encore ni exclusive interview ~ jilly st john ~ wyldling

by 12:07
Wyldling's latest single, 'Little Girl' is out now...

Last week Encore NI had the pleasure of chatting to Jilly St John, the explosive front woman of one of the countries most exciting rock acts 'Wyldling'. In a refreshingly honest interview, Jilly opens up about her musical journey so far, promising local talent and gives her damning verdict on the pop star conveyor belt of television shows such as the highly criticised X-Factor, amongst others.

Listen to the interview exclusively here... 

Keep up to date with all Wyldling official news via the links below...

Facebook | www.facebook.com/WYLDLINGmusic
Soundcloud | https://soundcloud.com/wyldling

| encoreni.com |

mini album review ~ seven summits ~ 'fossils'

by 10:15

 'Melody driven alternative rock' is how Belfast's own Seven Summits would 'Sum up' (sorry folks) their synth crafted sound. Citing influences from recent indie folk such as Bombay Bicycle Club to Blur's boisterous Britpop, many an influence can be derived from this album. Think of the relatively recent entourage of indie-synth bands such as Swim Deep and Peace to best place the band into the company of similar artists. Following the release of their debut self titled EP, Seven Summits released Fossils in August 2012. Now down to the business end of the review.

Most of the album is chilled, mellow and melodic, an ideal album to throw on Sunday morning and nurse a banging head from the night before, although prudent lyrics such as 'Take another bit of my heart, and throw it in the pit of a fire, cause I'd rather have a burning heart than no heart" may be too much for a recovering mind to comprehend, but wisely poetic nonetheless. That isn't to say energy is lacking however, if you enjoy a good headbang or a jaunty jive the calmed synth flute is ditched for an almost grungey/post-punk overtone in two of the stand-out tracks 'Know it All' and 'Burning Heart' which are oddly reminiscent of Joy Division, in both musicality and the strong overriding emotions expressed, particularly in the chorus. The mellow verses of 'Know it All' contrast effectively with the power of the chorus to convey what seems to be a sense of anger very clearly. Despite the unusual addition of a 'synth organ' which seems to serve no real purpose other than extra sound, 'Burning Heart' is one of the bands strongest releases, both lyrically and musically very well established.

The album unfortunately seems to fade out towards the end, with tracks 'Pig', 'On Record' and 'Okay' appearing unwilling to divulge and remain tame. The saving grace in the second half of the record is undoubtedly 'I Want Somebody', a track which emerges above the others as an engaging cacophony of sounds. Musically the track is excellent in every regard; the synth is employed perfectly, incredibly overdriven bass is a joyous inclusion and the groove is hypnotising while our minds delve deep into the complex ideas explored through the tracks introspective lyrics. The tracks conclusion leaves you desperate for it to continue, as it comes to an abrupt halt. Despite this, and the slight redemption gained from 'Twelve Signs' I can't help but feel the essence of this album could have been captured better on a five track EP, where the bands best material wouldn't be slightly tainted by what appear to be album fillers. A band with unquestionable potential, I would like to see them experiment more with the energetic side of their music, as their sweeping melodies I can only imagine would perfectly compliment a more uptempo vibe. The band's live performances have also been greatly recieved, such as their performance at this years 'Forfey Festival' where they were especially well received.

Seven Summits have the groundwork in place to launch a strong assault on the Belfast music scene and abroad, the release of 'Fossils' will only strengthen their cause. 

For fans of-Swim Deep, Peace, Pavement, Bombay Bicycle Club
Stand out tracks; 'I Want Somebody', 'Know It All' , 'Burning Heart'

Chris Hanna

gig review ~ radar presents... ~ adultrock, go wolf, not squares ~ speakeasy

by 20:58

There was a relaxed, jubilant vibe around Belfast's Speakeasy tonight, as Radar productions put on their first show in months (for free we might add) with performances from Irish DJ Adultrock, indie-pop group Go Wolf and headliners Not Squares. With the next generation of University students on the brink of flocking to the venue through the fast approaching Freshers Week, it was a chance for the old guard to let their hair down and dance amongst themselves one last time. Taylor Johnson joined the party...

It can be rather daunting for even the most experience of DJ's when faced with a small audience in a big venue, however Adultrock coped admirably in these same circumstances. The Irish DJ's trademark pounding, bass heavy grooves and antithetic melodies had those who were on their feet nodding approvingly, while those who weren't seemed to simply relax letting each song wash over them. At times, Adultrock's rhythmic bass lines was almost soothing, gently rocking the venue before picking up the face for any climactic conclusions. Despite virtually no crowd interaction, you could tell he was really enjoying the experience, his energy and constant concentration evident in every considered groove and well timed effect. Unusually, each track seemed to be very clearly defined, as Adultrock cast aside the usual layout of a DJ set in order to showcase each individual track with a start and an ending. Although this served to briefly spark a warm response from the audience, you can't help but feel he lost key momentum in the process and may have been more consistent had each track faded into eachother. In all, it was a solid set from the seasoned producer, and the fact that he almost doubled his crowd by the end of his set is a testament to his professionalism and experience.

As the lap top and complex technology of Adultrock's set was dismembered, on came the keyboard and colorful guitars of Belfast's newest Indie-pop noise makers Go Wolf. The stunning synth driven four piece thrive off the soaring, pristine vocal harmonies of keyboardist Anna Leydon and guitarist Scott Jamison. The pair have a Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan dynamic, with similar tones, but completely contrasting sounds. Scott Jamison's vocal also has the unmistakable tone of a young Brandon Flowers. From the outset, this rush of catchy melodies, reverberated guitar solos and harmonious vocal deliveries had the audience dancing. particularly the single 'Voices' which highlighted the bands commercial appeal with a song that you could easily imagine fronting the next Northern Ireland tourist board campaign, which kick started the massive success of Silhouette's 'Can't Keep Up'. Though the highlight of the set came with the beautifully written 'Even God'. Lyrically heartbreaking and honest, the depths of this song show that Go Wolf have the emotional fragility to compliment their natural enthusiasm and pop forefront. 'Discussing the reasons why, you'd wanna disappear,  it's not get left behind, but anywhere else has gotta be better than here... '. With subtle hints of Two Door Cinema Club's sense of melody and punchy lyricism, Go Wolf are fronting the 80's influenced resurgence with a refreshingly modern approach, taking the best of that periods synth driven pop and adding a contemporary spin that can appeal to a younger generation. Go Wolf are a band worth getting excited for.

Around midnight the nights headliners, Not Squares, took to the stage. Heavily synthesised, highly distorted and full of confidence, No Squares return to the Speakeasy was greeted like returning hero's, rapturous applause becoming the consistent backdrop for a now packed venue. The bands brand of atmospheric, electro house had so many influences it was at times difficult to know where they stand. Towards the beginning of the gig they delivered a Kraftwerk inspired synthesised showcase, which descended into a faster paced Daft Punk styled middle section and rounded off like Depeche Mode on acid. Don't get me wrong though, No Squares barrage of noise wasn't at any stage poor quality. Michael Kinloch's strong vocal performance was, at times, like a young James Kerr (Simple Minds dynamic frontman), although, musically it couldn't have been further from the Scottish groups ballad-rock. Keith Winter's impeccable drumming also never faltered, despite fast paced and complex rhythms and by the end of the night the group were rewarded for their tightness as a unit as the whole venue chanted along o every 'oh', 'woah' and keyboard note.You could also never be sure when proceedings had drawn to a close, as the band stopped and started several times in the final song, which although compelling for an infatuated audience, had this reviewer feeling that a quality ending had been dragged out by ten or so unnecessary minutes, though, having said that, it only succeeded in getting the crowd pumped up further. They left the stage to cheers of adoration. The peopel had came to dance and there is absolutely no doubt that No Squares allowed them to do just that.

Taylor Johnson.

Keep up to date with all the bands below by following the links.

Go Wolf
Not Squares

Not Squares 'greeted like returning hero's'

single review ~ a plastic rose ~ 'this side of winter'

by 07:15

Bursting back onto the scene this week with their first release since last years impeccable 'Camera.Shutter.Life' comes 'This Side Of Winter', the newest single from Belfast's favorite adopted sons A Plastic Rose. Armed with a sleek new logo, more hard hitting riffs and soulful melodies, and a new album in production, the conditions look perfect for a nation wide recruitment drive for the dedicated and ever growing APRmy. I couldn't wait to have a listen...

'This Side Of Winter' is the affirmation that the A Plastic Rose fan base have been hoping for. For weeks the Belfast lads had hinted that change was on the horizon once more and despite the excitement this held it also will have no doubt worried their remarkably loyal APRmy, but thankfully as the bands latest single kicks off with drummer Dave Reid's trademark enthusiasm and vigor, any worries that may have surfaced were soon cast aside for pure joy and formidable optimism. Although it has to be said 'This Side Of Winter' does mark a slight shift in the bands creative overlays. Driven by the sort of beautifully melodic guitar riff that helped to define the 90's as a period of carefree abandon, it seems that A Plastic Rose's unique brand of alternative, indie has adapted, without ever loosing the raw edge that captured their home city of Belfast's hearts. Uplifting and bright, the track also marks a significant shift in the bands constantly unwinding journey. While 'Camera.Shutter.Life' bore the pain and turmoil of attempting to crack the music industry, 'This Side...' is almost that records epilogue, showing how they have managed to evolve and adapt without ever compromising their indie roots.

The interchanging vocals that run through the high tempo verse is beautifully executed, front man Gerry Norman and lead guitarist Ian McHugh's distinctly different styles complementing each-other excellently. It leads seamlessly to the sort of chorus already destined for the festival circuit, as Norman's emotive delivery both enthralls and inspires. Throughout the tidal wave of melody McHugh's vivacious  guitar overlays add a Pixies-esque charm to a track oozing confidence.

For all of 'This Side Of Winter's vibrant melody and optimistic overtones, the lyrics can at times drift back into 'Camera.Shutter.Life's melancholic elements. 'This side of winter is long and it's hard...and I felt these horrors before...' sings Norman, again reinforcing A Plastic Rose's hardhitting commitment to retaining their raw passion and lyrical muse.

A slight breakdown makes way for a stunning guitar solo, that drifts back into the final massive chorus, that see's Norman hitting one particularly powerful high note that first made the Belfast music scene take notice of a young band with incredible potential. (See 'Superspeed', 'Colour Blue' & 'My Avalanche')

The release of 'This Side Of Winter' marks the next chapter in the A Plastic Rose story. It shows a band at the top of their game, producing a song that will no doubt delight their current fan base while making the kind of explosive impression on new fans that once came from the bars and pubs of Belfast City.

They're a band in transition, but if the release of this new single is anything to go by, they will always be ours.

Taylor Johnson

                       Watch the new music video here ~

live review ~ pretty circus presents.. ~ live @ the hudson bar, belfast

by 18:51

This week I found myself in the heart of Belfast's underground art-rock scene, in the bustling confines of the obscurely decorated and eclectically finished Hudson Bar. Hidden in the upper floors of this busy local hot-spot lies a tightly compact room filled with wonderfully radical posters urging it's punters to 'Vote JFK', spontaneous graffiti echoing the ever growing German phenomenon of 'I love you, but I have chosen disco' and a relaxed and vibrant vibe which was as prominent in the crowd as it was through it's subtle, admittedly bizarre ambiance. With the stage set and the atmosphere electric, I braced myself for a musical experience quite unlike anything I'd ever seen before...

Just as I began to adapt to the outrageously ostentatious nature of my surroundings the first band of the night took to the stage. Dressed like they had literally just stepped out of the obscure world of the BBC's cult TV show, The Mighty Boosh', it was evident from early on that Belfast's 'Bunny and the Band Its' were a band on a mission. Exactly what that mission was however, was never really elaborated upon. Bunny's unique blend of Rage Against the Machine styled hip-hop, was cleverly infused with distinct rock overtones, much to the delight of their small, but dedicated fan base. You feel that the band's eccentricities, which included amongst other's their bassist sitting with legs crossed throughout proceedings, each member wearing a distinctive mask and a skewered toy rabbit on the end of a spear as a mascot, may not have been so well received in other venues, tonight, however was quite the opposite effect. The audience seemed to embrace every unusual weapon in Bunny's arsenal, their fierce stage presence never in doubt. Despite this it may also prove to be a hindrance for the group, as the gig as a spectacle proved to be more memorable than the musical performance. Highlights of an engaging set came in the shape of 'Open Your Eyes' ('A political song...probably'), which saw the group fire chunks of lettuce into the crowd to a backdrop of eerie, synthesised  bells and well executed riffs. The bands belief in their own songs was infectious, as the audience screamed back every lyric with equal vigor and frustration. At times, the funk filled bass lines passionate backing vocals could be straight out of an early Red Hot Chili Peppers setlist. As they played off their final track, (a Bob Marley and the Wailers styled anthem proclaiming the joys of 'the weed man') you get the feeling that for all of Bunny and the Banned It's bravado and the excitement that generates, they may only be appreciated for the excellent musicians they are if they tone it down a bit. Having said that, perhaps it's the gigs that have inflatable crowd surfing palm tree's and one of the Seven dwarfs on drums that are really worth remembering. This performance shall certainly live long in the memory!

Next on the bill came Lisburn based hard rock three piece, The Runaway Bears. Initially gazing right into the heart of the expectant crowd, when The Bears finally started their distortion heavy set their explosive energy reignited the spark left by Bunny and the Banned Its. As the gig progressed, lead vocalist Nathan 'Brick' Smith's confidence improved, as he began seamlessly controlling the crowd. This came after an earlier mainly instrumentalist period, which, at times, sounded more like an appropriately chosen backing track than the full frontal assault with which Runaway Bears have forged their reputation. Thankfully these guitar driven lulls soon ascended into serenity, as the bands softer, more melodic side came to the surface. Drifting hazily like a 90's Radiohead, it was a stunning and unexpected inclusion that should be more prominent in the future. All in all, it was a tight performance from the Lisburn lads, who never once allowed their dedication to fall below the empowered standards that have won them many admirers to date.

Then came the time for the shows headliner, the refreshingly ambiguous Uncle Social. A band that have shunned the perpetual stereotypes of social networking and instead concentrated on the craft of quality song writing and effortless frontmanship. What's immediate about Uncle Social is that they have a massive sound, jangling guitar riffs and note perfect bass riffs resonating around the tiny venue, giving the audience the opportunity to once again indulge in the energy of a local band in top form. What makes them stand out, however, is there relative calm in the tempest of enthusiasm which surrounds them, they manage to radiate a quiet confidence that cannot be mistaken for ambivalence. It's as engaging as the acts which preceded them, with a minimalist approach that is many ways the antithesis of the venue itself, and yet it worked brilliantly.  Donal Scullion's strong vocal delivery is emotive, yet strikingly raw as the band got the audience jumping with their Biffy Clyro tinged rock. In an atmospheric set, Uncle Social managed to keep the fast paced tempo's momentum going without ever compromising their principles. Finding the perfect balance between languid relaxation and energy, Uncle Social proved a worthy headline act to a show filled with passion, anger and, at times, absolute madness.

Taylor Johnson

Click on the band name below to keep up to date with all their official news/releases.

Bunny & The Banned Its
The Runaway Bears
Uncle Social

rapid review ~ yes cadets ~

by 16:33
The 'Le Mans' EP is out now on Humming Records...
Name; Yes Cadets
Genre; 'Maximist Heartbreak Pop'
Influences/ Comparisons? ~ Vampire Weekend, Peace, Jaws

Riding on the crest of the distinctive 'B-Town' wave comes Northern Ireland's answer to chart topping elctro-pop outfit Vampire Weekend, the refreshingly joyous sounds and bright overtones of Yes Cadets. Having plied their trade in the underground indie circuits of Europe (gaining particular popularity in Germany), the Belfast three piece have finally got into the studio to record their debut major label release, the highly anticipated 'Le Mans' EP. Filled with the kind of sparkling, pristine pop that has had a resurgent comeback in recent times, the bands melodic rhythms and upbeat soundscapes takes the bittersweet riffs of a Graceland era Paul Simon and bring it into the 21st century. Lisa Mageean's uptempo and impeccably tight drumming adds an extra dimension to the bands breezy, engaging sound, while adding a touch of class through her infectious enthusiasm and grace behind the drumkit. Her backing vocals in tracks such as the vibrant 'Seconds In A Minute' is a perfect compliment to frontman Alan Haslam's fast paced and emotive vocal delivery. In an ever growing back catalouge, songs such as the EP's title track show a darker edge to a band determined not to simply blend into the background of a movement defined by high tempo, riff based tales of teenage heartache and halcyon daydreams. Somehow, particularly in the 'Le Mans' title track, Yes Cadets have been able to capture the serene and delicate atmosphere of albums like Ben Howards 'Every Kingdom' and add to that the indie, electric guitar based drive that could see in the start of a new movement in Belfast.

Could B-Towns UK wide assault on modern music about to hit Belfast? If this enthralling indie-pop trio is anything to go by, the answer is a resounding Yes (cadets).

To sum up? Yes Cadets are what you imagine 'Noah and the Whale' would sound like with electric guitars and a greater sense of purpose.

Taylor Johnson

Listen to Yes Cadets latest releases here & keep up to date with all Yes Cadets official news here.

ep review ~ the project sound ~ 'nude street'

by 12:38

Gently brimming underneath the surface of Belfast's bustling music scene is a young band with big potential and an even bigger sound. Formed as purely a Summer project two years ago by producer Andy Christie, guitarist Alastair Greyson and rapper Gershom Kaoma, 'The Project Sound' quickly established themselves as an exciting and vibrant three piece, pioneering the countries growing alternative hip-hop movement which has developed over recent years. Known for their passionate and honest lyricism, as well as their catchy hooks and rhythmic melodies, The Project Sound are very much at the forefront of a revolution waiting to happen, but much like short lived London outfit WU LYF they prefer to remain out of the spotlight, letting their dynamic soundscape and honest prose do the talking for them. Taylor Johnson had a listen to their latest EP...

The Project Sound are a band known for their commitment to originality and their strong mentalities, so it's no surprise to learn that their latest EP. 'Nude Street', comes straight out of the ingenious 'concept album' bracket. Based around a fictional utopia, where humanity can live without fear of judgement  and in perfect harmony, 'Nude Street' is the basis from which this EP is allowed to flourish.

Kicking off proceedings is the smooth, synthesized intro of 'Colour', a track that glides into life with the most upbeat and rhythmic saxophone solo's that sets the pace of this dancey opener. Kaoma's confident, yet expressive tone flows beautifully over the vivacious melody as the drums gradually begin to drive on the pace of the song, adding more purpose to each expertly linked lyric. As the verses fade into it's instrumental interlude, the songs engaging melody is given the freedom it needs to really enthrall, reaching heights that lead you to imagine thousands of festival goers dancing along in the Summer sun. It then leads to it's wonderfully haunting middle eighth, that see's Alastair Greyson's echoed vocals fall delicately over a soothing piano structure. The true nature at the heart of the songs meaning is then laid bare as Greyson croons; 'I'm screaming words in black and white, show me your light and that's enough', a plea to society to stop chasing the validation of others and instead to simply embrace who you are. Kaoma's fine rapping ability is invigorated for the second verse, with the first line particularly, 'Fighting for equality to be just who they wanna be'  incredibly empowering. The song fades out as melodically as it began, the breezy, dance elements retained until the final note.

This paves the way for the second track, the mesmerising rhythms of L.A.E (Love Addictive Ecstasy). Opening with a hypnotic and perpetual piano riff, L.A.E draws you in from the off. Again, creatively utilising a saxophone for an added counter melody, the song is driven forward by Kaoma's slick and measured vocal delivery. Christie's brilliant use of dramatic synths add to the pulsating atmosphere, as the song heads towards it's powerful and captivating bass drop. The line; 'You know it's ecstasy when you hear the project sound' adding an anthemic quality to a song that sets out to inspire as much as it sets out entertain. The songs unique jazz elements, fuse seamlessly with their distinctly hip hop routes, a rare and exciting combination that has rarely been fully embraced in such an audacious manner. You imagine that in any other format, it may not quite work. Yet, with The Project Sound, it is this unusual collaboration of three very different musicians that is the key to their success. With the title track reportedly still in production, this is an EP that still has more to offer, but with The Project Sounds strong message of self acceptance and self belief, you feel that these two tracks alone will continue to capture the public's attention in the meantime.

Review by Taylor Johnson

Listen to the 'Nude Street' EP on the bands Soundcloud here and keep up to date with all of the bands latest news here.

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