The Cathode Ray – Heightened Senses

Four years and a few months on from being wholly captivated by our introduction to The Cathode Ray through the release of their second album, Infinite Variety, the Scottish outfit has done it all over again with its successor, Heightened Senses. It offers a collection of songs which revel in the band’s evolving sound and imagination, a proposition more unique by the release and as proven by their new release, more compelling.

The history of the members of The Cathode Ray, a project emerging from an initial writing collaboration between songwriter/vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Jeremy Thoms and former Josef K frontman Paul Haig, reveals a landscape of enterprise and influential bands. Numerous essences of those earlier exploits could be heard as a rich spicing across the last album which only added to its temptation but its successor has truly found its own unique presence and character, building on the majesty of the last album whilst exploring new individual adventure. Heightened Senses is a sublime set of indie pop songs, though that barely covers the wealth of flavouring they embrace, which so many bands new and existing could learn much from and be inspired by.

Released on ever exciting Scottish label, Stereogram Recordings, Heightened Senses sets out its tone and inescapable persuasion with Memories Of The Future. The first track swiftly gripped attention as an opening thoughtful sonic sigh welcomes the skilled swipe of steel strings amidst the melodic intrigue of guitars. As quickly the darker throb of Neil Baldwin’s bass joins the already magnetic affair, riffs and melodic enticement closely following to fully grip ears and appetite. Thoms’ tones soon stroll the song’s tempting wiring, infectiousness coating every note and syllable as a T-Rex meets Television hue spreads further goodness. The track is superb and if there is such a thing as the perfect pop rock song it has to be a contender.

The following Love and Death soon shows it is just as able to ignite body and imagination, its opening Orange Juice-esque jangle and Bluebells like swing across pungent dance-floor natured rhythms just the beginning of a contagiousness which advances through ears effortlessly as guitarists Phil Biggs and Steve Fraser match Thoms’ creative dexterity and join the synth prowess of guest Alex Thoms. With the beats of David Mack a perpetually welcome hounding of movement, the song simply had us bouncing before Another World seduced with its swaying croon of melodic temptation. With a chorus which almost mischievously had vocal chords in participation in between times of haunting radiance with its own instinctive catchiness, the song beguiled with ease.

 A Difference Of Opinion brings funk scented boisterousness to its melodic shuffle next, a whiff of Talking Heads spicing its flirtatious body. There are so many aspects to The Cathode Ray’s sound which draws you in, here guitars and harmonies leading the way with their tender touches amidst contagious enterprise. As those before it, there is only a compulsion on body and instinct to join the fun while Days Away with a similar effect on hips seduces with a gentler but no less virulent slice of pop imagination. Both tracks had us keenly involved and greedy for more yet are still slightly eclipsed by the album’s Arctic Monkeys/ Scritti Politti tinted title track. The band’s new single teases as it tempts, arouses as it dances in ears with Thom’s vocals as ever across the release a coaxing very easy to line up with.

Though it is hard to pick a favourite track within Heightened Senses, the Pixies meets Weezer antics of Make Believe and the ska ‘n’ pop of Before The Rot Sets In each set a firm grip on such choice. The first featuring the backing vocals of Robin Thoms is cast within post punk shadows but is as bountiful in melodic light and dextrous contagion as anything heard this year whilst its successor with a Police like shimmer courts and enslaves pleasure and imagination from start to finish as guitars spread their new wave/ rock ‘n’ roll hooked webbing around a chorus, graced by the additional tones of Laura Oliver-Thoms , refusing to take no to its consuming catchiness.

The Past Is A Foreign Land completes the line-up of temptation with its heartfelt balladry nurtured on melancholy and hope. It is a song with sixties breeding to its breath and melodic seduction in its voice. A song maybe without the invasive agility of many of its companions but seduced to similar heights nonetheless.

To be honest there was a thought at the time that The Cathode Ray would struggle to match let alone outdo previous Infinite Variety ahead but a thought very quickly thrown aside by the exceptional Heightened Senses.

Heightened Senses is out now Stereogram Recordings; available at https://stereogramrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/heightened-senses

Upcoming Live Shows:

Friday 1st November 2019. The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh

Thursday 28th November 2019. Audio, Glasgow, supporting B Movie

Friday 28th February 2020. Mono, Glasgow, supporting The Monochrome Set

Saturday 29th February 2020. Beat Generator Live! Dundee, supporting The Monochrome Set

https://www.stereogramrecordings.co.uk/artists/cathode-ray/   https://www.facebook.com/thecathoderay/

Pete RingMaster 11/10/2019

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Skylephant – I Am The Ghost

In close quarters to the release of a seriously captivating debut album in Songs For The Fragile Collective, Skylephant have the I Am The Ghost EP ready to tantalise ears and lure the imagination. With its lead track taken from that critically acclaimed full-length it is a mighty teaser of that triumph but also an inescapable invitation for newcomers into the unique world of the UK project.

Skylephant is the solo project of singer/songwriter/ musician Mark Applin, an artist who locked “locks himself away in his small home studio for three and a half years, to pour himself into an album of self-penned songs.” It was a ‘solitude’ which bore a striking encounter and now a just as irresistible EP.

I Am The Ghost opens up with its title track, the song gently introducing itself with a harmonic sigh, melancholy and a sense of loneliness wrapping its opening melody. The coaxing intensifies as keys and enthralling vocal intimacy lend their magnetism to the blossoming track. Like a shadow in the shadows, Applin’s vocals continue to entrance as potently as the web of just as sadly pensive sounds around him, it all leading to a similarly calm but addictively infectious chorus. The track is superb, an enthralling and haunting twilight to happiness and isolation.

Home Alone follows; its sepia harmonies and sighs a familiar caress before electronic animation breeds a seduction of voice and melody. Once more there is an instinctive catchiness working away within the synth pop serenade, that sense of loneliness as much a kiss on thoughts and senses as a venture into sadness. Even more haunting than its predecessor, the song swiftly spellbound ears and imagination before departing on an emotive shimmer of an echo for its successor to step forward.

The EP’s final song is the Johnny T Remix of She’s Alright, another offering originally from within Songs For The Fragile Collective and a song which with a mere breath is infecting feet and body with its contagion loaded enterprise. Already a rapaciously infectious proposal, the new take leads it straight onto the dance-floor with an eighties fuelled rapture in its eager motion and lively animation.

The sound and songs of Skylephant are one of the most individual propositions out there. Applin with his heart bred and fully rounded songwriting does have something of Colin Vearncombe (Black) about him and the pop catchiness of his tracks remind a little of that conjured back in the day by Paul Haig but his own uniqueness is what makes Skylephant simply an essential pleasure.

The I Am The Ghost EP is released August 16th via Musical Bear Records across most stores.

https://www.facebook.com/Skylephant/   https://twitter.com/skylephant

Pete RingMaster 16/08/2019

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Ummagma – Compass

Though any Ummagma release is welcomed with eager intrigue and anticipation by us among a great many the recent Caravan single raised the ante for the band’s new album with its captivation soaked release. The fact, though we have had numerous singles and EPs between, that Compass comes a lengthy seven years after its same day released two predecessors only added to the excitement coated suspense. What the duo’s third full-length offers is their most eclectic and rousing collection of tracks and quite simply their finest most exhilarating moment to date.

The pair of Canadian Shauna McLarnon and Ukraine hailing Alexander Kretov embraces everything from shoegaze, dream and synth pop to electronic and rock driven imagination with plenty more in the abundant enterprise of their new encounter. it is a release and collection of songs though which still revel in the atmospheric and ambient dreamscapes the Ontario based pair has earned thick acclaim and a potent reputation for. The album’s first single suggested that the Ummagma sound had evolved to a whole new tapestry of adventure and diversity, a bold aural kaleidoscope now confirmed and taken across a compelling array of individually and uniquely fresh landscapes by Compass.

The album opens up with Rolling and instantly infests the senses with its animated funk incited rhythms. Hitting its joyous stride soon after, the track bounces along dragging the listener to their feet, Kretov’s vocals a ringleader to the boisterous escapade. With its Talking Heads meets Dalek I Love You like shuffle, the track gets the release off to a thrilling start, one more than accentuated by successor Caravan.

The second track similarly had attention and instincts alive with its rhythmic introduction alone, bold tenacious beats a tribal intimation within the suggestive sonic vegetation that surround them. With body and imagination swiftly enslaved, McLarnon’s ever siren tones warmly caress as the song expands its scenically melodic emprise while the alternating blend of the duo’s voices only adds to the cinematic lure and enticing climate of the exceptional encounter.

Otherwise is next up, the song sharing another individual clime of sound and flavour as Caribbean-esque hues gently but firmly trot within an evolving dream pop serenade. More than ever it proved so easy to sink into the soundscapes of Ummagma as within just three songs Compass had unveiled a new plateau of craft, imagination, and temptation; an enticement nagging at the senses as eagerly within the electronic ambience coloured LCD. With voices as much a lively texture as the sounds courting the same evocative space, the track swept across the senses to, if not quite to the same heights as its predecessors, strongly captivate.

Equally the dream nurtured pop of Elizabeth 44 proved a beacon of persuasion and manipulation, guiding hips and attention with a knowing smile as McLarnon again beguiled, while Blown straight after was swiftly under the skin through its opening indie strokes of guitar alone. As its atmosphere grew and thickened with crystalline synth tempting and a hazy breath the track only enhanced its hold especially as cosmopolitan shapes and melodic silhouettes came forth to dance with keen rhythms and conjuring imagination.

The following predominantly instrumental F-Talking is one of those Ummagma tracks which sparks a fresh inference upon the imagination with every listen, its ambient search and discovery enthralling and interpretation never concluded with successor Galicticon, a spatial float across an expansive melodic sky of equal intimation, just as potent on ears and thoughts.

The diverse character of Compass continues at pace with Lotus strolling in on a shoegaze swing as Kretov walks its wiry threads. There is a touch of Paul Haig to the excellent song which only adds to its rich presence as too a Cocteau Twins like seducing which makes for a similarly alluring essence within the pastoral summer of High Day that follows with matching fascination.

The pair of Colors II and Cretu ensures a fair share of the imagination is cast on their adventures too, the first a slice of indie rock with a folk meets post punk shading and the second an ambient glide across mercurial and unpredictable scenery, every instrumental second a dawning of new suggestive sights to captivate thoughts and senses.

The radiant Bouquet brings Compass to a mesmeric conclusion, its hug shadow clad yet brightly seductive and breath foreboding but rousing. It is an eagerly magnetic end to an album which charmed, tantalised and absorbed from start to finish with moments of creative rapture set in between. Ummagma just go from strength to strength, from bold adventure to striking imagination releases by release; Compass the indisputable proof.

Compass is out now via Leonard Skully Records; available @ http://ummagma.bandcamp.com/album/compass

https://www.facebook.com/ummagma   https://twitter.com/ummagma

Pete RingMaster 31/07/2019

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Pyramid Park – The Unexplained

With their debut album luring rich attention and plaudits since its recent release, Pyramid Park now unveil its first single in the fiercely infectious and emotionally open The Unexplained; a track which captivates in sound and character whilst providing a potent invitation into band and that first album, Vulnerability.

Pyramid Park is the creation of Cambridge based songwriter/musician Peter McAllen; primarily a one man alternative/ indie pop project though McAllen readily embraces the talent and imagination of others. Emerging from a time of “personal struggle” when he says “as a consequence I couldn’t seem to write songs that meant anything to me, and I was bored of my guitar playing”, Vulnerability, the album’s title track and subsequently its body, became his cathartic release.

The Unexplained was the last song to emerge for the album, taking a year to finish, before the whole thing saw McAllen uniting with producer Iain Hutchison in the studio. The single epitomises the emotive and melodic elegance to be found across Vulnerability, McAllen bearing his heart and thoughts with open intimacy. The single closes in from a distant melodic mist, keys shaping its invitation and impending drama. Once within touching distance, McAllen’s heart bred expression and tones caress ears and thoughts, keys and rhythms soon joining its reflection with a vibrant energy and an eager catchiness.

References to artists such as Phoria and Two Door Cinema Club have been laid at the feet of the Pyramid Park sound but for us the eighties scented character and swing of the song reminds of Paul Haig and to a lesser degree Heaven 17.

Hooking ears and imagination within a few breaths and increasing its captivation with its lively enterprise and emotional depth, The Unexplained is a stirring temptation for Vulnerability and the magnetic sound of Pyramid Park.

The Unexplained is released November 10th with Vulnerability available @ https://1pyramidpark.bandcamp.com/

https://www.pyramidpark.net/    https://www.facebook.com/1pyramidpark    https://twitter.com/1pyramidpark    https://1pyramidpark.bandcamp.com/

Pete RingMaster 07/11/2017

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Practical Lovers – Agony

 

Practical Lovers_RingMaster Review

Glorious is the only word for Agony, the debut album from UK synth pop duo Practical Lovers. It might be soaked in melancholy, be the outpouring of frustration and torment bred by lost and unrequited love, but the album is simply a majestic tapestry of skilfully cultured shadows and the beauty lying within all emotions.

The band is the union of singer songwriter Jack Wiles and his long-term musical partner Mark Connell. Originally it was intended as a solo project for Wiles with a collection of songs written “in an attempt to vent some of his frustrations with love in the 21st Century.” After introducing the idea and songs to Connell, the pair creatively united and stepped forwards as Practical Lovers, this around late 2010. The band signed with Nottingham based label I’m Not From London Records the following year, releasing a couple of singles over the next three whilst earning a rich reputation for their live performances. Now they unveil their eagerly awaited debut album, a stirring incitement of vintage synths and analogue drum machines bound in nostalgic radiance, heavy and seductive emotions, and compelling enterprise.

artwork_RingMaster Review    Every track within Agony is a love song; the dark side of and fallout from inspired explorations for sure, but all seeded in love. They come with an intimacy which feels like they are echoes of their creator’s heart and experiences and makes it easy to emotionally connect with, whilst each is presented within sounds which are as infectious and hopeful as they are similarly solemn to their lyrical pleas. From the opener band and release has ears and imagination chained, and emotions basking in the pleasure given.

Put It Bluntly tempts ears with a few dark pulses of synths whilst brewing a more feisty lure in the background, that swiftly coming forward and blossoming on the strains of a deliciously grouchy bassline. The inescapable enticement of Wiles’ wonderful dour lined and magnetic tones soon adds another rich texture and hue to the already invasively infectious encounter. That element of nostalgia is often eighties spawned and here on offer is a Paul Haig meets New Order coaxing with a touch of Interpol to it, a mixture only adding to the thrilling virulence of the song.

The following Never Again brings some fiery guitar to ears, the fizzy texture invitingly colluding with poppy synths as Wiles and Connell avail an already greedy appetite of their individual prowess. The fevered stroll does not hang around, offering a bubbly simmer over two minutes of inimitable bait before Inside Job provides another diverse and fiercely captivating string to the bow of Agony. Like The The in league with The Smiths, with Wiles vocally as throughout the album creating a vocal presence somewhere between Morrissey and Ian Curtis, the song is a plaintive serenade, a vibrant croon which whips up ears and emotion within seconds and increasingly involves the listener with every passing second.

A similar hue glows within Full of You next, though the track again reveals a distinct character of its own as synths smoulder and caress with emotive expression. The mix of vocals, presumably from the two artists, adds another riveting texture, though it is Wiles and the Smiths blessed earthy elegance that seals the deal between lustful ears and song, an ardour just as eagerly given to the Joy Division coated Nobody There which follows and straight after that the post punk scented brilliance of The Work Around. Hints of Blancmange and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark emerge from within the outstanding track, and in many ways, having seen OMD live in their first days, there is a definite resemblance between the bands if not exactly in overall sound.

No Reply slips into the dark corners of its emotive heart next, that Joy Division suggestion again an easy offer as the track morosely yet enticingly prowls ears before its big success is eclipsed by the skittish energy and devilry of Restless. Think Fad Gadget meets early The Correspondents with Editors in tow and a clue to its irresistible endeavour is close to the mark whilst for Textbook Romance maybe John Foxx era Ultravox and early Cure is a good hint. To be honest, for all the references sparked, each track is a thrilling proposal unique to Practical Lovers, just enhanced by a great weave of recognisable colours, whilst the second of this pair also unveil its warm party on the senses with a hopefulness arguably not explored as fully elsewhere.

The album closes off with firstly the insatiable contagion of Falling Down and finally the melancholic serenade of Grave of Romance, a song impressing initially and just seducing the passions to greater effect over time. Both also provide another aspect to the multi-faceted sound of Agony, an album which is blossomed from some of the harshest and deepest felt emotions possible but is anything but agony to listen to.

Practical Lovers is one of the finds for our ears of 2015 and Agony one of its most thrilling and invigorating releases.

Agony is released November 27th digitally and on limited edition cassette tape through I’m Not From London Records @ https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/agony/id1051440048

https://www.facebook.com/Practicallovers

Pete RingMaster 27/11/2015

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

For more exploration of the independent and promotional services check out http://www.zykotika.com/

Gazing into the fresh glow of The Cathode Ray with Jeremy Thoms

The Cathode Ray_RingMaster Review

Photo and copyright Peter Tainsh

2015 has provided many treats this year and definitely amongst them was the latest and second album Infinite Variety from Scottish indie band The Cathode Ray. It was an encounter embracing the nostalgia of the eighties through fresh and inventive escapades bred of the now. One of the band’s founders is Jeremy Thoms, he also the man behind the great indie label Stereogram Recordings, and someone who to describe as busy is a big understatement. Nevertheless, Jeremy kindly gave us a chunk of his time to talk about the album, The Cathode Ray itself from top to bottom and more, including an insight to his own musical loves…

Hi Jeremy and many thanks for giving us your time to talk with us.

Ever late to the party, we discovered The Cathode Ray through your new album Infinite Variety which came out a couple of months or so ago to, it is fair to say, swift acclaim. In a music world where it seems increasingly harder to actually get people to part with money or indeed offer full attention to things, did you have any particular expectations or hopes for its unveiling or is it more anything is a bonus for bands right now?

We didn’t have any expectations other than hoping that those who had liked the first album would stay with us for the second. We knew we’d made a good follow up album but, as you say, in an environment when it’s very hard to engage with people, nothing is guaranteed.

Photo by Hugh Womersley

Photo by Hugh Womersley

Originally the band was just you and Paul Haig, famed for Josef-K and his own solo career. The press release for the album suggests this was not originally intended to be a serious band project but a writing collaboration. Was that the case and what brought Paul’s involvement to an end?

Paul definitely just saw it as a writing collaboration – “a bit of fun” was one his quotes – with group recordings just being made to illustrate them. However, the reaction to them was so positive, one thing lead to another and I pushed for it to become a band and take it more seriously, which Paul wasn’t happy with so eventually he left. What confused matters in the press and public eye was that Neil, David and I were his backing band when he did a solo tour in 2008. However the emphasis then was completely on his solo work, and he had no intention of being a member of a band again after Josef K, which in the end we had to respect.

The double ‘A’ sided single What’s It All About? /Mind was released in 2006; I believe this was meant as a one off release?

Not initially but it ended up like that. Certainly with Paul participating. When we made the agreement with Pronoia Records in 2006, the album had been recorded with Paul’s full participation, but by the time we got around to discussing getting it released he had changed his mind. So he asked us to remove his lead vocals, which we did, although some of his guitar and backing vocals do remain on the first album.

At what point did that spark the appetite to push things further; as a full band and with more releases?

The point that changed everything was bumping into Steve Fraser at a TV21 album launch in 2009. I told him what had happened and he was keen to get involved. The minute we started talking music I knew he was the man. We didn’t even bother with an audition. I knew the songs were strong enough to survive without Paul’s involvement. That opened so many doors, being able to play live (which Paul would never have done as The Cathode Ray) and generally move things on after quite a difficult start.

Were some of you all already old friends and maybe previously worked together before uniting for The Cathode Ray we know today?

Neil Baldwin and I have known each other for 34 years (!) and have played in bands together intermittently since 1986. David Mack and I had been working together since 2000 so, yes, there was a certain chemistry. Steve was the “new boy” although we’d all known him on the Edinburgh scene previously.

I have to admit for once, and not intentionally, I read about the band and its background before hearing a note for a review, and to be honest once seeing a list of previous projects for members of The Cathode Ray2_RingMaster Reviewthe band which had been indelible pleasures in my personal soundtrack, subsequently luring a revisit to old favourites records after finishing the review too, there was an increased anticipation and eagerness to explore the band and album. Do you think having your musical histories has helped draw awareness to the band or not?

Well obviously there’s going to be a certain amount of that, but I do believe, hopefully without sounding conceited, that The Cathode Ray is more than the sum of its parts. But initially I guess it did help getting people interested through our various previous involvements.

There were whiffs of all some of your previous bands at times across the songs and often nostalgia blessed air of Infinite Variety, The Bluebells and Scars maybe most notably in our ears. You are a band unafraid to draw on previous adventures and spices to hone new and fresh exploits, as potently shown on the album?

The songs that I write aren’t consciously drawing on any of our past exploits, but I guess where you’ve come from does influence where you’re going. In any case, it’s probably coincidental, as Steve only toured with The Scars as a depping bassist so wasn’t involved in their creative process, while Neil only contributed to arrangements with The Bluebells. But inevitably, as we all come from that post-punk background, some of the sounds and styles of these bands are going to rub off.

How would you say The Cathode Ray has evolved over time and specifically between Infinite Variety and its predecessor, your self-titled debut album?

I would say the vague initial brief of merging post-punk Manchester with New York has simply broadened to the point where I regard ourselves now as a band that isn’t easy to pin down musically. Our original press release mentioned 60’s Garage, Soundtracks and Northern soul, to which one critic added Psychedelia, Glam-Rock, Euro-Disco, Krautrock and 90’s Alternative Pop when reviewing Infinite Variety. So it is definitely evolving. I’m currently demoing material for the next album and there’s even more interesting musical areas I’d like to explore. It’s good to surprise people.

TCR cover_RingMaster ReviewGive us some insight into the thoughts and intentions going into the writing and recording of Infinite Variety? Do you build a release on particular aims or ideas or predominantly let things organically evolve?

Things do tend to evolve organically. If you put too much pre-conceived thought into it, the music loses its spontaneity. Although I suppose one particular aim is not to repeat ourselves. Each album needs to be a significant progression from the previous one, so a certain degree of thought does go into that. Also, apart from melodies and lyrics, I’m always interested in rhythms and try to be as adventurous and varied as possible in that area too.

We described the album as a “kaleidoscope of fun, sound, and adventure”, a fair hint we think at the array of flavours and inventive spices fuelling and shaping the songs within Infinite Variety. In the hands of many bands it might be an incoherent mix, but you manage to seamlessly blend all spices and individual characters of songs perfectly. Where do you and the band start when composing songs?

Well I compose the songs and demo them first with the key riffs, chord progressions, lyrics etc. all in place. At that stage they often do sound fairly disparate. I then present them to the band in the rehearsal room and that’s when it starts to sound like The Cathode Ray. Steve, Neil and Dave all contribute parts and arrangements until we arrive at the finished article. Some songs like The Eyes Are The Window took a long time to come together and changed quite considerably from my original demo. Others end up fairly similar to the original template, but all manage to sound cohesive owing to the fact it’s the four of us playing them, I guess.

The album’s tracks manage to be rich and at times expansive in texture and flavour yet also ‘slim’, i.e. no excess baggage or indulgence. They manage to be an open evolution from your first album but also reveal a bolder leap in aural colour and character; how do you hear their relevance to older propositions as one of their creators?

Well obviously it’s difficult to be completely objective about something you’ve created yourself, but I see their place in relation to the first album as a natural progression. The leap in colour and texture which you describe is simply a way of moving the band forward, without cluttering things up unnecessarily. You use the word ‘slim’ and I suppose that comes in at the production stage – cutting off any excess fat!

How long in the making from first note to paper or thought through to last note laid down was the album?

The boundaries are always blurred as we always tend to have songs left over which were either written too late to make the cut or simply didn’t fit at the time. For example, This Force Of Nature had its origins as a completely different song dating way back to 2006. It had never sounded right so was left on the shelf. I went back to it in 2014 writing new lyrics and melodies and it quickly came together then. Eureka Moment and Buck the Trend were written in 2009 when Steve first joined. But the bulk of I.V. was written and recorded between 2012 and 2014 – around two and half years.

Our review stated spices of bands from around the eighties as rewarding aspects but over time sixties/seventies tones have emerged. I sense your own inspirations and musical loves go far back?

Oh yes – my musical tastes stretch way back! How long have you got? Songwriters have always been key to me. From Lennon & McCartney, Brian Wilson, Smokey Robinson, Jimmy Webb and Bacharach & David, through Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Scott Walker, Al Green, Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Robert Wyatt and Neil Young to Costello, Paddy MacAloon and Rufus Wainwright, the song is always key. Then there’s the bands I love – The Stones, The Velvets, The Doors, Faces, Roxy, Yes, Kraftwerk, Television, Talking Heads, Buzzcocks, Chic, Wire, Magazine, Pretenders, Joy Division, Dexys, Scritti Politti; Cocteaus, Talk Talk, Teenage Fanclub, High Llamas, Flaming Lips… the list goes on.

There is no mistaking that Scottish bands and rock ‘n’ roll of all styles and design bred there, has something unique to it, and we could go on a long list of examples. Can you define what it is in ‘the

Photo by Jez Curnow

Photo by Jez Curnow

water’ which helps breed such distinctive and so often inspirational bands from that part of the UK, as ones yourselves?

I think there’s an open-mindedness up here. Maybe Scottish bands tend to draw from a wider pool of influences than other parts of the UK. Or maybe it’s to do with being distanced from what’s happening down south – even in the age of the internet. It’s certainly true that scenes of their own do seem to crop up here around labels like Postcard, Fast, 53rd & 3rd, Creeping Bent and, possibly, our label Stereogram too, which has attracted similar kindred literate spirits. Either that or we all seem to be obsessed with the Velvet Underground!

What comes next for The Cathode Ray?

Firstly, we’ve got two more live shows coming up this year as part of The Stereogram Revue in Edinburgh and Glasgow, plus a new track called It Takes One To Know One on a compilation album. Then there’s a new video shot earlier this year at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh by Jez Curnow to go with Saving Grace, our other featured track on the comp. After that we’ll be knuckling down to working on the follow up to Infinite Variety. I’ve got five or six new songs written and demoed, plus a couple of leftovers, so we’ll be getting on with them. Expect some new directions.

Your releases come out on Stereogram Recordings, your own label which seems to have out grown and blossomed far more than its original intent I believe. Can you tell us a little about it and what is ahead for the label too?

It has indeed outgrown its original intent which was simply to facilitate a release for the first Cathode Ray album, plus any other projects (The Fabulous Artisans) or archive material I had kicking about. But over the last couple of years it has been growing steadily with first Roy Moller signing up, followed by James King & The Lonewolves, Milton Star, St. Christopher Medal, Lola in Slacks and, Band Of Holy Joy. The critical and public response has been great which is hugely encouraging. As previously mentioned, we’re rounding off the year with two Revue shows which will feature the entire roster in some form or other (minus Milton Star who don’t have a live set up at present). These gigs will be accompanied by The Sound of Stereogram, a budget compilation in the spirit of New Wave in ‘77 or Pillows and Prayers in ’82, featuring both new and old tracks from all eight acts on the label. Next year promises some new signings plus new material from the existing acts.

My big thanks to you again for chatting with us; have you anything you would like to add?

Nothing to add except thanks very much for your support over the last year.

Lastly and looking at band’s influences on your Facebook profile, a list of bands littering my own record collection I have to say, can you indulge me and give us a few of the bands/records which inspired you to get into music and then as a musician push yourself further?

Well I’ve already mentioned a whole bunch of artists who’ve inspired me, so here’s some records that have been key: “With The Beatles”; “Motown Chartbusters Vol.3”; “Pet Sounds”; “Piper at The Gates of Dawn”; “Forever Changes”; “Loaded”; “Scott 4”; “What’s Going On”; “Exile On Main Street”; “Never A Dull Moment”; “Close To The Edge”; “Aladdin Sane”; ”Houses Of The Holy”; “Quadrophenia”; “Rock Bottom”; “Country Life”; “Zuma”; “Songs In The Key Of Life”; “Trans Europe Express”; “Marquee Moon”; “My Aim Is True”; “Never Mind The Bollocks”; “Risque”; “All Mod Cons”; “Love Bites”; “Fear Of Music”; “Closer”; “The Correct Use Of Soap”; “You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever”; “Rattlesnakes”; “Steve McQueen”; “Don’t Stand Me Down”. Again the list goes on…

Read our review of Infinite Variety @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/the-cathode-ray-infinite-variety/

https://www.facebook.com/thecathoderay   http://www.stereogramrecordings.co.uk

Pete Ringmaster

The RingMaster Review 23/11/2015

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Zurich – Small Wars

Zurich_RingMaster Review

Like Paul Haig meets Modern English in a creative hug with The Slow Readers Club, Zurich has a sound which leaves you awash with welcome nostalgia and invention soaked freshness. The proof comes via debut EP Small Wars; five tracks of post punk and eighties electro pop bred temptation infused into a fiery rock heart. At times rousingly anthemic and in other moments warmly intimate, the EP is a compelling introduction to the UK trio, one which early on had thoughts moulding the assumption that the Oxford hailing band is heading towards to major things.

Consisting of bassist/vocalist Adrian Banks, guitarist/vocalist Chris Gillett, and drummer Leigh Taylor, Zurich since emerging in the July of 2014 has built an impressive reputation for their live presence and sound in the always busy Oxford music scene. Now the whole of Britain gets to hear why with the Gary Stevenson produced Small Wars; an encounter which captivates from its first touch and just gets bigger and bolder in its persuasion and adventure thereon in.

cover_RingMaster Review     The release opens with Chemical, a song making a low key but instantly engaging entrance as atmospheric synths and melodies entice from the distance; coming closer with every passing second before rhythms and scythes of sultry guitar break loose to further spark ears and imagination. Already memories are basking in older essences as the appetite latches on to the robustly vocal textures of a fiercer but no less warm modern vivacity and invention. In no time the track is strolling along with infectiousness dripping from its every chord and rolling beat, their tempting matched by the excellent vocals of Banks and Gillett. The track is an instant friend, one you feel you know but only bringing new adventure and enjoyment the way of ears and emotions. Anthemic pop at its best, the song is a thrilling and commanding early persuasion from the EP, one masterfully backed by Alone.

The second track jabs with punchy beats as a guitar dangles its melodic bait initially in front of ears, a coaxing which maintains its potency and clarity as rhythms and more guitar swiftly add new eager energy and spice. A slower but still lively enticing compared to its predecessor, its canter bounces along drawing quick involvement physically as strings and a thick weave of keys build and unite in a highly provocative proposal for the imagination to get fully involved in. Once more vocals and individual prowess shines as openly as the collective enterprise in a song which as good as glows as it incites body and heart.

Small Wars offers its title track next, a smouldering croon with tenacious beats and a melancholy toned bassline which play against and with the lighter but equally emotive melodies of keys and guitars. Strings once more add further drama and emotional intimacy to the heartfelt dance of the song’s croon whilst its chorus just gets into the psyche from its first call, all aspects creating another major highlight of the EP before Invisible Man takes over with its own creative theatre. Straight away it offers melodic resourcefulness within a feisty serenade which can only be called Black like, the song growing and exceling as emotion packed sinews and inventive drama continue to blossom.

The EP is brought to a fine close by Menace; a pulsating shimmer of guitar and creeping keys its opening tempting and climatic beats and vociferously sultry endeavour it’s subsequent and gripping majesty. The bass of Banks is compelling in tone and expression whilst the rapier and adventurous rhythms of Taylor ignites the air around the increasingly volatile and imaginative journey of the song. Add relentlessly mesmeric keys and guitar craft which just rises to the occasion whilst pushing that same moment to new enthralling heights, you have one blaze of brilliance to complete an encounter just as constantly impressive.

Zurich is not a name which leaps out and grabs or indeed sticks in the memory as powerfully as maybe others but it does not need to when the band’s sound definitely does. Small Wars declares that fact and fair to say because of it we are already impatient to hear what the band comes up with next.

The Small Wars EP is available digitally from Kestrel Records on September 21st via the band’s Bandcamp.

Pete RingMaster 21/09/2015

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