Wednesday, 28 June 2017

EP: The Midwestern Bass Machine - EPIII

The Midwestern Bass Machine - EP III

Info: The Midwestern Bass Machine, which is the moniker for Green Bay, Minnesota ambient pop solo act Brock Splawski, have featured regularly on the blog here since we reviewed the debut album, Don't Want To Live Here, back in July 2015, which also featured in our Best of International Music review at the end of the same year. MBM has never disappointed, and has always struck a chord (yup) inside me musically, not only can I fully appreciate the impact of the sound, but moreso how wonderful his music sounds under such restrictive DIY conditions, and even moreso again, the lack of fear in the experimentation that all of his releases bring to the fore.

On Splawski's musical background he says; "I started this project when I was fifteen as a place to experiment with the various instruments and software I had lying around the house, and throughout high school, I released tracks under this moniker. Being that I cannot play the guitar (I use the assistance of labelmate Nick Williams of Freudia to handle guitar duties), I’ve always had a synth-driven vibe to my tracks. I take a lot of influence from multiple acts, the biggest ones being Animal Collective, Tame Impala, The Strokes, and J Dilla."

On EPIII The Midwestern Bass Machine instantly provides an exemplar of what is so distinguished about his style with first track, 'Home II', the painfully gentle piano progression, simple yet high on impact, the bare soul of the vocals and lyrics; "People with wives, tuck into bed, all set. The house is warm, the night has set, all set...good night…".

'Beads' moves in other ways, a carnival atmosphere abounds, there are many switches in tone, from the opening slow hum of the beat, to the Nazareth-esque guitar รก la 'Love Hurts', and onward to the quirky electronic main body of the song. On 'Dream Song' MBM enters a sort of dual soliloquy, it's ambience is very spatial with a retro sci-fi soundtrack feel until it crashes at the 2:15 mark, and then, the ragged insomnia jerks in briefly until we're returned to dream pop mode, appropriately.

The tongue-in-cheek titled 'Self-Portrait of You' must be described as an avant-garde piece of music, like Splawski's conscious stream has unfolded and become undone, it is probably the least accessible track of the five, but this is not a criticism, it's admirable to hear someone take such an unorthodox path with a track, like a broken up story put back together in the wrong order.

Closing with 'Home I', ever the contrarian! it's a folk / dream-pop finale, with the music and lyrics conjuring up images of clowns, and Pennywise from IT turning the handle on a child's music-box, sounds creepy, but strangely it's more calming. I'm not quite sure what to make of EPIII as a collection of songs, on the one hand I highly enjoyed the sense of abandonment and haphazardness of it all, and indulging in moments that recalled The Midwestern Bass Machine of yore. On the other hand I think it would take me many listens of the second-half of the EP to come anywhere near what is going on, but that's the trick in the treat isn't it? Splawski is an undeniably gifted writer of music and lyric, and when it shines it shines very brightly, I wouldn't change a thing.

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News: The Positive Touch @ The Workman's Club feat. The Devlins, Paddy Casey

The Positive Touch Workman's Club The Devlins Paddy Casey Dublin

Paddy Casey - Everything Must Change

Info: Downda Road Productions, in association with TOUCH Ireland and media partners Radio Nova, is launching 'The Positive Touch', a charity album featuring songs from artists that have been at the forefront of the Irish Music scene for years and a whole host of new emerging Irish talent to raise money for TOUCH Ireland charity projects. 

The album will showcase established Irish artists including Paddy Casey, Mundy, The 4 Of Us, The Devlins, The Blades, Gavin Glass, Cry Monster Cry as well as emerging singer/songwriters such as Keith Plunkett, Davie Furey, Katie Gallagher and is set for release on 29th June 2017.

One of the highlights of the album is the never-before released track 'Somebody is Coming Through' from Paddy Casey, given exclusively for this album. Also exclusive to this album will be debut solo single release from Sina Theil and a brand new single from Katie Gallagher, both young singer/songwriters beginning to pave their careers in Irish Music. 

The Devlins - Waiting

All profits from this compilation album will be going to TOUCH Ireland, a charity whose unique selling point is that none of the volunteers take any sort of salary or even expenses for the work they do, including frequent air travel to the countries where they provide aid. 

TOUCH Ireland aims to help vulnerable children in Zambia, Sri Lanka, Cameroon, India, Nepal, Brazil and Bangladesh. The main aim is to keep people alive, instil hope and provide education for the future so that people in these communities can learn to support one another. TOUCH Ireland does this through the provision of physical and learning disability centres, nutrition and food education projects, hospitals and clinics, child sponsorship and poverty relief.

The specific project that will be funded by the money raised by this campaign will be the Kanti Children’s Hospital in Nepal that was devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25th 2015. The ultimate goal of this project is to rebuild and extend the hospital which will include a critically needed outpatient clinic and an inpatient ward, and act as a training centre for professionals who work with children and adolescents with psychiatric and mental health problems. 

Gavin Glass - Break Your Daddy's Heart

In Nepal, children and adolescents who suffer from severe psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar/depression, are often kept at home in isolation from the world, due to social stigma. It is not unusual to see every now and then news about children with severe mental health problems often chained to a bed post, or even locked in a room for years at a time. These kinds of centres, education and training are vital for these communities. Please read more about this project here:

Tickets for the TOUCH Ireland Charity Gig can be purchased via DowndaRoad Productions website here; with the album itself available to purchase at

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Album: Mark Buckeridge - Coastal Sunshine

Mark Buckeridge Coastal Sunshine

Info: Experimental indie solo act Mark Buckeridge has been a firm favourite of music websites both at home in Ireland and abroad since starting to write and release music back in 2012, but really grabbed attention with the wonderful 2014 EP, Talking Is Good For You, DIY heaven across 5 tracks. In 2015 he released the lo-fi pop single, 'So Long' which was nothing but delightful, and now we have the first full-length debut album, Coastal Sunshine, released on the 19th of June last week.

'Lecture #1' immediately tells us that things have moved forward once again in Buckeridge's style, a full frontal spoken-word assault on the senses, like Velvet Underground or The Doors getting their angry punk on, the track has that acid-psychedelic feel to it, with its protagonist showing a public display of madness on stage to an audience that you imagine only exists in his head, there may not even be a stage at all either.

More other-worldly sounds greet us on 'All I Want To Do Is Cry', with Buckeridge displaying his trademark ability to be wildly experimental yet throw enough of a pop strand into the mixer to make you want to dance. This is a pretty special moment early on, you imagine late 70's post-punk dancehall scenes, snappy drum-pad beats and a Joy Division-esque call and response chorus, it's just such a treat to listen to.

After a brief just under 90 seconds minimalist orchestral instrumental on 'Bronze', we go full psych-hog on the album's title-track. Plodding deep and dark piano tones play the backdrop to Buckeridge's passioned yet despondent vocal, imagine Serge Gainsbourg cool vibes reeling in the drama of Elton John or Billy Joel, that's the middle ground you'll find 'Coastal Sunshine' inhabiting, and it's gorgeous.

Mark Buckeridge - Coastal Sunshine

Then a change, on 'Audio 41' Buckeridge gets his 80's synth on, the determined bass-line like some wonderfully gothic reimagining of the intro theme to Knight Rider, and it also marks the crossover point of the album. A sad sax note wails morosely in the background at the track's beginning on 'Group Singing', it's a haunting environment, and exemplifies the artist's care-free approach to his song-writing, rules are out the window, and this is what allows his music and our imaginations to flourish.

On 'Streaming', I'm expecting two things to happen after the opening electronic beat, the Run DMC vs. Aerosmith 'Walk This Way' guitar solo to kick in, or The Beastie Boys to start spitting rhymes. Neither happen, unsurprisingly, and we have a moment of calm to absorb, with Buckeridge accompanying us with his nonchalant vocal. 

Coastal Sunshine wraps up with 'DDDDDDADA', no, it's not the chord progression to an Oasis song, but it is a power-packed finale to the album, it's like all of the little moments of madness across the album have gathered in one room and Mark Buckeridge relishes in their presence together. He kicks out the jams, rattles manically through verse and chorus and then slips out the side door while we're still dancing away. Like a DIY Frank Zappa, Mark Buckeridge is a standalone talent when it comes to writing music and creating listenable to chaos, it's warm, frightening and invigorating all at once, cherish him!

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