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 115

  Six Hurdles – History Of The Trade (Independent Release)

 The opening song shoots towards us rocket like revealing a complex sequence, tunes within tunes, post punk verses, math rock dance moves. Starting out drill bit intense, bits of Wire you don’t dare draw a breath, then tempo change, stadium chants, pop goodness, care to jump around with me?

 Going Nowhere, goes pretty fast in search of the cool hook, gets there, swings along the mirror ball shatters and doesn’t let up,as you fall for it, you decide you need this EP in your record collection, file it next to the Foals perhaps.

 Dear Sir/Madam I would like , ‘Facts’ to be number one on the charts, the nation needs that shot of speed and sensibility. This is all sparkly, raw energetically beautiful.

 Then epic in miniature, ‘Alkaline’ bursts shockwave from the gentle static, a summer anthem from a winter perspective. And I realise that this collection shall not stray too far from my player these coming nights and weeks.

 Find out more

http://www.historyofthetrade.com/

 Skyskratcher EP – Skyskratcher (Independent Release )

 A different beast here, over a gently (twisting) slow burn, prog rock vocals slide (circa ,perhaps, early killer Queen ) the guitars ebb and flow, now intense, now just tense, always threatening to explode, there is allure in its admiral restraint.

 Skyskratcher seem to have forecast the Arctic Monkeys new rock direction, but seem less cynical about it, its 70s met with Now, a young sound with old(er) influences,conducive to headbang hedonismyet slippingg into a welcome reassuringcontemporaryy vibe as well.

 Often skipping the structure of quiet-loud- quiet and just doing the quiet building into frantic, the music insists you try see this band live, or for those of us,from that sad land ‘far away’ insists that you imagine the ToughTumble n Roll of the stage.

 That is why, when the fragile is allowed, it is so satisfying, giving the songs those varying Moodcolours of orange into rust and beyond. Something innocent yet sweaty pure about it all

 http://skyskratcher.com/main/

 both bands will be featured on the NBT podcasts (both the flagship cast and the dark electric cast) in March. And will be playlisted on the NBTMusic 24 hr radio from this weekend

 http://nbtmusicradio.playtheradio.com/

 

The NBT Review 114

  Tilt – Brett Ryan Stewart (Rainbows In Grayscale Music)

 Sometimes the day to day struggle can seem like a never ending sleepwalk, to get through it you go through the motions, ignore the fear as comrades fall by the way, as they give up and fall deeper into that apathy, that all too reassuring slumber.

Or what happens is you gather your soul up into you, stand and decide to fight on, to overcome the dull, the ordinary to start living again.. to wake up.

 And this is how Tilt begins.

 This is an album that celebrates rejuvenation, the finding of inner strength , about not giving up and yes, allowing yourself to let a little sunshine drive you forward.

 And if this sounds so far, so hippy , oh you would be wrong. This is powerful pop, with country dirt and indie edge, the production glimmers to be sure, but there is no sense of sugar coated emptiness, daytime radio varnish, but rather beautifully thought out song-play and craft.

 This singer knows that the past can create inelegant disturbances and that relationships can tear at the human and create monsters, that life can be a torrid tough old thing to tear through, but instead of choosing grungy self-pity or old C and W whining Stewart makes music that kinda struts, giggles and strolls, slips into the car radio and brightens up the day. Not shouty pointed anthems, but something more subtle, more lasting.

 When its needed he dips the tunes into something slightly seedy, covers them with a sprinkle of ambiguity, so nothing comes out soft, nothing gets too sweet. Stewart seems to know that the charcoal smudges in that colourful portrait add just the right essence of truth, that you had to first gently embrace despair to kick it fully away.

 Find out for yourself

 http://brettryanstewart.com

 The album has been featured on several NBT podcasts and is playlisted on the NBTmusic 24 hr radio station

http://nbtmusicradio.playtheradio.com/

 

The NBT Review 113

  Alive (Book and CD/ Deluxe Edition) – Tallulah Rendall (Transducer)

 The music is only the start of things..The Songs are only the beginning of this creative journey, Plays, artworks, videos, performance and the documenting of these collaborations form the basis of the book that accompanies the set of tunes.

 And yet as a diligent reviewer, one who hopes to try to get at least a little into the soul of the work, one must for the moment put aside the book and approach just the music, then come back to the book and then the music together.

 If this all sounds like hard work, let me assure you it is not, it is an adventure, a game, an experience that I found I did not want to end, and indeed it did not have to end, because each collaboration added another dimension to an already dense and sparkling universe.

 So it is highly recommended that when you get this album, make very sure you get the book too.

 But now I must be brave, and plunge just into the music, give my own thoughts on what I think takes place. Because everything starts with the music and the music shines differently into each listener’s soul.. and a reviewer can only report, this is what I heard, felt, saw, and in that way (when positive) inspire others to start their own journey (or in the rare negative case) give warning that the trip may not be worth it.

 I am of course double cursed/blessed as I have already reviewed Alive the EP, so now I must shed the shackles of the Previous and dive in as if all is new, listen with innocent ears as it were.

 The title track, is a tumble-drift of awakening, a bare sketch morphing into a colourful living swirlThing, it is the shot of adrenalin needed to, ‘go bathe in the light’, all PJ Harvey guitar rumble, galloping into the intensifying maelstrom, along with Anna Calvi, Rendall seems to be heading this lovely trend of darkly yet empowering pop music coming our way in 2011.

 then a switch in mood, its magical ballroom dance, romantic harmonies, falling in love music,the instruments create a pleasant pressure, the equivalent of being lost in a fog and fascinated by it.

Playful even, the way the intro to ‘Nothing Is Over’ evokes an old time Western ballad which stretches wilful into something sultry and sly.

 Then back to the throb, stand out (should be) single, ‘Colourblind’ the kind of thing, that you sway to immediately, as you fill up on that top of the roller-coaster vibe.

 The Joy of this collection is its balance. You never feel the song suffers from the application of studio craft, it is destined for radio waves and cyberspace but that knowledge is second hand, not cynically manipulated for maximum effect. The ambition never gets in the way of the personal.

 And then again I listen, this time with book in hand. I learn of wondrous art being made. Of tasks taken up, challenges accepted and met, with gleeful daring and …

 hope.

 This whole ‘product’ is a testament to the belief that art is a shape shifting goddess with boundless gifts.

 I urge you to go and get this

http://www.tallulahrendall.com/category/music/

 Tallulah has several songs on the new nbtMusic 24 hr radio station

http://nbtmusicradio.playtheradio.com/

 and is one of the featured artists on this weeks NBT Podcast

 http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

 

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 111

  The Shakespeares EP – The Shakespeares (independent release)

 Tonight the bridge is built from the solo Merry Ellen Kirk, a bridge built upon her trademark twinkling piano and vocal sighs leading into the darker territory that this Duo inhabits. Still dreams, yes, but these dreams are more cryptic, the shadows corporeal (look they reach for our hands, to spin us in) she is the colour shifting balloon, he is the tumbling ghost holding hard against the pull of the string, the beauty here in the pressure, the interplay tween loose and tight.

 What Aaron Krause adds is something that divinely distorts the shimmer evermore, a touch of acoustic blues and a sliver of grunge, adding loops of thoughtful insecurity to the serene, toughening up the songs, making them scary and bold.

The balance however is perfect, the two artists compliment and strengthen each other and no song here sounds remotely like a solo effort grafted into a new project.

 The fine art of the female/male interplay within a pop song structure is something that has gained momentum in recent years and the Shakespeares can happily join the ranks of acts like She and Him and Jenny and Johnny, but bring something somewhat more ethereal to the stage.

 There isn’t a wasted second in this EP and it makes the listener crave more, more from the Artists both together as the Shakespeares and from their other musical adventures, solo or otherwise

 http://theshakespeares.us/

 tracks from this EP are being played on the NBT podcasts and the NBT 24hr streaming radio

 http://www.facebook.com/NBTMusicRadio

 Actors and Liars – Twin Brother (independent release)

 This slow build takes on different disguises, turn here and we find the slight wounded Gothic, blue spotlight on dark stage. Turn there and discover the jangle exuberance of the indie star confidant. Not so much statements of intent rather maps to pour over, invitations to join the exploration.

 This is the sound of future stars finding their voice, it is personal, often messy and always involving, it is music you want to stay with and music that gives up it’s bitter sweet secrets slowly, willfully, sly and shy all bundled up in atmosphere and delectable drama.

 One secret to its power is the holding back, the less is more template, chaos and theatre and grand gestures are hinted at, sketched, forshadowed, though dont get me wrong the songs are NOT afraid to rock out in that love of Pop way that Interpol or even Franz Ferdinand have. You know, the kind of song that when you hear it you just want to see it performed live, so you can jump around to it with a thousand other beguiled fans.

 The band is comfortable with the slight eccentricity of their songs, there are touches of the gleefully bound Julian Cope (ready to explode) and the sheer delight in the structure of the song, that Edwyn Collins has. In fact, as Twin Brother work at their craft they have potential to replace glow of (rather) less than satisfying bands like Glasvegas, in the indie Nations heart and minds.

 Hear Tracks from this Album on the NBT Podcast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

and also on the NBTMusicRadio (Facebook page here)

http://www.facebook.com/NBTMusicRadio 

The NBT Review 110

  The Foxpockets EP (independent release)

 there are some kinds of music that make the curious listener very excited, no matter the mood that surrounds him at the start, the music never fails to invigorate and intrigue. This music usually has folk as a starting point, is played and created with sheer joy by the musicians and is often layered, verbally and musically. Bands like Tilly and the Wall, Los Campesinos,Tunng and now Foxpockets are often labelled twee by a jaded press who seem to like a strong spoonful of angst with their cuppa alternative, (you know the type, the ones who write in little books and are afraid to dance when the band goes mad on stage.) and oh how wrong could that label be.

 This is simply music that makes one feel awfully lucky to have found it.

 The Nautical Song slow builds, adding instruments and vocal harmonising at a subtle pace, wonderfully restrained for a three minute tune. What is gentle becomes almost a jig before the song is done, the producer leaving the explosions for another time.

 Voytek is a finely sketched tale of war, Katharine Simner’s serene vocals counterpoint dark lyrics, all leading up to a most heavenly and moving instrumental break.

 And Wintersleep should really be play listed all over the damn place. Timeshifting, swaying, elastic it slips across three or four moods from thoughtful funeral to shy invitation to dance and ends way too soon.

 As a prologue to a full album, this is a delightful introduction to band that we will be hearing a great deal more of.

 http://www.myspace.com/foxpockets

 Hear tracks from this release on the NBT podcast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

 and in the next few days Foxpockets will be added to the 24 hour stream of NBTMusic Radio

http://www.radionomy.com/nbtmusicradio