Cody ChesnuTT – Landing On A Hundred

From Cody ChesnuTT:

“My hands were tingling because I got to sing on the actual microphone that Al Green recorded with. Nothing has changed. The down-home acoustic treatments are still in place.”

 

Except, outside of the studio, things have changed since Al Green recorded there. The world has turned round several times since the ’70’s.  That quote gives you some idea of what this album must mean to the man with his name on the cover, but it doesn’t tell you anything about just how much he must have going on in his mind. Cody ChesnuTT is very much living with and reflecting on the society of today throughout the most authentically soulful piece of recorded music of 2012. Landing on a Hundred‘s genius lies in modernising the message whilst preserving the medium.

Here’s the video for his latest single, ‘Til I Met Thee’, out the 18th March:

 

 

Buy the album (links at the bottom of the page), get hold of some headphones and allow yourself to wallow in the aching sense of hurt and wisdom in the voice, the strings, the shuffle grooves and horn melodies. Written and arranged in a traditional style, the songs use the natural volume and brightness of brass to boost the song’s volume, playing stirring snatches of melody brought to life by the instruments’ raw beauty. Even so, the album sounds fresh and to keep it sounding like something made in 2013, it’s been given all the modern love on the production side. Seriously, anybody having a bad day just needs to spend a bit of time with this.

 

 

There are tracks that capture the sound and passion that lies within great soul as a music of sex, protest, hedonism and hurt. The lyrical themes seamlessly interlock with the music they are accompanying, as the brass and strings squeal exasperated platitudes under the vocal line in ‘That’s Still Mama’. ‘What Kind of Cool Will We Think Of Next’ is typical of the classy and intelligent approach to an entire song, the refreshing freedom that has been given to the band members means that every phrase is full of interpretations and intensity. I swear you can almost follow each session musician individually as they all lend the kind of expression that sometimes feels confined to recordings originating in America’s South.

Also, did I mention the shuffles?

 

Is it just me who wants to see this guy play with Robert Glasper?

 

This album is almost like an origin of the species, or Hawking’s A Brief History of time, in that it’s a statement to the world of everything it’s creator has accomplished to date. It’s a historic assertion of everything the man is right now, a snapshot into his mind and thoughts – carefully mediated through music to bring themselves to you in their best possible light and with great care taken to the clarity and presentation of the message. This is one album that has significantly benefitted from the hours of thought and meditation poured into its sonic presentation.

Do you like Stax, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown or Stevie Wonder? If you do and you don’t yet own this record, you’re missing the only album available today that truly understands you. I’ve been playing it for a few weeks now, and its made for an incredible travel companion. This is the soundtrack for today, written in the key of life and it contains more than enough soul, heartache and comment for humanity to reflect on as we move through 2013.

Cody ChesnuTT is performing at the Concorde 2 on Tuesday 19th March 2013 – get tickets here.

Still one of my favourite songs by The Roots:

Buy Landing on a Hundred:

iTunes

One Little Indian Records (UK)

Thavius Beck: The Most Beautiful Ugly

So I spent my Sunday listening to the latest album from LA based Thavius Beck, ‘The Most Beautiful Ugly’.

Before I even begin tell you about the sound, take a look at the album art.

At the centre, a digital face with Thavius’ likeness fixes the listener with an intense stare, further heightened by the snatches of imagery warped inside the outline of his hair. It hints at a city struck by lightning, bordered with flames and meteors burning around the creator’s cranium. The blank stare, directly into the eyes of the beholder, converges this imagery into an idea, fixed on us with an unwavering concentration.

At least that’s what I see, now I’ve heard the noise it represents.

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Stream: Submotion Orchestra – Blind Spot

For the dedicated followers of any artist, experiencing the live performance of amazing records can lead to a very personal, almost religious experience unfolding inside your own head. Somehow, in the strange mess of coincidence (or not?) that lead to evolving the human brain, and our self-awareness, our noggins have found the space to allow us to stand in the middle of a crowd of strangers and connect with the sound created on stage. Perhaps it links up with the listening experience most people enjoy outside of live performance – the personal space created by headphones. Walkmans and iPods allow everyone to block all other distractions and fill their entire aural sensory experience with the music created by their favourite artists.

Transpose that into the middle of a Submotion Orchestra set, in a venue as snug as Concorde 2 (they’re there again 13th Oct), and you potently mix a recipe for an explosion of brain chemistry. The way they combine influences seems to encourage and welcome personal connection. The vocals cut through your skull and communicate on a carnal level that has little do with anything as modern as language. Despite the contemporary sound and the modern tools, the band are able to touch all the nerve cells usually reserved for quiet contemplation in the personal space, and bring them into the public sphere of a musical performance. Their music seems entirely suited to this purpose, remaining faithful to dancers, intellectuals and casual listeners alike.

This latest track offers me exactly what I wanted. More music that seems to touch all the bases at once, inspiring both the mind and the body to embrace the sound.

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Review: Volume Contrast Brilliance, 10th Anniversary BIMM Album

Apologies if you don’t use Spotify, but their play button was the most convenient way for me to embed tracks for this post.

Having recently completed a degree at BIMM, I remember that appearing on the BIMM album could be a contentious issue. On the one hand, you gain the recognition, and maybe some added confidence in your work, having passed through the screening process for demo submissions and been deemed worthy. You gain the pre-production with tutors, the recording and, seemingly at worst, a free recording of one of your songs. On the other hand, it does carry a reputation, deserving or not, as selling out to the man, letting the college tell you how to write and any listener will hear the recordings through the filter of their opinion of the institute.

As I don’t hold any grudges myself against good old BIMM, I feel it would be unfair to completely neglect to mention here the tight budget and time restrictions placed on the album.

So, I’ve tried to be as subjective as I can, but my own experience studying at BIMM was a positive one, and it seemed right to mention that at the start of this review.

“You gave it all for the recognition, you gave it all for the rock n roll.”

Wisely picked to open the album, Spit Shake Sisters kick it all off with a whoop, a hi-hat count and a fill round the drums that flows into the gratifying groove that follows. Almost immediately, the band play with the underlying tempo, suddenly switching to a heavily accented offbeat that jars quite satisfactorily with the cowbell groove that plays through the opening. The guitar work is almost pure virulent riffs, and the band’s attitude almost seeps from the speakers as the song plays.

The chorus lyric could have come straight from the reincarnation of Detroit garage rock, smelling of motor oil and positively wallowing in its own nihilism. “I am a man of no releejon / I believe in death and UFOs.” After being drawn in by the infectious guitar riff, the song sells itself with a relentless rhythm, pounding into your subconscious until the temporary move towards the accented offbeat provides fleeting relief. Continue reading “Review: Volume Contrast Brilliance, 10th Anniversary BIMM Album”

CD Review: Collisions EP ‘Believe in This’

Chances are, you’ll know very quickly whether or not you like the CD Believe in This by Collisions. Their music doesn’t take its time to get to know you, to massage your ego, or gently prod at hidden desires. Instead, the band serves you a harmonious combination of sounds taken from nu-metal and contemporary dance music that could soundtrack a movie like Tron or the next space race. Using a calculated blend of rhythms to drive every song forward, the band’s real strengths are the way they’re able to give this EP a sense of mass, and acceleration. You can feel the weight constantly pressing on your mind, as each section of every track finds some way to ramp up the force. If this is your thing, and you’ll know that very quickly, it’ll leave you breathless and sweating, screaming out chorus lyrics like a medieval battle cry.

Collisions Brighton band

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Review: This Modern Life EP

This Modern Life ArtworkWith their new EP, This Modern Life prove they can deliver a solid collection of commercially accessible rock, carrying an undercurrent of something much deeper than a first listen implies. Self-aware yet unpretentious songwriting is accentuated by passionate playing and playful use of a familiar musical style. The band even hint at this interplay between two worlds with the EP’s artwork, obscuring their drummer’s face behind a monkey mask, forcing a bright grin onto an otherwise grey and uniform picture of a man in front of a garage door.

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Review: Konoba – Mind the Gap

 

Konoba MusikThere are hundreds of directions music could take in the new web wide world. Records like Konoba’s ‘Mind the Gap’ provide an exciting glimpse at a destination any aspiring singer songwriters should be endeavouring towards. It culminates a life’s work. There’re plenty of releases with great songs well performed, but what makes this stand out is a production style that’s unique to one man.

Konoba (real name Raphael Esterhazy) is a native French speaking, Belgian born architecture student. He took the chance to travel to London to study music, then to Brighton to study production, and then brought the two worlds together with a playful flair that demonstrates the huge potential for a creating with a home studio.

The album kicks off with the track ‘Everything is Everything’ and a few bars of a hard edged industrial loop, made using a sample of a broken printer. The minimalism of the opening bars opens up to a flowing acoustic guitar part and a warm vocal; a whole chorus from one voice. He uses the studio and the technology as another instrument in itself, made up of smaller individual sounds, but ultimately built into the track in a way that gives it a voice of its own.

Breathing life into technology the way Konoba has managed to on this is no small task. It means creating an extension of an idea that has been explored before in the music of people like Radiohead: how do you express emotion through technology? ‘Mind the Gap,’ explores this, perhaps unconsciously, and provides a very strong argument that technology doesn’t hinder the pursuit of true expression. In his own words: “There’s a lot you can these days with a little bit of equipment, if you know how to use it.”

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