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"Auriga" by MINTAKAA

Review

I'm always most appreciative of being tipped off about interesting local music which I had not previously been aware of, so thank you to Ian Todd (whose latest single as part of Shanghai Hostage, "Convent" in a complete coincidence also came out today) for alerting me to the work of Coventry based Luke Weaver aka MINTAKAA and specifically the new single called "Auriga".

The title relates to the role of a charioteer though as the track is a guitar led instrumental, I'm not sure I'm any better placed to suggest the connection than you are, so maybe we just need to lie back & enjoy the track. And lying back is probably the best attitude in which to experience it as it is a very laid back sort of vibe. I like artists who sit outside obvious single genres & MINTAKAA is a tricky one to wholly describe. "Neo jazz" and "neo soul" are used online so I think we can agree that people consider this a new type of music. One obvious comparison might be with John Connearn whose latest EP ‘Is This Thing On?' we only reviewed last week: both are highly accomplished instrumentalists (especially on guitar) who self record melodic instrumental music with jazz overtones. However Luke, as evidenced here at least, prefers a much slower playing style, more meditative & I can't argue with another expression used of him (and by himself) "astral ambience". Certainly I was impressed by his skills both compositional & performance & the track worked its magic on me this afternoon: it helped my destress after some frustrations & can recommend it. However I'm sure Luke intends his music to be much more than a therapeutic resource for stressed reviewers & I can well imagine how this would work well in the right venue, with the right audience and the right time of night, which is to say quite late. This has a nocturnal vibe to it & so possibly the title relates better to the constellation of that name than the Roman occupation. At any rate, however close or not I am in that respect, what I have no doubt about it is that this is a highly talented musician whom I am now aware of & so I repeat my gratitude.

I gather Sophie Hadlum of Shanghai Hostage (and of course a fine solo artist too) will be collaborating with MINTAKAA soon so I'm sure that will add further perspectives on our understanding of his work.

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"Convent" by Shanghai Hostage

Review

Shanghai Hostage are continuing their long running excellent form & defying COVID with another prime release this morning namely their new single "Convent"

This absolutely quintessential track from one of our area's best loved bands has come about since they have managed (unlike with such tracks recorded at the height of the crisis with a reduced lineup, such as last May's "Mr Motivator") to reconvene at the Tin with Ian Whitehead producing  and with Giles Braid guesting on drums again: as with their previous release "Free Lovin' Woman" which came out for Christmas. I think I'm right in saying that this breaks new ground for the group: two consecutive releases featuring the same combination of players?

At any rate, despite the constraints of separation & not being able to rehearse let alone gig, Shanghai Hostage are continuing to go from strength to strength. For those who feel deprived of not having seen them don habits for too long, "Convent" will be a tonic as they are back on sacred ground…

From the Bach referencing opening, they continue to bring a musical & lyrical wit and humour to subjects which are in fact pretty profound. That sort of balance takes skill & a fine judgement (you neither want to belittle your message nor seem to be patronising your audience) and that's yet another aspect of the band which I and many others appreciate: they are sure footed in what they do & present well wrought songs which ooze with self confidence & critically no obvious interest in fitting into anyone's pigeonhole nor accepting their labels.

Self identifying as a "funk rock" band, readers of my reviews of previous releases will see that while not untrue  (both elements are hard to deny in their work), they are merely two of a wide range of styles they are happy to play & talented enough to play: usually in the course of a single song. On this occasion,from the classical intro the band then head for the rockier end of their spectrum  with the band getting their heads down for some pretty grungey playing with Sophie yelping & howling à la P J Harvey or Siouxsie Sioux  over the top: possibly her most powerful vocal on a Shanghai Hostage record to date. I loved it.

Thankfully the band have created a lyrics video to accompany "Convent" (check this out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kBT_s1H1ic) as they are worth taking note of: the general theme being around "..running away to a Convent to escape the patriarchy" and enabling some excellent associated wordplay such as "I'd rather pray all day than be preyed on all night" or "maybe I should kick the habit & wear one instead'.

As with all their songs, they mean what they are saying but clearly are enjoying playing & passing on their thoughts: and this is what endears them to live audiences: some of which hopefully they'll be entertaining & enlightening before too much longer. In the meantime raise your hats (or wimples) to them.  This is fine fine music.

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"The South" by Wilde

Review

Not only did ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Four'  artists Wilde (check out "Wasted" if you've not already done so) manage to put together the innovative & unusual "The Spoons" during the constraints of the pandemic but they've gone and managed another with the upcoming "The South" (out at the end of this week on Friday 26th of February)

If "Wasted"  was "…an electric snarl which makes its feelings abundantly clear.." as we suggested & "The Spoons"  "..a much more acoustic track …and a more enigmatic theme...  with words being delivered at a mighty rate…. the central protagonist is beautifully perched on a knife edge between a potential inarticulacy of the excessive thoughts in his brain & the actual articulacy with which he (just) manages to get them out" then the new song is something else again. In fact: let's get this out of the way straight away: it caught me before the first minute of its first play & now after repeated plays I am certain it's my favourite Wilde track & I'm going to state my opinion that I think it's their best work to date.

In some ways maybe "The Spoons" was a paving stone on the road to "The South" as the sound is a clear development of what they were exploring on the earlier record: letting acoustic instrumentation lead & opening out the sound to greater effect each time. However this time, the vocal as well as the instrumentation shows that spacing: on "The Spoons" the gabble was totally justified given the aim of the song, so no complaints there, but I do like the clear, stately vocal on "The South" and above all, the song showcases a real sense of self confidence within this excellent band. There is a palpable jauntiness as they swing through the track which approaches a swagger: the nearest comparison I can offer you might be the transformation which came over Primal Scream around the time of ‘Riot City Blues': which I certainly intend as a compliment.

Consequently the groove throughout is the key driver of what I'm talking of & the performance of the rhythm section has never been more assured to my ears, and I think it important to draw this to your attention given the likely focus most ears normally pay (quite understandably, especially here) to the guitars & vocals.

I find it hard to conceive how anyone will not like "The South" & it definitely possesses everything required for broad immediate radio play as well as becoming a key part of their live repertoire once such a thing is allowed back into being. In any event, as I say, the song represents I think I great step forwards & hopefully a significant one in the band's career: as for myself I have gained a new favourite to play now & look forward to hearing in concert.

Please do check Wilde out on social media at:

https://www.facebook.com/wildeband

 

https://www.instagram.com/wearewilde1/

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"In Absence" by Lemon Boy

Review

If you enjoyed hearing the "elegant & graceful " (as our review described it) "Flamingo"  by Lemon Boy on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Four' then you'll be pleased to learn of his latest release "In Absence": his first since "Sea of Stars" back in September

Fortunately Lemon Boy (Luke Bates) is a very self sufficient artist and so has been able to create both this single & its predecessor despite the constraints of our times, being a musician who writes, performs & produces all his own work.

This time, like many of his peers, he feels he cannot escape comment on such times and so "In Absence" concerns itself with distance & separation from loved ones, specifically his own partner & the date of release is no idle selection but the day of their first anniversary.

As you might predict both from hearing his previous work & the emphasis of caring & humanity in the theme of the song, this is another gentle, wistful sounding song: the sort of mood he excels at evoking.  Though still somewhat ethereal in tone for some parts of the track, given the earthly concerns of the subject matter, it does touch down on the ground a little more than usual, though it soon soars off again into more metaphysical heights. Memory & its reliability is a key area explored too.

Vast quiet acres define the sound, into which drift a variety of elements before they fade out again: perhaps his most personal vocal performance (that I've yet heard), although that is treated to be fairly other worldly, his trademark melodic use of percussion & various guitar parts: both eastern & western in origin. They all work together beautifully (as ever with Lemon Boy the spaces between them tell their own story as eloquently as the sounds) and by granting each its own periodic absence from the arrangement, its anticipated return is that much more welcome.

Hopefully "In Absence" will resonate with many of you: its story is something I'm sure we can all relate to at the moment & universality in a song is something which should add to its potency & longevity. I'll leave the last words to the artist himself: "remember sharing is caring"

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