Mark Northfield: Alterations

OK let us get the difficult part out of the way first. Alterations the new album from English pianist and singer/songwriter Mark Northfield, is an album of two parts, the almost pop and almost classical. The five songs of the almost classical part are connected to and derived from the five in the almost pop first half whether from a riff, series of notes, or a theme and some may also have a lyrical connection between them too. Ok so far? Alterations is also mirrored at its centre so track 6 is derived from track 5, 7 from 4 and so on…come on keep up. The album is also set up so it can not only to be listened to from start to finish to get the most from and to appreciate the creativity at work. Northfield says it can be looked at also as a collection of five double A-side single’ and listened in that way too. ..phew we got there. The simple part of the whole thing is that Alterations is rather good, an evocative and intriguing venture that might make one work to discover all that is going on but gives ensures full enjoyment trying.

Berkshire born and London based, Northfield is a classically trained pianist, arranger and songwriter who regularly works as an accompanist for ballet and contemporary dance classes at London Contemporary Dance School, Arts Ed, and the Royal Academy Of Dance. These roles make great use of his talent for improvisation and reinterpretation something that is apparent on the album. Alterations follows 2008 album Ascendant, and the two EPs The Death Of Copyright and Nothing Impossible from 2011 and February this year respectively. The new album features a fine array of guest vocalists and musical contributors to bring a distinctly varied and eclectic quality to accompany the equally remarkable compositions.

The album opens with The Death Of Copyright a buoyant pop driven piece of Divine Comedy like grandeur complete with a contrasting rock lined verse and a classical awareness of the truth and beauty of the emotions weaving within the prose. You get the feel Northfield who is the lead vocalist here with the delightful tones of Ellen Jakubiel joining in, is at times having a dig at pop and rock music and their often sense of superiority through the humorous and mischievous wink within the song. The pulsating soul funk melody that saunters throughout is openly 70’s disco sourced with Northfield himself mentioned the song Superstition as inspiration.

In theory we should probably pair up the two mirror images but we would not want to take away the mystery and adventure  from you and truthfully it is not always that open what the linking and pairing is.

The wonderful Some Songs… is a mesmeric track with a darkened show tune grace and drama. It wonderfully feels a little off kilter, like a waltz from a slightly discordant parallel song walking a lonely yet soulful path though the track. The following and excellent You Don’t Need Me To Tell You That with the returning Jakubiel in a duet with Matt Crutchlow is a stunning summery song and relatively conventional for the album. It reminds of XTC around the Skylarking time with lyrical composition that is again more show tune than pop song.

The first half is made up with the pop rock anthem Nothing Impossible, a passionate and emotive song dealing with suicide which unleashes its pent up anger and frustration as it builds towards a powerful and forward moving climax, and the electronic hypnotic Headlonging. The track is inspirational with the chorister voice of Jon Payne a wonderful companion to the effect layered delivery from Northfield.

The mirror half of the album is equally as impressive and remarkable in its own emotional and heart clasped classical breath. The lovely song The Up Shit Creek Blues with the darkened distortions behind the fine vocals of Alexandra Howlett adding a disengaging atmosphere to the lyrics and a song one could imagine Edith Piaf within if her time was now, alongside the world/classical Latin elegance of Aurora stand out amongst the quintet of hypnotic songs.

Personally the first half takes the honours the way Alterations is laid out but listened to as a series of singles as suggested the album and songs work even better and with a more fluid charm. The album is excellent and the more one plays with it the more it endears itself and reveals further the mind and ideas behind. This is our first meeting with Mark Northfield but it will not be the last, more please.

http://marknorthfield.com/

RingMaster 11/05/2012

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Interview with Peter D’Chisholme of The Sea

If you thought all forms of op music was insipid and oppressively bland you have not come across the new album Rooftops from UK indie band The Sea. Consisting of brothers Alex and Peter D’Chisholme the band released a collection of songs which were infectiously imaginatively inventive and distinctly varied pulling in essences of pop, rock, show tunes, soul, and the blues to name a few of the flavours bursting from within Rooftops. As soon as we were offered we jumped at the chance to speak with the band to find out more, asking Peter about them, the album and life in The Sea.

Hello and welcome to The Ringmaster Review. Thank you for talking with us.

Firstly for those still not aware of you, please introduce yourselves and describe the band.

Hello there, we are two brothers (Alex and Peter), guitar and drums – making rough pop music. Lots of energy and lots of love.

What inspired you to make music and your sound in particular?

Couldn’t tell you what actually inspired us to start, it’s always been there with us and we kinda fell into it. The sound just came naturally and due to the fact there are only two of us. Whatever we’d lose from there being only two of us we more than match with the energy of our live show.

 At what point did you think your music had something that would appeal to others as much as you enjoyed creating it?

Haha, when other people told us?! It’s never really been a major issue for us; we’ve always made the music we wanted to regardless of what others say.

Did you grow up with music, always music in the family household?

Yeah absolutely, our Dad is a guitarist and was in several covers bands when we were kids. There was always a guitar in the house and The Beatles were always on the stereo.

Was the band name pretty inevitable with your other love haha?

Er, yes I suppose it was really. We were sat on the beach one day talking about what we should call ourselves, when Alex said, “How about ‘The Sea’?” and that was that.

As surf fanatics too how hard was it to blend the two and to initially give your music the dedication it needed when the waves were calling?

Very hard indeed, and us moving to London pretty much says it all really doesn’t it? There are no waves here, man! So the band took priority. However we do watch all the ASP contests when we’re on the road – for us it’s our football.

You began in 2007 out of your parents garage your bio said, was that the point you actually started making music or the point you decided you were a band?

The point that The Sea came about… We were in another band before, that fell apart and we found ourselves just jamming at Mum and Dad’s place and we were like “yeah this works”.

Your acclaimed debut single Love Love Love came out as 2009 started on your own Lusty Records, as have your releases since. Was doing it DIY always your preference or the only way at the time to get something released so no real option?

Well, we were advised if you want to keep full control of your output you should set up your own label so we did. Since then we’ve licensed the releases to various other labels all over the world so I don’t think we were worried about not getting signed to other labels.

Could you see Lusty Records widening to help other artists at some point?

Yeah don’t see why not. Not yet though.

2008 and 09 seems like they were very hectic and full years in many ways for you, though most years could be classed the same it seems for you haha. Was it as much of a whirlwind at the time as it seems from the outside?

It’s more of a whirlwind now I’d say. Fuck man, it’s all a blur to be honest (not in a druggy way, just constantly touring or recording). It’s been a great few years that’s for sure.

You were invited to play the MJ Festival in the US during this period, please tell us how that came about.

Really don’t know. We’ve played twice actually. They just contacted us and asked us. This has happened a lot to us, most unsigned bands don’t tend to believe you, but most of the good stuff that has happened to us is not through us pushing for it. Getting signed in Europe, supporting big bands – all of it is because others have contacted us.

Your debut album Get It Back was released in April 2009 also again to strong and eager acclaim. In a time already going very well what impact or extra difference did it make to the already impressive responses you were getting critically and at your constant shows and touring?

I think it was a case of the gig attendance went up massively, almost overnight. People just started turning up! Haha!

It seems like the album came out in the middle of touring was that actually what happened or there was a lull around it?

No, it happened mid-way through touring. It was very hectic. We didn’t really have any management in place in those days, so we were running everything. It’s a lot more organised for this album. Kind of had to be because we’re touring even more this time!

Moving on to your excellent new album Rooftops. How has it and the sound you have now, changed and evolved from your debut?

Well, if we have changed it’s more of an unconscious decision in the sense that we just gave each song what we felt it demanded. If we heard horns or strings in our heads we’d put it down. I guess this record is more pop than “Get It Back”. That’s not to say the next album will be like “Rooftops” though.

Did Rooftops emerge exactly as you envisaged going into it or did it bring an extra breath and depth that even surprised you a little?

Good question! I guess it did surprise us a little bit. The songs seemed to take on a life of their own. It was like they were speaking to us saying “give me strings, give me horns”.

Listening to the album there are so many flavours that suggests many influences without sounding exactly like any either. As songwriters how aware or how much thought if any goes into wondering where some chords or riffs come from and how much they may sound like something else or is that never an issue?

I don’t think that’s ever really been an issue to be honest, if it sounds good then we’ll do it and just hope that someone tells us before we release it if we’ve ripped off someone else! Our merch guy is like a musical encyclopaedia he knows every riff ever written, when in doubt ask Ben. That’s our motto!

Rooftops is very varied too, from the big glorious sounds of New York, the wonderful soulful ballad Cry, to the garage punk energy of Panic On The Streets Of Dalston. How have you created this diversity but made it fit seamlessly within the overall charm of Rooftops without it being disjointed?

That’s a big compliment, thank you! We spent a lot of time in the studio discussing how the songs were put together – months in fact. Our producers Julian Diggle and John Cornfield wanted to get the story of the songs to flow into each other. In many ways it’s a concept album of falling in love in London and the whole album maps out that summer when it all happened.

Could you give some background to Panic On The Streets Of Dalston our favourite song on the album?

I (Peter) was at the time living at my friend’s house in Shoreditch and my friend turned up early from work saying, “Have you heard about the shooting in Dalston?” At that time The Smiths song ‘Panic’ was on the TV, so I just went into my room and out it came! I also wrote ‘Where’s The Love’ on the same day!

Also tell us about the distinct and hypnotic closing track to the album is Emily’s Waltz?

Well that’s THE song for us on this record. It’s the realisation of falling in love and letting everything else in your life just disappear. I still ‘well up’ when I sing it live sometimes. It’s about hope and the risk of starting a new life.

As you mentioned you got producer John Cornfield (XTC, Muse, Supergrass, Oasis, Razorlight) in to work with you on Rooftops. Why did you feel he was the right man to help realise your new ideas and sounds?

Well he’s a fellow Cornishman, so we knew each other and love all the albums he’s ever done. He’s got a real ability to get the best out of you.

You were writing the album in 2010 and you recorded it then too?

Yeah the recording, mixing and mastering went through 2010 and 2011. We were lucky to be given such a long time to make it.

Rooftops has taken quite a while to be released then and obviously that is also down to the terrible accident Alex had whilst surfing in 2011. That must have put music well away from the thoughts at the time?

Yeah, the accident put the release back by pretty much a whole year. But to be honest it was the last thought in our minds at the time. We were told by various industry people that this could really damage our career (such a long time between albums). But any suggestions to continue without Alex were met with a very swift ‘FUCK OFF’. There are more important things than what some wanker in the music industry thinks.

Can we ask the extent of Alex’s injuries and the prognosis for him at the time?

OK, as I (Peter) am doing this interview I can only tell you the facts. The surf was pretty average, certainly not big; a freak accident ‘duck diving’ (look it up) pushed Alex’s neck into the shallow sand, rendered him unconscious underwater, breaking his neck and slipping a vertebra out of place. It looked for a while that he’d have to have surgery and initially at least we were not sure if he’d ever walk ever again let alone play the drums. He’d lost the use of his left arm totally.

Could anyone other than a drummer have made the remarkable return to strength and the drum kit that he did haha?

Haha, probably not! Even the doctors were astounded by his recovery. As the swelling reduced the vertebrae slipped back into place, his left arm started working and he slowly got back to normal.

Is he back to full strength now, and has surfing take a back seat now?

Yes, thank God! You’d never know now, everyone that saw The Sea before the accident that sees us now will tell you he’s playing better than ever. It’s truly incredible. He still goes just as hard when he surfs as he did before too!

Before and after the accident The Sea were touring extensively and I believe the same is ahead for 2012?

That’s right. This year is the biggest ever!

 I believe you played 250 gigs in just two years, was this a target you aimed for playing as many shows as possible or just how it turned out from the demand for your music?

Demand really, but can’t say we were complaining. I think we’re doing more this year though.

I have to ask how do you get the large and majestic sound to your songs like on the single New York to translate live though just a duo?

Well mostly it’s the energy we put into the performance. The horns are on laptop (I don’t think there is any shame in it, everyone does it these days). Come and see us and then you’ll know!

After the album what are the next plans for The Sea?

Touring in UK, Europe, USA and Canada. Release another single in the summer. Supporting some bigger acts in the summer too. Recording album no. 3 in the winter, and repeat the whole thing again next year.

Thank you again so much for talking with us.

Would you like to leave any final words or thoughts?

Our pleasure. Final thoughts – no matter what is put in your way don’t stop believing in your dreams, it can happen. Take it from someone that knows.

And lastly with New York following previous single Don’t You Want Me by being featured on UK TV show Hollyoaks; do you have a fan on their production crew haha?

Haha! Honestly, I don’t even have a TV that works so it’s rare that we even see it. But it’s very flattering. The money is of some comfort too.

Read the Rooftops review@ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/the-sea-rooftops/

The RingMaster Review 11/05/2012

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Matt Norris & The Moon: This Kingdom EP

We cannot claim to have an in depth knowledge of folk music let alone the traditional Scottish Folk and the more contemporary folk which are both said to influence the sounds of Matt Norris & The Moon, but it is impossible to miss the fine and vibrant sounds which weave their graceful elegance and passion within their debut EP This Kingdom. The release is a mesmeric introduction to most for the band with four songs thick in emotion and defined in craft and passion.

Formed in 2009 by Matt Norris (guitar, lead vocals) and Tom MacColl (bass) who met at the University of Edinburgh, the band soon expanded with the addition of Dave Law (trumpet, mandolin) after the duo started playing at his open mic nights, as well as Helen Cookson (fiddle, flute) and Dale Birrel (keys, accordion). It did not take them long to become a strong presence in the newly emerging Edinburgh folk scene and beyond with the quintet, after working hard realising and giving definition to their sound, sharing stages with the likes of Ben Howard, Villagers, Lucy Rose, Pete Roe, Rachel Sermanni, Alphabet Backwards, Kitty the Lion, Dry the River, Three Blind Wolves, Woodenbox and Chasing Owls and initially making a mark with tan opening set at the Edinburgh Hogmanay Concert in Gardens supporting Sons & Daughters, Bombay Bicycle Club and Primal Scream. Their music is a warm and open blend of smoothly caressing harmonies, thoughtful melodies, and heart fuelled coming together of striking guitar and double bass with sparking trumpet, fiddle, flute, and accordion. All combined they make sounds which fill the songs with an evocative breath and captivating energy.

Released on 17 Seconds Records the EP instantly enchants and takes one into the rich and impassioned heart of the release. Opening song Roots Below slowly dawns on the vocals of Norris wrapped in a welcoming trumpet and gentle guitar grasp. The wonderful voice of Cookson adds an extra flush of warmth as the song slowly opens its arms before pulling one into its full and energised embrace. One fully unveiled the song is an enthusiastic and infectious stomp that gives a hope and life to the lyrical tale engaged in the aftermath of a broken relationship.

The quieter and emotive Eyes of a Storm follows next bringing an air of uncertainty and hope walking hand in hand. It carries a traditional Scottish lilt to its conversation with the senses, the accordion and fiddle sparking feelings and thoughts into action. In two songs the band shows a varied swim within their songwriting, both songs connecting with passion through different musical doorways and something the other compositions match equally.

Shadow from the Sun is the best track on This Kingdom and a song which removes one from their thoughts into a full and rounded vision of a soul in reflection. From the enchanting flute lighting up the ear the song is a busy and controlled stroll of inventive melodies, stirring guitar, and an impressively balanced uplifting flurry of flute and trumpet imagination. The song is uplifting and leading towards a defiant climatic realisation and strength, its power and lass easily capturing the imagination and heart.

The EP closes with The Shallows an atmospheric and slightly mournful song which opens through a brooding slightly droning entrance with great bass moodiness from MacColl. The song reminds a little of another Scottish band Letters in its atmosphere and darkened sense of frustration and wastage of time.

This Kingdom is an impressive and evocative release that touches deeply with skill and understanding. It is a masterful pleasure and indicates Matt Norris & The Moon as a band that not only in folk music but further afield has a promising and distinct future ahead.

www.mattnorrisandthemoon.co.uk

RingMaster 11/05/2012

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Trioscapes: Separate Realities

Exhilarating and persistently captivating the debut album from Trioscapes is quite simply stunning. Separate Realities leaves thoughts and senses aflame with a creativity and technical skill that incites the fullest and most eager connections and responses. A combination of 70s fusion with progressive rock the release is a cultured yet seemingly instinctive and raw creature which stirs up feelings and conjures an infection that runs deep.

Trioscapes is the union of bassist Dan Briggs (Between the Buried and Me), Walter Fancourt (tenor saxophone/flute), and Matt Lynch (drums, electronics). The band came about when in the summer of last year Briggs contacted Fancourt with the idea of reworking the classic Mahavishnu Orchestra track Celestial Terrestrial Commuters. With other ideas formed as well the band played an one off intended live show but such the fun from that and the demands the music asked of them that they decided to stick with it as an ongoing project. October 2011 saw them entering a studio with Jamie King in Winston-Salem, N Carolina and from the other side stepped forth Separate Realities.

Released via Metal Blade Records the album is a burly yet concentrated animal, a primitive but distinctly technical and imaginative entity that can snarl or whisper in the ear and disrupt or induce rapture within the senses. The instrumental soundscapes the trio bring forth are living breathing pieces which define their own path and effectiveness within each individual. They invite and manipulate with a catchy engagement and openly startling concoctions that for many will lead to the nearest exit but for a great many more will incite an infectiously keen willingness to immerse further within the excited but composed progressive invention. Predominantly just tenor sax, bass and drums with a few extras and distortions, each track is a full and powerful slice of sound and energy.

The first song Blast Off explores the ear first lifting one into giddy heights to leave a shortness of breath whilst clasping the thrilling unpredictability tightly to the chest. Initially coming over as a jazz led piece it spreads into a wider soak of sounds laced with a funk pulse and hypnotic drive pierce with ventures from an exhaustive scuzzy bass and flaunting warm sax. It is the gnarly bass moments of Briggs that steal the already staggering show; his play much more of a brewing coarse primal energy and sound than in his day job.

The title track next steps into view and immediately lifts a strong start to Separate Realities to a higher plain. It niggles and persuades the senses to open up even more before filling them with a composition that looks into the chaotic jaws of indulgence but never steps in. With tight aggression coupled with a humour through slithers of cartoon moments, the track is a compulsive siren, a bewitching pulsating and agitated piece of brilliance. The sax of Fancourt assumes the face of the song whilst the bass of Briggs the blood and veins which bring heart and depth. With the excellent rhythms and creativity of Lynch the bones and framework all wraps around it is a mighty and deeply pleasing piece of ingenuity.

The more muscular Curse Of The Ninth with scorched melodies from the sax of Fancourt sparking against the prowling antagonistic bass of Briggs offers another varied and different adventure. Blending in further variations of sound it is an emotive and flavoursome track which plays with light and dark with the surest of touch. The closing lighter and dazzling Gemini’s Descent also offers up a distinctly unique palate to lay inspired thoughts and feelings upon, its peaceful and imaginative land a bubbling aural forest.

Wazzlejazzlebof was the one track which it was hard to fully engage with though the more time spent with it the closer one becomes. For the only time on Separate Realities it felt like the band had strolled in to improv and at times its meanderings missed the mark though at other moments it unerringly found the spot.

With the excellent Celestial Terrestrial Commuters included, the reinterpretation by Trioscapes a more chilled and less intimidating version than the original, Separate Realities is a masterful and voracious pleasure. It will not be for everyone as a whole though there is something for all tastes enjoying adventure and intriguing melodic enterprise. Hopefully Trioscapes will continue creating and thrilling as special does not truly cover the experience inside of Separate Realities.

Ringmaster 11/05/2012

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