Archive | September 2015

soundCHECK 317 – September 17th 2015

Back when I was in North Devon College, busily failing my Geography AS Level, my tutors would frequently warn students off referencing online content in essays. They did this with such apoplectic fervour that I often wondered if their aversion for the www might bring on a full blown aneurysm. In fact that’s probably why I didn’t have time to ruminate on the driving factors behind coastal erosion along the east of England. (Turns out “THE SEA” isn’t a satisfactory answer.)

No, doing your research online was frowned upon. Powerfully. By the time I got to Cardiff University, the educational overlords were a little more accepting of the web. But referencing online articles in essays was still seen as a bottom-rung type of a thing. A Blue Nun reference when you could have found a Malbec in the University library.

Times, I hope, have changed. Sure, there’s an ocean-load of dreck to swim through when your surf goes down a dead end. There always will be. But the era of self-publishing online has given countless researchers the opportunity to broadcast pioneering, boundary-smashing studies that drive academia forward, rather than holding it back.

It’s the same with music. These days a bunch of mates can form a band and release an EP online within the same month. The lack of censorship or quality control – as with online content – means there’s an awful lot of aural effluent out there. But there’s no doubt that self-releasing artists make music richer, not poorer.

If you don’t believe me, let’s use North Devon singer-songwriter Kiera Osment as a case in point. I’m running out of words to describe her. A prodigious talent, armed with a remarkable appreciation for songwriting and a stirring, soulful, sombre voice. She’s fifteen-years old, yet streets ahead of pinchbeck chart-toppers. At fifteen I think I was still eating Play-doh; Osment is making some of the most hauntingly beautiful music I’ve heard.

Young Osment has been steadily building a growing number of keen followers, frothing with superlatives, by publishing her demos at soundcloud.com/kieraosment and blogging about her progress. Now she has a brand new video for the song Dolls House to share. (Watch it: YouTube or kieraosmentmusic.com.) The point is that none of this would be possible without self-publishing. So, teachers: it turns out the www isn’t so bad after all. Because without it, the world wouldn’t know about Kiera Osment.

In a roundabout way, I think that excuses me from being terrible at Geography.

CONTACT: Send your music news and coastal erosion questions to: jharper[at]northdevonjournal.co.uk | @testforpulse

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soundCHECK 316 – September 10th 2015

I like pie. A decent pie can make a bad day good. The arrival of a piping hot pie says: Do you know what, Jamie? Things are going to be okay! It’s an arm around the shoulder; an arm that’s covered in pastry. If you are ever uncertain about what to have for dinner, you should have a serious think about choosing pie. Hearty. Comforting. Homely.

Such is my affection for pie that I once signed a petition entitled: ‘Make wrongly describing a casserole with a pastry lid as a pie a criminal offence’. I don’t know if the issue was ever debated in the House of Commons, but even the most right-wing politicians would surely agree that the people of this nation deserve their full pastry quota.

If an amateur pie enthusiast approached me saying they had found a recipe for what many people consider to be one of the best pies ever, I’d jump at the chance to take to the kitchen and recreate it with them. Finding the requisite ingredients and following the hallowed recipe would surely result in something pretty decent.

Songs aren’t pies. That’s why I hate cover bands. There’s nothing good about a bunch of sweaty middle-aged men taking to the musical kitchen and (badly) rehashing songs written by what many people consider to be the best bands ever. The Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, Guns ‘n’ Roses and all the rest of them. Any idiot can copy a song. Writing something original takes talent.

Of course, there are exceptions. Adding your own twist of creativity to a cover makes your proposition as a covers band way more tolerable. Interesting, even. North Devon five-piece Loney know what I’m talking about. They take popular tunes (Sex On Fire by Kings For Leon, Toxic by Britney Ferries) and give them a thorough reworking – adding elements of jazz, funk and soul. The results are often unrecognisable from the original songs – save the lyrics. Fun, right? Right.

You can watch Loney at Lilico’s in Barnstaple on Friday 25th September. There are no pies in Lilico’s, but you could have one at home before you leave. Especially if you put the oven on to pre-heat as soon as you get in from work. It would also be a good idea to make a note in your diary to take an early lunch break on Friday 25th September. That way you will be nice and hungry when you get in from work and you won’t have to rush your pie before going to watch Loney (soundcloud.com/loneyband).

Let me know how you get on.

CONTACT: Let’s duologue: jharper[at]northdevonjournal.co.uk | @testforpulse