Live Review: Caligula’s Horse, Star & Garter Manchester, 5th Nov 2018

Caligula's horseThough Bonfire Night is traditionally celebrated with fireworks, I spent mine with something just as exciting and vibrant, albeit even louder; the brilliant Caligula’s Horse on their first headline European tour. Though I was a bit late to the game regarding their latest record, 2017’s In Contact, it has quickly become one of my favourite releases of recent years and has been one of my main go-to albums. So naturally I wasn’t going to miss out on seeing them, along with a few of their friends from back home, for an all out Australian invasion on the penultimate stop of their tour. After all, if anyone knows how to have a good time it’s the Aussies.  Continue reading

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Top Tracks: Hanford Reach – Winston Smith

I can’t help but respect a band that can pack a lot of great ideas into just a few short minutes, and Brooklyn based duo Hanford Reach do just that on their delightfully dystopian new single. ‘Winston Smith’, named after the protagonist of the ever relevant 1984, is a curious little psychedelica cocktail. It has some great trippy guitar work  and some simply fantastic percussion but also brings something else to the table, some hard to define aura. It starts with the kind of light and airy vibes you’d expect from a psychedelic song, but as it progresses the bleak lyrical content seems to sow seeds of darkness within the music itself. Even then, it seems too bright and vibrant a track to depict a world so sombre, but that’s how it fits so well with 1984. You’re shown this cheerful veneer but you can’t escape this primal feeling, this tingle across your skin, that there’s something lurking beneath it all.

Top Tracks: Cavey – About To Start

God, they don’t make them like this anymore. That is, “they” being everyone other than London based quartet Cavey. An absolute masterclass in old-school soul and blues, ‘About To Start’ details the less glamorous side to life as a musician. At its climax the track shifts from a timeless blues solo, to an energising rush of brass, before bringing the whole thing down with softly spoken vocals and gentle jazzy piano. It’s like going from wowing the main stage to serenading some private VIP lounge in the span of a few seconds. This is the kind of song that just transports you somewhere else, mind, body and soul. Press play, close your eyes, and suddenly you can feel the warmth of some crowded jazz club, smell rising smoke from cigarettes and candlelight, and picture the band onstage putting on one hell of a show.

Top Tracks: James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band – Quoting Sagan

I love a video that tells a story, and in the case of ‘Quoting Sagan’ the visuals offer a glimpse into how the song itself came to life and into the people behind it. The band’s river cruising imbues a sense of wanderlust; but instead of a journey for the journey’s sake we get a slow and serene voyage through still waters and picturesque scenes, taking the time to bask in the surrounding beauty. The very act itself of cruising down the river, and the shots of the old-school keyboards with their walls of switches and dials, gives the feeling of being rooted in another time. It fits perfectly with the warm vintage glow of the song itself. Charming visuals aside, this heartwarming Americana track offers some sublime splashes of soul, a gorgeous rise and fall, and easily some of the best percussion I’ve heard all year. A real gem on all fronts, this Glaswegian outfit share such a feast for the senses with their latest single.

Top Tracks: Fractal Cypher – From The Above And To The Stars

If you’re a fan of intricate musicianship and immaculate production then do I have a treat for you. Canadian prog metal outfit Fractal Cypher are truly firing on all cylinders with this dynamic new djent inspired track, perfect for fans of TesseracT and Periphery. ‘From The Above And To The Stars’ is taken from their upcoming EP Prelude To An Impending Outcome, out 8th November, which features four tracks that each explore a different facet of progressive metal. This taste of what’s to come boasts soaring melodic vocals, complex rhythms, snarling riffs and stunning futuristic visuals. Fractal Cypher have taken the most prominent sound of modern progressive metal and have condensed it down to capture exactly what the style excels best at in a single epic track. Just imagine three more songs with the same drive and purpose as they explore three vastly varying, but no less impressive, styles and you start to see what makes their new release so compelling.

A Blogger’s Life

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Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

A month ago I found myself meeting the artists behind some of my favourite music that I’ve written about over the past couple of years. When I was writing about their music it never really registered that my words might actually make a difference. Even when writing about music that you love and feel a deep connection to there’s still a real disconnect at work. So to have artists tell you in person how much your comments mean to them, and even quote them back to you word for word, was such a moving and gratifying encounter. It’s one of the many reasons that night was the highlight of my year. However, to then sink back into the daily grind, I found myself dwelling on the ordinary, everyday struggles.  Continue reading

Top Tracks: Equador – Treble Oh

Sometimes a song has so much going on that you’re not quite sure what part of it finally tipped the scale and made you start loving it. Take ‘Treble Oh’, taken from Equador’s new EP Tribal War out 17th November. What was it that won me over? Was it the haunting vocals, the sharp punchy percussion, the tasteful electronic flourishes, the spectacular bass tone or the delicate piano notes that fall like raindrops. I don’t know what the tipping point is, but trust me when I say it is inevitable. It’s much the same story with the music video. From its setting in an abandoned building and the stunning cinematography, to the colourful camera effects and flashes of sketch art. Each element explored in greater depth could have made a great video in their own right, but on this track they instead all come together to create some of the best visuals I’ve seen all year.

Top Tracks: Cathedral Bells – A Passing Phase

I can’t remember the last time I heard a song that was so calming and yet so chaotic at the same time. With this new track from Orlando based project Cathedral Bells you have hazy dream pop soundscapes and airy vocal melodies, as well as an animated post punk bass line driving the song forward alongside a frantic tortured guitar tone. Each side is simultaneously vying for your attention, while somehow blending together perfectly. Even if you were to dissect this track into its constituent parts you would still be left with a couple of great songs, but as a whole it just connects with you on so many levels. Hypnotic and hard-hitting, ‘A Passing Phase’ is far more than its namesake, making a real lasting impression, ready to rise to the occasion no matter what mood strikes you.

Top Tracks: Flo – Set In Stone

One of the few things that is certain in life is that almost nothing is certain. We seem to spend more of our lives worrying about what’s to come than appreciating what is going on around us right now. Today is a gift – it is called the present after all – and it’s only here once, so why not make the most of it? ‘Set In Stone’, the new single from Belwood favourite Flo, is all about trying to live in the moment as you can’t count on the future to live up to all your expectations. The track boasts a delightfully dreamy vibe as though each note has been drawn-out to give you chance to truly savour it. The bittersweet music video also explores the song’s message beautifully, as two friends spend their final night together. I particularly love how scarcely a word passes between them; there’s no sharing of past regrets or fears for the future, just silent reverie as they cherish each other’s presence.