Richard Ashcroft is the former singer for The Verve, who’s most well-known work came just prior to the band’s second and last break-up. After the awkward success of Bittersweet Symphony from Urban Hymns shot the band into the spotlight, internal disputes and burnout caused the band to dissolve. While recording songs for Urban Hymns, unsure of the band’s status, Ashcroft began writing most of what is now his first solo album. Alone With Everybody is his bid for respected singer/songwriter status.
Having already tasted international mainstream success with a rock band he takes on country, blues and soft rock as well as lushly orchestrated burners like the strings drenched A Song For The Lovers, complete with piano, trumpets, vibes and a gospel choir. What saves the song from becoming total schmaltz is Ashcroft’s dead on vocals and guitar soloing. I Get My Beat updates the 70’s AM radio soft rock vibe with the aid of programmed percussion and an intense sound mix. When Ashcroft’s vocal “aaahs” are joined by the choir singing “It’s a beautiful thing, yeah” you’ll be raising your hands to heaven and thanking your gods for being alive. New York is an aggressive rocker with some of the heaviest guitars on the album. Ex-Verve drummer Peter Salisbury (who performs on the whole album) spurs Ashcroft to turning up his guitars and belting his impressions of NYC “Are you tuning in?…Can you see your dreams?…It’s a state of mind.” You On My Mind In My Sleep is a beautiful soul number with Chuck Leavell on piano and Hammond organ, BJ Cole’s tasty pedal steel guitar and Achcroft’s emotional singing and guitar fills. The song is a love letter to his wife, ex-Spritualized keyboardist Kate Radley, who is also the mother of newborn boy Sonny. Towards the end of You On My Mind there is a soaring ambient break reminiscent of the Verve’s debut full length album A Storm In Heaven, which is a manifesto for atmospheric rock to this day. Crazy World follows with an upbeat message and swirling strings and guitars sure to be a favorite among concertgoers. The lyrics state that in a crazy world “You’ve got that spirit so please stick with it, this world wouldn’t be a world without you.” With the strings swelling up behind him, spiritual transcendence seems attainable. On A Beach captures the early Verve sound the best with its vocal textures and BJ Cole’s steel guitar. It also brings to mind both 10cc’s I’m Not in Love as well as Tusk-era Fleetwood Mac in its combination of lush vocal and string layering and off-the-cuff yet full production. Money To Burn is a rousing sing-along with Ashcroft’s sassy delivery, gospel choir, a brass section and a recreation of the rhythm and blues that the Rolling Stones and Black Crowes have mined their entire career.
By surrounding himself with like minds and equally talented musicians, Richard Ashcroft enters the realm of serious artist in style, showcasing his unique voice and vision. Alone With Everybody is a memorable and exciting beginning to the next phase of Achcroft’s brilliant career.
DJ Sandra Collins is one good-looking lady. That said, she is also one of the most talented DJs in the world. As a disc jockey she not only rides the mood of the club’s dancing audience but she also directs the flow of tasty dance tracks. Her selections are more suited to a club out of Blade Runner but you get the idea that even in the not so distant future this woman could rock a party. Tranceport 3 is music to enhance your daily routine, exercise to and get you moving, whatever activity you may be doing.
In Grand Theft Audio’s world AC/DC, The Clash, electronic music and heavy metal all get together in a soccer stadium, have a few pints and sing along in solidarity. The music on Blame Everyone is easily accessible frat boy rock with loud chanting vocals, boombastic drums and thrashing riff heavy guitars sure to light up any party. If that riff on Rock The House isn’t from AC/DC’s Back In Black then it is surely the most blatant “homage” since the last cover band you saw at your local bar. The drum loops are big and dumb, and the guitars are loud, the whole sound reminiscent of too many early 90’s crossover groups that you would have only known about if you were either a critic, a big new music fan or going to clubs in Manchester. I don’t even remember the names. But Grand Theft Audio have something up their sleeves, namely bassist and keyboardist Ralph Jezzard who co-wrote and produced Unbelievable for EMF and guitarist Chris McCormack playing those tasty guitar licks with gusto and balls. Not much will stick with you even after hearing this album a few times, they may just be another fly-by-night crossover band trying to mix electronics into a heavy metal genre but they may be an exception to all those mistimed bands from the past. Put on Blame Everyone by Grand Theft Audio, crack open a beer and jam on your air guitar.
The duo of Margaret Fiedler and Guy Fixsen return with their third release Good Looking Blues. Laika’s music isn’t easily accessible: often dark and moody, the songs don’t grab you as much as they seep into ears and brain. Even after several listens you’ll hear the new minutiae in samples, turntable scratchings, keyboard splashes and horns that you didn’t notice previously. For a group who doesn’t exactly rock and roll, they certainly create an awesome noise when all of the many elements in each song are given more presence until you almost can’t take it anymore. You could say that Laika’s sound is subtly busy.
Moccasin comes off as a very dark and manic take on William Orbit’s Water From a Vine Leaf. Fiedler purrs and growls, warning “Don’t get caught in the grass,” as in a man who is like a moccasin snake. Uneasy builds Fixsen’s Rhodes patterns under Fiedler’s Moogs and samples as she sings “You never love a man till he says goodbye.” John Frenett’s bass and Lou Ciccotelli’s drums support the swirly keyboards and samples throughout Good Looking Blues, pounding your eardrums and massaging your bones. The title track has Fiedler muttering about “Banshees with bad skin” and “Branches without roots” while a bass and stuttering dance loop fight around her. Badtimes is a cooly hilarious rundown of how the e-mail virus of the song’s title will “Give your ex-girlfriend your new phone number…Leave the toilet seat up…It will kick your dog.” The accompanying music sounds like an old scratched up vinyl record of a lounge act were being played in the background. The highlight of the album is the smoothly melancholic Lie Low with the least busy arrangement giving space to enjoy Fiedler’s warm as an overcoat vocals and Fixsen’s analog keyboards. Good Looking Blues is an appropriate title to an incredibly well produced album Let Laika’s mid-tempo mood pieces take you on an aural journey into outer space.
Originally recorded and shelved in 1998, Swirly Terminations is the last album to be released by Ozric on their previous label. The album is a collection of dubby, trancey, dancey rock tunes sure to please all but the most discerning Ozric fan. While the band has released last year’s incredible Waterfall Cities. on their new label Phoenix, Swirly Terminations is still Ozric Tentacles and you can now enjoy songs such as Steep which opens the album with swishy kyoto keyboards and Zia’s fretless bass, adding in percussive vocal effects, synths and Ed’s soaring guitar soloing. Space Out has a flute intro by John, killer drums by Rad and Seaweed and Ed’s outer space synthesizer and keyboard solos. The music of OT is democratic, with as much emphasis on the rhythmic grooves as on the guitars and the keyboards. Their fans are as likely to be ravers as crusty psychedelic and progressive rockers. Fans of the Orb, Pink Floyd and The Prodigy will all likely dig the spaced out rock and dance band known as Ozric Tentacles. Swirly Terminations may not be the best OT album but it’s worth adding to your collection nonetheless.
The latest installment in the INCredible series of mix CDs features selections by world renowned DJ and Talkin’ Loud label head Gilles Peterson. This mix CD includes songs old and new, including Incognito’s I Can See The Future, Nuyorican Soul’s I Am The Black Gold of The Sun, Les Fleur by early soul diva Minnie Ripperton, The super soulful singing, acoustic guitar and strings of River Man by Andy Bey and the intense jazz of Pharoah Sanders. The Incredible Sound of Gilles Peterson combines soul, jazz, folk, hip-hop and newer styles of dance music together in a smooth and enjoyable manner expressing what great musical taste Peterson possesses.
The Sloppy Meateaters are trio of guys around the age of 20 who love girls, drinking, punk, girls and wish they were better looking and could play their instruments better. Full of self-deprecation, drummer Kevin Highfield, bassist Travis Gerke and vocalist and guitarist Joshua Chambers play songs called Another Friend about throwing away friendships by being selfish, being A Dumb Guy in a Stupid Band which is self-explanatory, and moving away from cute girls as heard in Outta Control. The music is fast tempo rock and roll with killer guitar riffs and turned up bass playing. The vocals are that adenoidal snotty punk voice that I could really never hear again and be very happy but it doesn’t totally ruin my appreciation of SME. After the foot in mouth, "yes we’re really sex hungry maniacs" lyrics of Shonka Tonk comes the cute duet with Candy Craner on the hidden track Love, “Love is for assholes…I don’t want to take you for walks on the beach…Love is a waste of time…I don’t want to be in love with you.” How sweet! Pick up Shameless Self-Promotion by Sloppy Meateaters turn it up really loud and have a great time pogoing and slamming against your best friends.
Disappeared finds Spring Heel Jack in their most abstract mode to date. On their last few albums they have toyed with musique concrete and found sounds but on Disappeared they practically revel in the juxtaposition of acoustic, electronic and distorted sounds and styles. Jazz smacks up against breakbeat, classical joins D’n’B, and ambient sits with surf guitar and jams. A hundred years of musical output gets thrown in John Coxon and Ashley Wales’ samplers and is heard in such songs as Rachel Point where muted trumpet, rangy organs and static get layered together, continuously returning to the beat and Bane rocks hard with dueling horns, a fast beat, fuzzed out guitars and piano tinklings made more interesting for the many sound intros throughout. Mit Wut is all menacing mid tempo drums and acid synths with an echoing piano melody that segues into a D’n’B and distorted guitars second half. Disappeared closes with the cinema noir and soulful sweep of Wolfing. Spring Heel Jack enjoy mixing beautiful and ugly sounds, distortion and purity, the fantastic and the fucked up. On their latest release it somehow comes together and proves yet another challenging yet highly enjoyable album.
In preparation for a live document of their incredible shows on VHS and DVD, Underworld release the live CD Everything, Everything. Karl Hyde, Rick Smith and the recently departed Darren Emerson encapsulate the hedonism, energy, sweat, smiling faces, blissful hours of dancing and senses overloading multimedia that is an Underworld live show. The Underworld sound is varied yet can be encapsulated thusly: often mangled and vocodered vocals amidst juggernaut percussion and bass, the occasional guitar fill and thickly layered electronics and keyboards mainly performed at endurance testing speed and length. Dancing at such shows as the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium or the Mayan Theater in downtown Los Angeles, two hours of extended dance workouts get set to memory in such awe-inspiring moments as the best part of Cups gets mixed in-between opening salvo Juanita/Kiteless and the archly funky loops of piano and guitar scratch of Push Upstairs. Karl Hyde’s rambling vocals come through clearer as you shake it to the groove created from the spoken words and layering of the loops. Pearl’s Girl’s breakbeats pick up the tempo, your heart pumps even more blood into your lungs and undulating bodies, then the cool synth burblings and smooth vocals of Jumbo soothe your ears and calm your nerves. Halfway through the tempo picks up again and trebly synths and guitar strummings make you reach your hands to the heavens. The in your face acid lines of King Of Snake put the set in overdrive and pummel your ears into submission as you pound our feet into the floor, then Born Slippy Nuxx comes at you, all metallic banging shouting “LAGER LAGER SHOUTING LAGER MEGA MEGA” and then you’ve just lost it. The combination of Rez and Cowgirl close out Everything, Everything but by then you’ve transcended the earthly plane: the acid synth pads, the driving percussion, the garbled vocals, the euphoria, “the razor of love” and “why don’t you come feel like I do?” chanted over and over again. Just lose yourself in Underworld’s new album and keep the feelings with you when going about your daily existence.
In Trance time three years is quite a long time to make people wait for a new album. Especially when the artist is Paul van Dyk, one of the highest profile producers and DJs in dance music. On his third release Out There and Back van Dyk gives us a continuous mix of high energy trance with his trademark clean sounds and thumping beats. This is poppy, upbeat dance music with the occasional vocal, dub effects and always deep bass and high-hats. Van Dyk layers so many sounds into his tracks that you can’t help but throw your hands in the air and get up and dance in order to release the tension.
The first CD is continuously mixed which makes it a great dance album also makes it more difficult to remember the individual tracks. Put the CD on shuffle and you’ll begin to notice things popping up such as Together We Will Conquer with a sound reminiscent of Orbital’s first album, the classical string motif on Face To Face, the nostalgic synth sweeps on Love From Above and the warm synths, deep bass and breakbeats of the opener Vega. The second CD includes a vocal version of Tell Me Why featuring the vocalist to Saint Etienne as well as three originals and alternate takes on the album tracks. An added treat is videos of Tell Me Why and Another Way. Out There And Back is a wizard new addition to the dance music genre as well as an intensely pleasurable aural experience. Paul van Dyk is back and its time to put on those dancing shoes again.
House of Binary and its creators The Wisdom of Harry are thrift store chic, cool in black, cigarette in hand, not a care in the world, world worn but not world weary, overcoat on in the summer heat, poker face half smile, I know a secret, kind of folksy, bluesy, trashy electronics, pawn shop guitars, subdued singing, great sounding music. Get down get funky to Caesar Boots where Pete Astor sings smokily against layered guitars and drum machine, and nod your head to the dark “enter through the alley” club atmosphere of March of the Otaku. Disco C is the sound of a dance club’s speakers as heard from outside, only the bass thump and cymbal crashes are heard, Sleepwalking is Drum’n’Bass thunk with the vocals sunk in the mix, like a half-remembered dream. I’m Going To Make My Life Right has a synthesizer melody like Springsteen’s My Hometown with Astor’s upfront singing about how he will “Write letters to everyone…Stand in a high building, scream against the sky…Try to make it all right.”
In philosophy, someone who has an eclectic outlook takes elements of different schools of philosophical thinking and synthesizes those parts into a practical and coherent whole. The Wisdom of Harry takes diverse elements of music and puts them together in a way that sounds right for them, it is just our luck that their music also sounds right to our ears. On House of Binary you have the opportunity to hear what is on the minds of some very talented musicians.
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