Unsigned, but not forgotten

One of the things I really wanted to do when I started this blog five years ago was to try to do anything I could to help unsigned artists. I had tried previously, actually, on a radio show, and had found that a lot of unsigned acts couldn’t get their, um, “act” together to make it work as a cohesive feature, and so it only really ran three of four times before falling in flames.

The unsigned feature on this blog lasted a little longer, and did showcase some interesting acts, but it also opened me up to a lot of artists who for one reason or another weren’t appropriate for the blog, and one or two people who didn’t take that news too well. These are the perils of doing anything on the internet.

But let’s take a look at those who did make it, and see what they have been up to!

Blue Swan

First covered on my radio show in February 2005, and then subsequently looked at in detail on this blog in November 2012, this Danish duo seem to have entered a quiet phase in their career. Looking at their Soundcloud, their last new tracks were the ones we covered here five years ago, and there have been a few DJ mixes since then, but not a lot of activity.

Hugh Doolan

We covered this Irish acoustic act back in November 2012, and looking at his Soundcloud account he’s been very busy recently. His Bandcamp page includes ten releases since we last spoke to him, including acoustic tracks and film soundtracks.

Rance Garrison

Covered back in August 2013, when he was between albums, he seems to have released three new albums in the last few years, all of which are available on his Bandcamp page.

Jonteknik

We first covered Jon’s debut album in November 2012, and when we visited him again the following year, he had just released another album. He’s now part of a label that I need to look into further called The People’s Electric, and recently released an album called Skylines.

Kyma

Introduced to this blog back in November 2012, this UK-based act was still busy a year or so later, including proudly posting one of his songs that was played on BBC Essex, but he hasn’t pushed much to his Soundcloud recently.

mindXpander

An old favourite of mine from the mp3.com days of the early internet, I first covered them here back in 2013. Things seem to have been quiet for them for a couple of decades now, but you can still enjoy their back catalogue at Soundcloud.

Movement Ten

This Brighton-based duo were first covered here back in December 2012 when they had just released their debut album. The following year when we looked again, they had just released another album, but things seem to have been quieter since then.

Subculture

Featured on my radio show in 2005, unfortunately I don’t have any record any more of who they were, how they got in touch, or where they are now. If you know, please ask them to get in touch!

Devin Tait

First covered in August 2013, then revisited later that year when he was in the middle of touring, this flamboyant LA-based artist is now working on his next solo album The White Tomato. More at his official website.

Finally, I think a few more people had filled in the form on the website and asked for coverage. I’ll sit down and actually read those messages and do a feature on them very soon – apologies for the lack of responses if you’re feeling impatient.

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Introducing Hugh Doolan

As much as anything I wanted to write this series of posts on unsigned acts to challenge myself, and this is a great example. Thanks to my own ignorance and closed-mindedness I probably wouldn’t have come across Hugh Doolan if he hadn’t got in touch with me, but I’m very pleased he did. He describes his music as “Earthy & atmospheric guitars fused with assorted live and sampled instruments covering many genre, from acoustic to orchestral and electronic; and with a voice tinged with folk soul velvetness!”

Hugh started making music aged sixteen, and went busking around Europe when he left school. After leaving university he moved to Berlin, and started touring across the continent before finding work as a sound engineer in Dublin.

He’s done music for two recent documentaries, including award winner Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey, and he’s currently working with a Chinese company to put eight albums worth of material online, including film music, jingles, and electro-acoustic songs.

In the meantime, he kindly picked three tracks to put online via this blog. First up is Dirt Birds (1996):

This track is intriguing, I think mainly thanks to its slightly trippy feel. It’s also an unusually strong vocal for an unsigned act. With Soundcloud you can easily press stop and jump to whatever’s next, but if you do that here you’ll miss something pretty special.

The second track is The Glove on My Hand (2011):

Again, from the start of this I assumed it was going to have a rock feel, but this was totally thrown to one side as the electronic sounds mixed in, leaving a fascinating mix of electronic blues with jazz influences too.

Third is Maiden… Speech

Dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, I actually felt a bit of a Pink Floyd vibe on this one, although maybe that’s unfair. I suppose the drawn out avant garde style guitar playing is what put that in my mind. It’s a very sweet track.

There’s something quite intriguing about Hugh’s music, and that was also apparent from his answers to my questions. I sent these out solely to get more of a feel for who the artist was, and where they were coming from, and Hugh’s answers achieve that particularly well:

If I forced you to do an exclusive cover version, what would it be?

I would cover a song that fits my style generally, but which may surprise the listener by way of the twist I could give it. I would choose I Have a Dream by Abba because there’s a lot of scope in it musically and the melody is so familiar a lot could be done to twist and turn it into something familiar but fresh and alternative.

Nobody really listens to music any more. Discuss.

Too much noise in the world – not enough space for music! Plenty of music, but not enough pin-pointed meaningful listening!

People hear music but do not have the attention span to either listen to the end of a track, or re-listen to allow time for it to be digested properly. This is down to factors like web streaming and / or trigger-happy remote control of a radio or TV dial, as opposed to a physical product that gets inserted into or onto a player to be played without interruption; with an element of sanctity and performance/event status in a comfortable space.

Having video content layered on to the music (on the web most music is listened to on youtube) will also distract or make the viewer / listener led by the visual imagery as much as, if not more than, the music itself.

Where lyrical content and themes are concerned the initial impact of the singer-songwriter in popular music’s heyday (1960’s) whose message was earnest, albeit sometimes naïve, gets to be received in a blasé almost cynical fashion these days. The power of the lyric is being diluted; either the imagery used is overly sexualised in mainstream music or the songs with integrity and beautiful imagery wash over the listener all too quickly, leaving its intended impact in its wake.

Which (existing) movie would have benefitted from having your music on the soundtrack?

I wrote a piece called Maiden Speech inspired by Aung San Suu Kyi‘s release from house arrest so I guess the movie made about her The Lady could have benefited hugely from it; largely because the confluence of eastern / western sounds in the track sums up her Burmese origins together with her experiences in the west (study in UK).

Thanks to Hugh Doolan for agreeing to appear on here and for those fantastic answers. To hear more from him, head to his Soundcloud page here.