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Acoustic Kult / Blog

Dale Goodridge MUSIC REVIEW

One word describes Dale Goodridge best – experienced. He has played with numerous bands of different genres, ranging from thrash to pop. A self taught producer, he has worked very hard at understanding and mastering a variety of musical instruments, and it truly shows in his music.

Goodridge has recently released a five-song digital download package and one CD single version of ‘UP2U/The Pledge’. I would describe his music as a conjunction of the best elements of classic and alternative rock. Citing influences like The Beatles and Gerry Rafferty among many others, Goodridge is able to accurately sum up the sounds and vibes of the ‘60s and ‘70s in his songs.

Each song in the five-song package is characterized by warm and welcoming soundscapes, where layer upon layer of meticulously detailed and carefully thought out guitars, keyboards and vocals unfold and merge together. Goodridge’s knowledge of different instruments and how they work in the mix is clearly showcased in the way each note, melody and harmony complements the other. The tones and phrasing he uses on the keys are perfect in every way, and play a major role in gelling the songs together. The low end and the rhythm section are very tight and controlled, forming a stable and reliable bedrock. Goodridge sticks to the usual assortment of flanger and chorus effects for his guitars, but he never allows for any kind of monotony to set in.

Coming to the vocals, Goodridge has a powerful voice, which he supports and embellishes with all the right harmonies. He isn’t, technically speaking, the best vocalist in the world, but his performances exude pure emotion and as such, this works superbly in favor of each song. The vocals can be heard clearly, every word can be understood, but in some songs, in certain places, the volume could benefit from a slight boost. In these sections, the drums and bass tend to be more prominent, pushing everything else in to the background.

The production of the songs is as professional as can be expected; the drums have the right amount of punch, while the subtle differences in the panning of the guitars and keys, along with the optimal placement of every instrument in the mix creates a deep and absorbing sonic presence. Each instrument can be heard clearly, and the highs, mids and lows are clearly differentiated, but at the same time, fundamentally interlocked.

As far as the actual songs go, my personal favorite would have to be ‘Crash’. The bass in this song has a mind of its own, and it is a pleasure to hear the low end driving the song forward, especially in the chorus. The melodies used in all the songs, both vocal and instrumental, are easy on the ears and immensely addictive. ‘UP2U’ and ‘The Pledge’ are the quintessential slow rock songs, which have all the right shades of emotion, without being contrived or sloppy. ‘Girl=Good’ is as rock ‘n roll as you can get, while ‘Won’t You?’ kicks ass with its brash alt-rock feel.

These songs are worth infinitely more than what they are being valued at on Goodridge’s store; the work he has put into each of these songs deserves a lot more acclaim. Head over to his site (http://www.dalegoodridge.com/), and give them a listen; connect with the man himself at http://www.reverbnation.com/dalegoodridge and at https://www.facebook.com/dalegoodridgemusic

"Sunny Side Up" - Sidd Coutto ALBUM REVIEW

I don’t know much about Sidd Coutto. The main and only thing I do know about him is that on 6th October, 2011, he released his solo album, ‘Sunny Side Up’ – a collection of eight songs, which I have been unable to get out of my head for the last week.

The music on his album is a curious blend of acoustic pop, reggae and many other sounds and genres. Coutto, the lyricist and composer, sings vocals on all the songs, while also handling almost all the instruments – guitar, drums, and in some songs, even trumpet! He’s helped by Rozelle Alphonso on cello, Anushka Lewis on harp and lastly, by Hans Dalal, who is not only credited with Tibetan singing bowl, but is also responsible for the album’s mixing and cover photography.

Coutto uses the first three songs on ‘Sunny Side Up’ to break the ice with his listener; the music here truly reflects his ‘sunny side’. While keeping the melodies simple and accessible in the first number ‘Free’, he rhymes ‘burdens’ with ‘Tyler Durden’ over upbeat major chords and groovy percussion. These particular songs help establish Coutto as a songwriter/musician who knows how to get people moving; the deliriously happy vibe in these songs is infectious, and I found myself nodding and tapping my feet on the first listen itself. He does lay it thick with the traditional ‘baby-I-love-you/I-miss-you’ lyrical template, but the music makes it all worthwhile.

With ‘You Don’t Know Me’, Coutto unleashes an entirely different musical persona, almost as if he’s letting you know that the ‘sunny side’ is only one part of the story. This song helps him draw a line between the cheery singer and musician of the previous songs, and the darker, more introspective songwriter, who pens lyrics like ‘You look into my eyes, you think you see past my disguise, you think you do’. After the trumpet fuelled revelry of the first handful of songs, the stark minimalism and simplicity of this song make you sit up. While plucking no more than one open string at a time, Coutto delivers a flawless performance on what I personally feel, is the best song of the album.

The next two numbers maintain this atmosphere – apologetic, regretful lyrics aided by heartfelt and sincere performances. As a singer, Coutto drawls through his lyrics in his husky voice, although it is never affected and instead benefits the music. In the last two songs, he picks up the pace again, ensuring that the album closes with a befitting finale. The last song, ‘Joyful’, is the ultimate sing-along song; it’s simply impossible to not want to chime in with the refrain.

The mixing/mastering of the album has been done beautifully. Hans Dalal and Sidd Coutto deliver an extremely well polished recording; the instruments and vocals are crisp and clear, with just the right amount of space and depth. Every note Coutto plays on his guitar shines through the mix, and when he sings, every word is crystal clear. All other instruments and backing vocals have been carefully placed, so that every sound and frequency is perfectly balanced.

All in all, the music is good and it is complemented by excellent production. Songs to look out for would be ‘You Don’t Know Me’, ‘Free’, ‘Escape’ and ‘Joyful’. Head over to http://siddcoutto.bandcamp.com/album/sunny-side-up to get a digital download of the album – you won’t regret it.

“Curious Toys” – Harsha Iyer ALBUM REVIEW

What is so special about nineteen year old Harsha Iyer from Chennai? Aside from the fact that he is already a formidable force in the indie singer/songwriter music scene, his greatest triumph till date probably lies in the release of his first full length album, ‘Curious Toys’. The album was released last week, on September 28th, 2010, and has already received a lot of acclaim from Iyer’s sizable fan base and from many others, who have just discovered him.

‘Curious Toys’ is a twelve song album, on which Iyer has done pretty much everything; songwriting, production and mixing/mastering credits belong solely to the young musician, with help from Shiva Nallaperumal and Ashok Iyer on album art/design and photography, respectively. Saketh Visveswaran also lends a hand, shredding on the fretboard in ‘Leader’ and ‘Toys’. Iyer admits that he has been influenced musically by the likes of Patti Smith, Radiohead, Tom Waits and even Hollywood film score composers like Hans Zimmer and John Powell, among many, many other artists.

There is no other way to say this – the music on this album is outrageously unpredictable and insane. The raw and saturated vibe emanating from each song reminds you a lot of Radiohead and even The Beatles in their strangest work, ‘The White Album’, with a good dose of punk rock/pop thrown in also. The sounds and effects Iyer uses in his music are truly original; most of the time, you have no idea whether what you are listening to has strings or if it’s been sequenced digitally.

Even then, the effects and embellishments never get in the way of the melodies and harmonies shaping the lyrics of the songs. Iyer’s voice leaps out of the speakers, as he screams, rants and serenades from time to time, as per the requirements of the message of the song. His thin, raspy voice has the ability to break into falsetto when he needs it to, and he keeps it in check so as to suit each song. The harmonies and backing vocals (all done by Iyer again) are extremely well done; nowhere is it excessive, even though he uses a lot of layering on the vocals. Instead, the manner in which he uses these layers is subtle, never stealing focus from the main vocal, but at the same time, accentuating and supporting the underlying hook.

The mixing and mastering of this record was pretty much flawless. Done entirely by Iyer in his home setup (credited as ‘Studio Utopia’), the soundscapes created in these songs are very intense. The vocals and instruments are panned in unorthodox combinations; guitar riff parts and lead fills routinely 'walked' through one ear to the next, while the vocals circled in the air, everything being held together by a manic, consistent rhythm section. Every song is drenched and soaking in reverb, but it is still tasteful and relevant to the music.

As for the songs themselves, look out for ‘Overcautious’ and ‘No Say’. ‘Addiction’ is also a number to pay attention to, especially the change in the end, when the tune spirals into something else entirely. ‘The Off Switch’ was also an interesting number; a standard I IV V progression disguised extremely well. I have tried EXTREMELY hard to pick favorites; personally, I enjoyed each song and found myself singing along to all of them by the second listening!

All in all, an excellent record, full of good tunes, smart lyrics and innovative production. ‘Curious Toys’ was truly worth the wait and I will be waiting to see what Harsha Iyer does next.

Find out more about Harsha Iyer at www.reverbnation.com/harshaiyer . Download ‘Curious Toys’ for free at http://harsha-iyer.bandcamp.com/album/curious-toys .

New Video for 'NightTime'

The Kult's first ever 'video' ... A slideshow of pictures taken and edited by Mihir Pandey synced to Acoustic Kult's first original composition, 'NightTime'. Enjoy and share with others if you can... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKtiSD7AlQ0

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