Astral Drive is songwriter and producer Phil Thornalley’s vision of a long lost album from the 1970s that only existed in his own mind. A labour of love that is very much the statement of a lifelong music fan living in the modern world.
Howard Ivans is really the musical vehicle for singer-songwriter Ivan Howard’s creative impulses. Howard is no stranger to the modern indie rock landscape being a integral member of The Rosebuds and GAYNGS.
We have been looking intently at the modern pop scene for some time now, hoping and praying that somewhere out there, there is an artist who is able to take the musical elements of the past and make it sound modern, and pointing the way to the future. Well, finally we think we have – and his name is Gabriel Garzón-Montano!
Trust the Aussies to get as close as anyone out there to get POP right. Melbourne trio KINGSWOOD (Fergus Linacre, Alexander Laska & Justin Debrincat) source liberally the deep well of old school soul-R&B to deliver sumptuous retro-pop.
It’s impossible to strip rhythm ‘n’ blues and soul music away from rock ‘n’ roll as the latter would not even exist without the former. In the late 60s, the likes of Jimi Hendrix (above) and Arthur Lee (Love) would combine the flowering of psychedelic rock with R&B (funk ‘n’ soul) to create a sound that emphasises the best of both worlds.
The late Arthur Lee and Love (the band Lee led & fronted) remains one of the most under-rated bands from the 60s/70s. Well, at least compared to their peers. Already well-documented is the fact that the likes of Jim Morrison (The Doors), Jimi Hendrix and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) were massive fans of this ground-breaking iconoclastic band. Certainly, the backward gazing bands of the 90s British indie scene owed a thing or two to Love.
One of the most freewheeling eclectic 60s bands, Love (which also included guitarist-songwriter Bryan Maclean, lead guitarist Johnny Echols, bassist Ken Forssi & drummer Michael Stuart) were never constrained by genres or styles and dabbled in folk, baroque pop, psychedelia, acid rock and even proto-punk (check out “7 and 7 Is” is below).
Not only that but the band can lay claim to producing one of the bona fide rock masterpieces of all time – the magnificent Love Changes.
However, due to drug problems and internal disagreements, the band’s commercial success dissipated in the late 60s, with Lee fronting a new set of musicians, but this incarnation of Love never garnered the widespread acceptance or acclaim of the original group.
Reel to Real was Love’s final official album and until now, has never been issued on CD! By the recording and release of this album, Love was essentially Lee with an assortment of session musicians but despite its marginalisation in rock history, deserves serious re-examination.
Not least for its daring coverage of a multitude of styles, despite its primary focus being on soul, R&B and blues-rock, one could imagine the young Prince, Lenny Kravitz or Terence Trent D’Arby listening to Reel to Real and copping one or two musical ideas.
Whilst modern pop fans would probably find themselves grooving to soulful gems like “Time is Like a River” and “Stop the Music”, alternative rockers might take a shine to off-beat numbers like “Singing Cowboy” and “You Said You Would”, which sound like Hendrix channeling Buck Owens! And that last song – “Everybody’s Gotta Live” – is the Lennonesque anthem Noel Gallagher wished he was smart enough to rip off!
The new reissue has rather illuminating outtakes which on occasion outshine the original tracks with their spontaneity and raw energy. There’s also a sloppy studio rehearsal of that classic Forever Changes outtake “Wonder People” for all your Love completists out there.
Let’s say it plain, LOVE LOVE LOVE Dru Chen’s songwriting. He seems to come up with these soul-inflected pop ditties so effortlessly that it’s almost criminal!
“You Got It Babe” finds Dru once again putting together yet another winner. Trust me when I say that once this groovin’ earworm hooks you, it is not gonna let go too easily. Diggin’ Dru’s old skool soul vibe once more! Check it out!!
Rock music is a genre of popular music that originated as “rock and roll” in the United States in the 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. (W. E. Studwell and D. F. Lonergan, The Classic Rock and Roll Reader: Rock Music from its Beginnings to the mid-1970s)
So yeah, rock came from 40s/50s rock ‘n’ roll, which in turn is a form of pop music. So even The Carpenters or ABBA is rock, by that definition. So I am always comfortable to use the terms “pop” and “rock” fairly interchangeably, and get rather annoyed by the insane categorizations that is now so common.
In that light, let’s take a look at some of the different kinds of pop music, I am confident to label as ROCK!
Tim De Cotta (Bass/ Vocals), Audrey Tengkey (Piano, Keys and Synth) and Teo Jia Rong (Drums) make up TAJ, bringing forth an exciting new venture, and great contribution to Singapore’s contemporary jazz scene.
Now the above (from the Darker Than Wax press release) sums it up pretty well. 70s jazz fusion lovers (with emphasis on ‘fusion’) will dig TAJ’s debut EP – The Astral Journey – for its grooves, virtuosity and attitude. Followers of old school soul-R&B-funk will thrill to the authentic spirit behind songs like “Taj Yo’self” and “Old Town MOFO”, not to mention the dreamy title track that demonstrates so much emotional resonance, it’s hard not to fall in love with Audrey Tengkey’s fingers… and the sultry vocoder-ized vox on “Daydream”. Too much sexy. Something for everybody here! Get in!! Now!!!
But of course, we wanted to know more about the folk behind the awesome music and so I present to you… TAJ, in their own words…
How did the band get together?
We got together by chance actually. It was 2012 when Tim and Audrey went with the Singapore contingent to MIDEM in Cannes, and through rehearsals for this showcase Audrey and Tim got to know and like their musical styles in their respective bands. So when they came back Audrey invited Tim to an open jam session at LaSalle with other young musicians and students. It was a shed session to just have fun and also to try new things. Drummers, keyboardists, bassists and turntablists even. So JR was one of the drummers there and as the jam went on, it was clear that the chemistry between the 3 of us whenever we were on our instruments together was really strong! We didn’t just jam the songs per se but we moved and evolved them in a matter of minutes. So eventually, we started meeting more and more often, till it became just exclusive to the 3 of us, jamming covers and then eventually writing our own music. It happened very naturally and faster than usual, also because we became great friends. TAJ was born and on 1 Oct 2013, we released our single “The Astral Journey”.
What’s new this second week of the year? Let’s check in with Spotify, shall we?
MARK RONSON – UPTOWN SPECIAL
Fairly old school soul in tone from the British famed producer. Actually though the album’s introductory track was a rip off of Stevie Wonder, when it’s the man himself. Doh! Probably the hipster-est release this week.
There’s much to admire on this new EP from Micah Olsan & the Many. According to his bio, “Micah has been an active performer in the Midwest music scene for the last seven years. His diverse songwriting takes folky storytelling, interlocking guitar parts, and passionate, soaring vocals and places them smoothly on top of a funky, jazz and world-infused rhythm section. Micah’s writing draws on influences from Paul Simon to Radiohead and the Talking Heads.”
Certainly, tracks like “Trouble” and “All Around” will appeal to the punters who love trawling blues-rock pubs with the songs’ authentic roots demeanor. One to consider. Check it out at Bandcamp.
Eia (aka Maria Grace Koh) has just finished her studies at LASALLE College of the Arts, where she graduated with First Class Honors in a BA (Hons) in Performing Arts – Music, Vocals and her calibre is self-evident on her soulful new single “That’s the Way” off her upcoming new album. The Bruneian singer-songwriter worked with Marc ‘M. Doc’ Williams (Madonna, Kelly Rowland, Jordin Sparks, K-Ci & Jojo) and C-Ray (EMI Music Publishing, K_Ci & Jojo) of Indasoul Records on her new material and fans of modern R&B will love what Eia has to offer. You can purchase “That’s the Way” at iTunes.
Check out a live performance of “That’s the Way” below.
Aysha Amani, the frontperson of infectious Aussie funk-soul-hiphop combo The Amani Consort was so easy and fun to talk to as she (together with keyboards player Gordon Cant) answered my questions about the band – past, present and future. Listen to the audio for the full details! (Sound quality is a little rough but I hope you get the gist of what was going on – lots of laughter!)
We promise to be back with a review of The Amani Consort’s Better Way EP pretty soon! In the meantime, connect with the band over at its Facebook page.