post-rock, jazz, industrial, modern classical, and is very avant-garde. They have been compared to likes of Miles Davis, Steve Reich, Sonic Youth, Philip Glass, Stravinsky, Glenn Branca, Nation of Ulysses, John Coltrane & The Fall. I don't think this does them justice though, they are highly original and almost virtuosos. They improvise heavily while performing although if you have ever seen this band play then you have probably lost a little bit of your hearing.

I first started watching Nought in tiny little venues and was completely mesmerized by the two Fender Jaguars laying horizontally on stands, with a drill sitting on top of one of them, the insane time signatures, the discordance, and the almost inhuman drumming and bass playing. They were certainly something to behold at that time.

They have gone through a few line up changes since then, which is a shame because I don't think they've ever been quite as good as they were with the original members. I didn't understand the music at the time and I probably don't understand it now. The main member of band is not far from a genius, he composes everything and directs the band. I can only imagine what goes on in his mind.

It was a while before they released an album although they did release a couple of singles on Shifty Disco which were excellent and really did a good job to represent how the band sounded on stage.

The album itself is, in some ways slightly tamer but more crafted and mature. It contains quite a few of the old songs that they always played, including the one with the drill and a telephone ringing, but it is well produced and has more sophisticated air about it.

You can buy the album at their website here - NoughtMusic
or at the Shifty Disco website here - Shifty Disco

It is only £5 at the Shifty Disco site although you can download a couple of tracks from their website.
This is a download from their site: Ignatius

I can't find a video with music from this album but there are a couple floating around of their live performances, pretty noisy! Please just download the song because this video is really not a good representation of the band's talent.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Calle 13 - Entren Los Que Quieran

If you've never heard of Calle 13, there may be a good reason. They are a Puerto Rican group who make rap/hip hop/reggaeton and their songs are only in Spanish. They are huge in Latin America though and almost a super-group, it could be said. The tag of reggaeton often puts a lot of people off and actually gives the wrong impression of the band, they are so much more than reggaeton but there are influences of the genre in their music. However, only in a good way.

This is their last album, released in 2010. The album marks a distinct change of direction for the band, although not an unexpected one. Calle 13 (street 13 in English) have always been had a diverse range of influences in their sound and Entren Los Que Quieran is just the natural progression of that.

The direction of this album is that of a more organic sound. There are a lot of guitars, often distorted and rock sounding, violins, and more real sounding drums than their previous albums.

It starts with an introduction track, which is slightly strange, sounding like a tv or radio advert. This seems to go one for ages but the real songs are worth the wait. The second track, Calma Pueblo, begins with a distorted guitar that sounds like it might be the intro to a Deftones song. However, the beats and the slightly funky bassline soon comes in, along with Residente's characteristic vocals. You can tell right from the first thirty seconds that this is going to be a strong album as this track is powerful, with the guitars and the classic Calle 13 sound working perfectly yet giving them a huge sound.

The next track begins with some strings that sound like they are from a middle eastern film and then an almost bhrangra style line comes in just before the ska-like deep horn and the drums. There is a slight reggaeton feel to the rhythm but this has to be the best reggaeton you will have ever heard, if that's what you wanted to label this song as.
A female vocalist accompanies Residente throughout the song, with some lines that quite honestly sound a little crazy, but excellently fitting at the same time.

The rest of the album progresses and changes styles all the time, both in pace and influences. For example the fourth track is much slower than the previous, again with the female vocals beautifully taking control of the chorus. The sixth song, Vamo' A Portarnos Mal, is almost pure ska. Muerte En Hawaii takes on a complete reggae feel, although it is more or less just an acoustic guitar, a lovely slide guitar and Residente singing.

There are definite pop sensibilities about this album, as there always have been with Calle 13. The influences come thick and fast but the band seems to be growing stronger and stronger, their sound becoming more defined yet diverse all the time. It's a great album. It seems that this band can't put a foot wrong.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Kode9 & The Spaceape - Black Sun

I, like a lot of people, have been waiting what feels like a very long time for Kode9's follow up to the hugely influential Memories Of The Future album. It was always going to be difficult to make a come back album after an album regarded as a true classic in the dubstep world, which is perhaps the reason for it taking so long to arrive. 

Many people will listen to Black Sun and think that it is not as strong as Memories, or even that it hardly sounds like the same artist. The latter is true enough, it does sound very different. Is it as strong as the previous release? I would have to say yes it is, I can't deny that it took a couple of listens as it was nothing like what I was expecting, but it is an excellent follow up. There were two directions Kode9 could've taken; make an album in a similar style to Memories and guarantee a happy fan base, or make whatever came out, following the creative direction and integrity that probably has always driven him, the will to write something ground breaking and fresh. 

Fresh it certainly is. In a genre that is getting more mainstream, and more aggressive yet predictable (and almost cheesy) and paradoxically soft, this sounds very new. In fact, it could be argued that it is barely even dubstep at all. 

There are the hallmarks of the artist all over the album, such as the almost jazz extended chord stabs and pads, but there are massive innovations in the sound. For a start, Spaceape sounds completely different at times. Gone is the close-microphoned and super deep lines, replaced with a much broader palette of sounds, styles and textures. He seems to spent the time away practising and honing his skills all round. 

I don't know how to describe the new style that the album has taken, it's completely original although there are still the disjointed beats, lovely basslines and sharp lyrics. The opening song starts with some timpani drums, a dub siren and some soft female vocals, which are all the last things you would expect. But then the track kicks in and a touch more familiarity comes with it, with Spaceape's vocals reassuring that, yes, this is the same group. 

The rest of the album is equally varied but at the same time still typically Kode9 & Spaceape. I'm sure lot of fans will be disappointed, especially when you consider the direction that dubstep has taken since the last album was released with the clichéd blow-your-face-off wobbly basslines and simple beats barely reinforcing the rhythm, but that is what is so great about Black Sun, it is the opposite of those clichés. The beats are quite complex, the basses are not necessarily the main focus and, above all, there so lots of other layered sounds building up the tracks. 

While maybe not a classic on the first listen, Black Sun is definitely a grower, it seems to get better and better every time you hear it. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

No review today

No review today, should be back with one tomorrow though. The reason I'm not posting one today is that I've just finished a new tune which I thought I would post here.

This is a bit of a different style from what I normally do.

Winter Me feat Asher Dust by Meef Chaloin

Monday, 23 May 2011

Groundation feat Don Carlos and Congos - Hebron Gate

Firstly, this Hebron Gate is not new and I have not just discovered it but it is one of my most favourite albums of all time so I thought I would write a review for it. If you ask a dedicated reggae fan about this album he will probably think it's a mainstream album but at the same time he will most likely hold it close to his heart, while casual reggae listeners may not have discovered this beauty yet.

From seeing the names featuring on this you know that you're in for something special; reggae giants Don Carlos and Congos. Groundation is no small name either and mix them all up together and you create a behemoth of a super-group.

The album starts with a surprisingly jazzy feel, with the rattle of a snare rim, the trumpet exploring the scale, the keys playing some nice extended chords and the bass also joining in on this little noodle, you could be forgiven for thinking that you've stumbled across something other that what you expected. But, in reggae, the introduction is always a chance to explore and why not, these artists certainly are influenced by a large range of musical styles, particularly jazz.

Having said that, after nearly forty seconds the staccato stabs and chops of reggae come punching through the speakers. The first thing that you notice (or maybe it's just me) is the quality of the production. The album sounds incredibly clean and well recorded, every instrument sparkles and the whole is something warm and clear, a masterpiece of engineering and production.

And these skills are not wasted on the songs, they live up to this standard, each one on the album being a classic. The chorus of the first song, Jah Jah Know, explodes with such pace and energy, with the organ skanking along playing a lovely line and the lead vocal being backed up with great sounding female singers accenting key sections and ooohing and aaahing behind the scratchy tones of Don Carlos. In the middle the song stops and veers of into a jazz interlude, expanding and exploring the theme of the intro. Shimmery organ, syncopated drums and the modal trumpet improvising around the theme, this section is well written and somehow does sound right in the song. In fact, I would love to hear a pure jazz album from these players.

After the jazz the song slips back in to the staccato rhythm and the wonderful vocals. The jazz part actually creates a strong contrast to the rest of the song and contributes the dynamic pace, which just keeps on building up and up until the end.

I could write pages and pages about Hebron Gate, as I said before, every song is as strong as the rest and are all classics, there isn't a weak track on the whole album. The pace varies a little, and sometimes styles as well, but all the time the impressive vocals, instrument playing and production is present and never lets up.

It is albums like this that make reggae fans annoyed that everyone else only really knows Bob Marley. If you do only really know Bob Marley as far as reggae goes then please have a listen to this album because, in my opinion, this is as strong (or perhaps stronger) as any of his albums. It is easy to listen to and I can't imagine anyone listening to it and being disappointed. It is broad enough for anyone to like but strong enough that reggae heads love it as well.

This album also stands up to hundreds of listens without making you not want to listen to it again for a while, I have been listening to it for years now and I still love it and am not bored or sick of it at all. Every time it is soothing and simply beautiful.

Rodrigo y Gabriela - self titled

Rodrigo and Gabriela are two guitarists from Mexico who started out playing thrash metal but got bored and moved to Europe. While in Europe they decided to start busking and touring, except they dropped the metal and started to play something entirely different. Something one hundred percent acoustic. Their style is extremely varied but unmistakeably Latin yet thrashy, jazzy, and even Middle Eastern at times. Sounds intriguing? It is!

There is no question that these two guitarists are virtuosos, the playing is ferocious, incredibly fast and sometimes aggressive but it is perfect and extremely complex at all times. They often play without a plectrum in the typical flamenco styles, somehow playing complicated finger-picked melodies at the same time as playing percussion by slaps and punches against the guitar body, but it's not like much flamenco that you will have ever heard. You can tell that they the thrash metal experience and background when you hear how tight, precise and fast the playing is; it really does sound like what it is – two thrash metal guitarists from Mexico playing acoustic guitars but somehow you can't prepare for this for really imagine what it sounds like.

Their self titled album isn't their first one but it is extremely ambitious, boasting not only a cover of Orion by Metallica but also something completely sacrilegious to some people; Stairway To Heaven.

The former fades in with the recognizable riff being played along with the acoustic being slapped to make the rhythm, which is all reasonably unassuming at first but the structure and playing slowly builds up to an impressive pace. The solo is just beautiful, very well played on a lovely sounding guitar ringing with reverb but there is also the insanely complex rhythm playing behind. This track is actually quite slow for the duo but it doesn't need to any faster. I'm not sure what Metallica fans would make of it but I think this does the original justice.

And then there is Stairway To Heaven. You may think it's quite brave to attempt covering this, and it is, but when you hear this you will understand that they are justified in doing so, this isn't just another cover. Their version totals 4min 44secs and somehow they seem to cram the whole song in. Of course, they do drop out a few of the verses (being an instrumental it would be unnecessary to have too many) but all the important parts are included.

You can tell from the first few bars that this is going to be a bit different with the Latinized introduction littered with little lines of improvisation. This goes on for nearly a third of the song but it's not too much, at all. The verse is sheer brilliance, the two guitars sounding heavenly.

The solo quickly comes around and you won't be disappointed, if you're expecting it to be a bit lame because it is played on an acoustic guitar, you would be wrong. Impressive isn't the word. It's difficult to put in to words what they do, so just go and listen to it. I will say though that this isn't even the best song on the album.

This is such an amazing album, even if you're not particularly enthralled by this style of music, I can't imagine that you would unimpressed by the talent of Rodrigo and Gabriela. Anyone who has ever played a guitar will be able to appreciate the brilliance. Certainly different but not one to miss.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Meef Chaloin & Asher Dust - Revolution Solution

This is an free album that in collaboration with Asher Dust. We did this a couple of years ago but it is still up for free download and now I am writing blogs I thought that I would post it on here.

You can get it for free here - Meef Chaloin & Asher Dust - Revolution Solution - Free Album Download

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Max Richter - Infra

This is another favourite of mine. Max Richter is a German-born British composer who has worked with a broad range of artists such as Roni Size (on the In The Mode album), Future Sound Of London, he produced Vashti Bunyan's Lookaftering album, and has had his music featured in various tv programmes and films, such as Stranger Than Fiction and Shutter Island.

So while you have probably heard his music before, you might not know it.

Infra is his latest, and fifth, solo album. It starts of with morse code (I'm not sure what it says though) and some old radio sounds before a beautiful slow piece of music fades in and blossoms. This track reminds me slightly of Godspeed You Black Emperor or Mogway.

The second song continues with the radio noise, weaving a theme that continues throughout the album. Richter is keen on this fragmented style and is not the first time he has used such a technique. This song comes in with some piano but doesn't really go further than that. That said, it is a great track and actually doesn't need much else, sometimes less is more.

In fact, some of the piano on this album is just incredible. There seems to be quite an obvious influence of Philip Glass and I have to say that Max plays and writes every bit as well as Glass. There is so much beauty in his playing.

The tracks vary so much on this album but somehow stay on theme with the rest of the album. There are tracks that are not much more than hints at melody with noise and radios tuning in the background and then there are full on orchestral delights. For example, Journey 2 is one of the noise/slight melody tracks but it is followed by Infra 4, one of the most concise and well written tracks on the album, orchestral and completely emotional.

I don't know what you would tag Infra as, perhaps classical, neo-classical. I don't really care because it is just well written, emotion evoking, colourful, and mainly extremely good. I loved it the first time that I listened and, although you may not think you like classical music, you should give this album a try, while I wouldn't say this is 'entry level' at all, it could be a very good album to get in to this genre of music.

In my opinion, this is the best song on the album. It really reminds me of Philip Glass with the repeating theme played throughout but growing and growing until it explodes in to the climax. It blows me away every time.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Debashish Bhattacharya and Bob Brozman - Mahima

As a student of sitar I listen to a lot of Indian classical music so, for me, coming across Mahima wasn't too surprising. What was surprising, however, was the content of the album. I had heard of Bob Brozman many times and had always been slightly intrigued by him; a slide guitar musician who has collaborated with many artists from around the world in a variety of different styles.

The first thing to say about Mahima is that it is one crazy album. I mean crazy in the sense that I have heard nothing else like it and that it is so full of influences that it is just astonishing that it comes together.

Of course, there is a bit of a blues sound to all of this, as it would probably be impossible for a song to contain slide guitar and not sound bluesy, but it goes further than that, the riffs of the non-slide guitars do little runs and arpeggios that are very reminiscent of standard blues. But then they, and the rhythms, have so many influences. There is a definite nod to gypsy music and folk music, I would imagine that these two styles are closely linked and they go hand in hand on this album.

It starts of with tablas and a slightly unusual riff that hints at the diverse influences used on the rest of the album. Then the stunningly beautiful vocals of Debashish Bhattacharya come in with Bob complimenting her lines with some simple slide action. Her vocals are pitch perfect and she has a very strong voice, using typical Indian style in the melodies and singing in what I presume is Hindi. Then we have a nice little slide guitar solo and then a tabla breakdown before it all comes back in with Debashish leading everyone along back the main theme of the song. Towards the end we hear Debashish's vocals layered with multiple versions and some other singers while the rest of the music fades out to leave her (and her backing) to sing that beautiful line just one more time.

The second song starts with a lead line from Bob which is almost Spanish sounding. There are no vocals on this but there is a definite hint of flamenco and other Latin styles, in fact it is packed full of Latin influence.

The next song comes back to the Indian influences but still remains quite bluesy, as the title suggests, Tagore Street Blues.

The rest of the album continues with its wide range of sounds and styles, somehow sounding consistent all the way through. There are sounds of North Africa, Cuba, Spain, deep south USA, and of course India. But this would be simplifying the sound of this album and probably doesn't do it justice.

I would recommend that you get hold of this album and see for yourself. I can't imagine you being disappointed. The album has something for almost everyone, with quite amazing guitar work, impressive and diverse drumming and percussion, stunning vocals, and influences from all over the world incorporated in to a strong and weirdly consistent album.


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