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

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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

 

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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

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ALBUM REVIEW: 12-02 The Journey by Gulliverb

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Gulliverb is the artistic moniker of Spanish electronica composer/producer Chimo Ausin. He has a fascinating back story; he is a trained pilot and works for a well known Spanish company flying Boeing 747’s. When not flying planes around the world, he’s also the executive producer of Russia Today TV. However, it’s the former passion for aviation that is the inspiration for this album 12-02 The Journey.

This concept album has been years in the making, and the concept is based around space travel, specifically the first time we sent men to the Moon in 1969. He intends to release the album to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11. Musically, it could be described as future house or deep house, but the epic proportions of the tracks and use of atmospheric noises means it could be classified in the psytrance genre.

Another notable aspect of the music is that Gulliverb combines electronic sounds with real musical instruments including guitars, cellos, sax and harmonica. So far, he has made six tracks available before its full release in July, 2019. The opening track, Part 1, is the perfect introduction to his musical style. From its opening bars, it creates a sense of tension and excitement as vocal samples (presumably from the Apollo 11 mission) are heard over pulsing synths.

A memorable melody then emerges which forms the bedrock for the whole track. The arrangement is cleverly constructed, with effective use of cymbals and kick drum ‘booms’ that help create a sense of drama and crescendo. This builds up to the entry of a full house beat, with punchy kick and snare giving it a muscular and vibrant sound. Indeed, the intricate drum programming is one of the great strengths of the album, which is never just a repeated loop that a less talented, less inspired composer/producer might use.

Halfway through, the track breaks down to a female voice describing the musical concept behind Gulliverb and then for the first time we hear lead vocals, albeit briefly. It builds up once again when a new, very catchy low-end saw wave riff enters along with a classic ‘four to the floor’ beat. It then returns to a full beat augmented by samples, then follows a short half-time section leading to the final section coloured by rich saxophone. And that’s just the first track!

This complex, symphonic compositional style continues through the six album tracks released so far. Part 2 begins with dramatic strings creating a sense of intrigue then a section featuring a complex, syncopated beat leads to a hard hitting Oliver Heldens-style future house beat. The music continually morphs and progresses, featuring Enigma-esque Gregorian lead vocals and vocal samples, along with some imaginative atmospheric touches. It’s another epic at eight minutes but reveals a wealth of detail upon repeated listens, including more bursts of wailing sax and guitar towards the end.

Re-Entre is much shorter at three minutes but continues the future house style, with a raw sounding low end synth driving the momentum. This is one of the more aggressive sounding tracks, with the powerful drums bringing to mind The Prodigy. The ascending high-end synth melody that emerges in the final section is inventive and effective.

The fourth part, Landing, is the longest track here at over nine and a half minutes but, once again, there is not a dull moment. Constantly shifting rhythmic patterns and interweaving melodies keep your attention gripped, contrasted by tender strings and filmic percussion. Indeed, there is a strong cinematic quality to the music, given added depth through the album’s stylistic concept. The middle section is essentially dubstep, featuring Skrillex-esque warped, swooping saw-wave synths.

There is a real sense of drama where we hear vocal samples of the moon landing set to a poignant orchestral passage, clearly a major moment. It then takes off again with quirky NRG-style riffs and a restless, punchy beat before breaking down to a spine chilling section of piano, guitar and the beatific female vocals of Nicole Dobrovolski. At the very end we hear the classic famous moon-landing line, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind“. Truly an epic journey and perhaps the centrepiece of the album.

Nicole Dobrovolski features heavily on the uplifting pop house track I’ll Be Watching You, which is the most easily accessible and instant track amongst the six available so far. The title hook is memorable and deployed in myriad ways, augmented by lush harmonies, over a bedrock of swirling synths and an irresistibly danceable house beat. A genuine potential radio hit.

On the sixth track A Little Step For A Man, she gives another fine vocal performance on this contemplative, sensitive song. The title refers once again to the famous Neil Armstrong quote yet from the halfway point, the vocals make way for an evocative, dreamlike instrumental section with just sparse percussion adding subtle drama. The revolving melodic patterns have a mesmeric quality, then the vocals returning for the final seconds creating a haunting effect.

Overall, these six tracks already constitute a wonderful listening experience which bodes well for the full release of this concept album. Gulliverb has found a way to breathe new life into an over-saturated genre through a natural gift for melody and structure, an innate musicality and close attention to detail. Although some of these tracks are of lengthy duration, they never meander or drag on. With its many musical intricacies, it is electronic music that will work both on the dancefloor and just for listening pleasure. It would only be apt and justified if this album about space travel sends Gulliverb’s success soaring into the stratosphere.

VERDICT = 9.3 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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