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: What Matters by Sienna

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Altricial by Roxxy Collie

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Roxxy Collie is a five-piece indie/alternative rock band hailing from Reno, Nevada. They formed in 2015, having worked together on previous projects including Candyshoppe, Wheatstone Bridge, Satellite Serenade, and Octarine. Their music is rather unique in style and  belongs in the more artistic end of the alternative rock/pop spectrum, perhaps most similar to Florence and the Machine and Cigarettes After Sex, with a touch of Lana Del Rey and Blondie.

This album, Altricial, is their debut and consists of twelve tracks. Opening song The Play I Wrote For You highlights the groups many qualities, the band conjuring an evocative soundscape built around smoky Rhodes and moody electric guitar, providing the perfect musical backdrop for Margy Ford’s emotive, distinctive vocals. It also showcases another of the group’s strengths, their ability to write lyrics of a deep, poetic nature (written by Jon Cornell).

The Play I Wrote For You is a moving song looking at a failed relationship where her needs and feelings aren’t reciprocated: “In the play I wrote for you, spotlights border me in place, I call my lines out into space, hoping that you even care….”. The poignant melancholy of the words is augmented perfectly by the music and the final lines give a tragic depth: “I return as if to prove you define my every move, ending me is all you do in this play I wrote for you…”.

You’ll Get Used To Me is comparatively lighter, a clever dissection of the workings of a relationship set to a brisk tempo, a restless, inventive bassline, staccato lead guitar lines and strummed acoustic guitars.  Again, the lyrics are sharp and smart, recalling the sardonic dryness of Debbie Harry circa Blondie’s Parallel Lines: “In our meeting of the minds you’ve got signal, I’ve got noise. You’re the hook and I’m live bait, your scales sit empty without a counterweight.” And excellent song that’s a potential single.

Cover Songs is a short but potent track, with fiery, scathing lyrics that makes the target of wrath very clear: “I’ve got to walk away from all of you, I’m dizzy and I’m sick from your vile antagonism and your toxic politics.” Whether it’s about a person or the state of America in general, it seems rather apposite at the moment.

Hang Me is a nice contrast, a languid yet brooding ballad with the dark but beautiful opening lines: “Hang me, hang me from the highest star with a noose made out of gossamer.…”. It’s a powerful depiction of a troubled relationship and a strong example of their nuanced songwriting craft. Leonard Cohen would have been proud to have written lines like, “Hang me from the bough where the cradle went, I’ll be twisting in the light like an ornament….”.

Hard to Port is another clever and insightful song with a charming and quirky harpsichord melody that brought to mind The Stranglers’ classic Golden Brown. It features a particularly strong vocal performance from Margy, who sings in the upper part of her range in parts of the track. Baby Bitch is actually a cover version of a song by Ween and the band make it very much their own. Though the sentiments are somewhat more blunt than Cornell’s lyrics, the barbed wit of the words are in keeping with the rest of the album.

Seventh track Second Skin is another fine piece of songwriting, lyrically about trying to getting someone to look at their own failings. Musically, it’s driven by an excellent performance by the rhythm section, a bouncy bassline locked in with a funky groove. Swipe Left is a real album highlight, a scathing lyrical takedown of the shallowness of modern dating that somehow seems to sum up a lot about relationships in general. It’s musically one of the most powerful songs, featuring some superb vocal harmonies.

Your Stare and Last Laugh are a study in contrasts. The former features some exotic and quirky chord changes that wrong-foot the listener, but the strong vocal melody maintains the musical cohesion. Last Laugh is one of the album’s more traditional pop songs, with a lush vocal performance that made me think of Stevie Nicks on the Fleetwood Mac classic Go Your Own Way.

Stranglevine then places the group firmly back in the alternative category, the album’s epic at six minutes long. Lyrically, it’s another potent piece of poetry, almost like a mythical tale from Ovid’s Metamorphosis. At times, the lines read like something from a Yeats poem: “Vines sprung wherever her bare feet would tread, hyacinth stage and moonflower bed….”.

The closing track Suzisez is a moving and poignant way to finish the album, a finely drawn character study about a woman who’s remained very much a girl, and hasn’t yet quite managed to grow up. It’s written from a viewpoint of empathy rather than criticism and closes with some affecting lines: “She didn’t wait for the dice to land.
Threw back her drink, and turned her back, and soon she stood in the middle of the parking lot, trying hard not to whine that she should have had just one shot
….”

Overall, this a highly accomplished album containing a great deal of musical beauty and a wealth of lyrical depth. Margy Ford is fully fledged as a vocalist, aided by a band of gifted and inventive musicians. Though they maintain a consistent style, they manage to take the music to some unexpected places and the result is a collection of songs that say a lot about what it is to be human, both good and bad. An album that will be appreciated most by connoisseurs, it deserves to reach millions.

VERDICT =  9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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ARTIST REVIEW: Attack in the 26th Zone

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https://attackinthe26thzone.com

Attack in the 26th Zone (a.k.a. Sue Sue Vessell) is the moniker of an electropop artist hailing from Finland. Her first ventures in music began in 2009, when she posted a few songs on Finnish music forums which were received with acclaim and positive feedback. Although she is essentially autonomous and writes and records everything herself, she has since collaborated with producers in the area of mixing her music .

Her debut single, Shower Power, was released in 2017 and her unique, distinctive sound is self evident from the start. Over a sparse yet highly effective, drowsy electro beat, her breathy, lilting vocals float over the evocative soundscape like a cross between Bjork and Lana del Rey. Indeed, the latter comparison is apposite as there is a similar sensual aspect to this music (“Your head between my legs….”) and the vocal melody brought to mind Suzanne Vega’s classic Toms Diner. An excellent first single that is fully realized in its artistic vision.

Second single Black Horse Badge is more radical and original, an electro-industrial hybrid that bursts from the speakers in a complex melange of rhythms, sound effects, ghostly synths and ethereal vocals. This track rivals Bjork at her most avant garde and is one of the most unique pieces of music I’ve heard for a while. A brave and fascinating follow up to her first release.

Her most recent single was released this month, How Long Was The Wind Blowing, and it’s perhaps her most commercially accessible song so far. The vocal melody has a particularly mesmeric effect and it retains the spectral, highly atmospheric vibe of her first two singles, the music proceeding at a languid and dreamlike pace.

The way the music breathes and grows organically across the track’s duration is skilfully done, taking the listener into an alternate sonic universe. This transcendental aspect is a such a rare thing in modern music, and special credit should go to the epic production which achieves its ambitious aims and sounds cutting edge.

Overall, these first three singles represent a trifecta of high quality releases that are subtly different but all drenched in a potent signature sound. With the mystique that Scandinavian artists seem to carry, Attack In The 26th Zone could find herself conquering a huge amount of worldwide territory with her intoxicating songs and alluring, enigmatic persona.uh

 

VERDICT =  8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Flame Is Gone by Mallika Mehta

 

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Mallika Mehta is a singer from Mumbai, India and has been singing for ten years, professionally for three. She can speak five languages, an ability which came to the fore when she performed her maiden concert in 2016. She performed a medley of fifty-one songs in five different languages to six hundred people.

Since then, she has performed to thousands, recorded many covers on YouTube, released her own material and generated much acclaim and interest in the media. Indeed, she has been dubbed the Mumbai Adele by both the Indian and international press. She has also been compared to Indian singers like Asha Bhosle, Usha Utthup, Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal.

In January 2018, she performed her second concert to a packed house, performing 93 songs. This latest single, Flame Has Gone has already generated over fifty thousand YouTube views and is an Adele-style romantic ballad. It is a poignant song about a relationship that has lost its spark and is a perfect showcase for her magnificent voice.

It starts out in a similar way to Adele’s Someone Like You, with just vocals and piano. But it bursts into life during the memorable chorus, lifted by a simple but effective RnB groove. The languid pace is reminiscent of Lana Del Rey, though with greater emotional depth to the lyrics which are melancholic and highly poignant. It depicts a romantic situation that most will relate to.

Overall, this is an excellent single from a singer who has already proven she has the potential to become a worldwide star like her idol Adele. She has already amassed an army of fans online and this song will help her gain many more in both her native India and abroad. The sky is the limit for Mallika Mehta.

 

 

VERDICT: 8.6 out of 10

 

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Wish I Could Get Through To You by Lisa Cody

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Lisa Cody is a 27 year old singer from Dayton, Ohio and is currently signed to TriLevel Records. She regularly sings with her brother’s bar band and as a vocalist she has a warm, husky tone comparable to singers like Amy Winehouse and Paloma Faith, though she has her own distinctive style with an understated approach.

This track, Wish I Could Get Through To You, is a good showcase of her abilities. It’s a slow paced piece of soul pop, somewhere between Back To Black by Amy Winehouse and the cinematic pop of Lana Del Rey. The production is excellent and certainly good enough for radio. Lyrically, it’s about issues in a relationship that anyone can relate to.

Starting with kick drum and rimshots, it builds with rhythmic piano, tubular bells and subtle guitar over which Lisa lays down a smoky vocal. The song is very well written, with the hook in the verse and a second section (aided by some nice backing vocals), rather than an obvious big chorus. The low end guitar line towards the end is a nice touch and adds to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack vibe of the whole song.

Overall, this is an excellent piece of soul/pop with a classy arrangement and production style that should help Lisa Cody establish herself as a musical force to be reckoned with. A highly recommended listen.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict 8.6 out of 10

SINGLE REVIEW: Camera by Veronika

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Veronika is a singer, songwriter and dancer hailing from the Ukraine but now based in the USA. She began her musical journey when she began working with DJ and producer First Craft (Dmitri Stefaniv), a genius who was spotted at the age of only fourteen by Sony. Veronika also became associated with director Yevgeniy Timokhin, whom she met through a mutual friend during casting for a reality TV show.

Her music is pop/dubstep, and you can sense the influence of artists like Madonna, Lady Gaga and Lana Del Rey, though Veronika certainly has a unique style of her own. This track, Camera, is an epic piece of dubstep/Europop that features cutting edge production and a seductive vocal performance from Veronika. Her sultry voice is low on the verses, then higher for the instantly memorable, anthemic chorus, backed up with a pounding dance beat.

There are some incredible vocal effects on the second verse and a swirling synth in the middle section that brought to mind the classic I Feel Love by Donna Summer. Along with this very catchy song is a remarkable video, which features ex gay porn star Francois Sagat. It depicts the controversial love between a Jewish girl and a Muslim and Veronika explains that “there are important messages behind the song and video…. it is about unconditional love and freedom of choice”.

Overall, this is a very well performed and produced pop track that is totally in sync with the current musical zeitgeist and will be popular in the clubs and on radio. Veronika is an artist with a lot to express both musically and visually, and her already huge fan base will continue to rise with strong tracks like this one.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 7.6 out of 10