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Music Reviews: June - July 2014

24 June 14 words: Music Reviews
With Bru-C, Michael A Grammar, Ryan Thomas, Garton, Opie Deino, Simon Waldram, Grey Hairs, Privateers and more
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EP (Phlexx Records)

For anyone who’s not a manga fan, the Kamehameha is a move from Dragon Ball Z (derived from the Hawaiian king’s name). Notts emcee Bru-C has also adopted it for his latest brilliant EP, which, fittingly, is a relentless five-track energy attack on your earholes. The title tune, with its eerily chanted “Kamehameha,” packs a powerful punch courtesy of Bru’s effortless grime-style delivery and the Elementz’s heavy, peerless production (do check the hilarious video). He’s an insanely affable bloke, and modest too, stating on Follow Me that “This ain’t your average rudeboy/this ain’t the next best emcee” and delivering laughs with punchlines like “bars go over heads like Ibrahimovic.” Bru-C’s also a collaborator with Notts dub heroes Origin One, and they bring that brilliant lazy summer vibe to Fade Away. There’s a final finishing move too - the ravey Killjoy remix of the title track. KAMEHAMEHA! Shariff Ibrahim
Phlexx Records website

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Michael A Grammar
Random Vision
EP (Melodic)

It may seem vague to refer to this EP as experimental, but with all four tracks being made up of different sounds, effects and recording techniques, it’s difficult to classify their music. This versatile band have been known to go against the rules of recording and use strange places, like a Victorian coach-house, to create an atmospheric feel. It works perfectly, the epic-sounding songs surround and embrace you, especially in tracks like Upstairs Downstairs and The Way You Move. The variety of aural offerings means no norms are conformed to and the band’s developmental approach to songwriting offers up new and unexpected sounds that hit your eardrums as the songs progress. The clean-cut editing of each track only adds to the intensity, making it very easy to get carried away with the music. I didn’t want the songs to end, ever. Hannah Parker
Michael Grammar Facebook

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Ryan Thomas
Worries & Troubles
EP (Wire & Wool Records)

When you hear blues, folk and country, middle-aged Americans with mullets and cowboy boots may spring to mind, but young, rising star Ryan Thomas is stomping on that stereotype. Not only does he have the strength in his voice to match the most experienced of country singers, but his immense skill with a guitar and his talent in songwriting strikes as soon as you press play. In particular, tracks Ain’t Gonna Cry and Never Did Like The Rain showcase the maturity of his lyrics. He’s clearly struck a chord with more than just us Nottingham folk after reaching number one on the iTunes blues chart. With the delicate finger-picking sounds of his guitar, and a uniquely soothing yet powerful voice, it’s hard to listen without bopping your head and tapping your fingers, whether it’s a rainy Monday morning in the office or a sunny Saturday afternoon in the garden. Hannah Parker
Ryan Thomas Soundcloud

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How Long
Album (Self-released)

Young Nottingham emcee Garton’s latest album sees him deliver themes and styles that belie his young age. Opening track, How Long Intro, is a personal introduction over a melodic hip hoppy beat, while Recognise sees ‘Gartz’ deliver turbo-charged bars over a grimier beat (with what we think is a coded head-nod to this very magazine). Bitches and Paintings, a floaty ode to lovely ladies and more ‘psychotic’ females, is perhaps the standout track, all strings and soft trumpets with the able help of rapper Morgan. Fellow emcee Sam Moore also teams up on Neosoul, where Gartz lets his soulful side out, before things turn a bit darker on Observations. As well as the excellent beats on offer, he shows he can hold his own on well-known tracks like J. Cole’s Cole Summer, and Wiz Khalifa’s Medicated, before the big Rihanna-sampling closer Diamonds. Prodigal stuff. Shariff Ibrahim
Garton mixtape download

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Opie Deino
St. Jude
EP (Self-Released)

Lifting the name of her second EP from one of Britain’s most underwhelming storms, Opie Deino has released St. Jude, and it’s a heartfelt illustration of Nottingham singer Sian Fawcett’s experiences. Taking lyrical inspiration from St. Jude on both Humbug and Molly Brown, she references the iconic storm in The Wizard of Oz to show herself to be as lost as Dorothy – but as Sian couldn’t click her ruby slippers, she wrote a song about it instead. Finding comfort in her new backing band, her knack for storytelling, songwriting and earnestness is what gives this EP variety. Occasionally raspy, her voice carries the catchy chorus in opening track Eli with ease, pushing the listener on to the more upbeat Monsters and the disarmingly elegant Origami. Ironically, it’s difficult to imagine that this EP could be underwhelming with each of its tracks sharing something more emotionally cathartic than the next. Stephanie Parkes
Opie Deino Bandcamp

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Simon Waldram
The Space Between
Album (Self-Released)

Some terrific acoustic albums have come out of Nottingham in the last couple of years and the latest is Simon Waldram’s The Space Between. Darker and more brooding than the likes of Marc Reeves and Gallery 47, this is a melancholic and involving album that mixes a range of styles. It’s very accomplished and there is some terrific songwriting in evidence. More lo-fi indie-pop than folk-rock, highlights are the heartbreaking The Only Way Out Is Through (“I have to keep remembering/to choose life every day”), Broken Hill and the lovely First Day In Spring. Waldram also has the confidence to throw in an instrumental track, the brilliant Lowlands. The Space Between may be downbeat and gentle, but there’s plenty here to admire. Lyrically and musically it’s an excellent record, written and performed by a talented singer-songwriter who I hope to hear a lot more of in the future. Nick Parkhouse
Simon Waldram Bandcamp

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Grey Hairs
Grey Hairs Schmey Hairs
7" (Hello Thor Records)

Grey Hairs have gone all-out on this tribute to the late, great Harry Nilsson - a fitting testament to the man who lived his life to excess. From the wonderfully realised sleeve homage, to the exaggerated re-workings of two of Nilsson’s most famous songs, this is a record that has been made out of admiration for a true artist. First debuted at Gringo Records’ fifteenth birthday party a couple of years ago at Nottingham Contemporary, Grey Hairs’ cover of Jump Into The Fire has become their signature song of sorts. Here, in its recorded glory, it is brash, and brazenly indulgent. Layer upon layer of guitars, wailing vocals coming at you from every angle, and a drum solo - it’s outrageous stuff, but all the better for it. On the flip side, the band smother Coconut in woozy, feverish guitars, perfectly capturing the original’s uneasy, off-kilter subtext. Paul Klotschkow
Grey Hairs Bandcamp

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No Magic EP
EP (Self-Released)
There’s a natural tendency to want to put things into boxes, and music is no exception: Metallica are a metal band, Kylie is a pop princess - that kind of thing. You know where you are with them. If you know what box a band is in, then you barely need to listen to them because you already know how they sound. Not every band fits into a box though, and some steadfastly resist categorisation. Privateers are one of those bands. Their sound is guitar-based but they’re not straightforwardly of the rock genre - their songs are melodic, but they use interesting and slightly off-kilter rhythms. They have guitar solos, but the singer seems to be channelling the smart lyrics and angsty yearning of Murray Lightburn from The Dears. This EP is a mere three songs and sixteen minutes long, but it already feels like the start of a substantial body of work. More please. Tim Sorrell
Privateers Bandcamp

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Sleaford Mods
Divide and Exit
Album (Harbinger Sound)

They seeped into the nation’s conscious, with 2013’s Austerity Dogs featuring in many end-of-year lists, and 2014 has already seen the band feature in high-profile articles of NME, The Guardian and The Quietus. Achieving all of this while shouting their gobs off about everything that is wrong with modern Britain, it appears Sleaford Mods’ time has arrived. Divide and Exit continues the diatribe, with Jason Williamson spitting venom against Andrew Fearn’s minimal, sparse looped production. The current musical climate consists of many new bands obsessed with the type of shoes they are wearing or how their hair looks before taking another selfie as they release the musical equivalent of hot air. A band like Sleaford Mods needs to exists so there is someone actually saying something. They are the righteous indignation this country needs and, by the looks of it, we can’t get enough. Paul Klotschkow
Sleaford Mods Bandcamp

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EP (Self-Released)

Seeing the words ‘jazz fusion’ is enough to strike the fear into the heart of any hardened music listener. When done right, let’s take an extreme example, Bitches Brew, is a hypnotic listen that pushes musical boundaries - when done wrong, it’s an excessive, self-indulgent mess. At least Kundalini have the good fortune to have a bit of sense of humour and self awareness about themselves that stop this release from ever vanishing up its own crevice. History of House has a whiff of nineties Bristol about it with a tongue-in-cheek lyric about the eighties musical movement; Urgency Emergency sits on a repetitive melody before descending into glorious chaos; Animals Play is smoky, smooth and worthy of your attention; and Latin Mass is all-sixties sex-party cool with grunting keys and screeching saxes, ending this EP on a pleasing high note. Won’t be for everyone. Paul Klotschkow
Kundalini Soundcloud

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Album (RecordShop)
As the title of her long-awaited début album suggests – it’s a tribute to the legendary Nottingham record store, which closed in 2009 – Ronika is a committed crate-digger, whose journeys through pop music’s past have helped to shape her direction as an artist. She might not be the first performer to be inspired by the eighties, but her ability to absorb and reconfigure such a wide range of the era’s key pop-dance styles, with such loving attention to detail, marks her out from the pack. For committed fans, just over half the tracks on Selectadisc will already be familiar – from 2011’s Forget Yourself to last year’s Rough N Soothe – but there’s plenty of new material. Believe It is a languid, sultry summer jam, staccato stabs punctuate the frisky What’s In Your Bag, and long-time live favourite 1000 Nights mashes Taylor Dayne with Into The Groove, to instantly memorable effect. Mike Atkinson
Ronika website

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Timothy J Simpson and the Monstrous Dead
Oh, These Endless Fears
Album (Concentration City Records)

You can imagine that Timothy J Simpson is the kind of man who can’t get to sleep at night, wracked by anxiety, tossing and turning, working himself up about the previous day’s injustices and worrying about what the next day might bring. Fortunately for him and his band he has the songs to justify his neuroses. There’s The Girl, Spread-Legged, The Canvas a track that references the bar-room blues vibe of a mid-seventies Neil Young both musically and lyrically; the world-weary atmosphere of On Working on the Chain Gang; and The White Stripes-esque Bad Girls all jump out as must-listens. Whereas previous LPs were arguably a tad more introspective, this time around, ploughing an everyman troubadour vibe with all-rousing choruses and ear-wormy melodies, Oh, These Endless Fears is the sound of someone who is bitter and twisted at the world and shouting at anyone who will lend an ear. Paul Klotschkow
Timothy J Simpson website

Find local releases in The Music Exchange. You can also hear a tune from each review on our Sound of the Lion podcast.

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