Wednesday, 13 June 2012

2econd Class Citizen - The Small Minority

Timing is everything when it comes to music. Six months ago I don't think I even would have given 2econd Class Citizen a moment of my time but in the midst of my current ambient, electronica, dubstep, whatever you want to call it binge, 'The Small Minority' seems to fit in perfectly.

Terrible name aside (well, not so much terrible name but that 2 is god awful) and stomach churning bad album artwork, 'The Small Minority' in part goes where many wouldn't dare to and does so through diversity. While artists like RJD2 and DJ Shadow have done the hip-hop or trip-hop thing to death, and successfully may I add, 2econd Class Citizen brings that style to the forefront adding an ambience many will have heard on Four Tet's last release 'There Is Love In You', and the almost soulful mainstream vocal style that made artists like Burial so popular. That isn't what sets 2econd Class Citizen aside in a genre already full with spellbinding artists though. What sets 2econd Class Citizen apart is this added to the natural, organic folk influence that Aaron Thomason surely picked up during his upbringing in the rural parts of England.

'The Small Minority' isn't for everyone. It isn't middle of the road, yet at the same time it isn't brash and in your face. What it is, is often trip-hop, folk, hip-hop, electronica, interesting and above all, never failing to be challenging. One of my surprise listens of the year, I beg you to check this album out.


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Rumer - Boys Don't Cry

So, somehow I have managed to avoid anything involving Rumer up until this point. I don't know whether that was intentional, or whether it's because I have this strange innate habit of switching channels anytime something dreary that my nan might listen to comes onto Jools Holland.

'Boys Don't Cry' is the second album from Rumer coming after the highly successful 'Seasons of my Soul' and is a collection of (it's here that I shudder) covers of seventies songs. Now, to be honest the whole cover album thing isn't so bad, done to death yes, but if you do something new with the music and don't croon along like say Rod Stewart these days then you can get away with it - just. Okay, 'Boys Don't Cry' is hardly Rod Stewart churning milk from the cash cow, but at the same time it's so very safe, so very middle ground, and well, just so bloody nice that I honestly can't stand it.

Music is so bloody brilliant. It is able to empower people, change lives, excite and bring its listener to its knees. With 'Boys Don't Cry' Rumer is only doing one thing; lulling me to sleep.


Monday, 11 June 2012

I Am Oak - Nowhere or Tammensaari

So many have claimed that advancements in music technology have allowed for people to create music that wouldn't have been able to before which has lead to an oversaturated market drowned in unlistenable non-talent. When music critics say this though, they clearly haven't heard I Am Oak, the brainchild of Thijs Kuijken who creates music gloriously minimalist folk from the comfort of his own bedroom.

Latest album, 'Nowhere Or Tammensaari' flirts with the idea of folk from the off with opener 'Famine', with its strummed guitar at the forefront alongside sombre and often haunting vocals. That isn't to say that I Am Oak are folk per se, after all songs like 'Drooom' have deep thrashings of distortion clanging in the distance that you would perhaps find in a noise band, and 'Vares Vares' vocally flirts with a foreign-slash-English exchange which while indescribable in terms of meaning is interesting to say the least.

It's true, music is over-saturated. I get sent dozens of CDs and review requests and half the time the music isn't even well rehearsed. Bedroom music can go so very wrong, but every once in a while you find a gem of an album and you realise how important it is that everyone has the ability to create and record music if they want. I Am Oak's 'Nowhere Or Tammensaari' is this gem of an album and I am so glad I have been able to listen to it. You will be too, so sort it.


Sunday, 3 June 2012

Some bands are destined to be on the fringes of popularity trends within music. Douglas Robinson must have found himself increasingly toeing the line of the 'emo' craze with his previous band, Victory Record signed, The Sleeping. After the split of The Sleeping, Robinson quickly brushed himself off and got straight back into the ‘game’. I caught up with the now Night Verses vocalist to ask him about his new band and the reasons behind releasing their debut EP for free via their website, while being treated to an honest account on genres, the music scene today and to quite frankly be left in awe of a musician clearly passionate in his new band.

Hello, for those who don't know you can you explain who you are, and how you came to be?

I'm Douglas Robinson and I am the vocalist for Night Verses.

Long story short.... I had moved out to Hollywood and wound up attending a show out there where the band happened to be playing. I had moved to clear my head, regroup my thoughts and get away from music for a bit at a point in my life where things just weren't going well.

A mutual friend had asked me to attend a show he put together and despite every bone in my body wanting to decline the invitation, I swallowed my stubbornness and headed out to the show. I saw the band play instrumentally and I was hooked. Watching them was one of the most changing experiences I have had in a long time. I can say it was a big part of my restoration in music.

You said that when you first saw the band they were vocal-less. At what point did the band see vocals as necessary, and were you always first choice?

There were other singers before myself but they just never seemed to work out for the band. Despite all of the troubles the band kept going through, they continued to write for the pure sake of music and wanting to better themselves. Most bands would have called it quits if they had gone through what these three have went through. But... they kept going and here we are.

After bands split usually their members feel the need to have a break from music. What has compelled you to get back to making music so quickly after The Sleeping, and what was it about this band that drew you to wanting to sing for them?

Well, The Sleeping was still active when I had moved away from NY. It was rough on all of us because we (The Sleeping) were just about to record our final record, 'The Big Deep' when I decided to disconnect myself. That was definitely my break from music.

Once I moved away, things started coming back together for me. I started to get inspired again and that's why so much of 'The Big Deep' is about running away from your problems and coming back around to face them. Anyway, we started touring off of 'The Big Deep' and I had reconnected with (Night Verses) Nick, Aric and Reilly at one of the shows out in California. We spoke about the future and shortly after that is when we started sending music back and forth for ideas and whatnot.

The Sleeping was still active and everyone knew I was working with these new musicians but I was still holding myself from fully moving forward. So, once The Sleeping amicably called it quits is when it finally gave me a sense of closure and that's when Night Verses started moving forward one hundred percent.

You are releasing your debut EP, Out of the Sky, for free via your website. What are the reasons behind this?

We want to show the people what we are about. Music is our passion and our whole being. So, we wanted to give away our first batch of songs to let everyone know that this music is here for all of you and it's going to shine through all of the insincerity that's out there right now. We want the whole world to know that you don't have to follow specific genres, dramas or trends to bring your music to attention. We want to be a band that changes the game because we believe music needs a change. We want people to remember music for its messages and vibes. We want to bring the regime of musical dramas and insincere trends to its knees.

The production on the EP is just mind blowing. Can you tell us anything about the recording process, and how it may have differed to your recording experiences previously?

Everything differs from past recording experiences. This is a completely new unit and that alone makes the recording process unlike any other. Aside from pushing buttons, playing instruments and any other physical aspect of recording a record, a producer's methods will always differ from the next. Everyone has their own routines, vibes and special tricks up their sleeves. That's one of the factors that make recording such an amazing experience. Recording with Kris Crummett was perfect for us. We really admired his work on Closure In Moscow's 'First Temple' and felt that he can really understand what we are trying to achieve as a band.

I can sit here and go over the whole process with you but it's better to keep all of that a bit of a mystery. Just listen to the EP and catch the vibes for yourself. Thank you for the compliment, by the way.

Like you implied earlier, the band don’t really follow genres. Musically I found it very hard to pin down the EP with its experimental and electronica elements molding with a rock sound. How would you describe the EP's sound and what inspires you all musically?

We don't really know how to describe our sound either. In all honesty, we don't want to describe it.

Music, in our opinion, should never be pinned down. A lot of people spend their time trying to put things into categories and that's when people forget the true message behind music and any art. Art is expression and expression should never be restricted. Personally, I don't listen to something and automatically categorize it nor would I ever want to. I listen to what moves me until something else comes along and brings me to that next point.

As for inspiration, everyday life inspires this band. We are around music twenty four seven and find rhythms, patterns and melodies in everything around us. Whether we are listening to others' music or creating our own we are constantly surrounded by it and wouldn't have it any other way.

There seem to be so many ideas bursting through each song on the EP. How did you approach the song writing process for the EP?

These were some of the band's first songs written before I was in the picture. So, being that I live in NY and they live in CA, they sent the songs to me and I tracked my vocal ideas before we went into the studio.

Nick, Aric and Reilly work very hard to craft the songs but they do it in a very natural and exciting way. I do the same when it's my turn, vocally. We write music because we love it and it's amazing for us because, aside from the excitement, we are bettering ourselves as a unit and as individual musicians.

The same approach goes when we are all in a room together. We just have fun and work non-stop. No one idea is a wrong idea. We adjust things here and there until the song is complete and we enjoy every second of it.

You’ve been on a big indie label previously, but Night Verses self-released this EP, why is this? Are there any plans to sign with a label in the future?

There are big plans for us but it's important to let people know that we will keep going no matter who or what comes along. We are a band because of our love for music.

What are your touring plans? Have there been any thoughts to the band coming to Europe, and more importantly the UK?

We have a show in NYC on June 29th and there are other tours in the works. I could tell you all specifics but it's better to just find out soon enough for yourselves.

Beyond this release are there any plans for another EP or a full length any time soon? And if so, how do you think you will release it, digitally or physically?

We have tons and tons of songs... we are just waiting for the right moments. There will definitely be a full length in the near future. You'll just have to keep an eye out.

Finally, if you only had five words to try and sell the EP what would they be?

"Check it out for yourself"

You can download Night Verses' Out of the Sky for FREE at