The NBT Review 99

Marco Mahler –Design in Quick Rotation/Laptop Campfire Speed(the Instrumental Versions)

Another review from Cobus Rossouw creator of 88 Kilos of Sunshine

The Visual is one of the Kinetic Sculptures created by Marco Mahler: Kinetic Mobile 60-1-640

These two albums, available as free downloads from represent a large volume of
work from Marco Mahler. This is the kind of output that most artists only manage in a 3 year period and yet Mahler seems to be able to produce at an incredible rate.

One might therefore be tempted to think that such output would represent castoff tunes with little thought given to
arrangement. One would expect work that was one-dimensional and bland. In this case there’s a substantial surprise waiting. Dense layers of guitar music overlay sensible percussion and perfectly weighted melodic instrumentation, accenting counterpoints that add to the melodies, expanding the ideas, teasing out themes. It’s the stuff of dreams,

The truth here is that I got this a while ago, and the review was due some days ago, but the music distracted me, I’ve
had it buried in the car stereo for most of my time and Marco’s music has travelled most of South Africa’s Northern provinces with me, and it has been the best of company. In fact, if you know the bushveld landscape you’ll understand the feel of the music. It is music for open spaces and wide skies, for thorn trees and riverbeds, tunes for campfires and cold nights, warm days
and sunshine, dust and sudden rain. It’s music for road trips and David Lynch films.

The music is instrumental and intended for soundtrack use, which would be sensible destination, but it is also meditative
and elusive, with some of the hidden qualities opening up with repeated exposure. The albums are also heralds of the released full albums and I must presume that the albums are fully fleshed songs, vocals etc. added, and it is a measure of the quality of his music that it stands on its own, as instrumentals, each a comprehensive theme and variation excursion that is beautiful and complex at the same time.

It’s a wonderful collection of tracks, each one unique and yet definitely part of a collective, go get it, and remember,
you heard about it here.

Hear trax from these albums on the NBT show
going out on the 18th November 2010

THE NBT Review 98

Bigger Teeth – BirdEatsBaby (Independent Release)

If earlier BirdEatsBaby releases were indicative of those small town
cinemas from stranger times, all romance and slightly twisted in the way they
spread the dream, this EP dares to go widescreen, the cabaret grows epic, the
soundstage morphs into a garden of distraction and the players now become real
indie pop stars.

The cool thing is, while achieving this; the music loses none of its
charm, its delicious sleaziness or cruel power and in spite of the added
polish, the heart and soul still shines through.

The collection starts deceptively with a sparse vocal harmonic interplay,
then a grunted countdown and the circus slides into our town, hints of future
scares, random violence, exotic encounters blur past fast, then it clicks back
to the minimal.

The Replacement is Coco Rosie gone frenzy breathless, a pogo creature of
a tune the counterpointing semi operatic vocal/piano layer just adds a poignant

Then martial drums, Cure guitar slithers and it’s a modern POP
masterpiece/centerpiece, this is a calling card to the world, about future chart
domination, this is the kind of song that while it is playing the listener
wishes, needs, to see this beautiful thing played damn loud, live. A hint of
the best of those Prog groups of old, Curved Air, Family, even Alice Cooper,
mixed with the arch camp thrill of a Siouxsie, who knew a thing or two on how
not to let a rocknroll jive interfere with the bubblegum deviance. This is ‘Enemies
Like Me’, a song that seems destined to be play listed as often as is possible.

‘Gone’ is Liza Minnelli on speed with a dash of that typical
BirdEatsBaby craziness, and yes the charming Devil IS in the details, the twinkle
here the shiny distorted waltz break-away leading us through to be caught unawares
by the exquisite new folk of the kinda heartbreaking Rosary, heartbreaking that
is, in that sing along rejoicing way of course.

This, my friends, is the sound of the breakthrough, the Birds are gonna
be huge.

Camouflage Baby – The Histrioniks (CatErratic Records)

This is a kind of fearless indie pop, a nervous lyrical artist
vibrating up against the normal, their songs a blur in the sunshine, maybe visiting
the now from some harsher darker suburbia, it’s the sound of stoplights ignored,
distilled into a brittle modern dance, too sharp to fit into what passes now as
American punk, it reminds me of the raw honest Replacements,(not quite so
shabby ) or perhaps that ragged beautiful Exene led X, though by now the band
has a distinctive mood-sound all of their own, instantly familiar to those who
have loved earlier collections. When I try to pinpoint the secret that sets
this band apart, I think, there is a love of Brit-pop refinement within the
songwriting that lifts it away from the slacker easy alternative, so the dirt within
is not thrown at you but has to be dug for.

While listening to this, I am taken back to earlier this week and a curious
hopeful search for good indie American tunes, and getting song after song of
either ancient hard rock dressed up in new glitter, or soft adult orientated
whimpers pretty much designed by boardroom committees. Thank goodness then for the
arrival of the Camouflage Baby.

This set strays from the powerpop of previous installments in that it
flirts rather madly with the blues and stripped down country rock, but again, strangely,
its country rock as heard, seen, played by outsiders, and this is a very good
thing, cause it gives the tunes shiny hooks and angles, a welcome distortion of
the facts.

And that is the very essence of a Histrioniks release (and never more so
than this child) it doesn’t really belong neatly in any one genre, within any
too structured playlist, it is the stranger at the dinner table, the welcome uninvited

Stand out track out of a bunch of standout tunes,  is the ghost-dance called ‘The Last Three Days’
where the male and female voices blend and shiver outwards together and haunt
the airwaves.

Songs from both these albums will be played on the NBT podcast going out
on the 21st of October 2010


The NBT Review 97

Froghill Legend – Memphis Reigns
(DownWrite Records)

It’s been a fair time coming,the quiet anticipation for more of this mood jive building up as the months passed. Now that it is finally here, the presence is so strong that the tunes, the feel, the art seem to have been around, well for pretty much always.

Starting strafing in a shuffle hurry, this is their most undulating soulful thing, a sure swing; the slyest of grooves is ‘Errrrry’! Then we are back on familiar Reigns territory, half melancholy, half restrained anger but full of that fighting hopeful spirit,
songs to make your heart beat just that little bit faster, stronger.

There are touches of widescreen eastern cinema, a thud and shudder from wry romantic spirits, not afraid to let the songs sometimes float on the most delicate beautiful melodies, and other times drift hard on rough and tumble. This set is Oceanic,
full of calm and storm, both catching us by wonderful surprise.

‘We got to get these cats to start thinking outside of the box’ the fourth track, ‘Cloud Kingdom’ starts and
this is exactly why this music WORKS so damn well, I have said before and will say it again, what sets this collective apart is the willingness to skip the cliché, the easy formula that runs like a virus through much hip hop. Memphis Reigns
starts outside of the box, and seduces its way in. No pose no imagined chip on weak shoulders here.

Imagine Jay Z if he didn’t have to keep record executives happy while being chained to a idiotic Kanye West,
imagine Eminem before he lost the plot and with a far broader love of the many tribes of music and you are only half way to catching on to this set’s charm.

I am rather glad this got here at last; because, again I will be featuring Memphis Reigns in my ‘Best Of’ lists of the year.

Romelo Delossantos IS Memphis Reigns IS part of MindMechanics.

Read his column on the NBTportal website

The NBT Review 96

Nora Jane Struthers – Nora Jane Struthers (Blue Pig Music)

Review by NBT’s Martin Smit

She leads us into this gentle disturbance, riding in on sweet delicate fiddle, without complication she stretches this thriller into something haunting, and though the fear is tangible, though the dread shifts just around the melody, this murder ballad is simply beautiful, a brave opening, a daring introduction.

This album takes place in the ‘other’ in the timeless weightless ‘other’ that all great music inhabits. It can seem ancient, it can hit you hard with its modern soul, it is full of dreaming, of those dangerous whispers barely heard from trees shifting (willingly?) in the wind. It is a slow dance it is a frantic jig, it is quiet personal, it is a rowdy Saturday night barn dance hooked already into the Sunday morning regret.

This album takes place in that dark Americana place, where love pulses with uncertainty, where tradition can be saving or can be shackles, but she writes the sad song well, filling it with hope and empathy, an unfettered joy in the telling of the story.

Musically this is simply exquisite, no pastiche of clichés, no feeling that this is archived sounds from long ago, restructured as a technical thesis on what is Roots and what is Country. This is the sound of music playing on the radio in a farm kitchen; this is the sound on my mp3 player when I want to escape the dull city day.

These guys, this woman, LOVE playing these songs creating this music, and you will love listening to this album

White Line And Stars – Rosehill (Cypress Creek Records)

Another review from Cobus Rossouw creator of 88 Kilos of Sunshine

I’m a long way from Texas as I write this. Outside it’s Africa and traffic but in my ears I have Heartland and Outlaws, guitars and thumping drums.

Mitch McBain and Blake Meyers (formerly the Texas High Life frontmen) have brought us an album that should be an instant classic in the genre and catapult them to fame and fortune. I say this knowing full well that it takes more than a great album with great tunes and meaningful lyrics to make it in the music trade, but the duo have shown wisdom in getting the right producer in Radney Foster and this will make all the difference.

Starting with the material, it is obvious that Meyers and McBain are mature, skilled and passionate. Their songs are a balanced trade-off between the Austin twang of guitar-dominated rock and a story-telling lyricism that is to Texas what Springsteen is to Jersey. (That’s a big statement I know but it’s there, for all to hear, on tracks like “Believer”, “Midnight America” and “Picassos for Pesos”.)

If I have a criticism, and bear in mind this is a personal one, it’s that the music is not pushing any serious boundaries, either in tone or in arrangement. But then I know for a fact I’m not the market…, my idea of Texas Country is Kinky Friedman for goodness sake. Thus, if the Pixies was your cuppa then this is not for you, but believe me, White Lines and Stars will set the Lone Star State on fire!

And it’ll do this because it is perfectly pitched. Foster’s presence ensures that all the sweet spots are hit and that everything is in the perfect place. Hold onto your hats Texans, these boys are gonna take over. This glass of whiskey looks more than half full to me.

Now if you could just look like Taylor Swift you’d be scooping Grammys next year.

Both these albums where brought to NBT attention by the ever cool Lotos Nile

Hear tracks from both these albums on the NBT Podcast going out on the 7th October 2010