BARREN GATES & HARLEY BIRD – Single Review: “Last”

It’s not every day that I get the opportunity to meet a real-life music artist up close and personal, but that was the case this past November, when I had the pleasure of meeting Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter and musician Harley Bird. He and his girlfriend are good friends with my nephew, and came along with him to my home for Thanksgiving dinner. Harley’s as gracious and kind as he is talented and handsome, and we had a great time discussing and sharing music. He’s just released a dark and powerful new single “Last“, in collaboration with L.A.-based music producer Barren Gates, which I’m thrilled to feature today.

Harley Bird
Harley Bird

A native of L.A., Harley has been involved with music for many years. He has a beautiful voice and undeniable charisma that make him a successful artist who’s very much in demand. He started out honing his craft by busking on the streets, and was the front man for alt-rock band The Shadow Heist from 2014-16. But his career really took off after he posted his cover of a song he recorded on Instagram. An electronica music producer who saw the post reached out to him about working together on his song that needed lyrics and vocals. Once they released that song, some of the music producer’s peers reached out to Harley about doing collaborations with them, and things spread like wild fire from there. Over the past four years, Harley’s worked with other musicians and producers both in the L.A. area and across the globe on scores of songs that have collectively racked up over 45 million streams on Spotify.

Barren Gates
Barren Gates

Barren Gates (aka Brandon Lutowsky) is a highly accomplished and prolific electronic music producer and composer who’s also collaborated with numerous other artists on more than 40 songs and remixes. He and Harley previously worked together on their songs “Tomorrow” and “S.O.S.”, and “Last” is their latest collaboration. Barren arranged and produced the song, while Harley wrote the lyrics and melodies, played piano and sang vocals. The song has been released through the indie label Valiant Records.

The song opens with the sounds of Harley’s haunting piano chords, then quickly expands into an ominous and captivating soundscape of dark, spooky synths. Eventually, Barren injects a deep, grinding trap beat into the mix, taking the track into even darker territory. At about 1:17, the beats stop and the music calms back down to an interlude of the dark, reverby synths and bewitching piano keys we heard earlier. The music gradually swells, once again exploding into a repeat of the heavy, crushing trap beats that continue through to the end of the song.

With a vulnerable urgency in his breathy vocals, Harley lays bare his soul to a woman he’s strongly attracted to, fearing she may be toying with his emotions in order to use him, but hoping that perhaps her intentions are sincere: “Draw us in and kick us out. Girl you look so fuckin’ proud. Should I stay or should I go? I’ve gotta chase, I’ve gotta know. / I know I’m not the first guy to try tonight. But maybe I’ll be your last.” It’s a brilliant and stunning track.

Connect with Harley Bird: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple MusicYouTube

Connect with Barren Gates: FacebookTwitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / SoundcloudApple Music

NOTELLE – Single Review: “Beyond the Grave”

notelle-BTG

Nashville, Tennessee-based Notelle is a hard-working and talented music artist who, over the past five years or so, has been making quite a name for herself in the music capital and beyond. Working with DJs and music producers around the globe as both a writer and vocalist, her collaborations have accumulated more than six million streams on Spotify, have been featured on numerous Spotify and Apple playlists, and received over four million plays on YouTube, as well as coverage on Sirius XM Radio and EDM.com.

More recently, Notelle has been focusing on her solo career, spending the past year perfecting her sound – which she calls “heavy, messy pop” – with the assistance of producer Timothy Ryssemus of Altru Creative. Combining her love for dirty, chest-compressing low end and rhythmic, percussive synths with her gorgeous commanding vocals, she’s thus far created five superb singles that really showcase her musical gifts. Her stunning debut solo single,“Power”, premiered on local Nashville radio station Lightning 100’s The 615, while her third single “Out Of Love” was selected as a DJ pick and placed in regular rotation.

At the end of August, Notelle dropped her latest single, “Beyond The Grave“, where she explores a grittier, harder sound than her previous works. Straying from traditional song structures, she fuses elements of Appalachian folk melodies with driving industrial synths and deep bass, producing a dark and dramatic soundscape for her haunting vocals.

The track opens with her soft, breathy a capella vocals, then deep, pulsating bass and strong, percussive beats ensue, creating an ominous, yet incredibly seductive vibe. At about 1:20, the bass drops and a throbbing EDM beat grabs us by the hips, compelling us to move while Notelle’s vocals turn more urgent as she implores: “I find darkness so comforting. It hides the shadows I beg not to see again. Let me be your prey or virtue. If you leave me, let me grieve you. Sweetest love is the love we take. I’ll hold you from beyond the grave.” It’s a brilliant and beautiful track.

About the song’s lyrics, Notelle explained I have always been attracted to folklore about tragic love and loss. There is something about a ‘haunting’ that appeals to me. The idea that your longing for someone else can become so ingrained into your soul, that when your body passes on, the severity of the love and the loss stays behind and lingers – that’s so unbelievably interesting. It’s become a piece of your being. It’s almost as if there is no separation between what you feel and who you are, no way to disassociate from someone else’s crippling desperation for you or your desire for them…even after you’re gone. How can such an intense connection with another soul NOT leave some type of divine mark? Just because desire isn’t tangible, doesn’t mean it can’t take on a life of its own – maybe it gets stuck in some tragic loop in the afterlife.

To learn more about Notelle, check out her website
Connect with her on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on  Spotify / Soundcloud Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes / Google Play

CHEDDR – Album Review: “Three Sheets: To the Wind”

Cheddr is the music project of Jeff Hines, a talented and innovative composer and producer of electronic music. Based in the state of Connecticut, Jeff has written and played music for over 20 years. But recent improvements in the technology of music production have enabled him to work on this music anytime and anywhere, which has in turn led him to become extremely prolific over the past year, recording and releasing numerous singles, albums and EPs. He released Bear Beat Vol. 1 in October 2017, and Bear Beat Vol. 2 in May 2018, then quickly followed with Three Sheets: To the Wind a few weeks later. In August he dropped yet another EP For the Skies, but I will be reviewing Three Sheets: To the Wind.

Cheddr image

Influenced by Tycho, Bonobo, Emancipator, Gramatik, Ratattat and Madeon, Jeff likes to think of him self as a post rock composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. Encouraged by recognition he’s received from independent music supporters from around the world, he’s continued to produce increasingly more advanced and complex music, which has been featured on music programs in the U.S., UK and Germany.

Before getting into Three Sheets: To the Wind, let me state right here that, though I’ve written about a number of artists who create electronic music, I’m far from being an expert about it and all its microgenres, which can get pretty esoteric and abstract. It seems the more I read about it, the more confused I become, but I’ll try my best to sound like I know what I’m talking about.

The track listings differ between Spotfy, Soundcloud, Bandcamp and iTunes, but I’ll discuss them in the order they appear on Soundcloud for the convenience of my readers. Cheddr kicks off the album with “Falling Into You,” a rather brooding but bewitching chillwave track with fuzzy, almost spacey synths overlying a deep bass-driven beat. Sparkling piano keys and soaring string synths are gradually added, transporting us into a dreamy soundscape we’re hesitant to leave.

As the second track “Unification Theory” envelops my eardrums, I’m struck by his skill at drawing out such interesting and exquisite sounds from his synthesizers, and weaving them together into gorgeous chord progressions and captivating melodies. The intricate sequenced piano and lush strings are breathtaking, and he adds lots of assorted otherworldly synths and deep bass to create a complex and stunning track that’s one of my favorites on the album.

The mesmerizing “Our Hearts are Beating Together” features sampled electronically altered female and male vocals, in a style that Cheddr states are “hypnagogic, approaching vaporwave.” (According to Wikipedia, vaporwave is defined by its appropriation of 1980s and 1990s mood music styles such as smooth jazz, R&B and lounge music, and typically involving sampling or manipulating tracks via chopped and screwed remixing techniques.) In addition to the vocals that chant the title words “Our hearts are beating together,” the track features glittery sequenced piano and lush synths.

Cheddr’s lovely sparkling pianos are a dominant element on the next three chillwave tracks. On “You’ll See,” he adds extra layers of delicate piano over the main riff, along with fuzzy, almost psychedelic-sounding synths. “Reach In” features a throbbing bass line and a mix of glittery and siren-like synths, and “The Winding Road” is brimming with pulsating wobbly synths and lots of plucky strings.

The trippy “Vapors” is the most experimental track on the album. It starts off with a similar vibe as most of the other tracks, with chill piano chords and delicate xylophone synths set to a languid beat, but gradually, Cheddr introduces quirky distorted and spacey synths that change the complexion of the song to one of discordance and unease, as if to symbolize having ‘the vapors.’ It’s a beautiful song nevertheless. The final track “Understory” has a solemn vibe, with a somber piano riff that continues throughout the song. At approximately one minute in, dark synths are added, then a rat-a-tat tat drumbeat kicks in. More synths are added as the pace quickens, then we’re hit with a brief flourish of mournful distorted electric guitar before the track closes with the same somber piano riff that opened the song.

I’ve listened to a lot of Cheddr’s music, and though I do like his Bear Beat Vol. 1 and 2 albums, I feel he really takes things to the next level on Three Sheets: To the Wind. His piano-driven melodies are glorious and more fully-developed, and I love all the lush and varied synths that he uses to create different moods, sometimes within the same song. If you like electronic music, this is an album you should add to your collection.

Connect with Cheddr:  Website / Facebook / Twitter
Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

INFECTED SUN – Mini EP Review: “Summer Nights”

Infected Sun, aka Justin Stephens, is a prolific DJ/producer of electronic House music based in Ipswich, UK. He covers a wide range of styles, including Deep House, Chill House, Chill Step, Trap, Trip Hop and Lounge, though his preferred style is Deep House. He only started producing music in early 2016, but is already signed to two labels – Blue Coffee Records and GM Records. And during that little more than two-year time period, he’s produced an impressive output of music, both as a solo artist and in collaboration with other talented artists, including Samantha, Melissa Marks, CocoaRed, Justin Kayser, Rachel Leach, Justinas Stanislovaitis and Vizualye, among others. One of his latest releases is the Mini EP Summer Nights, featuring two stellar Deep House tracks “Warm Summer Nights” and “House Jacking.”

Infected Sun pic

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t fully understand the defining characteristics and nuances of the various types of House music. I know some of it has to do with the number of beats per minute (bpm), number and/or speed of breakdowns, and how different instrument sounds such as bass, keys or drums are utilized and emphasized. But I pretty much like them all, as long as the songs move me in some way. If the melodies are compelling, the beats interesting, and the music pleasing and/or exciting, I’m happy. And that feeling applies to virtually every Infected Sun track I’ve heard – and I’ve listened to more than 25 of them!

The two tracks on Summer Nights certainly meet all my criteria for what constitutes good House music. “Warm Summer Nights” lives up to its title, with sultry synths and a groovy bassline set to a sensual, hypnotic drum machine loop. The sparkling keys and airy synths that enter halfway through are sublime, making for a gorgeous soundscape that evokes a night filled with the promise of passion. It’s a stunning track.

“House Jacking” has a bit of a tech-house vibe, with a slightly faster bpm. Once again, Infected Sun employs a drum machine loop to create an immersive dance beat, accompanied by smooth synths that continue throughout the track. This time around, though, he uses a plucked bass sound to drive the song forward. Along with the delicate, rather psychedelic organ synths, they’re the dominant features of this superb track.

Infected Sun also hosts the Friday Night House Sessions, a two-hour Deep House show he runs every two weeks on Facebook Live at 7:30 pm GMT. He’s often joined by other special guest DJs like DJ JerryS and DJ Embrace. It’s an enjoyable show, so check it out if you’re into House music.

Connect with Infected Sun:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Beatport
Purchase on  iTunes / junodownload