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Stabbed Panda Presents: The Infernal Sea

The Infernal Sea header Liam and Si chat with Dean and Geoff of The Infernal Sea, East Anglia’s rising metal stars.

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Photographs by Phil Blackandwhite Film Photography, used with permission, (thanks Phil!)

 

Stabbed Panda Presents: Goldstar

Stabbed Panda Presents: Goldstar Mixtape Review This month Liam talks with Geoff and David of Cambridge’s finest Stadium Dance act, Goldstar.

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Review by Jack Gunner

Dance fans who have found themselves in the all-too-oft situation of perusing an event line-up and elating at the revelation of ‘GREAT ACT’ only to be brought crashing down to the depths of disappointment with the barely visible subtitle of ‘DJ SET’ will likely find themselves swiftly on board with the ethos of Cambridge’s fastest rising dance group Goldstar. Key word: group. What you hear on record with the four-piece is what you see on stage, not a skinny bloke with his top button done up poking at a laptop and avoiding the gaze of the crowd, but a full-on band, giving the audience the presence and the energy to match the fast pace of the music.

Formed as a trio in December 2012, Goldstar’s rise over the last year and a half is in itself a signal that the uninitiated should take notice. The release of their first mixtape, ‘MixTape 1’ in March swiftly grabbed the attention of critics and fans alike, with BBC Introducing and Cambridge 105fm among the many who gave them their richly deserved airtime. A second release, ‘MixTape 2’ followed in the summer, by which time they were playing headline sets at the Cambridge May Ball and festivals including Strawberry Fair, Green Gathering and Homegrown. After a 2013 which would make any up-and-comers jealous, Goldstar continue their conquest of the fenland (and beyond) dance circuit with, ‘MixTape 3’. And what they might just lack in originality of titling, they make up for with fast-paced, energetic dance that, as claimed, frankly needs to fill stadiums.

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Opener, ‘Darken Day’ is a more ‘typical’ dance track to kick off with, with shades of the Rudimental and Pendulum floor-fillers that inspired the trio. Vocalist, Lee Morris, demonstrates powerful verve here, from the laid-back opening, through the defiant, punchy chorus, to the chaotic vocal breakdowns, backed by blasting synths that make this number a definite potential mainstay for the dance festivals of Summers-yet-to-be.

‘I Need’ opens like a Rihanna-esque soul-pop ballad – for a minute or so, before the drums quicken and the track opens up beneath itself, teeming with what some of my Leeds-era flatmates would have referred to as, ‘bare grimy beats’, (something you resolutely cannot pull off saying if you have a Cambridge accent) Dual vocals, and a sharp contrast between the quiet moments and the intense, dub-heavy elements make this another rousing anthemic number.

Finally, ‘Yesterday’ brings the album to a stylish close. Xylophones and soft, breathy vocals give way to a frantic, hypnotic soaring marriage of synth and bass which manages to keep up the tempo while retaining an easy charm that can get often get lost in hectic dance numbers. It’s the perfect five-in-the-morning song.

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For a simple three-track, Goldstar’s third release is a searing, powerfully veracious eleven minutes of sound, which while it might not break down barriers, certainly has the cojones to catapult the foursome into the national dance circuit, and stands as a shining sample of how there is more to good Cambridgeshire music than just the acoustic folk that people know. Even those who usually disdain popular dance should give it a go – stadiums need filling, and Goldstar should be the ones to fill them.

8/10 - Jack Gunner

Links: Goldstar on Facebook Goldstar on SoundCloud Goldstar’s website

 

Stabbed Panda Presents: Naomi Randall & Tom Gaskell

Naomi R header Si chats with Naomi Randall and Tom Gaskell.

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Album review by Jack Gunner, photography from Paul Green, (website link)

There’s no mistaking the earthy, folky vibe from Naomi Randall and Tom Gaskell’s collaborative debut – with a description which advises the listener that the music is “best heard through brambles in the company of small birds”, a web-page with a backdrop of golden sunflowers, and an album cover which appears to suggest the duo were borne from the grass itself – or failing that, are a representation of Rapunzel as a Siamese twin. The problem is, of course, that the word “folk” has become over-used in recent times, blithely thrown at any Joe with an acoustic guitar and a daisy in their locks, and associated more amongst younger crowds with the sounds of the Ben Howard’s and Marcus Mumford’s.

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Randall (who has toured as the vocalist of Cambridge crew Somewhen) and Gaskell (a producer and technician as well as a singer-songwriter) have collaborated in a project that is something different entirely. Recorded over a three-year period at Gaskell’s own Big G Studéos, the result is similar in concept – though not in style – to Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s excellent 2012 comeback album ‘Americana’, which collected and re-imagined some of America’s most beloved folk numbers, this effort sees the duo take on a selection of European folk songs and poems with outstanding aplomb.

Opener La Pernette (English translation, “The Lost One”) is an ethereal number – more a ‘ballad’ in the traditional sense of the word than the modern. Drawing influence from the medieval French chanson de toile, the narrative concerns a weeping young girl who begs to be hanged alongside her true love Pierre who has been sentenced to the gallows for reasons untold, rather than face betrothal to another rich lord. Somewhat disturbingly, this is apparently sometimes sung by French schoolchildren. While not a happy number to open with for sure, the musicianship keeps the tragedy in the tone without allowing it to set the album off with a mournful dirge – it’s like listening to the siren sounds of a band of renaissance bards.

The duo return to the other side of the Channel for the next track, a straightforward yet intricate rendition of Appalachian favourite Nottamum Town , another medieval number, previously covered by the likes of Jean Ritchie and Bob Dylan, with cryptic lyrics that have given rise to many an interpretation – the title is thought to be a corruption of Nottingham – which involve a naked drummer and a horse - some say its about the English Civil War, and the place where Charles I began to raise soldiers. In any case, the gently stirring acoustic backdrop and soft, lilting vocals make it so listenable that fans will be making up their own theories as to the meaning.

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Sleepy Laddie Door, a Gaelic-sounding lullaby sees the album at its most relaxed – with a gentle blend of the two vocals over an acoustic meadow, producing an effect a little like musical Valium, before Bluesy number, The Granta, brings up the pace a little, mixing quintessentially ‘folky’ lyrics with some of the albums best guitar and harp playing.

The listener is treated to another quality acoustic interlude, entitled Nick’s Song before launching into Lord Gregory, another tragic ballad This time an excerpt from the renowned Child Ballads collected towards the end of the 19th century – this one concerns an ill-fated young Scottish mother, whose futile attempts to find her babe’s father see her “drowned in the deep”. Opening, as the other tracks have by placing Randall’s atmospheric narrative over a simple acoustic backdrop, the song takes an unexpected and utterly spine-chilling turn at the two minute mark, into a darker, slightly disjointed second act as the spurned protagonist addresses her former paramour in a ghostly whispered verse teeming with subtle menace, “deep it is you’ll find me in a deep and silent grave…”, before finishing the track with another simple verse – practically flawless and the stand-out on an excellent disc.

Fox’s Sunday Best provides a fast-paced, tap-along interlude which makes for a jolt in tone when placed before the album’s penultimate track, Bonnie Bunch of Roses, an old Irish pro-Napoleonic ditty. Randall’s weightless vocals almost single-handedly carry the track throughout, with only a very subtle, ominous backing on a few occasions, rendering the finished piece like a sung monologue, high in restrained emotion yet remarkably relaxed, especially for a song with a heavy measure of vengeance and regret.

The closer, St Johns Raga, is a final instrumental number, finishing the album with a final dose of acid-folk that’s closer to pure 60’s psychedelic than the more traditional numbers, but no less proficient.

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Randall and Gaskell’s effort is a truly rare find. Combining a wide range of instruments with a fascinating selection of source material and vocals like molten silk, the slow-burn production process was worth every second. Offered as digital download and CD for only £5 and £7 respectively (though those are only a suggested bottom line, the album is worth a lot more), those looking for either an album to share with friends over a cup of strawberry wine and a herbal cigarette, a soundtrack to their forays into medieval literature or simply something to fall asleep to will find much to appreciate here.

10/10

Jack Gunner.

Links: Naomi Randall’s Bandcamp Tom Gaskell’s Website Aaahh!!! Real Records

Stabbed Panda Presents: Buzzard King

Stabbed Panda Presents: Buzzard King tracks review In one of our most chilled interviews to date, (the talking is chilled, the tunes are epic), Si chats with Alex, vocalist of local stoner-grunge-rock legends Buzzard King.

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Review by Jack Hill.
Combining sultry southern rock riffs with the murky noise of 90s grunge and a tantalizing squeeze of 70s funk, Cambridge based quartet, Buzzard King, are electrifying crowds with their surprisingly youthful and imaginative sound.

Supporting acts such as Voodoo Six, The Temperance Movement and Firebird, these self-proclaimed bourbon-soaked heavy rockers have been steadily gaining popularity within the local circuit since 2010 cementing themselves firmly as strong musicians whose goal it is to leave crowds thoroughly satisfied. What follows is a review of the 5 demo tracks available for streaming on the band’s Facebook page.

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The demo begins rather tentatively with the rolling drum line of Diesel and Danger, a song that would have possibly benefited from being placed later in the set. A soft funk infused bass-line accompanies the opening snare roll before bursting into a wave of grunging guitar licks and a snarling vocal progression that will undoubtedly tickle the fancy of any early Soundgarden fans. The songs bouncy and fan friendly chorus is hard not to enjoy featuring a wailing style organ that caters generously for any older listeners.

Following this slightly diffusive introduction is the ruggedly boisterous Welcome to the Family, which does a far superior job of showcasing the band’s variety of talents. Heavy grunge influences fuel this beast yet refrain from consuming it whole; with jabbing swells of southern blues and psychedelic funk continuously peaking the listener’s interest. The guitar work is particularly well constructed, seamlessly taming and forcing these elements to gel together along a growling funky bass bed.

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We the Virus continues to emphasize the band’s connection with southern rock with a surly blues riff full of Tobacco-flavoured swagger. Front-man Alex Machell’s vocal performance is solid though perhaps a little too clean and clear for this knock-down drag-out romp, lacking the boozy howl of aggression one would expect to hear. Ironically, his voice would have probably benefited from a decline in audio quality or at least a distortion effect to reinforce the melodic connection. That said, the music quality is much greater throughout this track, with the doom-laden bridge blending effortlessly with an exquisitely alluring instrumental breakdown that resonates the psychedelic vibes of the 1970's.

Blackest White Lies follows suite and is without doubt the strongest song across the demo. Everything about this tune is gratifying with the band sounding like a tight unit. Tom Fielder’s dirty opening riff is dripping with southern grooves all the while retaining Pearl Jam and Kyuss imprints, whilst Johnson’s drums and Ben Saxton’s bass lay a gritty rumble that spikes with ferocity. The band are set upon flaunting their musical abilities as they deliver another head banging instrumental breakdown before Fielder lunges into a whining guitar solo that reeks of early 90s grunge. The only downside to the trackis that it’s just too damn short! Perhaps an elongated live version is something to look out for in the future.

Closing the demo is Avenida Corrientes, an affectionate demonstration of Buzzard King’s appreciation for southern rock. The group’s rhythm section lays a foundation of sludging metal undertones that are rich with Black Sabbath impulses escorted wonderfully by a twinkling guitar overlay. The inclusion of a wailing harmonica is superb and sets the whole piece together for Machell’s vocals to effortlessly float through with the southern laid back droll familiar to classic Lynyrd Skynyrd. The echo effect utilized by Machell is also a nice touch and proves how well his voice lends itself to experimentation.

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As a whole, this is a fine presentation of the band’s obvious and undeniable musical talents; a little rough around the edges perhaps, but still a solid selection of tracks. Its only real problem is that it doesn’t capture the bands solidarity with certain elements appearing remote from the rest of the music.

Nonetheless, once a few creases get ironed-out, Buzzard King could be well on their way for a very dynamic first album.

In the mean time, it is worth seeking them out at live events because if this demo is anything to go by you won’t be disappointed.

Here, have some links: Buzzard King on BandCamp Buzzard King on Facebook

Stabbed Panda Presents: Motor Tapes

Stabbed Panda Presents: Motor Tapes E.P Review This month’s feature is alt-pop group Motor Tapes, following the release of their new EP Living. In Memory. Liam chats with frontman Paul and bassist Lee.

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Review by Harry Michael Thomas Heath.

Despite being a Cambridge local, I had never once heard of Motor Tapes prior to writing this feature. And though I don’t know anything about this alternative rock group or their influences, I have got to say, these boys have potential. What I do know, however, is that these four fellows from Cambridge (Paul, Dom, Seb & Lee) recently released their second E.P., the interestingly titled Living. In Memory, in late August. And it was from this minute collection of but four songs that I first heard the ambitious works of my local unsigned band.

Shore opens the E.P. with a memorable lone guitar riff that dissolves into gentle echoes behind a bouncing baseline and the crash of drums. The sound of this instrumentation is lay-down-on-the-sand relaxing, being almost of a dream-like quality. Vocals soon join in, with lyrics that are sung in a delicate slow fashion; sounding almost like long sighs over the music. This vocal-style reminds me of John Lennon’s performance on the 1974 track #9 Dream, in the way that it is gentle, but slightly haunting. Compelling stuff! The chorus is aptly more upbeat and is accompanied by some terrific backing vocals. Built on captivatingly uplifting guitar work, the main singing here is higher-pitched, and edgier than before. And as much as I prefer the smooth, unconventional style that is sung in the verses, I did still find myself humming the brighter chorus later on! The song also features a hard-sounding miniature guitar solo, which melts into higher notes and soothing backing singing to lead to a tranquil ending. Like the rest of the song, it really takes you back to that comforting feeling of being at the shore of a beach; without a care in the world.

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But then Void kicks in with a twanging opening riff that immediately shows off their darker side, and hits at more musical experimentation to come, as well as general awesomeness. Void doesn’t have a typical chorus, and whilst the lyrics seem quite sophisticated, the main focus here appears to be the instrumentation. This Void isn’t your typical space of empty matter; no, it’s rich in psychedelic sounds and fascinating musical melodies that are constantly changing and developing. Motor Tapes take a great mixture of styles and pack them into a four minute track, and it somehow works! The easy listening breakdowns of the song are fascinating, but so are the out of the ordinary noises that accompany the word “Void” and the sometimes heavy guitar work. I can declare without a doubt that this is my favourite track from the E.P.

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Despite being a four song collection, Living. In Memory proves to be an exceptionally versatile E.P. with many different sounds, meaning it could appeal to a range of audiences. The next track for instance, Sunshine Moment, came totally out of the blue with a funky electric beat that I was very surprised to hear. With the intriguing lyric, “The sun is dripping on my head”, you can instantaneously guess that this is quite a playful tune. Although I’m not sure what this song is exactly about, I did enjoy the ride! I feel it bears some resemblance to The Cure’s Wrong Number (1997); a similar, but uncharacteristic mix of hypnotic dance music and ecstatic electric guitar. Not always my favourite fusion, but definitely attention-grabbing! The boys certainly prove here that they aren’t a one trick pony, but a very versatile band that is capable of producing songs of many differing styles.

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The final song, Better Way, brings together this wide range of musical genres with verses that include the best of their alternative mellow rock sound and a chorus that is lead by fast-paced electric keyboarding and frantic drumming. The finale also encompasses some spectacular orchestral moments that are worthy of note and boasts a greater handling of lyrics, starting with the line “I wanted to say what I only believe to be the Better Way”. The song gradually develops into a climax where electric guitars and keyboard clash together to bring the E.P. to a satisfyingly powerful closure.

After hearing their E.P., I am very impressed by my local band but am left yearning for a full-length Motor Tapes album to see what else they can achieve. Living. In Memory’s four songs feature a great pace, are well layered and are delivered with impressive musical versatility. Yet, I would like to hear the band experiment with more instruments and see them perform songs of a greater length. Regardless, they have noticeably improved since their début E.P.. And as much as I love the original’s ‘Aspirin’ and ‘Better Tomorrows’, I just can’t help but prefer the new E.P. on the whole.

The future certainly looks bright for the Cambridge locals and I can definitely see them finding an audience of fans outside of the Strawberry Fair!

Links: Motor Tapes’ Website Motor Tapes on Facebook

(RIP Giles)

Stabbed Panda Presents: 28 Boulevard

28 Boulevard header Liam talks with Tim and Michael from Cambridge indie-alt-rockers 28 Boulevard.

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Review by Jack Gunner 
Formed in 2010, 28 Boulevard have earned themselves a reputation as one of Cambridgeshire’s best unsigned bands. Having played the standard smorgasbord of talent nights around their homelands, the boys profess a desire to stretch beyond their county limits Fresh from a mini-tour around the UK with pop-rockers Room Service, they’re back home for a while, with a number of upcoming gigs in their local area. 

We don’t know too much about them at this stage – they purport to be inspired by Biffy Clyro, Muse, Feeder and Bloc Party, love playing music ‘in the studio, on the stage and for their neighbors’ – which is good, as bands who hate playing music tend to suck - and in the true indie style of taking the banal and giving it meaning, plucked their name from a poster hanging in their practice room.

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The five-piece is led by Tim Lloyd-Kinnings on vocals and guitar, with his brother Lewis Lloyd-Kinnings (LK) on guitar and keyboards, Cameron Gipp on guitar, Lewis Moon on bass and Michael Smith on drums and backing vocals. 

Opening number Logistics is the EP’s lead track, and the bands newest single, with a chair-tastic video for it on YouTube to check out, (LINK!). A solid percussion cold-open with a sudden jolt of fast-paced, urgent sounding guitar leads into an enjoyable track- its here that the Bloc Party influence is clearest - which effectively pairs stripped-back verses, with a powerhouse, sing-a-long chorus. The swirling guitars and keys, combined with the semi-angsty lyrics provide the song an anthemic feel that would make it a great gig-opener. 

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Treat Me Like A Fool, is the pick of the bunch, a bouncy, straightforward number with some  enjoyable lyrics that blend neo-trendy self-deprecation, ‘Everybody here has cigarettes/ I’m the only non-smoker and it makes me feel undressed’ , with a more sinister tone at points, the lines - ‘So I went to town and bought a gun/And pretended to shoot the birds all flying into the sun’ indicate a darker undertone to the typical frustrated-young-protagonist, which would be interesting to see the band develop further. Lloyd-Kinning’s vocals are at their strongest here, reaching the high notes on the chorus without sounding forced in the process. It’s somewhat reminiscent of a hazier British Weezer, with notes of a poppier Libertines. 

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MCE’  brings the disc to a closewith some spacey guitars, and a more pop-punkish vibe, with a simple repetitive structure to the lines. Attempting  to analyse the lyrics can be jarring – the protagonist has a letter for a lost love he isn’t sure what to do with (my initial reaction was, ‘Um… post it?’), but, critical pretentiousness aside, the track is a real ear worm - its not hard to imagine skinny-jeaned, small-hatted crowds chanting along to the refrain, ‘I would love you if I had the choice’.  Taking an unexpectedly mellow third act, the song fades into a melodic guitar dénouement which brings the EP to a satisfying ending. 

As a sample of what’s to come, the EP offers a lot of promisealthough with only a meagre three tracks, its hard to really imagine what a full album might sound like. The ending of the third track alludes to a more chilled style, and they’ve expressed comfort with playing smaller, acoustic gigs, so the slight lack of variation isn’t too concerning at this point. The musicianship is slick and straightforward, with the poppy, quasi-American vocals a strong fit for the background. All in all, while it treads very familiar ground, their sound brims with youthful energy, and indicates it would be fun to check out live, a great starting point for any young band. 

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In an August where Mallory Knox – professed Facebook friends to the Boulevard boys – are slotted to play the Reading and Leeds main stages, it seems high time for music fans to realise that there’s more to Cambridge than the university, the punts, and the pretty skies. If you’re looking for a catchy new indie band to check out this autumn, you could do a hell of a lot worse than 28 Boulevard. 

Links!

Stabbed Panda Presents: DAFM

DAFM header Today we present to you the good-times funk-rock-psychedelic stylings of DAFM. Si enjoys a beer with vocalist Tom and bassist Sam.

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Review by Wesley Freeman-Smith

The somewhat enigmatically named DAFM, (“what does it mean?” I hear you think ferociously), are hardly billing themselves as a ‘serious’ band. If anyone saw Man of Steel recently, and wondered where it’s sense of humour was, it’s possible these guys stole it. Describing themselves as ‘music to barbecue to’, and with a penchant for beer, (including novelty outfits), these guys seem to present themselves as the antithesis of anything too hip, self-serious, or po-faced. They are the anti-Radiohead, the anti-Joy Division. They’ve never even heard of Wild Beasts, and probably don’t know how to make Macs do that hip triangle symbol either.

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The fairly self-explanatory ‘Promo EP’ fills it’s 4 tracks with the kind of soulful 70’s homage that in anyone else’s meaty hands would feel regressive and neanderthal. In DAFM, the riffs, solos, the harmonica and the cowbell work as a reminder that music can just be fun, and it doesn’t have to be making some statement bigger than itself. Channelling a range of influences from both older and newer acts, (think the kind of music Mike Patton might still be making if he wasn’t so busy pushing boundaries and making zombie noises), it’s almost impossible to feel down while this is playing. When you can sound this energetic on record it’s a hard to imagine them playing to anything but pubs full of sweaty, dancing people. You’d have to be pure killjoy not to appreciate the energy here.

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In terms of songs and musicianship, it’s all fairly solid stuff. Even on first listen, there are enough obvious hooks to trip your brain up head first into the songs. It’s practically overflowing with inventive flamboyance and clever noodling which, true to the press release, boasts a tightness that only comes from playing together for years. ‘Magnify Infinity’ launches with the kind of fast-talking, better-than-a-roomful-synths riffage, driving home a distortion and funk that wouldn’t feel too out of place on a Primus record. ‘Pussyfootin’ is pretty damn soul-funk, again not breaking any new ground but still managing to be tight as hell and insanely competent. Laden with funk bass noodling (and, actually, noodling on all the strings) it’s near impossible to dislike. Contemporaries in the hard rock scene would be people like the Chilli’s, albeit leaning more to the Frusciante side. Despite these American touchstones, there’s something quintessentially English about these songs. It’s a reminder that once upon a time, we had a pop / rock scene that wasn’t afraid to take risks, and music charts that didn’t feel so uniform and homogeneous.

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Just four tracks is a fairly concise musical statement, and I suppose from a critical point of view, if this was to work as an album there’d need to be a little variation. The songs are all excitable and eager, and perfectly built for a live stage. There’s a sense all this came out of jamming, out of playing live, and as a flyer for a show it works perfectly. As to where it’s ultimately going, who knows? And frankly, who cares? It’s doubtful it’s going to knock the latest minimalist or miserablist trend off the top of the alternate rock charts, but that doesn’t mean it bloody well shouldn’t. The argument was recently put to me that if it’s not doing something new, why bother? Well, sometimes when you mine the past, you end up sounding like this; that’s why.

Here, have some links: DAFM’s Press Release & Bio DAFM on Facebook

 

Stabbed Panda Presents: The Projectionist

Stabbed Panda Presents: The Projectionist This month we interview Chris and Leigh of local hardcore metal band The Projectionist. We discuss their influences, how they formed, and get a sneak-peak at their new EP!

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Links: The Projectionist’s Website The Projectionist on Facebook The Projectionist on BandCamp