The Graphite Set – These Streets EP

The Graphite Set Pic

The These Streets EP is one of those releases you just lick your lips in anticipation of no matter how many times you take its provocative and sensational emotive walk. Mesmeric and tantalising, the four track release is the debut release from The Graphite Set, the project of Lily Buchanan. The bio on the band website says “The idea of The Graphite Set is that one day I’ll be able to design and make a full sized stage set using my art which I can perform on. It’ll be black and white, linear, atmospheric, and will give me the best sounding reverb you have ever heard….” This epitomises her passion for art and music which has seen the girl from East Lothian, Scotland in bands since the age of 16 and from school moving to London to study Illustration at Central St Martins and immersing herself into the local music scene. The EP is an impressive and potent marker of her songwriting, talent, and intent, and one suspects just the appetizer to many triumphs ahead from and for her and the band.

These Streets was recorded at Ash Gardner’s House of Strange studio in Limehouse last November, with Buchanan providing the vocals and rhythms guitar to her songs with guest guitarist Katherine Blamire of the Smoke Fairies featuring on some of the release as well as further guitar parts added by Duncan Brown. Ed Seed provided drums, bass and other instruments to complete the line-up as well as co-producing the EP with Gardner too. Since the recording the band has settled into a quartet of Buchanan and Brown with bassist Grundy le Zimbra and drummer Scott Skinner for live shows with already successful small gigs priming the band up for the EP release show at the Sebright Arms, London on 5th June.

Released via Thumbscrew Music, the EP opens with the title track, the song emerging from the silence with an eager stroll which The Graphite Set - Theese Streets EPimmediately reminds one of Echo and The Bunnymen with the guitars buoyantly lighting up the air. In full view the song rests back with teasing melodic suasion as the vocals of Buchanan take centre stage. Her voice initially takes you by surprise, like an unexpected blast of cold catches your breath when wrapped in pure warmth, but rather than pull away you find yourself lost in her startling and rich dark toned seduction. Thoughts of Julie Driscoll come to mind right away and instantly grip the ear though as the songs unfold there is a more distinctive presence to the voice of Buchanan which is unique and magnetic. The song builds up around her delivery with a hypnotic pulse from the bass and niggling guitar strokes before widening into an infectious saunter. With a vibrant sixties psychedelic whisper to the melodic almost punk like sinews of the song sculpted with the angular guitar movements, there is a set in contagion which equally smoulders before and leaps at the listener in what is a stunning introduction to EP and band.

The following Pick Me Up stands before the ear with a vibrant bass pulse and bright keys flitting around the vocals of Buchanan, the reserved start just biding its time to seize the moment to dance upon the senses. A switching slow and energetic gait alongside the persistently melodically enticement flavours further a song which is a mix of folk pop and psyche rock, the resulting brew leading to a wonderful cacophonous finale which is mouth-watering and thrilling.

The final two songs In Your Eyes and I See No Lies are sisters from different shadows, the pair sharing a chorus and emotive breath but in different guises. Neither a part 1 and 2 type thing nor opposites as in black and white, the songs hold a union which is open yet parallel rather than touching. The first of the two is voice and guitar on a tender emotive embrace which caresses thoughts and emotions into their own memory or song whilst the second is a scintillating again psychedelic spiced temptress which is as haunting as its predecessor but washed in a golden melodic sunset wrapped by the absorbing and resonating rhythmic web.

It is a stunning conclusion to an equally immense release which is set to make The Graphite Set and Lily Buchanan names rife on the lips of the many.


RingMaster 04/06/2013


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Rob Marr – Anatomy

Anatomy is the second album from English singer songwriter Rob Marr, a release which offers musical kitchen sink drama within equally emotive and dramatic sounds. It is not a release which demands attention but is an unassuming collection of songs which connect and grow into charming companions to lose oneself within. For the album Marr collaborated with ex-Sly and the Family Stone drummer Andy Newmark who upon first listen to his music admitted it was ‘not his cup of tea’ before discovering, to both of their delights, that it was an acquired taste. That is exactly how Anatomy evolved here too with its initial presence just an engaging but underwhelming introduction though some songs did spark up the imagination. Returning to it many times and finding elements making unannounced appearances in the head away from its body the album grew into a delicious slice of well crafted and inspired songs led by the lyrical prowess of Marr.

From London, Marr first grabbed attention with his debut album Domestic Dramas of 2007 and even more so when an EP featuring ‘the cream’ of the album was released the following year to ignite the attention of the likes of Tom Robinson and an increasing fan base. Around this point Marr also impressed with headlining shows at places such as The Roundhouse and Ronnie Scotts where he was supported by Jamie Morrison (The Noisettes) on drums and bass player Al Mobbs (Gorillaz). It was whilst rehearsing for a 6 Music Festival in 2009 that he met Newmark, with the latter getting in touch a few months after to suggest working together for the next Marr album.  Two years in the making the album was created in the Kent apple barn conversion of Newmark and the loft of album producer Ronnie Moore.

The first single from the album Fencebuilding appeared at the end of 2011 to a strong response which was built upon even more so by the following single Fat And Happy leading to strong anticipation for Anatomy itself. Fencebuilding opens up the album and is the most instantly infectious song on the release. Immediately it wraps the ear in suspense and dramatic breath to pull a full focus upon its piano led charms. It is an aural glimpse into the heart of a relationship, its air and emotive texture. It is a show tune, a track which one can visualise in a film or on stage, though it avoids the over blown melodrama and fat excesses one finds in many of those type of songs to be an easily lying piece of imagination within thoughts and heart. The piano and rhythms are contagious and the vocals of Marr in bringing the great lyrical premise outstanding but it is the wonderful harmonies provided by guests the Smoke Fairies and Nikki Blackham which ensure the emerging adoration for the song is long lasting.

Summer In The City and Dirt Beneath Your Toes, the latter again featuring Smoke Fairies, continue the magnetic start to the album. The first has a great guitar tease behind the keys to offer a smouldering groove to the gait of the track whilst the second is a sultry and idyllic piece of melodic swagger, a warm breeze which just lights up the senses and heart. Within the first trio of songs there is a freshness of flavours and warm energies which meld classical, indie, soul, and jazzy essences into an eclectic breeze.

As Fat and Happy strokes thoughts with its fine classical caresses, it swings into a teasing little stroll with a funk heart and mischievous intent to its satisfied presence. Comparison to the songwriting of Andy Partridge comes to mind as it paints its picture, both able with precise yet uncomplicated structures able to evoke sharp feelings to familiar scenes.

Just because of personal tastes the album does not quite have the same hold from the following song onwards, the first four songs glorious in their craft and presence. To be fair though songs such as Anatomy Of A Lover and That Was Then, This is Now do nothing less than leave one fully captured and satisfied.

Anatomy is a fine album which finds a place in the day like the rays of the sun, overall both warming and reassuring in their touch. If unique and eccentrically visualised pieces of melodic honesty fires your imagination than Rob Marr is the man for you.

RingMaster 13/10/2012

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