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Anthems For A Zoomed Youth

Starring


David Kitt, Experiments & Observations On Electricity, Ora Cogan, Scenius, Shygirl


The Front Runners


Idiot Check : David Kitt


David Kitt’s intense brand of singer songwriting has mellowed over the years without losing its power to immerse you in rewarding music.


It’s more than 20 years since David Kitt appeared on the scene with a highly distinctive sound. He could hardly be described as a classical singer, his voice having more in common with a nasal drone than Sinatra or Pavarotti. His lo-fi, extended acoustic pieces seemed impenetrable until some piece of magic - a single note, an unexpected key change or the sheer weight of a phrase’s repetition - sucked you in and released the rewards that kept you as a committed fan.


He’s softened that approach now, and his music is less challenging and more accessible as a result. You still need to pay close attention. They require a little bit of effort like pulling mussels from a shell to taste the sweet meat within. If the rewards are easier to find, that doesn’t make them any less, but it takes away the sense that you’ve unlocked a secret that’s hidden from others.


‘Wishing Well’ still has the undefinable ingredient that reels you in before you’ve noticed what’s happening. ‘It’s In Some Of Us’ and ‘Wave of Peace ‘ are as quiet and immersive as his songs of old. ‘All Folly’ is a little more experimental, making more use of the electronic workings of his performing alter ego New Jackson. ‘Balances’ is ideal for those half waking moments, bringing you gradually to a level where you’re ready to face the world.


These songs are special in a magic way and like anything magical, it doesn’t pay to analyse them too closely. Just drift along and absorb the effect. It’s worth it.


Taster Track : Wishing Well



The Chasing Pack


Experiments & Observations On Electricity : Experiments & Observations on Electricity.


This collection of long, experimental ambience is a lifetime’s work for ….. who? The man behind these tracks prefers to remain anonymous online, although a photo online reveals his gender.


First some facts and figures. This album has been a dream for the composer stretching back 40 years to his fascination with the soundscape side of OMD. The album contains just three tracks spread over 43 minutes. He has just 2 monthly listeners on Spotify so, if you want to, you can be in at the start of something.


The first thing to strike you with the epic opening track ‘ Heavy Rain Approaching’ is that it’s not musical. It’s built around a soft pulse that’s quietly powerful. Around it, the hisses, hums and whines of electronic music fade in and out. It shifts, but only marginally, through its 22 minutes. Twelve minutes in, the whoosh of something new sweeps across the track  like the drop in temperature and increased wind speed that precedes heavy rain. Like the best ambient works it’s hypnotic, and it’s the intensity, precision and concentration that strikes you most.


The transition to the tolling bell and stormy sea of ‘An Overwhelming Sense of Sadness’, takes you by surprise. It sounds much louder. After 11 minutes, there’s a whisper of a song half heard in the distance. The clanging bell, swinging loosely in the wind, returns as the end is in sight, complementing the ominous two note pulse that has held the track together.


At only 5 minutes and 38 seconds, ‘The Emptiness Song’ is the album's contender for a single. It’s the easiest track to hear what’s going on, but the most challenging track too. It’s constructed around five notes repeated on the piano with only slight variations in tone, volume and content. It’s unsettling and leaves you with quiet static and electronic sound as the bells fade away. Early 20th classical music, Stravinsky perhaps, is its closest comparator.


This is niche music, unlikely ever to command a wide audience. It’s best listened to alone and in the dark, free from distractions to prevent your total immersion in the pieces.


In its way and on its terms it’s a brilliantly realised work.


Taster Track : The Emptiness Song



Formless : Ora Cogan


This is a surprising album, conjured into something new out of many influences


I’ve seen it described as post Americana, but that doesn’t come close to capturing the tone and complexity of the songs. Like quicksilver it’s hard to pin down, elusive and allusive in the same song. 


It’s a relatively short album but within its nine tracks I picked up hints, in no particular order, of Kate Bush, improvised rock, shoegaze, dream pop, garage punk, U2 around the time of The Joshua Tree, bluegrass and folk. Nothing is allowed to dominate the rest; everything is allowed its brief time in the spotlight.


‘Formless’ is a good name for the album. These songs are like butter melting in the pan. They’re shifting from a solid slab towards a simmering liquid, recognisably both but unequivocally neither.


It’s an album full of surprises. They’re in the way the chiming guitars of ‘Holy Hells’ make a captivating sound that has no need of a melody. They’re in the way that ‘Feel Live’ bounces along as if a garage band has suddenly discovered it can unfetter itself and play. She captures a small universe of sound in her songs - the sudden appearance of squalling brass in ‘Ways of Losing’ for example.


There’s similar alchemy at work vocally too. At various times she can sound like Kate Bush, Alison Krauss or Dolores O'Riordan, her voice soaring from pure foundations and heading off in unexpected directions.


The abiding memory though is of the music. It’s music that takes you in its flow. It’s complex and untethered. It’s no disrespect to Cogan’s vocals to say that the tunes are inventive enough to stand as an instrumental album in their own right.


Trust this album and submit to its charms. You won’t regret it.


Taster Track : Feel Live



Life Is A Thing : Scenius


Scenius’ brooding, slightly mutant  synthpop wears its influences proudly, and with some justification.


These are anthems for a Zoomed youth, a population that doesn’t connect in the same way as their parents or even older siblings. It’s music for the glare of harsh neon, that allows no flaws to be hidden, and for standing in oil slicked puddles. You’ll find its followers standing outside warehouse adapted clubs at three in the morning. You’ll find them at their desks or behind their counters midweek with next to no sleep behind them.


Scenius stretch their music back through musical history to the roots of electropop. They combine the harsh alienation of Joy Division with a leavening of the New Romantic outcasts. Although this is by no means martial music, you sense that it is music to bring a community together and it will be heard.


The songs here are dark and lightly distorted, but still pop. Think second stage Depeche Mode or John Foxx period Ultravox. It’s a muscular and distinctive sound. The strained vocals suggest turmoil barely under control but not yet overwhelming the individual. I went from listening to this album to the Scenius Radio playlist on Spotify, and even amongst a host of like minded bands and musicians, Scenius stand out.


There’s not quite enough differentiation across a whole album to mark it as a classic - yet - but tracks such as ‘Chinese Room’ have an insistent momentum that prevents the songs wallowing in something a little turgid. There’s an appealing electronic shrug to tracks such as ‘Escalation’. From the start, in ‘Life Is A Thing Again’ they balance a clean sound with warped overlays giving just enough of both to appeal to pop fans and alienated outsider alike.


I enjoyed this album. It may not have a hit single but neither does it have a weak track. It’s a well made addition to today’s electronic music.


Taster Track : Life Is A Thing Again



Nymph : Shygirl


Ever felt you’ve wandered into a world you don’t belong in? That’s the effect Shygirl’s set of deep club songs about today’s youth had on me.


Let’s clear one thing up at the start. Shygirl is not a shy girl. She cites strong women, including Madonna, Bjork and Roisin Murphy as key influences, but for pure frankness this album is a direct descendant of Prince. There’s a lot of sex here, sex that is both all consuming and, somehow, diminished in importance. It’s confusing.


The sense of stumbling across a world you don’t belong in is compounded by the slanguage. To save you the trouble of looking things up I can confirm that every word or phrase I looked up was sex related. That, though, is an age and generational thing.


Putting that to one side, you’re left with an album that fizzes with ideas and invention. The world you enter may cast you as an outsider, but there’s still much to marvel at and enjoy. Shygirl sets out a lot of ideas, sometimes quite briefly, (‘Little Bit’, ‘Missin’ You’) but always inventively. 


It’s a chaotic, experimental record, a form of dance rap,  made for a cutting edge dance troupe. ‘Woe’ is glitchy music for the solo dancer who knows their moves.’Firefly’ is as radio friendly as this album gets, and in a good way too. Headphones are a help for following the multi-track effects. Lyrics tumble over each other, lines overlap and lead and backing vocals are overlaid. It’s a heady, giddy and intoxicating mix.


Surprisingly I enjoyed this look at a different generation and world. This is an album that is brimful of vigour.


Taster Track : Firefly



Playlists


As ever this week's Taster Track playlists can be accessed at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7cSveL7NpVp1xgrKxPe4av?si=SkFlSnvySeuYFpgG0WJFmA or via the Spotify link on the Home Page.


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