Archive | March 2013

soundCHECK 193 – March 28th 2013

Back in 1987, before Bono started travelling everywhere by high horse, U2 were good. Really good. It was a time before the famed Irish rockers traded artistic dignity for toothless, FM-friendly blandarama. Like that sonic dreck-fest Elevation. And, coincidentally or otherwise, their frontman’s narcissistic self-importance had yet to begin its ill-conceived attempts to poke the stratosphere. Yes, it was in this year, 1987, that Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For was released, a song which is now presumably a mainstay of Zoe Belucci’s iPod. For Zoe is a young woman on a quest.

Zoe Belucci was one half of Shade Valley, an acoustic duo from North Devon who regularly enchanted local audiences with bewitching folk-noir circa 2009-2011. Zoe’s latest project sees her lay down the acoustic guitar, rest the vocal cords and take the reins of a brand new record label in London: Chromoza. And in a genre-leap that would make Radiohead wince, Chromoza’s remit is about as far dissevered from the wistful nu-folk of Shade Valley as you could imagine.

Chromoza’s modus operandi is to expose the brightest underground talent from the musical fields of deep house and future disco. The pulsating rhythms and throbbing bass of the former will be familiar to many. But what, exactly, is future disco? Future. Disco. Maybe it fosters illuminating insight into what your unborn children will be crying to at the end of their school prom, while their teachers pretend not to be drunk and rationalise that – to hell with it – it’s okay to be hammered on account of the ceaseless emotional Everests that must be conquered when trying to educate bratty teenagers day in, day out.

No matter. Chromoza have their crosshairs trained on deep house and ‘future disco’. And by jingo they are hellbent on giving aspiring producers the support they need to take their beats and basslines to a wider audience. The new label officially launches on 16th May. If you’d like to submit a demo (or simply find out what future disco is) aim the internet at chromoza.com.

Not all former stalwarts of the local music scene embark on such radical departures. Rhodes Botham, aka Sam Ratcliffe, may have left North Devon for London, but he’s still busily buffing the electronica-framed acoustic ramblings that gave Pickpockets & Skyrockets such a distinctive sound. Rhodes Botham’s new track, Block It Out, is a plinky-plonky paean to quaint electro pop. Charming stuff. Good for a sparkly Sunday morning when you wake up bleary but not unhappy. By which I mean drunk. Listen at soundcloud.com/rhodes-botham.

A little closer to home, North Devon’s finest acoustic musician takes to the stage at Lilico’s in Barnstaple tomorrow evening (Friday 29th). Go watch. Small Town Jones’s tender tales, gritty yet mellifluous vocal delivery and emotive songcraft are compellingly poignant. So much so that after a session on BBC Radio 2, Dermot O’Leary took time out from hugging everyone within eyeshot to label Jones as “annoyingly good.”  It’s the kind of compliment that can catapult a man’s ego toward the heavens.

Where Bono thinks he lives.

CONTACT: Aspiring band or artist? Hate U2? Unsheathe your words and let’s chat. Email jharper[at]northdevonjournal.co.uk or give me 140 of your finest characters @testforpulse.

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soundCHECK 192 – March 21st 2013

Why can’t the people of the internet just learn their lesson?

No sooner are we finally – finally – liberated from the sweaty, senseless clutches of Gangnam Style than another sickeningly disturbing dance craze is sweeping the world: the Harlem Shake. It’s already gone viral. Unsurprising given that it was coughed up by popular culture’s most septic of thought-lungs.

There are key differences between the two moronic miserycasts. In a vicious riposte to the lack of creative interpretation afforded by the tightly regimented moves of Gangnam Style, the Harlem Shake encourages individuality and welcomes silliness. This sees most cohorts ditch rhythm in favour of manic convulsions suggestive of an urgent need for heavy sedation. Well done, society.

Still, it puts paid to the forgotten fear that social networking would reduce humanity to disconnected agorophobes, populated by people who sat in their pants alone all day while peering blank-faced into a computer screen. No, the internet is social lubricant. Today it’s apparently okay to dance like a lobotomised half-wit in the pasta aisle of Tesco as long as someone gives you a thumbs up on Facebook. If aliens are watching us, they will surely soon take pity and bring Armageddon forward a decade or so.

For those of you harbouring some semblance of hope that the internet still has uses other than a playhouse for lunacy, allow Oh Captive to be your tonic. The fierce post-punk four-piece, who hail from Plymouth and Bristol by way of Barnstaple, have released a video for their new song Beds Of Many Ghosts.

The song evinces a band of huge potential. In Tim Kelly, Oh Captive have a frontman whose understated performance throws the spotlight on compelling vocal melodies and a fiercely engaging delivery. Behind that lie talon-sharp guitar hooks, anthemic choruses and a bruising rhythm section – all balanced intelligently and intricately. Paired with the sonic blitzkrieg of first single Abandon & Fold, it’s clear that this is a band to keep a keen eye on.

Captive-ating.

The Beds Of Many Ghosts video is available on YouTube. You can catch Oh Captive at The Louisiana in Bristol tomorrow evening (Friday 22nd).

CONTACT: Extend your binary horns my way and strike me with your local music news. Email jharper[at]northdevonjournal.co.uk or tweet @testforpulse.