London is a hive of complexity, isn’t it? Growing up in such a place forces a personal journey growing up to be an acute one – as you navigate what lays in front of you and absorb the mismatch of culture that surrounds you. For Amey St. Cyr, that culture was house music. Back in the early 90’s, Amey St. Cyr had been sailing towards the sunset and mere fingertips away from a record contract. As a musical performer in the past she’s already worked alongside acts such as Thompson Twins’ in Babble; Baby Ford and Audio Deluxe both touring and in the studio. Now, she’s back to concentrate on her first break-out solo effort through single ‘Wild World‘.
With her reputation soaring after a number of successes, personal reasons left her completely unable to commit to the rigours of being able to regularly perform. From an extended period of hiatus – not only raising her young family, but also overcoming personal afflictions, she has returned to house music to pick up where she left off, releasing ‘Wild World‘ – an uplifting anthem for overcoming strife, using positive beats and uplifting lyrics to help people out of challenging days of social inequality.
With an icy cool build up, images immediately conjured of a desolate, austerity laden cityscape are swept to one side with nothing more simple than a smile. As Amey portrays eloquently and triumphantly, the message here is simple – ‘Keep believing, keep up the fight, keep up your faith and integrity‘. It’s an idea that resonates acutely with her own personal journey. Having overcome her own personal hardships in recent years, it serves as a kind of musical articulation of the thrill and energy harnessed years before while sneaking out to nightclubs at an early age. ‘Wild World‘ is a perfect reflection of Amey’s positive outlook on life and a welcome reminder of club life in the early 90’s.
I soon predict commuters making the most of their own ‘Wild World’ with this cheeky little number called the ‘Suburban’..
It’s around that time of year again where the sunlight dims earlier, people are sneezing all around you and all sense of self-discipline flies out the window as the public rejoices ‘Why not? It’s Christmas!’ (It definitely isn’t, it’s November). With The Pogues‘ ‘Fairy Tale of New York‘ likely to already be saturating the retail playlists around the nation, it’s with fresh enthusiasm that ‘punk-poet and pioneer of the spoken word’ Ian Wills offers a speedy return following the release of 2018’s album ‘Dream in Colour‘, teaming up with Celtic music royalty – Clannad’s Moya Brennan,to release a magical song in ‘Mercy’s Door‘, a track that is sure to strike a chord in the hearts of millions across this seasonal jaunt.
Through a means of confrontational and often stark use of language, Ian Wills has long since been established as of of Britain’s premiere spoken word artists. Transcribing his brand of punk-poetry to a lyrical format, via formulating Ian Wills & The Willing, they quickly found themselves in the limelight having their first album ‘Kerbside‘ declared ‘Pick of the Fringe‘, at the Edinburgh Festival in 2005, and having Janice Long champion the band on Radio 2 with regular airplay of their highly acclaimed single ‘21st Century Love Song‘.
Ian’s sometimes brutal, at all times personal lyrics are known for knocking down doors. ‘Mercy’s Door‘ tells a true-life story of redemptive light at the end of what often seems an endlessly dark tunnel. Following a suggestion to feature guest vocals on the track, he immediately went to his first choice – the iconic figurehead of Irish music – Moya Brennan, who was more than happy to contribute her iconic, ethereal voice to the track. Also featuring the choir of Ian’s young daughter’s school, ‘Mercy’s Door‘ is both profoundly moving, yet uplifting – the perfect song to share this Christmas.
Speaking of which, I’ve just found out there’s something called a Mince Pie Martini!
So, let me tell you a story about a man with a trumpet scholarship who writes dance music on an acoustic guitar..
In a release accompanied by artwork picturing a person leaping in the air, arms free, over the setting sun, you get a pretty clear assertion of the message on a track entitled ‘Born 2 Be Free‘ is being implied here. Toby Tomtom is clearly an artist who exists purely to help others to reach their potential in life.
His own potential was spotted early on as he picked up an ASCAP Abe Olman award for his songwriting prowess (an accolade shared by John Legend), and spent years in partnership with his brother writing and producing music for R&B and Hip-hop artists. Even a young, unsigned Alicia Keys was handed a degree of Toby’s expertise as he taught her how to sing in a studio, and wrote/produced her first demo played on radio.
With a longstanding love of all things music, taking as much inspiration from musical artists as diverse as Tower of Power, Tupac and John Denver as the words and deeds of Muhammed Ali and Bruce Lee, this track is dedicated to his other love – his youngest son, and for a world to realise it’s own aspirations:
“It’s my hope for every child in the world. Dance if you want, pray if you want, love who you want! No shackles… Gotta fight to be free!”
The track begins from the outset with a smile on it’s face, free as the wind, floating through blue skies. As an aspiration, it’s infectious, and one that comes from a warm soul. Having now re-emerged from raising a family to return to realise his own musical aspirations, the statement of intent on display here shows a man who is ready for his songs to touch the world. Its’s a sound that soaks up and delineates an ambience of limitless potential, like that of catching the calm edge of a wave on the tips of your toes as you stride across an empty beach.
..Something’s missing from this stream of consciousness I’ve been lured in to.. Can’t think.. Oh yes here it is..!
Pining back to an age of a golden generation of what festivals were ‘meant to be about’, the heart of musical experience will forever remain in what can be achieved through performing live. With careful regard to not cast aside the casual listener, Seattle’s take on hypnotic psychedelia The Black Planes have crafted a new angle on seducing the masses with cutting edge mesmerism through debut album ‘This is the Black Planes’.
After initial viewing of their new video for ‘Stone in Love’, their style is self-evidently nothing short of a transfixing Austin Powers scene transition. The album was recorded and mixed over a 10 month period, with the mixing and mastering completed by local legend Chris Hanzsek (producer of Soundgarden; Melvins and many others), co-founder of Reciprocal Recordings (home of most early Sub Pop acts, including Nirvana) alongside Jack Endino. The overall concept that inspired the conception of The Black Planes was derived from an aim for a darker, heavier sound than predeceasing concept Friction Pitch, as a more encompassing affair that’s meant to be appreciated as a whole.
The experience is one of echoing back to an era of 70s psychedelia, indulging the audience in a kind of mesmeric gawp at proceedings while simultaneously letting them blow you away. Guitarist Dan Gallagher harks back to his own experiences of seeing Moon Duo perform at The Sunset Tavern in Seattle and heavily hopes to replicate a similar kind of performance in doing so. Listening to the tracks it’s already easy to see the dim lit decadence of the venue being illuminated by twin graphic visualisers projecting the sound waves for multi-sensual appreciation.
Much of the journey is perpetuated by the bass guitar, which slides elegantly through repeated groove patterns. At times, the experience is sustained by the absence of essence, enhancing a sense of calmness, bordering on asphyxiation. This doesn’t last for long, however, as the self produced synth-sounds and delicate guitar permeate a life-giving breath and ambience which serves as a light giving halo circling the all-round easy going vocals.
Since here we’re embracing the Seattle sound, slip your slippers on and settle down to a Starbucks-laden White Russian.
Urban nightlife has always heralded a heartfelt sanctuary for escapism and positivity. Such is the message from a new transatlantic collaboration: Woolfman and JStew who urge all to shed their burdens and ‘Listen to the Beat’.
This is an absolute stomper of a dance track and is nothing short of vibrant – coming in hot with a vision to inject new life into what they perceive as a colourless tapestry of music today. Heavy bass rhythm announces it’s presence on the scene before being interjected with mischievous and playful piano chords. JStew plays circus-master, leading you through the vision with guile and charisma; one moment taking you by the hand to sour through air before suddenly bright lights flash and you’re part of the masses that answered to call to ‘Listen to the Beat’.
The project itself is one that seeks to progress as a mainstream brand evolving from a club base as a collaboration between producer and artist, with future projects centering around different artists. Add in Steve Simpson at Concrete Promotions who played the vanilla version to ‘Mr E’ and come back with 2 special remixes of the track.
The Woolfman has been lurking in the shadows of the music scene for quite some time now. From a heritage of 90’s music and industry experience, Woolfman claims his creative insight for crafting tunes has come to him ‘’in dreams’’ and this is a recurring concept that embodies this track in particular with what they are trying to accomplish.
US Gospel singer JStew, who is also a pastor at his local church back in San Francisco, draws inspiration from heroic titans such as Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye arriving with his own vision to make wonderfully vibrant and exciting music. JStew’s personal angle is one of gospel in his heart saying: “I believe my grounding in this vibrant style of music gives shape to my current style. I sing from my heart…” Through this comes transcendence through music, born from dreams. Distinguishably Woolfman, one of the founding members of Gang of Four, was kicked out of the band for “meditating in soundcheck”.
As dusk finally settles on this most memorable of summers, don’t let the colours fade. A new sun has risen, and this one thrives at night as well. And it also mixes great with a dash of tequila.
Come forth, and cup your ears! Draped behind the curtains that blur the lines between obscurity and grandeur, you may begin to hear something emanating from the shadows. Stumble further and you may find your soul drawn deeper into the world of the mesmeric and magnificent, as you’re standing in attendance for the matinee of Alice’s Night Circus.
Julia Scott first announced her presence under the Alice pseudonym at the world’s largest and longest running Steampunk festival called The Asylum in Lincoln, where she now resides. From here she looks to flourish and encapsulate all that’s operatic and engaging. Furthermore, she’ll appear as herself and Alice as part of Gary Nicholls’ Imaginarium trilogy – an extravagant photography project centred on all things Steampunk.
Every note has been draped delicately around the show’s undoubted centrepiece, which are the vocals themselves. Having received classical training as child, Alice’s style encompasses all that exceptionally grand in its engaging performance. Personifying its inspiration for the theatrical, a haunting echo hypnotises your attention towards levels of heightened captivation.
While a crooked waltz rhythm leads your hand down a darker path, it’s easy to draw perverted comparisons with Kate Bush and Florence and the Machine, but, unignorably, only while being handed candyfloss by an upside-down clown. The traditional circus ambience of the sonic experience is one that is as equally compelling to imagine visually.
One can only assume a suitable accompaniment being a snow cone drizzled in Absinthe and dry ice – a little number to take the edge off.
Manchester – musically, forever entwined with Madchester, The Smiths, Elbow and seemingly a zillion other bands, it’s a place which cherishes its homegrown talent but isn’t afraid when someone new comes on the block to embrace them with open arms. As such, there can be any number of scenes existing in the city at any one time, all with their own gigs, labels and niches but with audiences who are happy to be entertained by all of them. Where is this going? Ah, yes, Son of William.
Son of William – so named as, though their surnames match, they are completely unrelated – are an acoustic duo who have already enjoyed a modest amount of success under their own steam. Hayley and Ben have the kind of acoustic sound which would happily see them being described as folk, country or sing-songwriters without fear of litigation being launched. Their craft is the old-fashioned art of song, with minimal instrumentation allowing the floor to be taken by involving lyrics which are conversational and meaningful, not just a collection of snappy rhymes. Colour of Love is their first release as a duo, an EP which leads with Dear Old Acquaintance, as delicious a song to listen to in a wood-lined bar as you could imagine.
To accompany your listening experience, we’ve shunned the obvious Boddingtons, and gone for something which is both classy and reflective of the environment. It costs a fortune, but try an Industrialist – bourbon, vermouth, mezcal, bitters, maple syrup and topped with candy floss. Chin chin!
Big Dik Blak is very much the kind of band name you might find yourself mentioning in a pub-based conversation after a few cold drinks. It’s not necessarily the kind of act you’d want your grandma introducing on stage but then, we’d have to question that whole stage operation to be honest.
George Swan, BDB’s sole member, has been making music since anyone can remember, including himself. His press releases suggests he was born in a swamp and raised by alligators, information you might ordinarily find outlandish but in this case, almost doesn’t seem weird enough. Having survived the wreckage of the bands The Rash and Patsy Decline, BDB has gone solo, showcasing his skills as a bassist and portentous 70s organ (ironically) player. There’s so much to dig into, it’s difficult to know where to start in terms of recommendations. We’d suggest making a few of these, passing out, waking up terrified and starting the whole process all over again.
Broken Islands may be the most heart-breaking listening experience of your year – or maybe the most uplifting, such is the strange brew of raucous guitars and honeyed vocals. Post-rock may have had a somewhat tumultuous hay day, evolving from sheets of amplified power chords to orchestral, if rather directionless, suites of floppy-haired yawning. It was a brave attempt to bring classical techniques to rock and indie music but it failed as bands either misunderstood what they were trying to integrate or took themselves too seriously to an alarming degree. And then there’s Broken Islands.
Broken Islands are the band post-rock should have used as its template for glory. Exceptionally grand and widescreen in scope, this is utterly thrilling, indeed the temptation to wheel out cliched phrases of rapture is almost too much to resist. Listen to the track “Crown” and you risk arrest if not moved to tears. It’s a stunning testament to a band who have only unleashed themselves on the world when they had fully developed as both a band and songwriters. Their album, Wars, has just been released (on red vinyl) and is a potential game-changer.
What to accompany this emotional experience? Well, the band are from Canada so it would be nice to bring that into the mix. Lo’, please enjoy a heart (and body warming brew from those good people at Canada Dry
Having shared stages with the likes of Black Star and David Byrne, Buddhist musician Marilyn Carino has hit us with her second solo album Leaves, Sadness, Science. Also, featuring the talents of Mike Mills (bassist of R.E.M), the record is a unique fusion of electronic, hip-hop and soul vibes.
Carino’s vocals have been labelled, “powerful to the point of bringing you to tears” and it is easy to see why when listening to her music. The Brooklyn native wrote, recorded, mixed and performed all of Leaves, Sadness, Science – a collection of head-space grooves formed from layered, Moog-y synths and potent beats. Her long time practice of Nichiren Buddhism is the force that forms her songs into gripping monologues that explore themes of sex and radical self-expression.
Carino recorded her first album at Neil Young’s studio with Crazy Horse bassist Billy Talbot acting as producer. She then took a one-way ticket to London where she landed a job as an engineer in reggae recording studios. Upon returning to the U.S. she co-founded the vintage electronic group Mudville, producing three critically acclaimed albums and wrote lyrics for the great producers Sly and Robbie (Grace Jones, Simply Red). Mudville’s song ‘Wicked’ went on to win the 2008 Independent Music Award for Best Song. She recorded and produced her first solo album ‘Little Genius’ in 2011, and recently contributed vocals and lyrics to the Words Hurt indie hip hop collective’s ‘Fuck That Pretty Boy Shit’, featuring Samuel T. Herring, vocalist of Future Islands.
Consequently, you can see the experience that Marilyn has at her disposal as a musician and her latest album exhibits this perfectly. Certainly worth checking out if you fancy something a little different.
The craftsmanship in Marilyn’s music calls for something equally well made, like a cocktail- I’d suggest a manhattan.