Wednesday, 19 November 2014

You Bred Raptors? - Album Release, Grant

You Bred Raptors? 'Ice Nine'

Info: Is string-rock a genre? Maybe it is now, New York band You Bred Raptors? mix alternative rock, heavy rock and classical music to wonderful effect, in some parts like Mogwai and in others like Dvorak with some dark thudding bass to give you something very unique. Their track 'Hazmat' (below, that fucking bass!) portrays a group of musicians who are able to think outside of the box and have been exposed to many different musical styles and influences. 'Boomerang' is also a fine example of the intensity that YBR bring to the table, very much a pace-setting track with rapid bass lines and feverish cello playing, and a quaint undercurrent of an old style traditional type of music. 

Later on the album 'Yad Vashem' is a contemplative and touching string and drum based song that is presumably an ode to Jerusalem's Holocaust Museum. Towards the very end 'Yukon' gets down and dirty and You Bred Raptors' inner rock takes over, guitars driven with intent interspersed with xylophonic jingle-jangles. Grant is very different to anything you might hear this year, and the protagonists involved seem to have a keen sense of how to make different great, intuitively. 

You Bred Raptors?, 'Hazmat', NYC Underground

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Oki's Wagon, New Single, Shake

Oki's Wagon, 'Shake'

Info: Dublin band Oki's Wagon combine blues, folk, country, jazz, and a bit of rockabilly to boot on their new single, 'Shake', which will be released tomorrow and will feature on their forthcoming album, A Curious Dose, which releases on the 10th of January. The band have already performed at Electric Picnic and one of my favourite events, The Jack of Diamonds Festival, and are regulars at Whelans, Sweeneys, The Workman's Club and The Mercantile. 

So to the music! Well, in addition to tomorrow's single I wanted to talk a bit about another track on Oki's Wagon's SoundCloud page, 'Bottom of the Stairs' as well, but first to 'Shake'. Singer Audrey Gleeson has a classic country rasp on this track and melded with the mandolin, piano and slide guitar you're quite taken back to the 70's and the likes of Patti Smith's 'Because The Night'. I was also really impressed by 'Bottom of the Stairs', it's very smooth and locks the band closer to contemporary artists such as Laura Marling, but to be honest, Marling doesn't bring the rockabilly quite like Oki's Wagon do, prime example, 'Horror Chord', a real rabble rouser, okay, that's three songs now....

Oki's Wagon, 'Bottom of the Stairs'

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Musique Française - Alf Moon, Automne

Alf Moon, 'Automne'

Info: I really, really want to get more French music sent to me, after my recent review of Normandy duo CHRISTINE, along comes another very interesting piece of Gallic electronica / experimental music from Parisian artist Alf Moon. The above track 'Automne' is also the name of the new E.P. he is working on, and it follows the first and equally good song, 'Hiver', below. Alf Moon gives his influences as DARKSIDE, Jamie XX, Trentemoller, Jon Hopkins and German act Moderat. 'Automne' is a breezy scene-setting tune and maybe it's just because it's a bit exotic to me but I really like the two small monologues toward the end of the track. In addition, 'Hiver' is a very enjoyable listen, and my favourite of the two, just about, little shades of Paul Kalkbrenner in there, it's very mellow and laid back, and leaves me very much looking forward to hearing the next two tracks from Monsieur Moon.

Alf Moon, 'Hiver'

'Alf Moon is a musical project of a young French producer, born and raised in Paris. I started a few years ago, trying to explore all the possibilities offered by electronic music. If music is becoming more and more visual, it's on the mental image that I wanted to work, trying to generate a sound in which everyone can get together and project themselves . The main source of inspiration is the idea of telling, through music, a story.'

Monday, 17 November 2014

Setline, These Thieving Streets

Setline, 'Speckled'

Info: Oh boy, this is so bloody good, Dubliner Setline's new E.P., These Thieving Streets has 5 solid solid tunes on it and at all too regular intervals listening to them I had hairs on the back of my neck. The intro, 'Getting Started' is a meandering and mellow track that puts you in a very calm tripped-out mood, just in time for you to be jolted by the above song, 'Speckled', which is just incredible. It's kind of like Tycho and Mogwai / Four Tet minus the mania, and the strings and harp in particular work so well with the electronic beats, at exactly 3:36 is when I had my first proper hair-raiser. Another zinger is 'Easter Parade' (below), punchy and great piano playing the track is like a shark frenzy, at the same time seeming almost effortless and delicately put together with it's orchestral undertones. 

'Are You Broken?' is definitely the most energy bursting track on These Thieving Streets, and has a bit of an early 90's house feel to it, before the E.P. comes to a close and let's you back down slowly with the piano-laden 'We're Not Happy Here'. I normally just post two tracks for a review and I really struggled to pick a second one out of the rest after 'Speckled', which for me is a good thing. This is an E.P. I can fully enjoy from start to finish and the fact that Setline is putting the finishing touches to a full-length album at the moment which will be out next year, is reason to be even more excited.

Setline, 'Easter Parade'

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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Zen Anton, E.P. Release

Zen Anton, 'Resemblance'

Info: From Queens, New York city, Zen Anton is a jazz, blues and classically trained musician who released his debut self-titled E.P. in September this year. Remarkably the opening track on the E.P., 'Longing to Touch', was written when Anton was only 13-years-old, a sweet little love song in the style of Finley Quaye or Counting Crows. Third track 'Sea Monkeys' is a spritely yet ponderous number which, as it with the rest of the E.P., chugs along with the rhythmic persistency of Anton's acoustic guitar. 'Angel' shows a more soulful and bluesy side to his music, dropping in and out of sombre tones and bursts of guitar with pained vocals, like a weird (and wonderful!) duet between Nick Cave and James Brown. The final track on the E.P. is also Zen Anton's latest work, 'Resemblance' (above) has a more old style folky vibe to it, reflected in the gentle guitar plucking and strumming, as well as highlighting his lyrical ability and thoughtfulness. I was also listening to some of Anton's earlier music on his SoundCloud page, and I hope he doesn't mind me putting the wildly contrasting track (written when he was 14) 'No, I Was Too Young To Be On Drugs', below, do listen!

In his own words, Anton describes his music as follows;

'For me, music is everything; "everything" in the sense that even though I may have not grown up in a musical family, I grew up part of the generation that had access to cull from any genre of music at the click of a button; “everything” in the sense that the people who inspire me most to write lyrics are the likes of Samuel Beckett and Outkast rather than the usual Singer-Songwriter’s inspiration; “everything” in the sense that myself being an ethnic mutt, music has given me the opportunity to get in touch with my various heritages in a way I would have never been given otherwise.'

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Zen Anton, 'No, I Was Too Young To Be On Drugs'

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Ríona Sally Hartman, Interview & New Album

Ríona Sally Hartman, 'Frida Kahlo's Delight'

Info: Ríona Sally Hartman is a gifted Dublin songwriter and singer who released her first solo work in 2009 with the E.P. Sealegs and is currently running a Fund:it campaign (details below) to launch her upcoming album, Big Starving Thing. In conjunction with a set of accomplished musicians in Cormac O'Brien, Julien Colarossi, Ailbhe Ní Oireachtaigh and Bonnie Stuart, Big Starving Thing will be the medium through which she tells us her many intriguing stories. Here we have a poet, singer, thinker all rolled into one and I really feel Hartman is currently one of our most unique and interesting artists. It's a cliché I always avoid using, but sometimes there is no other way of saying that we'll all be hearing a lot more about Ríona Sally Hartman in the very near future. I'm very happy to have interviewed Ríona and grateful to her for her thoughtful answers, without further ado....!

Remy: I watched your Vlogs which are part of your Fund:it campaign to get your upcoming album, Big Starving Thing, released and it’s clear we can expect a very character-driven set of songs, where did this concept come from?

Ríona: I never really made a conscious decision to write songs about characters I just got less and less interested in writing songs about myself or situations that were specific to me. I wanted to write about ideas that are true to everyone so the characters are each like little crystallisations of a concept, they let me write about something without making it about a specific person or place, it's just about the idea. Like with the character Tom Peeping I wanted to write about things that I think are universal to all romantic relationships like: can you ever really know someone or is getting to know someone just an act of projection, or about how you can lose your identity in a relationship and whether that's a good or bad thing.

But when you think about it isn't it odd that fictional, or character driven music is the exception rather than the norm? I mean in other art forms like literature or film I think fiction is usually the norm, if you told someone you were an author I don't think they'd assume you only wrote biographies! I'm not saying one is better or worse: biographical or fictional, it's just interesting to see how different mediums approach the same ideas so differently.

Remy: I can tell from some of your song descriptions that you have an interest in observing human behaviour, and quite a lot of the characters such as those mentioned in 'The Screamer' and 'Same But Better' seem to be quite vulnerable or socially inept, how close are the subjects of these songs to real life people?

Ríona: Ha, I never realised how socially inept they all are until you pointed it out! You're right: Tom is a voyeur, Sally is a suicidal introvert and 'The Screamer'...well I mean she just screams! The telepathic mother and newborn son are probably the only well adjusted characters but again they don't talk (mostly because they don't need to to be fair) and are quite vulnerable. Screamer is the only character based on a real person but I didn't really know that person very well so I'm not sure if it's really an accurate depiction of her personality. Really I fictionalised her situation for the purpose of the song rather than really telling her story. None of the others are based on real life people but we've all got a Tom Peeping and a Suicidal Sally in us. Half my family are, or have been, psychologist and psychiatrists so an interest in human behaviour is just in my blood I guess.

Remy: You mention Lauryn Hill’s music a part-inspiration for one of your tracks in one of your Vlogs, which other female artists have you found most influential on your song-writing over the years?

Ríona: I love how Imogen Heap documents her process and is so completely open about sharing it. Sometimes her process is more interesting to me than the final product but still watching how she works and builds a song, which songs work and which don't, has been a huge influence. I'm also a huge Becca Stevens fan. Her arrangements and song forms are really interesting and her band is unreal! I'm looking forward to hearing what she does with Tillery (Becca Stevens, Gretchen Parlato and Rebecca Martin). When it comes to performance and lyrical delivery Betty Carter's later work is what I look to, although it's stylistically completely different from my own music. Her interpretation of jazz standards is so masterful that it just transcends genre.

And of course there are a million incredible female singer songwriters making some absolutely beautiful music in Ireland. One of the millions, off the top of my head is Miriam Ingram. Trampoline is such an incredible, dark, twisty album.

Remy: I have to say you’re quite the story-teller and I really enjoyed your reading of Tove Jansson’s Tales from Moominvalley (I remember the cartoon well from my childhood!), it’s very philosophical for a children’s book, who were your favourite authors as a child?

Ríona: I only discovered the Moomins really recently, I wish I'd known about them when I was younger I would've eaten that up! For me it was Maurice Sendak all the way. I recently sorted through all my childhood books and found one that I'd forgotten about called Really Rosie by Maurice Sendak about a girl who wanted to be a singer with songs (music notation and lyrics) included as part of the story by Carol King. My parents had good taste!

Remy: Listening to the first track from Big Starving Thing ‘Frida Kahlo’s Delight’ I’m reminded of 50’s jazz singers like Julie London, did you grow up in a household with old music or was it something you came across later in life?

Ríona: Yep I grew up with lots of jazz and I've got a degree in jazz performance so I'm pretty saturated with the stuff. Ella and Sarah singing standards was pretty much the default soundtrack in my house growing up along with the great american songwriters like Paul Simon and Carole King, a splash of Prokofiev from my Dad's side and two older siblings who I'd steal Radiohead albums from. I couldn't really ask for a better songwriting education than that.

Remy: Last month I featured the other music project you’ve been working on with guitarist Mick Stuart, Monster Monster, musically it’s very different to your solo work, do you find working on projects like this that you feel less self-inflicted pressure than when writing your own music?

Ríona: I don't know if I ever really feel pressure self-inflicted or otherwise from song-writing, I just really enjoy it, but Mick does by far the lion's share of the song-writing in Monster Monster. I have more of a consultant / interpreter role there than a song-writing role. With the Ríona Sally Hartman group I do all the song-writing myself.

The two projects are so completely different and it's just so satisfying to be singing these big hot pop songs with Monster Monster one day and then a creepy acoustic song about Frankenstein the next. And even though my own music and Monster Monster's music are stylistically completely different, myself and Mick share a lot of common ground on what makes a good lyric. We've had lots of great big conversations about things like the minutest detail of a Paul Simon lyric, and it's just so enjoyable to have someone to bounce those ideas off from time to time. We have epic arguments (or 'debates'!) over wether we should leave the word 'and' or 'but' in a lyric or not which is maybe more fun than it sounds.

Remy: Where does Ríona Sally Hartman see herself in 10 years time?!

Ríona: I've had this ambition for years that I want to write a pop Opera for shadow puppets and tour with it with a live band. It just kills me staying up late at night thinking about how it would look and sound and work. I mean I don't really have a clue where I'll be in ten years but I just hope I'll have found a way to make my shadow puppet Opera a reality.

Remy: No doubt you’ll reach the funding target required for the album release, tell us a bit about what happens after that, i.e. launch night, future releases?

Ríona: Well, fingers crossed, first there'll be the listening party for the top funders so they'll be the first to hear the album. Then a Dublin launch in the new year followed by, I hope an Irish tour. Dates and venues are to be confirmed but if anyone wants to keep up to date they can sign up for the mailing list at or find me on Facebook or Twitter @RionaSally.

Note: Be sure to pop along to the album's Fund:it page here and help Ríona reach her goal!

Amalgamated Future Artists present - My Invisible Friend, part 1

Info: This is a very cool idea and the outcome is pretty amazing, some really great collaborations here, what am I babbling about?!

Over to you guys at Amalgamated Future Artists;

'14 artists from all around the world collaborated with
each other to make some music. The twist is they did it without
knowing who they were collaborating with. They just sent us (AFA)
their unfinished songs, and we assigned those songs to other artists
to finish it.

It has been challenging, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately unique
and exciting. Please, give it a try, because you haven't heard
anything like it.'

The opening track by CLOVES and Stolenmeltdown, 'My Invisible Friend' sets the scene and it's a superb track, from the acoustic guitar intro to the brass, drums and electro sounds, I've looped it a lot because the two and a half minutes go so quickly. Then there's the funky sounds of Os Caramboleiros with Nestor on 'La Mierda en la Boca' followed quickly by another favourite of mine, the fifth track, Playofone with Melöfo, 'Amiga Invisible', a dark Joy Division style number. Chill out with Blue States & The Coconut Monkeyrocket (what a name) on 'Field of View' or get your rock on with another Melöfo track featuring Voetbal, 'MIF Never Shows Up for Dates'. There's a lot of good stuff here spread over 14 tracks and Spanish label Amalgamated Future Artists have done a great job in drawing all of these acts together, here's to Part II.

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