29 October 2015

Tellison - Hope Fading Nightly

This is an album I have been looking forward to reviewing - a few months back, I reviewed a compilation album called 'You Heard It Here First! Rock Vol 1' (Cleverly linked here) which was put together by AmazingRecordCo, which is also part of Amazing Radio.  It put together the current cream of the crop of the UK rock/metal scene in one of the best compo's I had heard for a long time, with the track from Tellison being the best of the best.  After "Tact Is Dead" was named my top track of 'You Heard It.....', I made decision that I also wanted to check out this album; so here we are with the release of 'Hope Fading Nightly'.  Hailing from Bethnal Green, East London, UK, Tellison comprise of Henry Danowski, Stephen Davidson, Peter Phillips & Andrew Tickell and have been together since 2003.  This album is their third studio album which has been released on Alcopop records, they have also been making a few waves with reviews in the Independent, Drowned in Sound and Clash Music (to name a few).  I have checked out a few of their previous singles and I really enjoyed them as well, so I have high hopes for this album.

Starting the album is "Letter to the Team - Another Imperfect Season" starts the record with an acoustic musing gives this album a gentle opening.  It sounds like a resignation is being changed into song in front of the audience; it is a sad lament which automatically grabs your attention with its reflective look at past glories, meaning Keanu Reeves and a sense of regret.  It is over quite quickly as well, but it is a song that I have returned to over and over again.  "Helix & Ferman" is all about the twenty fifth year of someone who is only known for getting drunk and inside the person feels lonely and empty.  It is a great indie rock song that has a classic riff that should be able to get an audience bouncing and to make someone listening to this on their house feel reflective and dig deeper into the lyrics.  It has been bouncing around my head for weeks, the bass line is so addictive and I keep repeating it.  "Boy" is the third song on the album, it is also the second song which was released as a single from this album; it is a song about realising that someone has actually made you grow up and you were a child when you first met them.  There is a hint of violence to the song as well (either metaphorical or real - I am not too sure), there is a huge sense of regret and also a bit of acceptance as well.  It is another strong song that has also been going around my head (together with an awful lot of this album - this could turn into a bit of a love letter).  The fourth track is called "Wrecker" and this album keeps getting better as it goes on, on this stomping tune we have a confession about being a self-destructive personality and apologising for their self-destructive tendencies that they know will cause them (and others) problems in the future.  I know the subject matter is not happy, but the song itself is one that makes me smile and sing along.  It is a great number that keeps this album on the right path and shows that "Tact Is Dead" was not a fluke.

"Rookie of the Year" is a lament about failing to live up to earlier promises, bitterness at one's situation and relishing the fact that others will also not reach the dizzy heights that had at one time seemed like a God given right.  It is a slow number that gives more and more with each listen, the ending of the song is one of the best hooks of the record and gives this song that edge for me over the rest of the record - the more I listen to this song, the more I am convinced it is the track of the album.  It is an outstanding song, truly wonderful.  The next song is called "Detective" and it is a song where the singer muses about being a criminal investigator and how his life would be much better as he would not have to take his current situation on his back.  It is a massive song that has a big hook of a chorus, it is cut from the same cloth as "Wrecker" was taken from, it sounds like is an anthem in waiting and it really appeals to this listener.  Another class song that makes me wonder why I have not heard this band before this year…..  “Tact Is Dead” is next and my opinion on this song has not changed, it is a great alternative rock number that has a harder edge than some of the other songs on this record.  It was the first song to be released as a single on this record, it is an obvious choice of a single and it sounds just as epic now as the first time I heard it.   “Orion” is another song which is questioning relationships, if they are going to work, feeling empty inside and taking a risk on kissing a friend.  As an alternative love song, it works so well and gives you an insight to how love can sometimes be incredible hard on people when it comes to trust and being in a position that you can trust yourself (or others) in a relationship.  Sometimes you are not with people for a reason, this song is a good example of that and it is also another brilliant song – so far, not one foot wrong.

“Mendokusai” follows the similar pattern for a lot of this album, it is high on emotion and there is a tone of resignation to the song.  You have a certain degree of failure to the song and a loss that is not going to be ignored.  It is a good song which is sadly surrounded by such gems that it is the track on the album which does not shine as much as it’s brethren, however it is still a song that I love to listen to – when the weakest track on the album is a good track, this is a very positive sign in my books.  “Hellhole” is actually a very uplifting song once you get below the surface, on the face of it there is a lot of self-loathing and regret – but when you dig a little deeper, you hear companionship and trust building up.  It sounds as if hope is being found and there is a light descending onto the record, giving that smallest chance that somethings might actually work out.  All the while this is going on in the lyrics, the music is transforming in front of you into something that sinks in a little deeper after each listen.  If it was not for “Rookie of the Year”, this would have been the track of the album – it is still a brilliant song.  The penultimate song is called “My Marengo” which deals with the aftermath of saying good bye to a friend or loved one who has passed on by their own hands, together with everything that it can bring to life in your own life.  It is a tragic and angry song, I think this is far to say as it is dealing with conflicting emotions that do circulate in these events.  The song is another well-crafted number and it can be hard to hear in place, but it is so on the button that it hurts for all the right reasons.  Ending the album is “Tsundoku” and this deals with the world of adverts and the world we actually live in; you are told you will be happy if you work really hard, but we all know that is not always the case.  It is a song that sounds so unsatisfied with their lot and they are not going to stop until everything is changed and they reach a goal.  It is a great ending song, bringing this album to a beautiful conclusion.

This is basically one of my favourite albums on 2015, it is up there with the Sleaford Mods, FFS, The Armed, Kendrick Lemar and others; for all of this album, not one foot is put wrong and the band sound as if they have made an album that needs, nay it demands further listens.  It is a great indie rock record, something that sound familiar straight away and also totally refreshing in this world of Little Mix, One Direction and other creatures from Dr Cowell.  What this album is doing for me is taking the emotions of these men, pinning it down whilst they dissect, exam it, trying to understand it and then showing it to the world.  It is a bruised record and not one to listen to if you are on the edge, or maybe it is as it can show you that you are not alone.  I do hope that if you read this you at least check the album out, it really is worth the effort and will not disappoint.

10 out of ten – This is proof that there is a God (and he is a bit upset at the moment)

Top track - Rookie of the Year

You can purchase Hope Fading Nightly from Amazon here

You can visit the Tellison website here

You can visit the Tellison Bandcamp page here, where you can purchase Hope Fading Nightly (and all their other releases as well)

You can follow the activities of Tellison on Facebook

You can stream Hope Fading Nightly on Spotify here

You can stream Hope Fading Nightly on Deezer here

You can stream Hope Fading Nightly on Tidal here

27 October 2015

Ghostpoet - Shedding Skin

Here is my next review in our series of reviews for the 2015 Mercury Music Prize; for this review I will be looking at the third album by Obaro Ejimiwe (aka Ghostpoet).  This is the second time that he has been on the short list to win this award - his first album 'Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam' was nominated in 2011, but lost out to the all-conquering 'Let England Shake' by PJ Harvey.  Ghostpoet is obviously a name I have heard before, but not an artist I have really had a chance or a burning desire to check out.  The style of trip-hop and alternative hip-hop are styles that I really have to be in the mood to invest in and check new works out, otherwise I will switch off and that is a little disrespectful to the artists involved if I do that.  This time, my hand is being forced and I am checking something out when I might not be fair - but that is for consideration later.  With each release, Ghostpoet has been released to higher acclaim and his audience is growing; also that cover it very interesting with its purse silver and blistering purple metal chemical reaction is certainly eye-catching - so is the music as attention grabbing.

Starting the album is "Off Peak Dream" which begins with a charming female voice as a piano plays whilst the rest of the band are getting themselves together.  When the band come together, it is a trip hop dream that reminds me of early Roots Manuva with a relaxed style to the vocals.  The song has a brilliant hook that states that Ghostpoet he is ready for something and the verses have various musing about the world and how it goes.  It is very interesting and reminds me of a band called 50 Yard Beat Experiment that I saw many moons ago, I loved that band and this song certainly wets the palette for this listener.  The second song is called "X Marks the Spot" which features Nadine Shah who is a singer from Whitburn, South Tyneside, this is the first of two tracks which she appears on.  The song in places have a resemblance to "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics (mostly the bass line in brief passages), it is a song which speaks of betrayal and loss with a dark passage of music.  It is another song that peaks my interest with its minimal styling and laid back delivery from Ghostpoet.  You have a really good hook once more in this song, it does stick with you for a long time after the song stops and that is a good sign that this song has sticking power.  The third track is "Be Right Back, Moving House" which features the talents of Paul Smith (vocalist with Maxïmo Park).  I think that it is safe to call this song spars, you do not have a lot of instrumentation in the song and there is not too many layers to the music in that respect; but it has an emotional level that does not need too much music to support it. It is a soul searching number as someone is trying to understand what is happening as a relationship has ended and the pieces need to be placed back together - it is a beautiful number to this stark and spars record.

The fourth track is the title track of the record "Shedding Skin" and features Mélanie De Biasio on vocals with Ghostpoet.  By this point you are used to the minimal instrumentation of the album, it is very relaxing and the lyrics about being not being known are very good once again.  I think that at this point you will have probably made your mind up about this album as it shares a similar style to the last three song of the records.  Always good to have some continuity, but a hint of variation would not have gone a miss either?  As if he senses this himself, "Yes, I Helped You Pack" brings a bit of energy to the album, but without adding more layers to the music.  The drums have been unleashed as have the synths here, everything has a been given a bit more which gives this song an edge  Even the guest vocalist (Etta Bond) has more to do here that other artists on this record.  A song about a relationship hitting rock bottom and the inevitable separation is a great song, it shows that there is more than one shade to this album which was really needed at this point.  The second track to feature Nadine Shah "That Ring down the Drain Kind of Feeling" is very depressing, I mean it sounds like Portishead when they were at their most miserable.....and then it starts to rain harder.  I have not heard anything this dark in terms of trip-hop for an awfully long time and whilst it may be as happy as those dark and woeful times in people's lives when it turns to shit, the song itself is one of the best on this album.  You are not going to come out of it with a smile on your face, but it is still a great song.

"Sorry My Love, it’s You Not Me" is the last song to feature a guest vocalist - this time it is Lucy Rose who has also performed with Manic Street Preachers and Bombay Bicycle Club.  It has a bit more energy to this song once again than was apparent in earlier numbers on the album, but it is used just as prudently as has been apparent of the record.  When one instrument starts to come to the forefront, others seem to vanish and Ghostpoet is all dominate to the song as has been the case for all of this album and the guests are used only very briefly.  Much like "Yes, I Helped You Pack" you have an up-tempo number for this album, but it is still delivered with the same laid back vocal style that has been the calling card of this album with this song of a failed romance going to the wall.   "Better Not Butter" is another song where the instrumentation is given more prominence than earlier on in the album, it is a song about wanting more in the world that seems to be passing us all by.  It is another song where the aggression is turned up once more and it feels like there is more anger behind this song than in previous numbers - but whilst a change is welcome, it is also a little late as well.  The penultimate song is called "The Pleasure in Pleather" and is strips everything back to the bones again, the song is about being out of control and everything is heading towards a messy end.  As the song goes on it starts to has a lot more in common with "Better Not Butter" as the band start to kick in with a lot more noise, however it is starting to drain on the record as it heads into the ending track.  "Nothing In the Way" ends the album, with a keyboard intro and the song is about getting back up after falling down.  It is a noble sentiment, back at the minimal end of Ghostpoet’s sound; however it is almost a relief that we are here as the last strings fade and the album reaches its conclusion.

I think it is fair to say that I have a few issues with this album and that it is not one that I will be returning to soon - one of the first thing that hinders this album is the similarity between numbers, there is very little to distinguish between some of the songs. By the time we reach the end of the album, it has just drifted too far in the wrong direction that it takes away from the good work which was done at the beginning of the album as I was really impressed by a few of the numbers. Another is that the guests on this record are used as sparingly as the instrumentation - if they were not there, I am not too sure if it would have made much of a difference in places and sometimes they are so far in the background that they might as well not have been there is the first place.  When sixty percent of your album have a guest and some of those performances are not memorable, then you have a problem.  In places this record really does connect with me, in places I felt it was working against itself and the audience in a way which was destructive to the outcome of the record.  It started off strong, but it sunk under the waves by the end of the album which is a real shame.  If this is your deal, more power for ya - I wish it was but it does not do anything for me and even if I was in the mood for this genre of music, it is not an album I would reach for and that is being fair.

5.5 out of ten - It could have been a bit better

Top track - That Ring down the Drain Kind of Feeling

You can purchase Shedding Skin on Amazon here

You can visit the Ghostpoet website here

You can follow Ghostpoet activities on Facebook here

You can stream Shedding Skin on Spotify here 

You can stream Shedding Skin on Deezer here 

You can stream Shedding Skin on Tidal here

Sylvaine - Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart

I love it when musicians go out on their own and follow their unique path – when an act is able to forge ahead with their own vision in the way that acts like Omni Dimensional have done is something that I truly respect.  It is something that puts people like me to shame in so many ways, the creativity that goes into it is really awe-inspiring.  Recently I have been contacted by another one person project called Sylvaine who is a Norwegian lady currently based in Paris, according to her website she decided to start this project to express the feelings and emotions that she felt within herself.  This album is recorded and produced by Sylvaine herself with only mixing help from Nick Terry and mastering from Ray Staff.  That is a lot of control right there, you know this is going to be a very personal project from the beginning and there is obviously a lot of self-belief with is the drive behind the album.  With a lot of self-promotion, she is getting the band noticed and it is really paying off - she has toured in South America in 2014 with Alcest, she is getting a live band together so her music can be performed in the way it has been recorded, Sylvaine has also recently signed for Season of Mist who will be releasing her second album in 2016 and that is a label which always has something interesting going on.  It is paying off for Sylvaine and it shows what a lot of hard work can do, so it is time to find out what her music is all about.

Starting the album is the instrumental "Sylvaine" and it is an atmospheric track which brings to mind the atmosphere of being alone in the woods at night and the terrors that the mind can bring into focus.  It is something that has been used to great effect with other acts and it has been done here for "Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart".  Following on is "It Rains in My Heart" which is sung in both French and English, it is a song that seems to be about the empty feeling when someone withdrawal from your presence and you are left to pick up the pieces.  It is a slow paced number which builds up on a simple riff and strong keyboards.  It has a folk/medieval lament to the tune as well and I am not sure how, but some of the chord sequence reminds me of the pacing of songs such as "Ah Robin, Gentle Robin" and "Adieu To Old England" but with an added sense of drama and (obviously) more guitars.  It is slow, emotional and not without charm and passion, you can sense that a lot of time has went into this song.  Next is the title song of the album "Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart" which starts with the strumming of an acoustic guitar and it builds slowly but surely up further and further as the emotions and instruments are added to each other, this is done to support the lyrics which are open to interpretation but for me seem to be about keeping a calm exterior whilst everything inside is falling apart under the weight of the world.  It is a six minute plus song, it takes its time to reach its chorus and then it builds up one again; I really appreciate the way this song ebbs and flows, I enjoy it when songs take their time to grown and it is well worth giving time for this one to reach its peak.

The fourth track is called "TOCKA" and this song is all about being stuck behind in a metaphorical building of your mind, whilst the world passes by and you need to be saved.  Musically the tempo is raised and it has an indie rock tone to the song that reminded me in places of Radiohead if they went a little metal.  For what it is, it is well performed but it feels out of place on the record and does not help the record which is a shame.  "Bien Loin D'ici" (which is French for "Though far From Here") is another song about being separated from the world and reaching to other places to feel at home and safe.  This does a much better job than "TOCKA" for picking up the pace of the album, it is mid-paced and mixes the atmospheric elements of Sylvaine with a melancholy musical progression that sounds fragile in places, but the song itself is built on solid and strong foundations.  It is one of the strongest songs for me on this release and it is followed on by "The Biggest Loss of All" which combines the folk, shoegazing and atmospheric elements of Sylvaine's sound.  A song about the loss of innocence and the aftermath of dealing with the removal of one's former self to the world, "The Biggest Loss of All" can hardly be described as a happy, go lucky number that is uplifting and making the world a brighter place.  But that is not the purpose of the song - no, it is meant to be a reflective and thought provoking piece to show the world how Sylvaine is feeling inside and to hopefully show some people who are feeling the same elsewhere in this world that they are not alone in some ways and that there is other people who are experiencing the same emotional turmoil; It is a beautiful number which showcases the best qualities of Sylvaine.

The seventh song of the album is called "Dysphoria" and it was the first song to be released off the album on January 2014 - dysphoria is a word that means a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life; it is something that is linked to feeling of anxiety and depression.  The music is apprehensive and unease, with the use of minor keys made to give the audience a sense of what is going on behind the words of the song.  I can see why it was released as the first song off the album, but I feel there are better song off the album such as "Bien Loin D'ici" & "Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart".  However, this song is more immediate in its delivery so it was the obvious choice of lead single.  Next is the instrumental "Seraphim" with mixes vocals and light percussions, it is very brief and acts as a brief interlude before "I Drink In Every Sob Like Wine" which crashes over the audience like a dark nightmare.  It is actually a beautiful song which once again is high on misery, but it is also enchanting and full of harsh contrasts of light and dark that giving it the edge over the other top tracks of the album - it is the best on offer here and I would recommend that anyone who like atmospheric/shoegazing metal to check it out. Now "I Drink...." is the last song according to the Bandcamp page, but on the Sylvaine website there is another song called "A Laugh in a Sea of Sorrow" which actually ends the album on a very high mark.  It is how I imagine All about Eve would have sounded if they listened to more metal.  It is a fast paced ending to this record which is sort of out of place to some of the other songs, but it is still a great song that adds another dimension to this artist.

Ok I will say this from the beginning as I think that people who do this sort of project need to have honest reviews from people like me - this is not something I would have normally listen to, but I am glad that Sylvaine have got in touch with us as it is a good example of what is good about this type of music.  It combines a lot of different elements and there is a lot going into the sound – there is atmospheric, folk and shoegazing metal, there is some elements of gothic rock, there is heart breaking sound to this album that is vulnerable and fragile – it all comes together really well.  For a one person project, I am impressed with the songs as they combine beauty and darkness into one drop of misery to help the broken hearted realise they are not alone in the world.  As I mentioned it is not my cup of tea, but I can see the effort that has went into this album and if you like your music to edge towards the inward, reflective and atmospheric then I would truly recommend this album.  For what it is worth, I will also be checking out Sylvaine’s second album next year and for a type of music that is not my preferred style I think that shows that a project that is built with passion can always be appreciated by a fan of any type of genre – this is a beauty piece of atmospheric music.

7 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out

Top track - I Drink in Every Sob like Wine

You can purchase Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart on Bandcamp here, you can also stream it there as well - but only for limited time before you have to purchase it

You can visit the Sylvaine website here, where you can also purchase and stream the album

You can follow the activities of Sylvaine on Facebook here

The album is not available on Spotify, Deezer, etc.

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