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Music Reviews: May

26 May 17 words: Music Reviews

With Alice Short, Alec Bowman, Ben McElroy, Brooders, Crimson General, Fonzse, Gallery 47, Jum and I'm Not From London...

Alice Short
Frantic Dreams, The Harshest Nightmares
EP (Self-released)

Alice Short is a mouthy sort. Equally at home tossing out words at poetry gatherings or spitting bars at open-mic nights; on this fresh new EP, Short is very much in rapping mode. With well-judged samples – laid-back, jazzy, soulful loops that do not overwhelm – think the old-school vibe of a Madlib production. Much like her use of music, Short is economical with her lyrics. There’s nothing flashy about her. Instead, she has perfected the art of letting each line hang around just long enough to hit home, before punching out the next. The result is a flow and rhyme that rolls with a rhythm and momentum all of its own. This must be the poet in her. Lyrically, Another Bad Night’s Sleep sees her anxiously laying in bed, “My mind running wild trying to catch my dreams.” That anxiety seeps in to Cigarettes, “Maybe the alcohol and cigarettes will help / Maybe not / Maybe I’m lost / Maybe I’m thinking too much.” Patti Smith, a celebration of the power of creativity and its healing qualities, brings salvation, “How could we regret anything that puts our heads to new heights / And pushed the stress from that height.” However you try to pigeonhole her – writer, rapper, poet – on Frantic Dreams, The Harshest Nightmares, Alice Short has proven once again that not only is she a lyricist and performer of the highest quality, but she’s also one of Notts’ greatest talents. Paul Klotschkow 

Alec Bowman
Album (Self-released)

English country music isn’t something that crosses my mind much. I assumed it would be a pale imitation of the USA’s southern states; something phoney and imitating. But Alec Bowman’s new album, Gone, is absolutely authentic. There’s definite influence from classical country songs that look at love, loss and injustice, with less talk of pickup trucks and cowboy boots. The singer-songwriter creates lyrics that are sad, real and full of metaphor. Mixed with a soft hand on the guitar, some interjection of piano and occasional, long, twang-like sounds from the harmonica, the music will leave the listener feeling genuinely melancholic. The eight-track release, including stand-out tracks Out Of My Head, Watercolour Storm and Every Seven Years, is a smooth adaptation of a predominantly American genre of music; a subgenre of acoustic, indie and country, all rolled into one. Elizabeth O’Riordan

Ben McElroy
Bird Stone
EP (White Label Records)

Ben McElroy’s newest EP is a masterclass in acoustic folk tunes. His five-track record caters to the scene he’s set his roots in over the last decade, perfectly embodying all that rural-folk sets out to achieve. This collection, and the story it is trying to tell, comes fully formed and expertly crafted; images of British countryside practically drip from its warm, ambient tone. McElroy’s expert – and painstaking – arrangement of cello, viola and violin with guitar, voice, and even a little computer processing, sets his collection in motion. The influence of a more traditional style of folk is clear, but his newest release moves into more mellow territory. Plinth fans, be aware; this is right up your alley. It’s clear he’s found, and stuck with, a sound that works, but the move away from all things traditionally folk has given rise to an EP packed with even more character. Alex Keene

EP (Self-released)

Three-piece Brooders describe their music as psych-grunge, and it's an apt portrayal of the lovely, lo-fi scuzziness on their debut mini-album. Opener, Thrill Killer, is more melodic than you'd expect from angry young men, and is my favourite of the tracks here. Say Your Prayers has that classic quiet-bit-loud-bit-quiet-bit-loud-bit so beloved of classic grunge, and definitely has some Soundgarden in it. Haze, released as a single last year, is probably the best demonstration of their sound, opening with a fuzzy garage-rock riff before exploding into an angry, grungy chorus. Melancholy is them at their most musically psychedelic with a spacey instrumental, and you'll find yourself in the nineties with lyrics like “You're not in limbo when your demons are free.” It’s an interestingly modern take on grunge. Keep an eye on Brooders, they could well be the next Crosa Rosa. Gav Squires

Crimson General
Sinners EP
EP (Self-released)

After hearing the first song on this EP I had to stop and think, “What does this remind me of?” The heavy guitar riffs, the slightly disjointed singing; then it hit. The introduction of first track Sinners 1 has the exact same vibe as The Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go? These Notts-based brothers are certainly creating an old-school rock feel with this five-track release. Leaning heavily on drums, guitar and percussion, the EP keeps to the classic tricks, no crazy editing or alterations, just an inventive use of instruments and vocals. Fast and slow. The songs, titled Sinners 1, Sinners 2, Withdrawal Symptoms, The Ship and Looking Glass, mix hypnotic vibrations with heavy guitar, creating fuzz and haze. Keeping it classic, the pair are still finding their individual sound. Elizabeth O’Riordan

Allocations Chapter I
Album (Timeline Provision)

Here we have a selection of beautifully composed hip hop tracks in which Fonzse forms his own unique style, combining harmonic and groundbreaking beats with introspective and dynamic lyrics. The whole record focuses on his contemplations about life, and the profound topics that he talks about create a deeper level of understanding about the world we’re living in. The way he manages to intertwine his vocals and instruments reinforces his immense talents; the fluctuating keys of the guitar in Legacy give a soothing element that creates a tranquil state, sending the mind to paradise while simultaneously providing a voice full of sincerity and honesty. Standout tracks for me are Lost, Learning (ft. El Cassa) and Legacy, but the whole album is worth a listen. He produces music that educates at the same time as wowing, with a level of prowess that only comes with years of hard graft. Filsan Hirmoge

Gallery 47
Bad Production
EP (Bad Production Records)

One of the joys of being a Gallery 47 fan is that you never have any idea where the next new release is coming from. Just six months or so after the release of third album Clean comes Bad Production – essentially an EP but, at twelve tracks, it's as long as his most recent studio album. Following in the footsteps of many an acoustic singer-songwriter, there's plenty of concern about the modern world here. Opening track, Lefty, talks of “zero-hours contracts on minimum wage”, while the superb Political Differences and Adversity Breeds tackle the negative perceptions many people have about the younger generation and their approach to finding work. As ever, there's lush guitar and gentle vocals, while the limited production means there is a raw and honest quality to the songs. Intelligent, beautifully arranged and heartfelt, this is yet another superb collection from one of Nottingham's finest. Nick Parkhouse

Album (David, I'm Really Tempted)

Fresh from a tour of the north with Benjamin Blue, Jum return to Nottingham to release their eponymous debut album. Featuring members from other Nottingham bands Plaids, The Blue Period and Slumb Party, this has been six years in the making. There's a garage-rock meets indie-slacker sound that is given a claustrophobic feel by the ethereal vocals. For example, Cut starts with a riff that wouldn't sound out of place on a Pavement record, but as the guitar effects kick in and it speeds up and slows down, it sounds like a mixture of Pink Floyd and Radiohead soundtracking the first manned mission to Mars, with the disembodied vocals hinting at the madness that one of the crew will succumb to. The song Still threatens to simultaneously fall apart and collapse in on itself, but is somehow kept together by its own inertia. An exciting, different album. Gav Squires

Various Artists
A Decade of Distortion
Double LP (I’m Not From London Records)

Nottingham has a track record of producing interesting labels. Some of them have become international successes (Earache) and others have helped cement our local scene (Hello Thor, Gringo). However, I’m Not From London occupy a special place in the hearts of many, including me, for what they’ve done over the years. This 23-track anthology is a banger from start to finish. Some of it looks to the past, with nostalgic appearances from the now-defunct likes of Punish The Atom, The Smears, Captain Dangerous, Pilgrim Fathers and Hot Japanese Girl. The rest of it looks to the present, and hopefully future, with Kagoule, 94 Gunships, Francobollo, Lowrie, Bru-C and more. This double LP was funded by donations from a Kickstarter campaign and, as someone who contributed 25 notes to help make it happen, I’m delighted with my purchase. Go and get yours, and help those lovable rogues shape the next decade of Nottingham music, too. Jared Wilson

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