BAND INTERVIEW: Lipstick & Cyanide

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Lipstick & Cyanide are an up and coming gothic and industrial band from Northern CA, USA. Their debut release is called ‘White As Death’ and is available at Bandcamp for free HERE

I got to ask them a few questions about their music and their views on the music industry:

Lipstick & Cyanide have a unique, original sound though I could hear various possible influences such as Joy Division, Depeche Mode and the industrial electronic rock of Nine Inch Nails. Would you say these bands were influences on your music and, if not, who would you say are some of your major musical inspirations?

“You more or less hit the nail on the head. L&C is very much influenced by all the music being turned out by the alternative culture of the 80s. Joy Division, Bauhaus, the whole nine yards. When I dove head first into the goth scene in the 90s I also discovered industrial music and fell in love with it as well. Hanging out at a club and getting influenced by bands like KMFDM and Skinny Puppy as well as Ministry.

It’s kind of funny that you mention Depeche Mode, because when I was in high school and in my ‘I’m too cool for (insert thing here)’ phase, I couldn’t stand Depeche Mode! Why? ”Cuz they are’nt a thrash band, maaaaaaan! *That* ain’t punk rock!’ I fell in love with them later on, of course….”.

How do you assess the current state of the music industry and do you feel the internet has had a positive or deleterious effect, or both? On the one hand, music is expected to be presented to the listener for free, yet there is the potential for a relatively unknown band like yourselves to reach many more people than an unknown band could have in the days of the traditional music industry. What are the pros and cons?

“It’s a double-edged sword, to be certain. Hell, I’m old enough to still remember how Metallica over-acted towards Napster back in the 90s. But I think it’s great to be able to, from the comfort of your own home, hear about some band and be able to hear them instantly.

Honestly, I see a lot more pros than cons about the situation. I mean, I remember back in the day when you REALLY had to struggle to get people to notice your band, and now it can all be done with the click of a button.

But there are drawbacks. The days of physical media are more-or-less done with except as a novelty. The kids growing up in this new age of instant music will always have their thing, but mine was being able to hold a copy of, say, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and really get a sense of history and a feeling of, ‘This record changed the world’. I have no idea what the digital equivalent of that would be.”

Is there a band or artist out there who would be ideal for your band to support on tour, whose audience would be the most receptive to your music?

“Anyone in the gothic or industrial category will work. But if we’re naming names for a dream tour? The first band that comes to mind is Blutengel. That audience would for sure like our sound and I think we’d compliment Blutengel nicely if we opened for them. And I certainly wouldn’t turn down an offer to play with Ramstein! Hell, just plain playing a show anywhere in Wave Gotik-Treffen would be a dream come true! There is also a German goth band I would’ve enjoyed supporting whom aren’t around anymore: Ghosting. If you’ve never heard of them before, they’re seriously worth checking out!”

Your lyrics have a distinctly poetic quality, who are your favourite lyricists or do you derive the most inspiration from non-musical sources like poetry and literature or even film?

“Thank you for the compliment! This is where a curveball gets thrown, because my cultural foundation is punk. No matter where I go or what I do, I’ll always consider myself part of that culture. Why do I mention this? Because the one lyricist who really inspired me and got me to think about how to make my writing better? Darby Crash from The Germs. If you ever get the chance, look up the lyrics to anything on The Germs first album. It’s absolute poetry against adrenaline pumping punk.”

What is coming up in 2020 for Lipstick & Cyanide in 2020 in terms of releases and performances? Where can people learn more about you and your music?

“Live shows are on the horizon for L&C in 2020, of course. And wow am I looking forward to that! Nothing like a good show at a smokey, dark goth/industrial club. We’re currently working on our first official full-length album to be released sometime later this year as well as looking around for a label. And stop on by the L&C Facebook page at fb.me/fleshrot. Don’t be shy! Come and say hi! One of the big reasons I started this was to meet new people and make friends while having a blast playing music!”

 

I’d love you to tell us a little about the four tracks on your White As Death E.P., what each song is about etc.

 

1. The Bridge

“There’s a railway bridge near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant where people gathered to watch the plant burn. What they all didn’t know was that they were also getting a massive dose of radiation that would kill them all within a week. Just like the people on the bridge that night, the listener has no idea what they’re really looking at….”.

 

2. Guinea Pigs

“That one is more-or-less a protest song. It was me venting about the frustration I feel any time I hear about someone’s human rights being violated for the ‘greater good’. Unwilling and/or unsuspecting human medical experimentation is something I consider beyond vile. And the scary part? It’s still going on right now. We just haven’t heard about it yet.”

 

3. Kill For Peace

“Y’know…when my friends read the lyrics to that song, they told me it sounded like a prayer. Maybe in a way, it is. Peace is something I want so much. Not just world peace and such, but peace in my mind and heart as well. I suffer from chronic depression and other things I take boatloads of medicine for. I’ve been seeing therapists/psychiatrists since I was 13. And let me tell you, sometime just wanting to get out of bed in the morning is an internal war. We all want peace, we all want strength, we all want love. This was just my way to verbalize it.”

 

4. Totentanz

“Hoo boy! Totentanz was something I just did for fun when I was in a real goofy mood one day. It’s just a morbid little nonsense song about someone on a goth/industrial dance floor getting possessed by who-knows-what and dancing themselves to death. We can all relate to being in a club and then the DJ will put something on that makes us go, ‘I love this song! Time to hit the dance floor!’. Well, picture an EXTREME case of that.”

 

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Without Maps – 30 Years of Moments by Moments Of Pleasure Records

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This is a sampler of material from the Moments Of Pleasure label, founded in Brighton, England in 1989. It essentially features the work of six artists: Senses Reeling, Rogue Beauty, Almost Charlotte, Bluff, A Long Valley and B-Vox.  The common thread pretty much throughout is the involvement of Nick Fuller and Matthew Griffin – two of the five founders (along with Anthony Squires, Ian Philipson and Bill Russell) who comprised Almost Charlotte – the band behind its original single release.  The style of music throughout is essentially alternative pop/indie, though it branches out into more diverse genres over the years.

The compilation consists of nineteen tracks and begins with the upbeat funk-tinged indie pop of Rogue Beauty’s I Choose. Based around an infectious groove, the soulful female vocals are aligned with a memorable melody and an equally melodic baseline which acts as a fine counterpoint. Wah-drenched guitars add to the “dance-rock” vibe and synths complete the soundscape to great effect.

Next comes Eastern Eye by B-Vox which brings to mind some of the great indie pop of the 80’s such as Julian Cope and The Clash classic Rock The Casbah. Over crunchy guitars, the distinctive male lead vocals carry the song aided by eloquent lyrics and a highly catchy chorus hook. The subtle brass which punctuates certain parts adds an extra splash of musical colour.

Bluff’s Go Home Now comes next, written by Matthew Griffin it’s driven along by a Pump It Up-style bassline and Trevor Warman’s aggressively upfront guitar.  It notably features a contrast between the light, poppy verse and the heavier chorus which brings to mind The Pixies though musically it is more akin to the indie bands of the era (1992) such as Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, also harking back to arty punk bands like Wire. A superb and succinct piece of punk-influenced guitar pop.

This is followed by the sophisticated synth pop of Rogue Beauty’s Burn Down (Icon Park). It’s a viciously satirical song that aims its ire at celebrity culture: “Roll up folks for the PR man’s game, let’s wallow in the glory of a name, thank you Hello and Gossip and Morning TV, forget about real life and lose the real me.” Though it was written in 2001 by Nick Fuller and Matthew Griffin, the message resonates even more today, where celebrities are treated as deities in some cases.

Foreign or Poor by Senses Reeling brings us right up to date.  Infused with a similar righteous anger, this one deals with the terrible tragedy of the Grenfell fire, which occurred when a tower block in London burned down due to flammable cladding after health/safety concerns had been raised by residents and ignored.  There’s a strong sense of social injustice and moral outrage at how people were neglected as if they didn’t matter: “We can talk forever, but it has got to change, it has simply got to change.”

Their Way by A Long Valley is a more conciliatory song about not being overcome by hatred and bitterness, again a message that is more than apposite in Brexit-era Britain: “An open loving heart forgives, refusing bitterness for good, believing freedom always lives, as hatred never could.” Musically, it’s a solemn five-minute epic augmented by haunting synth strings.

Almost Charlotte’s Hope is a more traditional indie pop song, combining the light guitar style of The Sundays with the quirky vocal style of Julian Cope and Morrissey. It’s an effortlessly infectious track with a gloriously simple structure – featuring a prominently stabbing and melodic bassline by Anthony Squires – that proves sometimes less is more.

Ferocious Love by Senses Reeling is yet another song with a timely message. Recorded in 2016, it’s about those who deny the destruction of the environment or ignore it, in particular governments. Since then we have seen the rise of the eco-warrior movement which has become particularly well known this year through activists like Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg. They would certainly nod in agreement at such lines as, “Faith in our invincibility ignores a power so plain to see, no figure will make it right, no bribe will quell the fight, this place defines us and cannot disappear, we’ve got to talk“.

The following Attitude by Bluff is one of the compilation’s high-paced, punkier moments. It’s a thrilling ride, based around a simple but highly effective three-chord progression girded by an equally effective bassline.  This provides the bedrock for a lyric about someone with hypothetical views when it comes to helping those less fortunate: “There’s nothing to concern your cosy little world, on the outside there is no one suffering….”. It’s a potent, passionate song delivered with consummate conviction and one of the stand-out highlights for me.

There are shades of Depeche Mode in Paul Midcalf’s pristine production and the  pulsing synths of Easy by Senses Reeling, a rumination on the increasingly Orwellian use of data collection through our increased technology (“Surveillance or benign? Do we see the creepy line?“). Recorded in 2019, again this is a song that will only develop increased relevance as our lives become dominated by gadgets and subliminal advertising.

Anyone by Rogue Beauty is a low-key but lyrically powerful acoustic track about how losing yourself in a crowd can be a form of emotional protection: “And no one hears you scream beneath the neon sun, out here in the crowd you could be anyone.” The use of exotic percussion gives this a unique musical feel and acts as a nice contrast to the songs that surround it.

Missing Something by Senses Reeling is perhaps the most unexpected musical departure on the compilation. Based around a Latin American groove and piano style along with double bass and appropriate percussion, it’s a tour de force with a captivating lead female vocal by Rayne Gomes. Lyrically, it’s typically incisive, about how we don’t appreciate the moment if we are always chasing after the latest material acquisition (“A bigger house, a newer car…”). Full of sophisticated musical touches including some deft classical guitar work, it shows the impressive range at their artistic disposal.

Rainfall by Almost Charlotte returns us to more familiar sonic terrain, another finely crafted alternative pop song written by Matthew Griffin and recorded back in 1989. It’s a touching track about not being afraid to reach out to friends when going through some troubled times.

Someone Else by Senses Reeling is another song written from a standpoint of compassion, about how the elderly are neglected and should be appreciated while they’re still here. This is captured in such moving lines as, ” It’s only when we hold a hand so fragile and fading, that we realise the true cost….”.

Almost Charlotte’s Among The People is an interesting song, a character study about an extrovert young woman who refuses to be tied down to a relationship: “If you talk to her of love she’ll often turn and hide her eyes, if you ask her for a dance she will dance until you say goodbye…”. Recorded in 1990, it’s a poignant twist on the theme of unrequited love and says something larger about the shallow nature of modern relationships.

Some Small Control by Senses Reeling is another emotive song by Nick Fuller, with a sassy female lead vocal that brought to mind someone like Sia. It’s about trying to cling to the things you can control when all is turning to chaos around you. The arrangement here is excellent, with subtle piano and xylophone added to the musical palette.

Rogue Beauty’s Friends and Enemies is back to an edgier, fiery style, another well aimed attack at the banality of celebrity culture and how this has infected the music industry. (“What does the X stand for? Where will it end? Victorian Freak Show returns…” is clearly a dig at Simon Cowell and The X-Factor. (I heartily applaud!).

Bluff’s Switch Off is about wanting refuge from sensory overload.  Built around Joy Division-style interlocking drums and bass (the driving bassline by Colin Clifford being a particular feature) it’s built on rich, slightly heavier electric guitars than their signature sound. In “Sometimes I wish I had the guts just to switch it off, when the walls close in…..” it features one of the album’s most anthemic choruses: Fantastic song.

The compilation closes, aptly, with another social justice song, Your Place by Senses Reeling. This one is about the housing crisis in Britain where a combination of stalled social house building and the unaffordably high prices of private housing means that many people are left stranded – some at the mercy of exploitative landlords.  Musically, it’s one of the most unique here, a dance/rock hybrid that brought to mind Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr’s Electronic. The contrast between the lively, upbeat music and the serious, saturnine lyrics make for a potent dynamic: “Easy to say that we all deserve our own space but it looks like they’re keeping you in your place….”.

Overall, this is a wonderful compilation of 30 years of material produced by this little-known hidden gem of a record label, Moments Of Pleasure. At nineteen tracks, it’s quite the epic listen that charts changing styles and times through a standard that is consistently high throughout, without a dud song here. The songwriters involved show a considerable amount of musical and lyrical skill, boldly dealing with the deeper issues of modern life and the human condition. It will be particularly loved by indie aficionados but any discerning music lover will find much to treasure here and much to discover beyond by checking out the induvial releases by the 6 acts.

 

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: V by D.Ni.L

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D.Ni.L. is a 35 year old hip hop artist, musician, producer and emcee hailing from Yorkshire. Having played with bands growing up in York, he developed the ability to compose in his head and play by ear. He has battled alcohol and drug addiction since the age of twelve, and spent four years living in hostels and sleeping rough.

These tough life experiences give his music an edge and intensity, and his record label Musication specifically uses music as a tool for recovery for people who face issues like homelessness and addiction. This has led to collaborations with Buttercream 87 and Wasabi Fire Alarm, as part of the band). As a solo artist he released two albums in 2017, This In’t A Party and the more guitar-influenced Suicide In Sips.

In 2018, he released the studio albums Boy Inside and Do You Know Who I Am?, both of which I reviewed highly favourably. D.Ni.L. has developed his own unique musical style which fuses aspects of progressive rock/metal (Deftones, Muse) with the emotive and well-crafted songwriting style of the Manic Street Preachers, also fused with the brutal lyrical honesty and aggression of hip hop.

This latest album, V, consists of eleven tracks and it maintains D.Ni.L’s signature sound whilst sounding fresh, owing to his highly sophisticated yet hard hitting musical approach.

As with his two previous albums the album starts with a strong, arresting track that instantly grabs your attention, in this case, Drop. Starting with taut, angular electric guitars saturated with gritty edge the time signature seamlessly switches from 6/4 to 6/8 where D.Ni.L shows the more melodic side to his musical persona, singing in falsetto and in harmony.

After these two contrasting but both highly effective sections have repeated the track then becomes ever more complex with wiry, syncopated riffs providing the bedrock for the mesmerising if enigmatic refrain: “You were my first love but I don’t think that I could ever….” which starts out sung and it’s up being growled, a sign of his strong metal influences.

The following Backhander maintains the brooding intensity and is propelled by a surging low end riff and meaty, punchy drums. D.Ni.L delivers a vocal performance full of conviction, never more so on the main hook, “There’s no turning back this time, there’s nothing left on me….” which turns into a haunting, anthemic mantra towards the end, delivered in octaves.

Third track Painted is one of the most visceral songs he’s yet recorded, with searingly aggressive vocals on the verse counterpointed by a vaulting chorus melody. The way he uses opposites in terms of both texture and rhythm/harmony provides dynamic contrasts throughout the album and this track is no exception.

Fourth song Licked is one of the album’s most instant and accessible, It starts out with an urgent but relatively straightforward 4/4 rhythm, yet even when it develops into something more complicated, the simplicity and compelling nature of the main vocal melody captivates the ear throughout.

Wallowing is a unique track on the album; a slow burning epic with a beautifully simple beat and languid tempo that brought to mind the ethereal Teardrop by Massive Attack. Musically, it’s a rich sonic landscape of piano, strings and picked guitar lines while D.Ni.L’s troubled lyrics only add to the potency. This track in particular feels like an artistic progression even from the heady heights of his first two albums, adding a maturity borne of experience as well as being one of the musically  accomplished things he’s written.

His sense of anger and resigned despair are never too far from the surface, which manifests clearly in the bottled rage of the following Fuck Right Now. Set at a brooding tempo, the music proceeds with a menacing momentum as D.Ni.L sings about being in prison “bashed about” and the all things “dark and sinister“. It’s a compelling depiction of a nihilistic, world-weary mindset that many will relate to, captured perfectly by the main hook, “If someone told this is just a little break from hell, I wouldn’t give a fuck right now…”.

If anything, seventh track Crawled Out is even angrier, D.Ni.L at his most angular and dissonant to begin with before breaking down to one of the emotive soul searching sections that he does well, then building back up to a passage of righteous fury.

Touched is one of the album’s most anthemic songs and a real grower. The verse provides the calm before the storm (“Now I smell the reaper on her breath…the smell of death was lingering..” he intones, darkly) before breaking out into blistering widescreen low-end guitars, the ascending octaves towards the end providing a gripping finish.

20/20 is one of the album’s lighter tracks that, for me, shows D.Ni.L’s gift for melody and effective harmonic progressions as well as the strong influence of the excellent and somewhat underrated Welsh group Manic Street Preachers, at least in the first half. From there it returns to his more familiar territory of prog-rock esque rhythmic left turns matched with gnarly riffage. It’s an approach he’s honed to perfection.

Bunch of Fives takes us back into a maelstrom of emotional turmoil, beginning with the tormented lines: “If I can’t figure me out, who’s gonna do it for me?”. This forms the main refrain with the music taking us through some equally dark and jagged sonic terrain; insistent lead guitar lines battle with tumultuous drums and industrial NIN-style grunting chords.

Final track Lying In Wait is the album’s uber-epic at nearly nine minutes duration and there’s not a dull moment. Featuring sections of relentless rage contrasted with sections of melodic beauty, it brings to the visceral impact of Nirvana’s In Utero, incidentally Kurt Cobain’s third album. The track reaches a powerful climax then fades away, giving the impression of an unquenchable energy. It feels like an apposite way to close things out.

Overall, this album completes a trifecta of highly consistent and unique alternative rock albums from D.Ni.L. It maintains the same quality and intensity of his first two albums while eclipsing them in certain ways, featuring some of his both troubled and transcendent music. D.Ni.L has learnt how to channel his demons into his art and the effect is frequently cathartic and electrifying. Highly recommended listening.

 

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10  

Alex Faulkner

You can listen to the whole album HERE

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Ben Sheers

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Ben Sheers is an up and coming Scottish singer songwriter, hailing from Aberdeen. In the past he has worked with other musicians on various projects and, more recently, has started releasing his solo material online and his latest release, The Last Christmas Drink (Is On Me), can be heard below:

 

I got to ask him a few questions about his music.

With the huge success of Lewis Capaldi and the increasingly popular songwriter Gerry Cinnamon it’s a good time to be a Scottish singer/songwriter. Why do you think solo singer/songwriters are so popular at the moment? It’s rare to see a band break through to the upper echelons of the charts these days.

“It’s funny you should mention those two, heard a little bit of both, their music is opposite ends of the spectrum isn’t it, one sings from a Mills and Boon novel, the other about big hard crazy jackie from the gorbals being a belter, one sounds like a comedian the other thinks he’s a comedian.

I can see the attraction on both sides but I can honestly say I don’t listen to either. So, no it makes no difference where you’re from, I don’t think its a good time to be a solo Scottish artist, they’ve always been about. It’s just that bands at the moment…I don’t know…nothing out grabbing you by the balls just now really, everything’s safe….”. 

Who are your musical heroes and inspirations? Is there one artist or group who’ve been the biggest influence on your music? 

“I look to albums, certain songs being more of an influence than actual artists, cos most have lost the plot at some point or other, haven’t they? I’ll mention Bob Marley as an example, I love his songwriting, it’s universal, a certain way he lived free….but jeez he had about 11 wives and 35 kids didn’t he? [laughs]

Dylan, Young, Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Brown, Richard Ashcroft, The Smiths, so much more….loads of great albums of theirs have been an influence, but that guy who free climbs Alex Honneld…he’s an inspiration ain’t he? Actually I’m going up snowy Ben Nevis next week, a walk in the park compared to what Alex does….”.

How do you feel about the modern music industry, do you think streaming music helps an artist reach people or is it unfair for the artist to allow people to listen and enjoy their music without paying for a single or album as it used to be?

“They wont take risks with artists will they? Not now. Maybe they got to much ear wax or something, I don’t know, the industry, the suits etc, that’s the way it is now… streaming, downloading music, go on YouTube there it is, but I like vinyl heads and I can understand that, something about a nice new album, can’t beat that warm sound on a good player.

If an artist puts his or her music on YouTube or other online services they know the score, the way I see it is if more people hear and connect then that’s fine… even if I don’t make a cent, I’m sharing something sacred. If they get it then great, just the way it is today. Now how do I get the cash to make that no. 1 album that’s in my head?! [laughs]”.

Your latest release is a Christmas song in the classic tradition. What’s the song about in a nutshell and do you have a favourite Christmas song of all time? 
“It’s all about that Christmas spirit, you can still feel it at that time of year, can you? I hope so…I can, despite all the commercialism and shite it’s not gone, it’s deeper than that….awhh feck let’s just get drunk tonight, throw some snowballs, fall on our asses in the snow outside the bar,tomorrow’s Xmas day, [laughs] and we’ll meet cousins and family we never knew we had, consuming more booze and eating too much food while watching great telly again and again…. ! But it can be a feckin horrid time to be lonely as well.

I didn’t set out to write a Christmas song,I’d been playing with the riff for a while started finger picking the strings in harmony,the words just came out so I went with it,probably wrote in in the summer [laughs], I’ve got another 2 versions of the song I want to try to record, one a more kinda spoken narrative version with just strings… yeah it ain’t going away that easy!

Favourite Xmas song……The Pogues ft Kirsty McColl, Bowie and Bing, White Xmas, the real traditional ones ye know, can do without Slade and Band Aid ffs, give us a break this year please!!”

5. What is in the pipeline for next year, musically, for Ben Sheers? And where can people find out more about you and your work?
“As I mentioned I’m planning on spending some of my hard earned in the studio recording The Last Xmas Drink again, and about another 5-7 songs that I’ll be trying time permitting, gotta work ye know pay the bills etc…yeah, so more studio time, more mountains, more booze, more of the same really, I’ll be looking into more of this promotion thing as well for some of my other completed stuff.

 

You can find more Ben Sheers material HERE 

 

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Vanlalchhanhima Ralte

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Vanlalchhanhima Ralte is an independent singer, musician and songwriter. Along with this, Vanlalchhanhima Ralte is a Director of Vanlalchhanhima Ralte (OPC) Private Limited, which is an Independent Record Company, an Independent Record Label & an Independent Publisher. He has released both cover versions and original material, accruing a very large fanbase in the process. His latest release is a cover version of the well known song Achy Breaky Heart, watch the video below:

 

 

I got to ask him a few questions about his music:

Your latest single release is a cover of the well known country pop classic Achy Breaky Heart, originally recorded by Billy Ray Cyrus. What made you want to cover this particular song?

“Yes, that’s right. It’s a well known song, even to my childhood, I know and listen to that song. It make me want to cover because for the sake of the love of a classical music in it time. And I do interested to build it into this modern influences…”

You’re an independent singer, musician and songwriter as well as owning your own record company, do you find it difficult to balance your role as an artist along with dealing with the business side of the music industry?

“Yes, of course. A very good question in here. Too much, let me just say the role is too much to think from an artist level to an executive level. All so much for one person. One in a performance, and one in a none performance streamline of doing it all independently. Sometime, I think I need a balanced diet.”

Who are a few of your favourite artists or groups and do you have one all time musical hero?

“Yes, although I haven’t met in real life. One to mentioned the one whose era has been changing from country music to a kinda pop appeal, the one and only Taylor Swift. Whom I’ve been trending her through an internet, mostly Facebook, YouTube and on an Instagram. In that sense, she kinda well known for more than a decade.”

How do you feel about the modern music industry, do you think streaming music helps an artist reach people or is it unfair for the artist to allow people to listen and enjoy their music without paying for a single or album as it used to be?

“Into this modern digital world of consideration, an internet plays and transform the way the music industry used to be as comparing from the classical 70’s 80’s 90’s. I don’t see any unfairness for the people on the music to stream and listen them freely, if they want to make benefit for an artist, they will, if not, they wouldn’t.

What are your future plans for your music? Let people know about upcoming releases after this one and how they can keep informed about any new music you decide to release.

Well, good question. I’m currently working under one Christmas project. That I haven’t had any set for it releases date, but it will be in the month of December 2019. This will be for the love of the Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ, the sweet born baby, sent on earth by thy Heavenly Father God. The writes of the lyrics has already been completed, which I completed last month October 2019. It will be in an English & Mizo. As this is not yet a release or published, I will not mentioned the title of the EP or the songs name yet. So, stay tune for my upcoming Christmas song release. It will be available on my website, Official Artist Channel (YouTube), etc. Website: https://www.vanlalchhanhimaralte.com OAC: https://www.youtube.com/VanlalchhanhimaRalte

Thank you, Vanlalchhanhima, for the great interview!

 

 

Visit Vanlalchhanhima Ralte’s official website HERE

 

 

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: 666 Way$$$ by Feed The Weird

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Feed The Weird are a hip hop duo who are strongly influenced by their interest in the strange and the occult. The duo, Yami Weird and HellAir, have been friends since middle school and have had a long held mutual love for hip hop and punk rock. Both grew apart after moving out of their shared neighborhood, until Yami reached out to Hell after publishing a rough version of his song 666 Ways back in 2018. After that they decided to form a group and publish their music independently, with hopes of escaping the boring life of Northeastern Tennessee. They release their material through Pump Fink Records.

This album, 666 Ways$$$, consists of 11 tracks and musically is a surprisingly unique hybrid of hip hop, trap and metal to create a fusion that brings to mind the industrial rock/metal of Nine Inch Nails, gothic aspects of Marilyn Manson and a myriad of distilled hip hop/rap influences. The album’s opening track, Pussycat Hotrod (produced by Discent), is one of the most sonically arresting and challenging,  not representative of the album as a whole.

Starting out with crunchy, raw low-end guitar chords, it breaks into a trap/hip hop groove overlaid with metal-style growled vocals. Mixed in are a plethora of vocal samples and swirling synths to create a sinister but scintillating soundscape that is unnerving but undeniably gripping. It’s also a style all of its own.

Next comes the title track (produced by Vaegud and sketchymyname) which is more accessible and essentially more traditional hip hop, but with a rock style lead vocal and edgy, explicit lyrics. This become a hallmark of their music across the duration of the album. It begins with a haunting acoustic figure and is set to a languid, simple but effective beat. The vocals are delivered in a very low register and have a strangely mesmeric quality, especially on the potent, hedonistic title hook: “Another touch is dangerous, I’ve got 666 ways to fuck.…”. It’s a clever subversion of Jay Z’s famous 99 Problems.

Bonnie Rotten is even more explicit and brings to mind the claustrophobic, darkly sexual vibe of NIN’s Closer album and Eminem at his edgiest. Produced by Skami, it marries a blistering dubstep/hip hop beat with ghostly echo-drenched glockenspiel, which gives it an almost sinister undertone. Once again, the simplest of hooks proves to be very effective (“She likes it rough….”) and despite its brief two minute duration it packs a considerable punch.

Fourth track Zombie, produced by Dannyebtracks, is a good showcase for the fine rapping skills of both members as well as an entertaining but macabre tale, the sort at which Eminem used to excel. Yami Weird and HellAir make for an effective duo, their styles complementing each other. The title hook quickly lodges in the memory and the lyrics are graphic but compelling throughout.

Snowing In Florida, produced by Hertha & Stork, is another blissed out trip hop track which celebrates the hedonistic side of life on its hypnotic hook: “I smoke dope, I do coke, I do anything I want….”. Opening with an eerie, haunting soundscape, the track balances sung vocal hooks with smoothly rapped verses to great effect. Although the music has a ‘wasted at 3am’ kind of vibe, there’s no hint of struggling with the dark side of drug use here: “Got some bad habits and I don’t wanna break them….”.

The slinky following track Red Eyes seems a continuation of the theme and vibe, seemingly about getting high and enjoy a nocturnal drive: “Red eyes at the red light…I ain’t stopping for the blue light….it’s a night ride….it’s a moonlight drive”. Like an artist like The Weeknd, Feed The Weird have a talent for bringing a sense of the poetic and romantic to their tales of excess.

Seventh track Nowhere Noir, produced by Cashmoney Ap & FORTY38 picks up the tempo a little with a beat of subtle intricacy and nuance, the backdrop for a rather troubled lyric about a femme fatale (“She’s the devil in the shape of a ghost….”). There’s an ominous vibe to the music that mirrors the words and imagery perfectly and there’s a powerful sense of turmoil in the repeated chorus hook: “Dug her nails in me….”.

By contrast, Got Me Thinkin’ is perhaps the most accessible track here, with an undeniable commercial appeal. Built around a simple but irresistible vocal hook, the production by ricci is first rate and this would make an obvious choice as a single.
G.A.T. begins with an immediately captivating synth melody, soon conjoined with an infectious rhythm. This lays down the bedrock for some super fluent rapping, reflecting on their youth as misfits and trying to find a sense of identity. It’s another excellent showcase for their considerable emcee skills, this one produced by SOLO, and one of the most instant tracks on the album.

Love Potion #69 is a return to the more X-rated style of the earlier tracks though whereas a lot of hip hop is about braggadocio, Feed The Weird come from a more troubled place, the final refrain running: “I’m wicked, I’m stricken, I am spellbound, I ain’t ever, ever coming down, I ain’t ever going up….I’m just a fuck up….”.  Produced by Sxpply, it’s another darkly powerful track.

The final track, Anarchy You Can Dance To, is the album’s most anthemic moment and could perhaps be described as their manifesto. Built on an insistent 2/4 beat and an array of futuristic synth sounds, the entire vocal melody is instantly memorable but particularly the singalong hook of “We want sex, sex, sex and violence….” which cleverly plays on the 666 motif that runs through the album. Produced by S4d TrVnk, it’s a brilliant to finish the album and a track I feel could open a lot of doors for them.

Overall, this is a consistently strong hip hop album with a distinctly original flavour. Feed The Weird are a duo unafraid of their dark side and it gives their music a decided edge. Incorporating influences from rock and metal, the combination of singing and rapping is deftly balanced throughout and delivered with charisma and conviction. With a style all of their own and several killer tracks, I expect Feed The Weird to make a strong impact on the hip hop scene with this album, and deservedly so.

 

 

VERDICT= 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: The Blue Tape by Earl The Monarch

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Earl The Monarch is a hip hop artist who was born in Dallas, Texas but moved to Port Arthur at an early age. He began writing music while young, growing up listening to DMX, Jay Z, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. His experiences with depression as he got older were also a factor in his artistic development, and he cites music as the reason he got through it.

He released his first mixtape in 2012 under the moniker ‘O.E.’, Insomnia: The Life & Times. He released the sequel in 2013, Insomnia: Dreamin’ of Nightmares. This became a proper album release in 2015 and he switched his moniker from O.E. to Earl The Monarch, putting out his first album under this name in 2017, Pain On The Rocks. I gave a stellar review to his 2018 album This Will All Be A Memory, which you can read here.

This album, The Blue Tape, consists of fifteen tracks. Some of these are skits which bring an element of humour amongst the hard hitting tracks where Earl The Monarch deals with some serious issues. As with the album This Will All Be A Memory, Earl confronts the deepest and darkest themes of life without fear.

After a brief and amusing skit to start the album, Bet $5 goes straight to the deep end with Earl berating the fairweather friends who’ve betrayed him. He also lays down some hard earned street wisdom: “Some doors close in your face, it just wasn’t your time, just be prepared with your plans when it’s time for the grind….”.

On second track Redemption, Earl depicts how music has been a positive influence on turning his life around over a slinky beat and smoky Rhodes progression. The underlying inspirational message behind his music is captured in the lines, “Made them believe….redemption ain’t no disease…”.

Inhibitions starts out with a quote from the tragically killed rap legend Tupac Shakur, and what follows is Earl at his most lyrically eloquent and life affirming (“I was suicidal but I bounced back…”). Over a simple beat, Earl lays down some rapid fire rhymes full of rhythmic invention, displaying his emcee skills to the max.

This heavy vibe is nicely alleviated by The Bridge Skit, which satirises the “bling” gangster mentality, before leading into the superb Blue Cup. Starting with the instantly infectious chorus hook which featuries the vocals of Blake Brake, Earl raps smoothly over a funky hip hop beat and the rapped verse/sung chorus contrast is very effective. With its summery, radio friendly sound it would make an obvious choice as a single.

409party (90s) is another upbeat track, this one a bit of a good time party anthem, also featuring the rapping talents of two of Earl’s cohorts, Killa Trae & Al Bee. Their differing styles complement each other well and it’s another slam dunk.

HowYouFeel? is a return to the more troubled depictions of life as a black man and the problems the black community face. The dark, claustrophobic vibe created by the backing music adds to the intensity and if anyone dare question whether Earl The Monarch is ‘for real’, they should listen to this track.

TakeCare Interlude is a distinct change of pace, a laid back hip hop groove providing the bedrock for a chorus hook sung by Bianca B Lo. Her serene vocals create a nice yin/yang effect with Earl’s direct rapping style. Live Forever is a brutally honest track, ruminating on mortality and those who’ve lost their lives needlessly, ending with another quotation from Tupac Shakur that itself needs contemplation.

Tenth track Mandatory is about a different kind of trouble and pain, portraying a relationship that’s gone wrong. It features the vocals of Kim on the hook which emphasise that love should be unconditional, not “for the glory”. One of my favourites on the album, full of insight and great rapping from Earl.

Friends, featuring Solorook and Coco continues the theme of women troubles, though this one about being betrayed by a close female friend: “I loved you like a sister only you were even closer.…”. The theme of being let down by people he’s helped and supported is a melancholy thread running through the whole album.

Rather than play the victim card, Earl chooses the philosophical approach as well as a defiant stance, as set out on WatchMeSwang II featuring Stevie Lights. Over a jazzy guitar chord progression, Earl gives another masterclass in fluent rapping and lyrical dexterity.

$mokey Momma is one of the most different and distinctive tracks on the whole album, with a chorus of joint male and female vocals over a complex triplet hi hat rhythm. Texas Relays is a remarkable piece of hip hop, also featuring the skills of Manuel, Fammo and Deezy Da Duce. The backing track is an ever morphing melange of swirling synths and the result is highly entertaining.

The album closes with SeeYouTomorrow featuring Coco and makes for a suitably emotional finish, expressing grief for a friend who has died. The last minute is particularly moving, with the ghostly, almost celestial female vocals of Coco repeating the poignant refrain, “The hardest part is that I wish that I could talk to you….”.

Overall, this is another brutal and brilliant hip hop album from an eloquent, emotional artist who has mastered his craft. All the hard times and experiences he’s endured have been poured into the lyrics, delivered with complete conviction throughout. He surveys the tragedies that surround him and offers a message of hope and positivity for a better future, a message that many need to hear. Earl The Monarch deserves to be recognised as one of the best rappers of his generation and this album should win him a new legion of fans.

 

VERDICT: 9.1 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

 

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