Album Review: Colourwave // Belau

Belau are making waves. Having been featured both on MTV and KEXP,  the electronic duo from Budapest are back with a new album, ‘Colourwave.’ It’s a beautiful listen, with plenty of ambient textures.

I think what makes this album shine is the colourful production. There’s African-influenced sounds on ‘Risk It All’ which make me think of a walk in a sunny area. The handclaps also work very well because they could demonstrate unity and togetherness.

It is clear that Zero 7 influence Belau’s sound. Sophie Barker lends her voice on ‘Essence’. It has a beautiful guitar line running through the song, while Sophie’s voice is phenomenal on this track. The chilling vocal production works because the reverb and echo represent the protagonist being trapped.

The drum production is phenomenal because they make the tracks sound big. On ‘Breath’ it makes the song sound huge, with the bells and xylophone. There is also a huge array of vocal talent, with Sophie Lindinger’s vocals making the song shine brightly.  ‘Natural Pool’ is an instrumental song with samples of flowing water. This fits in with the ambience, while I love the chopped up samples because they make me feel relaxed.

Overall, ‘Colourwave’ is a calming listen and perfect for anyone who has had a stressful day. The production is immaculate because it draws from a variety of influences, and the vocal talent is exceptional.

Words by Ermis Madikopoulos

Track Review: Daddy (No Way) // Up the Bug

It’s not too often you hear some batshit new music. Up the Bug are this band- but they’re also fighting a good cause. Beneath their unreal ska bangers, they’ve also released a new EP, which raised money for the NHS. Now, as a key worker myself, I think it’s great that bands are supporting the NHS during this critical time, and very inspiring.  The band also released their new song ‘Daddy (No Way)’ which is a fun listen.

I love this song because it is upbeat and has a strong energy. But in comparison, the lyrics are angry. The protagonist doesn’t like how his lover has treated him like shit. But he isn’t going to back down to her tactics: “Na na na na na no way / won’t play na na na your games.” The “na na” bits are interesting because they already encourage a singalong and bring a big vibe.

I’d love to hear more from Up the Bug because their songs make me feel really happy and positive.

Words by Ermis Madikopoulos

Track Review: Want to Believe // Post Rome

Post Rome have been cutting their teeth in the North East gigging scene. The Sunderland three piece have made a splash both in their hometown and Newcastle, playing sold-out shows. I like their song ‘Different Kids’ because it takes influence from the 80s, but has their own refreshing sound, which helps them stand apart.  They’ve got a new song called ‘Want to Believe’, which comes out on the 24th May.

‘Want to Believe’ has big production which reminds me of The 1975. I think the big guitar work works well with the synths because it shows their ambition to be massive. I like how they overdubbed over ten vocal tracks, because each one of them has their own flavour. When live music has its resurgence, I can see this track being played in much bigger venues.

If ‘Want to Believe’ is anything to go by, Post Rome are heading onto bigger things. Anyone who is into either The 1975 or Pale Waves is gonna love their colossal sound.

Words by Ermis Madikopoulos

EP Review: Split Damage // SINthetik Messiah

SINthetik Messiah is the brainchild of Cajun Songwriter Bug Gigabyte. His latest EP ‘Split Damage’ is influenced by downtempo and ambient music. It features two tracks which create a captivating atmosphere.

I like the first track ‘Languish because the drums are colossal. The pounding bass drum and the distorted synth brings insane energy because you can feel the impact in your chest. There are influences here from 90s trip-hop such as Tricky and Massive Attack. An example of this is the snare which has a lot of reverb. I think this is brilliant because it adds a new layer of intensity to go with the emotional lyrics.

The second track, ‘Emotional Therapy’ is also great because it builds on the atmospheric style. I love the drum production because it captures the feel of a therapy session.  The drums are like a heartbeat, while the repetitive synth could represent the protagonist thinking about what they’re going to say to the therapist.

Both songs are very powerful and add to Bug’s extensive sound palette. They’re trip-hop songs with a hard edge. I think they offer something refreshing to the listener and I’m sure they will broaden his audience.

Words by Ermis Madikopoulos

Album Review: Dream Analog // Grace Gravity

In an era where most records are produced digitally on software such as Logic or Pro Tools, it’s refreshing to hear a record such as ‘Dream Analog’ by Grace Gravity. I produce ambient music on Logic, and I use compression on my tracks. But sometimes, I find that if I use too much, it takes away the original warmth. But that’s beside the point.

Analogue recordings are brilliant because it keeps the ambience and warmth that was intended. ‘Dream Analog’ was recorded completely analog. I love how the album cover represents the peaceful tree, but the psychedelic colours create a big atmosphere.

Listening to it on big speakers, it’s a dream because it captures every instrument as it was intended, leaving a beautiful sound reminiscent of the late 60s. ‘Song of the Satelite’ tugs at the emotions because the vocals are achingly beautiful, working very well with the trumpet and the synths. I think there’s a lot of clarity in these instruments that make the first half of the record a peaceful listen. The stunning ‘Go Ahead and Shine’ demonstrates Teri Hilt’s beautiful vocals because they soar in the chorus and the build-up.

I find that Teri’s voice works better on the slower songs because here, the delivery is very emotional. On ‘Nothing to Break that Fall’, the way Teri controls the pitch is satisfying to listen to. The piano and the raw guitars create a relaxing atmosphere.

I think that Grace Gravity have created an ambitious record, but it captures the atmosphere extremely well. The vocals are on point, and every instrument has space to breathe. A great listen.

Words by Ermis Madikopoulos

Track Review: Lonely // Naipia

Naipia’s new single ‘Lonely’ was actually written last year on Valentines Day. But it could be easily applied to this current lockdown, where so many people are staying indoors. I think it’s great that it is a celebration of loneliness because it shows you can be happy in your own company

I like the song’s positive message. When George sings “take each step, a  step at a time” it shows that we can get through this. His vocals are incredible because the way he controls the pitch is mind-blowing. The guitars are also very uplifting and summery. The backing vocals in the chorus towards the end soar out of your speakers. 

Over the next few weeks, Naipia are working with venues and brands to speak about how to get through this period. It shows their determination to forge a community spirit. Judging by this song, they’re going to win loads of new fans in the process.

Words by Ermis Madikopoulos

Track Review: Askari // Phantom

Askari have some serious talent. Their social commentary of life in London is very refreshing because you can see the anger in their sound. It contains elements of grime, metal, and garage.

The band consists of Asher Baker (vocals), James Routh (Baritone/Trombone), Aiden Baldwin (drums/samples), Liam Carroll (guitar), and Archi Troko (keys). Askari have a crushing sound with lyrics about growing up on an estate where the only choice is stabbings or joining a gang. They wrote ‘Progress’, a song released last year, about these experiences. The more you hear it, the harder it hits because you realise that if you work hard, anything is possible.

The band’s latest single, ‘Phantom’ contains influences from drum n’ bass’. The production is murky, with a descending, spacey synth, while The dark drums complete the confrontational atmosphere. They are a wake-up call to pay attention to the lyrics. The lyrics are about Asher’s life. This includes: being kicked out of a gang, dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, and his mum’s loss to cancer. It’s about making the best of what you’ve got. I think it’s a banger because it makes me want to groove, and the lyrics are very inspiring.

Words by Ermis Madikopoulos

Half Decent shows diversity on ‘Made Of’ and ‘Every Single Moment’

I love rap music because when I hear a rappers lyrics, I can understand what goes on in their mind. I love finding out where they get their references from, and every rapper has a unique story to tell.

Lately, I’ve really been enjoying Half Decent. Influenced by The Streets and Kano, he talks about his upbringing and ambitions. He talks about memories of when he was younger on ‘Every Single Moment.’ This song has an acoustic guitar, which is apt because it’s an autobiographical reflection on his life. It works with the thought-provoking lyrics because although he feels lost, there are moments of hope: “Be yourself don’t follow all what the herd do / make the most of every minute in your curfew.”

As for ‘Made Of’, the production is completely different. A gritty synth and distorted drums dominate the track. It works well with his aggressive delivery. His use of metaphors will make you think. “I think we have a problem, Houston / We have a conscious human running around provoking thoughts / How in the hell did he get in here, there are no more open doors.”

Half Decent’s motivational lyrics are introspective, while the diverse production shows that he’s got a wide pool of influences. I think more people should listen to him because his lyrics will make you think deeper.

Words by Ermis Madikopoulos

EP Review: The Mandolin Tapes // Jake Kelly

I love the power a mandolin can give, especially when in the hands of a talented singer-songwriter. This is true with Irish singer-songwriter Jake Kelly. His new EP, ‘The Mandolin Tapes’, creates a beautiful atmosphere and a minimalist approach.

There are some cultural points on the EP that I really like. For instance, the harmonies on ‘Here We Are, Lost Again’ are really beautiful. I love them because, along with the tabla, they show that he draws influence from world music. It’s really refreshing because he’s got a determination to explore new sounds.

The EP covers Jake’s transition in moving from Ireland to Germany. It was hard for him, falling into severe depression and drinking problems.  ‘Peaks and Valleys’ encapsulates these feelings because you can feel the emotions in Jake’s voice. You can hear his determination to get out of this rut, and when listening to it, you believe that he can.

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Mandolin Tapes’ because it shows Jake Kelly’s promise and undeniable talent. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from him soon.

 Words by Ermis Madikopoulos

Track Review: Stayed // Bethany Ferrie

Bethany Ferrie’s music career started when she sent voice notes to friends as a teen. Since then, she’s come a long way, with her vocal style containing influences from Taylor Swift and Lewis Capaldi. She released her latest single ‘Stayed’ earlier this year.

I love ‘Stayed’ because I think Bethany’s voice is stunning. It’s got a tinge of country, but enough to help her stand out. The atmospheric synths and the minimalist guitars help give the vocals space to breathe. The acoustic guitar is beautiful because it reflects the isolation theme of the track.

‘Stayed’ is a beautiful pop song. The introspective lyrics and the sparse instrumentation flow seamlessly, and I love how this gives the song character.

Listen to ‘Stayed’ here:

Words by Ermis Madikopoulos