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

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Postcards From Jeff – Modern Language

Postcards from Jeff _RingMaster Review

Modern Language is the name of the new single and album from UK artist Postcards from Jeff, and both propositions which capture the imagination in a mix of dusty Americana, alternative rock intimacy, and dreamily emotive atmospheres with cinematic landscapes. Killing two birds with one stone, we are taking a look at the ten-track full-length, a serenade of reflective charm and melancholic isolation which takes the listener into the heart of relatively undisturbed scenery as calm and rich in beauty as it is loneliness.

Postcards From Jeff is rural Yorkshire hailing, Manchester based Joss Worthington, the band a project living and breathing between the artist’s work in the studio producing for other artists. Last year Worthington released Postcards From Jeff’s self-titled debut EP, it and the pair of award winning filmmaker Steve Glashier directed videos it spawned, sparking potent attention towards the band. With the single Suburban Girl already successfully making its mark on 2015, and another trio of videos, again with Glashier at the helm, to accompany the album, Modern Language brings a fresh and alluring escapism for ears, imagination, and most likely the artist himself from the mundane of every day.

Postcards from Jeff - Modern Language _RingMaster Reviewart   That previous single opens up the album, Suburban Girl quickly engaging ears and appetite with its caress of eighties bred melodies and keys honed tempting. Soon joined by the plainer but no less persuasive vocal tones of Worthington, the song wraps around and tenderly engulfs ears and attention with its warm catchiness and emotive substance. Guest drums appear courtesy of Chris Smith, his rapier like beats an organic prompt within the flowing charm of the song where not for the last time on the album, musically the song invites thoughts of bands like China Crisis and The Bluebells whilst the songwriting and rich layer of hooks and melodies within the track have an Ian Broudie like feel, essences which only add to the captivation of song and release.

The following Japanese Man O’ War is similarly infectious and gently energetic, additional vocals from Clare Stagg adding to the provocative warmth soaking the rhythmic drama crafted by Smith. Worthington’s keys provide an emotive narrative which is a worldly as it is personal within a song simultaneously projecting out of the way life and cosmopolitan business in the imagination before making way for the fuzz dreamscape of A House. With electronic beats almost primal in their organic presence, the track is a sonic soundtrack to a sepia clad outlook with tantalising glides through shimmering radiance triggered by provocative keys. More of a smoulder initially compared to its predecessors, ears and thoughts are nevertheless firmly and eagerly involved.

The country scent of Tired Wings brings a clearer, less fuzzy ambience with it which accentuates the tang of the guitar and the inviting rumbles of rhythms. Stagg also returns to kiss the senses with her reserved yet siren-esque harmonies, the combination a glow within the romancing, very slightly Smiths like, body of the song. It is a masterful tempting swiftly backed by the same potency of Goddess Of The Sun, its enterprise as resourceful and adventurous as its voice is sublimely persuasive.

New single Modern Language comes next spreading an oriental/worldly flirtation from its first touch on ears. Keys again conjure a hug of multi-cultural reflection whilst the Mike Doughty like texture of Worthington’s vocals provide a great grounding to the melodic flight leading the imagination and emotions into bold and insular adventures. The song is spellbinding, simply a fascinating and infectious doorway into the craft and world of Postcards From Jeff.

Both Samaritans and Wide Eyed Wonder keep satisfaction rich, the first with its enthralling Lightning Seeds like melody fuelled ambience around punchy rhythms and spicy hooks and its successor through a more of a low key but no less hook stocked tempting. The second of the two misses the spark of the first but is still only pleasing and the same can be said of Lay Low, a croon which gets under the skin emotionally and atmospherically but fails to whip up personal tastes in the same way as those before it.

Modern Language comes to a close with Awake, a pulsating dance of crystalline keys and shadowy rhythms infesting feet and ears with relaxed zeal against the contrast of the plainer dustier delivery of Worthington’s vocals. There is also an undefined familiarity to the track which adds to the pleasure and brings the album to a potent conclusion.

Postcards From Jeff creates songs which manage to be as visual for the imagination as they are vibrant for the ears, the band name itself the perfect representative to the emotional travelogue of the songwriting and indeed Modern Language.

Modern Language is released on October 23rd.

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Pete Ringmaster 21/0/2015

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Woody Woodgate – In Your Mind

Woody with Dan_RingMaster Review

It is a bit of a surprise that Madness drummer Woody Woodgate has only now unveiled a debut solo album, though given the busyness of the man over the years with various projects as well as of course with the Nutty Boys similarly it is not. Anyway the time has come and the enjoyably charming In Your Mind does not disappoint.

Taking the opportunity to hit the studio with fresh ideas whilst the Magic Brothers has been put on hold due to an on-going battle with mental health issues for his brother Nick, the other half of the acclaimed band, Woodgate has created a collection of melody rich pop songs which vivaciously dance on the senses and imagination. They also carry an openly personal and intimate aspect to them, playing like a kaleidoscope of reflections from the life of their creator whilst shimmering on and seducing the ears.

With vocalist Dan Shears aligning his unique and captivating tones to the sounds of Woodgate, contributions from guitarist/keyboardist Tim Maple, bassist Dan Drury, Madness’ brass section The Brass Monkeys, wife Siobhan Fitzpatrick, and brother Nick bringing their skills to the magnetic release also, In Your Mind swiftly has thoughts engaged as it opens with This Is It. The track is a brief scene setter, a glimpse of life breeding the spark to go on ‘romantic’ escapades, they starting with the following Magic Train. Instantly the song, through keys and a jazzy air, is an escape from the mundane into vibrant adventure, melodies and grooves flirting with the imagination whilst beats dance with ears and feet. The expressive tones of Shears bring their alluring colour to the ‘trip’ soon after, his voice courting songs like an enjoyable mix of Ian Broudie and Ste McCabe, and indeed here but more so across the album strong whispers to The Lightning Seeds kiss the music too. Becoming richer and thicker with every passing temptation, the song is an inescapable infection getting the album off to a strong and highly pleasing start.

woodywoodgate_inyourmind-_RingMaster Review     A spicy tang coats the following Something, guitar and keys bringing a smattering of country rock to their enterprise whilst vocals and harmonies swing with catchy revelry throughout. A bluesy tone also adds to the energetically creative waltz of the song whilst the brass seducing is simply the cream on the top of another captivating persuasion before the bewitching stroll of the album’s title track slips in. Bred in a sixties pop smile and melodies which quickly bring the sounds of Kirsty MacColl to mind, the song is a serenade for the summer, a warm kiss of pop which simply blossoms in strength and persuasion with every listen, in sound and the just as potent intimacy fuelling the lyrics.

Come To Me is just as irresistible straight after, though admittedly taking longer to find the same depth of reactions as other songs upon the album. There is a strong resemblance to UK indie pop band The Tonics in the song at times, but once the brass free their rich flames, the song soars into celestial climates. One of the numerously pleasing aspects of songs is the ‘simplicity’ of the lyrical side, a repetitious flare which just works, in choruses especially, but never defuses the thick emotive strength of words and intent as it graces the tenaciously spun web of catchy sounds.

The Beach marks our arrival at the seaside, its joyful lure the lead into the warm embrace and festivity of We’re All Going To Brighton. Everything about the track from the smouldering brass caresses and swaying vocals to the energetic but relaxed rhythms says escape, relief from the pressures and boredom of life’s normal days whether as a child or adult we have all felt, its charm and presence sublimely relating those emotions and excitements.

The ska seeded Friday Night To Sunday Morning saunters through ears with a dreamy glaze to its poetic pop hug. The song almost glistens as guitars, harmonies, and brass venture into their imaginative exploits, rhythms in turn bringing their own pulsating shadow, wrapped bait to the sultriness of the song. There is no escaping a feel of Madness to the rich atmosphere and happy-go-lucky sway of the song either, or another potent slice of distinct variety within the album as also on offer in Everything Is Sunshine and its tantalising croon awash with an eighties pop lure which occasionally whispers Squeeze and The Bluebells. The track quickly has the listener involved though it is soon outshine by the excellent Flower and its psyche pop beauty. ELO has reportedly been an inspiration to the songs within In Your Mind, and for sure the legendary Birmingham rock pop band is a delicious hue to the siren-esque majesty of the album’s best track, though that choice does vary from listen to listen if we are honest.

The funky psychedelic tango of Mother comes next, the song a sweltering breath of seventies inspired blues/pop rock which at times feistily simmers and in other moments enflames with tenacious ingenuity. Its success is followed by the electro rock exploration of Shaman where within its relatively gentle hug on the senses drama bubbles away, creative and emotive shadows colluding with emotive energies for a fascinating and invigorating theatre of sound.

The album is brought to a close through Thank You and its melancholic yet vibrant balladry of emotional textures and words. You can feel the heart of Woodgate fuelling its presence and sentiment, portrayed potently by Shears and only accentuated by the expanding and evocative sounds around him.

It is a fine end to an increasingly enthralling and enjoyable proposition. It is easy to assume something similar to Madness from the encounter but In Your Mind swiftly sets that thought straight and just grows with every listen. At its height it is majestic and throughout is one nonstop summer of nostalgic incitement and warm enjoyment, an encounter you firmly resolve to hurry back to time and time again even before it runs its first course.

In Your Mind is available now via DW Records

http://www.woodywoodgate.co.uk/

RingMaster 07/07/2015

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James Cook – Adventures In Ausland

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There has always been an inescapable magnetism to the creativity and songs of UK singer/songwriter/producer James Cook, and the release of second solo album Adventures In Ausland certainly does not lose any of that imagination sparking prowess. In fact it takes it to new levels with tracks which are bred from even greater maturity and inventive expression in sound and lyrical enterprise. The new release reaps the masterful essences of its predecessor Arts & Sciences, evolving them into richer and more intricate textures and arrangements. The expected pop heart of Cook’s songs is still as infectious as ever but with no disrespect to what came before, it has grown up to offer even more compelling and invigorating explorations of his distinct English chamber rock.

First drawing attention with the band Nemo, which released a trio of well-received albums between 2004 and 2008, Cook has made a bigger impression matched by equally potent acclaim through his solo work. Between Nemo and Arts & Sciences, he also appeared in and wrote songs for numerous Mighty Boosh episodes, collaborated with Imogen Heap, and released the baroque pop album The Dollhouse with violinist/string arranger Anne Marie Kirby, who once again links up with Cook for the new release. The time between his outstanding 2012 solo debut and Adventures In Ausland, saw Reverse Engineering, Vol. One unveiled, a covers release revealing rich inspirations to the life and music of the musician with classic tracks interpreted and regenerated in his own inventive image. It was a thrilling insight into the man as well as simply an exciting encounter but it is his own work which gets the fires flaming brightly as proven again by the new album.

Two years in the making, with songs written in the likes of Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Genova whilst its recordings took place in Vienna, Prague, Berlin and London, Adventures In Ausland (Ausland the German word for abroad or elsewhere) brings in many ways an international breath to its still distinctly English sound. Certainly lyrically the album sizes up the world and its light and dark aspects whilst wrapped in an evolving invention which you feel can only come from the imagination of an Englishman. The release opens with the delicious Bees In November; its opening sigh of strings arranged by Cook and Kirby, an immediately evocative caress. They soon make way for a warm electronic and guitar enticing subsequently followed by a soft blaze of vibrant brass, all infesting ears and imagination with a sultry glow and vivacious temptation. The beats conjured by Tom Marsh add potent bait to the mix but it is the distinct voice of Cook and the continuing masterful call of the strings which steals the passions most forcibly. Both bring emotive intrigue and unpredictability to their invitations, lures sparking excitingly in thoughts and emotions, as well as the captivating body of the pop fuelled song.

The opener is swiftly matched by the following Lilly (A Lover’s Dream), a song which glides resourcefully through ears with melodic elegance and passionate reflection coloured by the mouth-watering weave of strings. There is an a3495452677_2element of The Divine Comedy and The Bluebells to the song, a spicing which flavours the light footed melodic waltz of the song. As mesmeric in charm and sound as it is sultry in ambience, the song is a glorious embrace with an air which transports thoughts into unique scenery as does the next up Financial Tango. There is a Morricone flame to the opening climate of the track, though soon making way for the punchy stride of the song and its thought jabbing narrative. That scorched flame of brass does reoccur across the pungent premise and body of the track frequently, stirring up senses and imagination as potently as the striking enterprise around it.

Both Dog Arms & Dilemmas and Art Deco, keep the flight of the album boldly varied and gripping, the first with its gentle wash of vocals and melodic enterprise soaked in a provocative heat of brass. Vocals layers lie slightly misaligned to each other at times for a pleasing ingenious and addictive tempting whilst the entanglement of strings and brass powerfully ignites air and ears with voracious passion. It is a smouldering treat of a proposition but one admittedly soon left looking a little pale by its successor. The fifth track feels the closest to the last album, its dance of sawing strings and quirky synth adventure within agitated rhythms and another great vocal call from Cook, a bridge between the two albums whilst pushing its smart pop sound to new levels. Broad hints of Thomas Dolby and XTC tease at thoughts as well as essences of David Bowie as the song flirts and seduces the imagination and emotions. It is a riveting and scintillating encounter which leaves an already greedy appetite hungrier.

   Bring Back The Boom offers a keys led stroll with a landscape of brass and lyrical incitement next, its atmospherically musty tone and shadowed premise an enthralling encounter, if lacking the spark of earlier songs slightly. It still leaves album and pleasure high as does the absorbing melancholic presence of The Blackout and the mischievous romp of Jamie with its swipe at misguided dreams and modern pop attitudes. The pair of songs again easily pushes thoughts into action whilst leaving ears basking in weaves of strings, brass, and melodies bred with a grandeur that only pure adult pop can conjure.

The wonderful call of Tideland with Cook at his most vocally potent on the album within a suggestive net of coaxing hooks and emotionally shadowed keys, comes next to bewitch senses and feelings. The rhythmic allurement of Marsh and the commanding strumming of Cook only accentuate the power of the majestic and increasingly towering track but it is the strings and vocals which drives the lingering tapestry of sound and imagination most potently. The impressive lure of the song is continued through closing track Ausland/Outside, a piece of beauty which envelopes and seduces ears with a thrilling maze of strings and vocals. It borders on disorientating at times but only to ignite the encounter and emotions to greater potency.

Adventures In Ausland is a very different album to its predecessor creating an even more striking and masterful proposition of pop fuelled, imagination driven drama. If James Cook is still a secret to be discovered for you, than this release is an introduction which can only lead to lustful pleasure.

Adventures In Ausland is available now @ http://jamescook.bandcamp.com/album/adventures-in-ausland

jamescookmusic.com

9/10

RingMaster 30/07/2014

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Mark Morriss – A Flash of Darkness

Mark Morriss

     The Bluetones was a band which never really grabbed our attention, certainly nudging it numerous times across their thirteen hit singles and three Top Ten albums, but never making that incisive move to enthral as they did so many others. Former band frontman Mark Morriss though has had little problem managing to not only awaken but gripping that focus with his second solo album A Flash of Darkness. Consisting of eleven provocative flights of imaginative indie pop with a folk underbelly and soaked in evocative colour, it is a mesmeric adventure bounding eagerly and vivaciously through reflective and tempering shadows. Released via Acid Jazz Records, A Flash of Darkness is a masterful seduction and for our minds the best thing the singer songwriter has unveiled.

     The album follows Morriss’ debut album Memory Muscle of 2008, a folk-infused encounter featuring string arrangements from the legendary composer David Arnold which never really rustled up major attention. From the splitting up of The Bluetones in 2011, Morriss has engaged in successful solo tours as well as writing and performing with Matt Berry on his recordings and shows as well as creating his own prog outfit The Maypoles and writing music for David Walliams’ award winning Children’s audio books. A Flash of Darkness continues the musician’s solo adventure with a smile and swagger which enlivens the sounds and invention rippling through the release, the latter aspect a subtle coaxing rather than the loud toxicity you feel it might have been in someone else’s hands.

    The title track opens up the proposition, a song one originally written for a short-lived musical project of Morriss and Berry 1656207_635396076509138_2127819875_ncalled The Swedish Twins. A sultry Morricone bred call and ambience wraps the ears first, tower bells and whistles sculpting the scenery before the song falls into a sixties pop tasting embrace with the recognisable tones of Morriss adding their warmth to the climate. That mentioned vaunt soaks the song, a brass jazz temptation teasing greater emotion the way of the track whilst the tango of guitar invention and heated harmonies only intensify the virulently irresistible bait. Visually evocative and tenderly commanding, the opener is a sensational slice of songwriting, an artistic adventure to set things off on a real high.

    Whereas you can almost add a touch of The Wonder Stuff to the first song, its predecessor Consuela with its gentler yet no less infectious presence, has an eighties flavouring which induces thoughts of The Bluebells and occasionally The Lightning Seeds. Keys add further romance to the persuasion alongside that offered by the melodies and excellent vocal expression. Potent in sound and draped in provocative imagination fuelled hues, the track takes the passions by the hands and whisks them around that summer drenched eighties dancefloor with elegance and contagion before making way for the folkier and rhythmically punchy Guilty Again. A piano crafted beauty immediately kisses thoughts as vocals and a rhythmic prodding skirts its elegance but as with all songs it is one facet of evolving and expanding adventures. Like a lingering smooch, the track strolls with a boisterous gait flinging its happy melodies and hooks around with joyous enterprise to invite and ignite the same pleasure in its recipient.

    Both the mesmeric It’s Hard To Be Good All The Time and the enjoyable cover of The Shins’ Pink Bullets engage and treat with resourceful radiance and splendour, though neither can grip the same high level as previous songs. Despite that neither leaves satisfaction empty or provides weak enticement, diversity and ideas persistently leading the imagination into a submissive grin whilst the next infection under the guise of Low Company unveils an enveloping breeze of lyrical and melodic suasion in another sixties/seventies air to seduce from start to finish.

    Life Without F(r)iction  with its country twang is the next to lift feet from the floor, its bouncy heart unfussy and impossibly tempting before the best song on the album, This Is The Lie (and That’s The Truth), steps up to run its addiction coated fingers through the passions. An acoustic croon with Morriss offering a minimalistic lyrical and musical bewitchment, the track is pure aural manna, additional sirenesque harmonies and small bursts of energy bringing a creative virulence upon ears and emotions. It’s tempting borders on molestation but is simply melodic alchemy at play, the same toxin running through the veins of Space Cadet. The song with a wider brush of sounds and invention smothers the ears in a celestial ambience around thick and deeply permeating melodies, the result another exceptional fascination.

    The album closes with firstly another cover, this of Kavinsky’s Nightcall, which without earning the same ardour as the original material still leaves emotions enthralled, and the slow burning Sleep Song, an exceptional track which took time to make its strongest case but over time evolved into another big anthemic highlight. The pair closes up A Flash of Darkness in fine and endearing fashion leaving a return into the release a demanding option, a choice consistently rewarded each and every time by Morriss in one of the early albums of the year. Whether The Bluetones is a lure or not for you, this is one pop album you must not bypass without delving deeply into.

http://www.markmorrissmusic.co.uk/

9/10

RingMaster 24/02/2014

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History Of The Trade: One Arm’s Length

Photo: Matt Jennings

Serving as an introduction to, taster of, and inducement to find out more about the creators of its vibrant sounds, the new single from  UK indie rock band History Of The Trade is a real treat. Taken from their recently released Silver Screens EP, One Arm’s Length is a song to capture the imagination and passions with its infectious and enticing melodic rock sounds. Even if it does not instil the urge to go search out more from the band, the song is a mesmeric shimmering to while those warm summer nights to.

Formed in 2010, the London and Kent based History Of The Trade has logged an impressive list of moments on their musical CV, the sharing of stages with the likes of Feeder, Florence And The Machine, Tellison, and Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly, as well as strong radio airplay, and critical media acclaim just some of the things to fill up its lines. Their debut release drew good attention whilst its successor Silver Screens has taken things to another level of awareness and response. One senses the band is poised to make a breakthrough and with songs like One Arm’s Length it feels a done deal.

The song is an intricate and intelligent weave of melodic pop grandeur and emotive expression brought with vibrancy and a breath which is expansive and intimate. From the moment the song graces the ear there is so much to lean towards and enjoy. The guitars of Sam Furness and Oli Cameron open up with crystalline melodic play which instantly captivates and are soon joined by the energetic yet restrained beats of drummer Laurence Parsons and the emotive bass lines of Christian Baverstock. Already one is hooked but it is the mesmeric vocals and harmonies they deliver which takes the song to deeper and higher places. Furness leads the way but it is a group contribution which enhances the song and gives it an almost  sirenesque pull in the passions.

The song has an eighties lilt which reminds of band such as Orange Juice and The Bluebells, their skill with melodies and warm sounds united in impressive craft with that of History Of The Trade. At times the song feels like it wants to explode into a storm of energy yet remains overall restrained allowing its heated crescendos and their climatic builds to fire up the senses and desire to go hear more.

If One Arm’s Length does it for you than the Silver Screens EP will only add to the pleasure. Both can be found at the History Of The Trade profile http://historyofthetrade.bandcamp.com/ with the single a free download and the EP a name your own price offer, it really is a no brainer.

https://www.facebook.com/historyofthetrade

RingMaster 15/08/2012

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Union Starr : Everything We Say & I Can Feel It

It may have taken ten years to reach our ears but the incredible debut album from Union Starr earlier this year was a definite worth waiting for event. Falling Apart Together is a magnificent collection of melodic heartfelt songs which simply turn any sky into one of blazing sunshine. The new double A-sided single from the album offers two of the ripest melodic fruits within its vibrant body and for those yet to discover the delights of Falling Apart Together makes for a very tasty introduction.

Formed by Roger Wells and Jason Applin with ex-The Sundays drummer Patch Hannan coming in not long after, Union Starr is a collection of musicians who know and understand how to mould melodies and emotion into something which plays and entices the heart. The tracks which make up the release alone offer two of the finest emotional caresses upon the senses you could imagine and enjoy. Released through Woodenhouse Records, the single graces our ears from August 13th and brings views and ideas from the band on love and its experience. As marks their music on the whole both songs explore an elegant mix of warm pop and singer songwriter sounds of the seventies with a British awareness and craft. There is also a strong eighties indie feel to their sounds which bring to mind just as vividly the likes of The Lightning Seeds and The Bluebells as they do Crosby Stills and Nash.

Everything We Say is a mesmeric weave of stirring heated guitars and heart driven emotiveness through songwriting and vocals. Its touch is warm and smooth yet with an edge which offers up the whole story which comes with every real love. There is a definite Skylarking era XTC feel to the song for a secondary enchantment to the already sirenesque pull of the song. With a subtle but strong infectiousness the song is a summer day delight, its premise conjuring eager whispers of couples within the rays of the sun and heart to thoughts. The song has a sound which arguably only English bands can conjure no matter their influences; its presence caring, touching, and openly delicious.

Second song I Can Feel It provides the ear with another golden field of warm and contagious sounds. There is a folky pop air to the song to offer a different bewitching to its companion though both bring a dreamy almost meditative atmosphere upon the senses. The song is a soft and gentle romance of infectious melodies and beautiful harmonies which remain just as fresh after the hundredth listen to how they do on the first aural kiss.

If you are yet to discover Union Starr than the double delights of Everything We Say and I Can Feel It is the most majestic doorway to their wonderful world of sounds. Catch the songs on The Reputation Radio Show too on Fridays nights from 9PM in the UK.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Union-Starr/303985109621182

RingMaster 10/08/2012

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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