For the creators and for the fans, active listeners or passive listeners, music has the power to move us all incredibly deeply. Sometimes we’re right here- in the moment and sometimes we’re floating in a sea of sounds- we blissfully lose ourselves for a tiny while.
And sometimes we’re both- Here and There.
The latest release My Names A, Your Names Zed from El Grey is exactly that.
If you’re already a fan of El Grey you’ll come to expect haunting, stunning and breathtaking vocal performances as standard. You’ll also expect crunchy beats mixed with a wash of synths and gentle acoustic guitars. You’ll also be aware that her music is deeply personal to her and each song is a little piece of her soul, committed to record.
Take all that you already know about El Grey and put a little twist on it. You won’t find this track anything like her previous release El Grey, but you will find her distinctive, trademark vocals affirming her ardent passion right here. Glistening synthy motifs bounce over and back a sound world of luscious piano playing and looped, reverberant vocals. Instantly you’re taken by the hand of El Grey herself into the infinite cosmos. If you haven’t gotten goosebumps multiple times within the first 60 seconds then you’re not ready for the journey she wishes to bring you on.
Hypnotic yet deeply grounding, her chanting vocal pulls you right into the centre. Looped over and over with additional harmonies, her voice guides the way- “Grab a coat, find a home”. While the chant gives way to a choir of swirly, angelic vocal expressions, we’re lifted further into the heavens, soaring high, looking for Home.
The mood changes somewhat after this point. You’ll hear a male voice enter- another new sound for El Grey. You’ll know that there’s something very special going on here- something very deep and very personal. In absolute contrast to what we’ve been listening to, she sings in her native tongue- and it works brilliantly. Switching languages in one song is a new and brave move for El Grey for she has something personal to say-revealing another dimension of herself and affirming her spirituality though her music.
For me the most poignant lyric comes in around the 7-minute mark- “It’s just one heartbeat away from you” with echoes of “one” bouncing around, underpinning it. The music producer in me loves that line. The sentiment in me loves it too. It’s a line I’d hang on to for dear life.
This recording is 100% live and one take only. There was no pre-production. There was no doctoring this up in post-production either. The barest moments of extraneous sounds pop in and out here and there but these are not faults. Such sounds tickle my imagination and for me, they add to the soundscape. The piece in its entirety has a completely natural feel and I’m certain the musicians lost themselves in this performances-lost themselves to find a little something on the way back.
You could use a multitude of words to describe this track (atmospheric, holy, meditative, serene, gripping, stunning, special…) and you could find a multitude of situations to enjoy it in – at home with a candle, on a long, night-drive home, walking around a busy city- for it’s completely immersive and completely El Grey.
Dynamic Range Day 2013 is nearly upon us! On Friday March 22nd audiophiles around the world will turn their sound systems up to 11 to raise awareness that overly-compressed music does not sound better than dynamic music just because it’s louder.
Louder? Isn’t louder music better? Ah well now, we all enjoy loud music… but the point is: make the music louder by turning up the volume on the car stereo (or whatever music reproduction medium you enjoy listening to- mind your ears though peeps, for God’s sake!) and not through heavy mastering compression, etc!
According to dynamicrangeday.co.uk, music has been getting more and more crushed through the use of heavy compression in recent years, for fear of not being “competitive” – and in the process removing all the contrast, all the light, shade and depth – ruining the sound.
Dynamic Range Day supporters want to trade the “louder is better” concept for an alternative message: “Dynamic music sounds better”.
“Every playback device in the world has an output gain control on it. Record and master the music at musical levels and allow the listener to play it as they wish. Do not fall slave to making all music sound equally loud on iPod Shuffles or the iTunes program itself !” – Bob Ludwig. (http://dynamicrangeday.co.uk/supporters/)
It’s that wonderful time of the year again, the fire is blazing in the sitting room, hot water bottles are officially okay to bring to bed again, massive, furry, pom-pom snow-boots are acceptable to wear and everyone is full of holiday and Christmas spirit now that the college assignments are done and dusted! So what better time than now to review some of the wonderful music 2011 has brought to my ears?!
Fallon Bowman (Canada’s finest export) who is a very gifted young lady (musically brilliant, independent, charming, down-to-earth, smart, hard-working, all this AND blessed with good looks!), released her third album Human, Conditional earlier this Spring under her own name, (her previous albums were released under the artist name Amphibious Assault, I’ve been a fan of Fallon’s since 1999 and have been watching her progress through the years). And she delivered yet again. Human, Conditional not only showcases her new voice, stronger, bigger, braver than ever, it reveals a mature songwriter, eager and unafraid to blend rock, pop, soul and electronic genres, to create her own unique sound. I’m not sure if I can do justice to describe just how wonderful her new sound is! A true voice singing anthems of deep human emotion in a gorgeous spread of guitars, synths, drums and basses! Fallon is real, Fallon is here, now!
Personal favourites include “Disappearance” (guitar heavy throughout with a haunting, minor vocal verse, trust me, her voice is astoundingly beautiful here), “Tales From The Fourth Floor” (hearing this progress from the demo Fallon posted online last year to a huge anthem, bound to fill the dance floor live, with strong lyrics, soaring vocal and hooky synths) and “The Empty Space”. Fallon also treats us to new versions of her fine Depeche Mode cover “In Your Room” and her original “Mistakes, Breaks, Way Too Lates” (aptly renamed “Mistakes: Retake”).
I dearly love her Amphibious Assault sound for it’s pure, raw, grittiness (the songs are savage!) but Human, Conditional with it’s fine production is a new work of art. Please listen to Fallon, please support her!
Another kick-ass lady who’s certainly going places as well is Porcelain Black (Alaina Beaton). I only heard of Porcelain a few months ago but she has been around the block already as well, getting serious attention on MySpace and live with her previous industrial rock band Porcelain and the Tramps, singing with Courtney Love as well as Lil Wayne, modeling and working the celebrity scene. She was signed to a major label who wanted her to go the Avril Lavigne road but is now signed to 2101 Records (via Universal Republic Records) thanks to her collaboration with label head and producer RedOne.
Porcelain’s new sound is also fantastic! Her growly, edgy vocal combined with RedOne’s signature hooky synths along with pounding drums and heavy guitars, maintaining industrial rock roots, makes a perfectly danceable, kick-ass, in-your-face, lets-go-run-some-red-lights wall of sound!!!
Porcelain has just released her definitely addictive, debut single “Naughty Naughty” on iTunes last week, her album is due early next year. Mentioned online as the next Lady Gaga, Porcelain is the original Lady Gaga (as Gaga herself often acknowledges Porcelain online), but in my opinion, there’s no comparing the two, they have dramatically different sounds and both are equally quirky! Porcelain oozes rock attitude and will be be a hit in 2012, mark my words!
Back to these shores, Dublin based trio The Minutes made excellent wavelengths with their debut album Marcata, released in May. I already dedicated an entire post to how awesome The Minutes are after seeing them kick serious ass in Harrisons, Blackrock, Dundalk this autumn. Marcata is a rock n roll gold, straight up, proper rock, blues flavour guitar riffage, earth-shaking drumming, screaming vocals and steady bass playing. Fine musicianship and they sound like a band!!!! I haven’t stopped playing the album in my car (top volume of course), all autumn/winter. Go see them live when they return to Ireland (the lads are currently on a monster tour of Europe). Personally “Black Keys” and “Black and Blue” stand a mile out and are wicked live! I’m very excited to see an Irish band doing so well and I can’t wait to see what they bring to 2012!!!
On the subject of Irish artists, legendary guitarist of Irish punk-rockers, The
Radiators From Space, Pete Holidai released his debut solo album The Devil’s Guitar, this summer also! Pete treats us to twangy, surf (dare I say sexy?!) guitars (they bring Twin Peaks soundtrack to mind) fused with beautifully crafted 60’s/70’s pop melodies, clever arrangements, deep lyrics and musical sophistication. Pete pays tribute to his musical influences such as David Bowie, Matt Monro and Les Baxter and delivers a fine piece of musical art. Pete composed, wrote, recorded (with vintage gear and modern technology!), produced and released The Devil’s Guitar by himself!
Personal favourites include “Famesville” (that baritone guitar sound give me goosebumps every time!), “The Girl In The Car” (makes me feel like it’s summertime and want to travel somewhere!) and “Lunar Girl” (I like the idea of dancing with a handsome stranger to “Music From the Moon”!)
The Devil’s Guitar is much more than musical inspiration, Pete invites his listeners to follow the story of Johnny, a man tortured by the death of his true love, who travels to Berlin to make sense of the voices in his head and follow his heart-breaking, twisted, emotional journey. A damn fine listen, get your hands on this C.D at once!
The above is just a few of the great artists I’ve been listening to this year, but they are the ones that have rocked my car, iMac, iPod and kitchen radio the most! Other Irish artists I highly enjoy and urge you to go check out are: