The NBT Review 89

another review from Cobus Rossouw creator of 88 Kilos of Sunshine

Aaron English – American [Fever] Dream

Other sites (which shall remain nameless) recommend Aaron English to fans of Sting, Peter Gabriel and Dead can Dance. I can’t fault this assessment although I suspect there is a far more diverse audience in his future.

Aaron English is a piano man, rather than a guitar man and this has a clear influence on his songwriting. Melodies are more intricate than the traditional guitar-based singer-songwriter, and the production has more depth and more tapestry than rock.

This collection of songs, a comeback after an unfortunate accident, clearly illustrates his writing, playing and vocal talents. His voice, so apt for illustrating loss and pain, soars into triumph over beautifully constructed choruses.

Lyrically the album is strong although it does fall into the obvious. There are also moments that jarred me, such as the chosen arrangement for “God bless you and your man” which seems a playful treatment of a serious subject (although perhaps I am not getting the irony).

“Believe in me”, which opens the album showcases all the promise but leaves a hunger behind. On his website English recounts a story about this song involving his niece. I think I agree with this story, and I think it makes this song more than it seems at first. Read about it here: http://www.aaronenglish.com/lyrics_believe.html

And then… perhaps the single best line I have heard on an album this year… “…but you play hard to forget…” Lines like these are not the products of intellect; they’re the product of experience. The lyric, from “Sleight of Heart” is simple, beautiful and launches a grand melody for the chorus with English’ vocals perfectly counterbalanced by Leah Siegel and Scott Adams. I find myself skipping to this track time and again, the melody on my lips constantly. This is all I could ever want from music.

In moments like these English becomes more than a piano man, becomes the artist that he has all the ability to be. I would urge English to follow on this song in particular if he wants to produce great art and I would urge you all to get out there and buy this album if only for Sleight of Heart and the eloquent desperation of “The Name of this Song is a Secret”, which hauls me into the artist’s world, which is where I want to be when I listen to the album.

Aaron English is featured on NBT Podcasts during September

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of the Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

  (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

   A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/

The NBT Review 88

The Scorpion In The Story – Tori Sparks (Glass Mountain Records)

Every time you listen to a piece of music you are entering into a journey. Depending on the art and talent of the creator, the songs will take you to places away from where you sit and listen. Sometimes they will take you to truth and knowledge deep inside of yourself, secrets you didn’t even know you had, sometimes they will take you on adventures, show you strange souls, show you the ragged wonder hiding behind the ordinary blur too many of us take for granted.

Without really setting out to do so, Tori Sparks has concocted a set of stories about places she has traveled through while performing across the USA, observing in fragments and miniatures the ever ongoing battles and victories of those curious mortals that live and strive and love there.

We observe along side her and learn with her, not just about the things she sees, but the way they touch her inside. So in a way dear listener this is really thirteen chapters, all about, You.

 Chapter one: On a choral whisper/grunt, over sleepy sly upright bass, and sweetly clear banjo, we slide into the slow focus dream of the perfect man, the perfect address, then as the song blossoms into full giddy country dance the wry truth tumbles gleefully in, the fairytale shimmer is blown away.

Refreshing.

Chapter Two: Does she escape these cascading photographs, black and white reminders, she drives fast but distance was never the cure for the ghosts in the past.

Chapter Three: As the honky tonk Taxman riff sashays around, the free girl sings in the voice of the trapped girl, what is she trapped by, by her lovers failed ambition, that’s a strong prison right there.

Chapter Four:  we mostly choose those who will make us safe, not those who make us happy. Slow dance of regret

Chapter Five: this is a minor epic, the singer tells of a life lived small and long, of the years of holding in, the singer can only respond with a song that breathes and yearns wide, she paints this brittle soul as if it were the entire world.

Chapter Six:  one of the stand out tracks, reminds one of the ‘other’ tori, but with less waft and with more dirt on her fingertips, this is the tears, then the smile through the tears, then the ‘what the hey!’ after the tears , get back on, this time around will be fun no matter what. This contains that secret ingredient of a hit song, the enjoyable heartbreak.

Chapter Seven:  Oh yes the Devil is such a charming man.

Chapter Eight:  the self image of the wild girl, after the chaos of the loud night, the quiet scary look at  the villain that may not even be there.

(All this to music that ties itself with understanding, to every word.)

Chapter Nine: look closer there are shadows in this picture of the sunlit couple.

Chapter Ten: the skill here is how she takes the story on, from the start of the disaster, and then travels on, she wants to ride the shockwaves, the afterglow, rather than the obvious big bang.

Chapter Eleven:  with a few lines the internal machine of the odd couple is caught, roots Americana  the Dixie Dregs  would be proud of.

Chapter Twelve:  Another hit in the dreaming, the subliminal brass touches deep inside, why is this not a mainstay on all the alternative playlists?

Chapter Thirteen: no not the end, cause this song makes you want to simply start the album again, come dance, come think, come lose yourself in these stories.

Don’t just take my word for it go here and find out for yourself

http://www.torisparks.com

Tori will be featured on NBT podcasts during September

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of the Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

  (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

   A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/

The NBT Review 87

Genau Jetzt – Schutzschall

Bühne – Schutzschall (Independent Releases)

With so much in the German Alternative pop scene geared to something rather safe and bland, where too many groups bow down to the Söhne Mannheims template of soft rock for the cheese and wine week-enders, it is thrilling to find a band that releases both acoustic and electric tunes that have a tension, darkness, a danger to them.

They build up over a steady roar of tidal wave percussion, (within both sets) the words tumble over the storm frenzy, each creation threatening to explode further apart, each held back with binding of melody and atmosphere.

At its heart there is something rebellious about this, there is poignancy, a beating honesty that invites the listener in for the emotional ride. This is music to go slightly crazy to.

These are songs that ultimately sing of escape, escape from carefully built alienation, from the cloying walls of complacency, from the fear of the ‘Alone’, take a risk, jump Out and join those who buzz brightly far from the surface of things.

This is a tonic for the weary bored musical mind, a pleasant jolt, an antidote to apathy.

Take the ride no matter what country you come from or what language you speak

http://schutzschall.bandcamp.com/

You can hear tracks from both albums on the NBT podcast going out on the 24th August 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

The NBT Review 86

Face The Fact – Opus 1 (Westbound Media)

Insightful, refreshing, Opus 1 pulls no punches, as the finger clicking jazz guitar leads him into ‘Failure’, we realize this will be no empty brag festival, no false bravado, no self pity for his hard luck adventures. This is something different, pretty damn unique, brave even, because running the risk at being taken at face value, some may miss that this is a message of hope. That if you are AWARE of the Hell you may be stuck in, (some of that hell made by your own perceptions and faults) you can and MUST escape from it.

Mashadena squelches forward on the back of 80’s sounding synth and vocoder morphing slowly into a tense jive apocalyptic ice cool soundtrack, with shivering of dread. And yet so very danceable!

In Abstract Jazz, Opus 1 raps that his,’’ perspective is reflective of reality’’ and it this way he has of viewing then writing and singing about the world around him, the thoughts surrounding him, that elevate the tunes above so much that pours out these days in the modern pop universe.

Stand out track, No Love deserves to be a hit not only in hip hop clubs, but could easily find a home in alternative and adventurous rock clubs across the nations, it has that bold crossover appeal, embracing the intellect and the soul.

All in all each track here offers layers of thought provoking lyrics sown into a subtly produced bed of melody and instrumentation. The hooks creep up on you and the mood takes hold for ages after the last bass howl and strut has faded.

I for one certainly look forward to much more from this artist.

Listen for yourself here

http://www.westbound-media.com

http://opus-1.bandcamp.com/album/face-the-fact

Opus 1 will be featured on the NBT podcast going out on the 17th August 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of the Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

  (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

   A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/

The NBT Review 85

In Another Life – Count To Fire (Independent Release)

From the loneliness of brief solo piano the band steps into another life where the room opens out into the big country, and the girl is young and moves with movie star yearning stuck in the tender moment of a first meeting made sad and beautiful with nostalgia. The innocence before desire sparkles across the scene and the guitar creeps in, takes precedence. The lovers dance, the time loop doesn’t seem to hold easy answers and the comfort is only in this memory.

All this and it is only the first track.

As the memories continue to weigh heavy, the singer finds the grey of his real rain filled day cannot compete to the grey shifting romance of the flickering screen, and when he sings of battles, it is that twilight time between chaos, when escape is almost possible and despair is almost a release.

I think that this is an album that longs for the bright, wide, open freedom, but with melancholy acceptance finds itself tethered to real world where the war is against giving up, where love does not find a way unless fought hard for.

It is in this delicate knowledge of what makes us regret, that a fine hope shines through.

Stand out track for this listener is ‘City Lights’ a slow building ballad, with an alluring soul feel reminiscent of My Morning Jacket’s Jim James when working for Monsters Of Folk. On here, as on many of the tunes, the skillfully orchestrated harmonies add so much to the power and heart of the tune, indeed you know you are listening to something that will stay with you for the longest time.

The band add colour to this set of ruefulness with shadings of Johnny Cash swagger and Long Ryder feistiness, but never distract from the mood that binds it all together, again in this era of the downloadable track versus the whole album debate, this demands to be listened to as a complete, satisfying whole.

Find out more here

http://www.myspace.com/counttofire

will be featured on NBT podcasts during August and September

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of the Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

  (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

   A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/

The NBT Review 84

The Electric Mist – Metaform (Just Records)

Imagine if you will, an intimate adventure, where we try to capture the electronic soul from the ghost of a disco dancer. The ambiguous tale of the doomed and the sensual, told with a songwriter’s detachment, and a sound creator’s charm.

What is kinda thrilling about this collection is the way even languid slinky Soul, is seductively corrupted by an Indie Kid with a love  of noise and movement, and rock song hooks that prowl the spaces. And for once, the use of production tricks on the vocal add to the suspense, even the humanity in the songs, somehow the technician reveals a heart.

The Track OCD is a playful ambient miniature, Coldcut meets Lynch back at his place, for drinks and a sway around the statues. Like a lot here it hints at the hedonistic, the full on rave ruckus, but prefers the instability of the outsider.Elsewhere it’s pretty cool hearing an American take on the challenge of the Brit dance indie bands such as Bloc Party and get it totally right, this is indeed the Future Frolic.

Kele hire this guy for some remix work right now.

Metaform even finds a place for giddy theatrics crafting a piece in, ‘’It’s Gotta Be’’ that is all camp Soft Cell, totally free of the retro 80s prison though,  with slivers of Flying Lotus and other such innovators.

And in, ‘’Introversion’’ there is even a droll take on the sort of Instrumental dream pop that the Love Unlimited Orchestra would attempt, The Isley Brothers 3007. Smooth but not smooth, it goes down a treat.

This is not for the purists (of any genre) but then again what fun cool music really is? And will make as many enemies as life long fans.

Which one will YOU turn out to be I wonder.

Find out here: http://metaformonline.com/fr_store.cfm

Metaform will be featured on both NBT podcasts during August and September

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

http://nbtdarkelectric.podbean.com/

If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of the Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

  (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

   A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/

The NBT Review 83

Oceanus – Small City Calling (Independent Release)

Ease into the dramatic, a gentle conflict between the electronic shuffle and a soundtrack to some inscrutable silent movie or subliminal fantasy. This opening allows us to float into the set.

So away we go, with an almost jazz feel, a buoyant bubble drift, with the vocals mixed down into the journey as the song flickers into focus, into life, becomes a modern pop song for the daring daydreamer.

 The songs take their own time, follow their own logic, reward the listener with layers embedded in layers, sparking off each other as the surge continues.

This set is earphone music, is almost a private thing, a lock the doors and unplug the phone, give your self into it communion.

Slyly the castaways get you to dance, something you never expected, but this is the opposite of frantic or forced, this dance is the natural jive, the thinkers take the romantics hand and cavort shy, as the tunes glimmer and glow.

The band though, is not afraid to sketch the storm, the contained fury of the ocean either, its just they do it with the calm of the story teller, the survivor, showing a restraint and skill that groups twice their age can still not manage.

This EP is a subtle and delicate delight, with dark forces boiling under the surface, and this band immediately makes the listener want to know, HAVE to know, what they will do next.

Find out more here

http://smallcitycalling.com

Hear Tracks from this set on the NBT Podcast going out on the 24th August 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of the Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

  (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

   A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/