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Aika: CD Review by Andreas Farmakalidis

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Meet Andreas Farmakalidis –

“Aika… The purpose of Music is to give us a completely different idea of the things we know best.”

A single piano with the backing of strings gives way to one of the most electrifying voices of the current Californian as well as Japanese music scene, singing words of pain, self-knowledge as well as strength. The words work their way to a climax accented by thriving harmonic progressions as well as strong rhythm section, which gently fades away again, leaving the listener in stunned silence from the beauty of the moment, as well as the memories that will be awaken. This is “You told me you loved me”, the first track of aika’s (Aika Hirahara) self titled limited edition single.

“You told me you loved me” originated out of aika’s desire to record a song about relationships. She asked collaborator Nicolas Farmakalidis (NeilaProductions) to help out and the outcome is a tribute to the pair’s symbiotic teamwork. The final touch, was made by Grammy award winning mix engineer Dave Reitzas who gave the song depth that shares similar distinctiveness as the famous “I will always love you” by Whitney Houston, which is also mixed by him.

“You told me you loved me” is the type of big production that does not always fit easily into the typical pop radio play list, however the song is already taking off some airplay in most of the local radio stations and college radios around the country as well as various public and commercial Japanese radio stations. It is a song that is very likely to generate significant listener requests. Don’t be surprised if “You told me you loved me” is near the type of the pop singles chart by the early spring of 2011!

Aika is telling us a story about personal struggles in the second track of the single titled “Sinking – Caress Me”. Here, producer Nicolas Farmakalidis created an admirable stab of a unique retro 40’s circus atmosphere. Despite the fun and engaging feeling that this exceptional track creates, the background vocals and the brilliant use of strings produce certain unhappiness and a feeling of desolation. The producers explained that this song is trying to describe social isolation in the modern society. Nicolas specifically said that “Every true artist- whether it be Mozart, Bob Dylan or El Greco- it doesn’t matter what they do or how they do it. Important is that they understand the human condition better than anyone else. ”

Aika described this work with an Oscar Wilde quote “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts – and we are never, ever the same.”

For more information about aika and her upcoming tour dates, as well as the album release be sure to check them at:

www.myspace.com/aikahirahara
www.aikahirahara.com
www.neilaproductions.com

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New Album: Killing Bees, Racing Towards Ruin

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New Album: Killing Bees, Racing Towards Ruin

Killing Bees Racing Towards Ruin out May 10th via Tonequake Records.

There are some records where the first note grabs you and doesn’t let go. Before the first lyric is sung, Killing Bees pull you into Racing Towards Ruins via the sheer power of TONES, MAN, TONES. Brown-note bass reverberations and gut-punch kickdrum snap the listener out of daily reverie instantaneously. Together, bassist/vocalist Nic Nifoussi and drummer Ray Mehlbaum (both of Automatic 7) and producer Andrew Scheps (Mars Volta, Audioslave, Adele) have crafted a piece of art that fuses low-rock minimalism, post-hardcore aggression, and SoCal throttle rock urgency into, well, a real ass-kicker. 

The bones of Killing Bees began their calcification when Nifoussi started a high school punk band called Automatic 7. They signed to BYO Records upon graduation and soon found themselves in need of a new drummer. Enter Ray Mehlbaum. Tours with Bad Religion, Social Distortion, Face 2 Face, Bouncing Souls, Suicide Machines, Unwritten Law, Youth Brigade, DOA, and others followed, as well as a deal with A&M Records. A&M got bought by Universal, the band moved to Vagrant Records, cut a new record, toured, then broke up. 

“Eventually, Ray and I decided to start a two-piece band” explains Nifoussi. “I was trying out a new sound using 2 amps and an A-B switch. Overdrive through one amp and playing a lot of chords to get a guitar-like sound. After years of playing together, we were already tight and used to writing together. The songs came quickly and easily.”

Via Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion, the band had come to know Grammy-winning producer and engineer Andrew Scheps. Though originally recommended as a producer for Automatic 7, when the band played him the Killing Bees songs, he loved the concept and the trio got to work on their self-titled debut. Following the record’s release on Guano Loco/Loose Fang Records, “we played a bunch of shows and eventually started writing the new record in our North Hollywood lockout” says Nifoussi.

Recorded once again at Scheps’ studio, drums and bass were recorded live, the only overdubs being vocals and some bass and accordion textures (Nifoussi is an accomplished accordionist). “We tracked the two together over 4 or 5 days and everything you hear was played live by talented humans, not put together after the fact.  I think that live energy is what makes the record so compelling!” says Scheps. “Andrew wanted to challenge us. We came in wired towards traditional songwriting – he wasn’t interested in that” explains Mehlbaum. “He encouraged us to think about instrumental bits that would drive the tune, as opposed to the sing-along chorus of a traditional song. As a drummer, he kicked my ass. I remember him saying “we’re gonna turn the click off. I want you to go completely ‘out of time’ then come back in.” That’s some crazy shit! But I fucking loved it.”

Thematically, the record deals with the dangers of love and politics in equal measure. As Nifoussi puts it, “if there’s a takeaway, it’s to be careful with who you love… and vote into government.” So, Racing Towards Ruin. A concise, compelling listen, arresting at first blush, and deeply moving upon completion. A modern rock record (not a modern-rock record), unrelentingly heavy and sonically immaculate. And loud. Super loud.  

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New Album: Lucy Clifford, Meeting Place

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New Album: Lucy Clifford, Meeting Place

Bassist and composer Lucy Clifford has announced the release of her new EP ‘Meeting Place’.

This live studio recording was captured at Golden Retriever Studios in Sydney, and features Australian guitarist Felix Lalanne and Swiss drummer Jessie Cox. 

As a bassist who has dedicated many years to accompanying artists of different kinds, Lucy shares some of her own music in a kaleidoscope of sounds and influences that have shaped her creative identity. The trio explores Lucy’s compositions, which weave between both energy and repose, lyrical soundscapes colliding with dynamic grooves that are sure to occupy your mind. This 4 song EP is presented as an uninterrupted musical odyssey and serves as a dedication to the places and people that hold a profound ability to anchor us in the present moment, our meeting places. 

For Lucy, this meeting place created with Felix and Jessie is a “celebration of collaborative spirit and the immersive spatial movements of sound. In an era where connections are more crucial than ever, this music emerged while reflecting on the many borders, barriers, and structures that currently hold back human connection and communal bonds. We need reminding to rediscover our meeting places, that bring us the love, comfort, truth, and creativity we so urgently need.” 

‘Meeting Place’ will be out April 5th on digital platforms, along with the live studio performance for viewing on Youtube.

Visit online at www.lucycliffordmusic.com

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New Album: Christian de Mesones, You Only Live Twice

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New Album: Christian de Mesones, You Only Live Twice

Christian de Mesones, You Only Live Twice…

Reborn, Reimagined and Remixed: Jazz funk bassist Christian de Mesones returns with “You Only Live Twice,” a new album dropping April 12 that contains the Billboard No. 1 hit “Hispanica” featuring keyboard legend Bob James.

A lifetime ago, Christian de Mesones was a New York City cabbie and heavy metal bassist who had a voracious appetite for the seedy decadence the Big Apple’s music scene was known for in the 1980s. Determined to change his life, de Mesones did a complete one-eighty, got clean and changed his musical muse to jazz funk. Dedicating his “second life” to pursuing his newfound passion for contemporary jazz and deep soul grooves spiced with Latin rhythms, de Mesones will release his second album, “You Only Live Twice,” on April 12 on the That 555 Lyfe label. Christopher Valentine produced nine of the album’s ten tracks, all but one of which are original songs written or cowritten by de Mesones.

de Mesones’s turnaround began decades ago, but it wasn’t until March of 2020 that he finally assembled his solo debut album, “They Call Me Big New York,” just as Covid-19 put the world on lockdown. Three singles from the set, “Big Tall Wish,” “Spirit” and “Latin Jive Redux,” landed on three national charts. However, pandemic restrictions limited de Mesones’s opportunities to promote the project and grow his brand.

A year later, de Mesones released a sultry Latin-tinged cut titled “Hispanica.” A British DJ sent the song to two-time Grammy-winning keyboardist Bob James, who agreed to play piano on the track. The single went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart, de Mesones’s first.

“I have always believed in the power of composition. One song can change the world. In my case, one of my own compositions forever changed mine. Before releasing ‘Hispanica’ as a single, I felt it was my strongest composition to date. It was featured on my previous album as a vocal track, and on the advice of my radio promoter, it was reimagined as an instrumental. I immediately knew I wanted a piano for the melody. Having the legendary Bob James play on it was a fairytale come true. It has become one of the most meaningful experiences of my career,” said de Mesones.

de Mesones dropped the follow-up single, “In His Vision,” in 2022. He wrote the rousing tune on which his bass takes on lyrically expressive qualities and gets a boost from saxophonist Eddie Baccus Jr.’s impassioned play.

“This song written for and inspired by my father-in-law was a challenge for me. I wanted to play the melody and do it justice. It had to have that Wayman Tisdale vibe, so last minute before the recording, I changed to piccolo gauge strings, giving me the sound I envisioned. Eddie Baccus Jr.’s sax put the song over the top, giving it exactly what I thought it needed,” explained de Mesones.

A movie buff, de Mesones is a big James Bond fan and the secret agent’s presence is felt twice on the album, including on the title track, which was released as a single last year. The production and arrangements are sprawling on the track “You Only Live Twice,” layered with majestic horn section parts and a dreamy vocal chorus.

“The album’s title track holds multiple meanings for me. Putting aside my love for the classic James Bond film with this title, it perfectly represents my second album release as a solo artist as well as the album artwork featuring my custom double neck bass. This song was composed many years ago and has come to fruition at a time when I have found true love and real purpose in my life. I believe in second chances, and love is definitely sweeter the second time around,” said de Mesones who is married to his producer’s sister, Jennifer Valentine.

A fourth single prefaced the album with the release of “Don Pedro” last year. Written in memory of his late father, the contemplative ballad is as beautiful as it is emotional. Two-time Grammy-winning vocalist David Blamires provides a haunting wordless caress throughout the track led by Jaared Arosemena’s soprano sax.

“My personal favorite track on the album captures the essence of my father who was a larger-than-life figure to me when I was a child. As I grew older, we had our difficulties, as many sons and fathers do, but I was blessed to be able to mend our relationship in his later years. Through the completion and release of this song, which I toiled over for years, I found a way to keep his spirit alive and with me everywhere I go,” de Mesones shared.

For the other Bond-connected song on the album, de Mesones reinterprets five-time Academy Award winner John Barry’s “Capsule In Space,” setting it to a funky Latin modern-day groove. Michael “Arch” Thompson’s spiraling flute work adds a floating sensation.

“I love the orchestration and composing skills of John Barry and loved using this music to accompany the visuals for my live shows. This song is a bit sentimental, too, as it conjures memories of growing up in Brooklyn and my father and grandmother taking me to see James Bond movies. Creating an urban take on this masterpiece was a lot of fun,” de Mesones shared.

Other tracks on the album are the seductive jazz funk prowl of “Sexy Beast”; the mighty five-bass attack “Throb!” on which de Mesones formed a brotherhood of bassists with Bill DickensBrendan RothwellAndrew Gouche and Vail Johnson on this revamped track that originally appeared on his debut disc; “Arrival,” an exciting, exuberant and explosive space jam that de Mesones plans to use to open his concerts; the sensual “Stay,” an R&B single illumined by Nes Powers’s distinctive voice; and “Sweetnight,” which de Mesones converted from a vocal tune into an instrumental.

“‘Sweetnight’ went through more changes than any other song in my entire repertoire. This instrumental version represents what I hear when I close my eyes and imagine a world where love rules all things,” de Mesones described.

Brooklyn-born and bred, de Mesones relocated to a sleepy town in Virginia as he rebuilt his life. He made his concert debut at the Capital Jazz Festival near Washington, DC in 2006 and has persevered ever since to get to the next level. “You Only Live Twice” is a big album on multiple levels. Valentine’s elaborate production and crafty arrangements give the project a grand sound design. de Mesones’s rubbery basslines, dynamic rhythms and equanimity when it comes to sharing the spotlight with an accomplished collective of first-call musicians in service to the song has equipped him with a next-level album meriting a major breakthrough.

“After my days of living a lifestyle of excess, now being surrounded by such loving, supportive friends, family, and fans feels like a rebirth. And my life is so much sweeter the second time around. From sex, drugs, and rock and roll to smooth grooves and funky Latin soul, my feet are now on solid ground. And I’m here to tell you, it’s true: your best life is not in the rear-view mirror.”

de Mesones’s “You Only Live Twice” album contains the following songs:

“You Only Live Twice”
“Sexy Beast” with Bill McGee and Rob Maletick
“Throb!” (Bass Godz Remix) featuring Bill Dickens, Brendan Rothwell, Andrew Gouche and Vail Johnson
“Arrival”
“Stay” (Big New York Remix) featuring Nes Powers
“Sweetnight”
“Capsule In Space”
“In His Vision” featuring Eddie Baccus Jr.
“Hispanica” featuring Bob James
“Don Pedro” featuring Jaared Arosemena

For more information, please visit bignybassworld.com.

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Album Review: Brian Bromberg, LaFaro

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Album Review: Brian Bromberg, LaFaro

Brian Bromberg, LaFaro…

Scott LaFaro was an extraordinary upright bass player who we lost in 1961 at the age of 25. Even though he was a young bassist he worked with the Bill Evans Trio from 1959 to 1961; he was an exceptional musician and his bass work was lightyears ahead of his time.

Brian Bromberg has teamed up with pianist Tom Zink and drummer Charles Ruggiero to produce a tribute album to this legendary player. We are treated to a dozen tracks (with three bonus tracks on the digital platforms) that were Bill Evans Trio standards. While the original band’s work inspired Brian, this tribute album is not an attempt by the musicians to replicate the music but to organically express themselves on these tunes. When you listen, you may note that it doesn’t sound like LaFaro and it isn’t supposed to.

As I have noted on many of Brian’s previous albums, the bass work (all upright here) is extraordinary and he knows how to get a crystal-clear sound. Every note is pristine and balanced perfectly with the piano and drums. Brian’s approach to recording upright bass should be the golden standard for all upright players. He also handpicked the other members of this trio and they are excellent musicians who really deliver the goods.

If you would like more insight into this album, I can share that in my cover interview with Brian, coming soon.

The projected album release date is April 5, 2024, and will be available at www.brianbromberg.net

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New Album: Iron Axxis, 2286

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New Album: Iron Axxis, 2286

Iron Axxis, 2286…

New York’s metal scene is growing and mighty, and bringing the genre to new heights is instrumental metal band Iron Axxis.

Iron Axxis is gearing up for the release of their forthcoming album 2286. Due out March 29, 2024, the album highlights the band’s unique progressive, guitar-driven songwriting. “The sound is closer to Dream Theater than Van Halen, but there are some neat tips of the hat to Eddie, with some playful bends and whammy bar horse whinnies, while the track also crosses into Vai-esque meditative phrases and Holdsworthian scalic runs.” (GuitarWorld)

The band states, “‘‘2286’ is our first full-length album release. The album blends the high-risk Influences of the ‘guitar & bass guitar virtuosos’ of yesteryear and looks into the future by incorporating modern metal.. for a futuristic take on ‘guitar music. The listener will hear that ‘2286’ runs deep with their favorite metal influences with badass heavy riffage, thundering bass lines, and monstrous drum grooves, all while exploring metal through a wide cinematic lens, which ultimately takes it up a notch to an untamed guitar universe. “

Iron Axxis was forged from a friendship between Anupam Shobhakar and Phil Duke, two metal heads. They have worked together on previous recording studio projects and were in Book of Harmony, which was signed to Sony affiliates. Hailing from Brooklyn, they began to develop Iron Axxis at their studio in 2022.

Visit online at ironaxxis.live

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