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/

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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 78

Ghosts Of Radio – Patrick Bloom (Mud Dauber Records)

Listen deeper, closer.  At first it is just this gentle country swing, somewhere between a slow spin between old lovers and a prelude to a giddy Saturday night shindig. Then the tale of this broken( but not defeated) survivor comes into focus. Once a prisoner of both his fragile mind and government institutions this is a song of escape from the chill into the warmth of an ambiguous Minnesota.

Even though, as I listen, I think that this journey is towards the conclusion of this man’s story, the feeling of hope, of release, of peace, shines oh so brightly.

Patrick Bloom creates a cast of quiet eccentrics who he has a great deal of affection and empathy for. Most are indeed Ghosts, fading in and out of family and our ‘normal’ day to day strivings. These are nostalgic, wishful creatures, the blur in the photo, and the crackle on the radio, the voice in the creak of a chair or the turn of a smile.

This is time travel, history told without bombast and an eye on the personal, the tears are in the details, the joy in the simple effective sketches and descriptions. It is roots music about America but so well constructed and felt that anyone anywhere can relate, can be touched.

The musicians share the songwriter’s communion with his stories and Bloom produces the collection with restraint and elegance, (the subtle use of brass on Red Dodge Dart in a very ‘The Band’ way is a particular delight.)

What is unique about this album is that it’s about how these ghosts BECOME ghosts, Bloom seems to capture the moment of flight from this troubled world out, away into a better place. This perhaps is a collection of goodbyes, but devoid of bitterness. The dying here is natural, even wanted, not with fear not with hopelessness, but a reward for hard lives lived full.

This is not about giving up, giving in, but rather acceptance.

Highly moving and beautiful.

http://www.patrickbloom.com

Catch Tunes from the Album on the NBT podcast going out on the 22nd July 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 77

Heavy Water Experiments – Heavy Water Experiments (Intrepid Sound Recordings)

Sometimes the elements connect in just the right way and surround the listener with the right mood, environment, in which better to discover new music. Today as I explore this collection, the heat wave pulses, the road works outside shake and shout, in fact the whole damn day positively VIBRATES as I press play.

Welcome to the disturbance, it’s going to be a fine ride indeed.

This is the sound of a mirage, gentle shimmer of unreality, then that heat (now here in the speakers) explodes outwards, the dream figures melt, the colours collide, mesh frantic, the drums tiptoe up top the flames, and the song settles into an agitating lullaby. The vocals shift into focus, the harmonies subtle, and within all this fine magic, pop melodies strain against the ‘difference’.

Like a storm sneaking into the glare of a summer’s day, this band thrives on the ambiguity of it all, glorious messy mix of the chaos in the Jam and the structure of the song craft.

They let the instruments roar, and sing as people used to flying, finding the swoops and danger above somehow calming. There is a scent of the Psychedelic madness here, a tension grown from the soon to be freedom of the willfully frantic.

It is a place where the ghost of a traffic jam is filtered over the serenity of a deep forest, where the grit and grandeur of a festival edging into sunset along the howls of guitars is superimposed over forgotten photos of homes long lost by destructive lovers.

Never clumsy enough to be mistaken for simple hard rock, never bland enough to please those that seek the new age as a refuge from the difficult, it is an invitation to let go, to ride the hallucination bare back, to get fierce, to go crazy.

A LOT to discover here.

http://www.heavywaterexperiments.com/

Catch Tunes from the Album on the NBt podcast going out on the 8th July 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 74

Laptop Campfire Speed – Marco Mahler (Independent Release)

Imagine sitting, as passenger, behind your beloved as they hurtle down the highway on their seemingly ancient motorbike. You have a worn hand held camera and you are making movies of all that slides past.

This is the soundtrack to that surreal blur.

Here the strange things, the dark even disturbing things, are camouflaged by the twinkled reflection of shiny minimalist pop, the hushed voice comforts, seduces, distracts, and  the weird is natural now, the abstract makes sense.

This music is as honest as architecture made for function and as a gift; it has that throb about it only found in CDs like this and airports at 3 am in the morning. It is a little girl turning cartwheels for her mother (the giddy chaos of her perceptions stretched, slowed down, made melodic) and the thoughts of that lover holding on tight and capturing the journey as you ride.  

Sometimes, the structure closes into the conventional, although of course that’s a Lou Reed late Saturday night conventional, that ambiguous drift from detached observer to a wry empathy, so that if you are working (for example typing frantic as I am now) and listening, suddenly the song stops being background, kinda demands you stop what you are doing, and focus on what you are hearing instead.

The composer trusts in the coziness of repetition , these are modern blues songs for the TV channel surfer ,as I flipped through endless variations of BBC One,( Ireland, Whales, London and so on) the staggered peculiar slide of the narrative reminded me stronglyof the Mahler song ‘I’ll Just Find A Million Other Things To Do.’’

Yes, this is yet another collection to treasure and to live with.

http://www.marcomahler.com/

You can hear Songs from this album on the NBT Podcast going out on the 30th June 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 73

Land Of Shadows – Ben Bedford (Hopeful Sky Records)

The story unfolds slow, delicate, unwinds from the sharply written focus of the first line, and shifts into the mood and soul of a young soldier from long ago, and the words take on a frenzy made tense as they are counterpointed by the gentleness, the regret, the empathy of the musicians. As we are led back, full circle, to the opening vision, we have to wonder is this a song of hope (that the beauty exists even as we kill each other) or a song of almost unbearable sadness because the memory evoked shows there is no way for our ‘hero’ to get home.

Welcome then to the Land Of Shadows, where ghosts are created as we listen. Where the naïve recruits, the worn out rejects, the wounded romantics, the doomed and the survivors all demand, with quiet insistence that their tales be told.

Musically the tracks are rich in subtle variation, dabs of accordion, banjo, dobro, fiddles and such, blend into the melodies, but no showboating here, no production tricks seeking unwanted attention.

This collection has something of the way that Springsteen has about capturing the soul of the so called Common Joe, but without the bombast that sometimes sneaks into his songs, these are no widescreen epics, these heroes do not fight or toil for death or glory, but to survive, to love again, to get home and live their lives, their desire is to carry on, and let the brutality wash away, if it can.

The paradox here is that these tunes are not depressing, rather there is something uplifting, even joyful in the hushed revelations. And when the singer tackles the love song (You’re The Weather, One Night At A Time) It is his skill with the tiny details that seem to make these things personal to whoever is listening.

I found this a joy to discover and hear. These are stories I will return to again and again.

http://benbedford.com

You can hear tracks from this album on the NBT Podcast going out on the 30th June 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 72

The PanicKing – Million Dollar Mouth (Atonal Records)

It’s hard to be a pop star who wants to make thrilling three to four minute missiles of rock, keeping the hooks and the guile needed for mainstream airplay, but never losing sight of that tension and dirt that make for a rewarding Pow!! to the senses musical explosion.

Million Dollar Mouth belong in that sparse wasteland, somewhere between the loose jams of the independent and the too fine polish of the Adult Alternative crowd. This is a land where the tunes are crafted yes, but not for a second losing their fragile heart or their honest intensity.

In other words, their wasteland is a delightful place to be.

There is something comforting in the way they deliver a thrashing guitar melody, and counterpoint it with a carefully judged lead vocal that floats above subtle harmonies. In some reviews they are called tasteful, and while that’s well meant, I think it does them a disservice, because it implies that the band play it safe with their songs. This is so not the case, sure these are creations aimed straight to the heart of the chart, but they are also pulsing real things tensed up with pop steel.

The tension is the thing here, they write about darker times, scary times, where the soul shattered and picking up the pieces seemed an impossible task, then they gleefully shove in some messy dollops of hope and the ability of rock n roll to release you, if only for the time it takes the tune to unravel.

There will be some hip young things that will not listen here and that will be their loss, and there will be some that are taken by surprise and as the chords and voice and sonics sink in, find them selves thoughtful, even disturbed.

In a very good way.

Dig deeper

http://www.milliondollarmouth.com

You can hear tracks from this album on the NBT Podcast going out on the 30th June 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/