Birds vs Planes – Sew Up the Sky single

A confused, though throughly enjoyable concoction.

(listen here)

Birds vs Planes are a 5 piece alt-indie group from Carlisle with two jangly guitars, a definite and trashy rhythm section, and a ballsy female singer, but this is merely the surface. Admittedly it takes a few listens to realise, but this is a delightfully quirky and idiosyncratic band; and it is these qualities that increase this band’s appeal.

Dissecting this single shows some differing ideas; from a chirpy little guitar lick, to the almost Allison Mosshart-esque strong female vocals, to the rather resigned and self deprocating refrains of ‘You’ve got me, so unlucky’ and ‘passive you / there’s the door to walk through’ and the almost-shoegaze guitar harmony in the climax. In a combination that is drawing clear inspiration from a number of places, the effect is expressing the fairly complex emotions that seem to be occurring in this fairly recognizable and visceral mindset.

However, musically, it suffers from the cleanness of the mix, particularly in the vocals. A chorus that feels as though it should be almost grungy in its style instead feels very sparse, with vocals floating delicately on top, detracting from the weight of the thematic intensity. Also the change into the chorus and back into the riff is slightly clunky.

With these things in consideration, ‘Sew Up the Sky’ is a single that is better than the sum of its parts. It is undeniably catchy; I defy anyone to listen to this song and not feel their hook. It is a song that would almost definitely be improved live due to the need for some of that clashing grunge sound that is helped by the imperfection of live shows. It is a strong single that would hold appeal to fans of many styles and act, and are definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of strong and in your face vocals.

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Arielle Bryant – ‘Singing to Strangers demos’

Lyrically profound musical simplicity feistily delivered by North Carolina redhead

(listen here)

Recommended tracks: ‘Ophelia’, ‘Red Haired and Violent’

As a singer-songwriter with a guitar, Arielle Bryant was always going to have her work cut out trying to stand apart from the crowd. Against the backdrop of the thousands of other acoustic guitar driven solo artists that litter the musical realms of the internet, she does nothing gimmicky or attention grabbing to make herself seem new and exciting. However, through a mixture of her emotionally powerful vocals and her cleverly chosen lyrical subjects, she does just that, standing outlined in bas-relief against her contemporaries. This effect can be seen no clearer than on the opener of Singing to Strangers, a passionate latin sounding song oozing emotion as Arielle spit’s the title’s deeply personal lyric “I am your siren, red haired and violent” throughout the songs bridge. This song is also the best display Arielle’s six-string skills on the demos, which is a shame, because the promise shown through the introduction of the piece, if it carried throughout the demos, would greatly improve the overall feel of Singing to Strangers.

Other moments of musical creativity do shine through on the live track ‘Playing Cards’ and the cleverly used Chord-Discord alternation on the melancholic lament ‘Grow’ written in memory of Miss Bryant’s deceased dog Yuengling who died suddenly last august. I find it sad, however, that my favourite track lyrically, the dextrously worded ‘Ophelia’, which chronicles the break down of relationship comparing it to the tragic madness of Shakespeare’s Ophelia, the would be love of the eponymous Hamlet, is the track that suffers most from the lack of the encapsulating musical backing it deserves.

Throughout the EP there are many excellent examples of Arielle’s unique vocal ability, that sounds in places reminiscent of a young Tori Amos or a stripped down Alanis Morissette and in others of the very up-to-date sound of Florence Welch.

Overall, Singing to Strangers demo is an excellent follow up to 2009’s I Am the Lemon and showcases her vocal and song writing ability well enough to make signing to a label a distinct possibility, which would undoubtedly lead to a very bright future for this young woman. The next few moths are a very important time for her as she seeks to raise the money needed to turn this short sampler into a full length album, so if you like what you hear, support her Kickstarter program! In the mean time, she remains an undiscovered talent with big things ahead of her, so if you can get to a live show (which, judging from youtube, are quite excellent) now is the time to do it.

Here is a link to her Kickstarter program.

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30KB – ‘30,000 Leagues Under The Scene’

“It’s not a bass kick, it’s the banging of your ear drums”

(listen here)

Recommended tracks: ‘Toleracist 2008’, ‘Carnival of Horrors’, ‘Crewd Sons (Ghost in the Machine)’

30KB, a.k.a. 30,000 Bastards, are a rap duo based in North-West England. They are comprised of beatmaker/blogger Tom Dissonance and reigning Seoul slam poet champion Agonist MC, formerly AcheZen Pains. 30,000 Leagues Under the Scene is their debut record, 11 tracks of crunchy, charismatic hip-hop slathered in neat samples.

The first thing I noticed on listening to this record: 30KB aren’t your ordinary rap lyricists. Far from it. Visiting Dissonance’s blog reveals a goldmine of links explaining (some of) the countless references in each and every verse, sitting on top of lines like “word play’s the religion against […] rigid scholastics”. The album opens, after a short barrage of samples, with ‘Welcome To Nothing’, featuring the silky voice of reggae singer Ava Leigh (who features multiple times), and you are treated to a complete typhoon of words and ideas, from Bananaman to Ouroboros and Hikikomori, all in one song.

It’s almost needless to say that you could get a bit lost the first few listens in, and this vibe sticks through the album, especially with the busy, oftentimes muddy production and Dissonance’s sometimes slightly quiet delivery. All this business is a mixed blessing, but one that is generously rewarding, especially on multiple listens. The beats, while generally chunky, pleasing and with a generous helping of vinyl hiss, tend not to quite have the weight to stand out in the mix, but all, without fail, are saved by the wonderful, unexpected chopping of all kinds of sounds and voices, like Orchestra meets Yosemite Sam in ‘Meet is What I Like to Eet’.

Particular highlights for me are Dissonance’s something-like-60-bar monster verse in ‘Toleracist 2008’ ranting on institutional racism in Britain (“they rock a blame-shift / to the people with no mouthpiece to clear their name with / refugees, Muslims, people on benefits”), the seriously intense organs and anti-establishment verse trading of ‘Carnival of Horrors’ and the unsettling, smoky lull that is ‘Crewd Sons (Ghost in the Machine)’ which sounds like 30KB hijacked your radio station to deliver a short, important message (with genius lines like “I can’t tell the fire for the CGI effect”) before today’s news cuts back in, perhaps referring to the album itself: “…and as result of that broadcast, the crisis has deepened dramatically”.

30,000 Leagues Under the Scene is an album that’s full to the brim with ideas and a joint lyrical / vocal ability that is outstanding, especially for a debut record. I look forward to their next record, and in the meantime I recommend you check this one out.

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