Benny B – ‘Move Fast’

Music Reviews

This track features more of an electronic, indie and dance vibe and I really like it. Again, referring to the Billy – Not Over You EP, there are elements in there that are similar but not totally the same. I enjoyed that over time the track builds and adds more elements to it. This doesn’t take away from the singing or the rest of the track in any way though and this can be hard to do in tracks like these.
There seems to be a hint of autotune used – however, I think that this was to make the track more cohesive and not to mask a bad singing voice. In fact, I think that if you took the autotune away you’d still have a really good track here. I know I said LETUDOWN was probably my favourite out of the set (although I stated thus far), this one has most definitely taken the top spot for its creativity and for standing out amongst all the SoundCloud submissions I had.

Words: Courtney Solloway

My First Moustache @ 229

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After traipsing around Great Portland Street, passing many lively pubs and some great street performers, I found where I was supposed to be, the venue, 229.

The entrance was a tunnel that slopes into the ground below pavement level —  a sub-pavement grotto. This portal was guarded by a tall man swaddled in a thick black coat and beanie hat. Our encounter was reflective of that between the ugly troll and the smallest billy goat in the tale of the of the three billy goats gruff. “Can I see some ID?” he growled, doesn’t he know WHO I AM? As an almost automatic response, I handed him my dishevelled passport and went on my merry way. After all, the grass is greener on the other side.

A wall of heat enveloped me as I trotted down the stairs into the unknown. My friend Elli, who was putting on the event pulled me towards her magnetically for a unious embrace. My free ticket in. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know — by the way…

The venue was dark, as you would expect, you know, being underground.

One side of the room was padded back to back with brown, ramshackle couches with a coffee table between each — water stains apparently being part of the interior design. The other side sported a bar supplying heavily overpriced lager (£4.50 for a pint of Carlsberg I’ll have you know). It’ll be a tap water for me thank you, sir.

A low standing stage is slotted in the top corner of the room next to the entrance, so when you arrive your eardrums are instantly scorched with fiery blasts from the speakers. Convenience is great, I didn’t want functioning ears anyway. It’s great banter having to say “What?” about five times after someone speaks.

Fast forward about two hours from my arrival and I’m two drinks in (a rum and coke and a pint of Carlsberg, IF YOU MUST KNOW). My First Moustache (MFM) are finding their feet on the shallow stage.

Some space had opened up between them. The stage was not as cramped as it was since I last saw them, in fact it looks rather empty. This could partially be explained by the fact that the stage I last saw them on was going on microscopic, but it was apparent that members were missing. Two members are gone, and only one has been replaced. You know what they say, if they’re slowing you down, cut them off. Or in the case of MFM, let them fly away to Amsterdam to go and study art.

I can’t think of the words to describe them. MFM are Jack’s racing pulse. MFM create a rampage. They perfectly capture the essence of a stampede of elephants being preyed on. Their sound is utterly outrageous. My eardrums were blown away— hello permanent tinnitus. I stood on a table to try and escape the ruckus happening below me as ‘lads’ lads’ bombed and darted around the room smashing into each other like a group of juggernauts and rhinoceroses.  

Despite being experts of exhilarating, face-melting guitar riffs and complex drum rhythms, I would say that MFM are quite the musical chameleons. Their setlist leaps from hardcore to something along the wavelength of dream pop and I simply could not keep up with it. One minute I wanted to punch everyone in the neck, the next I just wanted a good cuddle and chocolate covered strawberries.

Once their had finished their set (I don’t know how they knew they were finished as they had no setlist), the crowd roared for more. A little peer pressure never hurt anyone, and they succumbed. Having run out of songs to play, they opted for a very jazz, improv, “jam” type thing. For me, this made it clear who wears the trousers and what the state of the inter-band relations are. I almost felt bad for the new guitarist who was utterly excluded from this three-way bonding session between the lead singer, drummer and bassist. He just stood there awkwardly trying not to make it obvious that he had no idea what was going on, but this was pretty clear. He almost melted into the background. To be honest about it, that was probably the best for him as their little “jam” was nothing to boast about. It was long boring and repetitive.

It was nice to see them smile were nice though.

What ever happened to….all of the record stores?

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I was stood awkwardly outside 53 Rupert Street in Soho. Maybe 30 years ago, I wouldn’t have looked quite so strange donning my bulky, black Sony headphones and an unironed Rolling Stones t-shirt. But here I am in 2018, gawking through the glossy windows of the pint-sized Italian restaurant that calls itself ‘Mister Lasagna’.

Rupert Street is an offshoot of Berwick Street. And Berwick Street used to be famous for its abundance of record stores. And ‘Mister Lasagna’ used to be a record store called Cheapo Cheapo.

According to my sources, Cheapo Cheapo used to be the place to be — a something for everyone, “I’ll give you the lot for a tenner”, sink your teeth into this record kind of shop. Alas, the only thing you’ll be sinking your teeth into at 53 Rupert Street nowadays is a hearty, layered, Italian pasta dish with an icy pint of Peroni to wash it all down.

The air is different in Soho today…quite literally. Berwick Street is bulky, stuffed wall-to wall with street food market stalls, each sizzling intensely with the scent of different parts of the globe, inflicting a frenzy on the nose and mouth-watering mayhem on the tongue. Berwick Street once was a parade brimming toe-to-toe with record stores (and as I envisage it, discs of vinyl flying everywhere). But the reality is, things aren’t as they used to be. Like the great David Bowie once said, “Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes”. Where there once was 16 record stores has now turned into 4.

Unfortunately, like Cheapo Cheapo, this is the tragic fate of many of Soho’s record stores. How is it that during this time of vinyl record renaissance so many record stores are floundering? What is it that the record stores that are still standing (maybe only on one leg) are doing to stop from toppling over into the pit of nothingness that so many other stores have fallen into?

Standing boldly amongst the fallen, one of the three musketeers of Berwick Street is Sister Ray Records.

I must have walked aimlessly up and down Berwick Street four or five times before I finally found the record shop tucked snugly between a rather flashy looking dental surgery and your bog-standard plumbing store. There’s something so utterly refreshing about entering a record store — it’s like time has stopped, you’ve slipped into a vortex and have been transported to somewhere completely ethereal. The chaos from outside has waned away. The sound of traffic is distant. But most importantly, it doesn’t smell like kebab and burnt chicken. Some sort of electronic dance music pulsed away profusely in the background as vinyl record enthusiasts stalked the shop flicking through the different bright sleeves like lions hunting for their next meal.

Co-owner and manager of Sister Ray, Phil Barton, was sat discreetly, tucked away in a crowded office. The room, which was basically a closet, was stacked high with vinyl and cardboard boxes, one of which was pragmatically called “faulties and shit”. The door was open, probably because they couldn’t actually close it.

“The only thing that has saved the independent record shops in the recent years is the rise of vinyl” said Phil very matter-of-factly. “There’s no need for us to exist without vinyl.” And it’s true, without this rise in the sale of vinyl, not even the longest standing record stores would still be around. In fact, the sale of the LP is on the incline, increasing every year. Between 2015 and 2017, the volume of that records sold doubled. DOUBLED. It can only be assumed that the trend will follow suit in the upcoming years.

Running a record store in 2018 is blatantly difficult, as Phil puts it, “these are difficult times”. Honestly? It really doesn’t come as a surprise with all this fancy streaming and Spotify malarkey, meanwhile forking out small fortunes on rent and fending off the monstrously ugly, capitalist consumer giants such as HMV.  “A lot of people have opened stores up and are finding it incredibly tough because you have to have a reputation and you have to have a history before people y’know really lock on to you” Phil adds. For many people who open record stores today, it’s all guesswork and many cannot sustain their business because they have no idea what they are doing. Phil says he fears for these people who one day decide “I’ve had enough of being an accountant, or butcher or something and I’m gonna open a record shop” because “it’s really, really hard to make money out of records if you don’t know what you’re doing.” Hey, they might not succeed but hats off to them for giving it a go. “It looks really cool but it’s bloody hard work.”

The principle source of income for all record shops is physical sales and we’re not talking about cafes that sell vinyl on the side. Yes, the sales are going up, up and up, but it’s still not enough. So I did my own digging.

As well as obvious inexperiece, record store closure can be linked to something in retail we like to call ‘customer conversion’. It’s really not as fancy as it sounds however it is a crucial cog in the big old, whirring business machine. What it means is, the amount of people who come into a shop and are converted from a visitor to a customer. In the case of our poor, little independent record stores, it would seem that the conversion rate is quite low.

I asked my peers some questions to get some insight (of course this isn’t solid data but it’s not totally invalid). 63% of them said that they did vinyl, however, only half of these said that they only go to any record store a few times a year. Even then, who is to say that they are actually buying vinyl every time they go? Dare I say that I discovered a trend occurring in their answers. The question was, ‘Do you enjoy visiting record stores?’, and the answers (almost identical) were: “It’s fun to browse and see what they have”, “I like going with friends to see what looks good”, “It’s fun to look around and see the album covers etc”. Oh yes, there it is. Many going to the stores but not purchasing anything. Do you remember doing charity bake sales at school? Do you remember when people would have a look at your cakes that you spent two hours making and then move on to buy from the person who got theirs from Tesco? I can only imagine that’s what the people who work in record stores feel like.

I then asked, ‘Do you think there is any need for record stores today?’. The majority said yes, because visiting record stores is nice, they are “authentic”, “they are unique”, “they are cool and bring a piece of the past back to life”. These are all lovely things to hear, but like I said before, it’s just not enough. Record stores cannot stay open just because people think they are nice.

The proof is in the pudding — independent record stores need supporting and record lovers young and old need to be there.  Berwick Street is probably never going to be the mecca for vinyl enthusiasts that it once was but that’s completely alright. Phil says, “You can’t look over your shoulder and go “eugh well it was better then”. Because it was different. It doesn’t mean it was better it was just different.”

At the end of the day, the real reason record stores are closing is because people are visiting and visiting only. Next time you go, do something different. Find a cover that has really cool album art. Delve into a genre you’ve never heard of before. Adopt a record that has a roughed up sleeve, because that means that it was loved and listened to over and over. Turn your pockets inside out, tip out the contents of your wallet and buy something with whatever amount you have, lint and all. Get the record that you’ve wanted to buy for ages.

You betcha I’ll be going back to Berwick Street. I’ll see you there. 21st April, yeah?

K’O Qua – ‘Niagara’

Music Reviews

This track has a lot of what most rappers use nowadays. The same type of beats with the higher more intricate notes repeated throughout the track. The rapping itself isn’t bad though, but I really wasn’t a fan of the lyrics I’ll be honest. It kind of raps and lists all the reasons I don’t really listen to rap music. I’m not a fan of “Shake that ass, back that ass up” kind of scene. Granted rock and metal explore some hypersexual areas – just look at Steel Panther (full of not so subtle innuendos and some insensitivity). The thing is, they kind of know that they’re making a large joke out of it but a lot of the time rap culture is incredibly serious and the way it’s worded sometimes is just something I can’t get behind. This, unfortunately, is one of those occasions and I just couldn’t gel with it.

Words: Courtney Solloway

Strong Maurice – ‘LETUDOWN [Jxckal REMIX]’

Music Reviews

The track sounds with what sounds like wind blowing before chilled keyboards and drum beats start to match the smooth autotuned vocals. The track begins to build but just as it seems like it will reach an explosion it breaks down into what it was like at the beginning with the drum beats a little quicker than last time. Slowly more elements get added to the track before going into a breakdown.
The track is relaxing, to say the least, and out of the ones I’ve reviewed thus far from this collection, this is my favourite. It’s soothing and chilled enough to relax you but also keep you listening and intrigued. Towards the end of the song, we have more remixing going into it and it builds up into a crescendo for the end of the track. This is by far one of the most enjoyable non-rock tracks I’ve ever reviewed, and it reminds me of the Billy – I’m Not Over You EP.

Words: Courtney Solloway

Faceless Sage – ‘Long Nights Short Days (Produced by Young Taylor)’

Music Reviews

The song starts off slowly before quicker beats are introduced at the same time as the rapping. This track is short at 2:22 and it’s kind of a hit and miss in areas of the song. Towards the middle is where the track gets better due to the bars getting much quicker, but the backing track is the same throughout. If it had picked up the pace with the rapping I have a feeling this track would have been better.

Words: Courtney Solloway

Michael X – ‘Anthrax’

Music Reviews

This one took me by surprise in the beginning. It had some mellow smooth jazz and I don’t ever get sent anything like that – much to my disappointment. However, just as soon as I began to enjoy the jazz it disappeared and changed, met by uncomfortable and somewhat disturbing sounds that make your hair stand on end. A slow beat begins over this and the rap starts. It’s slow. Real slow.
Unfortunately, the guy is flat and it’s not good at all – like the first track it’s very mumble rap. This stops pretty drastically and goes into something much more upbeat though – almost like what is used in the background of a travel vloggers video. It’s more enjoyable like the jazz but that’s cut off so quickly that I’m beginning to wonder what this track is actually doing. It goes back into rap but thankfully it’s not slow and it’s not mumbling, hooray! The backing track leaves much to be desired as it’s a little repetitive and dull – in the sense that I’ve heard it on rap tracks before.

However, the rapping is far superior to what was going on at the beginning of the track and I found myself enjoying this section. We’re halfway through the 6:12 track now and because it’s a music video there’s a small pause as something happens and much to my dismay it goes right back into the mumble rap that was there in the beginning, repeating itself once over before the good rapping comes back. This wasn’t as good as the first time around however that could be due to the fact that it had the unsettling track in the background. Almost like the ghost levels you had on Super Mario as a kid. It stops again to show a party in an undisclosed location before going back to the rap and unsettling music again but this time it meets the better rapping from the first time I heard it. It ends on that awful slow rap again and I’m left feeling a little confused over the whole experience.

This artist has potential. But the potential lies in the jazz, upbeat tracks and quicker rapping. As soon as it slows, his voice becomes deeper and the music jumps around I’m left unexcited and angry from being taken away from the good stuff. Hopefully, in the future, I’ll see more from the artist but with these notes taken on board for some much better tracks.

Words: Courtney Solloway

Saltysoul – ‘Dank N Drizzle’

Music Reviews

The song starts with water running and a slow bluesy keyboard and drum beat begins to play. The same tune and chord progression rings through until halfway through the song where the drum starts, and the notes begin to change. This, however, is short lived and it soon goes back to the same chords as before. This process repeats itself again towards the end of the song and eventually, it’s left with the water running sounds seeing the track out. This isn’t the most exciting of tracks and I wouldn’t recommend listening to it if water running makes you need to pee, but from my point of view despite it being repetitive it’s quite relaxing. I’m not sure if the rest of the Lo-Fi N Low-Key EP is the same but the name certainly makes it seem so.

Words: Courtney Solloway