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The Girls, The Boys, The Bands and The Noise

Starring


Adeline Hotel, Billy Marten, Katy Kirby, Mark Barrott, Orgone


The Front Runners


Hot Fruit - Adeline Hotel


Pretty, soothing instrumentals like these are a lovely way to start the day.


It’s an album that doesn't outstay its welcome. At 27 minutes, it’s barely more than an EP. Think of it as equivalent to those juice shots that have magical properties to kickstart your day.


This is music that unfurls. It wanders away from its anchor, like larks darting around the sky before circling around and returning. ‘Beksul’ captures this in its gentle glory. You may wonder how the tune ‘Old Baldy’ triggered that title but you can relax in the certain knowledge that it’s affectionately meant.


It’s too musical to be truly ambient. It has a quiet presence, like a sweet librarian who is, nevertheless, not to be messed with. It remains prettily in the background. Adeline Hotel is a first class lounge pianist who soothes the clientele while improvising to try out ideas that could flourish into his masterpiece. 


Pastel tones rule the roost. This is music that stays out of the foreground, content to weave its spells unnoticed in the background. It shares something with American musician William Tyler, a shared sense of melody that takes you into wide open spaces and keeps you safe from threats. There’s also a little of Tindersticks’ David Boulter in the reflective tone of each piece.


Listen to this album once and you’ll think “That’s pleasant”. Listen to it a few times and you’ll wonder how you’ve overlooked it until now.


Taster Track : Beksul




The Chasing Pack


Deep Cherries : Billie Marten


This is a lovely collection of modern, occasionally baroque, folk that doesn’t put a foot wrong.


There’s a nature / nurture affair underpinning this record. Billie Marten is just 24, but she sings like a woman with the life experience and mellow sensitivities of someone in their 40s. She credits the musical influences that she grew up with for how she sounds today. Imagine you’re a teenager, reluctantly persuaded to listen to your parents’ musical choices and finding to your surprise that they’re actually quite good. Billie admits in her Spotify bio that this accounts for the echoes of Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, John Martyn and Kate Bush in her music.


She’s in serious company with those influences. There’s no frivolousness here, no bending to the tastes and preferences of the X Factor crowd. She’s the student at the front of the class, understanding concepts that fly above her classmates and able to use them right away.


For someone steeped in folk royalty, she’s surprisingly accessible to the common listener. The vocals on something like ‘I Bend To Him’ are direct and intimate. It’s sparser than the prevailing tone, more the sound of a ruined romantic who’s become involved with the local Heathcliffe.


You can’t fault the execution of this record. Her melodies are gentle, little gems found hiding beneath the hedgerow rather than in plain view like a scarecrow in the middle of an open field. Her music is lovely, full of quiet acoustic guitar and embellishing strings. 


How you respond to this album is a matter of personal taste. It is consistent in its style and quality as if surrounded by a blanketing aura that allows nothing to stand out. If she were a paint, she’d be Farrow and Ball, not Homebase’s own. You might feel though that it’s still only paint and that may be something that doesn’t excite you. The two tracks that may change your mind are ‘Bend To Him’ and ‘God Above’, with its courtly baroque sound.


For me, it’s a lovely album lavished with understanding and loving attention.


Taster Track : God Above




Blue Raspberry : Katy Kirby


(This is the first album cover image I've downloaded that failed Google's Safe Search. Apologies if anyone is offended by this.)


This set of intense songwriting explores her sexuality and is a little rough at the edges but is nevertheless a record that commands attention.


Katy Kiby is queer and proud of it. I mention that only to prepare you for the amount of information shared on this record, particularly as you reach ‘Wait Listen’.


This is a stripped back, serious and almost sombre set of tunes, the results of working through her thoughts and feelings to understand them precisely. In her Spotify bio she celebrates her queerness, but that celebratory note is absent from her songs.


The lyrics are what draw you in. She has a way with memorable images and quotable comments. Try this from ‘Party of the Century’.


“You’re my worst survival strategy.”


Or picture this, also from ‘Party of the Century’.


“I run my thumb through your hair

Like a stack of hundred dollar bills that I think I’ll keep.”


She loves the sound of language too. Cubic Zirconia appears in three songs, and the way she rolls it around her mouth before allowing it to tumble forth is indulgently satisfying. Images recur elsewhere too, fences for example, reinforcing the sense that these songs have come from a lot of late night compulsive thinking.


Although it's missing the upfront melodies that usually attracts me to music , something keeps me hooked. ‘ Perhaps it’s the way a rhythm stirs in ‘Drop Dead’, Maybe it’s the softest ‘ooh ooh’ of ‘Hand To Hand’ that reminded me of Isobel campbell. It’s the gentlest whisper, a mere echo of something hard to recall but it’s extremely effective.


Vocally she has a wide range which aids the performance of her songs, building in drama and interest.


It’s a commendable album, sincere and heartfelt.


Taster Track : Hand To Hand




Johatsu : Mark Barrott



This atmospheric and melancholy collection of tunes is a serious work of art.


Mark Barrott is a Yorkshireman born in Sheffield and now living in Ibiza. Ibiza? So this is a set of Balearic beats oozing warm sunshine within reach of lapping waves, topped off with to die for melodies, right? Wrong.


This is the soundtrack to an unreleased Japanese documentary dealing with a problem that is found the world over but is particularly an issue for the Japanese. Johatsu means the disappearance of a person from their established lives without trace. That might be by successfully going underground, or it might be because of unexplained death and suicide. There’s a refinement to this concept embodied in the track ‘Kamikakushi’ which is the Japanese word for the spiriting away of someone by a God. Either way Johatsu and Kamiakakushi’ leave incomprehension and sadness in their wake.


This is heavy stuff and Barrott doesn’t shirk it. This is sad and melancholy music, that’s created from a compendium of experimental approaches. At various times it combines Japanese, New Age, ambient, soundscapes, dance and jazz into something completely at one with its subject matter.


It’s largely made up of repetitive melodies, bolstered by sudden shafts of lives being ripped apart. I liked the building drone and abrupt ending that brings ‘Yonige - Ya’ to a conclusion. 


It mixes traditional Japanese sounds with modern urban rhythms, and you can hear this clash most noticeably in the shift from ‘Luck’ to ‘Yonige - Ya’. In ‘Icarus’ too, the shuffling drums beneath the mournful piano and sax suggest isolation in the middle of a bustling city.


Mark Barrott has given a lot of himself to this. I hope it is something he will look back on with pride.


Taster Track : Icarus




Chimera : Orgone


When there’s a style of genre you don’t listen to very often, you’re content with something generic. Orgone deliver that for the sound of soulful RnB, occasionally with a dash of African rhythm.


Orgone are, basically, a house band for assorted soul and RnB acts. Presumably no great singers or vocalists, they leave the words to their guest collaborators, happy to be a Booker T for our times.


They have a job to do in the studio and they do it well. The music may sound familiar but it’s played with feeling. So, dress up in your finest bling and release your inner soul brother. Listen to it in your smokiest room, or pop over to Ronnie Scott’s club in Soho, and wear your sunglasses while darkness settles outside.


It achieves a delicate balance between the sound of ‘Basilisk’ where a tight, repetitive structure calls out for vocals to deliver a verse and chorus and the looser sound of music evolved from studio jams that characterises much of the album.


It’s a strangely ‘out of time’ genre. If you heard it on mainstream radio ‘Parasols’ would as likely be played as background to a DJ’s patter as it would be played on the show in its own right. Mermans Mosengo brings in a bit of variety with the African reggae feel of ‘Zum Zum’. ‘Lies and Games’ is something to turn to when you fancy dipping your toes into something generic but of a high standard. ‘Husk’ has added atmosphere, courtesy of the atmospheric six note keyboard spine that elevates it out of the masses.


There’s the faint whiff of a missed opportunity to create something energising, inspiring or uplifting. It’s an enjoyable album of essentially background listening,  and that will do.


Taster Track : The Husk




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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