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Libelula are like the White Stripes of electronica, insomuch as they are a male/female duo who share a surname but dont discuss their marital status. Musically, they take a well-trodden electronica with dreamy female vocal path, but do so with rare skill. Sarah Villarous has a gorgeous voice, and deploys it to full effect over backing tracks that are by turns lush, brutal, sinister and atmospheric. You could soundtrack a years worth of car commercials from the four tracks included on this EP. And I mean that in a good way. Sam Inglis
Like prom queens and inedible yellow cheese, Classic Rock has hitherto been a quintessentially American phenomenon, but Steve Heathcock seems to be attempting to create a British version. Either that, or hes unearthed a lost album by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel and is touting it as his own.
Assuming it is his intention to recreate that spiky, glam rock meets pub rock sound, hes done an impressive job. Theres plenty of energy in the performances, the songs are tightly wound and never outstay their welcome, and although the mixes are occasionally bass-light and Envy pushes the warmth too far into outright distortion, the recording is generally spot-on. If you want to feel as though youve been transported to the Hope & Anchor, circa 1976, Steve Heathcock is your man. Mines a Watneys Red Barrel. Sam Inglis
Causin Havoc, Breaking Hearts
Andy Stedmans status as a huge on-line hit has passed me by, but according to the press release, its enabled him to fund the recording and release of his debut album through fan donations. I reckon Steve Heathcock should make him an offer for his mailing list, because much of the previous review applies equally well to Andy Stedmans music.
Were still at the Hope & Anchor, but the clock has moved on a couple of years, with the influence of Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson beginning to be felt. Theres more than a touch of the legendary Steve Naive about Tom Greenes keyboard playing, while Stedman himself puts across catchy and well-constructed material in a plaintive, barrow-boy Lahndahn singing style. Im not quite sure what his Internet fans see here that they dont already see in a hundred other New Wave-influenced artists, but Im sure theyll feel they got value for money. Sam Inglis
P r Wedins album opens with a track called Peruvian Dreams, which represents “visions and sounds in my head before I actually went there”. And youll never, ever guess — not in a million years — what synthesized instrument hes chosen to capture his vision of the Andes. Give up? Well, hes only gone and used a pan-pipe patch! The music business needs more of this forward-thinking originality, surely.
To be fair, theres a lot more to the track than pan-pipe moods, but I confess to finding this brand of New Age smugtronica a bit hard to take. No matter how hard I try to put myself in the shoes of his target market — assuming that flotation tanks and aromatherapy clinics can be said to have shoes — the only artistic achievement I can detect is that it manages to be preachy and condescending despite being almost entirely instrumental.
This is a shame, because theres a huge amount of skill on display, especially on the technical front. Guitar seems to be P r Wedins main instrument, and he is clearly a fine player and an imaginative user of guitar synths. Hes also a very talented engineer, and handles a mix crammed full of big synth sounds with enviable aplomb. It will never be my cup of herbal tea, but if you actually like being lectured about “the necessary changes in your life” while synth pads pile up like pillows, you know where to come. Sam Inglis
The Great Whites
When choosing a name for a band, its generally desirable to avoid confusion with similarly named heavy metal bands. And even if youre not bothered about confusion with similarly named heavy metal bands in general, you might think twice about confusion with a specific heavy metal band if — for example — that band was mainly associated in the worlds eyes with a disastrous nightclub fire in which a hundred people met their deaths. After all, Airbus would probably lose a few sales if they christened their new passenger jet the A380 Hindenborg.
The musical waters inhabited by these particular Great Whites are certainly unpolluted by heavy metal. In fact, the band have quite a distinctive sound. Underpinning Michael Egans impassioned vocals is a full-on production aesthetic that sometimes recalls late-80s acts like Midnight Oil. Layered backing vocals and booming, wide-panned drums come together with choppy (and occasionally out of tune) guitars to create something thats powerful, but also a bit fatiguing to listen to. Sam Inglis
The Digital-Analogue Connexion
If the name ElecTrika-MixTek sounds to you, as it did to me, like it belongs to a European hard-dance outfit then, well, youd be right. It does. The Digital-Analogue Connexion is a four-to-the-floor techno-fest from start to finish, and — as far as my limited tolerance of hard house and techno allows me to judge these things — a pretty decent one at that.
I must confess to not being a massive fan of house music. The incessant bass drum just tends to grate after a while. I do know, however, that theres a lot of skill involved in producing a track that can hold your attention in spite of such a formulaic set of rules, and that skill is plainly evident in ElecTrika-MixTeks work. Its clear in the arrangements and the sounds chosen that theyve paid a lot of attention to detail, and the general standard of production is very high.
On the occasions when Ive ventured to house nights, Ive always enjoyed those slightly surreal moments when the entire club cheers with delight at the advent of a new bleep sound in a song, and The Digital-Analogue Connexion us full of just such moments. Glow-stick-brandishing Italian exchange students rejoice! Chris Korff
Baby Blue Is Born Again
David Wilder apparently road-tested his material on the unsuspecting public during a stint busking on the London Underground. History does not record the unsuspecting publics reaction, but I would guess that it was usually along the lines of Oi mate! Your music sounds exactly like Oasis! Because, not to put too fine a point on it, David Wilders music sounds exactly like Oasis. His voice is the spit of Liam Gallaghers. His melodies are eerily Noelesque. He is unafraid to produce lyrics like “Life goes on even when a volcano is erupting inside of my face”. In fact, there are actually Oasis records that sound less like Oasis records than this.
Production-wise, hes had a brave stab at concocting something that sounds, well, like Oasis, armed with only a Yamaha 4416 multitracker. All the ingredients are present and correct — there are walls of indistinct distorted guitars, there are strummed acoustic ballads, and there are Beatles-y psychedelic sound collages — and although they sometimes sound rough and ready, they certainly get the ideas across. Its just a shame that the ideas belong to someone else. Sam Inglis
In the hope of finding more information, I laboriously copied the blurb on the back of this duos Welsh-language single into an on-line translator. The results suggest that the science of automated translation has a way to go yet: “One recorded crookedly Tavern He Covers News, Causeway was easing. One produced with Gowbois Moor Botwnnog, v.) Glen and We Applied gold Jones, as devoting with Ted Carfrae. Form the face with David Hughes.”
So Im none the wiser about the technical side of things, but it would definitely be unfair to say that this has been crookedly recorded. Rather the opposite, in fact, as it sounds great. Messrs Botwnnog and Glyn are both fine singers, and theyre ably backed by a band that features drums, bass, acoustic and electric guitars alongside that most traditional of Welsh instruments, the pedal steel guitar. It is, in other words, countrified Celticism, and done very nicely indeed. Sam Inglis 0
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This months winners are Libelula.
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