Friday, 29 August 2014

ODi - Boston Tea Party, Honiton, 28th August, 2014

ODi Ascending

Ahead of reviewing two cds by this superb duo, picked up at last night’s gig, I’ll comment on the great pleasure of seeing ODi in the intimate setting of the Boston Tea Party. It was intimate because of the coffee house venue but also the small audience, and my view of the latter is it was our special enjoyment to experience such a close and personal performance, and others’ loss for having missed.

ODi is Claire Odlum and Dave Redfearn, and in live performance last night played an acoustic set. As a male/female harmony duo they slot neatly into a popular format currently in some ascendance [The Civil Wars - though recently split - Carrie Elkin & Danny Schmidt, Shovels & Rope – more Country and heavy, I know – Angus & Julia Stone, to pull out a quick four at random]. In the unadorned context of such an acoustic set, ODi’s sweet songwriting [as well as covers], sweet singing and sweet symbiosis as a musical pair shone, and for what it’s worth I would say they hold their own in that duo-niche with confidence and considerable charm. I will write more about their music when reviewing the cds I now have, enjoying listening to Maslow’s Songbook as I write.

We were treated to a delightful sample of their music to date, and this included the excellent One in a Million, Something Beautiful which, we were told, is a hit in Turkey, the lovely A Superman, and covers of Dylan’s It Ain’t Me Babe and closing on Springsteen’s I’m On Fire, both beautifully done in their acoustic simplicity, but full of the inherent emotion in each song because of the empathy in performance. We all have our individual tests and touchstones in judging the impact of an act: for me, ODi’s broad if not surprising influences obviously endear, and their felicitous performance live as a duo – instinctive, talented and totally unaffected – make them and this gig genuinely memorable.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Caroline Rose - I Will Not Be Afraid [NoiseTrade]

Intelligent Offering

Here’s another fine freebie [or leave a tip] from NoiseTrade, but as it is a promo for the imminent full release of Caroline Rose’s debut album I Will Not Be Afraid, I think receiving it in the gesture it is offered is good enough. I will further that gesture by recommending it here: there’s rockabilly folk in the title track, and some taut rock cleverness in the excellent At Midnight where you keep waiting for the tension in the clipped guitar riffs to explode, but it never quite does so: the expectation adding to the gritty atmosphere. Opener Blood On Your Bootheels on this 7 track sampler from the 11 on the full release deals poignantly with the relatively recent Trayvon Martin killing, and by extrapolation with more recent events in Ferguson. This is an intelligent album musically and lyrically.

You can download from here.

Cold Specks - Neuroplasticity

Moody Not Pretty, Thankfully

Without question, and without this being a problem, the singular greatest strength of this album is the powerful vocal of Al Spx. There are fine additions like the arrangements, some brief harmonies as on Old Knives, rollicking drumming, mournful to caustic horn attacks as on opener A Broken Memory, Michael Gira providing a vocal bass line on a couple of tracks like Exit Plan - a slow song where Spx’s voice is superb in its brooding intensity - but it is that vocal which rightly impresses above all. 

Closing track A Season of Doubt, the other with Gira providing a spoken vocal undertow, is the perfect vehicle for Spx’s powerful authority, a simple slow piano beat and some overdubbed lamenting horns adding magnificent mournfulness. I’ve read reviews that rue a lack of melodies on the album – and I am a great lover of melodic prettiness and/or memorableness - but it is the moodiness wrapped in such a sublime vocal that does all it needs to.