Milton Star – Salvation/Storyville

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Always partial to music which is as cinematic as it is sonically expressive, and especially keen on dark and sultry aural adventures which embrace emotive shadows as eagerly as they do melodic intrigue, the debut single from Scottish band Milton Star has come as a bit of a treat. Consisting of the songs Salvation and Storyville, the double A-sided encounter is a gothic romance for the ears and imagination. The two tracks cast evocative landscapes of smouldering emotion and heavy atmospheric colour uniting indie and dark country in one enjoyable and darkly feverish encounter.

Milton Star is the duo of Alan Wyllie and Graeme Currie, two songwriters/musicians whose history together goes back to the early days of post punk and across numerous projects, most notably the Thursdays who were signed to Fast Records. Getting back together in 2010 after both had been absent from the music scene for a few years, Wyllie and Currie now in a converted church in Fife, create and record their songs with a sound which have drawn the description, “think Velvet Underground meets vintage Glen Campbell via Rick Rubin collaborating on the next David Lynch movie or sound-tracking the latest HBO crime drama…” It is a hint in the right direction but as Salvation alone shows, there is plenty more within the band’s broad soundscapes and intimate canvases.

The track is a dark croon seemingly bred on a dark folk mix of Nick Cave and Mark Lanegan aligned to the visual drama of Helldorado and a whisper of the raw danger in a Tombstone Three. It Picture 3opens on an instantly gripping stroll of heavy beats which is swiftly joined by the sultry flames of guitar and great dark throated yet melancholically elegant vocals. There is an immediate theatre to the song, especially when voice and guitar add their provocative textures to the portentous heavy bassline and the crisp swings of the drums. The track is glorious and increasingly spicy as the two musicians weave in tangy grooves and emotive melodies which often come in a great ‘yawn’ of sound. With additional fifties rock ‘n’ roll stroking its gothic poetry, the song leaves thoughts lost in a soulful landscape of adventure and ears basking in syrupy sonic goodness.

Its companion Storyville similarly offers an intensive climate of shadows, this time the first breath coming around a grizzled bassline which instantly enslaves attention as the atmospheric lure of the track expands its coaxing. Slightly lighter than its predecessor but no less imposing with its bordering on caliginous emotions and aural colour, the song shimmers and smoulders with raw radiance and evocative expression, it all across that unrelenting bass spine. Not quite matching Salvation but certainly as enthralling and exciting, the song completes an impressive first excursion into the dark climactic majesty of Milton Star’s sound.

The single is sure to spark strong anticipation in a great many for more; future Milton Star adventures which if they are as dramatic and thrilling as this will be devoured greedily and noisily.

Salvation/Storyville is available from 12th January via Stereogram Recordings @ https://stereogramrecordings.bandcamp.com

http://www.miltonstarmusic.net/

RingMaster 12/01/2015

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The Graphite Set – These Streets EP

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The These Streets EP is one of those releases you just lick your lips in anticipation of no matter how many times you take its provocative and sensational emotive walk. Mesmeric and tantalising, the four track release is the debut release from The Graphite Set, the project of Lily Buchanan. The bio on the band website says “The idea of The Graphite Set is that one day I’ll be able to design and make a full sized stage set using my art which I can perform on. It’ll be black and white, linear, atmospheric, and will give me the best sounding reverb you have ever heard….” This epitomises her passion for art and music which has seen the girl from East Lothian, Scotland in bands since the age of 16 and from school moving to London to study Illustration at Central St Martins and immersing herself into the local music scene. The EP is an impressive and potent marker of her songwriting, talent, and intent, and one suspects just the appetizer to many triumphs ahead from and for her and the band.

These Streets was recorded at Ash Gardner’s House of Strange studio in Limehouse last November, with Buchanan providing the vocals and rhythms guitar to her songs with guest guitarist Katherine Blamire of the Smoke Fairies featuring on some of the release as well as further guitar parts added by Duncan Brown. Ed Seed provided drums, bass and other instruments to complete the line-up as well as co-producing the EP with Gardner too. Since the recording the band has settled into a quartet of Buchanan and Brown with bassist Grundy le Zimbra and drummer Scott Skinner for live shows with already successful small gigs priming the band up for the EP release show at the Sebright Arms, London on 5th June.

Released via Thumbscrew Music, the EP opens with the title track, the song emerging from the silence with an eager stroll which The Graphite Set - Theese Streets EPimmediately reminds one of Echo and The Bunnymen with the guitars buoyantly lighting up the air. In full view the song rests back with teasing melodic suasion as the vocals of Buchanan take centre stage. Her voice initially takes you by surprise, like an unexpected blast of cold catches your breath when wrapped in pure warmth, but rather than pull away you find yourself lost in her startling and rich dark toned seduction. Thoughts of Julie Driscoll come to mind right away and instantly grip the ear though as the songs unfold there is a more distinctive presence to the voice of Buchanan which is unique and magnetic. The song builds up around her delivery with a hypnotic pulse from the bass and niggling guitar strokes before widening into an infectious saunter. With a vibrant sixties psychedelic whisper to the melodic almost punk like sinews of the song sculpted with the angular guitar movements, there is a set in contagion which equally smoulders before and leaps at the listener in what is a stunning introduction to EP and band.

The following Pick Me Up stands before the ear with a vibrant bass pulse and bright keys flitting around the vocals of Buchanan, the reserved start just biding its time to seize the moment to dance upon the senses. A switching slow and energetic gait alongside the persistently melodically enticement flavours further a song which is a mix of folk pop and psyche rock, the resulting brew leading to a wonderful cacophonous finale which is mouth-watering and thrilling.

The final two songs In Your Eyes and I See No Lies are sisters from different shadows, the pair sharing a chorus and emotive breath but in different guises. Neither a part 1 and 2 type thing nor opposites as in black and white, the songs hold a union which is open yet parallel rather than touching. The first of the two is voice and guitar on a tender emotive embrace which caresses thoughts and emotions into their own memory or song whilst the second is a scintillating again psychedelic spiced temptress which is as haunting as its predecessor but washed in a golden melodic sunset wrapped by the absorbing and resonating rhythmic web.

It is a stunning conclusion to an equally immense release which is set to make The Graphite Set and Lily Buchanan names rife on the lips of the many.

http://thegraphiteset.com/

9/10

RingMaster 04/06/2013

 

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Fejd – Nagelfar

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There is a charm about Nagelfar, the new and third album from Swedish folk metallers Fejd, which is impossible to ignore or not devour hungrily, an essence within release and band which is something a little different and more captivating than most equally gaited projects. Arguably the album does not offering anything jaw-droppingly different or new for the genre, and certainly for themselves, but has a heart and beauty which leaves the appetite for such sounds full and aroused passions eager.

Hailing from Lilla Edet/Trollhättan, Fejd was formed in 2001 from the union of folk music duo Rimmerfors and members of metal band Pathos. The band brings together the medieval folk music inspired side of the brothers Patrik (lead vocals, bouzouki, Swedish bagpipe, jew’s harp, hurdy-gurdie, cow antler, willow-pipe and recorder etc.) and Niklas Rimmerfors (vocals and moraharpa…an older version of the Hurdy-Gurdy) with the heavier breath and metallic rhythmic strengths of Lennart Specht (guitars and keyboard), Thomas Antonsson (bass), and Esko Salow (drums). It is a compelling fusion of authentic Nordic folk music, with its melodic language and sadness, with the muscular tones of heavy metal, a sound which has made an open mark through the previous releases of the band, Storm and Eifur, with its finest moment to date coming with Nagelfar.

The Napalm Records released album opens with a mesmeric vocal call alongside a gently resonating drone as Ulvsgäld emerges 481_Fejdfrom the intro with a strolling melodic and rhythmic dance. It is instantly captivating and has excited feet shuffling eagerly within the enthusiastic stomp whilst the excellent vocals with a slight rasp to their impressive and clean declaration, coax thoughts into creative play with their Swedish sung yet fully expressive lyrical persuasion. The sense of epic sceneries are evoked as the track continues to open its seductive arms, sinews rippling throughout its wholly engaging enterprise and invitation, adding to what is an impressive and invigorating start to the release.

The following Sigurd Ring continues in the same vein, the songs seemingly connected in the adventure of the intent and traditionally lit sounds. As the track plays, just as with its predecessor, the listener is taken into a busy vision of traditional and medieval times, lands and people vibrant in their lives with forceful energy enriching their experiences, much as the songs do for the senses. With the keys opening up progressive warmth mid-way through to move the track into another pasture of emotive incitement, there is again nothing less than full fascination as well as physical and emotional engagement with the excellent encounter.

The following title track starts with another melodic lure against a restrained but blistered wind before opening a confrontation of staring eye to eye vocals and striding sounds with more than a punk whisper to their intent. Into its full stride the evolving melodic air against strong metallic walls at times reminds of Finnish band Stam1na, its brewing folk grandeur wrapping around every aspect of the body as its rhythmic trigger stands as a constant commanding instigator to frame the again potent imagery seeded by the band.

The melodic romp of Den Skimrande leads the hand into another irresistible energetic polka of passion whilst Jordens Smycke, Fjärrskådaren, and Vindarnas Famn all offer their individual narratives to bring further imagination and invention to the album. Though both the first and the acoustically sculpted third of this trio of songs fail to ignite the same depth of thrills and passion as elsewhere on the album they are undeniably impressively crafted and make easy and pleasing companions. In between Fjärrskådaren is an intriguing slice of dramatic and inspiring creativity, its continually if gently evolving premise enriched with emotion and descriptive aural suggestion, a track bringing a metallic growl to a warm caress for a compelling constantly changing provocation of ideas and imagery.

The closing Häxfärd is an instrumental which leaves a lasting impression of the times and lands inspiring the release with charm lit energy. Though Nagelfar fails to find the heights and might of its first half in the closing stretch it is never less than compelling and pleasure spawning throughout with a fervour which is impossibly contagious. For folk metal with honest character and imaginative vibrancy, Fejd stands right to the fore.

http://www.fejd.se/

8.5/10

RingMaster 03/06/2013

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Sparrow & The Workshop – Murderopolis

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Sparrow and the Workshop is one of those bands that music always needs, a temptation which is as beautiful as it is shadowed and as expansive as it is intimate. Previous albums, the debut Crystals Fall of 2010 and Spitting Daggers the following year, marked the Scottish band as melodic entrepreneurs of imaginative weaves fusing indie folk and rock pop, songwriters creating rich and emotive escapades soaked in aural colour and resourceful enterprise. The Glasgow trio return with third album Murderopolis, a release which explores their invention for greater and deeper adventure whilst sculpting a kaleidoscope of passion tingling elegance. It is a seduction of evocative textures and mesmeric caresses which quite simply is rather special!

The band consists of Jill O’Sullivan (vocals, guitar, violin), Gregor Donaldson (drums, vocals), and Nick Packer (bass guitar, electric slide guitar, basstard), a threesome which have not been strangers to acclaim certainly since their debut album. The name of Sparrow & The Workshop has equally been wrapped in hungry responses for their live performances which across the time has seen them play alongside the likes of Brian Jonestown Massacre, British Sea Power, Idlewild, Broken Records, Sivert Hoyem, The Lemonhead, Thee Oh Sees and more, as well as numerous festivals to great success. Released via independent label Song, by Toad Records, Murderopolis strolls through another potent plateau which matches the virulent seduction of previous album Spitting Daggers, whilst walking further diverse adventures.

The band arguably unleashes their greatest shadows at the start of the album, though those dark tints are always teasing the senses MurderopolisHiResand thoughts throughout the album musically and lyrically. Opener Valley of Death is a smouldering triumph, a track which instantly sets the release into the strongest wash of acclaim. Bold yet reserved beats and moody melodic provocation pokes the ear first, opening up attention for the as ever sirenesque tones of O’Sullivan. Her voice is one which seduces and caresses the senses but has a nip in its caress which allows darkness to play with the enchanted emotions already inspired. Like a sun in the skies of the dramatic she guides the listener into a warm soak of colour fuelled melodies and harmonies for the chorus, the track then returning to that provocative hypnotic enticement which started things off for the verses. Those dark and expressive leads have the same kind of wanton visual and emotive sway that marked the opening credits to eighties UK TV show Tales Of The Unexpected, a tempting yet menacing seduction. It is a powerful and riveting track, a song with a sixties call to its breath and vocals, which alone seem like a mix of Helen Shapiro, Kristin Hersh, Chantal Clare, and Debbie Harry.

From such a potent start the album retains its compelling grip with the following Darkness, another shadowed call for the passions which sows the seeds with an opening throaty bass beckoning and reined in male vocal chants. It is a slowly prowling encounter, the song walking with intent around thoughts with lone strands of melodic taunts riling up the appetite further. With a touch of The Passions to it the song widens its lure with the again excellent vocals of O’Sullivan before sealing the lustful deal with heated flames of soaring vocals and acidic mastery, crescendos which ignite the fullest appetite. Like the first, the track explores the depths of light and dark with breath-taking craft and imagination leaving an already awoken hunger for more seized by rabid urgency.

The album continues to show it is as diverse as it is absorbing, starting with the stunning Odessa, a song as different to the opening pair as it is a continuation of flawed light and emotional incitement. A melancholic mesh of vocal, keys, and dark strings gently wash through the ear at first before a strong pause makes way for an equally rich narrative of guitar and rhythms which turn up the heat a touch more. It is a vibrant passion sculpted song which haunts thoughts with classy enterprise and emotional exploration, its latent energy brewing up and exploring the limits of the impressive songwriting, its realisation becoming more intense and magnetic the further towards its fiery climax the band drive.

Through the likes of the first single from the album Shock Shock, a meeting of The Pixies and The Shangri-Las in a folk rock atmospheric haunting wrapped in a sonic senses courting ambience, and the tantalising Water Won’t Fall with its scenic paint and crystalline touch, the band raise new emotive adventures whilst the title track is a noir tinted flame of seventies spiced melodic rock and Wicker Man laced folk which transforms the landscape of the album into a new distinct dance of mystique.

Released the same day as the album, May 27th, new single The Faster You Spin sets another pinnacle for the album. Another song rippling with an almost predatory intent through heavier melodic rock feistiness, it conjures the strongest contagion with searing flames of sonic and melodic… well eroticism seems the best word to describe it, complete with an ardour inducing addictiveness to its suasion.

Further songs in the scintillating Avalanche of Lust with its wonderful bass itch and the deliciously incendiary Flower Bombs, a song with an array of bewitching infectious climaxes around slow post punk taunting ingenuity, push the boundaries of the album and listener’s greed yet again whilst the closing pair of The Glue That Binds Us and Autumn to Winter leave an irresistibly effective temptation to start the whole emotive course of triumph again.

Murderopolis is a scintillating release from a band which walks beauty and darkness like no other. If Sparrow and the Workshop have yet to guide you through your and their invigorating passions than this album is the perfect introduction.

www.sparrowandtheworkshop.co.uk

9/10

RingMaster 26/05/2013

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