After AllBillie Ray Martin has been very busy of late and finally the fruits of her musical labour are beginning to materialise. A forthcoming duet with Hercules and Love Affair resident Aerea Negrot and a new Jon Tiven-produced country and soul album are pencilled in for some time later this year as well as a re-release of her back catalogue including, perhaps, the mythical follow-up to 1990’s ‘Electribal Memories’. Preceding all of these though, is this intriguing and deeply satisfying cover version of an early seventies David Bowie album-track, “After All”.

A quintessential Billie Ray Martin track in many ways, this new single does hark back to a sound that can be equated to Martin’s old band Electribe 101. A constantly evolving and innovative artist, it is unusual to hear the star reference her own sound in this way and that’s not to say that this is in any way a nostalgic or indulgent recording; it is in fact one of her most vibrant and possessed for some time. Haunting and lusty vocals that are very high in the mix and sound as though they are being whispered directly into your ear, pitched backing vocals that sound likes crazed infants (and true to Bowie’s original in that respect) all set to a throbbing bass-line that was first established in the late eighties. It’s a little freaky and you can dance to it, a perfect combination and Martin has never sounded better – a truly virtuoso performer.

With remixes by Miijk Van Dijk and Caesar Gergess (Van Dijk gets my vote with its hyperactive disco cowbell), there is something to please everyone here. However the original can’t be beaten and this is much more than just a stop gap between other releases. One of the best things I’ve heard this year, Billie Ray Martin continues to shine.

As a special treat, here’s a link to the video as well:

Enjoy.

So, how was 2013 for you?  The Riot Squad have had a brilliant year bringing you the best in contemporary music wherever we find it.  Allan, John, Klare and Louie have reviewed some exceptional live and recorded music throughout the year and we all thank you for reading our reviews and looking at our photos.  We couldn’t resist this opportunity to remind you of some of the artists we reviewed for the first time in 2013.

We saw live performances by the Emile Gerber Band (which became Stoneface Travellers), Henrik Freischlader, Josephine, Marcus Bonfanti (solo and with his band), The Kennedys, Federal Charm (twice), Black Casino & The Ghost, Coco and the Butterfields (several times), The Dirt Tracks, Carrie Rodriguez, Aynsley Lister, Civil Protection, Wheatus, Dean Owens and Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion.  Quite a selection, really.

We reviewed albums and singles by Henrik Freischlader, Marcus Bonfanti, Sally Shapiro, Tomorrow’s World, Black Casino & The Ghost, Jimmy Livingstone, Austra, Tess of the Circle, Aynsley Lister, The Nyco Project, The Dirt Tracks, Nadine Shah, Sullivn,  Radio (in my) Head, Tal National, Layla Zoe, Kinver, Au Revoir Simone, DENA, Hartebeest, Polly Scattergood, Glasser, Annie, Emika and John Grant and probably a few others as well.  Along the way we had some great fun and met some lovely people; you all know who you are, and we’re hoping to meet most of you again this year.

Looking forward to 2014, we’re hoping for more of the same.  The review copies are already coming in and it’s starting to look pretty good already.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some of our predictions for 2014 from the Riot Squad and possibly from a few guest contributors as well.  And, while we’re on the subject of guest contributions, many thanks to Aynsley Lister, Steve Jenner, Marcus Bonfanti and Billie Ray Martin for their contributions to our High Fives feature last year.

For the second consecutive year, Billie Ray Martin makes a contribution to our High Fives feature.  We’ve been looking forward to this one because the 2012 selection featured some great songs and artists which were new to us at MusicRiot.  We weren’t disappointed.  Please take a bit of time to check out the links; it’s worth it.

Visions of the CountryRobbie Basho -- “Blue Crystal Fire”

Robbie Basho’s tenth album “Visions of the Country” (originally released in 1978) was re-released this year after being unavailable for over thirty years.  Although he’s remembered for his innovative guitar stylings and tunings and attempts to integrate western and oriental music, the standout feature on this song is the powerful counter-tenor vocal with incredible vibrato.  He died at the age of 45 in 1986.

 

Look InsideNils Bech -- “Breaking Patterns Part 2 (The Breakup)”

The first of two selections from the Norwegian performance artist Nils Bech’s 2013 “Look Inside” album, this is an intimate arrangement with a minimalist acoustic piano and beautiful sautillé strings under a close-miked vocal which deals with a relationship falling apart.  The final third of the song mirrors the break-up with a descent into atonality from the string section.

 

NinaXiu Xiu --  “Don’t Smoke In Bed”

Xiu Xiu is an American experimental indie band which has existed in various guises since 2002. This song is from the recently- released album of Nina Simone covers, “Nina”.  The arrangement is almost completely percussion-free, with rhythm supplied by a horn section and one guitar and shifts from fairly traditional horn arrangements (with the guitar taking one of the horn lines) to free-form jazz.  Singer Jamie Stewart delivers a vocal which is just this side of a deranged, creating a version which, incredibly, is more over-wrought than the original.
Look InsideNils Bech -- “A Sudden Sickness”

This follows directly on from “Breaking Patterns…” on the “Look Inside” album and is the next part of the  narrative sequence.  The song opens with acoustic piano backing before settling into an electronic percussion and keyboard arrangement underpinning the lyrical theme of the inevitable jealousy towards an ex-partner who has moved on; it actually has a feel of the Abba song “One of Us”.  Both are standout songs, but you really should listen to the entire album.

Garden of ProblemsPoisonous Relationship -- “Men’s Feelings”

This is a contemporary track which takes its influences from the early ‘90s when house started to incorporate breakbeats into the 303 and 808 backing tracks.  It has a feel of Jamie Principle and, towards the end, a hint of the jazz-funk of NuYorican Soul.  It’s the lead track from the androgynous Sheffield artist Jamie Crewe’s “Garden of Problems” EP and it’s hypnotic and gorgeous.