Casting reflections and dispersing shadows: talking Johnny Wore Black with band founder Jay

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  2014 has been a big and flavoursome year for British melodic and alternative rock, and in no small part thanks to UK band Johnny Wore Black. The brainchild of London based songwriter/producer and stuntman (Les Miserables, The Dark Knight Rises, Fast and Furious 6, Fury ) Jay, the project on the back of a host of attention grabbing singles and videos over the past eighteen months or so, has released two acclaimed and enthralling albums this year. Walking Underwater Pt 1 and 2, the second released barely two week ago, encounters which and immerses ears and imagination in an evocative embrace, thought provoking propositions which infuse passionate creative roars with poetic melodies and fiery textures. Both albums reinforce the emerging stature and recognition of Johnny Wore Black as one of Europe’s most exciting and innovative songwriters and rock artists. With the kind sharing of Jay’s time, we delved into the heart of the man, band, and particularly the fresh majesty of Walking Underwater Pt 2.

Hi Jay, thanks for sharing time to speak with us.

My pleasure…thank you for listening.

You have just released second album, Walking Underwater Pt 2; how were feelings as the unveiling swiftly approached?

It’s always a strange time around release, in a way exciting and in a way a test of patience as in reality it’s about waiting to see how the product is received. As an artist, the reviews are important to gauge how good a job you have done!

Are there different emotions and expectations this time around after the acclaim and success of Walking Underwater Pt 1 earlier this year?

Walking Underwater Pt.1 was an opening, a beginning if you like so it will be interesting to see how Walking Underwater Pt.2 is received and how the journey develops in other people’s jwbnew1-hires2eyes and ears. It’s important to make music for yourself first and yet in reality, once released its journey becomes a public experience. My expectations are for people to enjoy it and find the right environment to use the music.

How should people look at the two releases, as two parts of one whole entity or the new release as an evolution and unique exploration from the themes and narrative fuelling the first album?

It is a new release of course, and yet a journey too. Honestly people will make of it what they want. Personally there is a journey there, a cleansing and an exorcism of past demons…to make way for new ones maybe?!

Before we look deeper in to the new album, can we ask about your history musically and other aspects before Johnny Wore Black?

Childhood poems then set to music when learning to play the Spanish guitar, pretending it was electric! Onwards, days in studios as birthday presents from my dad when I was fifteen and sixteen. Johnny Wore Black is the conclusion of life experience, being a singer songwriter, being in bands, and generally loving music.

What was the spark bringing the band to life?

The spark was a need to express my songs in a new way, to attempt to get closer to the music that turns me on and lights my fire!

The band name inescapably brings thoughts of Johnny Cash, is there a meaning behind the title?

I like the analogy of why Johnny Cash wore black, to identify with those less fortunate than himself. My dad called me Johnny and my grandmother Evelyn bought me a black suit, which I wore at my Dads funeral when I was seventeen. So, you see, life and all its shards of dark and light.

What would you say are your major inspirations?

A Perfect Circle, Karnivool, Tool, Depeche Mode, Metallica, Stone Sour, Johnny Cash…to name but a few.

jwb walkingunderwaterpt2Because of the success and potency of your first album anticipation and expectations of Part 2 are probably over demanding. Has this added any pressure for its creation?

In a way yes, but to be honest most of the pressure is self-inflicted. My goal is to make great music, who can say when that has happened? Really, I see it as a never ending journey.

With the close proximity to the release of the two albums, it is easy to assume both sets of songs or certainly many over both albums have been bred from around the same time. What is the time frame in that area and if they were written around the same period how did you decide which song went on which release?

I tried to put together songs that felt good together in order to create the story. There are songs here spanning a ten year period, hence why they needed to be cleared in order to move on.

Did you learn anything on Part 1 which you took into its successor to help its emergence or give it something different recording wise?

The process included working with guitarist James Coppolaro and drummer Simon Hutchby whilst David Ellefson and I also collaborated in more depth than before so that was a rewarding experience.

Listening to Part 2 we felt there was even greater personal intimacy to certain tracks than on the last; how close are the seeds of your songs to your life and experiences?

Some songs are closer personally than others but it’s interesting which songs individuals feel are intimate.

The album as you mentioned again sees you collaborating with David Ellefson, of course of Megadeth, in writing and playing. How did you guys meet and when did the link up musically begin?

We met backstage at Download in the UK some years ago. We started chatting music and immediately kind of bonded. I then began sending David songs in progress and he agreed to play on the first Johnny Wore Black single, All The Rage.

When you come to songwriting together, is it an even contribution or does David look towards the rhythmic side more?

It does vary per track. So far, on some David has sent riff ideas, like Firefly and on Gift of Desperation he sent a lyric, which I then developed. Writing is a very fluid process with no rules.jwbnew2-3-lo-res

There often seems to be a different kind of spark to songs you too have created together, not bigger or lesser than on other tracks, just strikingly different. What would you put that down to?

I suppose that’s just two minds rather than being the dominant decision maker however I’d be interested to ask you that question back and see what you feel is strikingly different about those tunes?

Tell us about the new album; is there a specific underlying theme to its lyrical explorations?

Each track has a different theme so really would need to answer this on a track-by-track basis. My lyrics explore people, the world and our continued need to understand.

How did the recording go; was it an all meet up situation or more technology driven coming together of the band for the album?

Some of the album was musicians in a studio, old skool style, and some via Skype and Dropbox. This was an international project via the USA, UK, Canada and Croatia.

Walking Underwater Pt 2 also features Croatian singer Sara Renar on the track Shine On and Loretta Heywood on a cover of her own track Winter in July. How did those guest appearances come about, especially with Loretta. Was she instantly open to you taking on her song?

Sara and I met on the set of Game of Thrones in Croatia some years back. We stayed in touch and I have followed her musical career. She has a unique quality to her voice I felt complimented Shine On, on the album. She was happy to contribute once she heard the song, and recorded her parts in a studio in Split, Croatia.

Now Walking Underwater Pt 2 is out there wooing the world, what is next in store for Johnny Wore Black, alter ego ha-ha, and band?

There is work to do, releasing singles and creating more music videos. We are having discussions about hitting the stage and seeking to break the back of the USA. Oh and by the way, another album is due next year, totally new material and bigger than Texas!

jwbnew2-hiresA big thank you for chatting with us again, any last thoughts you would like to share?

Just that I am truly grateful for your time and interest in Johnny Wore Black and thank you for providing a platform to help spread the gospel according to Johnny Wore Black.

And lastly I cannot go without asking about the film samples which graced the first album. Can you tell us about them and why you did not use them for the new release too?

The first ones were from a documentary my late father directed back in 1967 called The London Nobody Knows. The samples fitted the music, the songs and were a tribute to him. I will say, we are currently in discussion about producing The London Nobody Knows Revisited to mark its anniversary. I liked the idea of samples a-la-Floyd to be part of Walking Underwater Pt2 but decided to just focus on the songs.

Read the review of Walking Underwater Pt2 @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/johnny-wore-black-walking-underwater-pt-2/

http://www.johnnyworeblack.com

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 05/12/2014

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Suzerain – Good Day EP

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Ever since being tempted by a four track sampler in 2011 for their soon after released debut album Midnight In The Drawn City, UK alternative/electro rock quintet Suzerain has increasingly impressed and seduced as their invention and sound continually evolved into new imagination igniting explorations. Their album was a striking incitement of adventurous creativity and ingenious temptation which the following 2012 EP A Mirror Now pushed further. The recent release of the single Dark Dark/ Manhattan single suggested there was a new inventive drama and ingenuity emerging in the band’s music, something the Good Day EP now more than confirms and stretches again. The new encounter is an inescapable web of addiction forging endeavour, a majestic temptress of ears and emotions cloaked in dark shadows and evocative cinematic persuasion, and quite irresistible.

London based Suzerain linked up with double Grammy Award winning producer Steve Lyon (Depeche Mode, Siouxsie Sioux, The Cure) for the recording of Good Day, a release which is bred revelling in the expansive depths and varied originality of their music. Fresh from a German tour with Livingston and in the process of completing their new album for a 2015 release, Suzerain take little time seducing thoughts and appetite on Good Day as its title track fizzes in ears first. Keys caustically simmer first as the jabbing beats of Ben Howe rattle the senses, their union swiftly joined by the ever impressive vocals of Thomas Pether. It is a wholly magnetic proposition, especially as the guitar of Rich Summers places coaxing melodies within the sonic web cast by keyboardist Matt Constantine. As is so often the case with the band’s songs, there is a familiarity toying with the passions but from no definable source other than Suzerain having a distinctive

photo by Nick Gough

photo by Nick Gough

sound and presence. The similarly enticing velvety bassline from Mike Smith adds shadowed drama which the keys stoke further with their pungent colours. The song is stunning, every twist a stroking visual and emotions intrusion which Constantine’s cello craft only accentuates, whilst the at times seemingly scathing or sarcastic tones of the vocals and the enslaving rhythms culture an inescapable anthemic bait.

As exhilarating as the song ends its successor Try Your Best starts, the cello of Constantine flirting with raw expression and riveting drama to excite the imagination before bass and guitars add their similarly provocative textures to the delicious weave. As Pether opens up his rich croon, the initial elements continue to nag magnetically, their repetitious toxicity pure virulence around the coaxing call of the vocals. There is an open whiff of Trent Reznor to the song at times but again it is another track which radiates uniqueness and melancholic ingenuity.

Third track is a remix from Touchy Subject of Manhattan, a haunting version of one half of the last single which is as brooding in its tone and emotion as it is resonating in electronic exploration. At times Numan-esque like, the song is a fascinating proposition which may not light the passion as the previous songs but has ears and imagination fully bound in its provocative landscape.

Final track is the acoustically sculpted Hell Of A Way To Go, an emotive stroll of melancholic strings and skittish beats providing an elegant canvas for the vocals to shed their dark reflection and radiant prowess over. As well as making a mesmeric end to an outstanding release, the song casts another enthralling aspect to the enterprising songwriting and creative emprise of Suzerain.

Suzerain is one of the UK’s most exciting and adventurous bands, and after the release of Good Day, it would not be a surprise if also one of its most talked about.

The Good Day EP is released on November 30th @ https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/good-day-ep/id929071856?ign-mpt=uo%3D4

http://www.suzerainmusic.com

RingMaster 28/11/2014

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Black Strobe – Godforsaken Roads

Photo Philippe levy.

An adventure which has the imagination bouncing around as enthusiastically as the body, Godforsaken Roads from French band Black Strobe, is an exhilarating stomp with more juicy flavours than a Pick ‘n’ Mix stand. The band’s new album is a tapestry of sound and enterprise which is as insatiable in its eclectic intent as it is contagious in its devilry. Seamlessly and inventively entwining fiery melodic rock and sultry blues spicery with a flirtatious electronic resourcefulness, and that brief description still only a thick hint of what is in store, the release simply lifts spirits and passions as one of the year’s most captivating and thrilling releases.

Black Strobe is the brainchild of Arnaud Rebotini, a Parisian musician and producer just as renowned for his instrumental electronic explorations released under his own name. Alongside this and a horde of remix work for the likes of Rammstein, Depeche Mode, The Rapture, Bloc Party, Nitzer Ebb, and Fischerspooner, Rebotini’s 1997 founded project has released a host of well- received singles and debut album Burn Your Own Church which saw its founder collaborating with Kill the DJ label head Ivan Smagghe. Live the band has equally earned potent acclaim, touring the likes of USA, South America, Japan, Australia, and Europe to great success and lighting up festivals such as Reading/Leeds, Sónar, Primavera, Pukkelpop, Dour, and Transmusicales. Now with guitarist Mathieu Zub, drummer Mathys Dubois, and bassist/keyboardist Benjamin Beaulieu alongside him, Rebotini and Black Strobe return with, we suggest, their finest moment yet, Godforsaken Roads.

Recent single Broken Phone Blues offers the first temptation and from its initial touch it is fair to say that Godforsaken Roads is in full control of excited attention and increasingly lustful emotions. An electro bubbling opens things up and is swiftly joined by the distinctive and dark toned voice of Rebotini. His voice has lured comparisons to Nick Cave and Johnny Cash and it is easy to see why as it sits somewhere between the two in expression and tone. Just as quickly a pulsating electro stroll adds its captivating invitation before guitars and bass align to jabbing beats to cast an irresistible canter over the senses. It is a virulently infectious electro rock romp which in some ways brings thoughts of The The and also Helldorado with its increasingly steamy ambience.

It is a tremendous start right away surpassed by the outstanding Monkey Glands. The track is an out and out rocker; again electro essences stirring up ears for a gripping entrance before vocals and riffs finding seeds in fifties rock ‘n’ 10646751_10152620336545266_4319895831447366858_nroll which in turn infuses even greater captivating colour into the devilish engagement. Wonderfully exhaustive in its dramatic vivacity and hungry energy, the track sets a new plateau for the album which the blues scented He Keeps On Calling Me matches with its smouldering sonic heat and melodic intrigue. Bass and guitars take centre stage alongside the relentlessly impressing voice of Rebotini, the song a forcibly seductive yet controlled spaghetti western spiced drama standing tall like a mix of Nick Cave and Fatima Mansions.

Both Blues Fight and For Those Who Came on Earth Thru The Devil Asshole keep ears and appetite hungry for the album. The first draws on a steamy funk hue to ripen its sultrily woven blues rock climate, with the guitars showing a growl and bass a throaty predation to temper the flirty swing and electro tantalising of the track. It all unites in another ridiculously catchy and addictive proposition with a touch of De Staat to it. Its successor idles in on a slow melodic and vocal croon embraced by an exotic electro teasing within a portentous and ever darkening keys bred atmosphere. It is a compelling encounter which feels like it is brewing up to a major fire, and at moments comes close, but almost taunting the listener instead just ebbs and flows with an intoxicating evocative charm and intensity which is just as gripping.

The two triumphs are emulated and over shadowed a little by the delicious cover of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues. Held in a transfixing electronic embrace only, the song is given an exceptional make-over. Rebotini strokes its body with an individual vocal delivery but the same shadowed irresistibility as offered by Cash whilst keys simply create a seducing beauty which steals the passions whilst keeping the unique expression and presence the legendary song has always held. It is a stunning offering backed up right away by the heated temptation of Swamp Fever, a song mixing acoustic and blues rock with electro elegance around one of the most infectious and anthemic choruses on the album.

House Of Good Lovin’ revisits a fifties rock enterprise for its agitated rumble of addictive beats and blues soaked guitar endeavour; think Muddy Waters and Joe Cocker with definitely a twist of The Cramps and you get another riveting incitement on Godforsaken Roads. It though only warms up the passions for Dumped Boogie and From The Gutter. Both tracks provide a masterful feet enslaving temptation, the first riding a steamy wave of electronic contagion and the second bringing a less urgent but just as enticing electro pop waltz reminiscent of Heaven 17 to transfix body and emotions.

Levels slip slightly with Going Back Home, a dance floor spawned encounter which still shines with beacon like strength within the album but to be honest is less appetising for personal tastes, but raised again somewhat with Boogie in Zero Gravity, one of two songs exclusive to the digital copy of the album. With a touch of The Correspondents about it, the song is a tempered yet persuasive dance which though not at the heights of the more rock infused tracks leaves satisfaction full.

The album is completed by Promised Moon, a song seemingly bred under the influence of The Beatles’ Get Back and on the digital version by The Girl From The Bayou; the pair further inescapable temptations without casting the same potency of suasion as earlier encounters upon Godforsaken Roads. They still add a fine end to an exceptional release though which simultaneously nostalgic and innovative as it weaves an epidemic of ingenious sound and body gripping enterprise.

Godforsaken Roads is released on CD and vinyl 6th October via Blackstrobe Records/K7 Records and digitally @ https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/id903413308

http://blackstroberecords.com/

https://www.facebook.com/BlackStrobe.Official

RingMaster 06/10/2014

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Radium Valley – Tales From The Apocalypse

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Standing impressively tall with an album and sound which plays like a mix of Rammstein, Poets Of the Fall, and Type O Negative yet emerges as something richly flavoursome in its originality; French metallers Radium Valley provide a seriously compelling and fascinating proposition. Debut album Tales From The Apocalypse is a full immersion for ears and imagination into an apocalyptic lyrical and emotional landscape coloured by a tempestuous yet fluid blend of industrial, gothic, and melodic metal. It is a masterful darkwave fuelled incitement which just grows and flourishes the more time and attention it is given.

Formed in 2012, the Limoges hailing band takes inspirations from the likes of Rammstein, Paradise Lost, Ghost Brigade, and Katatonia into their sound, as well as lyrically for certainly their first full-length an eighties background embracing its current events and culture. The combination paints a wasted world stopped by the Chernobyl disaster and littered with radiation embraced survivors. It makes for a vivid and intriguing canvas to which Radium Valley casts similarly dark and turbulent sounds. Produced by Alexandre Granvaud and Romain Janvier, with its mastering done by Logan Mader (Machine Head, Soulfly, Fear Factory, Gojira), the Pavement Entertainment released Tales From The Apocalypse is a riveting and often haunting proposition.

The nine-strong band instantly awakens the imagination with Song of rain, a vintage sample discussing the first nuclear bomb luring in attention against a sonic croon and distortion kissed ambience. It is not long before the musical weight and prowess of the band is seizing ears, melodies from guitars and keys laying down thick enticing smog which is littered with jabbing beats and dark throated bass temptation. A slight relaxation then brings in the impressive vocals and further expressive hues from the keys, their electro seeding a dulled yet mesmeric radiance in the imposing heart of the song. It is a seamless and impressive mix of textures, dark and light extremes as enthralling as the dramatic narrative presented by the increasingly impressing clean vocal delivery.

As the album proves itself to be, the opener seems to get bigger and better with time, something emulated by the following Sweet infection. The second song emerges from a cyber-sculpted darkness with melancholic keys which equally image003have a bold statement to their presence, before flowing into an electronic glaze and synth rock infectiousness. Finding a presence which is somewhere between Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, and Poets Of The Fall, the song soars over the senses with a sultry caress and fiery temperament. It is a bewitching song which seduces more than grips but to the same successful end before the Numan-esque start of For all of us takes over. Raw abrasing riffs stand perfectly against the electronic sizzle of the synths whilst vocals once more gently but powerfully spark thoughts with their theme. There is rich drama to the song which comes in waves without ever departing, the strikes of guitar and inventive bass designs alongside them creating much of that gripping lure.

Both Darkest hours and Behind me create their own slice of intimidating but welcoming persuasion, the first an almost brawling proposition which switches between urgent rampages and slower crawls of predation without losing any of its fluency, despite the turbulence of sound and passions explored. It is an intrusive treat of a track allowing no rest to take in the sights yet leaves no sense of dissatisfaction, just hunger to go back to explore more. Its successor merges electro elegance with a voracious metal appetite to produce a captivating adventure calling on sparks of Rammstein, Fear Factory, and Paradise Lost. There is also a seeming intimacy to the touch and heart of the song which only fires up the vocals and rhythmic punch of its striking exploration.

Next comes Le terrain vague à l’âme, the first of two interludes with the second, Une charogne coming before the final track. With each being predominantly a French spoken vocal piece they do not really add much for us language handicapped souls so it is hard to evaluate their presence, something much easier to do with the excellent instrumental Radium Valley. It is a rigorously descriptive piece of composing which takes the imagination through its provocative soundscape into a rugged and violently hued terrain, the skills of the band providing a threatening and contagious journey.

Through the melodic tempest of Into the undergrounds and the hostile yet theatrical Last resort, the album ventures into new aspects of its starkly bred and adventurously expressive character. Each provides a memorable creative emprise, darkly poetic proposals which leave a lingering and inviting mark on emotions. Their unique offerings lead, after the other interlude, into album closer Wings of disease. It is possibly the least gripping track on the album but still a thoroughly engaging and unpredictable pleasure with the band no less impressive in sculpting its structure and temptation.

It completes an outstanding release in Tales From The Apocalypse, an album needing time to truly show its depths but rewarding with a blistering and exciting encounter. Radium Valley is a band destined to grab your attention at some point and their debut album definitely makes a potent suggestion that the time is now.

Tales From The Apocalypse is available now on CD via Pavement Entertainment and in a slimmer digital version via http://radiumvalley.bandcamp.com/album/tales-from-the-apocalypse

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Radium-Valley/167565643399615

RingMaster 25/09/2014

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Mechatronic – Dystopia

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Though it might not be setting a blaze of originality, Dystopia the new album from Swedish synth pop band Mechatronic, is a rather charming and enjoyable encounter. It makes no demands and does not really stretch senses and imagination but the twelve- track release does offer a contagious embrace to make a very satisfying forty five minutes or so in its company.

Formed in 2002, Mechatronic consists of Wilhelm Äretun (vocals/programming) and Emma Hortlund (lyrics/synthesizers). Already under their belt the Uppsala duo has a couple of well-received albums in the shape of Promises From the Past and Dreams, of 2003 and 2012 respectively. Uniting synth and future pop into a brew which is as nostalgic as it is fresh, the band is now poised to work on feet and imagination, not forgetting attention, with the Space Race Records released Dystopia.

The album swiftly embraces ears and thoughts with opener Falling Apart, its atmospheric coaxing offering a chilled John Foxx enticing and very early Ministry like presence. The plain yet alluring vocals of Äretun add another enticing element to the start of the song, his tones flourishing further with the subsequent harmonies and energy the singer infuses into his delivery. With the synths shimmering vivaciously as they radiate infectiousness, the track leads the listener into a minimalistic but seriously catchy proposition which does not startle but certainly lights up a keen appetite for it and the album.

The strong start is easily surpassed by the following pair of Endless Search for Something and Don’t Bother to Knock. The first of the two songs strides with contagious manner and enterprise, electronic hooks and tantalising melodies enslaving the imagination whilst the vocals and their unfussy lyrics easily induce participation from its recipient. An enticing eighties breath again washes ears with elements of bands like Blancmange and Depeche Mode spicing up the temptation impressively laid down, an open familiarity enveloped with Mechatronic’s own invention to provide a riveting treat. Its successor brings a darker and more intensive weave of sound which comes wrapped in an elegant ambience of evocative melodies which swarm tenderly and provocatively over the senses. Once again, as with all tracks upon Dystopia, there is infectiousness to the song which makes a physical and emotional engagement with its magnetic persuasion very simple.

The title track comes next with an industrial seeded chill to its intriguing almost sinister aural narrative. This of course comes with another healthy dose of addictive hooks and sonic tempting which just adds to the fascinating texture and tapestry of the song. It is a potent mix of shadows and light, though for personal tastes it does not explore its darkest elements as deeply as wished, preferring to stay within the energetic pop invention of the band. It is nevertheless another twist in the presence of the release, as is Niagara, a flowing electronic waltz smothering ears is a warm and rapturous seduction. It is not the quickest persuasion on the album but turns out to be one of the most lingering and ultimately enthralling with thoughts and emotions.

Trapped in a Nightmare is another encounter to walk rich shadows musically and lyrically, a tempestuous atmosphere challenging the melodic flames glowing beneath. The song is a captivating proposal but lacks the spark and virulence of earlier songs. It still brings something inviting to the album though before the drama and intrigue of Sinister expands across the senses, its aspects living up to its name. There is a cinematic quality to the track, closing eyes bringing visions of black and white scenery around lone and lonely figures walking empty streets emotionally and physically, before a dead world erupts around them.

Across the sultry ambience and intimate emotions of Beyond the Silence and the exotically charming Broken Promises, band and album ignite a fresh wave of pleasure. The first is a sweeping seducing of picturesque melodies and suggestive sonic hues whilst the second dances with masterful simplicity and ridiculously captivating hooks. It is an outstanding romp which like the album is not trying to reinvent the scene but just give it a refreshing and joyful injection of fun. The same can be said of the next up Vicious Words, though despite being an accomplished and potently satisfying companion, it leaves no lasting impression unlike its persistent predecessor.

The album is completed by the electro pop flirtation of This Moment, a decent enough ear appeasing suasion, and the dystopian landscape of the predominantly instrumental Dying Together Isn’t Going to Solve Anything. Without setting fires, both make a fine end to an impressively engaging proposition. Dystopia is not without niggles, the over familiarity of some songs to supposed influences and between themselves the strongest question to cast over it, but Mechatronic tenaciously succeed with the self-same songs through their irrepressible contagion and melodic invention. It makes for an easy going and rewarding encounter which will successfully light up any day.

Dystopia is available now from Space Race Records @ http://www.poponaut.de/mechatronic-dystopia-p-13266.html?osCsid=9967e8061365165712433db6cdfea4cc

http://mechatronicmusic.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mechatronic/276209142393782

RingMaster 19/09/2014

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Men In The Sky – Version 1.0.1 EP

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     Version 1.0.1, the new EP from UK electronic rock band Men In The Sky is a stylish web of sound, a fusion of recognisable styles and influences woven into an inescapable net of refreshing and captivating temptation. The release is a magnetic adventure casting mesmeric melodies and attention stirring riffs as easily as it entwines an intrigue of samples and throaty bass seduction. The EP is not the most original thing you are going to hear this year with its rich eighties inspirations but certainly it is going to be one of the most flavoursome and enjoyable.

Hailing from Liverpool, Men In The Sky emerged in 2012 wearing inspirations openly on their sound’s sleeve from day one. The accompanying press sheet declares that the band ‘draws as much from the jazz-blues of Jeff Beck and the funk of Chic as it does from classic British New Wave.’ This is something you can only agree with as their release flirts and dances with the imagination yet there is plenty more whispers, loud and quieter, of bands and essences which springs from an encounter which still manages to be something new. Co-produced with Factory Records’ Michael Johnson, Version 1.0.1 romps and entices with ears and emotions from its first vibrant second, providing something familiar yet surprising.

The release opens with a track called Men In The Sky. Eighties bred synths immediately grasp attention around the first sample of the release, their touch crystalline but soon sharing a varied embrace of melodies, acidic and elegant. A 10410613_713652578674096_487800950591790924_nhint of Visage comes to the fore early on whilst an unavoidable reference to New Order, as across the EP, is swiftly offering its suasion. Soon into a pulsating stroll with melodic flourishes within an electro enticement, the song continues to swing contagiously with a funk lilted bassline and an electronic revelry leading the way. With thoughts of Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys in various degrees also offering their references, the overall body of the song actually reminds of early Ministry before Al found his muscular industrial aggression.

The track makes a great start to the proposition and is instantly backed up by latest single Doom. The track mixes an agitated enterprise of beats and riffs with another fluid stream of synth temptation, but this time around a stronger rock spine of sound and intent. As it persistently throbs on the senses with a healthy infectious smile, the song ripples with an essence of the songwriting of Vince Clarke but equally the funkier styling of Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh in their Heaven 17 era. It is an irresistible romp, just as unpredictable and enthralling as its predecessor but with an even catchier bait and mischievous side to its dance, especially shown in the Oingo Boingo like vocal twists.

The remaining pair of songs, Expect Anything and Stone has a task to match the previous songs and to be honest do not manage to reach the same heights yet easily leave ears happy and emotions keen. The first of the pair ventures further into the band’s rock creativity without neglecting the electronic tempting, infusing it with a more classically cultured grace and endeavour. With flames of guitar bringing a progressive texture to the mix the song reveals more of the depths and adventure to the band’s sound which is confirmed straight away by its successor. The final song was born to light up dance-floors with its flowing melodies and sparking electro enticement, though it is the reserved moment where the vocals are allowed to shine with their minimal presence that the song works best.

The track is a fine end to a masterfully charismatic and gripping encounter. One which is at its best in the first half but leaving a bulging satisfaction by its end through a quartet of absorbing songs. Version 1.0.1 has a potent effect on ears through to feet, thoughts on to emotions. It might not quite be your favourite release of the Summer but we suggest it will be the one you return to most often and not just for this passing season either.

The Version 1.0.1 EP is available now @ https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/version-1.0.1-ep/id895145567

http://www.men-in-the-sky.com/

8/10

RingMaster 18/07/2014

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MiXE1 – Starlit Skin

Starlit Skin

The Lights Out EP last year confirmed the kind of evolution undergoing within the music of UK electro rockers MiXE1 whilst also hinting at the potential of the band’s impending and eagerly anticipated debut album. Uncaged June 1st, Starlit Skin shows that those suggestions were strong and truthful whispers to its new and enthralling tempest. Originally the band started as a solo project by vocalist/songwriter Mike Evan, a ‘soft spoken’ proposition which caressed and seduced the senses whilst growing in strength and stature not forgetting reputation with every release. Now with the album as its evidence, the Hatfield trio without losing any of its mesmeric passion and floating melodic persuasion has transformed into a snarling bordering on ravenous provocateur of synth rock.

Starlit Skin is a masterful encounter which plays like an eye of a storm, its evocative peace and radiant beauty encircled by a tempestuous incitement of intimidating guitars and imposing rhythms encased in a turbulence of passion and intensity. In hindsight you can see its triumph was an inevitable landmark on a continuing journey but at first touch it is a surprising and dramatic proposition which swiftly has hunger bred and intrigue lit for its emotive adventure. It is a striking flight for the band which began in 2010 as mentioned with Evans (ex-guitarist of alt-metal band Broken Butterfly X). Experimenting with electronics aligned to his smoothly lying and emotionally expressive vocals, Evans released debut EP Module 01 to strong reactions especially sparked by the eagerly devoured track Breathe. Linking up with Static Distortion Records, the Module 02 EP followed in 2012 again to eager acclaim as the richly personal songs showed a growth in confidence, maturity, and sound. It also marked the start of a more aggressive essence to MiXE1 epitomised by This Is Not Goodbye, a song which became a firm favourite with fans and the underground media. That same year the band expanded with Evans bringing in guitarist Lee Towson and drummer Lee O’Brien (formerly of Indie-Rock band Load), the move the signpost to the exploration of a rawer rock element to the band’s music. The Lights Out EP provided potent signs of that evolution but against Starlit Skin, was just a mere suggestion which is now vivaciously vocal in the eleven track all-out electronic rock encounter.

The album opens with a warning, a declaration of a wide spread evacuation which opens the way for voracious riffs and rampaging rhythms to charge down the scenery, sinews resonating and nostrils flaring as Talking In Our Sleep explodes in the ear. Immediately gripping the band’s new single soon settles into a more ordered gait upon which Evans unveils his vocals and narrative. His voice is as melodic and warm as ever but certainly caught in the thrust of the energy around him. As the track expands with Evans’ synths shaping the atmosphere as both Towson and O’Brien keep on their sturdy course, the track brings thoughts of Ghost In The Static meets Johnny Wore Black. Its chorus is pure infectious virulence, an anthemic call flush with enticing melodies perfectly contrasted and accentuated by a guttural growl which creeps in the vocals, all creating a roaring moment to craft a climactic treat within the otherwise compelling body of the impressive opener.

Break You Down swaggers in next, keys and guitars weaving a transfixing yet intimidating dark haze to which Evans croons magnetically whilst again slipping in the caustic squalls as introduced in its predecessor. Riffs and hooks capture the imagination as much as the melodic breezes evocatively colouring the intensive breath of the track, each combining for an easily accessible but unpredictable incitement. Though the natural warm delivery of Evans is the lead lure to songs, the use of abrasive textures and expulsions in his voice is an inspired and exciting twist which is matched and coaxed eagerly by the guitars and rhythms.

Both the emotive We’ve Changed and the following title track keep the imagination thrilled whilst offering new diversity to the release. The first soars across the senses with elegant charm and invasive melodies framed by a muscular appetite, though one happy to simply skirt the sultry smouldering heart of the absorbing personal venture whilst its successor explores a slight eighties synth pop spice within its reflective melodic wrap around the senses. There is a tint of Modern English and Depeche Mode to the song which only enhances its poetic wash of sound and expression, whilst again with more restraint than the first song it brings crescendos which infectiously grip and inflame thoughts and emotions.

The next up Plug Me In Tonight with its discordant brew of electronic agitation and probing within a mist of melodramatic synths makes a promising entrance but one which whilst growing into a thought provoking canvas lacks the impact and spark which caught ablaze within the previous songs. Nevertheless it has attention and appetite healthily poised for the pleasing electronic stomp of Here, a song with techno tendencies and synth pop revelry. It is another where the chorus recruits the listener’s feet and vocal chords, though around these moments the track’s shadows are more of a portentous breath, which Towson lights up with his invention, than an incitement to dance. It makes for a richly satisfying and appealing fusion which is then put in the shade by the bordering on antagonistic Image. Thumping rhythms and voracious hues assault first as keys spot their provocation with electronic shards before without losing its stalking ferocity the track opens with the continually impressive tones of Evans and fiery strikes of guitar imagination. It is a tremendous web of invention which instantly has ears gripped and passions sparking. The best track on the album it is unrelenting in its force, invention, and predacious hunger whilst providing a bewitching landscape of thought and imagination.

The Show takes the raw rapacious side of its predecessor to new levels whilst merging it as expected with mouthwatering melodies and vocals courted by electronic sunspot. Riffs and rhythms seem bestial as the synths seduce and smooch their evocative colours upon the senses, thoughts of The Browning freeing themselves in some ways to the predation. It is another glorious pinnacle showing the depths and suggesting the potential of the band still to be fully explored and exposed which All 4 U in its own distinct way supports. It is not as potent as certainly the previous two tracks but employs all of the already unveiled strengths of the album in another captivating storm, though the truly guttural vocal spewing which occasionally erupt arguably do not work. It is the beauty and the beast delivery from Evans which is an unbridled success for us not the demonic causticity, his voice just too nice to succeed.

Airwaves brings the album to an excellent absorbing and emotionally haunting end, though there is a decent enough Beat Version of Talking In Our Sleep as a bonus track with great female vocals from Amie Morandarte-Evans for extra spice. Starlit Skin is a commandingly impressive and thrilling encounter; a major step forward for MiXE1 but one suggesting there is still plenty more to come, a rigorously and irrepressibly exciting thought for us and the electro rock scene.

Starlit Skin is available @ http://mixe1.bandcamp.com/album/starlit-skin

www.mixe1.com

Check out an interview with MiXE1 @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/brewing-melodic-fire-an-interview-with-mixe1/

9.5/10

RingMaster 25/05/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

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