Thursday, 21 March 2013

Blue Willa Reviewed!

Blue Willa, a four-piece band coming to you all the way from Tuscany, Italy certainly presents a roller coaster ride of events. The quartet released their self-titled, debut album earlier this year. Blue Willa delivers a unique sound with lyrics that create a definite opinionated voice.
The opening track, ‘Eyes Attention’, leaves a strong impression behind.  I associated the style and sound of this track with a soundtrack to a horror movie. The chant to Freddie Kruger came to mind. You know the one. “1-2, Freddie’s coming for you…” you get the picture! It has that vibe, that presence.
The introduction sets the scene.  Accompanied by high-pitched vocals, ‘Eyes Attention’, also conveys an air of schizophrenia, a collection of noises and voices that one has gathered. It’s fair to say the lyrics show no sign of this, but the music alone paints that picture. At times, the songs paint a picture on a blank canvas, using a palette of sombre colours. Blue Willa is a fine example of psychedelic rock.  A genre that emerged and progressed throughout the mid 60s, offering musicians the chance to showcase material written from a totally different perspective, disregarding the conventional song writing formula.
Listening to Blue Willa for the first time, it might come as a bit of a surprise for the average consumer or music lover. There seems to be a pattern occurring with Blue Willa, it seems as though the vocals sound slower than they should be, like they’ve been deliberately altered to illustrate a sense of confusion. This is apparent in nearly all tracks on the album. I would compare the band to the likes of Pink Floyd, (once known as psychedelic), Greatful dead, and Can, at times. 
We can start to see a resemblance, particularly in Pink Floyd’s ‘Astronomy Domaine’. The high-pitched and slowed down vocals accompanied with electric guitar riffs.  The self-titled debut album consists of ten tracks introducing music with a difference. (I know, I mentioned this earlier but bear with me here). Tracks like ‘Fishes’ convey a strong presence, with the hard-hitting drums accompanied by the even stronger presence of the electric guitar. 
Playing in riffs during the introduction of the track, suddenly, everything changes. The riffs become what seem to be traces of melodic instances, however, it’s Serena Alessandra Altavilla (vocalist), who leaves a strong presence in this song, displaying her emotions at full pelt, with no signs of holding back. There are other instances of spontaneity with Blue Willa normally occurring towards the end of a track. Tambourines sounding like a chant, and the riff of the strings coming in to create the atmosphere and then boom! – The guitars come in and say hello.
Blue Willa portrays a contrast of atmosphere, emotions, and sense of self. Take a ride on a musical roller coaster and experience the spontaneity of the guitar with heavy-hitting drums.
I suggest you look no further than Blue Willa!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Connect & Collaborate Across London Event at Shape Arts

In association with Drake Music and Shape Arts, visual / sound artist, producer, and filmmaker Ivan Riches presents Connect & Collaborate Across London, an event that brings music and technology together.

Assistive Music Technology (AMT), provides an industry that’s already competitive as it is, with endless opportunities for disabled musicians.

Together with Drake Music, disabled musicians can step into the spotlight while the skeptics witness and experience a brand new perspective on disability.

 Mik Scarlett, a disabled musician and the chair for this meeting has definitely passed his aspiration date, joining his first band ‘Outer Limits’ at 14 playing the keyboard. With years of musical experience proudly behind him, his passion for music is still alive, just as determined.

 There were a fair few bands in the mid 80s / early 90s that had disabled members. Bands like ‘Astrid, Freak UK, and Wild Style’ and Ian Dury and The Blockheads had disabled musicians who didn’t want to be known for their disability but for their music. It was a movement, it was mainstream, but, as Mik pointed out, just when you’re doing great and playing gig after gig, the marketing department of record companies were quick to reject bands with amazing talent. What was their excuse?  “How are we going to sell a wheelchair?”

Ladies and gentlemen, once again we have faced another barrier. This was and still is, one of the most disturbing reoccurrences that disabled people have to face on a daily basis.

Connect & Collaborate London reinforced what musicians can do with today’s amazing technology. The event included three in depth presentations on Assistive Music Technology (AMT). These were as follows; Apolo, iPad and Makey Makey.

Drake Music really opens a blind eye, proving that you can break down disabling barriers to music. With the use of iPads and its multi touch functionality, a sound is easily generated with one tap mechanism. The extraordinary Makey Makey, demonstrated by Associate musician / Associate national manager in research and development Gawain Hewitt. Using the human body as an instrument) and Apolo’s just as impressive one touch switch system that makes music.

On a personal level, I saw music with such a big horizon it amazed me! It’s such a breath of fresh air to know that people with disabilities no longer have to feel like the odd one out / isolated from their passion. Associate musician Gary Day’s demo of music apps for iOS really emphasized that there is something for everyone in all shapes and sizes. Garageband, Thumb Jam, Borderlandz, and other apps suggested it was only the beginning of a beautiful and bright musical future. These technologies could really pave the way for up and coming ideas.  I really do think this could open a whole new genre of performance arts in itself. Uniting as one - disabled artists with non-disabled ones.

The day concluded with an open discussion dealing with overcoming the day-to-day barriers disabled musicians come across. You could sense a change is going to take place. Expanding on the Connect & Collaborate London section of the Drake Music website. Possible developments include artist profiles, which will allow musicians to showcase their material and individual skills. This means artists may be able to collaborate and skill-swap on new and exciting projects in the future. With a view to monthly or bimonthly basis, meetings / drop in sessions taking place, in order to facilitate artists with problems that may occur. Furthermore, suggesting ideas that will benefit one another. In addition, users can participate and communicate with each other using forums / discussion panel. Here, users can express their views / opinions on difficulties in embracing their ultimate career goal. It will of course be heavily music oriented, and focus on specific areas within music such as genre, e.g. how we combine AMT with folk / jazz etc. without it sounding the same. Communication is the ultimate key. Aside from genre, the group also suggested combining AMT with other performing arts like dance, theatre and film using ‘Makey Makey’. Something as inspiring as this could start a brand new genre within performing arts. An idea such as this really stands out, and leaves a strong impression.

Throughout this event there was one statement that remained overpowering.  “Creativity over disability!” Creative minds always push through, no matter how big the barrier is. Disability will always take a back seat while creativity embraces the spotlight!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Contagious Reviewed

The Contagious are a three-piece studio project from Sydney Australia, blending the sounds of the guitar, vocals, the sitar, apparently, and a driving rhythm section. The band follows the conventional song writing formula of soft rock combining powerful guitar solos with influences of traditional rock with traces of pop.  Listening to the band, it’s evident there’s elements the 80s coming through. It’s appropriate to compare The Contagious with the likes of Bon Jovi, Journey and others.

There’s something to be said about the lyrics too. They speak for themselves. The band continues to follow themes explored in rock. Thoughts of love, disheartenment, determination and longing seem to be the key features of this EP.

With 20 years of musical experience, they have become a trio of ‘epic proportions’. The title track ‘Night Street’ seems to be the portrayal of a lost soul walking through the depths of darkness alongside her struggles that she has endured in her lifetime.

Nevertheless we see a determined character blossom, eager to find her way into the light. United with a strong presence of a guitar, alongside powerful, yet angelic vocals from lead vocalist Annalivia. The whole thing comes together in a masterpiece of creativity. There’s a sense of escapism coming through in this song. The need to leave a life behind, and fight for a new beginning!

‘Tomorrow (You’ll Be Gone)” seems to take a different direction. There’s a clear contrast. It moves away from salvaging a relationship to becoming a survivor. An independent woman ready to take on the world. This track has to be one of my personal favorites. The lyrics reveal a strong woman. Someone who has no intention of denying her efforts put forward in a relationship. There’s no denying though, the music delivers an emotional connection with its audience. You start to feel sympathy for the woman pouring her heart out. The guitar really does bring deep routed emotions to centre stage.

This self-titled EP is well written, well produced, and well executed. The chorus in each track is catchy and hooky and the strong vocals and outstanding guitar solos hold the whole thing together. These things are strategically placed to help audiences identify the type of genre they are listening to and, importantly, to make them listen again.

One last thing I want to mention is the cover art. Annalivia, standing proud, head held high. The use of vibrant, bright colours like yellows and orangy reds leaves a strong impression of an independent woman oozing with confidence. It’s time to modernize the 80s’ sound with the Contagious in a very positive way!