WINACHI – Single Review: “Heaven in Hell.A”

British electro-funk/soul collective WINACHI are all about fun and having a good time. Their infectious sexy grooves – which they describe as “swaggering Mancunian tenacity spliced with smooth Californian G Funk soul” – are guaranteed to have you shaking your ass with a smile on your face.

Based in and around Manchester, WINACHI originally formed in 2015 as The Winachi Tribe, and have undergone a few personnel changes over the years. They’re now comprised of founding members Liam Croker (lyrics and vocals), Antony Egerton (keyboards, programming) and Inder Goldfinger (percussion), along with Andy McKay (lead guitar), Richard Ritchie (bass) and Paul Lawrence (drums), all accomplished musicians with diverse musical backgrounds.

I first learned about them in Spring of 2018, around the time they released their funky dance single “Transition”. I instantly loved it, as well as all their subsequent releases, and have featured them on this blog more times than I can remember (you can find links to some of those reviews under “Related” at the end of this post.)

WINACHI has collaborated over the years with musicians and producers in both the UK and Southern California, and this past March, Liam, Antony and Inder returned to Los Angeles to work with producers John X (who’s worked with such artists as David Bowie, the Rolling Stones & Reeves Gabrels) and Joe Hirst (Ian Brown, Bloc Party). Together they recorded the single “Heaven In Hell.A“, which they released along with an entertaining video on Halloween. The song is the lead single from their forthcoming full length debut album Sympathy For The Future, due for release next year. The song and video were recorded and produced at the Earthstar Creation Centre in the L.A. community of Venice.

Musically, the features a delicious signature WINACHI dance groove, over which they layer thick drum-bass beats, spooky psychedelic synths, and lots of funky guitar. Liam’s distinctive vocals, which sit in a sweet spot between sultry and raspy, perfectly complement the music’s mysterious, yet lighthearted, vibe.

As to the song’s meaning, my take is that it speaks to the seductive nature of Los Angeles (Liam loves the city) and how, despite its many shortcomings, it’s also a magical place that can really get under your skin. (I lived there for eight years in the 1980s, and have a conflicted love/hate feeling for it myself.) He uses a demonic she-devil woman as a metaphor for L.A.’s seductive, intoxicating power: “The city’s heart is burning, hotter than the sun, The life you taste upon your breath is the proof you’ve had your fun. The city’s pulse it’s beating to the rhythm of her drum. You know she’s gonna love you, as long as you keep breathing. Once you’re in hell and under her spell, then you know that you won’t be leaving.”

The video, written and directed by Tom Muhl, shows the three members of WINACHI arriving at a party, whereupon they meet a man played by John X and a woman played by Frankie Clarke of L.A. band Frankie + The Studs. They give the guys little black pills that appear to be in the shape of a devil’s head, and soon after ingesting them they start tripping out, with the other party attendees appearing to be zombies with skeletal faces. The guys escape in a car, roaming the nighttime streets of L.A., where they continue to encounter more skeletal demons, and eventually, Antony become a zombie himself. The next morning, Liam is shown chilling on a beach, seemingly relieved that last night’s events appear to have been just a nightmare. But then, he sees the she-devil standing nearby, holding an hourglass and shrieking with macabre laughter.

Here’s just the track itself:

While in Los Angeles last March, WINACHI played a gig at the landmark club The Mint, which, other than for a couple of brief closures, has been in almost continuous operation since 1937. I had the pleasure of finally meeting Liam, Antony and Inder, and seeing them perform some of their songs that I love.

Connect with WINACHI: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

LEWCA – Album Review: “Friday Night Rockstar”

England-born, and now France-based, singer-songwriter and musician Lewca is one of the most creative, funny and irreverent artists I’ve come across, with a deliciously bawdy sense of humour. As he cheekily explains in his bio, “Lewca was born in a squat in Brixton, by age nineteen he was living in a squat in Paris, go figure… After studying fine art and dabbling in film, he started making music just before he was too old to die young. His influences range from class A drugs to expensive rum, and also The Clash, A$AP Rocky, Sleaford Mods, LCD Soundsystem, Bob Dylan, Eminem, Tom Waits…whoever is making decent music. He currently lives in Normandy, has three kids and a mortgage, and a semi-domesticated hedgehog named ‘Sonic’.

Lewca’s been making music for years, and after being in a few bands “that fell apart for the usual reasons”, he decided to embark on his own music project as Lewca in 2018. Although he collaborates with lots of different musicians on his projects (most often ex band members or musicians he’s met on Twitter) his main partner in crime is S.O.A.P. (shorthand for Son of A Pitch), a Parisian composer, producer, drum & bass DJ and beatmaker he met when they shared a billing at a gig together in 2013. Their partnership grew from a shared love of wonky beats, British soundscapes and a healthy dose of humour, along with an “expectation of absolute world domination and unfathomable wealth, obviously”. They’re also both fervent players of Dragon Ball Fighterz, and if the music thing doesn’t pan out they’re considering pro gaming as a viable alternative.

Since 2018, they’ve released three EPs, which culminated in a colossal album Year One, released this past June, featuring all 17 tracks originally contained in the three EPs. In addition, the dynamic duo have been working for the last eighteen months on two more albums: Friday Night Rockstar, set for release on December 16th, and Boombap for Boomers, to be released some time in 2023. It’s the first of these, Friday Night Rockstar, I’m reviewing today.

The album features 13 tracks addressing such topics as the passage of time, personal doubts and demons, substance abuse, romantic love, and dreams that may never come true, expressed through Lewca’s honest and heartfelt, sometimes shocking, and often laugh-out-loud funny lyrics. The superb music and beats, composed by S.O.A.P. and influenced by the music they both loved while growing up, range from 80’s new wave and 90’s alternative rock to modern lo-fi indie pop and hip hop. Besides Lewca and S.O.A.P., additional vocals and/or instrumentals were performed by the artists Mondo Trasho, Victory Flow, Oh! Paulo, Chris James Willows, Ambre, Orange G, The JMC, Shark Star, Zar Acoustic, Ian Williamson, Ben Todd and Ben Samama.

The album opens with “Such a Cunt“, which I loved the moment I heard it. The lyrics are so wonderful I want to quote them all (but will control myself). It starts off with what sounds like Lewca clicking start on a tape recording of piano music while he addresses an audience from a stage: “Good evening. Thank you so much for coming out, ladies and gentlemen. It’s an honor. I love you so much. Hi mom. This is a song about cheese.” He than launches into song, admonishing us to live our lives to the fullest, but also try and be a nice person while doing our thing: “Done a lot of crazy shit in my life, but I’d do it all again. Dodged a bullet maybe once or twice. Played the fool every now and then. Hey, you, yeah you in the back, do you get what I’m trying to say? We’re gonna die, mate, that’s a fact, so let the chips fall where they may. But most importantly, stop being such a cunt!” The song has a skittering drum & bass groove, with wobbly industrial synths and sharp percussion, nicely accented by some colorful piano keys and delightfully twangy guitars. Lewca’s gritty vocals are wonderful, oozing with in-your-face swagger that’s a glorious mash-up of Mick Jagger, Joe Strummer and Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods.

Next up is the raucous title track “Friday Night Rockstar“, featuring British garage rock band Mondo Trasho. The lyrics are a humorous take on a guy who thinks he’d gonna be rock’s next big thing, except he’s been waiting for it to happen for years: “World famous in my neighbourhood. If I touch my dick, just assume that I’m touching wood. I could take Tyson, in his fucking prime. Two glasses and a bottle and I’ll make that bitch mine. Ain’t even made it. Already overrated. If a fuck was given mate, I never gave it. Since the late nineties, I’ve been sedated. Still ain’t got a deal, but it’s being negotiate./ They say I got million dollar mind. Shit I ain’t never made a dime. Killing it one weekend at a time. I’m a part time punk, but when I’m drunk I’m a rockstar. Bitch, I’m a rockstar. Friday night rockstar.

Harmony Korine” is a poignant but amusing look back at his childhood that seemed more innocent. To a bouncy new wave groove, Lewca sings “My generation, born in the 80s, lived in a world that didn’t give a fuck mate. The Iron Curtain, the Iron Lady, and my old man chain-smoking in the car with the windows up, and the kids in the back with no seat belts on./ We were poor, like the kids next door. It was my childhood, and I wished for no other./ The world that I knew ain’t coming back. Gotta try and face the facts, and get a move on./ Guess we ran out of time, cuz we ain’t kids no more. And Harmony Korine is like 50 now.”

One of the many things I love about the album is that every song sounds completely different, surprising us as each new track unfolds. “A Million Things” has an endearing, lighthearted groove, with quirky, carnival-like synths and Lewca’s alternately gruff and playful vocals as he sings about some of the shit that’s bothering him, apologizing that he “may be an asshole, but it ain’t by design.” He expands on this theme on “Everyday Struggle“, bemoaning the drudgeries of making a living to a rousing trip hop beat: “Six in the morning, I’m at the train station. Every damn day I take the same destination. Gotta get to work, I gotta pay them bills. Pay for them nappies and them cheap ass thrills. Nine hour shifts all day on your feet. Five days a week just to make ends meet. It’s hard labor, yet I ain’t done no crime. I’m selling my life, one day at a time. Oh lord, it’s an everyday struggle.”

Forget My Name” is a beautiful, deeply affecting track about the idea of success, and that even though you’re at rock bottom, you’re never going to stop chasing that dream: “I’m gonna make, I can fuckin’ take it. Man I’m on a roll now. I’m the king of rock’n’roll now. Don’t forget my name.” Though I love Lewca’s gruff, melancholy vocals, the highlight for me are the stunning soulful vocals by Maryland-based transgender artist Victory Flow. Musically, the song features gorgeous intricate guitar work, somber piano keys, and achingly beautiful notes from a baby trombone.

One of my favorite songs (out of an album full of favorites) is “Incredible“, featuring added vocals by Chris James Willows and Ambre. Over a languid, drum and bass-driven groove, Lewca cheekily raps about his ‘I don’t give a fuck’ approach to music: “I’m at a party and I’m off my face. Falling around, I’m all over the place. High as fuck, I just have to sing. Can’t contain the diva within./ People let me know they ain’t digging the flow. But now I got the the microphone, I ain’t never letting go. I hope you got a sense of humour, turn up the fucking boomer. I don’t give a fuck If I’m ruining the song. Got a mic in hand this is where I belong. Anyway mate, these drugs are way too strong. Ain’t got a fucking clue what the fuck’s going on.” Then we hear an adoring girl, sung by Ambre, croon “You’re so wicked baby, loving your song. Gonna listen to ya all night long“, to which he replies “You’re gonna hear me baby all night long” followed by Chris James Willows’ chorus of “I feel incredible, I feel fucking awesome.” I love it!

The great songs keep on coming, and by now I’m thinking that Friday Night Rockstar might just be one of my favorite albums of the year. “The Love Within” is a hilarious love song that will never get played on the radio. To S.O.A.P.’s deliciously funky dub step beat, Lewca croons to his woman “I only wanna see you smile. I’d drive a thousand fucking miles. Girl I got you under my skin. I need to feel the love within.” But then he gets very sexually explicit in his adoration for her as he raps “I love looking in your eyes when you suck my dick, and listening to your sigh when I licked your clit. When I’m up between your thighs, when I cum on your tits.”

The next few songs touch on the highs and lows of rock stardom. On “Radio Gigolo“, Lewca sings of his dreams of becoming a huge star with a hit song, and willingness to sell himself out to get there: “One day they’ll play my song on the radio. They’ll play it all day long on the radio. I’ll feel like 10 feet tall. Big shots will take my call./ One day I’ll sell myself like a gigolo. I’ll be like someone else I don’t even know. So hungry for fame, I’ll even sell my name, for a spicy chicken wing on some TV show.” Opening with words spoken in French by S.O.A.P., “Golden God” transitions into a trap song with Lewca rapping about how his identity has been subsumed by his rockstar persona: “I’m a golden god, ex officio. Least that’s what I’m told. You can see it all in the video./ Guess I must have lost my mind somehow, somewhere along the line. Take a look into my eyes, mate, I’m not there./ I guess I’m strange mate, yeah I’m all over the place. I’ll keep on being strange until they turn out the light.

Lewca lets loose on “A Song“, a wonderfully frantic and trippy punk song with a bit of an East Indian vibe, thanks to what sounds like a sitar. He rapidly raps through a litany of grievances, with the recipients of his complaints telling him to “write a fucking song about it“. He really channels his inner Mick Jagger on “I Fell in Love With a Serial Killer“, which sounds like a song the Stones forgot to record. I love the rousing rock’n’roll groove, and the guitars and percussion are fantastic. Album closer “Smoke in the Air” is wonderful too, with a rapid drum-bass groove, highlighted by wobbly synths, jangly guitars and skittering percussion. Throughout the album, I’ve been blown away by S.O.A.P.’s amazing beats and instrumentation, and this song nicely showcases his impressive talents.

I don’t what more I can say about Friday Night Rockstar that I haven’t already written, except to say that I absolutely love it! Lewca and S.O.A.P. have really outdone themselves here in the creation of a unique and brilliant album, for which they should be quite proud. The various artists who contributed vocals and/or instrumentals to the project must also be commended as well.

Though the album won’t be released until mid-December, Lewca wanted me to review it well in advance, in the hopes of generating interest and pre-saves prior to it’s official release. Besides, I want as many people as possible to hear this album. He’s already dropped two singles from the album, “Friday Night Rockstar” and “Incredible”, with plans to drop a couple more over the next month. He’s provided me with the following Bandcamp link to allow readers of this post to listen to the entire album:

You can pre-save Friday Night Rockstar on one of these platforms

To learn more about Lewca, check out his Website

Connect with him on FacebookTwitterInstagramTikTok

Stream his music on SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud

Purchase on Bandcamp

MISSIO – Album Review: “VILLAIN”

Am I a villain or a saint?” MISSIO asks on the title track of their brilliant new album VILLAIN. It’s an aural and emotional roller-coaster, encompassing the yin and yang of evil and goodness that exists within most of us. As regular readers of this blog know, I’m a huge fan of the Austin, Texas-based duo, which consists of singer-songwriter and producer Matthew Brue and songwriter/producer and instrumentalist David Butler. On the strength of their exceptional music catalog, as well as their honesty and openness with their fans and followers, they’ve earned a place among my favorite music acts of all time, and I’ve featured them several times on this blog. Their edgy, thoroughly original sound is an eclectic mash-up of gritty alternative electronic rock, hip hop and dreamy emo vibes. Matthew’s beautiful, deeply emotive vocals add to their distinctive sound that’s totally unlike any other act.

David Butler and Matthew Brue

Beginning with the release of their debut album Loner in 2017, they’ve consistently put out a tremendous amount of outstanding music, including their magnificent second album The Darker the Weather // The Better the Man in 2019 (my review of that album has garnered over 2,900 views, making it my highest-viewed album review ever). They released their gorgeous fourth album Can You Feel The Sun in October 2020and their fifth and latest album VILLAIN dropped September 23rd. Three of their songs – “I See You”, “Underground” and “Can You Feel the Sun” – have reached #1 on my own Weekly Top 30 chart, with “I See You” also being my #1 song of 2019 and #10 of the entire decade of the 2010s.

Though most of MISSIO’s songs are inspired by personal experiences, both good and bad, VILLAIN is perhaps their most deeply personal and introspective: “This is the first album we’ve chosen to release independently, and we poured our hearts into it. We always aim to write vulnerably about what we are feeling in the moment, and honestly, the last few years have been filled with a lot of difficult moments for us. Therefore, this album was written and inspired from some of the darkest spaces / heaviest emotions that we’ve experienced. It’s an album cultivated over hundreds of hours of internal/external dialogue within ourselves and each other about the meaning of the world and our place in it.

The ten tracks touch on such topics as the conflict between good vs. evil, feelings of self-worth, anger and resentment, and the need for love and acceptance. The title track “Villain” seems to encapsulate all of these: “Complicated and a mess, slightly OCD. Take for granted many things that mean a lot to me. I know, I’ve got a lot to learn. I was raised as a scorpion. Being pulled by the moon in a high tide. That’s why I’m broken. I know, this hurts a lot. It’s not my fault it never was. And I know, I’m tough like stone. But right now, please hug me, I feel alone.” Musically, the song alternates between pensive, atmospheric moods and urgent, beat-driven grooves, nicely conveying the inner conflict touched on earlier.

On the menacing trip hop song “Demons“, Matthew starts off lamenting of his shortcomings “I feel I am letting go. And that makes me angry because I’m not who I want to be. It seems like I’m fading. And that makes me terrified because I’m not who I want to be.” But then he seems to take on the persona of the devil as he malevolently snarls, perhaps in reply to himself “Ay boy, what the fuck you think you’re doing here? This is Hell, don’t you know that you were coming here? I’ve been playing with your demons all day.”

MISSIO summon their inner beast on the bombastic “Say Something” and “#gimmeakiss“, which according to Spotify streaming stats are two of the most popular tracks on VILLAIN. Both tracks last barely two minutes, but blast through the speakers like a sonic battering ram of grinding industrial synths and pummeling beats. It’s clear the guys had a lot of fun recording these bangers, which are more frantic than their usual style, and both need to be played at full volume!

I Wanna Fight And You Know It” is an eerie, aggressive song in which Matthew speaks to his darker, more combative side: “People tell me that I may be the disease. Like I’m the crazy bitches in the sea. Maybe all of ’em are right when it comes to being shady. I wanna fight and you know it. I got my fists up tonight and you know it.” And on the anthemic “We Are Who We Are“, Matthew addresses the importance of being true to ourselves, and accepting our imperfections in order to live a life that’s honest and real: “Why do we try to live a lie? It isn’t worth it. Who you tryna please? ‘Cause if it’s me, it isn’t working. We are who we are. That can be hard to accept. We are all fucked up human beings.”

One of the more enjoyable tracks on the album is “Does Anybody Love Me“. I love the infectious upbeat vibe and hearty piano and bass-driven groove. The lyrics speak to overthinking and worrying too much about what others think of you, but also cognizant of the fact that many others do the same: “Does anybody love me? I don’t know. Is everybody lonely? I think so.”

The final three tracks on VILLAIN are more contemplative and melodic, beginning with “Failure to Comply“, a beautiful, powerfully moving song about a narcissist who’s unable to love or show empathy toward others: “What is it you’re looking for? What is it that leaves you wanting more? Will you ever fight for me? Will you ever love someone other than you?” The mournful piano and dramatic, sweeping instrumentals are gorgeous, as are Matthew’s deeply heartfelt vocals. My favorite song on the album, it’s spent the past three months and counting on my Weekly Top 30.

Picture in My Pocket” is a beautiful love song, with a languid, almost jazzy feel. The warm piano keys, subtle percussion and strummed guitar are positively sublime, and Matthew’s gentle vocals have an enchanting ethereal quality as he softly croons “Hang on to love if it’s real. I want to believe. I have this picture in my pocket of a peace I won’t grieve. And then I saw you. And you saw me. And suddenly the world wasn’t as bad as once before.”

VILLAIN closes on a positive note with the stunning and cinematic “To the Universe“. The lyrics speak to living life with an open mind and an open heart, unafraid to take chances and follow your dreams: “Open your mind to ideas that you don’t like. It’s a beautiful world if you quit puttin’ up a fight. You can let your walls down and be who you want to be. ‘Cause it’s a beautiful world, you can scream it when you don’t believe. To the universe, to the universe. It’s where we’re headed.”

Their previous albums are all so exceptional, I wasn’t sure how MISSIO could possibly keep matching their quality, let alone top them. But how shortsighted and wrong I was to doubt them, as once again they’ve gifted us with a phenomenal album in the form of VILLAIN. Every single one of its tracks is outstanding, which is not something that can be said about very many albums. I remain a faithful and devoted fan.

Follow MISSIO:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple MusicYouTube
Purchase on Amazon

WINACHI – Single Review: “Characters”

British electro-funk/soul collective WINACHI call their sound a blend of “swaggering Mancunian tenacity spliced with smooth Californian G Funk soul”, a perfect description for their delectable music stew of infectious sexy grooves. Based in Warrington, situated roughly halfway between Liverpool and Manchester, WINACHI consists of Liam Croker (lyrics and vocals) and Antony Egerton (keyboards, programming), Inder Goldfinger (percussion), Andy McKay (lead guitar), Richard Ritchie (bass) and Paul Lawrence (drums), all accomplished musicians with diverse musical backgrounds.

They formed in 2015, but I first learned about them in Spring of 2018, around the time they released their funky dance single “Transition”. I instantly loved it, as well as all their subsequent releases, and have featured them numerous times on this blog, most recently last November when I reviewed their PARASITICAL ELIMINATION E.P. (You can find links to some of those reviews under “Related” at the end of this post.) That EP included four great collaborative remixes of three of their previous songs by international artists and producers Howie B, Paolo Baldini, Jim Spencer, and Impey. Now WINACHI are back with a marvelous new single “CHARACTERS“, the first of a long line of singles they plan to release in 2022.

The track, which features additional keyboards by Lee ‘Latch’ Parker, was engineered and mixed by Jim Spencer and mastered by Ben Booker. About the song, front man Liam Croker explains: “CHARACTERS is about how we’re all living together in this extremely beautiful yet completely fucked up world, and how once you get past all the prejudice, hate and judgmental bullshit, we’re all just the same, living under the same sky…we’re human beings and without each other we’re nothing. When writing and producing this track we wanted to make something that sounded like a cross between Beck, George Clinton and a Looney Tunes cartoon, I think we succeeded with that. The world’s such a dark, insane place at the moment that we wanted to put out our own little slice of madness…except exchanging the darkness for a bit of a colour. CHARACTERS is exactly that, a funked-up Bugs Bunny cartoon.”  

I’m not sure I can improve on Liam’s description of the song, so I’ll just elaborate on what I love about it. Firstly, there’s that seductive and funky bass-driven trip hop groove that grabs you by the hips and shoulders, compelling you to move! Then there’s the colorful mix of magical glittery and darker industrial synths, punctuated with flourishes of sci-fi and cartoonish sound effects, hand claps and wonderful jangly guitar chords, all of which come together to create a trippy, enchanting soundscape.

Liam’s distinctive vocals are smooth, but with a seductive, slightly raspy undercurrent that conveys an air of mystery as he croons “The people that we meet, will paint the pictures of our lives. Some make a fortune, some shoot to get by. Some walk on the moon, while some just shoot to get high. We’re all just faces in the crowd./ We’re characters of the world.”

WINACHI never disappoints, and with “CHARACTERS” they deliver another stellar track for our listening enjoyment. I’m certain we’ll continue to hear more great songs from them in the coming months.

Here’s the song on YouTube:

And Soundcloud:

Connect with WINACHI:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

THE RED LOCKS – Album Review: “Arena Dream Trap”

As EclecticMusicLover, I enjoy listening to a broad range of music genres and styles. And while my tastes generally lean toward alternative rock, dream pop, folk rock, synth pop and R&B, I’m always open to expanding my musical horizons by venturing outside my comfort zone. With that in mind, I was intrigued when singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Leah Al-Uqdah reached out to me about her band The Red Locks and their debut album Arena Dream Trap. Blending together elements of trap, hip hop, arena rock and dream pop, they create their own distinctly unique sound they’ve labeled ‘Arena Dream Trap’.

Based in Chicago, The Red Locks are also a rather unusual band, comprised of the aforementioned Leah Al-Uqdah, her husband DJ Privileged (aka David M Pospiech), and their 14-year-old son, percussion savant David Henry Pospiech. DJ Privileged has also been part of Chicago band Virga Trollyp, while Leah has played with bands Off The Radar and Another Pretty Lush. Both DJ Privileged and Leah play guitar, bass and keyboards, while their son David plays drums and keyboards. With a vocal range and timbre somewhat reminiscent of Björk, Leah sings lead vocals, and DJ Privileged sings back-up.

About their album, Leah confided to me: “So many years and tears have gone into these songs. I really feel the world needs these songs, to share a bottled remedy to aid in a hurtful world. I can help others grow from my pain and pensive notes from my very private spiritual journey. We titled the album ‘Arena Dream Trap’, because it’s the sum of our parts.” 

Well, let me say that the instant I pressed play and heard the opening track “Our Father“, I was taken aback by it’s trippy vibes and explicit lyrics. I was not expecting to hear “The Lord’s Prayer” and the words “You know, eating pussy cures cancer” together in the same song, but I get it. My guess is that the song is a statement on the nature of what constitutes as ‘sin’ in our rather hypocritical Judeo-Christian culture. To drive home their message, The Red Locks layer spooky ethereal synths over a throbbing trap bass groove as Leah talk-sings the lyrics in her breathy echoed vocals.

That deep, pulsating trap bass groove continues on the next track “$I4R“, short for “$o Impractical For Real”, only this time overlain by DJ Privileged’s jarringly beautiful psychedelic guitar chords that hover in a sweet spot between distorted and jangly, accompanied by recurring hand claps. I have no clue as to the song’s meaning, but I really like those resonant guitars. The curiously titled “Helen Keller” is even trippier, with spacey synths, otherworldly male voices and a discordant melody. But the most notable aspect of the song are Leah’s amazing vocal gymnastics, which go from oddly seductive baby-like croons to reverb-soaked menacing wails.

Overrated” is more melodic and upbeat than the previous tracks, with swirling, almost carnival-like synths and cheerful drumbeats, accompanied by Leah’s lilting vocals. I think it’s the prettiest song on the album. But “Spinning to Survive” has a harsher lo-fi sound, with grungy guitars and David’s assertive and marvelously intricate drumbeats. Leah’s colorful vocals sound almost like another instrument in themselves, adding to the song’s rich texture and enchanting vibe.

Perhaps the most unusual track on the album, both musically and lyrically, is “This Semester“. The song has a fairly simple trap beat, but features an exotic and complex blend of spacey instrumentals and sounds. My interpretation of the lyrics is that they seem address pregnancy and sex, however, Leah told me they’re actually conceptual, and meant to explore an abusive one-sided relationship an artist develops with music. Leah starts off with a series of la-la-las in a sing-song manner, then sings in a baby-like voice “I think I really fucked up this semester, ’cause I think I know what’s best for her. A new way of expressing her true temperature. For an even cure, believe in her ability to grow that seed in her, the need to know that she’s for sure I’m keeping her, close to my heart. Because it’s not about pain. We’ll make sure no one gets fucked, but like everyone came.” Later in the song, DJ Privilege gets even more explicit, speaking lyrics I won’t repeat here.

I Don’t Recall” is tasty little psychedelic acid rock trip, while “It Takes Like” is an acid trip on steroids. The eerie industrial synths, discordant percussion, gnarly distorted guitars and Leah’s almost maniacal vocals create a deeply unsettling vibe. I didn’t think the songs could get any more strange, but “1000 Words” proved me wrong. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, as despite the very discordant triphop melody, skittering chirpy synths and Leah’s starkly contrasting blend of tortured and sing-song vocals, followed by DJ Privilege’s rapped verses, the song has a certain bizarre appeal. They close the album with “Strung Along“, a fairly mellow and gauzy rock track, featuring grainy distorted guitars, restrained percussion and Leah’s quirky warbling vocals. The song ends with her saying “thank you”, in humble appreciation for our having listened to their album.

While Arena Dream Trap won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a unique and utterly fascinating work that deserves attention. I applaud The Red Locks’ strong originality, imagination and musicianship, and if you like quirky trap music that pushes the envelope, you will enjoy this record.

Arena Dream Trap is available for streaming or download on SpotifySoundcloudYouTube 

Sub Urban & Two Feet Release a Trippy Single and Surreal Video “PATCHWERK”

Sub Urban is the music project of New Jersey-based singer-songwriter and producer Daniel Virgil Maisonneuve. The highly imaginative and insanely creative 21-year-old exploded onto the alternative music scene early last year with his breakout hit “Cradles”. The song went to #1 on the Billboard Alternative chart, and has been streamed 330 million times on Spotify. He followed up in March 2020 with his outstanding debut EP Thrill Seeker.

Regular readers of this blog know I’m a huge fan of the artist Two Feet, a massively talented New York-born and now Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter and guitarist who’s song “Fire” is currently enjoying a long run at #1 on my Weekly Top 30. I love all his music, and have written about him numerous times. Over the past few months, he’s collaborated with other artists such as electronic producer Gryffin on “I Want Love”, electro-pop band SHAED on “Part Time Psycho” and now Sub Urban on a trippy new song “PATCHWERK“.

The song, which was written and sung by both Sub Urban and Two Feet, and produced by Sub Urban, has an eerie, yet oddly sexy vibe. The skittering trip hop beat, discordant melody and piercing, goth-like synths are incredibly dramatic and deliciously creepy, unlike anything I’ve heard before. Two Feet sings his verses in his signature seductive vocal style, whereas Sub Urban’s go from spookily breathy to electronically-altered otherworldliness, perfectly complementing the unsettling music. The lyrics are rather ambiguous and abstract, but seem to speak to living an empty, hedonistic existence: “Cause I’ve got no soul. Live in a hole I dug. And I’ll fall apart if I don’t get it./ I’m sewing the patches right onto my skin. I’m counting the dollars to buy me out. I’m losing myself to the competition. At what point did I start to think that I’d win.

Every bit as eerie as the song is the accompanying video, which features a surreal mix of classical Greek imagery, kabuki-inspired choreography, and macabre body horror. The video was conceived and created by Sub Urban, directed by Andrew Donoho and produced by Valerie Bush of Huffman Creative. As with the song itself, Sub Urban wanted to produce a video that was different and shocking, drawing inspiration from Tim Burton films, as well as his mother’s Japanese and Chinese dramas. In the Official YouTube Premier for the video, he stated that he wanted it to “feel scary and uncomfortable and inhuman, as I thought that those kabuki characters in my mother’s films made me feel as a child.” He went on to say that the first thing he visualized was Two Feet singing as a Greek bust, then later immersed in a pool of wine, like a drunken Greek god. Sub Urban himself portrays two characters – a man like one from a Renaissance painting, only whose body is a creepy patchwork of stapled-together pieces, and a bald, alien-looking kabuki character all in white. Check it out:

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BUEL – Single Review: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”


BUEL is a bewitching, smoky-voiced singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles, who’s released a number of marvelous singles over the past four years or so. Her recent single “Lemon Smile”, released last October, is a gentle but powerful take-down of phony, duplicitous people, with a mesmerizing, sophisticated synth-pop melody that, to my ears at least, calls to mind some of Madonna’s early songs (not in terms of vocals, but rather in their style and feel). The YouTube video for the song has been streamed over half a million times. Now BUEL returns with a surprising new single – a thoroughly captivating reimagining of the Nirvana classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit“. The song was recorded at Wakeful Studios in Los Angeles, and produced by Burak Yerebakan (who plays guitar for L.A. band Yard of Blondes), who also played the theremin, an electronic musical instrument controlled without physical contact.

It’s an audacious undertaking to try and cover such an iconic and beloved classic, but she and Yerebakan pull it off with finesse. The song opens with otherworldly, siren-like sounds produced by the theremin, creating a decidedly portentous vibe. Then BUEL’S languid vocals enter along with a deep synth bass-driven trip hop beat, followed by delicate fluttering keyboards and accompanied by an enchanting mix of glittery synths, chiming guitar notes and the spacey warbling of the theremin. Her sultry vocals are gorgeous, with a haunting vulnerability that results in a completely different, but equally compelling, interpretation of Cobain’s provocative and sometimes impenetrable lyrics. Their treatment of the song is more melodic and dreamy, yet still manages to capture the dark rebelliousness of the Nirvana original.

The fascinating video was conceived and directed by BUEL, and shows her and Yerebakan performing the song in what appears to be a vacant derelict meeting hall of some kind, interspersed with scenes of an alien (also played by BUEL) and another shadowy man trying to solve a Rubik’s cube type of puzzle, but ultimately giving up. Watch and listen:

Here’s the original 4:18-minute long version of the song:

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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.

Robbie Sparks2

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 

STILL OPTIMIST – Album Review: “Velvet Season”

Mysterious. Captivating. Sensuous. Moody. Gorgeous. All words that describe my impressions when listening to the brilliant debut album Velvet Season by the experimental band Still Optimist. Formed in Paris, France in 2017 by Ukrainian artist Bina Timurova (vocals, songwriting, composing, guitar), and Hungarian Mihaly Sipos (keyboards, synthesisers, electronics, programming), Still Optimist creates an arresting blend of electronic/ trip-hop/ ambient/ cinematic music. In their bio, they colorfully describe their major influences: alternative and electronic music bands such as The Cure with its contradictory ambivalent of joy and sorrow; Massive Attack with their dark bass lines and atmospheric synth pads; Bjork and her multi-layered meaningful lyrics and the way she moves with her voice on an extreme scale; Tesla Boy with the whole 80’s synth pop vibe and tunes;  The Chemical Brothers for their outstanding soundscape and constant motion in sounds, and many more, such as Phantogram, Atoms for Peace, Him, Depeche Mode, Underworld, FSOL, and Archive.”

Another strong influence for the duo in the creation of Velvet Season was the 2013 Jim Jarmusch vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive. They state: “The slow, dark melancholy, the constant whispering presence of passion and crunchy guitar tunes somehow beautifully lifted, transformed into a fully coherent album.” But whatever their influences, what’s clear is that their songwriting is exceptional, with intriguing lyrics, complex and unusual melodic structures, and innovative musical techniques.

This is immediately apparent on the opening track “Another Space,” which starts off with mysterious industrial sounding synths, a sharp drumbeat and buzzing reverb. Bina’s unusual vocals are baby-like, yet sultry as she sings “I am raising my eyes to the sky. But I’ll never see all the stars in the space. That one day are destined to meet. And their beautiful light, like a beacon for lost ships, will be mixed in a fatal dance. And those stars are destined to meet.” The tempo then shifts to a strong hypnotic EDM beat, as the industrial synths and heavy buzzing reverb continue. Bina croons “And they will be absorbed in their final farewell ball. They could even collapse, giving birth to a Black Hole.” It’s a mesmerizing track.

The creative visuals and design are also an important aspect of their production, as evidenced in their videos like this one:

Next up is the trippy “Dark Places,” with it’s spooky soundscape of grinding psychedelic synths and sensuous keyboards. Bina’s vocal gymnastics are impressive, reminding me at times of Phantogram’s Sarah Barthel. “Voices” has a Depeche Mode vibe, with lush synths that are mysterious and fuzzy.  Bina’s vocals are enthralling as she sings about her fantasies and desires becoming a reality:  “And these voices around my head they are getting louder. Voices around my head they remind me I like it.”

Here Comes the Sun” is a beautiful triphop song about how natural forces always triumph over humans’ attempt to subjugate them: “Plants overgrown on blocks, drain the strength of concrete, take them into possession.  People are full of absurd in their paltry attempts to transcend over Nature.” This becomes a metaphor for a loved one’s irrepressible nature: “Green sprouts grow through cracks in grey stone. As did your lust for life through all my years.” Bina’s soaring vocals are sublime.

Chance” opens with a bit of surf guitar riff and strong drumbeat, then glittery synths and what sounds like skittering snare drum are layered over the repetitive drumbeat. With breathy vocals, Bina sings “If I only had a chance to feel your presence next to me. It’s more than I could give or take, that’s something that I can’t admit.” Heavy, distorted reverb and psychedelic synths are dominant features of the mysterious “Free Fall.” Bina passionately implores: “Don’t ask me why I’m afraid ’cause I won’t give you the right answer. When you jump out of a plane in free fall there’s no button to cancel.”

Nomad” appropriately has a Middle Eastern feel with a beguiling melody and richly exotic synths that evoke the mystery of the fabled Arabian Nights.  Bina’s sensuously breathy vocals are alluring as she sings to one about not being afraid to embrace their final moments of life: “Tell me all if you can about sorrows in your heart, things that you regret. Spell things out if you can. That you had in life, that you won’t forget. Don’t be afraid of nomad, I won’t hurt you bad. In your place some people would be glad. Don’t be afraid, my virtue, I won’t steal from you. I’m here for one thing that I owed you. Cause I’m your death.

One of my favorites is the dark and haunting title track “Velvet Season.” The song opens with a foreboding piano riff and Bina softly singing. The music and her vocals gradually become more dramatic, conveying a sense of impending danger as the song grows more ominous. The keyboards and other synths are really fantastic. The song lyrics seem to be spoken to the vampire who’s kiss – i.e. bite – has forever changed her existence: “I know that you won’t feel the swelling that sucks the life out of me. / I already miss you, your kiss on my neck. We both know it clearly, there is no way back. / You ask me if I’m scared, yes I’m scared to close my eyes when I’m in bed. I’ll tell you, honey; there’s always a little reason to extend a bit my Velvet Season.” “With You” is a fine triphop song with grainy, otherworldly synths that impart a decidedly psychedelic vibe.

The album closes on a bittersweet note with the hauntingly beautiful “My Shoes.” The complex, layered synths on this track are exquisite, and accompanied by some wonderful guitar work. Bina’s heartfelt vocals are gorgeous, fervently expressing deep sorrow and regret over past sins and transgressions: “There is a time that I want to forget. For the peace of my mind. And if I just could I would erase it all, those horrible things. / Guess, my shoes didn’t fit you. My shoes didn’t fit you as they’re full of broken glass inside. Cause my traumas are full of crime.”

Velvet Season is a truly impressive debut for Still Optimist. Their captivating melodies, outstanding songwriting, and Mihaly’s creative and skillful use of synthesizers, makes for incredible and deeply compelling music. Toss in Bina’s amazing vocal abilities, and the result is a brilliant work of musical art. This is an album that can, and should, be listened to repeatedly, as the complexity of the compositions always offer up new discoveries.

To learn more about Still Optimist, check out their website
Follow them on Facebook / TwitterInstagram

Stream or purchase their music on YouTube / Spotify / Soundcloud / Google PlayApple Music / Bandcamp

INFECTED SUN – Mini EP Review: “Summer Nights”

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

Infected Sun pic

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

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

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

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

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