KAROLINA ROSE – EP Review: “INVICTA”

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Falling in love with a song or artist the moment you first hear their music is among life’s greatest pleasures – certainly for me anyway. And that is precisely what I felt when I listened to the new EP INVICTA by Karolina Rose. Inspired by the music of artists such as Kate Bush, Debbie Harry, Florence Welch, The Cranberries, David Bowie and Madonna, the Brooklyn, New York-based singer/songwriter writes songs about her own experiences and presents them with beautiful commanding vocals.

Born and raised in Philadelphia to Polish parents, Karolina graduated from the prestigious Wharton Business School and had a successful career on Wall Street, which she ultimately left to pursue her dream of making it as a full-time musician. (I can identify with her life-changing decision to leave behind a successful career for which she spent years of study, as I left my job as a city planner to own and operate a bed & breakfast inn.) She began writing songs on her acoustic guitar, and performing them in clubs in and around New York City, gradually building a loyal following. Realizing she needed to take her music to the next level, she teamed up with Grammy Award wining producer/engineer/mixer Andros Rodriguez (Madonna, Shakira, Florence + the Machine) for her debut EP INVICTA, which dropped on February 1st.

Speaking on the meanings behind the title and theme of INVICTA, Karolina explains: “The word ‘INVICTA’ means unconquered, and is found on the coat of arms of Warsaw (the city where my parents come from), so the title represents my strength and who I am. From quitting my job on Wall Street to having to navigate a brand new industry, there was a lot to learn on the journey towards INVICTA’s creation. Following your truth is not always the easy choice. And for that I call the record INVICTA; it is to say ‘I did it’ and I am ready to fight for what I love.”

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The EP kicks off with the anthemic “Crystal Gem“, a hopeful declaration of Karolina’s determination to pursue her dream, no matter the odds. Backed by shimmering synths and a driving dance beat, she confidently sings: “No one can stop me now, from doing what I want to do. How nice it would be, to be taken care of endlessly. ” The track sounds like a song Katy Perry could have sung, only better. “Love Crazy” is a sultry affair that speaks to how we throw caution and common sense out the window when the pangs of love hit us like a ton of bricks. The track features lush swirling synths and fluttering percussion, creating a beautiful backdrop for Karolina’s fervent vocals that convey the blind passion of falling madly in love, helpless to resist its siren call: “Love, it makes you do crazy things. / Nothing else matters.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Going to Berlin“, a fantastic dance pop anthem that tells the tale of a woman who overcomes heartbreak by going off and jet-setting the world’s greatest cities. Karolina explains: “The concept first came to me when I was hanging at the Russian baths in downtown Manhattan with a good friend discussing her growth and how much she’s changed. She had left an old love behind in Europe to move to NYC and fearlessly follow her dreams. She then, of course, went to Berlin…” I love the throbbing EDM beat and Karolina’s wonderful layered vocals, and this lyric is so good: “She was lip-smacking good. Hold her tight if he could. But he lost her. Regret seeps in. She’s not coming back.”

Downhill” is a slow, moody track filled with powerful sweeping synths and mesmerizing percussion. In an interview with webzine CelebMix, Karolina states that the lyrics speak to the “simultaneous feelings of excitement and fear when pursuing something entirely new and unknown.” She passionately sings “I’m on the edge, lost and found. Can you hear the screaming sounds? We reach the skies before we go downhill.”

A standout track is the sad but beautiful “Goodnight, Mr. Moon“, inspired by Karolina’s experiences of exploring grief through dreams and nightmares. On her Facebook page she explained: “I have suffered from nightmares for many years. I often have hallucinations when I sleep. I wake up and see things in my bedroom or projected onto the walls or something within my room takes a different shape and moves. The first verse of the song takes inspiration from one of my nightmares where I woke up and it literally looked as if the moon was projecting a spotlight onto my wall and it looked like a scene was playing out. It may sound magical, but it was quite frightening. I started coming up with the visualization of someone hallucinating in the middle of the night, bringing back their loved one by talking to Mr. Moon. She communicates with her lost love in the nighttime. She processes her grief through dreams. She thinks it’s real until the end of the song when she wakes up from the dream and knows it’s really time to say goodbye.

The dreamy synths, gentle percussion and her mix of soft and soaring vocals are a perfect match for the poignant lyrics: “How do I get it all back? All the pieces of my heart? How do I get it all back? All the pieces came apart. How do I get you back?

The final track “Move With Me” was actually Karolina’s very first single, which she released two years ago, in February 2017. The song has a wonderful throwback 80s New Wave vibe that’s become so popular again recently. I love the bouncy EDM beat that aims straight for the hips, along with the glittery techno synths that remind me of songs by A-ha and New Order. Karolina’s vocals exude seduction as she implores the object of her desire to quit wasting time and get busy loving her: “Check my pulse. Am I still alive? / Do you know you took me by surprise? Fragile, young love. What will be, will be. Move a little bit faster now. Go a little bit faster now. There’s no time to waste, so baby pick up the pace and move with me.

INVICTA is an outstanding EP that beautifully showcases the impressive songwriting and vocal talents of this very lovely artist. Every track is superb, making for a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. I want to give special thanks to fellow blogger Hasan Bayez of SheBOPS for recommending Karolina. Check out his great blog too!

To learn more about Karolina, check out her Website
Connect with her on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / AmazonBig Cartel

BetaPSI – Single Review: “Psychosomatic”

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BetaPSI is the music project of Italian singer/songwriter/producer Barbara Benedetti. Based in Trieste, BetaPSI (also symbolized by the characters βψ) is a fascinating woman and artist who creates innovative alternative electronic rock music that’s thoroughly unique and unlike anything I’ve heard from any other musician. She provides a wonderful description of herself and her music in her bio that I can’t improve upon, so will just quote her words:

“I am β. an Italian songwriter. I grew up listening to all music genres, I love music itself. Suddenly, around March 2016, all the music I’ve listened to throughout my life, started pushing to get out… so here I am. I still don’t know how it works but my half neuron (I called it ‘Half’) started spiking music and lyrics. So I took my electric guitar and my bass, I bought a micro (micro, very micro) synth, and started torturing them. Then I learnt how Ableton works… it is a long story… the point is I’m a nut and weird so I started making songs. Due to the “features” above mentioned, all BetaPSI songs in some way are different from one another. They are all original songs, written, played with my beloved instruments, performed, recorded and mixed by BetaPSI aka me.”

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She’s also a gracious and generous artist who actively supports other artists, and is always open to working with them to combine their creative talents and produce fresh and exciting music. In her short time making music, she’s already collaborated with several musicians from around the world, including GJART (Spain), thommo (UK) and Vizualye (USA). She has also produced an astonishing output of music in her own right. One of her latest singles is “Psychosomatic“, a darkly thrilling EDM track about mental illness that she released on January 4th.

The song blasts open with an onslaught of grinding industrial synths, then a hypnotic driving beat hooks us in as BetaPSI’s eerie, seductive vocals enter the mix like a siren’s call, pulling us willingly into a swirling vortex of ominous sounds from which we’re powerless to escape. As the track progresses, she adds layers pf pulsating spacey and psychedelic synths and her own spooky echoed backing vocals, further amplifying the already menacing, otherworldly vibe. The result is an impressive EDM track that skillfully conveys the sense of a mind tortured by dark thoughts: “Call the doctor, take a pill. There’s no cure, the mind is ill.”

Have a listen to this brilliant song as you watch the great video she made to go with it:

Connect with BetaPSI on FacebookTwitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Deezer

Interview with UK Musician David Oakes

David Oakes

David Oakes is a fine (he hates when I say ‘talented’) musician and composer of electronic alternative rock music based in Wales, UK. In the early 2000’s, he was drummer with the British rock band Kotow, and since 2012 he’s produced a tremendous output of instrumental music as a solo artist, ranging from gentle synth-driven compositions to aggressive guitar-driven hard rock, and everything in between. In early May, he released his latest album TheMENACE, which I reviewed and you can read here. It’s a brilliant work that’s actually a double album, with the first containing 11 tracks, most with vocals, and the second being an instrumental-only version, plus two bonus tracks not found on the first.

I recently had a chat with David about his music background, influences and creative process.

1. Hello David. Thank you for wanting to talk with me about your music. You and I have spoken a bit in the past about your background, but for the sake of our readers, let’s touch on that again. You now live in Wales, but were born in England, then spent part of your childhood and early teen years in the Middle East. Living in Dubai must have been interesting, or at least an unusual experience I would think. What positive or negative things did you come away with?

Yes! I moved there when I was two so obviously I don’t remember relocating there. I remember a couple of the houses we lived in – mostly the 3rd one which is very strong in my memory. I can recall it in detail. We lived very near the sea and would go camping in the desert at the weekend. I had a little 50cc PW50 motorcycle that I drove everywhere :). It took me a very very long time to get over moving to the UK.

2.  Why is that?

Hot 365 and living by the beach, etc. to … Wales… Camping in the desert at the weekend, dune bashing to … oh, nothing.

3. At what age did you start playing guitar, or other instruments? I remember you saying you attended a music institute in England after you moved back there with your family. What did you study there?

We had an electric piano in the house from around 1988 and I taught myself stuff on that. Eventually I got my own keyboard and I was off. I played it every day and wrote my own albums onto cassettes. I don’t have any of them anymore. They wouldn’t have sounded very professional. I even bought card from the newsagent and printed out artwork onto them and chopped them into cassette sleeve size. You can see the lineage all the way back . The only difference to what I do now is I don’t print out my own artwork. Everything else is the same – the tech has just improved. I went to ACM (Academy of Contemporary Music) in Guildford in 2009 for 3 years to study guitar and music theory. I passed all my exams but I never attempted my dissertation so I never got the qualification.

4. You formed a rock band called Kotow with your brother and another friend, and released a pretty decent album “Demise of the Monsters.” How or why did you guys choose that band name, and how long was Kotow an active band? 

Rich wanted a Japanese name and so looked in a Japanese dictionary and found “Kotow” meaning to bow or acquiesce… We all liked the name. We formed around February 2002, whilst I was going back and forth to the city (Cardiff) to study music production on a “New Deal” course under the Labour Gov which lasted from 1997 until around 2004. Anyway – since Dad had re-married – they moved out of the house and the whole band lived in our big farmhouse so we could write and rehearse all day every day. After moving to the London area in 2004 or so, we realised that nobody really cared and got fed up with it and we split in 2006. 

5. I believe you played drums for Kotow. Tell me about your experiences playing in a band – both good and bad if you care to go there. Why did the band eventually split up?

You know me, I have no ego but I did believe we were the best band in south Wales. When we moved to London, nobody gave us the time of day and we all got tired of it. Plus I wasn’t happy with the direction our music was taking. My main thing was to write catchy riffs in odd time signatures and do my best to come up with complimentary drum parts. I’d get annoyed if I couldn’t play for the song and could only think of something ordinary. We liked being unconventional. We lost two guitarists for one reason or another and we got a new guy who was great, but he and Rich wanted us to sound more like the tech bands at the time and I really wanted to stick to our original ethos of being unlike anyone else. Oh well.

6. You obviously wanted to continue making music after Kotow ended. I know some of your favourite bands are Dream Theater, Mastodon, Green Day and Metallica, so am guessing your sound is greatly influenced by their music? 

I expect so. Not directly or deliberately. I just write music and what comes out, comes out. Exactly the same process as Kotow. I like making albums of different genres and styles since I listen to a lot of different genres and styles. I couldn’t imagine being in one of those metal bands who sound exactly like everyone else and only listen to that music. Boring.

7. When did you record your first solo album?

“The Juggernaut” in 2012. It was originally supposed to be the follow up to “Demise Of The Monsters” and Rich would play bass and sing and I’d produce since he’d done almost all the work on DOTM. I merely played guitar on that album. Since I’d never attempted a “proper” professional sounding album before and had only limited experience with Logic – I worked on it every day for about 6 – 8 months. I still enjoy it to this day but I think I’ve done better and I learn something new with each album I do.

8. You’ve been fairly prolific, recording and releasing quite a few albums and compilations over the past few years, several of which I’ve purchased. What inspires you to create a new album with a specific theme and sound?

I don’t like to create the same album twice in a row…So if I do a hard rock album I definitely won’t do one again as it kinda wears me out when working on an album. “Transmissions” was songs I wrote when I was learning guitar and some of those songs had been fully formed in my head for many many years until I could finally record them properly. “Transmission Part 1 & 2” was completely written and I had it all worked out in my head and even recorded a version of it way back in 1997 or so on my Dad’s 2-track reel-to-reel machine.

Every time I start an album I have to come up with something great first. That’s the springboard. If I like an idea – that’ll be the blueprint for the album. I could never just write 8 -10 random songs and that’ll do. None of my albums are fully fledged concept albums but I try to imagine they are. . . As I’ve said in the past – I like albums to sound/feel like *albums* and not just Here’s 10 tracks I wrote in any order…

Even if the idea doesn’t end up lasting the whole album – the initial idea is usually enough impetus. With “Strum Und Drang” I’d been listening to the 21st Anniversary of Leftfield’s “Leftism” pretty much on repeat and wanted to do something inspired by that. I pretty much listened to nothing but Leftfield’s three albums for the summer of 2017 and wrote at the same time. “The Menace” seemed to be the next logical step.

9. Your latest effort “The Menace” is one of your finest. Some of your previous works contained a few dark tracks, but most of the songs were more melodic, almost orchestral rock like that of Dream Theater. Also, for the first time you added lyrics and vocals. You told me it’s a loose concept album, and that you kept the lyrics intentionally vague, but what was your inspiration behind “The Menace” and it’s dark theme? Also, what made you decide to add a vocal component?

Thank You. I had so much fun making “Sturm Und Drang” that I wanted to do another in that style but – as I said at the time – I wanted it “tougher and harder sounding.“ One of the few times that the album has pretty much turned out exactly how I envisioned from the beginning. Once I had “ The Slammer “ – I knew I was onto something. Loose concept album in that…I didn’t intentionally write lyrics to mean anything – I just had my microphone there – played the track and improvised some stuff until I found something I liked.

After a while I realised all the improvs could be about a few things. Notably the “MeToo” movement, #45… all of these things that were going on in the news at the time. Completely subconsciously. Only the final two tracks “Finale Part I and II” I wrote to tie up this theme. All other lyrics are improvised. And yeah I kept it intentionally vague as I’ve never wanted to align myself with any party or politics or anything and I was not a fan of Kotow’s Anti-President Bush EP. I never wanted to be a political band – one of the other factors that led to our break up. As for vocals – people kept pestering me to include them and I thought if I do it, I’m gonna distort the crap out of them… Which I did on “The Slammer”. But as the album went on, I got more confident and I turned the distortion further and further down. I think I’ll do vocals again should I do another album at some point… Probably same style too.

10.  Besides my glowing review, what has been the response to The Menace?

Thank you! Well – same as ever. A few RTs from music accounts and a few more people saying they like it but nothing amazing really. About the same as it was for “Sturm Und Drang” or “The Dawn And The Dusk.” *shrug*

11. That leads me to the next question. You and I have shared our own frustrations over the lack of support from a majority of our so-called ‘followers’ on social media, who rarely if ever engage with our tweets, postings, etc. But in today’s music industry, an artist or band (or just about any other creative person) is all but forced to use social media to get people to learn about their music, unless they’re willing or able to hire an expensive publicist. Any thoughts about this?

Interesting subject since my degree course dissertation was basically gonna be all about this. “Do we need big recording studios now that people are making pro albums in their bedrooms“ etc etc… I THINK that the Internet has ruined a lot of music. Shops are closing because people are buying everything online, and it’s so hard to stand out when everyone and their dog has a band and a Bandcamp and a Soundcloud. It’s like whispering in a hurricane… And I’m not smart enough to think of some cool promo gimmick. And whenever I think I have something, it never works so…

12. Do you have any plans for a future album, or will you take a long break?

Ya know it speaks for itself – when I was putting out albums every month that I’d recorded in a week – the quality was dipping. You know how I feel about “Imaginary film soundtrack .“ I was so disappointed with it, I actually paid to have it taken down. I know I rushed it and it shows. I still cannot listen to it. Starting with “Juggernaut III” and then continuing with “Sturm Und Drang” and now “The Menace,” I’ve taken my time to craft an album over many months. Take a break..come back…listen to it….fix/adjust anything…etc. And as a result, those three albums I mentioned have a little extra going for them. I’m actually a huge fan of “The Dawn & The Dusk”. Its one of my favourite things I’ve done. And I seem to remember taking my time with that one too so… “The Menace” is still very fresh to me. It was released on May 4 – eight months after “Sturm Und Drang.” I’m not even thinking about another album and probably won’t until winter. I mentioned to someone once that i’d like to take a year to release an album at some point. Maybe I will for the next one. It won’t be a double though. I’d like to get down to doing only one album a year.

13. Anything else you’d like to share that I’ve neglected to ask?

I think that the “Sturm Und Drang” and “The Menace” “style” will be my default setting from now on. They were both really fun to create and I actually plan on buying a midi keyboard to make composing a lot easier.

I know James Lauters (a very supportive mutual friend of David’s and mine) likes the what I call the X&Y series. And I may do another one eventually but it would have to be really chilled out. Like “Dawn And The Dusk” but even more chilled. Lots more acoustic. Basically the exact opposite of “The Menace.”

Cheers !

Enjoy this guitar play-through by David of “The Monster,” one of many great tracks from The Menace.

Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on  iTunes

DAVID OAKES – Album Review: “TheMENACE”

David Oakes is a talented musician and composer of electronic alternative rock music based in Wales, UK. In the early 2000’s, he was a guitarist with the British rock band Kotow, for who he also played drums when they performed live shows. Over the past five years or so, he’s produced a tremendous output of instrumental music as a solo artist, ranging from gentle synth-driven compositions to aggressive guitar-driven hard rock, and everything in between. His latest effort, which officially drops today, is TheMENACE, a brilliant album that’s easily his best work yet.

David Oakes

I’ve gotten to know David over the past couple of years, and featured him on this blog in 2016. He’s a huge fan of Dream Theater, Mastodon, Metallica and Green Day, all of whom have been major influences on his music. He’s also a perfectionist and his own biggest critic, and reworks his tracks until he feels they’re just right. It’s been fun watching his creative process unfold and albums take shape as he shared his demos with me and a small group of friends who follow him on Twitter, asking us for feedback as they were being recorded. We’ve all enjoyed the songs he’s created the past few years, but were collectively blown away by the tracks that are included on TheMENACE. He really poured everything he had into this album, and it shows.

David explained his intention in creating this album: “The Menace is a very loose concept. I kept it intentionally vague and a lot of the guitar parts are very similar on purpose. As you know I like an album to feel like an ALBUM and not ‘Here’s 10 random songs in no particular order.‘” The tracks are darker and more aggressive than many of his previous compositions, which is appropriate given the album’s title, and for the first time he’s added distorted vocals, giving the songs even greater impact and depth. Regarding the lyrics, David stated: “Weirdly – none of the lyrics were planned out. But, as time went on I realised that nearly all of the lyrics could be about #45 (our awful President Trump – my words). Purely by accident. I guess it got in there subconsciously. But the lyrics are so vague that they could be about a lot of things.”

The Slammer (Intro)” kicks off TheMENACE with ominous synths that immediately set the album’s dark tone. A lone guitar riff ensues, then a powerful hypnotic drumbeat takes over as the synths and guitars gradually build to a crescendo before calming back down. Then it’s a quick segue to “The Slammer“, a hard-driving track that lives up to its title. The frenetic drumbeat, raw synths and barrage of fuzzy guitars are fantastic, and I love David’s heavily distorted gravelly vocals as he drones “Hey what do you see? Is this how it’s going to be? Is this what you want?

The awesome title track “The Menace” has everything I love in electronic rock – layers of multi-textured synths, scorching guitar riffs, and a colossal driving beat that aims straight for the hips. I seriously defy anyone to sit still for this track! David’s heavily distorted vocals have a…well…menacing otherworldly vibe as he chants “You’ve got to go. You’re a menace to society. You’re a menace to everyone.” Though five minutes long, it’s so good that it seems over in an instant

The Monster” has a thumping EDM beat, with loads of gritty synths and intricate gnarly riffs. David employs some pretty impressive vocal gymnastics on this track as he sings “You’ve got a monster in your sights. You gotta make it through the night.” “The Distant Horizon” is one of the darker tracks on the album, with ominous drawn-out synths, very gritty guitars and dirty bass. His distorted vocals have an almost treacherous, seductive quality as he urges self-gratification” “If there’s anywhere you wanna go, just go. If there’s anything you wanna do, just do.” The track would be perfect for a sci-fi movie soundtrack.

David dials it up to full speed on “The Event Horizon.” The song is like a shot of adrenaline, with a frantic, head-bobbing EDM beat, The mysterious synths give the track a bit of an 80’s new wave/techno Depeche Mode vibe, and the guitar work is outstanding. Things get a little funky on the aptly named “Funkotron.” The melody and arrangement on this track are phenomenal, as are the synths and intricate guitar work. And it goes without saying that David’s vocals are terrific. It’s an awesome song, and one of my favorites on the album.

The Resistance” is a hard-driving track with a fast-paced EDM beat that had me doing a lap dance in my chair. The guitars and instrumentals are amazing, as always. With echoed vocals, David defiantly sings “We won’t go down without a fight. / We will keep fighting for our lives.” The Revolution” opens with industrial-sounding synths, then expands into a breathtaking soundscape of brooding, soaring synths and gorgeous chiming and wailing guitars. This instrumental track is a little slice of auditory heaven, and gives me chills every time.

As we near the end of the album, each new track is a new revelation. “The Finale Part 1” opens with gorgeous sweeping synths and jangly guitar that remind me of early Coldplay, then explodes into a rousing fusillade of layered guitars, synths and percussion. David proclaims the end of any emotional commitment: “I don’t need, I don’t need you anymore. I don’t want you, want you anymore. Everything you thought you had is gone. Everything you thought you knew is wrong.”  “The Finale Part 2” is a different interpretation of the song, with more of a new wave/punk vibe, sort of how it might sound if played by A Flock of Seagulls or The Cure.

TheMENACE is a genuine masterpiece from start to finish, and as I stated at the beginning of this review, David’s finest work yet in my opinion. He’s an amazing guitarist, and his skill for using synthesizers to create such incredible melodies and arrangements is impressive. This album is a must-have for anyone who’s a fan of guitar-driven electronic rock music.

TheMENACE is actually a double album, with the second being an instrumental-only version, plus two bonus tracks not found on the first. It’s also available on the streaming and purchase sites listed below. The Kotow album Demise of the Monsters is also available on Spotify.

Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on  iTunes 

EP Review: PUZZLE – “Babylon”

Brazilian born and London-based indie singer/songwriter PUZZLE is on a roll. Handsome and charismatic, he’s also an exceptionally talented artist. Following up on his three excellent singles “Godlike,” “Trial By Fire” and “Comedown,” PUZZLE recently dropped a new four-track EP Babylon, and it’s stunning. With his sublime melodies, infectious electronic beats, and sultry, captivating vocals, he creates luxurious soundscapes that pull you into mysterious and darkly beautiful spaces.

Drawing inspiration for his unique music style from an eclectic mix of artists such as the Pet Shop Boys (who I love), Lauryn Hill and Years & Years, PUZZLE also incorporates high-concept art and fantasy into his music videos and live performances. In an interview with Fault Magazine, he explained “I play a lot of video games … like Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid and I feel like that’s where I tapped into a different world. The same can be said for the fantasy books I read too. It’s all about escapism and opening worlds to people. The world is in constant flux … and I want people to take on those ideas when I make music. Nothing is set in stone and it’s all open to interpretation. It’s not reality, I’m trying to take people to a world of imagination.

PUZZLE

The opening track “Kamikazi” immediately sets a sultry tone for the EP. Beginning with a lovely piano solo, a mesmerizing drumbeat takes over, accompanied by seductive EDM-infused synths. With his sensuous vocals, PUZZLE sings of surrendering to someone who holds control over him, and for whom he feels burning passion: “Oh I refuse to run away, oh run away. Oh I want to feel the flames, let me feel the flames. Kamikazi, in a heartbeat you can take me down.” This is a sexy tune, as is the next track “Eyes Wide Shut.” Slower in tempo and darker in feel, but with even more sensuality, PUZZLE again sings of his passions: “Sweat pours, my heart rate soars as we kiss once more.

Since I wrote this review, PUZZLE released a video for “Kamikazi” that’s as mesmerizing as the song:

Little Black Book” is a catchy, emotionally-charged song about having strong feelings for someone, but fearing you may be nothing more than another number to them. Throbbing bass and swirling, otherworldly synths make this an incredibly compelling track. PUZZLE fervently sings: “I’m so caught up in this race. I’ll never be the first name. ‘Cause your list is too long, oh in your little black book.” The track has also been released as a single.

The creative and highly artistic video for the song is a positively breathtaking feast for the senses. In addition to the fantastic song, everything about it is gorgeous: the videography, computer-generated imagery, editing and – not least of all – PUZZLE himself. Take a look:

The final track “Realign” is so beautiful it raises goosebumps. Lush, sweeping synth chords, anchored by heavy bass, create a powerful instrumental over which PUZZLE’s enchanting vocals smolder and soar with great emotional intensity. This is my favorite track on the EP though, quite frankly, all of them are outstanding. I strongly recommend Babylon to fans of electronic music or, for that matter anyone who simply likes great music!

To learn more about PUZZLE, check out his website, and connect with him on  TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, and stream his music on Soundcloud and Spotify. Babylon and his other music can be purchased on  iTunes and other sites offering music for download.

 

Album Review: RANDOM… – “Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness”

I recently discovered a composer/producer of Electronica music who goes by the artistic name Random… (Random dot dot dot) when he reached out to me to consider his upcoming album Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness. Hailing from Rotherham, England, Random… creates multi-textured synthesized music that ranges from dark and politically topical to catchy EDM. With contributions from two poets – Gav Roberts and Wayne Dyson, along with guitarist Mr Jiggs – Random… recorded the ambitious 11-track album.

In his own words, ‘Random… is reclusive, innovative and slightly insane. Those lucky enough to have met him will testify that his view of the world is warped, dark, but always entertaining.‘ He calls his particular style IDM – Intelligent Dance Music.

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Most of the songs on the album have a mysterious, otherworldly vibe achieved through the use of complex melodies, discordant multi-layered synths, repetitive beats and spoken poetic vocals. The albums opens with the deeply compelling track “Put All Weapons Down.” The song is a call for peace and letting go of hate that keeps us in a permanent state of war – whether it be with others or within ourselves. It opens with dark, cacophonous sounds, then to wobbly, textured synths, Gav Roberts admonishes us to ‘put all weapons down.’ The lyrics are a litany of weapons we use to hurt others. Here are a sampling:

If your weapon is contained within the ink within your pen, set it down and rethink your motivation for writing.

If they be guns, take your finger from the trigger, empty the bullets onto the ground where you stand, put it down and step away.

Unstrap the bombs from your heart, go back and question the peaceful god who commands you to do this. Put all weapons down.

If you use god as your weapon, whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu or any other, do not speak to them anymore, or if you speak do not place your hate on them, then pretend that it was theirs.

Perhaps the most biting lyric is “Put them down, not even because you will hurt people with them, but because it is hurting you to hold them.”

Next up is “Rovrumoncee,” an infectious EDM track with echoed vocals by Wayne Dyson, while “Osmosis” has a sci-fi feel, along with Roberts’ electronically enhanced vocals. The spacey vibe continues with “Headspace,” in which ominous, scratchy synths, set to thumping bass, are overlain with Dyson’s chanting vocals.

Some tracks are strictly instrumental, such as “Kotto,” with its catchy uptempo beat, warm synths and crashing cymbals. (The video for the song uses animation based on The Pink Panther.) Other instrumental tracks include “Then We Came to the End,” with crunchy synths set to a hypnotic assertive beat that impels hip movement; the psychedelic EDM-tinged “Pete’s Gone to Leeds;” and “Elemeno Pea” with its marching band drumbeat and mysterious, pulsating synth chords.

One of my favorites is the melodic “Peristalsis,” with lovely guitar work by Mr Jiggs and spoken vocals by Roberts: “My friends think they’re the answers, but they forgot the question long ago. / Peristalsis is the motion I am feeling most of all. Almost too frequently to notice that it is there at all.

The Girl & the Water” is a six-minute long track featuring swirling, atmospheric synths that really do convey a sense of a pool of water. Strange animal-like sounds, accompanied by Roberts’ electronically-enhanced vocals, add to the song’s otherworldly ambiance.

The album is planned for release through independent electronic music record label Pink Dolphin Music in April 2017.

Track listing:

1. Put all weapons down (featuring Gav Roberts)
2. Rovrumoncee (featuring Wayne Dyson)
3. Osmosis (featuring Gav Roberts)
4. Headspace (featuring Wayne Dyson)
5. Kotto
6. Peristalsis (featuring Gav Roberts & Mr Jiggs)
7. Then we came to the end
8. The Girl & the Water (featuring Gav Roberts)
9. Pete’s Gone to Leeds
10. Elemeno Pea
11. Hidden tune

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/randomdotdotdot/
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YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5sgO4CliLXRKA3XL_2mk9A
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The album may be pre-ordered at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pinkdolphinmusic/new-leftfield-idm-cassette-and-cd-by-random

Artist Spotlight: NEIL BILLINNESS

Neil Billinness is a musician who likes to do things his way. He writes, records and produces his own unique style of electronic music and, preferring a more ‘organic’ sound that’s not too polished, his songs are not mastered. Neil, who lives in Rosyth, England, started writing songs as a teenager, when he was inspired by 80’s artists Howard Jones, OMD, The Human League, Tears For Fears, David Bowie, Prince, Madonna, and even ABBA (all artists I also happen to love). His grandparents bought him his first keyboard, which was the impetus he needed to channel that creative inspiration.

Neil spent some time as a member of the bands Turbo and Ebon Night beginning in high school. He states that while he enjoyed those stints, the songs and styles he wanted to write were not always well-received by other band members, which frustrated his creative energies. For many years while building a career, he put his music on the back burner, but starting around 2011, he took up songwriting again in earnest, seemingly making up for lost time. He set up a home studio and embraced sequencing, sampling and programming, rather than playing everything manually, which has helped him produce music more easily. Still, Neil says he’s “a perfectionist when it comes to recording and writes and records at a pace that would make Kate Bush look prolific.” (Neil also has a wicked sense of humor.)

neil-billinness

Neil established an independent label NeRo Music with his late partner Robert, who he says was a continual inspiration to his songwriting, and an honest critic. Neil’s debut single “Passing Thoughts” was released in January 2016 and, tragically, Robert passed away suddenly the day after the song was released. The song calls to mind the sounds of OMD and New Order, with sharp, chiming synths and a strong pulsating beat. Neil’s vocals have a hazy, otherworldly quality as he sings “So many memories, so many fears. A bunch of photographs from through the years. I’d like to see you once again. So I could show you just how much I’ve changed.

His wonderful follow up single “Discotheque” was a newly recorded version of the song that reached number one on the Unsigned Top Chart in late Dec 2015-early Jan 2016. This incredibly catchy EDM track, about escaping the cares and worries of everyday life and letting loose at the disco, features lush synths set to a hypnotic dance beat that aims straight for the hips. The colorful and stylish psychedelic-looking video was produced by mixing video clips of Neil’s family and friends dancing to the song with live footage of him singing it.

Neil has a strong love for Science Fiction films, which has also greatly influenced his music. Many of his songs fuse mysterious, otherworldly Sci-fi synths with EDM grooves to create really compelling instrumental music. He released some of his new and earlier recorded tracks on a few EP’s, including A New Direction, Just Me, the song Do It All Again, which includes three remixes, and the three-part song Phase Three. A New Direction and Phase Three are the most futuristic-sounding collections of his songs. Their tracks are very Sci-fi, with computerized voices talking over highly synthesized instrumentals. “The Vision” from A New Direction has a great dance beat vibe that reminds me a bit of Madonna’s “Vogue.”

Just Me features four ambient instrumental tracks, one for each season. My favorite is “Autumn” with it’s complex, multi-textured synth arrangement that contrasts between the upbeat sounds of summer’s last gasp and the brooding approach of winter.

Despite the setbacks of Robert’s death and some health issues this year, Neil is working on producing a full album which will contain his two singles along with a number of re-recorded older songs. He hopes to release the album, which will be dedicated to Robert, early in 2017.  Follow Neil on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to his YouTube channel. Stream his music on Soundcloud and Spotify, and purchase on iTunes or  Amazon.