A Review of ‘Four’ by #ARNALDSFRAHM – The Perfect Collaboration

Photo by Alexander Schneider
Photo by Alexander Schneider

2015 has certainly been some year for both Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm!  Whilst Frahms took the 2015 BBC Proms by ‘Perfect Storm’, Arnalds has been riding the tide, or should we say tidal wave, of three successful collaborations.  He kicked off the year with the Alice Sara Ott collab, the Chopin Project, and, will end it touring Kiasmos with fellow Icelander, Janus Rasmussen.  In the meantime, both he and Frahms have produced a musical “blurry memory” (Frahms) in ‘Loon’, an EP comprising of what are essentially five synthesiser-led pieces, recorded over five days, in Frahm’s studio in Berlin.

‘Four’ is the exquisite lead track, taken from what is essentially a series of live takes, performed on an Oberheim 4 Voice wired up to a Korg PS3100: “Nils got some new synths and we thought we’d try them out” (Arnalds).

Minimalist, but very much ‘alive’, ‘Four’ opens with electrical pulses of synth, reverberating across a stream of soft melodic chimes.  This pivotal sound sequence, redolent of the anomalous scenario of electrical charges zig-zagging across a soft-flowing waterscape, provides an interesting contrast between raw voltage buzzing over a gently soothing underflow.  As the track progresses, there is a shift in weight as the più forte ‘chiming’ briefly takes centre stage until it softens into thoughtful, spacious, easy peals.  Like the slow plink, plink, of the last raindrops falling, as a rain-shower comes to an end, they bring this sublime wonder to a close.

The dark experimental video for ‘Four’ was directed and filmed by German filmmaker, Misha Shyukin, who so very kindly agreed to give us some background to the film.  “It was a very open brief, I didn’t have to follow any script or narrative.  The visuals are completely driven by my perception of the music. I found that the dark and ambient atmosphere worked well with this quiet minimal track. The video itself is completely CG, using a light projection technique to recreate a light source seemingly floating above a terrain, projecting continuous wavy patterns onto the surface. In the second half I “flipped” the whole setup to achieve the effect of the light coming from underneath the ground, fitting the much calmer music at the end.”

Ólafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm’s Loon joins their first collaboration Stare alongside Life Story/Love And Glory and Trance Frendz on a CD compilation titled Collaborative Works, which brings all of the pair’s recent work together and will be released on October 2nd via Erased Tapes. If you prefer wax, with the exception of Trance Frendz, you can also get most of the works individually on vinyl.

This review was first published in Ja Ja Ja (Nordic) magazine on 27th September 2015

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Flying with Wings: Nina Fian is no ‘Falling Angel’

Nina Fian
Nina Fian

The first time I heard Nina Fian sing, was on her track ‘The Falling Angel’, which had just been uploaded onto the Fresh on the Net #Dropbox, where I’m pleased to report, it proved exceptionally popular!

I remember wracking my brains for hours trying to think which female artist I was being reminded of, and like sleep on a restless night, it finally came to me.  Tori Amos.  Seemingly I’m not the first, and probably won’t be the last, to point out the similarity between the vibe of this song, and that of Amos’ early 90’s productions.  Dark piano, vibrant synth, melodramatic bursts of percussion and angelic harmonies – it’s very Tori.

The similarities however, don’t carry across into the vocal, which in my opinion has a suggestion of Ann Wilson crossed with Marie Fredriksson (Roxette); no mean thing!  Just listening again to Nina’s ‘Wake me up from this dream’,as I type this, reinforces the comparison, well to myself at least!  You might think otherwise.

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So just who is Nina Fian?  Who better to tell us than the lady herself!

“I’m originally from Vienna.  My dad was the well known jazz musician Karl Fian, so music was in my blood from the day I was born. Hey, there’s also an opera singer in the family! 🙂

I am self-taught on the piano, I started playing it at nine.  Initially, I harboured dreams of being a performing musician! In terms of artistic development, I took my inspiration from an eclectic range of influences, from classical to classic rock, even metal.

At eighteen, I started studying classical guitar at the internationally renowned Vienna KonservatoriumWhen I graduated at 21, I packed my bags and headed for Liverpool.  I’ve lived there very happily ever since, easing myself in bit by bit, immersing myself in the music scene, getting an understanding of the culture.  I started hitting the open mic scene to help me try out new material. So far it’s been a really great experience.”

Wake me up


That’s the background to the lady……..now for some background to the music!

You’ve released some new material with a new production company, how is that going?

“Great! Yes I recorded my latest material with Sugar House Production after getting together with them in February.  We’re currently working on an EP, which will hopefully be released early next year.”

So the music you are releasing just now, where are you taking it, or indeed where is it taking you?

“I’m happy with the sound I am working with now.  I think it’s me.  I definitely want to stay with that sound, it just feels right.  I like the power and energy coming from the new tracks.  It’s something different, something new for me and it’s carrying me with it.”

Do you prefer a powerful instrumental sound to let your voice loose over?  Does it give you more vocal freedom?

“I think the more powerful the sound, the more powerful I can be with the vocal.  It opens more doors.”

Does performing live give you even more freedom of expression and how do you like to work with the audience?

“I think performing live is great, it feels really good and is something I’ve become quite comfortable with.  Communicating with the audience is good, and very important.  It’s great to get feedback, or to feel their energy.”

Is the live performance very different to working in the studio?

“Yes, very, very different. It’s easier for me to sing live.  You can express yourself more, more easily than in a studio, but I do enjoy both.”

What drove you to write ‘Wake me up from this Dream’, and how do you normally write your songs – music first, melody, a note, a thought?  What do you think your songs say about you?

“It IS actually based on a dream! I write differently with each song, but mainly the music comes first.  I just improvise on piano and I like what I hear, what I feel, then the song comes to me.  Sometimes though it’s a life situation that will make me write a song.  Mainly most of my songs are written about or after life experiences.

About me? Um, not sure.  I try to write songs that I hope will open people’s eyes.  I write about life, how we feel about things, how we deal with situations, cope with them.  I write about learning to embrace life.  I believe things happen for a reason, and that our lives are like school – there is always something new to learn.  It never stops!”

Finally Nina, how do you feel your music is being received?

“Very positively actually. ‘Falling Angel’ is currently number 4 in the ReverbNation charts.

I’ve had a lot of media interest, which is super exciting.  BBC Merseyside radio have really got behind ‘Falling Angel’.  They invited me onto BBC Introducing with Dave Monks to do a live session, which was great.  I have also been invited to appear on BAY TV Liverpool for a session on 12th October and next year to Roundsound Radio for another session.

I’ve also just heard that both tracks (‘Falling Angel’ and ‘Wake me up…’) will be getting airplay on radio TVRDO in the Netherlands.  It’s all really exciting and really positive.”

Thank you Nina 🙂

‘Falling Angel’ is Nina’s current single release.  You can listen to it here.

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Well it looks like it’s all going pretty well for our Viennese vocal whirl at the moment.  So what’s the verdict?

Well, we’ve only included three of Nina’s songs here – you’ll find the full seven published tracks here on her SoundCloud page – https://soundcloud.com/nina_fian.

If you listen across the seven songs, you’ll find they have are very different in sound. ‘Falling Angel’ is a piece of thrashing electronica with a larger than life vocal, to which say, ‘Living in a fragile frame’, is a slow, endearing counterpoint.  Reflective, meditative, it is a gentle ballad, which shows the other side of Nina’s musicianship.

Across the divide, there is one interconnecting factor – atmosphere.  Each song has a personality of it’s own, but beyond that, they have a lot of differing atmospheres – pensive, sorrowful, regretful, hopeful, loving.  They look inwards, but then they also look beyond – as Nina has said herself, life is about learning and her songs are about our experiences, how we live with them, learn from them.  Above all these songs are honest.  They are true reflections of the person who created them, and who has very beautifully and skilfully, brought them to life.

Whilst I really love ‘Falling Angel’ and think ‘Wake me up from this dream’ is a cracking song – my favourite track of Nina’s is the delightful acoustic ‘Hope’. It exhales sadness…it is sorrowful, but without any gushing.  It is a very plainly produced, simple, but highly evocative song, gently sung, without drama, but, with a lot of sincerity.

There is a lot of contrast in Nina’s work and I’m curious to see what makes the final cut on her forthcoming EP.  An interesting vocalist and highly skilled musician, Nina is on the cusp of what will hopefully turn out to be a very rewarding future.

I’ll leave you with the song ‘Hope’ ….. and let’s ‘Hope’ that 2016 will be the ‘Dream’ year for this ‘Angel’ xxx

“I never had the chance to say what I wanted to say”

You can find out more about Nina via her website – www.ninafian.com

And you can also find her on Twitter @ni_fian

The providential finding of Cortney Tidwell

Cortney Tidwell

Life is full of weird coincidences, fateful happenings, providence and the whole “stars aligned” lark.  Sometimes, the most bizarre things occur, or, the most amazing gifts arrive without prior warning and present themselves in a predestined packaged, tied up with a ribbon called kismet.

The song I am listening to right now, is one of those very unexpected, but much welcome, karmic delights.

Somewhere along the white lines of the internet highway, I came across this musical pourbouire – a melodious thank you to me from the music-verse for services rendered (that’s my take on it!!).  I gratefully accept: it’s not every day that life hands you something as special as this captivating work of art.

The work I am referring to is the song, “Oh, Suicide”, by Cortney Tidwell.  I know nothing about Cortney Tidwell; sad to say, I’ve neither heard of her, nor of her music.  I have no idea how I came across this track: it was lying there in a bunch of bookmarked links on chrome.  I only happened upon it, when I went searching for something else. #Chance.

This is a song that snaps it’s fingers at you from the moment the first bar opens with it’s scratchy guitar and quivering synth.  After a flash melodramatic flourish, the airy lightness descends to a darkly shrouded drone.  It feels like the music is lumbering along, dragged down by the heavy burden of the lyric, hauling itself slowly forward until finally, Tidwell’s vocal lifts, allowing the song to take an upward musical trajectory to a very theatrical crescendo.  Electrifying strings, bolstered by some pretty intense synth sequences, create an emotionally explosive soundscape throughout which the lyrical lament continues to opine.  For a song based on such a sombre subject, it’s heady stuff.  Musically hard-hitting, it is a captivating and accomplished composition, with an altogether intoxicating vocal performance by Tidwell.

Things happen for a reason;  to put a smile on someone’s face, to lift their spirits out of the depths of their shoes, or, to give them an awareness of self that may somehow have become lost during their material obsessed daily grind.  Who knows?  I don’t yet know why Cortney Tidwell happened.  All I know, is that I’m very glad that she did.

Right now I’m busy with stuff….too busy to investigate, dig, unearth, unravel.  But when ‘the stuff’ is done, I will unleash my inner beagle onto the search engine of the music-verse, and I shall bring you more, on the story and music, of Cortney Tidwell.

That’s a promise, and those that know me, know I always keep my promises. X

The Real Mc Coy

Debs 2

I am blessed to have the friendship of Debs Mc Coy.  Ask anyone who knows her, and like me, they will tell you that she is one of the loveliest, gentlest, funniest and gorgeous people they know.  “A beautiful spirit”, I think is how one mutual friend recently put it.

I know Debs for a while now; we’re ‘Derbs’, the ‘twin-gal-pal, mad mod’ moderators forFresh on the Net‘, the ever expanding website resource for emerging artists, set up by Tom Robinson some years back, to run in tandem with his weekend gig at BBC6 Music.

One afternoon, during one of our regular #Dropbox conversations, we got to talking about Debs’ own music.  She happened to mention that both she and Jon Cox had reworked an Oli Arnalds track, ‘Only The Winds’, by weaving McCoy’s ‘Black Winged Taker’ composition through it. The result, as you will shortly attest to, is nothing short of stupendous.

I knew Debs’ work was good, VERY good, but it wasn’t until I came across this certain piece, that the enormity of her un-presuming talent began to dawn on me.  I now felt compelled to tunnel down through crust and mantle, until I reached the inner core of her work.

Yes, feeling sure I had only just scratched the surface, I took a lengthy meander through the works of this wonky tonk woman, a surreal stroll that left me stunned by the extensive diversity, and seemingly endless scope, of Debs’ portfolio.

Due to the voluminous size of  the McCoy musical library, it is impossible to showcase everything here, so I’ve selected a few varied samples of her work to reflect and indulge upon.

First things first though….just who is Debs McCoy?

Debs3

Debs is a Geordie lass and, as if that wasn’t enough (woah!), she is also an artist, photographer, poet/lyricist and multi-instrumentalist.  Jealous?  Too bloody right I am, aren’t you? No? Liars!

Debs obviously queued up more than once when the talents were being handed out.  So what does this uber talented, chatty mod have to say for herself? Take it away Debs….#armflourishthingy

“I started taking classical guitar lessons when I was 6, followed by piano a few years later, but I stopped playing both for a long period of time, as I felt that I was really struggling to marry my lyrics with the music I’d written. Funnily, I could successfully write poetry and instrumental pieces separately. Some years later, after a fractured period in my life, somehow both lyrics and music were easily coming together, in a way they hadn’t in the past, and I’ve continued to write music ever since.!”

Therapy Sessions 1

If you could put music to the endlessly bleak moors, the isolated loneliness, and the tragic sense of loss and despair in Wuthering Heights, Therapy Sessions 1, would be it.  I can imagine #TS1 as a musical backdrop to the scene in which Heathcliff is buried next to Cathy (the side of his and Cathy’s coffins removed so that they will forever lie together side by side).  With hints of a Scottish lament, it is a brooding, doleful, yet somewhat tender piece, given to intermittent bursts of uplifting, almost sparkling, piano sequences.

It opens with a low drone which pervades throughout, providing a tense, forbidding undercurrent, continuously murmuring underground.  Dark minimalist piano erratically dots a melancholic string sequence; it’s almost as if the piano is conveying a sense of someone having lost their way.  There is a feeling of confused desperation about it’s presence in this section, leading us awry amidst dusky shadows.  Even when the piano does lighten, it still doesn’t illuminate the way.  There is however, a subtle change in the soundscape, as the piano becomes suggestive of ripples of water.  Droplets of rain splish down onto a bubbling stream, a warm ray of light filters across the sky.  The mood fleetingly lifts, but too soon the clouds close over, and the lonely darkness once again falls.  We are covered in by a rising blanket of tormented strings, shadowed by skeletal bass piano, until that too fades into the grey, flat-lines, and slowly disappears into another world.

More about Debs!

“I studied Fine Art for 4 years at university then went on to do a post-grad for 3 years in Art Psychotherapy. I’ve always been fascinated with inner and outer experience; music and visual art bridges the gap between the two, tapping into the unconscious. Music helps me to make sense of my experiences and the world around me. If others can also find some connection and personal meaning from what I create then that’s lovely and a bonus.”

Revolver

When I was selecting tracks to feature here, I asked Debs to make some recommendations and the next piece – ‘Revolver’ – was one of her suggestions.

‘Revolver’ is exactly three and half minutes of rich, sumptuous musical velvet.  Utterly captivating, it is a luminous composition made up of intricately woven threads of strings and piano, in which a wondrously warm and mellow shot of single malt cello, counterpoints a looping Philip Glass-like crystalline pianissimo reverie.  The music envelopes the listener with it’s cyclical chord sequences, delightful as a spring morning, arousing as youthful love, spirited as a musical merry-go-round.  It is an exquisitely executed keyboard carousel – enchantingly hypnotic, hypnotically enchanting – exuding radiant hope.  It exemplifies the beauty within Debs’ soul; only the pure of heart, could compose something as innocent and beautiful as this.

It’s Debs again…(she is a chatterbox innit!)

”We’ve all got our own histories and experiences so different stuff taps into ‘us’ in a different way, sometimes with great immediacy.  It’s like when you go into a gallery and look at a painting you know nothing about, you just accept it for its aesthetics, and have an instant reaction to it, whether that’s positive or negative. BUT then if there’s a title to the painting, a little piece of text or, a little bit about the artist and how they came to make the work, it takes on a completely different meaning.

You can look at the most spectacular modernist painting, in the most beautifully vivid colours and think “wow, that’s a really skilled bit of painting”, even if it’s not really your bag.  Then you read that a 5 year old child painted it in 2 hours, and has produced hundreds of similar works, or a blind person has created it, or, someone who’s in prison – it turns everything on its head.”

Rose Madder

And by way of introduction to our next track…

“‘This is a Jon Cox rework/remix of my track ‘Rose Madder’ with Underworld’s ‘Capa Meets The Sun’ for USA record label Nuova Forma for a podcast he curated for them.”

When you hear a song as wondrous as this, with such vocal fragility, is there a need to say anything?  I think I’ll let this one sing for itself.

Magical…!  A sonic web has been spun!!

The Weight

My penultimate choice is another collaboration – this time with cellist Leah Coloff, who has played with such heavyweights as Damon Albarn and Nancy Sinatra!

‘The Weight’ in Debs’ speak is ” … improvised piano, guitar, and cello, with some other instruments (synth etc) … “

It has an eery intensity, an almost Gothic feel of Usherian restless spirits and “The Others” other worldliness.  This is music by which to read Poe (and spend the subsequent early hours awake because every creak terrifies you!).  Aside from #thedark , there is a cross continental sound to the string sequences of this song.  At times Russian, at times Spanish, but at all times Bohemian, gypsy even, the string arrangements (both guitar and cello), add an eclectic flavour to the plaintiveness of the piano arrangement.

This piece is the product of a perfect collaborative synchronicity and, I really do hope that Leah and Debs get together in the not so distant future, to create some more spectacular pieces of music. #hinthint

And so, to the piece of musical genius that brought us here….

Only The Winds // Black Winged Taker

There are very few times in life when you have what I call a ‘Radiohead’ moment – that moment when you hear a voice, a song, a piece of music and you just know, this is a titanic moment in your musical life.  Few artists have given me those shiver filled moments – obviously Thom Yorke with Radiohead has obliged, Mark Hollis likewise. Kate Bush was the first to hit a nerve, and has since been followed by the Manics, Olafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm, Dvorak and most recently, Cortney Tidwell (tbc!).  Few then, have roused such passionate emotion or violent reaction within, for my world to screech to a musical halt.

But, it happened again the other day.  Not with another big name, not with an high profile super group, legendary lyricist, or, even a toilet brush impresario.  Nope, it happened with Debs…which, to be honest, made it all the more stupefying.  And it happened when I played this final piece, which sprang into the music-verse when Debs Mc Coy, beautiful dreamer, took this divine instrumental by Olafur Arnalds, and along with Jon Cox, turned it on it’s head.

There really isn’t anything to say after that is there, so I’ll leave you with some final words from Debs….

“I once had a tutor at art school.  He made us make a three minute film, which we had to show to our fellow students, but, we were not allowed to say anything about it.  Nothing!  When we complained, he got really angry and said …

“…ART should speak for itself…it doesn’t need words”  “

You can learn more about Debs McCoy’s music via the following links:-

Bandcamp

Soundcloud

Twitter

You can find out about her collaborators here:-

Jon Cox

Leah Coloff

Olafur Arnalds

Songs of Swerve – Part 1 ……..Well, The Quietus didn’t bother to ask!!

ABBA
ABBA

Music makes the world go ’round.  It gladdens hearts, brings forth tears and nudges even the most inhibited out of the shelter of their shy Mary-Ellen tortoise shells, particularly on occasions when it’s muddled with a heady brew of alcohol, and spurred on by that small trusted cohort of dudes and dudettes, otherwise fondly known as ‘the lads’!!

Most of us have songs that mark moments and significant events, spark memories, or, were “oh so special” to us for ‘REASONS’, usually hormonal and accompanied by angst, oozy sarcasm, doe eyes, or, MORE TEARS (you can take that look off your faces lads, us girls know the truth! nah!!). 

Sometimes though, songs are significant only for the genuine affection we have for them.  There doesn’t have to be a big back story.  We heard, we loved, we sang.  The reason can be as true and as simple as that.

Temporarily disenchanted with writing about everyone else’s nonsense, I decided to look inwards and write about my own.  A written #selfie of my own musical milestones: my thoughts, on my choices – music my way……..

Kicking off this mini-series of personal music blogs, featuring 20 swerve-songs covering the years from kid to bigger kid, are the first five musical landmarks of the McSwerve life journey.

WOO! Cue Drum-Roll, flapping excitement, & co

Author’s note: “I am actually cheating by starting here – I should actually be starting with “I tawt I taw a puddy tat” but, I thought those of you of a nervous disposition might crack under the strain, and like poor old H. Dumpty, be beyond getting back together again…..”!

1.  Abba – The Name of the Game

I don’t know what age I was when I discovered Abba, but I was small enough to be able to use my mother’s dressing table as a modelling ramp-cum-stage, jigging my legs up and down like a frog, whilst singing into my mother’s hairbrush (yeah, yeah, who hasn’t blah blah, etc!).

I probably started on something simple like Twinkle, Twinkle , up-scaling with age to such 70s greats as Donna Summer and the Jackson Five.  But, it was with ABBA, the Kings n Queens of Scanda-pop, that I had my first musical dalliance, a relationship which subsequently blossomed into a full blown love affair with all things Nordic!  Oddly enough, whilst other kids were squawking to Dancing Queen, I developed an obsession with The Name of the Game.  In all probability, the only words I could have remembered, were “do dooh”, but seemingly I gave it welly (or so my mother mockingly informed me!).

The Name of the Game is THE perfect pop song.  Great hook, superb melody, gorgeous harmonies, strong multi instrumental sounds; all neatly finished off with super slick production.  No-one has ever touched ABBA’s ability to create such pop perfection, rivalled their impossibly good song-writing, or equalled the flawless “dawn to dusk” light n shade of Agnetha and Freda’s vocals. #unparalleledlines

2. Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights

There is no underestimating the impact this song has had on my life.  It is my all time favourite song – nothing will ever remove it from that top spot.

Wuthering Heights is a song to which I return again and again; for comfort, for inspiration, for release.  It is one of the greatest songs of all time, penned by one of the greatest ingénue debutantes, sung with a vocal reach that conveyed emotional punch and frailty in equal proportion, which, over the years, many have tried and failed, very badly, to emulate.

I had no idea who Heathcliff was, or where Wuthering Heights was, or indeed that it was the title of a book by an author (Emily Bronte), who in time, I would come to adore.  I can clearly recall the first time Kate Bush performed this on Top of the Pops.  Transfixed, I sat staring at this beautiful young willow the wisp, all misty and floaty, waving her arms around like an Indian goddess. I remember walking around shrieking “Heathcliff” and little else, wildly swinging my hair from side to side, whilst whirling like a dervish around the living room floor.  Ah those were the days!

This song was the start of my love for all thing ‘superlative’; dramatically romantic and romantically dramatic! Wuthering Heights, both song and book, remain my all time favourites, and the gorgeous Kate, forever has, a special place in my heart. #WOW

3. The Police – Bring On The Night

When Punk came along, I was still playing hopscotch. I didn’t understand it.  It was loud and rude, full of safety pins, angry looking young men, Syd Snot and some looney looking mad woman flashing her boobs (Vivienne Westwood).  On the positive side, Punk DID spawn a more refined version of it’s original self, in the form of New Wave, and with it, came a slew of more radio friendly ‘young radicals’, one group of which were, The Police.  Back in the day, Ireland was an age or three behind the UK vis release dates, so when my mother announced we were going to London on holiday, cue excited screaming and jumping up and down, in anticipation of being able to finally buy ‘Regatta de Blanc’ (this was 1981, and it had been and gone from the UK charts for such a time that my older English cousins took the major Michael out of me no end).

Message in a Bottle had been the draw, but after the vinyl hit the turntable, the most glorious sound emanated from the speakers, in the form of Bring On The Night.  I played it, until, like tyres, the grooves were nearly worn away. Never the biggest Andy Summers fan, I have to doff my hat to him on this one; the guitar playing is sublime, and when the track hits 2.12 and Summers starts milking that chord, oh man, killer on the loose.  Bring on the Night was my first introduction to a more sophisticated sound, and it’s jazz-reggae orientation opened me up to a different world of musical genres.

Ce fut ma petite mort musicale – 4.15 minutes of sonic sex. And for the record… #StewartCopelandwasmyfirstpinup

4. The Stranglers – Golden Brown

Jean Jacques Burnel
Jean Jacques Burnel

One of my favourite songs of all time……period.

Utterly gorgeous!  Melodic, early 80s dream pop, by a PUNK band, I adored Golden Brown the first time I heard it, and, have continued to do so ever since.  It charms me now, just as much as it did then.

Yup, s’right.  Up to this point, The Stranglers had been all “No More Heroes” and “Meninblack”, et Jean-Jacques, avec sa basse lancinante, dans le style du francais.  Then, apropos of nothing, wumpf, up pops Jean-Jacques in the box, with this piece of waltzing Cornwell.  ‘Golden Brown’ is a modern day minuet: all flat b-minor harpsichord intro, even flatter e-minor body, with quickstep percussion and a lazy bastard “are you lookin’ at me dude, cause I don’t really care, right back at ya” (double) bass.  Cornwell, he of the heretofore in-yer-face shout-sing, goes all cavalier baritone, with his just ye know, throwin’ it out there vocal.  Needless to point out, this slick little jazz-pop number was The Stranglers biggest hit.

This was probably my first experience of an intricately produced song outside of the norm of “pop”.  It brought me into contact with unconventional, left of centre chords, not to mention interchanging overlaid tempos 3/4 (the main body), 6/8 and 4/4. It is an extremely unique, imaginative and delicious creation.

Ah, the memories…..there was a lot of in-house waltzing to this baby…one two three, two two three,  ‘with my rancheros’ – I’ll leave you to work that out!

5. Paul Young – Wherever I lay my hat

Where were you in July 1983?

Well, you hardly thought I went through the 80s and didn’t succumb to the charms of this crooner?

Paul Young, the white mans soul singer from Luton, whose singing voice belied his origin.  Successful beyond his wildest dreams, Young was top of the 80s musical food chain for about two, maybe three years, and then, plup, he disappeared like a pebble in a pond.  The last song I vividly recall him singing on TV was Tomb of Memories, after that it’s a pretty blank test screen.

Young was my first serious encounter with “blue eyed soul”.  Modern sultry soul in a shiny suit, he was a crooner with pzazz, who could belt out heartfelt tunes better than most. ‘Wherever I lay my hat’ made all the girls sigh.  It was the too cool for school tune that hit the romantic spot for those us knocking on the door of the age of enlightenment.

Need I say any more?

Ladies and Gentlemen, “Let’s Parlez” with fox vox, Paul Young xxx smooch emoji

Tweetie Pie
Tweetie Pie

Bonus Track … Go on, Go on, Go on!

That’s All Folks!

FEATURE: Dolly DayDreaming with DayFlower

Dayflower

Now, emerging artists are to #FreshontheNet, as bees are to honey, and indeed flowers, and at the moment, nothing is as sweet to my ears as the chlorophyllic creations of our featured band, Leicester based dream-popsters, Dayflower. As you are probably already aware, Swervy-Derv is a “Mod” for the Tom Robinson driven music resource (love that moniker – makes me sound all ‘trendy’), and it is through the #FOTN Dropbox that I first came across our pop-spangled musicians and their sugar-licious confection ‘Heart Shaped Tambourines’ … cue tune!!!!!

Licks sugary sherbet coated lips….yumptious.’

‘Heart Shaped Tambourines’ is the second Dayflower song to be released as a single, and, as can you probably tell, warm fuzzy feeling, summer-breeze pop is their speciality.  The track has a delicious melody, with a good hook, and twangly, jangly guitar in spades, all nudged along by lowlight basslines, held together by some tight but subtle percussion.  Naturally soft edged vocals are Alex’s tour de force, perfectly pitched and nuanced to give out the right emo signals. Three minutes of musical enchantment – may there be many more to follow.

Right, time for some Meet and Greet…

The Dayflower foursome are made up of:-

Alex: voice, guitar;  Chris: guitar;  David: bass; Johnny: drums

(Matt Flint played drums on HST; Johnny Mc J is the current beatmaster)

We met up with Alex and Dave,who kindly agreed to answer some questions, including some “for your amusement” trivia. Here’s what they had to say…

Hi guys … why don’t you start by introducing yourselves?

A: I’m Alex. I play guitar.

D: David. Various instruments. Mainly bass.

When and how did your interest in music begin, and with what Instruments? Were you Self or teacher taught?

 A: I started buying records when I was 14, almost 15. Relatively late I think. I always remember my Mum playing early Madonna tapes in the car when I was very young whilst Dad would have The Chemical Brothers playing in his car when he was picking us up from school. I didn’t start learning guitar until I was 19 and I am technically self taught.  (Laughs) That implies that I’m a decent player, but in fact I’m a horrible guitar player. I taught myself chords as I wanted to write songs.  I never developed beyond shabby & incompetent rhythm guitar. 

D: Initially classically taught. My mum would drag me, screaming, out of bed at 6.30am to practise cello before school. And I love her for it.

Who were your musical influences, likes, loves, and why?

A: The La’s. The purest guitar pop imaginable in my eyes. I heard ‘There She Goes’ on the radio in about 1990 and I fell in love with it right there. I still listen to it daily. Without fail. In my eyes it’s perfect. Lee Mavers has been a huge influence on me. He’s doing it for the right reasons. Full of integrity. Puts the song first. Always. He’s my hero.

D: It was grunge and alt rock that inspired me to pick up bass and start thrashing around in a mate’s attic. The basslines of every Nirvana, The Jesus Lizard and Sugar record are hardwired into my brain to this day. I’ve adored My Bloody Valentine ever since finding ‘Isn’t Anything’ on vinyl in a record shop in Sheringham. For some reason this tiny shop near the seaside had some truly amazing stuff. Pixies EPs, Mary Chain albums. The odd Mercury Rev single on white vinyl. It took a while to get into ‘Loveless’ but that might now be my most listened album. MBV’s approach to sculpted noise resonates through almost everything I make. 

How did you kick off your music career? 

A: I’m still waiting for that to happen. 😦

How do you guys know each other? How did you form and do you have a shared vision?

A: David and I were introduced by a mutual friend. We found that we loved the same records, loved the same artists, and, worryingly, we had a very similar sense of humour. Dayflower started as a studio project. We only ever intended to do an EP. I kept turning up with more songs and he kept letting me in. Then we started working on an album and seeing as making it work live was next on the list, we roped a couple of friends in, and we haven’t let go of them since.

As for the vision, we’re all trying to do the same thing. Pure pop, industrial noise, nursery rhymes and lo-fi beats. We’re getting there. I have a good feeling about this.

What makes you different? 

A: I don’t know. I can’t speak for the other lads. Or other bands for that matter. Personally? I care so much about this that it hurts. It dominates my thinking. I wake up in the middle of the night on a complete high that a guy in Brazil blogs about our stuff, or that a girl in France likes a song we made. I’m so grateful for anyone who checks us out and I never take it for granted. Plus, I’m no spring chicken. I’m not 18. I’m 33. I’ve spent a lot of years working crap jobs and I feel that maybe I appreciate doing this more than someone 15 years younger than me. This is all I know. I love it. I can’t live without it. I know that for a fact.

D: We try to be serious about what we do without taking ourselves too seriously. Often it seems like musicians and artists get this the wrong way round. Dayflower’s sound is quite different to a lot of music being made at the moment. Growing up in the era we did perhaps means that we collage together certain influences in a way that a bunch of 20 year olds might not. That said, we aren’t trying to recreate what has already been done. We are forward looking and enjoy making music more than ever. Unless you feel your best work is still ahead of you what’s the point ? 

How do you write songs? What’s your MO for, and approach to, the recording process?  

A: I write using the guitar, just chords, and I work out the melody at the same time. I don’t tape my demos anymore, I found I recorded so much rubbish. Nowadays, I carry a song round in my head, if the melody can survive in my head for a week without being committed to tape, then I know I’m onto something decent, but if I can’t remember it, it never gets revisited, and for that I’m grateful. It’s a happy loss.

Once written, I go round to David’s and we’ll put down a rough take with guitar and beats. He then adds various bits and pieces on top. other instruments, different rhythms, strange noises. In the meantime, I’ll start working on a couple of harmonies.  Then we’ll sit down and try to piece it together bit by bit. 

What’s your approach to playing live?

A: We have always used electronic beats live instead of a drummer. Good drummers are hard to find! Though we are working on it.

When we first started out, we used a lot of prerecorded backing tracks. It worked, but felt a bit too much like karaoke. These days we manage to recreate everything live with just the four of us. Johnny uses a sampler for the beats and live processing of sounds. There are a lot of layers and dense textures, but we work hard and are determined to get it right. No plans to do an acoustic set!

What is the music scene like in Leicester, in comparison with the rest of the country?

A: Very healthy in some areas. There are some great venues and promoters. Others which aren’t so great. As for local bands? There are a few decent ones but I’m not easily impressed. All the smaller, more unknown bands I like are from out of town. Okay, you don’t get that many people going to gigs in Leicester, but I reckon it is like that all over the country. It’s a convenient excuse for bands to say “no one goes to gigs!”. If you are good enough, people will go see you. I love Leicester. I don’t feel the need to play in London really. We want to focus on our hometown and on making friends online. Perhaps the rest of the country will catch up later on? 

Who wrote HST and what is it about?  

A: I did. It’s a bit abstract and I don’t really like explaining my songs, but I will say this: There is some personal stuff in there, and some rude stuff in there if you know where to look! A bit of my childhood and a little bit of my more recent past, without being too specific.

You made a video for HST, was it an enjoyable experience? Is this something you’d like to develop with your music and are there any particular filmmakers you guys would like to work with?

D: Yes, we did. It was a lot of hard work, but extremely enjoyable. HST was our second music video. The first, for a song called Genie follows an eccentric American lady around a snow filled West Philadelphia. Neither feature more than a few short, abstracted snippets of the band members. That is deliberate. Our ideas are generally much more interesting to listen to and look at than we are. HST started with two simple ideas. For some reason I’d hear the song and imagine a woman holding an umbrella whilst flowers rained down on her. Alex wanted washed out Super8 film of skateboarders. We built it from there.

Much of what looks like archive footage actually isn’t. I spent a lot time on the colour treatments to give my footage a saturated, filmic quality. Some people commented that it has a sense of dreamlike nostalgia, without being too sugary or sentimental. That was the aim.  It’s good being able to produce visuals ‘in-house’. The idea for our next video is quite ambitious and might require a more skilled director and larger crew.

Filmmakers. Hmm. The Star Wars franchise is crying our for some homemade dream pop. But George Lucas is notoriously bad at returning our calls. Sofia Coppola, with her love for gauzy shoegaze dreamscapes might be a better bet. Or failing that, the lesser known director Stacey Scorcese.

View video!!

How do you view the industry today? Do you agree with free streaming, for instance…?

A: I regard all of the streaming websites as a positive thing. They’re powerful tools, our shop window to the world.  I don’t think that streaming necessarily hinders bands from earning money. I’ve seen enough sales of our music online to encourage me that people will pay for it if they feel it is good enough.  

As for the industry? Well its harder for new bands these days. There is no guy in a suit down the pub dangling a 7 figure cheque in front of you anymore. If there ever was!! You have to work hard, possibly harder than before, because there are so many bands out there, all with the same tools and social platforms etc… It’s hard work. The social media side that is. But it’s worthwhile, and I think bands need to get used to the idea of having to work hard. Managers and labels aren’t going to get involved with something untried and untested anymore. You need to show your viability. In my opinion anyone who moans about the industry in this day and age isn’t working hard enough.

What are you working on now, and what are your immediate plans?

A: We’re recording a new single towards the end of September. I can’t wait. It’s a real progression for us. Looking forward to sharing it with people. And with yourself of course!

We’re also putting together a club night! A quarterly thing here in our hometown of Leicester. We will also look at bringing in a couple of out of town acts, musicians who play stuff we love. We want to bypass most promoters and put on our own gigs, do our own DJing, give people jellybeans and handmade CDs, make it a fun night! We want to make them a touch different to the normal gig experience of just trooping in, watching a few bands and then going home. Hopefully we will get a late license, play music late, stay up late and perhaps create some happy memories for people. I’m excited. Why would I not be?!

D: Yes yes. I also think we should make up a couple of absurd / exclusive cocktails too. They only exist at a Dayflower event, four nights a year. And that may well be for the best. (Swerve thinks the guys should have a cocktail naming competition!!)

Ad-break

Dayflower gig

Dayflower play The Old Queen’s Head, London on 16/9/15 – click on #Adbreak for details

Time for some “trivial pursuits”… 🙂

Star sign, favourite colour and first poster on wall? 

A: I’m a libra. Favourite colour is purple. First poster was probably Transformers. I used to love Transformers when I was little.

D: Also libra. The colour is purple. Poster was Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. A compelling, artistic image. Sticks in the mind.

ME – I got a bit freaked out at this point because we are like for like on 2 outta 3, and no, I did not have a poster of Michelle Pfeiffer on my wall as Catwoman, or any other woman!!

If you could learn another instrument what would it be? 

A: Piano. All day every day.

D: No. Thanks.

Duet with anyone?

A: Lee Mavers of The La’s. They are the band I wish I could have been in.

D: MF DOOM.

Favourite worst song of all time? 

A: Journey, Don’t Stop Believin’.

D: Star Trekkin’ by The Firm.

If you weren’t a musician? 

A: I’d like to write a sitcom.

D: Yeah. Let’s do a sitcom.

If you could pick anyone in the world to review your music?

A: Probably Kevin Shields.

D: Larry David 

Favourite cartoon?

A: Star Wars Clone Wars. I love it. The animated series of Clerks comes close in my opinion.

D: SuperTed. Or Bananaman or something.

What is your Karaoke song? 

A: Going Down by The Stone Roses

D: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, by Andy Williams. That’s if they don’t have Sexx Laws by Beck. I gotta have brass. 

What do you want for Christmas?

A: Quality time with my son and other loved ones. Failing that. A big bag of cash.

D: Surprise me.

Death row meal?

A: Chicken Vindaloo. Strawberry flavoured frozen yoghurt. 3 packets of large Parma Violets and 2 pints of Ocean Spray branded cranberry juice.

D: XL Oreo Milkshake. And if that doesn’t kill me a ‘Last Minute Reprieve’ McFortune Cookie. 

And there you have the #swerve on Dayflower; cartoon characters, culinary proclivities, musical motivations, and, in a nutshell, what makes them tick.  Relaxed, sociable and self-deprecating, they bring their natural charm and eloquence to their music – something which I think will stand them in good stead for the future.  If Genie and HST are an ‘amuse-bouche’ of what these guys are capable of creating, I can’t wait to taste the full menu.

To keep up to date with Dayflower’s music, gigs and band news, sign up on Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp and Soundcloud

Dayflower play The Old Queen’s Head, London on 16/9/15 Adv tickets £5 – details here – tinyurl.com/nmeh9yr

Dayflower will be releasing a new single later in the Winter, stay tuned! 🙂

Fuzzy Idiosynchratic Chaos? We investigate False Advertising’s Eponymous Debut Album

False Advertising (self portrait)
False Advertising (self portrait)

As a Moderator/Reviewer on the Fresh on the Net website, I’m no stranger to off-centre ‘grungesters’ False Advertising, whose track I Don’t Know, I reviewed after it was voted onto the #FOTN #FRESHFAVES list mid July : read the review here  #falseavertisingreview.  So, it was very much a pleasure then, to be offered the chance to preview their debut eponymous album, due for release later this week.

“Raw, gritty, sassy and ambitious – on 4th September 2015, False Advertising release their self-titled debut, an audaciously loud album loaded with dirty riffs, oozing grunge from every pore and crackling with an electrifying fuzz primed to set your hair on end.”

Indeed !! Let’s jump into the fractious fray then, shall we?

The False Advertising triumvirate, initially a duo made up of vocalist/guitarist Jen Hingley, and, drummer/vocalist Chris Warr, completed their line up last year, with the addition of bassist Josh Sellers, who was brought in to complete the rhythm section. A symbiotic relationship has, over time, developed between Hingley and Warr, the synergy of which has led to their producing a batch of articulate, clever, well crafted songs, to which Sellers has been let loose to add some seriously rumbling basslines.

The result of a prolonged series of rehearsals, demos and some serious studio time, False Advertising’s long-awaited, debut album has been a year in the making.  It’s a feisty, bludgeoning affair, splattered with kick ass gibes, and scorn dripping vocals, saturated with disillusionment and ennui.

“Caught in your city of knocks I’m not going to need to survive”

Vocalist Jen Hingley is a strong, clear singer with a wide reach, whose delivery  laudably holds its own, both above, and beyond, the noise.  The tracks that particularly best showcase her vocal ability are the more restrained, pared back All of the Above, and the brash, but less rackety Wasted Away.  Her voice, a cross between PJ Harvey and Mia Zapata, with a nod to Frischmann, is as defiant as it is disaffected.  Interestingly, False Advertising share lead vocal and drumming duties: just as well then that Hingley’s unadorned vocals, synch perfectly with Warr’s more melodic, colourful delivery; they are a pretty consummate, and very complementary, vocal pairing.

It is however, the rhythm section, that takes centre stage on the albums muscular opener, Breaker.  Boney drums and a moody broody bassline, make up the backbone to this track, underpinning arrogant, accusatory, guitar sequences. While the vocal in the verse is staggered, and disaffectedly monophonic, the chorus is nicely toasted with the addition of Warr’s spicier timbre. Breaker is FA at their most Nirvana like, (let’s face it – there was always going to be one allusion!), and is a bloody good opener that sets the tone for the album that follows.

Second in, Another Mention. is a raw, gritty track.  A stew of interesting ingredients, it combines a melee of sounds with a medley of vocal arrangements; warped, languid guitar, clipped drumming and some zombie-like special effects are on the menu, making this a pretty tasty precursor to the entrée.

Wasted Away is leaning towards a more radio friendly sound, and, as I already mentioned, is a good advertisement for Hingley’s vocal abilities. Next up is the crackingly good Dozer; the first single to be taken from the album, released 24/Aug.  A blitzkrieg of crashing percussion, snarling lead guitar, contemptuous vocal and a scornfully snide bass, it’s one of the slickest productions on the album, and, one in which False Advertising manifest their hard earned, well honed musical skills.  The influences, which must have seeped in by silent osmosis, during their time working alongside the likes of Royal Blood and The Clash, become more evident the further we journey into this musical fray.  Very few emerging bands, have either worked at that level of tier one creativity, or, garnered the pre-requisite technical nous, to be able to produce an album as poised and cohesive as this.

Next up – I Don’t Know.  Well, I do, and I wrote about it before, so you know the story. Cue – video!

Don’t you just love the line, “Your joke’s on me, my eyes on you, I’ll have to sink down to your level”.  It’s so aridly droll, it makes me laugh each time I hear it.  False Advertising do DO random deprecating humour!

Eleven tracks in total, make up this self-titled debut.  All of the Above is almost a ballad, albeit one with a Seattlean demeanour. The uncompromising Cold Shoulder sees Warr going all Brandon Flowers in a melodic mush of woozy guitars and thumping backbeat, and what’s more, I’m beginning to hear traces of Green Day.  In every aspect, this is one of the strongest tracks on the album, and a possible front runner for a future single.

No Good’s old style rock and Only Way’s hypnotic drum sequences and zigzagging strings, lead us into the penultimate track, the railing against the expected, Finish Line, which of course one would have expected to wrap up the album (the clue is in the name).  A quirky, nervy affair, the harmony is redolent of a familiar voice, that frustratingly to which, I can’t put a name.  The album closes with undoubtedly my favourite track, the last but definitely not least, Something Better. It contains some classically good guitar playing, and raw grazed-skin lyrics, superbly conveyed with a strong but smooth vocal finish: all shored up by a tight RS at the helm.

False Advertising have produced a corker of a debut album, worthy of investment.  They are a band that most definitely seem to have a bright future ahead of them.  This debut LP is top notch stuff, containing some seriously good instrumentation, with well timed, firmly delivered vocals, underpinned by a well oiled, tightly knit RS.  And for someone whose main musical bent is either towards fluffy and dreamy, or jazzy and sassy, this has been one gigantic personal turn-around and, the second time False Advertising have managed to convince this punter that their music is a sound worth listening to. 8/10

You can find out more information about False Advertising via their official website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

The album False Advertising goes on sale Friday 4th September and can be pre-ordered now via Bandcamp.

A short promo tour kicks off with some live dates in Manchester, with more gigs across England to be confirmed:

Manchester 19TH SEP – Academy 3,

Manchester 21ST NOV – Deaf Institute, Manchester