Meeking – ‘I Am Because We Are’ album review

Meeking album launch, at Moles Bath, 2017

When Jake Meeking kindly sent me his band’s album to review, he emphasized the need to remove all distractions, put on some headphones and turn it up really loud. I considered this to be the warbling self-indulgence of artistic passion, ignored it and began listening through my laptop speakers while I set about my daily chores.

40 seconds in I hit the pause button and started checking my diary for ‘chore-free’ time when I could listen to this album the way Jake had suggested, because so distracting and enticing were those opening few seconds, I wanted to make sure my full attention was given to it.

When the time came I plugged in my headphones, turned up the volume, sat back and listened to the alt-blues-jazz-rock of sonic-artistry . The opening few bars of ‘Bigger than me’ really draw the listener in, building with teasing picking and what I believe are background synth sounds, reaching an epic crescendo as the base, drums and Jake’s voice smash into the mix.

‘Bigger than me’ is a massive “Hey! We’re Meeking and this is what we do”. The track continually drops and peaks and develops with some overlapping layers. I listened to it a few times in succession and each time found something new to pique my interest. It’s over 5 minutes long, which some might say is a ballsy move for an opening track, but it needs to be, because there’s so much too it.

Theo Stevens from Meeking, at Moles, Bath 2017
Theo Stevens from Meeking

The audio quality of the album is fantastic too and makes me think that some serious effort went into the production.

I went to the launch at Moles and track 2 ‘Bury me’ had me grinning as I watched Jake unleashed some beautiful guitar work. It kicks in around the 2min mark and is just delightful, especially if you get to watch it being played.

Cassidy Jones of Tell The Hoi joined Meeking on stage for the third number, “I am because we are”, and the title of the album. Tell The Hoi are another fantastic Bath band and were one of two acts providing support on the night.

The song starts with a bit of pace, but soon slows and becomes more lyrically emotive. The lyrics suggest a feeling of the support you get from your family when you’re facing some of life’s trickier obstacles, possibly homage to the support many artists in the pursuit of success get from their families. It also sets the pace for the next few songs, which are more peaceful than the first few anthemic numbers.

‘204’ is a big contender for my favourite track on the album. It starts with some enchanting guitar noodling, not just from Jake, but latter on from Theo Stevens too, as he throws out volleys of superb base work. This track is flipping majestic!

Jake Meeking from Meeking, performing at Moles Bath, 2017
Jake Meeking

Track 5 ‘Better man’, again is a slower number, which has some nice soft picking and simple high hat and snare brush work. Jake’s vocals stop about halfway through and allow for some sultry guitar to slowly fade the track out, which provides a fantastic through line into track 6, where things start to pick up pace again.

‘New world’ is another teaser, which builds and then drops just before the crescendo, before building up again, something Meeking have clearly developed as a talent. That’s not to say other bands don’t do the same thing, but Meeking have perfected the tease. Using some gentle guitar riffs, Jake creates an appropriate otherworldly atmosphere, which interchanges with the fuller sound of the chorus.

‘This army’ has a similar opening atmospheric riff to ‘Bury me’, but that drops away and is replaced by some slight distortion on guitar and a return to the more anthemic sounds at the beginning of the album. This is the same for the following song, ‘Wheels’, where the distorted guitar is more evident and Jake really lets loose his laudable vocals.

There is a definite signature to this album, something any band should strive to achieve in their work. Like when you listen to Hendrix or Chili Peppers, there is a quality that immediately identifies who is playing.

The penultimate track, ‘It’s over when it’s over’ has a suitable air of summing up, with elements of a wandering serenade, mixed with a hint of sadness as you realize you’ve nearly reached the end of the album. It’s 6 minutes of evocative music that somehow creates a feeling of nostalgia for an album that you only started listening to half an hour ago.

In contrast the final track is very short and a bit somber, but no less beautiful than the rest of the album and is a nice way to close. However, that being said, at the album launch, Meeking did follow it with a far more upbeat number as a final song of the night.

The gig itself was excellent, with some fantastic performances by the opening acts Tell The Hoi and Newton Country, two bands I’m happy to recommend you see live as soon as possible.

Jake was right about how to listen to this, though I can’t condone listening to anything too loud, having no distractions, my headphones on and the volume turned right up really allowed me to fully embrace the creative skill that went into it.

In all, ‘I am because we are’ is a brilliantly crafted album. I may be wrong, but I sense that real thought and effort went into each track and the way the songs are put together is perfect. The musicianship from Jake, Theo and Glenn is exquisite and it was honestly a pleasure to review.

Written by @LordSkitch 

Thank you to Soul Media for the photos

Album launch 21 October 2017

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@IsobelHolly’s EP launch at @ChapelArtCentre

Isobel Holly headlining at Chapel Arts, Bath, 2016 for the launch of her EP Sensibilities

This was the busiest we’d seen Chapel Arts. All the tables were occupied and quickly it became standing room only. “Sensibilities” is the title of Isobel Holly’s new EP and we went to witness its launch. Certainly, there were a lot of adoring fans present, so in theory this would be something special.

There might have been a touch of nerves present in Harry Miller as he took to the stage in his support slot? The words were a bit muffled in his first song and set off alarm bells for the rest of the set. However, if it was nerves he dealt with them well and by the second more punchy number there was no sign of them.

With the added confidence he backed off the mic a bit and gave us a chance to hear his voice properly, which is soft, husky and made great listening. However it was second to his guitar work, where he displayed an array of techniques and rhythms, marking each song with its own feel and keeping the audience connected.

Harry Miller band performing at Chapel Arts, Bath, 2016
Harry Miller band performing at Chapel Arts, Bath

If Harry has a weakness it could be in his lyrics, which are littered with idioms and cliches, but little story. This aside, he’s pleasing to listen to and if this is how he’s starting, then we can look forward to some great stuff from him in the future.

Recently, you might have seen a picture of Isobel Holly on the cover of The Guide, the Bath Chronicle’s entertainment pullout, with a tagline saying “Meet Bath’s latest singing sensation”. The publicity shots that go along with this article and her website present Isobel well. She’s clearly getting it right when it comes to marketing.

Her online profile says she’s been composing since she was 11 and lists a few career highlights, chief among them being BBC radio airplay and supporting Lera Lynn.

The build up continued with a lot of effort going into Isobel Holly’s set, from a number of supporting musicians and a camera team who seemed intent of capturing her performance from every angle.

It was a varied set, which started with a full band set up, followed by Isobel performing a few duets; first with David Smith, an acoustic guitarist and folk singer and next with Monty Willoughby, a highly versify pianist. The evening was concluded with the full backing band returning to the stage for a few more numbers.

Isobel Holly performing at Chapel Arts, Bath, 2016
Isobel Holly performing at Chapel Arts, Bath

As far as performances go it was well staged, Ed was working his usual magic on the sound desk and Chapel Arts had proved yet again to be the venue of choice for the discerning music connoisseur, but what about Isobel’s music, since after all this was her EP launch?

The songs had often heard themes of love and relationships and the compositions were good, however it was clear Isobel’s true forte lay with her voice, which is powerful, but can have a sultry edge too. Arguably the best moment came when it was just Isobel singing and Monty playing piano. This lead to the question “Does she really need all the other musicians?” as it felt in a way they were masking Isobel’s true instrument, her voice.

There was an underlying school-musical feel to the evening, possibly brought on by a number of choreographed moments, which had a slightly self-indulgent air.

All the songs were nice, but there wasn’t anything which stood out. Yes, Isobel Holly is packaged well and looks the part, but do we really want to hear another conveyer belt folksinger would-be starlet? As the Bath Chronicle put it “Meet Bath’s latest singing sensation”.

Hey, she’s only 16, has talent and has made a good start; the music industry has many doors and they’re all open to her.

Written by @LordSkitch

Reviewed 30 November 2016

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