E.P. REVIEW: Tides and… by Blue MOON Science

Allan Vilhan is an award-winning composer/producer and musician, originally born in Slovakia and relocating to London in the early 2000’s. After joining ACM Records in 2004 he found public and critical acclaim following the release of his track Sol Naciente, which took first prize in the Electronica category of the International Songwriting Competition. An album, Alchemy, also received plaudits and prizes. In 2017, he re-emerged under the moniker Likvid which dealt with dark, atmospheric soundscapes. His most recent musical incarnation as Blue MOON Science finds Vilhan exploring the EDM genre with a group of global vocalist collaborators. 2022 has already seen the release of the hugely popular track Get Up Now.

This EP, Tides and…., consists of six tracks and opens with the exotic RnB track Step Aside. It features the lead vocal talents of Alyssa Jane, who gives an alluring and seductive performance over an intricate musical backdrop. Her distinctive voice is enriched by a harmony vocal running through much of the lead melody to great effect. Lyrically, it captures the emotional turmoil of someone breaking out of a bad relationship: “You cannot break me, you cannot tame me, you cannot wrap me up in that hazy place….”.
A fine cameo rap performance from Guyku also adds extra flavour to a killer track that could well become a global hit.

Second song Endless Game keeps the bar just as high, a moody electro pop/ trip hop track with a pumping beat and brooding, pulsing bassline. In certain aspects of its vibe and production it brought to mind trip hop artists like Portishead and Massive Attack from the 90’s era. The way the arrangement ebbs and flows is skilfully done, the build ups and breakdowns creating constant momentum and dynamic shifts. It also has a languid groove and a distinct party vibe that makes it a strong candidate for a late summer smash in the clubs.

While the first two tracks feature lyrics in English, with the third track Vidina (feat. LOTTA), the words are in Allan’s native language of Slovak. His vocal collaborator LOTTA (who wrote the lyrics) gives a captivating performance, her singing full of charisma and conviction. Musically, it also expands beyond the usual, fusing drum and bass rhythms with an exotic EDM style to create a unique piece of electronica that’s not like anything else I’ve ever heard. While still commercial sounding and catchy, this original merging of musical styles and linguistic culture is where Vilhan really shines.

When I Am Alone is different again, whilst retaining enough similar elements to ensure a sonic coherence and cohesion. This one features the ethereal, Lana Del Rey-style voice of Nico Frost, also bringing to mind Liz Frazer from the Cocteau Twins. Lyrically, it is a heartfelt expression of insecurity over a sense of self and personal identity: “Ooh whenever I think I’ve found myself I always fall back down,
all the castles I have built turn into pieces of floating dust.”
Special mention should go to the luscious vocal harmony arrangement and the superb production as a whole.

Time is Now, featuring vocals this time from Chloe Kay, is the EP’s most radical and experimental track, merging Kate Bush-style mysticism with hard hitting DnB beats. It’s a rollercoaster ride of a track with a sonic surprise round every corner. Lyrically, it’s about the struggle to stay positive when you’re chasing a dream: “Still believing, what I want’s just out of reach, blood, sweat and tears but it’s a brand new day….”.

Final track Step Aside II (Honey) is like a sequel to the EP’s opener. At a similar tempo and containing striking rapid fire hi-hats once again, it’s otherwise a very different kind of track. Set to a sensual groove, the vocals have a similarly sexy quality, the subtle low end guitar once again bringing to mind the West Coast vibe of Lana Del Rey. Providing the earthy yang to the opening track’s yin, it completes the EP in fine style.

Overall, the six tracks on Tides and… capture Allan Vilhan’s gifts as songwriter and producer in this particular genre. It also allows a variety of gifted female vocalists from around the globe to contribute (not forgetting the rap skills of Guyku) and the result is finely crafted electronica tracks that incorporate sub genres like house, trance, trip hop and even drum ‘n bass into the musical melting pot. With strong commercial appeal and a largely radio friendly sound, Blue MOON Science could become a real heavyweight and major success in the global EDM scene.

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

SINGLE REVIEW: Falling by jac0b

jac0b is the artistic moniker of Jacob Hallsten, an EDM writer/producer hailing from Sweden. His music is specifically in the Big Room/Progressive House genres and he has already enjoyed success with his previous releases. In 2018, he released his debut singles Vibe and I Don’t Mind, the latter generating close to a million streams on Spotify, with Vibe also a great streaming success story.

He now returns in 2021 with his latest track, Falling, which has already generated nearly 200k streams. It’s a big sounding Calvin Harris-style house track featuring a fine female vocalist. It follows the standard template for an EDM track, but it becomes immediately apparent that jac0b does this style with great panache and a style of his own.

Opening with a pumping four to the floor kick, it builds up nicely then drops down for the verse, just piano and vocal. The lead vocals are produced to perfection and every section has its own catchy melodic hook. This time the build leads to an anthemic section with a huge sounding synth riff. This verse/build/riff section repeats then it returns to the simple kick pattern with which it began whilst a Giorgio Moroder-style synth arpeggio lays low in the mix, giving the track energy and momentum to the very end.

Overall, this is a classy EDM track from a writer/producer who has already experienced success. With flawless production, a first rate female lead vocal and an instantly memorable synth hook, Falling has all the makings of a massive dance hit both in the clubs and on the streaming sites where tracks like this break first. The future is looking bright for jac0b.

VERDICT =  9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

E.P. REVIEW: The Infinity Cove Sessions: Overture

Sir Magnus is an award winning Pop/EDM artist and songwriter, originally born in Syracuse but now based in Las Vegas. After over a decade being successful in the corporate world he decided something was missing from his life and that was music, his first love. He made the bold decision to relocate to Las Vegas and began his musical career. He’s since had a lot of success with releases including Lips, Grand Central Station and The Decree EP, amongst others. This led to him winning a SAMMY award and he has become a leading voice in the black artistic community.

This EP, The Infinity Cove Sessions: Overture, consists of six tracks (plus a remix of the track Fear) and breaks out of the blocks strongly with what could be considered the title track, Infinity. It’s a vibrant, superbly crafted EDM/Pop track with a decidedly futuristic sound and production style. Opening with a haunting and evocative synth intro, Sir Magnus delivers the captivating verse in octaves. He has a strong, soulful voice with an emotive edge that gives his music an added depth and, most importantly, a gift for writing great melodic hooks.

Infinity is convincing proof of this, launching into an instantly memorable and catchy chorus bolstered by a massive beat. Lyrically it captures the passion of infatuation in simple but very effective terms: “This is infinity, baby…keep rushing in…”. With its radio friendly sound and killer hook, it’s a natural choice as a lead single.

Next comes the hypnotic futurepop of Armor, where his EDM influence comes to the fore. Based around a pulsing “four to the floor” kick, Sir Magnus delivers another superb lead vocal. Lyrically, it challenges the traditional view of a man being unemotional and distant, advocating for a more open and vulnerable approach as captured by the title hook: “I will take my armor off”. Again, it’s a clever fusion of sophisticated pop with the synth euphoria of modern dance music.

Silver Magic Jesus is a very interesting track, starting out with just acoustic guitar and vocal. It captures the inner conflict of someone with a strong religious faith having “fallen from grace” with a carnal experience. This moral and spiritual conflict is depicted in lines like: “I feel so guilty but I feel so beautiful, the way you work me, you’re like an archangel…”. From the midway point, the music develops in an unexpected way, with a strong influence of dubstep in the Skrillex-style sawtooth synths and rapid fire bass drum patterns. An excellent track highlighting the complex relationship between sexuality and faith.

The following 5k Shuffle is another example of how Sir Magnus deftly blends memorable pop melodies with the entertaining infectious energy of an EDM track. With a fantastic vocal melody that brought to mind vintage Michael Jackson from the 70’s, this then merged into the expected format of an EDM track with its rises and drops. Lyrically, it’s a light hearted song about the need to escape with a little hedonism now and then. Another gem of a track.

Imagination Brilliance Sequence is an interesting instrumental interlude that shows his strength as a composer. Clocking in at two minutes, it makes a strong impression with strident strings and then a swirl of intricate synths.

This is followed by the brilliant Prism, which acts as the perfect showcase for his affecting vocal style. Singing in his upper register, his vulnerability shows though in the understated but very memorable chorus hook: “I want to diffuse your light like a prism, I want to shield my eyes when you’re like this”. Starting out like an emotive pop ballad, it builds into a euphoric EDM anthem with Giorgio Moroder-esque synths and is yet another stand out track. The final track is a remix of another fine track, Fear, which originally featured on another release, Tales Of A Darker Shadow.

Overall, this is a first rate EP from a charismatic and uber talented singer and songwriter. Similar to an artist like The Weeknd, Sir Magnus has an ability to combine songwriting sophistication and musicality with the addictive hooks and sounds of EDM. With award winning success under his belt, it’s about time Sir Magnus is recognised as a major talent and goes global.

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Jesse Neo

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Jesse Neo is a British-Australian singer, songwriter, DJ and producer. Now twenty, he began his musical journey at seven years old, starting out with piano, violin and vocal lessons. Within only months, he was composing original music and by eighteen he had written over 100 songs. His music is essentially a unique fusion of pop, EDM, hip hop and new wave and he also runs a site containing fully produced backing tracks – http://www.gemtracks.com

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

1. Your music is an original blend of several genres, who do you regard as your major musical inspirations and do you have an all time favourite artist or group?

I grew up playing classical music, so at the heart of all my inspirations are composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and Chopin. As I got into high school, I slowly got drawn more into the pop and electronic world, and became very inspired by artists like Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson and Britney Spears. I remember attending festivals and raves and falling in love with David Guetta, Martin Garrix and Steve Aoki. I think they have all played a role in shaping my sound.

2. Some are your lyrics, such as the song Sex Magic, are very exotic, intriguing and unusual for mainstream pop. What do you consider your influences for lyric writing?

I try to make my lyrics as different, experimentative, symbolic and deep as possible, while making them catchy, easy to remember and almost reductive. This gives listeners that are only in it for the hype to enjoy themselves, and those that are more aware of reading in between the lines to truly open their third eyes as they decipher my lyrics.

3. The internet has undoubtedly changed the traditional music industry, and now streaming is the main medium that people use to listen to music. While this means artists don’t make much money from sales anymore, streaming allows worldwide exposure. What are your views on this development, and is it good or bad for you as an artist?

I think online streaming music is actually a good thing. Based on research that I have garnered from several entertainment lawyers, I learned that 20 years ago, most music fans were under 30 years old. As they got older, their spending on music began to diminish. However due to online streaming, even grandfathers and grandmothers today are spending money on music. This means the amount of money spent on music is actually increasing! This gives more chances for new artists to expose themselves, and fans to access more genres.

4. This year, you launched your excellent website Gemtracks (gemtracks.com) Can you explain what led up to the founding of the site and what it offers?

Yes, Gemtracks is actually a marketplace that I created where singers and rappers can buy beats for their songs. It may come as no surprise that the majority of my income that I have been making in the past few years were not from my music alone but writing music for other people. So one day I decided to start an online store where I could sell the copyrights of my songs for other artists to use. This eventually proved to be very successful, so I eventually decided to turn Gemtracks into a marketplace where anyone can sell beats. Not only has this helped the industry, it has also given artists a new way to earn income.

5. What’s next in the pipeline for you as an artist, are there future releases in store for your fans? And where can newcomers learn more about you and your music?

I actually have some songs ready to for release, but I was hoping to film a music video to draw up some hype before releasing them. The filming was meant to take place this year, but due to the pandemic, this now must be postponed until near year, which is fine as it gives me more time to prepare the storyline.
Newcomers can learn more about my music on my Spotify: Jesse Neo

ALBUM REVIEW: Spin Me by Project Rod Williams

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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. In 2019, he released his album Fire which I reviewed very favourably (you can read that review here).

This album, Spin Me, consists of ten tracks with every song written and produced by Rod Williams. Shake It On The Dancefloor gets the album off to an exhilarating start, an infectious high energy disco track that brought to mind Off The Wall-era Michael Jackson.

From its opening bars, it’s a riotous explosion of driving bass, bursts of colourful brass and catchy funk guitar licks. As with the Fire album, Project Rod Williams is a collective featuring several lead and backing vocalists who swap roles from song to song.

This one is energetically performed by Ben Dial, with some finely arranged backing vocals from Aleisha Leo. I enjoyed how the track allowed for an extended instrumental section, featuring the excellent saxophone playing of Fabian Hernandez. Loaded with hooks, it’s perfect dance pop.

Don’t Stop Me Baby is great in a different way, this one a smoky and slinky Rnb/electronica track featuring a sassy and charismatic lead vocal from Aleisha Leo. Built around an insistent beat, it starts out with a Daft Punk style synth riff before the revolving vocal melody of the verse grips the ear.

The title hook is just one of several that sticks in the mind quickly, with the “DJ, don’t you stop, DJ, turn it up” also proving addictive. The swirling, highly melodic bassline deserves a special mention here, infusing the music with great energy. Both of these opening tracks would make excellent singles, with obvious potential to be huge in the clubs.

Go To Town (Get Busy), another sung by Ben Dial, is slower in tempo but just as catchy, based around a simple but effective 2/4 groove. As usual, the arrangement is full of neat touches, such as the interplay between the sharp guitar lines and the synths. The anthemic chorus hook is the focal point, sung in octaves towards the end to great effect.

Lyrically, it is more overtly sexual, about the point in the night where you’re ready to leave the club and take things further. It brought to mind Prince at his most explicit though the words are never distasteful, just risqué: “Let’s lose control, yes bare it all, bite and kiss with our hungry lips….”.

The title track comes next and it grabs you instantly with a toe tapping, Latin American-influenced rhythm and ultra funky wah wah guitar. Ben Dial gives another fine lead vocal performance, with some excellent falsetto backing harmonies providing contrast. Once again, amorous concerns are the lyrical subject matter and it sustains the sensual mood created by the previous track.

Fifth track Dangerous Lover maintains the memorable melodic style and catchiness of the opening songs but this one has a more serious lyrical theme, about not being seduced by appearances and having a relationship with someone who isn’t with you for the right reasons: “They’ll always please their man as long as his money is in their hand, they’ll lay in bed every night, just make sure your pocket never gets light…”. Musically, the lead vocal is augmented throughout with backing harmonies from Rod Williams and the dual vocal sound is what makes this song stand out.

Crimes For Passion contains another salutary moral lesson, this one containing a lead vocal by Matt Williamson who does a great job. Whereas the protagonist of Dangerous Lover finds out a woman just wants him for his money, this song is about a woman already in a relationship and is cheating with a lover that she discards when he’s not needed: “Oh, you live your lie, pretending all is fine, while I wait like a fool here alone in my room….”.

How Can You Say You Love Is True is another emotive song, this one written from the viewpoint of discovering out his partner is cheating on him. The musical backing reflects the emotional nature of the song, with melancholy piano lines and heart rending strings providing the melodic counterpoint to the well crafted vocal melody.

Because, the eighth track, almost feels like the sequel to the previous song, continuing the musical bedrock of piano and strings and lyrically exploring the emotional turmoil that results of lies: “You moulded me this way, my heart was unsculpted clay…”. The poignant vocal melody is delivered with sensitivity by Ben Dial and these songs show the more tender side of Rod Williams’ songwriting.

Tears is an interesting song, combining this emotive lyrical style with a modern pop/EDM backing. Backed by a mid-paced disco beat and swirling synths, this track stands out for the strength of its lilting vocal melody and a further example of Williams’ songwriting craft. This one is another potential single in my opinion.

The closing song Now also has some surprises up its sleeve. Sung once again by Matt Williamson, it’s the first time we hear acoustic guitar on the album, which forms the instrumental backbone of the track. It sets the mood for another tale of heartache, giving some perspicacious insights on the possessive nature of romantic relationships: “Now I’m in deep, I can’t breathe when you’re away from me, now I wanna keep you trapped like a bird in a cage”. It’s a deep and affecting finale to an album that starts out so much lighter in tone.

Overall, this is another fantastic modern pop album from Project Rod Williams. Featuring a plethora of talented collaborators, Rod Williams proves once again he is equally adept at writing upbeat dancefloor tracks as well as the more deeply emotional, reflective songs that show the more painful side of love and romance. With top notch production and first rate performances from all concerned, Spin Me deserves to be a major success.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Go (Remix) by Matthew Schultz x Modern Machines

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Matthew Schultz is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, singer and performer who started out playing guitar in Chris Daughtry’s first band.  He has already made a strong impact on the music industry with his previous releases. His first single, Money or Me, was produced by Armando Guarnera and earned him a nomination at the 2013 EOTM Awards, as well as one for best new male artist. He followed this up with Crazy Heart (ft. Alessia Guarnera) in 2014, then in 2015 he released We Own The Night (feat. Jim Jones).

Last year, 2018, saw a plethora of successful releases for Matthew Schultz. In January, he released the single Promise For Keeps, following up with a version featuring Jamaican reggae singer Gyptian and an Electric Bodega remix in the following months.

That remix has accumulated a million plays on Spotify and the track became part of a viral craze on Instagram (#promiseforkeeps), featuring some of the biggest stars from NBC hit show World of Dance. Also hugely popular was another single, All Night Long, featuring Gyptian and Rico Tayla and Somewhere Far, which has racked up an enormous 7.5 million streams.

It was featured on Spotify’s Editorials Chill Hits, Brand New Chill, Wachenende, Pop Relax, Slo Down, No Stress and went Viral 50 in 8 countries as well as charting on Music Week and Itunes Electronic Charts. His last release, Turn Me Up (ft. Gyptian) has accumulated 650,000 streams and featured on Matchbox Indie Club Hits Volume 1 – Essential Commercial Pop Club.

This latest release is a remix of the original version of Go, which was released in May, 2019 and has racked up over half a million streams. The remix is by New York-based production duo Modern Machines (Dimitry Mak and Kapla), whose last single MakeDamnSure has 3.3 million streams and has been featured on several Spotify Editorials including Emotron. The remix is produced in the EDM/Future House style similar to Don Diablo, Oliver Harris, Tchami, Tiesto Dimitri Vegas and Borgeous.

The remix is a radical reinterpretation of the original Go, which stood out for its mellow, chilled out production style. This version sounds strikingly different from the start, opening with an instantly infectious 2/4 house beat. Like any good future house track, it breaks down for the verse then gradually builds back up, the vocal melody perfectly suited to this radical overhaul. It stands to prove that you can produce a great song in any style and it will work.

The chorus hook is augmented on this version by strident piano chords and a swirl of synths, before the snare roll kicks in and it breaks back into a full beat with a dubstep-style low-end synth riff. This arrangement pattern repeats for the second verse and build up, ending on a euphoric final section that you can imagine the crowd going wild for in a club.

Overall, this is a radical remix of a great chill-out track that takes the original vocals and reinvigorates them with a high energy Future House production approach. The result is a storming dance track that will bring Matthew Schultz to a whole new audience. With Future House proving to be one of the most popular EDM genres, it’s possible that this version could go viral in the clubs and prove an even bigger success than the original version.

 

VERDICT= 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Moon Rituals by Sienna

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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 latest album, Moon Rituals, is her eighth. To paraphrase her press release, it is unlike her former studio albums and “essentially consists throughout of chill-out songs – and all about the different phases of the moon in the Japanese cultural context.”

The album starts with the highly evocative Moonrise, which begins with a swirl of distant, ambient synths and haunting, echo-drenched piano. The exotic melody is juxtaposed with some unexpected, almost jazzy harmonic progressions and the low-end brooding synth adds to the meditative, mesmeric mood of the music.

Around the two minute mark the mood changes and we hear birdsong before a much lighter, more playful high-end melody emerges augmented by subtle percussion. This melody becomes the main theme of the piece and the percussive arrangement builds gradually into a captivating, intricate electronica beat as the melody is harmonized and modulated in unexpected ways. Moonrise is a very sophisticated and successful attempt at painting in sound.

After the epic, six minute opening track the more succinct but equally potent second track, A Hazy Moon, perfectly conjures in sound the imagery of the title. Opening with a scene-setting plethora of natural sounds, it is based around a complex, fast moving harmonic progression on synth.

This somehow has the ethereal effect of making the music appear to be floating in mid air, in combination with the hypnotic tempo, the result being a perfect evocation of a “hazy moon”. The brief bursts of the pipa, an exotic sounding Chinese musical instrument, adds to the magical, rich texture of the music.

Third track, Wesak on Mt. Kuruma, is about a festival that celebrates the birth, life and death of the Buddha, an event which takes place on the full-moon day of the lunar month Vesakha, which falls in April or May.

This mystical, other-worldly piece is set at a tranquil pace and consists of a simple but beautiful piano motif which is interwoven with blissful splashes of synth and a haunting female vocal (by Sienna) which gradually turns into harmonized vocals, creating a truly enchanting effect. Highly original and unique, both in terms of composition and performance/production.

This transcendent mood continues into the fourth track Moon on the Water which again uses delicate piano to paint the musical scene suggested by the title, and does so very effectively. The brooding mood, unpredictable chord changes and beatific melody brought to mind the work of French classical composer Erik Satie as well as other French impressionistic composers such as Debussy and Ravel. Ultimately, though, Sienna’s musical style in all her own and this is a real highlight of the album.

Tsukiyomi, the fifth track, is rather different. The title translates as Moon of the Underworld and Tsukiyomi is a moon god in Japanese mythology. This piece creates a tense and brooding soundscape through a sparse arrangement of percussion and brief interludes of exotic melody. It lends the music a stately grandeur with the space allowing every element to breathe. As it progresses across its five minute duration, it slowly builds in complexity and nuance, holding the attention gripped to the final bars.

This minimalistic style continues into The Harvest Moon-Viewing Banquet, with strident percussion set against swelling synth strings. It results in a powerfully atmospheric piece where a piano melody gradually emerges, only for the music to fall away. The final two minutes are a subtle crescendo of musical layers that captivates the ear.

Seventh track Snow, Moon, Flowers is one of the album’s epics at six and a half minutes long and is a return to the relatively more expansive and colourful sound world of the earlier tracks. With an unusual time signature that gives it a dreamy, ethereal feel it incorporates a pizzicato string melody with a deep bassline and glistening synths, as well as piano and flute.

A beautiful sung melody then floats serenely over the top before the pulsing kick drum develops into a full swing beat. The vocals on top help to make it the closest thing to a conventional song on the album, and it is my personal favourite.

Equally wonderful is the eighth track Crescent Moon, which is based around a recurring four note pipa melody. This piece truly showcases Sienna’s skills as a composer and arranger, gradually building up a richly woven tapestry of gorgeous counterpoint melodies and harmonies. On top of this she adds angelic vocals engulfed in reverb to create an irresistible musical melange. Perhaps the most instantly accessible piece on the album, and the most melodic.

Moon Rituals concludes with the extremely beautiful piece A Pale Morning Moon which feels like both a distillation and culmination of all the album’s lunar and musical themes. Driven initially by a moving low-end string motif and minimalist bass, the music gradually blossoms into a glorious extended climax of swirling synths and rapturous piano. It undoubtedly captures the mysterious and alluring power the moon has over us and completes the album in an inspired way.

Overall, this album is a truly captivating musical odyssey by a highly original and imaginative artist. She skilfully incorporates traditional musical styles with the modern ambient style to emerge with a sound that is quite unique .Sienna’s music has the remarkable effect of drawing the listener into intoxicating soundscapes that somehow seem to stand outside time and space. Every piece on the album takes you on a different sonic journey, yet it works as a seamless and unified concept album. Sienna has truly given us the whole of the moon.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Turn Me Up ft. Gyptian by Matthew Schultz

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Matthew Schultz is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, singer and performer who started out playing guitar in Chris Daughtry’s first band.  He has already made a strong impact on the music industry with his previous releases. His first single, Money or Me, was produced by Armando Guarnera and earned him a nomination at the 2013 EOTM Awards, as well as one for best new male artist. He followed this up with Crazy Heart (ft. Alessia Guarnera) in 2014, then in 2015 he released We Own The Night (feat. Jim Jones).

Last year, 2018, saw a plethora of successful releases for Matthew Schultz. In January, he released the single Promise For Keeps, following up with a version featuring Jamaican reggae singer Gyptian and an Electric Bodega remix in the following months.

That remix has accumulated a million plays on Spotify and the track became part of a viral craze on Instagram (#promiseforkeeps), featuring some of the biggest stars from NBC hit show World of Dance. Also hugely popular was another single, All Night Long, featuring Gyptian and Rico Tayla and Somewhere Far, which has racked up an enormous 7 million streams since its release last August. His last single release, Go, also notched up streams in the millions.

This latest track, Turn Me Up, is a return to the very successful collaborative relationship with Gyptian after the purely solo releases of Somewhere Far and Go. It starts with a laid back, gently insistent triplet-based synth rhythm and the three chord structure around which the song is built emerges, augmented by punchy and intricate percussion.

On the first verse Gyptian takes the lead vocals, laying down an infectious reggae-influenced vocal melody. The overall sound is distinctly dancehall with a strong Major Lazer vibe and his vocal performance is charismatic, with an exotic flavour. Lyrically, it’s about feeling intoxicated by someone (“It’s an inferno being around you.…”) and this is perfectly reflected in the understated yet hypnotic music.

It builds to the catchy title hook before Matthew takes the lead on the second verse. His vocal melody is delivered an octave deeper, providing a nice contrast and also a variation to the first verse. The arrangement is cleverly structured so that this verse later repeats, becoming one of the song’s main hooks.

Overall, this is yet another excellent dancehall track by Matthew Schultz with a fine cameo by the gifted Gyptian and flawless, cutting edge production. With its languid, chilled out vibe and mesmeric rhythms it’s the perfect soundtrack for late summer and will no doubt become hugely popular once more both on the dancefloor and on streaming sites. After several hugely successful singles behind him, Turn Me Up sounds like another smash that will be particularly appealing to fans of Major Lazer and Tory Lanez.

 

 

VERDICT= 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: Don’t Panic by Datastar

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Datastar are an EDM songwriting and production collective based in Queens, New York City. Their members are wide ranging, from a DJ to a record store owner. Their music is similarly eclectic, encompassing various genres including techno, house, future house, pop, rock and hip hop, often with an undercurrent of the psychedelic. Most of their music is instrumental thus far, with use of vocoders and samples thrown into the mix.

This EP, Don’t Panic, consists of four tracks that are all essentially in the EDM genre, though each a little different in style. The EP starts out with the title track and it’s the perfect introduction to their signature sound.

It begins with an immediately memorable swirling synth melody, before futuristic vocoder-infused vocals inform us to “Slide…bounce….don’t panic!” over crisp snare rolls and a pulsing four to the floor kick drum groove. As the track progresses, we hear a fantastic arpeggiated synth melody that goes off to some weird and wonderful places sonically the second time around. It’s an excellent house track full of energy and musical personality, making a fine opener.

Just Like That shows their more psychedelic side, a laid back future house track with an infectious, bouncy bassline that brought to mind the modern future house classic Gecko by Oliver Heldens. Set to a languid 2/4 house beat, the track is built upon intertwining layers of syncopated and swelling pad synths, house piano and the recurring title hook, a whispered vocal. The track is arranged to perfection, with the various sections leading into each other seamlessly. The subtle use of dynamics means the music sounds fresh to the very end.

Third track Nardo is based around a three-chord progression on top of which is an array of catchy synth melodies and insistent piano backed by an energetic house beat and a simple, mesmeric bassline for the most part. In certain parts, it breaks down to an ambient style section replete with tranquil, blissed out synths and an exotic, Spanish guitar type melody that conjures images of golden beaches and crystal clear oceans. The contrast with the main upbeat section is highly effective, and this section has a particularly danceable beat which should go down well in the clubs.

The final track Blackheart is the darkest and moodiest sounding one here, built around a brooding, ominous sounding synth riff and a meaty, 2/4 beat. This one brought to mind the intense instrumentals of mid-period techno pioneers 808 State. The music has a decided hypnotic quality that is enhanced to a high degree in a section that cleverly combines a triplet rhythm in the synth over the strident beat. This track has a definite different flavour to the rest of the EP which has a more general ‘party vibe’ and shows they have the potential to move in all sorts of creative directions in the future.

Overall, this is a consistently superb EDM EP by a collective of talented writers and producers. Across the four tracks they display a wealth of creativity whilst remaining within the realms of commercial accessibility. Every track here will be popular on the dance floor but the music’s richness of detail and nuance means it’s equally as enjoyable just to listen to. On this evidence, Datastar have a stellar future ahead of them.

 

VERDICT= 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: Bodhi by Apollo Soul

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Apollo Soul is the artistic moniker of Taylor Doerfler, a singer/songwriter, rapper, mix engineer and producer from Buffalo, NY. Having previously collaborated with other artists and producers, he made the decision in 2018 to set out on his own path. Since that decision he has been very prolific, releasing Scattered Thoughts Vol. 1 then the albums Reborn, Apologies, Roses and 2019’s XCIV.

This EP, Bodhi, consists of four tracks. The EP opens with the hard hitting Xo, which starts with a delicate guitar figure before Apollo Soul’s compelling vocals and lyrical narrative grab your attention. He depicts someone in the throes of drug addiction with stark yet poetic imagery: “She got that ice in the mouth like a diamond veneer…“. From here the track develops into a cutting edge EDM track which showcases his skills as both singer and rapper, proving equally adept at both.

On My Grind is more upbeat, an anthemic EDM/rap track with an instantly memorable chorus: “I’ve been on my grind, trying to define this winding road inside my mind“. It features some incendiary fast flowing rapping on the verses that give the music an exhilarating feel and on this one in particular he sets out his stall as an extremely eloquent rapper with a breathtaking delivery. Combined with the poppy hook, it adds up to perfect material for a single.

Same Old You is again based on a recurring guitar line, a simple bedrock for Apollo to lay down some more rapid fire rhymes. It has another “reality check” vibe to the lyrics, as summed up succinctly by the title hook: “You got the same city with the same friends…you got the same problems as the old you“. Once again, with its radio friendly sound and catchy hook, it would make a good choice as a single.

Purple Rain is not a cover of the Prince classic but another entertaining ode to the hedonistic side of life: “Last night I woke up on the pavement“. This one is driven by crunchy, funky guitar which works with the infectious beat and the EDM sound of the rest of the track. Although the tone is decidedly upbeat once again, Apollo Soul doesn’t shy away from the dark side of excess: “What you hate most you come and do again“. A very fine way to finish.

Overall, this is a brilliant EP that maintains a high degree of lyrical and musical quality across the four tracks. Apollo Soul has honed his skills as singer, rapper, writer and producer to perfection and most importantly his music is completely fitting with the current zeitgeist. With material as good as this, I can see him being hailed as the next Mackelmore and hopefully he achieves similar success.

 

VERDICT= 9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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