Emilio Pinchi, Jarvis Cocker & The Never-ending Circle of Love

Emilio Pinchi

It’s a rare treat to plug into a new song only to find you’re on the receiving end of Jarvis Cocker mark 2. That is exactly what’s going on with Emilio Pinchi on his latest single, During Voided Hours.

The lead single from Liverpool-based Pinchi’s upcoming EP due out later this year, During Voided Hours is something of an inadvertent homage to the soft-tones of Sheffield’s whimsical Britpop son.

And it’s not just a Cocker vocal-doppelganger thing – the very blood of Pulp’s bassline beat is coursing through the heartland of this song.

The fact that Pulp was one of the most ingenious bands of the ’90s, and Cocker a songwriter significantly superior to many of his peers, shouldn’t go without mention when putting the comparisons into perspective.

Coming in at a very short but sweet two and half minutes, During Voided Hours is a flurry of nicely textured guitars hurtling through a Jools-like bluesy bass and piano combo that complement each other perfectly. As the dynamic piano is to the louche bass, the drawl of tight guitar twang is to the percussive smash in this hyperactive whirl.

Listening to this track is like being thrown into a spinning top that carries you at full pelt around the cyclical patterns, instrumental and lyrical, on which it’s built.

Notwithstanding the hushed tone of Pinchi’s underplayed vocal, the ‘real-life’ quality of his delivery, gives it a tangible, ‘warm to the touch’ quality. As ever, life keenly observed is given the short, sharp, shock treatment of razor lyrics.

Emilio Pinchi is master of both brevity and understatement, something which puts him somewhat at odds with the afore-mentioned master of melodrama.

Speaking about the song Emilio said: “The song’s about breaking-up with someone and end up like strangers. Then you go out and meet new people, but you’re such a tertiary character in their life’s movie-plot at that moment in time.  You realise there’s actually no difference between these new people and the person you were with – it’s just kind of a perspective thing.”  

He continued “I put a bunch of memories and experiences in the the second verse, but the idea is that you don’t know whether they’re old memories or completely new memories/about the old person or a new person. Underpinning the idea of everything being cyclical”.

***Spoiler alert – Keep an ear out for a little amuse bouche of a nod to a fellow homie!***

During Voided Hours is out now. You can follow Emilio on Spotify and Twitter.

DervSwerve.

Discover Ireland – Irish Music Under The Microscope

Talos – Photo : Olga Kuzmenko

At a time when worldwide music sales continue to decline notwithstanding the ‘great’ vinyl revival and continuous rise of more online music platforms than behoves the industry, the resounding success of the current wave of artists making up the Irish scene is quite the quirk in the global musical landscape.  It’s almost as if many of our current crop of artists are creating music both in and for a parallel universe, such is the remarkable quality, unorthodox nature, and uncharted ingenuity of their idiosyncratic outputs.

But just who makes up this ever-growing Celtic tribe whose unquenchable creativity knows no populist constraints? Who are the Irish artists currently gifting us with a wealth of musical treasure; unpolished, untarnished, glistening in its rawness?

In the first of a new ‘Discover Ireland’ series we look at some of the Irish artists who are not just sealing their credentials on the local landscape, but whose sound is in such stark contrast to that of the current flock of vanilla chart-toppers that they are making international industry veterans sit up and take notice.

Photo of Catherine Mc Grath Uncredited

In part one of the Discover Ireland series, we put ten artists with varying degrees of success under the microscope, finishing off the piece with a tailored Spotify playlist which you can follow or from which you can select a pick n mix to add to your own homespun choices.

Who? HUDSON TAYLOR, Unsigned folk duo from Dublin made up of brothers Harry and Alfie HT. Already have a huge online following as well as a couple of releases under their belt.  Around since 2011, they’ve been steadily building a solid fanbase for their ‘bro-brand’ of acoustic folk, although pegging them into the ‘folk’ hole makes them sound more twee than their pop sensibilities would allow.  Currently gigging whilst working on material for their sophomore album.  2017 should see them considerably up their musical game including stints at several of the big Summer festivals including Wilderness.

Who? THE ELATION, A Cork four-piece who share a love of “Music, Travelling, Writing, Recording, Performing” in any order you care to throw at them.  While they name-check both Kodaline and Hozier in addition to forerunners of the ’80s alternative zeitgeist Talking Heads, it is probably Brit Award Winners The 1975, also referenced, to whom their sound bears the most resemblance.

Debut release ‘Xo‘ is like a mashup between the Mancunians (think 2016 hit ‘The Sound’) and a combo of Haircut 100 and Aztec Camera flying the ’80s funk meets new wave flag. All funky foundations and groove bass floodlit by iridescent synths and fuelled by a healthy dose of blood pumpin’ beats.  They’re only at the start of their voyage and already the future looks XoX.

Who? TALOS, Experimental music project of another Cork native, Eoin French. Like the trademark slow builds in his songs, French has been gathering followers along the winding, visionary roads of his continuous musical travels since Talos’ inception back in 2013. And, like the fantastical zeniths of some of his more audacious compositions, 2017 looks set to bring its own dramatic highs when the multi-instrumentalist releases his debut album, ‘Wild Alee’, through Feel Good Lost on 21st April, the same day as his upcoming Irish tour kicks off in Dublin’s Button Factory. Full details on his FB page. Check out the official video for his current single ‘Odyssey’ here,

Who? CATHERINE MC GRATH, Co. Down born London based 19 year old hailed as the new Taylor Swift. There’s plenty of Taytay pastoral-pop ‘fluences going on but Catherine’s sound isn’t without a touch of LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood.  Leaning towards Nashville for its stylistic direction Mc Grath’s vibe isn’t without its pop sensibilities.  Plenty of finger-picking to keep the double denimers happy yet enough soft-pop to steer her into the mainstream flow.  New single ‘Starting From Now’ was released on 10th March and judging by the Spotify count (66k+ in its first week) is gonna seal her fate as one of the Taylor-type stars of the not so distant future.

Who? BURNT OUT, punk cum rap cum ‘wherever the sound needs to be apropos the moodscape’ kinda band from North Dublin.  Two songs in and already the media big cheeses are drooling.  Their latest, ‘Joyrider‘ is full on Roddy Doyle without the laughs.  Don’t be put off by the heavy-set Dublin vocals, this is more ‘mission statement’ than song.  Tackling Dublin ‘street’ culture with its inherent notion that violence, intimidation and general ‘gittery’ define current day inner-city masculinity, the song seeks to highlight the destructive influences this lads mentality has had and continues to have on young Irish males.  Social commentary doesn’t get more unequivocal than this.

Who? TOOFOOLS, “the brainchild of multi-instrumentalists Steven McCann & Lorcán O’Dwyer”. These Dublin based BIMM alumni are the cog around which many collaborative projections are formed.  While the pair are the project’s masterminds and its only permanent members, they onboard a cohort of fellow musicians to flesh out their live performances.  There’s a lot going on here and like many of their peers, TooFools aren’t foolish enough to box themselves off by sticking to a readily labelled style or sound.

There are some similarities with Norway’s chillwave, feelgood pop scene (yes, it is a thing) where the likes of Lovespeake reign supreme and like their Norwegian counterparts, TooFools muddle gold standard ingredients – funk, retro soul and Tropical pop accessorised with an infectious falsetto – to create a year round Summer sound full of rhythm and sway.  The only single released thus far, ‘Touch’ is a bloody good example of golden sounds with an expert touch on production. TooFools have hopefully, started as they mean to go on. Top Notch.

TooFools @Button Factory Photo: Claudia Verdecchia

Who? SOULÉ, Balbriggan native whose urban with a touch of class sounds are fast gaining her industry-wide recognition. Astonishingly, this part time musician cum student had her first single, ‘Love No More’, nominated for a Choice Music Prize. Soulé is one of a growing number of artists utilising the Dublin based collaborative hub Diffusion Lab and when not studying, can be found there working on new compositions, songwriting being a way of life since her childhood days.

This upcoming talent cites a plethora of influences from Macy Grey to Nineka but one can’t help recalling greats like Aaliyah, Caron Wheeler and Paris Grey as you listen to the Dubliner’s latest single, ‘Good Life‘ (even the title is redolent of what many consider to be the Inner City frontwoman’s finest hour). Creating sounds that cross over from classic soul and R&B to beat driven electronic pop,  Soulé has nailed a fresh take on tried and tested formulae.  Possibly one of the most exciting talents on the scene, get to know her before she goes global.

Who? EDEN aka Jonathan Lei Ming or the next Hozier.  The 20 year old Dublin multi-instrumentalist and vocalist extraordinaire has repeated the impossible already achieved by the Bray man by going from zero to hero without even breaking into a sweat.  In a minute period of time, he has garnered 135k followers on Spotify alone.  How the hell? Whelans bedamned, this genius of EDM dance-pop sold out prime venues from NYC to LA to Berlin and more taking in 43-dates last year alone, and as if that wasn’t wow enough, has signed up to team SB – Scooter Braun – manager to Bieber, Usher, Ariana Grande & various other elite members of the gilded world of music US stylee.

Suffice it say, we can safely assume that Eden has ‘arrived’.  His seven track mini-album, I Think You Think Too Much Of Me’ from which ‘Sex‘ is the opening track, received nothing but five star reviews for its lo-fi perfect blend of wilful electronica and smooth R&B. Move over Andrew, the new kid on the block is moving into your star-filled stratosphere.

Who? BONZAI, another 20 something about to set the world on fire.  Originally hails from Wicklow now living in London, this newbie cut her teeth with Guernsey born electronic producer Mura Masa, something which not only stood her in good stead but got her name very much in the frame.

Another crossover artist who seems to have allowed a myriad influences seep under her musical skin without the prerequiste labels, Bonzai’s style incorporates everything from grime through Brit-soul to sophisti-pop. There are, for example, some interesting nuances of Simply Red (Fairground) on the intro to the track ‘Stepping‘ from her ‘Sleep Hungry‘ EP.  Gigs and festival slots are stacking up nicely including a stint at Dublin’s District 8 weekend 25th March as well as sets at Parklife and Blissfields.

Snatched up by Colombia records, this Irish innovator is yet another firework set to explode onto the international scene.

Bonzai Uncredited

Who? LYRA Last but by no means least, this London based Cork native (yes, another one!) recently scored perfect tens all round when she delivered a blistering, high-octane performance on the Irish version of Dancing With the Stars – watch it below. Whilst comparisons with Enya and Marina Lambrini Diamandis (of The Diamonds fame) are not unfounded, for me there is more of an affinity with the wilful instrumental theatrics and free spirit Baroque pop of Florence Welch.

Her four-track debut EP, ‘W.I.L.D’, released in 2016, includes current single, ‘Emerald‘. The song, which is about remaining true to oneself, is a compelling fusion of intangible other-worldliness and widescreen warrior style instrumentals that could have led the charge of Queen Medb into Ulster, in which Lyra’s demi-operatic vocal delivery in the mould of Kate Bush, is an octave sweeping triumph. Currently riding high in the iTunes Top 10, Lyra is currently notching up some super cool dates for her Summer calendar including the biggest UK emerging artist showcase, TGE – The Great Escape.  Doubtless great things await for this unique and exceptionally talented songstress.

From melodramatic High Queens to the stark black and white realism of on point social commentary, crossing hip hop, soul, EDM and folk, this is Irish music in Ireland 2017.  Check out the first cut of my Discover Ireland playlist here … follow if you like.  You’ll find me on Facebook and Twitter @DervSwerve.  While you’re listening to the playlist you might check out Ireland.ie, the new Creative Ireland cultural website and portal to Ireland.

The Discover Ireland series will continue showcasing Irish music fortnightly.

Pom Poko – Unleash New Single Ahead of Trondheim Calling & Cruise Into Urort Final!

Pom Poko Urortfinalen 2017
Pom Poko Urortfinalen 2017

Norwegian modernist collective Pom Poko have just released their third single ‘It’s a Trap’ accompanied by an impressive avant-garde ‘toon visual, the work of Olav Fangel Jamtveit, brother of the band’s vocalist, Ragnhild FJ.

A song about release and arrival, letting go to achieve self-awareness, ‘It’s a Trap’ is a quirky, punchy little sherbet that fizzes with pops of 90’s post-punk with more than a hint of glam psych.  Without doubt the track benefits from the experimental nous and masterly hand of Highasakite‘s Kristoffer Lo, a man who knows his way around more than a few instruments.  Adding his trademark guitar, brass and a.n.other sounds to the mix, Lo has taken Pom Poko’s sound in a more experimental and diverse direction, giving the original live jam the same depth and texture he brings to all his collaborations.

While the instrumental backdrop has some sharp edges, it is chasmed by sufficient wide spaces to counter-balance the intensity. As usual, vocal duties of the infinitely starlit variety are carried off with effortless ease by Ragnhild Fangel Jamtveit and if her previous live vocal performances are the benchmark to go by, Pom Poko’s two gigs at Trondheim Calling should be something else and then some more!  During TC the band will also perform a live sesh for P3’s Ruben.  Unfortunately for me it’s happening on the Wednesday, ahead of my arrival ‘on scene’.

In addition to their saffron shot nocturnal cartoon visual accompaniment, Pom Poko have adorned their single with the cutest, candy-coloured artwork by Norwegian illustrator Erlend Peder which you can see here!  The floral bedecked character is as yet to be identified!

Illustration Erlend Peder
Illustration Erlend Peder

In other news, Pom Poko have made it to the Urort Final 2017 (a Norwegian national award for promising emerging artists); if you like what you hear, you can vote for Pom Poko to win this prestigious award, here. #doit

It is a testament to their punky quirkiness that Pom Poko give their facebook page “unofficial status” – hook up with it here to touch base with the band and keep up to speed with their lives at Trondheim Calling and their Urort escapades!

The future is definitely as bright as the characters in their ‘It’s a Trap’ video for this effervescent four-piece – I hope you’ll join me in wishing them all the luck in the world – for Trondheim Calling, for Urort and we-ell, for the future.

‘It’s a Trap’ is available now via Phonofile – http://phonofile.link/its-a-trap  .  Watch the captivating fam-made visual here.

A Dozen Diamonds That Gave A Shine To An Otherwise Murky 2016

Julia Holter

Julia Holter

Well here we are, on the cusp of yet another new year.  Who’d have guessed that as we stumbled unsteadily in a post-Christmas toxic daze towards 2016 that it would prove to be one of the murkiest, most unsettling and quite frankly disturbing of years.  One can only hope, and there is always hope, that this coming year will bring gladder tidings and a lot more joy than its predecessor.

Musically, 2016 had many, many highs.  It also shared several heartbreaking lows not least amongst which were the untimely deaths of Prince, George Michael and David Bowie – three of the rather large cohort of celebrities and legends who passed away in this year of darkness.  While those legends who died were predominantly male, much of this year’s sparkle mainly came from the female stars of the music world.  Lady GaGa, Beyonce, Marissa Nadler, Taylor Swift, Julia Holter … just some of the big female names that featured in the 2016 musical calendar.

Not surprisingly, some of them feature in my Dozen Diamonds of 2016 – a playlist of songs by international artists, with a select contribution from our part-time contributor, Eddie Sweetman.  Interestingly, the two artists selected for inclusion by Sweets are both male, while mine are predominantly female. Those choices themselves would probably make for an interesting case-study!

So which songs, by which artists made it into our top twelve, and why?

12. Margaret Glaspy – Pins and Needles (USA)

Strong, feisty country tinged indie with an edge.  There’s a waft of punk attitude blowing through the gritty melody, and more than a hint of steely determination in the ballsy lyrics.  The right side of rock for my tastes; tastes which I seem to share with most of BBC Introducing, BBC6 Music and BBC 1 … not a bad benchmark. Classy, savvy, strong, energised sounds from a lady who’s going places.

11. Birdy – Wild Horses (UK)

Twilit voiced, inspired poet and musical prodigy, Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer van den Bogaerde aka Birdy, has seen her star rise, and rise, and explode.  World class productions are now the order of the day but Birdy still holds on to the spiritual and emotional qualities so inherent in her earlier more gauche works.  With a vocal range that can scale mountainous heights and scrummage fireplace ashes, this super-talented musician could craft a song from the nothingness of a silken spiderweb and make it a masterclass in songwriting and performance.

Her 2016 album, ‘Beautiful Lies’ was a gift to the world – a finer, more emotive, and splendid talent you will struggle to find, and with even greater things sure to come, the future is “global” for this little songbird.

10. The Last Shadow Puppets – Les Cactus (UK)

Like them or loathe them TLSP are nothing if not entertaining. Seeing them live in Oslo was akin to watching a human firework display crossed with the energiser bunny thrice spliced with Poitin.  A pair of musicians who have most certainly put the roll back into rock, Turner & Kane may take the music seriously, but the live performances are treated more like a fun ride on the amusements. Never ones to shy away from taking the piss out of themselves, the video for their cover of ‘Les Cactus’, is a classic example of TLSP ‘on form’. As a cover, it pales in comparison to the Jacques Dutronc original, but as a piece of entertainment, it doesn’t fall short.

9.  Ed Harcourt – Occupational Hazard (UK)

Intense, moody, brooding, cavernous, blazing, ferocious – just some of the words I would use to describe Ed Harcout’s 2016 scorcher of an album, ‘Furnaces’, every pun intended.  One of the standouts LP releases of the year, ‘Furnaces’ reached out to and drew into its fold, a broader, more diverse audience than any of the Englishman’s albums had hitherto succeeded in doing.  I was drawn hook, line and sinker to this track because of the wolverine intensity of the guitar sequences and brutal rawness of the lyrics, the combination of which is addictive.  Brutal ingenuity at its bloody finest.

8. Radiohead – Burn the Witch (UK)

The first of two entries from the worlds greatest band EVER, ‘Burn the Witch’ was one of a pair of picks by sometime contributor Eddie Sweetman.  In his words, “incisive, relevant an astonishing comeback and the highlight in my opinion of the album.”  Need we say more?

7.  Amber Arcades – Fading Lines (NL)

What can I say.  I fell in love with this song on first play.  Like a 21st century incarnation of The Cardigans,  Annelotte de Graaf has all the dreamy deliciousness of that Nina Persson vocal, along with plenty of her antecedents uber Nordic cool!  Sexy, edgy, inviting indie-pop with a swirl of darkness running across its shiny exterior.

6. David Bowie – I Can’t Give Everything Away (UK)

The second of Mr Sweets’ picks, and a poignant one at that.  ‘Blackstar’ was a huge favourite amongst the bloggerati and a fitting finale from a gifted man, musician, artist, performer & more, who was truly one of a kind.  On his selection of this particular track Eddie explains: “This was the last track Bowie ever released. Poignant and delicate. Even more so now that we know he was aware he was dying.”  A fitting tribute I think you’ll agree.

5. Marissa Nadler – The Best You Ever Had (USA)

Sadly sickness struck (again) when Marissa Nadler came to town … “out damn ‘germ’ out I say” said I, alas to no avail.  Laid low, my chance to see this bewitching enchantress weave her goth clothed spells was gone in the blink of 24 hours (the length of time it takes me to go from apparently healthy to woefully ill).  I had sped towards Nadler like a bee to honey on the recommendation of my ‘pen as sword’ icon, tQ scrivener John Doran, who had bade me not to miss her more than magical live performance.  Instead, I’ve had to make do with looping replays of her album, ‘Bury Your Name’ from which this is my stand out track. Delish!

4. Julia Jacklin – Coming of Age (Aus)

The new age Little Miss Firecracker of country-grunge hits Dublin at the end of February 2017 and nothing, I mean NOTHING will stop, hinder or hamper my path to Whelans! Elbows at the ready, that space up the front is mine. Part of that new wave of punky twang that includes fellow upcoming songstrel Margaret Glaspy, Julia Jacklin takes smartly honed real-life lyrics and sandwiches them between slices of heaving melodies chock full of punchy guitars layered over a tightly woven R/S.  The result is impossible to resist infectious country stained down and dirty pop. Only a fool would miss the chance to see this raw and rousing talent shine live!

3. Radiohead – Identikit (UK)

2016 saw the arrival of what was possibly the most awaited album for years.  ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ didn’t disappoint.  This piece of classic Radiohead was sheer musical perfection packed with all the innovative ingredients that have made this quintet the consummate musical giants that they are.  And while most blogs will have opted for either of the two singles, this off-kilter piece of jazz infused experimental alt transports me back to the halcyon days of ‘Kid A’.  With its lyrical nods to Murakami’s 1Q84 (there was a similar intertwine between ‘Kid A’ and Kafka on the Shore), haunting interludes from vocal ghosts, and natty, spacious percussion Identikit is the understated star in this a stellar compilation.

2. Julia Holter – Lucette Stranded on the Island (USA)

Yeah, yeah I know.  The album was released in 2015.  But for me 2016 was all about Julia Holter.  Having failed to make her Dublin concert earlier in the year, one of the main catalysts for my travelling to Oya in Oslo, was the chance to make up for that lost experience.  While thirty minutes was far too short to soak up the musical enchantment magicked by an artist of Holter’s calibre, as luck would have it, Julia returned to Dublin in November and gave, what was for me and the several hundred other spellbound concert-goers in Vicar Street, the live performance of the year.  Compelling, captivating, magical, powerful, innovative – Julia Holter ranks as one of the most outstanding of contemporary female artists. This ingenious track just goes to prove it.

1. Weyes Blood – Generation Why (USA)

Not since hearing Dusty Springfield sing ‘The Look of Love’ have I come across another female vocal that radiates such warmth and richness, with a darkness edged with light. A voice with a true and unfaltering power cloaked in a sheath of softness like an iron fist in a velvet glove.  Not until that is, I heard the voice of Natalie Mering, the enigmatic talent behind music project, Weyes Blood. ‘Generation Why’, from the album ‘Front Row Seat To Earth’, is lyrically inspired and musically fresh, and while it contains many of the default elements of a classic pop song, it is the shades of daring alien electronica and the edgy undertones to words sung with angelic clarity that take this song to altogether another level.

The inclusion of so many American artists reflects the shifting sands of my musical tastes during 2016.  For me personally, this has been quite a remarkable year in terms of the quality and diversity of the music that’s been released.  And while the likes of Bieber, Rihanna and A-Z of Hip Hop may dominate the charts, the greater wealth lies in those treasures which remain beloved of those worthier barometers of musical greatness – The Guardian Culture, DiS and my personal fave, The Quietus.

I’ll leave you with a Spotify list of the 12 tracks featured in this sparkling retrospective … and hope you enjoy them as much as both Eddie and I have done.  May 2017 bring more shimmering gems to brighten up our sometimes more than mundane lives!

Heavy Heart Take Stock On ‘The Way Home’

Photo - http://www.rossmcclure.co.uk/
Photo – http://www.rossmcclure.co.uk/

With echoes of Lush casting ‘gazey shadows on its sonic periphery, ‘The Way Home’ is an impassioned piece of stentorian grunge distilled through the psychedelic waters of indie-thrum.  The latest in a line of monthly releases from London-based Heavy Heart, it’s quite the damning retrospective on the ‘annus horribilis’ that was GB 2016, especially if like 16million others, you were in the #Remain camp.

I’m no genius but my default interpretation, based on the lyrics, is that this is an indictment of Brexit and the divisions it has caused, the EU’s response to the Immigration crisis, and the collapse of the “land of the free” courtesy of King Trump and his court of clowns & chassis.

“When the kindest word is hard to find Turning on ourselves and taking sides”

The sense of determination coming from the strident guitar playing  is finely counter-balanced by the dreamy delicacy of vocalist Anna’s nuanced interpretation. An interpretation that belies the thread of disaffection running through the song.

“When the kindest word is hard to find, Turning on ourselves and taking sides
In the end we’re only wasting time, On each other we rely, rely, rely”

There’s plenty of fuzzed up drone and adrenalin pumping verve here to keep both psych-rock and indie lovers happy, whilst the cleverly crafted socio-political poetry should provide sufficient brain food for those who like their music ‘meaningful’.  Topped off with a captivating layer of vocal gauze, the ingredients are blended effortlessly to create a powerful invitation to engage and a striking signal that there is more to explore.

Listen to ‘The Way Home’ here while you take a gander at Heavy Heart’s social diaires

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Album Review: Ludvig Moon ‘Kin’

samfunnet-bislet-ludvig-moon
samfunnet-bislet-ludvig-moon

The danger with indie is that if there isn’t sufficient diversity of theme, tempo, and instrumental style, it can quickly segue into one continuous jangle cum drone, depending on which line the artist is peddling.

In this regard, Norwegian newcomers Ludvig Moon, appear to have done their utmost to unfurl their creative tendrils in several directions to try to ensure that debut album ‘Kin’, stretches across a broader than generic indie spectrum. For the best part, they have succeeded.

Ludvig Moon have been steadily honing their clearly identifiable sound since the 2014 release of their self-titled debut EP.  It is a testament to their synchronicity as a unit that this multi-member outfit has developed such a tightly woven sound – no mean feat in a group where seven musicians are competing to be heard.  Or maybe that is the secret, that together they recognise the Ludvig Moon whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts.

kin

This septet (see below for the roll call) is a talented cohort with a lot of genuine promise, who produce highly evocative and at times magical material.  As a group, they often seem to be reaching for a sound bigger than the confines of their immediate Oslo environs. One whose sound almost over-reaches; almost.  It certainly spills over beyond the brim of indie, flowing through the outer reaches of American rock,  alt-rock and pop punk – think Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins and Ash.

Whether by accident or design, the sound at which they have arrived, pulls from the vestiges of the glory days of ’80s pop-punk and the classic ’90s indie-rock sounds both defined and dominated by the big American ‘supers’. Eleven track ‘Kin’ spreads its wings across this cross-generational spectrum, dipping and diving into styles coloured by the past blended with that freshness and effervescent urgency that is the trademark of youth.

After a string addled mini-melodrama of an intro, a mere whisper bookended by some windswept cymbals crashing off the shore, the album cracks open with the propulsive ‘When the Storm Breaks’, a song full of vim and vigour, thrashing percussion, great striking guitars, stonking keys and a killer chorus. A track to leave you wanting more.

I dare you to listen to the track ‘Sparks’ and not hear The Cure, albeit the post-punk goths back-dropped by a glorious if frenzied instrumental ascent/descent of musical scales fashioned by what is quite possibly the closest guitars have ever come to sounding like change-ringing.

‘Are We Still’ takes it down a few notches, showing a more restrained and subtle but no less experimental musicianship with its ‘eerie’ touches (redolent of the saw), golden melodies and heartwarming chorus, which by itself is a fine example of the perfect chemistry between fronters Anders Magnor Killerud and Lydia Popkema.

Indeed it is the pairing of Killerud and Popkema, whose vocal contrasts are like fire and ice, that gives so much depth and texture to the band’s songs. The fluidity and balance of their duets heighten the evocative essence of the songs’ lyrical themes. Speaking of which, here’s what frontman and lyricist Killerud had to say about the albums thematic inspos …

The lyrics are based on stories from my life the past few years. People around lost control over their lives and I lost toucb with many of them during those times. For me this album mirrors the winter of 2015. It’s my soundtrack to life as a young, broke and confused twentysomething in Oslo – not knowing who I was, not knowing what I wanted to become. Filling the album with grandiose sounds felt like my cure against the grey fabric of life at the time. Making the album really helped my through the winter though, especially mentally.”

As expected, singles ‘Houses At Night’ and ‘Cult Baby’ take centre stage, but while the latter is the diamond at the heart of this long playing jewel, something in me remains unconvinced by the former.

For originality and instrumental flair, I find myself veering towards ‘Moth’, a song which more than piqued my interest with its perky finger picking guitar sequences, lively percussion and billowing, swirling synth background.

There’s a filmic vibe to this ever growing spiral, with it’s somewhat subtle shades of country come Americana, as it twists and ascends to a curious finale of alien noises and instrumental riddles.  For ingenuity and musicianship, I’d score this a 9/10.  For me, this is a song that walks a different path and the standout track on the album.

There are a few less noteworthy inclusions but overall the memorable outweighs the forgettable.  The album has some really standout moments, not least the afore-mentioned ‘Cult Baby’, a track which has proved to be a firm radio playlist favourite across the broader reaches of the EU, particularly in the land that shall now always be known as Brexit.  A track that could easily take Ludvig Moon into the US Billboard charts should they ever venture to stray that far, it is a benchmark against which future singles will be measured.

For a debut album, Ludvig Moon have played a strong hand with ‘Kin’, and while there is still room for improvement, they are young, ambitious talented enough to make the upward transition to a more mature and experimental level, with relative ease. They say the second album is always the most difficult.  For Ludvig Moon it should be plain sailing.  They’ve set the bar.  It’s now up to them how far they wish to raise it.

Ludvig Moon are currently on an extensive tour of Norway; having seem them live, I can heartily recommend you check them out, details here https://www.facebook.com/pg/ludvigmoon/events/

Ludvig Moon is : Anders Magnor Killerud ( lead vocals, guitar), Ole Torstein Hovig (synths), Herman K. Hulleberg (guitar), Kristofer Staxrud (Drums), Andreas Andre Myrvold  (bass, vocals), Lydia Popkema (vocals, guitar, tambourine), and Simen Sandbæk Skari (French Connection, vocals, tambourine)

You can follow Ludwig Moon on Facebook and keep up with all my reviews on Dervswerve Twitter and Facebook.  ‘Kin’ is out now via Riot Factory. You can buy or stream it via the following links:

Spotify: http://spoti.fi/2ea9463   iTunes/Apple Music: http://apple.co/2dYzxAC    Tidal: http://bit.ly/2dShQ9e
Vinyl: http://bit.ly/2dYzOUe

Many Voices Speak’s Debut Single Is A Sweet Retro Daydream

Photo: Julia Mård
Photo: Julia Mård

If their social media presence is anything to go by, Swedish band ‘Many Voices Speak’ are a very, very recent formation. Online for less than a month, the band have obviously been living in close quarters and deliberately keeping themselves under the radar, given they have already signed to not one but two labels, and also debuted their first single, ‘Video Child‘.

Opening with a shiver of guitar strings with a nuance of Twin Peaks mystery, ‘Video Child’ slowly and cautiously evolves into an intricate, yet loosely woven retro menagerie of guitar lines lightly dusted with reverb, delicate melodic keys, and barely there horns, all underpinned by the most discreet of RS arrangements.  Full of Hollis-esque spaces that give it a relaxing tranquility, the song has a dreamy nostalgia into which we are irresistibly drawn, not least by the softly restrained vocals of Matilda Mård, whose careful enunciation evokes feelings of both nostalgia and regret.

With scant information on both their socials and website, there’s little to go on here, but what we do have is a quote from Mård about how the song was shaped:  “‘Video Child’ was shaped from a kind of rebellion against the musical introspective sound that I devoted myself to for several years. To me it’s a song that looks back to the late nineties. Both lyrically, but also I’ve given into another kind of arrangements that provide space for a larger expression, which looks back to the artists who made me want to sing in the first place, like Dido and Destiny’s Child.”

‘Video Child’ is lifted from the band’s debut EP, ‘Away For All Time’, which Mård wrote during a long term stay in the Swedish town of Borlänge.  Be prepared for more gentle, halcyon pop melodies laced together by pure, unadulterated vocals that invite and assuage with the lightest of impressions, as they sing of a darker past whilst looking to a brighter future.

You can stream or buy ‘Video Child’ via Spotify or iTunes, while Away All the Time will release via Hit City U.S.A. on October 28th.  In the meantime, you can listen to the debut single here.

Samü Release ’60s Dipped Debut Single ‘How It Works’

samu

If you teleported Aurora back to the soulful days of the late 60s, threw a gauze of colour-pop psych over some Broen type wonk, and then fused the two, you might arrive at something vaguely in the realm of ‘How it Works’, the debut single from Oslo based Samū.

With only one other song up on their socials, the ludicrously good ‘In My Head‘, a song that could easily have been crafted by that erstwhile queen of ’50s jazz and ’60s trippy folk cum blue-eyed soul, Amie ‘Warwick Avenue‘ Duffy, Samū’s sound is still pretty much uncharted territory.

A five-piece comprising Trine Samuelsen Hansen, Sander Eriksen Nordahl, Ruben Gilje, Martin Morland and Knærten Simonsen they recently signed to Trondheim based ‘NO FOREVERS‘ a label whose star is very much in the musical ascendancy.

That they draw the bulk, if not all, of their influences from the 20th century is pretty clear, with samples spanning a 40 year spectrum from the ’60s folk of Simon & Garfunkel through sugar coated synth-pop to ’90s slacker pop, all washed down with that easy-evening, ‘Waterloo Sunset’, laid-back chill of The Kinks.

And it is that low-key, serene feeling, that lies at the very heart and neo-soul of their single ‘How it Works’, a song set in a timeless world, in which everything moves in a slow-mo waltz, against a backdrop of hazy days harmonies and easy, peaceful sounds.

Echoey ’60s piano riffs and retro keyboard sounds take centre stage, while nice n’easy  guitar and percussion take a more subtle, gentler approach.

Trine Hansen’s vocal, more golden delicious than the Nordic cool of so many of her peers, skips and dances playfully through the songs instrumental spaces, giving them a delicious sweet filling. The song itself is underpinned by a lumbering bass, which in an almost bluegrass outro, tracks its elephantine plod through a garden bed of spiralised wonk.

Having cut their live teeth playing several gigs in Norway, Samū laid down their first single in Øra studios with Karl Klaseie (Kari Harneshaug, Antler, Østfrost).  The band are now working on their first album, details of which will be announced later in the year. ‘How it Works’ goes on release today, and  you can hear it right here, right now.

https://soundcloud.com/no-forevers/samu-how-it-works-2496

Follow Samū on Facebook and Soundcloud for more updates regarding live dates and new music.  ‘How it Works’ is available now on Spotify.

Open Your Doors to The Hallway: ‘Vestad’ – Review

the-hallyway-by-jon-grimsgaard1
he-Hallway-by-Jon Grimsgaard

The genesis of The Hallway is a rather interesting one.  A confluence of musical strands from various latter and present day bands, this (member squared)*2 formation has quite the pedigree with Andreas*2 and Simen*2 coming from the good stock of Team Me, BLØSH, Carnival Kids & Co.

First formed in 2015, The Hallway had the domestic release of their debut mini-album ‘Vestad’ earlier this year.  It has now seen the light of Norwegian day in vinyl format, whilst simultaneously being unleashed onto the international market in digital form, all making for an incredibly busy promotional period for this talented quartet.

The band played Øya’s Klubbdagen earlier this month, which by all accounts was amazeballs; alas I did not get the full The Hallway experience due to my having a prior engagement with one Hanne Kolstø.  Judging by the hyperbolic reviews however, I wasn’t missed!

The Hallway Live at John Dee
The Hallway Live at John Dee

While it would be a natural reaction to compare and contrast the outputs of The Hallway with their various antecedents and/or alter-egos, I’ll leave that to others to verbalise.  Instead, I’ll move straight to ‘Vestad‘.

This hexagon opens with a forty second instrumental amuse bouche.  A slightly jarring salutation, ‘Hello’ is a brief scoop of dry acoustic guitar shot with a dash of drone.  Next up ‘Used to Know‘, and from the off you’re up to your neck in Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Placebo and Ash.

Clean guitar lines are petulant in the face of the driving force of the bass, constantly pushing it back under the covers of classic rock drumming.  This is so multi layered that the guitars sound like an angry mob whose insistent metronomic rhythm drives straight through its heart via some pretty delightful xylophone twinkles.

Whether by default or too many years spent digesting American TV shows, more than many male Norwegian singers have a soft American inflection to their icy falsetto, the combination of which should land them somewhere in central Canada, but instead tends to put them in Billy Corgan territory.

The Hallway front-man Simen Schikulski’s vocal falls into that bracket, his voice having similar control, tension and attitude to the Smashing Pumpkin lead.  Schikulski, a master of nuance in a manner similar to Tim Wheeler, also has the same warm melodic undertones to his voice as the Downpatrick rocker.

The Hally -Jon-Grimsgaard
The Hallway -Jon-Grimsgaard

Where ‘Used to Know’ is in rousing Pumpkins’ terroir, nostalgic ‘Stay and Grow Old‘ is definitely in the anthemic rock-god mould of Green Day.

Here The Hallway have taken a tried and tested ‘All American’ alt-rock formula and converted it into an adrenalin pumper of a track with an huge sound to which they’ve added sprinkles of effulgent synth.

Yet, despite the fact that all the key ingredients are here – soaring melodies, thrum and pump, thrashing drums, fierce guitar sequences and wistful, wishful vocals, it somehow lacks bang for its buck. Notwithstanding that, it’s a quality, old school, classic indie rock anthem that is no doubt an huge crowd-rouser at the band’s live shows.

Next up is the track ‘Best Regards’ bringing with it a radical change in both tempo and direction. Shifting down gears to a rock-ballad that echoes mid-80s U2, ‘Best Regards’ catches the attention from the outset, holding it, very firmly in the grip of its vast yet pared back sound.

It kicks off with a melodramatic medley of noises similar to an orchestral warm up, before sliding into an acoustic guitar Cobain like rant that lasts for little over a minute.  A vehicle for Schikulski to vent his frustration, it’s a contradiction in terms, with it’s laid back slacker instrumental at odds with the trenchant vocal. Despite its brevity and irascible timbre, ‘Best Regards’ lures and fixes you like velcro into its micro-web.

One of my favourite tracks from ‘Vestad’.

Penultimate track ‘Million Ways’ is a bit more of the same (‘S&GO’) quintessential American College cum alt-rock.  Less tightly compacted, there’s a bit more space to the sound, and notwithstanding the addition of drum rolls, handclaps and more obvious synth lines, this is already charted territory.

With all the hyperventilating rise and fall of a heart monitor, the track rushes along like an unstoppable train: it’s a short, sharp rock shock, sure to liven things up and get the kids pogoing in any mosh-pit.

The EP or mini-album wraps with what is possibly its best track, ‘Air/Closer’. Definitely in the Green Day space, this is a darkly, intense thrum backlit by an incandescent chorus.  A finger-pointing, garrulous swipe at humanity viz our destruction of the environment, it’s a perfect manifestation of The Hallway’s keen vocal and instrumental talents, and as close to elegant as a rock track comes: there is something sublime about synth sampling strings that bring a discerning pathos to rock tracks.

Sometimes less is more and the restraint on this track allows the bands well honed musicianship to shine through.  A chord change build, a ruffle of portentous guitar licks and a drum solo with intent bring everything neatly to a close.

Something tells me the best is yet to come from The Hallway.  The quality song writing and talented musicianship are most definitely there, but their sound needs a little more exploration and evolution to bring it to the point where it will be both readily identifiable, and define them as a band.

To use a ragged cliché, The Hallway are definitely ‘ones to watch’. Hopefully they will give themselves the time and creative space to realise their true potential on their next recorded endeavours. 7/10.

You can follow The Hallway on Facebook and Twitter.  Their mini album, ‘Vestad’, is out now via Furuberget Records and available through all digital channels.

Tracklist

  1. Hello
  2. Used To Know
  3. Stay & Grow Old
  4. Best Regards
  5. Million Ways
  6. Air/Closer

Øyafestivalen – The Ones That Got Away

Foto Fabian Framdal Fjeldvik
Sløtface Foto Fabian Framdal Fjeldvik

In which rather than mourning my Øya losses, I celebrate the anticipation of seeing them play live at another point and place in time …

When you start attending music festivals you learn pretty quickly that no matter how many times or ways you twist and turn the programmes, it is physically impossible to make it to every live set or gig on your bucket list. Crossover schedules call for tough decisions, or failing that, some coin tossing whilst valiantly trying not to cheat when the chosen side lands facing down!

It was no different with this years Øyafestivalen club-night which played host to a rainbow of artists from across a vast and varied Nordic spectrum.  Rather then focussing on the fact that I missed out on several wanna-sees, I like to think of these as the ones that got away; bands who I can continue to pursue in the happy hope that I will one day get to see them play live.

The Øya club-night was possibly my most testing off-site festival challenge to-date, and if you have a look at the night’s programme you’ll understand the predicament in which I found myself.

Foto: Magnus Haaland
Lumikide Foto: Magnus Haaland

First off not only were the lovely Therese Aune and the super groovy newbies Lumikide, whose lustrous single ‘Golden’, is as radiant as its name denotes, pitched against each other, worse still they were pitted against the Øya delegate registration cum meet n’ greet. WHATTTT!

I longed to be transported into the fascinating landscapes of Aune’s imagination.  To be whisked up and away on a treadmill of ebony and ivory, blown along by the warm wind gently borne of harmonium bellows. Sighs.

Signed to Riot Factory and with a smorgasbord of creative soundscapes forming an impressive back catalogue, Therese Aune is one of the most understated and widely respected talents on the Norwegian scene.  It would have been neat to have found out if there were offerings a-new from Therese, especially as there was a rather quirky Soundcloud upload as recently as four months ago, entitled – ‘Sound Horn OK Please – Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ (of Dylan Thomas fame) which you can listen to here.

Alas, it was not meant to be but, Therese, if you’re reading this, do please send word if you are due to release any new material!! My portal is always open and receptive to new tunes!

I also wanted to see what more those purveyors of aureate indie-jazz, Lumikide, had to offer in addition to the multi-dimensional wonder that is their latest single.

With a disarming vocal so warmly inviting it could have insta-thawed the ice age, ‘Golden‘ is a wonderwall of all that is good about that canny Norwegian trick of melding pop-jazz with indie.

Layers of evocative vocal with that intriguing plaintive edge so idiosyncratic of the Norwegian style, intense hazes of guitar chords, blurry and blingy synths and that wonderful, wonderful drumming of Axel Skjelstad, trained in the jazz style, but whose intuitive feel for exploratory percussion is quite exceptional.  ‘Golden’ is a meld of all of these succulent ingredients, poured together to create this most exquisite of elixirs.

I wanted to hear more of what this band were capable of and how they might sound outside the safety zone of the studio, but alas Oslo, it was not to be!

I set my gig alarm for 7pm.  Surely that would give me enough time to register, pick up my bits n bobs and whisk myself off to venue number one, map flapping in hand (actually it was more map sagging in hand as the weather on the night was just abysmal!).

Ok so where to start … well there was Sløtface in the immense Parkteatret at 7pm.

One of my favourite young bands of the Nowegian now, Sløtface produce slickly finished, sassy punk inspo’d sounds, with razor sharp lyrics laced with kick ass attitude. Their latest number ‘Take Me Dancing’, is their most mature offering to-date. A cheeky little flirt, it’s a catchy soundscape of twist n turn bass chords, rolling percussion and a segue of clean and fuzzy guitar opposites that sync with uncluttered ease.  Together they form an animated springboard for Haley Shea’s expressive vocals which in this instance are topped off with a deliciousness of angelic harmonies.

Sadly I have to be due north at the same time as their set finishes, so I make the strategic decision that as I have already seen these guys rock out live up at Trondheim Calling, I can live a bit longer on the memory, making a promise to keep them on the “must see again” list.  Bearing in mind that they will undoubtedly tour their forthcoming album in 2017, it’s a promise I am quite likely to keep!  For now, let Sløtface take you dancing around the virtual streets of Oslo.

Having settled on a hot date with Ludvig Moon meant that I also had to take a rain-check on Kildaphew – which didn’t impress me one bit!  However, there was some silver lining zipping around the edges of those dark and rainy Oslo overhangs in the form of a Kildaphewian appearance on stage with ARY, when one half of this fantastic pairing, Danielle Christine Brogden, sang backing vocals to Ms. Loinsworth’s live set.

Kildaphew Lene Johansen Photography
Kildaphew Lene Johansen Photography

Purveyors of experimental electro-rap dipped in funk and wrapped up in a Windies vibe, theirs is one of the most lush sounds you’ll hear this side of 21stC soul.  Danielle’s voice is pitch perfect chocca mocha velvet – sweet, rich, enticing, and moreish.  Their instrumental sound is a collection of cross-border flotsam and jetsam woven with such a delicate and masterly touch as to create a perfectly seamless blend.  Did I want to see them? Hell yeah.  Shame on you programme timing!

On the 100% must see list (a desire reinforced having witnessed Danielle’s brilliant vocal shadowing of ARY the following day), for now I’ll have to satiate my calypso-hip hop needs by hanging out on their Soundcloud page – check this beauty of a track out!

Internasjonalen beckoned with Chain Wallet and Hanne Kolstø in its illustrious line up.  All of which meant that as far as Siv Jakobsen, Pelicat, Sgrow, nrwy, Strangelove and The Hallway were concerned, it was take a ticket and wait for your number to be called (like a watched pot, at some point in a never boiling future!).

The Hallway, John Dee, Oya
The Hallway, John Dee, Oya

Mixing classical and techno backgrounds to produce musical purity of a quality that outclasses many of their peers, Sgrow is a band whose vocal and sonic expressiveness has the clarity of its Nordic roots, the experimental drive of personal inspirations and, the melodic warmth and curious compulsion of the futuristic driven techno age in which it exists.  Missing their set was possibly my biggest mistake of the night!

Luckily, I had the pleasure of meeting the Sgrow folks for a coffee a few days later, which made up in part, for my not seeing them live.  Although, given the fact that they have wrapped up their live set for the present time, it looks like it’ll be quite some wait before I eventually get to see them kill it on stage.  In the words of all the best musical stalkers … “I’m waiting”!  

The Hallway were a band I desperately wanted to see live, especially having heard their now internationally released EP, Vestad a few weeks prior to heading to Oslo. However, as I had been waiting to see La Kolstø since March, sadly, it was a non-runner on the night.  Theirs is my kinda sound, my kinda vibe.  Melodic indie rock with just the right amount of bite, classical snatches of string samples, a little flash of American grunge and a pleasing but ever so slightly terse vocal.

They’re a bit Green Day muddled with Smashing Pumpkins in an ice-capped Nordic kinda way.  Addictive, infectious, vibrant and on the poppy side of rock enough to appeal to the mainstream. The Hallway deserve only good things, and with sparkling creations like ‘I Used to Know’ they’ll probably get them!

So, you can see the challenges that faced me on the night.  To make things worse, all things Toothfairy were happening over at The Villa.  Having been told that the venue would be packed to capacity from early doors pretty much sealed their fate; I didn’t have the time to flit to a venue only to find I couldn’t get in and have to perform an instantaneous volte face to plan B.  Gone, in one fell swoop, Coucheron, Nils Noa(weeps!), Carl Louis and Baya.

My evening drew to a close as I walked in what could only be described as a deluge of rain towards Subscene and the Panda Panda live set, conscious as I was doing so, that I was walking away from opportunity of seeing Frances Wave. “OH cruel Fate, when wilt thou weary be?”

My club-night came to a close and as I walked the short distance back to my hotel through the late night misty murky Oslo streets, I despatched pointless regrets on the North Sea breeze, welcomed the light at the end of the tunnel of possibilities and gently hugged the anticipation of what was still to come.  Hope springs eternal.

Øyafestivalen supported by Music Norway, runs annually in Oslo, usually around the second week of August.  For full details check out the official website http://oyafestivalen.com/