Posts Tagged ‘music’

In times of perceived economic gloom, we look for escapes and ways to lighten the drudgery of day to day life. Many of us in the UK head off to sunnier shores; some make a shorter journey down to the local pub. For those in need of  instant cheer, they can listen to Kick and Pull by Aberdeen based singer-songwriter, Oliver Richards.

The first track, Gimme Love, starts with a soaring arpeggio and strings reminiscent of the joyous dance music of the 90s which pulls up the listener just in time to hear some gorgeous finger picking on acoustic guitar, Oliver’s signature to this uplifting song. The lyrics offer a simple, plaintive message which is sung pleadingly and sweetly in a near whisper.

Go Baby is a more sultry affair with  bossanova driven minor chords and seductive suggestions in husky undertones. This calming piece of music is a pleasure to listen to and acts as a lovely counterpoint to the less subtle pick-me-up of the first track.

Things become more urgent and driven with Poison Ivy. The relentless rhythm raises the heartbeat and the fractious keyboard riffs jolt the senses. Oliver’s acoustic guitar is there too, palm-muted and as lively as the kick drum and double time hi-hat. The lyrics ring true with anyone who has been in an acrimonious relationship, with the eponymous Ivy being held up as a prime example of a dangerously beguiling lover.

Yeah No is more of an ensemble piece, with a full band sound in which the acoustic feel is adorned with electric guitars, bombastic drumming and pumping bass. Although the intimacy of the EP is somewhat lost in this track, the fullness of sound and production quirks make this an enjoyable listen.

The final track, 19th July, is a soaring masterpiece of acoustic folk where Oliver gives his voice a rest, bares his Scottish folk roots and reminds us what he can do with an acoustic guitar. The flurry of fingers combined with an awe inspiring church hall sound makes this song a fantastic finale for a well crafted EP full of surprise, joy and fervour.

Kick and Pull is a wonderfully crafted piece of work, well thought out without being forced or overindulgent. The production is phenomenally good, managing to combine acoustic beauty with hard-wired electronica, rock power and Oliver’s diverse vocal range. For an artist still young in his years, his music has a maturity that can speak for itself, urging you to listen as it will make your day just that little bit better.

*****

     Kick and Pull is available for download on iTunes  and Amazon

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Two Scotsmen, a Swede and a Hungarian walk into a pub…and play some of the most exciting music I have heard in a long time.

The Blind Faiths are no joke. They sprang from four disparate talents who met during the course of Aberdeen’s buzzing open mic scene and blew apart the live circuit with their catchy, funky, pensive and uncategorisable music. There are many reasons why these guys are a band to watch, destined for great things.

The Blind Faiths in full flow

Firstly, the music hooks you as soon as your ears catch it, sending a message directly to the brain’s pleasure centres saying, “This is awesome!”. The songs are not mere pop-by-numbers throwaway singalongs, however. They are full of depth, character and haunting lyrical content. There is never a dull moment, with changes in pace, key and melody within each song. There is also a marked shift in genre between tunes in The Blind Faiths’ repertoire. This does not seem artificial or forced but adds to the wonderful musical melange that these talented musicians can concoct. Songs range from the heartfelt “Holly” to the epic “Trees (Branching Out)” and the uptempo ska-inspired anthem that is “Gypsy from Kingston

Straight from the start, the cohesion of the group itself is not in question: tighter than a door seal on a nuclear sub and with just as much impact. All four members seem to compliment each other with every one displaying his prodigious talents, gelling with the others to form their audible magic: all this from a band formed less than four months ago.

Billy and his saxual prowess

Billy M Jack, whose vocals would not be out of place at a soul revue, gives the lyrics a driving force with a strong voice full of bristling passion. He is also an accomplished guitarist, providing a warm bed of acoustic rhythm for the flowing waters of the melody. He also occasionally gets his well travelled sax out and reels around the stage, and sometimes into the crowd, blowing punchy riffs and spiraling solos to great effect.

It’s rare for a band to have two outstanding singers in their stable and this is where Rico Strokes comes in. Sharing the lead and backing vocals with Billy, he belts out the songs with as much gusto and emotion. The transition between the two voices is natural and they compliment each other

Rico's light shines through

wonderfully within and between the songs. Rico also wields his electric guitar with aplomb, giving a cutting edge to the music with his stark rhythms, choppy riffing and flowing solos.

Erik in perpetual motion

Erik Berggren cuts a commanding figure. The tall Swedish bassist never stays still during his set, with his blonde head and fingers always on the move. Another rarity in most groups is the presence of a bass player who makes you sit up and take notice. Erik does this in spades with basslines full of funked up sophistication as well as pinpoint accuracy. He manages to define many of the songs in the opening bars, providing a catchy tune that sears onto the long term memory, the main culprit being the brilliant “Sign (on the dotted line)

Zoltan Kraszko is an experienced and versatile drummer from Hungary, who communicates beautifully with the rest of the band, providing a solid base as well as using his kit as a multidimensional instrument, forming an integral part of the musical structure. His almost Jedi like instincts ensure that the songs are held together with flexible consistency.

Flexible cohesion from Zoltan

This fantastic foursome are a treat to watch in action as well as listen to. Their boundless enthusiasm for their craft and their sense of fun shine through and permeate the audience who, if not already dancing, break into spontaneous bouts of clapping, foot-stomping, whooping and whistling as if at some rock and roll ceilidh. The band have recently spread the joy all over the UK in their  “What’s That You Say?” tour, playing to even more delighted hordes of fans hungry for something new and vibrant. 

Keep your eyes peeled for The Blind Faiths: they’re enough of a solid platinum guarantee of musical genius, sparkling energy and good times ahead.

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To listen to an exclusive pre-tour interview in the cellar of the Cellar, click here –> The Blind Faiths Interview

[Warning: some language in the interview may offend, including cl*nge, f**k and b*s f********h]

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Follow The Blind Faiths on facebook, youtube and twitter.

Saturday night TV talent shows are nothing new. When I was 4 ft tall and surviving on regular parental handouts and penny chews, New Faces and Opportunity Knocks were the stolid fare served up on 2 of the only 3 existing channels. The whole family, pets included, sat around the bulging screen, our eyes drawn to the cathode rays like cold hands to a campfire. These were simpler, innocent times where executive producers had yet to discover flashy graphics, jump cuts to posing judges and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

Copyright issues?

In danger of sounding like a cantankerous old naysayer (which is only a half truth), talent contests these days are an edgier and more sinister affair. The public are set up on 3- minute pedestals, very high in prime-time terms, and are then either prodded off the perch or exalted to higher planes (the next round) by rich flippant narcissists whose belt-line height or make-up bill far exceeds their intelligence.

Flangepiece

A tired Simon gives the big thumbs down to yet another pasty-faced wannabe

The worst offender is X-Factor, the brainspawn of pop sweatshop propietor, Simon “Irritable” Cowell. If there were shares in false hope, this show would be providing them in spades to line retired bankers’ deep, disused fur-trimmed pockets. The show is at best distasteful and at worst morally reprehensible for several reasons.

Firstly, music is not the priority of the show: entertainment is. Fine, if music is an integral or over-riding facet but the opening credits set the scene by not featuring any of the artists, only a flying “X” from another planet, presumably returning from self-imposed exile after yet another dire series. The auditions are often unaccompanied by any instrumentation and self-penned songs are rarely featured. Vocal imperfection is outlawed like some musical eugenics programme while warbling, pitch-perfect drones flounce into the upper echelons of the next round: very discouraging for those real character-driven singers watching or participating. Imagine the future without any more Ian Durys, Sean Ryders or Ian Browns- not famed for their singing but wonderful performers all the same.

The show also promotes the idea of music as a facile passport to fame and fortune. This is not why I’m a musician. Sure, I need to exist on a living wage but this small sum of money is a consequence of, not a reason for, what I do. If I had eyes like [$_$] when I wrote songs, they would be radically different as the creative process would be stifled by the pressure to be financially viable. This happens in other professions too, notably journalism- with populist, celebrity-driven claptrap in place of thought provoking and emotive articles.

Acrostics in action

Judge Dread

On top of all this there is the freak-show mentality of the viewers and producers alike: let’s see fools fall and make ourselves feel better and richer in the process. Pointing and laughing at these deluded hopefuls demeans all involved. Is there a difference between slating a poor soul who was born without Mariah Carey’s vocal chords and sounding off at a wannabe can-can dancer with only one-and-a-half legs? [How long before this gets broadcast?]

All of the above “factors” are self perpetuating, with each series consolidating the need for another by conditioning the audience and auditionees to be open to more of the same treatment. Indeed many of those vying to be King or Queen of Saturday Night Telly are repeat offenders, much like the viewers. The  public deserve better and even with (at least) 70 other channels available, many with a better programming schedule, they are still drawn to this tawdry circus.

I may be repeating tired old opinion but this programme is still on the air and pulling in millions of viewers. This alone does not justify its continued existence. Popularity does not underpin morality. Take the News Of The World, the most popular newspaper in the UK, morally and legally corrupt and now shut down. I am still waiting for the same fate for X-Factor. Let’s put this show, and as a consequence its contestants and viewers, out of its misery.

TO THE AVERAGE LIVE MUSIC ENTHUSIAST or avid Aberdeen pub crawler, the prospect of seeing and hearing a band in Slains Castle is a puzzling concept- a stage on a mezzanine floor, one metre below audience level with a coliseum like 360 degree arena views.  How would it sound? Would I get a good view? The answers: great and yes – from any angle. Having only seen acoustic sets performed in this unique environment, I was curious to see how a full back line would lend itself to the acoustics of such an amazing performing space. When I arrived, the place was jam-packed with lively punters, all vying for space at the balustrade as well as jockeying for drinks at the bar, which still afforded a good view as well as a good earful of local and touring talent.

The first act to catch my ear was Kevin Douglas, a local solo singer-songwriter, treating the crowd to his own blend of laid back acoustic cover versions ranging from The Doors to the Foo Fighters. Kevin managed to hold his own despite the exuberance of the surging crowd. He engaged them in folksy banter and didn’t seem intimidated by the audience looming above. Kevin regretted not playing any of his own material but, being a perfectionist, he’s saving those special numbers until he has them just right. He’s one of the few brave people to work on their music full time and I look forward to what he has to offer.

[Click here to listen to listen to our post gig natter]

Picnic Basket Nosedive, a lively four-piece who took the high roads and low roads from Loch Lomond, nose-dove into the arena in a riot of colour with a lead singer-cum-guitarist-cum-Korgtinkler; bass player/backing singer; lead guitarist and drummer. This band had me hooked at the name and then consolidated that curiousity with the liveliness of their performance. They seemed to relish the special atmosphere at Slains and used the floor space to their advantage, with all three guitarists whirling, jumping and stomping like petulant toddlers in mid tantrum.

Korgtinkler extraordinaire

The full band sound was impressive from any angle, all instruments being heard with a clarity and resonance only to be found in a converted church building. The songs were fun, self-deprecating and popular with the swelling numbers of punters. A particular favourite of mine was “Tip the Binman”, a clarion call to provide additional earnings for the drummer, whose day job is advertised in the title. They also resurrected Gina G in playing “Just a Little Bit”, sending everyone ecstatic at the catchy keyboard riff as well as reassuring them that this was a better version than the original. Their sense of enjoyment filtered outwards and upwards, shaking up  the crowd ready for the next act.

[Click here to see what we got up to after the show]

Portsmouth punk rockers, The Bottom Line, burst onto the stage  and at first seemed more introspective than the previous band. However, they put 100% into their music, stunning Slains with their hard hitting transatlantic sound. For a three-piece, they were very well rounded, tight in their changes of pace and extremely adept at stop-start song breaks, no mean feat on a stage with no monitor amps. The guitarist’s artistic and catchy riffery provided a melodic overlay to the pumping rhythm section and this got the crowd jumping as well as singing along.

Vocals shining through

The strong vocals shone through and they were as good as any modern punk band I’ve heard on either side of the Big Pond.

A keen touring band, the guys love straying from their home town and reveled in the atmosphere of a good Aberdeen audience in a special venue. They hope to take their punchy tunes across the Channel with a European tour in the near future but we’ll see them again in Aberdeen in April for sure.

[Click here to find out a bit more about the guys including names, dates and testicular volume]

Headliners, Crooked Little Vein, spunky punksmiths from Aberdeen, rounded off the night with the most energetic display of musicianship I’ve seen since Green Day played on a red-hot tin stage in bare feet.

Singing out loud to the crowd

The female lead vocalist climbed, swayed, crouched, leaped and perched her way through the set while hitting notes that would put a mezzo-soprano to shame.

Resplendent

The guitarist, resplendent in denim hot pants played (almost literally) blistering solos and surging chunky chords while providing a great view for the audience to the rear. The drummer, a thin white duke,  beat out a solid backing while the bass player managed to weave and dance between his band-mates on the front line.

None of their onstage antics detracted anything from the songs, which were well executed, catchy and anthemic. They offered a big sound from a band clearly very comfortable with each other as well as their material and instruments. Audience interaction was a must  and the lead singer managed to achieve this despite the height difference and the shortcomings of the microphone lead. Still, she managed to leave the enclave and find fans willing to dance, flirt or even sing.

Crooked Little Vein believe the secret to a good act is knowing their material, enthusiasm and connecting with the crowd. They did this and so much more, showing the surrounding crowd at Slains how a real band should be: in sight, in sound and in soul.

[Click here for an exclusive catch up, including some choice language which may offend some listeners as well as excite others]

Saturday Night Live is the brainchild of Oliver Richards of OR Promotions  

A big thank you to Tom Shipp of Aberdeen Bands for his support and advice.


All text, photographs and audio by Dave Phillips, Esq.

Dave is an Earth-based writer, jinglesmith and entertainer currently existing in Aberdeen, Scotland.

For more of his stuff, please see his blog or go here.