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Monday, November 30, 2015

Tony Watson: "My Still Small Voice"

Perhaps you’ve heard it before; “art can’t do anything.” There is a notion that if it isn’t immediately productive from a capitalistic standpoint, it is without value. However, those involved in raising charity/social-ill awareness would disagree both with their voices and with their music. In that mindset, Tony Watson’s anthem “My Still Small Voice” is a powerful call to action for homeless awareness.

The info on his YouTube video reads “this video is dedicated to all the homeless and displaced people in the world. Let’s hope our children and all of us learn how to give them a hand, pay it forward.” Which is something with which I could not agree more. Mr. Watson reminds us that through music and art we have the ability to bring to the forefront a common goal of improving our communities, and in that spirit, I hope you will give his lovely song more than a few listens. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Zalex: Come Alive EP

Thick electronic sweeps in the bass underpinning a breathy voice and balance of themes are all aspects that dominate this newest release by electronic music artist: Zalex. Perhaps what is so enticing about these two tracks is the sheer musicality of the numbers. I feel wholeheartedly confident in saying that the combination of notes/melodies could be just at home using organic instrumentation – of course, the fact that it is electronic gives it an extra sonic quality not easily assessable in the natural world.

Both tracks reflect a level of craftsmanship that is more than admirable – but it is really the first one in his SoundCloud lineup that is the real star (Let You Fall). Energetic and sentimental, perfect for dancing, or for chillout it navigates a greyspace not easily found in a genre primarily associated with party and drug culture. Zalex reminds us that art comes in all forms and breaks many of the stereotypes we often associate with this chosen medium.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Nick Nichols: The Other Side

To hear a sample of "The Other Side" click here

Artist Nick Nichols’ newest release is a beautiful and heartfelt ballad that encompasses themes of faith, love, and commitment. It’s a work that could easily stand toe to toe with beloved pieces of folk music such as “Danny Boy” or “The Water is Wide” (the latter of which “The Other Side” has more than a few note-combinations in common) Like a well-staged film, everything you need to know about this song happens within the first twenty seconds, the rest is an expansion on that opening mood. There is a sweet (but at the same time, melancholy) violin playing over a soft and expressive piano which acts much like footlights for Mr. Nichols’ voice.

There’s a great helping of gospel in this track, almost like the kind of reflective piece you would love to hear in church, except (sadly) modern worship music doesn’t get nearly as deep as this track. Nick Nichols balances major uplifting chords with introspective shifts into minor, likewise his legato (yet very mature sounding) voice works expertly in all registers.

The Other Side is a sad song, but at the same time there is such a sense of dignity and individualism that comes through in a song about dying. It’s the kind of song I imagine my father would have reflected upon in his own end-of-life struggle and I found this number very personally inspiring. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

303 Hallelujah! Acid Machine by Errozero

Let's be frank for just a moment - when it comes to electronic music, the Roland TB 303 is a sought after sound, the same way the classic Fenders is cherished in Rock n' Roll, the same way the Hammond B3 immediately says "blues and jazz," and the same way the Stradivarius is revered as the gold-standard for baroque violin. 

In the electronic music world, though; we're lucky. The fact that the instruments began in electronics and continue in the digital world means there is an immediate translation. Sure, Kontakt may attempt to recreate the best strings in Europe, Garritan may "claim" that they have a "Goffriller" cello library that rivals the real thing - but the truth is  the digital recreations pale in comparison with the real thing. And again, just because we're being honest here, it's only due to the fact that people have forgetten what acoustic instruments sound like that these libraries are remotely passable. 

But, as was mentioned above; electronic music creators are lucky. Thankfully an awesome 303 sound may be lovingly enjoyed being recreated through the (very affordable $.99 download) emulator "Acid Machine" by Errozero, which was according to the developer, something of a hobby-project. The rack is set up to look much like the classic Propellerhead "Rebirth RB 338" software so popular in the 1990's. 

The interface is true to the (now vintage) RB 338 program, And users of the afformentioned UI will find it very easy and enjoyable in terms of workflow. It should be noted, however; that it's not perfect software. It would be nice to have greater control over the drum parts and the portamento of the 303 sounds could use some adjusting. However; for the price tag I don't think we're allowed to complain that much. I see this as a completely viable live performance option and I hope there are DJ's and Producers around who share my vision. 

Perhaps the greatest strength with regards to "Acid Machine" is that it is now available in an offline Google-Chrome app form which makes it very much a legitimate music making software. In short, I believe we owe a great debt of gratitude towards Errozero for this remarkable and fun creation. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Madelyn Victoria: "He Only Loves Me on the Dance Floor"

Madelyn Victoria reminds us that value exists in a simple sentiment, “He Only Loves Me on the Dance Floor” is a beautiful ballad that seems to say “I want to know what you’re thinking” – of course, from a more complicated/enigmatic female perspective. It is refreshing to know (at least in the world of country music) that human relationships are still valuable as song substance in a time where casual sex and drug use are much more common themes in popular music.  With this song, Ms. Victoria is allowing us a personal glimpse of her own individual desire, and we’re better off for it.

There is first rate instrumentation to this number which consists of a small orchestra of percussion, fiddle, and strumming. The song starts out with a classic-country baritone range distorted guitar reminiscent of the best of Calexico-type solos. Madelyn’s voice is likewise beautiful in a soulful middle register; powerful, yet so very elegant. One of the things that really shines in this song is the length of the notes in the verse – the individual pitches ring out almost like the long reverberation of a church bell, that is until the chorus begins.

It’s a lovely song – a little bit like a late night phone call from a close friend and hopefully, we’ll get at least a few more calls as time goes on. To learn more about Madelyn Victoria, please visit her webiste here: