All posts by Marshall Cullen

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The Blind Pilots release debut 3-track EP

When describing The Blind Pilots it’s easy to say the same old things about being an explosive four piece Australian Roots, Rock and Blues outfit from the Northern Beaches of Sydney. But the truth is all four members have known each other in previous successful bands, which gives them an advantage in the creative songwriting process.  The four friends share a close rapport and have a laugh together every week. They say, “There’s never a dull moment in rehearsals!” 

 The band members’ camaraderie is largely based on the fact they grew up listening to the same music and share common influences like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Van Morrison, Jimmy Hendrix, Cat Stevens, Led Zepplin and Midnight Oil.  Together they form a band making the most of dirty slide guitar, hard hitting drums, solid bass grooves, accompanied by a soulful vocal drenched in foot stompin’ harmonica riffs. “We all have an urge to push each other harder to get the best out of our muscianship and are driven to create those magic moments,” says lead guitarist and vocalist Owen.  

In a live format, the band produce an energetic show full of intense commitment, whilst still maintaining a laid back vibe.  

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The lead track of their brand new EP is called Tell Me I’m Wrong, which offers frontman Owen’s perspective on the current political landscape. Accompanying tracks are Telephone – a hard-hitting blues rock tune about breakdowns in relationships, complete with  dirty blues harp and riffing electric guitar.  The swampy southern blues rock style of Howling at the Moon fits perfectly with the lyrical lament about longing and yearning.  

 Between them, their experiences have seen them performing at festivals including Byron Blues, Woodford Folk, Festival Of Sun, Echuca Blues Festival, Mud Run, Harley Days, Throttle Roll, Sydney Blues Festival and has found them on the Australian Blues charts. With new ideas consistently being brought to the table this group will continue to make inroads in the Blues and Roots World and be one to watch.

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The Blind Pilots members are: Owen Mancell – Guitar/Vocals; Matt Hough – Drums; Ryan Stone – Harmonica; Daniel Changas – Bass/Vocals  

“Owen brings the spark, Matt is the conductor and reconstructs, Changas adds the bottom end whilst Stony waves the magic which is the icing on the cake.”

The Blind Pilots EP is out on August 30. 

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Opera Singer Michaele Archer launches new project Apsara

Apsara is an original project of classical soprano Michaele Archer, exploring a sound palate that is rich and raw. Composed with Latin text from Virgil and Roman woman poet Sulpicia, Apsara’s debut EP Galatea intertwines ancient and new sounds.

Leading the Apsara project on harmonium and vocals, Archer is joined by cellist Rachel Whealy, violist Gabrielle Laura Steele and guitarist Giuseppe Zangari.

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It been a journey bringing together the different layers for this project – Ancient Latin text, alto instruments and a vocal approach that blends opera and early music. “Once I had it the music came quickly. The songs almost wrote themselves. They came so fast in a matter of minutes recording on my phone.”

In addition to medieval vocals, ancient Latin text and deep analogue instruments, the flow of water and nature inspires Apsara. In Virgil’s Eclogue 7 there are references to Galatea, a water sprite and the name Apsara also translates as Indian water spirit.

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Michaele has performed opera, song and oratorio in Australia and internationally and has featured in several world premieres of new works by Australian composers.

“Coming from an opera background and having a larger voice type my sound has always been full on opera”. Michaele has recently been performing and studying in Los Angeles with Robin de Haas, a leading voice coach in Europe and founder of a new performance and body work method called Breathing Coordination. Going ever deeper into anatomy and the science of breathing led Michaele to a new vocal style, blending Opera into medieval straight tone.

Discovering the poetry of Roman woman poet Sulpicia struck a deep chord.  “The portrayal of women in opera is often two dimensional and I wanted to depart from that,” says Archer.  Sulpicia was a woman who lived outside the stereotypes of Ancient Roman society in terms of being unmarried, writing poetry and writing explicitly about love. The feel and sound qualities of old Latin text and stories interpreted from a female perspective form a rich layer, built with instruments from the deeper harmonic spectrum.

“I’ve got a thing for the darker sounding instruments so combining the tone of the viola with cello and alto harmonium was a perfect fit.”

Cellist Rachel Whealy has been a muse since high school. The pair met in Year 12 Music class, where Michaele fell in love with Rachel’s playing and the mellow sob of the cello. There were quite a few maths lessons skipped to play Purcell on Balmoral Island with the waves. They have been performing, writing and recording together ever since. “We’ve created some beautiful original recordings, but I kept putting them aside. I hadn’t quite cracked the feel of the sound I knew I was looking for. I wanted to move slightly left of opera with an instrumental foundation that was real and textured.”

APSARA – GALATEA is OUT TODAY August 23 and released through Foghorn/MGM. 

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Melissa Black’s Eden Project Makes Mark Overseas

Melissa Black has just wrapped a series of interviews in the US and has also scored several enthusiastic reviews for her recent EP release, The Eden Project.

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Melissa told Indie Music Discovery in the US, “I’ve had an amazing experience recording my new album with Riversong Music at The Back 45. Andy and Scott are an incredibly synergistic duo in the studio. They’re not afraid to push the envelope and the entire creative process is inspiring. I have found my authentic voice and sound.”

The Bandcamp Diaries enthused, “Fallen Angel has a cool 70s throwback sound, which reminds me of artists like Fleetwood Mac. I love Melissa’s energetic vocals and the overall cohesion of the instrumental track!”

The Red Carpet Living blog said, “In a world riddled with destruction, when something pure comes along – you feel it in every pore of your fibre. Because purity and the really good stuff – is translucent. Just like Eden. Her voice is like milk and honey on the radio waves of empty rasp, forced empowerment, and seductive allure.”

Melissa Black – The Eden Project EP is out now on Riversong. 

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Rebecca Daniel and Fiona Joy Hawkins Explore ‘The Lightness Of Dark’

REBECCA DANIEL AND FIONA JOY HAWKINS JOIN FORCES TO CREATE THE LIGHTNESS OF DARK – A POWERFUL MUSICAL EXPLORATION OF LOSS, MOURNING AND FINDING BEAUTY AMIDST LIFE’S SADNESS

Superb Classical Crossover Music, featuring award winning artists Rebecca Daniel (Violin/Voice/Piano) and Fiona Joy Hawkins (Piano/Voice) Will Be Supporting Their Cathartic and Healing New Album With A USA Fall Tour 2019.

Leonard Cohen once said, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

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Australian instrumentalists Rebecca Daniel and Fiona Joy Hawkins place this insight on the back cover of The Lightness of Dark to illuminate their creative and spiritual vision behind the project –their first dual album after many years of live and studio collaborations. The two explore the many facets of life and loss, the search for something positive in the crippling shadows and the potential beauty that can emerge from mourning and sadness.

The Lightness of Dark weaves its lush, cathartic narrative via music with varying instrumentation depending on the emotions the two are expressing. The opening track “Heavenly Voices” blends string quartet (featuring The Kanimbla Quartet)with organ, piano and vocals. Other tracks feature solo piano (“Ghosts, Insanity, Angels”), piano/violin duet (“Elegy”), piano with quartet pads (“Lake of Contemplation”), string quartet only (“Interwoven Threads of Chance”), string quartet featuring piano (“Empty Moments”) and other combinations uniquely fitted for the compositions they imbue.

“We believe our album will connect with everyone because we all experience loss in varying forms,” Fiona says. “It can be the loss of youth, a loved one, a pet, your health…Life changing events where we are left to mourn because of loss. People only face their own issues when you lead them to a safe place to do this.”

Rebecca and Fiona have enjoyed a long history of collaborations and are looking forward to working with renowned Australian Producer Llew Kiek. They have performed over 50 concerts together including at the Sydney Opera House for the 2012 MusicOz Awards, New Orleans for 2014 ZMR Awardsand 2017 Sydney Women’s International Jazz Festival-and Rebecca has appeared on nearly every one of Fiona’s solo albums. The two have played together as part of Fiona’s Blue Dream Ensemble, and Rebecca produced the group’s album Live at the Q.

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Rebecca Daniel studied violin and chamber music with Emanuel Hurwitz and the Amadeus String Quartet at The Royal Academy of Music. She worked with Trevor Pinnock and Simon Standage, and The Australian Chamber Orchestra, and was Orchestra Leader for Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, The Sound of Music and Beauty and the Beast. She has recorded and performed with, John Denver, Bread, James Galway and the Chieftains, Will Ackerman, Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, Men at Work and INXS.

Rebecca cites John Lennon, Amadeus String Quartet and Samuel Barber as amongst her earliest musical influences. She also told us that a collection of 78’s from the 1930’s was her first music purchase. Her natural penchant for music was evident when she was very young. “I started singing as a baby, was given a violin at 4,” she says. “It was just expected of me to be a musician. But I only started writing a few years ago.”

Fiona Joy Hawkins, a Conservatorium-trained pianist, renowned for her romantic, melodic songs and lush arrangements, is a prolific composer who regularly tours China and the USA and is also a member of the Contemporary instrumental group FLOW (Fiona Joy, Lawrence Blatt, Jeff Oster, Will Ackerman). Fiona’s song “Grace’ is on a 2014 Grammy Winning album, and in 2016 she won two Independent Music Awards at the Lincoln Centre in New York. She has several Best Piano Album ZMR Awards and has worked with Producer Will Ackerman (Founder Windham Hill Records and Cookie Marenco (Blue Coast Records) for hi-resolution audiophile recordings.

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Big Merino’s second album Sweet Little Angel is out now!

Big Merino’s second album to follow Surbuban Wildlife is Sweet Little Angel and it’s out now!
It features the singles that have already made an impact at radio – Hummingbird and the title track, as well as a cover of the classic Neil Young track Ohio.
The band recently played a successful launch for the album at the Marrickville Bowling Club and next Canberra audiences will have their turn. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than hanging at Smith’s Alternative with Big Merino!
Show starts at 4pm.
Sunday August 25 @ Smith’s Alternative, Canberra

Bruce Elder at the Sydney Morning Herald gave the album a glowing review recently – have a read below.

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It has long been an orthodoxy that second albums are more problematic than debut offerings. Here’s the exception. If Big Merino’s debut, Suburban Wildlife, was scattergun in its approach, this is a tour de force of, for want of a better term, classy adult rock, funk, soul and pop. It’s the kind of music Jo Camilleri and Van Morrison see as their bailiwick: a clever and sophisticated blend of heart-stopping gospel-style harmonies (I Watched the Light), and classy lead vocals (courtesy of Stuart Davis, a long-time member of Sydney-based choral masters Cafe of the Gate of Salvation).

Instrumental features include beautiful interplay between acoustic and electric guitar (the title track is seductive); searing guitar solos from Alex Craig (I Lay Me Down); delicious horns courtesy of James Greening (Satellite) and some pulsating funkiness on This Song and Living in the Past.

Oh, yes, and there is an astonishingly good reading (with blistering guitar solos) of Neil Young’s Ohio. The result is a deeply satisfying collection of songs which, while they defy any easy categorisation, sit happily at the richly mature end of popular music. Hear them at Marrickville Bowling Club, July 27. Bruce Elder

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Sweet Little Angel was recorded at Damien Gerard Studios.

Watch the video for Sweet Little Angel at YouTube:

Sweet Little Angel is out now on Foghorn Records through MGM. 

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Brisbane’s Team Utopia release double A-side called Comin’ Back.

Building on the success of the singles and videos of  ‘Strips Off My Soul’ and ‘Calling Out To The Masses’, Brisbane’s Team Utopia release their new double A Side ‘Addiction’ and ‘Waiting for You’ under the apt title ‘Comin’ Back’.

The songs were written by Team Utopia and inspired by broken love and personal battles.  Addiction is a slice of classic hard-paced up-tempo rock from the dynamic Brissy outfit. Taking a leaf from their popular live set you can almost hear the punters singing along and moving on the dance floor to this tune.

The second of the double-A sides is Waiting For You, a more laidback rock tune featuring some classy female backing vocals. Lead singer Danny’s world-weary vocals tell the story.

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The ‘Comin’ Back’ release was recorded at Star Audio Studios in Brisbane, tracked and engineered by BJ McGuinness. The songs were then lovingly mixed by Russell Pilling at Damien Gerard Studios, while vocals were added in Sydney.
Final touches from Ex USA mastering guru Andrew Beck were added on the NSW Central Coast to add the final polish for radio and release.
And there you have it, another killer release from this exciting band!

Catch Team Utopia live soon at Rockin 4 The Homeless events. The band will be doing their bit for the very worthy The Breakfast Club charity.

Rockin’ 4 The Homeless with You Am I, The Superjesus, Diana Anaid and more!

Friday,  30th August 2019 – Gold Coast RSL Club, Southport

Saturday,  31th August 2019 – Picnic Hill, Cnr Oxley & Anzac, Redcliffe 

More local tour dates will be added soon. The band are also in negotiations for a USA West Coast run in February 2020.

Comin’ Back featuring Addiction and Waiting For You is out July 12 through Foghorn Records/MGM. 

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