Candidate23: Stay Awake EP

Photo @ copyright Jeb Smith

The new EP UK indie band Candidate23 graces the ear like a breath of fresh air, its masterful weave of striking melodies, expressive vocals, and heart borne invention instantly making one stand up and take a focused attentive look which many other releases fail to achieve. All bands deserve and get from music lovers a respectful attention but some demand a little bit more by offering something extra. Upon their Stay Awake EP  the quartet do just that to take one on a fulfilling emotional ride from first note to last, the vibrant experience a complete and joyful pleasure.

Hailing from North West England the band formed in 2010 and have already made a noticeable mark through sharing stages with the likes of Funeral for a Friend, Young Guns and The King Blues as well as with debut single One For You in the November of their formation year and its successor Confusion, both riding high in the iTunes Rock Chart in 2011. Their sound is tagged as indie pop but there is a height and depth to it that goes much further in sound and within the listener.

The release starts off with Mona (I’m not leaving) and an immediate engagement with the ear is achieved through its persistent yet unobtrusive guitar welcome and keys that soar with style around the ear. As vocalist Will Hayes adds his impressive tones the song takes a deep breath before swelling with a purring bassline from Ryan Dennett alongside firm beats from Jono Tringham and the expressive guitar play of Alex McIntyre and Andy Perrin. With a flavour that reminds a little of Mind Museum and Post Adolescence the song leaves the emotions pumped and eager for more.

The title track steps up next with a less boisterous flow from the first but with just as satisfying results. Vocalist Hayes within two songs shows what a fine talent he is, his vocals strongly expressive and with a depth that is controlled and easily impressive. The song does not grab as firmly as the opener or as those that follow but more than provides the evidence of the songwriting skills of the band and the realisation of their well rounded and imaginative ideas.

10 Minutes Of Fame is an emotive song which caresses the ear with a textured drama and weight that pulls one deep within its captivating heart. The song opens up the band to nothing but praise, the song though less instant as maybe the others taking the senses on an impactful stroll through the artistry and passion of Candidate23.

The best song on the release closes things up beautifully. Karma is majestic, its glowing soundscape a warm and vibrant field of sound to share feelings and thoughts with. The picky guitars play the senses like a harp whilst the rhythms and bass add a bubbling vein to the song, and the orchestral sounding expanse that washes over at times adding to the wonder and magic of the song.

Candidate23 at times remind of other bands but one can never truly pinpoint who or how but there are moments on Stay Awake when thoughts of bands like Placebo, The Verve, and Doves flit through. Their sound has a friendliness which seems familiar but has a distinction which is fully their own. We will hear a lot more of Candidate23 as they make what is surely a rapid rise and an eager anticipation is in full flight after this release.

RingMaster 29/03/2012 Registered & Protected

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Anton Mink: Outside The Lines

Anton Mink is a band that wraps itself around the ear like a balmy summer night, their sounds a sultry and sexy mesmeric pleasure that teases and inflames leaving one a little bit sweaty and more than a touch excited. Their latest album Outside The Lines is a temptress, a wanton fusion of sirenesque melodies and vibrant warmth borne from sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It leaves one with a glow, an inner tingle that can only be appeased by diving right back into the refreshing light and hazy sounds that caused the problem in the first place.

Already previously hooked by the track Beer On The Floor, a song repeatedly on a consistent rotation here the prospect of reviewing the album unleashed an impatient anticipation and eagerness before it even found its way into the ear. Outside The Lines does not disappoint as the ten songs within offer a varied and completely rewarding treat for the senses. From the opener through to the closing notes the album is a fiesta for the heart and a mischievous pleasure for the soul.

Louisville, Kentucky quartet Anton Mink came to be when punk bassist Curtis Flame (Anton Z) started a project to combine distinct creativity and individuality. An initial advert in a local paper led the talented electronic inspired singer Chloa and her wonderfully unique vocals to answer his call, and already the band taking an inventive form. After a harder search the duo found a drummer off a post on a music shop wall and guitarist Andy Jack via an ad in a local school of music. A small tour followed as well as their self titled debut album in 2007. With the follow up Outside The Lines unveiled in the latter months of last year and a new drummer in Clinton added through craiglist, Anton Mink are set to make a striking and naughty mark during 2012 with the album taking the lead.

The album opens with Watchman, colourful melodic notes spotting the ear as drums hustle eagerly in preparation for the glory ahead. Flame’s bass pulsates with a beckoning glee whilst the jazzy play of Jack dazzles without blinding. Immediately Chloa joins all attention veers towards her enthused and distinctive tones. She offers a teasing vibrancy and intriguing delivery that captivates and leads one by the hand like a seductress. The quality of the songwriting allows her to shine, hard to stop really but uses her irrepressible style as a focus to wrap its equally inventive and infectious ingenuity around.

Shysty swaggers in next moving from the jazz funk leanings of its predecessor into a rock n roll based song with a soulful feel to it that blends perfectly with the keen stomp that veins the track. The song is like that legendary tart with a heart, its flow enticing like an exotic dancer and its emotion touching.

As mentioned the sounds are diverse and unpredictable, the likes of the excellent classic progressive rock/pink spiced My God which gives a thought of this is how The Pixies would have sounded if around in the late sixties, Pristine Chapel with its southern rock/country infusion, and the sizzling burn up of Volcanic Vacation where the band venture into the harder electrified rock of a Blood Ceremony, all offering something strikingly different and fully compulsive.

The best moments on the album lie side by side starting with the delicious Chronic with its reggae/Caribbean driven flourishes and hypnotic pulse beat. With Chloa adding an extra lit to her irresistible vocals so she reminds a little of Asa, the song is a hot cruise for the heart, a party to revel in, and an addiction impossible not to be hooked by. This is followed by the previously mentioned Beer On The Floor, a lustful song of drunken mischief with a tinge of regret but at the same time musically sounding quite proud of itself despite the words Chloa expresses, she cannot fool us.

Outside The Lines is pure pleasure from start to finish, an unassuming release that inspires and offers something new persistently. If you have not heard of Anton Mink, start right here and be prepared for that cold shower you might need right after.

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Static Plan: Self Titled EP

So far 2012 has delivered some little unexpected gems and to that growing list you can firmly add the forthcoming release from UK rock band Static Plan. A promo copy of their forthcoming self titled EP, to be released April 14th, came our way and to be honest we cannot remember how, where, or from whom (so forgive us if it was you and remind us please), but the important thing is that it did and that it gives us the pleasure of reporting how impressive it is.

Static Plan is a Guildford based quartet consisting of vocalist Kyle Mackenzie, guitarist Jonno Lloyd, bassist Ben Martin, and Greg Webber on drums. They create a sound that rifles and entrances the senses with a fusion of alternative rock, industrial, and grunge. That is a simplistic description as the songs within the EP offer a sound that has much more and merges those spices into something strikingly unique yet wholly familiar. It is a skilled craft they possess and they seem to know how to use it to the full. Influenced openly by the likes of Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Deftones and Queens Of The Stone Age, they enforce these flavours with a metallic edge and determined intensity that is constantly intriguing and never predictable.

Opening song Will has a little of everything within its bulky mass, a rippling beast that flexes muscles and melodic charm to equal effect. With an AIC vein running through it and vocalist Mackenzie finding an expressive Chino Moreno delivery the song has a perfect rock base. Add the grumbling riffs of Martin and the belligerent guitars of Lloyd who backs up vocally too and you have a more than formidable creature ravaging the ear. Once the excellent drum skills and imagination of Webber pushes everything through further and deeper you are talking something special. At times the song is unsure which way it wants to go, to full rock or something much heavier and intense and this works perfectly, the shuffling between the two a continually surprising teasing of the ear.

Your Type kills Me begins on an electro/industrial questioning  before erupting into a full blooded atmospheric groove, all the while the electronic sounds are either niggling behind the guitars or openly dazzling with spotlight like radiance. A heady flavour of QOTSA pulsates throughout the song with a Stone Temple Pilot like thunderous energy and contempt wrapping itself around the core. Again unexpected in every aspect the song excites and ignites the need for more.

The starker Blockhead takes on the task with similar satisfying results, its NIN dark electronic growling preying on the senses as the band flow into more melodic and emotional areas than on the first two. With Martin added his darkened riffs to the harsher shadowed keys the song combines and restrains its more aggressive tendencies with an engaging melodic rock ease and confidence. Not quite on the par with the previous two the song still hits the spot and shows the diversity the band has in their invention and songwriting.

   Coil closes up the release by swaggering in on another electronic beckoning. The song takes a more subdued path to the senses, its pulsating melodies and consuming flow preferring to manipulate rather than go straight for the neck, though there is always the darkened heart of the band lurking behind just waiting for an opportunity to size hold.

Being a promo the production on the tracks we received is not the best and it is proof of how great the songs are that they deliver all they do so impressively and effectively. The fully mastered release for sure will stop you dead in your tracks with excitement and awe; the sounds that good and Static Plan a band that has a very promising future ahead of them.

RingMaster 29/03/2012 Registered & Protected

Static Plan – Will

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Wolves: Alpha Beta Omega

The new EP from UK post hardcore band Wolves smacks one right between the eyes with a devilment and aggression that is to be admired if not feared. They hold nothing back in their determination to leave senses buckling and gasping for life beneath their intensive testing and blistering aural manipulations. Alpha Beta Omega is no easy ride, it gives or shows no mercy in its thunderous violation but stand tall before its might and look within the coarse intensity and the rewards are very satisfying.

Formed in 2010, the quartet from North Wales have shared stages with the likes of The Blackout, William Control, Fei Comodo, Shadows Chasing Ghosts, Polar, Evita and Blitz Kids, impressing along the way with their far reaching intrusive sounds. So far our words give the impression it is all destructive intent but within their obliterating creations the band infuse some equally stirring acidic melodic invention, catchy grooves, and thoughtful composing that lies beneath the initial thunderous assault on the ear eagerly waiting to be discovered. Alpha Beta Omega is the follow-up to the 2011 two track release AdrienneLynn / Tongue Tied and with the luck all bands need could and should see Wolves becoming the name of the lips of a great many more.

The band are sneaky little tykes, the opening instrumental We Are The 99 % mesmerising the ear with nicely crafted emotive melodies and a subdued power that even with its building crescendo leaves one unprepared for the full onslaught of the following Buried. The song throws clawed riffs at the ear scarring flesh as the rhythms of drummer Tom Williams penetrate around them. The coarse shouts and growls of Ad Robinson fly with venom and great effect adding to the uncomfortable yet compelling consumption. The bass of Ben Peers comes at the listener with meaty paws swiping out with muscular pummelling riffs and belligerence. At its close a quick breath is grabbed before the EP continues the corruption.

Feral dominates just as fully as its predecessor, its tight cutting groove flipping the bird as it twists and stretches its prey with glee. Slowing to a stalking pace the song is as predatory as the band name and soon leaps upon its victim with further high energy and finely crafted unrelenting sounds.

Surviving that leaves one feeling bolder but the best song on the release soon leaves you in no doubt who is in charge. The title track is immense, from its ravenous bass riffs which rub the senses up the wrong way through to the guitars of Dan Hallows and their scorched provocative grooves and acidic melodies which leap like salt onto the open wounds, the song is majestic. The bass is the highlight, a malignant foe for the ear but everything clicks perfectly on the song and it is worth investigation of the release on its own.

When Money Speaks, The Truth Remains Silent offers a formidable challenge for top honours, the song persistently niggling and thrilling. Veering from rampage to simple torrential rage it is a pleasure to fall beneath the maliciously stomping charge of the song.

Alpha Beta Omega closes with Collapse, an emotive part ballad part expulsion of bottled up angst. The song is fine but shows the only less effective part of the release and in a way the band. Robinson is an excellent coarse delivery aggressor and decent semi smooth vocalist but he has yet to find a way to bring a clean vocal that is to the standard of the rest of his and the bands skills. It is a small aspect of what is an excellent release but it is noticeable though one can feel and hear it is something that is being worked on.

Wolves are a band on a quick rise something the impressive Alpha Beta Omega will only accelerate. The time to join the ride is now before there is a queue for the attentions of what could be one of the mightiest post hardcore bands to come out of the UK yet.

RingMaster 29/03/2012 Registered & Protected

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Seth Lakeman – Tales From The Barrel House

Tales From The Barrel House the new album from singer/songwriter Seth Lakeman is a triumphant and deeply impressive release, an album that takes the heart on a journey of strength, honest work and pride.  The wealth of inspiring sounds and invention which ripples throughout the release is second to none but it is the incredibly exact and formidable ambience of the concept the album brings forth that steals the show. With the songs themed upon the work and lives of the Devon and Cornish craftsmen and artisans past, Lakemen brings their world alive within the senses whilst placing the listener within the sweat and eager toil of the industries the people that inspired the release frequented.  It is a mighty homage to the history and people that made it, a majestic portrayal of a time and art that has all but been lost completely.

Tales From The Barrel House is the sixth album from Lakeman and released on his own Honour Oaks Record, and one that openly enjoys the freedom of being released from the confines of label chains around the artist. The album from start to finish and in every department is solely Lakeman, a true solo project that he has taken back to basics like with his Mercury Award nominated previous self released album Kitty Jay. Tales From The Barrel House was released last November as a limited edition available solely through his own website, the 10,000 run sold out by Christmas and the demand on the day of release crashing his website. With a constant pouring of people wanting to have a copy Lakeman is giving a national release to the album on April 2nd and already the anticipation and clamour is intensive, which is no shock having heard the glories within its walls.

The album was recorded in The Barrelhouse in Morwellham Quay, Devon except for the opening song, the surroundings and atmosphere the venue inspired permeating each note of every song wonderfully. The site did not only make the perfect base but also ventured in to the release from the use of items  found within being used at times as percussion, certain tools representing their industries a particular song was themed by. Every aspect from composition to the playing seamlessly comes together to create a visual play and ambience for the senses to immerse within, it is a real world one feels as the songs wrap themselves around the emotions and heart.

As mentioned the opening More Than Money was an exception location wise for its recording, the track brought to life around 200 feet down the George and Charlotte tin copper mine, the result a song with a muscular sturdiness and slightly claustrophobic ambience. The banjo and fiddle of Lakeman gives life to the heart and full pride of the workers, the percussion bringing their might and confidence. The song is immense and the beginning of a tour through a world unknown by most of the lives outside of its history.

The following Blacksmith’s Prayer is equally impactful, its slow determined pace is dramatic and firm, a constant pressure upon the walls of the song. As it progresses its fires are stoked and its rhythms and melodies find a stirring friskier surge of energy to shape the song leading to a climax the same as the opening, sure, deliberate and powerful.

Every song within Tales From The Barrel House is a real joy and event for the ear, from the expressive Hard Road with the stark realisation it brings as well as a sense of defiant togetherness, the gritty evocative Salt From Our Veins, to the entrapped resignation of Higher Walls to name just three songs, the album ignites thoughts and emotions at every turn. The album is so successful at transporting one to the capsules of lives and the past it offers one is almost brushing off the dust and wiping away the sweat by its end.

     Tales From The Barrel House is glorious, one of the true classic albums to grace our years in recent years. Seth Lakeman is a master, a conjuror of emotive sounds, real lives, and experiences, one anyone will revel being within.

RingMaster 29/03/2012 Registered & Protected

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