St. Aria – August 21 EP

St.Aria

Last year, like for a great many, attention was pricked by We claim this aria, the debut EP from Swedish band St. Aria. It was a potent and potential laden offering which at times strikingly sparkled and in other moments simply provided an enjoyable proposition without lighting fires. It did though ignite an appetite for the band’s inventive ideas and the next stage in its evolution. That next chapter has arrived with the release of the August 21 EP, an evocative and vivacious encounter building on the qualities of its predecessors and realising the previously untapped but hinted at qualities of the band’s sound. Consisting of five adventurous and lively propositions, the EP is the sunrise of a sound and band coming of age, but still with more to come and discover.

St. Aria is the creation of lyricist/composer/keyboardist Alexander Platon, a project formed in the late 2000s which after a hiatus when Platon joined The Borderline Saints, returned in 2012. Taking inspirations from the likes of Evanescence, Within Temptation and Nightwish and guided by the intent to create emotionally resounding rock ballads, the Platon linked up with vocalist Jimmy Ferhm, also of The Borderline Saints and producer Emanuel Svensson to resurrect St. Aria. Initially it was just to remake a couple of the band’s early songs but such the interest in its members and fans things evolved. We claim this aria was the debut release and saw the three enlist numerous session musicians for its creation and subsequent live appearances. The EP certainly awoke good interest but as suggested earlier everything has grown and leapt forward with August 21. Firstly St. Aria is a complete and stable quintet, Platon and Ferhm joined by Oliver Sandberg (drums), Erik Jönsson (bass, vocals), and Jacqueline Hansson (vocals), whilst musically the raw edges and arguably success tempering aspects of the previous release have been resolved and woven into songs simply revelling in melodic beauty.

St.Aria - August 21 (Cover art)   The EP opens with the spellbinding Black Rose, a song which instantly has ears and imagination involved through the evocative keys of Platon, and increasingly seduced by the siren-esque tones of Hansson emulated in potency by those of Ferhm. Rhythmically the song is reserved yet striking enough to support the expressive narrative of vocals and piano as they colour the song with feisty elegance. It is a catchy and welcoming start to the release matched by the contrasting shadow wrapped presence of Deception which follows. Led by the mellow yet angst lined tones of Ferhm, the song cradles ears and thoughts in a provocative embrace of emotional balladry. The drums of Sandberg create a brooding drama behind the core refection of voice and piano, an almost epic shadow aided by the equally haunted lure of Jönsson’s bass, whilst all combined leaves attention and pleasure easily entranced.

A great bass growl opens up Here With Me, its darker presence soon smothered by the radiant light of keys and the paired vocals of Hansson and Ferhm. The song has a much lighter smile to its tone and character than its predecessor, a hope fuelled romance flowing through the nimble fingers and invention of Platon and the increasingly enjoyable vocal union, though all attributes reach new heights in the outstanding Hopeless Case. Strings and voice align to a tantalising tinkle of keys to seduce the senses from the song’s first breath and immediately has the appetite licking lips. As it opens up its energetic embrace, a country spicing and folkish revelry joins the inescapable infectious persuasion on offer whilst the duet of voices spills melodic contagion. Thoughts are conjured up of The Only Ones single Fools which saw the band and vocalist Peter Perrett link up with Penetration’s Pauline Murray in a mouth-watering duet, and though musically different, the textures, charm, and catchy quality is similar and just as impressive on the EP’s best track.

August 21 closes New Dawn, itself on a par with the previous song through the ever reflective and impressive vocals where this time Hansson leads the temptation with her seductive delivery. Shadows are never too far from the surface in most St. Aria songs, and here bass and keys bring a complimenting emotive shade to the golden tones of melodies and harmonies, a blend emulated in the lyrical prowess of the track. It is an enthralling end to an excellent encounter in which St. Aria has breached a new plateau in songwriting and sound. The band has pushed itself and sound to fulfil early potential and more, but now with a suggestion that there is even more within them to come it is fair to say there are exciting times ahead for them and us.

The August 21 EP is available now digitally @ https://itunes.apple.com/se/album/august-21-ep/id971640265?l=en

http://www.ariamusic.se/     https://www.facebook.com/ariaswe

RingMaster 09/04/2015

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Son of Skooshny: Lovers Leap of Faith

If the name Son of Skooshny seems familiar that is from the fact the band is a kind of offshoot of seventies band Skooshny. A recording band only and consisting of founders Mark Breyer (vocals, guitar), Bruce Wagner (guitar, keyboards, vocals) and soon after its beginnings drummer David Winogrond, Skooshny released a four track EP in 1978 followed by a single the following year. Both received great acclaim but also low sales due to primarily the band never playing live shows. More releases followed but eventually the band broke up.  Then in 1991 the band was alerted to the fact their releases were collector items around Europe. Eventually with Bill Forsyth of newly formed Minus Zero Records further copies of those records plus a compilation of unreleased material came out to great acclaim and strong sales. The band reformed and produced a new EP Even My Eyes and album, Water, with a compilation of their psych-folk-pop called Zoloto following, its tracks covering the band from 1976 to 2003.

Step forward to 2010 and Son of Skooshny with Lovers Leap of Faith. The album is not a brand new release admittedly but as in fitting with the history of its seed band it has slipped by people too easily and that cannot be allowed. Son of Skooshny is the project of Mark Breyer thus the background to Skooshny above. Here he has teamed up with long time collaborator Jeff Peters plus producer-collaborators Steve Refling, Arthur Schlenger, and Andy Colquhoun, as well as assorted friends. Lovers Leap of Faith contains covers of a few Skooshny songs plus new material and is a vibrant and pleasing collection of guitar pop and sixties teased/seventies spiced melodic rock songs.

The album opens on immediate favourite Another Time, a hypnotic fresh electrified feast for the ear. Melodically mesmeric and energetically raw it has an anthemic quality that reminds of seventies UK band The Only Ones. The melodic punk vein that throbs throughout is also Buzzcocks like and brings an intelligent urgency and craft to the song, whilst the vocals of Breyer here and in other parts of the album a mix of Pete Shelley and Peter Perrett.

Candy Air follows with a more restrained energy but a no less melodically enchanting breath. With a slight southern lilt the song caresses the ear with a delicate but firm display of imagination and thought, and openly shows the varied sounds that lie within the album. This is easily confirmed by the dusty rock sounds of Bare Bones a song which grows in stature the more you hear it.

     Lovers Leap of Faith does not always hit the same heights in every song though it is more down to personal tastes than quality of sound or songwriting, but when the likes of The Right Idea and You Can’t Leave Me fail to ignite the biggest fires tracks such as the excellent Science Changes Everyone with its full heart and imagination, Kate’s Green Phone a darkened Bolanesque song of psyched shadows and infectious punk pop insanity, and the insatiably melodic Love’s Not Impossible, more than cover their backs. All songs leave one enthused and bristling for much more, the second of the three the best song on the album and the engineer of wishes one had come across the musicians long before now.

Lovers Leap of Faith is a fine album that shows melodic pop does not have to be obvious, unoriginal, or sterile. The album also shows how easy it is for great bands to be missed by the masses no matter their ability and creativity. The former guise of one of its members may have been one of those bands but hopefully that will not be the case with Son of Skooshny, now is the time to make sure.

RingMaster 21/05/2012

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