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Jazz

Switzerland’s Charles Bronson Moustache Defenders return and show they can do it in the studio

 

 

A few months ago we showcased a live EP from a Swiss jazz group called Charles Bronson Moustache Defenders. We originally said “The band are tight, but there is an element of freedom to the playing. They all know their roles, but they are also aware that if they wanted to they could go off on ones and the rest of the band would carry the tune until they decided to come back to the fold.” Needless to say we loved it.

 

 

Now they have returned and instead of another slew of live tracks, they’ve opted for two studio recordings. Odissey is a serene gentle, almost cool jazz, number. It’s the sound of a lazy afternoon on holiday not doing very much. As the sun beats down, you lose more and more motivation for movement, and the same if true of Odissey. As it skews along for four and a half minutes, your interest in anything other than the song vanishes until all you can do is sit and listen to it on repeat. Again and again …

 

 

The second song, The Battle of Lausangeles, is a totally different beast! It’s much more abstract than Odissey. Spaced out drum rolls and guitar sonics open the proceedings, then all of a sudden it suddenly takes shape and a slow strutting funk rhythm appears. Think of the Miles Davis classic On the Corner and you’re on the right tracks, but more laid back. This pattern continues for just under seven minutes until it slowly potters out.

 

 

What Odissey and The Battle of Lausangeles show is that Charles Bronson Moustache Defenders can do it in the studio as well as live. The future is very bright for this jazz funk septet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Oh it’s getting heavy” Kushal Gaya sings during the opening salvo of ‘Dot to Dot’, the first track on Melt Yourself Down’s new album Last Evenings on Earth. Gaya and YMD aren’t joking, MYD’s 2013 self-titled debut is pop music next to Last Evenings on Earth. The compositions are more complex, the music tighter and everything has an immediacy that was missing. Well missing is a bit harsh maybe, but it didn’t sound as vital as this though!

 

 

Three years ago, when Pete Wareham for MYD and they released their debut album they sounded like no one else. It was the perfect mix of jazz time signatures, punk attitude, Afro-Beat rhythm section and electronic blips and beeps filling in the gaps. In short it was as if Fela Kuti was fronting Antibalas while they ran through some punk numbers. Now they’ve returned and it’s business as usual, and that business is making forward thinking music.

 

 

The real power of Last Evenings on Earth comes from the intensity of the songs. ‘Dot to Dot’ kicks the album off in fine form. Hip-Hop rhythms are interspersed with one of the tightest horn sections since the JB’s, all the while the bass rumbles on with enough power to cause landslides along the Jurassic coast, if played loud enough. Lead single ‘The God of You’ follow hot on the heels of ‘Dot to Dot’. MYD’s blueprint is in full effect, expect everything has a slightly aggressive slant to it. Wareham and co. are pissed off and have something to say. This focused fervour is refreshing and gives the album an edge over its predecessor.

 

 

‘Jump the Fire’ shares more than just a name with Harry Nilsson’s 1971 classic. Both open with shouty vocals, but whereas Nilsson started off as a straight rock track that mutated into faux-psych, MYD never deviate from their electronic jazz mission statement. Synth loops and blips are under pinned by raspy horns that would make Hypnotic Brass Ensemble jealous! It’s the stand out track on the album. The horns swirls around you like a maelstrom trying to pull you inside out, but bass and beat keep you grounded so you end up feeling like an inflatable wind-dancer outside a car showroom on a Saturday afternoon. The opening guitar riff to ‘Bharat Bata’ is possibly the catchiest thing not only MYD have ever done, but that has been released this year! It lodges itself in your brain and coupled the vigour and energy of the playing it’s hard to ignore!

 

 

One of the most notable differences on <i>Last Evenings on Earth<i/> is that lead singer Gaya now sings in English instead of Mauritian. This change is only a subtle one, but it might attract them a bigger audience during festival season. Another profound difference is there is an apocalyptical vibe going on, but given the title this is hardly surprising. ‘Last Evenings on Earth’ is as vast and sprawling as their self-titled debut, yet at the same time it’s concise and refined. MYD were once described as the sound of Cairo ’57, Cologne ’72, New York ’78 and London 2013. This isn’t that accurate. Let’s update that to London 2018, as this doesn’t just show us London, and music’s current climate, it shows where it could go. It’s been three years since their debut, and I can’t see where MYD will be in three years’ time. However let’s just hope that ‘Last Evenings on Earth’ isn’t a prophetic as the title claims to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bruised Skies not only remix, but totally transform Squid!

 

 

A month ago Brighton’s ambient jazz post-rock outfit Squid released a song called Perfect Teeth. In six minutes Squid fluidly mixed ethereal synths, Pink Floyd-esque guitars and introverted lyrics to create something that wouldn’t be out of place in a Twin Peaks bar. In a nutshell it was pretty flawless.

 

 

Then today, pretty much out of the blue, Squid have released a Bruised Skies remix of Perfect Teeth. Instead of just adding a massive beat or a load of bass wobble, what Bruised Skies effectively has done it pick out pieces of Perfect Teeth that were striking or understated in the original and expanded them. Through selecting these few elements and interweaving them, he has created something new and different. I’m using remix in its loosest term possible though, as what Bruised Skies delivered is part remix, part re-work and part cover.

 

 

Rumour has it that both parties are working on new material to be released later in the year, and there are albums in the pipeline. But let’s hope that Squid and Bruised Skies collaborate again in the future, either through split singles/EPs, remixing or even working on something together, as this creative partnership is far from over!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ra flexes his instrumental muscles on new EP

 

 

In Hip-Hop there are two schools of thought. Actually there are probably more, but for now let’s keep things simple. One school is that the rapper/MC is the most important and the other is that the producer/beat maker is. Personally I’ve always listened to the music first and the lyrics second. Don’t get me wrong I love a good lyricist. Slick Rick’s Mistakes of a Woman in Love With Other Men was one of the first songs that I heard as an impressionable youth and his skill of not only storytelling, but of dissecting a moment so that you were able to tell what the wall paper was like impressed the pre-teen me. But songs like Snoop Doddy Dogg-Pump Pump, Public Enemy-Shut Em’ Down, Resident Alien-Ooh the Dew Doo Man and Method Man-Tical drew me in with the music first.

 

 

Things have changed a lot since my childhood, but somethings haven’t. Good beats are always good beats. One of the best beat makers was the late J Dilla. His solo work and productions for others were flawless and sublime. Sadly since his passing many have come close to taking his empty throne, but no one has. One producer who is making the right noises is Ra, and his EP Slow in the Fast Lane.

 

 

Consisting of only seven song and lasting sixteen minutes, Slow in the Fast Lane showcases Ra’s deft production and an ear not only for melody, but for what’s currently going on in Hip-Hop. Kambu Chill kicks things off with a slight RZA vibe. In under two minutes it does the job of whetting your appetite for the rest of the EP, without laying down a gauntlet that can’t be followed up, or bettered. But it’s on Lil’ Showty where things get ramped up a notch. A slow jazz sample is the lynch pin to the whole thing. Through its lazy and hazy horns and piano you are transported back to a speakeasy, but the popping beats reminds you that you are alive in 2016 and anything is possible, musically speaking. Yes it does remind us of DJ Yoda’s How to Cut and Paste: Thirties Edition, but that’s not a bad thing?

 

 

Sweet Chick takes RZA’s slow piano blueprint and updates it with slightly glitchy beats and synths. It’s this ability to understand what made something work and re-imagine for now that makes Ra and exciting talent. Feind’n jumps forward and adds vocals. This is great as there is a change to texture and tone. Feind’n is the hardest on the EP, which again shows that Ra can make beats laden with malice and aggression as well as Neo-Daisy age classics. Loves in Need closes the EP with a soul/gospel-esque vibe. Next to Lil Showty its one of the strongest tracks on the display. Its simple use of faders and vocal refrains mean that it easily gets stuck in your head!

 

 

Basically Slow in the Fast Lane is a show reel. On it Ra is showing what he can do. “You want something fast. Done. You want something fun. Done. You want something poignant. Done”. Despite its length, Slow in the Fast Lane is one of the most complete and concise releases of the year so far. Through subtle production and exquisite use of samples Ra takes us not only on a journey through his collective influences, but through Hip-Hop’s past and, hopefully, its future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Smooth jazz with a hard edge!

 

“recorded for a scholarship. some songs are cut short or mixed differently due to requirements by judges.” is the only writing that accompanies the Pop Bop Goes Punk Volume 1 EP. Now if this is true, and why shouldn’t it be Goat Sacrifice could yield some great cuts in the future, given that his is basically their audition tape!

 

 

Comprising of two musicians Luke Wilmoth on piano and bass and Brendan Nagy on drums, this duo sound like they could easily keep a room entertained for hours, through simple arrangements and delicious improvisational moments.

 

There is an element of recognition to Pop Bop Goes Punk, that instantly draws you into the songs, but after that initial moment of “I know this…?” you realise that Wilmoth and Nagy have played you, and now you’re listening to make sure that this isn’t a new arrangement of an old favourite. Whether they’ll bring more people into Goat Sacrifice, or it’ll just be a one EP deal, we’ll have to wait and see. But for now I’m dimming the lights, pouring myself a nice hot cup of tea and will lose myself in a good book with this as my soundtrack. I suggest you do the same. Who goes out on a Tuesday anyway…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Charles Bronson Moustaches Defenders release one of the best live albums in recent years

 

 

Live albums generally don’t work. Just by their nature they are flawed. How can you expect to capture what makes a band live? Seeing music live is a three dimensional experience. You aren’t just listening to music, you are jostling for a good spot, where you can see and not block anyone else’s view. You feel the heat from lights and the amplifiers. There is the smell of feller gig goes. Sometimes this can be pleasant, but generally it’s not. When you go to the bar you’re feet get stuck by spilt drinks on the shabby carpet, and you’re fingers always end up in a puddle of something you’d never order. This being said, the Charles Bronson Moustaceh Defenders live album – Live at Les Citrons Masqués is one of the best live albums released in recent years.

 

 

First off, the set is phenomenal! The band are tight, but there is an element of freedom to the playing. They all know their roles, but they are also aware that if they wanted to they could go off on ones and the rest of the band would carry the tune until they decided to come back to the fold. While this isn’t anything new, it is refreshing to hear it happen unexpectedly. In fact through Easy it sounds like it’s all going to fall over, but somehow the band manages to right itself again and move on without too much damage done. When the member crowd whistles, they do what we are thinking, show appreciation for righting a particularly iffy moment of the set.

 

 

Secondly the way the set was recorded feels very organic and natural. It feels more like a bootleg than an ‘official’ live recording. That you can hear the crowd talking in between the songs, and in quiet bits is as refreshing as the band themselves. As mentioned before, there is a lot of space in the set, but the recording techniques help to show us where this space is. Everything is light an airy, and not as claustrophobic as live albums tend to be.

 

 

Whether Charles Bronson Moustaches Defenders will re-record these versions are some point in the future will remain to be seen, or heard, but these four songs will do more than any re-recordings ever could hope for. They show a band finding their form and trying to create something that isn’t just memorable but enjoyable. And what’s wrong with that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jorge’s Hot Club are a raucous rabble who plunder pop culture while sticking to an ardent Gypsy Swing ethos

 

 

Gypsy Swing is on the rise. Throughout the country you can now easily find pubs and gig venues putting on nights dedicated to the music of Fapy Lafertin, the Moreno Trio, Rodolphe Raffalli and of course the master Django Reinhardt. These nights are full of music that is ridiculously complex, but never excludes the audience, as they are full of a bounce and joy for life that immediately makes a first timer get up and dance, or at least tap their foot.

 

 

London has Swingatto, who generally stick to the classics and play them as honestly as the original records. Their musicianship is second to none and when you talk to them after, you realise the enthusiasm they have for music, they also have for life. They’ll happily talk to you in detail about Gypsy Swing as well as current musical genres and trends. In Brighton however things are slightly different. Maybe it’s the costal air, something to do with how the area reimagines music for its own purposes, or perhaps a level of not caring what other people think as long as you have a good time, but things are slightly less formal and a bit more ad hoc.

 

 

Jorge’s Hot Club are the premier Gypsy Swing band in town. Their live sets are a raucous rumbustifications where traditional numbers are intermixed with pop songs and number from children’s films. This heady mix is as intoxicating as the viscous liquor the venues they play in sell. In total Jorge’s Hot Club consists of nine members, but they have performed as a quartet in the past. As well as having Gypsy Swing influences, due to the instruments they play, they have the ability to draw from Klezmer and Latin influences to give their performances a depth of variety their peers don’t have. This range and their collective ability, and sense of humour, gives them the power to reduce even the most ardent and stoic fan into a jibbering wreck, dancing until the last note fades out is testament to their power as a live unit.

 

 

As far as Gypsy Swing goes, Jorge’s Hot Club are about as far from traditional as you can get, but who wants traditional? Why not have something that is different and slightly better? It’s the element of surprise that makes their live sets such a delightful experience. Where else can you hear Crazy Swing lodged between Everybody Wants to be a Cat and the Cantina Theme #1 and in five songs time hear I Wanna Be Like You? If you know of somewhere please send a stamped addressed email to the usual address.

 

 

 

 

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