BANKS

Melancholic R&B singer, BANKS has been on everyone’s radar lately, including Noisey and VICE magazine’s music channel. The L.A singer recently released her new EP ‘London’, which is now ready for purchase and features production from Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs.

A number of BANKS’ songs are about are about expressing a lot using the fewest amount of elements necessary. This is further enhanced by the music video for her excellent single ‘Waiting Game’, featuring gloomy black and white images. The grainy atmosphere matches BANKS’s smoky yet high-pitched voice perfectly, on a modern take of R&B, anchoring her in the same genre and plasticity as AlunaGeorge, Twigs and SZA. Longing glances, snow and an extremely sensuous voice are the recipe to this Christmas’ doomed night.

Continuing on her wave of successBANKS’ new album ‘London’ has also been named ‘Best of 2013’ by iTunes. The dark and glamorous singer toured with The Weeknd earlier this year on his ‘Kiss Land’ North American tour, even covering ‘What you need’ in a much more sensuous and warm way. Most of BANKS’ qualities lie here, in the fact that she manages to be warm and vibrant over gritty sounds, elevating the song to a new light where sensuality and melancholy shine through. My favourite song of the EP is undoubtedly ‘Bedroom Walls’, a sultry yet vibrant track with cascading chimes that hit all the right spots. The tune is haunting, even though BANKS’ vocals are soft.

Listen to ‘Bedroom Wall’ here

VIRGIL HOWE DJ

With his dark eyes, long hair and thick moustache and goatee, Virgil Howe is unmistakably the son of renowned guitarist Steve Howe (from Yes) and a child of the world of progressive rock. Immersed in his father’s world from a young age, it is only logical that he would start improvising some music notes on his Moog Synth at the age of 4. Today, after successively drumming for The Killer Meters, Little Barrie and Dirty Feel, Howe is based in London and is focusing on producing and releasing singles and mixtapes on Scenario Records – a major label in UK underground hip-hop music.

Browsing his Soundcloud, it is evident that his style has considerably changed in two years.  His latest work is more mature and it seems that he is gradually defining himself in a unique musical style.  His mixes are refreshingly new in a world where electro music essentially consists of adding a repetitive melody to vaguely sophisticated beats. The influence of different styles is very strong in his recent mixes, ranging from disco to electronic, through “bootyshakin” and “spacefunk”. He excels in taking songs that belong to a very specific genre of music and twisting them around to produce an entirely different sound. For example, Snoop Dogg’s, Drop It Like It’s Hot becomes Kiss It Like It’s Hot, as it is tastefully brightened up with lazy lounge beats and slow soul notes.

Virgil Howe has character and his music is reflective of that. His unusual focus on disco-funk and his massive use of unknown vocalists seem like bold moves in the ultra-competitive sphere of London music, but by giving personality to his songs certainly pays off. Ease Back Mama, Stolen Moments, Afroway: Howe is certainly successful in imposing rhythmic afro beats as his trademark and he says himself that he stands as “as spokesperson for the outer worlds”. Certainly his family background encouraged him to find a place in the world of music, but his increasing popularity can only be explained by the fact that his style is one step ahead.

To know more about him, you can check out his Soundcloud, follow him on Twitter or like his Facebook page!

CALLUM BEATTIE

Prepare your lighters: if you’re lucky enough to live in Edinburgh, you cannot miss another one of Callum Beattie’s performances, which are regularly organized in the heart of Old Town, at Malone’s Irish Bar. Be ready to succumb to the irresistible charisma of his Scottish accent as he will carry you away at the sound of his slightly melancholy music. And don’t wait too long before doing this, because one thing is certain; it will not be long before Beattie fills up larger concert halls and you lose the connection you definitely felt with him in the intimacy of a small Scottish pub.

Callum Beattie is an Edinburgh-based, incredibly talented composer and songwriter, who has already been spotted by influential music critics like Jamie Cullum (who described him as “a natural songwriter”), and is just starting to make a name for himself on the European indie music scene. Despite only being 24 years old, he has already made several appearances on British television and participated in hundreds of gigs over the UK and Europe. His collaboration with the Scottish music producer Al James started in 2011 and resulted in a very promising first album, This Time This Place, that was released in September 2012 and is downloadable on Itunes. Beyond any doubt, he is an up-and-coming talent that is clearly worth keeping a sharp eye on.

Strongly inspired by James Morrison, Oasis and David Gray, he excels in his own style, combining tranquil instrumentals with a magnetic voice. There are nostalgic aspects to his songs but they remain the kind of songs you can listen to in any situation, from doing your washing-up to cruising on a road-trip with friends. His music is balanced and harmonious, with sonorities that are at times indie and at times closer to alternative rock. As such he surely is a considerable asset for Scottish music – and the legitimate successor of Paolo Nutini. ‘Salamander Street’ is one of his finest and most impressive tunes, especially given that it was composed and written when he was 17 it will take you on a journey into the streets of Edinburgh through the touching story of a sad young woman; as Al James says himself to disliking Youtubers, “it’ll be a long time before you meet a 17 year old songwriter (…), who writes a song with the maturity of this lyric”. Youtuber: 0; Callum Beattie: 1.

To be informed of his latest gigs, tunes and other events, you can follow Callum Beattie on Twitter or on Facebook, but ideally come and see him live in Edinburgh at Malone’s or Studio 24!

The Half Earth

You could say it’s a cliché to sing about love, loss and relationships – that timeless, often derivative subject matter. The Half Earth gives the topic a whole new, irresistable bitterness.

Sheffied-based Conor Stephenson makes organic folk music, as his Gaia-like artist name might suggest. A recent Chemistry graduate, The Half Earth has swapped chemical equations for guitar chords and the lab for his recording studio bedroom. Listening to his music, it’s a good job he did.

Through his ethereal instrumental and torn lyrics, The Half Earth brings a stripped-back, bleeding dimension to folk music, drawing from Bon Iver and creating something novel altogether.

“Jimi Hendrix made me want to play guitar,” Conor told altblackpool. Growing up on a diet of Nirvana, Bjork, PJ Harvey and Radiohead, The Half Earth was born and bred in a musical household and owned a guitar from the age of eight. He plays his instrument with such raw tenderness, his melancholic vocals seeping between the strings, it is hard not to be touched by the emotive tones and pastel shades his tracks paint.

The Half Earth’s triumphs include ‘Fox’ and ‘Counting’ which, in addition to ‘Pale Water’ and ‘End’, make what is already an impressive repetoire for an artist in such early days.

Find The Half Earth on Facebook.

 

 

Toucans

His previous 2-piece band was called Horses. This time he’s gone for something with a bit more colour – and a beak. ‘Toucans’ is Sheffield-based Adam Humphrey’s latest project. Just as tropical as its name, the band makes kaleidoscopic lazy-day indie music.

What’s striking about Toucans is their dreamy vintage sound. If Toucans were a photograph they would be a series of lovely polaroid pictures: pleasing, intriguing and charmingly old-fashioned. It seems only appropriate that they record onto cassette – who’d have thought those still exist.

Toucans’ music is ideal for laid-back, easy-listening; the low-fi vocals create a dreamlike fog around the tracks that lulls and calms. Kings of low-tempo is, the band’s track ‘Welcome To Lovers House’ gently lilts through tambourine clicks and heavy guitar strums. The rocking weight echoes the likes of Neutral Milk Hotel with a low-fi coating on the vocals and a mysterious helium-fuelled humming that sails above it. On that same tip, ‘I Swear To God You Will See My Ghost’ brings together the weight of a plodding guitar riff with a cloudlike drift of misty vocals; they waltz together, moving in perfect harmony.

Picking up the pace, ‘Oh, Sordid Bones’ – which has more life than the name – is quirky and delightful with its neat guitar picking, warm muffled beating and that all important vintage vocal.

Between the  tropical rainforest name, the ripe and aged sound and the hypnotic dreaminess it’s hard to decide what appeals most about Toucans. What is sure is that Britain’s indie/folk scene has a bird-shaped space for this band. Check them out via their SoundCloud.

LUNA SILVA

School musicals. If you are one of my kind, they will evoke painful memories of endless rehearsals for two-line parts and overpriced tickets that the entire family insisted on getting to watch your timid and sole appearance on stage. For Luna Silva, on the other hand, the school play was a time of excitement, of frenetic activity, and probably of massive stress. Yes, Luna was ALWAYS in charge of the music for what was possibly the greatest event of the year at my school – and as we all saw her handle the extremely important responsibilities that this implied, we all knew that she was made for music. A few years later, our predictions seem to be confirmed: she has not let go of her ukulele, and, with a bindi on her forehead and a smile on her face, she composes and performs pieces of world music that accompany her through her various travels.

Despite her young age, Luna has clearly already found and worked on her musical style, which harmoniously mingles pop-folk notes with melodies that are specific to a particular culture. In “Rain”, for example, she sings in three different languages – French, English and Spanish –, simply sitting on the beach in Málaga with her inevitable ukulele and a red flower in her hair. Add to her very feminine and soothing voice, and I assure you: you will feel Spain (I swear). No need for autotune or synth (those probably make her blood boil): it is in a simple, authentic way that Luna’s work takes us on a journey.

Today, Luna is a student at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, where she participates in a variety of shows and events, all of which can be found on her Facebook page. She is currently recording an album and making new videos that should be released soon. In the meantime, if you’re feeling blue, you can check out her Youtube channel – instant inner peace guaranteed.

The Harley Venue, Sheffield

Described as a “fun loving, hip-shaking home of legendary live music and innovative club nights”, The Harley venue in Sheffield is guaranteed to give you a night you won’t forget (or remember, as the case may be!).  Having celebrated its 10th birthday in October 2013, The Harley is something of an institution in the city, with lots of amazing musical acts having played there, from The xx and the Arctic Monkeys, to AlunaGeorge and The Vaccines.

As well as continuing to promote weekly shows at The Harley, its live music producers Harley Live  have gone on to create and run the nationally-acclaimed music festival Tramlines, whose alumni include WeAreScientists, Alt-J and hundreds more.  Hosting takeovers at various Sheffield venues, including working men’s club Queen Social Club and the Gothic Cathedral; each venue creates a new, surprising atmosphere, ensuring a memorable night!

Whilst live music is The Harley’s lifeblood, it also plays host to an eclectic mix of club nights, drawing in hundreds of students.  Dubcentral, Thirsty Ear and Club Pony are amongst some of the nights; with the music played ranging from dubstep to reggae and techno, guaranteeing everyone’s music tastes will be satisfied.

During the day, The Harley is home to the award-winning Twisted Burger Company – arguably the best burgers in Sheffield! – with an ever-changing menu that keeps fans coming back for more and more.  And as if that wasn’t enough, if you find you literally can’t keep yourself away from The Harley, they offer a 22-room hotel above the bar for you to crash after an amazing night.

If you love live music and happen to be in Sheffield on Saturday 1 February, then I suggest you get yourself down to The Harley, where up-and-coming band Algiers will be performing, promoting their new album You’re The Captain.  Trust me; it’s going to be great!

For more information, and to check out up-and-coming acts, head over to The Harley’s Facebook page.

 

That’s Juvey?

Between utilising a Bugsy Malone hook and featuring the lazy cuisine of cold beans on toast in his videos, That’s Juvey? is an artist willing to use humour to get his serious message across.

Indeed, one of the most intriguing things about the young Ellesmere Port-born rapper is the snarling understanding of the industry that runs through his tracks. That is to say that for someone so young, That’s Juvey? (real name Kyle Owen) recognises that the music industry is a contrived and dangerous place: one he dissects and raps about with precise slices of spitting sarcasm. Speaking to him, he declared that he had “incorporated the idea of being the underdog in a competitive scouse scene into my music.”

He is part of a burgeoning scene of rappers who use the internet and YouTube channels to air their beats and bars. Channels such as UKUS and his own channel Little Raskal TV (based in Little Sutton and Ellesmere Port) co-ran with Blu Beatz are important mediums and representative of a changing industry.

On one such channel, the increasingly influential Lab TV, he successfully analyses the temptation to slip into a commercial coma “Downing beer, wearing chinos, rapping ‘bout my massive ego” before intricately outlining what might be considered his manifesto: “I am just me” – and this “me” is someone whose environment bleeds into his creative output.

This is music built on a foundation of Mersey-wit and grey boredom “They say we’re free but where we’re living makes it hard to succeed” and the two, wit and boredom; intertwine smartly in a series of shrewd tracks that fuse retro samples and modern concerns into an exciting sound, rooted in a rich heritage of influences. He commented “I value intricate patterns, complex rhyme schemes and originality as essentially important components of a good piece and thus artists such as Ghetts, Fliptrix, Jam Baxter, Big L, Big Pun, Rhyme Asylum were definitely people I looked up to.”

Interestingly, another influence on his sound came from stations on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – a particularly current way of discovering music, and another sign of the contemporaneity of his lyricism. Morrissey got his inspiration from Oscar Wilde, That’s Juvey? finds it in video games.

Twitter, the horse scandal, Britain’s Got Talent and hipsters are referenced in rhymes that twist and turn in quick seconds and though the temptation is to dump every young British rapper into an invented lump of hooded thugs, there is a deft intelligence in That’s Juvey?’s lyrics reminiscent of an ‘Original Pirate Material’ Mike Skinner.

If Skinner was The Streets then That’s Juvey? might well be considered The Street Corner, a place where humour and heartbreak collides on cold evenings in crumbling British towns.

We should gather round and listen.

THE HICS

I belong to that category of people who get absolutely irascible when someone puts on music when they need to focus; little did I know that this major personality aspect would be changed forever when I stumbled upon The Hics’ SoundCloud. And so, it is gently lulled by the soothing voice of Roxana Dayette that I am currently writing a review about this very promising sextet that is bursting with talent and that is just starting to be recognized among the British underground scene.

Sam Paul Evans (vocals), Jacob Welsh (drums), Geordon Reid-Campbell (guitar), Matt Knox (bass), David Turay (saxophone) and Roxana Dayette (vocals), aged 17 to 24, almost all met at Pimlico School in London, where the band was formed and named after hickory (the wood drumsticks are made of). The Hics was at first a two-piece band and as it gradually grew into a six-piece, it was successful in imposing a rare and unique style that is not easy to define. Instrumentation-wise, their work is light and aerial, with gentle beats that subtly enhance the suavity of their slow melodies. To a sophisticated bass backdrop, Turay’s saxophone does the trick and sets the jazzy tone that is the trademark for the band. The Hics define their style as “electronic swing” but clearly their music is shaped by a variety of influences and rather goes into different styles, ranging from indie to jazz, with a touch of soul and even mild dubstep.

But what probably makes The Hics so distinctive is their vocals: Sam’s deep, masculine voice mingles with Roxana’s slightly melancholic but very sensual voice, which provides some gorgeous harmonies that fit in perfectly in the musical pieces. Lyrics follow on in the same vein as well, with a strong emphasis on fading and dissolution in Tangle, or a lament about a non-reciprocal love in Cold Air. One word to describe their work? It would probably be smooth.

The Hics therefore fit exactly in contemporary musical trends and their work is becoming increasingly popular. They released their first album last August, which you can download on Itunes and featured on the soundtrack of Grand Theft Auto 5. For more info, you can visit their official website, or follow them on Twitter or SoundCloud.

Stephen Eyre

Glittering, charismatic and ever affable: aspiring singer-songwriter and producer Stephen Eyre springs from the buzzing London suburbia as a shining vision of our contemporary English zeitgeist. Much like his own multicultural background, the Essex-born musician dips his fingers in eclectic genres, from pop to Kraftwerk-esque electro to ethnic.

Eyre is, however, more than just a simple musician: currently studying BA Fine Art at UAL, he brings a vivacious body of performance work to the table that accompanies alternating soft and jazzy synths. Subtle exotic notes throb in the backdrop of his tracks like the faint after-note of a perfume – what Stephen calls an “oriental kind of sound”, acquired through the frequent use of pentatonic scales.

In his most accomplished track to date, Electric Girl, muffled drumbeats accompany a twirling, fluted melody that melts around Eyre’s deep, throbbing vocals. We are transported to a more romantic era and yet, simultaneously, a techno-futuristic dimension. The track is a juxtaposition, an oxymoron, a beautiful contradiction and portmanteau of universal sounds.

Something old, something new, something borrowed. The lingering feeling one receives is one of an upbeat, tender nostalgia, like hazy disco lights pulsing in a small jazz club located somewhere in a grungy basement (where all the cool art kids go at night).

Sitting in our art studio, Stephen answers a few of my questions about his influences and ambitions for the future:

 1.    How would you describe your music?

Oooh, that’s difficult! I focus on the instruments. I’d describe my music as alternative but with a pop sensibility – a pop structure, blending different sounds into a pastiche of different styles and hopefully creating my own genre. Basically an eclectic mix of styles blended into a hodgepodge of lush instrumentation with big synth influences.

2.    Name three of your favourite musicians.

Kate Bush, David Bowie, MGMT.

3.    What kind of music are you working on right now?

I’m really getting into live work at the moment. Last month I had my first gig, my second gig is coming up very soon. And I’m currently collaborating on a project with Michael Oliviere AKA Bubbles, songwriter for Jennifer Lopez, Eminem and Gwen Stefani. But I can’t say too much about that yet!

 4.    Do you think you bring your art degree/education into your music?

I think my study of art definitely affects the visual presentation of my music, but not the music itself. Contemporary art can tend to be quite intellectual and about ideas, whereas the music I make tends to be intuitive and emotional. I do think that music has a lot of unconscious cultural connotations, however.

5.    If you could give any advice to someone starting out writing and producing their own music, what would you say? 

Hmm, I think it is important to find creative ways around a problem or something that’s holding you back. I think you have to take a look at yourself as an artist and ask yourself if this is an artist you would really like to listen to or see!

Intrigued? Follow and hear more of Stephen’s lush music on his soundcloud, or treat yourself to a live performance at his next gig this Friday at White Rabbit.

 

 

Ady Suleiman

The Replay and Rob Da Bank stage returned to this year’s Bestival on the Isle of Wight and saw a number of emerging musical talents onstage over the weekend, from the likes of Sam Smith, Ghostpoet and Nina Nesbitt. One of the most exciting new artists I saw there on the final night was soul singer/songwriter Ady Suleiman from Nottingham, a city building a great reputation for producing artists that inject a bit of Midlands grittiness into the popular music scene (see other recent exports Jake Bugg and Dog is Dead). He has been featured on Radio 1Extra and also played at Glastonbury in the summer of 2013.

The festival organisers gave a glowing report of Suleiman, professing to festival-goers that ‘if you only get to check out one new act at this year’s festival, make sure it’s this young man’. He certainly didn’t disappoint: with just an acoustic backing and his own soul-cum-reggae vocals, Suleiman successfully created a chilled ambience in the tent and his music was incredibly easy to listen and dance to. Interestingly, this was juxtaposed with some incredibly uncompromising lyrics, for example in State of Mind, a song which challenges prevailing religious and political ideologies, where Suleiman lends us a healthy dose of scepticism regarding the structures by which we live our lives. However, although this may sound like an angsty and rattling subject matter, Suleiman has successfully struck a balance between social commentary and musical storytelling through his reassuring vocal tonality, which has an endearing overall effect.

In a time where intelligent song writing has become secondary to producing club-friendly and frankly annoying electro-pop music, it’s encouraging that there are artists like Ady Suleiman who are willing to take issues like disillusionment, depression and disappointment and come up with a refreshingly soulful and sensitive musical means of expressing them. Britain has not produced many soul singers, but Suleiman is paving the way for an exciting new arena of musical talent from this country.

Find out more on Facebook, Twitter and Sound Cloud and here’s a personal favourite of mine: Need Somebody To Love

GLTI.CH Karaoke

To mesh music, performance and collaborative participation is no easy task, yet it’s what artists/writers/wannabe hackers Kyougn Kmi and Daniel Rourke (who’s currently completing his PhD in art and writing practice at Goldsmiths) set out to do in GLTI.CH Karaoke. Most of us have half-baked childhood fantasies about becoming rock stars that we live out in our showers to an imaginary audience. The fundamental human desire to make lyrical noise and its power as an intimate social experience is, perhaps, best seen in the karaoke social phenomenon, which originated in Japan in the 1970s.

The word karaoke originates from the Japanese character kara or “empty” and ōkesutora for “orchestra”. Strangely poetic: empty orchestra. Karaoke’s pop-culture existence feeds on and is inseparable from technology: a dark, faux-luxurious room and microphones connected to the mother womb of the TV screen, which flashes music videos and proclaims lyrics across its face as we belt out songs (badly), sycophants of desire. Why do we do it? Maybe because singing is a cathartic experience, or because it gives us access to our deepest fantasies.

GLTI.CH Karaoke takes this one step further. Their website, Glti.ch (in itself a whimsical play on words), sets out an unofficial manifesto for their intentions:

“Since April 2011 we’ve been exposing the course of accidents, temporal lyrical disjoints and technical out-of syncs. GLTI.CH Karaoke breaches hopeless distances with cultural and technical make-dos of readily available technology, to kluge people together in glitchy songfests.”

Their ultimate aim?

“To bring people together and have them collaborate on karaoke duets. […] Using free versions of Skype, Youtube and collaborative web software TinyChat, we orchestrate duets between people who have never met each other, who don’t speak the same language, bypassing thousands of geographic miles with glitchy, highly compressed data and a bit of patience.”

There’s something altogether wonderful and utopian about the idea of singing together with strangers across the Internet, our voices traveling through electric wires and pixelated through the winds of the earth. Our imperfection is moving, our technological and organic errors a fundamental part of what it means to be homo sapien. Thus, the glitch or “glti.ch”, either aesthetic glitches or broken translation in the filtered collaboration between people, represents our contemporary human condition.

GLTI.CH quotes Iman Moradi, “In a sense we are cherishing the little idiosyncrasies that are absent from the soulless machines churned from the production lines.”

We can read this as a simultaneous celebration of and reaction to the glistening Internet, which brings us together virtually but also limits our interaction with each other in RL. Is this a bad thing? What is GLTI.CH Karaoke, really? Its medium revolves around the Web and site-based events; its outcome encompasses social media platforms, blogs and video compilations. Perhaps what the project ultimately aims to achieve is to forge a new way of seeing, evoking a new simulative way of collaboration with other people in a brave new world.

“GLTI.CH Karaoke not only inhabits the errors, the time delays and compression artifacts, but the ultimate variable of human interaction. Here, we believe, a neutral collaborative space can be mapped out, free to transcend markets, locations, time zones – free to roam between abandoned city basements, student bed sits and internet café laptops. GLTI.CH Karaoke events revel in the slippery nature of the web. Our manifesto asks to be written and rewritten as it gathers cracks, bruises and mistranslation errors.”

Enchanted yet? Read through GLTI.CH Karaoke’s previous events and keep a look out for its next virtual intervention on their website, flickr, twitter, facebook and youtube. Let us know what you think of glitch aesthetics in the comments below.