Jacko Hooper – For You

Photo - Nicolas Primout

UK singer songwriter Jacko Hooper has come a long way since emerging in his school days with The Rylics, a trio of school friends. It has been interesting and enjoyable watching his progress as a songwriter and musician over the years, the different twists and turns in his evolution which whilst not always fed personal tastes always left attention and appetite for his endeavours intrigued. For You is the brand new EP from Hooper, his first official solo release and an impressively potent and appetising proposition.

As mentioned the journey for Hooper started in his schooldays and even then he and the band were drawing strong attention especially when from the ashes of the first band, IAM:YOURHERO emerged. The band drew a keen and attentive following of fans and underground media exposure like from our own Audioburger Radio whilst at the same time Hooper was working on his own solo acoustic material. IAM:YOURHERO subsequently became Kai with the threesome continuing to draw praise and a greater following but you could also sense interest in the solo work of Hooper was gaining impetus. Recent years has seen that side take centre stage with Hooper to continued success, his music gaining YouTube views of over half a million and self-released CDRs in 500 runs being sold out in just six days. Inspired by the likes of Jeff Buckley, Bon Iver, Thomas Dybdahl, and Fink, his songwriting and folk teased sound has hit a plateau, with For You the clear evidence.

Funded through KickStarter and recorded with producer Paul Steel over the space of eight weeks, For You steals ears and thoughts within moments of its first song. Eggs Shells caresses ears from its first stroll of chords wrapped in a1353093189_2an elegant melody. It is an immediate enticing which only grows its call with the incoming smooth tones of Hooper’s vocals, their mellow first embrace growing with the song to show the greater texture and power of his voice already realised in the rockier premises of his previous bands. The acoustic stroking of the song is a quality tempting but once the song opens up arms of strolling rhythms and bass shadows within the ever expressive design of guitar, it truly blossoms into a flame of emotive beauty. As the release, the song looks at love and fear and shows that whilst there has always been an intimacy to the music of Hooper which was in advance of his years, there is a real genuine maturity to his songwriting now.

The following November 5th Song also moves from a gentle coaxing into a firmer revelry of beats and vocal adventure amidst vibrant melodic enticing and atmospherically sown emotion. Also as its predecessor, the track grows and swells with poetic expression and a bulging bewitchment of melodic energy and passion spawned energy for an almost rigorous and wholly absorbing stomp of infectious invention. The earlier solo material of Hooper impressed but felt like it was still too deep in its growth and evolution to make a real mark at the time but the first two songs alone on For You show that the Brighton hailing Hooper has not only come to the end of that cycle to fulfil the potential seen vividly within him but opened up another wave of potential to be explored and realised ahead.

Run Away With Me is a guitar and vocal croon which comes drenched in intimacy and shadows, the occasional growl and constant angst of Hooper’s vocals enough to expose the raw emotion of the song. It does not match the might of the first two songs but then it is a different proposition with its open lean canvas beneath an emotive colouring. The closing live cut of Roaming is the same, guitar and vocal reflection at one in an evocatively lighted spotlight within scenery of crowding shadows. It is a fine song but one which may not stand out as strongly in the hands of another, the bluesy scent which soaks Hopper’s delivery bringing it character and irresistible body.

Despite the success earned and found previously, this feels like the point where Jacko Hooper has arrived and is about to trigger the real ascent of his emerging career.

The For You EP is available now via One Inch Badge on Ltd Edition 7″ vinyl and digitally @ http://jackohooper.bandcamp.com/album/for-you



RingMaster 16/07/2014

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Voyager – V

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Breath-taking and ravenously compelling, V the new album from Australian metallers Voyager, is one of those releases which just steals thoughts and emotions from the surrounding world, enslaving ears and imagination with no respite until its incitement is done. It is a powerful and intensive encounter, one demanding attention with a creative rabidity which fuels the thumping rhythms and raging riffs which sculpt the thirteen designs of the album. Equally though a mesmeric beauty radiates and shimmers with a kaleidoscope of sonic colour and melodic emotion across the release in riveting invention to consume everything from ears to passions. The album is a magnificent beast, which puts most other offerings in the shade.

As you can assume from its title, V is the fifth album from the Perth quintet and finds in our humble opinion their unique fusion of melodic and progressive metal with a wealth of other essences at its finest yet. Following the rigorously acclaimed The Meaning of I of 2011, the new album shows Voyager ascending to new heights not only in songwriting and sound but also in the way they texture and align every essence of a song into a flaming tempest which has the unbridled contagion of pop linked to an exploratory progressive imagination metal and locked into the predacious voracity of metal. Fan-funded via Kickstarter and recorded with producer Matt Templeman, V leaves similar genre clad bands in the starting blocks, though to be honest few if any come to mind as comparisons to the rich colour and sound of Voyager right now.

The release opens with its two singles from the album, and through the pair alone rapture and devotion for the release is virtually 654367989302 UPC-Vguaranteed. The new single Hyperventilating instantly soaks ears in an electro mist which is secretive of things ahead, though the wait to find out what is pending is mere seconds as djent bred vivacity strides through ears. The guitars of Scott Kay and Simone Dow prey on the senses right away as the rhythms of Ashley Doodkorte jab and puncture with just as intense voracity. Around them though it is the keytar seduction of Daniel Estrin which is mesmerising the imagination ready for his equally impressive vocals to charm and infest thoughts. Less than a minute in and the song is in full command; its earnest and dramatic stance magnetic whilst the climactic chorus is pure virulence. It is a gloriously anthemic merger of antagonism and seducing, dark and light, the bass snarl of Alex Canion, who also provides excellent backing vocals, a pronounced protagonist. Veined with an Eastern mystique well onto its adventure, the track is aural alchemy, an enslaving epidemic to which there are no cures.

The following Breaking Down continues the outstanding start. Featuring guest vocals from Daniel Tompkins (In Colour, Skyharbor, ex-TesseracT), the song from an orchestral caress launches into a fiery and enthralling blaze of heavy metal riffs, progressive enticement, and melodic expression. As it predecessor there is an uncaged hunger to the charge of the song but urgency cloaked in pungent emotive melodies and immersive enterprise which again isolates ears and mind from any outside interference. It is a monster of a song swiftly matched by A Beautiful Mistake which hosts another guest in UK born, Perth living vocalist Zemyna Kuliukas. A sinister gurning of sound opens up the song before again gnarly guitar endeavour casts their bait as the continuing to truly impress vocals of Estrin explores ears. Only three songs in and it is hard not to think the musician is providing his mightiest moment yet as a singer. There is a snarl and belligerence to the under belly of the song which is translated in the rhythms and jagged riffing, but under the elegance and evocative flames from vocals and keys it is just another rich texture to a delicious weave, within which Kuliukas potently shines.

The very brief rhythmic and atmospheric narrative of the excellent Fortune Favours The Blind leads into the just as imposingly dramatic and thrilling You, The Shallow, the track a rapacious predator cloaked in the robust hues of a blazing sunset which dance emotively over the senses. Thumping rhythms build a towering intimidating frame which the sonic drizzle and blistering enterprise of the guitars hangs absorbingly from, but it is again the ravenous almost savage agitation of the riffs and the exceptional vocal qualities which brings the deepest submission.

The diversity of the songs from each other also makes a mouth-watering tempting across the album, the roaring pop flames of Embrace The Limitless within a swirling pool of electronic light and the electro rock marauding of Orpheus straight away adding to the rich landscape of the album. The pair permeates every pore and synapse with their simultaneously raw and polished beauty before making away for another major pinnacle in nothing but mountainous highs. Domination Game is a warrior of a song, its sinews charged and rippling on the rhythms and battle hardened riffs which bring the track to bear on senses and imagination. Within their cage the vocals stalk and light thoughts with their own specific intent. It is a confrontation in many ways but one where the fire of passion and searing melodies temper any pungent emotion poised to unleash its venom. It is an outstanding slice of ingenuity with not for the first or last time, an eighties synth/indie pop breath within its metallic canvas.

The pair of Peacekeeper and It’s A Wonder impress instantly but take a little longer than other songs to reveal their full hypnotic beauty and toxicity, though there is no particular reason why it is so. The first of the two reminds in small ways of fellow Australians Circles as well as UAE band Absolace as it explores its deep emotional depths with a slow expansive wash of heart sculpted reflection whilst its successor stakes its narrative out on another raging surge of crushing rhythms and senses entangling riffs and bewitching grooves. The song is another stunning spike in an unrelenting line of pure brilliance across V, a track which casts its own unique epic tale of light and shadows within the triumphant broad narrative of the album. It has an unrelenting evolution to its premise too, a horde of styles and flavours unleashed so that as many songs, it feel so much bigger, longer, and lingering than the mere five minutes it needs to capture the passions.

The industrialised air of The Morning Light around a symphonically embracing melodic bathing of invention is followed by the brilliant piano and vocal incitement of Summer Always Comes Again. Poetic strings wrap the song in their evocative flourishes as the song grows into another major treat of the album. Estrin has been likened to Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon by Deftones’ Chino Moreno, which you can understand but here song and vocal style is sheer Julian Cope, both aspects a pleasing resemblance of the great arguably undervalued man. It makes the song glow as a piece, and that essence also seeps vibrantly into the closing metallic pop excellence of the closing Seasons Of Age. It is an inferno of pop majesty and metal causticity, combining for a final exceptional summit of a sensational album.

To be honest only ears not words can truly relay the quality and brilliance of V and everyone behind it, so a recommendation to go explore a definite album of the year contender just cannot be forceful enough. In fact you might as well give the title to Voyager now as it is going to take something very special to eclipse their triumph.

V is available now digitally and physically via Bandcamp at: http://voyager.bandcamp.com/



RingMaster 03/06/2014

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Young Knives – Sick Octave


Unpredictability and imagination not forgetting compelling ingenuity has always fuelled the sounds and invention of Young Knives, their unique blend of post punk and indie pop never low on surprises and persistently high on infectiousness and experimentation. The UK band’s new and fourth album Sick Octave as expected is no departure from that intent but takes the exploration and experimentation of their songwriting to new riveting heights. Taking further the challenging enterprise which has been hinted at on previous albums through songs like Tailors, I Can Hardly See Them, and Storm Clouds, the trio dives head first into a hungry invention which maybe ebbs and flows a little in its success but undoubtedly emerges within the new release as an ultimately magnetic adventure.

Financed through Kickstarter, the wholly DIY made album is a mesmeric landscape of striking and seductive persuasion, one which tests and pushes limits for band and listener but rewards richly, especially the more time  you spend in its taunting arms. There are moments and tracks where quizzical expressions find a home on the face but even in those less persuasive times the Young Knives leaves a temptation which ensures you feel a need to explore just that little more. Whether Sick Octave will find the success and responses of previous albums such as their debut Voices of Animals and Men of 2006 and Superabundance two years later, amongst certainly more fair weather fans is debatable but for those with an already waiting appetite for the band’s deeper aural research it is a release which potently satisfies.

Released on their own Gadzook Recordings there is a feeling of freedom to the album, something which possibly was pent up and restrained on earlier releases from label restrictions. Through a comparison to its predecessor alone, the 2011 album Ornaments from the Silver Arcade, there is a bolder, braver, and hunger to the invention upon Sick Octave which feels like the band has been able to uncaged  a new bolder creativity, and they have never been slouches in that department from day one. Young Knives opens the album up with the brief 12345, an entangled vocal countdown made by children which is the first raising of eyebrows. It is immediately forgotten though with the arrival of Owls of Athens, the song exploding into view with eager electro bait. Like a jaunt with Sigue Sigue Sputnik whilst a haunted sax wails appealingly in its riveting sky, the track roams around the senses with an addictive bait washed with melodic brass flames and the fine vocals of Henry Dartnall, ably backed by the rest of the band. The song is a smouldering temptation, one which never truly explodes but teases and provokes with craft and a contagious invention to immediately awaken the passions with its spellbinding presence.

The following We Could Be Blood opens up another distinct tempting avenue. The bass of The House Of Lords emotively twangs across the ear at first to be soon joined by Dartnall’s voice and the caressing touch of a Hammond organ. With the beats of Oliver Askew firmly framing the start there is an eruption of melodic fire from within the gentle stroll, an energy which subsequently shares time and position with the melancholic call of the track. One of the slow burners upon the album, the song is a pleasing encounter which sets the emotions and thoughts up nicely for the strikingly impressive suasions of All Tied Up and White Sands. The first from a raw feisty start, the guitars chewing up the opening ambience, strolls through a warped tango like weave of rhythmic and sonic enterprise. There is a Talking Heads breath to its body that plays mischievously within the darker heavier croon of the song, shadows which have the scent of Joy Division to their encroaching. It is a masterful venture soon surpassed by its sensational successor. White Sands is a schizophrenic rhythmic bewitchment which manages to rein in its full insanity to make an addictive cage for the predacious bass lures and carving guitar strikes, the mix an imagination stirring narrative led by the continuing to impress vocals, the album Dartnall’s finest hour so far one suggests.

Something Awful, a song inspired by Dartnall’s Grandfather and his battle with Alzheimers, opens up deeper intensive lyrical shadows with a  brewed intimidation within the words with is powerfully interpreted by the music. A melodic swagger with bright tones crossed with rapacious challenging furies, the track is a thrilling provocateur for the senses and thoughts which flows into Preset Columns/ Default Comets, the track a less convincing evolution of its predecessor which leaves thoughts a little uncertain even after numerous flights through its sonic soundscape.

Both Bella Bella and Marble Maze ignite greater strength within the open appetite for the album, the first of the two a chilling cross between Wire and Blur whilst the second sees the band in many ways reverting to the sound and structure of earlier songs in their career but with an approach awash with emotive strings and spiralling intensity which burns a deep satisfaction into thoughts. Both songs fail to match some of the earlier heights crafted but still keep a fascination intently alive as does the jazz bedlam of Green Island Red Raw, the song a wanton scattering of ideas within a containing cloak of timing and restraint which just works if without setting blazes in the passions, though the bass work is quite delicious.

From the decent enough short rub of scuzziness that is Score, the album goes out on a major high with firstly the excellent Bed Warmer followed by the closing treat of Maureen. The penultimate song is a wonderfully abrasive and fiery encounter which rubs the senses up the right and wrong way to leave them wanting more whilst succumbing to the rabidity fuelling the energy and invention of the song, again something which harkens back in a way to their Young Knives…Are Dead EP with an extra sinewy splatter of Baddies infectiousness to it. The final song is the band at its melodic and lyrically incisive best whilst stretching their inventive boundaries. Another David Byrne like inspired festivity flirts with the dark veins of the song whilst its chorus is a virulent call which lays a healthy dose of funk spicery into the mix, with Dartnall at times delving into his finest John Lydon squall.

     Sick Octave is an enthralling and thrilling release which suggests the next chapter of the Young Knives adventure is going to be a highly captivating one. The album may not be another Superabundance but it is without doubt a charismatic tantalising slice of instinctive excitement.



RingMaster 04/11/2013

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