Tag Archives: EP

Blue Mountains – Hummingbird EP

Blue Mountains - HummingbirdAt the recent Sark Folk Festival Guernsey based folk band Blue Mountains release the follow-up to their Refusing To Die album, the four track EP Hummingbird.

Recorded at Stretchy Studios in Guernsey the EP marks a development for the band expanding to a four piece from their original duo line up and being made up predominantly of original songs rather than the traditional material heard on their debut.

My review of the EP was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 15th July 2017.

Blue Mountains - Hummingbird review scan - 15/07/17

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Static Alice – Warrior EP

Static Alice - Warrior - coverStatic Alice have spent the last few years carving out their own niche in Guernsey’s music scene including festival headline slots at Chaos and The Gathering as well as countless gigs at most of the island’s venues.

Along with this they have previously released two records, an album The Ghost of Common Sense and EP Beautiful Mystery and now they’ve returned with a new EP, Warrior, that they launched with a show at The Fermain Tavern.

My review of the EP was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 27th May 2017

Static Alice - Warrior review - 27/05/17

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Gregory Harrison – Self-titled EP

Gregory Harrison EP coverHaving initially come to my attention as fiddle player with The John Wesley Stone, The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers and in The Ukuladeez backing band, Gregory Harrison has since carved himself a niche as a, usually solo, acoustic performer. Now, taking this onto the next level, Harrison has released a self-titled four-track EP that gives a taste of his sound, in varied fashion.

The record starts off in unashamedly non-acoustic fashion with a crash of instruments that coalesce into the anguished Demons. This track, and third song Working For Nothing, showcase Harrison working with a full band and both feature impressive layering of sounds based around the initial acoustic songs.

Within this framework are intricate electric guitar parts, pianos and more and at times give something of a feel of Dave Matthews Band with a fusion of genres present, but with a slightly more indie rock vibe n the mix.

Over this Harrison’s rich voice is laid and, while there are points where it feels the recording process has missed some of the potential emotion, it is none the less impressive and at its best moments effecting.

The other two tracks are something a bit different.

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison

Taken By The Brew is a more melancholic and sedate tune but again with the full band and, as the shortest track on the disc feels a little unfinished. Listening to the lyrics though, this may be part of the point and it runs dangerously close to feeling a little over earnest, despite being well delivered.

Down and Out meanwhile is something a bit different and has a more raw edge akin to Harrison’s live shows. With just an acoustic guitar and voice it gives a closer representation of Harrison’s songwriting and it seems to allow his performance more freedom.

This self-titled EP, while a stylistically mixed bag, allows an insight into the songwriting and varied musical approach of Gregory Harrison and certainly acts as a great primer to his work and starting point for hopefully more to come.

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Elliot Falla – Screaming At The Sky

Elliot Falla - Screaming At The Sky EP coverFollowing the success of the likes of Ed Sheeran, James Blake, George Ezra and more, the world has hardly been short of well turned out, young, male, singer-songwriters and one at the top of the list of those coming out of Guernsey right now is Elliot Falla. Having gigged as a solo acoustic act his debut EP, Screaming At The Sky, takes four of those songs and expands them to have a full band sound.

Opener, Say Goodbye To Our Minds, starts things off strong with that acoustic sound as other instruments gradually build behind it until it becomes a nice slice of fresh, young sounding, middle of the road rock.

You’re My Way Out builds on this with hints of blues added to the template (it’s no surprise Falla has shown himself to be a devotee of fellow islander Robert J. Hunter). This is followed by the EP’s potential misstep, Mystery Woman, that lands just on the wrong side of the balance between naïveté and immaturity, while its mix of sounds doesn’t coalesce as well as the other three songs.

Elliot Falla

Elliot Falla

Closer, You’re All Gone, however is possibly the record’s strongest track and, for me, has the feel of being a ‘lead single’ to it.

Across all four tracks Falla’s rich voice is generally impressive, though there are a few moments where it’s slightly mid-Atlantic sound feels put on and it sounds like he’s maybe trying too hard to sound like those who came before.

Musically the songs mix a few styles to create something that, while familiar, also has its own feel. Through the singer-songwriter template, comes hints of indie, blues, pop punk and MOR rock which is combined with some great production work and additional backing vocals to create an impressive full band sound.

For a debut EP Screaming At The Sky lays some solid foundations from which Falla can, hopefully, build a more coherent sound of his own as he and his writing mature and he adds a full live band to the mix, both on stage and in the studio.

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To The Woods – Those Deadbeats and Self-Titled EP

To The Woods - Those Deadbeats album cover

Those Deadbeats artwork

Those Deadbeats

Since 2012 To The Woods have been forging a reputation based on their powerful and, in their words, ‘lairy’ live shows. In October 2015 they released their long-awaited debut album, recorded over the summer of 2014, with a spectacular show at The Fermain Tavern.

Having been recorded quite a while before its release the Those Deadbeats feels like something of a time capsule of To The Woods as, not only does it feature the bands original line up (with Jake Martel on bass, since replaced by James Ogier), it features songs that have since fallen from their live set.

The album starts off exactly as anyone who has seen the band would expect, with a grunge influenced sound over which the unique vocals of Robert Battle roar. Album opener Deadend in particular captures all of this well and brings to mind Nevermind-era Nirvana with a slightly more lo-fi and down to earth edge.

To The Woods original line up

To The Woods original line up

As the record goes on there is a surprising amount of dynamic in the band’s song writing with punky smashes to the face like Fire sitting alongside potentially more considered numbers such as The Ballad and even the seemingly autobiographical on the, in its way, witty, Taxi.

This sense of dynamic is something that can be lost when To The Woods are storming through a live set so its nice to be able to hear it here.

On top of this two of the tracks are clearly augmented with extra musicians in comparison to their live versions with Is This Rock and Roll featuring extra vocals and guitars from Sugarslam’s Pete Bretel and Last of the Light Brigade’s Tyler Edmonds while The Ballad features Tyler and, on distortion drenched violin, Gregory Harrison.

Unfortunately there are points on the record where the lo-fi grungy aesthetic goes a bit too far with drums and vocals occasionally getting lost in the mix behind walls of distorted guitar and surprisingly brittle cymbal sounds.

To The Woods

Robert Battle of To The Woods

The other thing that seems to be lost, and I’ve no idea how you’d capture it, is some of the energy of To The Woods live performances. As this really is what has gained them their reputation it makes the album feel like it’s not all it could be. As I say though, quite how you’d capture this on record I don’t know.

What this all combines to make is something of a mixed bag, certainly its far from being a bad album and Those Deadbeats demonstrates many of things that make To The Woods what they, but I couldn’t help but feel there was something missing.

Note: I’ve been informed since publishing this that the originally released CD version of the album suffered some issues in the post-production process, a re-mastered edition is set to be released on Bandcamp


Self-titled EP

As well as Those Deadbeats October 2015 saw To The Woods release a self-titled EP.

While released simultaneously, the six-track collection was recorded a year later with the band’s new line up with James Ogier on bass and from the off the development is huge.

T’Otherside kicks things off like a comparative punch to the gut with deeper, thicker instrument tones as well as (for the most part) far more advanced songwriting.

To The Woods at Vale Earth Fair

The 2015 line up of To The Woods at Vale Earth Fair

Five of the six tracks have become highlights of the band’s live set in recent months with Hit The Switch and Burmuda being two of the band’s strongest songs.

This EP captures much more of their live essence than the album and, while Robert Battle’s unique stage presence and charisma will never be harnessed on record, this is a close second and certainly captures their sound far more suitably.

The songs here all have a more rounded feel to them retaining elements of the grungy, punk-ish sounds of the first album but added to this is a more hard indie aspect. In a recent interview the band said they started out wanting to play music similar to Brit rockers Reuben and what is captured here is certainly closer to that in tone, both in its production and songwriting, albeit in the band’s own style.

To The Woods EP cover art

EP artwork

With all of this the production work from James Le Huray serves the songs far better here with studio effects used well to augment the songs and, in particular, offer definition to Battle’s constantly roaring vocals.

In comparison to Those Deadbeats the EP is a far more satisfying listen and manages to go someway to doing what remains impossible of capturing at least an aspect of the band’s live presence.

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Static Alice – Beautiful Mystery

Static Alice - Beautiful MysteryGuernsey based pop-rockers Static Alice released their second recording, the Beautiful Mystery EP, with a pair of shows at The Vault in St Peter Port on the weekend of 6th and 7th November 2015.

Funded partially by a Kickstarter campaign and recorded in Brighton the release almost exactly a year on from their debut, The Ghost of Common Sense.

My review of the EP was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 14th November and you can read it below:

Static Alice - Beautiful Mystery EP review scan - 14:11:15

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The Ukuladeez – Cosmic Tea Party EP

The Ukuladeez - Cosmic Tea PartyWhen they first appeared on the scene a few years ago I will freely admit to dismissing The Ukuladeez as ‘jangly hipster nonsense’. However, with the release of their knowingly lo-fi debut album, The Awesome Adventures of the Girls With the Tiny Guitars, things seemed to begin coming together for them and this continued in the following months with countless gigs at venues as diverse as Guernsey’s Government House, The Peace Tent at Chaos and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Now, having gained a wealth of experience at these gigs and solidifying their line up both physically and sonically with the addition of their trio of ‘Ukulady-boys’, the sextet have released a second record in the form of the five song Cosmic Tea Party EP.

Surrounded by a loose concept, that of the ‘ladeez’ having a tea party and discussing the subjects of the songs, gives the whole thing a vague framework that, while not totally conceptually successful, does add a little something of their character beyond the music which is a big part of their live shows.

Ukuladeez

Mimi and Polly of Ukuladeez

Opener Swinging Brick highlights something that is quite a common theme in The Ukuladeez work as it marries a light-hearted tone with some quite scathing lyrics – and I feel somewhat sorry for whoever the inspiration for this song was.

This is followed by a song with a similar, if slightly more physical, theme, Down On Me, that serves to show The Ukuladeez are not entirely family friendly fare – though everything is kept shrouded nicely in innuendo and euphemism highlighting their collective gift for word play excellently.

Things take a turn for the Pythonesque next with an (initially) more straightforward love song, Brian. Though as it goes on it emerges the subject of the song may not actually be called Brian and the use of chorus and harmony alongside the lead vocals works exceptional well both on a musical level and in getting across the gang like vibe the band put across in their live shows. However there are points here where things teeter on the edge of becoming too quirky for their own good – though thankfully they stay just on the right side of quirk overload.

UkuladeezAn entirely universal subject comes to the fore next in the form of Sunday evening feelings on Antiques Roadshow Blues. Once again laced with the kind of witty word play that has become their calling card this song entirely manages to evoke the feelings of a lazy Sunday evening with the knowledge that is back to work on Monday morning.

Things are rounded off with a slice of pure folky pop in Follow The Sun that, while it’s not dealing with any outright subjects it is always nice to hear a well pitched pop song played with a real sense of fun.

Across the EP The Ukuladeez demonstrate a real maturity in terms of songwriting and arrangement with multiple instruments and harmonies all arranged expertly and captured with excellently by Stretchy Studios. The addition of a dedicated rhythm section as well as flute and violin has also helped elevate the band’s sound and that really helps build things into a complete and highly enjoyable musical package.

With their Cosmic Tea Party, The Ukuladeez have captured a sense of what makes them so popular and enjoyable live and married it with the control afforded on a studio recording to create a fun, relaxed well-played and above all entertaining record.

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BLAKALASKA – Machine EP

BLAKALASKA - MachineAfter several years gaining a healthy reputation on Guernsey’s live circuit electro-dance-rock five-piece BLAKALASKA have released their debut EP, Machine.

The sound emanating from the speakers on this is custom-built for cavernous dark spaces with lasers strafing over a sweaty audience, while listening to it through headphones delivered at once a fantastically oppressive and hugely expressive experience.

The EP kicks off with title track, Machine, which sounds like a floor filling monster from the start, merging the sounds that have clearly influenced the band that can get bodies moving and heads banging in equal measure. It acts as a prime example of what gained the band the closing slot at the Vale Earth Fair a couple of years ago (under their previous moniker), but with extra added clarity.

In the live environment the balance between Ollie McVey’s leading synth charge and Oliver Farrimond’s counterpointing high-gain guitar slashes can be hard to discern, even with the best soundmen, but here the different instruments are crystal clear.

BLAKALASKASecond track Some Kind of Crime brings an atmospheric edge to proceedings as layers of bass rumble away under brittle high frequencies in a song that feels like its fallen from some near future sci-fi dystopian nightmare, while still having a living beating heart beneath the tech.

This heart, as well as being evident in the performance, particularly from vocalist Lee Rosette and drummer Barney Bean, comes through strongest in the lyrics that, now I can hear them more clearly, bring big emotions to the BLAKALASKA mix. These words, taken as a whole, deliver a surprisingly inspirational, positive, message of personal empowerment, once they coalesce from what sound like some fairly dark and bitter inspirations.

The EP is rounded off by Take Me, one of the band’s biggest numbers live and the first track they released, in demo form, sometime ago. Again being slightly slower and more atmospheric than the opener, it continues to develop the dynamics both within the band and in their sound which give a great balance that should go down just as well with a dance crowd as in a mosh pit.

BLAKALASKA liveBLAKALASKA have been at the pinnacle of Guernsey’s live electronic based music scene for some time and, on the strength of the Machine EP, they are heading in the right direction to stand alongside Mura Masa and W\ on record, albeit with a slightly darker, heavier, hue.

A version of this review was also published in the September 2015 edition of Guernsey’s Gallery Magazine:

Blakalaska - Machine - September 2015

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CC Smugglers – Write What You Know

CC Smugglers - Write What You KnowOver the past 12 months I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to see upcoming country and roots band CC Smugglers live on two occasions; at the 2014 Sark Folk Festival and at the Buffalo Huddleston album launch. So, when they launched their crowd funding campaign for their debut EP (and an upcoming live DVD) through Pledgemusic I jumped at the chance to support the project.

On stage CC Smugglers are a real force of infectious energy and enthusiasm and I was wondering if that would be captured on the EP. While it doesn’t reach the same energetic levels of their live shows, the first three tracks of the record certainly have something of it.

Mixing Americana-folk with an almost music-hall like sense of fun the six-piece are all wailing trumpets, twanging banjos and screaming fiddles when they are at their upbeat best and opener Good Day is a fine example of this, with following track How Long adding a bit of dynamic variation.

CC Smugglers at Sak Folk Festivals 2014

CC Smugglers

Third track, Lydia, is a song that is a sing along favourite live and, while it doesn’t quite capture that gang mentality here it still sounds very good.

What the EP allows CC Smugglers to do very well is demonstrate the more low-key side of their side and show the range of their songwriting. This is particularly evident on Don’t Go a folky anti-war song that sounds reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions album and is clearly influenced by the mid-twentieth century folk movement spearheaded by the likes of Woody Guthrie.

The EP finishes up back on an upbeat note with Home Sweet Home that rounds off proceedings nicely.

CC SmugglersAs a record Write What You Know acts as a great sampler of what CC Smugglers do and, while it doesn’t manage to capture the massive energy of their live shows it still offers hints of it. With a live DVD upcoming and interest from the likes of ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris, CC Smugglers certainly seem to have what it takes to really make a name for themselves both on the folk scene and beyond.

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Francisco – It’s Not Over Yet

Francisco - It's Not Over Yet coverTo coincide with their final gig young pop-rockers Francisco released their debut EP, It’s Not Over Yet via their Bandcamp page (amongst other places).

For the best part of the last year the band have been on a steady rise with gigs aplenty in most of the venues and pubs on the island that stage live music, from acoustic shows at The Cock and Bull and The Vault to full-scale outings at The Fermain Tavern supporting local acts and visitors, including an appearance alongside The Hoosiers at #Triplestoked.

While the release of this EP and last week’s gig seem to mark an end for Francisco, at least three of the band’s members hinted this may not be the end of their working together, but, as with many bands their age, disbanding heading off island to the UK seems to be their immediate future, but if there is more to come, it could well be worth keeping an eye out for.

My review of It’s Not Over Yet was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 26th July 2014:

Francisco - Its Not Over Yet review scan - 26:07:14You can listen to the EP on YouTube here:

 

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