Under the Radar: December | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Leon Bridges

There’s a bit of a craze at the minute for retro pop music. Most of the nostalgia has been polished up to a twenty-first century shine, though, losing some of the gritty, dirty edge of those classic blues and soul tunes. Leon Bridges, from Fort Worth in Texas, doesn’t believe in polishing (unless, presumably, it’s a bit of light dusting around the house). His brand of Delta blues is tinged with gospel highlights and a misty-eyed production that’s simply blissful. For anyone seeking out something utterly timeless, Leon Bridges is your man.

Niia

When your heroes include Nina Simone, Bjork and Fiona Apple, you could be setting yourself up for a fall. Attempt to create some outlandishly wonky pop with the gravelly tones of Simone and it could all be a recipe for disaster. Luckily, New York singer and producer Niia is much, much smarter than that. She takes slices of inspiration from her heroines and peppers them with her own distinctive flair. Combining dream pop and electro vibes, her work as a solo musician and her recent project with The Range are stunning slices of neo-soul goodness.

Kwamie Liv

Copenhagen’s Kwamie Liv has created something of a serious underground buzz in recent times. And by serious underground buzz, I mean mantle-rendering earthquakes that top the Richter scale. It’s difficult to believe that just a few months ago Liv was only just premiering her first song, 5am, on Soundcloud. Now, she’s got a full EP, Lost in the Girl, which is a magical slice of downbeat electro fuzz and intelligent songwriting. Everything she does is the epitome of DIY, yet has a completely professional feeling; Kwamie Liv is definitely one to watch.

Sasha Siem

Widescreen grandeur envelops every part of Sasha Siem’s music. Though her arrangements are often sparse, the use of strings and atmospheric, subtle percussion in her work give a thoroughly full-bodied and emotional touch without ever feeling strained or pandering. Perhaps it’s something to do with Siem’s Cambridge education… Whatever the reason, her brand of melancholic chamber music tugs at the heartstrings.

Doujinshi

If you’ve had the good fortune to stumble upon Japanese producer Doujinshi on Soundcloud then you’ll know that the mysterious figure is prolific. Seriously prolific. Many of his instrumental electronic and dance choons are inspired by characters in anime and JRPGs but somehow he never seems particularly nerdy or wrapped up in a crazy kawaii world. Instead, many of his pieces are sensitive and wonderfully constructed, even if they only last a short time.

Meltybrains?

Five men in masks from Dublin making long experimental electronic pieces. Sounds a bit grim? It’s honestly not. As soon as the word “experimental” is bandied around, many people would probably go running for the hills. Meltbrains? probably know this, as their take on experimentalism is occasionally a little tongue in cheek; they defy the laws of categorization and don’t play by the rules. But, equally, each one of them are extremely talented in what they do, managing to tow the fine line between intelligent knob twiddling and danceable wig-outs with perfect ease.

SUIIX

What is “bistropop”? It sounds tasty. Beefy. With some added musical gravy. Well, Berlin-via-Sydney’s SUIIX describes herself as just that. Whereas a bistro might conjure up the image of some hearty meat and two veg, though, SUIIX is more of a Heston Blumenthal, deconstructing electronica and putting a much more delicate twist on the brash techno Grimes perfected. Hardly a watered-down option though, SUIIX is a concentrated dose of intelligent dreamwave that masterfully mixes subtlety with epically atmospheric soundscapes.

Artist of the Month: Superfood

Do you pine for the days of Ceefax? You do? Then, if nothing else, you’ll love Superfood’s website, a wonderful recreation of the golden age of Ceefax, complete with pixelated sun and the unrealistic page numbers. Wait, I feel like I’m missing something out here… Oh, yes! The music.

Superfood are a strange yet compelling mix of the early 90s Madchester scene, slacker American rock and elements of Britpop. With a dash of psychedelia thrown in for good measure. On paper, this looks like a recipe for a serious identity crisis. On their debut LP Don’t Say That, though, Superfood prove that the ingredients make one heck of a tasty sonic sponge cake. Lifting the best elements of the Happy Mondays, Blur and Pavement, the band create a delicious indie-rock explosion. As an added bonus, their cover of the Beastie Boys’ Fight For Your Right (To Party!) gives a brilliant insight into what would’ve happened if the Brooklyn trio were fronted by Shaun Ryder and Bez popped up to crash the party.

Honorary End of Year Mention: The Derevolutions

Part of me toyed with the idea of making this whole December list a Best of 2014. Even though I’ve been doing this in a personal capacity for a long time now, the idea seemed a bit flawed. This column in its current form has only existed for a month, so throwing a Best Of out there seems a bit silly. However, since we’re coming to the end of 2014 it would be remiss of me not to highlight one of the best new bands that I’ve encountered this year.

That honour goes to three-piece The Derevolutions. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, flawed about The Derevolutions. They have filled a massive Go! Team-shaped hole in my life with ease. Consisting of Brett, Ana Karina and with rapping provided by Sen, the Boston trio create the most joyous, unbelievably upbeat cacophony of noise you could ever hope for. Though they are pretty bonkers – mashing together samples like ill-fitting jigsaw pieces, yet somehow making it work – they have an irrepressible spirit that sucks you in like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Their debut LP is free to download from their Facebook about page. I don’t need to tell you what to do. If you still feel the pain from The Go! Team not releasing any new music for a number of years, you could do so much worse than giving The Derevolutions a spin.

Fangirl moment over.

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