Friday, August 31, 2012

Baiyu - There Need Be No Other Title.

What is it about music that draws us in? Is it the artist? Their talent? Their voice? Their musical ability?

And why is it that we are sometimes drawn to musical styles that we would not normally identify with?

I'll admit to not normally listening to the music of the club. House music, trance, hip-hop, electronic get where I'm at? Look, it's not that I really, really dislike it. It's just more a case of it not being a genre that I normally inhabit. If it comes on the radio, I'm usually switching over or switching off. And let's face it - I can't dance, I'm the whitest white man on the planet and you would never find me at the club gettin' it on, on the dance floor...per se. 

Yet, there are occasions where I will abandon myself and my acoustic roots and surrender to the most urban of urban beats. And it is usually met with a scratching of heads from my family and wider circle of friends. 

Perfect example - when I recently download and first clicked on the play button for HUNTER, a free offering by American  singer/song writer Baiyu, I found myself very quickly addicted. This is an album that sits right at the core of the club experience - a highly polished, thumping recording, featuring 13 tracks of unabashed beats that would set the club on fire. I'm listening to it last week and I'm digging it. I'm totally digging it.

The tracks, a combination of hard electro-pop fused with RandB are impeccably structured, with top shelf production values that make use of the best electronic wizardry that, quite frankly, shits all over anything that Lady Gaga or Katy Perry has to offer. They are satisfyingly loud and they are sensually layered. Baiyu makes use of her vocals as an instrument and gives crisp harmonics to the songs that, from an aural standpoint, are as addictive as fuck. The title track "Hunter" is a perfect example of this. Likewise "Laws Of Attraction" boasts a powerful lyrical melody throughout that marries effortlessly with the primal urban beats and slick bass and keys to deliver a powerful and sexual punch. 

But there is variation in the playlist too. It doesn't just stick to the pure dance tracks but offers more ballad like compositions that allow for listening rather than participation (ie. kicking back and listening rather than shaking your ass on the dance floor).

There is something deeper in this music that is undeniable. They are tracks that are deceptively well crafted, giving them a story and an arc that means much more than the average run of the mill pop tunes. "Lost In Lisbon" is one such track that fuses sexuality, killer lyrics with charged beats to deliver a composition that bristles with energy and style. And there's an experimental side to the tracks too, whose focus is simply on the aural experience rather than dance or ballad. "Mind Freak" is one where Baiyu's voice pairs beautiful with the keys in a sort of Vangelis-esque kind of composition that has serious imagery conjuring abilities attached to it. I, personally, was having a whole kind of, Blade Runner, thing happening on my first listen. The second track of note is "White Dove" which is a track engineered in reverse, but possesses a seductive beauty that has me coming back to it time and time again. 

Man, this album is a pleasure to listen to. I recently declared it on Twitter as #Aural #Sex. A declaration that caught the attention of Baiyu herself - and she was good with it to. My serioso has no idea of course why I would be listening to her. It is my guilty pleasure. 

So who is Baiyu. 

Baiyu Chen is a Chinese-American singer/songwriter who has garnered an increasingly visible profile in her adoptive U.S. and who has developed a strong pedigree as a artist of substance and style since she first appeared on the scene States-side in 2010. As a model and actress, Baiyu has contributed to a number of indie film projects, the most notable of which was the 2012 release "The Illuminators: Division" in which she has a producer credit. She has turned discs as a VJ on MTVu's "The Freshman" and she is currently competing in the latest incarnation of TV talent show on CW's "The Next".

Baiyu has also developed a profile as a passionate humanitarian and in 2011, decided to donate all of the profits from her 2nd EP "B-side" to the relief effort in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami there.

As I explore more of Baiyu's music, it is becoming clearer to me just what it is about her that so attracts me to her music. There is a work ethic there that shows me that she is a dedicated artist and technician but there is also raw talent. A YouTube music video titled "Together" shows Baiyu in stripped back mode, performing with just a guitarist and herself and she delivers a performance that is intimate and beautiful. She is, in a word, the entire package.

Connect with Baiyu at her official site here.

Download Baiyu's "Hunter" here.

Interact with Baiyu here.


Coming this October.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Delving Into Destiny - Carlyle Labuschagne & The Broken Series.

I've been keen to feature South African native, Carlyle Labuschagne for a while now and, with the international release this past week, of her début novel in what is to become a three part cycle called "The Broken Series", I really wanted to help create a buzz around this exciting new talent.

Carlyle first came to my attention via author Lisette Brodey, who featured her at The Swansea Herald last month and I was immediately struck, not only by Carlyle's enthusiasm and drive, but also by the visual style that she incorporates into her writing. Carlyle shared some beautiful photographic examples, taken by her, which were resplendent with colour and life and I connected with the similar process that I have employed to imbue my own writing with a visual quality. I think that giving to the reader, something that will touch off intense visual cues readily, is an important skill that is a key quality in good writing.

So to Carlyle herself.  Born and raised in South Africa, Carlyle discovered her love of words early and describes writing a poem at aged 12 that was the catalyst for a life long commitment to writing. Through college, where she received a Diploma in Novel Writing and into adulthood, Carlyle continued to hone her craft, cognisant of her dream to develop a significant project that would allow her to achieve her dream of publishing.

That project, The Broken Series, has now come to fruition. Carlyle's first book "The Broken Destiny" was released internationally this month and both she and her novel - described as a rich, dystopian sci-fi fantasy - have been making a big impression. 

Ava is the great granddaughter of the founder of their kind: The Broken were genetically enhanced to survive evolution during the last years on earth, after which their experiments were abandoned and they moved to a distant star, Poseidon. Ava carries a secret journal that one belonged to her mother, which leads her to believe that her people are not what they seem. 

Ava has to decipher her mother's rantings in the journal, differentiating truth from madness to determine The Broken's true identities and origins. A few of The Broken will soon experience a "change," and each generation's change differs from the previous. (Ava's generation has been labelled the make it or break it generation.) Weeks before Ava's seventeenth birthday, an attempted kidnapping by Zulu warriors changes her destiny forever. Saved by a Minoan boy, she is taken back to his village where all the lies about her kind's existence (and how they came to be exiled to planet Poseidon) are brought to light. The Minoans are an ancient race that carries a secret tying in with Ava's prophesied destiny. Her destiny is to rise above the fall, to become what she hates to save them all.

"The Broken Destiny" is a richly constructed tale, brimming with detail and narrative that draws upon classic elements of fantasy, which Carlyle has skilfully re-imagined into her own signature brand. Her characters display a dynamism and voice that are accessible and visual. They are easy to invest in and one can really foster a relationship with them - which is important as the trilogy advances. Their individual arcs are established very well and they feed from the protagonist, Ava, effortlessly. Added to the characters are the cross currents of dystopian, fantasy and science fiction genres which Carlyle manages with a deft hand. Blurring the genre lines can be quite challenging and not always successful. It requires patience and balance. That Carlyle succeeds generously here, is testament to her skill as a word smith and stylist. 

The visual qualities of the narrative are inescapable here and it is to Carlyle herself that I refer via an informal email chat about her use of imagery, among other things, in her writing.

I use many tools to stimulate the creative process. My number one is of course music. Images are a necessity. One picture can spawn an entire novel on its own. A world lies within one moment captured in that image. 

My writing process centers and unfold around three things. One the book title or title chapter - I write around that and try to keep to the theme. Two the feel of the music kind of juices the mood of the scene out for me. Three and image - draws out the creativity and focus towards where I am going, what I am feeling, there are details in images, music and words that bring my writing to life in ways other things cant.

On it's own "The Broken Destiny" stands as a compelling piece of dystopian literature that carries quality, drama and adventure effortlessly across the pages. As the first instalment of the eventual three book cycle, it leaves the reader excited for more from this universe. It is a considerable achievement.

"The Broken Destiny" can be purchased right now from Amazon.

Readers can connect with Carlyle Labuschagne at her Official Site.

Carlyle's Facebook Portal can be clicked to here.  


Sunday, August 19, 2012

News and Updates August 20th 2012.

As I approach the release of my second novel "Gifts Of The Peramangk" in October, I have been busy conducting interviews and participating in feature articles, hosted by some wonderful literature reviewers and bloggers. 

Kristy Centeno has just released an interview I did with her a couple of weeks ago in which we talked about my writing journey over the past couple of years as well as providing an opportunity to share with her readers a little sneak peek about my forthcoming novel. I appreciate the support that Kristy has given me and I enjoyed chatting with her.

Kristy is an author in her own right and has an exciting series of books called Forbidden Mate which I encourage you to take a look at. 

Books reviewer Sharon Tyler posted her review of 'The Hambledown Dream' this past week, describing it as a "deep and enthralling book" whose characters kept her emotionally invested in the story long after she finished reading it.

Considered reviews like this are, of course, always welcome and it's encouraging for me as an author. I value constructive critiques of my work so that I can make future works better.

Laurie from "Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews" posted a feature and interview we did a couple of weeks ago and we've offered up a signed digital copy of "The Hambledown Dream" as a prize in a sweepstakes that is running until the beginning of September. For your chance to win, visit the interview over at her website. 

This coming Wednesday, August 22nd, I will speaking to the children of The Pines School at Parafield Gardens in South Australia as part of their book week celebrations. With a focus on the philosophy "Champions Read", I'll be talking to the students about reading and writing and encouraging them to foster their imaginations. I'm really excited at the opportunity to speak to kids and the joys of reading and writing and I am really looking forward to it. 

Third round edits on the manuscript for "Gifts Of The Peramangk" are close to completion from my editing team and I'll be taking over the reigns once more to conduct the forth round. In the mean time, Central Avenue Publishing has released the product specs for the novel, including an excerpt and cover art. Check them both out here

I've released the cover art myself in my books section. While this is close to the final artwork, there will be a couple of subtle tweaks applied to it by the art team at C.A.P. which I think will really set the cover off beautifully.

For news and updates as we approach October, please check back here at Dean from Australia.

Media enquiries can be directed to Michelle Halket at Central Avenue Publishing.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Slowest Curve/Adena Atkins - There Need Be No Other Title.

I love it when I discover music that has been crafted rather than simply produced. Music as an art form has long been underestimated. This is especially true today when you consider the kind of music that occupies the mainstream. It is bereft of artistry. It resembles an item in an Ikea catalog. It is soulless. 

So when you find examples of music that have been sculpted with real care and honesty, they become something to treasure - something as tactile and tangible as art on a canvas, in a piece of clay, or a surface metal. They live and breath.

Seattle based singer/song writer Adena Atkins is a discovery I made this past week that proves my maxim that there is definitely artistry in music and, in her own music, there is much to experience on many levels. It involves all the senses.

I have arrived at Adena Atkins music through her début EP, The Slowest Curve. It is a recording that, I'll admit, caught me off guard and it took me a couple of listens to get my head around what it was I was listening to. But, right from the opening refrains of the first track, there was a tangible "something" that hooked me and before too long, I was addicted.

I'm gonna toss another of my esoteric side notes in here and say that I was reminded, a little, of David Gilmour's pairing with British Trance outfit The Orb for the 2011 Metallic Spheres album. Both compositions are highly experimental in their execution and dance with a thematic under-current to drive the music forward. 

On The Slowest Curve, Atkins and her producer partner, Jay Pinto, craft - from the ground up - four tracks which have the thematics of the four seasons at their centre. Each track is set in front of a window in the morning and the listener is invited to "see" what the artist sees through the glass. Atkins describes parallels with the impressionist work of painter Claude Monet, whose repetitive compositions highlighted variety in light and colour.

Appropriately, the album begins with a track entitled "Glass" and it immediately challenges the listener with an off-beat signature, reminiscent of Phil Collins "In The Air Tonight". There is a sensuality within the track as it depicts the voice of two lovers during the autumn. It speaks of trepidation, of fragility, of wanting to surrender yet hesitating - akin to the leaves falling from the tree. "End Of Story" moves into a darker, more cynical phase as winter descends upon the lovers and we observe conflict within them - a disconnect. It is deceptive here because the music itself has seductive energy to it. Transitioning into spring, "April Rain", is a subtly uplifting piece as the darkness of  the winter dissipates. It hints at the passing of a significant amount of time between the lovers, yet there is a sense of rediscovery in each other. Rounding out the recording is "Hot Gray Morning" and here we find the voice is singular now, reflective as she sits by a Boston window - looking out and reflecting on having left her home. The song has a languid, gospel feel to it. As the listener, you drift on its back and it concludes quietly, with warmth and absolution.

In all of Atkins tracks, there is no lyrical repetition. Atkins herself explains that they follow a poetic structure, showing concern for small particulars such as mallow, stained glass, pigeons, and creeks. These might seem overly random and of little consequence within the wider context of the pieces, but they are in fact, essential ingredients. Nothing is added, either lyrically or musically, that should not be there.

At the core of the artist is her exquisite voice which Atkins has honed over many years of performance. Her approach to song is from the discipline of soprano but Atkins has extended herself immensely, taking her voice farther and in varied directions from classical and opera,  to jazz, atmospheric and even pop. Thus, she can occupy different aural spaces, centering her vocals there and owning that space effortlessly. 

As a song writer, Atkins takes her astute skill of observation and constructs lyrical poetry with song in mind, but the lyrics stand on their own terms as a beautiful language that are at home on the page without music as they are within the music she weaves for them. 

Musically, Atkins is at home with experimentation, infusing her sound with heavy keyboards, digital percussion a la Peter Gabriel and a side of bass. She pairs these traditional elements with a variety of other sounds - both organic and inorganic - including a hurdy-gurdy, typewriter, running water, bassoon, a creaking boat, bells, vocoder, a string quartet, and even a gong. In isolation, they are abstract and, seemingly, without meaning. As part of Atkins whole - they are everything.

Adena Atkins has entered my catalogue and now occupies a special place where atmosphere and feeling within music run freeely. She has challenged me to appreciate a truly artisan style of music and she has captured me. 

I surrender willingly.


Visit Adena and Purchase Her Music here

Friend-up with Adena here

Tweet with Adena here