BetaPSI – Single Review: “Psychosomatic”

betapsi psychosomatic

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

HOUSE OF HARM – EP Review: “Coming of Age”

house of harm ep

It may be 2019, but the lasting legacy of 1980s post-punk and new wave (and all its sub genres) is very much alive and well, probably due in part to the fact it sounds so awesome! I know of several artists and bands whose sound is heavily influenced by the electronics-dominant music of bands like New Order, The Cure and Depeche Mode, to name some of the biggest acts from that period. One such band that I have the pleasure of featuring today is House of Harm, a duo from Boston consisting of Michael Rocheford on lead vocals & Cooper Leardi on guitar and synths. With just a casual listen, they could be unfairly labeled a New Order or Depeche Mode cover band, but a closer listen reveals the guys to be skilled songwriters and composers, crafting outstanding songs that easily hold their own against the aforementioned bands.

House of Harm released their excellent debut EP Demo in June 2017, followed later that year with a darkwave single “Isolator”, and in November 2018, they dropped their second EP Coming of Age, featuring four gorgeous tracks. First up is “Past Life“, a brooding but beautiful song that really channels Depeche Mode both instrumentally and vocally. The guys employ lush swirling synths, razor sharp percussion, and layers of richly textured, chiming guitars to create a magnificent shimmering soundscape.  Rocheford’s arresting vocals convey a sense of urgency and sad resignation as he laments “Let the past lay down tonight, I want it to, I want it to. Let the summer light catch your eyes. There’s someone new, someone new“.

About the track’s meaning, Rocheford told the webzine Vanyaland “The song is about spending time with someone you were formerly involved with and the struggles that come along with that.” Leardi added his feelings about the song: “‘Past Life’ was one of those songs that came to us like a lightbulb flash. All the elements were there. We were coming down from playing a string of shows, completely exhausted, and in one afternoon we wrote and recorded the whole song. It felt wrong to go back and change the magic we got that day, so the version you hear is just that. I can’t deny that there was a certain flavor in the air when we were working on it, something that reminds me of an ecstasy-fueled club in Ibiza or something… I think it puts us in a place and time, and that time is right now. I feel as though the song is there to say ‘We’re House Of Harm and this is what we’re about’.”

Always” is an updated version of a track that originally appeared on Demo. Leardi’s exuberant jangly guitars are the highlight here, accompanied by sparkling synths and wildly crashing cymbals. Rocheford fervently sings “You always keep it still. You always speak until. You always turn it around and smile in pain.” The marvelous title track “Coming of Age” features a powerful driving beat and a deeply resonant mix of swirling and moody synths that create a dramatic backdrop for Rocheford’s impassioned, soaring vocals as he implores to a former loved one: “And would you still run at the sight of me? And do you still you feel that you’ve thrown it away? And would you still lie, if I ever told you? And would you still say it’s a coming of age?” “Valentine” sounds a bit similar to “Coming of Age”, but with a frenetic beat that’s classic post-punk/new wave. If this bouncy, high-energy song doesn’t get you up and moving, nothing will.

Coming of Age is a wonderful little EP, and if you’re a fan of 80s post-punk/new wave, you’ll like this record. The arrangement and production are flawless, and the music and vocals sound clear and perfectly balanced. My only criticism is that with just four tracks, it feels rather like a teaser, leaving me wanting more. Perhaps that’s a good thing, as I eagerly await what House of Harm will grace our earbuds with next.

Connect with House of Harm:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

1i2c – Album Review: “Winter”

1i2c

Many artists choose to identify themselves by imaginative names that they feel help to define their sound or the image they wish to project, rather than their given names. Some that I’ve featured on this blog with particularly interesting names include Two Feet, Draft Evader, Ghostly Beard, Puzzle, Swilly, Melotika, Krosst Out, Twintwo, Random…, Infected Sun, DVR, 9fm, Cheddr, Def Star and Manipulant. Today I feature another one – a British composer and producer of instrumental electronic music who calls himself 1i2c (one eye to see).

Heavily influenced by the music of some of his favorites artists like Jean-Michel Jarre, Gary Numan, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Depeche Mode, The Prodigy and Royksopp, 1i2c is an imaginative and innovative composer whose music spans across a wide range of styles within the electronica genre. Born John Whitaker, the man is a prolific artist, having produced a tremendous output of music over the past three years, beginning with the release in January 2016 of his debut album The Great Distraction. In December (2018) he released his tenth album Winter, which, interestingly, also dropped on the 10th.

All of his releases have essentially been concept albums based on an overriding theme, with the sounds and titles of each track reflecting the theme indicated by the album title. For example, Power Struggle contains industrial techno songs with titles like “Electron”, “Incandescent” and “High Tension”, while Horror Show features songs with more of a psychedelic goth and darkwave vibe, titled “Monster”, “Lunatic Waltz” and “Doorway to Hell.” As we would expect, Winter features appropriately-named tracks such as “Cold Season”, “Chill” and “Deep Freeze”.

1i2c is adept at creating music that compels the listener to develop strong mental images of the subjects at hand. The album opens with “Northern Hemisphere“, a hypnotic track with a repetitive driving beat and glittery synths that conjure up images of an icy starlit night filled with Northern Lights. “Cold Season” starts off with a grinding synth that seems to evoke a creaking piece of machinery, struggling to start in the frigid air. One started, everything settles into a smooth soundscape of cool, gently pulsating synths. The stunning video shows sweeping vistas of snow-covered landscapes, gently falling snow and remarkable footage of bubble slowly being overtaken by feathery ice crystals.

Fallen Leaves” is an enthralling melodic track with shimmery synths floating above a sensual throbbing beat, while dramatic soaring synths convey the fearsome power of nature on “Avalanche“. “Memories” features richly textured intricate synths set to an exuberant beat, with lots of pleasing flute sounds and crisp percussion. The majestic “Chill” delivers colorful keyboard synths fluttering above a sturdy foundation of darker beat-driven synths.

On “Winter’s Fury“, 1i2c employs fuzzy echoed synths to evoke the drama of a winter storm raging outside, while delightfully upbeat plucky synths give the feeling of being cozy, safe and warm inside. The track is marvelous, building to an exhilarating crescendo that imparts a sense of joy, making it one of my favorites on the album. The 7-minute long “Blizzard” delivers frenetic swirling synths and galloping beats that capture the danger and terrible beauty of a winter snowstorm that won’t let up.

The melodically complex “Silent Day” is anything but, with a contrasting mix of gritty and crystalline sweeping synths set to a strong drumbeat and deep bass. “Deep Freeze” is more experimental, with elements of rock and jazz that make for quite an interesting track. Harsher industrial sounds are paired with electric guitar and layered over an energetic galloping beat that builds to an exciting finish. The final track “Ebenezer” features fuzzy pulsating synths fluttering above a dense throbbing beat. The music intensifies as the song progresses, with added sounds of bells and what sounds like an advancing swarm of bees. Not sure what that’s meant to convey, but it sounds fantastic.

Winter is a terrific album, filled with well-crafted tracks that should appeal to lovers of electronic music – or anyone moved by beautiful instrumentals. 1i2c is a skilled composer and producer with an impressive catalog of outstanding albums, and I urge my readers to give some of them a listen.

Connect with 1i2c on Facebook / Twitter
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

SPAZTIC ROBOT – Interview & Album Review: “Spaztic Robot & the Epileptic Moth”

Spaztic Robot album art2

As we bid farewell to 2018 and welcome in the new year, many of us make resolutions to accomplish this or that goal in the hope we’ll be a better person. I’ve just about given up on any chance of regaining the physique I had at 40, so will instead make a greater effort to expand my musical horizons. Though I’m proud of my song choices that make up my Top 100 of 2018, it was eye-opening to read the year-end lists of other music bloggers. Quite a few lists contained songs I’d never heard of, and as I listened to many of those songs, I realized my tastes, though eclectic, are still rather mainstream.

With that in mind, I’m thrilled to feature an artist who is most definitely non-mainstream. In fact, his music is highly unusual, profoundly unorthodox, and even a tad deranged, befitting his wickedly awesome moniker Spaztic Robot. In the words of the creative man behind the curtain, singer/songwriter/musician Robbie Sparks, “Spaztic Robot is a mongrel. It’s a mixed breed. It’s the bastard son of a thousand albums, hundreds of novels, and the little devil that hides within the darkest crevice of one’s mind.” After listening to his music, I’d say that’s a pretty fitting description.

Robbie Sparks

Based in Birmingham, England, Robbie Sparks was formerly with punk band Rebel City Radio, but after they broke up he started his own solo project Spaztic Robot. In 2016 he released his debut album Skip Rope Rhymes, which Vive Le Rock Magazine called ‘pleasantly unpleasant‘, The Ringmaster described as ‘invasive yet solemnly beauteous darkness‘, and Slap Magazine stated was ‘an album for those unafraid to embrace the unknown‘. On Halloween, 2018, he dropped his second album Spaztic Robot & The Epileptic Moth, released on independent label Killer Shark Records. Robbie reached out to me about a review, and I was so intrigued by his music that I wanted to also get some of his thoughts about his creative process and the album, to which he graciously agreed.

EML: Thank you for agreeing to discuss your music with me Robbie. I’ve listened to both of your albums several times and have to say your music is some of the most intriguing and distinctive I’ve heard. I hear similarities to such bands as Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, and even traces of Frank Zappa, but your music is certainly unique. Where do you draw inspiration from?

Robbie Sparks: Firstly, thank you for your generous words and for taking the time to absorb the songs, and for inviting me to be part of this interview.

I think my main inspiration comes from a desire to remain relatively sane. I find the writing process crucial for digesting ‘life’ and making sense of the whole damn thing. Scraps of loose paper litter my home, all full of scribbled nonsense. Really, they’re everywhere! Musically speaking I just enjoy absorbing new sounds. That’s not to say I discard what I listened to previously, not at all. I treasure it all. I guess you could say that each record I enjoy is another brick in an ever-rising wall that builds around me, and like in the old Atari game Pong, I’m just some mad dot inside that bounces back and forth pulling inspiration randomly with each hit.

EML: The themes and lyrics for many of your songs are very provocative, calling out politicians, societal hypocrisy, sexual deviancy and such. Are you wanting to provoke with your music, merely venting, or both?

RS: More than “provoke” I think it’s important to reflect…no matter how ugly the result may be. I’m conscious not to be overly negative, which if I’m honest I’ve always had a tendency to be, and I hope that the songs are seen merely as reflections and not statements. There’s a sense of closure about a statement, and if there is a fragment of hope to be found I try to keep it in the mix. It’s what we’re all clinging to after all.

EML: Your songs and melodies are very complex, incorporating multiple genres and lots of textures and layers that make for an incredibly compelling and interesting listen. Tell me a bit about your creative process for writing songs and developing their structures.

RS:  Most of my songwriting begins with a simple melody or chord change. Once I have that, the lyrics take over and drive the song. The rhythm will change and the layers will flutter as and when the words dictate. You could say the lyrics take on the form of the conductor, and the textures of music rise and fall on its demand. It fascinates me that for us to understand ourselves, even at our most primitive, we rely on words. Like computer coding, our vocabulary offers our emotions and thoughts a body in which to exist, without which our minds would be nothing more than swamps’ farting gas. So it was important, right from the start, for the songs to develop in this way.

EML:  Your instrumentals are really fantastic. Do you play and/or program all the music on your songs by yourself?

RS:  Yes, everything I do is done in my home studio. Well, it’s more of a ‘space’ than a studio to be honest, in which a skeleton studio set up has been vaguely imitated. All the beats and most of the bass is programmed. Guitars, keys, and vocals are recorded live, although they do get manipulated as the parts start to intertwine.

EML:  You include quite a few spoken vocals from other sources in some of your songs. How do you go about finding and selecting them?

RS:  Most of the time I know roughly what I’m after, be it a quote from a writer, a sample from a philosopher, or a scene from an 80’s slasher movie, so I’m able to locate it relatively easily. I do however designate set evenings each week to the ‘creative process’. These evenings regularly drift into the early hours, and often little songwriting gets done, but these evenings take on a different form of productivity. It’s during these sessions that I will find myself reading manuscripts of obscure lectures or watching unworldly subtitled animations, and have no definitive recollection of the path I took to discover them, just a page in my notebook with loosely connected scribbles hinting that the journey has taken more than one detour.

EML:  Have you performed your music live? If not, do you have any plans to do so, or even tour?

RS:  Spaztic Robot has never been on the live circuit, and I don’t think it ever will be. There certainly aren’t any plans for it to happen. It’s not that there’s a lack of desire from myself to perform, in fact there have been times since my previous band Rebel City Radio broke-up that I’ve yearned for the adrenaline kick one gets from performing live.  It’s simply that, logistically, I don’t have the time, personnel, or resources to make it happen AND do the songs justice at the same time.

EML:  Completely understandable. Any plans for more music or album #3?

RS:  I continue to write, and there have been no offers to tempt me away from Spaztic Robot, so another release is likely. A handful of songs are spawning anyway.

EML:  Anything I forgot to ask that you’d like my readers and your fans to know?

RS:  I’d just like to thank them for reading. If they’ve got this far they must be at least mildly intrigued…and that’s all I can ask for.

EML:  And that’s all I can ask for too! Thanks so much for taking the time to so eloquently respond to my questions Robbie.

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So let’s get to the album Spaztic Robot & the Epileptic Moth, definitely one of the best-titled releases of 2018. Robbie wastes no time in creeping us out with “Assholes“, a scathing attack on politicians and a brilliant track from a musical standpoint. Starting off with his echoed sing-song moaning, he lets out a devilish chuckle as the music expands with razor-sharp industrial synths that slice through the airwaves, accompanied by a sinister throbbing drumbeat. He ghoulishly sneers “Hey Mister, do I have your attention? See those two dogs sniffing each others’ assholes! “Lick it, lick it, lick it Mr. Fuckin’ Politician, whoo! /Word out on the street is you’d suck it for a couple of balloons.” As the song proceeds, Robbie adds tasty little sound effects like howling wolves, disquieting whispered vocals and snippets of sci-fi movie samples that serve to reinforce the creep factor as he continues to moan and/or wail. It all builds to an explosive climax at the end with a fusillade of screeching guitars and tortured screaming synths.

There’s no catching our breath as the punkish title track “Spaztic Robot” ensues with a barrage of staccato beats, frenzied psychedelic synths and furiously crashing cymbals that rain down like thunderbolts on steroids. Robbie cleverly weaves samples of vocals from horror films with his own fiendish utterances to create a vibe that’s wickedly fun, and befitting of the lyrics about a discarded tin can that transforms into a crazed robot. The delightful video is hilarious and campy, like some of the 50s sci-fi films it seems to parody.

We CU!” plays like a nightmarish nursery rhyme, opening with a mysterious xylophone-driven melody as Robbie softly croons “Walk around the pond and spit at the fishes. If you hit a frog you can make a wish.” His vocals take on a fiendish air as he sings in a rapid cadence, broken by occasional chants of “we see you hide” in a menacing tone. Ghostly layered synths abound until a child’s voice repeatedly chants “Everyone gets a chance to die” before the song abruptly transitions to an upbeat, bouncy tune at the end.

Robbie takes a softer approach on the languid “Blasphemous Rumours,” though the subject matter remains rather bleak. It starts off with an eerie synth, then beautiful chiming guitars enter the mix as Robbie sings in hushed vocals about a woman who attempted suicide by slashing her wrists. The music continues to swell as he gently croons “I don’t want to start blasphemous rumours but I think that god’s got a sick sense of humour.

Pond Scum” is one of the most disturbing, but interesting tracks on the album. It opens on a fairly pleasant note with a vintage movie soundtrack sample, but then takes a sharp turn with an sonic assault of hellish synths. Like a violent crime scene set to music, it’s repellent but we can’t seem to turn away. Robbie’s vocals sound downright diabolical as he snarls the lyrics that speak to sexual depravity: “The hungry little fuckers are horny little fuckers. They’re feral little mouths and nothing left to stop them. They’re horny and they’re fucking, and they’re fucking and they’re horny.

Many of his songs take sharp twists and turns, and the melodically complex “Shark Attack” is a perfect example of this. Magical synths convey an aura of fantasy like a Harry Potter movie, then gradually evolve to a mysterious deep bass-driven melody with Robbie chanting “shark attack” along with repetitive drawn-out psshh sounds. Though it has a bit of a creepy vibe, the song has an otherworldly beauty. “Back to Inferior Ways” hits us with barrages of bleak industrial noise that alternate with a rather lovely and sweeping beat-driven melody.  Robbie’s vocals are sinister as he snarls the lyrics that are interspersed with sampled vocals.

As each track unfolds, I’m increasingly impressed by Robbie’s creativity, originality and musicianship. He surprises us with the hauntingly beautiful piano-driven composition “Blisters.” Built around a brooding piano riff, the song slowly builds with added organ and horn synths into a deeply moving soundscape, before ending with just a tinkling piano riff. “Windmill” features a haunting guitar-driven melody, punctuated by unsettling staccato beats, mysterious synths and sampled children’s voices.

Demons” is a trippy song built around a hypnotic dubstep beat, with pulsating industrial synths. We immediately hear a young girl asking “Could you please help me find my dolly? I lost her, and really want her back.” It’s difficult to make out many of the lyrics Robbie is singing, but his eerie moans and wails lend a strong sense of unease. He throws in all kinds of samples, including a bit of Claude Rains’ dialogue from Casablanca, and a line from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s 1968 hit song “Fire”. Later on, a man’s voice says “Satan is all around you. Remember, one third of his angels were cast out of heaven into the earth. They’re here with us.” It sure helps explain the abundance of evil that exists in the world. Robbie closes the album with his psychedelic re-imagining of the Nirvana classic “Heart Shaped Box.” Using spacey industrial synths, deep bass, reverb-heavy guitar and only the sparest of vocals, he creates a mesmerizing and powerful instrumental track.

Spaztic Robot & the Epileptic Moth is a brilliant work of such incredible nuance and complexity, I found that it got better with each listen as I heard something new I’d missed previously. Robbie’s songwriting, arrangement and production skills are impressive, along with his outstanding musicianship. I love this album, and highly recommend it to anyone who likes music that’s outside the mainstream.

Connect with Spaztic Robot: Facebook / Twitter
Stream his music on SpotifySoundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes 

DAVID OAKES – Album Review: “Elevation”

I’m still in Wales (figuratively speaking, having just reviewed the Welsh band Revolution Rabbit Deluxe), this time to shine my spotlight on musician David Oakes. Based in the coastal town of Aberporth, he’s a creative and prolific composer of electronic alternative rock music, as well as a damn fine guitarist. Over the past five years or so, he’s produced a tremendous output of instrumental music, ranging from the guitar-driven melodic rock of his brilliant 2014 work The Calm and the Storm, to the gorgeous atmospherics of The Dawn and the Dusk, the dark experimentation of Sturm Und Drang, and the aggressive hard rock of TheMENACE, for which he also added his own vocals for the first time.

My regular readers may recall that I’ve previously featured him on this blog twice this year, first in May when I reviewed his fantastic album TheMENACE, then a month later when I followed up with an interview. David has now recorded a new album Elevation, which is scheduled for official release in early January, but is available for digital download now on Bandcamp.

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Elevation is structured in eight parts or tracks, sort of how a long classical piece is arranged into movements. Part 1 is a great introduction, setting the tone for what’s to come with moody ambient synths, a pounding drumbeat and an ominous-sounding mix of jangly and distorted guitar riffs that gradually build to a crescendo by the four-minute mark. It all calms back down to the hypnotic cadence we heard in the introduction, and continues through to the outro, accompanied by bits of David’s intricate guitar work that make for a satisfying listen.

Part 2 continues to build on the tension introduced in Part 1, and really showcases David’s stellar guitar playing, not to mention his impressive drum skills. Part 3 brings more jaw-dropping guitar work, with some tasty bits of funk occasionally injected into to the mix. I also love the hard-driving drumbeat, always a big plus for me. Part 4 conjures up images of the Arabian Nights, with layers of intricate guitar and exotic-sounding synths lending a somewhat dangerous vibe. This feeling continues in Part 5, with gritty chugging riffs augmented with chiming guitars, and a deep buzzing bass line providing a sturdy foundation for this powerful track.

Part 6 features moody synths and layers of multi-textured guitars that create an ominous soundscape. I especially like the dark piano synths that appear later in the track, further adding to the song’s overall brooding vibe. David shifts direction on Part 7 with a somewhat jazzy feel and catchy as hell tempo. He uses horn synths, bluesy riffs and a deep, humming bass line to create a fantastic and exhilarating song.  It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album, as I love its urgency and deliriously infectious melody. He really lets loose on the final track Part 8, with furiously pounding drumbeats and frantic riffs of joyously upbeat guitars. It’s an exuberant and celebratory head-banger, and the perfect track to finish the set.

I love this album, which gets better with each listen, as there’s a lot of nuance to David’s compositions and guitar work. If you’re a fan of guitar-driven instrumental rock, then Elevation should be part of your collection.

Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Elevation will be officially released on all major music platforms on January 4, 2019, but is currently available for download on Bandcamp

PAUL IWAN – Single Review: “Parasite”

Paul Iwan

Paul Iwan is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in the music mecca of Liverpool, England. He’s been involved in music since his early teens, playing and touring with numerous bands and, more recently, writing and recording his own songs. In 2008 he was mentored and championed by Ray Davies of The Kinks, and continues to collaborate with other artists and friends across the UK. He released his debut album Reveal in September 2016, an impressive tour-de-force that I reviewed, and encourage my readers to check out. Now, Paul is back with a powerful new track “Parasite.” It’s the first single off his forthcoming second album RESISTER, a autobiographical work of sorts that will address his newfound sobriety.

Paul told me that not long after the release of Reveal, “I was involved in a motorcycle accident, just as I was preparing to gig, which set me back quite a bit. In the following 18 months, I got clean and now I’m in recovery… I didn’t realise I had an issue, until I did! ‘Parasite’ is a warning, a lesson and a true story. Like all of the songs on RESISTER, this song is a fragment of my life prior to getting clean. It’s a song about addiction becoming a permanent fixture to solve issues, to erase memories and repress feelings.

“Parasite” was written, performed and produced by Paul, with Steven Burkert on drums. It was recorded at Studio 45 and SPACE in Liverpool, mixed by Andy Fernihough and beautifully mastered by Pete Maher (U2, Rolling Stones, Depeche Mode). The song opens strong with a gnarly guitar riff and Burkert’s pummeling drumbeat, accompanied by an echoed backing chorus repeating ‘OH!’ as Paul sings in his urgent tenor vocals of his internal struggles: “My head begins to spin, my double vision taking me. My soul, my body, my mind, I wish I could control it all again.” The music builds with heavier guitar and bass, hammering drums and glittery piano synths, ultimately exploding with Paul’s frantic riffs of jagged guitar in the chorus as he fervently agonizes: “I’m a pulsar. I’m paralyzed. Pulled apart by the parasite. A stranger in my own skin.

Eventually, a male voice over speaks of the pathology of alcohol addiction:  “Nobody quite knows which drink it is that takes him over the edge of being a merely social, hearty, laughing drinker into a morose and hungover wretched creature.” Paul laments of his inability to shake off his addiction: “The shame I feel is all too real. I know that I’m addicted. I’m too weak to stay in the fight. I’m down.” The guitars and power drums continue to rage and roil through to the end, making for a dramatic finish to a spectacular and deeply moving song. The lyrics, instrumentation, vocals, and production are all superb, and I look forward to hearing RESISTER upon it’s completion.

Connect with Paul Iwan: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on  Amazon

HEIST AT FIVE – Interview and Single Review: “Finish What You Started”

Heist At Five is a charismatic and multi-talented electro/hard rock band based in London, UK. Their aggressive, innovative sound borders on experimental rock, with complex melodies, intricate chord progressions and brilliant electronic and guitar-heavy instrumentation. This past February they released an impressive debut EP The Blacklist (which I reviewed), and now return with a wicked new single “Finish What You Started,” which officially drops on October 26.

Heist at Five finish what you started cover

Like many bands, Heist At Five has undergone a few personnel changes, but the current line-up consists of Oskar Abrahamsson (vocals), Jozef Veselsky (guitar), Marco “Fuzz” Paone (bass) and Josh Needham (drums), with assistance from production guru Kim Björnram. A special shout out goes to David Marvelly and former band guitarist Huw Roberts, who helped the song come together with production, and mixing. I sent the guys some questions about their band, creative process, and the new single, and received thoughtful – and sometimes cheeky – responses from four of these charming lads on every question.

EML: Hi guys, thanks for wanting to discuss your new single “Finish What You Started.” Before we get into the song and video, tell me how you came together to form Heist At Five, given your international origins. (Oskar is from Sweden, Jozef from Slovakia, Marco from Italy and Josh is English.)

Marco – The paths we chose individually took almost all of us to the same music uni in London. Oskar and I met in the very first week of uni and he soon invited me to jam with his new flatmate. There, I found Josh behind the kit! We clicked almost instantly; I remember our first feedback said that it felt like we had been playing together for years, and at that point we realised this could really go somewhere.

Josh – When we started playing together and eventually made it a band, we went through a fair few line-up changes, which I think is quite normal. Eventually, Jozef appeared, and Heist At Five was born!

Jozef – Yeah. I’d studied music in the UK, same as the rest of the band, just at a different institution. About a year ago I was simply on a lookout for a new project and among the ads, the selection was pitiful. So I just went for a lesser evil 😀  Kidding – the first part is true, but when I looked up these guys I knew it was it! The rest is history.

Oskar – It is really cool to have a group where every member is from a different country. It has really opened my eyes in a lot of ways.

EML: How do you go about creating new songs? Do you all share songwriting duties?

Jozef – We try to have songwriting sessions regularly and write together as a band. Sometimes one is inspired, sometimes other …sometimes no-one.

Oskar- If it’s good, its good. Then where or from when or what it comes from doesn’t matter.

Josh – Yeah, our songwriting sessions are completely random. The intro riff to “Finish What You Started,” for example, was accidentally written when we were just checking if our MIDI keyboard was working! But we always try and use different approaches to songwriting, we haven’t got a specific “process” (yet).

Marco – Initially we would write more independently, everyone bringing his own little song. Then we realised that, probably because of our different tastes, they would differ too much from each other. Since last year we started having sessions all together from start to finish of a song and it’s been really refreshing. Ideas come from everyone, we all motivate each other and we got to known ourselves much better since then.

EML: “Finish What You Started” has a bit more of a progressive metal vibe than the songs on your debut EP “The Blacklist.” Is this representative of the new musical direction you mention on your Spotify page?

Jozef – It definitely is! In this song we wanted to show that we’re not afraid of going heavily electronic. At the same time, with this song being the first one with me on the bill, I pioneer a slightly more modern approach to metal guitar playing within the band. In various forms and shapes, we hope to manifest these trends in our music going forward.

Josh – We definitely wanted to try and be a bit more ballsy, and make ‘Finish’a big “IN YOUR FACE” kind of statement. And I think that will continue to be our approach. We all have different influences but we all have the collective vision to take those and make something modern and massive.

Oskar – I’d say both yes and no. I want everyone to know that you never will be able to predict the next move from Heist At Five. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t…

Marco – While ”The Blacklist” already flirts quite a bit with the electronic edge, with ‘Finish’ we decided to be even bolder to the point of undermining the usual hierarchy you find in modern pop/rock song with a big chorus. I love the fact that it’s boiling hot but it never quite explodes, and always leaves you on the verge.

EML: It certainly does! I’ve listened to the song several times, but can’t quite figure out what it is that was started that needs to be finished. Is it perhaps a metaphor for the band’s music mission?

Jozef – I’ll leave this one for Oskar to answer.

Oskar – I’m going to break every songwriters golden rule to not explain the lyrics and ruin the magic, but please, keep on coming with your own interpretations – they are as true, if not truer, than ours. By following our mission statement of letting the audience make up their own minds about the world they live in, it’s written very open-mindedly on purpose. One layer in the song is about the fear and uncertainty of going through with ideas and things in life, as there is no guarantee they will turn out the way we envisioned. Is it worth finishing these things? Maybe it ends up in a place that is great! But if you are unlucky, it could be terrible, so maybe it’s better to never finish what you started.

Josh – Maybe you made a cup of tea and forgot about it, and it’s going to go cold soon. (You’re welcome by the way)

Marco – Josh’s right, I always forget to drink my tea!!

EML: In the video – which is very cool by the way – the mysterious person whose face we never see is shown at the beginning putting on a hoodie he finds laying on the pavement. He then walks around, almost stalking the different band members, but never actually threatening or accosting them. At the video’s end, he vanishes into the night as his hoodie returns to the ground. What or who does the mystery guy symbolize?

Oskar – We wanted to make a video that didn’t just show what we spoke about in the song, but added layers to the story and concept.  Maybe “hoodie man” is just a projection of our consciousness, seeing our actions from an outsiders point of view, a symbol of doubt or disbelief in if we are doing the right thing. In the twist at the end, in true M. Night Shyamalan spirit, it is maybe implied that ideas are bigger than the people and personalities behind them. As the idea is executed, the faces will be forgotten but the idea they finished will remain. But I’m not going to rant on for an eternity, go on and make up your mind about what it means to you 😉

Marco – Another potential interpretation is that the “Hoodie man”, as we like to call him, by restricting his view, only has the focus on what’s in front of him. He perseveres in whatever direction he wants, regardless of what happens around him. His goal? That’s for the viewer to decide.

EML: Are you guys currently writing and recording more songs? Any plans for a second EP or possible full-length album?

Jozef – With the trends in today’s music industry in mind, we decided that for a while we’ll continue with single releases until the time comes for something bigger. The next one is being recorded as we speak!

Oskar – Yeah, we think that by doing individual singles, we get the opportunity to take bolder creative decisions, and totally go in a new fresh direction for each release.

Marco – A lot is in the pot right now: Yes, we are recording and writing new material. Our plan at the moment is to keep the hype up with new single releases, although I wouldn’t exclude the possibility of including them in a new EP or an album in the near future. Only time will tell!

Josh – It’s actually exciting not knowing exactly what we’re going to do next. We’re not limiting ourselves musically, and I think that’s clear to see with “Finish What You Started”.

Thanks guys! So let’s check out the new single. The track opens with a buzzing riff, then Josh’s pounding drums enter the scene, accompanied by discordant spacey synths as Oskar sings in an almost sinister voice:

Is this how you imagined it? That work of art inside your head?
What you once saw in black and white is fading out.
Spinning round and round, and suddenly it’s harder to see what’s up and what’s down.
Swimming in the deep end now.
So take a deep breath, and finish what you started, started, started.

Marco lays down a heavy bass line that serves as a sturdy foundation for Jozef’s gnarly guitar and Josh’s power drums as the spacey industrial-sounding synths continue. I love how the the roiling riffs of distorted guitar and pummeling drums are so thoroughly in sync, punctuated here and there by frantic flourishes that seem to rip at the airwaves, making for a unsettling, yet mesmerizing song. Watch and listen:

Connect with Heist at Five: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes / Bandcamp

I FIGHT FAIL – Single Review: “Silhouettes”

Silhouettes

I Fight Fail is an Alternative/Electronic/Emo/Rock band from Canton, Ohio. Consisting of Andy Potter on lead vocals and bass, Daryl Johnson on guitar and backing vocals and Anthony Carter on drums, the band formed in 2014, after the guys had played together in previous bands. Their band name is about perseverance, in their words “a state of mind or an idea that you have to keep going forward even when you fall down.”

Fusing alternative rock with an electronic/pop sound, I Fight Fail creates music that’s fresh, smart and incredibly pleasing. They released their debut EP Move Me in 2014, then followed two years later with their second EP Voyages and Vantage Points, both of which are excellent. In January 2018, they dropped a new single “Silhouettes,” which will be included on a forthcoming third EP, to be released in 2019.

The song is a sort of coming of age anthem, spoken from the point of view of teenagers eager to jump headlong into adulthood, but still struggling to find their way forward and forge their identities: “You were skipping school and I felt cool cause I was older. We broke all the rules, and I let you cry onto my shoulder. / And we can’t wait to start planning our escape. We’re all lost, we’re all lost in our heads. Bring us back. Bring us back from the dead. We are silhouettes.”

Musically, the guys make generous use of glittery synths, delicate keyboards, chiming guitars and snappy drums to create a joyful sense of hopefulness and optimism, but with a serious undercurrent that keeps the song grounded in reality. Andy’s smooth, earnest vocals are really nice, as are the guys’ soaring choruses that appear later in the track. It’s a wonderful song.

Connect with I Fight Fail:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes

IAMWARFACE – Single Review: “Closer”

Closer

IAMWARFACE is a London, UK-based electro-rock project formed by singer/songwriter and producer Matt Warneford in 2016. Though they’ve released only a handful of songs, they already rank high among my favorite UK bands. Their aggressive name is a fitting metaphor for their bombastic high-energy, groove-based sound – an awesome name for equally awesome music. Besides Warneford, the current line-up of band members include Lou Matthews (guitars), Tom Howe (DJ synth), Mike Smith (bass) and Adam Stanley (drums). Their sound is influenced by many peers such as Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Kasabian, Muse, Big Black Delta, Nero, Queens of the Stone Age, Tears For Fears, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Black Keys and MGMT – all artists & bands that I also happen to love.

IAMWARFACE2

IAMWARFACE released their debut single “Say My Name” in 2016, a phenomenal track that literally left me speechless the first time I heard it. In my review of the song, I likened the effect to being “hit by an atomic blast of music greatness.” I loved it so much it ended up at #14 on my Top 100 Best Songs of 2016. This past February, they released another fantastic single “You Don’t Love Me Anymore,” and today, Friday the 13th of July, they drop their latest single “Closer,” and once again, I’m completely blown away!

The track opens with a mysterious throbbing synth chord that slowly builds into a stunning and dramatic soundscape that envelops us as Warneford implores to someone with whom he seems to have an obsessive and destructive relationship:

Who, who am I?
I’m just living to die
This old night when it comes
I’ll be free of these old bones
And I don’t know what I’ll do
It’s this old dog holding me down
Cause I used to have a soul
I just lost control
And I’ll move, move closer
Yes I’ll move, move closer to you

With that, the music explodes into a maelstrom of tortured but gorgeous wailing synths, fuzzy guitars, buzz-saw bass, and thunderous percussion, punctuated by almost violently crashing cymbals that emphasize the feelings of desolation expressed in the bitter lyrics. Warneford’s passionate vocals seem filled with despair and resignation over a love affair that now lies in tatters. “Feel I’m walking on shattered glass. This romance just has to end, to reset, erase, begin again.”

My body is covered from head to toe with chills by song’s end, as I sit dumbfounded by the fierce beauty and power of this monumental track. IAMWARFACE continues to astonish with their superb skill for creating incredible high-caliber, epic-sounding music, and I can’t wait to hear more from them!

Those of you in the UK can see IAMWARFACE live at one of these upcoming shows:

July 21  –  Cricketers, Kingston
July 29  –  Crown’s, Brighton
July 31  –  Live Acoustic Session
August 27  –  Fiddler’s Elbow, London
September 7  –  Verve Bar, Leeds
September 12  –  Aatma, Manchester
September 13  –  Santiago Bar, Leeds
September 14  –  Scruffy Murphys, Birmingham
September 15  –  Maguires Pizzabar, Liverpool
September 16  –  Fiddlers Elbow, London
October 27  –  London Stone, Staines

Connect with IAMWARFACE:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music

MANIPULANT – Single Review: “What Good Are the Stars?”

Manipulant WGATS art

Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based artist Manipulant (aka David Speakman) is an imaginative and intensely creative multi-instrumentalist/composer of electronic music that he refers to as “scientific sound spaces.” He’s also prolific. In 2016, he released his debut album Méthode de Narration, and followed up a year later with the superb Eclectro, which I reviewed and you can read here.  He released a five-track EP Perspective earlier this year, and on July 4th, he dropped his latest work, an EP of sorts with the single “What Good Are the Stars?” as the main track, plus three remixes.

“What Good Are the Stars?” is mysterious and sublime, with a glittery soundscape of swirling synths that seem to float above the subtle bassline. A gentle hypnotic drumbeat  keeps the languid pace, and a delicate but haunting repeating piano riff adds a sense of unease to the mesmerizing track. Manipulant’s smooth, echoed vocals have an otherworldly feel as he sings the lyrics that question his inability to be with a loved one:

What good are the stars?
What good is the sky?
What good is the moon?
What use are these eyes if they can’t see you?

What good are the clouds?
What good is the rain?
If it’s not allowed to wash away pain
What good are the stars?
When they don’t know where you are?

What good are the clouds?
What good is the rain?
If it’s not allowed to wash away pain
What good are the stars?

Next up is the “Beltism Burnt Umber Mix,” which opens with an echoed and grainy background beat overlying the same hypnotic drumbeat and piano riff as in the main track. The synths are not as pronounced on this mix, though they’re a bit more psychedelic, and the bass is somewhat deeper. Nevertheless, this remix is still haunting and mesmerizing.

Each track seamlessly transitions into the next, and the third one is “Alternative Vocal Mix featuring Jennifer Doll.” It’s essentially the synth-heavy main track with added vocals by guest artist Jennifer Doll. Her soft, ethereal vocals take a starring role, harmonizing beautifully with Manipulant’s faintly audible background vocals. The final track is “Anisotropic Mix,” a trippier, bass-heavy remix with eerie-sounding synths that impart an almost sci-fi vibe. All four tracks are pretty terrific.

To learn more about Manipulant, check out his Website
Connect with him on: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on: iTunes Bandcamp