Spotlight issue 28

Various Artists - ...volume 2, in the city edition (Fat Northerner Records)

Described as "A collective of existing Manchester Music Industry Management, Manchester based and A&R", joining forces in devoloring a new online record label. This is a compilation based on the notion that Manchester "no longer has a scene", put together by the company's founders Dan Thomas, Ruth Daniels and Phil Styles.

Pioneers - Slow Down

The Pioneers are a 5 peice having met after graduating from ex. Salford University. They are all described as 25-somethings and describe their sound as "indie, but know as we know it".

T: Well this first track, to be frank, sounds like a less effective version of Elbow at double speed....which is still pretty slow.

N: This group (Pioneers) do sound well produced, and able to slot into the current roster of many a mainstream radio station. A number of years ago, this may have been considered too alternative a sound to pamper to the general public, but I generally feel today thatthis would gain acceptance relatively easily. Although with all that said, it does lack any feel of real substance. 6/10

Slims - Eyeball Man

In complete difference to the previous act, The Simms sound is described as "mixing a grunged out, melodic repotoire with massive wedges of guitar, veering between hard pop/rock and some really intense moments". That said the group are a 3-piece hailing from the depths of Manchester.

T: Onto the next track then, by Slims, who've obviously been overdosing on a diet of Queens of the Stone Age lately...

N: Sounds more like Soundgarden to me, but the band seem far more concerned in their adept ability in the handling of their fretboards than bothered with maintaining the song's promising intro shown in the opening bars. 6/10

web site

Earl - Deeper

Earl have been described as possessing a sound of electro-dance with a rock edge. They're a 4-piece, Ruth, Louise, Fiona and Ben, having acheived top records status on XFM and are favourites with veterans Terry Christian and Derek Ryder.

T: What do you have to say about this then? Personally I think it's a bit different thanks to the swirly effects of the synths, and I think Garbage must have been an influence here.

N: This band have managed to maintain that "untouched" feel in their musical production, and as such would not make such an easy transition to the mainstream. But I like that. The music possesses a manic air, possibly down to the driven synthesizers used in their sound. Garbage? Yes....but no - to resign this group to the trash would be criminal. 8/10

Blue Avenger - Do The Right Thing

T: Next up it's Blue Avenger with "Do the Right Thing". I doubt if they'd thank me too much for saying this, but musically it puts me in mind of Jesus Jones...

N: One group amongst those featured here I'd certainly like to hear more from. Bordering on the sound of hip hop, possibly suggested at by the loose scratching used in this track, I can see where it is you're coming from with your Jesus Jones reference, but it was Sly and Robbie's "Boops" that I heard when first encountering this. Perhaps we should agree to differ here - my mark would be an 8 bordering on a 9...

T: And my mark would be 7 at the highest. There's no way this is better than the Earl track, so as I'm in a generous mood, I'll let you have your...8/10

Parma Violets - I See Double

T: This one's by Parma Violets, and it sounds like something that may have hit number one in 1973. A very retro kinda thing, not unpleasant, but neither is it particularly exciting.
N: I didn't necessarily hear such a "retro" reference, but although musically this did contain great ability, being engaging wasn't one of its strong points. 5/10


N: We found this a very valid sampler of music coming out of Manchester. If not to everyone's taste, acts were suitably diverse as to give at least food for thought.



Blumpkin Nation - The Invisible Movie Soundtrack (Penny Nation)

Here we find not a soundtrack, but a "collaboration of performers and producers exploring diverse and interesting musical styles". The album veres between sounds as diverse as rock and lounge and trip-hop and R&B, taking in many more along the way.

T: I'm sure the band will be delighted in the knowledge that they have achieved what they have set out to do, and defied any categorisation. I can think of little to describe them, except that one of the tracks reminded me of the Shangri-las and another one sounded like some incidental music from "Shaft"...

N: I found my classification, the first Moloko album as performed by Brian Wilson. An easy listening album that at first comes across as a difficult pill to swallow, but with enough exposure a listener would reap the rewards. 8/10



Matthew Ryan - Regret Over the Wires (Hybrid)

Not only the first collection by the artist, but also the virgin outing for label, Hybrid Recordings. A work recorded and mixed over a period of 30 days, with music described as possessing "violent rock 'n roll with beauty, insight and humor".

T: If this doesn't put you in mind of Chris Rea, Bruce Springsteen and Dire Straits I'd be a little surprised to say the least...

N: The strength of Matthew's voice you may find a little hard to take on first encounter, but this artist, if marketed well, could easily slip into the shoes of the late great Jeff Buckley. A music that just gets better and better, the album picks up pace the further we head into its pages. There is certainly a Buckleyesque quality supplied here, but Matthew does manage to gain his own ground and become Matthew Ryan.

T: Well I ought to congratulate you - your comparison beats all three of mine hands down, and therefore, I am off to sulk. But yes, I agree with what you say. A very strong album. 9/10



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