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.
𝙔𝙤𝙪 𝙋𝙧𝙤𝙤𝙛 - 𝙋𝙖𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙠 𝘼𝙝𝙡𝙢
Charles dons his helmet…
Among episodes of Cheers, House and Malcolm in the Middle, I have recently been watching a BBC documentary series called Simon Reeve’s South America. In as few as 5 episodes, Reeve covers everything from the beauty to the chaos of the entire continent of South America. We started atop a tepui (pronounced correctly) in Guyana. Its footage was truly staggering, it barely looked real. It was a breathtaking experience even on the smallest of screens. But as with most things these days, the plot didn’t stay picturesque for long. We were taken slightly further East and South, where rainforests had been ripped apart due to the greed of man. The hunt for gold. Mining is both for the rich and for the poor. For the rich, to get richer. For the poor, out of sheer hope and desperation. But it was only after episode 3 (my journey thus far), that I realised the extent of the mess in South America, and more specifically, Bolivia. Cocaine is the problem. Well, really, corrupt embezzling government not governing, is the problem. It showed us an elderly female poverty-stricken farmer having to strip 28 kilos of coca leaves with her bare hands in the burning sun to make a total of around £3.50. I’m not going to bother translating into other currencies, because you know this is not much. In fact, it is around half the price of a pint in London. There is nothing more these farmers can do in the burning sun, and so they are forced to feed the ongoing worldwide drug problem. Cocaine and gold fund most of the continent - not the best national strategy. The worst point though was in the highest inhabited town in the world. So high that altitude sickness is common. Ungoverned La Rinconada has raw sewage spilling across mud "roads". It has sprung up in recent decades with people’s desperate hope of finding golden nuggets. A truly inhospitable, extremely dangerous place, as it snows ferociously with strong winds, still people keep digging and breaking rocks. You can see in their eyes that they know they will never find anything. Or anything that will make a difference. It was as if watching a soul wither and die inside a wandering corpse, wasting energy on nothing but cold toil and hot tears. I was left quiet, sickened and saddened. Did I therefore start an immediate protest stream on Twitter? No, because that is not what I do. Because it has little point other than creating awareness. It does not help anything. It would only make others feel miserable. Besides, who would listen to ME? So what did I do? I thought. And I felt. And I realised how damned spoilt we all are in the modern western world.
We complain, we moan, we protest, we shout, we scream, we get offended, we say “this is appalling”. We say “something must be done about this”. But about WHAT?? That the tube trains are running a little late? That our broadband internet is slightly slower than the national average? That the roads are in a terrible state? At least we have roads!! That someone said something they shouldn’t have, and it hurt your feelings…? Well boo-hoo you. We are spoilt. Look at these “farmers”. They are basically slaves. Look at Ukraine. They are at war! I am sure no one there is complaining that their tomatoes are not quite as red as they should be. We have astounding medicine to treat the tiniest of ailments (and the worst). We have everything. Which is great! But it really does sometimes feel too much when we see the other side of the coin. You know, the one we don’t like to look at because it’s all rusty and mouldy instead of gleaming. It all made me realise how much we fuss over things. It made me think of Health and Safety.
In Europe (and I’m sure many other parts of the world, such as the U.S.), safety is key. It is paramount. We are cocooned in our bubble. Sure, the military will have their armoured tanks and obligatory helmets - stands to reason! But what about your average Joe? They almost want us walking around in elbow and knee pads, for fear that should we be stupid enough to fall over and hurt ourselves on the pavement (sidewalk), we might sue the state. Or because they care… Pahahaha!! How about cancelling an outdoor event because someone might slip up on a wet leaf? It happens, regularly. Both the slipping up and the cancelling. But we are safe. Safer than safe can be. So, as I hold on to the handrail (so as not to fall an entire 3 inches to the ground), something grabs me by the groin guard and makes me wonder what one is NOT impervious to. I feel these days as though we are completely and utterly invincible! Let me go back to my bomb shelter for a bit of me-time and space to think.
Ah. Oh! Oh dear. I think I have it. Bloody relationships. They come. They go. But we are not robots. When the other half of the relationship leaves, do we just move on? Do we not pine for that half to come back and make the whole that once was? You may have taken them for granted when they were around, but now they’re gone, do you find yourself yearning for them? Realising their extreme attraction? Missing the good times? It’s a hell of a devil, not to mention a pickle. It amazes me how a person so resilient to almost anything thrown at them these days can be so vulnerable to something so simple and "quaint" as the elements of love. In the past, I could only ever get over the passing of a relationship with the birth of another. And until that shiny new relationship comes (as it always eventually somehow does), I have always found myself in the deepest, darkest depression of longing for the one that has gone. Or how’s about if I were the one who ended it? Do I buckle and come running back? Maybe. But that’s not the point. No matter how safe we are in life these days, we are vulnerable to a recent past-love. Despite the power of love and attraction (not to mention memories of good times), sometimes we’ve just got to be brave and let go. But but but… NO BUTS!
One such person strong enough to say no, is Sweden's own Patrik Ahlm. Clad in bulletproof vest, steel-toe capped boots and shatter-resistant goggles, Patrik is ready for anything. And this man ain’t slippin’ up for nobody, wet leaves or no wet leaves! Having been a member of the New Artist Spotlight for less than 3 months, he has already achieved praise from fellow artists and even bagged a spot on the famed NAS Top 20. Considering the NAS now has a record-breaking 800 members, this is quite a feat! I am ashamed to say that it was not long before this accomplishment that I first heard his music. And BOY, had I been missing out! In little over a year and a half Patrik has released a whopping 16 singles. Few could boast this figure anyway, but considering the sheer quality and standard of each of them, I feel as though my months of mining have paid off, and I really have found the hen that lays the golden eggs. In fact, I have no idea why it has taken me so long to review the lad. Probably because of all the other tremendous talent on the NAS. You see? Always spoilt. Perhaps contentiously, I have not chosen to speak about his latest single, but simply my current personal favourite (at least until another of his takes its place).
I was immediately interested when I noticed the title. Weirdly, that was what made me press play and listen. You Proof. Fabulously intriguing, no? And with a title like that, I intended to do what I never do for the first few listens, and listen to the words. This didn’t go to plan however. The music sucked me in! From its initial bass rip (literally like distorted bass being ripped from the manuscript), it is pure seduction. Professionals manage such subtlety and originality in their arrangements. Patrik is one such pro. The production is sparse but deep. It is rich yet stripped of its belongings, like a man of class with no money. A soft yet compelling bass arpeggiator runs throughout to give it undulating movement and life. In fact, there might be around 6 layers of bass in this track, but never does it feel even slightly bloated or overblown. Quite the opposite, in fact. It lends space for the vocals. His gorgeous vocals, full of understated strength. The vocals at first might seem like one track, but again there are multiple tracks to give this impressive, immersive effect. Proof that production and mixing is not easy and not obvious, yet Patrik evidently knows what he’s doing. What about the beat? Wot’s dem drums doin’, eh? The same as the bass: being subtly brilliant! You see, if you lean back a bit at first, you can give more impact later on. It’s called dynamics.
Okay, Okay, but what about the words, then? You mentioned the words… Ah, well, this is the thing. If the words had been mediocre and usual, I would still probably have reviewed this song, because the music is that good. But for me it is the words that make this song so special. To come back to my little story, Patrik’s chorus is “I’m blast proof, I’m bullet proof, I’m You Proof”. Says it all! I told you he wasn’t having any of it. Sometimes ya gotta say no. But it isn’t just this clever idea he had for the chorus. The words throughout are simple, yet so “on point”. No matter how many times I hear them and even read them, I am blown away. It reads like conversational poetry, with rhymes that feel almost coincidental. It is natural. The whole thing is natural. Nothing is forced. Nothing is cheap. It is flawless. Patrik’s music is like the kind of thing you’re happy to pay top whack for. Because if you pay the most, you generally get the best quality. Luckily for us (and unluckily for him), it’s all free, like the rest of the 100 million songs (not an exaggeration) in the world. Oh music industry: what happened?? When you inevitably hear You Proof, do pay special attention to the words as well as the music. It really takes me away. Patrik Ahlm has the forever quality of Seal at his finest. Or, my personal “Seal of approval”, if you wish. I am tingly, jealous, and in awe. Keep your Ahlms close to you at all times and you’ll be safe.
And remember, kids: always use protection.
Listen to 𝙔𝙤𝙪 𝙋𝙧𝙤𝙤𝙛 on the 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿 Spotify playlist HERE!
Listen to 𝙔𝙤𝙪 𝙋𝙧𝙤𝙤𝙛 on the 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿 Apple Music playlist HERE!
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