Russell Miller

Russell Miller

I'm a front-of-house/monitor engineer for Red Gate Sound & contribute reviews and an occasional snarky op-ed here at Underground Press | If the music has a strong melody, a drive, or ambition chances are that it’ll have my attention. Knowledge. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Arkayem_My Tunes: SoundCloud

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Writer/Contributor: Underground Press
Engineer/Producer: Arkayem Productions
Website URL: http://soundcloud.com/arkayem

Aidan Martin – 'Refugee'

refugee album artFrom JIMI HENDRIX’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’ to NIRVANA’s ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ the authenticity of life’s doldrums inspired staples of rock greatness. With his latest effort, ‘Refugee’, AIDAN MARTIN adds his own flavour to a well-tested avenue of creativity. At play in this album is a dedication to the earthy tones of classic blues rock and eagerness to tell a story that hits close to home.

Each song has a declarative statement or a question that drive’s the album forward. Album opener and title track ‘Refugee’ begs the question “Where do we go now?”; ‘Waning Hypnotized Illusions’ despondently asks, “What now?”; ‘Get Together’ demands what its title suggests and from there the album seems to get into gear. From there the theme remains consistent through to the end with little deviation.

As story-driven as ‘Refugee’ is, there is an obvious reliance on MARTIN’s vocal performance. The vocals are clean, powerful, drenched with emotion where needed, and hardly ever fails to sell a line. Whether they’re laced with urgency and conviction as evidenced in ‘Leaders Mislead Us’ or they’re dripping with the resignation of ‘Tie the Noose’, it is clear that album lives through MARTIN’s emotive vocal performance.

Listen to 'Refugee' below!

The album’s even-toned aesthetic is a credit to an award-winning producer, Graham Ward. From high flying anthem ‘Never Forget You’ to the campfire reimagining of ‘Get Together’, each song is framed by well-defined instrument selection that is balanced well against MARTIN’s vocals. Nothing pops out at the listener throughout the album, instead, each component of the production slots in to help the album progress as one solid unit.

From top to bottom ‘Refugee’ is a solid effort that is well grounded in the roots of rock and full of soul. The album’s most endearing quality is by far its authenticity. MARTIN’s songwriting and delivery flows effortlessly and is immensely emotive. That said, there is no shortage of riffage that will get (and keep) heads banging.

Buy 'Refugee' on iTunes


 

Aidan Martin – 'Refugee' - 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 vote
  • Published in Reviews

Rivita – W.T.L.I.G R.M.X Music Video Review & Artist Blurb

revita fullscreen render

RIVITA, hailing from New Delhi, is an electro-pop artist now residing in Syracuse, New York prepping for the release of her Tribal Love EP. A singer since the age of 5, she has made considerable strides in forwarding her career as a recording artist after settling in the UK and rousing interest after being featured in magazines across the country. Back at home RIVITA won an Indian Music Video Award for her ‘Listen’ music video and has been nominated for awards at a host of film festivals for her for works. Entering the home-stretch before the release of her debut EP ‘Tribal Love’, she has also released her latest music video for ‘W.T.L.I.G R.M.X’.

rivita wtlig artwork

The song itself is a remix of her lead single ‘While the Love Is Gone’. The original song drew upon a minimalist approach. The sonic landscape of the original as compared to the remix is sparse and depended on a lot more on the performance RIVITA delivers. The remix is distinctively avant-garde. The production sacrifices the potency of the vocal and the lyrics therein to up the ante energy-wise. The gamble pays off for the most part as the entire track provides for a sort of trippy and psychedelic ride through the mind that is racing at the speed of light. The video takes its cue from the music and effortlessly compliments the music with guidance from RIVITA’s artistic vision and skills behind the editing desk.

rivita tribal love

Electronic today is rife with hi-fi sonic innovation at the highest levels of the music industry. Vocals are fine-tuned, rhythmic patterns are mechanically tight, and the bass is thumping; you will not find that with RIVITA. Instead, you’ll be drinking in a life’s worth of experience travelling the globe channelled through a focused creative freedom that’s coming straight from the tap unfiltered. For some, RIVITA’s avant-garde do-it-yourself approach may be too raw to be palatable, but underground music junkies will feel all of this. Check out 'W.T.L.I.G R.M.X' below!


Follow RIVITA: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | SoundCloud | Youtube | Vimeo | iTunes


 

 

Rivita – W.T.L.I.G R.M.X Music Video Review & Artist Blurb - 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 vote

K. Sparks – 'Urban Couture' Album Review

Urban Couture FrontHip hop at its highest ambition is a narrative of urban life and a tribute to the struggles that drapes life in the inner city. It is to that story that K. SPARKS –a native of Queens, New York - contributes with his 2017 offering, ‘Urban Couture’. This is an album that touts the intimacy of deep thought, and the examination of how those who are the products of urban communities wear their experience. It’s a challenging listen that is indeed custom fit for those familiar with the urban experience, but that doesn’t hold back its wider appeal.

The main thrust of ‘Urban Couture’ is the grounding in the personal life of K. SPARKS. This can be heard most prominently in ‘Strip 4 Me’ which does as the title suggest in that it strips away the layers that steal away the intimacy of one’s vulnerability from public view. Personal tales aside, K. SPARKS possesses an incredibly sharp lyrical skill, a savvy mind and an awareness that lends him uniquely able to opine on the state of current state of minority life in America’s inner cities. In ‘Make America Fake Again’ he comments on the fragility of minority perspective with the line, “You can’t tell me how the stock markets doing, yet you know what happened last night on the BET Awards or the latest Jordan shoe…” Powerful commentary litters ‘Urban Couture’ and is one of its crown jewels.

A note has to be made about the exceptional musicality present in this album. If a montage sequence featuring the streets of the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, Jamaica QueensRockaway Boulevard, or Bedford-Stuyvesant project buildings in Brooklyn were a made to be a short-film, producer ES-K would provide the soundtrack with the albums jazzy and earthy tones. As if not evident enough in album opener ‘Flipside’, the album contains enough brilliant instrumentation to easily fill up a year’s worth of performance bills at the Blue Note.

‘Urban Couture’ is an ambitious effort that was executed to near perfection. Though it may lend itself to a niche audience, the energy K. SPARKS brings to his rhymes is anything but a turn off and should endear itself to a sympathetic ear. The album is also incredibly fluid. Even on shuffle, each song flows effortlessly into one another becoming a near flawless musical mosaic. This album should age line a fine wine and prove to be a cornerstone of a hip hop career with infinite potential and a bright future.

K. Sparks Photo 1


 

K. Sparks – Urban Couture

K. Sparks – 'Urban Couture' Album Review - 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 vote
  • Published in Reviews

Caelo – Visions EP Review

caelo ep visions coverSeptember is here and with it comes ‘Visions’ an electrifying debut from Cape Town rockers, CAELO. The band itself is a power trio that consists of drummer Michael Dickens, bassist Matthew Winfield, and guitarist/frontman Joel Bronner all of whom perform vocals. CAELO is the brainchild of frontman Bronner after a rush of inspiration while attending a BIFFY CLYRO show some years ago. ‘Visions’ is a full serving of arena rock garnished with the polish of alternative pop packed neatly into a bite-sized runtime with 4 tracks total.

The name of the game with this EP is dynamics. From start to finish, CAELO showcases its command throughout transitions between the albums various peaks and valleys. For instance, the title track and album opener rolls off slow but kicks into gear around halfway through the track but cliff hangs into the succeeding ‘Renegade’ that opens with a gritty distorted bassline. Another crown jewel of this debut is the musicality. CAELO’s three musicians are incredibly tight during groove laden passages like those present in the EP’s final track ‘Catacombs’.

Mixed by drummer Michael Dickens and Richard Harriman, ‘Visions’ is clean, and clear throughout. None of the tracks feels lopsided as they move from the density of the distorted rhythm guitars to open passages that are carried by Joel Bronner’s vocals alone. The drums hit hard when they’re called upon to do so and the bass never steps out of pocket.

The future is bright with a debut like ‘Visions’. It is a solid effort that is laced with music that will keep heads banging, fists pumping and feet tapping. It is also worth noting that CAELO have put together an EP that blends the inspirations and individual musicality of its members perfectly. Each song can stand on its own, be rearranged in any order and still operates and feel like a balanced and cohesive –albeit short- album. ‘Visions’ is an easy listen throughout and can within a diverse rock playlist with acts such as ‘MUSE’, ‘THE KILLERS, ‘ALKALINE TRIO’ etc.,  it can easily hold its own.

Take a Listen Here!

Buy it now on iTunes!


 

 

Caelo – Visions EP Review - 5.0 out of 5 based on 2 votes
  • Published in Reviews

After Robot - Building Up To Krank'd Up - Interview

after robot picKrank’d Up 2017 is almost upon us and there is no doubt that anticipation is building to a fever pitch. From top to bottom the bill is filled with bands that’ll satiate palettes of everyone from the fun-loving concert goer to elitist music snobs. One of the bands set to make an appearance is After Robot. They’ll be making their Krank’d Up debut, but they’re far from being gig rookies. After Robot brings an alternative trippy blues rock style to the stage and is sure to leave everyone begging for more. Here’s what they had to share with us:

KRANK’D UP Ticket Prices: Tickets are now available from Computicket at R500 each.

Tickets are on sale nationwide through computicket.com, as well as at Computicket outlets and Checkers stores.

Krank’d Up is nearly here, how excited are you to hit the stage?

Crazy- Mad hatter – Straitjacket excited !!! – Clifford Bryan 

You’ve built a reputation as one of South Africa’s hardest working bands. How does your debut at Krank’d rank among the things the band has accomplished so far?

Hard work is one of the things that set us aside from other acts. We at After Robot embrace the music we play as our lives. We get our inspiration from our daily existence and being able to get up on an iconic stage such as Krank'd Up is all the reasons why we do what we do!!  - Joshua Pearlson

There are tons of local talent on the bill. Any bands you’ve played with before?

At some point a long the way, we have played with most of the bands. I think there are only 3/4 we haven't shared a stage with, excluding the internationals. – Greg Watson

Listen While You Read on!

Who would you want to tour with regularly after Krank’d UP?

Most definitely! Being a prog fan myself, I would dig having a tour with Savage Lucy and Oh God. I also think an After Robot, De Wallen tour would be pretty powerful Greg Watson

What will you guys be doing at Krank’d while you’re not performing? Seeing any other bands?

This is my 4th Krank'd Up personally, so I will definitely be watching bands, talking crap and drinking beer! – Greg Watson

Let’s talk about the set. Without too much of a spoiler, what can fest-goers expect when they see you guys?

The set is going to start off nice and friendly and progress to a full on crazy high energy party. The only way we know. Krank'd Up to 11. – Clifford Bryan

Which songs do you guys get a kick out of performing the most?

All of the songs we play affect us all in our own special way. The hardest thing to do for us is put a set list together because we like to tell a story with our entire show – Joshua Pearlson

What is your go-to to fill space between songs and how much fun is it to interact with the crowd from the stage?

With Jacques and Greg at times add a little ambience, as I introduce the next tale we are about to tell. It's important to put the crowd in the picture with us. We don't waste much time between songs as that means fewer songs to freak out too. So parrrrrty – Clifford Bryan

after robot pic3

Is there any chance someone will perform in the robot costume what was in the video for your single ‘Bed of Shame’?

Well, you will just have to wait and see hahah! Perhaps....mmm – Jacques Jacobs

How does the band prepare for gigs? Any special pre-show rituals, foods etc.?

The most important thing before a show is to stretch and warm up. We tend to go quite crazy on stage so it's good to make sure the muscles are warm so that we can deliver the best possible show! – Joshua Pearlson

Will After Robot be playing any shows leading up to Krank’d?

We are actually busy preparing our tents as we speak to go rock out at WoodCrock music Festival taking place this weekend at the beautiful Blue Moon in Nelspruit. Then we have Plushy Fest next weekend at Rusty Hook in Honey Dew. We have more crazy stuff coming your way soon, so stay tuned to our social media pages for more After Robot adventures. – Jacques Jacobs

What is in store for After Robots following Krank’d Up?

After Krank`d Up we head to the dust bowl for this year's Oppikoppi. It's the bands 3rd Koppie so we are super stoked to get dirty. As soon as we get the red dust off our smiling faces we get to share the stage with the mighty Alien Ant Farm from the USA on their Joburg leg of their tour. Then the best way to finish off the year is with an After Robot tour.... so stay tuned for more! – Jacques Jacobs

Watch 'Bed of Shame' below!

 

After Robot - Building Up To Krank'd Up - Interview - 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 vote

Album Review: Jay-Z '4:44'

jayz 444

Since his debut the mid-nineties with the iconic ‘Reasonable Doubt’, JAY-Z has built and maintained an illustrious hip hop career. Throughout that time, the Brooklyn native has made few apologies for the way he carries himself and seldom revealed any vulnerability his rivals haven’t exposed already. Only a man comfortable as he is can nickname himself J-Hova (a play on Jehovah, the Hebrew word for God), and refer to his rapping skill as “religious”. His latest effort '4:44', is in many ways the antithesis of what the rapper’s legend fed off of and yet also will prove to cement it.

JAY-Z has penned tracks with his heart on his sleeve in the past; his ode ‘Song Cry’ off of his 2001 effort Blueprint I being one of the most memorable. Few of them approach the self-deprecation that grounds tracks like album opener ‘Kill Jay Z’ in which he addresses a much-publicised incident with his wife’s sister or, title track ‘4:44’ he pens a heartfelt confession and apology to wife, Beyoncé. Each track is gritty and at times unpolished, but the mainstay is the emotion evident in lyrics and JAY-Z’s vocal performance underneath chopped samples vinyl noise that dance at the edge of listener’s reach.

In order to listen to '4:44' one has to be ready to navigate a labyrinth of self-debasement, chest thumping, and a display of awareness that separated this album from the rest of JAY-Z’s catalogue.

When '4:44' is not spending its time canonising personal trials and tribulations, it raises issues that are at the forefront of society at-large such as the beleaguered O.J Simpson in the aptly named ‘The Story of OJ’. JAY-Z also covers the stigmatising of the LGBT community in ‘Smile’ in which the rapper briefly addresses his mother coming out in the lines where he raps, "Cried tears of joy when you fell in love/Doesn't matter to me if it's him or her." Within the same song, he touches his conversations with pop icon PRINCE before his death as well as taking shots at competitors of JAY-Z’s streaming platform TIDAL.

Sonically 4:44 sounds earthy, and less tamed than hip hop records that populate the Billboard charts. Album producer NO I.D leans heavily on samples from influential Motown, jazz and blues artists. The mix is gritty at times and throws caution to wind in order to allow the lyrics to carry the day. There is a cacophony laying the foundation behind the vocals as JAY-Z becomes the focal point but with enough headroom to draw back if need be. This is a risk that can be taken only an artist with as accomplish a career as JAY-Z has. The album also occasionally notes JAY-Z as a producer. Usually, in those instances the rapper suggests a song to sample or a vintage instrument to chop up and sprinkle across a track.

JAY-Z’s now trademark flow remains intact for the most part. He does take chances in tracks like 'adnis' a letter to his late father. His flow there is lethargic and solemn, all the while dipping in and out of rhythm while 'Marcy Me' sees JAY-Z revert somewhat to his 90s bounce. JAY-Z’s willingness to emote through his lines is one of this album’s crown jewels.

Long gone are the days of the materialistic champagne drenched Mafioso rap, JAY-Z. The JAY-Z presented in 4:44 more vulnerable, wiser and less-so a prisoner of pretentiousness. There is an outpouring of authenticity and relatability on this album that has seen a resurgence with the rise of rappers like KENDRICK LLAMAR, J. COLE, and the like. With that said, this is not an album for casual fans of rap and hip hop. While NO I.D does well to provide instrumentals that will be blasting out of cars driving down Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, there is a lacking of what would be considered a “club banger”. This is an album for hard-core fans of hip hop that may or may not be students of the genre, ardent followers of JAY-Z…and TIDAL subscribers.

Album Review: Jay-Z '4:44' - 5.0 out of 5 based on 3 votes
  • Published in Reviews

Dragoons Bring Forth 'Anomaly'

dragoons anomaly album coverThere is a new player in a populated South African rock-&-roll scene in the form of DRAGOONS and their debut record, 'Anomaly'. As with any market that appears oversaturated, the best way to attract ears and eyes is to offer something different enough to be unique, but familiar enough to be easily assessable. This album offers a delicate blend of different flavours of rock in an effort to do just that.

There is an “a little bit of this and that” drenching aesthetic theme of this album.  That is to say, from song to song the listener is treated to flavourings of different subsets of the rock genre.

Album opener ‘My Name Is Nothing’ ushers in the album with a desert rock feel and sets the sonic tone that flows seamlessly into arena-rock anthem ‘Questions’. The shift between the two tracks is subtle enough as to not be off-putting but it’s apparent after a few listens. The first curveball is thrown into the mix with ‘Words Are Weapons’ that opens with an elegant piano run that would lead one to believe that an obligatory piano rock ballad was on the horizon…but such is not the case. The track breaks into an upbeat ska-esque trot that saunters into a bombastic chorus. Anomaly features these types of stylistic shifts throughout the album that are noticeable to an attentive ear but don’t distract from the overall listening experience.

The musicianship is solid from start to finish. Drummer Jean Marais benefits from an upfront and punchy sound that accentuates the sharp grooves of the band’s rhythm section. There is, of course, no shortage of solos that band members take full advantage of like the acrobatic harmonica featured in ‘In the Machine’ and the soulful guitar licks in ‘Trouble’.

One of the gems of Anomaly comes in the form of the work Talíta Beyl did on piano. At times it dances, at other times it’s just a bed on which the rest of the band rests. Album closer ‘Told You So’ is a show stopper from that perspective and features a piano solo that just works.

Christiaan Rossouw’s vocals are steady, balanced and never sounds strained. He clearly feels comfortable with the material and cuts through crisply. The lyrics aren’t anything spectacular but don’t betray the agency of each song. Themes cover introspection, spirituality and various other topics typically found within the genre.

One of the few drawbacks of Anomaly lies in the rhythm guitars. Certain riffs dictate heaviness at times when the power just isn’t there sonically. That lack of meat in the guitar tone tends to contribute to some sections not landing to their full potential. At other points, the tones just do not match as well as they should. Other than that the mix is balanced and lends itself to being put on repeat for a few hours.

'Anomaly' is what its name suggests. DRAGOONS packed a lot into their debut, but nothing that can’t be handled. At 8 tracks the album is ripe for a straight shot listen, and the songwriting makes it easy to just sit back and enjoy the journey.


 

Dragoons Bring Forth 'Anomaly' - 5.0 out of 5 based on 3 votes
  • Published in Reviews

Review: Four King Ace - 'Never Aim To Please'

four king ace never aim to pleaseFOUR KING ACE have released their first full-length album 'Never Aim To Please'. The South African four-piece lays claim to a heavy late eighties to early nineties rock influence and has attempted to drench this collection with it. There are some hits and there are more misses, but with a few beers, a dimly lit room that smells like cigarettes and a card game that’s gotten way too serious, you might overlook anything too off-putting.

Making a splash with a debut record is an accomplishment difficult to achieve, and when the contents are as on-the-nose as it is in this case, one can only hope for ripples.

The album opens with little fanfare with ‘Fooled Again’ and a track in ‘Better The Devil’ that leads with a riff that is way too close to something you’d hear coming from BLONDIE. From there it is much of the same upbeat guitar driven music heard way too many times already. Each track is comprised of the standard four piece rock set up with an occasional female vocal. There is a very slight reprieve from the straight ahead monotony with the sombre ‘Goodbye Hollywood’, a track that still feels too familiar. The songs are catchy if you leave them on long enough, however. It’ll be difficult to not be humming the chorus of ‘So Hard To Tell’ that features some of the best harmonies of all the tracks.

This album is held back by exactly the same thing that should propel it forward, familiarity. Each song reminds of something one would listen to with more eagerness than these songs can muster. 'Never Aim To Please' is primed for a live performance at a pub doubling as a music venue or a Spotify playlist at a party with too much alcohol and not so much for any type of active and engaged listening.  


 

Review: Four King Ace - 'Never Aim To Please' - 5.0 out of 5 based on 3 votes
  • Published in Reviews

Lucy Kruger & the Lost Boys 'Summer’s Not That Simple'

Lucy Kruger Summers NotThat SimpleLucy Kruger and The Lost Boys unite again to present Summer’s Not That Simple, the first full-length offering from the group. The pairing of Kruger and company flow together seamlessly and feed into a unified musical force like tributaries to a mighty river.

Listening to each track as one would listen to a partner in conversation opens up a unique experience.

Thematically and lyrically, Summer’s Not That Simple functions as a monologue at times, and a narrative at others. Kruger’s lyrics are seldom wasted on wild melismatic runs, but instead, work to convey emotion with purpose from line to line over. In the opener ‘Empty Hands’ the instrumentation punctuates the vocal performance and also acts as an extension of the melody as heard in the refrain of ‘Blue Leaves’.  

The harmony between the band and Kruger’s vocals is what really makes this album shine. Lead single ‘Winter’ illustrates how guitars wash the background with a full complement of distance and atmosphere while Kruger holds close to the ear with an immensely soothing drawl. It is a motif that can be found in abundance throughout the album.

Dave Langemann and Digital Forest Studios worked magic with a sonic presentation. Along with a well-rounded bass guitar sound, Kruger’s vocals have enough body help to anchor each song. There is also plenty of detail to capture the breathy nature of her voice, remain intelligible and accentuate emotion. Drums are not much of a focus in this record, but as evidenced in tracks like ’My Love’ they have weight and depth without stepping on or cluttering the mix. Guitars and various other instruments provide a perfect bed while retaining their intelligibility and are kept well out of the way of the vocals.

One overeager strum from an acoustic guitar or strayed vocal melody could easily upset the balance that gives this collection of tracks its dreamscape quality. From start to finish, however, the texture and consistency of Summer’s Not That Simple go unblemished. For the first foray into long play territory, Lucy Kruger and The Lost Boys seemed to have found their stride quite easily.  

 

Listen to 'Summer's Not That Simple below!


 

Lucy Kruger & the Lost Boys 'Summer’s Not That Simple' - 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 vote
  • Published in Reviews

Duncan Park: The Hideous Blues EP

duncan park the hideous blues ep

What do you get when you trade enormous mixing consoles, thousand dollar microphones, and formulaic mainstream recording processes for a couple barely tuned instruments, a smartphone, and a tablet? The Hideous Blues EP is the answer you’re looking for. DUNCAN PARK is bucking every trend of modern mainstream music with his sophomore offering. Turn on the radio and you’ll be bombarded with perfectly tuned vocals, crisp percussion and instrumental performed with robotic precision, but not here.

From start to finish this extended play reaches for ears eager to test the limits of what they’re willing to bear. The album does have a gem in the mid-album epic ‘Stung’ that opens and closes with a blitz of scratchy Cajunesque acoustic riffs before dropping into some hypnotic droning. It is by far the best landing spot for the listener that is battling scepticism brought on by the tracks that precede it.

The background noise is audible (as evidenced by conveniently singing birds that usher out ‘Stung’), stringed instruments struggle finding their notes, the vocals are dry and scratchy, and it all works within the context with the dread that peppers the track list. For instance, album opener ‘Dirt Preacher’ and closer ‘The Sun Awakens’ both benefit from the chorused detuned nature of hybrid banjo-like instruments plucking away underneath the pastoral lyrics DUNCAN PARK puts forth.

The Hideous Blues EP has the potential to infiltrate and saturate even the most rarefied of musical taste. There is an air of intimacy that breathes life into each track. You are almost there giving audience to DUNCAN PARK first hand as he presents his often bleak and honest depiction of the world to you first-hand. In most other cases Hideous Blues would be a collection of aural blemishes and obvious sonic mishaps. DUNCAN PARK, however, reconciles artistic obscurity with a certain clarity and sense of uniformity that should endear it with indie music listeners and draw in the more open minded audiophile. Whether that is the case or not, the process and presentation of the Hideous Blues certainly places it in rarefied air and deserves a willing ear.


 

Duncan Park: The Hideous Blues EP - 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 vote
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