Jon Amor’s Remote Control

Pop is pop for a reason. Without sounding like a government soundbite, what I mean is, pop, as in the music, is popular for good reason; the catchiness often in the simplicity, which consequently sells. And if it sells, it’s pop, regardless of the many subgenres and youth cultures which an era carries pop along, it’s always continued this ethos. It’s only a particular “genre” for the time being. I use the term as loosely, then, as it should be used. Feel free to shudder at modern commercialisation, but that’s been building for decades and you shouldn’t let it put you off; you’ll miss something special because you preconceive its popularity is a hallmark from a polluted industrial mechanism.

The above annotation I write because I don’t want you to run off with the idea, I’m talking contemporary chart hits when I use the term pop. Out of the assortment Devizes’ legendary bluesman Jon Amor offered on his last major album two years ago, Colour in the Sky, I tended to cherry-pick those deviating from his traditional electric blues style, and they promptly became the standout tracks, Illuminous Girl and Red Telephone. He need not appease his devotees; they follow this modification with bells on. Because, fundamentally it’s more “pop,” in so much as it’s appealing for this beguiling ease.

This transitory, perhaps, shift for Jon was stamped on the last single, the incredibly addictive Peppercorn, a lively upbeat and Elvis Costello fashioned rock, without the leftist post-punk political angle of yore. Now the single has been followed up with an album, Remote Control, impulsively launched without the need for the usual pe-hype. All the tunes follow the aforementioned style of Peppercorn, the penultimate track on the collection. Dammit, this is good, but you knew it would be.

News of it literally arrived via Facebook post yesterday, “this year,” Jon posted, “I’ve been spending a lot of my weekends recording some songs, and I appear to have made an album.” And as if by magic, today (27th November) it’s a thing. So, was it as spontaneous as it sounds, a result of lockdown?

“I suppose initially it was the result of lockdown,” Jon replied, “yeah, I was working all week and had nothing to do at weekends!” If there’s only one good thing to come out of all this, I noted, thinking Erin Bardwell’s Interval album in particular, is that artists have had the time to write and create, and there’s good material flowing from all genres. Then I waffled some similarities in a piece I was reading about the great plague, where it modernised and revolutionized both folk and classical music, possibly gave birth to the renaissance.  

“I think a lot of people embraced the spare time and the isolation and turned it into a positive,” Jon added. “Now I’m picturing video conference calls and zoom quizzes in the 1600s…”

While Jon is clearly experimenting, dabbling this more pop sound with Remote Control, it’s also temptingly raw and punchy. There are some retrospective glances, the opening tune Song and Dance is a catchy three-minute Merseybeat blast, whereas If a Million is demarcated Curtis Mayfield funk. 03 57961 (That’s my Number) bounces like a quirky ZZ Top, whereas Robot Skin follows, using the guitar like white noise, overridden with a Gecko styled rap.

I’m intrigued now, wondering where this will take me next, and even if Next plays out the downbeat trip-hop style, akin to Portishead meeting Costello, it remains definitively Jon Amor. Just a Bomb booms power pop, with a singable chorus after just the one listen. We’re one track down before Peppercorn, you’d be mistaken by the title that this is locally-themed, Moonraker, is Bowie spacey and maybe a reference to the Bond movie rather than a Devizes pond fable.

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The finale rings with everything we’ve suggested at the start, this is poptastic for catchiness. Do Bop-Bop is staunchly irresistible. Exotic bongos, Californian beatnik surfer goodness; ideal daydream for wintertime locked down in England!

In conclusion, I need not convince Jon’s lifetime fans, they will buy it and love the fact they have. For others, this is an interesting progression with great prose, it’s joyful and quirky and explores styles without selling-out or shifting the central pivot point, which is Jon Amor, da man rocks! All the above basically adds up to; this is highly entertaining on the ears and persuasive on the feet to tap.

     


Dreamlands; New EP from Daydream Runaways

In fairness to you readers, I’ll come clean, the new EP from Daydream Runaways, Dreamlands, is a collection of three pre-released singles, Fairytale Scene, Light the Spark, and the latest, Crazy Stupid Love. Each of which if you click on, you’ll see I’ve reviewed already, here on Devizine.

So, what do those demanding guys want from me this time?! Except to say I can’t praise the band or these songs enough. Making the opportunity to announce the release imperative, suppose, but forgive me for not running back over the same notions in said reviews.

So, I figured I’d catch up with them, harass them for few more questions I overlooked when we interviewed them last. Notably, when Cameron Bianchi enlightened us that, “we brought back two older songs and reworked them, as they fit really well next to the lead single Crazy Stupid Love.”

Ah, cool ,this progressive young band have reworked them. I supposed it’s good to have the singles on one EP. “And those three are among our oldest songs so it felt right to release them,” Cameron continued. “Then Brad had an opportunity to record us for his Final Year Project at Uni and an EP seemed like a great project to take on.”

Out on the 13th November, the release’s title I was asked to keep it under my hat, for a ‘guess the name of the EP’ competition was to be announced. The title got me to pondering the name Daydream Runaways. So, I asked them how they came about it.

Frontman Ben Heathcote replied, “Cameron came in with the name suggestion after numerous discussions and almost instantly we knew that was it. It seemed to describe us and have a connection immediately to our sound. We all daydream and get lost running away in our minds, our dreams…”

Cameron added, “We spent quite a while trying to work out a name that suited us, actually. We were looking for something that sounded hopeful and had a sense of escapism about it. Ben remembers that I brought it to a practice one evening, I think I’d been reeling off loads of names that the boys didn’t love. Then one day my fiancée had been playing lots of Ben Howard and he used those two words in a few of his songs and I just liked the way the sounded when merged together.”

Shame, I adopted the guesstimation Cameron was the sort of kid at school who would rather stare out of the window daydreaming than pay attention to the lesson. “I know I was!” he confessed, “procrastination is my second favourite hobby…next to playing guitar!”

An apt name it is though, it relates to the band’s brand of dreamy, nostalgic and acceptable indie-rock, which has found them glowing reviews elsewhere. James Threlfall of BBC Introducing in the West, said of Fairytale Scene, “I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this band absolutely smash it live.” They’re favourites on Sue Davis’ show on Wiltshire Sound, but I was drawn in particular to a quote by Dave Franklyn on his Dancing About Architecture website, a man who does similar to what we do here, only better. He said Crazy Stupid Love, “has got that great Alt-USA feel to it; Fountains of Wayne style and early 00’s vibe.”

Coincidently I mentioned Fountains of Wayne yesterday when pondering the new EP from End of the World, Calne’s skater-punk five-piece. Here’s where I tip my hat to Freewheelin’ Franklyn, always able to view another angle. For in the way of comparisons, I spent nearly all my effort reminiscing classic eighties bands such as Simple Minds, perhaps U2. I wrote paragraph upon paragraph suggesting the Daydream Runaways songs would slip neatly into a John Hughes coming-of-age movie, when really, I needed only to rewind twenty years; it’s an age thing.

I asked them for their thoughts on this comparison to noughties US bands, all a bit skater punk. As all I know of Fountain of Youth is the one tune, and while the Daydreamer’s material has a coming-of-age type content, I couldn’t imagine them knocking out something as quirky as a song about fancying their girlfriend’s mum.

Nathaniel Heathcote confirmed, “yeah, it’s definitely reminiscent of skater punk, very 2000s with baggy jeans, spiky hair and a skateboard in hand!”

Cameron also clarified, “it’s kind of a weird blend of Indie meets Country meets 00s rock. Not that it started out that way. I think I was trying to write a riff like The Smith’s Girl Afraid.” Ah, mention of a band I know! Heaven help me, are we due a noughties comeback, I pondered, I guess it’s time, despite I’m still living in 1991.

“They seem to be!” Cameron figured, “I was listening to Machine Gun Kelly the other day and his sound is very 00s. We obviously inspired him…”

From here I teased about the possibility of getting a rapper in, if that’s the case. But Daydream Runaways has spent their few years really nailing a uniformed style, I hoped I wasn’t rocking the boat. There’s a question developing in that though, how far they’re willing to diversify?!

Cameron admitted, “Ben has floated that idea about actually, we always say we don’t want to write the same song twice or be bound to one genre. And I think that comes across in our music. It helps that each of our individual musical influences are quite different so that makes the song writing process quite fun and the songs are always a bit unexpected.”

“This is something we differ on in my opinion,” Ben interjected, “Cam enjoys the idea of a more consistent sound and style that is familiar, whereas I strive for an ever changing/evolving sound, dipping into varying genres.”

“So,” Cameron replied, “I think we balance each other out?”

Ben Heathcote got deep, “the world can’t exist without Ying and Yang.”

But I often rock their boat, probing their thoughts of an album, and they have differing opinions on it, but I’m always impressed how they stabilise it mutually; I do hope it’s a solid band, as this EP rocks and I always look forward to hearing some new from them. They even went as portentous to hint at an album’s possibility, but rather concentrate on the idea of a sequential set of songs on a running theme. There you go, Mr Franklyn, I surmise they’ll be writing the next soundtrack to a John Hughes rework!

If so, I get first dibs on the actress playing Molly Ringwald’s part, but probably not, though with this blinding new EP, it is fair to assume it’s only just the beginnings for The Daydream Runaways. The peak will be unimaginably awesome.


Cold Water; New Single from Lottie J

Wasn’t it in my review of Talk in Code’s latest single where I waffled on the subject of my passenger seat DJ on trips to her football, and thinking about it, every time she gets in the car even if we’re only going half mile up the road?

Matter of factually then, my daughter ensures I’m as up-to-date with pop, as far as a middle-aged pop can be. So it may surprise you to note this rocking grandad knows his Dua Lipa from his Doja Cat, just about, and I know the “peng” sound of now, and Lottie J’s single is bang on the mark.

Though, I’ll probs get dissed by da yoot for my hopeless attempts to align with the trends in lingo, and peng is probably, like ancient history; soooooo last decade. But everything about Cold Water rings contemporary pop hit to me.

Lottie has come some way from teen singing her own heartfelt compositions at a piano on the local circuit, and the days when Jamie Cullum encouraged her upon visiting her school to donate his old piano.

If she has stars in her eyes, they’re directed and affirmed in a business acumen which knows exactly how to point them in the right direction; Cold Water confirms this. It is fresh, it is the pop sound of now, and assures me, through the chosen path of self-promotion in an era which allows it through streaming sites, Simon Cowell is not necessary. I predict we will be hearing more from Lottie J, bigger and better each time, and with her sublime voice and beauty abound, she is the pop star in the making.

It’s cool, emotionally prevoking, it’s pop-tastic beats and has all the ingredients of a contemporary r&b come dance hit. All it takes is word of mouth and online sharing. I usually run anything modern past my daughter, who mostly scoffs at my attempts to influence her musical taste, but on the position of Lottie J we mutually appreciate her talent. And that’s good, innit, I mean she could be my excuse for attending Radio 1’s Party in the Park. Post Malone, we’re on our way!

No, he’s an American rapper, no, he hasn’t got a black and white cat; get with the program!

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Talk in Code’s Secret

New single from Swindon’s indie-pop darlings, and, as foreseen, it’s blinking marvellous, Gloria.

“Eighties,” I yell, but my daughter corrects me. It’s a tune from Miley Circus, apparently. Story checks out, searched YouTube for it. Now I’m distracted from reviewing Talk in Code’s new single, Secret, by her suggestive gyrations in a black studded swimsuit and equally studded elbow-length gloves. Only from a health and safety perspective, you understand. Metallic studs are unsuitable for swimwear, gloves would fill with water; I should warn her PR.

When behind the wheel of Dad’s taxi, my daughter plays DJ; curse that built-in Bluetooth function. Least I can pretend I’m hip with the kids by distinguishing my George Ezras from my Sam Fenders. “Ah,” but I clarify, “I didn’t mean that, I meant it sounds like something from the eighties.” She agrees, tells me they’re all inspired from the eighties. “Like, Blondie,” I add, she’d have to Google that, but she watched The Breakfast Club and Uncle Buck, she is aware of the style of sound demarcated by eighties electronica pop.

Refrained from telling her about these guys though, some things are best left in the past.

If a retrospective inclination influenced by the decade of Danny Kendal v Mr Bronson, Rubik’s cubes and skinhead Weetabix characters is good for you, ok, look no further than upcoming local bands like Talk in Code and Daydream Runaways. I’ve often grouped these two on this very notion, and I’m delighted to note via my comparison, the Daydreamers are supporting the Talkers at Level III in Swindon on November 20th, my only annoyance is that it’s a Friday and I can’t make it.

To differentiate, Daydream Runaways take a rock edge, the like of Simple Minds, but Talk in Code seem to strive for the electronica angle of bands like Yazoo and The Human League. They do it far better than well though, and if I branded it, “sophisticated pop with modern sparkle,” their last single, Taste the Sun, back in July, embodied this more than anything previous. So, here we are again with another belter which adds to this uniform style, though the climate may not be so clement, Secret sparkles too.

It snaps straight in, this aforementioned feel-good 80s electronica guitar pop sound, and it’s so beguiling and catchy it’s certain to appeal wide, agelessly. If I was attending a local festival and Talkers took the stage, I’d imagine my daughter and I would dance together, and right now with her tastes directed to my odium, calculatingly sweary modern pop R&B, this would be a miracle! I do not twerk.

Secret is right out of a John Hughes movie then, a stuck record comparison I say to near-on every release by them and Daydream Runaways too, but this undeviating style is consistently cultivating and improving. Lyrically it’s characterised by the same simple but effective theme of optimistic romance, and a bright, catchy chorus, as every classic pop song should.  

The band cite pop classics such as King of Wishful Thinking, How Will I Know and Alexander O’Neal’s Criticise as evaluations. I can only but agree, but add, those can be cringingly timeworn, whereas, this is not Dr Beat, no need for an ambulance sound effect, and the Talker guys don’t got no hairspray, this is renewed and exhilarating for a modern generation.

You can pre-save TALK IN CODE’s brand new 80’s infused indie pop belter, on the platform of your choice and listen in full, but it’s not released until November 16th. Yeah, I know right, I’m so lucky to have these things in advance, but with Secret I can guarantee by the time it comes your way, I’ll still be up dancing to it, perhaps my daughter too. Care to join me on the dancefloor? But oi, watch the handbag, Miley, and don’t yank my diddy-boppers, I’m no that kind of guy; saving myself for Gloria Estefan.


Atari Pilot’s Right Crew, Wrong Captain

Only gamers of a certain age will know of The Attic Bug. Hedonistic socialiser, Miner Willy had a party in his manor and wanted to retire for the evening. Just how a miner in the eighties could’ve afforded a manor remains a mystery; but that erroneous flaw was the tip of the iceberg. In this ground-breaking ZX Spectrum platform game, the Ribena Kid’s mum appeared to guard Willy’s bedroom, tapping her foot impatiently. Touch this mean rotund mama and she’d kill you, unless you’d tided every bit of leftovers from the bash. Turned out, months after the game’s release, one piece, in the Attic, was impossible to collect. Until this glitch became public knowledge, players were fuming as an intolerable bleeping version of “If I was a Rich Man,” perpetually looped them to insanity.

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I swear, if I hear that tune, even some forty years on I cringe; the haunting memory of my perseverance with the impossible Jetset Willy. Music in videogames has come a long way, thank your chosen deity. Yet in this trend of retrospection I terror at musical artists influenced by these cringeworthy clunky, bleeping melodies of early Mario, or Sonic soundtracks; like techno never happened, what are they thinking of? It was with caution, then, when I pressed play on the new single from Swindon band “Atari Pilot.” I had heard of them, but not heard them. I was pleasantly surprised.

For starters, this is rock, rather than, taken from the band’s name, my preconceived suspicion I would be subject to a lo-fi electronica computer geek’s wet dream. While there is something undeniably retrospective gamer about the sonic synth blasts in Right Crew, Wrong Captain, it is done well, with taste and this track drives on a slight, space-rock tip. Though comparisons are tricky, Atari Pilot has a unique pop sound. No stranger to retrospection, with echoey vocals and a cover akin to an illustration from Captain Pugwash, still this sound is fresh, kind of straddling a bridge between space-rock and danceable indie. Oh, and it’s certainly loud and proud.

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A grower, takes a few listens and I’m hooked. Their Facebook blurb claims to “change the rules of the game, take the face from the name, trade the soul for the fame…I’m an Atari Pilot.” After their debut album “Navigation of The World by Sound” in 2011, a long hiatus took in a serious cancer battle. But Atari Pilot returned in 2018 with an acoustic set at the Swindon Shuffle. The full band gathered once again the following year with live shows and a new set of “Songs for the Struggle.” This will be the title of their forthcoming follow-up album, “When we were Children” being the first single from it, and now this one, “Right Crew, Wrong Captain,” is available from the end of July.

Its theme is of isolation, “and defiance, after the ship has gone down,” frontman Onze informs me. There’s a haunting metaphor within the intelligent lyrics, “you nail yourself to the mast and you pray that everything lasts, you just want to know hope floats, when the water rises, coz it’s gonna rise, take a deep breath and count to ten, sink to the bottom and start again.”

There’s a bracing movement which dispels predefined ideas of indie and progresses towards something encompassing a general pop feel, of bands I’ve highlighted previously, Talk in Code and Daydream Runaways, Atari Pilot would not look out of place billed in a festival line-up with these acts, and would add that clever cross between space-rock with shards of the videogames of yore, yet, not enough to warrant my aforementioned fears of cringeworthy bleeps. Here’s hoping it’s “game over” for that genre. That said, thinking back, when you bought your Atari 2600, if you recall, oldie, you got the entire package of two joysticks and those circler controllers too, as standard; could you imagine that much hardware included with a modern console? Na, mate, one controller, you’ve got to buy others separately.

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So, if decades to come we have a band called X-Box or PlayStation Pilot, I’d be dubious, but Atari gave us quality, a complete package; likewise, with Atari Pilot!


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Talk in Code Taste the Sun

Back in January 2019, I was dead impressed with Talk in Code’s debut album Resolve, and labelled it “sophisticated pop with modern sparkle.” I offered the track “Oxygen,” as best example of how, like classic pop anthems should, its instantaneous catchiness gets stuck in your head. To compare and contrast that favourite from the album with the upcoming release from this Swindon indie-pop four-piece, it’s clear they’ve come an incredibly long way to enhancing and refining that fashion.

Reflecting back, Resolve has the definite “indie” sound of the nineties, only dipping a toe in the pool of eighties synth-pop. I felt this coming, each track they release sounds more like an iconic mid-eighties sugary hit, and Taste the Sun dives right in. It supplements my “sophisticated pop with modern sparkle” label much more.

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Recorded just before lockdown at Studio 91 in Newbury, the band define the theme as “about waking up and smelling the coffee, a feeling that change is coming and the relief when that change is made for the greater good.” Nothing wrong with that inspiring concept, but perhaps nothing original; writing style they stick to a model template, but the sound is invigorating. In a word, it’s refreshing, like the zest of a sparkling iced fruit drink on a humid holiday afternoon, it encompasses all that is glorious about pop. Blooming with good time, summery vibes, Taste the Sun is the sort of lively “Wham” anthem a younger you would’ve retained from a holiday camp disco, and evermore evoke a fond memory of a fleeting romance.

That said in the best manner possible. Talk in Code is a well-oiled machine, refining that classic sound for a new generation and, most importantly, extracting and binning any cliché or cringeworthy elements. You know the sort, listen to any eighties pop now and wince at a particularly ill-thought out component, be it a castoff sample, badly grafted rap or, worse still, a “talky” part; “I thought I told you, Michael, I’m a lover not a fighter!”

Yet I find similar with today’s pop, and hold my daughter accountable! “Why they doing that bit?” I grumpily whinge. “What bit?” she retorts. It’s like a repetitive synthesised single word, or randomly placed high-hat making me shudder. Talk in Code use the acuteness of “indie” to eliminate said pop crime, use pop for catchiness and throw something back at you with universal appeal. It’s true, I concern myself at the prospect of taking my daughter to a pop festival, be it I’m cowering at her modern taste, or she’s dragging me away from something I like the sound of. Talk in Code is something we could both agree is great, and throughout reviewing their singles, Taste the Summer is perhaps the prime example of this notion.

Released on Monday 27th July, on digital download at http://www.talkincode.co.uk and on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music and all digital platforms. Go on, you have a listen, and I challenge you to find something bad to say about this sparkling, uplifting nugget of pop; because I can’t!


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Indie Networking and Long Coats

If social media is the rearguard in music’s battle against the Coronavirus lockdown, there’s plenty of battalions networking at this last stand, and physical location is no issue. A virtual realm is borderless, and for this reason, while Devizine is concentrated on content local to Wiltshire, there are many avenues worthy to waiver the rule for. So, expect us to cover some bands and artists without borders, ones I’ll connect with through social media, such as the Facebook group I’m here to mention, as is the group’s tenet.

That said, Ollie Sharp is a young performer from within our geographical catchment, Bath, who recently set up said Facebook group for indie music, called, aptly, The Indie Network. Its welcoming and dynamic attitude is gaining attention. I joined, they cast a thread of introductions; made me feel old! Funny cos it’s true, pipsqueaks by comparison. Young enough to have to Google my antiquated phraseology, like cassette tapes and Danny Kendal. Some poor guy confessed he was older, at 43, at which he faced compassionate reassurances such as, “it’s only a number.” I knew then to keep my gob shtum, so I stated I was “old enough to know better, too old to care.” Least it’d do no good for our Kieran from Sheer Music, who also joined, to grass me up as an old skool raver, historical to those barely an itch!

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Though we’ve jested before about the era of yore where never the twain would indie kids and ravers mingle, Mr Moore and I, and come to the conclusion I’m exempt on account of my eclectic taste. Let it be known now, I like the sound of Ollie’s recently formed band The Longcoats, and it’s just the sort of thing which allows Kieran to win the genre argument! It’s breezy, placid indie, acceptable on a larger scale than predecessors, much least my aging preconceptions, bit like what our Daydream Runaways and Talk in Code are putting out; and I like them. I even refer to them as “our,” see, like a northern working-class family. Shoot, pass my Smiths tee Mr Moore, I’m an indie kid! (kid used here in its most unlikely definition.)

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Anyway, I digress. We’ve reached the part of the show where the artist mumbles “is this codger going to actually review my single?” Apologies for my Uncle Albert moment, ha, there was me thinking Boris had made arbitrary tangents trendy. There’s no telling some, he’s a bastard. However, we’ll never get going if I branch into politics.

“Used to Being Used” is the single I was sent, the earlier one of two on their Bandcamp page. It follows a blueprint of indie-pop, there’s a trudging guitar riff, a theme of dejected ardour, yet it’s done with skill, catchiness and promising aptitude. The latter single, Drag, which came out in March takes a similar tempo, and cool attitude; there is no need to be angry in an era which accepts the genre, so ever with edge but only enough, The Longcoats create a beguiling and entertaining sound to appeal wide.

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Last year guitarist Arthur Foulstone and drummer Kane Pollastrone added to frontman Sharp’s lone act, which bridged the gap between band and solo artist. The final piece of the puzzle came upon recruiting permanent bassist Norton Robey. With the assistance of producer Jack Daffin, The Longcoats have created a defining sound which is appealing and instantly recognisable.

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There is nothing about this Bath four-piece indie-pop-rock band here, I’ll be honest, which will act as their magnum opus, but an auspicious start dripping with potential. Here’s one to watch, with their debut EP ‘October’ in the pipeline, here’s hoping it’ll reach us before the month of its namesake.

But it’s not so much about the individual band here which maketh this article, rather the conscious efforts to unite and network, thus creating a scene. Even through this era of wishing for a live gig, the networks thrive, perhaps even more so. Ollie also created Wise Monkey Music, a multi-media music and events promotion company based in the Southwest, of which we look forward to hearing more of; attention, the like Facebook group The Indie Network is likely to bring. They even let this aging raver in, dammit; though my white gloves and whistle must be in a box in the loft somewhere, it’s a deceased stereotype, of which I’m glad.

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I do find though, as someone who glued and photocopied zine after zine, aside the mass media driven pop tripe, the underground thrives as it ever did, the internet only creates an easy route in. Just like the bands of the now, such as The Longcoats and others rapidly joining the group, what’s not to like about it?

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Falling with Tone and Cutsmith

Since the jazz era, musical genres start covert and underground, and with popularity they’re refined to mainstream acceptability, packaged into a new pop wave, and eventually fall into a retrospective or cult hall of fame. I first stood aghast at the selling-off of our adolescent anthems when I heard Leftfield’s Release the Pressure in an advert for Cheese Strings. When this happens to you, you’re officially past your sell by date!

When my daughter is in the car it’s paramount, she controls the stereo, at least it is to her. I’m indifferent, the bulk of contemporary pop irritates my senior ears, but occasionally there’s a something interesting hidden. There was one, once, don’t expect me to root through her playlist to tell you what one, pop, but with the backbeat undeniably inspired from drum n bass.

My attention was drawn to a tune this week, Falling, from Devizes’ drum n bass outfit SubRat Records via Gail Foster, who shot the video for it. Listening took me to the aforementioned moment; how drum n bass was now part of the “norm” rather than primarily an underground genre. If it has come of age and entered the realm of acceptable pop, though, there’s still room for experimentation and the fusing of styles, which is no bad thing, and precisely what Falling is. Chris, hereafter known as Tone, has set up SubRat, and Pewsey’s Cutsmith is the vocalist on this particular track.

Cutsmith is current, using hip hop to inspire his acoustic compositions, so it melds effectively. In the way David Grey produced Babylon, Suzanne Vega did with Tom’s Diner or the entire catalogue of Portishead, fusing up-to-date dance styles with acoustically driven tunes is a winner, if done correctly. If not, it’s a howler, but I’m glad to say, this one really works wonders. Falling has a sublime ambient texture and glides causally through a mass-acceptable drum n bass riff. Cutsmith’s smooth vocals complements it perfectly, breathes mood into it and gifts it with meaning; the combination, a match made in heaven.

Though this may not be an entirely ground-breaking formula, I’d like to train spotter a nod towards a lesser-known tune on A Guy Called Gerald’s revolutionary album Black Secret Technology, where through splinters of drum n bass, an unknown Finely Quaye covers Marley’s Sun is Shining. But if you’d rather me example recognised tunes of singers who launched a career from featuring on a dance tune, from Seal to Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and renowned artists who regenerated theirs, like the day William Orbit got a call from the queen of pop, here’s two local artists collaborating for each other’s good, rather than one tossed a rope to the other.

I wanted to probe the mind of producer Tone, about this concept, as what he’s got here is something very marketable, as opposed to something which would only appease the drum n bass fans. I asked him if this was the intention with this tune, yet I didn’t want him getting the wrong idea; I meant this in the best possible way. Even if, Bohemian Rhapsody, for example, is timeworn and cliché, it’s popular because it’s a bloody amazing song. Pop doesn’t necessarily have to be a sell-out, cast yourself away from Stock, Aitken Waterman.

“You’re definitely right about this particular track sounding more marketable and commercial than your everyday underground D&B piece,” he expressed. “I had no intention of making it sound acceptable to the masses but I’m glad it is like that. I think more people should be able to enjoy drum and bass for all different backgrounds. I’m not really trying to make what everyone wants; I just make what I like the sound of, and quite often or not it’s easy on the ear for everyone.”

I wanted gage the story behind this belter. “When we worked on this piece,” Tone replied, “I started out making the entire track without having any intention of putting vocals on to it. I sent it over to Josh (Cutsmith) and he said he’d love to do something over it, which is when we started recording. It turned out really well even though throughout the production I didn’t think I’d be making anything that sounds like this. My roots are actually firmly with the rave scene and I absolutely love sub-heavy underground vibes.”

Is this a debut single from Sub Rat, I asked him. “This is the first free release off of our label, SubRat Records, by myself, Tone. In a hope to bring people in and start a fan-base.” So, does Tone consider himself a DJ and producer? “I’m based in Devizes and solely a producer right now. I haven’t DJ’d for a long while. I produce a lot of drum and bass, but often step into other genres like Hip-hop, dubstep, grime, modern rap and more commercial stuff etc.”

If our local music scene is blossoming, it can be limiting regarding genres, so I welcome this with open arms. To assume such genres are generally confined to a municipal environment you’d be mistaken. Prior to our chat delving into rave memories, as the typecast urban raver always excluded the rural counterparts since day dot, I tried to keep current and ask Tone if future releases will follow a similar pattern, and where he saw SubRat heading.

“Aside from my solo journey I take pride being in the background for vocalists/rappers and providing the music/instrumentals for them,” he explained, “I want to see people succeed off of my tunes!” I hope so, this is promising and like to see other local singers benefit from an electronic dance music makeover, and if so, judging by this excellent tune, through SubRat, drum n bass is the key component.


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April Warming with Asa Murphy as Buddy Holly

The Corn Exchange, Devizes most prestigious and largest venue, sets to rock n roll on April 6th when Asa Murphy and gang brings his hit Liverpool show, Buddy Holly Lives to town.

Posting a rehearsal video on Facebook this week proved a plan, it sounds marvellous. Asa also made an appearance at Devizes Books last week. Yet, the weekend may not have been the most carefully selected, the popular Long Street Blues Club hosts the Billy Walton Band, while The Melksham Rock n Roll Club are bound to pull a crowd for the Hurricanes, all on the same night. With rock n rollers spoiled it’s just to express why Buddy Holly Lives is my personal choice for the most unmissable event this April, hopeful to reach to an audience beyond rock n roll aficionados, and I base it upon the simple fact Buddy’s music was such it transcends its genre.

Timeless performers of Buddy’s level of talent and prolific drive come around one in a generation, if we’re lucky. Above all of their peers, Buddy Holly and the Crickets were the experimentalists, the pioneers who avoided rock n roll crashing out of fashion with their diverseness in musical formats. The unpretentious, simplest formulas are the backbone of every pop classic, take the ease which Buddy mastered this notion in a tune like “It’s Raining in my Heart,” or “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.”

 
But if we are to strip down a song for analysis, take “Everyday” as a prime example of what I’m attempting to get at. An out of studio rehearsal of the song, where without drums Jerry Allison tapped the rhythm with his hands on his thighs, it is Buddy’s immediate eureka moment to keep it as that, rather than use drums which represents the genius in simplicity which the Beatles borrowed, the same cognitive creative virtuoso producers like Quincy Jones, Lee Scratch Perry, Giorgio Moroder, or William Orbit would adopt to make a song into a hit, in their respective eras.

 

Do you see where I’m coming from? It is why I’d recommend any contemporary aspiring musician to take heed of Buddy’s catalogue, and also why I’d advise, if there’s one show this month you need to be at locally, it’s this homage to the utmost pioneer of pop, aside being a fan rock n roll, or not.

 
This is without the added detail it’s a celebration of the life of Bruce Hopkins, who through his music raised substantial amounts for Cancer Research, a donation will be made to charity, and Asa’s professionalism and dynamic charisma. Bought to together with Buddy’s music, with narrative, I’m not only looking forward to this, but dragging my mum halfway across the country to come see it! As a Buddy fan since early teenage, she will be a far harsher critic than me, Asa!

 
Tickets are £20, available now from Devizes Books.

 

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Don’t throw your love away.

Sixties Mod group The Searchers are really at the Melksham Assembly Hall on Thursday. Up there with Merseybeat greats, The Beatles and Gerry & The Pacemakers, pop wouldn’t be the same without them.

With only one original band member, John Mcnally and Frank Allen who joined the band in 1964, they’ll still put on a great, memorable show.

 

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The Original Searchers in 1963

 

Okay, we’re talking about total record sales well in excess of 50 million here, in their heyday their immaculate pop style was sensational. The Searchers still have great appeal today to young and old.

Tickets £21 from Melksham Assembly Hall (01225 709887) and online: www.ticketsource.co.uk/date/389779