All Is Love
'Indie/Slack Rock' 5-piece, have vocal stream-of-consciousness, and a strong ear for melody. The Saltire is being strengthened by some prophetic wind and wonderful melody.
All Is Love is available at:
THIS week I have featured a fair deal of talent from Scotland...
I shall not go into too much depth again, with regards to Scotland, but it is interesting how different regions, seem, not only to foster a certain level of quality, but types of music too. The north tends to have a lot of acoustic acts and band; but a fair few of Arctic Monkey-esque bands too: heavier and more intense. Yorkshire is a little more diverse with regards to genre: there are swing acts, as well as U.S. Blues Rock acts and talent, here. This is where we may see the majority of future stars. Down south, and towards the coasts, there is a tendency and fashion for breezier and warmer acts: a lot of acoustic sounds, but there are indie acts to be heard. In-between there are patches and flashes of occasional brilliance, but to my mind, the most exciting movements, are taking place in Scotland. Up until a month or two ago, I had not heard a lot of new music from here. I have speculated and hypothesised, that the reason is for the (almost) sudden spurt of Scottish talent coming through- as well as why there is such a high strike rate. It is the diversity and range of sounds, that has impressed me most. I have heard new acts (Steve Heron, Ded Rabbit); through to older bands (Camera Obscura), and was always struck by the same sensation: where have these acts been hiding? I suppose that the narrow focus of the media, as well as a geographical dislocation, of sorts, is affecting concentration and potential attention. But that is going to have to be another conundrum, for another day. Harder and more menacing electric tones, are a comparative rarity in new music. There is a greater emphasis and evidence of acoustic music and softer voices. I guess to an extent, there is greater safety and security in this genre. There is a greater personalisation when you employ an acoustic guitar, and it seems to be what is sought after in today's scene. Of course, it is a genre- acoustic/folk/pop- dedicated and reserved for the solo artist. For bands, there are more options with regards to sound, but also there are greater risks. For your lone star, most of the material is personal and related to romance and the pitfalls of love. The sounds can be limited and predictable, but the rewards waiting for those whom are different: genuinely unique voice; tight, focused lyrics; winning personality etc. The band game is a less busy market, but there is a security in numbers. The singer is not necessarily the focus, and there is a greater potential for credibility, due to the greater numbers. The pitfalls for bands is a lack of originality. Less I moan incessantly like a middle-aged man, gutted that there are no modern-day Rolling Stones or Beatles, there is some validity in this discourse. I have found that a great deal of new acts are trying to hard to be someone else: be an existing band. This is pointless and irritating, as this distills any potential, and is a black mark for new talent. Thankfully; there is a small amount- about 10%- of new bands, whom are motivated to try something, that is distinctly them.
Universal Thee- cool band name aside- are James, Lisa, Robin, Sean and Kevin, and are a ceremonial band of brothers (and sister), whom have an interesting range of influences. Ash, Weezer, Pixies and Pavement are in there: a lot of '80s and '90s influences, as well as late-'90s-modern-day folk such as Queens of the Stone Age. It is an odd pleasure when there is a lack of Arctic Monkeys, Biffy Clyro and The Rolling Stones listed: I have seen these names too often, and consequently been able to pinpoint their influence all too clearly. The band have gained a reputable following, and through a string of local gigs, have built up a native regard.. For nearly three years, they have been pioneering a loud-quiet dynamic: Pixie-esque, as well as crafting sharp melodies: Ash spring to mind. It is the band's skill for blending these facets, together with a stream-of-consciousness vocal ambition, that creates a variable and striking business plan. As well as melody, there is a great deal of exciting noise; this combination, combined with male and female (lead) vocals, elicits an almost-Grunge/Punk splendor: rarely attempted in the 21st century. Aside from their gold credentials and strong war-chest of heroes and influences, the group are staunch tourers: bringing their songs as far and wide as possible. Their on-line following is growing, and attention is starting to mount. In a country, where there are comparatively few new acts making their presence known as far south as London, Universal Thee are part of a small crop that should be on the lips of NME and The Guardian alike. The future success and growth of music depends upon cultural and geographical mixing: not just drawing in foreign influences and music into England, but focusing on Welsh, Scottish and (Northern) Irish talent primarily. It is the nations of the U.K. whom promise greatest promise. The U.S., Europe, Australia and varying nations have their share of fascination, but there is a wealth of untapped wealth to be found within the British Isles. It is bands like Universal Thee: little-known to many in London, whom are examples of what the U.K. has to offer, in the way of diverse, and unique music.
The group has amassed a great deal of songs in their short life, but it is All Is Love that catches my ear hardest. The intro., to me, suggests pure fun and sunshine. The opening notes have shades of early R.E.M., curiously, as well as light-edged Radiohead. Maybe there is some Jack White to be heard- circa White Blood Cells. It is an unexpected beginning, that for all the suggested influences, has a charm and individuality that is theirs alone. If I had to pick a song that rings bells, I would say Near Wild Heaven, by the aforementioned (sadly defunct) band from Georgia, U.S.A. There is a similar Out of Time adventurous joy and strong melody. The quintet have been celebrated for their gift with a melody, and it is the way that a little of Radiohead's Street Spirit (Fade Out) arpeggio; mixed with Jack White's Never Far Away; with whisper of Shiny Happy People R.E.M and the dark edges of Pixie's Debaser, that creates a fairytale/balletic skip and step: not an intro that many acts are capable of developing. It is an interesting point: even acoustic bands and solo artists never compose melodies that are as evocative and Spring-like; preferring to opt for monotonous strum or- if you are a 'heavier' band- something that is all teeth and spit. The duet vocal-play between Lisa and James, matches the mood set by the intro. There is some of Sixpence None the Richer's charm (think Kiss Me), but with none of the Christian Pop/Rock nonsense. Lisa's vocals are warm and sensuous: little honeyed edges of cherry country and folk, melting with a some U.S. indie edges too. The result is soothing and sexy. Similarly, the masculine edges from James's voice compliment perfectly, and when "I see it/More now than ever" is sung, the resultant chemical reaction is a vocal Sodium Acetate Super Saturation against a musical Briggs-Rauscher Reaction. The track is underpinned by a steady acoustic blood-flow, supported by bass and drum; everything is keep tight and engaging. The vocal byplay variates to employ more sprightly edges (at stages it sounds, curiously, like The Beautiful South circa-Gaze; but in a very good way). The chorus is elongated, with quasi-syncopation: the vocal hangs and glides, before hitting/kissing the ground. Perhaps giving the band's near-legendary live performances, it is unsurprising that the song has a 'live feel' to it: the production is impressive but not cluttered or overly-polished- like you are listening to a live version of the song. It is this commendation, tied with the nature of the song: something that employs tinges of influences, yet has a sound that can be seen as L.A. sunshine as well as '90s-modern-day indie. The tales on love, and machinations of the gentler side of things, charm and win you over. There is positivism and personal perspectives: "That's not all I see", married with open-hearted declarations: "You are all/All is Love". What is traditional with love songs, or any story of boy-and-girl-meet-and-beat-the-world, is that there is some negativity or sour tongue, somewhere along the line. The effusive nature of the melodies and composition, means that the band could be singing of kicking a puppy through an electric ceiling fan, and you'd still sing along: lost as you are amidst the sea of technicolour bliss. As the words stop, and the infectious and lilting coda is presented, the song is wrapped up and completed with a designated hitter enthusiasm. The overall effect one takes away from the track is new perspective. A lot of what I have been reviewing lately has had negative edges, or cynicism at its core. All Is Love, rather appropriately, lives up to its title.
I hope Universal Thee get a lot more future credit. There are few bands whom have an authoritative gentle side to their nature; the default setting is to lean towards heavier and spikier sounds. Their music is imbued with warmer colours, and although they have got enough kick and spark in other songs, it is refreshing that they do not disguise or supplement sensitivity and warmth, with something less sincere. Scotland is home to a parliament of diverse and fascinating players, all of whom- from my experience- have likeable and great personalities too: no pretencion, only modesty and a great appreciation with regards to having their sounds promoted. What 2014 holds, is going to be hard to say. Whether the focus- of the media and the charts- moves away from London and England, and is more incorporating and encompassing, is hard to predict. It should, as there is a tendency to relegate any band with genuine talent and individuality to the nether-regions of the underground, and separate charts. This means that a lot of people miss out. As there is an urgent need to beat as many dents of sub-par pop dross out of public consciousness, and replace it with more solid and reliable sounds such as this, it seems action needs taking. It needs to be done with diplomacy and tact, and as social media is burgeoning and inescapable, it needs to be utilised more effectively so bands such as Universal Thee get due credit, and can amass fans from all of the U.K. as well as Europe and the U.S. That is a battle for a future war; but for now, one thing is certain:
A positive musical mindset leads to greater inspiration: take note future up-comers!_______________________________________________________________________