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singles/eps - december 2015


Delta Deep – ‘Take Me Home For Christmas’

Just in (the Saint Nick of) time for the holidays comes a gift from the blues-rock band Delta Deep lead by Phil Collen of Def Lepard fame. Collen and the rest of the band members, Debbi Blackwell-Cook, Robert DeLeo, and Forrest Robinson, have crafted a low-key, but pleasant track to celebrate the Christmas/holiday, and New Year’s, spirit of togetherness and joy. The spotlight is on the malleable and emotive vocals of Blackwell-Cook while the instrumentation is subdued, but supportive of her sweetly warm(and cool!) vocal tone. Brushed drums and gentle guitar strum back Blackwell-Cook as she coos “You’re all I need / Bring me all your good lovin’.” She winds delectably around the sounds, shining brightly, but never too vividly, hitting the highs and the low tones, like on the sultry line “Feeling the flicker from the fireplace glow.” Collen and his bandmates supply the exclaimed chorus refrain of “Take me home for Christmas”, giving a bit of a rock edge to Blackwell-Cook’s soulful smoothness. So gather your loved ones, be of good cheer, Happy Holidays, and have a happy New Year!

Jen Dan

Zaflon – ‘Nightmare Division’

South London electronic artist and producer Zaflon is readying the release of his debut EP, LDP 1, for February 12th, 2016. The 4-track EP features the contributions of Zaflon’s latest collaborator, Gilan Music, and is a more ambient and down-tempo foray into the hidden spaces of Zaflon’s mind than his previous hyperkinetic electronica single ‘Blink’. The first cut to drop off the EP is ‘Nightmare Division’ which bears the stamp of both Zaflon and Gilan Music, where Gilan sings the low, male-sounding vocals as well as the higher register female vocals.

The mysterious and reflective ‘Nightmare Division’ unfurls at a slow pace with echoed thumps of drums, crackles of static, and trickling water found sound. Gilan alternates between deeper, manipulated “male” vocals and her downcast, but expressive voice, drawing out her words with care although they are muffled within the depths of the sonics some of the time. Words and phrases come to the surface, like “captivate my space inside”, “my isolation”, “your darkness”, and “a buzz of wings” amid the drift of haunting synths and soporific trip-hop beats. The resulting ambience is one of subdued, but ominous intrigue lightened by a brighter run of vintage piano notes and the sudden shift to a faster, invigorating tempo near the end of the tune.

Jen Dan

Betty Moon – ‘This Is Love’

Betty Moon admirably tackles covering Polly Jean Harvey’s tune ‘This Is Love’ with enthusiasm, adding her own distinct spin to it while keeping mostly true to the original. The single is one of a run of covers of influential artists like Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane, and Depeche Mode that can be found on Moon’s recent album titled Cover Songs. Moon is never one to sit still musically and she actually has also recently released another album, Pantomania, in June on Evolver Music. There is a slight overlap between the two albums, with covers of ‘No Good’ by Depeche Mode and ‘Gimme Shelter’ by The Rolling Stones being represented twice. Otherwise, Betty Moon’s Cover Songs album is a fresh batch of re-imagined tunes.

Betty Moon’s take on ‘This Is Love’ begins with a bopping pop beat, handclap percussion, and her kitschy coos. She sings in a lighter style than Harvey and the upbeat tempo gives the song a buoyant vibe. Moon’s vocals are highly echoed amid the pressing rhythm and guitar riffs that mirror the original. She breaks from the aggressive pace of Harvey’s version towards the end, adding a lull of strummed bass line and brief guitar lines. Moon sing-talks in a direct tone, increasing her expression incrementally until she’s exclaiming “This is love / that I’m feeling.” during the chorus sections. She also deviates sweetly from the original tune by including more of her emotive, but alluring wordless vocal phrasings into the mix.

Jen Dan

Living Hour – ‘Seagull’

Canadian dream-pop band Living Hour will release its self-titled debut album February 19th on Lefse Records. The four-piece is taking off this month with its first single, ‘Seagull’, from the album, as well as the announcement of a string of play dates in Canada and the U.S. starting in March. ‘Seagull’ breezes through the lowering clouds on the wings of a captivating pattern of shoegaze-inspired guitar chime, cymbal shimmer, emphatic drum beat, and drawn out and echoed vocals. The lead singer strings out her words softly, but matter-of-factly to the sky while backed by lightly shadowed male vocals. Her tone is wistful and searching as she longingly intones “We are all tied to the sea.” amid graceful, swooping guitar lines and a mid-tempo marching beat. A sharper, cycling guitar refrain comes in late in the tune, pushing it forward as the lead singer drones with a pensive air “So move with the tide of the sea.” Living Hour’s sound is natural and unforced on ‘Seagull’ and the song is an engaging harbinger of what is to hopefully come on the band’s full-length debut.

Jen Dan

Ideomotor – ‘Amplified’

Get in top gear with Erkka Wennonen (synths, guitar) and Kimmo Myllyviita (vocals, synths, guitar) of the Finnish electronic duo Ideomotor. They’ve been friends since they were teenagers, but they didn’t consider creating music together until Myllyviita moved to Switzerland and they decided that musical collaboration was a genius way to stay in touch. And so Ideomotor was built, with Wennonen and Myllyviita each working in his respective home studio before meeting in a commercial studio to hammer out the final industrial-influenced, indie electronic product. They are currently working on their debut album to be released in 2016.

Ideomotor’s latest single, the ominous to hopeful ‘Amplified’, runs on gritty, zipping synth lines, wavering electro-notes, a sharply clacking reverb beat, and Myllyviita’s darkwave vocals that recall goth bands of the late 80s and early 90s. The verses tread with a measured pace as Myllyviita intones “Show me what you see / Amplify the good in me.”, while the chorus sections lift off with his more emotive vocals, as he cries “I need you to see who I am / I need you to make it amplified / in their eyes.” The synths and beat become more emphatic with grand, strings-tinged notes being following the same aural trajectory as Myllyviita’s vocals. ‘Amplified’ is also strewn with found sound clips, starting and ending with a child brightly stating that “The greatest ambition in life is to become immortal / and then die.” (The quote is taken from Jean-Pierre Melville’s character in Jean-Luc Godard’s film À bout de souffle (Breathless). The use of spoken word clips adds another layer to the lyrics and gives the song a cinematic sheen.

Jen Dann

Alphanaut - 'Electricity'

An electro soul groove with a very finely produced air about it, the most sophisticated thing I've heard in ages. Seriously. Everything about 'Electricity' just reeks of sunshiny LA smoothness although it isn't either bland or dull, the synths growl softly in the background and the bassline has a suave purpose of its own. Listen to 'Electricity' now before it gets remixed entirely beyond recognition.


Ghostpoet – Be Right Back, Moving House

Man for all seasons Ghostpoet releases this latest single hot on the tracks of his Mercury Prize nomination and support slot on Alt-J’s arena tour and it certainly hits the spot. Slowly building with his deep, rich vocals, it’s a gentle slow crescendo with no grand gesture but beautiful all the same. 8/10


Mind The Journey – ‘Rose Colored Glasses’

Boston, Massachusetts-based Spencer Sabo is the mysterious mind behind the pysch-rock/electronic/synth-pop music project Mind The Journey. He’s set to release his debut album, Color In The Gray Machine, in the beginning of January. Sabo was at the helm 100% for his album, instrumentally and vocally, as well as for its production, putting it all together within his basement studio. Color In The Gray Machine was mastered by Tom Waltz. Sabo already has an 8-song EP to his name that was released in his late teens. Now a few years later, after a move from Connecticut to Boston, and after playing drums in high school and learning about audio production, Sabo is ready to shine once more on his debut.

The vibrant, then placid first single ‘Rose Colored Glasses’ starts off as a tumultuous trip, radiating a compressed, dazed, and psychedelic 60s sound before entering a more calming, lengthy lull that lasts until the end of the tune. An abundance of sounds are phased in ‘n’ out and little skittering notes flit about of the mix. The lyrics are introspective as Sabo asks plaintively “When faith is tried / will you turn to what’s inside?” while a slowly shuffling pace and light, reverb synth notes dance around his vocals.

Jen Dan

Whyte Horses - 'La Couleur Originale'

Your connoisseur of vintage retro Europop would describe this as 'ye-ye', a phrase which originated in France in the mid 1960s as a description of what was then modern pop music, and in which vocalists would utilise the word 'yeah' with an emphasis on repetition in between the actual verse lyrics of the song. Whyte Horses appear to have spent several years perfecting the authentic sound of the Eurovision contenders of five decades previously, and only a guitar gives it away, just when you were thinking 'I didn't think they had stereo back then'. Un plus charmant, les Chevaux Blancs.


Sparks - 'Christmas Without A Prayer'

Sparks, I've a lot of respect for you. You've made some really great records over the years, right from 'Amateur Hour' and 'This Town Ain't Big Enough' through to 'Beat The Clock', 'Tips For Teens', 'Number One Song In Heaven', and your re-emergence alongside Franz Ferdinand as FFS was welcomed by many This isn't one of your more inspired moments though. There are a lot of great and memorable Christmas songs, and at least as many acknowledged clunkers and Sparks, I am afraid that 'Christmas Without A Prayer' belongs in the latter category, although if it reminds some of us of exactly how great some of your other songs are then it hasn't been a completely wasted effort, and just maybe, your next album will see you returning to the glories of yesteryear. It's probably too late to suggest bringing in Shakin' Stevens as a guest vocalist.


The Levons - 'Too Strange'

There seems to be a fresh crop of guitar bands emerging from Merseyside and The Levons are gaining their share of kudos alongside the other nineteen new Liverpool bands that I found included in a website feature, each and every one of whom deserve at least three and a half minutes of your attention, and The Levons bring their reverb drenched surf guitar influenced sound with exactly the sort of gritty energy that's the hallmark of a band with several things going for them.


Sennen – Autopilot

I’m a big fan of Sennen and after a bit of a wait this single is a real treat and an antidote to the standard Christmas drivel. Sennen remain unquestionably headstrong and focussed and ‘Autopilot’ is the perfect distillation of this ethos. Seven uncomfortable minutes cruise by as the hypnotic guitar line and sparse vocal slowly build into a squealing row. Much like the music of Peace Burial at Sea it’s comfortably disquieting, heart-warmingly unlovable. Can’t wait for the album in February 2016. 9/10


Chris Beyer – ‘She’s On Fire’

New York, USA-based Chris Beyer brings a mainstream-accessible sensibility to his tuneful, R&B-infused pop songs, working in the verse, chorus, verse song structure tradition and fleshing out his sound with his likably light and sweet vocal tone and emotion. Beyer used to be the rhythm guitarist in the pop-punk/alt-rock band For What It’s Worth, but now he’s in the spotlight as a solo artist. His debut album, Distances, is set for release this January. The 7 song-long album was produced by Beyer and Nick Zinnanti at ZIN Records and was also engineered, mixed, and mastered by Zinnanti. Beyer plays guitar and sings on the full-length and he enlisted Zinnanti on bass and Michael Delillo on drums. ‘She’s On Fire’ is one of two soul-pop-styled singles made available off the album and its smooth tempo unfolds with a mellow flow as Beyer focuses on the object of his affection. He ruefully bemoans the fact that “She’s on fire / but her heart is cold.” Guitar notes glisten and chime in tune to his vocals while the drums give the song a joyful buoyancy despite the bittersweet lyrics.

Jen Dan

Dimitri Mazurov – Vestige ep

Psychonavigation have done it again! So much going on with Dimitri Mazurov's short 3-track introduction to his latest album Rudiments. The Russian's Vestige ep is steeped in some of the finest electronic music of the last 30 years (if you don't count Varese or Stockhausen), particularly with the “sound-collage” effect probably most closely associated with Aphex Twin, but obviously a whole host of others. His sonic explorations still leave room to stamp something of his own impressive style, and offers a tantalising taste of the album.

The opening track is an Oval-remixed version of the song which appears on Rudiments. Starting out light and gauzy, like Boards Of Canada unassumingly painting their signature sonic sunset, the song gradually builds layer on layer of cascading electronic effects, also sharing a lot in common with Kieran Hebden's recent symphonic 'Morning/Evening', or the more playful stuff Mouse On Mars (or offshoot Microstoria) have done over the years.

The untitled track 2 is rather special, too. Woozing warm tones and gentle windchimes, it suddenly snaps into life with a whipped drum loop. It could be the snare on The Beatles 'Come Together' dialed up to '11', pressed up to the eardrums for dramatic headphone effect. The electronic fizzes and thumps drive the song along like a spaceship, with atmospheric BBC Radiophonic Workshop/Clangers-like warbling added for effect, its symphonics also suggesting of a sci-fi soundtrack.

There are strong hints of Aphex Twin on the third track with its lovely “close” textural beats and electronic “tuning fork” whirring effects. Trademark warping effects end up in the land of the modern classical, it finally rockets off into space leaving behind some distant tinkling.

Part-dissonant, part-resonant, Dimitri Mazurov's 3-track ep is a try-out for the senses. The Russian wants us to don our headphones and pucker up our ears. Quite a feast over its 11 or so minutes, but Vestige is clearly meant to glimpse a kaleidoscopic sound world and reveal something of the inner workings of this fine electronic artist. Mission accomplished. Sample the album Rudiments on Soundcloud.

Matthew Haddrill

Mantras - What’s Your Story?

Brighton lads Mantras have progressed massively since their last single. The Verve’s ‘A Northern Soul’ album springs to mind on this mammoth track, and that’s not a comparison you hear too often, only on account of its weight. Psyche-rock riffage is carried across a field of blues meets rock’n’roll rhythms, and a vocal as powerful as Mr Ashcroft in his prime. Their music video produced by Leanne Middleton proves they’re marking themselves high contenders on the East Sussex music scene, thus proving they’re an unstoppable elite force. Buy this single.

Gavin Tate

YAK - No

The UK’s newest, loudest, and most exciting act of current have only gone and taken the path of Mudhoney’s classic ‘Piece of Cake’ album with their latest single. Recently praised by none other than Jack White himself, with whom has signed them up to his very own label Third Man Records. The chorus to ‘No’ smashes down a row of castles, whilst the verses have more of a quirkyness; mostly displayed in the jolted key action, though it’s b-side ‘Alas Salvation’ that does it for me, whilst drenched in feedback and a stop start Whirlwind Heat style motion. Punchy, poetic, and full of gunpowder! Scatty finisher 'Out On a Limb’ baring the exiting words “You’re out on a limb and your chances are slim”, thus bringing this manic, thunderous offering to an ear throttling close, and much to the delight of the next door neighbours.

Gavin Tate

Christopher Wackrow - Loved By The Hour

From the opening bars, I’m straight away all over this like a duck to water. Hectic electro filth rattles the skull, whilst laced in dark jangly guitar patterns, and a vocal sounding more crude than Prince himself. There’s a Roland S. Howard meets Liars feel to this epic composition put together by the Berlin based Pantalons/Velofax main man. Originally released on the Bompilation CD in Jersey a while back. This was one of the highlights, and can be found on his Soundcloud page, alongside a number of experimental greats bordering the likes of Beck and Gomez. I could quite happily listen to this knowing full well I’ve only got a couple of minutes left to live. So on that note, find it pronto before you pop your cloggs.

Gavin Tate

ADD Agency – ‘Sex On The Side’

ADD Agency is the moniker of one Will Mora and his musical proclivities are rife with New Wave 80s influences. Will mixes sleek synth-pop with melodic indie pop and adds a dash of dirty grooves on many of the tunes off his new album Gemstone Radar. A highlight of the album is the grittily strutting ‘Sex On The Side’ that features Will sing-talking in a stalking, British (even though he’s from Texas!), goth vocal tone. Amid a crisply dispatched guitar line and sharp beat, Will describes a woman with a “Champagne ego” in a “black dress” who is filled with “empty wishes”. On the romping chorus he disdainfully intones “I don’t want your name / I don’t want your number / Don’t want your sex on the side.” There’s a noisy break near the end of the song, but for the most part ‘Sex On The Side’ rides stylishly on grimy guitar afterburn, swelling synth notes, and Will’s arch, dry vocal tone.

Jen Dan