Niko – Hate & Love

With a heightened anticipation inspired by the recent release of the excellent single You’re So Boring, sitting down with the new album from Seattle artist Niko came with a sense of something special was about to happen. The single had marked the heart with its infectious and highly charged emotion but would the album follow it up to the same satisfaction. What emerged was a release which across its length was wonderfully unpredictable and enjoyable if at times variable, but more than once reached the same irresistible pleasure as on the single.

Nicole Vergel de Dios grew up destined to make and breathe music, her multi-cultural heritage sowing seeds and her life growing up surrounded and inspired by great sounds through her parents record collection to ignite her passion. She spent her days and years performing, singing in choirs, and learning the piano. Music was her obsession and love, something which is apparent in every aspect of her album and evident in every word and sound. 2004 saw the release of her acclaimed debut album Life on Earth where she started working with producer Andy Turner, aka Aim. The following year Niko and Aim began their own imprint ATIC Records the move opening up their creative freedom and control.

Hate & Love has been four intense years in the making with the artist said to have taken a huge artistic leap forward since her debut release. Whilst the two singles from it, The Daddy Remix and previously mentioned You’re So Boring, make the suggestion that the claim is accurate the album easily confirms the fact. The release is a warmly infectious yet shadowed collection of songs in distinct and varied guises. Carefully structured and adventurous the release leaves one in no doubt of the time and effort gone into every aspect of the album.

The album immediately opens to wrong foot the senses. The Blight Of Old is deeply atmospheric with an abstract breath and surreal essence which equally sparkles and grates especially vocally where Niko seems to be searching for either notes beyond her or those not yet invented. The song is a grower but never achieves a peace with the ear or senses. It is a very surprising start and maybe a teasing test from the lady for our thoughts and expectations but does not damage the keenness to explore more.

The brilliant You’re So Boring soon has things back in the world of contagion, the song a provocative and emotive release of pent up emotions and renewed energy. With a delicious spiky bassline and glorious harmonies to ignite all passions the track is the most compulsive and catchy example of a woman scorned put to music. The song is one which comes to you any time of the day and night its hold complete from the first introduction and sure to have you singing or humming out loud and at any time, not great when in a mosh pit but needs must.

The following A Life In Dreams ensures the close connection between heart and album is continued with its caressing electronic warmth and heaven borne melodies. It is a dazzling piece of electro pop, a mesmeric weave to immerse deeply within as Niko serenades with her distinct and sirenesque voice. The song completes three tracks which show the eclectic and diverse songwriting and imagination of album and artist which the likes of the exquisite hypnotic title track and the eager electro pop fuelled I Can’t Get Enough readily emphasize. Both songs are stunning showers of golden electronic suns and shining atmospheric grace, the latter of the two bringing an increased urgency and feisty air to its summer spawn heart.

The sensational So Famous is another hypnotic treat with its relentless niggling guitar spine and scuzzy edged electric breath and as the album continues more enterprise appears in the shapes of Tiger Balm and Arigato My Roboto. The first is a song which glides ambient textures and breezy atmospheres whilst the second recalls the golden age of disco, and is much better than that sounds. The Daddy Remix ensures one more glorious moment, its vibrant pulse and featured hip hop guests QNC making it an irresistible and fully infectious piece of unique ear candy whilst the closing Over You is a magical heart delivered and emotional prize from the special voice and songwriting of Niko.

Hate & Love arguably did not quite live up to initial expectations but then they were incredibly high. It is though an impressive and expressive collection of songs which follow their own admirable rules to leave one very satisfied.

Ringmaster 20/06/2012

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War Engine Demo

For all of the great thrash metal bands around the world there is always a bit of excitement when a new one emerges from Eastern Europe. They bring a purer thrash sound to the ear to excite, their seeds sown and cultivated in the origins and strengths of the genre. Serbian band War Engine is no different, young and unapologetic they bring you thrash metal as it should be, in their own words they say “if you want fuckin thrash, we will give you fuckin, fast, badass thrash .“ As their debut demo proves they are true to their word, its three tracks unbridled merciless straight forward thrash pleasure. There is no place for fancy diversions, complicated progressive meanderings or unpredictable perpetual  breakdowns, they simply offer straight from the heart heavy rock n roll.

From Novi Sad the quartet of guitarist Dusan Mijolic, bassist Aleksandar Jakshic, drummer Stefan Stanic, and vocalist/guitarist Luka Francesko, have obvious influences from the likes of Violator, Municipal Waste, Slayer, and Kreator, to name just a few which spring to mind and have absorbed all their best elements to create their own hungry sound. Currently recording their debut album, the demo makes the perfect introduction to the band whilst instigating keen anticipation for their first full length release planned for later in the year.

     The best track on the demo is Chemical Warfare, a track which is destined to be hungrily accepted by all thrash metal fans. Emerging on a sturdy energy the track patiently waits as the drums form a cage of steel and guitars welcome in the ear like an honourable gladiator. One established the song erupts in a riotous assault of cutting guitars, thunderous riffs, and knee buckling rhythms. With an intensity and anthemic power Municipal Waste would be proud of, the track is irresistible and soon has limbs punching air and voice in loud tandem for the chorus. The song does not go for the jugular at break neck speed or with the heaviest armoury but is easily a full and inspiring thrash explosion. As they thump the senses into submission the band remind of the likes of fellow Serbians CounterignitioN and UK band Saqqara, but with their own distinct weaponry.

Civilian Casualties slowly emerges with a simple guitar lead, its notes intriguingly leading into the again relentless pummelling of the senses. The track is a head bangers dream, its riffs and drums a contagious artillery of energy and strikes to have hair and neck in full lustful union. With vocals as caustic and direct as you wish but with the strength to allow clarity to the uncompromising lyrics and theme, the track is another formidable and deeply pleasing confrontation upon the ear.

Completing the release is Revolution, a song which does not quite live up to the power and irresistible pull of the other two but is still a thoroughly enjoyable slab of muscular metal. It like the release as a whole leaves one as breathless and wishing there was more to come.

War Engine is a band which will find a great welcome from thrash fans everywhere and whether it is this demo or their forthcoming album which is the trigger you cannot not see any other outcome. With future radio play coming through The Bone Orchard at The Reputation Radio Show, War Engine are on the march.

RingMaster 20/06/2012

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Lazer/Wulf : There Was A Hole Here. It’s Gone Now

It has to be said that the There Was A Hole Here. It’s Gone Now EP from Georgia band Lazer/Wulf is one remarkable release, a stirring and intriguing piece of songwriting and realisation. The EP, barely touching twelve minutes in length contains four tracks making one full, continuous, and evolving emotive experience which is individual to each who immerses themselves in its powerful presence. It is a release which no matter the original premise and theme which the artist represents with its sounds, instigates a personal vision and journey which changes and finds its own evolution the more one spends in its company.

Lazer/Wulf is an instrumental band who occasionally use vocals as another element not a focus. From Athens, GA, the trio of guitarist Bryan Aiken, bassist Sean Peiffer, and drummer Brad Rice, create an involved form of progressive metal fused with distinct and varied strains such as sludge, jazz, technical metal, and more. Their music is wonderfully unpredictable and impossible to bring any expectations to, except that from the evidence of There Was A Hole Here. It’s Gone Now it will be something unforgettable. Their sound is dense and rich in consumptive originality without becoming painfully intrusive, its heart and breath a perpetual trigger for individual thoughts and responses.

Originally a quintet the band has consistently grabbed strong attention through their live shows and striking releases, which led to them in 2008 being acclaimed Athens Band of the Year. 2006 saw their debut demo Demo-Lition! taking no time in making its mark in the ears of local music lovers, but the line-up changes, some enforced, saw the band reduced to a threesome and the challenge of re-interpreting their immense sound without losing its might. 2009 saw the release of their full debut The Void That Isn’t, its strong and impressive sounds a declaration of the new Lazer/Wulf though this also was followed by losing another member. A long search led Aiken and Peiffer to the eventual discovery of drummer Rice in 2011 and finally the band was set and began working on There Was A Hole Here. It’s Gone Now.

Opening track We Will Meet Again teases the ear from the start with a brewing atmosphere which beckons without revealing its intent merely offering a sense of something big impending. As it flexes its mass a throbbing hungry bass begins lurking behind the mesmeric guitar intrigue. As it lifts its energy the rhythms become eager and excitable and even in the restrained moments when vocals add their breath the track is pulling at its reins. Eventually the song breaks free and we are treated to a storm of urgent energy, striking melodic prompting, and feisty rhythms. The track awakens thoughts, its warm yet open sense of finality inspiring ever changing interpretations of personal imagination.

The piece turns into a muscular beast as it emerges as second track Song from the Second Floor. Whereas the first track has a Mars Volta like gait here it brings an angrier intensity to its energy, a thrash laced metallic presence. With the guitars surging with purpose and again the bass a ravenous presence, the track is an initial inciting bruise of pleasure. Taking a step back to assess the situation the song offers a lull before it builds to its climactic chaotic riot upon the senses. Chaos breaks out as a battlefield of emotions, sounds, and intrusive atmospheres collide in ingenious invention, the track having the feel of an all powerful element standing over the enraged mayhem within its shadow.

Bones of the Youth is the portrait of this bedlam of creativity and intensity, its air paranoid and defensive but with a corruptive defiance. Each listen to the piece brings a difference thought, its varied metal veins incendiary and irresistible. Emerging from the venomous atmosphere the equally distorted air of Morgue Nest brings the EP to a unforgettable climax. With combative rhythms and aggressive riffs rippled with malevolent guitar play the track is the final statement. Whether it is a full finality or the spring board for another development you decide as it and the whole EP leaves you breathless and desperate for more.

The There Was A Hole Here. It’s Gone Now EP has to be heard as a whole for its fullest glorious effect to be felt and enjoyed, though individual tracks will still leave all metal and rock fans quivering with excitement. Released also on vinyl and cassette with the bonus instrumental It’s Gone Now, the EP is one of the most impressive things to come our way this year, and Lazer/Wulf one of the most exciting bands.

http://www.lazerwulf.com/

RingMaster 20/06/2012

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Eighteen Nightmares At The Lux: Mother Of Girl

Half way through the year and I guess we all have some serious contenders for single of the year already but now we have a release which puts all others so far in the shade. Mother Of Girl from Eighteen Nightmares At The Lux is quite simply a delicious and irresistible frenzy of infectious persistent riffs, bone resonating rhythms, and irrepressible energy. Playing their self tagged and apt fuzzabilly, the quartet from London has unleashed a single which is inspiring and evidence that there is still a fresh and eager heart to be found in music, most importantly though it is so damn catchy.

Eighteen Nightmares At The Lux first came to notice in 2008 with their track Mrs Madam which grabbed the enthused attention of Steve Lamacq at BBC 6 Music. What followed was success in unsigned competitions, a tour with Dodgy, and more success with their debut single Smile Now Lady. 2010 saw the acclaimed release of their first EP Fuzz Candy which from its release party led the band into a monthly residency at the Death2Disco Club. In an ever building wave of attention the band released their again well received second EP Draw The Curtain last year from which the new single is pulled. The song accompanied by a new track is destined to elevate the band even further as the country and further afield wake up to one of the most exciting and exhilarating bands to emerge in recent years.

Mother of Girl opens with the prompt “Go on take off your clothes”. Well not wishing to be rude it was done though it is hard to know if it added to the pleasure but it was quite liberating. The song opens with twin scuzzed up guitars buzzing around the ear like mischievous hornets soon joined by thumping beats and excited eager vocals. The track evolves into a garage punk feast of insatiable tendencies to match the lyrics and makes it impossible to not take part in its salacious energy and sounds within the first minute. With an anthemic cry for the secret desires of many…hmmm just me?…the song is a teasing swaggering romp for the heart. With veins of psychobilly and dirty blues the song is immense, it is quite simply  one of the best things heard in a long time.

Alongside Mother of Girl the release treats with Law Breaking Blues, a track confirming the diversity of the band as offered on their previous releases. The song is a shadowed blues soaked rockabilly pleasure for the ear. Opening with a great emotive blues harmonica and effected vocals the song sets a back street corner atmosphere lit by a single lamp. Once the image sets in the song then erupts into a blistered rockabilly stomp bringing essences of The Cramps into rampant league with Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers and Batmobile. With a plaintive blazing guitar throughout and perpetual pace changes the song is a stirring and incendiary piece of rock n roll.

The quartet of Shimon Joseph, Const Groenert, Greg Gold, and Alex Allen, has truly awakened 2012 with Mother Of Girl, and with an EP recently recorded ahead its anticipation is truly ignited. Eighteen Nightmares At The Lux is our new favourite band, they are just waiting to become yours.

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RingMaster 20/06/2012

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This Years Winner Is: When In Rome Single

With comparisons of You Me At Six and Four Year Strong nicely sitting in their ear, Isle Of Man quintet This Years Winner Is release their new single When In Rome June 25th. With an energised and easily accessible pop punk flavoured sound, the single which is taken from their well received In At The Weekend EP, marks the band as one more likely to ignite the passions of the masses than many other similar fuelled emerging contemporaries.

Formed in 2008 and from Onchan in Mann, the five piece of vocalist Elliot Kinrade, guitarists Ben Wilde and Dario Leonetti, bassist Ashley Hogg, and Darren Shields on drums, have been thrilling a growing devoted fan base through their live shows and tours and as mentioned debut EP which was released on British record label Hang Tight Records. When In Rome is the next step in their to date sure rise and with its fresh and eager sounds should be a notable one.

With a big beat the song engages the ear immediately with strong vocals from Kinrade and smooth harmonics with other members alongside persuasive incisive riffs. Behind the infectious surface there is a great prowling and growling bass presence from Hogg which brings a welcome shadow to the song to help lift it away from similar sounding bands. There is an intense edge to the guitars too, their heavier riffing aggressive and combative without being intrusive. The band find a good blend between their obvious melodic skill and a more forceful energy, the mix making an expansive field for their songwriting to explore.

As good as the single is it actually offers greater promise for the band ahead than current realisation, but it is still satisfyingly solid, very pleasing, and many levels ahead of most other newly appearing pop punk bands right now. This Years Winner Is definitely is a band to keep a close eye on and as they find their true distinct breath should emerge as one of the most thrilling.

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RingMaster 20/06/2012

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Damn Damn Patriots: Duke It Out with Damn Damn Patriots

Damn Damn Patriots play buzz-saw pop or to give it an image, it is like having an aural visit to the dentist with an insistent and perpetual drill resonating within the senses. It is something quite simply sensational as proven by their new album Duke It Out with Damn Damn Patriots. Consisting of ten tracks spanning a mere twenty two odd minutes in true punk fashion, the album is an unapologetic brew of pop punk, garage punk, and roughened pop, basically a feisty feast of rock n pop and punk n roll. It is irresistibly infectious, a sonic contagion as virulent as any air borne germ with open mischief at its insatiable heart.

Damn Damn Patriots are a quartet from Reading, UK who originally formed as a three piece warm up band for a local venue, the Know Your History Club. The band evolved to a quartet of vocalist and guitarist Jason Applin (also of Union Starr), guitarist Kev Wells, drummer Patrick Bingley, and bassist Mark Smith, though he has recently left the band, and with a back to basics air recorded and mixed the album in just seven days. This instant and uncluttered premise gives a wonderful raw energy and excited breath to each and every song on the release as well as a nostalgic prompt back to the days of do what you want punk.

The teasing opening chords of Keep Swimming, instantly grabs the ear as it bursts into the first of the parade of reverb and discordant soaked songs. With a garage punk sound of scuzz and impetuous energy the track is a far too brief slice of trashy excellence and the perfect opener to what emerges as one of the most exhilarating releases this year so far.

The high quality is continued and raised by the following A Bible And A Bottle of Pills. A hook as infectious as any Pete Shelley has ever conjured entices the ear initially and is a frequent tease throughout another electrified burst of scantily clad melodic wantonness. With a bruising bass line and scathing guitar tones the song is a feverish rascal of distorted sixties garage sounds.

      Bam Bam lets the peddle lift a touch as the reverb knob on the vocals of Applin is taken to its fullest resonating level, its fall out a niggling added pleasure alongside highly pitched additional vocals. A thumping rock n roll stomp it makes a great appetiser for current single Family Unit. It also is the first to exceed two minutes; in fact it goes the whole hog as it wickedly extends its electric swarm of noise to beyond 3 minutes.

Family Unit is an outstanding song and makes one wonder if The Monkees had found their origins in this decade whether this is where they would have been musically, the song having that same pop contagion. The song has a statically charged breath which sparks only the strongest pull towards its riled pop air.

Tracks like the emotively charged This Is The Song That You’d Expect Me To Write, the summery over heated melodic first single Do The Sell Out, and The Fall meets The Pixies blistered pop gem State Of NY with wonderful additional female vocals, well we think they are it could be just a band member squeezing tightly, all leave one excited and immersed in a cloud of satisfaction.

A couple of the biggest highlights come in the songs Blood On Satan’s Claw and In The End. The first with an underlying riff which shouts The Clash anthem White Riot is again a far too short, you evil people, track of brilliance. The song scratches and pleasures in equally majesty and despite its short existence is an adrenaline fuelled ignition switch for the overload of the senses.  The second of the two is a mesmeric blend for the first time of full smoothly toned vocals against a back drop of hazardous scuzzy bred caustic melodies. Both tracks are outstanding in what is an album of continual uncompromising magnificence.

Closing on a maelstrom of discord and acidic fingering called Supermoronic, a corruptive sing-a-long though all the songs on the album can be tagged as such, Duke It Out with Damn Damn Patriots is simply a dynamic and delicious pleasure. A punk driven senses sizzling, lo-fi, hi quality supercharger of pop sound. The must have album of the summer.

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RingMaster 19/06/2012

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Pat The Human: Eternal Jamnation

Dallas quartet Pat the Human play energycore, which basically means they just bruise and beat up on the senses with the deepest glee and unbridled aggression. Whether it is an officially recognised genre who knows as there seems to be a new one breaking out with every other release these days and it really does not matter anyway, no labelling does. What is important is the knowing that Pat The Human is one mightily powerful and impossible to escape from, once their intense and creative sounds take a hold, storm of expertly created noise.

The band has just released their new EP Eternal Jamnation and it has to be said it is a release which is hard to ignore. Following on from their single From Pariah, Up of last year and the 2008 album Bruteforce, the new release is an extreme assault on the senses. Brewing a compulsive mix of metalcore, hardcore, and electro metal though that still leaves elements unspoken, the band leaves no musical stone unturned or unexplored to create a challenging but rewarding experience.

The EP opens with arguably the best track Saiga The Bull, a piece of muscle which persistently punches you in the face from its opening notes right through to its departure. With destructive riffs slicing the air like a thousand samurai swords and rhythms re-enacting the Dambusters it is an extreme assault from the start. The vocals are as venomous and caustic as the melodic scything which emerges throughout the track aiding and reinforcing the unrelenting pressure. The song then adds something unexpected to the continuing assault in the shape of excellent clean melodic vocals and sound. What is great is it arrives without depletion or change in the continual assault at all just comes in alongside. It is like an onlooker deciding he wants a piece of the action too, an interloper from the crowd putting a less forceful boot in alongside the original bullying instigator. The song is outstanding and a feast for all extreme metal fans.

The following America (Re)Evolution continues in the same vein but with an electro/trance metal pervading atmosphere behind the brawling storm beneath it. The track is arguably less forceful with a fuller melodic vein rupturing within the song though it is no less intrusive and impactful than the first.

The title track has an even more leak of melodic invention to its hulking body and the band  brings a continuing varied breath to their release. With all their songs it is still a rugged treatment of the senses but with a more defined and open core. To be fussy the production could have been better as it feels a little muggy sound and atmosphere wise but it is a small complaint on a track which is very addictive and maybe sneaks top honours after all. The guitar work is excellent as are the drums but the bass steals the spot with its intimidating predatory tones and presence. The gang vocals are excellent and all in all it is a song which could make the breakthrough for the band.

The closing pair of Young & Dangerous and 2K Situations do not skimp on the violent contact and intrusive intent, their insistent demands energy sapping and ear demanding but again with great reward. The first of the two is chaotic but that just adds to the crushing effect as does the inspiring guitar play which only intensifies the bruising the rest of the song delivers. The second song is probably the less remarkable on the release though it still finds the band outshining a great many other bands of similar intent.

If extreme metal with the aggression and intensity of a hundred tornados and the melodic sonic scorch of an exploding sun is your idea of fun then Pat the Human is a must check out band for you and with Eternal Jamnation being available for free from their bandcamp profile the only regret you will have is from not going to get your free destruction.

http://patthehuman.bandcamp.com/

RingMaster 19/06/2012

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Charlie Lankester And The Mojo Killers: The Spinning Of The Wheel

Since dropping out of medical school in the seventies singer songwriter and pianist Charlie Lankester has had an impressive and eventful music life from touring with the Australian band The Last Chance Café and playing keyboard for the past twenty years with the likes of Linda Gail Lewis, Osibisa, Otis Grand, The Boogie Band, and The John Warwick All Stars. Now with his own blues and rock flavoured sounds June 25th sees the releasing of his first single The Spinning Of The Wheel which is taken from his debut album Song in a Minor Key which has its unveiling July 9th.

The Spinning Of The Wheel is a determined song which leaves one impressed and enthused by its great strength and sounds. This strength comes from the artist as a person not just in his songwriting. This is evident in his response to the news from his doctor last December just a day before he was due to mix of the last track on the album in the studio, that he had hepatocellular carcinoma (incurable cancer of the liver). The response was clear, in his own words he said “I was feeling so good about the album that when the doctor told me I had only months to live I just laughed and said ‘No mate, that’s not gonna happen. I’ve got an album to release.” Charlie worked hard on his health with expert medical advice as well as finishing the album with this summer seeing him much better physically with promising results so far and the release of his, which going by the single promises to be a very interesting and pleasing album.

With his band The Mojo Killers consisting of guitarists Derek Mandel and Mark Hawkins, bass player Dave Cuthbert, drummer Daniel Howard, plus saxophonist Paul Silver, trumpeter Gavin Broom, and Nick Mills on trombone, Charlie for his first single has created an infectious blues toned rock song. It has a sure gait to its swagger, a confidence in its ability to persuade the ear with every note to open up to its mesmeric charms. It opens with a plaintive blues guitar call before easing back to bring a companioning backdrop to the vocals of Charlie and his lyrical tale. The song makes no demands but simply engages the senses with a full and rewarding blend of well crafted rock and irresistible brass flavouring as it progresses.  It is a thoroughly satisfying song with small but wonderfully defined flares of melodic invention from the guitar and glorious spreads of passion igniting sounds from the horn section.

The Spinning Of The Wheel is a song which all classic rock and blues fans will get a big kick from and the perfect invitation for Song in a Minor Key. Charlie Lankester And The Mojo Killers just might be theirs and your new rock friend.

RingMaster 19/06/2012

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The Sea : Shake Shake

June 25th sees the release of the second single from the album Rooftops from the continually impressive UK indie band The Sea. Released as a free download through their own Lusty Records, Shake Shake is sure to further fan the fires of acclaim which were ignited by their excellent new album and previous single the epic sounding New York.

Brothers Alex (vocals, drums) and Peter D’Chisholme (vocals, guitar, piano) are currently on a tour of the UK with selected dates supporting James Morrison scattered amidst them. The release of Shake Shake with its outstanding indie rock sounds is a fully infectious celebration to light up ears and to inspire more attention for their acclaimed and thrilling live shows.

The song rumbles from the first note with thumping beats from Alex alongside the eager guitar of Peter, his strokes electrified slices across the ear. With vocals as energised and enthused as the sounds, the song expands into an insatiable weave of classic blues rock and greedy indie pop. The chorus is instantly infectious and the energy of the song irresistible bringing a full and compulsive union with heart and limbs. As mentioned there is a full rock breath to the song which brings a flavouring of seventies psychedelic garage sounds, a n essence which is being re-invented by more and more bands either in their overall sound or as here in a particular track, and few have managed to capture and use it as impressively as The Sea.

Shake Shake is another fine example of the diversity and inventive command The Sea have with melodically flowing and energy charged songs in their varied forms. Impossibly catchy and irrepressibly addictive the song simply confirms The Sea as one of the most imaginative and exciting indie bands in the UK right now.

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RingMaster 19/06/2012

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Levellers: Static On The Airwaves

pic by Ami Barwell

Preferring a punk strain of folk rock there has never been real interest and need here to dive into the wealth of admittedly the generally enjoyable and well crafted folk tunes of Levellers through their soon to be 25 years of existence. The snarl of a Dropkick Murphys, the socially charged directness of a Flogging Molly, and the wicked mischief of a Smokey Bastard always held an irresistible lure in front of what is accepted as an enterprising but safe band in Levellers. This is just a personal preference but does mean it is hard to compare the brand new album Static On The Airwaves to their previous acclaimed and at times less eagerly accepted releases. The talk is that this their tenth album marks their return to roots and is possibly their best album in a long time, that is for fans to judge but it has to be said it is a surprisingly engaging album with more unpredictable moments than expected.

Produced by the returning Sean Lakeman who assumed the same role on previously acclaimed album Letters From The Underground, the new release has been the source of much eager anticipation and from the twelve tracks which confidently please the senses it should follow or maybe exceed the garnered praise of its predecessor. Released June 25th, via their own imprint On The Fiddle, the band does not exactly ignite any burning fires but there is a certain infectious lure from the majority of the songs to ensure occasional visits ahead when the muscle and intensity of other releases require a respite.

Opening with the title track, a brief defiant stir leading into first full song We Are All Gunmen, the album creates an intriguing atmosphere which the second track embraces. With its pulsating reggae spiced bass and resonating guitar slices behind the expected fine vocals of Mark Chadwick breeding an emotive breath, the song lights up the ear with its electronic spotlights and spikier guitar presence. A comment on the war like air which sweeps the world it is a strong and impressive track.

Next the two singles from the album take their turn. The first from the release is Truth Is which leaps in with an excitable energy and joyously melodic heart. The track is arguably not offering anything dramatically new but it is a deeply pleasing romp and an irresistibly catchy piece of fun. With fiddles and banjos at the ready it is an instant friend to party with any time of the day or night. The following After The Hurricane is a decent enough emotive piece of work where the words hold more grip than the music. It is well balanced with the melodic craft one expects from the band but it fails to induce an enthused response, though neither does it incite a thought about the skip button.

      Our Forgotten Town is a definite highlight to the album, simply adrenaline driven fiddles flashing with sonic sirenesque persistence across the senses with the vocals of Chadwick and band harmonising. A menacing tar thick bass essence adds a haunting ambience to what is a simply a thoroughly compulsive track and the biggest triumph of the album.

The likes of the enjoyable No Barriers with a deep stimulating intro which is unfortunately not sustained throughout the song, Raft Of The Medusa the true historical tale of French Naval frigate the Méduse, and the acoustically driven Traveller, ensure there is always something agreeable to focus on. The latter of the three carries a familiar gait which defies recognition but makes for an openly engaging companion.

The album ends on a high with firstly the dust kicking commentary on virtual reality lives Second Life. With its banjo leading welcome the song is a warm blend of heated harmonica, teasing keys, and contagious melodic energy. The more you hear it the more the song takes a deeper hold and is insistent on a return. The closing track The Recruiting Sergeant is a foot tapping reworking of the Black Watch anthem. Lyrically the band transports the song to modern times with the warning from a petty criminal who with persuasion enlisted and ended up in the stark reality of Afghanistan. It is equally poignant and irrepressibly fun, a great climax to the album.

Levellers fans will definitely love Static On The Airwaves and for the rest of us there is more than enough to make the album worth a visit but probably not to join their devoted followers.

RingMaster 19/06/2012

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