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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SINGLE REVIEW: MistaRomeo by Yvonne Sangudi

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Yvonne Sangudi is a Tanzanian-American singer and songwriter who currently resides in Los Angeles. She was musically precocious as a child and was writing, recording and producing by the age of nine! Since then she gained a huge amount of progress and experience, being described by the Huffington Post as “the next great songstress”. Her music combines pop with reggaeton and world-beat, though her influences range from Bach to Shania Twain.

She released her debut single Tanzanite back in 2014, which reached #35 on the iTunes Top 100 Pop Charts (New Releases). Following a hiatus, she is back with MistaRomeo, was co-produced by Jens Gad, who is the older brother of Toby Gad (who was named the #3 top Producer & Songwriter by Billboard). The Gad brothers have penned hits for Beyonce, Madonna, Brandy, John Legend, Fergie, Leona Lewis and Engima. The track is an instantly infectious fusion of pop and world-beat, similar in style to the sound that made Shakira huge.

Starting with a catchy swirling synth riff, it breaks into a Hips Don’t Lie-style beat that could lure anyone to the dancefloor. Yvonne has a powerful, charismatic vocal style which emerges on the verses, counterpointed by lush backing harmonies. It builds to a memorable chorus, augmented by some skyscraping “Oh-oh’s” that seem ubiquitous in modern pop.

Lyrically, it’s about falling for a lothario then realizing he’s worthless, summed up succinctly in the chorus: “Oh, MistaRomeo, you liar….you liar….”. After the second chorus there is an effective middle section where it breaks down to the beat then builds up again. The final chorus features some superb extemporizations where Yvonne showcases her remarkable vocal range.

Overall, this is an excellent pop/world-beat fusion by an artist who has emerged fully developed on just her second single. Very well written and flawlessly produced, Yvonne Sangudi’s show-stealing performance sticks in the mind along with the addictive vocal melody. This is a singer all set for the world stage, and in this instance the hype is fully justified.

 

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Down The Line by Snir Yamin

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Snir Yamin is a singer and songwriter hailing from Israel. His music is a hybrid of folk, pop and rock and he cites influences such as Damien Rice, Jeff Buckley, Neil Young and Elliott Smith amongst others. You can also hear sonic similarities to bands like Muse, The Killers and the lesser known British band Nothing But Thieves. In 2016, he was awarded Best Folk Song by The Akademia.

This song, Down The Line, is perfectly pitched between rock and pop. Beginning with an evocative synth-based intro, low-end guitar stabs grab your attention before Snir enters with an immediately distinctive and captivating voice. The poetic nature of the lyrics also quickly becomes apparent from the opening lines: “From slowing down to running free on wild roads and buried dreams….”.

The bridge creates a nice sense of tension before exploding into the anthemic chorus, which is melodically uplifting while at the same time lyrically troubled: “So-called friends keep watching me, they want me to lose my sanity down the line….”. After the second chorus it breaks into a half-time section with another catchy refrain, before it builds back up for one last blast through the title hook, aided by tight vocal harmonies.

Overall, this is one of the best examples of songwriting I’ve heard this year in the rock/pop genre. Snir Yamin writes affecting songs that many will relate to lyrically, and he has the ability to marry his melancholy words to soaring, cathartic melodies. This was a gift shared by his musical heroes, and Snir has a very bright future ahead of him if he can maintain the quality of Down The Line. It deserves to become an anthem in the alternative rock scene.

VERDICT: 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: Flowoasis by Jupiter Gray

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Jupiter Gray is a rapper, singer and hip hop/RnB artist who identifies as a trans woman and comes from Columbus, Ohio. She has been noted as an upcoming influence on the LGBT scene and has featured with fellow artists like Cakes da Killa, Azealia Banks, Mykki Blanco and Dai Burger, amongst others. She has performed at various musical festivals including Comfest, Pride Festivals and many more.

This EP, Flowoasis, is her debut and consists of six tracks. It begins with the powerful spoken word track I AM a Woman and many of the tracks deal with the issue of her gender identity. Next comes the title track, and it’s a superb piece of RnB infused hip hop where Jupiter showcases her skills as both a singer and rapper. Starting with the catchy vocal hook, she delivers the verses with a fluent lyrical style, full of inventive rhymes.

Queen Pinnin is equally good, a hard hitting hip hop track with an infectious groove. Jupiter’s rapping here is as good as any of her hip hop contemporaries, laying down clever, slick lines with effortless ease and seamless flow. Her lyrical style is aggressive yet always closely controlled, giving every track potency and intensity. High Note (ft. Kidd Misfit) is incendiary; Jupiter and Kidd Misfit trade verses and their styles complement each other perfectly. My personal favourite on the EP.

Trouble in Paradise (ft. Terrance Damien) is one of the more RnB influenced tracks, featuring a super catchy vocal refrain. Here, it’s the singing voices that complement each other rather than the rapping style. Final track Runaway is another fine, though shorter, RnB track with a languid beat and a compelling vocal performance from Jupiter, aided by some futuristic cutting-edge production.

Overall, this is a brilliant debut EP from a passionate and gifted artist, adept both at singing and rapping. Her background and gender identity make her an artist very relevant to the current cultural zeitgeist, but most importantly she has several killer tracks that will help make her mark on the hip hop scene. You might well be hearing the name of Jupiter Gray a lot in the future.

 

VERDICT: 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

SINGLE REVIEW: There by Kidd Coco

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Kidd Coco is a beat maker, DJ and dancehall artist hailing from eastern Nigeria. Still only eighteen years old, he has emerged fully formed as an artist having created music from an early age. His music has led to numerous appearances and most notably, he won the Loudly popularity contest. The style of his own music is essentially dancehall, perhaps most akin to artists like Major Lazer, though he also creates house and trap music.

This release, There, is an instrumental dancehall track that showcases Kidd Coco’s skills as a composer and producer. It starts with an instantly catchy vibraphone melody that brought to mind the classic instrumental You’re So Cool by composer Hans Zimmer, from the film True Romance. It then combines with a Major Lazer-style synth riff before a laid back ‘four to the floor’ kick groove enters.

Dancehall is a genre that emerged from reggae, and the natural swaying rhythms of reggae are infused in this track. Kidd Coco expertly arranges layers of contrasting melodies and textures without cluttering the mix. The music breaks down and builds like any good dance track, with effective use of female vocal samples layered in. The last minute of the track combines the various themes of the music to great effect, creating a euphoric sense of climax.

Overall, There is an infectious and sonically colourful dancehall track from a young and exciting Nigerian artist with huge potential. The current worldwide popularity of dancehall means this is a great time to be releasing in this genre, and Kidd Coco could be the next big name that everyone hears about. Provided he maintains the high standard of this track, I expect his popularity to grow exponentially with every new release.

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: About Time by Matthew Falls

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Matthew Falls is a singer/songwriter and guitarist hailing from Hebden Bridge in England. His music is acoustic guitar-based pop, his style a cross between traditional singer songwriters like James Taylor, Cat Stevens and John Denver with more modern troubadours like Bon Iver and Damien Rice. Ultimately though, he has forged a unique, nuanced style of his own.

This album, About Time consists of ten tracks (with five bonus tracks on the deluxe edition) and, impressively, was recorded and produced solely by himself. With this style of music, it certainly puts the spotlight on your abilities and fortunately Matthew is a highly accomplished guitarist, with a strong, resonant voice.

The album begins with the title track, which consists of crystal clear fingerpicked acoustic guitar and Matthew’s emotive, intimate vocals augmented by subtle strings. It’s a philosophical, reflective song that many will relate to, about trying to find yourself on life’s journey and finding somewhere you feel you belong: “The lost and lonely gather once again, sad and smiling faces somehow look the same.…”. It’s also a song about finding redemption, with powerful lines like, “I’ve come too far to fall upon my sins, I’ll atone with each new day...”. An excellent start to the album.

The self-reflection continues on the following When I Was You. It’s a clever song concept about wanting to be able to talk to himself as a younger man going through dark times, to reassure him that life will eventually improve: “Don’t despair cos something’s coming, I’ll meet you there, a life worth loving….”. Musically, it continues his highly effective signature sound of vocals, acoustic guitar and strings as well as featuring some lovely vocal harmonies. Once again, it’s a very well crafted song with lyrical wisdom borne of experience.

The third track Everything’s Not Fine is the album’s epics at five and a half minutes and is one of the emotionally honest and affecting songs here. It’s about having regrets about the past ( “The wasted years, they sting like tears…”) and struggling with feelings of despair, encapsulated on the memorable chorus: “If you don’t mind, I’ll hide this thing that’s broken deep inside, save it for tomorrow if the sun still shines, everything’s not fine.…”. Ultimately, it’s about finding emotional resolution through acceptance rather than raking over past mistakes, summed up by the lines, “I won’t waste another second of my time looking for an answer that’s already mine…”.

The lilting, soothing vocal melody of the following song Falling belies the saturnine nature of the words, which are even more troubled than its predecessor: “Give me your hand, I’m falling and the darkness bares no sound, listen for me calling from this lonely place I’ve found….”. The ability to articulate and express our most difficult emotions is a gift that only the best songwriters possess, and Matthew eloquently conveys the vicissitudes of life’s journey with consummate poetic skill.

He also has a talent for writing consistently strong melodies, as evidenced by the excellent Scattered To The Wind. It features perhaps the most immediate and instantly memorable chorus on the album, as well as more lyrics of real depth and poignancy: “Time takes its toll on your heart and your soul, but it’s ok to take it in before the memories of all of this are scattered to the wind….”. A very moving song, and one that would make a good single.

Sixth song Day By Day is a much more upbeat song lyrically, about finding someone who rescues you from being in a bad place, captured succinctly by lines like, “You burned away the haze, saved me from my fate….”. There’s still an undercurrent of regret for lost time when he muses, “All that’s left behind I’d give away, if I could find a way to meet you when I still had time to spend…..”.

Where It Goes is another insightful song about looking back on life and wondering if the choices you made were right, whether the dreams you chased were worth it, framed in fine imagery like, “chasing dancing bright lights in the blackened sky”. Bob Dylan would have been proud to have written that line.

Eighth song Lay Me Down is a melancholy tale of world weariness and a close relationship that has fallen by the wayside: “If I were with you there and whispered in your ear, would you understand a word, would you know that I was near?” The searing honesty of Matthew’s lyrics mean that every song on the album has an emotional punch and this is no exception.

Lonely Now, as the title implies, is a similarly visceral look at dealing with solitude that those who have experienced it will relate only too well to these moving lines: “I hear whispers in the dark as I give in to sleep….the man that I’ve become, he makes me want to run….”. Despite the turmoil of the song’s theme, the music is cathartic and uplifting, with Matthew delivering another strong chorus.

The emotional journey of the album is brought full circle on closing song Going Home, which depicts the end of a close friendship. It’s a subject that most will relate to and Matthew captures the sense of finality and sadness that comes with it on the opening Iines: “I dedicate this one to you, a friend so hard to lose but don’t you know time will make us strangers as it goes…”.

Though the subject matter is once more downbeat, the ultimate effect, once again, is somehow life affirming through acknowledging that life has many chapters that begin and end. And that is the whole concept of the album, encapsulated by the title.

Overall, this is a wonderful piece of work from a mature and fully developed alternative folk artist who combines the lyrical and emotional range of classic songwriters like Dylan and Nick Drake with the accessible style of modern songwriters like Damien Rice and Mumford and Sons. It’s an album that deserves to be heard widely, and those that connect with it emotionally will become lifelong fans of Matthew Falls. Let’s hope this fine songwriter gets the recognition he deserves.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Safe And Warm (Lullaby For Jesus)

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Katie Garabaldi is an award winning alternative folk/Americana singer and songwriter hailing from San Francisco Bay. Her music is comparable to artists like Jewel and Sheryl Crow, though her influences range from The Beatles to pop artists like Celine Dion and Mariah Carey. She has amassed a large fanbase due to her extremely popular live performances and was named in the Top 100 Live Unsigned Artists by Music Connection Magazine, amongst numerous other awards including Songwriter of The Year by Songsalive! in 2012.

This song, Safe and Warm (Lullaby for Jesus), is taken from her holiday album Home Sweet Christmas, consisting of originals, and it’s a touching expression of her strong Christian faith. Starting off with gentle strummed acoustic guitar, Katie’s crystal clear, almost angelic vocals take centre stage and command your attention. As the song progresses, a soul and gospel influence begins to emerge with some breath-taking stacked vocal harmonies on the second section of the song, which have been superbly arranged.

Lyrically, it’s a song of gratitude for the comfort she gains from her deep faith: “You are number one in my heart, I turn to you when each day is through.…”. The result is a hugely uplifting song that also captures the magical spirit of Christmas, the whole theme of the album it’s taken from. Special mention should go to the flawless production which allows Katie’s musical vision to be fully realized.

Overall, this is an extremely well written, performed and arranged track by a highly gifted singer and songwriter. While this particular song will resonate most with those who share her faith, there is much to enjoy for anyone who appreciates finely crafted music produced to a high standard. I expect Katie Garibaldi’s success and fanbase to increase with every future release and she may well one day become a household name.

 

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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