Friday, 23 November 2012

#ESPspotlight Review: Alex Mills - 'No Artificial Colours' EP and Launch Party

It's funny that one of the tracks on Alex Mills' 'No Artificial Colours' EP is entitled 'Big Bad Wolf', because this lady folks, has a set of chops that devour you.

If you're a long-time reader, then you might just remember her valiant efforts for 'Team X' as part of February's 'Valentine's Special Part 1 - Battle of the Sexes'. Her second EP of 2012, this 6-track mixtape dubbed on her Bandcamp page as: 'A mix of Highlife and 80s Groove with some Alex Mills stink on it' - is a fresh body of work that shows her original versatility and progression since March's 'The Blue Bird Refix'.

From the first strains of opening track 'Forever Young', there's absolutely no doubt that this real vocalist is built for live acoustics - no studio assistance required. There's an energy to the beat that grabs your attention and wakes your tired mind before she utters a sound. I felt sure that she was going to open the set with this one but, closing with it instead all made sense once she announced that it is to be the release's first single.

Even better and more enthusiastic live, the 'I don't wanna grow up' anthem is a testament to the carefree mindset of youth and holding the seriousness of 'grown up life' at bay, for the sake of the little girl inside who just wants to have all kinds of Cyndi Lauper-esque, jumping on beds, pillow-fighting FUN. That 80s influence whisks you back there in a flash. It adds pep to your walk, makes you yearn for RugRats and give serious thought to revisiting neon and oversized prints, a là that West Philadelphian Fresh Prince...

The message behind 'Only Human' will ring a little truer with your average female than male I think - it's one that all us girls can relate to. It doesn't matter where you are in life, or what you have achieved; we all battle our own inner turmoils that can seem like too much to handle sometimes and this track is the perfect testament to that. My second favourite performance of the night; don't make the mistake of thinking it's a sad sap mellow ode designed to fit the mode of thought though - quite the opposite! Instead the exotic Calypso feel forces your mind to admit it's a mess, while wanting to dance (in costume) through Notting Hill in November, with a steel drum accompaniment that only you can hear...

With all that confusion, you cannot help but realise Mills is quite right when she sings: "I just need a word with myself..."

Ahhh, '9 to 5'...This one is the protest song for every creative talent out there trying to make it, irrespective of your field. This is not a Country that takes kindly to 'Artsy' types. Those who don't 'fit' a pre-defined box that can be ticked really aren't welcome - and that, is the essence of the tale being related here. It was actually quite funny that as I listened to the mixtape pre-live set, I thought how much the message reminded me of the Nile Rodgers' produced track, 'Lost In Music' by Sister Sledge, as Ms. Mills sneaked 'Thinking of You' - only one of my all-time favourite songs from the same, 1979 'We Are Family' album, into her set - and did a smashing rendition I might add. I discovered post-set that both she, project co-writer Alex Patten and Yours Truly, all worship at the Temple of Nile (Rodgers, that is. Y'know, in that NYC part of Egypt...). Bottom line, '9 to 5' is a two fingers up to the cheerily supportive bunch at the Jobcentre Plus. Please and Thank You.

'Big Bad Wolf' is a follow-on that talks about the pretence of trying to fit into those aforementioned definitions of a 'grown up'. Mills clarifies that having dreams and aspirations is not the same as daydreaming of fairytales in her book - but if it turns out to be so, she'll find out by having the courage to actually go after hers, unimpeded by the fears and shortcomings that anyone else may feel she should have. With her strong, determined delivery, she proves a formidable opponent with just her voice and Alex Patten's guitar on the night. Personally, I think it's the wolf who should be scared...

'54321' is the theme song for The Unaffected in today's Entertainment Industry. Opening line: "Excuse me Sir, I believe you just dropped something. Oh never mind, it's just a name..." sets the whole thing up perfectly, as line after line follow about one of the most annoying misconceptions of too many in this business - thinking that stature appeals most to those who just want to create. Another great performance on launch night.

'Reverse & Rewind' ties the EP up in a slick bundle and is truly infectious. Something about the arrangement throwsback to Immature's 'When It's Love' for me; 90s RnB yes, but with that undeniable 'Alex Mills stink'! A break up song with a difference, the sheer energy could fool you into forgetting to read between the lines. Don't make that mistake.

Kammerling reminded me I really MUST
invest in more waterproof mascara...

Support acts at The Waterline Cafe Wednesday night kicked off with the absolutely hilarious poet and comedian Adam Kammerling. His disturbingly deadpan set consisted of three compositions ('Ode to Co-Dependence', 'Woof, Quack, Miaow...something very tongue-twisterish with many more animal noises' an eerie offering to the Abney Park squirrels) and a text from his Mum, delivered in the 'head voice' of every child with a 'hip' parent new to technology - of which I am a relatable one. Crying with laughter from start to finish, the only problem with his set was that it was far too short for someone I had just discovered for the first time and now want to see more of...

Very gracious and appreciative of the opportunity to
perform, Huw (left) is yet to turn 18!
Next were Huw Olesker and The Barebackers, a duo from Portsmouth whose acoustic poetry was a refreshing enjoyment in keeping with the night's headliner. Extremely talented both lyrically and in their atypical choice of instruments; their mature outlook displayed in their 7-piece set, was in stark contrast to what you would expect based solely on their youthful appearance.

A must-have addition to your music library, the natural instruments combined with strippedraw vocals only add transparent authenticity to this EP. The live performances served as proof positive that in an age increasingly tainted by manufactured talent and auto tuneNo Artificial Colours can disguise the honest talent that is Alex Mills.

'No Artificial Colours' by Alex Mills
Out Now

'No Artificial Colours'
now from Bandcamp (£2.99)

Then click to connect with Alex via her Social Media Catalogue:

Why not Download 
while you're at it? It's FREE!

View more photos from the night via the ESP Ltd. Facebook Page - don't forget to 'LIKE' that very same page while you're there!

Until next time...
ES ;o)