Hot
Music
Live
The magazine for local live music
Coventry, Kenilworth, Leamington Spa, Rugby, Solihull, Warwick, Stratford and Warwickshire

The magazine - news, reviews and interviews for the local scene

Fresh and funky

"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.

Web    Social media   

Share


"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.

Social media   

Share


"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/

Social media   

Share


"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"

Web    Social media   

Share


 

‘Is This Thing On?' by John Connearn

Review

This afternoon saw the release of the brand new John Connearn EP called  ‘Is This Thing On?', his first record since "Push & Pull" which came out on the memorable date of 22/02/2020. It's excellent value for money too, comprising no fewer than six tracks: "Distracted", "Hold That Thought", "Early Bird", "Busy Brain", "Quite Far Enough" and "After All".

You can also view an excellent video for "Distracted"  created by Émilie Cotterill of Transluceo Photography at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqg4gEVnMsQ

Fortunately John has such an abundance of skills (and presumably kit) that even the pandemic has not prevented his being able to cause these half dozen tracks to come into being in this way, since he has not only written them all & produced them all but each one is wholly performed by him. This multi instrumentalist aspect of his talents is I suppose one of the real revelations of John's developing solo career (check out too his debut "First Things First" which also appeared on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Three') and reminds us all (especially me as a reviewer) not just to focus on his virtuoso guitar skills (and frankly that helps me: his playing reaches levels I simply do not possess the technical vocabulary to describe to you) but remember his years with a band where he learned to value the song and how different instruments support & enhance his central performance. This sensitivity also probably explains why all tracks come in at the "right" length for a pop track with none passing four minutes: there is no extended guitar wigging out going on here.

The terrain covered is his trademark high class playing combined with taste. The jazz fusion template is still very much in evidence but within that there are a range of interesting flavours to instil variety.  Bits of funk rear their head & it would seem that John has been listening to musical styles from around the world during lockdown judging by the Latin and other nuances.

As I say, he writes with a brevity which helps accessibility & inasmuch as this type of music is ever going to have a mass appeal, there is a pop awareness of what can be memorable: certainly all tracks are easy on the ear: there is no sense of letting his musical abilities challenge the listener as he might have done. Tempos do vary (I like the slowing down of the last tracks: an interesting choice) and nowhere does his playing become the blur of notes that again he might have gone for. Each has its own identifiable melodic theme & though of course these are varied & evolved, they also appeal & stay with us.

I'd hope that ‘Is This Thing On?' gets the audience its quality deserves: I know that mainstream media seldom lands on jazz instrumentals, even if performed by a member of a band whose work they were as eager to play as they were The Ellipsis. However this is classy & thoughtful stuff which I can't imagine anyone actually not liking. Go on: give something a little bit different a try. It's worth your time.

Social media   

Share


The ‘Parting Breath' EP by Ellie Gowers

Review

One of the many frustrations of the past year has been the loss of momentum in the careers of various local artists who were so obviously on a roll: gigs stopped for them & the chance to record new material became very much more difficult. High on such a list would  be Ellie Gowers  whom I last saw play live on 29th February 2020: a typically sparkling & intense performance reported on in this magazine from an artist who was being very hotly tipped & cited by so many in the media & fellow musicians.

Some of my frustration was based upon the wonderful new songs she had had in her set over the previous months which everyone who heard them was looking forward to accessing on record later in 2020. That could not be, but very thankfully eventually Ellie has managed to get some recording done & so will be launching her new and greatly anticipated EP ‘Parting Breath' on 5th March: her first EP since 2018's ‘From Here on Out ‘ though please also check out her collaboration on "Arthur McBride" with Filkin's Drift in October 2020 as reported in the magazine.

 

As with so many other artists currently, the choice of format with four songs featured, acts to concentrate our attention on the sheer quality of each one when a conventional album collection might distract us more. With songs this powerful who needs quantity to prevail & in all honesty so profound & intense are Ellie's offerings that few of us probably possess the emotional capacity to process more than a quartet in one sitting.

For make no mistake, ‘Parting Breath' is an experience of profundity & intensity.  Were it not for the fact that the songs were at least conceived if not fully composed  pre-COVID19, one might ascribe these qualities to a sense of frustration on Ellie's part: though I would certainly credit that to her performance to some degree: it smoulders throughout.

The subject matter as well as the arrangements naturally give rise to the nature of the songs & generally one gets the impression that Ellie is looking hard at the world & finding aspects of it to be of concern.

‘Hot Music Live Presents' followers will know "Against The Tide" from  2019's Volume Two on which it appears and it was one of the tracks which drew the most comments & approbation received at HMLP HQ. It was also released as a single in the same year & we reviewed it saying "…"quite extraordinary" were the first two words I wrote down on the initial play. The song grabs you by the emotional throat instantly & you can tell that Ellie is holding nothing back on that front: a few moments at any of her concerts will have told you thought already though….to cut to the chase, "Against The Tide" is going to move you. Furthermore it exceeds even my expectations.". Reissued on this EP as Ellie felt it did not quite get the attention is deserved when first released, it was recorded at J&J studios in Bristol with TJ Allen, and features Joe Dean and Rob King on guitars, Conor Ross Harrington on drums, and Joe Johnson on bass. Speaking "of societal conventions and conditioning (and) looking at matters that are sometimes out of our control, it examines the push and the pull of trying to break these patterns" the song certainly confronts the issues concerned square on & I stand by the "quite extraordinary" tag eighteen or so months on. It also now has a video to accompany it (accessible at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktE47xXwqpI) & filmed on Cannock Chase, which matches the music perfectly.

The other three tracks were recorded more recently in Stroud with Lukas Drinkwater and feature Alex Garden on strings, Lukas Drinkwater on bass, Seth Bye on accordion and Ellie's Mum Rosie Gowers on piano. Anyone who has witnessed an Ellie live performance (and if not I urge you to at the earliest opportunity) will testify to the unique presence she has on stage & the tremendous emotional clout she delivers entirely by herself, so you might wonder what all these additional players bring to the feast or worry that they might distract from Ellie's central performance. Well you need not fear: like fellow BIMM graduate Izzie Derry, Ellie is evolving her recorded sound & enhancing her tracks with additional nuances which help with emphasis & textures & which in no way affect the core qualities of the songs.

These  have like the sound themselves evolved over the past few years. One song I expect to seize everyone's imagination is "The Sky Is On Fire" which regular Ellie watchers will have heard develop its lyrics as she worked hard to encapsulate a world she saw as going to rack & ruin before her eyes: ecological mayhem & terrorism all adding to what frankly is an apocalyptic track & is a stunning achievement, finally managing to channel her considerable anger into a cogent & needle sharp lament & warning. Earlier this month in my review of Luke Concannon's new album 'Ecstatic Bird In The Burning' I suggested, particularly in relation to his song "Coventry" which equated the Coventry Blitz to current disasters via the burning sky image, that it was interesting how both he & Ellie had lit upon the same comparison right now…. However like Luke, hope springs eternal in Ellie's heart and amidst the anger "The Sky Is On Fire" also offers us "…the notion that there is an urgent need for us to work together as a society to ensure the world is a better place for generations to come."

If these two songs share a common theme of frustration, then Ellie channels her passions in the other two along rather different channels: turning down the angsty setting to gentler levels.

The title song nods to both the traditional "Parting Glass" and to Robert Burns' "Auld Lang Syne" and while on an immediate level a celebration of family & friends getting together at New Year, its themes of beginnings, temporary farewells and sense of communal joys certainly speaks to our current situation & offers hope for reunions which at the time of writing have not yet come to pass. As you might guess, the sound is possibly the most traditional "folk" of the four & emphasises the delicacy & fragility which is as much part of her vocal range as is her power on the above two songs.

The last track to tell you about,  "Eva", is the most overtly personal in the collection (though given the strength of feelings expressed in the others, one can hardly doubt their closeness to Ellie's heart: they are just expressed in more broad terms) and dates back to the sense of independence she experienced on leaving home to study in Bristol, yet even so, like its companions, harks to senses of separations being ended & bonds renewed. The atmosphere here is the most dreamy & contemplative on the EP and so contributes to offering us a range of emotional responses within the whole.

There is an extraordinary potency in Ellie's writing & performance (how fortunate is she to be equipped to give her passionate songs the delivery they merit) and this is yet another stunning addition to her canon of work. There is a clear progression in her writing as well as the development of fuller arrangements. She is certainly tipped as one of our local musicians most likely build a following across the country & beyond & this work definitely shows that this is becoming more & more credible: these songs have the clear potential to send metaphorical ripples across a large body of water.

To quote her lyrics "I wouldn't fight it, if I were you".

 

 

Web    Social media   

Share


"Class War" by Dispensable People

Review

Just out from local dissidents Dispensable People is their new single entitled "Class War".

The band, comprising Baz on lead vocals & guitar, Olly on bass & backing vocals and Roger on drums, have long kept the flag flying in Coventry & Warwickshire for political old school punk: by which I don't mean Mohicans & sub Sham 69 type arrangements but thoughtful, passionate songs with that touch of reggae which so many of the great early punk bands like the Clash, Slits, Ruts or Members brought to the table & which later got elbowed out by identikit ranting. In fact "Class War" is the sort of thing the Ruts were good at: declamations about the state of our nation over a slow dub inclined groove.

The subject matter is very much "them & us" in times of austerity & growing inequalities, the pressure on the NHS and as they put it "we are living in a divided nation where there is one rule for the top 5 percent and another for the rest of us. How is it possible that people are dependent on Food Banks and that there are record numbers of homeless, poverty being seen as  acceptable within our society?"

Personally I can't dissent from the argument, I admire their sentiments & sincerity & this is certainly the sort of music I've always enjoyed listening to. May the change they hope for come to pass.

Social media   

Share


"Better Job" by YNES featuring Ace Ambrose

Review

Now this is very exciting…..a most powerful & compelling collaboration between YNES and "Hot Music Live Presents" artist Ace Ambrose called "Better Job" has just been released.

On this YNES single, Ace (who we last heard from on her own single "Doomsayer" in November 2020) plays lead guitar: her first time I think as a featured instrumentalist & which shows yet another of her many talents. (Credit also to Felan Quirke on drums).

The two fit together perfectly as they share an uncompromising approach to their art. If Ace's new Gal Fawkes identity evolves her already radical character into new areas of activism, then Coventry based YNES has clearly already inhabited similar territory.

Together they assault the appalling governmental treatment of the arts over past months (I shan't catalogue their failings & malice: you know them & anyway YNES makes such a good job of taking them on, my words are superfluous on the subject). If the powers that be hold creatives in contempt & are conspiring to neuter them & silence their voices, here is an artist who will not lie down meekly & let it happen. This is not someone who will permit herself to be persuaded to retrain for something "better" and more docile.

The energy in "Better Job" is tremendous & the frankly punk mentality drives its point home with a ferocity rarely heard these days & which the subject requires. If YNES' snarling passionate words make the case beyond doubt, leaving no room for misunderstanding, then the vicious stabs of Ace's guitar punctuate the text equally appropriately.

There is such a refreshing breeze of honest statement which we certainly need: both in terms of the actual focus of "Better Job" but also more broadly in keeping the scene vibrant, dynamic & true: no wonder YNES is such a talked about artist currently. I don't remember ever exhorting readers to PLAY IT LOUD in a review, but I do here.

May the Government take note & act more righteously. The writing may be on the wall….

Web    Social media   

Share


Old and gold

"Oops" by Ivy Ash

...

Back in November, I introduced you to Ivy Ash, the sensational new pop persona of Bethany Dyson.

1 photographs
More


"Whereabouts Unknown" by Jack Blackman

...

After his most impressive prolific run of form since the music scene was turned upon its head, from "Self Isolation Song" (which is also on ‘Hot ...

1 photographs
More


'Hot Music Live Presents Volume Five'

...

We are delighted to announce the release of 'Hot Music Live Presents Volume Five': eighteen more totally original tracks by Coventry & ...

1 photographs
More


"LOUD" by Electrik Custard

...

I was greatly & very pleasantly surprised by the unexpected release yesterday of a new single "LOUD" by Electrik Custard featuring Mina Minné.

1 photographs
More


New release from Holly & the Hounds

...

Readers of the magazine will have followed the evolution of Holly & the Hounds from roots in Gloria Sunset & Retroville duo formats into a ...

1 photographs
More


Catching up with Luke Concannon

...

As I'd been in contact with Nizlopi singer/guitarist Luke Concannon regarding the release of his brand new solo album 'Ecstatic Bird In The ...

1 photographs
More


'Ecstatic Bird In The Burning' by Luke Concannon

...

One of the most anticipated albums to be issued by a Coventry & Warwickshire artist has to be 'Ecstatic Bird In The Burning' which Luke ...

1 photographs
More


"Each Time My Heart is Broken" by Ex Lover

...

Well that's two surprises of rather different sorts on consecutive mornings for me.

1 photographs
More


"Don't Want Anything But More" by Satsangi

...

During these turgid times when there is a distinct danger of every successive day seeming like its predecessor, it's helpful to be surprised now ...

1 photographs
More


'Postcards Home' by Maz Corry

...

Good morning to you all: I'd like to tell you today about the new album from Stratford based Maz Corry,  ‘Postcards Home' which was ...

1 photographs
More


"Love Again (Show You Care)" & 'Retrospective' by Rosetta Fire

...

Not surprisingly, it is a while since I've been able to report to you on Rosetta Fire.

2 photographs
More


'The Righteous Jazz' by The Mechanicals Band

...

We cover some excellent artists in the magazine who produce some great material.

1 photographs
More


'Reflection' EP by Rob Lee Thompson

...

It's uplifting to start a new year by reviewing another local artist whom I've not yet written about in the magazine & on this ...

1 photographs
More


"You The Creator" by River of the Dog

...

Good news from River of the Dog who on 29th of this month are releasing a brand new single entitled "You The Creator"  (hopefully you'll ...

1 photographs
More


"Stay At Home" by Carrick

...

This morning's news is that Carrick have just released their new single "Stay at Home", which will later appear on their forthcoming second ...

1 photographs
More


"Another Sunset" by Caleb Murray

...

Today Caleb Murray releases his new single, "Another Sunset" a year & a half after his previous record, the ‘Stories From a Sunny Side' ...

1 photographs
More


"Castle With The Lights On" by Shannon Stevenson

...

Within a month of telling you about "Midnight" by Shannon Stevenson, I find myself in the fortunate position of being able to now give you a heads up ...

1 photographs
More


"Ain't Nobody Got Me Here But Me" by The Rising

...

One of the key aims of both the features on artists in this magazine & by spotlighting many of them in the "Hot Music Live Presents" series of ...

1 photographs
More


"The Fear of Missing Out" by Drop Down Smiling

...

It may be something of a record for "Hot Music Live" (do let us know if you think you can beat it) in terms of gaps between featuring their music, ...

1 photographs
More


"Absolutment" by Luke Concannon

...

In advance of the full release of his new album 'Ecstatic Bird in the Burning' in February, Luke Concannon is this week sharing a third ...

1 photographs
More


"Slow" by Jonny Olley

...

I am very grateful to Toni Peach who frequently plugs the magazine on her HillzFM show, plays "Hot Music Live Presents" tracks and when circumstances ...

1 photographs
More


Press Release from David Goody

...

"A Rather Silly History Of Coventry" Press ReleaseLocal singer-songwriter David Goody can't resist writing songs about Coventry.

2 photographs
More


"Midnight" by Shannon Stevenson

...

Coventry singer-songwriter Shannon Stevenson has decided to take the positive road of uplifting us with her end of the year release "Midnight" and I ...

1 photographs
More


"Make You Stay" by Kenzie Webley

...

When I interviewed Kenzie Webley the other week for the feature in the magazine, she was busy at 14 Records laying down some brand new tracks for us.

1 photographs
More


"Ghosts of Christmas" by Alchemista

...

Relatively hot on the heels of October's ‘Clear Skies To See' EP (certainly rapid by the standards of what is possible in 2020) ...

1 photographs
More


Introducing Monday Nights

...

I wonder if you recollect Paul Englefield's review of The Empire at the Zephyr Lounge back in February 2016? Well two of that band are now in ...

3 photographs
More


Jools Street and the Tile Hill Billies

...

If, like me, one of the things to look forward to & keep me relatively sane during the depths of lockdown was Jools Street's weekly ...

2 photographs
More


"The Spoons" by Wilde

...

If you enjoyed "Wasted" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Four' (I'm sure you did), then you'll be as pleased as I was to hear ...

1 photographs
More


"Happy Christmas, All Will Be Fine" by King of the Alps

...

It was only yesterday when Facebook reminded me that it was exactly twelve months since I had last see King of the Alps play live.

1 photographs
More


"Free Lovin' Woman" by Shanghai Hostage

...

I'll hold my hands up & admit that back in March my expectations for having much to write about in this magazine were low and so they have ...

1 photographs
More