SYLVETTE; THE ART-ROCK BAND PAINTING A PICTURE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS…

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Written by: Natalya Davies           Updated: 4th April 2019


Manchester-based art-rock quintet Sylvette release avant-garde new single ‘Memories’, produced by New Order’s Phil Cunningham


 

Within recent years, the music industry has been faced by high market saturation and the development of modern music consumption, both of which have had a profound effect on many bands abilities to secure attention and loyalty from consumers and labels. Even the press have played their part in writing off the need for bands in today’s market, their headlines pronouncing the album dead as the general consumer participates in a “detached” listening experience fuelled by the charts and popular playlists.

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In light of the shifting dynamic of the musical environment, there is a beacon of hope which surfaces when acts like Sylvette reject the unnecessary speculations of the industry to exhibit art in its purest form, proving that boundaries really are there to be broken.

Hailing from gloomy Manchester, Sylvette are among the next generation of artists preparing to prolong the city’s undeniable reputation for outstanding musical talent. Their style and aesthetic, on the other hand, looks to mimic no previous musical “greats” or industry conventions. Instead, the art-rock quintet produce a truly avant-garde concept, one which they execute flawlessly.

The origin of their name is a positively unique one, inspired by an enchanting muse frequently pictured in many of Picasso’s famous paintings. What is more interesting however, is the unexpected relationship which has since formed between Sylvette vocalist Charlie Sinclair and this famous muse, Sylvette Corbet who is now an artist herself. This friendship has proven extremely helpful in positioning Sylvette (the band, henceforth) as a serious creative and artistic force.

To kick start what looks to be a rather promising 2019, February saw the quintet unveil new single ‘Memories’, the follow-up to their largely successful 2018 debut album ‘Waiting in the Bliss’. In what seems to be an exploration of a more sombre side to their sound, ‘Memories’ is a creatively and technically immaculate composition that defies any signs of a traditional song structure. However, Sylvette’s quest for the unconventional never incites jeopardising the overall listening experience.

Like an exquisite juxtaposition, ‘Memories’ serves as the perfect middle ground between the experimental and the commercial. The combination of a variety of contemporary layers and textures adds a mysterious undertone which plants a seed of allure into the listener from the very first note. On the other hand, the single is nonetheless overflowing with captivating hooks that will surely have you – well, hooked.

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The song’s intriguing story is intricately woven through its lyrics and accompanying visuals to create a mystical tale revolved heavily around the disruption of a fabricated utopia, peppered with cleverly constructed references to art. Quite like a work of art itself, the lyrics and visuals are full of evocative symbols which all hint to a plethora of connotations. It is up to the listener to determine the true meaning behind the story, an element which only adds to the song’s enigmatic nature.  

Sonically, ‘Memories’ is a masterpiece.

Sylvette have carefully intertwined minimalistic and juxtaposing complex sections which take the listener on a beautifully turbulent journey, void of any predictability. Sinclair’s vocals are a particular strong point for the band, with its rather soft timbre mixed with a light distortion which adds a gritty edge to the arrangement, particularly in the more delicate sections.  

“LIKE AN EXQUISITE JUXTAPOSITION, ‘MEMORIES’ SERVES AS THE PERFECT MIDDLE GROUND BETWEEN THE EXPERIMENTAL AND THE COMMERCIAL”

Another element that is happily welcomed by the ear is Greek native Philippos Rousiamanis’ exceptional violin skills which are scattered throughout the song, often adding a hint of tension or piercing through the rest of the layers to demand the attention of the listener.

This abstract fusion of rock with classical music, theatrical influences and experimental elements makes ‘Memories’ a truly memorable piece (no pun intended), one which cannot be gorged upon by a distracted mind. After all… exceptional art deserves to be the mind’s sole focus when under observation… and creating exceptional art is exactly what Sylvette excel in.

MUSICAL THUNDER FROM DOWN UNDER – 15 AUSTRALIAN ARTISTS THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT!

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Written by: Robert Percy    Edited by: Natalya Davies    Updated: 21 March 2019


 

Australia has its unique things that everyone knows about. Summer temperatures at Christmas. A myriad of animals that could either kill you, make your life a living hell or both. The Irwins (RIP Steve, stingrays are evil). The Wiggles. Neighbours. Home and Away. The hilariously overpowered muscle cars and Utes that were produced up until very recently by the local divisions of Ford and General Motors. The sleeper hit reality show Instant Hotel (which is going to be co-presented by none other than Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen in its second season). But what a lot of people should know about Australia is that it has provided a hotbed of great musical talent across multiple genres for the last decade or so.

With that in mind, I thought I’d put together a little list, in no particular order and with no genre limitations, of some fantastic Australian artists and bands that you should definitely get to know…

 

OCEAN GROVE

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OCEAN GROVE, Source: The Music Network

These 90s revivalists from Melbourne have been making a huge scene ever since they first emerged near the beginning of the decade and are set to become a force to be reckoned with on the international touring circuit by the end of it. Whilst initially having a twin vocal setup with Luke Holmes providing hardcore influenced screams and yells and Dale Tanner (who was also the band’s bass player) providing a cleaner vocal style, at the beginning of 2019 Holmes departed and Dale switched to being the band’s singular front-man, his bass duties being taken over by newcomer Twiggy Hunter.

Whereas their earlier material was much more rooted in the heavier end of things, their newest material delves into an altogether more experimental territory. Their latest single “Ask For The Anthem” delves into some seriously funky sounds and quasi-rap vocals that wouldn’t sound out of place on a classic RHCP album. The band also have a reputation for creating low budget, off-kilter and brilliant music videos; it’s one of the things that really sets them apart from the rest. “The Rhapsody Tapes” was highly critically acclaimed and with the return of nu-metal and the sounds of the 90s as the 2020s come into view, expect these guys to go right to the top of the tree pretty damn fast.

Check out: “Ask For The Anthem”, “Glass Gloss”, “Thunderdome


ILLY

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Another Melbourne-based artist, rapper and singer Illy (born Alasdair Murray) might be the most well known of the artists I’m including on his home turf. He’s collaborated with some well-known names including Anne-Marie, Jenna McDougall of Tonight Alive, Ahren Stringer of The Amity Affliction and Thomas Jules of Rudimental to name just four.

He has also won two ARIA awards (the Australian equivalent of a Grammy or a Brit) and been nominated for several others. Yet, weirdly, he doesn’t seem to have much of a foothold in popularity outside of Australia. Originally a member of rap collective Crooked Eye, he went solo in 2009 and since then has released four albums, with a fifth due for release this year. If you love hip-hop artists who have an ear for melody as well as bars, you’ll love this guy.

Check out: “Catch 22”, “One for The City”, “Youngbloods


VOYAGER

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VOYAGER, Source: The Prog Report

Perth’s Voyager have been plying their trade in one form or another since the late 90s. They sit firmly within the ‘ProgPower’ end of heavy metal. Shredding guitars (provided by the twin axe attack of Scott Kay and Simone Dow), “djent-y” rhythms and lush synthesized soundscapes are the foundations of the Voyager sound. This is accompanied by the rich crooning baritone of German-born multilingual (who includes written sections of lyrics in German and Russian in some songs) vocalist and keyboardist Daniel Estrin, his vocal stylings bearing more than a passing nod to Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran and the sadly departed Peter Steele of Type O Negative (“Iron Dream”,from their album “The Meaning of I”, was written in tribute to Steele). The end result is a gloriously epic mash-up of cheesy 80s choruses, big modern riffs, power metal keyboards and prog sensibilities that anyone who dips their toes into any of those worlds will love.

Check out: “Brightstar”, “Hyperventilating”, “Seasons of Age


YOURS TRULY

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YOURS TRULY, Source: New Noise Magazine

This feisty pop-punk group from Sydney have really started to gain some big momentum in the last year. With a sound not too dissimilar to the early years of Tonight Alive, they’ve managed to create big rock songs that are catchier than a virus. Vocalist Mikaila Delgado has a fantastic tone with just the right amount of edge and their material sounds slick enough to sound right at home on the radio (in fact, I actually heard “Circles” on Jack Saunders’ late-night BBC Radio One show not long ago!).

The video for “Circles” is fantastic too, with its liberal amounts of meta humour (the sets and cameras are clearly on show). Pop-punk has not only stayed the course since the 90s but has become very popular again too in recent years. If Yours Truly play their cards right, they could be big contenders in a scene filled with (unfortunately) just as much controversy as it has solid and slick bands.

Check out: “Circles”, “High Hopes”, “Strangers


POLARIS

Another Sydney act, Polaris bring a brand of heavy yet catchy metalcore that tips its hat in the general direction of Architects, Erra and Parkway Drive. Front-man Jamie Hails and bassist Jake Steinhauser deliver a twin vocal attack that covers everything from metalcore screams and gritty melodies (performed by Jamie) to big, pop-influenced melodies (performed by Jake) while the music alternates in kind between massive riffs, huge choruses, ambient soundscapes and crushing breakdowns.

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POLARIS, Source: YDG Music Wikia

They’ve had an incredible last couple of years, the highlights of which include performing in huge venues in their native Australia and overseas in support of Architects, Parkway Drive and their hometown compatriots Northlane. They also signed record deals with Resist Records in Australia and Sharptone Records (also home to Don Broco, Loathe, Holding Absence and Emmure to name just a few) in the US, UK and Europe. If epic metalcore with choruses you can belt out at the top of your voice is your bag, you’d be crazy to pass these guys by.

Check out: “The Remedy”, “Consume”, “No Rest


PLINI

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PLINI, Source: Twitter

After splitting from the instrumental duo Halcyon to forge his own path, Plini began to blaze a trail as one of the front runners of a new generation of guitar-centric instrumental music. He has evolved from the low budget but charming jazz fusion influenced efforts of his first EP “Other Things”, where he performed and programmed most of the instruments himself. Going on to release his epic prog debut album “Handmade Cities” with assistance from Simon Grove of The Helix Nebula on bass and session musician and music teacher Troy Wright on drums. And now, his latest EP “Sunhead”, which features John Waugh, The 1975’s saxophonist of choice, and the ridiculously skilled Canadian keyboardist Anomalie as guest musicians.

Not a bad CV for somebody who’s only been carving his own path in music since the start of the 2010s! Plini’s guitar stylings are both technically and melodically satisfying, with many nods to great rock instrumentalists such as Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, as well as fusion masters like Allan Holdsworth and Al Di Meola. As well as this, his music is fantastic in a live setting, where he recruits whoever of his friends are available to deliver a free flowing and fantastically performed set of his material (with maybe a few surprises too along the way!). Plini looks set to become one of the next big instrumental guitar heroes and, from the way things are going, he could be touring all around the world every year for the next few decades.

Check out: “Flaneur”, “Handmade Cities”, “Heart


TWELVE FOOT NINJA

With their mad, off the wall music videos packed full of skits, in-jokes and scenarios that range from the whimsical to the downright disturbing (including one where they turned a fat basement-dwelling internet troll into sausages), you’d think that Melbourne’s resident musical ninjas were a pretty eccentric bunch. You’d be right and then some.

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TWELVE FOOT NINJA, Source: Dead Press!

As per a one time popular internet meme, somebody somewhere must have told them they could play any style of music… so they played all of them. Twelve Foot Ninja take heavy influence from Mike Patton’s various musical escapades, the popular rock, metal, reggae and jazz fusion acts of the mid 90s-early 00s era, which is all aided by the crazy (and criminally underrated) tuning-changing and guitar and amp emulation technology of Line 6’s Variax system. They effortlessly switch between punishing Sevendust and Meshuggah-style riffs in super low tunings to delicate acoustic passages, choppy jazz funk with more than a passing nod to Jamiroquai, dancehall beats and even the odd bit of Latin American stylings thrown in just for good measure.

The source of this glorious genre roulette? The band’s leader, session guitarist Steve “Stevic” Mackay, who has built on his experience of doing everything from playing with Delta Goodrem (no really, he did!) to doing shreddy solos for the soundtrack of a series of Power Rangers (I’m not lying… he really did this!) to create intricate yet catchy multi- genre compositions. He even wrote the band’s mythology, a story about… you guessed it… a ninja who can become twelve feet tall (it was published as a comic, if you’re ever interested in reading it). On top of all of this is Kin Etik’s soulful baritone, which covers all bases from crooning to delicate falsetto and topping it off with some incredibly powerful screams. If you’re a fan of any of the more rock and metal oriented end of Mike Patton’s work such as Faith No More, Mr. Bungle and Tomahawk, Twelve Foot Ninja will definitely appeal to you.

Check out: “One Hand Killing”, “Coming For You”, “Mother Sky


DEAD LETTER CIRCUS

There was one point where it looked like Dead Letter Circus’ socially conscious progressive rock, fronted by the distinctive high tenor of Kim Benzie, mixed with electronic sensibilities could reach the big time internationally. They even had what could almost be considered a viral hit when they attempted to do a soft acoustic/electronic version of the Rage Against The Machine classic “Killing In The Name Of” for the popular Australian radio station Triple J’s “Like A Version” sessions, which was met with as much bewilderment as there was praise.

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DEAD LETTER CIRCUS, Source: Music Insight

Then they seemingly dropped off the radar following a bit of a bad time with label support outside of their native soil. However, they have carried on creating and evolving their music away from the wider world popularity they once had. Maybe one day soon they’ll return to their previous international breakout stardom? One can only hope.

Perhaps the dark and creepy atmospheric track “Silence”, a post-mortem musing by Benzie about a man who sexually abused children, has a fairly heavy significance in 2019 with the various allegations surrounding musicians now coming out. Regardless, even though they are clearly one of the underdogs now outside of their native country, Dead Letter Circus are a band who have the potential to be truly timeless.

Check out: “Silence”, “While You Wait”, “The Armour You Own


CIRCLES

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CIRCLES, Source: Progarchives

Originally a part of the “djent” movement, Melbourne prog rockers Circles decided to retool and rebrand after losing their long time front-man. Moving to a four piece, with guitarist Ben Rechter stepping up to the microphone to handle lead vocals as well, the band embraced a more rough and ready sound that may be very far removed from how they originally started out, yet they still retain a lot of their original charm. A big change of sound can be a very risky decision but they seem to have pulled it off very well and with new label and management deals signed that include the US, UK and Europe, be prepared to see a lot more of them within the next few years.

Check out: “Tether”, “Blueprints for a Great Escape”, “Dream Sequence


DVSR

What do you get when you combine the huge riffs of “djent” with the fast-paced rap of Tech N9ne and Busta Rhymes and the songwriting sensibilities of P.O.D.? You get Sydney natives DVSR.

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DVSR, Source: Killyourstereo

The enormous, super down-tuned guitars provided by guitarist and main songwriter Andrew Stevens are some of the beefiest you can hear this side of a Meshuggah album. Andrew “Anti-Matter” Youkhana, on the other hand, is quite possibly one of the best rappers in the game right now, combining both incredible lyricism covering everything from personal to political topics and the ability to switch it up into hyper speed (I’d LOVE to hear him do a Fire In The Booth, he’d absolutely kill it).

It’s very easy to compare DVSR to British favourites Hacktivist due to their similarities with combining “djent-y” guitars with rap vocals, but to do so is honestly somewhat ignorant – both bands are from totally different countries where both the rap and metal scenes have different sounds and different influences. The band recently played their first show outside of Australia at 2018’s UK Tech Metal Festival and hopefully, with the release of the follow-up to 2017’s “Therapy”, they’ll be venturing internationally a lot more.

Check out: “Ready For War”, “Unconscious”, “Slave to the Beat


STAND ATLANTIC

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STAND ATLANTIC, Source: Evensi

Stand Atlantic have been gaining a lot of hype since the release of their debut album “Skinny Dipping” last year and for very good reason. The Sydney natives have a knack for creating beautiful, catchy and emotionally charged rock music. Guitarist and vocalist Bonnie Fraser is an incredible lyricist as well as being a fantastic singer and songwriter; she’s able to hit you right in the feels with a single line (“Toothpick” very much comes to mind here). They’re already booking up tours all over the world and winning over audiences everywhere they go, so if things go to plan, they’re destined for huge levels of success and maybe even a lot of mainstream attention.

Check out: “Lost My Cool”, “Toothpick”, “Speak Slow


THE HELIX NEBULA

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These instrumental progressive metal wizards, the lineup of which includes regular Plini collaborators Simon Grove and Jake Howsam Lowe, are quickly becoming a regular staple amongst those who like the technically minded end of heavy music. They specialise in well written yet incredibly virtuosic music and are also more than willing to reach slightly outside the box for inspiration – they have even done a prog metal re-interpretation of Jon Gomm’s viral hit Passionflower”.

The Helix Nebula currently only have one EP (released in 2014), but a full album is on its way, albeit an album that has had an incredibly long gestation period because all four members have been very busy with other projects. Regardless, it should be absolutely mind- blowing when it does see the light of day.

Check out: “Sea of Suns”, “Passionflower”, “Sailing Stone


I, VALIANCE

If you thought Twelve Foot Ninja were weird… you ain’t seen nothing yet until you listen to I, Valiance.

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I, VALIANCE, Source: Killyourstereo

The Melbourne-based five piece combine the deathcore stylings of bands like Thy Art Is Murder with blaring synths, dissonant guitar leads, trap influenced beats, trippy atmospheres, blasts of circus music and some of the most ridiculous screamed vocals you will ever hear this side of a Mayhem album.

Originally fronted by Aversions Crown vocalist Mark Poida (a legend in his own right in the deathcore scene thanks to the absolutely insane noises that he’s able to create), they went through multiple prospective front-men after he parted ways with them to focus on his new band before settling on their equally mental current front-man, Terrence Kilner. Mark did however return as a guest vocalist on the heavily rap-influenced “Three Daggers”. They have been in the process of gradually releasing a full album’s worth of music in a series of EPs, two of which were released last year, and hopefully a third will be in our ears very soon.

Check out: “I, The Enemy”, “The Blood Beneath My Nails”, “Three Daggers


AVERSIONS CROWN

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AVERSIONS CROWN, Source: Blabbermouth.net

Do you like deathcore? Do you like aliens? Do you like vocals that sound like aliens? If the answer is yes to all three, Aversions Crown is the band for you. Featuring ex-I, Valiance vocalist Mark Poida and an H.P. Lovecraft-style mythology revolving around warmongering, genocidal aliens wreaking havoc upon the earth, Aversions Crown specialise in bombastic soundscapes, blast beats and some of the heaviest breakdowns you’ll ever hear. Buster Oldenholm, the brainchild of Swedish masters of brutality Humanity’s Last Breath, had a huge hand in the production of their latest album “Xenocide” and it really shows; it’s loud, proud and not for the faint-hearted.

Check out: “Erebus”, “Parasites”, “Prismatic Abyss


THE BEAUTIFUL MONUMENT

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THE BEAUTIFUL MONUMENT, Source: Bigsound

2019 looks to be a breakout year for Melbourne alt-rockers The Beautiful Monument. Sporting an all-female lineup and an arsenal of huge tunes from their 2017 debut “I’m The Sin” and their brand new single “Deceiver” and having already toured with Tonight Alive, they look and sound more than ready to take on the world stage. They cite A Day To Remember and The Ghost Inside as huge influences on their sound so if you’re a fan of either of those bands, you’ll definitely enjoy this breath of fresh air in the more melodic and pop-punk influenced end of heavy music.

Check out: “Deceiver”, “Disorder”, “Perceptions


 

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THE LONE STAR STATE BEARS A STAR FOR US ALL: MEET KHALID, THE 19 YEAR OLD REDEFINING POPULAR MUSIC

Written by: Summer Kerlin      Updated: 20th December 2018

 

“Khalid has reinforced that simply being yourself and being honest still sells”

 

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R&B singer Khalid has quickly become a global superstar. The 19-year-old singer from El Paso, Texas began his whirlwind career like many others in digital age – uploading his demos to SoundCloud. In a fast transition, Khalid’s career rocketed, being signed to RCA in the US and Columbia UK, with his first hit, ‘Location‘ racking up 342M views on YouTube, alone.

After the release of his debut album ‘American Teen’, Khalid became fixated to almost everyone’s radar, gaining particular attention from some major artists. Most recently, Elton John has boasted how the 19-year-old is one of his favourite modern-day artists, followed by the legendary singer recording a cover of ‘Young, Dumb and Broke’ for the Spotify Singles series.

Social media has undoubtedly played a significant role in the rise of Khalid’s career. The singer is very active, especially on Twitter and Instagram where he promotes his music by being completely himself and proving that interacting and connecting with fans is vital for success. Moreover, Khalid respects that social media is firstly an outlet for expressing opinions and portraying your true self, and secondly a promotional platform.

 

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How is Khalid influencing the modern music industry?

The emotion and reality behind Khalid’s music creates an escape for millennials who can connect with the struggles he writes about. In contrast to the struggles, Khalid peppers heartwarming splashes of positivity throughout his music, with the aim of reassuring that in the end, everything will work out.

In a 2017 interview, when asked about his music, Khalid stated – “It’s not based on genre. It’s based on mood”. His recent EP, ‘Suncity’ definitely provides us with his nostalgic, loving ‘mood’ towards his home town of El Paso. The simplistic, soulful, yet highly emotional EP has been described as a ‘love letter’ to his home town, showing Khalid’s continued emphasis on the importance of knowing who he is and who made him the superstar he is today.

Who knew in the 21st century an artist who doesn’t promote money and sex could gain such success, but Khalid has reinforced that simply being yourself and being honest still sells.

 

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‘Streams, streams, streams’

It is certainly no secret that the digital age has opened many doors for emerging artists to gain quick entry and success. Some find a way to stay in the limelight, whereas many leave with only a one hit wonder and a career to look back on.

Khalid’s annual Spotify analysis proved his huge success, wrapping up with a rather impressive 3 billion streams. It’s suggestive to say, the digital age has made it possible for artists to become global superstars over night. Not all can say they’ve gained a million, let alone 3 BILLION streams, however it’s made it easier to gain quicker visibility and presence. I’ve got to say I do think Khalid is an exception, but admittedly, it is an exciting time for millennial artists, who can employ the benefits of social media and streaming to their advantage. Particularly with Spotify’s most recent feature – ‘Spotify for Artists’.

 

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The Future of the ‘Gr8 Khalid’

Despite the somewhat unpredictability of the music industry, it is hard to see Khalid falling between the cracks anytime soon, especially with his anticipated second album being set for release in 2019. However, as we all know, one mistake online can cause detrimental effects for an artist’s career, and with Khalid being so prominent online, lets hope he is careful.

Being a millennial myself, I can whole heartily say I connect with his music on an emotional level and personally, I can’t see Khalid going anywhere other than up in the future. I’ll be eagerly waiting for his second album and how he grows in the future.

 

 

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LIVE REVIEW: TOM MISCH WITH SUPPORT FROM BARNEY ARTIST – BRIXTON O2 ACADEMY

Written by: Natalya Davies         Updated: 3rd December 2018

Ever dreamt of time travel? Great. Next stop is 1980’s Boogie Wonderland!

 

RATING: ★

Image result for TOM MISCH BRIXTON O2

 

Misch’s highly anticipated Autumn UK tour finds itself in Brixton on a typically glum Thursday evening, leaving budding rapper Barney Artist to figuratively “keep the seat warm” – this seat, in reality, being an even more typically glum London crowd. However, despite his best efforts to engage with the crowd, the rapper was seemingly in over his head – and I do say this with a heavy heart.

Barney Artist did prove to be quite the entertainer, leaving no inch of the stage floor untouched and obviously extremely keen to ensure the audience is moving with him, however, the fault lies elsewhere. For a keen gig-goer, it is particularly frustrating when artists perform with a DJ or backing track as opposed to a live band; although, I do understand that not every artist has the budget or desire to take this route. However, in this instance, the DJ completely drowned out the rapper’s voice with heavy use of sub bass, making most of what Barney Artist was saying and rapping considerably hard to follow.

Despite this, the spirits of the audience were high, anticipating the unknown wonders that were to come.

Tom Misch takes to the stage with a phenomenal performance of “It Runs Through Me”, taken from latest album “Geography”, which is then followed up with FKJ collaboration “Losing My Way”, the first of many unexpected surprises of the night.

Be it the guest appearances from breathtaking talents like Poppy Ajudha and Zak Abel, the stunning addition of saxophone solos, live brass instrumentalists and live violinists, or even the excitement stirred at the revelation of the colossal disco ball hanging over the stage; each element incorporated into Misch’s set left the audience in sheer awe.

So, if you are looking to see a live act, even simply for the escapism factor that comes along with the live experience, then Tom Misch is the one for you. For a moment, the audience had the chance to forget their surroundings and be transported to the Disco-fueled wonderland of a past era; and if you ask me, that is a bargain for the mere £40 I paid for the ticket.

It goes without saying that Tom Misch will be (or arguably already is) an extremely important figure for modern British music, so you know exactly what artist you need to be adding to your live music bucket list!

 

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Releasing new music or a new project? Email aamusicblog2017@gmail.com or contact via instagram @ABSOLUTELYAUDIO for review/article enquiries. More information is available via the contact button on the homepage.

 

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MODERN MUSIC AND MORALITY: THE CONTROVERSY OF CONSUMER EMPOWERMENT

Written by: Natalya Davies        Updated: 17/10/2018

 

Should We Be More Mindful of the Music We Listen to in the Modern Age?

 

Since the debatably controversial movement tested by Spotify regarding hate content and hateful conduct, it appears that the whole industry has been sitting on the uprooted issue of morality – including me. However, just by taking a slight glance at the impact of previous movements in the history of music, it is clear to see that this moral panic is nothing new.

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Mostly the same arguments that are being tested now were also debated in the wake of 1950’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, 70’s Punk, and even the short-lived era of 90’s Grunge. The awareness of music’s ability to reflect our personal qualities, doubled with its potential to influence young minds, is a burden that our modern society carries – one which technology only seems to be complicating, further.

While there is an evident issue of artists securing extreme ‘cult-like‘ power among young audiences through doubling as influential social media figures, the controversy of consumer empowerment in the streaming age seems to be relatively uncharted territory.

In a New York Times podcast discussing late rapper XXXTentacion, Noisey journalist Lawrence Burney introduces this argument, suggesting that the direct role that listeners now possess in the financial success of an artist should lead to more mindful decisions of the music we indulge in. On the subject, he says:

“I really had to arrive at a moment where I realised that even listening to the music, because of how it works now with streaming, is… I’m putting money directly in these people’s pockets […] so I had to come to terms with the fact that, no, I just can’t listen… because if I am listening, I’m supporting. […] every time you hit play, maybe you’re only putting 5 cents in their pocket… but it accumulates”

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In consideration of this perspective, let’s take the time to ask ourselves this: should we be more mindful of the music we listen to in the modern age?

While it is commendable to actively remove yourself from a current trend, deciding that the bigger picture must be addressed, it can be much more complicated than a simple yes or no. When surveying a number of individuals on the matter, it became apparent that there was an inconceivable range of varying opinions, all valid in their own way.

When posed with this question, a contributor suggested that each case is inevitably different and therefore, must be approached and judged completely separately. It is highly likely that the offence and scenario will vary, as well as the level of repentance displayed, therefore, it can seem unfair to place all artists involved with hateful conduct or hate content under one umbrella. Most importantly, it also depends on the degree of what you, the consumer, decide you can look past and what you cannot.

On the other hand, many that were for Burney’s argument testified that choosing to listen to a controversial artist allows them to thrive, undeservedly. As Burney perfectly established, listening means supporting, and as artists are now paid per play, it seems that many feel they are personally contributing to their financial success – or even the victory of a potential offender.

While this is a very interesting prospect, the next question which only seems natural to explore is: How much of an impact do we really have?

Is the power really in the hands of the consumer?

Spotify operate under what can be described as a ‘parimutuel payment system‘; or in simpler terms, a system whereby subscription fees and other revenue streams are combined before royalties are paid out to artists. This also means that the more popular artists of a given time period will earn a large percentage of this figurative ‘money pool’.

This may seem quite apparent, so allow me to support my point with a simple example: Not long ago, CDs were a booming musical format and to obtain them, you would most likely visit a record store, online or offline. Let’s say I visit and purchase “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” by Drake, I pay approximately £9.99 of my money in return for a physical product by an artist of my choice.

 

“In a way, it could be suggested that if you are investing into companies like Spotify, then you are supporting its entire catalogue.”

 

Now, because of this tangible element, the purchase of a CD is much more simple than the streaming world. In this make-belief instance, my money was collected for Drake, and Drake is exactly what I received in return. However, with streaming services, you pay for an entire catalogue of music, which in turn, is what you receive. However, as a result of this “money pool” your money is not just going into the pockets of the artists you are listening to, but also getting paid out to the most popular artists of that period.

So with this illustration in mind, I will reiterate the prior question: Is the power really in the hands of the consumer?

My assumption is no.

With this payment system in place, the consumer’s money is invested wherever necessary, meaning that you most likely are contributing toward the success of an artist you may be abstaining from, to honour your own moral boundaries. So, in a way, it could be suggested that if you are investing into companies like Spotify, then you are supporting its entire catalogue.

The only way to be truly removed from this is to opt out of streaming altogether.

Recognise this as an extreme vantage point, an opportunity for me to be the devil’s advocate. My point does not place the responsibility of a controversial artist’s financial success on any one but the artist itself, and their team, however, it is simply some food for thought for those that enjoy speculation.

 

“With great power comes great responsibility”

 

Now this leads me to my final question, one which I feel we all should take the time reflect upon: Do we have the right to make a moral judgement towards media figures?

This is such a broad question, but its importance should not be underestimated. While I plan to further explore the subject of celebrities and moral obligations at a later date, it has to be expressed that the high expectations entrusted upon them must be a weighty burden to bear; one which many do not wish to carry or even have the option to opt out of.

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My belief is that no one really has the right to make a moral judgement on the occurrences of another’s life, despite it being a large part of human nature to do so. Yes, it is wise to evaluate your personal morals in conjunction with the entertainment that you are indulging in, but it is important to recognise that no one ever really knows the full extent of a story; particularly when it is circulated by press who may have their own preconceptions.

As the famous saying goes: “with great power comes great responsibility“, therefore, you could suggest that, yes, the access model that has spurred the rise of consumer empowerment in the music industry does require greater responsibility from the behalf of each individual consumer. However, if you are comfortable with listening to any and all music, simply for its enjoyment factor, then that too is completely plausible – that is the beauty of morality.

 

 

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RAP RADAR: 10 UK RAPPERS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT…

Updated: 23/08/17          Written by: Natalya Davies

Since the breakthrough of Grime into the UK mainstream’s consciousness around 2016, the nation’s rap scene has flourished into something very exciting for music lovers. This breakthrough made way for an appreciation of the drill, dancehall and afrobeat fusions of artists like J Hus, Yxng Bane and IAMDDB, making UK music a serious contender globally.

As a homage to this recent success, I wanted to spend some time putting together a collective of my favourite UK rap talents across a number of different genres, however, I wanted to use my platform to do this differently.

We all know that the AJ Traceys and Giggs’ are HOT on the music scene, so picking artists like this would make for a completely predictable listing; despite their worthiness to be entitled the hottest UK rappers of the modern day. No, for this piece, I wanted to challenge myself to feature only artists with under 100k monthly listens on Spotify* so that I could truly showcase the underground kings and queens that you may be missing out on!

So, without further ado, here are the top 10 rappers you need to know about…

 

10. NOVELIST

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Monthly Listens: 28,000*

For Fans of: Asco, Ambush Buzzworl, Youngs Teflon

First in the list, but last in my ranking is Novelist, a 19 year old MC and producer who has certainly put his stamp on Grime culture in London. Through features with the likes of Skepta, Kanye West and Tom Misch, he is rapidly proving his versatility and potential despite being such a young artist.

“So, if Novelist has worked with the greats, why is he so under-the-radar?” – you may ask. Well, this is likely the result of his devotion to the underground rap scene, assuring that a traditional route (not dominated by social media strategies and D2C marketing) is the way he wants to keep things. Who can blame him?

Recommended track: 10/10

9. JAM BAXTER

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Monthly Listens: 46,000*

For Fans of: Fliptrix, Verb T, Dabbla

If you’re looking for something truly underrated, Jam Baxter’s poetically cryptic and mysterious lyrics versed with atmospheric Hip Hop beats and dark imagery makes for a very interesting mixture – indeed.

“Excellent Donut” featuring Ed Scissor was the track that originally brought my attention to the rapper, its alluring layers yet minimal structure are bound to instantly hold you captive.

Recommended track: For A Limited Time Only

 

8. BARNEY ARTIST

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Monthly Listens: 80,000*

For Fans of: Loyle Carner, Alfa Mist, Chris McClenney

Barney Artist, from East London, is different to anything else featured on this list – a very special addition, in fact. If you are a fan of  Hip Hop, chill vibes and relaxing soul beats, then look no more, Barney is exactly what you have been looking for.

After numerous collaborations with Neo-Soul royalty Tom Misch, Jordan Rakei and Alfa Mist, Barney is quickly becoming one to know within this scene.

Recommended track: I’m Going to Tell You

 

7. NADIA ROSE

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Monthly Listens: 98,000*

For Fans of: Stefflon Don, Lady Leshurr, Yungen

One thing that is apparent in the behaviour of young rappers is the need to be daring  and harness a confidence that is indestructible, however, with Nadia Rose, this captivating swagger is so convincingly natural. Rose, who also happens to be the cousin of Stormzy, has a striking dexterity in the rap game, similar to the likes of Lady Leshurr.

If you want a taste of this addictive prowess, simply head over to her video for “Stations” where you can see her rapping on train tracks – without permission!

Recommended track: Skwod

 

6. MAXSTA

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Monthly Listens: 48,000*

For Fans of: Ghetts, P Money, D Double E

Despite being a rather underground artist, Maxsta is a well renowned and experienced name in the Grime scene – however, his position says nothing about his talent; simply that he is unwilling to compromise his sound to appeal to a larger audience.

His music perfectly encompasses the brutal essence of Grime, in a way that is extremely authentic. For anyone that is even merely interested in UK rap, Maxsta is a must-listen.

Recommended track: Guns and Roses

5. REEKO SQUEEZE

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Monthly Listens: 39,000*

For Fans of: Recky, SL, Harlem Spartans

Originally a member of popular Drill crew ‘Section Boyz’, Reeko Squeeze is a UK rapper that is proving to be one to watch over the next year. Despite finessing the ego and hard edge that is essential in the rapper aesthetic, Reeko possesses a likeability and drive that is likely to win you over, even if the music is not for you.

This infectious drive is sprinkled throughout Reeko’s tracks, mixed with a boyish cockiness, making for an unforgettable combination.

Recommended track: Diablo

 

4. REEKZ MB

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Monthly Listens: 48,000*

For Fans of: AJ Tracey, Abra Cadabra, MoStack

Reekz MB is another truly underground artist, his music often shedding light on the harsh reality of growing up as a young black male in the nation’s capital – without filter. There is an undeniable aggression to Reekz’ style accompanied atop hypnotic drill beats, making him a great listen for those that are big fans of the underground rap scene.

With Drill groups like Harlem Spartans and 67 dominating London’s South-side, it is likely that this is not the last that you will hear of rappers like Reekz.

Recommended track: Blueprint

3. SUSPECT

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Monthly Listens: 86,000*

For Fans of: Avelino, Fredo, Skepta

Labelled an “underground king” by many,  Suspect isn’t your average UK rapper. Not one interested in the fame and fortune that haunts so many younger rappers, Suspect is truly here to establish himself as a serious artist – making music worthy of respect and high regard.

You don’t need to do your research to learn this, however, a quick listen to his albums “Loading” (2017) and “Still Loading” (2018) will tell you this about the rapper. There is an evident natural aggression yet certainty to his sound, similar to the likes of Skepta, projecting the “no messing” attitude which has captured the attention of American audiences.

Recommended track: One Way

 

2. DOUBLE S

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Monthly Listens: 33,000*

For Fans of: Ghetts, JME, Black the Ripper

Double S is another one of these incredible talents that successfully manages to slip under the radar – making him more stylishly distant than underrated. However, despite being somewhat isolated from the public eye, the London MC’s monthly listen count reflects nothing on the gems that are waiting to be discovered in debut album “Double Vision” (2017).

With collaborations from Grime heavyweights JME and Wiley, “Double Vision” is a release fueled with the fastest lyrical flows and an infectious bravado, making this a release which should be on the radar of all grime fans.

Recommended track: Secret

 

1. KNUCKS

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Monthly Listens: 95,000*

For Fans of: Big Tobz, KwolleM, Yung Fume

For an avid music fan, I appreciate nothing more than an artist striving to infuse their own unique flavour into their work, and this much can be said for North-West London rapper Knucks. If his witty yet staggeringly suave nature isn’t enough to have you hooked, then his self-produced soul infused beats should surely do the trick.

Despite releasing a rather typical ‘Afrobeat’-inspired track “Hooper” featuring Not3s, Knucks is one of very few UK rappers that can not be defined – quite similar to rap’s lovable rogue, Dave. Knucks does not limit himself to certain styles and beats, instead, his experimental nature makes for some of the most interesting sounds currently circulating the London scene.

Recommended track: Vows

 

 

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Releasing new music or a new project? Email aamusicblog2017@gmail.com or contact via instagram @ABSOLUTELYAUDIO for review/article enquiries. More information is available via the contact button on the homepage.

 

9. TOM MISCH – BEAT TAPE 2 (2015)

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Consider the modern music industry.

If you’re not sure what I mean by that then I will tell you what I’m getting at. The digital revolution, around the late 90s to early 00s, completely disrupted the music industry as we knew it. The Internet became more and more accessible to the everyday household as prices of computers began to reduce and music essentially became free. Consequently, the role of marketing in music became much more significant as artists now needed that help to breakthrough the online clutter and to be noticed by their target audiences. Tom Misch, however, is an exception.

His album ‘Beat Tape 2’ is an excellent example of how breaking conventional boundaries can be rewarding. The lead up to it’s release was completely void of any clever publicity stunts or creative campaigns to engage with its audience. Also, if you consider the album art and title, it is all very simplistic. It has been suggested that this was a conscious effort by the artist so as to not create anything which has the potential to divert attention from the music.

If you look closely at other artists that fall into this new wave of neo-soul/contemporary R&B then you will see a similar pattern. It is all about celebrating the beauty and complexity of music.

Another extremely interesting fact about this piece is that while it is an album jam-packed with his creations and production, Misch only features his vocals on one track ‘Colours of Freedom’, despite his phenomenal and unique vocal abilities. Other songs are simply gripping instrumentals or collaborations with some of music’s most exciting and uprising artists such as Loyle Carner, Jordan Rakei and Zak Abel which is a very humble move.

There is something extremely beautiful that is extracted when a number of talented artists bring their ideas together and are able to each tell their own stories. Beat Tapes 2 is the perfect representation of this.

RECOMMENDED TRACKS

‘Wake Up This Day (Feat. Jordan Rakei)’

‘Beautiful Escape (Feat. Zak Abel)’

‘Colours of Freedom (Feat. Bearcubs)’

Want to get involved? Comment below your favourite albums of all time!