Saturday, 31 August 2019

The Black Wizards - Reflections, album review

Adoring Generic Accolade

This is a wonderful, wonderfully generic psyche-rock album with fulsome female vocals from Joana Brito who sings elegantly on spacy songs like Starlight and vibrantly on the spaced-out heavy rock of opener Imposing Sun.

A Portuguese fuzzadelic / psychedelic rock band with other wizard-honed members Paulo Ferreira, João Lugatte, João Mendes, this fine foursome demonstrates there are no geographical boundaries to the acquisition of the ‘generic’ as I have outlined it so positively in my previous posting on Dead Feathers, though these two bands are quite distinctive and thus prove, as well, how the generic is not narrowly defining.

The wah-wah propelled psychedelia of appropriately psyche-titled Symphony of the Ironic Sympathy is a perfect example of this band’s distinctive trajectory along the precursor line of such far-out music and musicianship. This is a great track, and Brito excels in a musical diatribe of exalted passion on the song’s close. That this is followed by a gorgeous blues-riffed [a la Free's Moonshine] wah-wah in Soul Keeper is bliss to these generic-adoring ears.

Get it here.

No Face Music 29

Friday, 30 August 2019

Dead Feathers - All is Lost, album review

Generic Accolade

When I say ‘generic’ I do not do so disparagingly: I recently wrote about the ‘pleasingly generic’ songwriting of Baby Rose because her music is R&B and thus its generic R&B sound is tin-written; therefore, in stressing how the psychedelic rock of Dead Feathers is heavily generic I am endorsing it, the adjectival qualifier, as with my other example, the obvious signpost, albeit here also a pun.

So the wah-wah and pounding bass and thundering drums and riffs from this fine band on this fine album come as expected and wholly welcome: there are many such bands these days presenting this generic retro-rock, psychedelic-wise in this case, and that too is all good to these ears. And before writing this review I have read a few others – essentially looking for images to appropriate, as they have – and these too cite the generic qualities, though tending to do so with precise references to precursor sounds, as I often do, and a regular I have noted is Black Sabbath – a consistent forerunner to mention when writing about any of this kind of music –  and also, in at least one, Fairport Convention, which is odd to me on the one hand, but not on the other because when first listening to opening track At the Edge [and I don’t think it is the word ‘Edge’ that has prompted this touchstone citation] I immediately thought of the vocal of Sandy Denny. In the band’s centrepiece of Marissa Allen, Dead Feathers have a singer of beautiful clarity as well as the rock-power to compare with any of the best you can think of and might want to mention, another review actually naming Grace Slick which I wouldn’t argue against.

I know – just felt like writing a little more than cutting to the chase of how this album’s exceptional quality is the vocal of Marissa Allen. That the rest of Dead Feather’s Chicago rockers play a powerfully generic support and platform for this potent voice is, however, firmly celebrated by the other function of that long preamble in making it clear what I mean by ‘generic’. 

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Space Music 30

Baby Rose - To Myself, album review

Mode of Cool

Baby Rose [Rose Wilson] is a 25 year old singer-songwriter with the time-burred vocal of someone steeped in many more years of experience. Whilst pleasingly generic in terms of its soul/R&B songwriting, along with overlaying and other effects – like the malleable/bending piano chords and percussive beats to Artifacts – it is the voice that establishes the enduring quality of this debut. Opener Sold Out starts with a car-starting-and-moving-off sample when Rose’s jazz-soul vocal then fills the vacated space with resonant, warbling vocal depths, these adorned with other harmonies and soothing grooved instrumentation; next Borderline is a punchier but again smoothed-out affair, the vocal ‘accent’ that slight affectation [a la Amy Winehouse] I find unsettles these ears, but for many it is obviously a requisite style. That Rose’s singing rises above everything in its impressive presence is the great capture of this album, All to Myself a passionate and breathy lament; penultimate Over a hypnotic swathe of matured vocal mastery, and closer Show You a light orchestral number in the Burt Bacharach mode of cool.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Byron Wallen at the Blue Vanguard Jazz Club, Gipsy Hill Hotel, 22nd August, 2019

Pic by Nick
Survival and Surrender

In my recent review of Byron Wallen’s excellent album Meeting Ground here, I concluded with the observation: Imagine my happy anticipation of seeing Wallen play at Exeter next week.

That gig last night fully lived up to the expectation, wonderfully so as I will explain shortly. As ever, The Blue Vanguard Trio excelled in their support and individual solos, these accompanying the warm personality and hot playing of Wallen. A set of standards began the evening, opening with Nat Adderley’s Sack O’ Woe, which included a glorious elongated trill on the horn; a John Coltrane number, and others I have [as usual] failed to remember by name.

I had to leave at the interval, but the song played just before this is what made the evening for me, truncated as it was. Wallen introduced his self-penned song as ‘something outside the box’ and it was to be Freedom Struggle from his album Meeting Ground. He explained a little about his travels to North Africa and meeting and playing with musicians there, expanding to also briefly talk about Morrocan Gnawa music and all these links to the song which was in many respects about personal survival and surrender. The playing was sublime, the start a soaring flight over Milverton’s piano layers, with horn-squeals at its peak, to eventually break into the rhythmic percussion of Al Swainger on bass and Coach York on drums, this sustained palpably to its end [especially in the sense that one couldn’t sit still to its playing and instead had to move with it - for me anyway], Coach, in particular, keeping the fire alive.

I was reliably informed this morning that the post-interval set was also superb, but I was so pleased to have heard my final number. It was memorable.

Feet Music

Friday, 16 August 2019

Byron Wallen - Meeting Ground, album review


Elegant and melodious trumpet so often infuses the songs on this album, these then worked with other instrumentation like the riff baritone sax of Tony Kofi beneath a Miles Davis-esque muted overplay by Wallen on opener Spirit of Bilal, where, in addition, found sounds and the vocal of Boujemaa Boubul provide further depths. These recorded sounds, for example, segue into the next track Captive Caravan with a storm as the field sample to start. Horn and sax work in a punchy tandem as well with other percussive instrumentation and vocal tunes to create an ambience of outdoors and expansiveness to then end on a cow/oxen growl beneath Gnawa percussion. This then itself segues into a fly-buzzed [uncomfortably so] intro to Sailor of the Sounds and a subsequent dub/hip hop rhythmic follow-on – the flies buzzing in and out – and Moroccan Boubul’s singing continuing to layer the ‘African’ landscape. The closing title track has a wonderful call/response between Wallen and Kofi that erupts into a furious debate, eventually defused to Larry Bartley on bass and Tom Skinner on drums [superb throughout] reminding them to pick back up on the dual melody. This wonderful mix exemplifies over and over the album's richly creative musical journey.

Imagine my happy anticipation of seeing Wallen play at Exeter next week.