The NBT Review 120

Dropping Down – Giulia Millanta (Ugly Cat Music)

It’s a brave thing indeed to start of a set with a song that has, as its main focus, Anger. It could set us up for angst perhaps or that
shouty kinda righteousness that some protest singers favour. But ‘Right Between The Eyes’ balances the singers (rage) disappointment with a restrained sort of energy, holding back when it needs to, letting a gentle folk even reggae mood drift though, but keeping the bite, the tension perfectly.

It’s because its personal. And that’s the album’s defining core, these songs come from the heart and the mind, what takes place is seen through the singers eyes, what is felt is what she feels, and oh she is curious, feisty, humorous, yet introspective. And she manages somehow to make that introspection blossom outwards so that we become emotionally attached to the words and music.

She sets the scene, and often that scene is surreal, yet with a few words you catch on to all the characters, and where they fit, if only for a few seconds before they slip slide away, melt, fade into each other as she tumbles us gently into another chapter.

On the cover we see the artist seconds after taking the great leap off, down, into..where exactly? and we wonder if she will be able to
illustrate through her songwriter this ambiguous fear or joy or that satisfying mix of both.

Wonder no more, this free-fall is seductive, delicious even strangely comforting.

Her arrangements too fit this slow dive, never fussy, the instruments shift around the voice like the wind against the body falling,
special mention must be made though about Lorenzo Forti’s bass which slinks and curls around the songs, sly and provocative.

Millanta takes us on a quirky sideshow reading of Paranoid, which displays a subtle theatrical pose, before ending the set with ‘Floating’ which is placed perfectly as it seems to be an answer of sorts to all the questions raised within the previous stories, an acceptance of love, of self and finally of life.

Find out more

http://www.giuliamillanta.com

Look At The Sound – Jebediah Goodthrust (Independent Release)

 Holy Banjo Batman!  The Country superhero brings us another slice of home cooked rock n roll, or maybe its moonshine, He sure does strut across the speakers like a good old young man all dressed up fine for a Saturday night adventure.

Mr Heise plays about 85% of what goes on here, but weirdly this is the most BAND sounding album of his long curved career.

This is the Breakthrough collection the one that could shove those that merely admire into something resembling pure love. And I for one will rejoice mightily when that happens.

It even boasts a bona fide classic rock single in ‘Go’ which is a gloopy mix of Sweet Jane Velvets and Paul Westerberg  all applied with a big brush onto that unmistakable Heise Brothers structure.

But the fun doesn’t stop there!

There are ungainly waltzes (cowboys learning to love and dance, their minds half on that pretty face half on the hassles and weight of the world outside), and even that peculiar kinda post punk ballad type thing that only a certain type of deviant American really understands or gets right.. again though its the Heise twist that defines them, so its Pixies or Pavement (depending on the hour and the song) but with that  smudge on the windscreen perspective.

Personal favourite  for me, (let it be said that this collection is FULL of faves)  is ‘So Tired’ a song that builds and falls , builds and falls and  contains a delicate tension that bodes well for future releases and also gets that difficult creature that is Nelson’s voice just
right.

Look, they are never really gonna be mainstream, but this one flirts with the possibility, and is perhaps the brothers finest achievement thus far.

And if this ‘solo’ outing makes you , gentle listener want to explore the back roads that the Hit and Mrs and The Heise Brothers travelled, then that’s a damn good thing.

Http://thehitandmrs.bandcamp.com

 Tracks from BOTH these fine recordings can be found on the NBTMusic Radio

http://nbtmusicradio.playtheradio.com/

 and they
will also be featured on the NBT Flagship Podcast going out tomorrow
on this very set of pages 🙂

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/

 

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 96

Nora Jane Struthers – Nora Jane Struthers (Blue Pig Music)

Review by NBT’s Martin Smit

She leads us into this gentle disturbance, riding in on sweet delicate fiddle, without complication she stretches this thriller into something haunting, and though the fear is tangible, though the dread shifts just around the melody, this murder ballad is simply beautiful, a brave opening, a daring introduction.

This album takes place in the ‘other’ in the timeless weightless ‘other’ that all great music inhabits. It can seem ancient, it can hit you hard with its modern soul, it is full of dreaming, of those dangerous whispers barely heard from trees shifting (willingly?) in the wind. It is a slow dance it is a frantic jig, it is quiet personal, it is a rowdy Saturday night barn dance hooked already into the Sunday morning regret.

This album takes place in that dark Americana place, where love pulses with uncertainty, where tradition can be saving or can be shackles, but she writes the sad song well, filling it with hope and empathy, an unfettered joy in the telling of the story.

Musically this is simply exquisite, no pastiche of clichés, no feeling that this is archived sounds from long ago, restructured as a technical thesis on what is Roots and what is Country. This is the sound of music playing on the radio in a farm kitchen; this is the sound on my mp3 player when I want to escape the dull city day.

These guys, this woman, LOVE playing these songs creating this music, and you will love listening to this album

http://www.norajanestruthers.com

White Line And Stars – Rosehill (Cypress Creek Records)

Another review from Cobus Rossouw creator of 88 Kilos of Sunshine

I’m a long way from Texas as I write this. Outside it’s Africa and traffic but in my ears I have Heartland and Outlaws, guitars and thumping drums.

Mitch McBain and Blake Meyers (formerly the Texas High Life frontmen) have brought us an album that should be an instant classic in the genre and catapult them to fame and fortune. I say this knowing full well that it takes more than a great album with great tunes and meaningful lyrics to make it in the music trade, but the duo have shown wisdom in getting the right producer in Radney Foster and this will make all the difference.

Starting with the material, it is obvious that Meyers and McBain are mature, skilled and passionate. Their songs are a balanced trade-off between the Austin twang of guitar-dominated rock and a story-telling lyricism that is to Texas what Springsteen is to Jersey. (That’s a big statement I know but it’s there, for all to hear, on tracks like “Believer”, “Midnight America” and “Picassos for Pesos”.)

If I have a criticism, and bear in mind this is a personal one, it’s that the music is not pushing any serious boundaries, either in tone or in arrangement. But then I know for a fact I’m not the market…, my idea of Texas Country is Kinky Friedman for goodness sake. Thus, if the Pixies was your cuppa then this is not for you, but believe me, White Lines and Stars will set the Lone Star State on fire!

And it’ll do this because it is perfectly pitched. Foster’s presence ensures that all the sweet spots are hit and that everything is in the perfect place. Hold onto your hats Texans, these boys are gonna take over. This glass of whiskey looks more than half full to me.

Now if you could just look like Taylor Swift you’d be scooping Grammys next year.

http://www.rosehill-live.com

Both these albums where brought to NBT attention by the ever cool Lotos Nile

http://www.lotosnile.com/index_content.html

Hear tracks from both these albums on the NBT Podcast going out on the 7th October 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

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/

The NBT Review 86

Face The Fact – Opus 1 (Westbound Media)

Insightful, refreshing, Opus 1 pulls no punches, as the finger clicking jazz guitar leads him into ‘Failure’, we realize this will be no empty brag festival, no false bravado, no self pity for his hard luck adventures. This is something different, pretty damn unique, brave even, because running the risk at being taken at face value, some may miss that this is a message of hope. That if you are AWARE of the Hell you may be stuck in, (some of that hell made by your own perceptions and faults) you can and MUST escape from it.

Mashadena squelches forward on the back of 80’s sounding synth and vocoder morphing slowly into a tense jive apocalyptic ice cool soundtrack, with shivering of dread. And yet so very danceable!

In Abstract Jazz, Opus 1 raps that his,’’ perspective is reflective of reality’’ and it this way he has of viewing then writing and singing about the world around him, the thoughts surrounding him, that elevate the tunes above so much that pours out these days in the modern pop universe.

Stand out track, No Love deserves to be a hit not only in hip hop clubs, but could easily find a home in alternative and adventurous rock clubs across the nations, it has that bold crossover appeal, embracing the intellect and the soul.

All in all each track here offers layers of thought provoking lyrics sown into a subtly produced bed of melody and instrumentation. The hooks creep up on you and the mood takes hold for ages after the last bass howl and strut has faded.

I for one certainly look forward to much more from this artist.

Listen for yourself here

http://www.westbound-media.com

http://opus-1.bandcamp.com/album/face-the-fact

Opus 1 will be featured on the NBT podcast going out on the 17th August 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 85

In Another Life – Count To Fire (Independent Release)

From the loneliness of brief solo piano the band steps into another life where the room opens out into the big country, and the girl is young and moves with movie star yearning stuck in the tender moment of a first meeting made sad and beautiful with nostalgia. The innocence before desire sparkles across the scene and the guitar creeps in, takes precedence. The lovers dance, the time loop doesn’t seem to hold easy answers and the comfort is only in this memory.

All this and it is only the first track.

As the memories continue to weigh heavy, the singer finds the grey of his real rain filled day cannot compete to the grey shifting romance of the flickering screen, and when he sings of battles, it is that twilight time between chaos, when escape is almost possible and despair is almost a release.

I think that this is an album that longs for the bright, wide, open freedom, but with melancholy acceptance finds itself tethered to real world where the war is against giving up, where love does not find a way unless fought hard for.

It is in this delicate knowledge of what makes us regret, that a fine hope shines through.

Stand out track for this listener is ‘City Lights’ a slow building ballad, with an alluring soul feel reminiscent of My Morning Jacket’s Jim James when working for Monsters Of Folk. On here, as on many of the tunes, the skillfully orchestrated harmonies add so much to the power and heart of the tune, indeed you know you are listening to something that will stay with you for the longest time.

The band add colour to this set of ruefulness with shadings of Johnny Cash swagger and Long Ryder feistiness, but never distract from the mood that binds it all together, again in this era of the downloadable track versus the whole album debate, this demands to be listened to as a complete, satisfying whole.

Find out more here

http://www.myspace.com/counttofire

will be featured on NBT podcasts during August and 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/