Tag Archives: Synth

Walking in a freebie wonderland – Strangers interview.

4 Nov

Strangers London Lights

As 2013 gently drifts towards its close and Christmas looms ever more large, the distant jingling of bells that the high street has been desperate for us to hear since August is beginning to get louder and louder. Children’s eyes are widening as tales of watchful little elves fill them with wonder, excitement and (momentarily at least) a willingness to behave. Lists are being made, money is being counted and left over wrapping paper is being fished out from the back of a cupboard. But thanks to London’s electro-pop-stars in waiting, Strangers, it’s been a little bit like Christmas for the last few months or at least since July, when they started giving away a free download on the first of every month.

Their latest is “London Lights” (which you can stream below) a melodious love letter to our capitol city brimming with pulsing synthy string sounds, an emotive 90’s piano and scalpel sharp electronic beats. The vocals rise up like the ever-increasing number of sky-scrapers, like watching a symphony of people and cars unfold through rain covered windows. Less urgent than previous offerings, it is no less vibrant and infectious; the hook catches you from atop the Shard and reels you into a vast boardroom of R&B and dance infused synth-pop.

They are clearly on a roll and hours before they will play a storming set at the Norwich Sound and Vision Festival for us, we take a seat outside the Arts Centre with two-thirds of the trio, David Maddox-Jones and Piers Sherwood-Roberts, with questions to ask. The pair is in good spirits, despite the almost rain that threatens above and will soon begin to fall, and with beer in hand they laugh as they explain the concept, finishing each other’s sentences and talking over one another like a married couple.

The plan had been, they explain, to use their not insubstantial library of unreleased tracks, re-work and re-tool a few of them and then release them one at a time each month. Four old songs and two new ones in six months they thought; it shouldn’t be too onerous a task to complete. That’s not what actually happened of course; “every month there’s been a new one”, explains David. They’ve got in the zone, used it as an exercise in good discipline and ”it’s making [them] a lot more creative”. They’ve not yet had any writers block and even if they did, they explain, with three of them in the band there is always one who can spark the others if the process were to slow down.

The creativity and order they have instilled has been a by-product of what was a very simple thought process suggests Piers, ”we just wanted to get our music out there, instead of just having it sitting around…” as his sentence runs into David’s ”keep the momentum going… Keep people talking about us”, and back again ”it keeps us inspired well, when we get good feedback, obviously it keeps us happy, and we have had good feedback off the singles”.

And it has been good, each and every month. We’ve featured each of the singles and been positive in our usual hyperbolic manner, but we’re not the only ones. Each month a small army of sites have been posting and eulogising about their latest offering and radio plays have been on the increase as well. Not bad when you consider, as they explain, they’ve had no press or radio team. Their success thus far has been built on the back of quality tracks and their own hard work.

It’s helped in other ways David says when talking about the likelihood of an album release in 2014. ”We all felt like we were ready six months ago, now we have done these songs and it’s like actually, we weren’t ready”. It’s helped them learn more about themselves and their own capabilities, ”there’s better stuff to come”, he says enthusiastically.

While an album may still be some time away, videos are not and their latest offering, for “No Longer Lost” had some heavyweight directorial/cinematography and production talent behind it. Leo Neelands, Jim Parsons and Mark Curl have collectively worked on mega-movies including 28 Days Later, Harry Potter and Zero Dark Thirty and on hearing the song, decided they wanted to make their first ever music video. ”That’s the best video we’ve got”, smiles Piers, and it came about completely by chance. “We met them at the pub,” laughs David. ”We realised we lived opposite them and they are really talented and that was an amazing experience just to work with them, you know they are huge”. “And now we really want to do another video!” exclaims Piers. Though the next one will be very different, DIY they say.

But with Christmas just around the corner there is only one more track to go, so what’s next? Another bright idea while they work on an album? “Let’s put three out a week!” they both laugh. We’re pretty sure they’re joking, but with Strangers you can never be completely sure.

“London Lights” is available as a free download from strangersmusic.co.uk

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Review: Suzuki/Method – Native EP

25 Oct

Suzuki Method Native

A few years ago, before this blog developed into the site it is today, we heard and fell in love with an album by a band from Manchester. That album helped pave the way for a resurgence in a hybrid indie-dance-rock-pop sound that saw guitars, synths, electronics and beats go head to head in a battle for the ages. Our ears were buzzing with excitement and it’s a sound we’ve found ourselves coming back to time and time again in a legion of different guises. One of the latest guises comes from another Manchester band (Salford to be precise) Suzuki/Method who have dipped into the Delphician well and enlisted their producer David Tolan (as well as Jim Spencer) to work with them on this debut EP, Native.

Each of the five tracks is crackling with energy and has more hooks than a ‘Villains of Peter Pan’ convention. Drawing from the heritage of Manchester and beyond, dance fuses with pop fuses with rock fuses with funk fuses with, well you get the idea. It’s like a trip through electro pop history from Kraftwerk to Delphic via Duran Duran (and bands beginning with other letters as well). Electronics tumble and shatter while digital and analogue flourishes and accoutrements’ embellish and add depth to the drum-bass-guitar combo.

The band, comprised of brothers Adam and Glen Leishman as well as Michael Mathews, David Boyd and Ben Hounslow, came together during the Salford riots to make the EP, so it stands to reason that Native should be a powder keg of adrenalin and energy. “Sherbet” is like flying through a rainbow of sounds, it is to music what the Holi Festival is to colour; vibrant, crazy and frenetic. It’s a euphoric celebration hidden at the bottom of a bassline.

Similarly frantic is “Cruel To Be Kind”, an urgent, blood pumping song that races like the cheetah chasing down the fleeing antelope as the song is evolving. Drums outstripping bass, vocals surging past both and then an electronic mutation gives it the edge, bringing the antelope down, a phylogeny of music in just over 4 minutes shown in full HD.

The pace never abates, tracks simply hand the baton on to the next leg of this lightening quick relay. “Country Cousins”, “Strangelet” and “You Asked For The Moon And You Got It” drive along at breakneck speed, all compulsive and danceable. But the whole thing is a bit like that, a chemistry lesson of an EP, a myriad of multi-coloured sonic potions and powders are fizzing and flashing everywhere you look, making your pulse quicken with excitement.

’Native’ is out now and is available to buy here.

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Listen: Mega Emotion – “Brains”

20 Sep

Mega Emotion

You know all those preconceptions you have about sleepy Norwich? All the stereotypes you have heard about and all the objects and persons that reside within our Fine City that the rest of the world likes to rib with affectionate banter and ridicule?

Forget them. They are done. The amazing new three-piece Mega Emotion has put them away in a glass jar and smashed the ever loving piss out of it with a sledgehammer. This is the new Norwich and it’s about to blow your freaking mind.

Named after an ice-cream (that’s right, a flipping ice-cream) Mega Emotion has just the one demo online right now but if these girls and a guy can continue to create the crazy exciting and intense sounds of “Brains”, we are all in for a treat.

Seventies pop guitars and neo-disco basslines soon give way to brash, angular riffage and dark electro flashes while legwarmer wearing Zombies lumber about, hunting down their prey. Dayglo socks, global hyper-colour t-shirts and fuck-off massive shoulder pads to support the weight of their boomboxes are de-rigueur for this neon-Zombie chic as bedlam ensues all around.

“Brains” is big, bold, raw and powerful. Like the concentrated force of 100 drunken Delia Smith’s calling out the world for a rumble on the Prince of Wales Road at 3am on a Saturday, it doesn’t give a crap who comes calling. It is going to destroy you with its massive hooks and chaotically brilliant sound.

Mega Emotion, we salute you; take our brains, we won’t be needing them anymore.

”Brains” is out now and available to buy from the Mega Emotion Bandcamp page.

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Review: Superhumanoids – Exhibitionists

5 Sep


Without wanting to put too much pressure on it, Exhibitionists is an album we’ve been waiting and wanting to hear since February last year. Ever since we heard “Geri” (which, incidentally, was one of our top tracks of 2012) we’ve been hoping for a full length Superhumanoids release, and not only do we now have one, it doesn’t disappoint in the slightest.

Album opener, “Black Widow” is 3 minutes of delicate minimalism. The sound of crystalline wind chimes trickle amongst the almost silent guitar pulses while Sarah Chernoff delves into the dark psyche of a failed relationship, ”I should have pulled your teeth/ten years ago” she lilts as the song draws to a conclusion. The aforementioned “Geri” follows and is an explosion of colour and energy by comparison with Chernoff and Cameron Parkins’ opposing vocals, reminiscent of Stars, give depth and add a sense of reality to Superhumanoids wondrous world.

That opening couplet sets the tone of the album perfectly, cool and quiet shadows are pockmarked with beams of light and warmth as Superhumanoids ruminate on the crumbling of loves past and present. Parkins’ purring baritone provides an emotional anchor on tracks like “Do You Feel That?” where the arrangement has synths, drums and guitars spinning, twirling and playing together like fireflies on the night sky. Meanwhile Chernoff’s sweet voice skips along playfully on a couple of the more danceable offerings, “So Strange” (which has a fantastically teasing intro) and “Too Young For Love” (which is full of bo-ing pulses and bouncing key strokes and Delphic-ian precision electronics).

Bright 80’s synth-pop blends into cool clouds of dreampop as the energetic “A Gjost” gives way to the swirling mists of “Free State” which in turn cedes to the smooth and sensual groove of “Bad Weather”. “See It All” veers to the future as dystopian Vengelis-like synth lines and cascading 80’s power drums entwine over a delicate, gentle heartbeat and swirling rain clouds of colour.

All throughout Exhibitionists, melodies swoop and swoon, flying to the sun and melting into considered and analytical lyrics. Light and dark meet, mix and leave hand-in-hand, carried off on the marbled tide of heady and vibrant synth-pop and more downtempo and icy soundscapes. The Los Angeles based band has created sounds that dance, sway and float in equal measure and the result is an absolute delight.

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Review: Garnets – Towns EP

12 Aug

Garnets Towns

It seems to be that, for whatever reason, when we come to write about Garnets, it is usually a few months (at least) after we originally intended to. So it is that here we are in August, talking about their debut studio EP, Towns, which came out in May. As is always the case with Garnets though, the quality of the music is so high that frankly it doesn’t matter when you get to them, just as long as you do.

We begin with previous single “Fruit”. Five minutes of fragile beauty, with Sam J Delves’ ethereal vocal floating like a feather on the breeze over delicate piano strokes and hushed electronic murmurings. Made from the finest and thinnest porcelain, were you to try and hold it, it would shatter in your hands. The simple toy-box-sounding piano outro is sublime, so effortless and evocative it feels like a flash of colour in a monochrome world.

“Mother and the Daughter” too blends muted piano with haunting, minimalist melodies that brush over the beatless rhythm like snow being blown across the arctic plains. Here the vocals take greater prominence, giving the track an ever-so-slightly more traditional pop song feel, but still they float and swirl within the misty music.

“Arches” on the other hand is a couple of minutes of barely-there-fragility. Sporadic keys dwell amongst almost imperceptible sounds of static, or ocean waves and the occasional sound of doors opening and closing. This is juxtaposed with the altogether more explosive finale of the title track.

Of each of the four tracks “Towns” feels the most like a pop song. The vocals act as much more of a focal point, an anchor for the melody which is then raised as the ship sets sail for more vibrant waters. These waters are of very real, very energetic guitar riffs which swell and crash against the rocky shores of drums and cymbals. It is entirely unlike anything else on the EP, splashing life and realism into an otherwise mystical world of aural fantasy and splendour.

That is Garnets though, able to blend the most delicate of sounds with the most raw. On Towns they give us wistful, elegant beauty, both intimate and expansive, but they also allow us a moment to rock out and get our juices going. Almost as if they want to stir our body as well as our mind.

’Towns’ is out now and available either digitally or on limited edition CD from the Garnets bandcamp site.

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