BOBBY SPARKS II – Paranoia

Best known as the organist with jazz collective Snarky Puppy, Bobby Sparks II released a particularly grand solo debut with ‘Schizophrenia: The Yang Project’ in 2018. A lengthy two disc affair, the album took in elements of jazz, funk, pop, soul and rap to create a listen that was varied, but eventually uncovered a selection of tracks that – depending on where you dropped the needle – could appeal to heavy jazz fusionists, lovers of Herbie Hancock’s dance oriented 90s releases, those on a nostalgia trip with an old Arrested Development album, or even a few Prince fans.

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BILLY YFANTIS – The Nebula Voyager

Following several releases of ambient and light electronic music, experimental composer Billy Yfantis reached peak minimalism with his 2021 album ‘Noises From The Outer Space’. It was so paired down it made even Tangerine Dream’s most ambient sounds seem busy, and so wantonly empty in places that it couldn’t actually be called music in the traditional sense. …And yet, somehow, the blankets of electronic sound – often no more than white noise, taking Eno’s idea of “room colourant” to extremes – managed to conjure various mental images and create something surprisingly effective.

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THE BIG DEAL – First Bite

The promotional cycle for melodic rockers The Big Deal was a slow and carefully planned affair. The Serbian band pitched themselves to Frontiers Records with a selection of demo recordings which got the green light for an album, but they didn’t begin work on that immediately. Instead, they took to social media throughout 2021 and shared a set of videos that introduced them to the world via a selection of well known cover tunes. Classic tracks by Europe and Aerosmith very much set out the band’s melodic rock stall in an obvious but very engaging way, but it was their take on the ABBA classic ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ that really stood out. The track’s strong melodies provided vocalist Ana Nikolic with a great platform, but it was guitarist Srdjan Brankovic driving everything forward. The original cut’s distinctive keyboard hook transposed excellently to guitar, and he lent The Big Deal’s recording a truly excellent feature with his massive harmonic sounds.

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Listen: The Fierce And The Dead unleash new track ‘Wonderful’

With The Fierce And The Dead’s last studio recordings appearing in 2018, fans have had a long wait for the return of Rushden’s finest art rock band. It’s not that the band took a backseat, of course, but rather more that the world forced any momentum and creativity to grind to a halt.

Nevertheless, folks have been really keen for the band’s return, especially with various hints from inside sources and teasers suggesting that any forthcoming material would be as different from ‘The Euphoric’ as ‘The Euphoric’ had been from the career defining ‘Spooky Action’.

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THE VIOLETS – Smoke, Mirrors & Other Half Truths

Long before Matt Cahill became vocalist/guitarist with Evoletah, he was a member of Aussie rock band The Violets. The Violets received critical acclaim in Australia, but like so many other bands from the southern hemisphere, they didn’t really achieve any commercial success overseas. They were always a band Matt looked upon favourably, but the more the years passed and the more Evoletah covered new musical ground – since 2012, they’ve evolved from being an alternative rock band, into an almost proggy affair, taking in elements of pop, jazz and electronica along the way – the more it seemed as if The Violets would be forever associated with the past.

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