E.P. REVIEW: Another Round by Uncle Brent & The Nostone

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https://www.facebook.com/UncleBrent.and.theNostone/

Uncle Brent & The Nostone are a four-piece Americana band hailing from Austin, Texas. They have been together over a decade and have become huge favourites on the live circuit there, leading to plaudits including being nominated Best New Band in Presidential Glen. Uncle Brent is the front man of the group, contributing guitar and lead vocals, assisted by Jimmy Durham on lead guitar, Chuck Smith on bass and Emilio Ramos on drums.

This EP, Another Round, follows on from the 2015 EP, Bobbing For Crapples. It consists of two tracks in contrasting styles, Salt and Lime and Sarah’s Creek. The former is an upbeat country rock song that nicely showcases their strengths as a band. Uncle Brent’s assured, authentic vocals are backed up by some fine musical synergy from his band mates, sounding like a group that’s played together for years.

Lyrically, it’s a good-time ode to a wild night where the drinks will be flowing: “Senorita Margarita, won’t you come over tonight…”. The title, of course, derives from what people like to enjoy with their tequila, and you could imagine a packed bar loving this music. It has a nice middle eight breakdown section featuring some lush piano work, before blasting back into a succinct guitar solo and a couple of choruses to round it off. Great track.

The following Sarah’s Creek could not be more different, both musically and lyrically. Consisting of just guitars and vocal to begin with, Brent gives a sensitive and affecting vocal performance on a song about the difficult subject of child abuse happening undetected: “In that little house across the street in Sarah’s Creek, lives a monster of no good….”. It’s a powerful and moving song that builds to an emotional climax which feels cathartic. A very brave and well executed piece of songwriting.

Overall, this is a very fine EP that shows two different sides to this first rate Americana band. Salt and Lime is classic country rock guaranteed to get toes tapping, whilst Sarah’s Creek is poignant and deeply moving. Contrasting the good and bad sides to life is the role of the artist, and this band can feel very proud of their work. Assuredly a huge hit with their existing fanbase, this should also make them plenty more new ones along the way.

 

VERDICT: 8.6 out of 10 

 

Alex Faulkner

Visit the official website HERE

 

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E.P. REVIEW: there is no cure/they will be the death of me EP by Diveyede

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Diveyede is an alternative hip hop artist based in Seattle but from California. He regards himself as a “Style of No Style” MC as his lyrics are more poetic, contemplative and abstract than what is found in most hip hop. After touring with Rhymesayers in 2015, he began releasing an EP series called The Fallout. He is also now a member of the NW supergroup Oldominion and a founder of the CA trifecta The DynoNauts, and has shared the stage with many artists including Zion I., ill Methods, Mac Lethal and many more.

This EP, there is no cure/they will be the death of me, consists of six tracks. Although he regards his style as “no style”, to his credit he has forged his own signature sound, which combines dark but compelling Massive Attack-esque soundscapes overlaid with Diveyede’s thoughtful, philosophical and troubled lyrics.

First track, midnight thoughts on alki, is a fine example of this from the opening lines: “Staring into the iris of a fog, a beautiful virus….” and the chorus hook, “Bitter cold…I needed this walk, I needed this talk amongst my thoughts….” Second track, i lost my mind in seattle, is more dark and intense with a powerful, gripping performance from Diveyede. The hook is addictively catchy and Nirvana fans will appreciate the lyrical quote in the pre-chorus: “I love you, I’m not gonna crack….”.

The third track, confessional, is brutal in its unflinching honesty and self-laceration (“I’ve cheated on every girl I’ve ever f*****….”) yet still holds out for possible spiritual redemption: “Luck’s always been a lady till karma turned up, and I bleed my guts to the deity up above“. A gripping piece of music, dealing with the deepest themes of the human condition.

Fourth track, phoenix down, maintains the dichotomy of dark and light over a languid, yet unsettling musical backdrop. The chorus imagery hits home pretty hard: “Now she lays down to sleep and if I die she will resurrect my life….”. I could be mistaken, but this track could be about one of his major influences Eyedea, who tragically died in his sleep and was discovered by his mother.

The Fifth track, catacombs, is more aggressive and hard hitting, with a punchy lyrical delivery that brought to mind the track Ill Manors by Plan B. The wordplay and verbal gymnastics involved showcase Diveyede’s obvious gift as an original MC. It’s also where we get the EP’s title.

Final track, black winter, completes the musical journey as a ‘descensus ad inferos’ (descent into hell), with a haunting piano melody underpinning a bleak but captivating depiction of a troubled soul wrestling with his demons: “This is my black winter, the cold whispered to my soul and I let her...”.

Overall, this is a very fine EP that packs a considerable punch in terms of lyrical depth and musical force. His uniquely poetic yet urbane style sets him apart from the great majority of his hip hop contemporaries and deserves to be regarded as a serious artist with a lot to say about life and being human. In short, he shows that hip hop can make for great art.

 

VERDICT =  9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: Evolution by EMBI

 

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https://www.facebook.com/Embi.Official/

EMBI, a.k.a. Michele Beneforti is a singer/songwriter and guitarist who was born in Tuscany, Italy, and currently based in Los Angeles. At 18, his band Hot Love Trio won competitions that allowed him to opening for members of The Doors and Robben Ford at national and international festivals. He then won a scholarship for the prestigious Berklee College of Music, earning a degree in performance, and a live performance of his song Highway featured on their official YouTube channel to great acclaim.

As EMBI, he has performed in Boston for 4 years and performed a set of entirely original material at Salem Jazz Festival. Simply as a guitarist alone he has made a strong impact, performing with the original all-female band of Beyonce and Gospel artists Phil Thompson, Freda Battle and Dorothy Norwood. This EP, Evolution, is his debut and consists of five tracks.

The aforementioned Highway opens the EP, and its musical sophistication is immediately apparent. Musically, it is a cutting edge blend of soul, RnB, pop and electronica, with a distinct jazziness to the complex harmonic progression. Starting with filtered synths, clean guitar and his distinctive, smooth lead vocals, it soon explodes into a huge chorus with a pulsing EDM beat.

It manages to be refreshingly different in its sound yet would not feel out of place on the radio, alongside Sam Smith and Justin Timberlake. His remarkably mellifluous lead guitar skills makes a few cameos, but wisely, he keeps this subtle in the mix where it is effective. A superb piece of modern pop, and the most obvious choice as a single.

Second track Over and Over (ft. Spnda) is a laid back but very catchy piece of soul/funk, with some very jazzy overtones. It brought to mind the Stevie Wonder- influenced Jamiroquai and EMBI’s vocal delivery also brought to mind 80’s soul/pop legend Maxi Priest. Hip-hop artist Spnda makes a brief but effective appearance with a succinct rap towards the end, lending the music an extra level of modernity and variety.

Brooklyn Lights is a nice contrast, a poignant song that shows his more sensitive and lyrical side, as shown on the excellent chorus: “Take me back where my sun will shine, from the city heart to the Brooklyn lights….”. It’s a track that’s clearly from the heart about needing a place to belong, a timeless theme of the human condition. He allows himself a brief display of guitar virtuosity towards the end, with some lovely melodic lines.

Fantasy World is another change of pace, this one a serious ‘state of the nation’ message with some powerful heavy rock dynamics: “The dark cloud is rising with violence, we shouldn’t be colour blind to live in peace…”. It initially develops into a powerful blues track that displays another side to his musical range, then changes gear halfway through, morphing into a funk section, then a spine-tingling spoken word passage that gives the track a striking emotional depth.

Cocoa Eyes, the final track, is a funky instrumental that allows him to express his musicality to the max, which, to his cred it, he has reined in on previous tracks. It has a smoky vibe, gradually building from an Albatross-style languid mood to a tight funk groove where his entire band get to enjoy a blow-out, whilst still keeping it controlled. A great way to finish the EP.

Overall, this is a fantastic debut from a very gifted songwriter and musician. He has a fine singing voice and the songs are well crafted and produced in a manner perfect for commercial radio. He manages to balance this with also forging his own sonic signature, which is no mean feat. It certainly won’t hurt also being a stellar guitarist, but it’s the voice and the songs that should ensure that EMBI becomes a huge success, and I expect this EP to kick start a meteoric rise.

 

VERDICT =  9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: Other Worlds by Drone Flesh

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Drone Flesh is an electronic artist/producer hailing from Zurich, Switzerland. His music is a unique hybrid of electro, house and dubstep or complextro, as he describes it. His primary musical interest is in “exploring different genres of bass heavy music that does not fit into a drawer”. He has already released several tracks including Do Not Touch, Risk Everything, Big Bad Bass and Petrified, to which I gave a very positive review in 2015.

In the intervening years he has developed and refined his style further, creating a futuristic sounding hybrid consisting of techno’s precise beats, dubstep’s punch and vitality and the sophistication of complextro. His musical raison d’etre is best surmised by himself: “Drone Flesh ignores the rules, controls the madness and turns the chaos into complexity.” This is very much self-evident on this four track EP, Other Worlds.

Opening track Be Yourself throws you into the deep end straight away, the musical equivalent of a rollercoaster ride. Pounding four to the floor kick drum competes with syncopated filter effects and tension-building risers before bursting into a full beat driven by a pulsating low end synth bass.

It goes into an excellent percussive section around the 1.30 mark that made think of The KLF’s acid house classic What Time Is Love? It has a similar sense of euphoria and momentum, maintaining the energy till the end. A barnstorming start to the EP and surely a hit waiting to happen on the dancefloor.

Second track Ride The Waves maintains the feverish intensity of Be Yourself, again propelled by a slick synth bass and a colossal, equally dubstep-inspired beat. It takes the essential sound of Deadmau5 and sends it into space, with interesting results on re-entry. Indeed, things takes a rather psychedelic turn around the halfway mark, before returning to its hard hitting roots.

It should be mentioned how Drone Flesh has raised the standard of his production to a fine pitch. Whilst his music always had a vitality and force, he has raised the bar even higher so that his beats and melodies burst from the speakers like Skrillex on PCP.

That’s actually a very adequate description of third track Hey, which is a joyous explosion of riotous rhythms and distorted, angular synth melodies. This one has a synth riff best described as mindblowing, incorporating vocal samples and sound effects with highly intoxicating and enjoyable results.

The title track of the EP is also the finale, accompanied by a video that’s well worth watching. It’s a slightly more mellow track than the rest, yet still hard hitting. The sonic textures again border on Dali-esque, with a cornucopia of chaotic sounds and melodies combining and synergizing. This is perhaps Drone Flesh in his purest form, ripping up the traditional rules and genres then morphing it all together to create something genuinely original. An apt way to complete the musical journey.

Overall, this is an inventive EP from an artist who has blended electronic genres in a way I’ve not heard anyone else doing, let alone with such panache and style. Owing to the danceable nature of the music, it has the potential to spread like wildfire in the clubs. Drone Flesh shows that the world of EDM is still full of exciting and barely explored sonic territory, and he is leading the way to something new.

 

VERDICT =  9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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Watch the video for Other Worlds here:

 

E.P. REVIEW: Satisfied by Ashley J

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http://ashleyj.net

Ashley J is a singer and songwriter in the pop/EDM genre, originally from Texas. As a child, she grew up listening to singers like Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera and Michael Jackson, as well as country stars like Johnny Cash. Her burgeoning love of music and songwriting eventually led to recording a couple of dance tracks in L.A., with Cali reaching the top 10 of the Billboard dance chart.

After a single, Unbreakable, reached no. 2 on the European Independent Music Charts, she released Trapped last year, which spent five weeks at no. 1. That song features on this 5-track EP, Satisfied, with the main track being Like You Used To. The EP has been written with her producers Lucas and Adrian Rezza, with a contemporary pop/EDM sound.

Trapped, which opens the EP, is a classy track which showcases Ashley J’s fine voice and excellent range. It’s an incredibly catchy piece of pop with a hook that latches into the memory immediately and you can see why it spent so long at no.1 in the EIMC charts last year.

The title track, Satisfied, has more of a foot in the EDM world, more specifically the dancehall genre popularized by artists like Major Lazer , blended with aspects of house music. It builds like any good dance track should, with another earworm title hook. Unbreakable is another track that finds the perfect midway point between EDM and well crafted pop songwriting, this one with an upbeat, summery feel that fits the timing of this release.

The lead track off the EP comes next, Like You Used To. It’s a slightly slower track than the rest with an R&B feel that broadens her commercial appeal still further. A superbly crafted and performed track, it starts out with the irresistible chorus and maintains its addictive quality throughout. It’s a song that Rihanna and Beyonce would both be proud to put out, and that bodes well for its commercial success.

The final song, When I Come Home To You, shows a more sensitive side to her songwriting, singing about a romance where they are “sending letters like we’re young schoolkids“. It’s a song that could have easily worked as a ballad, but it’s been produced in a similar vein to the rest of the EP. This combination of traditional songwriting with an EDM vibe has proved hugely popular in the last couple of years, and it should work for Ashley J too.

Overall, this is a very strong five-track EP, headed by the excellent Like You Used To. With production that makes it both perfect for radio and the dancefloor the commercial potential is enormous, and Ashley J has a voice that’s distinctive enough to stand out from the crowd. With a suitably glamorous image to go with the songs, she undoubtedly has what it takes to become a globe-conquering pop star.

 

VERDICT: 8.4 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: World Of Illusions by Reflected Illusions

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http://reflectedillusions.net/

Reflected Illusions is the musical brainchild of composer/producer Rez from Toronto, Canada. This music project is in the Electro/Ambient/Experimental category with an emphasis on exploring sonic textures and atmospheres to create unique soundscapes.

The first album by Reflected Illusions, Psychosis, was released in 2004. After a quiet period, the EP Radio Waves was released in 2016, followed by Private Files Volumes 1 & 2 in the same year.

This year, 2018, sees the release of this five track EP, World Of Illusions. It begins with the four minute Narcotics, which is evocative from the start. Haunting, eerie strings combine with a simple but effective Rhodes-esque rising chord sequence.

Gradually, the sonic texture builds with subtle rhythmic patterns which become more prominent and develops into an intricate beat that drives the whole track forward. It is aptly named, as it has a mesmeric, drowsy and dreamy quality that someone on narcotics may experience! It ends with just the disembodied strings floating away, as if into outer space.

This sense of otherworldliness continues into the title track, which comes next. This one is like a very blissed out version of EDM, with a steady four-to-the-floor beat kicking in after a spectral introduction of icy synths. The syncopated, filtered synths allow the kick to breathe, while a tapestry of melodies weave their way in and out to create a hypnotic and compelling sonic journey.

This flows seamlessly, no doubt by design, into the psychedelic sound world of Waterfalls of Babylon. The magical, swirling and echoing synth sounds that reminded  me of The Orb’s ambient classic Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld. A complex glitch beat gradually starts to evolve across the track, which works as a nice contrast after the relative rhythmic simplicity of World of Illusions.

Fourth track Overdose is darker, with moody low-end organ and a fuzzy toned ominous sounding bassline over a sparse, angular rhythm and enigmatic Rhodes chords. Again, its an interesting contrast to the preceding tracks and perhaps the most mysterious one here, bringing to mind the more ambient moments of Radiohead .

The final track is Hydrocodone, which sonically manages to sound like the previous four tracks blended together. It fuses spacey, crystalline synths with darker edged low end synths and a haunting, sombre chord progression over a skittish, restless rhythm. The suspenseful atmosphere it creates keeps the listener gripped until the end.

Overall, this is a fascinating musical journey that takes the listener into some unchartered sonic territory, like all good art should do. It is impressive how cohesive and seamless the five tracks work together in a synergistic way. For those looking for high quality and original ambient music, look no further.

 

VERDICT: 8.8 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: Knock 3 More Times by Bad Marriage

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www.BadMarriageMusic.com

Bad Marriage are a five-piece classic rock band hailing from Boston, MA. The band consists of Jon Paquin on vocals, Mike Fitz and Ian Haggerty on guitars, Todd Boisvert on bass and Michael Delaney on drums. Their sound is influenced by great rock bands from the 70’s era like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Aerosmith and 80’s rock like Van Halen and Guns ‘n Roses. They have the honour of being awarded “Best of 2017” by Classic Rock Magazine and have accrued a large fanbase.

This EP, Knock 3 More Times, consists of six songs and begins with the title track. Starting with an irresistible Led Zep-style low-end riff, you know from the opening lines that this band are the real deal: “Standing at the bar at a shotgun wedding, giving everybody a piece of my mind…”. Jon Paquin has the vital ingredient for any rock band worth their salt; an awesome voice.

His style is halfway between Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Bon Scott and Robert Plant, with a great vocal range. Just as importantly, Bad Marriage know how to write great rock anthems, not just write cool sounding riffs like the lesser of their contemporaries. After an infectious verse, the song bursts into a cracker of a chorus, as catchy as the best AC/DC songs. A classic to kick things off.

That band comes to mind again with the slinky, sleazy thick guitar-riffage of Wizard of Love. It fits the lyrics which, in time-honoured rock tradition, are essentially letting the ladies know that a good time is very much on offer: “Your mama told you stories all about me, a rebel king to set you free, cos I’m the real McCoy, a dragon slaying boy….”. There’s a dry, knowing humour to the grandstanding that gives it charm. They deliver another anthemic chorus on this one, and the riff leading into the solo is fantastic.

Third track Be With You is a little more romantic in tone, digging emotionally a bit deeper with lines like: “I used to think that life was a game but now it’s breaking me down….”. They deliver another fist-pumping chorus, and I could detect the influence of Boston on this one, incidentally their home city.

Nay-Sayin’ Blues is back to the stomping 2/4 beat that gets people head banging and making ‘devil horns’. Lyrically, it’s a bit of a departure, a call-to-arms to stand up against the corruption in the world: “You left the truth far behind, there’s a trail of lies following you….now’s the time for revolution“. There’s some fabulous lead guitar worth sticking to the last seconds for.

Dead End Girl is another great song about women troubles, this one about a lady who’s a femme fatale, who can’t tell when she’s got something good going: “You’re fooling me with the tears you’ve cried, promises you can’t deny…”.

They bookend the E.P. with another instant classic, Old School Stereo. It’s another chunky, driving AC/DC-esque riff that provides the platform for a super fun song about the joy of listening to vinyl records on a jukebox. The addictive chorus sums up the theme nicely: “Turn up the new school music on the old school stereo…”. It’s a line that rather sums up the ethos of Bad Marriage; fusing traditional blues rock with modern lyrics and production style. This one must be a single if it isn’t already!

Overall, this is a consistently entertaining and enjoyable rock n’ rollercoaster ride of an EP that doesn’t have a dull moment. Taking the best parts of 70’s rock, they show consummate craft and flair in updating it for the modern age. In Jon Paquin, they have an authentically great rock voice, and the high quality of the musicianship backing him is self-evident to all who listen. This band deserve to be huge.

 

VERDICT: 8.9 out of 10 –

Alex Faulkner

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