Horizons Acts for 2018 Announced & Playlist

Horizons-2018

As regular patrons of the site will be acutely aware I have a great fondness for Wales, and more specifically Welsh music (not to mention the footballing powerhouse that is Wrexham AFC).

For a relatively small place, Wales does rather well for itself musically and for somewhere of its size, it is surely unmatched in both quality and quantity. From the towns and cities, mountains and valleys, Wales proves itself time and time again, to be an ever reliable source of creative, superbly inventive and experimental sounds across a myriad of genres.

While I am entirely grateful for the seemingly never ending stream of wondrous sounds, something apparent from a casual listen to Adam Walton’s excellent BBC Radio Wales Programme (see also Bethan Elfyn also of BBC Radio Wales & Lisa Gwilym’s C2 on BBC Radio Cymru) or cursory glance at the Focus Wales lineup or the Horizons showcase.

It is the latter that draws our attention today – a collaboration between BBC Wales and Arts Council of Wales – Horizons aims to showcase exciting new, independent contemporary music in Wales, providing promotional and performance opportunities, incl. festival slots throughout the year.

Just this week, the twelve acts selected from across Wales for Horizons 2018 were announced. There are some familiar names in there; Adwaith, Campfire Social, CHROMA and Nia Wyn, and some new; Himalayas, I See Rivers, Aleighcia Scott, Alffa, Eadyth, Marged, No Good Boyo and The Pitchforks. Either way, new acquaintances or old, it is an incredibly diverse array of artists.

You can, like me, delve in below:

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Raincity Blue – ‘Keeping Busy’

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Raincity Blue are the wonderfully (and aptly*) named, Vancouver based Neo-Soul outfit.

Formed in 2016, the five piece ensemble – Clare Twiddy, Kaylar Chan, Ryley Kirkpatrick, Jay Schreiber & Chantal Gauthier – draw influence from R&B, soul, psych-rock and funk, to brew something smooth and soulful, that’ll get your feet moving and the heart racing. Their latest release ‘Keeping Busy’ is one such case. It slowly swaggers along, soulfully, with a groove and aura of coolness, before gradually swelling, growing and becoming more impassioned to envelope everything in its wake. Amid this soulful waltz, there is yet more to relish in Twiddy’s luscious, powerful, impassioned and oh so soulful vocal as it rises to soar emphatically atop. ‘Keeping Busy’ has all the key ingredients; magnificent, simple as that.

You can listen to ‘Keeping Busy’ below now & you will be all the better for it.

Raincity Blue released their debut album Stuck on Replay this month – you can check it here.

*Why apt? Anyone who’s been to Vancouver, BC will know how synonymous it is with rain, particularly the winter months.

BarryGruff’s Albums of the Year 2017

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Yes, it’s that time of year again, lists, lists and well, more lists – and from every angle possible. That said, compiling an annual list of my favourite records from throughout the year is one of the most enjoyable aspects to the blog.

There was lots of great music in 2017 (as with every year) but here are my 20 favourite records from the year. Also, I’m hoping the festive period will provide time to catch up on some records I’ve missed throughout the year, so feel free to recommend some listening material.

Without further ado, here are my favourite records from 2017:

20. Czarface – ‘First Weapon Drawn’

For album number four, Czarface (Esoteric, Inspectah Deck and 7L) teamed up with Marvel Comics to create a soundtrack to an actual hardcopy comic of the same name. The previous installments have featured rapping from Esoteric, Inspectah Deck and other guests, however, on this occasion it’s just the superbly evocative instrumentation, with narration tacked on throughout. In fact, 7L’s production is some of strongest found throughout all the releases. Not quite at the level of albums 1 – 3, it provides an excellent little stop gap while we await a new album proper.

[Stream on Spotify]

19. Nouveaunoise – ‘Nouveaunoise’

Galway duo Nouveaunoise – Conor Gaffney & Niall Conway – had earned themselves a rep for finely crafted electronic productions, intricately weaving crackling samples, jazz-sampling percussion and warm melodies and crisp beats a la Four Tet or Boards of Canada. The pair released their debut back in 2010 and their self-titled follow-up sees them continue to shine when it comes to elegant, lush and intricately produced pristine electronica. Eight years is a long time but it was worth the wait!

[Stream on Spotify]

18. The Courtneys – ‘The Courtneys II’

With their 2013 debut, The Courtneys peddled lo-fi fuzzy slacker garage-pop with the ’90s casting a pretty long shadow and for the follow-up, the Vancouver trio have repeated the trick. Endearingly ramshackle, the dreamy vocals and laid-back sunkissed vibes are pumped with fuzzed-up distorted guitars, sweet licks and heavy, driving bass lines. Rarely has ramshackle indie been so appealing and so pretty damn irresistible. This is the sound of long, hot summers.

[Stream on Spotify]

17. Girlpool – ‘Powerplant’

Girlpool’s sound gets bigger on their second LP, beefed up with addition of a drummer crafting that classic alt-rock loud-quiet-loudness throughout but Girlpool know where their true power lies: Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad’s voices still sit front and centre. The unsettling magic that exists between makes them Girlpool distinct, lending their patented fragility and vulnerability. Powerplant is sparse and explores the energy and shape of contrariety and emptiness.

[Stream on Spotify]

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Something for the Weekend: New Music Playlist #19

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A new regular feature to blog, a relatively short weekly Spotify playlist featuring some of the finest new music to prick my ears over the course of past seven days.

Clocking in at just over an hour, it’s an easily digestible slice of new music, just in time for the weekend. There’s a nice mix of genres and styles too, allowing me to share even more crackin’ tunes. Well, without further ado, here’s #19 – Something for the Weekend: New Music Playlist. Enjoy the tunes & enjoy the weekend!

You can follow me on Spotify here.

Night Auditor – ‘No Vacancy’

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Night Auditor is the brainchild of Los Angeles native, Omar Jamal; a multi-instrumentalist and poet at the heart of this funky genre-hopping musical endeavour.

Now based in Brazil with the rest of the Night Auditor troupe, the collective is gearing up to release a new LP called Soul Junk. Ahead of its forthcoming arrival later this year, ‘No Vacancy’ is the first single lifted from the aforementioned album. It is an effortlessly cool and timeless funk/soul delight with all the hallmarks of a modern classic. Whisking together a deliciously seductive brew of strutting funky swagger, soulful vocals, stabs of bass/guitar and to-die-for organ work, with an underlying pop sensibility and a touch of the psychedelic, we’re left with a stunning masterclass in soulful funk. So, so good – which certainly bodes well for the forthcoming LP.

For now, check out the stunning ‘No Vacancy’ below: