Morning Bells – Fall From The Velvet Sky

photo by Susan Sage

From its evocative title to the intimacy of its heart bred lyrics alone, the new EP from US indie rock outfit Morning Bells makes for a richly alluring proposition and bound in just as provocative and arousing sounds Fall From The Velvet Sky quite simply proved one richly compelling encounter.

Hailing from Raleigh in N. Carolina, Morning Bells began with the creative union of drummer Bryan Fransman and long-time friend, vocalist Ric Denton. Swiftly the emerging band grew as bassist Laura Weislo was enlisted by the duo with in time guitarist Emory Ball and keyboardist Peele Wimberley completing the quintet. Their sound is said to embrace inspirations ranging from Johnny Marr, Television, and The Gun Club to The Smiths, Yo La Tengo, David Sylvian, and Talk Talk alongside for us upon their first EP a certain R.E.M. scenting.

In saying that, the opening track of Fall From The Velvet Sky has a thick dark creative breath which reminds of Scottish band, The Filthy Tongues. The initial melodic glisten of Ghost Story is soon descended upon by emotive shadows, keys and rhythms united in their gothic intimation even before Denton shares his equally suggestive tones. The psych rock breath of those keys continues to light the haunting embrace of the song, its reflective stroll a prowling instigator on ears and imagination.

The track is superb remaining our favourite moment within Fall From The Velvet Sky with relative ease though its companions like the following Through The Dark are no less potent in their captivation and creative incitement. As its predecessor, the EP’s second track immediately enticed keen attention with its first melodic touch, guitar and keys swiftly engaging the senses before the shadowy lure of rhythms and Denton’s ever magnetic tones and words escalate the enticement. The bewitching serenade of the song simply had us hooked before The Truth Is matched its success with its own absorbing temptation. Pop and rock traits entangle within the captivation woven and addiction bred, thick fascination spawned in the web of sound and voice.

Next up, The Night You Touched My Hand shares an eighties indie pop seduction in its melodies and nineties rock rapacity, a fusion further invigorated by volatile urgency and touches with the result another track which just got under the skin and had us hooked and involved in swift time.

The EP concludes with Tonight; a track which maybe did not quite match up to its companions yet had ears eagerly held and our pleasure in full flow as Fall From The Velvet Sky completed its beguiling adventure. It is a release which quickly and increasingly impressed and aroused, thoughts soon relishing the band’s own imagination us eager anticipation blossomed for the next fresh creative resonance from Morning Bells.

Fall From The Velvet Sky is out now; available @ https://morningbellsband.bandcamp.com/album/fall-from-the-velvet-sky

https://www.morningbellsband.com/   https://www.facebook.com/morningbellsband   https://twitter.com/morningbells2

Pete RingMaster 04/01/2020

Copyright RingMasterReview: MyFreeCopyright

Hardactors – It’s My Life

Hardactors Bridge ORIGINAL_RingMasterReview

Hardactors is a British band creating what they call “Picturesque Pop”. Recently the project released new single It’s My Life, a song which springs from a truly irresistible start into a captivating flirtation of ears and imagination.

The band is the project of Suffolk hailing singer /songwriter / musician Joe Bailey. Last year he released Bloom, a debut release which, with its Ltd Edition physical release alongside its download, was keenly received and praised. Recently its successor was unveiled in the shape of It’s My Life, an EP/ track written as a tribute to eighties band Talk Talk. Without knowing that, the older UK band certainly comes to mind as the single caresses and infects ears but equally for an open homage, it has plenty of its own character to firmly embrace.

The opening lure of bulbous rhythms and soon after a throbbing bassline aligned to throaty guitar strings seduces attention and imagination alone, remaining a pungent attraction as lighter melodies and the warm tones of Bailey join the tempting. Once into its resourceful stroll, the song ambles along with a smile on its creative face and engaging warmth to its eighties seeded body, all the while that initial addictive lure still nagging and further stirring up an already eager appetite for the song.

Unsurprisingly, the track’s air is strongly familiar, given its inspiration, but a scent which only adds to four highly enjoyable minutes that provides a thoroughly pleasing proposal each and every time. The single, as mentioned, is also the title track to an EP completed by the captivating tracks Such A Shame and Dum Dum Girl, with all now available via iTunes and other stores.

http://hardactors.com   http://facebook.com/hardactors   http://twitter.com/hardactors

Pete RingMaster 11/04/2016

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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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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Delain – Interlude

delain02272013-2

Released via Napalm Records, Interlude the new album from Dutch symphonic metallers Delain is a vibrant mix of new songs, covers, special versions of popular band songs and live tracks. It is a release which we will admit raised some doubts before it had the chance to unleash its persuasion upon the ear but soon cast those uncertainties aside emerging as an impressive album which will please their most loyal fans and all newcomers.

The first release on their new label, Interlude is as it suggests, a creative aside or as they say on the promo sheet a thank you to 483_DELAINtheir supporters in the wait for a new full release but it is more than a mere stop-gap with the energetic and potent breath infusing old and new tunes The first two tracks on the album are new songs and immediately dispel also thoughts that maybe this is the end of a chapter for the band before a new direction and stance. They are prime Delain continuing their established and welcomed sound but equally do offer a fresh and pleasing voice to their creativity to date. Opener Breathe On Me is an instant warm whisper upon the ear before the grumbling bass adds its presence and the guitars shape the air with their coarse scrubs within the symphonic winds gently swaying across the senses. The voice of Charlotte Wessels is as exceptional as ever, her angelic tones the perfect balance to the fiery intensity and melodic weaves. It is an impressive and inviting start, its anthemic warmth and magnetic melodic temptation as irresistible as the sinewy frame and burning fires surrounding their grandeur, whilst not for the first time the bass of Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije leaves a greedy want within the passions.

The following Collars And Suits stands tall with an epic entrance of soaring scything syncs as well as tight manipulative guitar enticement from Timo Somers speared by the thumping commanding rhythms of Sander Zoer. Whilst not quite as contagious and tempting as its predecessor the track engages the passions skilfully and relentlessly, the harsher elements recruiting the passions for the melodic grace and vocal brilliance to toy with. The symphonic swerves of triumphant sounds grin as if in escape from a shadowed cage with the darker tones and corrosive lining beneath the protection for the glowing horizon they create. It is musically poetic and emotive, its presence inspiring numerous thoughts to go with the lyrical narrative.

Next up Are You Done With Me comes in a single mix version compared to its appearance on their recent album and is a strong and powerful companion to the previous songs but does not quite find their heights or rich lures. As one expects from Delain it is immensely emotive and gloriously melodic with a superbly honed intent. It makes way for a trio of cover songs starting with Such a Shame the Talk Talk track. To be honest its initial touch did not inspire great hopes but once the band stepped from the expressive yet gentle opening into an elevated  passion and energy the song took off with enthused satisfaction  in tow something the semi-acoustic version of The Cranberries song Cordell could not ignite. It is a more than decent song though which showcases the wonderful vice of Wessels in its varied glories and makes for easily pleasing company before the excellent take on Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy. Not a song to raise more than an eyebrow in its original guise, Delain treat it to their masterful caresses and formidable creative might, infusing it with more life and temptation than it probably deserves. They do not really change its face or body but with the keys of Martijn Westerholt as impressive as any element the band lights the heart it arguably lacks in the original.

A ballad version of We are the Others is another which is enjoyable in its company but does not light anything more than temporary pleasure though again it is hard to dismiss its craft and beauty. It is soon and easily forgotten once the live tracks come into view. It is the best part of the album with the stage offerings of Mother Machine, Get The Devil Out Of Me, and Not Enough especially standing out though all six of the songs show Delain as a mighty live proposition to rival or arguably exceed their studio work.

Also available in a limited edition digipack with a second DVD disc of videos, Interlude is a great proposition for all Delain fans new and old. There were doubts approaching it but all were dispelled with ease by release and band, an album to appease the appetite during the wait for their next full length outing.

http://www.delain.nl/

8/10

RingMaster 03/05/2013

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