Antigone Project – Stellar Machine

Last year French outfit Antigone Project not only took their sound to a more accomplished plateau with the From Its Room EP but hinted it was just the beginning of a whole new soundscape to their already easily engaging sound. It was a clue now realised by the band’s debut album, Stellar Machine a journey through spatial clouds of invention and diversity but as universes lead into new universes, equally feels like an adventure leading to many more bold journeys.

The creation of Frédéric Benmussa, a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer and no doubt much more, Antigone Project has grown from a solo project in 2002 to be one of France’s most engaging electronic rock/metal proposals. With the talented prowess of bassist Manu Ventre and drummer Fred Monaco alongside Benmussa, the band had its hands on attention with the release of a self-titled first EP in 2015. It was the debut clue to the expansive and expanding sound growing within the outfit, a suggestion taken further by From Its Room a year later and now truly unfurled within Stellar Machine.

Inspirations to the band’s sound and certainly new album range from Soundgarden to Deftones and Nine Inch Nails on to the likes of Depeche Mode, Jean Michelle Jarre, and Devin Townsend. That is enough to suggest the kaleidoscope of flavours making up the band’s album; they all involved with an even richer vein of Muse meets Radiohead like drama. Do not think you have a handle on Stellar Machine just yet though as ears will soon find a far thicker and greater carousel of the band’s own individual invention across its unpredictable body, one placing the listener into “the skin and shoes of a futuristic cosmonaut following the adventures of outer space travellers on a “stellar machine”.”

Climbing on board, ears are fastened into their seats by the powerful creative straps of opener Poison, its electronic/industrial lift off instantly swarming around the imagination. In turn, it leads to the virulent rock ‘n’ roll heart of the starter where riffs and rhythms are swiftly harrying and enslaving body and instincts, the calmer almost floating tones of Benmussa glazing the infectious exploits with a plaintive Matt Bellamy scented delivery. A compelling groove reinforces the song’s hold, the lively beats of Monaco dancing tenacious across the senses as keys bring cosmic scenery to bear on the imagination. Even in its calmer drifts, the song is forcibly infectious, the trio painting their creative canvas with an array of textures within skilfully woven enterprise.

The following Schizopolis needs mere seconds to have the body moving with its heated funk lures and enveloping synth pop enticement. A few seconds more brings a steelier tone and intensive edge to things, Ventre’s bass a darker brooding incitement which continues to lure and court the twisting infectious exploits of the song. Imagine The The meets Nine Inch Nails and the second track feeds expectations before taking them into deeper richer realms, leaving ears and appetite on a high ready for the moodier, crepuscular skies of III. The song’s air is as enticing as its predecessors, but within its emotional and atmospheric twilight a smouldering seduction matched in energy by the similarly calm vocals and keys.

Another fresh climate is brought by Mantra Nebulae, a dirtier rugged rock/metal contemplation over which vocals and melodies glide while Raphe Nuclei surrounds ears with an almost glacially reflective electronic embrace. Neither track quite lit up ears here as those before them but with the snarling dexterity of the first and the emotionally intensive vocals of Benmussa crawling the second, both tracks enthral and increasingly ignite the imagination over time.

In contrast The Black Widow instantly ensnared instincts and the passions, its intrigue ridden, noir coated web of dramatic coaxing as threatening as alluring. Hooks and grooves collude in seduction, vocals prowling with infectious devilry as bass and beats just flirt; a mix addiction was intended for. There is a touch of Fad Gadget to the song, eighties electronic/new wave essences as readily embraced as other more rapacious textures by the band and the increasingly volatile moments of the outstanding proposition.  The song is superb, a major highlight of Stellar Machine which Pretty Pain straight after easily backs up with its Mike Oldfield/ Devin Townsend nurtured symphony. As all tracks, every passing minute is unique to the last yet a continuation of their revealing cosmic travelogue and emotional revelation.

Cardio Machine is simply raw temptation, a fusion of predatory rock ‘n’ roll and synth pop virulence which has a firm restraint on both yet employs their attributes along another highly addictive body of enterprise. There is something enjoyably familiar about the song but nothing which can be pinned down, just simply and greedily enjoyed with every listen.

The album’s title track is eleven minutes of sample built introduction within senses stroking atmospherics, moving into electronic painting and progressive weaving where every minute adds to a flight feeling far shorter than its actual length such the beauty and captivation on offer. The song alone captures the mood and adventure of the theme; playing like a recap but of another past or future heroic planetary flight.

The album concludes with the atmospheric grace and beauty of Sun’n’rain; a rhythmically bold, melodically heated serenade beneath earthly pleasures. Drawing on the strongest Muse like flavours yet, the track with its almost Bond like theatrical lining brings the album to a powerful and more importantly thrilling close.

Stellar Machine confirms that Antigone Project just go from strength to strength, from bolder adventure to adventure yet still you get the feeling we have not come close to their most monumental exploit yet. Another must investigation for you all.

 Stellar Machine is out now through Lazy Freddy Records via most online stores.

https://www.facebook.com/antigoneproject    https://twitter.com/projectantigone

Pete RingMaster 18/07/2017

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Mr Darklight – Into The Fury

Original DL_RingMaster Review

If the name Mr Darklight is familiar it is likely because you have already discovered his part in the electronic pop infection that is Masters of the Radio. Now the electronic musician/producer has unveiled his debut solo track in the shape of the captivating adventure of temptation, Into The Fury. It is a strange title as the piece of music never suggests turbulence ahead or within its heart, so possibly it is one moment in a larger journey, but what it does supply is a warm flight of imagination for ears and feet to feast on whilst casting cinematic suggestiveness for thoughts to run with.

Inspired by the likes of Daft Punk, Devo, Fatboy Slim, Gary Numan, Giorgio Moroder, Jean Michel Jarre, John Williams, Kavinsky, and Mike Oldfield as well as going by the nature of Into The Fury film scores, Mr Darklight quickly fills ears with the emotive tones of the piano. Its poetic breath and touch is the seed to a gentle but purposeful stroll through an instrumental landscape ripe with melodic essences of OMD and Depeche Mode. Thoughts are soon whisked into a magnetic flight by synths as they spread their broad ambience around the continually enticing evocative hues of the piano.

In a way the piece is like a travelogue of internal reflection or external air bound adventure, all depending which way the imagination goes with the track’s electronic clues as the guide with each listen. It is an absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable first meeting with the solo Mr Darklight, and hopefully the beginning of many such outings ahead.

Into The Fury is free to stream now.

Pete Ringmaster 24/09/2015

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Token Joker – Just Part of the System

Photo courtesy of Meg Hope Photography

If you are looking for a tasty slab of rock ‘n’ roll to take around with you in the heat of summer this year, then lock in your mp3 players, grab the Just Part of the System EP from UK rockers Token Joker, and unite the two. The four track encounter is a magnetic and invigorating slice of sonic enterprise to while away the day with whilst revealing exactly why the Devon quintet is beginning to create a stir in the UK rock scene.

Not much more than a year since the band emerged, Token Joker has been on a determined course and potent rise reaching a first pinnacle with the forthcoming release of their debut EP. Before its creation though, the Dawlish hailing band has grabbed plenty of attention for the melody rich, hook loaded songs of lead vocalist Leon Welsh and rhythm guitarist/vocalist Matt Coleman. Within weeks of stepping from the shadows, the band found itself courted by a London promotion company which led to their playing the O2 Academy Islington. This was followed by shows with bands such as of The Tricks, The Others, and The Beaches as well as appearances at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton, Teignmouth Carnival, and the Oxjam Exeter Takeover. It was a busy and successful 2014 for the band, global radio play another emerging success, and it has continued into this year. Recorded with producer Paul Reeve (Muse, Razorlight, Supergrass) this past March and mastered by Simon Heyworth (Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells), the eagerly anticipated Just Part of the System is now set to awaken a new spotlight on the band, a focus sure to be reinforced by the excellent song Ride the Train which is taken from the EP and firing up radio shows and stations through Token Joker linking up with renowned UK radio plugging company Pluggin’ Baby.

11096726_932257790127827_9070900460185589201_nThe EP opens with 10,000 Angels, a short atmospheric instrumental which sparks the imagination if not the ears to the same degree. It does lure in an attentive intrigue though, the piece like a dawning of bigger things, which turn out to be arriving in the shape of Green. The first track evolves seamlessly into its successor; tendrils of spicy coaxing from the guitar emerging from the previous sonic haze as thumping rhythms also add their invitation. That flavoursome enterprise turns into fiery grooves and hearty riffs from Chris Dearing and Matt Coleman respectively soon after, whilst the rhythmic side of the song gains greater weight and voice through the muscular swings of drummer Rupert Waldron and throaty basslines of Michael Jackson. It is an aggressive yet respectful enticing enhanced by the expressive vocals of Leon Welsh. Cross its length the song continues to endear itself to ears and thoughts, never quite exploding as it hints at, but feeding an awakening appetite to sparkling hooks and feisty textures.

Things kick up another gear with Rookie, a great busy stomp of dirt clad rock ‘n’ roll with an almost volatile character to its persuasion and a combative energy to its gait and persuasion. Within this formidable tempting, blues lined melodies colour the dramatic landscape, adding even more alluring hues to the gripping roar of the increasingly impressive song.

The EP is completed by the outstanding Ride the Train, a track swiftly taking ears and emotions on a feisty and heady course of provocative grooves and fiery melodies. Alongside this, hooks almost leap at ears as rhythms jab and flirt simultaneously with the senses whilst the voice of Welsh again creates an attention grabbing roar with range and diversity. An incendiary stomp to light up any mood, it is no wonder that the song alone is raising keen awareness upon the band and now supported by the rest of the EP, sure to be a leading lure across the year.

The band has already found the support of Matt Bellamy of Muse on their side, with many more soon to join the fold once Just Part of the System is unleashed on the nation. The bluesy, heat enriched summer of rock starts here.

The Just Part of the System EP will be released on April 27th digitally via iTunes and on CD.

http://www.tokenjoker.com   https://www.facebook.com/TokenJoker1

RingMaster 16/04/2015

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Interview with Plum/Shona Maguire

The just released album The Seed from Scottish singer/songwriter/producer Plum is one of the most graceful and glorious collections of ideas, thoughts and songs to caress and inspire the ear so far this year. With an intriguing and provocative theme veining composing and music making of the highest and deepest quality, it is an impactful and beautifully caressing release that takes one on a personal trip with Plum and also a journey inside themselves. We had the pleasure of grabbing some of her time to ask Plum (Shona Maguire) about the album, music and herself.

Hello and a warm welcome to The RingMaster Review. Thank you for talking to us.

Would you first simply introduce yourself?

Hello, I’m Shona Maguire/Plum. I’m an Edinburgh based songwriter & producer, Aberdeen born with a love of electronic music, art, independent film & treehouses.

Why the name of Plum rather than using your real name for your music?

It’s a childhood nickname (given to me by my dad, nobody knows why). I don’t know why, but didn’t want to go by my real name (too folky sounding), so used Plum originally intended to be a stop gap until I found a better name but it stuck.

When did you first find yourself falling into the arms of music?

Age 3 I fell into the arms of my granda’s piano. I was in the youth orchestra, played oboe in High School, then picked up a guitar at 15, and that’s when the songwriting began. It grabbed me. I was in a band in high school. Our high school technician showed me the basics of studio recording & I was then hooked on learning more. Did work experience at Split level studios & kept going back for about 5 years. The short answer is probably mid to late teens.

What were the artists and songs that had the first powerful effect on you?

I was a late discoverer of electronic music. Bjork & Lamb were the gateway & I fell into that scene at age 19. Loved it with a passion – Boards of Canada, Chris Clark (now Clark), The Beta Band, Twin, PJ Harvey, Squarepusher…

And the biggest influences to this point?

I think the first are still the strongest. Add my musical friends Frogpocket, Araya, and Christ. And Kate Bush, and Joni Mitchell. But I never intended to make the same type of music as my influences. I try to write from the heart & to tell stories with it. With the lyrics as well as the instrumentation, textures, layers & moods you can build up.

Was music a feature of family life from day one up there in Aberdeenshire?

Pretty much, we had a piano in the house, though I don’t remember anyone ever playing it except me. My dad has always had a great taste in music. His records playing in the living room with the fire on is a standard memory. He introduced me to Nirvana, The Chemicals Brothers, The Blue Oyster Cult, Metallica, Howlin Wolf, Marillion, Mike Oldfield, Suzanne Vega. My mum was big into Kate Bush, Van Morrison & Joni Mitchell & I remember car journeys to those soundtracks.

When did you first have the urge to make your own music, was this before or during your time undertaking work experience at Split-Level Studios?

Before…but it was the entire motivation behind working there. I bought a reel to reel tape machine from a back door warehouse in Leith & drove out to the studio with it on my motorbike. I made the studio blokes leave the outhouse (was kind of a practise shed) so I could record because I was too shy to sing in front of them. Was so excited to use it. Seems so old school now! Brilliant sound. Wish I still had it.

Your bio states you move to London to take a Music Production course being frustrated at being unable to communicate your ideas exactly as you wanted. Was it that much of a struggle conveying your creative thoughts and was this in terminology or interpreting what you heard inside to others?

Without the production know how I was relying on others to interpret my direction. And the people I was working with were (bless their lovely souls) far more conventional in their approach than I wanted. And I couldn’t find the right words to convey what was in my head. It wasn’t as direct as that though as I travelled for a few years, during which time I didn’t do any music. Then all of a sudden I had to get back into it. With more passion than before, and a need to take control.

You were creating your own music in tandem to learning studio production?

The course was very hands on practical & we were encouraged to write our own music as part of the course. Free studio time almost unlimited. Was a dream come true! Though I needed to work 28 hours a week to pay digs in London. Every other spare moment I was booked into a practise studio at Point Blank.

Before you had finished your course you were signed to Summer Rain Recordings, how did that come about?

As part of the course we had to set up a MySpace account & upload music. I did so & started getting some good feedback. One of them was from David at Summer Rain & he offered to put out an EP for me. To be honest I was pretty shocked, I didn’t feel ready, but was delighted to take up the opportunity.

You released two EPs though them, The Whispering Chamber (2007) and The Glory Feast (2008). How were these received and what impact did going straight into recordings during the course have on your self-belief as an aspiring artist?

Honestly, myself belief has always been a little shaky. The EPs were well received, but I was terrified to perform live so didn’t do much gigging on the back of it. The fact that a label wanted to sign me definitely helped my confidence though. It gave me the confidence to sing on my own tracks.

Next you returned to Scotland and became the first and I believe only female artist signed to Benbecula Records?

This is true 🙂

The album Different Skin in 2009 was met with a mass of critical acclaim as well as finding further love from your expanding fan base. This was maybe a pivotal point in your career to date and has given you more freedom to expand and explore your ideas?

Absolutely. Signing to Benbecula was a dream come true. I sent Steven about 6 demos over 2 years & finally he felt I was good enough. It brought a lot of UK press & gigs & was a fantastic experience. It was great to be part of such a forward thinking music scene & definitely helped push me creatively.

We now come to the reason we really wanted to talk to you haha, your brand new album The Seed. How are you feeling in its early days of being in the ears of the public?

I’m excited. I’m really pleased with the release & the feedback so far has been amazing.

Tell us about its theme and where the inspiration for it came from.

It’s very private but essentially it’s about the power of suggestion. Something said to me in childhood had had a profound effect on my personality & fears & aspirations. It’s about the seed of an idea & how it can grow beyond your control. Finding the root of things is one massive task, but digging it up & planting alternatives is equally difficult. I just find the whole concept fascinating.

The way the album and songs are beautifully crafted and placed, let alone sounding around this concept suggests The Seed was a labour of love and intensive in time.

Yes it was a hell of a journey. Very personal. Very difficult. I was really ill for a month as I tried to conclude the album, but the sense of relief when I did was incredible. I’m really proud of it.

The album as you said was a journey, so did you write the songs separately and fit them along the album’s quest or wrote them to fit each aspect of the theme?

Lol. I may have just answered this one. I wrote to the concept loosely but wanted it to flow as an album, so there’s definitely a process behind the order. The journey was about working myself out for me, and the order of the tracks reflects that chronologically.

How have you evolved as a composer/songwriter o you feel and how has your music too from Different Skin to your new album?

Definitely. It was my first concept album, it took 2 years to write & produce. I got a lot of help from Keir MacCulloch, and I learnt a lot from him.

The Seed has an organic flow, a feel that is inspired by Nature and I believe you put yourself in the heart of it when writing the album?

Yes I moved to a cottage near Jedburgh in the Scottish borders to write it. I wish I could have stayed there. It was magical, overgrown, wild & beautifully peaceful. Was the perfect setting.

How do you approach your songwriting?

The songs write themselves. Sometimes the lyrics come first, sometimes I’m playing the guitar & it all falls into place, sometimes I’ll build a song around a sample. I never write the beats first though which is I think more common.

The album is wonderfully unpredictable and surprising, your blending of caressing melodies and a calm ambience to striking and often discordant tones, beats and samples is majestic. How much is simply organic for you and how much do you have to really stretch even your ideas to achieve this?

I don’t have a strict idea of where I’ll end up when I start. I play about with layers & effects until I like what’s there. Until I feel it fits with the point of the song…which is usually driven by the emotions or mood.

Alongside the warmth and beauty to your music on the album there is a darker thoughtful vein bringing a striking balance? What do you hope we see that contrast as within the concept, as it does neatly open up many trains of thought at times?

I haven’t really thought about it. Contrast is human. I think it’s part of nature.

You have self-released The Seed. Was this always the intention or has been forced upon you?

It was always the intention. I wanted to write it exactly as I wanted without feeling pushed to go with an overall genre or style. I wanted the freedom to explore. That and Benbecula had closed, and I wanted to write rather than knock on the doors of all the other labels.

You helped to finance the album through sponsume.com. How did that work out and in a time when many bands are looking at this aspect why did you choose that site?

I actually tried We Fund first but they took ages to approve my video so I cancelled & gave Sponsume a go. Found it to be an excellent source of encouragement & a great way to engage with fans. Benbecula promoted it to their mailing list too which was very helpful.

Did the response you got surprise you?

Absolutely! I never thought I’d reach the total it was a stab in the dark, a total “may as well try” approach. I was really amazed at the support.

Is there any part of the album that you are most proud of?

Myriad. I knew I had to tie together all the pieces, I knew I wanted to finish on Meadow of Weeds, but was struggling to connect the struggles and the growth & the climbing with the hope & fresh start of meadow of weeds. It really took a lot out of me, but I’m very happy with the result.

Please tell us about the excellent video for the title track off the album.

It was the collective ideas of moi, Jim Wolff, Michael Kinlan, Jordan Laird (Leith FM) and the super talented Greg Hoyna who is proficient in both cardboard use and stop frame animation. Was fun to make, though I cricked my neck lying still for two long days.

What is next in the world of Shona /Plum?

Hopefully more gigs, & more opportunities to be creative.
Once more many thanks for sparing time to share your thoughts and in answering our questions.

Would you like to end with any last words?

Thanks so much for your support of an independent muso like myself. It’s much appreciated!

Read the review of The Seedhttps://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/plum-the-seed/

The Ringmaster Review 09/04/2012

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Mike Oldfield – Incantations Deluxe Edition

Legend, innovator, a singular musical mind, and an inspiration for many are just a few of the labels that can be placed firmly upon the mantel of Mike Oldfield. Whether a fan of his music or not, he brings respect and admiration for his creative work from all. Never resting on the laurels of his seminal Tubular Bells he explored and boldly realised his ideas and musical thoughts with often surprising but generally always satisfying results.

As done with three others of his albums to date, the 1978 Incantations album has been carefully remastered by Oldfield with Mercury, to whom his Virgin catalogue moved to in 2008, their care and attention to the process obvious with the high standard and generous extras on the Incantations Deluxe Edition.

Incantations was Oldfield’s first and only studio double album, consisting of four immense emotion inspiring movements of the title track across a double album it was some of the most spiritual, ethereal, and sensual music found anywhere outside of his own creations. On the remastered Deluxe Edition we are given not only the impressive double album but also an abundance of beautiful and senses caressing musical manna in the likes of the legendary 1979 single ‘Guilty recorded in New York City at the height of the disco movement, his stirring version of the ‘William Tell Overture’, and the wonderful ‘Hiawatha’ where the voice of Oldfield’s sister Sally Oldfield is rapture over the instinctive percussion.

The music throughout Incantations and the songs within the package come from the wondrous musical ability of Mike Oldfield but also feature the great musical skills of numerous guests including David Bedford (strings & chorus), Terry Oldfield (flutes), Maddy Pryor (vocals), and The Queens College Girls Choir. It is the use and placing of such talent as much as their prowess that makes their contributions as essential to the music as it is. Whether instrumentation, voices or simply his ideas, nothing is just an addition or a piece of musical dressing, everything is integral to the ultimate destination the music takes the listener to. Certainly on the four tracks that makes up ‘Incantations’ it is a stunning emotive adventure and experience that one never forgets or can avoid feeling upon every listen. As a whole it is a great symphonic piece, grabbing the attention and feeding the heart whether during the gentle and tender quiet moments or the rockier eager phases, a pleasing landscape of ambient glory, a masterpiece of minimalism.

It is unfair to pick out parts that standout over the others as really ‘Incantations’ should be taken as a whole but the vibrant rock edge of ‘Part Three’ brings an extra kick and lift that makes listening grasp such a high plateau. Something that can also be said about the treat and closing track the previously unreleased ‘Diana – Desiderata’. It is a gloriously atmospheric track combining moody guitars and emotive choral backing, a pure jewel.

The release is a real gift of magic for all Oldfield fans but also a wonderful introduction for others not yet aware of any of the his work beyond Tubular Bells if at all.

Incantations Deluxe Edition is available now.

RingMaster 27/07/2011

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