Dollhouse – Dawning and Rolling Around/Laudanum

Dollhouse_RingMaster Review

Allow us to introduce you to UK band Dollhouse, a quartet from Stroud with a sound that whilst still brewing and evolving is already showing the potential of becoming something special. To be fair, as the pair of newer songs we are looking at show, there is a compelling imagination and potency to the band’s music already. It is a sound bred from potent essences from Krautrock and garage rock but again on the evidence of Dawning and Rolling Around and Laudanum alone, the prime heart of their creativity is post punk.

There is little background we can offer about Dollhouse, except that the band consists of vocalist Zak Thomas-Akoo, guitarist/backing vocalist Will Ainsley, bassist Nick Browning, and drummer Tom Stevens. Inspirations to the band include the likes of Massive Attack, Groove Armada, Portishead, Can, Hot Chip, and Joy Division, the latter and similar genre influences the most open flavouring to certainly this riveting pair of songs, though a look at the band’s SoundCloud account sees those other spices woven into a handful of diversely sounding songs.

   Dawning and Rolling Around quickly grips ears and our ever ready appetite for post punk with its opening resonance of beats aligned to a brooding bass lure. As a slim and potent sonic lure of guitar joins the plain but effective vocals, there is no escaping the feel of Ian Curtis and co, a swiftly enjoyable haunting which only increases its grip as rhythms twist and the guitar moves through its shades of melodic colour and emotive expression. At the same time an infectious swing grows, emerging halfway with an Artery meets Crispy Ambulance like temptation, hooks and bass bait still undeterred in their creation of aural addiction. The track is outstanding, the recommended doorway into the emerging adventure of Dollhouse, though Laudanum is strong on the art of tempting too.

Again beats and guitar make an early beckoning but with them comes a slightly warmer and alluring air which further opens up as a catchy hook lined stroll breaks out along with a less intensive, compared to the other track, flow and tone of the vocals. Keys suggest as they caress the imagination with mellow vocals and restrained but potent rhythms fuelling the sonic web increasingly wrapping ears and appetite. Like a chilled mix of Modern Eon, The Associates, and OMD, the song enthrals and intrigues, and though it takes longer to ignite the same level of greed in body and thoughts as Dawning and Rolling Around, it too becomes a lingering slice of thorough enjoyment.

It is only the beginning for Dollhouse, and as their SoundCloud shows there is plenty of experimentation going on as the band develops into their own sound. With more propositions like this pair of tracks though, they are certainly heading towards stirring up strong attention with a following to match, for sure amongst post punk fans.

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Pete RingMaster 11/11/2015

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Villiers – The Dancer


    The Dancer is the new single from UK rock band Villiers, a song which embraces sounds of the eighties in modern evocative textures. It is a striking if not startling introduction to the Lancashire trio, one which strengthens its magnetism and fascination over each play whilst parading a rich potential and potent craft which only engages thoughts and an early appetite for the band’s horizons.

Villiers came to be in 2011, taking influences from the likes of New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen into their ideation with lyrical inspirations come from dystopian writers such as J.G Ballard and George Orwell. A trio of EPs, Light the Fuse, Into the Haze, and VLRS have drawn acclaim and attention the way of the band whilst live Villiers has equally enhanced their statue and reputation in support and headlining shows as well as a successful appearance at BeatHerder alongside Clean Bandit, TOY, Temples, Chic ft Nile Rodgers and Groove Armada last year. The Dancer makes the next intriguing step in the ascent of Dan Earnshaw (vocals/bass/synths), Ben Earnshaw (vocals/guitar/synths), and Daniel Buckle (drums/percussion), one sure to draw new fans and voices their way.

Shadows and moody textures wrap around ears from the first breath of the song, their dark caress instantly reminding of John Foxx and in villiers covermany ways OMD. It is a strongly emotive electronic mist which envelops the imagination, sparking emotions as it persists in charming and provoking the senses through the heart of the song. Vocally the band is expressive singularly and with choice harmonies but it is the slowly swirling electronic wash and tender guitar temptation which steals the passions most potently.

The track does not ignite at times as you expect or delve into the darkest melancholic depths as also assumed occasionally, but glides gracefully on an even keel across its poetic landscape. To be honest a twist into one of the more extreme premises would have stirred up a welcome fire but with a wonderful resonance to the rhythms and drama to the track as a whole it is hard to be critical or any more demanding

Also holding essences of Editors and The Cure in its provocative body, The Dancer is another promising and appealing step in the emergence of Villiers, one of many more to come we are sure.

The Dancer is out 16th June on Jack to Phono Records


RingMaster 12/06/2014

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Sophie Barker – A Forest/ Say Goodbye

UK singer Sophie Barker has touched and satisfied hearts for over a decade through her stunning voice and songwriting within the substantial and impressive work with others or as a solo artist. With the electronica/downtempo band Zero 7 she sang on and co-wrote some of the band’s best loved songs like their biggest hit ‘Destiny’, and the likes of ‘In The Waiting Line’, ‘Passing By’ and ‘In Time’. Her work with The Egg co-writing the song ‘Walking Away’, legendary producer Grooverider on his debut album, with Groove Armada, and her work with The Rainbow Collection with whom she has recorded 3 albums of contemporary night-time music for children and set up The Rainbow Collections Children’s Foundation to build help raise money to rebuild a school in Kenya and help children in deprived areas worldwide, all steadily and firmly marked her out as a talented songwriter and musician.

To this fine list of course there are her own releases, her acclaimed debut solo album of 2005 Earthbound consisting of songs written whilst touring with Zero 7 and this year’s follow up Seagull via Ho Hum Records, both instilling Sophie Barker as one of the leading and essential singer songwriters in the world. Her new album was again awash with praise and positive attention, it’s instinctive, perceptive, and soulful songs touching deep within all feeling its passion and emotion. The AA-side single of ‘A Forest/ Say Goodbye’ released October 31st is the third taken from the album and epitomises Barker’s skill at bringing deep feelings and emotions all have felt into her songs to touch far beyond the ear as in ‘Say Goodbye’ or seeing and feeling the same connection elsewhere in songs as in the cover of the iconic song by The Cure ‘A Forest’.  

To be honest covers are not the favourite feast here as generally artists simply turn out a version of the original without giving it any distinct fingerprints of their own but ‘A Forest’ is not really a song that can be fiddled with and taken to different extremes without losing its emotive power and Barker has recognised this keeping its core intact whilst nurturing and caressing with sounds and touches to draw out the atmospheric and haunting claustrophobia it possesses. The pulsating and integral bass ‘heartbeat’ of the song is left to drive the song’s feeling and sound and to give the track it’s important darkness and alongside the guitars and expressive sounds the suffocating like feel is still as overwhelming as on the original. Vocally Barker sounds like Barbara Gogan of The Passions another contemporary band of The Cure at the time of the release of this track as a single, her expressive voice adding to the tension.

A Forest’ is a song musically and lyrically that can be interpreted in different ways but the underlying emotion and passion is distinct and powerful. Barker in reference to the song and ‘Say Goodbye’ commented “I felt that the two songs revealed perspective of love from two ends of the spectrum. The sweet, sad but light ‘Say Goodbye‘ voice to the deeper more edgy sharp sound of the voice in ‘A Forest‘ expressing two very parts of the same woman of the same soul both dealing with their fears, hopes, illusions and trying to find some peace once out of the emotional darkness. A cathartic dualistic musical relay!”

Say Goodbye’ is a gentler track but just as emotively powerful, bringing a personal involvement from not only the artist but the listener too. The song is clean and uncluttered with unnecessary cleverness musically or lyrically, something that is an impressive element of all her songwriting. The band around her is tight and more than capable of bringing the lyrical sentiment and intensity into the music and the song strikes with sincerity and understanding as well as passion.

The single is another fine example of why Sophie Barker is a torch for singer songwriters to follow as well as lovers of music that goes much further than simply touching the ears. There are few artists that manage to reach the depths within as well and consistently as she does, this and her album Seagulls the proof.

RingMaster 04/10/2011 Registered & Protected


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