Sam Thomas – I’m Gonna Be A Witch

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The debut single from multi-instrumentalist Sam Thomas, is a song which from its first play right through numerous others, and even now, brings a provocation to thoughts and emotions as well as opening up visions and imagination to go along with its evocative sounds and ideas. The initial lingering thought is do I like it to just how good or impressive is it and in some ways that question is still in the air but the bottom line is that the song is a wonderful piece of composing and realisation incorporating a rich soak of invention and thought. Yes it still niggles at the passions for undefined reasons but in the best kind of way pushing doubts ultimately aside.

Thomas, the son of a former Opera singer, was soon learning the craft of percussion at the age of four which inevitably brought the drums into sight for the youngster. Attempts to learn more classical instruments were not as successful due to, in his assumption, his dyslexia but moving into his teen years Thomas was teaching himself guitar, piano, and bass whilst playing in his school’s swing band and orchestra as well as singing in the choir. Growing up on a diet of classical music for his ears as well as Elvis, Beatles, and Beach Boys through his mother’s record collection, Thomas has evolved the perfect merger in his music on the evidence of the single, the song alone forging a classical touch in a hungry union with rock power and energy as well as pop flavoured warmth. From school Sam undertook a commercial music course at the University of Westminster, learning about the music industry. It also gave him free access to its recording studios which Thomas embraced and eventually composed and recorded an eighteen minute track to which he recruited folk/grime duo iAm1 to add vocals; a piece they played live for a while under the name Samandiam. Further projects for Thomas included a 3-piece heavy instrumental group called Saiga and composing a 27-minute solo instrumental piece. Using the track as extra temptation the musician applied for jobs within the music industry, sending out cut down slices of the track with applications to over 200 people. He received just one reply, that of studio owner and Barber Shop production company honcho Chris Smith which led to an unpaid work experience, which in turn led to meeting Just Music’s John Benedict who fascinated with Thomas’ highly-individual style gave a go for him to record an album, this was just the second day of the work experience. Placed alongside producer Mark Sutherland, work began with the single the first emerging results.

     I’m Gonna Be A Witch begins with a dawning of evocative piano and brewing ambience, its voice haunting and ominous. The track though soon settles into a gentle caressing of the ear with a sample of a child talking about what he would do if he became a witch with his friend. It has to be said the sample takes some time to get used to within the potent and descriptive sounds wrapping it, the guitar flames scorching the sky around and above the children whilst the bass and drums cage all with a firm yet unimposing presence. The guitars dominate the middle section enflaming and riling the intensity of the song to smother everything else but it only goes to spark a stronger imagery and reaction. Eventually with continued listening everything slips into place within thoughts and though still that sample leaves unsure intrigue at times its childlike innocence and imagination within the burning skies of the music is powerful and evocative.

The strong lead track is a single edit and it has to be said the following album version is a far better encounter, the fullness of the piece revealing the whole intent and depth of the invention with an equally fruitful result. The opening to the track is far longer than the single version and perfectly paints an enveloping scene for the sample to lie within and feel organically part of. The playground sounds within the classical piano canvas as well as the female (mother like) vocal caresses broadens the emotive and almost nostalgic air of the music, finding a crescendo of passion right before the children open up their imagination. The latter explosion of guitar invention and fire also brings a more dramatic impact and almost furnace like intensity to elevate the track beyond that initial powerful encounter. Though almost nine minutes in length our suggestion is bypass the single edit and head right for this stunning version to truly find the riches of the song and the invention of Thomas.

The final track on the release is North; another piece of music rising from a distrustful ambience with a phoenix energy and enchantment to unveil another openly emotive and accomplished piece of musicianship and aural narrative. Offering a new imagery with each play the track is a stirring and thought coaxing delight with its orchestral breath simply seductive and as dangerous and evocative in textures as the rhythms and sonic painting alongside.

Sam Thomas is destined to make a major impact, his creativity transcending and inspiring so many genres and flavours, and I’m Gonna Be A Witch an impressive start.


RingMaster 15/04/2013

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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.

RingMaster 11/05/2012 Registered & Protected

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