EP Review: The Amblers – The Dustling Man

The Amblers The Dustling Man
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That first guitar lick will tell you everything you need to know about The Amblers, a blues rock duo hailing from Johannesburg.

It’s a lazy, crunchy riff, freshly graduated from the school of Angus Young. But there’s something more to it too, like if AC/DC grew up in the American South.

The blues rock influences are evident too – you have your Rolling Stones, White Stripes, and Royal Blood. Dirty blues rock, y’know? These all tie in to give that dangerous edge. Sure, the riffs and beats follow a formula of sorts, but there are unpredictable elements that only emerge for a bar here or there. If you listen closely you can also hear some nice clean playing underneath the layers of distortion. These parts are heard to pick out, but would certainly be welcome more prominently in the mix.

Fuzzy and raw, the opening track reeks of cool. Resplendent with laid back riffs, rocking solos, sloshy drum cymbals – these guys know what’s up.

The title track is the one to get your toe tapping. Similar to the first song, with a faster riff, and more of a four of the floor stomping feel than the stop start vibe of the first track.

The song “Tired”, on the other hand, is slower and balladesque. The distinctive guitar remains, but organ is dominant during this track. Organ with so much vibrato I picture the underwater scene from Pinnochio. You know when cartoons speak underwater and their voice ripples and undulates as they talk? Another neat addition is crisp piano notes playing on the beat, clinking to accent where you’d sometime expect the drummer to play the bell of the ride cymbal, or a cowbell.

Drummer Jason Hinch shows off most of his chops during the last track, “Keep Me Screamin’”. The verses follow the vocal line – guitar line alternating delivery of Sometimes. The cleaner guitar tone feels welcome after three tracks of intense fuzz, but still retains the same energy. 

For a duo, these guys sure pack a punch. Intimate listening reveals layer upon layer of subtle details that drown under the intense distortion. In fact, I can’t figure out how they would possibly pull these songs off live. Fuzzy, filthy and fleshed out, The Amblers will have you rocking out more than you’d expect possible from just two guys. They’re currently in the studio working on a new album, and that is something that excites me very much.

The Amblers


The Amblers links:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/wearetheamblers

Twitter: https://twitter.com/The_Amblers

Deezer: http://www.deezer.com/en/album/45793922

iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/album/id1267131916?ls=1&app=itunes

 

Joseph James

EP Review: His Master’s Voice The Devils Blues- Woman

His Master's Voice The Devils Blues Woman EP Cover
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I first heard of His Master’s Voice when Mathias Hallberg reviewed Into Orbit’s latest album release show. I had been in the South Island at a sporting event, and came back to Mathias raving about this bluesy band from Auckland.

Needing to make up for missing the show, I made a point of seeing the band next time they visited Wellington, and Mathias was 100% right. They’re damn good.

The band sent me Woman yesterday. I’ve been playing it on repeat non-stop since.

His Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington

Image: Will Not Fade

Take the blues and revive them with dosage of danger. Add filthy southern rock riffs. Swirl in a generous serving of Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Drop in a few drugs. And then, amidst the swirling haze, you will find you have produced His Master’s Voice.

They play with such a swagger. Whether laying down a doomy groove, or ripping into a fast-paced swing section, the music is saturated with infectious feel.

My personal favourite is first track, “Burning” – a slow burner with a smooth, rolling riff. That is, until frontman Jesse Sorenson cries out “Come the groove!” And that’s exactly what happens. It all kicks in. If the bass line doesn’t get you moving then wait til the tambourines start ashakin’ and the primal drums kick in. And then, just to send you over the edge, we have a guitar solo.

There is no denying how much Black Sabbath have influenced His Master’s Voice’s sound. The title track on this EP reminds me of “Electric Wizard”. Sorenson channels his inner-Ozzy as he wails over a sweetly picked guitar melody. The rest of the band joins in, and the soaring guitars and organs elevate the music to the next level.

The only problem with Woman is the duration. 20 minutes is not enough! But I’ve been playing it on repeat and I can’t see myself tiring of these songs anytime soon. But honestly, what more do you need? Groovy blues with a heavy edge. Music that will possess you to dance. It’s just fantastic.

His Master’s Blues have pulled it off again, and Woman comes with my highest of recommendations.

His Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington

Image: Will Not Fade

Woman is due out digitally on Bandcamp on 1 October 2017, and will also be available through the usual streaming platforms. The CD will be available at the EP release show at The King’s Arms on October 28th.

His Master’s Voice links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thedevilsblues
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thedevilsbluesnz/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/thedevilsbluesnz
Bandcamp: www.hismastersvoice.bandcamp.com
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/brando28
Reverbnation: https://www.reverbnation.com/hismastersvoice
Merch: www.thedevilsmerch.com

His Master’s Voice are:

Jesse Sorensen – Vocals and Guitar
Brandon Bott – Bass
Az Burns – Guitar
Renè Harvey – Drums
(Plus Paul Lawrence – Keys on ‘Evil’ and ‘Woman’)

 

Words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review: Saint Paul & The Broken Bones + Trombone Shorty

Saint Paul & The Broken Bones + Trombone Shorty The Chelsea Las Vegas
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Trombone Shorty

w/ St Paul & The Broken Bones

The Chelsea, Las Vegas

Saturday 26 August 2017

I felt a tad overdressed for the gig tonight. But I was in Las Vegas, and dress codes are strict here, so I opted for something slightly nicer than the fluro cheetah print spandex top I’d worn to Steel Panther the night previous.

First act St Paul & The Broken Bones were actually the drawcard for me. They were also dressed to the nines, so perhaps my nice shirt was a good choice. There were eight of them onstage – three in the brass section, bass, drums, guitar, organ and vocals – all well presented and experts on their instruments. Frontman Paul Janeway rocked a dapper red suit with checkered labels.

And they could play! I heard someone near me call them “this generation’s white James Brown”. I’ll leave that to you to decide on, but they sure could channel soul music as well as the best I’d seen.

Janeway was a real character. He was possessed by the music, letting it control him. He would “conduct” the rest of the band, adding his angelic coos to the music.  At one point he removed his golden shoes and threw them over his shoulder. Next he rolled around on the floor as he sang, before crawling under the drum riser – emerging from the other end like a caterpillar crawling across a leaf. I was in stitches. Janeway managed to do all this without missing a note, so I imagine he is well-practiced at this caterpillar routine.

The band played a mixed style, with some down-tempo soul music interspersed with upbeat funky numbers. Either way, it was great for dancing. Whether they laid down a groovy jam, struck up a flute solo, or let loose on the organ, it was all brilliant.

The band played for 80 minutes, despite only having two albums of material to draw from. And truth be told, I could have quite happily left after that set satisfied.

I’m glad that I didn’t though. Because as great as Saint Paul & The Broken Bones were, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue were a step above.

That band – what a band!- they were a sight to see. To start with there were two drummers.

Two!

Drummers!

I don’t know if that excites everyone the way that it excites me, but two drummers in one band is something that I get very worked up about. They last time that I saw a band that featured two drummers was Tortoise, and they were outstanding. There was a dedicated percussionist as well – who may as well be a third drummer.

SO MANY DRUMS!!!!!!!

And moving on….

The excitement doesn’t stop there. There was bass – smooth, groovy bass. There were two guitarists – ridiculously talented shredders. Three talented backing singers (sat criminally low in the mix). And a trio of brass players, with two on saxophone and the star of the show adding his trademark trombone (and occasionally trumpet) to the trio.

I think back to when I first saw Gary Clark Jr play, opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2013. His very presence exuded coolness. And his playing only confirmed how slick he was. Seeing Troy Andrews – better known as Trombone Shorty – evoked exactly the same thoughts and feelings in me.

The man has talent. Whether he was singing or riffing along with the saxophones on the trombone, he impressed. I guess if you grow up around the hottest players in New Orleans, some of that talent is guaranteed to rub off on you.

Trombone Shorty The Chelsea Las Vegas Set List

It was all on. 12 people on stage will do that. Everyone was dancing about and enjoying themselves – both on and off the stage. It was so infectious. The lights added to the fun, although there was a touch too much strobing that made me dizzy. And I swear that the floor was flexing underneath me!

Trombone Shorty cut his teeth with the best, learning from an early age. And using all that knowledge and experience, he has fused the genres of his town to create fantastic, fun music, and assembled a stellar band to help him present it to the world.

As if it wasn’t enough to play such a great set, they finished the night by throwing a dozen free t-shirts into the audience. It was a generous notion, considering that those shirts cost almost the price of admission at the merch table.

I came to The Chelsea tonight hoping to see some class acts representing their respective cities musically, and wanting to dance. And sure enough, got both in spades. Now I can tick Saint Paul & The Broken Bones off my bucket list after their soulful set. And Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue blew me away. What better way to get a taste of the south?

 

Joseph James

Live Review: Into Orbit – Unearthing Album Release Show

Into Orbit His Masters Voice Unearthing Album Release Show San Fran
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Into Orbit

w/ His Masters Voice

San Fran, Wellington

Friday 10th of February 2017

 

I feel guilty, but it has become common practice for me to start a gig off at San Fran standing on the deck outside. Beer in hand and inhaling the second-hand smoke from my fellow concert goers outside. I watch the passers-by and mix ambient sounds of Cuba street with the music coming from inside the venue. This time it was different. As I was conversing with my friend Jon we both suddenly stopped looked at each other with a blank stare. ‘Hey that sounds a bit like Sabbath‘ he says to me. ‘Or Zeppelin’ I replied with a heightened sense of curiosity.

Opening the door we move towards the stage with gusto. We are met by what His Masters Voice have come to dub The Devils Blues. A fitting title for their high-octane brand of music. As we stand in the center of the floor the sound surrounds us. A sound fronted by mournful wails reminiscent of the classic American soul. The crash of cymbals and driving bass with facial hair to match puts a giant smile on my face as the rhythm section are only a pair of cheap sunglasses away from ZZ Top’s legendary back row. Giving the rhythm just enough personal flair to give it a contemporary feel while staying true to the roots that took hold in the American South so long ago.

slowly but surely

His Masters Voice at San Fran. Image. Mathias Hallberg

It is a hard-fought battle, but slowly the crowd is being beaten into submission. More and more pour through the gates. One by one they are summoned to the dance floor by shrieking guitars. Carrying just enough gravel and grit to stand toe to toe with any Metal band that is foolish enough to take the challenge laid out by His Masters Voice.

As the set comes to an end I was feeling a bit too giddy. Obviously, I needed a beer and the bartender is glad to serve us up a couple of pints of the golden nectar. He would soon come to regret his decision for in my overly excited state I felt compelled to convince him of just how good the show was. The look of terror on his face earns a sensible chuckle. I slowly back away and leave him in peace.

Not one to disappoint Into Orbit step onto the stage and get straight to work, introducing us to their new baby, Unearthing. San Fran’s hall is filled with thundering drums and meticulously layered guitar. Into Orbit must be close to the top of the list of loudest bands that I have seen. So much sound is produced by just two musicians. Paul Stewart on the ever looping and layered guitar and Ian Moir manning the battery. Drawing a decent crowd with their virtuosic Prog Metal sound I am taken once again into their world joined by their ever growing fan base here in Wellington. Their story is told by everything from soft-spoken guitar melodies to full on sludgy heavy metal riffs. Always building and releasing tension in the room.

A successful album release show, sadly (or not) overshadowed by a world-class performance by the opening band.


Links

Into Orbit

His Masters Voice

Live Review: Jay Power at Meow, Wellington

Jay Power NZ tour
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Jay Power

w/ Spitfire

Meow, Wellington

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Last week when I interviewed Adelaide singer Jay Power I asked her to convince me that it was worth coming out to her gig on Wednesday night. She simply listed the musicians playing, and I could tell just from those names that the quality musicianship would be enough to make it worthwhile.

SPitfire MEow Wellington Jay Power.jpg

Image: Will Not Fade

First up was Wellington trio Spitfire, bringing a spontaneous experimental vibe to the evening. They had loose points of the arrangements agreed upon to navigate their playing, but most of it was improvised. The three musos onstage were clearly having a blast, exchanging glances and bouncing ideas off each other as they worked together to evolve their tunes. Ed Zuccolo held the bass down and led the melody simultaneously with his signature mini moog set up. Drummer Myele Manzanza pushed the time signatures and messed around with the flow. His fills and flourishes were disarmingly fast, and you could see him cracking up as he tried new and interesting approaches to see what would fit within the song.  Justin Firefly Clarke rounded out the tunes on guitar, fleshing out the sound with plenty of whammy.

The hour long set was thoroughly enjoyable. The band clearly had a blast messing around onstage, and I was enthralled with the sheer talent in front of me.

Jay Power Wellington Meow

Image: Will Not Fade

Headliner Jay Power arrived onstage exuding confidence, rocking a fur jacket that would earn Macklemore’s respect. Not only did she look the part, but she had a powerful voice to match. It was one of the colder Wellington days in a long time, not that you’d think it with the warm vibes and live energy that Power and her band brought with them.

They offered up a great selection of groovy pop-meet-soul-meets-jazz-meets-funk numbers from Power’s recent  album The Missing, as well as a slightly tongue-in-cheek cover of Ginuwine’s “Pony”- “My guilty little pleasure”, as Power put it.

A sign with “No Scat

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Image: Cat Power

” written on it had been placed on the wall just side of stage, next to a stuffed dead wallaby. If I hadn’t been to Meow before I would have wondered if this were a deliberate placement. Nevertheless, Power acknowledged the sign, and then cheekily threw some scat into her next song as a sign of defiance.

Following on from the talent of Spitfire was no easy task, but Power and her band managed to keep the bar high as they delivered song after song.Her band members were impressively tight, considering that they had only just recently assembled for this tour. Their sound was crisp, and although they were all seasoned players, I was surprised at how well they had gelled in the the limited time they’d had to do so.

They played to a backing track, so I guess that they had no room for error. Power’s long time guitarist Mikey Chan provided guitar squeals and solos between riffs, and Hollie Smiths’ rhythm section of Darren Mathiassen and Marika Hodgson kept it flowing on drums and five string bass, respectively. And of course they all did an amazing job of support Jay herself, who wailed her way through the set with classy showmanship.

I had been somewhat hesitant to resist the call of my bed and venture out to a a bar to see some bands on a chilly Winter night. I’m so glad that I did though, because the sheer talent was outstanding.


Jay Power is also playing up North over the next few days. Details below.

Friday August 12 – The Old Stone Butter Factory Whangarei

Tickets available here

Saturday 13 August/ Sun 14 August – Bay of Islands Jazz & Blues Festival

 

Interview: Jay Power

Jay Power
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Soulful Australian singer Jay Power is crossing the Tasman to play Meow in Wellington on Wednesday night next week, before heading north for a show at The Old Stone Butter Factory in Whangarei on Friday, and four slots at Bay of Islands Jazz & Blues Festival over the weekend. Will Not Fade shot off some questions to try and get a taste for what to expect at Jay’s shows.

Hi Jay, how are you?

Pretty pumped to be coming to New Zealand for the first time. I hear it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world and I will see it for myself!

I can’t argue with that. I’m sure that you will agree when you see for yourself soon enough. For the uninitiated, how do you explain your sound to first time listeners? And what song would you play to show what you are all about?

It’s pop music with soul and jazz flavours over funk and hip hop beats. ‘When You Got Love’ might be a good indication of how I like to play. Laid back grooves with and upbeat feeling.

You’ve just switched from using your real name to the Jay Power moniker. Did this change represent something more?  

It’s partly practical (less letters, more simple ….Google approves) but it’s also liberating to reinvent myself artistically and enter a new phase in my career, which is what I was doing with the music too. I’ve enjoyed doing something new with a new name that’s punchy and to the point.

Sounds good to me. Following on from that, what is your reaction to the following short clip?

It never gets boring, it’s genius every time.

Your bio states that you were a finalist for South Australian Female Artist of the year last year. Tell me about what that involved.

It’s a yearly awards ceremony to recognise what’s happening in the local scene. I’d just released my album and I was nominated as a result of that. It was nice to be recognised by my peers, but I think the best bit about the event was being a part of something bigger and seeing what other artists are creating and achieving. And buying a new dress for it was pretty cool too.

Nice! In fact, your overall bio is an impressive read. What do you consider you greatest achievement to date?

Really? Thanks! The thing I’m most proud of is my album, a labour of love two years in the making alongside some of my favourite people in this world. It’s a big deal, making and album and it’s hard to make something that’s interesting and true to yourself, I think we mostly achieved that.

On this upcoming tour you’ve got both headlining shows, and festival slots. Does each type of performance require a different approach?

Yes it does and that’s part of the adventure. You connect with people in a different way each time and it brings something new out in your performance. In fact on this tour it’s even more varied since we’re playing at a jazz festival, so we might sneak in a jazz tune or two.

Your band boasts an impressive line-up. How did you manage to secure such talent?

Last year I had the pleasure of supporting Hollie Smith while she was touring in Australia. Darren Mathiassen and Marika Hodgeson (both from NZ) played in Hollie’s band and I was of course, super impressed. When I knew I was coming to New Zealand I got in touch to see if they would play with me – lucky me, they said yes. I’m also bringing Mikey Chan with me from Melbourne Australia, we just toured England together and he’s a pretty special guitarist.

You’re playing Wellington on a Wednesday night. Convince me that it’s worth missing out on sleep to come out and see your show.

It’s a Wednesday. What could you possibly be doing on a Wednesday that’s better than coming out to see seriously soul musicians in a great venue like Meow? Add to that the opportunity to see Spitfire play (Myele Manzanza, Ed Zuccolo and Justin Firefly – hell yes!) and I can guarantee Netflix simply can’t compare.

Consider me convinced! Ed Zuccolo used to play with Adam Page a lot so he is a drawcard for me in his own right. I can imagine that you will be busy on this upcoming tour, but you are travelling through some incredible parts of the country. Do you have any non-music plans for your time in New Zealand?

There will be non-music travel activities, but I don’t know what they are yet. I plan to go with the beautiful flow and see everything there is to see along the way. From my understanding I won’t be stuck for things to see and do.

You will be spolit for choice, trust me. I love my hometown of Wellington, and the places up north are stunning. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. I hope to see you play at Meow on Wednesday.

Thanks for the interview Joseph.

J Jay xx


JAY POWER LINKS

Website

Facebook

Soundcloud

Twitter

YouTube

Instagram


NEW ZEALAND SHOW DATES

Wednesday August 10 – Meow Wellington, with special guest Spitfire

Tickets available here

Friday August 12 – The Old Stone Butter Factory Whangarei

Tickets available here

Saturday 13 August/ Sun 14 August – Bay of Islands Jazz & Blues Festival

 

Live Review – Thundercat at San Fran, Wellington

Thundercat San Fran Wellington
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Thundercat

w/ Orchestra of Spheres and Thanks

San Francisco Bathhouse, Wellington

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Thundercat is the stage name of virtuoso Stephen Bruner, most famously known for his work playing bass with acts such as Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, Suicidal Tendancies and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. None of these are acts that I listen to often, including Bruner’s own music,  but I knew that it would be foolish to miss this show. Why? Because Thundercat has a reputation for being insanely good at playing the bass guitar, and with that much talent, the show promised to be good regardless of what he played.

Thundercat songs are smooth, soulful R&B styled tunes sung in falsetto. Bruner played his six string bass like a guitar, eliciting mellow tones that juxtaposed beautifully against his high singing voice. Jazzy, bluesy, and eccentric all in one, the vibrant fusion songs pulsated and writhed as the three musos onstage played off each other. They would coast along nicely, before breaking loose into chaotic tangents and solos that showcased the talents of the trio playing.

Thundercat San Fran Wellington, Ben Stewart Photography (2)

Image: Ben Stewart Photography

Bruner was at home on stage. He wore an unassuming black tshirt and pants, with a red five panel hat showing a Japanese flag on his head, and white Birkenstock sandals and long grey socks on his feet. He would approach the mic for banter, pause, and just giggle to himself before gaining composure to say something. He discussed the merits of drinking water, having recently sworn off alcohol. He also dedicated a song to Peter Jackson, commenting on the Lord of The Rings installations he had seen at Wellington Airport. “What would you do if you actually saw an eagle that big?” he asked, before giggling and answering himself: “Die. Just die”.

He would hunch his shoulders forward and grimace with his eyes closed as he played. Hands like thick legged spiders scurried up and down his fretboard with finesse, churning out the groovy dancing melodies. He usually either bobbed up and down on the spot, or did a stationary strut, like a cocky rooster nodding it’s neck back and forward.

Thundercat San Fran Wellington, Ben Stewart Photography (1)

Image: Ben Stewart Photography

Like Mitch Mitchell (of Jimi Hendrix fame), drummer Justin Brown not only held his own, but sometimes overshadowed his frontman. Having two snare drums allowed him to play both open handed and cross handed with ease, not that having just the one snare would have slowed him down at all. He coloured the sound with lightning quick fills and busy ghost notes, tirelessly playing with unmatchable energy and talent. The one slip-up I noticed was met with applause, as he lost grip of his drumstick and dropped it, only to pick up a spare and continue without missing a beat. As a drummer myself, I rate Brown as one of the most impressive drummers I’ve seen live, on par with The Mars Volta’s Thomas Pridgen.

Dennis Hamm rounded out the sound on the keys, giving more treble to a mix dominated by low-end. His spacey effects added to the swirly cosmic sound. The three were clearly well rehearsed, but you could tell that they had flexibility in their playing, because now and again Brown or Hamm would play something that sent Bruner into small fits of laughter over how monstrously talented they were.

Thundercat San Fran Wellington, Ben Stewart Photography (3)

Image: Ben Stewart Photography

 

I attended the sold-out show expecting to be impressed by some slick playing. Well, I got that in spades. Awe-inspiring, mind-blowing – choose a hyperbole and it probably applies. I expected to see a world class musician show me his skills. Not only did I get that, but he had a world class drummer and keyboard player to match.

Joseph James


 

Thanks to Ben Stewart Photography for supplying the photos. Go ahead and like his Facebook  page to see more.

The above video was uploaded by In The Nick Of The Rhyme, another new Wellington  based music site. As you can see, Thundercat kept punters happy by playing some Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus material.