Thursday, April 30, 2015

CD Review: Stash's 'Strip Me Bare'

Strip Me Bare
SAS Entertainment

Links: Facebook, Instagram, Vevo, SoundCloud, Twitter

The L.A.-based, female musical duo, Stash, combine electronica, dance, and pop elements into an infectious result on Strip Me Bare. Steph Prost and Amanda Maze not only know how to create upbeat, dance songs, but they also toss in a few clever rap vocals and DJ artistry that is quite mature and innovative. The gritty, dance tune, "Upside Down," features pulsating and grinding electronica noises with crystal clear vocals. "Strip Me Bare" contains a few rap lines, swishy percussion, and heavenly vocal arrangements for an urban-inspired dance beat. "Red Cup! Pink Up!" is a feverish, dance tune with glorious vocals and buzz-laden electronica and sporadic raps. "Tear Me Down" is one of the best songs on the album and it represents a perfect blend of rap, urban, and dance influences with equally-impressive vocals. Stash resemble Katy Perry, Kesha, and a more mature and clever Lady Gaga. Strip Me Bare has alot to offer for dance and electronica fans. 5 Stars (out of 5) ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Foam Ropes' Self-Titled Release

Foam Ropes
Foam Ropes
7 Trick Pony Records

Links: Twitter, Reverbnation, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram

New Yorker, Derek Nicoletto, formed Foam Ropes after years of studying acting. The self-titled release showcases a variety of alt-rock, pop, grunge, and indie song styles that are sure to stir the soul and move the body (all in positive ways). "Potion Me Well" contains edgy rock guitars, wild percussion, and loud vocals that echo the musical angst of American contemporary rock from the 1980's and early '90's. "Truth In Fables" is more of a rock ballad with some classic vocals in the vein of New Jersey-band, Every Damn Day. The punchy guitars and slight neo-classical edge combine with great vocals for a truly unforgettable experience. "Birches" is more of a folk and roots-influenced tune with acoustic guitar, light percussion, and softer vocals. "Bad Apples" is a sauntering, down-tempo ballad that draws inspiration from the 1950's and '60's-era of American classics. However, the entire album contains original songs. Overall, the songs display a good mix of talent, song styles, and catchy hooks that will keep everyone entertained. ~ 5 Stars (out of 5). Matthew Forss  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

CD Review: Paula Maya's 'Iluminar'

Paula Maya
Yellow House Records

The jazzy, South American styles of Texas-based, Paula Maya, incorporates Brazilian melodies with folk, roots, electronica, and pop on Iluminar. The soft ballads and Brazilian percussion reveal an intimate side of Paula's music. It is very enjoyable and steeped in swirling melodies and rhythms of South America. Whether you are on an island, on the beaches of Rio, or in the comfort of your living room, Iluminar lights up any mood or situation with grace and authenticity. "So In Tune" showcases some great vocals here. Crystal-clear vocals and an uppity melody cements a beautiful song to her credit. The light vocals are indicative of Susan Aglukark's voicings. At any rate, Paula Maya creates a stunning release of pop-friendly songs with a good dose of South American pizzazz. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Monoswezi's 'Monoswezi Yanga'

Monoswezi Yanga
Riverboat Records

Monoswezi is a group born out of several nations, including Mozambique, Norway, Sweden, and Zimbabwe. The instrumental backing is primarily due to the mbira--thumb piano. However, the mbira is accompanied by bass, marimba, sax, clarinet, percussion, guitar, harmonium, harmonica, and drums. Hope Masike and Calu Tsemane provide vocal accompaniment to many of the tunes. The sparkling and earth-laden mbira provides a dreamy and contemplative resonance that is very magical and seductive. The album borders on jazz, folk, roots, Afro, traditional, neo-classical, and experimental music genres. Scandinavia is normally a country positioned very far away from Zimbabwe. Thankfully, Monoswezi bridges the gap between the two world regions in one, cohesive offering titled: Monoswezi Yanga. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Newpoli's 'Nun Te Vuta'

Nun Te Vuta
Rotary Records

Italy's Newpoli group brings us a swirling mix of tunes that are definitely vibrant and showy with lush melodies and rhythms, along with fanciful vocal displays. The instrumental repertoire is rich with mandola, guitars, accordion, bass, strings, oud, drums, and wind instruments. The minstrel-like melodies and playfulness to the songs represents a historical presence in a contemporary world. The vocals lead the tunes at times, but the instruments are the stand-out here. Anyone interested in folk music, world music, Italian roots, ensemble, neo-classical music, and Renaissance-type music will find happiness throughout the tunes of Nun Te Vuta. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Midival Punditz' 'Light'

Midival Punditz
Six Degrees Records

The electronic and fusion-focused Midival Punditz release their latest album, Light. It is anything but light from a musical standpoint. In fact, the tunes are rather hard-hitting with diverse South Asian, new age, and world music stylings with contemporary beats, guitars, and traditional sounds emanating from keyboards and actual instruments. The rather organic and enticing sound from New the Delhi-based duo stem from eighteen-years of DJ culture exposure and world music experience, which culminate in a very rewarding and satisfying album. There are nine tracks, but most of them are pretty long. Everything is diverse and reaches deep into the soul of the Earth with fluttering melodies, heavy percussion, wild guitars, dance-friendly beats, and a mix of electronic sampling and engineering that is unparalleled. All of the songs are produced by Gaurav Raina and Tapan Raj--the progenitors of the group. The primary sounds resemble South Asian electronica mixed with a dose of The Trans-Siberian Orchestra! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Bill Gable's 'No Straight Lines'

Bill Gable
No Straight Lines

From the Midwestern United States, Bill Gable carves a niche in the pop and jazz standard genre with poignant and personal songs backed by flamenco, world jazz, neo-classical, and pop elements. The songs are slow-tempo morsels of ear candy that incorporates a stellar musical cast, including Steve Rodby, Jimmy Haslip, Larry Goldings, Greg Ellis, and a few others. Inspired by destinations never reached, No Straight Lines offers a spirited record of hope, love, and freedom to be one's self--no matter what people say. Subtle jazz horns, delicate acoustic guitars, and light percussive arrangements cement Bill Gable in a group of very talented musicians. Fans of laid-back, neo-classical, jazz, and pop standards with a world music presence will love No Straight Lines. ~ Matthew Forss  

CD Review: Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba's 'Ba Power'

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba
Ba Power

The power of the Malian ngoni lute is highlighted by Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba's powerful rhythms, rock-tinged arrangements, and bluesy vocals ripe with African panache and deep, historic roots amidst a contemporary setting. The ngoni's stirring and entrancing sounds are intensified by the fact there are five ngonis that make up the band's sound. Traditional drums, calabash, keyboards, guitars, and horns provide a modern tone, but the music is still rooted in Malian blues and soul. There are vocal pieces, but the real charm comes from the instrumental grooves and punchy rhythms found throughout the album. Ba Power is a musical gem with occasional rock guitar displays and earthy, traditional instrumentation with a trance-filled soul. There are nine tracks in all. The vocals are in Bambara. Not to be missed! ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

CD Review: Gino Sitson's 'VoiStrings'

Gino Sitson
Buda Musique

Gino Sitson, a Cameroonian-native, is a vocal acrobat with diverse vocal stylings indicative of jazz, Afro-soul, and European classicism. There are various body effects and miscellaneous vocal effects that produce a variety of sounds--all of them pleasant. The music is very laid-back, sweeping, and neo-classical with some African percussion and rhythm influences. Gino's vocals are accompanied by piano, double bass, drums, cello, and viola. There are two covers on the album, which include Faure's "Elegie Opus 24" and Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage." Of course, Gino makes both tracks his own. There are fourteen original tracks. Fans of world jazz, African vocal music, neo-classical, and even South American bossa nova would relish the sounds on VoiStrings. ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, April 19, 2015

CD Review: Los Crema Paraiso's 'De Pelicula!'

Los Crema Paraiso 
De Pelicula!

Los Crema Paraiso's brand of world music runs the gamut from psych to rock to roots and beyond. The experimental and indigenous Venezuelan grooves are marked with a variety of jazzy, bossa nova, beat-driven melodies throughout. The Tears For Fears cover, "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," is one of the top highlights from the album. Another cover, the 1959 hit from Santo & Johnny, "Sleepwalk," is an ode to the classics in true pop form. There is a slight South American presence that is somewhat psychedelic and dreamy. There is another cover, "Personal Jesus," originally conceived by Depeche Mode, that is led by Carol C. in a slightly Brazilian musical soundscape. Covers aside, De Pelicula! surprises fans of South American rock, pop, and lounge with a heady mix of percussive ear candy, flowing melodies, and classic sounds that never get old or banal. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Beautiful Nubia and The Roots Renaissance Band's 'Soundbender'

Beautiful Nubia and The Roots Renaissance Band

Beautiful Nubia is Segun Akinlolu, a Nigerian folk and roots musician that bridges together lilting reggae-like grooves with Afro-soul and Afro-pop melodies. The mix of Yoruba and English lyrics provides a truly world music result with magnificent percussion, strings, and contemporary beats throughout. There are beautiful melodies and rhythms that highlight both Beautiful Nubia's voice and the instrumental backing. Every track is diverse, but very engaging and catchy. The backup vocals are sparse, but appropriate where added. The jazzy, somewhat neo-classical strings adds a nostalgic, European musical presence, while hanging onto African roots and influences. Anyone with an interest in contemporary African grooves and roots music will love Soundbender. ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

CD Review: Ajoyo's Self-Titled Release


The heady grooves and rhythms of Ajoyo's West African, jazz, and afro-beat inspired music with roots in Cameroon, Tunisia, France, and beyond. Spearheaded by Yacine Boulares with lead vocals coming from Sarah Elizabeth Charles and other vocals by Linton Smith and Alon Albagli. The rhythms and textures are created with the piano, rhodes, organ, percussion, bass, drums, sax, clarinet, udu, and others. The Cameroonian-influenced release is highly-contemporary and driven with diverse sounds and hypnotic lines that will keep anyone enthralled for a long time. Whether it is world jazz, bikutsi pop, afro-beat, or jam music, Ajoyo knows how to entertain us in creative ways without succumbing to pitfalls. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Axel Krygier's 'Hombre De Piedra'

Axel Krygier
Hombre De Piedra

The contemporary recording, Hombre De Piedra, showcases an experimental vein of Axel Krygier's cross-cultural side. As a singer and composer, Axel brings together spaghetti Western, folk, Balkan, French cafe, blues, electronica, funk, and jazz influences for a truly exciting collection of songs that are never boring. The musical origins stem from Axel's Argentinian background, but this is not your typical tourist trap music. Instead, Axel combines edgy French, Russian, and Latin-American song styles for an enthralling release. A diverse instrumental repertoire helps the songs reach new heights and incredible appeal. Whether it is down-tempo or world music, Axel manages to create wonderful songs that are highly catchy and always memorable. If you are into new music with an ear-friendly beat; then try Axel's new release. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Le Vent Du Nord's 'Tetu'

Le Vent Du Nord
Borealis Records

Quebecois-origins aside, Le Vent Du Nord is a magnificient folk music group with hearty strings, thought-provoking vocals, intense melodies, raw hurdy-gurdy sounds, and other elements that are likable and timeless. There are instrumental and vocal medleys throughout. The instrumental and bouncy, "Cardeuse-Riopel," is an excellent example of piano, fiddle, accordion, and other instruments coming together in a harmonic fashion. The folksy roots and earthy feel to the album stems from the talented cast of musicians, including Nicolas Boulerice, Olivier Demers, Rejean Brunet, and Simon Beaudry. Fifteen tracks round out the album. Some of the songs are under two-minutes, but a majority of the songs are two to five-minutes long. There is a classical quality to the music, but there is a strong Quebecois element highlighting the best of French-Canadian folk music. Start off on the right foot with Le Vent Du Nord. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Florencia Gonzalez' 'Between Loves'

Florencia Gonzalez
Between Loves
ZOHO Music

Uruguayan-born and New York resident, Florencia Gonzalez, is a talented composer, performer, instrumentalist, and singer, but showcases her instrumental side on Between Loves. Florencia presents us with a thrilling selection of six original tunes and one cover by Hugo Fattoruso. Florencia plays tenor sax throughout the album, while other musicians play trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, piano, bass, and drums for s truly South American jazz experience. The musical notes waft between tango, candombe, big band, and Latin jazz styles that are rather laid-back, but full of life. As a Berklee College of Music graduate and New England Conservatory graduate with honors in jazz composition, Florencia knows a thing or two about engaging, historic, and cultural music. The entire album is around forty-minutes in length, but it seems to incorporate a variety of textures and melodies to keep everyone very satisfied. ~ Matthew Forss