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/

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The NBT Review 69

Starlit Apocalypse

Air

Endless – SNMT (Black Flower Music)

Plus Brand new Tracks from an upcoming release

I decide to listen to this music in the basement of my postwar (forever tween modern and ancient) German small town flat. I have this feeling that the ambience of the musty dark room full of wounded and dead appliances will suit these tunes. That as the sounds drift over the discarded machines of fun and comfort, and cardboard boxes packed to overflowing with no longer loved or listened to vinyl and comics begging for a future generation to love them, the rust and the glitter, the oil and the blood contained within the ragged rhythms will reveal themselves.

I have Three sets to go through plus new songs yet to find a home, and as a tense grey storm brews out there on the street I press random, then press play, lean back against the hard concrete and let the musicians have their chaotic way with me.

So if you expect some sort of order, the stability of one collection then the next, you are in the wrong place. This is for the senses, for the emotions provoked.

Oh I love the slow crawl into AWAKE that the first tune offers, airspace full of the crackle and shock of the moody electric. On this Floating Bridge, one must tread carefully, because it shudders and this is no silent vacuum of stars, here the squeaks shoot out sharp, always tempting the delicate balance to betray itself.

In this Graveyard, the ghosts are bloated, stumbling raw, they puff outward abrasive, yet believe (to the very core or their distressed hearts), that they can hug you, wrap around your soul, blanket like. So they chatter picking fraught phrases from the static. They are lost and there is something beautiful about that.

Now it’s time to fly once more, into a drift that is both unsafe and gentle, a shy startled seductive trip somewhere Between Space. The calm is deceptive though and The Turbo Lolita burns, as she drags us into her, this is Ragnarok , but no Gods on this level, these are men women, demons swimming in the heat, the confusion of yesterday’s failed flirting and tomorrows heavy rampage. They throw out the thoughts in waves that, to LoveYou is to fall, is to surrender to this fine noise, to perhaps find the melody where you may and ride it deeper (not AWAY) but inwards.

Then abruptly the Charm of an orchestra full of the scared and the hesitant brave, take a seat in the empty auditorium watch the blur on stage, the colours shifting as the music finds ways to heal itself. the Deep White entices, you want to dream here, though the unease shifts, sighs in its sleep abandoned baby birds, (clockwork or digital or just projection?) nag at us, to not relax too much, don’t let the REM movement take over

With this music

You may never come out.

Find out for yourself how one band makes so much chaos and beauty. Download from a vast selection of great albums here

http://blackflowermusic.com

You can hear tracks from all these sets on the next NBT Dark Electric podcast going out on the 17th June

http://nbtdarkelectric.podbean.com/

And Black Flower Music will be the featured label in July on the http://nbtmusic.de website.

                              If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of SNMT’s 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)

The NBT Review 67

Ghosts – Tokyo Rosenthal (Rock & Sock Records)

Begin with the urgent, like when Elvis was more country than Las Vegas; this is Sun Sessions with a lyrical sting in the tail. Is this about the way obsession wounds, or is it about the will to escape from a relationship where destruction’s maybe it’s only saving grace? In a skillful bit of minimalist writing Rosenthal shows this story from multiple points of view, and all the while the music rock-a-billys on.

Then the song gets gentle, gets personal, the insight is tempered with deep love, and a character (a soul) is sketched as we listen. A life is shared, the small tragedies and tiny (yet tremendous) triumphs, this is the way one person keeps, keeping on.

There is no perfect love but there is damn near perfect old time Americana swing here, the affectionate dance prevails, giddy yet tender it heals.

Almost an island lilt to the title track, the singer treats his darkness with care, as he moves into ballad; the beauty is in the details (no need for a million words of explanation) just the hint of a touch or a smell or, perhaps most importantly, an echo. Poignant memory, stripped off angst, no brittle thing this, rather considerate and eternal.

Mister Tell Me why this next song shouldn’t be a miracle of a cross over hit , just enough rough, just enough dirt, the smile this induces, is an intimate thing.

Then a curveball, an jazzy pop 60s curveball,  the less frantic Loving Spoonful perhaps, or the Monkees drifting towards psychedelic bubblegum, A lazy charming thing.

These are songs that are constantly surprised by the danger within an emotion let loose, are amazed by how the smooth flow of a day’s journey can be tumbled chaotic with just a word or a gesture. These are songs that are entranced with the Consequences of love and anger, how we travelers have too much understanding sometimes, thoughtlessness other times. These are songs that know that it is not necessary to preach an answer, but it is rather cool to set a listener down the road towards his or her own conclusion.

These are songs that seem to talk to each different one of us they are immediate in their connection yet their caress abides long after the player has stopped spinning.

http://www.tokyorosenthal.com

Hear tracks from this album on several NBT Podcast shows

 http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=619263

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=614489

And coming up on the 30th June 2010 as well.

If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of Tokyo’s 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/

(personally I hope this cool Americana music will be up there really soon J)