Welcome all to 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿, a series of weekly reviews by Charles Connolly - an artist in his own right. Here, Charles delves into the greatest brand new singles brought to you by the best unsigned artists on our electrifying and eclectic set of 𝙉𝙚𝙬 𝘼𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙎𝙥𝙤𝙩𝙡𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 playlists.
Charles pulls the plug in order to…
Progress, is a noun that has a sense of the positive. It suggests “onward and upward”. Progress, is a word that has been bandied about for decades. Maybe even centuries. It was a buzz word long before “diversity”, “pro-active”, “woke”, and indeed “buzz word”. In this sense, we progress, right? We get better, no? Well, I feel the word’s meaning is usually more legend than reality. An illusion. I feel that “progress” is more a synonym for “change”. Supposedly, progress is for the better, but so often it doesn’t quite feel like this. Change, makes it rather more difficult to compare the old with the new, because it is simply different. So our moral-driven minds assume that change must be a good thing and that therefore “change” must be progress, right? Well, sometimes. But more often than not, it is not.
Let us briefly look at old architecture, say, from the 18th and 19th century. Beautiful, isn’t it. Makes you smile. Makes you feel at peace and at ease. Makes you feel grounded. It even manages to make you feel safe. Now let’s look at any architecture built in the last 70 years. It started with hideous, lowering, grey concrete, stacked in blocks. Now, we have “progressed” to glass and steel in random shapes for no apparent reason. Does any of it make you feel good? Grounded? At ease? Safe? No. Not in the slightest. It looms large, blocking the natural sunlight, as if to say “I own your soul, and there ain’t nothin’ you can do about it”. Not exactly a calming feeling. People rarely talk about this, but the architecture around you will undoubtedly affect your soul and your general mood. If ugliness surrounds you, you too might have an ugly, brutish soul. Your softness, kindness and balance will be stripped to match the raw “purpose-built” quality of the buildings, as WE become simply “purpose-built”. People used to question the meaning of life. These days the answer seems to be, “get it done” or “get it over with”. Like soulless machines, we do what we have been programmed to do. There is little beauty to remind us that we are indeed still human.
And then there is one of the biggest things on people’s minds and lips these days: Climate Change. The word “progress” was also long before anything to do with climate change. Or correction, long before we knew anything about climate change. A little like how we used to think smoking was good for the throat - always made me chuckle. Through “progress”, we have somehow managed to get ourselves into this mess. So we need to get ourselves out, right? Well, yes. Says the little man. But the little man, can do little. Use less water, re-use this, recycle that, eat less cow. But this is all too small. We need BIG change. Actual genuine PROGRESS. Something that COP27 is all - supposedly - about. We don’t give names to things anymore, just codes and numbers. Did you know it stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’? I didn’t. And why 27? It’s the 27th year of said thang. But it is only in recent years that it has managed to receive such worldwide press. Because, Sir David Attenborough. One of the few old men that young people actually listen to. He and our new King have been talking about climate since the 80s, but people either didn’t listen, or laughed at them. This year it is being held in Egypt. The new Prime Minister here in Britain will not be attending. Oh no, wait. He might be. Okay, so he may or may not attend - Britain at the moment is seemingly not very good at making decisions. The point is, this climate thang is a very serious matter. And I am not the type to go heavy on these kinds of things. I am not a flag-toting paint thrower, and neither do I glue myself to things. I really only care about love and music. But this affects me. It affects all of us. It affects the future of everything we have ever known. Including the beauty that is left, and the softness that remains in people’s souls. Wouldn’t we all like to relax a bit, and know that things are being taken care of? To be told that “everything is going to be okay”? And to BELIEVE it?? To enjoy what we still have, and to hope that it remains for future generations?
The concern is the speed. We don’t apparently have a great deal of time. Some say it is far too late. Others are rather more optimistic, but still strongly suggest we must get a move on and “get climate change done”. The problem however, is money. Money ruins all. If an oligarch, tycoon or powerful businessman is told that he will make less money (or lose money) by changing his ways, he will not change. This just in from the BBC: “BP’s quarterly profit more than double this time last year”. You see, they very much like money. And so, I don’t quite see what can change their minds. Money has never meant a great deal to me, probably because I have never really had any… Maybe I would be a very different person if my impetus in life was making money. But I am pleased I am not that person. This need in greed seems much like a drug. But having never had the opportunity to try said “drug”, I am pretty much unaffected by its lure. And so, the great acceleration has started, and is rolling fast, gathering speed as it hurtles towards oblivion. Oh what fun! Bugger.
Let’s perk you up a bit with some music, hm? We still have that. I always do try to review artists new to my Corner, but sometimes there are previous reviewees with a relatively new release that I just can’t ignore any longer. British Columbia’s Kele Fleming and Atlas to Earth had their first spot in my Corner around 5 and a bit months ago. Kele is the writer and singer, Atlas to Earth is the magician. Sorry, producer. And together, they form something special. Something that is not a permanent feature, but that I believe should be. Because the result is consistently flawless. The honesty and organic quality in Kele’s writing and singing (the beautiful Georgian architecture) somehow blends perfectly with ultra modern, synth-ridden cold new world (the glass and steel structures). It shouldn’t work, but it does. And more importantly, neither would be as good without the other. This is the audio equivalent of the great, living, breathing city that is London (although I would prefer London to be left alone in its older guise). The Great Acceleration is actually originally a song by Kele as a solo artist, and as beautiful as it is, I really do feel that Atlas to Earth makes potions from its vocals, and all we can do is drink up this remix, leaving the goblet dry. It is as though Atlas to Earth has listened to the lyrics more closely than the writer. Brett Janzen is the man behind the name, and he does anything but make mindless derivative beats. The way he makes remixes is the way I like remixes to be made. With the end result being nothing close to the original, and to have an actual purpose in existing. Otherwise what’s the point, right?
Janzen swoops in with the 80s synths, but not those cheesy ones that make you feel like you’re watching your dad dance. This is modern renovation. Like how Disco has been cool again these past few years. Imagine saying that in the 90s…! Pretty soon, Kele manages both fragility and strength in her voice. Like a slender stem of hardened glass, she urges us to sit up and care. The synths build with subtlety and respect for the vocals. But by the chorus (not the “drop”), it is as though the synths have taken over her once human soul, and her eyes are vacant. She sees no possibility in turning back, because she sees nothing but the beam of light shone directly into her eyes. As if the machine has won and humanity is in second place, for the first time since nature ruled. But then, as Kele is being lifted from the ground by an unknown force, chaos ensues below. The kick is ominous and the bass is compelling enough to look down…
CHANGE!! Very rarely do I ever hear an artist deviate from the “click”. We are forever locked on to that compulsory metronome from beginning to end. This is one of the vital problems with the modern (and often solitary) technique of making music. The easiest way to make everything fit together is to play (or click) to a metronome. To be in that rigid, wretched grid of however many beats per minute one decides in the first place. AND ALWAYS TO STICK WITH THAT until the next song. Almost NEVER do I hear people PLAY with the “click”. It doesn’t necessarily mean one would have to go back to relying on oneself for good time keeping - oh Heaven forefend! But this obligatory unchanging tempo can in fact be changed during the piece. It really is within one’s capability. Take Charlie Puth’s recent single, Light Switch, for example. It has a relentlessly fast beat throughout. But for the bar leading into the chorus (0:40), Puth slows it down almost manually, as if pushing his thumb into the tape spool as it plays, before quickly releasing it into the chorus. It lets you take a breath before the energy pops back in at full tempo. This technique is also used in the Small Faces’ Tin Soldier (1:28) - a slight delay (after the organ stabs) to HEAVE back into the beat, before Steve Marriott tells us not to ignore the little people. I don’t often declare production tips because I like to keep some things a secret (like a selfish old codger), but I just had to make you realise why you love “that” song so much. So what IS IT that Atlas to Earth manages? Over the course of 8 bars, he gradually increases the speed of the track until it is close to being out of control. The kite is beyond the clouds and the string nearly slips from his fingers… BUT! He snatches it back, just in time for the swooniest of DROPS!! One hella slow drop, that gives me everything I love about music. In fact, the producer duo, Disclosure, is one of the only acts within dance music that gives me this feeling. Atlas to Earth manages exactly this feeling. No less. This literal ooze of PHAT JUICE!! Okay, not literal. Don’t ask. These are the words that sprang to mind. But it is so totally different to Disclosure. The drop in Dua Lipa’s New Rules does a similar thing to me, but I believe this is better. I’m not normally a massive fan of “drops”, because for me, they get old. They get stale. They get copied. But again, this is different. In fact, Brett Janzen plays with tempo throughout the song, making it an incredible piece of original art. It also shows us that the machine can again work for us, rather than the other way around. What would this song be without Kele’s wondrous voice, melodies and words? It simply would not be. It would not exist. Brett listened to her lyrics and realised how to make a plasticine ball of music and words. Or maybe a biodegradable eco-friendly version of plasticine. Vegan balls!
Things are indeed accelerating greatly, so let us get our own unstoppable acceleration going, and slow it all down. Let’s move fast, before the impending drop. You see, when it is us against the machine, we can always speed it up, slow it down, or pull the plug entirely. It is within our ability to do so.
Those two old men weren’t so funny after all. Makes ya think…
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