ALBUM REVIEW: Dark Planet by Marc Lowe

https://www.marclowemusic.com

Marc Lowe is a composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist musician (guitar/keyboards/drums) currently residing in Tokyo, Japan. He’s very much a self-made artist as he writes his own music, sings and performs all the instruments himself, as well as producing it autonomously. He also films and produces his own videos, making him very much the embodiment of the versatile, highly creative modern artist. For several years he has been extremely prolific, releasing a considerable plethora of singles, EPs and albums.

This latest album, Dark Planet, is his third of 2022 and Lowe has stated he sees it as an artistic conclusion to a trilogy consisting of the albums The Way Out Is In (read my review here), Infinity for Beginners and now this final part. Consisting of eight tracks, it is unusual for a Marc Lowe album in that it contains several cover versions. However, these songs, originally by IAMX and the late Jeff Buckley, are very much reimagined by Lowe in keeping with the album’s overall theme.

Essentially, this transpires to be a stage of emotional healing and resolution after experiencing a troubled and painful relationship. Although, as the title implies, this album is also a reflection of the world at large, the global zeitgeist, and it’s worth noting that Lowe also managed to find time for another release between these last two albums, Nobody Wins (Pray For Ukraine).

The album opens with the first of two versions of North Star (Dark Planet mix). Consisting of just acoustic guitar, Lowe’s vulnerable vocal and ambient atmospherics, Lowe very much makes this IAMX song his own. He paints a desolate sonic landscape of emotional numbness, perfectly mirroring the lyrics: “I want flesh to bring me happiness ’cause I feel nothing….I feel nothing”. Amongst the unsettling backdrop we hear Lowe intone, “Do you still love me?” and this moment becomes a touchstone for the album’s overall meaning.

For those already familiar with Lowe’s work, emotional experiences in the present are given context within the framework of Lowe’s spiritual outlook and philosophy which incorporates elements of Eastern religions such as Buddhism. And so, after the raw pain depicted by the album’s opener, Temporal States Of Being brings us from the micro to the macro, a recurring feature of Lowe’s art.

Originally written two years ago with a different arrangement it is mostly an instrumental track, starting with the sound of inhalation and exhalation, a reference to meditation. It develops into a mesmeric concoction of subtle interweaving percussive patterns and a steady synth drone, full of Eastern mystical mystery. Musically, it seems to reflect the Buddhist concept of transcending time and space, the necessary detachment from earthly expectations and desires, which in Buddhism is the root of all suffering. From this heightened perspective, a spoken word vocal from Lowe emerges: “One is what one is…”.

Third track You & I is another cover version, though a radical musical reimagining is perhaps a closer description. It is based on the version of the song from Jeff Buckley’s posthumously released Sketches For My Sweetheart, The Drunk. This unique version mostly consists of atmospherics combined with an extraordinarily emotive and intense vocal performance from Marc, who delivers a masterclass in controlled falsetto.

As the track unfolds, there is a gradual increase in tension, reaching fever pitch by the end. Tellingly, Lowe changes some of Buckley’s original lyrics, which strongly suggests this cover is a reflection of a personal relationship important to Lowe. “Silver eyes” becomes “misty eyes” and ends on the poignant question, “What is the truth of you and I?

With the following (Please Have) Mercy, it becomes truly apparent that this album is about dealing with the aftermath of an intense love affair that has ended painfully. It is another reworking, this one of an IAMX song called Mercy. It feels the narrative natural successor to You & I, a stark depiction of heartbreak and emotional turmoil. Consisting of acoustic used both melodically and percussively (Lowe taps out recurring patterns on the body of his guitar, very effective) as well as another compelling lead vocal.

Here, Lowe again changes the original words to reflect his personal situation and so we find “submission” substituted with “suspicion”, “poetry” with “hypocrisy”. This paints a portrait of infidelity, confirmed by Lowe’s alterations to the spoken word section: “Were the lies from your lips just because you didn’t want me to realise? Was I the one you chose just to hurt me and fuck me up badly?”. The refrain, “did you fake it?” is stoked up to a torturous climax, gradually fading out to a bare whisper.

After such heartfelt and harrowing performances the spacious, mesmerising Inner States of Blind is the perfect contrast. Interestingly, it’s a track related to Inner States (of Mind), from The Sun Is Coming. Even more interestingly, that track was based on the You & I cover which Lowe decided not to release on the Sun Is Coming album. Starting out with just ambient atmospherics, Lowe’s Buddhism-inspired words float over the mix, intricate rhythms gradually emerging and then blossoming into a glorious beat.

Don’t Forget To Breathe (The Way In Is In) is another track that brings us full circle in the Lowe artistic universe. This one is a reworking of Unprecedented Times, the last track on The Sun Is Coming. This is interspersed with parts of The Way Out Is In, from the album of the same name.

These tracks seem to reflect a stage of emotional healing and recovery from emotional pain, through the soul development attained by Eastern spiritual philosophies such as Buddhism, a journey from conscious emotional pain into the still, subconscious realms attained through meditation and contemplation.

But then we resurface back to the conscious world and having to confront emotional wounds once more. With Tears Cried, this is a track that relates to Tear Garden (Praying For Me), from The Way Out Is In. Set to haunting, deeply moving piano, Lowe has stated it’s on one level a compassionate response to the situation in Ukraine. This changing focus from the personal to the suffering of others is the heart of Buddhist thought, namely compassion.

The album concludes with an acoustic version of North Star that, again, feels like the completion of an emotional transformation yet with pain still ever present. It’s also fiercely honest, with subtle lyrical changes from the original: “I’ve seen bad things” becomes, “I’ve done bad things”. This level of artistic honesty would feel too vulnerable for most artists, yet Lowe is a fearless explorer of the human soul.

Overall, Dark Planet is another fascinating sonic and spiritual journey, Marc Lowe combining his own compositions with unique reinterpretations of other artists’ music to great effect. It’s a powerful and painfully emotive work, depicting the dark states of mind following heartbreak, but also the transcendence of ephemeral emotion to attain a semblance of inner peace. Besides the personal aspects, Dark Planet is also a sensitive artist’s intuitive response to the global situation we find ourselves in and another step in Lowe’s impressive artistic progression.

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Dark Planet was released on May 15th 2022 and is now available via all major streaming services (Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube & Amazon Music, and more). 

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

ALBUM REVIEW: Reminiscent by VxT

VxT (short for @valexteaky) is the artistic moniker of an aspiring producer/songwriter/rapper hailing originally from India but now residing in the Bay Area of California. By day, VxT works as a sound engineer but at night he gets to pursue his first love; writing, performing, recording and producing music. He began releasing original material back in 2015, with the singles Looking for You and Illusions of Reality. 2016 saw the release of a third single, Hate Me I’m High. In 2021, he released his debut full length album Holding and this year has so far produced his first independently released album, Reminiscent.

The album consists of eleven tracks in the rap/hip hop genre, opening with the smooth, subtly infectious hip hop/RnB of Stop. VxT takes centre stage from the start, first impressing with a mellifluous lead vocal then switching to displaying his rap skills in the verses. Throughout the track is a recurring guitar motif that gives the music a real melodic depth. Rhythmically, it’s perfectly in sync with VxT’s rap delivery, which is fluent both in wordplay and assured delivery. With its radio friendly sound and catchy title hook, Stop is an obvious contender for a single.

Even better is the second track, Brown Boy Flow. Built around a haunting, mysterious melodic motif full of Eastern flavour, here VxT merges the styles of the East and the West to form a potent and powerful fusion; imagine Ravi Shankar crossed with Eminem. Indeed, the rapid fire delivery on the verses rivals Eminem for verbal dexterity and flawless, tight delivery.

The lyrics are an honest depiction of feeling like an outsider as an Indian living in America as evidenced by the opening lines: “All the way to the land of the free and the home of the brave, I don’t know if I even belong here, I don’t even know what I’m saying…”. It’s a modern take on the classic theme of the outsider who doesn’t fit in, thematically akin to classics like A Boy Named Sue and Englishmen In New York. But this timeless theme is infused with fresh energy through VxT’s particular, unique perspective and the result is an instant rap classic.

Hey Dad is another emotionally powerful and affecting track, a reflection on, and reminiscence of, a difficult and troubled father son relationship. Centred around a haunting, classical-inspired piano progression and a slick hip hop groove, VxT lays his heart on his sleeve from the start: “Wanted to tell that I did everything that I did just to make you proud, wanted to hear “Son, you did well”, I just wanna hear that sound.…”. A fantastic hip hop track that skilfully balances rap virtuosity with a poignant and moving lyrical narrative.

Got What I Wanted maintains the high musical quality, this one more of a showcase for his singing, which is just as good as his rapping. The commercial, radio friendly production style and effortlessly memorable chorus make it another contender for a single release, especially as it covers the universal theme of romantic disappointment and emotional pain.

The blissfully languid Way Too Long shows another side to his sophisticated musical persona, this one featuring a superb lead vocal that rivals any RnB/soul singer out there. This is skilfully blended and contrasted by rap sections and the chilled out tempo really allows the lush melodies to breathe.

Sixth track Nobody Else takes the pulse down another few beats per minute, a seductive tempo in tandem with a hypnotic lead vocal melody. VxT delivers a perfectly poised and understated performance, even when the words express strong emotional turbulence.

The insistent, seesaw melody of Worth brought to mind an artist like Drake, whilst lyrically articulating a brewing emotional storm bordering on an existential crisis. The way Vxt combines depth and emotion with the lighter side of life is skilfully done, the following All I Wanted openly expressing his love of marijuana (which may explain the mellow tempos!): “So I think about when we do drugs, especially when I’m high, is it to die or to feel alive?“. Another commercial sounding track, though the drug references perhaps rule it out as a potential single.

Free is another excellent track, dropping the tempo to super languid, VxT delivering a dreamy, melancholy vocal that brought to mind artists like The Weeknd and Terry Blade. Paint A Picture explores a similar emotional terrain though with a few cheeky 420 friendly references thrown in: “All I need is an edible to calm down now and be sensible...”. The flowing triplets in the rap sections are a reminder of his high pedigree as a rapper.

The album closes with First Love, the longest here at nearly four and a half minutes. It’s also the most openly romantic track with a heartfelt chorus refrain: “People say I should find somebody new cos they think time with you is a waste, they don’t understand you like I do...”. Along with the perfect balance of displaying his rapping and vocal skills, ending on a positive note of expressing deep, unconditional love is a fitting end to the album’s emotional rollercoaster.

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

SINGLE REVIEW: Never Dies by Faye Jule

Faye Jule are an international music collective consisting of singer Sam Adler (Odessa, UA), songwriter Stefan (Berlin, Germany) and music producer Kara (Nashville, USA). Despite their different locations, they are able to effectively collaborate and the result is a dreampop/alternative style comparable to a group like The xx, Chvrches and an artist like Billie Eilish, along with echoes of groups like the inventors of dreampop, the Cocteau Twins. They released their debut single HYE in July and have already received strongly positive reactions and begun garnering a fanbase.

This second single, Never Dies, is a delicate and highly emotive ballad which opens with solemn, sparse piano chords that set a poignant tone. Then we hear the crystalline vocals of Sam Adler enter and the beauty of her voice combined with the haunting vocal melody cast quite a spell. The opening lines appear to depict a romantic relationship that has run its course: “The party’s over, our minds are clearer….”.

Much of the song’s emotional power resides in the nostalgia for the bliss of youthful love: “The sun was brighter, the days were longer and we ran heedless into another song…”. After a minimalistic first half of mostly just lead vocal and piano, the arrangement builds with acoustic guitar and a beat driven by intricate hi hat patterns. The mood of reflective melancholy is sustained to the end, with Sam Adler’s vulnerable vocals going to some wonderful places at the top of her range.

Overall, this is a superb modern piano ballad in the dreampop genre. Faye Jule manage to balance artistic authenticity with excellent, radio friendly production and there lies the secret to huge commercial success, as well as critical acclaim. Faye Jule have the potential to go very far and Never Dies could open many doors for them with enough exposure.

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

ALBUM REVIEW: The Greatest Show by Arienne hearts Charlie

The genesis of the husband and wife musical duo Arienne hearts Charlie is a fascinating and moving story. Arienne grew up in Louisiana where she found musical inspiration in the songs she heard that expressed the pain of the Deep South. Meanwhile, only a block away, her future beloved Charlie was playing gospel churches as a child. They eventually met at graduate school and it was love at first sight. Both have juggled their musical career together with their mutual work in psychotherapy and mental health. Their music fuses their influences together; Charlie’s influences include Motown and Funkadelic along with jazz musicians like Wes Montgomery and George Benson. Arienne adores Billie Holiday, Amy Winehouse and Patsy Cline, which fits hand in glove with Charlie’s natural jazzy style.

This album, The Greatest Show, consists of ten songs (plus differing versions of three of the album tracks). It opens with the languid and sensual Voyeur, Charlie’s superb jazz guitar skills becoming immediately apparent with a sophisticated chord progression. He also takes lead vocals on the verse, his voice smooth with a wide range and a fine falsetto. Arienne then enters for the second verse, and her voice is the perfect compliment to Charlie’s; a crystal clear and distinctive tone mixed with vocal power that she expresses as the song progresses.

Loving Day is also a jazzy song in 6/8 time that features both vocalists giving wonderful performances. Charlie here gives counterpoint vocals and harmonies to Arienne’s sweetly sung lead vocal. This track sounds hugely romantic but has a political underpinning; it references the famous Loving vs Virginia case of 1967, which ruled that laws banning interracial marriage violated the Constitution. This is referred to by the song’s title, as the lyrics depict their love for each other in a world where interracial marriage is not yet fully accepted: “Disapproving looks still come our way though it’s been so long since Loving Day…”. With an absolutely beautiful melody and a theme very relevant to our present day situation, this song strikes me as an instant classic.

All Of Me is another finely crafted song, this one more light hearted with a toe tapping rhythm driven by brushes on the snare. You can hear how Arienne and Charlie’s influences meld perfectly here, Arienne giving a performance that brought to mind Patsy Cline, with Charlie delivering a fine Wes Montgomery-style jazz progression.

Next comes the fabulous Bare, which was released as a single. It’s a dreamy jazz ballad that positively exudes sensuality, Arienne giving a smoky and sultry performance as sexy sax wails in the background. Once again, it shows Charlie’s and Arienne’s gift for writing consistently superb songs that recall a golden age of music from when the music really mattered. Their deep love and desire for each other gives this track an erotic power that will have couples round the world feeling amorous.

Dysania is another delightfully languid and sensuous ballad that perfectly reflects the meaning of the title (dysania is a chronic feeling of not wanting to get out of bed!). With an excellent arrangement based around subtle, lush strings and exquisite guitar work from Charlie, it provides the musical bedrock for a delicate vocal performance from Arienne. The stacked backing harmonies provide the ideal contrast to Arienne’s performance which exudes seductive, “come hither” charm.

Solitude is quite the contrast, a deeply melancholy ballad as the title suggests. Arienne sings with a voice full of feeling as she depicts herself at a low ebb: “I sit in my chair filled with despair, there’s no one could be so sad with gloom everywhere….”. After several songs of blissful romantic joy, this sad song is all the more powerful and shows the darker side of life that we all encounter at some point.

Autumn Leaves opens with a fabulous descending guitar run, the music maintaining the bittersweet melancholy of Solitude. “Since you went away, the days grow long…but I miss you most of all, darling, when leaves start to fall…” sings Arienne wearily. The music then switches to a fast paced Django Reinhardt style section featuring a magnificent flute solo from their high school son Ciaran, who impressively improvised the solo (and has his own EP coming out soon). It then returns to its bluesy, moody vibe until the end which lands on an unexpected major chord, giving a glimpse of hope.

Next comes a most unexpected but refreshing cover version of No One Knows, originally by heavy rock band Queens Of The Stone Age. Charlie must have noticed the jazz influence on the song’s chord progression and realised it would work in their particular style. This version really brings out the musicality of the song and works well within the context of the album.

Beauty (for Arienne) follows, a gorgeous instrumental that allows Charlie’s gifts as a guitarist to take the spotlight. It’s another wonderful composition that evokes his deep feelings for his beloved Arienne, every note played on his acoustic guitar conveying deep emotion.

The album concludes (aside from bonus tracks) with Montero (Call Me By Your Name). This is a very up to date cover of a track originally by Lil Nas X. It shows they certainly have their finger on the musical pulse as this track was only released in 2021. Again, although the original is a hip hop track, this version works well with an arrangement full of evocative, warm brass and strings and a distinct Mariachi vibe.

Overall, this is a real gem of an album by a rather special musical duo. The Greatest Show is a superb collection of sophisticated songs that range from the romantic and sensual to the political. Their natural musical chemistry is self-evident and they cover the whole range of the human condition across the course of the album. Bringing back the great music styles of the past with lyrics relatable to our world as it is today, Arienne hearts Charlie have truly struck artistic gold and deserve to become hugely successful.

VERDICT = 9.2 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

SINGLE REVIEW: One Wok by Matthew Schultz ft. Zolo

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).

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 8 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 over one million streams and featured on Matchbox Indie Club Hits Volume 1 – Essential Commercial Pop Club.

This latest release, One Wok (ft. Zolo), is a laid-back dancehall track in the vein of artists like Tory Lanez, Kranium, Skillibeng and Major Lazer. It starts out with a languid but very catchy refrain from Zolo over a four chord synth progression, deep dub bass and simple but effective percussion. It then switches to Matthew’s fine lead vocals on the verse, which works as a nice contrast to Zolo’s slick rapping.

With a syncopated, lilting rhythm guaranteed to get hips swaying on the dance floor, the track builds to the irresistible title hook: “I one wok for you….”. Lyrically, it’s about desiring someone so much that you’re prepared to put in the hard yards to get them.

The words to the second verse from Schultz are decidedly sensual and designed to get dancing couples feeling amorous: “Baby girl, talk that talk, you’re smooth like wine, girl, my hands on your waist while looking in your eye….”. The track closes out with the infectious title refrain, the top notch production full of cool sound effects that add to the ear candy.

Overall, this is another great dancehall anthem perfect for the late summer. Following on from several hugely successful tracks is not easy but Matthew Schultz and his featured guest artist Zolo have created another banger that will undoubtedly slay on the dance floor and will work for commercial radio too. Schultz has a definite talent for producing summer smashes that sound good all year round and One Wok is yet another.

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

SINGLE REVIEW: Strawberry Moon by Jet Stream ft. Katrinus

The genesis of Jet Stream began back in 2016, when best friends Joe Molnar (vocals/guitar) and Saurav Sridhar (bass/drums) played a high school talent contest. They found an instant musical synergy based on their similar tastes which revolved around rock and pop. Fast forward to the 2020 pandemic, and the two friends suddenly had a lot of time to explore their creative ideas. They worked with various talented producers around the world via online collaboration and ,in 2020, have begun releasing the fruits of their labours with The EP. In 2021, they’ve followed up with Only You and Electric (Acoustic).

This track, Strawberry Moon, perfectly showcases their unique style of rock-pop and features the guest vocals of Katrinus. After an intro of piano, acoustic guitar and subtle harmonies, Katrinus’ strong and radio friendly voice takes the first verse. The arrangement builds cleverly, starting out with funky guitar and fingerclicks before a beefy full time beat kicks in.

It builds to the anthemic chorus sung by Joe Molnar, which provides an effective contrast. The lyrics are romantic in tone without being trite: “Someday, I wanna go after all those dreams you couldn’t capture and as long as we stay on our little pasture, a strawberry moon will watch over us tonight”. Interestingly, there is an equally catchy after-chorus section and this kind of songwriting sophistication is another strength of Jet Stream. The rest of the track maintains its contrasting mixture of male and female lead vocals with clever use of dynamics.

Overall, Strawberry Moon is an excellent pop rock track that fuses the pop punk/rock of bands like Hoobastank, Blink 182 and Fall Out Boy with a mainstream pop production style. Katrinus makes a fine guest appearance and delivers first rate lead vocals, equally matched by Jet Stream to create a song perfect for radio with a wide ranging appeal. The future is bright for Jet Stream with more of this winning formula.

VERDICT =  9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

SINGLE REVIEW: Stand Aside by Cole Parrish

Cole Parrish is an American female acoustic singer songwriter who has been releasing music for over a decade. Her declared aim in making music is essentially spiritual, hoping to make music that soothes the soul and sees her vocation as “a music quest of love and intent, to find the ears who need the songs most.” She released her debut EP back in 2011, the four track Modern Day Sway. She followed this with singles including Find A Way in 2012, Step By Step in 2014 and There in 2015, accumulating a large fan base along the way.

This latest single, Stand Aside, is her first release for several years and is a succinct but very well crafted acoustic ballad. Clocking in at under two minutes, it captures the listener from the start with a strident, strummed four chord progression. Cole’s lilting and distinctive voice then enters, bringing to mind artists like Lisa Hannigan and Sarah McLachlan.

The song is about someone struggling to cope with their demons and suggesting they let themselves be helped: “You aren’t so good at solving problems, trying to do so on your own...”. It leads to the simple but instantly memorable refrain, “So let go, take hold of what you’ve got and let go....”.

In the concise second verse she makes it clear she’s not going to be their saviour: “Thank god I’m not the one who solves them, I am just a conduit…”. The song then closes out with the title hook, which is unusual. but works perfectly.

Overall, this is an exquisitely crafted and performed acoustic ballad by a gifted singer and songwriter. It’s the work of an artist who has fully honed their style and the result is a poignant and moving song that has huge commercial potential owing to its relatability and radio friendly sound. Cole Parrish is a name you might well be hearing a lot more of.

VERDICT =  9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner