Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire – Swithering

RHLF_RingMasterReview

With its Scottish meaning of uncertainty about things a contrast to the decisiveness ears and passions find for its imagination bred proposal, Swithering is quite simply an album glorious in every essence. The new full-length from Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire, it is a kaleidoscope of flavours and inspirations hinting at  some of Scotland’s most potent bands and more besides yet any influence feels a coincidence rather than a drawn spark for a release eclectic, unique, and increasingly irresistible.

Embracing the songwriting craft and class of vocalist/guitarist/pianist Roddy Hart, the Glasgow hailing septet band is completed by bassist Scott Clark, guitarists John Martin and Gordon Turner, drummer Scott Mackay, pianist/organist Geoff Martyn, and keyboardist Andy Lucas, with pretty much all also offering vocals and harmonies to the album as captivating as the melodies and lyrical adventures helping shape it.

With their critically acclaimed 2013 released self-titled debut album nominated for the Scottish Album of the Year and sparking US TV host Craig Ferguson to invite the band to perform on The Late Late Show on CBS that same year, that leading to a 5-night residency playing to a combined audience of over 12 million viewers, Hart and co had already plenty to live up to with their next move. A Scottish Variety Award for International Breakthrough Artist of The Year and a nomination for Best Band at the Spirit of Scotland Awards were followed by the band performing at the opening party for the Commonwealth Games and a celebrated show with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Their reputation as a mighty live proposition was quickly established alongside their successes and relentlessly cemented by each further show and their yearly self-curated Roaming Roots Revue for Celtic Connections. For most of 2015, the band predominately concentrated on writing and recording songs now making up Swithering, a release co-produced by Paul Savage (Mogwai, Emma Pollock, Admiral Fallow) about whom Hart says, “He was key to adding a sense of perspective – and calm – to it all, allowing the madness of this new working relationship forming between us to unfold in the most creative way possible.”

art_RingMasterReviewIt is a creativity which looms impressively upon ears and thoughts from the opening strains of first track Tiny Miracles and persistently blossoms to greater heights across song and its subsequent companions. The opener flirts with the senses instantly, its initial guitar melody soon holding hands with Hart’s alluring tones and the rising caress of atmospheric keys. Quickly the track is strolling along with the darker shadows of bass riding the anthemic lure of drums as melodies and harmonies seduce from all angles. It’s controlled but enthused liveliness is as insatiable as the hunger of ears to devour it, an essence of Lightning Seeds coming to mind as the song grabs hips and imagination with consummate ease.

The diversity of Swithering is quickly established as the colder haunting charms of Berlin closes in on the senses. As Hart expresses his thoughts, the song reveals the city is much more than just a destination vocally and emotionally for the songwriter’s heart. There is a persistent eighties flavouring across the album, here the band creating a provocative flight through a Thomas Dolby meets James Cook tempting with Thompson Twins like revelry to its rhythmic enticing. The song is entrancing and again infected with a catchiness which takes a growingly incisive hold, a quality just as open and commanding as that shared by the Talking Heads spiced Low Light, a song also prompting comparisons to Bill Nelson as it dances provocatively in ears.

Again though, as those around it, it emerges as something distinct and individual to Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire, a trait only backed by the melancholic beauty and drama of No Monsters and recent single Violet. With keys and piano alone conjuring a palette for the imagination to conjure with, backed by the sweltering sighs of guitar and the vocal hug, the first of the pair gently but firmly bewitches before its successor with its own mellow countenance entices with an increasingly infectious swing.

Next up Dreamt You Were Mine is another song with a deceptive virulence which grows and breeds a welcome trespass loaded with an abandon which only consumes and inspires the listener while straight after Faint Echo of Loneliness shows Josef K invention in its indie pop/post punk like character. Both tracks broaden the creative landscape of the album while binding ears and appetite closer to its adventurous intent, though they are soon eclipsed by the majestic roar of In the Arms of California, surely a highly tempting single in the waiting with the suggestive flair of Pete Wylie and raw pop allurement of Orange Juice in its melodic serenade and impassioned blaze.

Through the haunted climate and reflective release of I Thought I Could Change Your Mind, a song slipping under the skin with every passing imaginative minute and in turn the climactic Strange Addictions, the album pours on the instinctive variety and invention within its creators. The latter is a tempest of emotion and sound as forcibly contagious as it is rousingly evocative and sublimely tempered yet complimented by the more composed but just as catchy canter of Sliding. Like so many of the tracks within Swithering, it almost instantly has highly persuasive claws into the listener, gripping tighter as it brews even bolder catchiness in its imposing intent.

Concluded by the dark, almost melodramatic carnival folk flavoured We’re the Immortals, a song musically and lyrically as intimate as it is majestically radiant and suggestive, Swithering is an adventure and event for body and spirit; a success epitomised by that final treat of a track. Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire are no strangers to attention and acclaim but nothing to what Swithering will surely spark.

Swithering is out now across most stores and on all formats, including limited edition 180g vinyl, through Middle of Nowhere Recordings.

http://rhlf.co.uk/   https://www.facebook.com/RoddyHartandtheLonesomeFire/   https://twitter.com/RHLFband   https://twitter.com/roddyhart

Pete RingMaster 13/12/2016

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

James Cook – Adventures In Ausland

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There has always been an inescapable magnetism to the creativity and songs of UK singer/songwriter/producer James Cook, and the release of second solo album Adventures In Ausland certainly does not lose any of that imagination sparking prowess. In fact it takes it to new levels with tracks which are bred from even greater maturity and inventive expression in sound and lyrical enterprise. The new release reaps the masterful essences of its predecessor Arts & Sciences, evolving them into richer and more intricate textures and arrangements. The expected pop heart of Cook’s songs is still as infectious as ever but with no disrespect to what came before, it has grown up to offer even more compelling and invigorating explorations of his distinct English chamber rock.

First drawing attention with the band Nemo, which released a trio of well-received albums between 2004 and 2008, Cook has made a bigger impression matched by equally potent acclaim through his solo work. Between Nemo and Arts & Sciences, he also appeared in and wrote songs for numerous Mighty Boosh episodes, collaborated with Imogen Heap, and released the baroque pop album The Dollhouse with violinist/string arranger Anne Marie Kirby, who once again links up with Cook for the new release. The time between his outstanding 2012 solo debut and Adventures In Ausland, saw Reverse Engineering, Vol. One unveiled, a covers release revealing rich inspirations to the life and music of the musician with classic tracks interpreted and regenerated in his own inventive image. It was a thrilling insight into the man as well as simply an exciting encounter but it is his own work which gets the fires flaming brightly as proven again by the new album.

Two years in the making, with songs written in the likes of Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Genova whilst its recordings took place in Vienna, Prague, Berlin and London, Adventures In Ausland (Ausland the German word for abroad or elsewhere) brings in many ways an international breath to its still distinctly English sound. Certainly lyrically the album sizes up the world and its light and dark aspects whilst wrapped in an evolving invention which you feel can only come from the imagination of an Englishman. The release opens with the delicious Bees In November; its opening sigh of strings arranged by Cook and Kirby, an immediately evocative caress. They soon make way for a warm electronic and guitar enticing subsequently followed by a soft blaze of vibrant brass, all infesting ears and imagination with a sultry glow and vivacious temptation. The beats conjured by Tom Marsh add potent bait to the mix but it is the distinct voice of Cook and the continuing masterful call of the strings which steals the passions most forcibly. Both bring emotive intrigue and unpredictability to their invitations, lures sparking excitingly in thoughts and emotions, as well as the captivating body of the pop fuelled song.

The opener is swiftly matched by the following Lilly (A Lover’s Dream), a song which glides resourcefully through ears with melodic elegance and passionate reflection coloured by the mouth-watering weave of strings. There is an a3495452677_2element of The Divine Comedy and The Bluebells to the song, a spicing which flavours the light footed melodic waltz of the song. As mesmeric in charm and sound as it is sultry in ambience, the song is a glorious embrace with an air which transports thoughts into unique scenery as does the next up Financial Tango. There is a Morricone flame to the opening climate of the track, though soon making way for the punchy stride of the song and its thought jabbing narrative. That scorched flame of brass does reoccur across the pungent premise and body of the track frequently, stirring up senses and imagination as potently as the striking enterprise around it.

Both Dog Arms & Dilemmas and Art Deco, keep the flight of the album boldly varied and gripping, the first with its gentle wash of vocals and melodic enterprise soaked in a provocative heat of brass. Vocals layers lie slightly misaligned to each other at times for a pleasing ingenious and addictive tempting whilst the entanglement of strings and brass powerfully ignites air and ears with voracious passion. It is a smouldering treat of a proposition but one admittedly soon left looking a little pale by its successor. The fifth track feels the closest to the last album, its dance of sawing strings and quirky synth adventure within agitated rhythms and another great vocal call from Cook, a bridge between the two albums whilst pushing its smart pop sound to new levels. Broad hints of Thomas Dolby and XTC tease at thoughts as well as essences of David Bowie as the song flirts and seduces the imagination and emotions. It is a riveting and scintillating encounter which leaves an already greedy appetite hungrier.

   Bring Back The Boom offers a keys led stroll with a landscape of brass and lyrical incitement next, its atmospherically musty tone and shadowed premise an enthralling encounter, if lacking the spark of earlier songs slightly. It still leaves album and pleasure high as does the absorbing melancholic presence of The Blackout and the mischievous romp of Jamie with its swipe at misguided dreams and modern pop attitudes. The pair of songs again easily pushes thoughts into action whilst leaving ears basking in weaves of strings, brass, and melodies bred with a grandeur that only pure adult pop can conjure.

The wonderful call of Tideland with Cook at his most vocally potent on the album within a suggestive net of coaxing hooks and emotionally shadowed keys, comes next to bewitch senses and feelings. The rhythmic allurement of Marsh and the commanding strumming of Cook only accentuate the power of the majestic and increasingly towering track but it is the strings and vocals which drives the lingering tapestry of sound and imagination most potently. The impressive lure of the song is continued through closing track Ausland/Outside, a piece of beauty which envelopes and seduces ears with a thrilling maze of strings and vocals. It borders on disorientating at times but only to ignite the encounter and emotions to greater potency.

Adventures In Ausland is a very different album to its predecessor creating an even more striking and masterful proposition of pop fuelled, imagination driven drama. If James Cook is still a secret to be discovered for you, than this release is an introduction which can only lead to lustful pleasure.

Adventures In Ausland is available now @ http://jamescook.bandcamp.com/album/adventures-in-ausland

jamescookmusic.com

9/10

RingMaster 30/07/2014

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How To Swim – Niagarama

HTS

An inescapable transfixing, Niagarama the new album from Scottish chamber pop band How To Swim seduces with an irresistible charm and almost devious artistry which simply enslaves the imagination and passions. It is a deliciously varied and adventurous escapade, a melodic emprise which is as unafraid to tease and tantalise as it is to lie romantically upon the ears and senses. In many ways the band is still a relative secret, inexplicably escaping so far a spotlight which their new full-length definitely suggests they deserve, but now with its unveiling you can only imagine and expect that whisper of recognition to soon become a roar.

Formed in 2000 by vocalist/guitarist Gregor Barclay, How to Swim has persistently intrigued and ignited thoughts with their releases and evolving sound. From a rawer encounter the band has developed an orchestrated pop which devours ears as vivaciously as ears devour it, with Niagarama the pinnacle of the band’s rise so far. Numerous line-up changes have come within the life of the band and now from a complement of personnel reaching double figures the band has become a lean mean pop machine featuring members of The Second Hand Marching Band, The Martial Arts, and the now-defunct Mother and The Addicts, but a sextet just as potent in presence and weight of invention as ever. The new album also sees a wealth of talented guests helping realise the songwriting and imagination of Barclay and the Glasgow band, and the exploration of ‘the loss of youth and how we process it’, the album’s core theme amidst a pungent metaphor indicated by its title. It is a magnificent beast of enticement, one to have feet dancing, imagination painting, and emotions reflecting.

Released on their own Personal Hygiene Recordings and the successor to the acclaimed Retina (or More Fun Than a Vat of Love) of HTS cover2010, Niagarama takes little time to fascinate and subsequently bewitch as Niagara opens up the fun. From a haunted intro the song cups ears with poetic keys and the coaxing expressive tones of Barclay, his voice a slightly gravelly but alluring enticement which fits perfectly within the piano melodies and emotive strokes of strings from their manipulative bows. It is a surprising entrance into the album, a potent croon which does not ignite senses and emotions but certainly stirs them up nicely for the following triumph of Small Parts Moving. The second track instantly grips attention with discord kissed rub of violins immediately courted by darker bass hues and great twisted teasing of guitars. The song is soon in full control of the emotions as it hits its stride, brass and vocals adding their descriptive hues to the emerging narrative. Bouncing with the appetite of pure pop but equally twisting it with an invention which crosses numerous styles and veins of sound, the track dances eagerly like a mix of James Cook and Union Starr.

With an inspired rapturous hunger now in place the following Bacterium feeds it again with its insatiable bait complete with a swagger clad melodic tempting and rhythmic shuffle matched by vocals and brass. An essence of Young Knives brings further depth to the persuasion, whilst the mischievous heart and swing of the song simply enslaves body and soul. It is a glorious romp matching its predecessor in setting an early lofty plateau for the album. With mesmeric devilry to the guitars and the gait of the encounter, the band envelops the listener in a weave of feisty seduction which is straight away pushed to greater success by Too Old For A Crush (To Be Endearing). With firm rhythms aligned to imagination clasping swipes of riffs, brass, and elegant keys, all under the spell of the excellently blended male and female harmonies, the song is an irresistible temptress; a seductress which steals even greater submission through sudden blazes of intensity and concussive voracity. It is a scintillating waltz of beauty and ferocity, a dramatic show with the carnivalesque suasion of Tankus The Henge and the rapacious ingenuity of 12 Stone Toddler, yet rigorously unique to How To Swim.

Both It Doesn’t Even Have To Be You and I Need A War keep the album in control of attention and greedy appetite, if without quite matching earlier heights. The first recalls the fluid warmth of eighties bands like The Lightning Seeds which soak radiant melodies and brass flames with extra infectiousness skirted by the emotive strings which constantly provide the colour for emotions and thoughts to cast their individual premises. Its successor from a slow and charming vocal/acoustic embrace glides in on a seventies pop like breath, with again strong blends of harmonies to fill its emotional embrace. It is an appealing start but one which does not take a firm hold until a rhythmic adventure and a web of guitar sculpted ingenuity takes over the tempting. The song then swiftly moves into unpredictable scenery which entwines both aspects of its intent for a thoroughly satisfying sultry proposition.

The brief INTERMISSION: The Dead Cat Bounce steps in next for an ok diversion before the jazzy waltz of Long Division takes ears on another seventies bred mystery with exciting rewards. The song merges funk and pop into its lively yet smouldering saunter to capture the imagination once more before the potent Bark steps in to steal the passions all over again. Managing to be melancholic and excitingly buoyant simultaneously, it an effervescent whirlwind of invention and emotions, the track is gorgeous with keys and strings along with the ever inviting vocals taking top honours.

The album closes with Animals and All That We Wait For, two songs which certainly in the case of the first are almost toying with thoughts, inflaming their creativity with a weave of inspiring musical imagination. An electronic simplicity marks the first of the pair whilst a vocal caress within a flight of engrossing strings and absorbing melodies ensures the final song brings a compelling last incitement to bask in. The song takes longer than most to convince but with a riveting Walker Brothers like sixties magnificence to its emerging grandeur, it is another immense highlight of the album.

Niagarama is quite sensational and surely the key to taking How To Swim into the recognition and burning spotlight they have long suggested through their music and invention that they deserved. Pop does not get any better than this, or as imposingly impacting, a must release for all.

Niagarama is available via Personal Hygiene Recordings now @ https://howtoswim.bandcamp.com/album/niagarama

https://www.facebook.com/howtoswim

9/10

RingMaster 16/06/2014

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Ed Zealous – Wired

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    Unveiled on the back of three singles which certainly raised an eager appetite for its appearance, Wired the debut album from electronic pop band Ed Zealous easily confirms and reinforces all the promise and radiant enterprise brought from those early releases. The February 3rd released ten track album is a feisty adventure of energetic electro/ dance enterprise and guitar crafted indie pop, a record soaked in a busy sound seemingly seeded in eighties electronic endeavour yet constantly taunting and careering thrillingly through the ear with a modern rock rapaciousness. Arguably the sound of the Belfast quartet is not breaking in new ground to explore but there are few others striding confidently down the same interpretative path of already discovered invention as this richly promising and powerfully enjoyable band.

     Consisting of vocalist Steve McAvoy, guitarist Andrew Wilson, bassist Pete Lloyd, and drummer Paul Irwin, Ed Zealous as mentioned has stirred up very potent attention and anticipation for their album through the trio of singles released in 2013. One by one Medicines, Thanks A Million, and Telepaths have washed creative juices around the passions to breed a hunger for Wired, an appetite the album feeds with ease and more. Forging emotively fuelled synths with fiery guitar temptation within a rhythmic punch which never relinquishes its addictive bait whilst drawing on influences which come from the likes of David Bowie, Talking Heads, Pulp, and TV On The Radio the band look set to make 2014, like the last, another year to mark a rapid ascent in their striking emergence. Predominantly recorded with engineer Rocky O’Reilly with additional production by Eliot James (Bloc Party, Noah and The Whale and Does It Offend You, Yeah?), Wired is an exhaustive magnetic party of creative rampancy and contagious adventure; not necessarily ripe with pure originality but undeniably bulging with excitement and riveting imagination.

     As soon as the opening suspenseful drama of 147 hits the ear you sense there is something special brewing. Synths lure in the 400573_10152084633124304_1585922415_nimagination right away before the song settles into a mellow yet intensive persuasion with thumping rhythms and moody dark tones puncturing the electronic wash. It is an instantly engaging and provocative encounter but one which goes more directly for the passions once the guitars and bass temptation strides and erupts across the song around the expressive enjoyable vocals of McAvoy. At times unashamedly anthemic and constantly stirring up the imagination with a melodic craft which helps fuel an already hungry appetite for the release, the track is an urgently persuasive introduction to the album setting a high bar for it to maintain.

     Something it definitely does with the following Thanks A Million, the one song on the album recorded with producer Rich Jackson. As soon as its initial melodic narrative wraps around the ear followed by a lush groove, there is a familiarity to the song which only pleases and takes thoughts to eighties electronic pop essences. A definite Thomas Dolby feel emerges with the senses wrapping synth imagination yet equally you are reminded of the current sounds of James Cook and Does It Offend You, Yeah? whilst the track sculpts its own identity to devour eagerly. A track which manages to impress immediately and also slow burn its way deeper into the emotions over time through its big bruising bass tones and gripping melodic coaxing, it is dark temptation immersing the ears in a sizzling evocative wash.

    The devilishly infectious Medicines steps up next to deepen the lure of the album, its Blancmange like electro pop excitement and bordering on wanton energy insatiably seductive whilst the infection clad chorus and vocal call only grips satisfaction tighter for a lingering and compulsively addictive encounter. Recent single Telepaths breathes the same contagion as its predecessor, guitar and synths driven by outstanding vocals luring senses and feet to a feverish submission for the raucous electro rock party. Both tracks continue the high range of peaks established by the album and light the fuse to even greater suspicions as to how good and successful Ed Zealous could become.

     I Will Destroy You is a perfectly placed track, its melodramatic and emotive textures aligned to a slower gaited temptation exploring new depths and enterprise within the band and their songwriting. Though not as immediate to persuade as those before, the song enslaves keen attention for its thoughtful shape and evocative hues and allows a breath to be taken whilst it’s subtle and inventive majesty works its way into the imagination. The following Talk With Your Hands also takes time but with its David Byrne like creative swagger and heavy rhythmic caging it also secures full satisfaction and hungry attention over numerous exploits.

     There is something infuriately familiar to the start of Diamonds For Eyes yet it evades definition even after plenty of adventures with the dancefloor hugging track whilst These Words reaps those eighties influences yet again as its magnetic body inspires thoughts of China Crisis. Both songs stretch and add to the fascination of Wired with skill and mischievous flair before making way for the outstanding Videohead, a track which emerges as the favourite here. Adding an electro punk element to its fuzzy electronic flaming, the song is like a mix of Calling All Astronauts, B-Movie, and at times the John Foxx led Ultravox, the band again bringing a touch of nostalgia into a more aggressive modern exertion and invention. It is an enthralling and addiction causing maelstrom of ideas and sonic sculpting brewed into a contagious provocation of epidemic proportions.

    Completed by the funk ripped It’s Only The End, a song which you feel would ignite the dancefloor of any era such its blend of irrepressible decade crossing melodies and electronic virulence, Wired is an exceptional first album from Ed Zealous, one which impresses right away and only increases its strengths and stature over time. This is a band you can see creating new boundaries for electronic pop ahead and becoming a well-worn name over time.

http://edzealous.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ed-Zealous/89457839303

9/10

RingMaster 06/01/2014

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James Cook – Reverse Engineering (Vol. One)

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2013 is a busy year for singer/songwriter/producer /video artist James Cook, who follows up his impressive and successful debut album Arts & Sciences of 2012 with two full length releases this year. Towards the end of the year there is the release of his second solo album Ausland, but before that the ex-Nemo frontman and songwriter is treating us to Reverse Engineering (Vol. One), a seven track album of cover songs which is one big treat. Consisting of songs of artists from the late seventies and early eighties who ignited his passions and one suggests aspirations musically, the album is a delicious re-invention of classics ignited once again with James Cook imagination.

Reverse Engineering scientifically refers to finding advanced technology that is beyond understanding and taking it apart, then from the discovery of how it works creating a new version from the knowledge. This can certainly be applied to the songs upon the album, Cook, in the words of a room about the release, ‘creating an ‘alien twin’ of the original version by dissecting and redesigning the original.’ Bringing in expressive and skilled musicians (the Dollhouse band) to add their charm and passion to the songs, including once more violinist/string arranger Anne Marie Kirby who he worked with on not only Arts & Sciences but also the baroque pop curio The Dollhouse of 2009, Cook has given a new breath and energy to songs upon the release which emerge as a vibrant and thrilling companion to the originals.

The album opens with David Bowie classic Ashes To Ashes and instantly opens up a new expanse of thought towards the song, the a0326705245_2rich emotive tones of violin from Kirby and Ed Bruggeme, viola from Charlie Stock, and the seductive shadows from cellist Terezie Kovalova, wrapping the ear in a rapturous embrace which ignites open feelings. The string quartet is arranged by Kirby who consistently over previous releases with her imaginative arrangements has impressed and pushed songs into deeper impacting textures and evocative visions. As Cook begins the lyrical passage of the song, a new breath seduces the senses from within, the dramatic air and passional strength of the song enveloping with seductive and riveting grandeur but it is a majesty which has no sense of indulgence or self-importance. It is a wonderful version which stands boldly by the side of the original for these ears whilst as mentioned opening up a new shadow and life within the song.

The following track is The Teardrop Explodes song Treason and with its successor Making Plans For Nigel, steals the show on the album. With the guitar of Cook and a wonderfully resonating and throaty bass call from Smity immediately capturing full attention, the track strolls with a sure swagger through to the passions. As with the first and subsequent songs, Cook does not attempt in any way to emulate or cheat off of the delivery of the notable frontmen who bred the originals vocals, but infuses them with his own unique and compelling easy on the ear tones. As the strings of Kirby and Kovalova add their again irresistible presence, the track submerges the emotions in an understated but full wash of melodic beauty with the firm and punchy drums of Tom Marsh providing an equally addictive framework. With the elegance of the strings bringing their suasion through an air of dance and mischief, the track is a waltz come stomp which sparks only the purest adoration.

XTC is probably the first band to truly ignite a full lust of passion towards their sounds for us here but Making Plans For Nigel was the only song which wore out its welcome on the heart though from one of the greatest British bands. Cook has managed to bring the track back to its original glory and surpass it with passion and poetic musical imagination. The same line-up as on the previous track takes the Colin Moulding penned song and turns it into an emotive stroll along the banks of adventure and warm playfulness. They take the simple repetition across the song which helped lose the original version its appeal and treat it to an unpredictable yet familiar energy and sense of pride which itself steps forward to outweigh that of its seed.

Through Hiroshima Mon Amour, a track from the original John Foxx fronted Ultravox! and now given a mesmeric and melodic sunset of a passional sound, and The Go Between’s Bachelor Kisses where vocally and musically there is an incandescent to its invitation which inspires only further submission, the album continues to captivate and thrill. Admittedly as superbly crafted and interpreted as they are they do not match the opening trio of songs but that is just down to the beauty and ingenuity of those earlier gems. Our Lips Are Sealed though does reach up and pull itself up to those heady heights, the Go-Go’s song, also recorded by Fun Boy Three and written by Jane Wiedlin and Terry Hall from the two bands, carving out its own irrepressible niche upon the album with the cello and bass of Kovalova and Cook respectively, offering a deep captivating presence to the wonderfully refreshing and bracing encounter. There is a Walker Brothers feel to the song which only enhances the tonic it brings to ear and soul with each dance within its breath-taking arms.

Completed by an imaginative take on the Kraftwerk track Neon Lights, the song another with the full string quartet painting a unique and inspiring emotive canvas for Cook to lay his narrative, Reverse Engineering (Vol. One) is a passion capturing piece of colour drenched imagination and interpretation, and one hopes is the first of more such projects from the artists as suggested by the title. Though it could be looked at as an appetiser or piece of creativity to bide time before Cook’s next solo album, the masterful treat shows itself as a valid album in its own right even if its appearance comes as a staggered invitation. Released as a free download one song at a time a monthly leading up to Ausland, and with two songs already available, it is an album all should go to without hesitation.

To get the album go to http://jamescook.bandcamp.com/

http://www.jamescookmusic.com

9/10

RingMaster 15/05/2013

 

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James Cook – Arts & Sciences

Arts & Sciences, the debut album from singer/songwriter/producer/video artist James Cook, is nothing short of marvellous. Imaginative and enchantingly intriguing the release immerses thoughts and senses into vibrant and emotive sonic weaves of baroque electro pop which are never less than compulsive and always warmly engaging. It is a glorious result of imagination and thought brought into impassioned union and whether a rampant slice of pop or a hazy stretch of emotional elegance leaves one gliding upon beautifully crafted and irresistible flights of aural warmth.

The album is said to be the creative rebirth of Cook who previously fronted and was the songwriter for cult Indie electro group Nemo, who released three acclaimed albums between 2004 and 2008 and won the Montreaux Jazz Festival award for best new band in 2007. He also appeared in and wrote songs for numerous Mighty Boosh episodes around the same time and collaborated with Imogen Heap as both her support act and backing band. The end of this period though saw Cook relocate to Berlin and disband Nemo. Whilst 2009 brought the release of the baroque pop curio The Dollhouse with violinist/string arranger Anne Marie Kirby, who also handles the string arrangements on the new album. Across that winter and into the following year Cook locked himself away in the snow clad Turmwerk studios of friend Chris Corner (IAMX). There Arts & Sciences evolved and across the year he worked on and recorded the release interspersed with European tours with IAMX, solo tours and more across Europe, finishing it in his own home before returning to Turmwerk for final mixing, mastering etc.

With many singles leading into the album anticipation for the full length has been eager and no one will be disappointed in this stunning and delicious piece of passion, vision, and pop. Musically the album has a nostalgic breath brought through modern ideas and creativity. As the songs caress and thrill it is impossible not to be reminded of the electro pop warmth of Thomas Dolby, the quirkily entangled pop of The Cure, the acidic lyricism of Julian Cope and the melodic beauty of Black. To that you have the drama and emotive quality of Fatima Mansions drenching each song, the total combination unique and deeply thrilling.

The Self Machine opens things up with a slice of agitated electro pop, its simmering electricity grazing the sonic spotlights of sound and infectious heart of the song. It is an immediate joy, its charms pushing all the right buttons for voice and limbs participation and the trigger to full engagement. There are plenty of sneaky little abrasions going on to bring depth to the song whilst firing up further rapture for its burning appeal.

The following Government Kid shimmers in the air before teasing the ear with flames of pulsing synth kisses and keenly stroking guitars. The chorus is as catchy as a fever with the song itself an equal at leaving a smouldering heat within the senses through its mesmeric weaves and acidic energies. Within two songs the album feels like something special, the rest of the release only confirming that promise.

As the next in line songs Wrong Empire and End Of Summer captivate thought and soul completely submission of the heart is confirmed. The first is a stunning piece of dramatic pop with the breathtaking strings of The Dollhouse Strings pure beauty, the arrangement of Kirby perfection in capturing and translating the heart and passion of the song. There is a Scott Walker feel to the track and such the mesmerism conjured the song feels like it is over before it begins. The other song is a slowly brewing piece of aural melodrama, its dramatic breath and imposing shadows leaving lungs and heart gasping for air.

The delightful Selling Ideas with its critical whispers seeming like the natural offspring from the songwriting of Andy Partridge sets one up perfectly for the pulse beat of the title track. Sheer Dolby in essence the song actually feels, with this not meant as a flaw, as if it was a swiftly borne song, its energy and triumphant electronic swagger organic and uncomplicated, a sonic roll off the tongue of imagination.

The album continues to soar through the skies of quality and invention through songs like the darkly covered Black Market Futures and the ELO like string guided Face To Face, which like the closer Circus Of Our Lives are the only songs not entirely written by Cook, with Kirby sharing the impressive creativity.

Arts & Sciences is immense, a truly magical release which only improves and enriches the ardour with consequent meetings. If any of the references mentions raise a spark in your passions then James Cook and his album will be your next deepest pleasure.

www.jamescookmusic.com

RingMaster 07/10/2012

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