Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Zeitgeist 77 / Think Hip-Hop / Phase / FrekeQuenzi / The Peers - Demo Reviews - NARC Magazine, July Edition

[2014.06.03] Tom Hollingworth, for NARC Magazine.

With its pulsing bass and ernest vocal, not to mention the palm-mute electric-guitar arpeggios at the bridges, Six Billion Stories would be the perfect accompaniment to a night-time drive with the engine at full-thrust. This recording, however, defines demo with a capital D and although the songwriting has clarity, it trips over its production into the ear. A touch more practice before hitting the record button would have secured the parts more tightly against the rudimentary drum machine pattern. The slap-bass fills in the choruses get carried away in their own excitement and though such technique might elate gig-goers, here they cut through clumsily.

As Rise enters with a roaming harmonic-minor scale which is then elevated by dynamic string samples, the innocent might imagine such gravitas would be laying the carpet for lyrics with a heightened idea, but, although the track seemingly serves to politically stimulate, the language employed in the verses offers pop-intellectualism, suggesting perhaps their group name should be read ’think HIP-HOP’ not ‘THINK hip-hop?’ They do not ‘turn an average beat into a symphony’ as boasted but their message is honourable and energy cathartic. Though the choruses use the first-person pronoun, there is a generosity tangible in the spirit of the track appealing for its listener to respect themselves and live freely.

Phase’s song Amethyst creeps across the ears like an arachnid’s silhouette; a king of fear. Thanos Grigoriou’s vocals snarl over slow mixolydian chords as brutish drums march the beast forward. Though the purple stone of the song’s namesake traditionally protects against intoxication, the various distortions colouring the mix, as well as overlaid discordance, creates the effect of the nemesis. The bass enforces these tensions using surprising notes to underlay the chordal harmonies before falling back to the root. The track recoils in a swirling break before a thrashing snare reignites the rage to the finish.

FrekeQuenzi offers us soft, fuzzy, retro-house with Terror Of The Groove, with all the terror of a McCoy crisp, but still groovy! When a rich distorted synth plays with syncopation and the beats’ centre halfway through the track, this straightforward effort is lifted into more interesting territory. Working in a genre that endorses the concept of infinity, I am grateful to the composer’s decision to submit a 3:39 minute edit, however, the ending splash is a crude stop-sign. If a piece of music must end arbitrarily, please make it a bullet-speed assassination leaving the ear searching for the original spirit in the now-silence.

The Peers jingle and jangle in the bittersweet summer air! Off You Go’s faultless production realises an extremely focussed direction, dead-centre down that road; very pleasant, but leaving us sixpence none the richer. The verses maintain the listeners focus by holding a protracted fifth chord with added suspensions before rewarding the ear with Perfect Cadences. Lee Armstrong’s vocals coolly outlay the lyrical sentiments, mixed tastefully with an edge of warm microphone distortion. A slick guitar break followed by a repetitive coda sequence brings the song home efficiently.

It is unfair to compare a solo bedroom-studio effort against complex projects involving a team and multiple stages of production, and this month’s submissions originate from these disparate worlds of support, but the end result must be my only guide, and this month, it is Phase’s revelling in magnitude with their track Amethyst that warrants the most attention. From the weighty metal riffs, to the spacious reversing acoustic instrumental; from the ghostly chorus harmonies to the intense arabic strings, this track charted a great panorama.

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