AGENT JOHNNY RED – Album Review: “Run Against the Sequence”

Agent Johnny Red album art

Agent Johnny Red is an electronic musician, singer-songwriter and composer based in Portland, Maine. He’s been fairly prolific in his music output over the past five years or so, recording and releasing several singles, EPs and compilations, most of which are available on his Bandcamp page. At the end of May, he dropped his first official album Run Against the Sequence, a concept work inspired by his own personal life experiences.

He explained that the album “is about how humans get stuck in recurring behavior patterns or programs that are based upon past events. This is an album about Agent Johnny Red running against the sequence or patterns that were ultimately controlling his life. Addiction to bad relationships, food and drugs are all part of the sequence.” He added that the word ‘Against’ stands for how difficult it is to overcome these bad habits: “Kind of like an Alfred Hitchcock movie, no matter what you do you can’t escape it. But the character in this story does eventually escape at the end.”

The album opens with sounds of a man speaking the words “I won’t deny that there’s some strange, evolutionary process going on, but mankind won’t be destroyed. The fact that you and I are already here today is evidence of that“, and thus begins the first track “Just keep Repeating“. Agent Johnny Red uses an array of dark, yet beautiful swirling synths set to a pulsating EDM beat to create a mysterious atmosphere that conveys a feeling of being in a kind of twilight zone. Eventually, the man’s voice returns to say “Another day is done all over again.” “Figure out this Mess” has an equally ominous vibe, with harsh swooping and pulsating industrial synths forming a psychedelic backdrop for Johnny Red’s droning moody vocals.

On “Lightning in a Black Hole“, Johnny Red seems to be speaking to someone who can save him from himself and his troubles: “Tell me what you want me to be. I’ll tell you I’m all that I can ever be. / I just want to go out for a drive. Just to see the sky. I know it’s crazy, but we’ll be fine if we forget about time.” I really like the lush combination of synth sounds and textures he uses in this and other tracks, and how well his music pairs with his vulnerable, rather melancholy vocals.

The album features a number of terrific instrumental tracks, including “Videodrome“, with its fascinating mix of synthwave, sci-fi, EDM and dubstep elements; the uptempo and otherworldly “Destination of Red“; the mesmerizing, psychedelic and spacey “Save Some Space“; the techno-heavy “Survival is Changes“; and one of my favorites “Don’t Destroy the Water“, a wonderful futuristic fantasia of swirling sci-fi synths and haunting female chorale-like vocal drones, set to captivating dubstep beats.

The title track “Run Against the Sequence” encapsulates everything the album is about, which is the struggle to reach a point of mental clarity and emotional freedom from bad habits and addictions that have kept you enslaved: “Every step that I take will get me closer to awake. Every love that you find will get you closer to rewind. I know that time’s confusing. What if it’s an illusion?” Musically, the song has a haunting piano-driven melody, with a colorful mix of wobbly and stabbing synths, accompanied by hand claps.

Hack Time (You Work Harder)” has an eerie, almost goth-like vibe, with throbbing industrial synths set to a hypnotic rhythmic beat. The tinkling piano keys add a nice textural contrast, keeping the track from sounding too dark.  Johnny Red’s electronically-altered echoed vocals sound pained as he laments of wanting to feel better and be free of his demons and addictions that offer only temporary relief from the pain: “Break free from the things in your brain. / You fell asleep at the wheel. You’re happy when you can feel. You’re happy when you heal. / I just wanna move around the sequence. I just wanna hack time.” It’s another one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Save the Light” is the point of escape, when Johnny finds the truth in the pain of not succumbing to addiction. His vocals are auto-tuned, giving them an even more haunting feel as he sings of being trapped by his addiction, and wanting to break free. ‘Seven seas’ are a metaphor for his freedom: “Back when you thought you could be everything, you saw something great in the seven seas. You ran benediction through your head but addiction had you dead. But you were here and you were sure that if you come back to the seven seas. Come back and let me be. I believe this is a dream come true.” He realizes he needs to be strong, keeping freedom from addiction at the forefront of his goals: “Think the way that you can feel. Fight the urge to make the deal. All these scars that will not heal are just dreams, they are not real.”

Yet he continues to struggle with self-doubt and guilt over pain he’s caused others: “No I don’t want to go back home. I want to stay on this earth. I wanna stay on this earth but you keep killing it. I am telling you I don’t want to see them die. I don’t want to see them cry just so I can feel alive.” He ultimately comes to the realization that he wants to live a life free from addiction: “And if I save the light, then the dark might take me tonight. And on the seven seas everything might be alright.” Johnny Red uses complex and lush industrial and psychedelic synths and some lovely guitar notes to create a somber, yet hopeful mood. It’s a magnificent and moving track.

The album closes on a more upbeat and positive note with “A Puzzled Picture“. The track has a lighthearted vibe, thanks to a lively mix of skittering spacey synths. The man’s spoken voice we heard on the opening track returns to offer a few lines of wisdom, though I’m unable to make out exactly what he’s saying.

Not being a musician, nor very knowledgeable about music theory, technique or mechanics, it’s often hard for me to fully articulate what I hear when listening to electronic music. That said, I have nevertheless written about quite a lot of it, and can confidently state that Run Against the Sequence is in the top tier of electronic music albums I’ve reviewed. Agent Johnny Red is a highly creative, talented and imaginative composer, as well as thoughtful songwriter, and should be very proud of his latest work. This is an album that requires a couple of close listens to fully appreciate all of it’s many nuances, but you will be rewarded for your effort.

Follow Agent Johnny Red on Instagram
Stream/purchase his music on BandcampSpotify / Google PlayApple Music

SOFT SHELTER – EP Review: “Judgment Day”

Soft Shelter EP Art

Soft Shelter is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and music producer based in Santa Barbara, California who writes pleasing indie dream pop songs laced with alt-rock, psychedelic, pop and electronic elements, and featuring thoughtful lyrics. Since the release of his first single “Ashes” last November (2019), he’s been a busy guy, dropping a new single or EP every month or so. In March, he released his single “Anticipation”, and now returns with his second EP Judgment Day, featuring “Anticipation” and two new tracks written during the COVID-19 quarantine.

He states that the EP is sort of a loose trilogy, with rather moody songs that still contain a certain optimism toward the future: “I tried to understand what it means to be an individual within a community during a global pandemic.” He wrote, performed , sang, produced and mixed the songs. Mastering was done by Matt Pereira (aka KOMAK).

Soft Shelter2

The first track, “Anticipation,” was written during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, and it’s title is an apt descriptor for the growing anxiety of the period. Soft Shelter states that the song “speaks to the anxious feeling that accompanies the anticipation of a crisis and the weird sensation of questioning whether it’s paranoia or legitimate.” The song is beautiful, with warm, shimmery synths and gentle percussion, over which he and fellow musician Noah Kastenbaum have layered beautifully strummed guitar notes. It all creates an enchanting backdrop for Soft Shelter’s ethereal vocals, which rise to a lovely falsetto in the choruses. The xylophone at the end is a nice touch.

Dead Metaphors” touches on how languages evolve over time, with word meanings going from literal to figurative, and trying to stay optimistic: “Time to hit stop and rewind. Dead metaphors don’t stay behind. We too can rise again. Let’s just say when.” The song has a languid sort of hip hop beat, with piano, programmed drums and gnarly electric guitar being the dominant instruments. I like how he makes the music shudder just before the second chorus, like hitting stop, rewind and play on a tape machine.

The third track “Judgment Day” was inspired by the writings of French philosopher Albert Camus, who Soft Shelter admires. He explains that the lyrics “attest to feeling lost and looking for guidance, which is often the case when people look to religion or philosophy or any ideology for meaning or support. We have to work toward uncovering our blind spots and the things that prevent us from seeing clearly.” This is beautifully articulated by the lines “It sure feels like judgement day. Tell me what the wise men say?  In the end, perhaps we’ll find all the things that made us so blind. Will anything be the same?

Musically, the song has a pleasing synth-pop vibe, highlighted by resonant piano keys, crisp percussion and electric guitar. As always, Soft Shelter’s velvety smooth vocals are captivating. The track ends with an excerpt from Camus’s Nobel Prize speech, in which he calls attention to how artists require beauty but also are uniquely tied to their communities: “True artists hold nothing in contempt; they oblige themselves to understand, rather than judge.”

It’s gratifying to see so many artists using their imaginations and creative talents to write relevant and topical music during this unfortunate virus quarantine, and Soft Shelter’s Judgment Day is another shining example of this. He will also be donating 50% of all sales of his EP on the Bandcamp music site to food banks.

Follow Soft Shelter on Instagram
Stream his music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

KILLER TAPE – EP Review: “Ghosts”

Killer Tape2

Killer Tape is the music project of young artists Ella Heaton and Luke Hudson. Originally from Leeds, England, Ella is currently studying in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Luke in Berlin, Germany. In June (2019) they released their debut EP Ghosts, featuring three stunning lo-fi tracks. Melding elements of shoegaze, ambient, electronic and psychedelia, the duo create mesmerizing soundscapes that transport us to dreamy, faraway places.

First off is the title track “Ghosts”, a haunting, ethereal song that opens with clicks that sound like a cassette tape being placed into a player, accompanied by a droning acoustic guitar and mysterious, sinewy synths that gradually build as the track progresses. With breathy echoed vocals that sound appropriately ghost-like, Ella gently croons “There’s a man on the ceiling, and he’s full of misdemeanour.

The dreamy “Scrimmage” features marvelous glittery synths and a fuzzy, reverb-heavy guitar that borders on surf. Ella’s echoed chanting can be heard in the distance, accompanied by a spooky organ riff at the end of the song. I love it!

The final track “May Day” is brief, lasting only 1:40 minutes, but is a wonderful composition, with more of that spooky organ and throbbing spacey synths that impart a fascinating otherworldly vibe. This time it’s Luke’s distant echoed chants that can be heard. The track ends with the same clicking sounds we heard at the beginning of “Ghosts”, signifying that the tape has been removed from the player.

Ghosts is a great little EP from this talented young duo, and my only criticism is that it’s too short, leaving me wanting to hear more.

Connect with Killer Tape: Facebook / Instagram
Stream or purchase on Apple Music / Google Play / YouTube

PHYSIA – EP Review: “Physia”

physia

I continue to be amazed and a little amused that I’ve gained a reputation as a music blogger who artists and bands reach out to in hopes I’ll listen to and write about their music, especially given the fact I play no instruments, cannot read music, have never written a song, and know zero about computer music programs or synthesizers. Hell, I only learned a few years ago that a bass guitar has only four strings as opposed to a standard six-string guitar! That said, I’m immensely impressed by people who can do all those things. I also try to keep an open mind about all kinds of music, and (almost always) know a good song when I hear it.

With that in mind, I’m pleased to feature a young, promising musician from Canada who goes by the artistic name PHYSIA. It’s the basement project of 19-year-old college student James Bings, who just released his self-titled debut EP Physia on the 25th of January. Now based in Victoria, James grew up in the small city of Williams Lake, deep in the Cariboo region of British Columbia, and learned to play guitar and bass at a young age. He developed his skills performing live with his late grandfather, mostly jig and waltz songs. Drawing inspiration from bands like Mac Demarco, HOMESHAKE and Mild High Club, he wrote the songs for Physia during his freshman year of university, and recorded, produced and mixed them by himself. He played guitar and bass, and used synthesizers for the percussion.

james bing

His songs are all instrumentals, characterized by his lush-sounding reverb-drenched guitars, subtle bass and gentle percussion. The first track “Cool Cat” is an aptly-named, pleasing song with jazz-infused jangly guitars and just a hint of percussion. The title track “Physia” is sublime, with a lovely melody and terrific jangly and chiming guitars. I especially like the watery guitars that appear later in the song that add a bit of funkiness to the track. “Beach Interlude” is a short track, only 1:16 minutes long, but it’s a beauty, with some fine guitar work that conveys images of a romantic night on the beach.

Nice Dog” is a mellow, happy tune with jazzy, reverb-heavy riffs, accompanied by a pleasant little percussive beat. The song seems to end at the 3-minute mark, then suddenly starts back up with a sped-up version of the same melody and guitar riff, ending on an exuberant note. “Floral” is another brief track, but James’ intricate guitar work is really beautiful.

My favorite is “Drag Queen” which has the most complex and fully-developed melody of all the tracks. The sweeping jangly and chiming guitars are gorgeous, and I love the effect of James’ soaring vocals that meld so beautifully with the guitars, creating a wonderful glittery soundscape. I asked James why he gave the track that title, and he said he was inspired by RuPaul’s Drag Race, which he and his girlfriend enjoy watching. The laughter of who I’m guessing is James and his girlfriend at the end is a fun touch.

Physia is a great little EP, and a very respectable debut effort that James should be proud of. He’s a fine guitarist and composer, and I really like his sound. I’m confident his skills will continue to grow and improve as he matures, and I’d like to see him use more complex melodies, guitar riffs and synths,  and perhaps even try writing lyrics and adding more vocals to his songs.

The cool artwork for the EP was created by graphic and digital artist, editor/motion designer and composer Harrison Ames Barrett  https://www.ames.digital/

Connect with Physia on Instagram / Facebook
Stream/purchase his music on Spotify / Bandcamp / Soundcloud / iTunes

FUTURE THEORY – Single Review: “Peace of Mind”

Piece of Mind

I’ve featured quite a few artists and bands from the UK on this blog, and one of my favorites is the astonishingly talented Future Theory. The Lincolnshire-based foursome consists of Max Sander on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Moore on lead guitar, Rex Helley on bass, and Rohan Parrett on drums. Drawing inspiration from Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Soundgarden, Audioslave, Queens of the Stone Age, Coldplay and The Verve – and how can you possibly go wrong with inspiration from those legendary bands? – they’ve developed a lavish sound built on elements of alternative and progressive rock, shoegaze, psychedelia and funk. I’m not exaggerating when I use the word ‘astonishing’ to describe them, as their outstanding songwriting and musicianship has a complexity and depth that’s impressive for such a young band. And Max’s amazing vocal style possesses a nuanced emotional intensity that seems mature beyond his years.

Future Theory4

Future Theory released their spectacular debut EP Fool’s Dream in 2016 (which I reviewed), then followed in April of this year with a brilliant single “Fractured Nation,” which I also reviewed. Today they return with a new single “Peace of Mind,” and it’s another stellar track with complex melodies, intelligent lyrics and dazzling instrumentation.

The song kicks off with exuberant jangly guitars, crystalline synths and sharp percussion, all melding together to paint a rich tapestry of sound. Max’s sultry vocals have a raw, vulnerable quality that’s quite pleasing to my ears, though it’s sometimes difficult to understand some of the lyrics he’s singing. The instrumentals build to a turbulent mix of heavy bass, piercing guitars and crashing cymbals in the bridge, then break down to clear jangly riffs that seem to sparkle like glitter on the airwaves through to the end of the track. It’s a dark and beautiful song.

The lyrics speak to the struggle of maintaining a loving relationship by reassuring your significant other of your love and devotion in the face of her alcohol addiction: “Forget about your day and your worries now. Go back into the warmth and find your wants in supply. Cause I adore you and all the things you do for me.” But then he’s trying to hold on to his peace of mind while applying some tough love to convince her to quit drinking: “I gotta stay here. Piece of warmth. Peace of mind. Be so warm, be so quiet. Love factor aside, you need a kick in your behind. You try to make her realize the alcohol don’t fix inside.

Connect with Future Theory:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Google Play /  YouTube
Purchase on:  iTunes /  Bandcamp

LUNA ROSA Release Fundraiser Single & Video “Fear, Filth, Dirt & Death”

Luna Rosa Single Art

Luna Rosa is an outstanding Alternative/Psych/Indie rock four-piece formed in 2015, and hailing from Corby, Northamptonshire, UK. Making the music are Rory McDade (guitar, lead vocals), Aidan Furey (guitar, moves), Jack Connolly (drums, howls) and Charlie Thorneycroft (bass, noises). They released a superb self-titled EP Luna Rosa that same year, and followed up in 2017 with a fantastic double single “Mercurial Man/Vessels.” They now return with a powerful new single “Fear, Filth, Dirt & Death.

The song is a scathing attack on the negative aspects of Capitalism that helped make the fire at Grenfell Tower all the more deadly. (The cheap – and highly flammable –  insulating cladding used for the building renovation in 2017, just prior to the fire, is now believed to have caused the fire to spread much more rapidly.)

Musically, the track starts off with a galloping drumbeat and a scratchy guitar note, then explodes into a furious barrage of roiling guitar riffs and thunderous drums that seem to channel The Clash. The hard-driving music perfectly fits the harsh lyrics:

Fear Filth Dirt & Death
There’s fucking nothing left
The rest is left for the one percent at best
Look out for yourself
Prisoners of the State

Fear Filth Dirt & Death
You take away our NHS
It’s cause we matter less and less I know
It’s in your best interest

Heroes are buried in paupers graves
The money worth the morals you trade?
How come the ivory towers ain’t burning?
Grenfell fell for your earning
Prisoners of the State

The band explained their intent behind the song: “All money generated from the single as well as merchandise sales will be going to the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster. We are under no illusion that we can give these people what they need or deserve, but we feel the need to make the gesture and let them know that we stand with them.  Although dubious on whether to release this, as we didn’t want to cause anymore hurt, we thought there’s no better way to bring people together and show support than music.”

If you can donate £1 via our justgiving page, leaving your name and email we will get the song over to you:  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/luna-rosa-single

Or you can buy it through our Bandcamp page and we will make sure everything goes over:  https://lunarosa.bandcamp.com/track/fear-filth-dirt-death

If you cant spare the £1 then please share!

Further Merchandise sales will be going to Firefighters & NHS Nurses. Thank you to Jordan Cameron for creating and donating the artwork to the cause.

Catch Luna Rosa at one of these upcoming shows:

Saturday, July 21  –  Percy’s Cafe Bar, Whitechurch, England w/Porcelain Hill

Saturday, July 28  –  Wrexfest 2018, Wrexham, Wales

Thursday, August 2  –  Kaleidoscope, Birmingham, England 

Friday, August 17  –  Shout About It, Liverpool, England

Saturday, August 18  –  Voodoo Lounge, Stamford, England w/Failsafe, Ten Years Dead

Friday, August 31  –  The Cookie, Leicester, England w/Oddity Road

Saturday, September 8  –  Rocked Up Hootenanny 2018, Rockingham Motor Speedway, Corby, England

Connect with Luna Rosa: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

FUTURE THEORY – Single Review: “Fractured Nation”

Fractured Nation

I seem to be revisiting a lot of artists and bands lately that I’ve previously featured on this blog, as many of them are releasing new music. One of them is the astonishingly talented UK band Future Theory.  The Lincolnshire-based foursome consists of Max Sander on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Moore on lead guitar, Rex Helley on bass, and Rohan Parrett on drums. Drawing inspiration from bands such as Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Audioslave, Queens of the Stone Age and The Verve, they’ve developed a lavish sound built on elements of alternative and progressive rock, shoegaze, psychedelia and funk. I’m not exaggerating when I use the word ‘astonishing’ to describe them, as their outstanding music has a complexity and depth that’s impressive for such a young band. And if that weren’t enough, Max’s amazing vocal style exhibits a nuanced emotional intensity that seems mature beyond his years.

future theory

Future Theory released their magnificent debut EP Fool’s Dream in 2016 (which I reviewed), and now follow up with a brilliant new single “Fractured Nation,” which dropped today, the 27th of April. The songs on the EP were all spectacular, setting a very high bar for the band, and “Fractured Nation” not only reaches but leaps over that bar.

The track is fantastic, with exuberant layers of chiming and distorted guitars, sparkling synths and Rohan’s wildly crashing cymbals. Max’s sultry impassioned vocals are captivating as he croons “There’s no syncopation in this fractured nation. It’s like druids spinning around. Zone in zone out. I feel the whole world slipping inside out. Is that what people dream about?” At about the halfway point, our eardrums are greeted by riffs of chiming guitars so stunning they bring chills. The music continues to build to a crescendo, before ultimately dissipating into an extended distorted guitar note lasting fifteen seconds to close out the track. It’s perfection from start to finish, and I’m elated that Future Theory has delivered such a marvelous song for our listening enjoyment. I’m excited to hear what musical delights they come up with next.

Catch Future Theory at one of these upcoming shows:

APR28
Sat 8:30 PM UTC+01 · 392 guests
Grantham, United Kingdom
MAY18
Fri 10:30 PM UTC+01 · by Future Theory
Lincoln, United Kingdom

Connect with Future Theory:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Google Play /  YouTube
Purchase on:  iTunes /  Bandcamp

THEY CALLED HIM ZONE – Single Review: “Death Drive/I Like Noise”

Death Drive Art

I’ve been revisiting a number of artists that I previously featured on this blog, and my latest is the Bradford, UK dark wave/psychedelic/electro-pop band They Called Him Zone. Formed in early 2016, they quickly released their debut EP Miami, then followed up with a stellar mini-album Crow Swan Wolf in February 2017, which I reviewed. Now they return with a double single “Death Drive / I Like Noise,” released today, the 25th of August, through their label Ambicon Records.

They Called Him Zone consists of Mik Davis (lead vocals, drones and production),  Steve Maloney (guitar, backing vocals and production), and John Bradford (keyboards and percussion). For these songs, they were joined by Cat McLaughlan who provided backing vocals. In describing their sound, sometimes the band’s own words offer the best explanation: [Our music] “combines sultry electronica with chewed-up, modulated guitars, evoking rain-drenched, neon-daubed streets, proscribed chemicals, and black-clad malcontents wearing mirror shades after dark. And it’s always dark where they come from…

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Both songs seem to address our darker sides. Lead track “Death Drive” evokes a shadowy netherworld of lust and danger with its hypnotic beat and harsh industrial synths. Maloney’s gritty and sometimes wailing guitars amplify the sense of foreboding, while in a rather menacing monotone, Davis sings the lyrics that seem to speak to an addiction – whether it be drugs, sex or some other obsession:

We’ve become so cold, playing out in the rain,
Waiting out for June, you make me cold sweat…
My body shakes when I’m with you, I feel no pain…
The death drive.

The equally dark video for the song was produced by Bradford-based Twenty Twenty Films, and features alternative models Zombie Cat Girl and Miss Gerrish, and method actor Mark Morris.

The B-side “I Like Noise” is a short track with a fast, repetitive beat and pulsating synths that deliver a post-punk psychedelic feel. Like the music, the lyrics are minimalist, and my guess is that they’re about numbing one’s pain by engaging in pleasurable but dangerous or taboo activities:

I like pills, I like noise, I like thrills, I like toys…
I like girls, I like boys, I like machines that make noise…
I like noise, I like, noise, I like machines, that make noise…
I tried love, I tried hate, I tried pain…

Both songs are brilliant, further demonstrating that They Called Him Zone is a cutting-edge band who pushes boundaries to create music that’s distinctive, mesmerizing and always provocative.

Connect with They Called Him Zone: Facebook / Twitter

Stream their music on  Soundcloud and purchase on Bandcamp

WILDCOHEN – Single Review: “Jacksons Son”

Indie duo WildCohen make music that’s hard to categorize. The Sheffield, UK duo, comprised of producer and multi instrumentalist Jody Wildgoose and songwriter and multi instrumentalist Rob Cohen, play songs that run the gamut from new wave psychedelic to folk and pop to alternative rock, and everything in between.  Jody plays bass and sings, and Rob plays guitars and also sings. According to an interview with Local Sound Focus, both guys were in previous bands (Jody in Various Vegetables, and Rob in Marmalade Sun), and decided to record together starting about two years ago out of mutual admiration for each others’ work.

WildCohen-Photo-by-Carl-Rose-696x462

Their debut album BloochyKoo, released through indie label Spoonjuice Records, features twelve eclectic tracks, and “Jacksons Son” is the first single. The song is a bouncy psychedelic romp that immediately forces the head to bob and hips to sway. Razor sharp synths, accompanied by crisp jangly guitars and crashing cymbals, move along a humming bass line. Gritty distorted vocals and a tumultuous mix of airy and chaotic choruses add to the track’s otherworldly vibe.

The fantastic video features an artful phantasmagoria of colorful psychedelic images of planets interwoven with Jody and Rob performing the song. Check it out:

Follow WildCohen:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Website

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud

Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon /  Bandcamp

EP Review : FUTURE THEORY – “Fool’s Dream”

To prepare for writing a music review, I start by immersing myself in the artist or band’s music in order to fully understand and evaluate the various elements of the lyrics, instrumentals, vocals and production values. In most cases, I come to more greatly appreciate the music the more I listen. And every now and then, I find myself falling deeper in love with the music each time I hear it. Such is the case with the incredibly talented UK band Future Theory. Last October, 2016, the foursome dropped their debut EP Fool’s Dream, and it’s nothing short of spectacular.

Future Theory is made up of Max Sander on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Moore on lead guitar, Rex Helley on bass (although Jake Scarbro was bassist at the time the EP was recorded), and Rohan Parrett on drums. Taking inspiration from such bands as Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Audioslave, Queens of the Stone Age and The Verve, the Lincolnshire collective have developed a lavish sound built on elements of alternative rock, shoegaze, psychedelia and funk. Furthermore, their skillful musicianship and intelligent songwriting are all the more striking given their youth (I believe they’re all under the age of 21).

Future Theory

Fool’s Dream starts off with “Eye of the Storm,” a dynamic and beautiful track overflowing with intricate, jangly guitars, sharp percussion and soaring melodies. Sander’s mesmerizing vocals have a sultry vulnerability as he sings the lyrics “Here I stand upon the sands. Stranded here in no mans land. Said I’m through with lies, but now I see.”  The track closes with a scorching guitar solo and a brief flourish of distorted guitar at the very end that conjures up images of a storm that has finally spent itself.

Now is a good time to state flat out that Sander’s sensuous and startlingly mature-sounding vocals are a thing of wonder and, to my mind, a defining element of Future Theory’s sound. It’s astonishing that a man of his young age could vocalize with such nuanced emotional intensity. When combined with the band’s dazzling instrumentals, his captivating vocals result in songs of exceptional caliber.

The title track “Fool’s Dream” is an achingly gorgeous song about realizing that your love interest isn’t quite what you’d hoped, thus shattering your dreams. Sander moans “Why is the glass always half empty when you’re around? Sense of frustration now, stretching my mind. Oh I feel all down.” The swirling guitars and crystalline synths are, well…dreamy.

The guys lay down some terrific psychedelic grooves on “Horses.” Shredded and distorted guitars duel with thumping bass, crashing cymbals and glittery synths, creating tension as Sander seductively croons “See the horses, they’re the only ones who know motive. / Another scene, another slaughter, when enemies hold their line. / Woah oh oh oh horses, why won’t you take me away.” They funk things up on “Listen Closely,” with lots of jangly guitars layered over funky bass and a driving beat. The guitars on this track are so good!

The final track “Horses (Koncide Remix)” is a spellbinding EDM/techno re-imagining of “Horses.” Gone are the layered guitars, and in their place are complex, multi-textured synths that create a dramatic, yet dreamy, soundscape. It’s the perfect ending for a fool’s dream.

Connect with Future Theory:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Google Play /  YouTube

Purchase on:  iTunes /  Bandcamp