"Front Room Sessions: The Visual Album"Review
I've said it before, but I'll say it again, I especially enjoy (and enjoy writing about) music where it touches base with other art media. In this instance, I'm delighted to be telling you about an exciting new project "Front Room Sessions: The Visual Album" wherein sixteen Coventry & Warwickshire musical artists have managed to produce new music during lockdown & their work has been paired with that of sixteen local visual artists. A bit of icing on the cake is that one of the brains behind the project is Sam McNulty who of course also was one of those who originally conceived of our "Hot Music Live Presents": frankly I'm not surprised as I know how much he likes cross media projects like this.
The videos, which premiered at 5 pm on Friday & contains both elements can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLOVUSffMLW-p0840dAeIndULux4Lwyi3j&fbclid=IwAR03CX31q5JFlVyuV4HsJhLMnjwGPXd4m_1c-WNJC6rtND6UoQ69yBHw5CM
The album of the sixteen tracks can be bought at: http://bit.ly/FrontRoomSessions
So what about the material? Well to start with the music, there is some outstanding original music on here, much of which is by artists whom we at "Hot Music Live" have previously & regularly praised & brought to your attention. It's nice also to hear some excellent Bhangra courtesy of Silinder Pardesi .
The tracks which especially drew my attention were as follows.
It must have difficult for all sorts of reasons for anyone to create new music under such circumstances & for groups hardest of all. That several appear on this record with tracks not just so well written but played as if the band were all sparking off each other in the same room is even more remarkable. One such is without doubt The Session with their typically powerful song "Ravages of Time". As you might gather from the title, this is not a ruminative ambient track but one which takes on the harsher realities of the times we find ourselves in & specifically how the COVID-19 experience reminds us that Mother Nature is extremely powerful & despite the tendency of humanity to assume mastery of everything on earth, we remain very vulnerable & less significant than maybe we'd like to think we are. Like all the acts I'm about to mention, this band continue on an upward trajectory, I believe each goes from strength to strength & is offering us continually interesting new material. It's a shame that in this case, it has taken a lethal pandemic to inspire so many of these songs. The visuals (by InDeepEnd (Alex and Boyan)) work really well in concert with the song too.
Abz Winter, as anyone who has seen or heard her & readers of the magazine will be aware, is on a swift upward creative arc herself too & once again she has created something quite unlike previous releases with "Falling For You", a very dance orientated song about the serendipity of the right person at the right time, yet gentler in tone than some of her earlier work & presumably to be danced to accordingly. It is considerably to her credit how she rings the changes with each new song, refuses to be a slave to genre & continues to write with such charm & authentic sincerity.
I am delighted that the compilers have chosen to include two acts from the more experimental & left field parts of Coventry & Warwickshire music, namely Ace innovator Ace Ambrose who offers us "Two Souls Apart" and Batsch with their "Amateur Mechanic/Meshes of Hillfields". Both these exciting artists have lived up to my considerable expectations with these genre ignoring pieces & these also demonstrate two of the very best pairings of music & visuals, the latter by the very talented Rosa Francesca and Michelle Bailey respectively,
Ace's song is almost certainly the first I've ever heard which cites Plato as an inspiration and links his thoughts on soulmates to Ace's own. A gentle & haunting track, with a very detailed backing (see my comment below) which results in a very harmonious & unified song: you get what she is broadly singing about straight away (she writes very concise lyrics with no filler), yet as with all her work, this is cloaked in filaments of ambiguity which are worth the exploring.
Batsch share with Ace an approach which utilises interesting sounds & textures behind the vocals & in neither case would I wish to deconstruct how these were built as the overall effect is what counts. The story here is a little darker & concerns itself with what is going on in the locked in households which we can not see but can only speculate upon. Again, as with Ace, it's not necessarily what Batsch are singing about which we end of thinking about: they too leave us a great deal of imaginative space to fill with our own subjective speculations.
Danny Ansell closes the collection with his fine new song "A Sky So Blue" (I can see why this track is the closer with its positive and optimistic summation but it's a bit odd that three of the strongest tracks on the album are all congregating at the end) which again is well matched with visuals by Bogdan Alexandru. Frankly I lost count of the local references & allusions he worked seamlessly into the lyrics (he really is great at writing songs which have the deceptive simplicity to impact instantly but then reveal layers of meaning at each listen) but best of all Danny is all heart & clearly has written this song (another in the very long line of his songs which is anthemic enough to become a crowd singalong once he's able to play it live) with the purpose of instilling hope in our hearts too.
Candid offer us their song "April" ("the cruellest month" of course) and their approach to the issues of lockdown is characteristically more confrontational, with few if any holds barred in taking on the issues people have been facing: again, like The Session, one wonders how music this powerful could be created & assembled under such a situation.
What can one say about the marvellous Nicky Ager: words scarcely suffice to reflect what he does, but "There Will Be A Witness" is not only one of the most moving songs on the album but although apparently inspired by current events, is written with such craft that it can be easily applied to all sorts of situations: pure class & performed with his customary integrity & captured by visual artist Huw Bowen in a simply & dignified way which sets the piece precisely appropriately.
In terms of the visual art involved, I am not too sure that a music magazine is the right place for a review (even if I were capable of writing one), but I particularly enjoyed the work of all those whom I have mentioned in relation to descriptions of particular tracks and of Dean Eastment too.
One thing however which did disappoint me was that although the project makes it clear that it is involving "..Coventry and Warwickshire artists" a rather careless comment in the official launch refers to "a journey through the diverse genres of music that make up the fabric of the city.." which reads as rather dismissive of musicians from the extremely vibrant Warwickshire scene outside the city of Coventry: something I'm sure we are not unfamiliar with, and indeed very significant genres from the "county" scene are under represented or not represented at all. This is an opportunity to bring two scenes which don't always merge seamlessly, closer together. It should not be wasted.