Tag Archive | "Free Swim"

Alex Highton – Welcome to Happiness

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Alex Highton – Welcome to Happiness

Posted on 06 April 2018 by Joe

One of the best aspects of running a music blog is receiving a fantastic album in the post.

But 0ne of the most frustrating aspects is to see such a release fail to get the publicity it deserves from the wider music media.

This has happened many times over the years with acts such as the wonderfully inventive Free Swim and the beautiful Co-Pilgrim, both bands that dazzle time after time as exponents of great English pop.

We do our bit. We promote such acts via social media and write reviews, however, we are just a small fish in a gigantic pond.

Alex Highton

With this in mind we were delighted to receive the third album from another English pop dazzler, Alex Highton, ahead of its March 30th release. But have been also frustrated to discover, via a hasty Google search, that so few reviews have been published since then.

Let’s at least get this review out there and hope more follow. Alex Highton and his great music deserves it.

But before we wade into this latest release here’s a quick recap of Alex Highton’s recent career. He first appeared on our radar in 2012 with the release of his debut album Wooditton Wives Club. This focuses on his own move from city to rural life and features some marvelously savvy pastoral folk-pop. Song for Someone on this is a particular highpoint, and was later covered expertly by John Howard.

Two years later 2014 album number two, Nobody Knows Anything, was released. This saw his palette become far broader, with electronica and a few nods to 1960s psychedelia added to the mix. It garnered a 9/10 score from us.

With this third album Liverpudlian Alex Highton has turned up the synths with 1980s and 1990s influences coming more to the fore. This is particular notable on opener Benny Is a Heartbreaker, an Ultravox-esque thriller of a song.

There’s a Part to Everyone That You Can(‘t) Love is also a great pop song, complete with woodwind section, oddly placed brackets and clapping.

Another highlight is Getting Fucked Up (It’s all you ever do), which somehow manages to blend Beck’s back catalogue with George Harrison’s Beatles epic Within You Without You. This is not the first time the Fab Four’s influence has become apparent across Alex Highton’s albums.  Although previously he appeared to be more of a Macca man, particularly on some of his more whimsical numbers.

Across the ten tracks there a range of different styles. All are hinged together by an inventiveness and desire to do more with the notion of the three minute pop song.

So here we have a great album, one that will appeal to a wide range of people, with a varied array of tastes. The production value is strong. The tunes are excellent.

It is demanding to be reviewed, listened to and even cherished.

What are you waiting for?

9/10

By Joe Lepper

For more information about Alex Highton – Welcome to Happiness visit here.

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The Android Angel – The Hissing and the Hum

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The Android Angel – The Hissing and the Hum

Posted on 31 October 2017 by Joe

Since he sent us the debut EP from his band Free Swim back in 2010 Paul Coltofeanu has never let us down. Time and again across Free Swim’s funny and perfectly executed pop he has impressed.

Androidangel.jpg

But there’s more from him as well, via his other, little more serious, guise – The Android Angel. Here Paul’s humour level is turned down a notch, but there is still no shortage of perfect pop, anthemic rock and fine production.

This latest release as The Android Angel is no exception.

Instrumental Cloudless Sky opens proceedings, blending club sounds with Explosions in the Sky style soundtrack rock, before the whimsical pop of The Mirror and Figurine comes in.

In the main the tracks start softly with layers building up into euphoric synth and guitar rock. This is particularly the case on Pictures, Goodnight Starlight and Seasons Made of Stone.

Sometimes the euphoria kicks in from the off, especially on West Wind and Stationary State, which both have some great guitar arrangements at the start.

Is this his best yet?

In terms of musical arrangement and melody definitely, with Love Someone Like This emerging as the track that still rattles around my head long after listening.

To churn out consistently good releases in two different styles for eight years is no mean feat and on present evidence there’s no reason that fine run will stop anytime soon.

The Android Angel – The Hissing and the Hum is released on Sex Farm Records on November 3. For more information visit The Android Angel Facebook page.

By Joe Lepper

9/10

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Free Swim – Life Time of Treats

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Free Swim – Life Time of Treats

Posted on 04 August 2016 by Joe

Free Swim’s Paul Coltofeanu is a silly chap, that’s why we like him.

His band Free Swim first came to our attention in 2010 when he sent us their odd, but brilliant, debut EP – Two Hands Is Ok, about a busy man’s attempt to graft on an extra pair of hands to help him cope with his many daily tasks. The releases got even sillier over the years with bromance, the escapades of a Chinese dissident panda as well as antique dealer TV sleuth Lovejoy emerging as further subject matter

Free Swim

Over that time Free Swim has also played live with a bassist in a giant Panda costume and, perhaps most surprisingly, ave taken six years to release their debut album.

For this collection Paul has enlisted Free Swim regular and long time friend David Knight, who over their EPs has contributed some marvellous spoken word segments. The pair for years have also arranged “album club” nights where they drink wine and air drum through albums from start to finish. This album is very much in keeping with their friendship, as the pair take in a host of new issues from internet reviewers (I guess, like me), Youtube sensations, the bits of hair that pop out of Beano character Billy Whizz’s head and even Everton legend Neville Southall’s magnificent moustache.

But don’t go thinking that Paul and his mate David are only having a laugh. Care has been spent in production and the music here is excellent, with Paul’s vocals and arrangements deservedly earning comparisons with Super Furry Animals, albeit with a few nods to The Kinks, Half Man Half Biscuit and King Missile along the way.

Opener, Discuss at Great Length Very Interesting Things, is typical Super Furry Animals-style indie pop, that emerges as fully Free Swim when David starts recounting an unhealthy obsession with Southall’s ‘tache.

And so the world of Free Swim opens up with The Slingshot Manoeuvre  in Apollo 13 taking in cosmic guitar chords and Billy Whizz’s hairdo and third track Self Appointed Genius taking aim at people like me, sitting by keyboards, giving hard working bands marks out of ten.

The pair’s air drumming exploits get a nod on There’s Room in My Bass Drum for You and there’s a political resurrection thriller going down in  The British Prime Minister Has A Secret.

Best of all though is Do You Want Some” (Cause I’ll Give It Ya), which recounts the ludicrous rise to fame of tiny builder Gordon Hill who became a Youtube star for flying off the handle for no reason during a football match.

This debut album ends with a trip to hell on A Bit Of Hell Is Worth It For a Lifetime of Treats where gobby Gordon returns to take a deserved place among the demons.

For six years now we’ve been banging on about the glory of Free Swim, who may, or may not be pleased to see that we’ve given them considerably more out of ten than the self appointed geniuses usually dish out.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

Free Swim – Life Time of Treats is available to download for free here.

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Free Swim – Well Done Everyone

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Free Swim – Well Done Everyone

Posted on 30 May 2014 by Dorian

I had worried that Free Swim would cease to be an active recording act. When Paul Coltofeanu (for Free Swim is him) left these shores, ending up in Prague, I was unsure what would become of his musical aliases. So it is with great relief, and no little pleasure, that I’m able to review the latest Free Swim EP.

Free Swim Well Done Everyone

I wouldn’t say that this EP was a return to form, the previous release was excellent, but it is a return to full-on Free Swimminess. She Dreams In Lights was a dreamy psych-pop affair that sat closer to Coltofeanu‘s other identity, The Android Angel, in terms of sound. Well Done Everyone sounds like a direct follow-up to the previous EP Dennis!, and is the perfect addition to the Free Swim catalogue.

The story is about a man who stops going out in order to save the money he needs to emigrate. During this time he immerses himeself in US TV shows, cultivates a deep respect for the actor Ian McShane and falls in love with countless female lead characters along the way.

How this story is served upo to the listener is five full-throttle guitar pop tunes. The sound of which will be imnstantly familiar to any Free Swim fan, and it is a sound that couldn’t be mistaken for any other band.

Each song is pretty great, and tells a chapter of the story sumamrised above. ‘Meal for One’ must be the only song on record that references Ian McShane in so much detail, and even includes a short biography.

‘Roaring Loudly Whilst Driving On A Good Stretch of Road’ is the best named track on the EP and certainly features the best musicianship, including a proper rock guitar solo. I don’t know how much radio play Free Swim will get gthis time around, but 6 Music really needs to get this one on their playlist.

The EP ends with ‘Fine Women’, essentially a list of women’s names (plus a few random men, Andi Peters for example) read to a typical guitar pop backing. Oddly it manages to be one of the most enjoyable songs on the EP and has much more repeat listen appeal than you’d expect. It is educational as well, if you consider finding out that Caroline Quentin is from Reigate counts as an education.

It is a real pleasure to have Free Swim back, and I hope that we’ll get the opportunity to see them play in the UK some time soon. Well done everyone indeed.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Free Swim – Transatlantic Tumnus

Posted on 27 January 2014 by Dorian

We are delighted to see the return of globe-trotter Paul Coltofeanu, last seen in his Android Angel guise, as the panda-pop genius that is Free Swim. The new video, below, for the song Transatlantic Tumnus is the first taste of their new EP due out later this year.

By Dorian Rogers

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Highlights of five years of music blogging

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Highlights of five years of music blogging

Posted on 06 January 2014 by Joe

Five years ago this month myself and co-editor Dorian Rogers decided to start our own music blog. There were lots of reasons, with wanting to write about music the main and obvious one.  Back then I never thought it would last five years but now I can’t imagine life without it. We’ve made no money from the venture and probably never will but that’s not what the site is about, we do it because we enjoy it and have a genuine passion for helping emerging acts get some deserved publicity.

Neonfiller.com is no longer just the two of us anymore, we are proud to have a team of regular contributors who help us to cover around 150 album releases a year and gigs across the UK each month. We even put on our own gigs from time to time. It’s been a great five years and I thought I’d mark the occasion by jotting down five of my favourite highlights.

5. Meeting a bass playing panda

It started with an email back in 2010 from then Surrey-based  musician Paul Coltofeanu about his band Free Swim. He told us they had just released a free EP about a man who was really busy, grafted  some extra arms to his body, had second thoughts and had them removed. We were intrigued. On first listen our relationship was sealed as I discovered they were no mere novelty act. The music was quite simply superb, blending Super Furry Animals with Frank Zappa. Due to some fortuitous timing I ended up being the first person to ever review the band’s debut EP.

Free Swim

Free Swim

In the following years Paul sent us more EPs with equally diverse subjects, from a mountaineering panda to love triangles in Croydon. Musically he’s a great talent, as his other more rock project The Android Angel shows. But it’s his sense of humour and ability to hook in music journalists like us, those at The Guardian and 6Music that impresses us too. Free Swim, who features a bassist in a giant panda suit when they play live,  were also the headliner at our first show in Brighton. A new Free Swim release is promised for 2014. We can’t wait.

4. Top 100 albums list

All good blogs have a top 100 list, right? We tried to do something different with ours and make it loosely based on alternative music with a strong focus on new wave and indie pop. This meant there was no space for albums by the likes of The Beatles, even if I admire them greatly. We released the list ten at a time over a number of weeks and I’m really proud with the result.

Tar-Babies-NC-1

As far as I know we have the only Top 100 album list to feature both The Monks and Tar Babies. So what was number one? You should head over to the list here and find out yourself.

3. Darren Hayman wrote a song about my dog

We are in regular contact with artists about their latest releases and tours. Sometimes we just have a nice chat on Facebook or Twitter. One of my more unusual conversations was with Darren Hayman who during January 2011 was asking for inspiration for songs as part of his attempt to write, record and release a song a day that month.

Knowing he has a dog owner I suggested the tale of my dog who went missing but thankfully turned up after a week alone in the Somerset countryside. Darren was happy to oblige once he knew it had a happy ending. It was illuminating  to  be on hand to offer Darren details of Arthur’s story. The result was remarkable and my biased highlight of his January Songs project and eventual album.

2. Bristol venues

Bristol is my nearest City with decent music venues; and what music venues they are. From the floating Thekla, legendary pub The Fleece, the eclectic Trinity Arts Centre to the out the way Polish Ex Servicemen’s Club. There’s also the beautiful acoustics of St George’s converted church venue and the revamped Colston Hall.

Field Music, The Fleece, Bristol, 2012

Field Music, The Fleece, Bristol, 2012

The city is simply awash with a range of excellent venues of all sizes and over the years I’ve reviewed some of my favourite gigs thanks to this excellent location, taking in the likes of Belle and Sebastian, Chuck Prophet, Field Music and Okkervil River.

1. Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent judging

Last year was my first year as a judge for the Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition, in which the winner gets a slot at this prestigious event, which is just eight miles from my home. It was a real pleasure going through the submissions and I’m still in contact with the three acts that I eventually submitted, including Wilitshire’s Super Squarecloud.

Super Squarecloud

Super Squarecloud

As a judge I also got to go to the festival and the contest’s final battle of the bands in Pilton, where I got to see the level of work that goes into just this one aspect of this giant event first hand.

by Joe Lepper

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The Android Angel – Lie Back and Think of England

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The Android Angel – Lie Back and Think of England

Posted on 22 April 2013 by Dorian

The Android Angel is Paul Coltofeanu, probably best known to our readers as the man behind panda-bear themed rockers Free Swim. However, in reality it is Free Swim who are the side project, Lie Back and Think of England is actually the third album to be released under The Android Angel moniker.

The Android Angel

If you are used to his Free Swim work then the able might come as a bit of a shock. The brilliant EPs that he released under that banner tend to be a full-on blast of off-kilter guitar pop, so hearing the atmospheric 23 seconds of opening track ‘Homes’ followed by the gentle acoustic guitars and hushed vocals of ‘Solutions’ is evidence that you are in a different part of Paul Coltofeanu’s musical brain.

To some degree this album can be seen as a logical next step from the forth Free Swim EP, She Dreams In Lights, which already hinted at influences like The Flaming Lips, Super Furry Animals and Sparklehorse in the sound that he was producing. This is a pretty record, full of subtle playing and sweet melodies; beautifully self-produced in in Romania, Ukraine, Hungary, Germany and the UK.

The title track is just lovely, with Sarah Mahony adding some excellent vocals to a duet that is lyrically rather downbeat. Some of the references in the song may date it a little, but they also give the song a place in time that suits the mood.

‘Distant Star’ is even better, a fully formed slice of fuzzy pop that deserves a place on any radio station playlist (and has already featured on Tom Robinson’s 6 Music Show). This is followed by ‘Ability Park’ which is a kind of jazz-folk instrumental that showcases Paul Coltofeanu’s musical skill and mastery of melody pretty perfectly.

One of the things that takes a little time to get used to on listening to this record is adjusting to the less jokey nature of the songs. I’m so used to hearing him sing about growing extra hands or eating a vienetta that a delicate folk song like ‘Foreign Son’ seems at odds with my expectations. This only takes a couple of listens to adjust to though, and it isn’t going to trouble anyone new to The Android Angel who isn’t already a Free Swim devotee.

The only slight criticism I have of Lie Back and Think of England is that the last few tracks seem to break the cohesive nature of the album. ‘Chicago John’ is a fantastic song, I love the instrumentation on the track and it is a lot of fun. It doesn’t seem to quite fit with what has come before though, and sounds much more like a Free Swim track, but it is quite brilliant on its own. Finishing the album with two instrumentals is also little out of kilter with the general flow of the album, although ‘Follow The River’ nicely wraps things back to the opening track.

All told this is about as interesting an album as I expect I’ll hear all year, brilliantly played and written and (despite the influences) like nothing else on record. He’s proved the master of the concept EP with Free Swim and as The Android Angel he has taken it one step further with an extremely impressive album.

8/10

By Dorian Rogers

You can listen to the album and purchase it on The Android Angel’s Bandcamp page.

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Introducing… The Android Angel

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Introducing… The Android Angel

Posted on 04 February 2013 by Dorian

Who are they?
The Android Angel is one of the two musical projects of multi-instrumentalist Paul Coltofeanu from Surrey, UK. The other is the acclaimed, surreal pop-fantasy of Free Swim (As heard on Radio 1, 6music and at our gig last February).

The Android Angel

What do they sound like?
He cites Sparklehorse, Beck, Eels, Brolin, Spiritualized and Air, but let’s see what BBC 6Music’s Tom Robinson has to say about them:

“Reigate’s most musical son – the startlingly talented and prolific Paul Coltofeanu. Not content with the ever growing success of Free Swim he returns here to his alternative persona as The Android Angel to charm the pants off readers this weekend with this cheeky slice of twee electropop.

It seems to me that Paul’s increasingly assured approach to musicmaking depends partly on a whimsical approach and exceedingly light touch so that he never appears to be taking the importance of his work too earnestly.

Yet also on a real seriousness of execution so that his songs and recordings are all quietly crafted to perfection. Here is an artist to watch in 2013 because – to coin a cliche – whatever he comes up with next, you can always expect the unexpected.”

Or you could take a listen to the brand new track ‘Her Shoulders’ that was released on Soundcloud this morning. Hot off the press.

What have they got to say for themselves?
“‘Chicago John’ & ‘Her Shoulders’ are taken from the Lie Back and Think of England LP, out later this year on Sex Farm Records (R1 Huw Stephens’ “Label of Love” 07/12).

Written during summer 2011 while volunteering on a farm in the Romanian mountains, on a Water Buffalo reserve in the Ukraine, sat on the banks of Varosliget Lake in Budapest and in the squares and parks of Berlin, I spent the following year recording the album in the downtime between writing and touring the first four Free Swim EPs.

The unique story of the album’s creation, and the eclectic, melodic, experimental music thereon ensure that it promises to be quite unlike anything else released in 2013.”

What releases should you look out for?
“Lie Back and Think of England” LP out 2013. Selected tracks previewing at soundcloud.com/theandroidangel

Where can I find out more?
Take your pick from any of these online sources below:

soundcloud.com/theandroidangel
facebook.com/theandroidangel
twitter.com/theandroidangel
theandroidangel.bandcamp.com
androidangel.blogspot.co.uk

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Free Swim – She Dreams in Lights

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Free Swim – She Dreams in Lights

Posted on 25 July 2012 by Joe

I didn’t realise until Free Swim got in touch with us this week that we were the first ever blog to review them, way back in 2010.  Since their first EP, Two Hands is Ok, landed on our doormat in November that year, they’ve been building up a solid reputation as one of the UK’s most interesting and fun indie acts and favourable reviews by many others have followed.

The subject matter for their first three concept EPs, concerning hand grafting, a mountaineering panda and a south London bromance, shows their sense of English whimsy. Live they go one step further, with their bassist dressing up as a giant panda.

But underneath all this classic English eccentricity the band, which is in essence multi-instrumentalist  Paul Coltofeanu, is actually very, very serious about music, sounding a little like Super Furry Animals mixed with Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, but wholly unique.

On EP number four She Dreams in Lights they’ve toned down the whimsy and decided its time to unleash Free Swim, the indie pop and rock act on the public.

BBC Radio One has already bitten and Coltofeanu, who wrote all tracks and played all the instruments on the EP, turning up on Hew Stephens show recently to chat about the EP.

There’s still a  loose theme to this EP, of a girl falling asleep and dreaming, but as Coltofeanu explains: “I was purposely trying to leave it a bit more open to interpretation and ambiguous this time round.”

It’s a savvy move, letting the public focus  more on the music rather than the gimmicks and to showcase a five-song collection that stands up well against the band’s influences, most notably Super Furry Animals.

It’s third track Vuvuzela Venezuela with its sweeping build up, and opener Records in the Basement, where the protagonist falls asleep amid Mercury Rev style indie psychedelic pop riffs, that are the immediate standouts with their clever turns of phrase and twinkling guitars. Final track The Snooze Function, when the girl awakes, is the most psychedelic of this collection with more than a nod or two to The Flaming Lips.

By  turning down the whimsy and focusing more on the music they’ve lost none of their excitement or identity and there’s every chance this could be the breakthrough EP they deserve.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

She Dreams in Lights is available as a free download from Sex Farm Records

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Free Swim – Dennis!

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Free Swim – Dennis!

Posted on 19 January 2012 by Dorian

Preparing to review this EP was a bit nerve wracking, at Neon Filler we have been big supporters of Free Swim and are promoting their next gig, so what to do if the latest work was duff? I’d end up feeling like all those journalists who had to write good reviews of Oasis albums because they had spent the previous years proclaiming them the saviours of music and didn’t want to lose face. The good news for me is that the EP isn’t duff, far from it, and may well be my favourite Free Swim EP to date.

Free Swim - Dennis

The story on this one isn’t as outlandish as on previous outings, no grafted hands or mountaineering Pandas here, it is your typical boy meets boy, boy meets girl, boy loses boy, boy meets girl story. The opening track ‘Oh Dennis’ is power pop perfection with the kind of guitar riffing you get on Hold Steady records and a charming off-kilter love story at the heart of the song.

‘Croydon Fernandes’ is a more boisterous punky affair, perfectly complimenting the hyper-male activities or our protagonists as they spot planes, eat scotch eggs and play air cello. The song thunders long along until the arrival of the “undeniably lovely” Sophie Buttercup leaves our protagonist all alone.

‘The Smell of Pregnancy’ finds him sad, alone and abandoned pleading;

“Just promise you’ll always watch your Hornblower DVD once a year and think of me.”

This song is the standout song on a fine EP, the Batman theme instrumental section and slap bass outro being two of the fine musical highlights on a deceptively sophisticated track. Paul Coltofeanu (who plays everything here) shows a lot of skill throughout, and a real flair for production that lift this EP above the average DIY effort. The aforementioned slap bass, the keyboards on ‘Oh Dennis’ and the drums on the final track, the sweeping ‘Cycling Holidays In The Ardeche’, are just some of the musical elements that add real depth to what is (in all other respects) a fun and witty pop record.

Fee Swim seem to be getting better with each release, and another EP is planned for this year, time I think for a record label to sign them up and fund the double concept album they were born to make.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

Listen to and download all the Free Swim music on their Bandcamp page.

See Free Swim live with Twin Brother and Stick In A Pot at the Green Door Store. Details here.

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