SINGLE REVIEW: What Matters by Sienna

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http://www.sienna-web.com/

Sienna is an avant-garde EDM artist who is currently based in Norway but originally hails from Japan. Her music is an inventive meld of electronica, house, jazz and traditional-contemporary Japanese. She has performed extensively across Europe over a 10 year period as both a performer and DJ. She has collaborated with renowned artists like Nils Petter Molvaer, a psychedelic trumpeter from Norway, Mick Karn, an English bassist (now deceased) and famous group The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, whom she opened for in the UK on several occasions.

This song, What Matters, is a wonderful showcase for her unique musical sound. It’s a six minute alternative electronica track that floats serenely over a blissfully laid back beat. Starting with Sienna’s evocative and distinctive vocals, she is joined by sparse but effective percussion and pulsing kick as well as subtle, ethereal synths. We also hear an exotic, Japanese instrument somewhat reminiscent of a sitar.

As the song progresses, the arrangement builds gradually with flourishes of delay-drenched piano and around the four minute mark the drums progress to a full beat. This languid groove syncs perfectly with the vocal melody, which is augmented by tight backing harmonies.

At the five minute mark prominent strings played in quartal harmony take over, bringing the music to a haunting conclusion. Lyrically, it is rather poignant, about letting go of the pain from a romantic relationship with acceptance: “Some scars don’t fade or heal easily…..may you be a bird to fly high and free…”.

Overall, this is a highly original piece of alternative electronica which captures Sienna’s unique artistry as a singer, songwriter, musician and producer. She has developed her own style and signature sound, though natural reference points would be the cinematic and dreamy sound of Lana Del Rey, along with the avant garde eclecticism of Bjork. Hopefully, enough people will get to experience the magical Sienna sound as she deserves to be widely heard and appreciated for her intoxicating, innovative art. I look forward to hearing more of her work in the future.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:


 

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SINGLE REVIEW: This Love by Kendra Black

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http://www.kendrablackmusic.com/

Kendra Black is a singer, songwriter and producer hailing from New York City. Originally with a background in professional ballet, she eventually shifted her focus towards music, performing in the U.S., France, Monte-Carlo, Italy, Egypt and the Caribbean. She trained with teachers from the Music Conservatory of Cannes and The Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory, then perfected her vocal training with Justin Stoney (director of New York Vocal Coaching), A&R Meghan Cress at Voice Academy NYC and Ilana Martin from Vocal Workouts singing school. Her 2017 album The Edge featured rapper Snoop Dogg on the single Rude.

This track, This Love, is taken from her 2019 album The Fire. The song is in the pop/EDM genre and begins with a brief intro before Kendra’s distinctive vocals enter in a high register. Her voice has a crystalline quality and has been extremely well recorded and produced, giving it a slick commercial sheen. On the verse, the musical backing is sparse with percussion entering on the first refrain of the very catchy chorus. From here, a standard EDM riser and drum roll builds us up to a full ‘four to the floor’ beat.

Along with this pounding kick, we hear an equally memorable synth melody which continues into the second verse. The way the track builds and breaks down is cleverly done so that there is a sense of crescendo at key moments. Lyrically, it’s about a relationship that has a special, unique quality that is simultaneously romantic and physical: “There’s something about this love that feels so magical…..when I get around I feel like an animal.….”. The track’s momentum and energy continues to the very end.

Overall, this is a classy piece of pop/EDM as good as anything you’ll hear in the uppermost reaches of the charts. Kendra Black has a perfect voice for pop, and is ideally suited to the material in this instance. The song is well crafted and equally well suited to commercial radio and the dancefloor, which is a difficult trick to pull off. This means it doubles its potential of finding success and that’s exactly what I expect to happen to Kendra Black in 2019.

 

VERDICT = 8.5 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Masala Bazaar by Jamit & Kroissenbrunner

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Jamit is an electronica/EDM composer and producer who grew up in Australia but is now based in Singapore. The past months have seen a plethora of instrumental releases, including Multiplayer Erotica, Lovers and Rockers, Solar Power and Star of Wonder. His music is essentially psychedelic trance with other aspects of EDM genres incorporated into the sound, along with innovative use of spoken word samples.

His most recent releases have included Female Medieval Jester, Taeb Ecnad and Pole Vault, a collaboration with Franco Paulsen and vocalist Yuriko. This latest track, Masala Bazaar, is also a collaboration. This time it’s with producer Kroissenbrunner who hails from Johannesburg, South Africa. This constitutes their third collaboration and it’s a highly effective one.

It’s a moody and hypnotic piece of electronica, with an arrangement by Jamit and Kroissenbrunner contributing the various sounds and vocal samples. The beat is slightly unusual and off-kilter which gives it an exotic feel whilst still remaining eminently danceable. On top of this is a haunting, recurring synth line that becomes the main melodic motif of the track. This is augmented by pulsing synth pads and an ostinato note in the low end which also adds to the mesmeric ambience.

Interspersed with the music are the vocal samples, which enigmatically turn out to be the names of spices. As the track progresses the beat starts to become more strident, with the kick in particular developing a real punch. Near the three minute mark things turn psychedelic as the music starts to morph and an eerie sounding synth swirls to the end of the track, adding to the trippy nature of the music as a whole.

Overall, this is further evidence that Jamit, with the artistic assistance of his collaborator Kroissenbrunner, has mastered a certain style of electronica that takes the listener to some far out places whilst never losing its essential dancefloor appeal. He has developed a sonic niche of his own that is both quirkily original but with wide ranging appeal. Masala Bazaar will go down a storm with his current fans and should make him a whole lot more.

 

VERDICT = 8.9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW: Lullaby by Edward St. Martin

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Edward St. Martin is a songwriter, composer and lead artist producer based in San Diego. His background is actually in classical music and film composition, and he applies this knowledge to his foray into writing songs in the pop genre. This combination of styles is something I would describe as ‘epic pop’ or ‘orchestral pop’. Recent releases have included In The Ocean Of My Love, Fast Car and Don’t Leave Me.

This track, Lullaby, is a fine example of his classical-influenced epic pop. It features a female vocalist with a fantastic voice similar to Sia and there is a dramatic grandeur to the music that brought to mind Evanescence. Whereas Evanescence leans more towards rock music, there is a definite influence of EDM in the production style. It begins with a powerful orchestral introduction featuring a classical-style chord progression, before crystalline female vocals enter with troubled lyrics: “Four o’ clock and I’ve barely even slept yet…..”.

She is backed effectively by flowing piano melodies and epic orchestral percussion. The bridge builds like a dance track, leading to a colossal chorus where a four-to-the-floor beat emerges. The dynamics of the music are cleverly arranged so that there’s constant variety in the sparse and epic parts of the song. The strings that feature throughout add a great deal to the feeling of drama and gives it a musicality that is lacking from most EDM music.

Overall, this is an extremely accomplished fusion of pop, classical and EDM by a gifted composer in collaboration with a fine female singer. Edward St. Martin has impressively developed his own sonic niche by drawing on his experience in film and classical composition. He has developed an orchestral form of pop/EDM that has enormous creative and commercial potential, the best of both worlds. Lullaby should help bring a much greater awareness of his music to the listening public and deservedly so.

 

VERDICT= 8.8 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: Fire by Project Rod Williams

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www.aug1stmusic.com

Project Rod Williams is an electro-dance pop studio ensemble which is the musical brainchild of songwriter/musician Rod Williams. Musically, it is a fusion of classic 70’s disco music like Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer, 80’s synth pop such as Depeche Mode and Erasure and more modern pop artists like Justin Timberlake and Pharrell Williams. Rod has collaborated with lead vocalist Ben Dial on this album with additional vocals by Matt Williamson, Hannah Montwill, Nataly Andrade and Alex Silva.

The album, Fire, consists of eleven tracks (also featuring club mixes of nine of the songs) and has a conceptual theme. Half of the songs on the album are about enjoying the passion and seduction of nightlife and the other half are about the longing and pain often brought on by romantic relationships. The album is due for release on January 7th, 2019.

Opening track Let’s Get Out is the perfect representation of the Project Rod Williams sound and style. It grabs you from its opening bars with infectious percussion locking in with an alluring 70’s disco-style bassline. This is soon augmented by syncopated 80’s-esque synths before breaking into a full, very danceable beat that gets the toe tapping. The smooth lead vocals of Ben Dial enter the picture and his voice brings to mind cutting edge modern pop like Maroon 5 and the more recent work of Justin Timberlake. Alternate lines are layered with backing harmonies so that the music is constantly evolving and developing.

Thematically, it exemplifies the concept of the songs that celebrate living the good life, with the lyrics highlighting the appeal of escaping the daily grind by looking forward to Friday night and the weekend: “We work all week from nine to five, making money to live our lives…..”. The extremely catchy refrain captures this joyous feeling succinctly: “Leave our problems at the door, laugh, jump and scream, let our hearts be free…..”.

This is followed by an equally memorable chorus and Rod Williams shows his ability to make every part of the song a hook, a hallmark of the best pop songwriters. After the second chorus it enters an excellent breakdown section with a sophisticated vocal arrangement that brought to mind the finest Michael Jackson songs arranged and produced by Quincy Jones.

Second song Come On continues the lyrical theme but is musically quite different; smoky Rhodes and a more complex and unusual rhythmic pattern. There is a more rocky feel to the seductive and raunchy lead vocal performance, fused with Vince Clarke (from Erasure and one time member of Depeche Mode) style pulsing, futuristic-sounding synths. The descending vocal melody is fiendishly catchy, with an overt sexuality to the sultry lyrics: “I see you staring across the room, your eyes are saying what you want me to do….”. Great track.

Third song Hot To Trot returns to the more traditional dance rhythms of the first track but stands out for the addictiveness of the title hook and for featuring some very funky Nile Rodgers-esque high end electric guitar. Indeed, the way the song celebrates the hedonistic side of life (“We can be flirtatious, lose our minds and act outrageous…”) made me think of Rodgers’ classic group from the 1970’s, Chic. This infectious style is combined with low-end synths and piano lines with occasional stabs of synthetic brass to create a potent sonic concoction.

Next comes Fire, the title track of the album. It maintains the funk guitar sound of the previous song, but has a more modern EDM four-to-the-floor beat, at least to begin with. Vocally, the breathy falsetto style made me think of Prince and one of the dance classics of recent years, Get Lucky by Daft Punk ft. Pharell Williams. Once again, the title hook latches in the mind upon first listen and the use of female foreign spoken word vocals lends an exotic flavour. The falsetto lead vocals are contrasted by a section of low-end male vocals that adds to the song’s very sensual theme.

The following Invasion feels in ways a continuation but has a more rock vibe, with some low end lead guitar lines which work well with the swirling synths. The lead vocals are this time contrasted by certain lines being whispered, which adds a lot of atmosphere and encapsulates the power of seduction which is this tracks subject matter: “I can’t fight the way you hypnotize….invade my body, invade my soul…you’re taking over me, you’re in control….”.

After this, the album switches to the second aspect of the album’s theme, the pain that comes from love. Sixth song Take Cover has a much more emotional tone after the light hearted and sexually orientated earlier tracks. It’s a mid-paced synth pop epic in 6/8 time, with lyrics that are rather deep and poetic, about the tempestuous nature of romantic love: “The sky will thunder tonight, from lightning sparks my rage ignites, when flames of passion burn high you better find a place to hide…”. This kind of emotive synth pop is more reminiscent of 80’s groups like Soft Cell and The Human League.

You Were My Lady is the first truly traditional love ballad on the album (the only one not written by Rod Williams) and it’s a very well crafted one with a lilting vocal melody. It allows lead singer Ben Dial to perform in a more gentle and sensitive way, which he achieves with distinction. It’s a rather moving song about reflecting on happy times after a relationship has ended, then contrasted with the stark reality: “Now that house is empty, the music’s gone from the radio that used to play that song….”.

Bad Boys Don’t Cry returns to the more uptempo synth pop style whilst maintaining the lyrical theme of this half of the album. Musically, it has a real Giorgio Moroder vibe with rhythmic synths driving the song along. It’s about how men are not supposed to appear vulnerable or sad when going through heartbreak and contains yet another strong title hook. Ninth song Broken is rather more angry in its tone with some rather visceral lines: “Fake love you gave to me, filled my blood and clogged my veins…”.

Though the following I Say contains similarly downbeat and tormented lyrics, musically it is one the lightest moments, recalling the euphoric anthems of Erasure. The vocal melody is irresistible, providing another fine example of Williams’ melodic consistency and also features a superb synth section comprising several combined sounds.

The album ends on a rather melancholy but poignant note, with the heartfelt ballad Nobody Wants To Know, which features lead vocals from Matt Williamson. Matt powerfully conveys the troubled nature of the lyrics about not feeling supported by friends during dark times: “Can’t they see the tears I try to keep concealed?“. The music builds as the song progresses, with a sky-scraping string arrangement that closes the album on a musical high, even if the words are sad.

Overall, this is a modern pop album of a very high calibre that fuses the synth pop of the 80’s with the euphoric sound of 70’s disco, then brings it into the 21st century with cutting edge production. Aside from one track, Rod Williams has written, arranged and produced the whole thing which shows his artistic versatility. The album feels like a real labour of love and runs the gamut of emotions, from joy to despair. As if that’s not enough, the album comes with club mixes of nine of the songs, tailor made for the dancefloor. Put simply, Fire is an album laden with killer pop tracks of wide ranging appeal and has enormous commercial potential worldwide.

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Release date: 7th January, 2019

Listen to the album here:

Listen to the club mix of Come On:

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Taeb Ecnad by Jamit

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Jamit is an electronica/EDM composer and producer who grew up in Australia but is now based in Singapore. The past few months have seen a plethora of instrumental releases, including Multiplayer Erotica, Lovers and Rockers, Solar Power and Star of Wonder. His music is essentially psychedelic trance with other aspects of EDM genres incorporated into the sound, along with innovative use of spoken word samples.

After the recent release of his extended epic track Female Medieval Jester, which I recently reviewed, comes a completely different style of track. It’s a reinterpretation of a 1969 reggae classic by King Stitt and Clancy Eccles called Dance Beat. Jamit has reversed the title and radically reinterpreted the music as a five-minute deep house instrumental. The first ninety seconds gradually builds up the layers of the track, starting with a punchy speaker-pounding kick and locomotive-style rhythmic elements, then gradually bringing in repeating synth patterns.

At a certain point, the track seems to spin on its axis, breaking down briefly then coming back without a filter on the kick so that it’s even punchier. It works in tandem with a haunting synth melody which becomes the main motif for the rest of the track’s duration. The hypnotic, mesmerizing effect that you associate with Jamit’s music manifests in its full potency. At five minutes, the length feels just about right and the production is perhaps his finest so far.

Overall, this is a distinct contrast to his last release and a highly effective interpretation of a classic in a completely different genre. Dance music has a long history of drawing inspiration from other musical styles and tracks from the past, and here Jamit shows a gift for taking a reggae song and reinventing it in his own artistic vision. Aside from that, it’s a track that will go down a storm in the clubs.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW: Female Medieval Jester by Jamit

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Jamit is an electronica/EDM composer and producer who grew up in Australia but is now based in Singapore. The past few months have seen a plethora of instrumental releases, including Multiplayer Erotica, Lovers and Rockers, Solar Power and Star of Wonder. His music is essentially psychedelic trance with other aspects of EDM genres incorporated into the sound, along with innovative use of spoken word samples.

This year I have already given glowing reviews to his previous releases Such Is Not, Pioneer Generation, MRT and Chicken. His latest track, Female Medieval Jester, is somewhat a musical departure from his previous releases whilst still maintaining the Jamit signature sound. This track is both his most minimalist and, at the same time, his most epic so far at nine minutes long. Whereas he defined his previous work as psytrance, this belongs more in the ambient category.

It begins with an intricate percussive rhythmic pattern that forms the bedrock for the whole track. A synthesized vocal chant then emerges followed by a psychedelic, swirling synth pattern, which is the kind of sound you associate with Jamit’s music.

These simple elements interweave and repeat throughout the duration, having an accumulatively meditative and mesmeric effect on the listener. Jamit has suggested to listen to it in the bathtub; this is subtly complex ambient with a gentle infusion of the erotic. By the end of the track I was feeling noticeably more relaxed and peaceful, it is essentially music to bliss out to.

Overall, this is another strong step forward in Jamit’s artistic progression. It’s nearly twice the length of his previous releases and in a more ambient style, yet still retains the key elements of his sound. My only criticism of his tracks in the past was that sometimes they felt like they ended too soon. Not this time, here Jamit really allows the music to breathe and this slightly new direction will increase his appeal radius even further.

VERDICT: 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here: