The NBT Review 105

Miriams Well Reviewed by Cobus Rossouw

Elika reviewed by Martin Smit

Snuggle Bunnies – Elika (Automatic Entertainment Records/Fiercely Independent Records)

We have already spoken about the opening Summer of static, a perfect gateway into this new collection of trembling tunes, so let’s be brave, add extra shivers to this white winter’s day and jump into the Stand Still.

A sound for when the war is just seconds over, when there is confusion about who won and who has been utterly defeated. This is the sound of the time before hope and just after despair.

This is a séance of song, bringing into the world the almost forgotten melodies that groups like ‘His Name Is Alive’ (when they were in bed with 4AD) concocted. This is gentle pushing against troubled pushing against anxiety. If those butterflies in our tummies were pop stars they would sound like this.

Which brings me to the haunting centrepiece, the Dark Side, a song that should live in a Japanese anime long lost, now
slipping into the daily subconscious.  A holy mix of Madonna slow dance and the chilliest of electro ambience, this is very much my song for December and beyond.

Like the best groups operating in the alternate universe these days,  instead of over production and more gloss, this band digs deeper into the internal, mines hidden subtleties, waits patient for the dreaming to come to them, then with comfort and agitation in equal measures, sends that dreaming back out to greet us.

Once again, a lovely release from Elika

http://elika.bandcamp.com/

Indians and Clowns – Miriams Well (Buckin Savior Records)

This latest release from Mir German and Mark Bowden is a hearty chunk of honesty. The songs are superbly crafted and there is not a single track that feels like it was added simply to flesh out an album to a required length.

Starting with the title track the album is clearly in country rock territory, although regular readers should not presume any of the usual thematic frailties that the genre often pursues without conscience. These are songs with greater messages than the obvious, adding a conscious voice to country rock that is all too often missing. This is a band that thinks, a band that believes and this comes through in the songs.

Reading through press the band has received much is made of German’s vocal talents. She has a remarkable voice which is distinctive and will lend the band a signature that will make a Miriam’s Well tune instantly recognisable. I would however add that this album also contains some of the wisest arrangement of instrumentation I have heard this year and mention must
be made of the work the band has put in to give each song its appropriate due.

The country rock feel is expanded with guitars ranging into 70’s rock territory with riffs that could be pulled off any of Clapton’s
projects through to soulful horn sections that dip by turns into Vaya Con Dios and Motown. Indeed, there are almost too may references and touchpoints to mention, but what is remarkable for such a diverse musical statement is that it is coherent, beautiful and always stays true to those country roots, a feat that is rarely managed when bands spread their wings outside of their comfort zone.

There are stand out tracks, and I betray my love of American folk when I mention “Stay” and “Big House”, the latter matching sound protest with astute human observation. These tracks have me hooked but I can well imagine other listeners having other favourites, there’s something here for everybody.

http://www.miriamswellmusic.com/

hear tracks from these albums on the upcoming NBT podcast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

NBT now has a Facebook presence: please do go and ‘like’ the page

http://www.facebook.com/NBTmusicproject

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The NBT Review 104

From Space She Came… – 19 Mirrors (Independent Release)

Battle synths of the pop republic! Marching along to a Joy Division beat the pure vocals bewitch and beguile, the light sitting strangely comfortably on top of what is a very nihilistic piece. This is ‘I’d Rather Die’ a song that is full of nervous tension, hurtling sweetly towards a glorious panic attack.

It is this keen sense of the insecurity hiding behind our chaotic lives that elevate these songs, this band, above the massive flow of the Ordinary boys and girls that populate the indie airwaves these days.

Succubus Love starts out with a 90s house glee, morphs into a new wave rock thing before settling down into a modern cautionary tale, encouraging the kind of abandoned jerky dance that the truly cool or the truly crazy get up to in those way too bright clubs existing on the far side of midnight.

We come now to the track that made into the 2010 nbt ‘best of’ list. ‘The Key’ is brutal beautiful a disturbance in the force, again playing the glow against the grime, the innocent against the sordid. Wicked with relish, oh yes.

19 Mirrors get it right, they dare to mix Morodor style electro over incandescent Blondie meets Metal, the type of song that 14 year old girls take to their soul while waiting for their very first heartbreak, the type of song, those older never wiser deviants bounce along to on their way to the next adventure.

Each of these 6 tracks have the potential that the late lamented Long Blondes showed the world, each track is a hit, a single, a chart-topper, in outer space and down here on earth, where this music makes the mundane more bearable, makes the day shorter and the night more alive.

Go find out for yourself

http://www.reverbnation.com/19mirrors#

http://www.facebook.com/pages/19-Mirrors/97860389218

Tracks from this EP and thoughts from the band will be revealed
on the NBT podcast this coming Thursday

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

The Gospel According To NBT (or the top 50 trax of 2010)

so yeah.

A long strange 12 months. So much music, and not nearly enough time or text to convey how great and wonderful and THRIVING the indie music scene is. It is rather cool to note that at least half of these bands belong to tiny labels or are unsigned or are self released. the ones with nbt in brackets behind them have been played and written about on the NBT podcasts and webpages.

Still to come the HUGE NBT Wonderful Ones 2010 Blog and Podcast. watch this space

note this is a choice of SONGS not albums.. that comes later

50) Let’s Say Goodbye, Like we Said Hello – The Coal Porters(nbt)

49) When we swam – Thao With The get Down Stay Down

48) Eure Liebe Tötet Mich –Tocotronic

47) The Dark Side – Elika(nbt)

46) Smart Girls – Caroline Alroy (nbt)

45) Mister Tell Me About The Great Depression –Tokyo Rosenthal (nbt)

44) Lemonade – Coco Rosie

43) Sprawl 2 – Arcade Fire

42) Golden Spells – Adventure Spirit (nbt)

41) Analog love –Cassis and the Sympathies (nbt)

40) A Landscape –Pollyanna(nbt)

39) We’ve Got Your Back (documented minor emotional breakdown#2) Los Campesinos

38) Annie’s Box – The Knife in collaboration with Mt Sims and Planningtorock

37) Born free –M.I.A

36) Computerface/Pure Being –Flying Lotus

35) The Key- 19 Mirrors (nbt)

34) Sentimental Xs – Broken Social Scene

33) Blind like a fool –Tallulah Rendall (nbt)

32) I’m Doing Fine – Apollo’s Sun (nbt)

31) There’s Nothing Underwater – Lightspeed Champion

30) Middle Of A Breakdown – Krista Detor (nbt)

29) Swim Till You Can’t See Land – Frightened Rabbit

28) Sleepless Street –Peter Doran (nbt)

27) The Walls Are Coming Down – Fanfarlo

26) Visitenkarte –  Schutzschall (nbt)

25) Death Of Auto-Tune –Jay Z

24) Breakin –Lisa Bianco (nbt)

23) A Voice In The Louvre – Get Well Soon

22) Home – The Villagers

21) Firefly garden – Merry Ellen Kirk (nbt)

20) Death blossom – Carta Marina(nbt)

19) Boyfriend – Best Coast

18) Undertow – Warpaint

17) Do You Ever Think Of Me – Wartapes (nbt)

16) Cannibal –Zoomonk (nbt)

15) Love Lost – Temper Trap

14) Take You Back –iCON (nbt)

13) Norway – Beach House

12) Barricade – Interpol

11) Enemies Like Me – Birdeatsbaby (nbt)

10) Spy –Boister (nbt)

9) Trees Have Fallen And The Birds Are Ripe – Marco Mahler(nbt)

8 ) Flashback part 1 –MaCu (nbt)

7) Impossible Soul – Sufjan Stevens

6) City lights –Count To Fire (nbt)

5) She Said – Plan B

4) Another Town –Richard Kapp and the Gowns featuring Ina Simone(nbt)

3) Does Not Suffice – Joanna Newsom

2) Even If I Tried – 88 Kilos Of Sunshine (nbt)

1) Baptism – Crystal Castles.

the NBT Flagship podcast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

the NBT Dark Electric Podcast

http://nbtdarkelectric.podbean.com

the NBt top ten

http://nbttopten.podbean.com

 

The NBT Review 103

Smash My Box/Electroboxx –iCON (independent release)

You get a set of songs to review, you play the first track and think you know where you are now heading, think you know what the mood of the piece will be, what degrees of crazy the writing will fall into to suit the music. Think you know whether vibrant short shots will suit, or rather languid thoughtful sighs perhaps.

Then you get these swell indie chameleons and your journey is thrown into delicious disarray.

Oh the strobe lights strut, the glitter-cool. From the first seconds of ‘Do or Die Moon’ it is clear this is no shy shuffle, no shoegaze insecure, and no bedroom anti-social. This is bright bang (pow !)party music.
Ok I know this band. I think I Know where they fit.

Ok NO.

Here comes the 1st of many gratifying curveballs. Next track up is nothing like that. ‘Giant’ slides into focus over delicate piano and builds into a Tori Amos meets Siouxsie chart contender, the kind of glossy not quite ballad full of hooks and surprises that make good pop music so refreshing

This is a band equally at home, playing the mainstream but coming out proud and uncorrupted, or creating songs awash with strings and dramatic arrangements where the shift from club gigs to stadium dates is inevitable.

The Electroboxx tracks show yet another side to the band, now they are Disco Darlings, with a soupcon of camp, a dose of day glo funk(you know the kind that Prince would dreamWrite and CSS managed on their first album) and an honest love of the fun side of Bubblegum- Rock.

Brought to the attention of the right listener, this is a band that could easily make up for the disappointment of, say, the new TingTings album and dominate the airwaves in 2011.

Personal fave for me is ‘Take You Back’ a driving dance mix ten parts giddy, hundred parts exuberance.

http://www.myspace.com/iconsmashmybox

Tracks from these EPs will be featured on both NBT podcasts
this week and next week

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

http://nbtdarkelectric.podbean.com/

 

 

 

 

The NBT Review 102

Volume 2/Volume 3 – MaCu

Reflections – MaCu vs.Cezar (Independent Releases)

Outside all is dirty white mist, offering an unsettling stillness to the world. A world that seems to be waiting for a difficult soundtrack to lie upon it, lift it up, shift it from the ordinary into the serenely dangerous.

I have found that soundtrack.

This music captures the thoughts of ghosts drifting. The ghosts of machines throbbing, thrumming, forgetting what they are for moments in time then sighing back into sequence, the ghosts of children, girls women searching, finding, inviting. This is a waking dream, where the willing listener floats (standing upright) through the opening Wasteland.

This is the imagination of the young factory worker, romanticised slowed down, manipulated. It is also the sound of a dead disco long after the night’s seduction, the souls trapped there still burning hedonistically, equal measures of despair and longing.

In Hollow (which is nothing like that title, or shallow, or momentary) the ghosts become industrial whales crying through the ether.

Yes this music is all about desire. It is a diary of the search for identity, the search by a fragmented soul, for that elusive whole.

There can be no detachment here from the characters created, the scenes that unfold, we are part of every breath, every stutter, and every step towards another doorway into another unknown.  The song titles often contradict; play with our senses, our expectations. Nothing is obvious but almost every damn thing is rather beautiful.

Even when co creating with others, the composer never loses her unique sense of the intimate making this become a halcyonian view of the disturbance just out of sight. Her music is not about words or actions, but what goes on BETWEEN those words, those actions.

A startling, major musical find.

Explore for yourself:

http://macu1.wordpress.com/

Tracks from these releases will be played on the NBT darkelectric this week

http://www.nbtdarkelectric.podbean.com/

Oh and NBT has finally joined Facebook, do go ‘like’ the page if you would be so kind

http://www.facebook.com/NBTmusicproject

The NBt Review 101

All this cool music. There may be a crisis within the music industry, but the independents are sure doing their best to make it a vibrant exciting world of sound.

All reviews except where noted are by Martin Smit of the NBT Project.

Fever Changing –WarTapes (Independent Release)

Hurtling forwards the music the singing is twisted and detached, look for the poignant hidden behind the frantic modern hustle. This machine gets dirty gets rusty, rumbles and roars and the humans who drive it through to us, are flawed, vulnerable, brave, continually invigorated by the power of the melody, the impact of the thoughts.

It is only PoP isn’t it?

Or do these fierce songs display a lot more? Simple answer:oh yes.

The title track screams into existence, all piercing industrial guitar slithering over a dense mix, the beat shuffles shy, hesitant, the girl almost lost in the roar, but it is this subliminal purity easing its way out, that touches us.

We start to think we know what will come next, but the band gleefully throws out their very best curveball (Silhouette) and suddenly we aretaken back to an innocent new romantic dance floor, memories of pastel tinted videos and hooks to dream about. While personally preferring the WAR in the Wartapes, I can imagine many a radio programmer latching onto this track with a sigh and even a giggle.

For me though, the twitchy beguiling hit of the oncoming winter will be the nervous buzz of ‘Do You Ever Think Of Me,’ a song blessed with a melody as catchy as anything Saint Etienne ever created.

All in all this a set of songs that will appeal to the timid first time traveller into the indie world (welcome dark cool days ahead!) and to those fine hedonists that crave just another spoonful of edgy.

http://www.facebook.com/wartapes

Marco Mahler – Design in Quick Rotation (Full Album)

A review from Cobus Rossouw on Marco’s earlier release.

A review on his latest can be found here

My previousreview of the Marco Mahler instrumental efforts talked to the musical qualities of the album. The major difference between the two efforts is, obviously, the addition of vocals. It would therefore seem that the review would be as simple as commenting on the vocals and this review would be done. Perhaps. But then life happens.

I have been pondering this review for a couple of days. I thought about writing about similar vocal styles (Tindersticks’ Stuart Staples, Lou Reed et al, the fragile honest vocals some of us need to remind us that it’s not always about the technical ability). I thought about describing my unending love affair with lo-fi… but, honestly, it would sell the entire experience short, simply because a mechanistic description of the vocals or a blatant attempt at showing off how much I know about music would ignore what music is about. It’s how it makes you feel, and it’s easy to forget when you’re reviewing.

In short –this album makes me happy. I’ve had a tough few weeks and maybe this has nothing to do with you, dear reader, but if you need some music that’ll take you away, somewhere other than where you are, then Marco’s got the remedy for you. I’d get into the car and drive away from the hospital, turn on the music and select track 3, “Orange Chinese Car”. In a matter of seconds I am already feeling better, I know things will be ok and I can come back again tomorrow and face it. That’s worth the price of admission.

Somewhere in the tapestry of themes Marco has tapped into something healing and I thank him for this personally.

This album will not be for everybody. It’s not overproduced, it has no star names, no rousing choruses, no drum or guitar solos, there’s no spandex or big hair but there’s heart and soul in plentiful supply. I can’t single out any other tracks, because from Think Tank through to 1’s and 0’s, Go Crocodile and theother 6 they all dish out the same medicine, albeit in unique and interesting ways.

I want everybody to buy this album. Come on, reach into your pocket and buy it. Buy it because the Marco Mahlers of the world must keep on making music.

http://www.marcomahler.com/

End Of An Era – Carta Marina (Independent Release)

Let’s be thankful there are still bands making this sort of uncontrived anthem, slow building tunes full of heart and song craft. Songs that first time lovers can slow dance to and those weary few can get past their heartbreak with. This is a gentle youthful often rocking rolling set that is easy to dive into, sing along to.

The production is crisp and charming, the refined jangle of the guitar placed foremost in the mix, the voice soothing seemingly effortless, the lyrics( never getting anywhere near to angst) deal with matters of the personal with a commendable lightness of touch.

But if I give the impression that this is a swim through the mainstream, think again, sure some of the songs ARE a brand of alt rock that will please and soothe the masses (and this is NO bad thing), but then there are others like the two long instrumental compositions ‘Death Blossom’ and the title track which melds a delicate ambience onto elegantly restrained workouts, creating a satisfying tension anddrama.

As with the best music of this type, it is the surprises, the subtle gifts given each listen that make this EP so rewarding

http://cartamarina.bandcamp.com/

Hear trax from all these albums on Podcasts going out in November on NBT (the 12th,
18th and 25th)

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

Oh and finally NBT is on facebook.. go and ‘like the page already!

http://www.facebook.com/NBTmusicproject

The NBT Review 100

A special edition celebrating our century of great reviews for bloody amazing bands.

Invisible War

The Firefly Garden – Merry Ellen Kirk (independent releases)

We dive into the drama, edged on by sighing bells; we are soon drifting along the most somnolent of melodies, these tunes taking on the character of dreams, unhurried thoughts, and their intent flexible, serene and devious even.

The piano waltzes like a kid in her first ballet costume while the bass slides from a Cheshire Cat purr to a subtle growl as the
listener is tempted to let go, let the light flow in, this is music that gently demands you set time aside for it, an escape if you allow it.

This is a hope filled set, the believing that there is always some way out of the darkness, (and yes she does embrace the darkness here) that a touch, a word, a rescue is available to the lost, an antidote to fears.

Stand out track for me is the slow build of ‘Victory’ a finely tuned mix of observation and the personal.

And so we move onto /into the Firefly Garden, still in its pre-release stages, Kirk takes the ethereal to the next level, the song ‘Candy’ being an especially delightful piece of modern dream Pop, immensely catchy without sacrificing wild charm. This set opens up the spaces, becomes so much wider than the bedroom intimate, yet..still..manages to speak to you, as in a private conversation.

The thing is, these are songs that can be played solo illuminating the dark night of the restless soul, or (soon I hope) can be
played to millions televised from the stage at some huge cool festival, where the chaos of the crowd cannot dilute the affection of the creations.

BUY the Firefly Garden Official Release

http://merryellenkirk.bandcamp.com/album/firefly-garden-2

Find out more

http://www.merryellenkirk.com/

Depend On This – Ruth Minnikin and her Bandwagon (SongMillMusic)

Artists love to shape shift their songs, from acoustic demo, the bare bone new born, to the band arrangement, to the live rendition, songs are made for pulling and prodding into exciting new forms, (tis why remixes so often work so well, if the manipulator shares a soul space with the composer) and here Minnikin takes six of her tunes and delights in showing just how a change of pace, focus and density can bring about new wonders.

Thus the Theme Song morphs from breezy Mamas and Papas pop brilliance into a wistful progressive folk interplay between wordless harmonies overlaying a carelessly disturbing instrumental.

And Sleeping and Dreaming slips from being a more orchestrated Au Revoir Simone ballad of quirky dimension into a skewed dancefloor shuffle all reflected mirror ball distorted.

Mention must be made of the re-arrangements of the six by Chuck Blazevic, who has taken care to instil the essence of the original into not just a negative image or enhanced backing track, but into cheeky(sly) brothers and sisters with distinct individualistic personalities.

This is one of those albums that make you fall in love all over again with the Possibilities of music.

Listen and discover for yourself

http://www.ruthminnikin.ca

Both artists can be heard on the NBT podcast going out on
the 11th November 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com