Reviews roundup ~ Misha Seeff ~ The Far Cry ~ Asaf Sirkis ~ TectonicBeats ~ Brad Vickers
Hmm. So that’s what the pop sounds like. I’d often wondered what it was.
Turns out Misha Seeff is a singer-songwriter who grew up in Canada, the US, and South Africa, and this is his debut album. I say teenage but he sounds about 12 and I’m not entirely sure that his voice has broken yet. When I was 12 I had a milk round that involved pulling a metal barrow behind me loaded with a gross of glass milk bottles delivering them up the stairs to folk a lot better of than me. Memories, eh.
Anyway, musically, this is quite nice. There are lots of really memorable melodies and the core band of guitarist Dave Shul, bassist Ben Bernstein, and drummer Andrew Griffin do an excellent job of fleshing out the songs. To be honest it’s actually very old fashioned so I don’t know whether the young uns will take to this. Lots of shimmery eighties indie-pop sounds on tunes like “April Haze”, classic seventies singer songwriter vibes on the title track, while “Come And Go” is the song most likely to interest modern day pop radio programmers. Young Master Seeff is certainly talented, there’s no doubt of that and has a knack of writing a song that sticks in your head.
For me, it’s a miss but that’s largely down to the vocals. I’m an auld fella and I like my songs to have a bit of wear and tear behind them. But if you happen to be a youngster looking for someone singing your songs then I’d hazard a wild guess and say this is for you.
THE FAR CRY
American prog rockers The Far Cry can trace their roots back to the mid seventies when Robert Hutchinson (drums, percussion, bells and spoken words) and Jeff Brewer (lead/backing vocals, bass, bass synth, bass pedals and guitar) had a short lived prog outfit. Into they eighties and they were both members of US neo-proggers Holding Pattern, albeit at different times. Fast forward to the 21st century and after Hutchinson bought a speaker cabinet from Brewer, they decided to have another bash at this prog malarkey.
And this is the result. They found guitarist Bryan Collin on Craigslist (Gumtree for UK readers) and added keyboard plater Chris Dabbo after a recommendation from studio owner and engineer John Bolduc.
“If Only” isn’t a concept album although they reckon it has a theme running through it. I’ll leave that to the listener. What is certain is that there is a lot of delightful music here. They’re certainly not shy about being prog with three of the songs clocking in at between eleven and sixteen minutes as they work their way through every prog style known to man. It’s still basically 80s neo-prog but they’re not afraid to get a bit muscular in places. They also go a wee bit over there with some Fripp / Zappa motifs creeping in hither and thither. My favourite is probably “Simple Pleasures” because it sounds Exactly like the kind of new prog I used to listen to in the basement of the Spiders Web during their weekly 1983 live prog event. Memories.
As you would expect there are nods to Genesis or more accurately, early Marillion. There’s plenty of great melodies, lots of instrumental showing off and a sense of adventure. The vocals aren’t my favourite but they do the job, as was the often the case back in the day. That aside this will please fans of second generation prog looking for something to spark flashbacks.
Robert Wyatt and Bill Bruford are fans. That should really be enough for you.
You want more? Greedy bandits. Alright then. Well, this latest release from Asaf Sirkis sees him working his fusion magic in a trio format. Sort of. Three of the tracks have vocalist Sylwia Bialis and three have guitarist Mark Wingfield. Wingfield and Sirkis are collaborators of old and Bialis and Sirkis have also released albums together. Which is nice.
The main band, though, is Sirkis, keyboard player Gary Husband and bassist Kevin Glasgow. None of these names will be unfamiliar to folk who follow the extensive MoonJune catalogue and if you are a follower then you will realise that the word shite is rarely appended to their releases. This one is no exception.
It’s jazz fusion. There I’ve said it. Although you may be surprised at some of the mellower moments on offer here. The phrase “haunting ‘outer space’ electro-acoustic sounds” has been used and I find it difficult to take issue with that. As a metalhead of old I’m still more drawn to the tunes that have guitar on them but then again, a lack of guitar never did ELP any harm. He lied. Favourite? Well I really loved “Aquila” The bird that carried the thunderbolts of Zeus. Surprisingly, it’s not a balls to the wall track but with the addition of Mark Wingfield guitar it’s a tune that just sparks.
Of all the recent jazz fusion offerings I’m drawn to this one a lot. That outer space vibe they spoke of is eerily accurate and even if it’s as far away from spacerock as it’s possible to be, you definitely get an otherworldy sensation from a lot of the music. Naturally, the playing and production is immaculate. These aren’t folk who fool around. An excellent offering and fans of out there may want to consider a posthumous appearance from Sun Ra as a final selling point.
Will Carney is the chap who has been releasing singles under the name TectonicBeats.
Three of them over the last year. I assume that when they say singles they mean digital and out there on the internet. But now they’ve been collated as an EP with some bonus tracks thrown in for good measure. And by bonus I mean instrumental versions of the three singles. The kind of thing that really used to piss me off when CD singles were a thing.
Among the many things I did not existed is the electronic music production school Pyramind in San Francisco. Who knew? I thought it was mainly sad lads sitting at home in their parents house who did this sort of thing. Then modern world, eh. But he seems to have been “dropping beats” for quite some time now so has probably moved out. I’m no expert in the world of the pop music but all three singles seem to be extremely commercial. It’s synth pop but with a modern sheen and it’s hard to decide whether “Nightingale”, “Rosemary” or “Exemplar” is the poppermost. I’m minded towards the last of the three but what do I know. Guest vocalist, Australian singer BrookInn, does a grand job and she has a very commercial voice. You know, the kind of voice that sounds made for listening to on mobile telephony.
It’s the sort of thing that should see him getting plenty of offers.
BRAD VICKERS and his Vestapolitans
The Music Gets Us Thru
Man Hat Tone
Brad Vickers, eh? We like Brad Vickers round our way. I think this is his seventh album. At least it should be unless I lied about ‘Twice As Nice’ being his sixth album.
Anyway, you know where you are. Classic blues sounds with a hefty does of jump and, indeed, jive. A mix of originals and some well chosen covers from the likes of Jimmy Reed, Tampa Red and JB Lenoir. That’ll do.
It’s the kind of record that I put on when I’m thinking on the things I’ve seen and done. Because there is always a blues song for that. The core band is on fire and with some additional harmonica, horns and fiddle popping in as and when required, the arrangements are a delight. Obviously I’m a big fan of the moothie so the first tune that really reminds me I have a pulse is the Jimmy Reed number, “Take It Slow”. Although you could say that about virtually any Jimmy Reed song. Vocally, neither Mr Vickers nor Margey Peters have strong voices but the former has a conversational voice that you’re quite happy to listen to.
The band get their boogie woogie on during the title track and it’s one of my favourites among the originals along with “What In The World”, which mines a similar vein. The other absolute barnstormer is the closing take on the JB Lenoir “When I Am Drinking”. As a fully paid up jakey, this is what I want to hear. It’s old school not nu school but all the better for it.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton
The Rocker monthly reviews sampler now available on Spotify