Spotify Spotlight on Kent Music - SUM19
Rob Hakimian, music writer with ’Cene magazine and the fourohfive.com, chooses six to watch
They say Kent is the Garden of England, so summer should be the ideal time to be living amid the county’s verdant settings.
The six selections for this issue certainly play into the summer sound, some through polychromatic pop melodies that just harmonise with the sunshine, others by the recording of the sounds of Kent’s countryside as an undercurrent to the music.
Either way, the results are resounding and with new material from many of the artists set to drop over the summer, and live performances at local festivals already booked, this batch have more than enough going for them to keep you returning to them all through the shining season.
Young singer Havelock grew up in the Kent countryside but, like many before him, moved to the city to pursue a career in music.
The transition hasn’t been easy, with the constant grind and hustle sapping creative energy as much as it inspires. Nevertheless, Havelock believes in his abilities, and on his two singles released so far you can hear why – his natural vocal abilities are radiant and crisp like a fresh morning breeze.
On newest song Vacancy he’s turned his frustrations directly into aural gold, singing about grabbing money from low-paying jobs to give him “something that [he] can hold, somewhere that [he] can go, without working to the bone”. Teaming with producer Oscar Scheller, the duo have created a woozy but placid pop-R&B jam that floats through the daily stresses and finds sunshine in the grit.
It’s been a couple of years since Tunbridge Wells six-piece The Breretons released their debut album Keep You Safe, but with their addition to the bill for this summer’s Black Deer Festival in Eridge Park there’s a suggestion they’ll be returning soon with new material.
Nevertheless, it’s worth revisiting Keep You Safe ahead of their return as the record is full of graceful and delicate folky alt-rock songs that display a band with a keen sense of dynamics and drama.
Although a sextet, The Breretons know when to keep the sound stripped back to allow singer Charlotte Brereton’s radiant voice to crest and glide magnificently over their broad musical vistas.
The songs circle around topics of love, friendship and togetherness – ideas that nestle comfortably within their rustic and rousing sound, resulting in songs that radiate warmth and welcome.
Formed in the 1980s, The Claim are a band undergoing a resurgence.
The mod-pop band, who can count themselves among the antecedents of the Britpop explosion of the 90s, had their classic album Boomy Tella reissued back in January and it sounds fresh and sprightly more than 20 years on.
Even more excitingly, the Cliffe band have re-formed to record a new album, The New Industrial Ballads, which has just come out.
As the title suggests, the new album finds The Claim appraising the sorry state of affairs in their home nation, and on lead single Journey they take the EU referendum as a jumping-off point, looking back through generations who have had to stand up and fight for what they believe in.
The new material finds The Claim with a new sense of purpose and a frenetic aerodynamic pop-rock sound to accompany it.
The broody pop-R&B singer SHELLS has been attracting deserved praise for a few years now, with the release of her 2016 debut EP Shapes earning her bookings at Radio 1’s Big Weekend and the song Jailbird being selected as BBC Introducing’s Track of the Week.
Now a few years on, SHELLS is ready for the next chapter in her musical journey and this year has already released a pair of stunning new tracks that show the breadth of her abilities.
Heart Beating was started at a song-writing camp in South Africa and possesses some of the continent’s inherent grooves in its clicking and whizzing propulsion, resulting in SHELLS’ most immediate track to date.
Latest release Mexico is a stoic, piano-led affair that allows her to show off her crystalline voice, able to carry the extremity of her feeling right into your soul. A debut album from SHELLS is surely just over the horizon.
The Catenary Wires
The central duo of The Catenary Wires, Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey, have been mainstays of the London gig scene for a decade, in bands such as Talulah Gosh and Tender Trap, but have moved to Kent for their latest project.
They have a second album called Til The Morning out this summer and have used the local scene and setting of Tenterden to influence their glowing indie duets.
Their tracks have a homespun nature thanks to the inclusion of cello, mellotron, harmonium, Hammond organ, brass – and sounds of the Kentish countryside. These all play support roles to the central couple, whose duelling voices bob and flutter in a fine dance of emotions, resulting in sweetly melodramatic pop-folk ballads reminiscent of The Magnetic Fields or Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan.
On Til The Morning they show off their fine pedigree of years of gigging while moving onwards into new realms of deep musical storytelling.
The Matthew Herbert Big Band
Matthew Herbert needs no introduction; the experimental music pioneer has been DJing, recording, remixing and arranging for more than 20 years and has pushed himself to the forefront of Britain’s most sought-after composers for film.
However, now residing on the marshes of east Kent, Herbert’s latest project is an expansion of his Bag Band into The Matthew Herbert Great Britain and Gibraltar European Union Membership Referendum Big Band for a two-hour album called The State Between Us.
The massive project was recorded over the last few years since the referendum and reportedly features more than 1,000 collaborators from across the EU, with Herbert’s aim being to record an album that contemplates what it means to be British in the modern day.
The resulting music features angelic choirs pushed up against rumbling chainsaws, ominous string arrangements combined with the sounds of a Ford Fiesta, endangered birds chirping among baroque jazz melodies – and whole bunch more to sink your teeth into.