Monday, September 25, 2023

Mesmerizing Recognition of Recently Released Music and Video

Compelling new releases kick-off the Fall/Autumn DaveCromwellWrites music review feature. Long-time indie-legend dreampop recording artists share space here with newer experimental ambient creators, and post-gaze, power-pop psych-rockers. Deep dives are the order of the day, with an attentive ear for sonic details still the primary focus. Audio, photos and video continue to provide the inspiration for this careful analysis.

We American's who haven't been afforded the luxury of traveling abroad and traversing the globe occasionally are unsure of exactly where certain country's are. Take Estonia for example – where exactly is that? Trusty internet searches are the charm these days and one can see it is one of those former Soviet Union locales that borders the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland – now considered Northern Europe. The reason for this particular curiosity is a relatively new release from Estonian dream pop band Pia Fraus. Having heard about them for years, it was eye-opening to discover they've been at it (off and on) for 26 years! Their latest album 'Evening Colours' is out now on digital, with a vinyl release set for September 28th. The Cromwell focus on these artists work is long overdue.

Opening cut “French Exit” comes on with an instantly romantic feel (which will extend through all the songs). The guitar riff hook is of the descend-then-rise, start-stop variety, with drums providing a counter motion throughout. An advance promo promise of “shimmering layered male-female vocals” makes an immediate entrance, bringing to mind what Sune and Sharin did so well with The Raveonettes. Chorus hits and the dreamgaze feel goes into overdrive, with full ambient washes and melodic guitar figures.

Follow-up track “Fog on the Hills” is quicker, breezier – giving off a more gentle, wistful vibe. That is until the chorus hits and then it's full-on gazer-romance, tugging at that music-to-fall-in-love-with-someone feeling. Frequent use of minor chords shows depth and sophistication in the songwriting. The drumming is once again, fantastic – as are the synths and voices. Album title track “Evening Colours” continue the sugar-coated voices and add subtle pitch-bended guitars to compliment that Raveonettes-style twang. Soaring strings lift everything onto a cloud of angels. There are higher vocal notes hit here, and the bass guitar makes its presence felt in positive groove-oriented ways.   

Sunny Afternoon” combines slashing guitars, synth highs and sophisticated phrasing that incorporates major, minor, 7ths (4ths?) voicings in their easy breezy sentiment. For those who can imagine a joyous day of wind in your hair and warmth on your face. “Who's the Envelope-Man?” relies heavily on orchestral synth washes, as those familiar sheering tandem female vocals push everything forward. Angular pauses within the song structure creates space for cleaner guitar lines. Drums, bass and piano skillful lock to each distinct rhythmic change.

Regret Everything” comes on quicker in pace, adding flute-y synths for instrumental expansion. Driving bass and drums propel the tandem female voices along against a bed of synth ambience. “Confidential Information” adds a level of pitch-bended “gaze” guitar to the now anticipated Swingle Singers style vocals and rapid-fire drums. Chunky, chiming guitar chords and a bit of organ emerges into the mix as well. The curiously titled “Another Artichoke” introduces a subtle new dimension by adding occasional horn sounds to the mix. Clearly discernable lyrics state “please hold my hand at least for one more year – I'm so tired and the end is near – you know you're better than nobody else . . . don't let me go that's all I ask of you.”  

Cloud Winterland” veers back into the gazey warble guitar world, with placid open spaces intermittently staged for dramatic emphasis. “We Melt” picks the pace up once again, with unexpected and refreshing sharp turns and quick breaks. The central chorus and lush and bathed in a dream-gazey wall of euphoria. “Lost in Nights” closes out the album with it's most romantic and soulful groove. Subtle pitch-bended guitars share space with more traditional strings. Those alluring female vocals strike the perfect balance between nostalgia and longing.

Much respect to guitarist Rein Fuks for writing and arranging 99% of this masterpiece.

Check out this incredible album here:

Find out all the ways to acquire it here.

Follow their Social Media here:   Pia Fraus   -  Sek Sound

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Back in May of last year, DCW had the opportunity to dig deep into advance track “Normal” by Héctor Caolo Alvarez run project Sueño Con Belugas (I dream of belugas – whales). That ambient tour-de-force is now included along with five other cuts on the recently released EP “Memoria Cósmica.” A cast of familiar names like María Lopez (Malow) on vocals and synths, Gardy Pérez on Guitars, Loops / Delays are joined an equally impressive group of various other contributors.  A full review of all six tracks follow below.

EP opener “52Hz / Agua Atómica” emerges quietly, floating on gentle guitar strumming with overlying noodling effects. A singular synth introduces the next movement about two and a half minutes in. A minute late a full drum beat kicks in, along with distant vocals over top of a ominous, crawling progression. Heavier guitars begin slashing their way momentarily into the mix, before the percussion drops out and female vocals become more prominent. The groove kicks in once more, with a throbbing bass leading the way over drum crack and layered male-female vocal tandems. Soaring vocals drive this mysterious over nine minute epic to it's conclusion.

Follow up track “Caracol” combines nature field recordings with Spanish language spoken word. Distant ambience is blended with the sounds of birds tweetering along with a rising level of otherworldly synthesis. A bass pulse emerges gently, before fading out with this relatively brief reverie. As mentioned above, third entry “Normal” receives a full detailed review HERE.

Fourth cut “Fantasma” starts quietly, with soft acoustic guitar that is soon met by additional laid back half-spoken, half-sung Spanish vocals. Ambience begin to build up underneath with loops and delays creating a magical dream world. “Gris” returns to more traditional rock stylings, with guitar, bass and drums pumping out the rhythms and progression for maximum effect. The chorus hits quickly, with elevated lead female vocals driving it all along. Male voices take their turn briefly on a line or two, before the blended voices mesh with soaring guitars on lofty passages. Extended instrumental segments emphasize the melody progression, driven by that ever present bass guitar, drums and chiming guitar hooks.

Epic final entry (the EP's longest at 9:45 in length) “Detrás del Volcán / Memoria Cósmica” builds up from a quiet hum, as female vocals slowly begin to shed light on the proceedings. Drums enter quietly, along with additional layers of vocals and shimmering guitars. The midway, separation point moves bass guitar out front in the mix, as everything transitions to an ambient world where beluga whales swim free through the cosmos. A final third movement emerges with pulsing percussion, shearing guitar textures and a clarinet move forward for the final fade out.

Listen to this dreamy recording here:

Follow the band and label releasing this record here:

El Gran E Records: - Facebook - Instagram - X/Twitter

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Finding their way into the DCW mailbox is the Seattle based guitar-centric band Guest Directors. They've just released their first full-length album “Interference Patterns” that features nine songs drawing from the bands entire lifespan. Building up to the complete album drop, the band has given some of the tracks video treatments. Most of the audio was recorded in a beautiful old church in Anacortes, WA. Released by Topsy Records in conjunction with Snappy Little Numbers Quality Audio Recordings. Available on Bandcamp, a few choice indie stores, and streaming everywhere.

The more recent (second) video put out for deeper track “Nico” kicks off with straightforward four-on-the-floor drum thump that's soon met by chiming guitars. Chords shift quickly while a melodic guitar line rings along over top. Female vocals emerge with a doubling effect, that gives it all a timeless vibe of 60's era rock. As the video shows appealing patterns of vintage psychedelic floating projections, subtle human images are briefly embedded in as well. A gorgeous, instantly hooky chorus is then revealed, with full-band enhancement and lovely multi-tracked vocals. As the second verse moves forward, a noticeable change in the drum pattern shifts to more two-hand, tandem strokes on the toms. The bass guitar also becomes prominent, with the open spaces allowed for that instruments melodic movements. A burst of guitar soloing emerges at the mid-point, reinforcing that 60's psychedelic-rock vibe. One more softer verse cycle through with busier drums and bass, before a final glorious chorus and sparkler enhanced end-out.

Check out this great track and imagery here:

The album's opening cut “From This Distance” was first to be given a video treatment, kicking the whole record off with appropriate style. As the drummer counts everyone in, visions of lofty mountain ranges are superimposed against colorized images of the band playing their respective instruments. It's a slithery-gaze groove that employs expectedly sheering guitars and an out-front rubbery bass pattern. Opening male lead vocals are soon met with female counterpart harmonies. It's a harder, heavier version of the “gaze” genre, with down-pounding strokes via those essential rock instruments – guitars, bass and drums.

Groove into this badass video and song here:

Follow up track “Perfect Picture” quickens the pace with a more frenetic approach, and the lyrical hook line “trapped inside your head.” Stimulating forceful sonic breaks keep the listener engaged, avoiding any level of predictability. “Raise a Glass” ambles along with an easy groove vibe. Female vocals stand out front in this near-ballad offering. The minor key driven hook “but you fall apart, and the cold winds blow” and again “when the sun shines through your window” suggests any “glass raising” isn't necessarily celebratory. A heavy guitar mid-section adds crunch to the overall proceedings. 

Blackout Dream Blues” lumbers along with doom-laden underpinnings as impassioned female vocals lay out a tale where you “drown, drown, drown.” Tasty guitar figures are never far from any of this bands songs, and this one is no exception. “Skinless” emerges out of twisted guitar phrasing, one entering from the right, followed by the second on the left side of the mix. Heavy bass guitar and drums drive a thundering rhythm down the middle. Those female voices deliver the lyrics in higher register, with an elevated level of passion.

Dig into the complete album, with info on how to acquire this record here.

Follow Guest Directors on their Social Media:

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Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Thought-Provoking Assessment on New Full Album and Single Releases

A long-time favorite has re-entered the DaveCromwellWrites world with a brand new full-length recording. Alongside that is a previously never-before heard artist offering up their unique take on a 90's era classic. Finally an often reviewed, most-respected label has remastered and reissued an earlier catalog EP. Every song on all of the above mentioned releases now receive the infamous DCW track-by-track review.

Press releases indicating that new music from long-admired Cloudland Canyon had been trickling in over the last few months. Having already been a devoted fan of the purposefully vague and mysterious output from this creative force since the mid-2000's, each new single release added to the excitement. Now the full-length album is here, and for this reviewer it brings back all the memories and reasons for that initial fascination. Led by former New York and now Memphis based electronic music master Kip Uhlhorn, the artist has tapped into the mutual admiration of Spaceman 3/Spectrum's Sonic Boom (Pete Kember) for production assistance. The result is a magnificent collection of otherworldly music tuned into those dreamlike states some of us experience with each night's sleep.

Opening track “Circuit City” bursts out in full motion with no buildup, careening along at a bustling pace. Familiar deeply reverberated male vocals commence over (or is that under) a repeating AI voice pattern that sounds like the word “my, my, my” in perpetuity. There's a distinct pop chord progression at play, complete with a chorus (even if the lyrics buried beyond recognition). While the title line can be made out occasionally, that's hardly the point. Many wonderful sonic elements emerged throughout this over 6 minute opus. The percussion is busy, with bongo-like textures fluttering up (and then away). A driving synth-bass takes a dominant position at the 4 minute mark, with the previously bubbling sonics fading back. That sets the stage for a “battle of robotic sounds” (of sorts) to follow.

Follow-up cut “Internet Dreams” wraps itself in a dance-floor ready krautrock beat that pulls elements from both German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. Vocals come delivered with primary force from a strong female voice. “Losing time – barely there. Lose myself – light as air” are her opening lines. The hook comes in the form of a “Oh, Oh-A” vocal resolution at the end of each line delivered. “If I felt your touch – I might break apart” she initially concludes. Reading the artists statement that this song deals with something “you've already lost” and “our tendency to romanticize the past,” play out with the lyrics “old dreams light up my screen.” The suggestion that these “in tattered dreams” may be more “destructive” that we initially realized are summed in the the final repeated vocal hook “since you went away.”

Future Perfect (Bad Decision)” taps into the dreamlike state and relaxed ambient pastel groove that initially caught the attention of this reviewer on their previous releases. Even though the rhythm is clearly defined with strong percussion, there's something about those vague and heavily reverberated vocals that instantly satisfy. Perhaps it's the dream pop and “gazey” music of initial practitioners like The Jesus and Mary Chain (and later on The Raveonettes) that has forged a connection with this sound. Something about the shifting voices that are just out of reach (like in a dream) find an emotional touchstone. The melody is romantic and builds slowly, creating the sensation that some kind of angelic experience is just over the horizon.

SEA TACT / Whispering Waves” opens with a pulsating drone that continues while aggressive drumming thunders up from underneath in the mix. A variety of sound patterns begin to appear, some melodic and others adding to the hustling chaos. The halfway point introduces an elongated background vocal counterpoint to this otherwise hyperspeed sensation. Those vocals evolve into a more semi-coherent chanting phrase that sounds like “you don't say it's alright.”  

There's a distinctive (once again) Jesus and Mary Chain feel on the slow, rambling two-chord appeal of “Recursive Excursions.” Choosing an undistorted guitar tone (like much of JAMC's 2nd studio album “Darklands”) sawing easily between chords, rattling tambourine and backing synth pads join in. Vocal delivery comes on soft and casually harmonized “we're not disappointed – just look where we've been.” Continuing in the aforementioned Reid brothers style, harsher electric guitar chords commence. From this point on, the actual Velvet Underground inspired source is more clearly revealed.

Another focus track “Two Point Zero” takes the quicker paced dance-floor electronica of earlier offerings and combines that with the preceding JAMC style vocals. A deep twang tone serves as a sonic balance point within shifting cacophony. With all that intentional aural chaos, a vocal hook “I don't want anyone but you” is purely evident. Plucking synths are pared with just enough percussion to generate the necessary forward motion. A timeless 80's through 90's feel abounds throughout, as if everything Depeche Mode, Howard Jones and other synth-pop pioneers of that ilk were put in a blender and poured out into this song.

Reaching deeper tracks, “LV MCHNS” combines buzzing brass synths, mechanized rhythms and icy female vocals that taps into the realm inhabited by bands like Ladytron. “Spacebar Blues” comes off as a less calculated studio jam, based around Kip's guitar and voice working out this “blues” progression idea over a ticking drum beat. Additional sound layers added on give it a fuller off-kilter appeal.  Final entry “Gimme Tension” returns with full force everything that makes Cloudland Canyon so engaging. Swirling synths – check; forward charging percussion – check; anthemic dreamgaze vocals layered and distorted beyond recognition – double-check! Like most everything on this entire album – it's music to fall in love with someone - in an alternate AI universe.

Acquire this album at their label Medical Records HERE

Follow Cloudland Canyon on their Social Media 

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Every now and then you get a message from a contact on Social Media that you haven't really interacted with. Such is the case with an Italian musician who puts out recordings under the name I'm The Villain.  His latest release is a personal tribute cover of the song “Nutshell” by Alice in Chains.

Starting the track off with an acoustic guitar and 808 drum machine, an introspective, homespun feeling is the initial vibe. Getting right to the vocals, you can hear passion within his lyrical delivery. He's got Layne Staley's vocal inflections down, as he retells about “misprinted lies,” “the path of time,” and how “I fight this battle all alone.” Soon a series of slinky, echoed telecaster guitar riffs enter the mix adding depth and texture overall. Reaching the second verse and the desolate lines “my gift of self is raped” adds on to the guitar layering creating a near metal-slide feel amid the echo. While the acoustic strums throughout, those wirey guitar figures weave around with determined anguish. Building to an emotional sonic peak, the percussion, guitars and synths come together in a cacophony of sound. A single high-pitched guitar figure continues to rise, leading out the the ultimate conclusion of the strumming acoustic.

Check it out:

Find out more via their Socials - Instagram  -  Facebook  -  Soundcloud

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A recent release from our friends over at Shoredive Records find label boss Nicolas Pierre Wardell (a/k/a Nico Beatastic) reissuing his 2015 BEATASTIC EP number 2 in newly remastered form. As the record was originally the second in a series of four, it's title goes by the numerically accurate 02 2002 02020 2 (Remastered). A careful listen inspires ideas, thoughts and words below.

Epic opening track “Butterflies” clocks in a nearly 10 minutes in length. As one might expect, there's a lot going on in that timeframe. Buzzy brass synths kick it all with quick rhythm, panning back and forth the sound field. Other synths begin to wade in, creating a more drone-like effect. As Kraftwerk-ian percussion clips and hisses, a distinct bass guitar pattern emerges creating movement underneath. Gazey guitars begin strumming busily and the thump and crack of drumlike percussion enters the fray. At the 3:20 mark a momentary halt and held ambience serves to set up oncoming vocals. Delivered in elongated diction, it's more like a mantra, before something approximating a chorus emerges. That's followed by some hard-edged (and ear pleasing) bass guitar riffing. Halfway in and the drums, drone and vocals run through that melodic chorus once more. At six minutes the track breaks down to a synth only segment that reprises the songs intro. Backward looping over top always gives this reviewer a Jimi Hendrix-in-the-studio sensation (since that's where it was first heard) or perhaps even BeatlesWhite Album” vibe. Vocals float in and out with “ohhh ohhhh ahhhh” placement showing keen awareness of what a studio recording can accomplish. Pushing forward into the final 2 minutes, all the previous sonic elements return in full force for the grand finale.

Following cut “The Ebb And Flow” comes on with high-pitched synth pulses, before solid drumming and vocals join in with a full progression. Fast strummed “gazer” chords are positioned over top of it all, along with harmonized melodic vocals. A shearing guitar and drums instrumental breakdown adds powerful juncture to the final vocal conclusion. “Perfect Moment Perfect” emerges out of an ambient mist, before high-hat and snare percussion enter in. Vocals come on initially softer and introspective – as single line guitar figures weave around. As the synth pads rise and fall back, percussion stands out in front of the mix – as muted voices sing about taking a “moment” and “make it perfect.” More guitar lines step forward in a dominant way, as the song moves to it's conclusion.

After an ominous deep-buzzy synth intro, “Try Harder” quickly shifts gears as it bounces along bright strumming guitar and a solid drum pattern. Vocals come on in a softer, undistorted way, providing contrast to the bold rhythmic undercurrent. A Cure-like bass guitar and drum break provides thunderous reprieve before vocals return with the song's repeated title-line. “Stop Crossing Oceans” takes that bass guitar driven, matched with higher note six string guitar pairing and rolls it out in classic (once again) The Cure-style slow-build progression. Distinct forceful drumming joins in and the lyrical story commences. The dynamic chorus leans into gazey guitars (not really Robert Smith's thing) moving everything over to a more modern dreampop vibe. The song “ends” (then it doesn't) as a two minute coda floats everything away with textured guitar finesse.

The previously unreleased “Winter Bliss” emerges out of rising muted percussion before full-blown gazey guitar shear over top. The track then alternates between quiet verse passages of intimate nature (repeating the word “birthday”) and the shearing guitar enhanced chorus that goes “embrace me with a kiss – feeling the winter bliss.” Final cut “The Ebb And Flow (Country Version)” replaces the original's “fast strummed gazer chords” with down-home pedal-steel variations. Bass guitar and drums fall into an easy slow groove as the vocals are given an appropriately fresh reading as well. Country banjo pickin' can be heard within the mix, behind fiddles and those haunting pedal-steel strains.

Listen to and find out the multiple ways to acquire this album here:

Previous recent features covering Shoredive Records on this site can be found Here and Here.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Individualized Review Appreciation for Recent Single and Video Releases

The summer season is in full bloom with block parties, beach adventures and live show shenanigans. Gatherings with old friends inevitably lead to new contacts, which more often than not present fresh music review opportunities. Four separate recording artists become the recipients of these recent connections, motivated by an attentive listening (and viewing) of their current output.

Meeting creative new bands in personal, casual settings through mutual friends has become a preferred method of discovery. Spotting Singer, Songwriter and Record Producer Vanessa Silberman at a number of recent live events presented by like-minded artists led to some lively chats. Further investigations has now provided ample opportunity for discovery of her duo project LOVECOLOR. Collaborating with Musician, Drummer (and Actor) Ryan Carnes, the two member band strike the same kind of attractive visual imagery of acts like The Kills, The White Stripes and The Raveonettes.

The band themselves namecheck Sinead O’Connor, The 1975, Chvrches, Lana Del Ray, St. Vincent and M83 as guideposts. Having toured considerably over the last few years, Vanessa is also an accomplished studio engineer, producer, shredding guitarist and runs her own record label Diamond Heart Productions. Ryan is a well-known actor who also seeks an outlet for his musical passion. Playing drums live with this band allows for a different kind of artistic expression. LOVECOLOR has two singles out so far, written and produced by Vanessa, with capable assistance by Ryan. A detailed exploration of these two tracks now follow.

The current single “Pure Love” emerges out of a deep buzzing synth texture before kicking in fully with driving melody and percussive beat. Vanessa's vocals are ambient, reverberated and floating on the initial verse. Intentionally structured to pop criteria, a bridge is reached under the first minute with descending melody and echo keyboard line. That leads to the payoff hook chorus that lavishly states “Oh-wah-oh – can you feel it – can you see it – can you taste my pure love,” and “can you touch my pure love.” Returning to that 80's darkwave synth rise from the intro (bringing to mind classic albums like Human LeagueDare” and their more ominous tracks like “I Am The Law”).

Vanessa's vocals are powerful and yet ethereal in that Liz Fraser Cocteau Twins way. There are multiple overlays of distant backing voices to go along with a steady percussive thump. At 2:45 in, everything drops back leaving open space for a single keyboard line. That sets the table for backward run voices, creating a pleasant yet slightly unsettling textural mix. Like all great pop songs it closes out with a big, grand finale chorus (with the word “love” frequently pronounced as “lo-E-ove”). Crunchy guitar chords emerge at the very end for good measure. The band has been quoted as stating this track is meant to be “sultry,” while being about “a relational dynamic and see someone truly and purely for who they are rather than what we’re projecting onto them via our past experiences.”

Check out this brilliant track HERE

A music video for this song is promised to be coming soon.

In the meantime, we DO have a video for the bands previously released single “Dangerous.” Opening to the sound of a telephone ringing, the track bubbles to life as the image of a glittery, glamorous, neon-lit Vanessa descends the staircase to a club. “Taste the scene, make me weak – Dangerous,” she coos into a microphone as images of Ryan behind a clear drum-kit bathed in blue lighting emerges. Starkly lite in neon shades of purple and blue, Vanessa's face is enhanced by reflective jewels. We then see Ryan walking down the club's staircase like a secret agent in long leather coat. The bridge is again reached in under a minute with close-ups of Vanessa singing against keyboard rhythms and finger-snap percussion. Reaching the chorus, visual clues continue to emerge, specifically in the form of an origami crane which symbolizes hope, healing and wishes to come true. Ryan's video character is given this symbol in a drink glass from the bartender.

The musical rhythms are pulsating, with deep bassy synths driving a rough edge underneath. Vanessa exudes a sultry presence at the microphone, calling out to “set me on fire” and “you're all I desire” inbetween the singular repeated songtitle. With a minute to go we're treated to a brilliant blusey guitar solo that adds a perfect rock and roll element to it all. Deep saxophone style horns enter the mix as Ryan continues to ponder the origami symbol in his hand. The video ends with him dropping the crane down as audio pivots to the opening phone line, seemingly now gone unanswered. The band has explained how this song and video “is about a few things.” Like “being so drawn to someone that it's almost dangerous” - and how you should strive to “ being free and open with your sensuality.” About “being fully aware, alive and sharp in the world” where one can “fully embrace their whole true selves.”

Check out this awesome track and video here:

Follow LoveColor on their Social Media  -  Instagram  -  Facebook  -  Twitter  -  YouTube

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It's been a year since the ambient duo Cielo Oceano has provided this site with new material to dig in to. The Philadelphia and Baltimore based collective are now back with a brand new track “Cycle Eternal.” Released on Andres Alfonso Lugo's Jak Jonson Tapes label, the collaborative artists recorded this new composition at Laboratorio Soniko Studio Middletown, PA and Where Are We Going Studio Lab in Baltimore, MD. This synergistic process features Andres on guitars, and Tom Lugo on bass, guitars, synth, voice as well as composing the lyrics.

Deep synth pads and a tinkling sequential keyboard pattern over it are the initial sonics opening this track. Bold wind rushes quickly emerge and usher in layers of ambient guitars along with a timekeeping percussive drum beat. Busy bass guitar patterns join in, adding a melodic force to it all. Tom's vocals begin “I want to break free – get rid of the chains – I may have forgotten, how to play the game.” Synth backing is kept static at this point, with the snare drum shot standing out in the forefront. At this point the “gaze” takes over and a wall of ambient guitars create a driving force behind hook-filled lyrics “there is no beginning, there is no end - into to heavens, we will ascend.”

Soaring guitar notes are laid out in a slow and deliberate manner, while gentle chiming keyboards , hustling bass and strong percussion carry on underneath. The sonic field goes quieter once more as Tom delivers a second verse “lose yourself again, a small price to pay - with your eyes wide open, the illusions all fade.” Those lofty, climbing guitars return once more as the final chorus goes further into an ethereal realm, where bass and percussion become alternately buried in the mix. As those chorus lyrics are repeated over in a mantra-like manner, all the instruments come together for a lift-off into the sky.

Listen to this incredible track here:

Follow the band on their Social Media  -  Facebook  -  Bandcamp

Previous features of Cielo Oceano on this site can be found Here and Here.

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Back in February of 2021, this site did a deep dive track-by-track review of The Crushing Violets album “A Dream Without Color.” That enjoyable experience is now revived with the news of a brand new single from the band “Superflower.” Conceived by songwriters Antanina (vocals) and BP Brooks (guitars, vocals), the track was recorded at Lantern Sound Recording Rig, Manorville, NY.  Engineered and Mixed by Mick Hargreaves (who also played bass on it), co-production is shared between the band and Mick. The big surprise is getting legendary drummer (and local Long Islander) Corky Laing to feature his noteworthy skills on it. Nothing less than a thorough investigation is required.

The band wastes no time getting their special guest star involved with the tracks opening sounds involving tom-tom strokes. The guitars chime in and the percussion shifts to high-hat and snare-drum rim clack. It's an easy chord progression groove that sets the pace before Antanina comes in with her vocals. “Superflower magic finds the sun” she sings, with vibrato emphasis on the end word (“suuu-uuuun.”) The hint of rasp and Patti Smith-stylings in vocal tone provide central focus as this lyrical story unfolds. Visions of “oceans,” “timeless waves,” “the dawn” and “emotions” that show how “we are one” emphasize a metaphysical theme. With Corky high in the mix and delivering an emphatic lead-in, a big vocal passage of continuous “ahhhhh's” in rising progression elevates things further.

A second verse continues the odyssey as “constellations” and an “endless mental journey” can't help you “find salvation,” because “nothing in the world can turn back time.” A crisp snare-drum roll leads into the lyrical existential nature of the superflower's “magic” that “blooms” from a “garden of dreams where we sleep.” Mr. Laing's sensitivity and professional approach to this section is quite noticeable, with focused emphasis on high-hat work, leading the track out to it's coda. This is where guitarist BP Brooks is given room to shine with his tasteful, dominating blues licks.

Check out this soulful track (including how to acquire it here:

Follow The Crushing Violets on their Social Media - Official Website - Facebook - Instagram - Bandcamp

A previous feature of The Crushing Violets on this site can be found Here.

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Having written about the boundlessly energetic Tarra Thiessen's previous musical projects over the last few years, it only makes sense now to delve into her latest incarnation – Tea Eater. The debut single “Double” was recently released and is available everywhere via @adiamondheartproduction / Amethyst Trax (@symphonicdistro) in collaboration with @lafamrecordings & @jasnoswarez. With Tarra writing, singing, playing guitars, keyboards and even some percussion, the previously reviewed above Vanessa Silberman added her engineering and production skills to the vocals. This release also comes with a complimentary video directed by @tinehill that emphasizes amusing madcap imagery.

With the video having been shot in the rural settings of Lake Placid, NY, Tarra's mostly-white rock and roll outfit (complete with guitar) and single amp in the road stand out in stark contrast. The sound of crickets chirping are the first thing heard, before the clatter of sawing guitar chords commence. A variety of characters slowly emerge, such as mysterious individuals in hazmat suits – before the protagonist suddenly runs off to a cabin. There we encounter a “double” figure (also played by Tarra) in black, singing the lyrics. Meanwhile white-suited Tarra is quick-cut in to help the vocals along. Not content with just two looks – a third emerges in the form of a yellow rain slicker complete with mosquito-net covered hat and fishing pole. The instrumentation relies on a heavy fuzz-bass (played by main squeeze VramShabouh) and psychotic synthesizers. An individual dressed as a wine box adds one more level of absurdity, before the hazmat clad crew scoop up yellow-slicker attired Tarra and haul her off. The closing line “what is going on!?” perfectly sums up the farcical nature of this production.

See for yourself:


 The full album 'Obsession' is scheduled for an October 6 release via A Diamond Heart Production/Amethyst Trax and La Fam Recordings.

Follow Tea Eater via their Official Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp / YouTube

Also connect with A Diamond Heart Productions / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter  

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Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Savvy Investigation of New Full Album Releases

Extensive deep-dive analysis of full-length albums are the primary review focus for the month of June here at DaveCromwellWrites.  A long-time legend returns with their much-anticipated brand new studio album, delighting fans old and new along the way.  Additionally, another frequently reviewed, trusted music label presents a storied collective in their own right.   All of this excellent new music is now run through a close-listen analysis, checking for audio clues to the secrets of life.

It was a mere 4 months ago when Sophie Ellis Bextor announced the coming release of her 7th full-length album “Hana.” Promising a record of all new original material, the advance single “Breaking The Circle” was dropped at that time, receiving critical acclaim (as well as a detailed review of it here). Now the complete album has arrived, and with it a rising tide of positive feedback and prominent chart placement. Having reviewed all of Sophie's studio recordings since this sites inception 15 years ago (as well as on fan sites 7 years prior to that) DaveCromwellWrites sets its laser focus on this new album.

Once again collaborating with writing partner Ed Harcourt in a similar manner as on her sixth (“Familia”) and fifth (“Wanderlust”) studio albums, the creative chemistry between the two is undeniable. A celebrated solo artist, Harcourt also Produced, as well as providing piano, synths, samples, organ and backing vocals. Additional production came by way of The Feeling founding member (and Sophie’s husband) Richard Jones, who played all the bass guitar, chipping in with additional synths and backing vocals. Filling out the studio musicians (most of whom are also in Sophie's current live band) are guitarists Pablo Tato, Seton Daunt, violinist Gita Langley and Jackson Ellis-Leach on drums.

The album begins with arpeggiated synthetic pulses laying a steady undercurrent for an emotive “A Thousand Orchids.” Choosing a flower titled lead-off track for the Japanese influenced album overall (with “Hana” translating to “Flower” in that language) points to an intentional pathway on this journey together (between artist and listener). Carefully placed piano chords are the only other initial accompaniment to Sophie's up-close-in-your-ear vocal lines that lead you away from “witches” and “ghosts.” She'd rather you “look for the beacons that show the way.” Gentle synths and electric pianos slowly work their way into the mix by the time she reaches that title line. Stating universal truths we all need to remind ourselves of - “it's so very human to to live as if nothing will end. Though no one's immortal, our secrets will let us pretend.” At the songs midpoint a more driving synth pattern begins, with ethereal vocals floating above. More defined keyboards mark out the chord progression as reverberated snare-drum shots enhance Sophie's final dramatic chorus.

As stated above, follow-up track (and first single) “Breaking The Circle” takes late night existential musings and fashions them into a danceable pop song. Full review of that here. What we didn't have *at that time* - but do now – is a gorgeous video to go with that song.


The deceptively upbeat “Until The Wheels Fall Off” was revealed to be Sophie's “most personal song on the album” in a recent live chat. Extolling the virtues of living-life-to-the-fullest every day you're blessed with, the lyrics were inspired by a letter from her late step-dad. Essentially piano-driven, the tracks enthusiastic groove is powered along by a nimble drum pattern. “Let's taste all the best we find under the sun – till it's done” is the overriding sentiment. Because living your best life IS to “laugh and love until the wheels fall off.”   

Moving into the desirous fantasy realm, “Everything Is Sweet” tells a tale about obsession and “endless longing.” Deep buzzing low-end synths and forceful punch drumming comprise the instrumental bulk behind Sophie's vocals. Establishing a contrast between dark and light, “shadow,” ”shrouded” and “clouds” has the imagination turning them into an “enchanted,” “heavenly fortress.” The bridge between verse and chorus tugs sweetly at the heart with it's romantic chord progression and “wait so patiently” lyric. Repeated listening reveal enjoyable audio easter eggs, like the energetic bass guitar and drum interplay, lifting off into space synth rises and piano chords on the fadeout.

Second official single release “Lost In The Sunshine” comes complete with a gorgeous video that dazzles the senses. Playing to her obvious visual strengths, Sophie returns to the scene of previous videos (and other significant events) in Italy and Rome. The very first shot has Sophie standing in front of the nearly two thousand year old Roman structures, wearing (as she revealed) a dress she wore over 20 years ago in one of her first videos. All the footage here for more than the first half of it is presented in black and white. The multiple outfits are quick cut for maximum introductory effect, and her overall style morphs between Audrey Hepburn's Breakfast At Tiffany's and Sophia Lauren Italian glamour. The song itself is a gentle float-away dream of a perfect day with the one you love. A joyous summertime anthem that touches on the nostalgia of a hot, hazy day, described as looking “clementine.”  Gradually, sepia toned images are introduced as Sophie rides a train (stunning in ultra-glam close-ups) singing about how “the ice is melting” and “sun overhead.” The footage playfully rolls out more elegant dresses as it hops around locales. The final third introduces full color imagery with the alluring one riding commuter cars, sitting in restaurants, drinking beer and eating ice cream and pasta. Only Sophie could make this sort of consuming look bewitching. Her little blue dog toy also makes an appearance.

Experience “La Dolche Vita” here:

Open note, finger-plucked guitar chords begin the introspective, Pink Floyd influenced sixth track “Tokyo.” Echoing a similar feel to the aforementioned psychedelic bands “Hey You” (from The Wall). Sophie's vocals are strong yet measured, delivering lines that fall somewhere between that city's reality and an imagined impression of what it might be like. Reaching the signature line “I'm with you and you're in Tokyo again” on the second pass through, has more instruments joining in. The mood shifts into dreamy, floating directions that feature ambient synths and active drum fills. An elevated section with lyrics “there's beauty here besides machines” lifts everything upward.

A peak mid-80's synth-pop feel permeates the celestial wanderlust (now there's an easter egg call back) of seventh song and second side album starter “Beyond The Universe.” Harkening back to that first synth-wave era that gave us A-ha's “Take On Me,” Sophie takes a sparser approach at first. Wafting synths are all you hear initially supporting a tale of weightlessness and stars. Soon bass guitar and drums enter in with the tracks insistent beat, as otherworldly keyboard lines offer counter-melodies. The “climb a little cloud, scale a little breeze” bridge provides a perfect segue to that magnificent full-bop chorus. 

Uniquely textured synths and a “Be-My-Baby” Spector-esque drum beat lay down the sonic core of power ballad “He's A Dreamer.” Majestic piano chords support underneath a soaring chorus that speaks about trying “to see the world he knows.” A fascinating instrumental section feels almost improvised on the spot, with multi-toned synths playfully dancing back and forth between drum fills and bass guitar riffs. 

A solid 4-on-the-floor beat, synth, piano and bouncy bass guitar establish musical parameters for the looking-glass scrutiny of “Reflections.” As much of a look-back as a gaze on the here-and-now, lyrics “through the lens the shadows refract until it's a memory” suggestively confirm this. An unexpected quicker-paced near spoken word section adds a sense of urgency to the lyrical content being delivered. Orchestral strings appear within the final minute, expanding the sound with an additional level of grandeur.

Rapid-paced tinkling toy piano introduces the synesthesia themed “Hearing In Colour.” That sensation where hearing sound induces visualization, can produce “joy” as well as “a feverish dream.”  Applying major chords on the verse while using minor keys for initial choruses emphasize how overwhelming this level of sensitivity could be – especially when applied to a new romance. Tying the two parts together is a perfect bridge section that states “a million shades in the spectrum since you came.” The song resolves with a celebratory coda “calling my name” for an ultimate uplifting experience.

A deeper toned, slower version of that tinkly child's piano returns on subtle hip-hop grooved “Broken Toy.” The parallel between relationship breakup and “tossed aside” inanimate play thing runs against spacious ambience and yet-one-more keyboard texture of curious origins. Bass guitar stands out as the primary melodic counterpoint to Sophie's vocals on the chorus. However, it is her double-step delivery on each verse line (with the second one going) “but under the surface the heart has a purpose” that delivers the most endearing quality.

Final track “We've Been Watching You” has Sophie putting her own spin on the classic science-fiction narrative of outer-space Aliens.  Having visited our planet, these “conscience of another kind” have chosen to save some of us to “start again elsewhere.” All good intentions aside, a repeated vocal refrain casts some doubt on the validity of this undertaking. Sophie presents it both ways: “you haven't quite lost your mind” she reassures. Then follows with “Or have you quite lost your mind?” Food for thought, indeed. With that, HANA comes to a playful conclusion, as Earth's fortunate survivors head out into the great unknown.

HANA is out now, and can be acquired Here.

Connect with Sophie Ellis-Bextor online:

Previous Feature Review of Sophie on this site (including links to all other features) Here.

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One thing this site can count on is an enticing pitch from frequently reviewed Burbank, California label Big Stir Records. The currently much celebrated and promised summer long roll-out of new recordings from fellow So-Cal pop-legends SPARKLE*JETS U.K hits all the marks for excited anticipation. Emerging with their first full-length album release in over 20 years, an expected multi-year plan of covers and originals is professed to unfold going forward. This initial step in the overall plan is something quite unique as it presents a 21 track double LP filled with covers of underground classics originally released by their friends and associates from the early aught Southern California power pop scene. Calling the record “Best Of Friends” underscores how they pay homage to a vital LA music scene that redefined the very essence of Power Pop at that time.  

Without knowing hardly anything at all about the original artists recordings of these songs, a deep-dive review follows on what is heard in the here and now on THIS record. The album kicks off amusingly with someone sneezing, before launching into the 3 minute jangle-guitar driven “Hold On Tight.” Sweet vocal harmonies and precision placed drums+bass nestle securely alongside twangy guitar punctuation. It's Beatles-y in that way they would blend their pop with a tinge of country music.  First single “He's Coming Out” is a joyous rave-up cover of late '90's/early 2000's LA pop heroes The Masticators. Intro'd by a singular chiming guitar, the band quickly thunders in with jingly tambourine and forceful rhythm section. Laying out a tale of “walking 'round the city” and “the people going mad,” additional points are given for the amusing lyric “he'll be puttin' on a different shoe – and he's got an electric guitar too!

Check it out:

Next track “No One Rides for Free” builds off of an angular progression that shares space with heavier power chords. Interestingly with a similar key word in the title, this vocal rendition evokes John Lennon's on “Ticket To Ride.”  “One Summer Sunday” switches gear to a more gentle “McCartney-esque” approach. There's pleasing minor chord change segments that also bring to mind elements of the band Chicago's huge pop hit “Beginnings.”

Are We There Yet?” emphasizes female lead vocals to expand on that universal long-car-ride expression, applying it this time to an interpersonal relationship. Keyboards and strings add lushness to the production behind these impassioned vocals. Choral “la la's” provide a nice touch, bridging to male vocal response which includes more Beatles references via lyric “when you get to the bottom you go back to the top of the slide.”

There's a cheerful son-of-Beatles-Eric Carmen-in-Raspberries vibe on “Ludlow 6:18” Strong piano chord work provides solid underpinnings for the bright guitar, flam-drumming and vocal harmonies seamlessly woven together.  “Battle Song” relies on rising step vocals that create a harmonious romantic feel, running against what it's title initially suggests. Once again, an early McCartney-through-followers like Badfinger feel is present throughout.  

I Want a Pony” bring back female lead vocals for this tongue-in-cheek bratty teenage wish list. Demands made via a chunky rock and roll chugger - “pony up” indeed!  Bass guitar steps forward on the euphonious “Till We Meet Again.” Punchy rhythmic changes handled by those essential rock fundamentals of guitar, bass and drums drive everything towards exuberant high vocal harmonies.

Clocking in at 5 minutes in length is the album's longest track “Come Down Now.” A piano ballad featuring female and male vocals in a call-and-response duet, a sense of reverence is felt with the repeated vocal-hook “a Church Song.” Additional lyrics “come down now – remove your bandage – so I can see your damage” is as much about revelation than any sort of salvation.

There are many more wonderful songs included in the 21 here on this double LP.   Among them are two other "focus tracks" that really stand out.  

Another Myself” emerges out of an angular pizzicato plucking on guitar strings before more chunky (and funky) chords join in. It bears similarities in both vocal tone and song structure to that twisted-prog-funk King Crimson did with Adrian Belew singing. Other elements surface in the guise of wacky Zappa-like “la la la” background vocals and seemingly melody lifts from “Paperback Writer” (or is that Paul's “Jet?”) There's even a touch of George Harrison's slide guitar sound on a madcap instrumental foray.

Mahnsanto” takes everything in another direction, with it's mechanized structure and motorik undercurrent. A trip to the Carnival feel pervades while managing to straddle a modern times glitch-pop vocal arrangement on the verse. The chorus hook is another thing entirely, with the title word repeated like a siren call, followed by a plea to “come back to me,” promising “I'll wait there.” Churning rhythms and chugging guitars lay a bed for tasty lead lines to float over. Everything comes to a momentary halt (with brief bubbling synth interlude) – before lurching once more into the battering, beautifully harmonized chorus.

The full album is out on Vinyl, CD and all streaming services on June 30.

Order in any above format you like at This Link.

Connect with all things Big Stir Records here.

Check out Sparkle*Jets U.K. Here.

The most-recent prior Feature Review covering Big Stir Records on this site can be found Here.

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