The Agency – Of Ghosts

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Regaling tales of gothic breeding and devilish intent, Of Ghosts the new album from UK folk/rock band The Agency is one of the most compelling releases you are likely to hear this year. It is not a release which leaps from the speakers, though it has individual moments which are inescapable, but over time casts a captivation which through slow and potent persuasion makes for a captivating proposition. Like a hybrid mix of Nick Cave and a folk version of Southern Death Cult with extra shadowing from Coil, the band’s sound and album is a riveting adventure. It maybe does not ignite the fires as much as it should but never relinquishes an enticing grip on appetite and imagination from start to finish.

Formed in 2012, The Agency started out as a large musical collective before slimming down to a five piece core, though the Newcastle upon Tyne band still invites guests and friends from the beginning to add their flavouring to their sound, Of Ghosts seeing Fraser Smith (Little Man Tate/Shed Seven), pianist Scott Wall (My Exit Music), and Jim Ward contributing to its offerings. Debut album For the Brave and Troubled the band’s first year raised strong attention around the band but it is with this successor that the quintet of Andy Ludbrook (bass), Steven K Driver (singer/songwriter/guitar), Steve Beyer (guitar), Garry Cosgrove (drums), and Kerry Ramsay (vocals) will surely breach a nationwide spotlight.

The album opens with She and instantly has ears and thoughts tied up in the song’s attractive coaxing. Teasing rhythms and a dark flirty bassline entice first before the plain yet alluring vocals of Driver unveil the first narrative of the release. The song slowly sways and embraces senses and imagination, its sultry climax increasing in colour as melodies swim elegantly across ears and the siren-esque harmonies of Ramsay float across the growing sinister scenery. The song is glorious, a sonic and emotional emprise to immerse in whilst an ever present mischief within the band plays.

Next Child So Careless gently shuffles in on a keen rhythmic lure aligned to another melancholic bass temptation and varied guitar revelry. There is no real urgency to the song but it still strolls with an energy and feistiness which brings Picture 73feet to life and has ears rigorously attentive. It is a thrilling encounter with brightly shimmering melodies within a smouldering climate of emotive and dramatic heat, reminding in some ways of fellow city kinsmen Bernaccia. Keeping the impressive start of the album going, the song moves over for the less immediate hugs of ballads For The Daughter and Border Song. Though both take time to seize thoughts compared to their outstanding predecessors, each explore enthralling landscapes of sound and intrigue to place a steady hand on a growing appetite for the release. The first is a warm yet haunting, almost funereal croon with strings an emotionally inspiring hue alongside the dourly expressive vocals whilst the second slips into an even more sobering atmosphere of melancholy and sonic radiance for a less successful but still enjoyable proposition.

The organ fuelled Fast raises the album’s strongest lure again, its thick drama and minimalistic touch a tender and sonically blistering incitement which would fit a Twin Peaks episode perfectly. It is only part of the story though as a funky folk festivity breaks out with melodies and vocals flirting with Wickerman like devilry. The track is engrossing, a pinnacle of the album and a doorway into the darkest corners of the band’s songwriting.

Through the colourful journey musically and lyrically of The Traveller and Sad Parallel which holds a tone and presence which can almost be described as Mark Lanegan meets The Doors, The Agency hold the imagination in the palms of their creative hands. Without lighting obvious fires, the tracks majestically get under the skin with lingering temptation before an atmospheric reprise of For The Daughter leads into the irresistible call of The Temple. The track is a warped dance of vocal and melodic contagion brushed with sonic causticity and addictive rhythmic bait. Simultaneously intimidatingly dark and vibrantly light, the song is a scintillating eventful stroll.

Of Ghosts is brought to a more than decent end by the evocative vocal and guitar led croon of Jack and Spade, a blood soaked reflection of gothic expression. It is a fine end to a release which simply grows and seduces with every listen. The Agency have a masterful ability to tell and colour tales from the darkest shadows for richly satisfying explorations for imagination and emotions, and their album an enthralling portrait of that skill.

Of Ghosts is available digitally and on CD now on Solarbear Records and @ http://theagency1.bandcamp.com/album/of-ghosts

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Agency/235291636504985

RingMaster 29/09/2014

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The BeauBowBelles – All Over That

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Having been lustfully seduced by the To The Moon EP, the debut release from UK band The BeauBowBelles which uniquely merged the richest essences of gypsy punk, folk, country rock, swing, with a classical elegance, we had an instant lick of the lips when presented with their new single All Over That. It did not let anticipation and expectations down either, from a deceptively slow beginning evolving into another stylishly mischievous and imaginatively flirtatious stomp. The London quartet has a sound which makes the common cold look lightweight in contagiousness and their new single is the band’s most virulent dose of melodic infection yet.

The foursome of multi- instrumentalists, Bertie Anderson (vocals, violin), Emma Price (vocals, flutes, accordion, bells), Ros Wilks (vocals, violin, keytar), and Marcus Daborn (guitar, kickdrum), has continued to breed an impressive reputation and acclaimed proposition live since making their entrance. Along with their previous EP, it has been an exciting emergence by The BeauBowBelles, a potent ascent now receiving a sizeable change of gear through All Over That.

A melancholic embrace of violin wraps ears first, a caress accompanied in no time by a smouldering kiss of brass and an emotive breath of keys. It is an invitingly shadowed and emotionally dark wash which finds a sultry light as horns proceed to flirt with guitar crafted melodies and the first kiss of vocals. The lyrics state at one point a “tantalising tune” and it nicely sums up the opening of the song, an intrigue and unpredictability which truly erupts as guitars and voices add urgency to their croon. It is a momentary loss of restraint though which teases wonderfully before the track slips back into its darkened gypsy waltz to sculpt and cast the same magnetic build-up again.

Eventually rhythms and bass strums get heavy with a passionate relish, dancing with the sweltering melodies as the song develops a seriously irresistible swing to its melodically erotic romp. It is not long into the song that feet and imagination, not forgetting emotions, are wrapped up in the track’s adventure and by its climax all are swirling with the whirling fever of a dervish in breathless bliss.

All Over That is an unbridled joy and devilish epidemic of enterprise, as infectious as it is poetically melodic. The BeauBowBelles are the masters of the dance, for body and soul.

All Over That is available from September 29th @ http://thebeaubowbelles.bandcamp.com/

www.theBeauBowBelles.com

RingMaster 28/09/2014

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Glenn Hodge Banned – Iconoclast EP

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With a sound you could describe as punk folk, certainly a proposition which casts a striking and bold adventure which hits home lyrically and musically with an inescapable honesty, the Glenn Hodge Banned provides one rigorously riveting encounter with the Iconoclast EP. It is an irresistible stroll of lyrical and vocal incitement which captivates from start to finish in an embrace of equally entrancing sounds. The band offers five tracks which whether addictively catchy or emotively gentle, spark imagination and feelings with relish to spark a greedy hunger for more.

Based in London, Glenn Hodge began life in Ashford, Kent, being raised in East Anglia before moving to the capital. There he found further inspirations to the folk seeded musical canvas his compelling lyrical and vocal talents colour. Musically too Hodge breeds provocative scenery as evidenced by the new release whilst onstage whether solo or alongside other like-minded musicians, he has earned a fine reputation on the London music scene. Earlier this year debut single Faces on Tables caught the imagination of many leading to potent anticipation for the Iconoclast EP. The new release builds on that rich start with a handful of explorations which focus on city life, personal relationships, and honest social commentary, all with a tinge of mischief and resonating veracity.

The EP immediately grips attention with opener Ignoramus, an initial throaty strum soon standing side by side with the distinctive and compelling vocals of Hodge. His voice has a quirky lilt to its tone which only adds to the lure and drama of songs. Voice and a lone riff continue to seduce the senses for the bulk of song as its lyrical painting sparks the imagination, before guitars and strings bring their own increasing revelry to the growing captivation. Vigorously infectious, the song enlisting listener participation with sublime ease, it is a colourful portrait of a city’s social landscape, melodies and strings bringing evocative hues to the enthralling insight.

The following Intrepid Thing saunters in with its own contagious sway of chords and vibrant melodies. Strings make a swifter entrance this time, instantly adding depth to the engaging entrance of the song. There is a Celtic whisper to the folk bred beauty of the music which holds attention as firmly as the ever impressing vocals, but it is the contagion sculpted chorus which ignites the passions most potently, again a moment which has feet and voice unable to avoid joining in with the anthemic persuasion. Maybe hard to imagine, but the song comes over like a mix of Kirsty MacColl and Frank Turner, and as its predecessor is just exceptional.

Wasted Labour keeps the outstanding level of the EP going; its sultry melodies and stringed incitement a resourceful caress on ears as Hodge shows further expanse and vivacity to his voice, almost breaking into a roar for the chorus which is another ridiculously addictive and anthemic moment on the EP, as the stunning song as a whole.

The final two songs do not quite match the first trio but each with their distinctive characters still leave a want and need to hear more. English Folk brings a slight country twang to its rich tapestry of strings, smouldering Irish seeded melodies, and vocal union which engrosses as it deeply pleases. As the rest of the encounters, it is impossible to leave the proposition alone with voice and toes, the song another organic anthem mentally and physically which is emulated by the closing C U Next Tuesday. A little spikey and ridiculously addictive, the track is a magnetic union of guitar and voice which takes its time to employ other spices, saving them for a rousing finale.

Glenn Hodge Banned is a proposition to set ears and thoughts alight, and push passions towards a tenacious greed. The Iconoclast EP is an exceptional incitement providing the fullest of pleasure and enterprise whilst suggesting you should expect to hear plenty more triumphs from Glenn Hodge and his band ahead.

The Iconoclast EP is available on September 22nd

http://www.glennhodge.com/

9/10

RingMaster 15/09/2014

Me For Queen – Iron Horse

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It has to be admitted that the thought of an album set around two wheeled exploits was intriguing but did not exactly spark eager anticipation, but readers do not let that colour any decision to check out the bewitching and thrilling embrace of Iron Horse, the debut album from Me For Queen. Themed by the adventure of cycling in the city, exploring and inspired by events and emotions found by experiences of the band founder’s on a bike, the release lays down an inescapable seduction which bewitches ears and imagination right through to the passions.

Originally the solo project of Talk In Colour’s Mary Erskine, Me For Queen has subsequently grown to a full engagement with the addition Will Dollard, Nick Bowling, and Andy Paine. Last year saw the release of the Live at Red Gables EP, a well-received release sparking strong interest in this following Pledge Music funded release. Talking about Iron Horse, Erskine explained that “there are tracks about the freedom of cycling, the rage and fear you sometimes feel on your bike when surrounded by cars, and a white bike tribute”, going on to add “You’ll like it whether you cycle or not.” That last declaration is certainly very easy to agree with. Equally the album’s tales can be translated to more general experiences in everyday life, how people connect and live within each other’s space for example. It is a fascination of sound merging various flavours into one bike inspired festival of creative enterprise, the album’s sound and presence as cosmopolitan as the pastime and scenery it colours.

The tempting of wheels starts off album and opener The Deer and The Dark, voices from surrounding scenery adding to the atmosphere of the song. Soon though, the attention grabbing voice of Erskine breaks its air with rich mesmeric charm, swiftly joined by a rhythmic coaxing coloured by radiant keys. The song swiftly turns into a funk seeded stroll weaving enchanting melodies into its dramatic lyrical and ambient sunset. Employing samples and riveting brass temptation, the track provides a glorious canter of enterprise and endearing harmonies for one scintillating entrance into the album.

Its glory is matched straight away by Bike With No Name, male vocals taking the lead fully backed by the increasingly transfixing voice of Erskine. With a folk intimacy to its again funky gait, the song idles up to the imagination and 10553901_829249350419623_3979257569886355370_ocaresses it with a seductive blend of vocals and flirtatious melodies from guitar and keys. A darker throat of bass only adds to the infectious bait but it is the pair of vocalists which ignites emotions most prominently and potently. Though music wise there is a distinct difference, vocally and in the impact and quality of their union, the two singers remind of Dizraeli and Cate Ferris from Dizraeli and The Small Gods.

An intriguingly enticing bass lure opens up the next up Zebra, its tone kissed by discord blessed resonance. It is soon joined by both sets of vocals as a jazzy climate and seducing comes over the senses. The song is a delicious blend of distinctively different shades, melodic flames and light slowly grazing on the emotions whilst the darker shadows of bass and a slightly twisted invention to certain chords and notes add a mouth-watering and unpredictable texture to the sultriness. Its glorious presence is matched straight away by Traffic Light Crush, an irresistible croon with romantic tones and catchy revelry in its magnetic dance. Thoughts of eighties band Jim Jiminee easily come to the surface as the brief track sets down another majestic pinnacle on the album, its tango of sound and imagination refusing to leave even after the song has departed ears.

The first single from the album, Slow Jam (Look Out) comes next, its soulful swing of melodies and emotion revealing vocals a gentle and elegant kiss on the senses. As the album, it is impossible not to be thoroughly captivated and mesmerised by it, every aspect from the breath-taking vocals of Erskine to the smouldering flame of trumpet, and the velvet hug of bass to the sizzling harmonies, a poetic toxicity seducing and immersing blissful ears and thoughts. Its gentleness is emulated by the funkier flight of Freewheel, a melodic glide which strokes thoughts and passions from start to finish with a lean structure within provocative beauty.

Both Wobbly and White Bike add new tantalising hues to the release, the first a wash of emotive melodies over a skittish percussive tempting, which itself is hand in hand with the heavier, ever enticing tone of bass. There is a relaxed giddiness to the song too, imagination swirling in its creative sun and similarly flowing sounds before moving on to its successor. The second of the pair slips into something even more leisurely comfortable energy and gait wise whilst turning up the heat with its impassioned and earnest climate lyrically and emotionally as it fully enchants the senses.

For personal tastes the first half of the album is the strongest with its array of lively explorations but there is no escaping or dismissing the spellbinding beauty and majesty of the two songs, and also the following Rat Race. With bubbly electro spicing starting things off before vocals and bass soon lay down their catchy lures, the track is a compelling portrait of fleet footed life. Sounds almost flit across ears, each a different personality in the vibrantly moving scenery whilst the lead vocals provide a singular almost out of sync view inside the tunnel flowing fast around them.

The album is brought to a close by firstly the emotive balladry of Road Out, a track which brews and grows into an imposingly drawn ambience as its melodies and vocals immerse ears, and lastly Wheelie. The final track is a fifty second electro jazz funk romp which hits straight away like The Tom Tom Club but leaves before you can really get your teeth into it. It is a final smile though to an exceptional release.

Iron Horse is simply majestic, a richly hued collection of sounds crafted into an unforgettable and virulently infectious soundscape of adventure. Me For Queen may not have you turning to peddle power with their album but will surely have you breeding a hungry appetite for their sensational sounds.

Iron Horse is available now @ https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/iron-horse/id913647443

http://cargocollective.com/meforqueen

9/10

RingMaster 12/09/2014

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Jane Allison – Just Another Girl

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The album may describe its creator as Just Another Girl but its contents give compelling proof that KarmaDeva’s Jane Allison Stanness is anything but as an artist and songwriter. Under simply Jane Allison, she has cast a blend of intimate acoustic and folk elegance with potent Americana flavouring into a collection of songs which seduce whilst embracing emotive shadows and personal angst. Equally there is an infectiousness to the tracks which adds an inescapable weave of colourful persuasion lyrically and musically, it all suggesting as mentioned that Allison is anything but just another singer songwriter.

The songs for her debut solo album Just Another Girl were written whilst Welsh born Allison was in Berlin, having moved there to finish the second KarmaDeva album. Taking inspirations from childhood heroes such as Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Joan Baez, the songs were bred from her soul and inspired by the experiences and struggles of previous years. Recorded at The Tea Rooms studio in the heart of the Ardennes and produced by Alonza Bevan, Just Another Girl also sees additional guest guitarists on some tracks in the skilled shape of Country Dave Caven as well as Mark Legassick of Howlin Lord. The now Bristol based Allison, who also has notable acting roles and appearances under her belt, including the Julia Davis penned shows Hunderby and Nighty Night, as well as Human Remains and the Simon Pegg movie A Fantastic Fear Of Everything, takes little time to embrace ears and stroke emotions upon her first album.

The title track starts things off, warm vocals and acoustic guitar instantly smiling at ears alongside evocative melodies. It is a gentle start bringing the folk and country hues which vein the whole album swiftly into view before a subsequent 10351077_671996669557637_1070732306411286045_nbolder Americana suasion adds further texture and substance to the emotive encounter. It is an alluring introduction to artist and release, a soft and catchy coaxing awakening a quick appetite for the proposition which is soon reinforced by the first single from the album, Hymn To Hope. Similarly the track offers an elegant hug to the senses with its melodies and a great skittish rhythmic enticing which courts the thoroughly appealing and impressive vocals of Allison, her additional harmonies just as mesmeric as the track expands its provocative dance. As its predecessor, the folk seeded song complete with a healthy country twang, does not leap from the record but certainly raises further enthralling temptation for ears and imagination to immerse in.

Seizing a tighter grip on thoughts and passions is the following Fading Moon. From its first seconds there is a rhythmic tenacity to the track which even in its simple pace provides potent bait as vocals and melodies emerge and bloom around it. A folk charm soaks every note and syllable with essences of Fleetwood Mac making hints as the song wraps radiantly around ears and emotions. With a contagious swing to its respectful gait only adding to its captivating presence, the track is one of the biggest pinnacles of the album, though it inadvertently places a shadow over the next up Country Lovin’. To be fair the song also strolls along with a infectiousness which is impossible to dismiss and a fascination which actually slips pass our inherent disinterest in country music, whilst with each listen it just grows on increasingly open ears as Ms Allison lays an unexpected hex on the appetite.

Both Catch Me and All Over Now ignite imagination and ears with ease. The first explores western scenery beneath a sultry melodic sky, seducing from its first acidic twang and the open embrace of its Morricone kissed climate. It is a gloriously cinematic narrative with similarly captivating vocals whilst its successor is a slow croon with provocative key sculpted drama, and another track which simply blooms and increases its riveting seduction over time through its sixties enchantment. Each leaves a greedier taste in emotions and appetite before the brilliant Joan Of Arc offers its own impassioned balladry. Allison is scintillating, her voice as melancholic as it is beautiful, whilst the melodic lure of the track combines with her emotional majesty to send tingles down the spine.

From one impressive peak the album brings another straight away with Real Life. Again a sixties adventure cloaks the song, aligned this time to a seventies rock heart with psychedelic whispers. It is a transfixing encounter which shows the inspiration the like of Joan Baez has made on Allison. With guitars bringing electrified invention to the song, it leaves ears wanting more and duly served right away by the just as thrilling Wait For Me. It is a song bred from the same vat of invention and flavouring yet sculpting its own unique proposition within the album. In many ways the second half of the album is its strongest and most adventurous, pushing the creativity and presence of the artist to even greater heights.

Completed by the piano driven ballad Farewell My Boy, with Allison again vocally radiant, the melodically glowing Just Another Girl is a thrilling treat to lose thoughts and senses in with the richest rewards in return. Jane Allison is a bright spark in folk inspired invention with the potential to make a potent mark with her solo endeavours in the future.

Just Another Girl is available now @ http://janeallison.bandcamp.com/album/just-another-girl

http://www.jane-allison.com/

8.5/10

RingMaster 11/09/2014

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Paddy Clegg – Dancing Shoes

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A song which can be best described as a melodic smile, Dancing Shoes the new single from UK singer songwriter Paddy Clegg reinforces why there has been a healthy buzz brewing up around the17 year old. Simple yet skilfully crafted, the single is a refreshing flirtation for feet, ears, and emotions with little more in its intent than to have and give fun.

From Huyton in Liverpool, Clegg at his tender age had already earned good experience from drumming in previous bands but deciding to take up another instrument in the guitar, he began writing and composing his own songs, recording them in his bedroom before stepping out in the Liverpool live scene and surrounding areas. Earlier this year he unveiled his debut single Back To The Start which was met with praise and focus, with his music drawing comparisons to the likes of The La’s, Newton Faulkner, Jake Bugg, and Mumford & Sons. Dancing Shoes now has its moment to push the reputation and presence of the young artist further and it is hard to expect anything other than another wave of potent attention for it.

Dancing Shoes does not make an overly striking or dramatic start, a gentle strum of guitar making a melodic caress which is soon joined by the potent tones of Clegg and punchy beats. It is a track though which seems to grow before and in ears, a dark bass line and a slightly more energetic intent to the drums helping broaden its weight and lure so that before you know it the song has seduced and recruited eager assistance from feet and vocal chords. A great blaze of brass adds to the increasing colour of the song whilst the vocals of Clegg similarly increase in potency and engaging hues. It is a smart and infectious slice of songwriting and musical invention with only the fact that at only two and a half minutes long, just as you are stretching muscles and limbs for an excited sortie on the dance floor, it stops.

Keep them wanting more is a wise old piece of advice and Clegg certainly does that with Dancing Shoes. It is another hint at the potential of Paddy Clegg and his music, an emerging proposition which so far has make a very show go of an obvious talent.

Dancing Shoes is available now via Twin City Records @ https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/dancing-shoes-single/id915386236

https://www.facebook.com/paddy.clegg/

8/10

RingMaster 08/09/2104

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Red Rose Empire – The Ballad of Blondie

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The Ballad of Blondie is a fascinating single, a song which gently spins through flavours and emotions whilst creating one thoroughly rousing and thrilling proposition. Bred by the inventive craft of UK acoustic rock band Red Rose Empire, and taken from their recently released album You’ve got Red on you, the single grips ears and imagination with cinematic vivacity and emotional intimacy to provide an intensely provocative persuasion.

Hailing from London, the trio of vocalist/acoustic guitarist Paul Claxton, bassist Rick Keating, and drummer Paul Rowland has drawn strong attention and praise through You’ve got Red on you and it is easy to see why if it matches the potent incitement of The Ballad of Blondie. The song opens with a swing of folkish revelry, guitar and bass uniting for a smiling intro framed by firm rhythms. The lively opening then relaxes into a gentle caress with Claxton providing an emotive croon, vocally and with strings, which is aligned to the hazy charm of the bass and shuffling beats. There is a drama to the change though, especially in the vocals, which ebbs and flows before erupting in the blaze of the chorus. Chords twang and vocals soar as a sultry climate bursts over the narrative before the song returns to its more peaceful suasion, though again it is just the coaxing prelude to another fiery breath of sound and passion.

The song continues to drift and roar as the landscape of its evocative theme continues providing a riveting adventure. Warm yet haunted, the song is a masterful and thrilling proposition which not only seduces for itself but sparks the want to check out the album it comes from. If Ballad of Blondie epitomises the potential and invention of Red Rose Empire then they have a very healthy and successful horizon ahead of them.

Ballad of Blondie is available now @ http://redroseempire.bandcamp.com/track/the-ballad-of-blondie

https://www.facebook.com/redroseempire

9/10

RingMaster 02/09/2014

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