Friday, 7 November 2014

Miss Danby & The What / bltp / Tighten Grip / Glenn Mailman / Deb McCoy - Demo Reviews - NARC Magazine, December Edition

[2014.11.07] Tom Hollingworth, for NARC Magazine.

‘Humdinger’ by Miss Danby & the What’s is an uninhibited and joyful celebration of its muse. The garage door is lifted fully up, and this pop-punk ode jingles and jangles, warbles and tangles into the sunshine. It is a testament to the songwriting that a lot of ideas are packed up inside this three-and-a-half minute pop song without distracting the listener from the overall rush. Catchy guitar melodies and changing drum patterns add colourful definition to the sections of ‘Humdinger,’  whilst the vocals, charming for their manic vibrato and approximate pitching, lead the parade like kids on skittles. Not only does this gem promote a wonderful and underused noun with its title, but the song exemplifies its definition too.

‘TheFour’ is a sombre warm-pad meditation by bltp (Budda’s Last T-Party.) As the sustained chords slowly rise and fade, the sound is never quite resigned to silence as each new tension replaces the last. Emerging from beneath the tide is a second voice; a soft synth whistling glissandos like a wind exploring the contours of a coastline. The patterns are patiently intensified with the tones overlapping more readily until a climatic held chord at the finish. This piece is poignant for wrapping up alarm quietly within a deceptively calm ambience. The melancholic intervals and enduring siren, however softly they are both treated, innately disturb our subconscious.

Grungey, broken-chords underpin a sorrowful description of a character facing judgement in‘Fall’ by Tighten Grip. Tightly synchronised riffs, lead by dynamic drumming, drive the song on through despondent lyrics until the reserve of its character breaks open, and Simon Dowling’s vocals unleash an impressive raucous wailing over instruments now spread in distortion. The sense of loss and despair is all-consuming as the voice eventually falls underneath the noise of the final progression. The length and ecstasy of the final act implies a longer journey leading to it than we are given. Further discussion of more hopeful times in the narrative would justify the resulting trauma, eternalised by a track fade-out.

Glenn Maltman’s track ‘The Star Navigator’ offers the greatest disparity between technical instrumental skill and compositional imagination this month. Throughout this chilled aperitif, the fingers of our composer scuttle and spring across the keys of the lead piano part with clarity and precision. Though some of these patterns show invention, the supporting “backing-track” is tediously monotonous and muddy. It is understandable to utilise peaceful tones to highlight the brightness of the lead part, but this incorruptible beige shows us more with each passing minute the composer’s indifference to truly supporting the piano’s organic changes.

As these nights draw in, Debs McCoy’s soundscape ‘Therapy Sessions 1’ offers something tender to the severity of the season. It is a gentle creature, revealing itself in cello lines and pensive piano assertions. Low bowed drones underly each thought; sometimes as a comforting blanket, at other times as a deep depression. As the piece develops from its initial timid, and more abstract, motifs a spritelier pattern emerges in the piano part. As this life reveals itself, the weight of the strings subsides. Though much of the tonality of the individual parts are rooted to a major centre, they are cleverly arranged into a collage which uses various juxtapositions to disorientate the natural positivity of major intervals into something more ambiguous and strange. The reverb is applied with temperance aiding the natural sustain of the instruments. When the last chord fades, you realise how this music has elevated your sympathy, for in the silence that follows, you feel that the sound is still there, like a phantom limb.

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