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

https://www.facebook.com/harrystaffordUK/   https://twitter.com/harrystaf62

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

https://www.facebook.com/harrystaffordUK/    https://twitter.com/harrystaf62

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.

https://www.facebook.com/themysteryplannc/   https://twitter.com/mystery_plan,

Pete RingMaster 05/03/2020

Copyright RingMasterReview: MyFreeCopyright