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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