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 107

Two very different bands and two very different reviews 🙂

 

Bruiser by Martin Smit

Frosting by William Elliot

 

Bully For Flux EP – Bruiser (WindowLicker Records)

A certian type of hard rock, streamlined to an inch of it’s roaring life, sleek, polished, yet still throbbing with power, is an extremly difficult creature to tame, never mind getting it to do new tricks in this modern age.

Sure the template here is those fine bands of time ago, like Cheap Trick, or Alice Cooper’s 70‘s disguise, but the band and the producers have managed to keep it all up to date in feel, style and substance.

What works is that under the reflected sheen and glow, there runs a dirty great engine, all oil and thrust and coarse, it is this containment, this tension trapped under driving sweet melodies that give the songs such power.

While others offer the illusion of danger, and stay safe, Bruiser offer up structure and songcraft and an honest invation to jump into the mosh pit and let go.

The Mix is what attracts here, a most difficult thing to get right in this sort of creation, the vocals are placed just so, neither too clean and upfront, or lost too far down in the murk, the instruments click tightly into the hurtling rythmn, the belief that good alternative needs to be messy, underplayed, or just cutely inept, is NOT adhered to, no rather that the making of a song from thought to finish is an adventure in skill and architecture.

and then the cool thing: all this does not distract from the warmth and passion and sweat in the music. a fine achievement indeed.

http://www.windowlickerrecords.com

Fresh Frosting – Frosting (Kentland Records)

Opening track, ‘Comfortable Enough’ starts of with a squwark and then slips into a sleepy rock ramble that recalls JJ Cale, but the pace is picked up with a countrified pop track called ‘Katrina Wells’ a song that sounds like it has already been on the charts and now is resident on every FM station.

The band make all this sound effortless, like they got up and got this done during one fine afternoon, in single takes. Whether or not this is so is besides the point (the album has been years in the brewing) because the band doesnt try to be different or artful, extreme or agitated, but rather play good tunes honestly.

Because of this many may skip past this album in search for some thing trendier perhaps, or seemingly hipper or seemingly more indie. That would be a huge shame, as the band cover a mulitude of styles and offer up a diverse set of great songs.

Stand out track for me is the delicate cover of Buckingham’s ‘Go Insane’ where Laura Lopardo takes control of the vocals and sways through the bittersweet with a gentle elegant touch.

to hear more go to:

http://www.frostingusa.com

Trax from these albums will be played in the new year on the NBT podcasts, stay tuned for that.

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

 

 

The NBT Review 105

Miriams Well Reviewed by Cobus Rossouw

Elika reviewed by Martin Smit

Snuggle Bunnies – Elika (Automatic Entertainment Records/Fiercely Independent Records)

We have already spoken about the opening Summer of static, a perfect gateway into this new collection of trembling tunes, so let’s be brave, add extra shivers to this white winter’s day and jump into the Stand Still.

A sound for when the war is just seconds over, when there is confusion about who won and who has been utterly defeated. This is the sound of the time before hope and just after despair.

This is a séance of song, bringing into the world the almost forgotten melodies that groups like ‘His Name Is Alive’ (when they were in bed with 4AD) concocted. This is gentle pushing against troubled pushing against anxiety. If those butterflies in our tummies were pop stars they would sound like this.

Which brings me to the haunting centrepiece, the Dark Side, a song that should live in a Japanese anime long lost, now
slipping into the daily subconscious.  A holy mix of Madonna slow dance and the chilliest of electro ambience, this is very much my song for December and beyond.

Like the best groups operating in the alternate universe these days,  instead of over production and more gloss, this band digs deeper into the internal, mines hidden subtleties, waits patient for the dreaming to come to them, then with comfort and agitation in equal measures, sends that dreaming back out to greet us.

Once again, a lovely release from Elika

http://elika.bandcamp.com/

Indians and Clowns – Miriams Well (Buckin Savior Records)

This latest release from Mir German and Mark Bowden is a hearty chunk of honesty. The songs are superbly crafted and there is not a single track that feels like it was added simply to flesh out an album to a required length.

Starting with the title track the album is clearly in country rock territory, although regular readers should not presume any of the usual thematic frailties that the genre often pursues without conscience. These are songs with greater messages than the obvious, adding a conscious voice to country rock that is all too often missing. This is a band that thinks, a band that believes and this comes through in the songs.

Reading through press the band has received much is made of German’s vocal talents. She has a remarkable voice which is distinctive and will lend the band a signature that will make a Miriam’s Well tune instantly recognisable. I would however add that this album also contains some of the wisest arrangement of instrumentation I have heard this year and mention must
be made of the work the band has put in to give each song its appropriate due.

The country rock feel is expanded with guitars ranging into 70’s rock territory with riffs that could be pulled off any of Clapton’s
projects through to soulful horn sections that dip by turns into Vaya Con Dios and Motown. Indeed, there are almost too may references and touchpoints to mention, but what is remarkable for such a diverse musical statement is that it is coherent, beautiful and always stays true to those country roots, a feat that is rarely managed when bands spread their wings outside of their comfort zone.

There are stand out tracks, and I betray my love of American folk when I mention “Stay” and “Big House”, the latter matching sound protest with astute human observation. These tracks have me hooked but I can well imagine other listeners having other favourites, there’s something here for everybody.

http://www.miriamswellmusic.com/

hear tracks from these albums on the upcoming NBT podcast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

NBT now has a Facebook presence: please do go and ‘like’ the page

http://www.facebook.com/NBTmusicproject

The NBT Review 104

From Space She Came… – 19 Mirrors (Independent Release)

Battle synths of the pop republic! Marching along to a Joy Division beat the pure vocals bewitch and beguile, the light sitting strangely comfortably on top of what is a very nihilistic piece. This is ‘I’d Rather Die’ a song that is full of nervous tension, hurtling sweetly towards a glorious panic attack.

It is this keen sense of the insecurity hiding behind our chaotic lives that elevate these songs, this band, above the massive flow of the Ordinary boys and girls that populate the indie airwaves these days.

Succubus Love starts out with a 90s house glee, morphs into a new wave rock thing before settling down into a modern cautionary tale, encouraging the kind of abandoned jerky dance that the truly cool or the truly crazy get up to in those way too bright clubs existing on the far side of midnight.

We come now to the track that made into the 2010 nbt ‘best of’ list. ‘The Key’ is brutal beautiful a disturbance in the force, again playing the glow against the grime, the innocent against the sordid. Wicked with relish, oh yes.

19 Mirrors get it right, they dare to mix Morodor style electro over incandescent Blondie meets Metal, the type of song that 14 year old girls take to their soul while waiting for their very first heartbreak, the type of song, those older never wiser deviants bounce along to on their way to the next adventure.

Each of these 6 tracks have the potential that the late lamented Long Blondes showed the world, each track is a hit, a single, a chart-topper, in outer space and down here on earth, where this music makes the mundane more bearable, makes the day shorter and the night more alive.

Go find out for yourself

http://www.reverbnation.com/19mirrors#

http://www.facebook.com/pages/19-Mirrors/97860389218

Tracks from this EP and thoughts from the band will be revealed
on the NBT podcast this coming Thursday

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

The NBT Review 102

Volume 2/Volume 3 – MaCu

Reflections – MaCu vs.Cezar (Independent Releases)

Outside all is dirty white mist, offering an unsettling stillness to the world. A world that seems to be waiting for a difficult soundtrack to lie upon it, lift it up, shift it from the ordinary into the serenely dangerous.

I have found that soundtrack.

This music captures the thoughts of ghosts drifting. The ghosts of machines throbbing, thrumming, forgetting what they are for moments in time then sighing back into sequence, the ghosts of children, girls women searching, finding, inviting. This is a waking dream, where the willing listener floats (standing upright) through the opening Wasteland.

This is the imagination of the young factory worker, romanticised slowed down, manipulated. It is also the sound of a dead disco long after the night’s seduction, the souls trapped there still burning hedonistically, equal measures of despair and longing.

In Hollow (which is nothing like that title, or shallow, or momentary) the ghosts become industrial whales crying through the ether.

Yes this music is all about desire. It is a diary of the search for identity, the search by a fragmented soul, for that elusive whole.

There can be no detachment here from the characters created, the scenes that unfold, we are part of every breath, every stutter, and every step towards another doorway into another unknown.  The song titles often contradict; play with our senses, our expectations. Nothing is obvious but almost every damn thing is rather beautiful.

Even when co creating with others, the composer never loses her unique sense of the intimate making this become a halcyonian view of the disturbance just out of sight. Her music is not about words or actions, but what goes on BETWEEN those words, those actions.

A startling, major musical find.

Explore for yourself:

http://macu1.wordpress.com/

Tracks from these releases will be played on the NBT darkelectric this week

http://www.nbtdarkelectric.podbean.com/

Oh and NBT has finally joined Facebook, do go ‘like’ the page if you would be so kind

http://www.facebook.com/NBTmusicproject