Harry Stafford – Gothic Urban Blues

photo by Richard Davis

Every sprawling city, each urban street it holds and the shadows that drape their households and corners provide a kaleidoscope of tales and drama and it is here that the new album from Harry Stafford sets its sights. Gothic Urban Blues is a collage of just some of the stories and secrets you may find within that sprawl, dark gothic tales smoked in equally tenebrific sounds and simply one gorgeous incitement for ears and imagination.

Stafford is no stranger to inspiring a hungry appetite for his sounds as frontman/guitarist founder of post-punk rockers Inca Babies but his solo venture is a whole new adventure drenched in intrigue and intimation. The Manchester hailing artist seeds his personal creativity in a love of blues piano and barroom ballads and as his 2017 debut album, Guitar Shaped Hammers (and the title of the band his has brought together around him), revealed it has quickly shaped its own identity fully proven by the even more irresistible Gothic Urban Blues. The new album feeds the interest we all share on what happens behind closed doors and in the lives of strangers, supping on possibilities within to breed its own suppositions. Every track within the album draws ears and thoughts into a myriad of intimately caliginous worlds whilst carrying a certain contagion, an instinctive swing swiftly proving as addictive as the narratives it harbours.

With the Guitar Shaped Hammers made up of Rob Haynes (The Membranes, Inca Babies), trumpeter Kevin Davy (Lamb, Cymande), guitarist/bassist Nick Brown (The Membranes) and Vincent O’Brien on Weisseborn slide guitar alongside, Stafford immediately uncages that almost primal infectiousness talked of with album opener, She Just Blew Me Away. Its initial caress of guitar is enough to provoke attention, an intrigue quickly escalated by Stafford’s fingers on piano keys and the swarthy shimmer of guitar beside him. In no time his distinctive voice is strolling through the imagination too, his dirt laced tones equipped with the catchiness equally infesting the surrounding sounds and accentuated by the slow but lively crawl of rhythms. As throughout the release, there is a Nick Cave meets Tom Wait meets The Filthy Tongues scent teasing away and inevitably just due to his unique voice a touch of the Inca Babies but in one track alone there is no disguising the individuality of the quickly potent incitement.

Cruel Set of Shades follows and just as eagerly infests ears and the psyche with its slow prowl of a saunter, one instantly wrapped in the inimitably spun strands of Brown’s guitar as the suggestive flames and lure of Davy’s horns, as in its predecessor, just escalates the evolving picture and emotions it bears. Haunting and rousing, the track hungrily wormed under the skin in no time, is rhythmic rove and sonic scintillation heightening the creative manna before the album’s title track delves deeper into the cinematic prowess and troubadour rapport that lines Stafford’s writing. It is another song which instinctively set feet, hips, and vocal chords to work, its jazz cured breath an almost feral protagonist to thoughts alongside Stafford’s ever descriptive and darkly poetic lyrics.

Across the piano driven urban waltz of Painted Ocean and the earnest balladry of Infinite Dust, the album only tightened its grip, the first as much an evocation to thoughts as to an eagerly swaying body whilst the second melancholically wraps its arms around the listener with sorrow and crepuscular beauty. The sonic tempestuousness lining its walls, Brown again creating a rare incitement which almost defies the sure craft behind it, provides a persistent taunting only adding to a compelling presence soon eclipsed slightly by new single Black Rain. It too is a heady seduction of a ballad with Stafford’s keys accentuating the pull of his words amidst another reserved yet illustratively potent tapestry of guitar and melody.

It has proven hard to choose a favourite moment within the album, many contenders but the irresistible stroll of Sideways Shuffle always makes a potent case, the track a jazz and blues nurtured amble lit by gothic shadows around lamplight bearing street corners with a great Bauhaus like hue to its emotive gaslight. The track is quite superb though straightaway matched in temptation by the magnetic and resonating observation of Man In a Bar, another slice of blues bearing suggestion as infectious as it is evocative.

The final pair of Disappearing and Into The Storm bring the release to as striking and enthralling a proposition as it unveiled itself as; the first of the two a fuzz luring, shadows and melody embroiling drift into the darkest corners of life and a despondency of it with its successor a physically swaying, temptation spraying canter which was so easy to get involved and wrapped up in.

In a world now in isolation and hours with little to do on our hands the mind might be wondering what is indeed going on behind those curtains in the streets outside of the glass. Harry Stafford has a host of suggestions within Gothic Urban Blues, one of the best distractions and albums you are likely to come across this year.

Gothic Urban Blues is out now via Black Lagoon Records; available @ https://harrystafford.bandcamp.com/album/gothic-urban-blues

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Pete RingMaster 23/04/2020

Copyright RingMasterReview: MyFreeCopyright

The romance of light and shadows: a singles round-up

With the ever welcome keen insight of Shauna McLarnon of Shameless PR and the outstanding band Ummagma, we offer up another quartet of singles deserving of your explorations.

First up is the new solo track from Harry Stafford of post-punk gothic rockers Inca Babies and a rather potent taste of the Manchester hailing musician’s forthcoming album, Gothic Urban Blues.

Painted Ocean is a song which casts a web of intrigue and intimation within a jazz and blues wired dark rock landscape. It is a dark echo of the world we live in yet equally intimates on a personal level as its morose yet spirit rousing stroll works away on body and rock ‘n’ roll instincts.

Within its drama bold body, Stafford’s narrative is just as magnetic and enticing; word and sound entangling in a shadow nurtured sea of dark imagination and devilish enterprise further lit by jazz flamed brass across soulful blues enterprise.

Something akin to a blend of The Filthy Tongues and Tom waits, Painted Ocean proved quickly and thickly irresistible and an invitation to Gothic Urban Blues impossible to turn down.

In contrast to the darken skies cast by Mr Stafford, Ukraine’s 6th Crowd weaves an electronic enticement in new single, The Day is Over, which boldly almost viscerally shimmers with electronic luminescence though this is underlined by its own suggestive shadows.

6th Crowd is the solo project of Kyiv based Dari Maksymova who is better known as the front-woman, synth and bass player of post-punk band On The Wane. Her own musical exploration is bred in the heart of synth pop and rave dance floored electro rock adventure and has already offered up a debut single in Самозванцы which was keenly received, together both tracks a taster of her debut EP, Avoid The Void, expected in late spring.

A purposeful rhythmic lure aligns to a similarly dark and immediately firm electronic murmur as The Day is Over stirs, crystalline sparks lighting its temptation. As Maksymova’s radiant tones join the emerging proposal, further light and enterprise is cast by synths yet still that balance of dark and light offers an intimation and tempestuousness which firmly enthrals attention. With Maksymova sharing the song’s heart in her own national tongue it is left to the music to inform the imagination and that it does with almost teasing effortlessness, The Day is Over a source of infection and enterprise sure to lure a greater wealth of ears to its creator and her forthcoming EP.

With a double EP in Fishbowl/ Terrestrial due March 20th, Alienbaby Collective is another fine proposition offering up some potent teasers in the shape of singles of which Degenerate Moon is an infestation of sound, a noise rock bred trespass of ears and imagination as captivating in its melodic craft as it is in fuzz induced irreverence.

Almost menacingly infectious and with a melodic enterprise verging on the toxic, the track is a moment of raw beauty further escalated by the entrancing tones of Liú Mottes, the former guitarist in Blue Crime and New YX and currently part of SOON, Slow Worries, and OBOL LE. Her solo project, Alienbaby Collective creates a sound which holds no fear in going where the listener may fear yet as proven by the bewitching Degenerate Moon it is the source of haunting pleasure, something also epitomised within double A-sided single Fruit/I Don’t Recall Waking Up released even more recently, an incitement which fascinates as it courts emotive responses to its post punk endowed noise rock nurtured predominantly instrumental haunting.

Together both singles suggest, no insist, that Fishbowl/ Terrestrial is a challenge ears and imaginations should take on.

Lastly we have for your intrigue, the new single from The Mystery Plan. With their fifth album, Zsa Zsa, scheduled for an April release through Ten Millimeter Omega Recordings, the US outfit drop the enticing offering of Ballad of JC Quinn as a lead and warm up for intrigue and attention on March 6th.

The song is a vibrant and infectious slice of the band’s dream pop meets melodic alternative rock adventure. With lively “folk nova” rhythms adding to the swinging instinctive funk stroll of the song, it needed little time to reveal a richness of ingredients and flavours as equally swift captivation.

Having already ignited the senses and appetite with previous uniquely sounding and equally contagious single, the Massive Attack-esque Al Gore Rhythms, the North Carolina hailing quintet repeat the captivating deed again with Ballad of JC Quinn; The Mystery Plan laying down grounds for a definite exploration of the sure to be unique charms of Zsa Zsa.

Painted Ocean from Harry Stafford is digitally available now with Gothic Urban Blues released March 27th, both via Black Lagoon Records with album pre-ordering available now @ https://harrystafford.bandcamp.com/album/gothic-urban-blues

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The Day is Over from 6th Crowd is available now @ https://6thcrowd.bandcamp.com/track/the-day-is-over

https://www.facebook.com/6thcrowd

Alienbaby Collective’s Degenerate Moon and Fruit/I Don’t Recall Waking Up are out now through Humm Recordings with pre-ordering for Fishbowl/ Terrestrial available @ https://hummrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/alienbaby-collective-fishbowl-terrestrial-lp-humm10

https://www.facebook.com/alienbabycollective/

The Mystery Plan drop Ballad of JC Quinn on March 6th via Ten Millimeter Omega Recordings with Zsa Zsa due for release April 3rd.

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Pete RingMaster 05/03/2020

Copyright RingMasterReview: MyFreeCopyright

Inca Babies – The Stereo Plan

INTREPID FOX oct[1] copy

From the days when the devil thrust his evil designs into music, dark rock ‘n’ roll has been a persistent and endearing temptation. From the leather clad hip and vocal lures of Sweet Gene Vincent to the modern psychotic seductions of Dedwardians, it is a delicious trespass of ears and imagination that continues to evolve rich adventurous psyche twisting pastures. The likes of The Doors, The Cramps, The Birthday Party, Bone Orchard, The 69 Eyes, Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, The Dropper’s Neck to name a few, have continued to expose the senses to new ravenous depths of sinister sonic exploration over the decades. One band which from their emergence in 1982 has also sculpted a perpetual warped seduction is Inca Babies. Their almost serpentine invention and dark musical incitements have continued to inspire and invigorate, even during the near on twenty years they were absent from the music scene, but since returning in 2007 you can only suggest that the UK trio must have shaken hands on a new deal with Lucifer as they have risen to truly become one of the leading lights and template setting protagonists of British rock ‘n’ roll.

The evidence is already boldly apparent in their two albums since reforming, the acclaimed Death Message Blues and Deep Dark Blue of 2010 and 2012 respectively. Both releases ignited an already ravenous gothic rock scene and duly deserved all ardour given but each in many ways was just an immense but leading appetiser for the glory of The Stereo Plan. Released towards the end of 2014, the band’s seventh studio album is a masterpiece of the dark aural arts. The third instalment of their death blues trilogy, its fourteen-track proposal twists and turns through the primal essences of post punk, surf, garage punk, trash blues, and every other dark flavour available, but bred in the imagination of Inca Babies transforms into a recipe of ingenious alchemy. It is a transfixing and slightly menacing proposition which has everything from feet to the passions ablaze.

Listening to The Stereo Plan is almost like immersing in a greatest hits collection of songs, every encounter of such irresistible and impressive invention and contagion that there is no time to take a breath and reflect until the final note of the release drifts away. It all starts with the album’s title track and its opening tangy lure of surf bred toxicity. It is an instant inescapable invitation for ears and imagination, the percussive shuffle which soon adds its bait only increasing an enticement which deepens again with the thick bass prowls of Vince Hunt. Continuing to bind ears in his guitar’s delicious spicery too, Harry Stafford pounces with his vocal and lyrical dance, as everything in the song colludes to create satanic rock ‘n’ roll majesty, especially as rhythms grow in intensity and devilment with the vocals to arouse an even lustier persuasion.

How to follow such a magnificent start would have many bands in a cold sweat but not Inca Babies as they match its majesty with a just as compelling incitement going by the name of Scatter. Stereo Plan Front 1The swinging beats of drummer Rob Haynes recruits eager attention right away, swiftly adding appetite as riffs and bass grooves unite with his anthemic beats and the incoming catchy vocal delivery. Into its stride the song expels a punk causticity around its driving rhythmic spine, the fingers of Stafford continuing to dance over the strings of his guitar to create a web of sonic addiction. The aforementioned Dewardians comes to mind as the song bounces with venomous mischief and also Eighteen Nightmares At the Lux with its scuzzy textures.

The salty smoulder of Damnation comes next, an Orson Family like countrified shimmer fuelling the temptation of guitar and rolling beats. As the opening pair of songs, psychobilly bred rapacity coats the song but also here a more garage punk tenacity emerges and grows to an even more potent persuasion in the following River To the Centre of the World. A haunting slice of upbeat balladry with a chorus which simply infests the senses, the track is dark poetic manna for ears and imagination. It also continues the mouth-watering diverse landscape of the album, each song a blossoming of individual and unique gothic theatre bred in sinistrous ideation.

The Cajun cast spell of Stand Down Lucifer keeps listener and album in lustful realms next, its sinuous shimmer and invention a creeping and inescapable seduction whilst Feast With Panthers strolls in with stalking rhythms and demonic hooks within again a fine and alluring vocal proposal. Like Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers meets The Screaming Blue Messiahs, the latter a band easy to offer varying degrees of comparison to across the album, the track swings it frame and flirtation with mischief in its eyes and a wicked lick on its melodic lips. The Stereo Plan began on a lofty pinnacle and this pair again sublimely ensures that there is no slip from such heady heights.

   Last Flight Out of Saigon with its pulsating bassline and acidic sonic veining croons suggestively in ears next, its minimalistic yet cavernous presence a mesmeric hex before the garage pop feistiness of Absolute Leader of the World leaps at the senses. Holding a great raw seventies/eighties punk essence to its contagion, the song is a sweetly caustic roar of blues rock which re-ignites body and energies after the resourceful ‘rest’ found in its predecessor.

Returning to the insidious charms which festered wonderfully in the early songs, Devilfish Anarchy stalks and romps with that gothic blues meets psychobilly predation and devilry. Beats and basslines are the instigator to lust fuelled whiplash as vocals and melodic toxins work away on thoughts and emotion. It is an exhausting pleasure whose rigorous nature is swiftly tempered and contrasted by the funereal stance and classical elegance of Still Mountain, a bewitching ballad wrapped in imposing and provocative shadows.

A dirtier yet restrained heavy rock pushes the walls of Damn Our Hides next, its persuasion not as instant as elsewhere, though swiftly a captivating companion for ears, but slowly burning away behind the scenes and repeatedly nudging thoughts after the event, as so many other songs on the album. Its enduring temptation is another striking aspect of The Stereo Plan, each twist of its design able to return at leisure and with potency, just as the heated jazziness of Ghost Ship. The track is ablaze with sultry trumpet flames, filthy basslines, and delirious sonic enterprise combining for a fiery musical sunset on an apocalyptic landscape.

The album is finished off by the excellent psyche/ surf rock stomp of Blacktop Speedway and finally the garage rock serenade of Late Night Frankie Brittle, a croon which simply grows in weight, intensity, and sonic rabidity with volcanic imagination. The pair makes a thrilling end to one irresistible encounter.

Admittedly having a soft spot for the type of sounds Inca Babies revel in went in their favour, but also it brings more demands but once again the Manchester trio stand tall over them as they again help lead British rock ‘n’ roll into new and exciting explorations.

The Stereo Plan is available now via Black Lagoon Records

http://www.incababies.co.uk/   https://www.facebook.com/incababies/

RingMaster 11/03/2015

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Inca Babies: Deep Dark Blue

Inca Babies

    Deep Dark Blue is easily one of the best albums of 2012 and one of our favourites, a release which shows that the creativity of Inca Babies just gets richer and more delicious. The thirteen track album is a sensational treat which teases and ignite the passions with all the expected shadows conjured by the band brewed in a sweltering vat of new imagination and mesmeric enterprise.

Since its beginnings in 1982, the Manchester band has brought a distinct and hypnotic presence to rock n roll with their punk spine combining trash rock, surf punk, garage blues. The early days brought great acclaim and popularity, the band playing four John Peel Show sessions over the years, frequently topping indie charts, and playing tours and dates across Europe, not to forget releasing four acclaimed albums and numerous equally received singles. The time also saw the band struggle with holding onto drummers and singers to remain alongside guitarist Harry Stafford and bassist Bill Marten. This eventually led to the demise of the band in the late eighties, Inca Babies running out of suitable options. The release of the Best Of… compilation album Plutonium in 2006, ignited great interest on the band again and it reformed the following year with Gold Blade drummer Rob Haynes joining Stafford  who took on vocals too, and Marten. As gigs followed inside and beyond the UK, the band began working on their first original album since reforming but sadly midway through Marten passed away and everything was put on hold as the band came to terms with the devastating loss. Eventually in tribute to and to keep his legacy alive the band, with friend and former A Witness bass player Vince Hunt coming into the setup, completed the album Death Message Blues which was released late 2010.johnn

Released on their own Black Lagoon Records, their sixth studio album is quite possibly their best work yet, the maturity and DDB album coverexperiences of the band leading to songs which just lay organically on the heart as if born from your own personal passion. Rightly or wrongly we have always thought of Inca Babies as the UK version of The Birthday Party, not necessarily in sound but in journeying through the darkest of shadows and using them as a wrapping to their unique vision. Deep Dark Blue again gives plenty of evidence for us to remain casting that ‘shadow’ over them whilst continuing to mark the band as something which is one of a kind.

The album opens with is their first single for twenty five years, My Sick Suburb. Opening on simple beats and a grouchy bass the track is an instant bluesy attraction especially with the jangly guitar and vocals of Stafford soon adding their presence. It is an uncluttered track with a sure swagger which ticks all the boxes, and though the choice of single from the album would have been different for us you can see why it was chosen and not argue with its open effectiveness.

From a strong start the album just gets better and better. The following But Not This Time is a fiery stomp of sonic guitar rubs and what in no time becomes an addictive element of the whole release, that heavily prowling and throaty bass invention. Throughout many of the songs the Cramps like breath which lacquers the sound is irresistible with this song and the next up title track the first such pleasures. This track is a smouldering stroll through a heated atmosphere with caging rhythms and sizzling guitar sonics which place the senses on edge and set the heart alight. It is a twisted blues piece of grandeur with an acidic twang and viral infection to its gait.

It is so tempting to wax lyrical about every track on the album but will resist and just mention personal highlights amongst only nonstop irrepressible and contagious slices of delight. Firstly there is the twin scintillation of the gallows themed Following Jorges and the psyche elegant Bikini Quicksand, both with a similar yet different heat to their coruscate air. Tracks like Tower Of Babel and Monologues Of Madness also trigger all the passions possible but all are exceeded by two songs, Endgame Check Out Club and Sven Hassel v Billy The Kid. The first of the pair is a track which plays like a psychobilly Johnny Cash track spiced with The Screaming Blue Messiahs, its infectious groove and scorching solo a welcome sonic branding which any one would be proud to bear. The second is just brilliance in action, everything about the song an ‘orgasmic’ addiction. Punk guitars graze the ear whilst sharing time with vocal and bass lures just impossible to resist, their combined mischief sheer genius. Easily one of the best songs heard this year its mix of bruising storms and magnetic simplicity is quite masterful and a true triumph.

As declared earlier every track on Deep Dark Blue is outstanding, making for an album which should stand to the fore of any best of lists and the heart of all who engage its magnificent company.

www.incababies.co.uk

RingMaster 07/12/2012

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright