Stones – Tom Mitchell

StonesFunny thing music; fashions come and go (some don’t go quite as fast as they might), for a while we seem swamped by this fad or the other, and you look back and ponder, ‘Urgh what were we thinking?’ Latterly there has been more than a fair supply of pimped up folky types with a jaunty Panama hat here, a waistcoat with an artful lining there, all claiming to be the next big thing alongside the dread Mumfords of this world.

Trouble is too many of them lack that thing which you can’t get a stylist for, it doesn’t come along with the labels PR expert. Authenticity can’t be snapped up in some cool Islington shop, or an edgy boutique. And that is what sorts the wheat from the chaff.

So to Tom Mitchell. Without any attempt to denigrate his sartorial approach, no stylist or PR driven approach here, no sneaking doubt about whether he might have been a death rocker until recently but now spots a gap in the market. Nope, what you see is what you get here; a man dedicated to his guitar, to that time honoured school of song writing that tells a story, to tunes that dig in deep, to an innate quality of musicianship.

I have been listening to the tracks on Stones, the latest offering from Tom, for some time now: either in their original demo-esque versions or the more polished and filled out iterations on the new release. The addition of harmonies from the fine Sarah Proudfoot was never going to be a bad thing, and this and other nice touches like a bit of mandolin, add the extra texture and depth without swamping the core voice and guitar. I find myself frequently humming one of the melodies at unexpected times; walking the hound, doing my morning lengths at the pool, or as just now, sitting on the train heading west from Paddington. It’s not so easy to cause such ear-worm tendencies, further proof that what we have here is an old head and soul on young shoulders.

IMG_8667

Tom at The Convent Club, Woodchester

Throughout  the six tracks here you will of course spot the influences, the references, those musicians who have shaped Toms style and approach, but you get much more than a mere pastiche. Of course I have my favourites and amongst them is Fifty Trees clocking in at just a tad under six and a half minutes with a fab solo fade out. The extra time gives the song a chance to develop and builds into probably his finest song to date. Another favourite is Lock Down in Five whose video you can see embedded below.

Stones is officially released on March 2 and can be snapped up via Tom’s website for a mere four earth pounds, you will also find his other releases there as well so, knock yourself out. If you fancy catching him doing his thing live (and you should) his next jaunt is in Bristol on March 4 which will be the launch show when he supports Max Jury, and tickets can be got here.

So in Stones, Tom Mitchell’s third release proves he gets better each time, more mature, more finely crafted. Like I said, an authentic head on young shoulders, a fine piece of work indeed and you’d have to have a heart of stone (see what I did there?!) not to warm to its charms.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Atomos at Sadlers Wells – A Winged Victory for the Sullen and Wayne MacGregor’s Random Dance Company

imageLooking around the gathering Valentines Day crowd in the cultured environ that is Sadlers Wells I wondered how many were here for which element? Extraordinary contemporary dance crew Random Dance led by Wayne MacGregor or the ever-amazing AWVFTS? My bet is in the majority, the former judging by the composition of the audience.

Having seen AWVFTS perform Atomos three times already (that early try-out in Reading then the Barbican and only last week in Bristol) I felt pretty much at home with the piece and the rather unnerving, emotional effect it has on me. Even the oddly inappropriate standing up surroundings of The Lantern (@ Colston Hall) couldn’t diminish the impact of this remarkable suite of music. So how would it be this time with the dance piece that it was written to accompany?

AWVFTS at Bristol

AWVFTS at Bristol

Not surprising, like a hand in glove. But that barely scratches the surface of just how overwhelming an event it was. No contemporary dance buff me – having walked out of the Sarah Bernhardt theatre in Paris during a jaw droppingly awful dance evening – I was a tad anxious but consoled myself that there would at least be the music.

In the event it was a ninety minute sensory overload sort of affair. The ten dancers were quite astonishing, with a strength, poise and a virtuosity that I find hard to put into words. Bodies flowing together, sinuous, effortless and like a language I don’t understand but whose beauty I still found absorbing. The music neither dominated nor was it mere accompaniment, the dance and music was properly two halves of the same exhilarating event.

Mmm, I am slipping into purple prose but, honestly, how often do you have a chance or the privilege to witness such remarkable things?

Leaving our seats when most everyone else had left after a triumphant set of curtain calls; I shouted down my appreciation to the members of AWVFTS already tidying away their stuff from the pit area. They looked a little surprised and a bit bashful – I wonder if they are able to appreciate quite what an immersive experience they had given birth to?

As we slipped away into the dark London evening we kind of knew that this had been rather special, not something too many others have been able to witness. Lucky, lucky us.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Beauty in the Night – Seatraffic

a4200539623_2

Just a sneaky little post this – stumbled across these Seatraffic chaps and rather enjoyed. Apparently their album Beauty in the Night is due to be released soon here in the UK despite the fact that its already available on Bandcamp and presumably out in the States

A chirpy duo of Mark Zannad (keys and vocals) and Brandon Harrison (drums) are out of San Francisco and tag themselves ‘dream pop low-fi synth’ which should pretty much get you there.

I imagine there is quite a bit of Beach House in their playlist but you can’t blame them for that. The vocals are smooth and sultry, the keys suitably glitzy and bouncy, the drums well, they do the drum thing quite nicely thank you, and so all in all a very enjoyable, dare I say sexy, little set.

Lead off track Man on the Coast is a pretty neat way to start and so thats why its tacked on below. A propos of nothing at all, I can’t help liking a band that posts the same picture of themselves riding bikes but in different weather settings on the same road – don’t know why, I just found that rather endearing…. probably just me then…

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Seven Billion Like You – All This Noise

All This NoiseI can’t lie, its always a bit of a thrill when a band gets in touch directly rather than through their PR, and even if sometimes the music might be a bit meh, or not really my cup of tea, such moments are always erased when you hit Play and, Lo, there’s summat a bit nice.

So, All This Noise, aka James and Alan Noise, is a little two-some resulting from, what I assume, was frustration of playing session on others so-so music. Not a bad place to start and I think that Alan Noise takes care of producer, engineer, programmer and bass player duties with James Noise delivering the guitar and vocals.

With a bit of 80’s era electro, 90’s indie and some contemporary bleeps and whistles their music so far seems to rather cunningly span the decades. It brings to mind a number of things, like a twang of early Depeche Mode here and a glimpse of The The there; however this is no mere pastiche or a smashing together of a few styles.

It is a rather beautifully produced concoction (well the two tracks so far available at any rate), with some fine guitar and excellent vocals to the fore, deftly underpinned by the electronica and bass work. The musical ability and experience shine through as does the maturity to know that sometimes you must let tracks have the time to build and not just to go straight for the jugular. Short and sharp can be fine but surely we have the time and inclination to let things grow and develop, its something I appreciate personally, and in my view its been nicely judged on these two tracks.

Seven Billion Like You seems set for release as a single at the end of January, I believe an accompanying video might be in production as well. The Return is also available on their Soundcloud page and I think is my favourite of the two tracks. Writing and recording for more stuff to form an album is also muted though no release date is, perhaps understandably, mentioned. Dear Heart Tom Robinson saw fit to lead off his December Mixtape with a cut down version of Seven Billion… so someone is listening up its good to note.

A couple of plays find these, immediately enticing, tracks dig under your skin and get their hooks in. I’ve been buzzing them for a day or so now and have come to love these genre-defying, epoch-leaping little rascals. Messrs James and Alan Noise are onto something here and I for one am looking forward to a few more tracks, don’t leave it too long chaps!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Tied – Sun Drift

sun driftWhat a perfect thing to stumble across on this miserable Friday afternoon. Tied, this debut EP/mini album or whatever from the un-seasonably named Sun Drift came out at the back end of last year but its never too late to find a good thing.

The achingly young Zac Barfoot, for it is he, who is responsible for this little slice of deliciousness, has popped out five entirely gorgeous tracks with a polish and maturity that belies his tender years (annoying, isn’t it?). Written, played, recorded, mixed all on his own-some at home – gah , clever kids!

Amazingly accomplished; the lush and fine guitar work, the layered dreamy vocals and harmonies should all be product of warmer climes, rolling down the Pacific Highway or lazing in a high altitude meadow. But apparently the same can be the product of Silverdale in Lancashire, who would have thought it?

In his scant online information, Barfoot clearly lays out his influences and of course you find them here – but thats no crime, and especially when it results in such a totally delightful wee set as Tied.

This impeccable and elegant first outing is quite the thing, wrapping around me and shutting out the howling gale outside. Couldn’t wish for a better Friday accidental find.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Barıştık Mı’ (Barış Demirel) – T.E.A.R.

1654442_817069871664872_8142122066540423556_n

Its the New Year and everything is a bit drear and downcast. Amid those promises to curb the Christmas excess and cut back on all the fun things, a part of me has been hoping for something to become excited about, put the sparkle back, and here it is, the quite astounding debut album, T.E.A.R. from young Turk Barış Demirel trading under Barıştık Mı’.

Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and, most of all, trumpet player Barış has produced a quite remarkable 45 minute slab of music. At times familiar, at others exotic, weaving together traditional Middle Eastern and Turkish Makams with the avant garde, the jazz inspired and shoe-gaze, breeds a heady mixture of the most intoxicating and beguiling music I have heard for some while. Something to be excited about, to return to and find new insights, sounds that demand attention but repays with jewelled musical moments. A veritable treasure trove of unexpected and uplifting delights.

Everything here is a joy; the guitar put through pedals and effects, the voice used  as an instrument in its own right, the drone-inflected keys but, oh, the trumpet! I had quite forgotten how affecting an expertly played trumpet can be, haunting, ethereal almost human. Others like the amazing Cuong Vu have this gift, as did indeed Chuck Mangione with his trademark flugelhorn.

Almost every one of the six tracks here is a style unto itself but yet the set hangs together with a remarkable identity and quality, defying any usual characterisation or pigeon-holing. A thoroughly absorbing experience, you can play the album through his Soundcloud site or better still buy it from iTunes as I cant work out whether or how you can purchase an artefact from the We Play label.

A single track can’t be fully representative here, but the cover of Sigur Ros’ Bíum Bíum Bambaló is no bad place to start, but do start, it’s a journey so worth the travelling.

My grateful thanks to the perennially wonderful Gold Flake Paint for the heads up

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Captivated – Memory Drawings

Cover

Its been a long old week but what better to help wind down than a bit of hammered dulcimer. Not a regular feature of much music perhaps but there should be a place for it in all our lives.

This absorbing and enticing EP from Memory Drawings is a thing of beauty. It has a couple of reworked tracks from the recent There is No Perfect Place album, but they sit around the aptly titled track, ‘Captivated’.

Joel  Hanson and chums are joined here by Yvonne Bruner on some spacey vocals redolent of the Cocteau Twins, and the dulcimer  propels this infectious track along  like a soundtrack to a summers day in the country. I am quite hooked I have to say, hugely comforting and soothing, sometimes bizarrely with a hint of the dreamy warmth of some early Sam Prekop solo material.

Captivated, the EP is released on December 1st, digital only via their (or is hat ‘his’?) Bandcamp site – toddle off and buy a copy now.

Memory Drawings are part of the most excellent roster of Hibernate Records, another fearsome and wonderful label holding out for what they love and believe in, whose artists we should all support. Lecture over.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment