Monday, June 30, 2014

CD Review: Kicklighter's 'The Fantastic Thinking Machine'

The Fantastic Thinking Machine

Kicklighter is formed by Everett Young, a guitarist, pianist, and political psychologist, that incorporates pop hooks, acoustic, easy listening, and folk-rock rhythms and melodies that explore various topics. The Tallahassee, Florida-based musician, takes a down-tempo and jazzy vein on "The Sultan Of Brunei." "Until You See The Sun" begins with a spacey and ambient wash that fuses contemporary percussion and new wave sounds in an engaging structure that is sure to satisfy. "Kid" is a folksy ballad with great vocals and a catchy, pop hook. "The Professor" takes an academic approach to songwriting and arranging with a laid-back composition and classic vocals with equally-fascinating instrumentation. Overall, the album spans eleven tracks around fifty-minutes. The vocals and some instrumentation is akin to Fractal Cat, The Gufs, Mysteries Of Life, and Owsley. The new wave, folk, ballad, and pop influences are rarely observed in today's music. The vocals are clear and appropriate throughout. The music is never rushed or contrived. Fans of great contemporary music with a historic edge will love Kicklighter's new release. 5 Stars (out of 5). ~ Matthew Forss

Saturday, June 28, 2014

CD Review: Zongo Junction's 'No Discount'

Zongo Junction
No Discount
Electric Cowbell Records

The Brooklyn-based, Afro-beat maestros, Zongo Junction, brings us a moving piece of history with Ghanaian-infused, instrumental tunes in the shadows of Fela Kuti and others. The funky, psychedelic tracks are danceable and emotive with bubbling keys, punchy sax, and diverse instrumentation in a jazzy setting. The writhing sounds are Afro-beat grooves at their finest. The sax frenzy on “A Van That Got Away,” proves why Zongo Junction makes the best Afro-beat music in America. The down-tempo electronica of “Longtooth,” showcases their diverse talent of Afro-beat, jazz, experimental, funk, and pop. The entire album is an instrumental journey, which is very likable throughout. There are even some Balkan jazz or Klezmer moments on "Invented History." At any rate, No Discount is an engaging, Afro-beat pleasure that will be enjoyed by everyone that fancies music of the African kind. ~ Matthew Forss 

Friday, June 27, 2014

CD Review: Cascada de Flores' 'Radio Flor'

Cascada de Flores
Radio Flor
Ita Music

The California-based group, Cascada de Flores, takes listeners back to the era of the 1930's with more vocal-centered songs with folksy, Latin-esque percussion on Radio Flor. There are eighteen tracks that bring poetic boleros and romantic ballads with light instrumentation and percussion that produces a sense of nostalgia. It is easy to forget the songs are composed in modern times, but that is part of the mystique with classic, Latin tunes. The music incorporates Latin American, South American, Caribbean, and Afro-Latin leanings. The swaying rhythms of "La Gloria Eres Tu" combines a trumpet, light percussion, and heartfelt vocals amid a slow, jazzy beat. "Jardinero de Amor" picks up the pace with uptempo percussion and a leading female vocal line that is accompanied by a fiery guitar segment that enriches the song with elements of flamenco delight. "Maria Cristina" is a lush, percussion track with vibrant vocals and instrumentation that will blow away even the most discriminating of listeners. Overall, Radio Flor is an album that should graced the shelves of anyone interested in Latin music with a historical edge. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, June 26, 2014

CD Review: Amanda Martinez' 'Manana'

Amanda Martinez

Canadian-based and Latin-influenced, Amanda Martinez astounds audiences with her third release, Manana. The Latin-based release incorporates a bit of jazz, flamenco, pop, and folk amid a world music fusion of sorts that just works. The vocals are in Spanish and English with detailed liner notes for each song included. The English-sung, "Frozen," is a contemplative, swirling song of angelic melody and longing humility. The giddy and vibrant, "Esperanza Viva," contains a great Latin rhythm and catchy melody with full percussion, drums, guitars, and back-up vocals on this pop-centered track. "Nuevos Caminos" continues in the Latin traditions with heartfelt vocals and a great percussion set that is enthralling and memorable. The jazzy, "No hay Distancia," opens with a pensive trumpet and a slow, minimalist beat with Amanda's smoky voice that is both tender and authentic. Amanda showcases her vocal talent in-line with classic singers from Latin America, but in a youthful, nostalgic manner. Overall, Manana is a real treat for fans of Latin music in general. This is not your typical flamenco/conga/drum music, as it moves beyond those monikers and incorporates other styles and instruments to make it very appealing and worthy of repeated listens. ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

CD Review: Hillary Reynolds Band's 'The Miles Before Us'

Hillary Reynolds Band
The Miles Before Us

The Boston-based, folk quintet, brings us a magnificent album of roots, folk, blues, rock, and pop music with a hearty, Americana vein on The Miles Before Us. The fourteen-track album is full of happy moments, as well as contemplative moods revolving around relationships, family, and personal sacrifices. The vocals are much in-line with some of the top European folk performers, including Heidi Talbot and Karine Polwart. "How" is a rather spacious, folk tune with heartfelt vocals and slow melody. "Looking For A Way Back" begins with a rock guitar opening that merges into an alt-pop and folk vocal medley. This is somewhat like a folksy Evanescence; but better. "Braver Than We Think" starts with a female vocal line that incorporates some swishy percussion and sparkling strings in a folksy arrangement. "Crossing The Line" adds a bluesy edge to the mix, as the folk influence shines through with vocals, strings, and drums. "I Surrender" is an engaging, heady mix of bluesy, folk music that is upbeat and slightly Appalachian in origin. At any rate, the Hillary Reynolds Band knows how to make great songs that do not suffer from any faults or inconsistencies. 5 Stars (out of 5). ~ Matthew Forss    

CD Review: A Is For Atom's 'Song For You'

A Is For Atom
Song For You

A Is For Atom is an electronic-pop venture by Mike Cykoski, which reinvents Brit-pop influences with spacey, electronica and breathtaking, melodic arrangements. Song For You is a six-track release with different elements constructed within each track that makes each one stand out. The reggae-tinged and cathartic track, "Bombs Away," contains a breezy melody, alt-pop elements, and great vocals throughout. "Load Up On Guns" opens with scratchy, electronic sounds and Owsley-esque vocals with a hint of British ambiance. A laser-like dance medley of keyboard and Moog synthesizer creates a spacey affect later on. Think of Action Figure Party with more pop constructions and synth-driven songs. "India" contains a bit of folksy and reggae-tinged music with a grungy-pop element that is both fun and diverse. Overall, A Is For Atom is so good here; I give it an A+ and 5 Stars (out of 5)~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Case On Bass' 'Bass Tones #1'

Case On Bass
Bass Tones #1

Case On Bass is an avant-garde group that utilizes an electric bass guitar with some pedal effects on their first release, Bass Tones #1, in this series. The album is completely instrumental without any vocalizations or additional instruments. There are twenty-six tracks on the album, which are all relatively short around one minute each. The reason behind the shorter tracks, stems from the creative process and philosophy of simplifying the tunes to reduce redundancy one commonly finds in other music. The experimental approach works with contemplative and relaxing tunes that inspire one's mind to probe deeper in bass-dom. "Sense Of Purpose" is a gritty, bass-line that reverberates with a Southern, blues-rock vein; only for a minute. "Tripping" is more fluid and bubbly in a polished, intergalactic way. "Noble Procession" is more of a distant bass sound with a primitive feel and avant-garde flair. "Nurture" is a sub-minute tune with a lullaby-like presence in a soft and subtle delivery characteristic of a type of fluid thumb piano, but in the end, it's only a bass. The last song, "Tone Poem," is the longest at nearly six minutes. The song contains pedal effects that reverberate the bass into bright echelons of musical bliss. The bass tones flutter with experimental beauty and a spacey ambiance. Anyone interested in avant-garde, instrumental, ambient, experimental, and bass guitar music should check out Bass Tones #1. 5 Stars (out of 5). ~ Matthew Forss  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Digital Music Review: Broken Quote's 'Foreshadowing Sunlight'

Broken Quote
Foreshadowing Sunlight EP

Houston, TX-based and cosmically-driven, Broken Quote (AKA David Schrier), infiltrates the downtempo world with an experimental, electro-acoustic, and trip-hop recording of aural delight. The swishy electronics, sparkling tones, eerie sounds, and cosmic array of noises make all of the songs stand out. The instrumental, electro-funk and rock tune, "Glass Ceiling," contains an effervescent mix of downtempo chills, intergalactic noises, and radiant keyboard tones that are equally happy in a dance club or outer space. "Sparks Water The Seeds" is nothing more than a solo steel pan medley that is slow and meditative, but definitely appropriate for the rest of the album. "Mispronounce" is another slower tune, but it is more of an electro-acoustic song that includes David's whisper-like vocalizations ideal for trip-hop or downtempo music. "Late Night Ocean" includes electronic blips, industrial noises, and atmospheric washes with a trip-hop percussion sequence and sparkling noises with steel pan, keyboard, and laser-like electronica for a truly intergalactic ride. "Ghost Crowd" is a vocal tune with deep bass sounds, electronica embellishments, and a pensive beat that is entrancing and delicious. All in all, David produces a fine release that is a little bit over twenty-minutes. The album is only a download release at this time. It is highly recommended for trip-hop and downtempo fans. ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

CD Review: Matty Ride's Self-Titled Release

Matty Ride
Matty Ride

Nashville-based and R&B-soul-inspired, Matty Ride gives us a danceable and pop-focused medley of songs on his five-track, self-titled release. "The First Day Of Summer" features danceable grooves by way of punchy keyboards, blurby electronics, and urban, hip-hop beats (thanks to Fyutch) that take on a 1980s and 90s dance vein with male and female vocals. The song contains a video release that visually depicts travel scenes in Nashville, Las Vegas, and even space with a magical DeLorean. There are pool scenes, bicycle-riding, and dancing in front of graffiti-laced walls and other cityscapes. There is a fun element to the song that mimics internal excitement when the first day of summer - or warmer weather - arrives. "That Girl" is a swishy, urban soul song with a poppy element that is danceable with a youthful, almost reggae-like dance beat. The vocals are akin to Maroon 5. "All Over Again" is a punchy, electronic tune with an urban flair and a slight Brit-pop dance infusion. "Come On And Dance" opens with a blurby, funky, and fluid dance tune that is more than one-dimensional in all aspects. "Hold Me Closer" is a slower tune with swishy percussion that is jazzy and ballad-esque. The keyboard's piano affects are emotive and poignant. The atmospheric washes and string arrangements suggest a heartfelt overtone. There is a good amount of variation throughout the album; despite the short running length. At any rate, Matty Ride knows how to create sensible, intelligent, and fun tunes with a dance beat and electronic backbone. ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

CD Review: Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca's 'La Rumba SoYo'

Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca
La Rumba SoYo

With ties to Congo, Angola, and the United States, Ricardo Lemvo and his Makina Loca band continue to put out Afro-Cuban hits. La Rumba SoYo is another fine example of Ricardo's uncanny way of producing and performing amazing music with ease. Due to Africa's various musical influences and origins, Ricardo incorporates some Angolan contemporary music with Congolese guitar rhythms, and Portuguese-tinged tunes with unforgettable consequences. There is a star-studded cast of musicians involved in the production of the album, including Mario Aguilar, Jose Papo Rodriguez, Danta Pascuzzo, Yordan Martinez, and about two-dozen other artists. The Los Angeles-based Ricardo spices the music up with rumba, salsa, and contemporary grooves that are Afro-pop and Afro-Cuban. All eleven tracks are sure to please fans of African music everywhere! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Sondorgo's 'Tamburocket'

Riverboat Records

Hungary's Sondorgo plays Hungarian folk music with a Turkish, Slavic, and Balkan influence. The music is steeped in Gypsy horns, folksy strings, and great plucking. The plucked instruments featured on Tamburocket are various tamburas. The mandolin-like sounds of the tambura create a folksy rhythm and bright, cheery sound. Other instruments include flute, darbuka, clarinet, sax, kaval, and tapan. There are some vocals throughout, but the primary attribute of this recording is in the instrumentals. There are folk dance tunes, trance-like tracks, and effervescent instrumentals with great deliveries. Sondorgo's Tamburocket is a celebration of the music from Hungary with influences extending beyond the borders of the country. Fans of Hungarian folk, world music, European music, and Balkan jazz will love Sondorgo. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Nitya Thomas' 'Awakenings'

Nitya Thomas
Watchfire Music

Awakenings is a three-track release that is ripe with joyous, Christian melodies. The first track, "O Dreamer," is a traditional Irish melody by lyricist, Rosa M. Turner. The song begins with a few keyboard chords followed by Nitya's sparkling vocals and guitar sounds. "My Grateful Spirit Sings" is a song by Sally DeFord with a popular sound that brings together gospel, classical, and new age. "Psalm 23" is the only song written by Nitya. There are classical piano sounds and classical strings that set the mood for the Bible-based composition. Anyone with an interest in contemporary vocal performances with a Christian foundation will love Nitya's soulful and heavenly release. The vocals are strong and clear throughout. Fans of Christian music, new age, piano pop, and female vocal music should check it out! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Filastine's 'Aphasia'

Post World Industries

Filastine is founded by Grey Filastine. The group features Grey's electronic, multimedia, and inventive sounds, instruments, and beats. The four-track release contains the vocals of indie, Javanese rapper, Nova, who contributes some vocals on "Requiem 432" and "Murka." The electronic adornments are light, atmospheric, and futuristic. The low bass sounds, danceable taps, dub-centric concoctions, and scattered vocals make for an interesting, innovative, and ideal recording for fans with a hankering for the electronic. The music is otherworldly at times, but it is nothing that is too crazy. With titles such as "Sixty Cycle Drum," "Murka," "Drone Silences," "and "Requiem 432," the music takes on a contemporary and dance-infused characterization. The adventurous Filastine brings Aphasia to new heights and audiences with gritty, percussive nods, swishy sounds, and futuristic embellishments that are unforgettable. Try it today! ~ Matthew Forss