The NBT Review 117

Evi Vine reviewed by Martin Smit

Muffled Shine reviewed by Cobus Rossouw

 And So The Morning Comes – Evi Vine (independent release)

 This is before sunrise music, those eternal minutes where the darkness fools you that It’s never gonna leave, but somehow the lamplight is losing it’s power to soothe or distort (was it ever comforting really?)

This is music floating in that waiting world, where hope is not quiet born and sister despair is not as charming as she was just a few hours ago.

This is intimate, just you and the singer, the music the cool air you breathe as you conduct this personal conversation. You cannot imagine studio or electrics, cables and buttons and mixing desks, you cannot imagine close ups of strings and bows and microphones. You’re too busy being IN the song and the singer and her music is too busy being IN you.

And yet.

That said, it is also music that makes you want to betray that privacy, the second it is done, and tell others, so that they too can be lost, just them and the singer.

So tell us about the music, you plead, well its stripped down Mazzy Star, its the most fragile blues, its those thoughts you had when you fell in love and you knew you would one day fall out of love.

It can make all the beauty in the world a lonely frightening thing but it can also softly urge you to keep dreaming to dare not wake up right now.

I had this vision that as the music drifted into a bus full of noise and chaos, one by one those that heard it closed their eyes, warped slightly out of focus, let go.

Stops were missed, timetables forgotten, the future became flexible.

It really was that simple.

http://www.evivine.com/

 Muffled Shine – Just (Independent Release)

 In 2003 Frédéric Chaubin began a journey to document some of the Soviet Union’s incredible architecture. I stumbled onto the story of this adventure together with a sample of some of the photographs (click on Frédéric’s name above) and was immediately struck by how the architecture somehow conveyed a sense of the Cold War era while being very distinct from what was created in the US. The buildings have a close, claustrophobic feeling; even as they stretch creativity far further than the West did (well, mostly).

When I first heard this EP from Muffled Shine it immediately brought back the images of those buildings. Landscapes of graceful emptiness filled with architectural displays that are brutal, yet harmonic and somehow triumphant. This is a personal reflection though, and while I am sure that we cannot escape the effects of our environment I am also sure that Muffled Shine intends far more with this EP than to depict a fascinating past.

Gregory Khanin & Dmitry Gubin create music that falls within the “Industrial”, genre but it would sell their EP, “Just”, short if you tried categorise it that strictly. The reason for this is that “Industrial” so often conjures up the idea of grinding discomfort, agitation, angst, whereas Muffled Shine have produced something that is reflective and meditative without being mawkish or overtly spiritual. This album will not make it into a Tibetan monastery, but if it did they’d learn something.

The music is so evocative that it transforms your local landscape. With autumn fast approaching in South Africa it metamorphosed afternoon traffic into an epic adventure, a slow progress to some homecoming, some imminent arrival. It is such a familiar feeling that I listened to the album three times in succession without once feeling like I’ve heard it before. (I knew I couldn’t find the words to describe this feeling, so I’ll settle for “nostalgia”).

Since receiving the album for review I have probably listened to it more than twenty times, and I could listen to it again, right now and I know I’ll be moved. I also know that I’ll be moved in a different way, and that it will provoke an emotional response. This is my album for contemplation, for deepening the world, for delving inside.

 http://muffledshine.bandcamp.com/

  Both Muffled Shine and Evi Vine will be featured on the NBT DarkElectric and Flagship Podcasts going out on the 29th and 30th March respectively

 and both are playlisted on the NBTMusic 24hour Radio

 http://nbtmusicradio.playtheradio.com/

 

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The NBT Review 112

 Polar Dust is reviewed by Martin Smit

One Eyed Mule is reviewed by Cobus Rossouw

 Selected Demos – Polar Dust

 It is apt that I start with ‘Between The Lines’ as I swim through this selection. Because this music is all about space and weight, the dreaming, the waking, the thoughts in between those states of being.

This is music that seems both Heavy (not as in powerchords or metal but rather that tempting release of allowing ourselves to SINK) and Floating (not as in insubstantial but bravely floating, untethered to darker places)

 As these are demos there is a tiny bit of fear shooting through this reviewer, that when the songs are given ‘full’ life the band may be urged to ‘clean up’ the murk, the delectable dirt, the ‘otherness’ of these recordings. But it is not the shiny that entices here , rather like an ancient mirror, its the warped reflections, the fragmented visions that keep us captivated.

 We are asked to dive into the ‘Deep End’ while sparkly electronics do sonic battle with bass machine rumble, an industrial thing a pop thing, and then the vocals slip in, benign hallucinations.

 These manage float tween euphoric and lament, they are love songs that the enemy sings to you, lullabyes from suggestive strangers.

 They ask you to get lost In them, With Them and not care about the destination.

 I suggest you get tempted, it is well worth it.

 http://www.ilike.com/artist/Polar+Dust

 You can hear some of these Demos and more on the NBTDarkelectric Podcast going out on the 5th March

http://nbtdarkelectric.podbean.com

 and the band is playlisted on the NBTMusic 24 hr streaming Radio

http://www.radionomy.com/nbtmusicradio

 One-eyed Mule – Drifting To A Happy Place (Artiscope Music)

 Anyone hearing One-Eyed Mule for the first time would be forgiven for imagining the band originates from the American heartlands. Their music is standard Americana, so standard that it came as a substantial surprise to hear that they were formed in Denmark and recorded this latest offering in Sweden.

Scandimericana then, easy on the ear, beautifully recorded and always interesting. It’s not an album that sets new benchmarks in music and it’s not avante garde or challenging, but it is wonderful. You see, for me it’s enough if music imparts a mood, evokes an emotion. I don’t always need to think, sometimes I just want to feel, and my word this album did it for me.

Starting off with a happy melancholy, a “September Sigh”, imagery of bleakness and yet hope, something warm, either in the past or the future. Rasmus Dall’s voice could feature in any band, its strength is its ability to express beyond the words, to drag you into the heart of the songs. By the time you reach the second track – “Rain keeps falling on you” he’s dragged you into the album and you will be hooked.

After a crazy week I left the office last week and as I hit the open road the track “Drifting to a happy place” and I wish I could make you all feel how it lifted me. Everything was suddenly ok and the weekend had been set up for joy. And this is why this album is so good. It touches all the nerves, it arouses the happiness junkie in me, it doesn’t so much “keep me going” as “makes me go”.

Now, before you start thinking that this is a simple album with little intellect let me caution you, this band knows its music and the album shows off all the chops without ever being self indulgent. Each song expanding in instrumentation, with banjo, cello, sitar and even jew’s harp. And nowhere is there a trace of overeager ego. In its place is perfect sensibility, which is rare.

It’s even difficult to pick a favorite track, although if I was forced to it would “All your love is gone”. I can’t hear it without singing along, and there’s a Velvet Underground feel to it that I have to love.

So in short – not a single note out of place, never boring, happy without being sentimental, melancholy without being maudlin and a range of pfectly constructed songs – ladies and gents, what One-eyed Mule have given us is a perfect album, perfect in every way.

 http://www.facebook.com/pages/One-Eyed-Mule/176292165300

 you can hear tracks from this album on the NBT Podcasts going out on the 4th March and last weeks show as well.

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

and One-Eyed-Mule is playlisted on the NBTMusic Radio

http://www.radionomy.com/nbtmusicradio

The NBT Review 93

Delicate Dangerous Cool Part Two

Alive – Tallulah Rendall (independent release)

On a day that I am woken by an elegant storm that seems to fade in from a dream and lives here forever, I find that I am incapable of dissecting these creations, going in heavy with a technical post-mortem for the casually curious. Rather due to the beauty and presence of this album, I wish to simply freefall into the words and music and send back to you my impressions, some may be in bold sharp focus, and some may be as blurred as a soft sigh, but all will, hopefully give you, gentle reader an idea of what it was like to travel here.

Caught in the ripple, caught in the pulse, a good time to jump, the song builds outwards, navigates into the chaos, the singer surfs the turmoil and you hold on tight, but she wouldn’t lie for you, wouldn’t die for you, so this, is what it means to be alive, the drop is there to be savored, the tension seductive breathless and sweet. Is she cruel or a savior of detached kindness, does it really matter, giving up is not really an option.

Listen to her delight in the giddy theatrical, the lure of the exotic and untouchable, the way she watches those who need and those who create that need, a haughty mix of the progressive folk that Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane practiced and the ambiguous vulnerable of a PJ Harvey.

Here the stage lights concoct colours that merge into the walls, so that the shadows can hide if they wish or scare if they want. Remember how Ms. Bush flirted musically with Mr. Gilmore and you get a small idea of her control over melody and mood, never allowing the drama to overflow into something too gaudy, her trick is to keep us tricked, entranced, willfully hypnotized.

There is something distinctly old fashioned at play here, yet the decades of inspiration shift past so alluringly you find you are never left out of the modern pop room either. This is her strange cool party and you are very much invited.

Fly there and find out for yourself

http://www.tallulahrendall.com

You can hear tracks from this album, this week on the NBT Dark Electric Podcast

http://nbtdarkelectric.podbean.com/

And next week on the NBT Flagship Podcast

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 76

Gorgeous Enormous

Through A Screen Door Darkly – Carolyn Alroy (Wussy Records)

Love can be funny in a bitter sighing sweet way, especially when connected to a desire that is unspoken but deeply felt, mulled over, knocked about in an internal debate, while the focus of all this remains blithely ignorant. And so it begins with crystal clear simple guitar gracefully (all Byrds jangle) waiting for the vocal to complete it.

Alroy continues with the theme of things left unsaid, actions not yet taken, one gets the feeling that with every hidden thought, the picture of the singer’s self awareness becomes stronger, crisper. There is a flexing against mental bonds and this is the story of how they were broken.

Sometimes she changes personas and we get sweet with the bitter almost dropped, but made palatable by her intuitive sense of detail and mood. In those songs Love isn’t complicated it’s just something you want to, HAVE to flow along with. If you dare allow yourself that is.

Then back to the internal, the sound of revolution, heard by the girl who wants to be on the front line, wants her shout noticed wants her tears acknowledged, wants it to be the world where anything can happen.

This is a set of songs that seem to try putting into words what so many of us feel day to day, in our private ramblings and our social striving. This is an album about the delicious tension of WAITING.

Even the wondrous cover of Helter Skelter strips the fear and insanity of the original away and aims rather, for the taught desire, the Waiting to get that dance..just..right..

And what is beautiful about all this, is the fact that the outcome is nowhere near predictable.

The EP that follows is indeed a darker thing. Less pop country now, this has an eerie folk feel about it.  The perceptions here are distorted by mirrors, through the textures of screen doors, refracted by flickers of light. Love becomes as dangerous as the sea, and the common things in the girl’s world become talismans , roses and phones and tea all become extraordinary as we move in slow haunted motion in and out of these songs.

I for one look forward to whatever comes next from this talented songrwriter.

http://www.carolynalroy.com

Catch Tunes from both Album and EP on the next 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 75

On Concrete – Pollyanna (Songs&Whispers)

In this rainy day world, kitchens are not for comfort, the sugar, the glow of Christmas treats cannot quietly heal a broken love. But, no! this is no doom and gloom thing at all, when we first hear this band, Her words lay out the facts with a wry acceptance, and his minimal harmonies give her strength.

This acceptance takes on an ambiguity in the next song, A Landscape,  her affair here destructive perhaps even fatal, and as she sings ‘..it doesn’t matter if it hurts..’ is that because its worth every bit of pain, or is it that she has, just, given up?  The swirls of Electric Guitar here are wonderful because they are simply implied rather than showy or overbearing.

The players switch easily from tender to torrid,(the instrumentation echoes this) sometimes within the same song, their vision of beauty is often spiked, even cruel, and then they switch focus on us and allow shafts of the darkly romantic to blur into the melodies, they make each song seem crowded with possibility.

Songs are allowed to build, to breathe, and to whisper through, notes follow on hesitant notes and the haunting takes place. The uneasy desire is stretched, the wanting tightens internally and like a Hitchcock film of the soul we long for the release the singer craves but cannot quite dare find.

When the traditional ballad ‘Railroad Boy’ slips into place, we the entranced, now haunted listeners are not surprised, these are all in their way death ballads, not always the death of the body though, sometimes the past, the cities, even how nature fades, but again I must stress, these are NO angsty things, rather tales of regret sung to clear the way forward to a different day.

There is nothing wispy about this modern Folk music. The more I listen the more I feel the vitality  of these intricate constructions.

It’s an easy album to fall for.

http://www.pollyanna.org/

Hear tracks from this album coming up on the NBT Podcast going out on the 8th July 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/