Gig Review: Hunter and the Bear, Voodoo Lounge, Stamford, 17th Feb 2017 @HunterTheBear

Being in a band is a difficult business right now. Gone are the days of going to your local record store, putting on a pair of headphones, hearing something new that you like and buying the album straight away. Bands generally rely on social media to get the word out there, and listeners now expect to get their music for nothing. Yes, there are those of us who still buy albums – I personally like to have something tangible as well as supporting hard-working bands financially.

Of course, a vital market to get interested is teens – they are the future of music in every way and have been since the 50s when “the teenager” really started to exist. You know what I mean.

It was, therefore an absolute pleasure to go to a gig and see a gaggle of teens standing at the front, adoringly watching their favourite band’s every move and singing every syllable.

I am talking about Hunter and the Bear when they appeared at Voodoo Lounge in Stamford on Friday 17th February 2017 as a warm-up gig in the run-up to the tour for their debut album “The Paper Heart”. Of course, their audience wasn’t limited to the youth of today – there was a great mix of people who seemingly followed the guys around the country! That, for me, is the mark of a band who has something a little bit special…

Supporting was Anglo-American singer/guitarist Pembroke Tenneson. He had immediate stage presence and a smile that could melt the iciest of hearts. He proceeded into a lovely acoustic set of self-written songs and covers, largely favouring Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles – a big thumbs up from me!

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Lively, cheeky and engaging, he had the audience on his side within seconds, especially his two lady hecklers who I think had more on their mind than just the music! I will be seeing Tenneson again – he’s got a fair few gigs listed for this year already, so urge you to do the same!

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Pembroke Tenneson’s setlist:

World Keep on Turning (Fleetwood Mac)

Look Out Below

Black Books

Good to Me

Oh Well/Heartbreak Hotel (Fleetwood Mac, Elvis)

Blackbird (Beatles)

The Fracking Song

Watch Your Man

Green River/Born on the Bayou (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Coffee

Bipolar Love

I Believe in Miracles (Hot Chocolate)

A Day in the Life (The Beatles)

Just moments later, Hunter and the Bear launched themselves onto the stage in a pleasingly rock n’ roll fashion! The entire set was high energy, slowing down only slightly to catch their breath during their calmer-paced tracks.

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This band has been compared to popular folk bands such as Of Monsters and Men and Mumford and Sons, but for me the guys have a much more rock edge to their style, complete with a solo from each band member (Chris’ bass solo was most excellent…!) and definitely the image to go with it. Comparisons are way too freely made on this occasion methinks!

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I couldn’t stop smiling during the entire gig – the band’s energy was infectious and the effect on the crowd was that they were mentally tethered to the guys and their music throughout.

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Hunter and the Bear are garnering a reputation a lot of bands these days would be envious of. They’ve got a following, they’ve got charisma and attitude, they’ve got awesome tunes, they’re getting gigs at great venues and most of all they’re selling tickets and hopefully albums aplenty.

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I came away from the gig tonight feeling happier than I have in ages and with a brand new favourite band in my heart.

Hunter and the Bear’s setlist:

Who’s Gonna Hear You

Hologram

Hey, My Love

Renegade

Evelyn

Burn it Up

Blood Red Skies

Warrior

I Am What I Am

You Can Talk

D.R.K.

Oh, Daisy

Won’t You Ever Come Home

Like a Runaway

Paper Heart

Nickajack

My advice? Get along and see them on their upcoming tour before they’re playing venues where you can’t get close anymore!

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Dots Jukebox: “Sugar” 3rd & 4th Feb 2017 #DotsJukebox #Sugar

 

SONG OF THE WEEK:

 

Artist Song Suggested by
Def Leppard Pour Some Sugar on Me @instantkarma80 @annatheforager
System of a Down Sugar @sirsidneyp
R.E.M. Sweetness Follows @bringitonskippy
Sonic Youth Sugar Kane @beardedsteven
The Chemical Brothers Life is Sweet @eveshambaggy
Ladytron Sugar @thesweetcheat
Echo & The Bunnymen Lips Like Sugar @gigticket @miftin81 @skylarkingmatt
Carter USM Sweetheart Sugar Baby @jason_dobson
The Smiths Sweet & Tender Hooligan @antmeals
The Cocteau Twins Sugar Hiccup @caroline_binnie
The Sugarcubes Hit @annatheforager @maxinesimons1
Stone Roses (Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister @pineapplehurts
Yo La Tengo Sugarcube @durutti74
The Chiffons Sweet Talkin’ Guy @pinkyblonde_
Natalie Merchant Life is Sweet @lsherrington1
The Searchers Sugar and Spice @staffs75
Guns n’ Roses Sweet Child o’ Mine @antmeals
Jesus and Mary Chain Just Like Honey @gigticket
Ash Candy @skylarkingmatt
Stephen Duffy Sugar High @maffrj
The Clint Boon Experience White No Sugar @neilc79
Nitzer Ebb Sugar Sweet @sirsidneyp
Maria McKee Life is Sweet @rosbif65
Tom Waits Chocolate Jesus @antmeals
Lightning Seeds Sugar Coated Iceberg @miftin81
Rolling Stones Brown Sugar @mattowlbeak
Syreeta Your Kiss is Sweet @skylarkingmatt
OMD Sugar Tax @stevomusicman
Sugar Hoover Dam @guitartutorrich
The White Stripes Sugar Never Tasted So Good @musicvstheworld

 

The Wildhearts, Rock City, 27th January 2017 @TheWildhearts

Words: Richard Mackman

Photos: Fi Stimpson

The Main Grains bill themselves as timeless rock and roll, and they are just that. With similarities to Danny McCormack’s former project The Yo-Yos, the Grains smash out half an hour of brash and rambunctious four chord Ramones-esque sub-punk. Considering the man has only one leg these days, Danny is not only clearly very glad to be on stage, but also grateful for the love and support he gets from tonight’s crowd. He did, after all, used to be bass player for The Wildhearts. He is also in the possession of what looks to be his old yellow Fender Precision, the sound of which could eviscerate a stegosaurus at 30 yards. Jobs a good’un, and thank you very much.

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Massive Wagons are a long haired, flying V type quality rock band, in some ways an atavism in this day and age, but they pull it off with panache. Lead singer Baz looks fresh from the cast of Vikings, whacking his mike stand around like a bloodied broad sword. For a fella of small stature, he has a big gob and an even bigger personality. I would like to hear these guys on record so that next time I have more of an opportunity to sing along. Clearly a hard working and tenacious band, and one would think another of Ginger Wildheart’s wise choices as support. We will be seeing you again, boys!

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And so onto The Wildhearts… I think this is my 38th time seeing them since November 1992, and Rock City belongs to The Wildhearts. Despite the ridiculous early curfew time, they pile into tonight’s set with confident gusto.

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We are hearing some songs hear tonight I don’t think I’ve ever heard live before. “Fishing for Luckies” was the decadent, peacock-like companion to “Phuq” and we get the lot, pretty much. Inglorious” IS glorious. “In Like Flynn” kicks enormous quantities of arse.

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My favourite for this evening is “Do the Channel Bop”, coming across like Bird’s dream topping. “Sky Babies” was also splendid – and unless I am much mistaken, we got all 11m24s of it.

Jon Poole was on bass again tonight – an incredible player, also a former member of The Cardiacs. Respect.

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The encore tonight commenced with Danny’s chair being dragged out and McCormack treating us to some extra bass contributions alongside Poole. Ginger and CJ are locked in and synchronised – effortlessly as usual. I guess that’s what happens when you play shoulder to shoulder for 25 years.

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The only thing missing tonight was Ginger’s old sticker-infested Les Paul custom – I’ve always loved the sound of that guitar.

Yep – another great Wildhearts show.

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Album Review: Scott Dean – “Neon” @scottdean3

Reviewed by Zoe

Scott Dean – “Neon” is available now on iTunes

Track Listing:

1.Intro

2.Radio

3.Break Me

4.The City Falls

5.The Puzzle

6.Lucky Seven

7.Neon

8.Better Keep Today

9.Convince Me

10.Cold Sea

11.Neon (Remix)

“Neon” from London based Rock/Indie solo acoustic artist Scott Dean is a little gem of an album that definitely warrants a second and third listen.

Short and sweet, with two of the songs being short instrumental offering, at first visit, “Neon” is easy on the ear (although please don’t worry, I am not implying this is “Easy Listening”).

Nothing too edgy or niche, the overall sound and tone of the album will appeal to a broad range of listeners and is instantly likeable – as a musician Dean is clearly very accomplished – beautiful, delicate acoustic guitar, smooth and polished like some lovely musical pebble, and Dean’s vocals are the right blend of melodic with just a touch of huskiness. I was put in mind of Grant Nicholas or, dare I say it, a less grating Daniel Powter.

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However, if you dig a little deeper you’ll discover that lyrically there is a thoughtfulness but also some grit, and darker elements.

The songs, for the most part, have definite narratives and they are more pained, more pensive than the largely major chord progressions would imply – somehow managing to be both dark and simultaneously elevating, and at times cinematic.

“The City Falls”, an homage to the Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises”, is a great example of how Dean successfully manages to set a scene with his winning combination of moody, atmospheric sounds teamed with a strong storytelling vocal line.

Across the album, Dean deals with some rather hefty themes like betrayal and addiction (some touched a personal note with me – which I believe is always the mark of a good lyricist) as well as the perennial songwriter’s favourites of love and pain.

It’s clear to hear that mixing and producing this album has been a labour of love, it’s well thought out and measured; yet you sense fun was had in the making (I had a little giggle at the fleeting “guest appearance” from Craig David at the start of “Radio” – I do hope that was the intention!). Particular highlights for me are the delicate touch of the backing vocals on “The City Falls” and the driving guitar parts on “Radio” which has a real forward momentum.

The album has a couple of musical interludes – firstly the appropriately named “Intro” which had a deliciously growling bass line that personally I was little disappointed was not developed further in the album (maybe a request for the next release Scott?). It reminded me a lot of the start of “This Garden” by The Levellers, with a hint of jungle (geographical jungle – not “Massive”). The second is a bluesy little offering, “The Puzzle”. Definitely showing my age now, but it felt like the natural division between side A and side B where you would turn your cassette over (ask your Mum kids), a musical intermission that sounds almost experimental but also a chance for Dean to showcase his not inconsiderable skills.

There are a couple of stand-out tracks on Neon for me personally, the opening guitar of “Better Keep Today” honestly gave me goose bumps, haunting and atmospheric and well, just lovely. “Neon” itself is also a bit of an ear worm, the lyrics are deliciously dark (“lock me up now, give me the blue pill”) and the way the song builds works so well. Just incredibly well thought out.

Style wise, I heard smatterings of Dave Grohl’s more acoustic offerings, a heavy dose of Feeder melody wise (in particular “Lucky Seven”), the gentleness and subtlety vocally of Radiohead and some of the quirky sound injections of Kula Shaker – certainly a late 90s influence permeates.

Delicately striated, there is layer upon layer to each song; real depth, but despite that you can just tell that they would all work just as well completely stripped back in a one man and his guitar setting, which to me is always the real test of a good song, that it still works without the bells and whistles – the vocal and guitar are the real stars of this show. Listen to the way the less is more of “Better Keep Today” stands shoulder to shoulder with the more involved production on say, “Neon” or “Convince Me”.

In short this is a cracking collection, lovers of real quality song-writing and the clarity and depth of acoustic guitar (with all the trimmings of course) should definitely be adding “Neon” to their music libraries. And myself, I will be looking out for the next live gig to test my “just as good naked” theory….

Great albums & their covers.

Just before Christmas 2016, I reached out to people on twitter and asked them to play a musical game. The idea was to tweet the cover of an album they considered to be great, tag 3 other people in and include me. It proved to be a very popular game! Thank you to everyone for your suggestions. Here are the results…

Album Review: The Virginmarys – Divides (reviewed by Steve Rodriguez) @thevirginmarys

The Virginmarys – Divides – review written by Steve Rodriguez

1. Push the Pedal

2. For you my Love

3. Halo in her Silhouette

4. Free to do Whatever they Say

5. I Wanna Take You Home

6. Walk in my Shoes

7. Kill the Messenger

8. Into Dust

9. Moths to a Flame

10. Falling Down

11. Motherless Land

12. Living in my Peace

The Macclesfield trio’s second studio album to follow up 2013’s King Of Conflict. Divides was released 6th May 2016 on Cooking Vinyl.

The Virginmarys are: Ally Dickaty (lead vocals / guitar), Danny Dolan (drums / backing vocals), and newly recruited Ross (bass / backing vocals).

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It’s all too easy to pigeonhole bands into a particular genre and if you can’t find one then you make one up. Nu Metal, Punk Pop, Hardcore, Industrial . . . . etc. etc. For The Virginmarys, you could try and stick them in a category, or make one up, or just accept that they really do have a bit of everything going on and are very very good at doing it.

Push the Pedal kicks off this album and on the sound of the dirty bass intro you start to think it’s 1992 and Layne Staley is still alive, then, the drums and a vocal echo enters the fray and you’re in 1996 and listening to a new Oasis track. Precisely why this band can’t, and shouldn’t be, categorised. It’s a powerful guitar drum and bass driven track, but what would you expect from a 3 piece, and Ally gives it the rasping, powerful vocal treatment it deserves. In a very unsubtle way, it says play this album on 11 . . .

For you my Love follows where Push the Pedal left off but is more of an instant hit with an almost Flea/Frusciante intro and a Stipe vocal over the top. This quickly gives way to the more familiar vocal sound and again it’s a powerful riff driven track that keeps the album driving forward purposefully.

Halo in Her Silhouette is the most sing-a-long track so far and you just knew that chorus line was going to repeat in that tried and tested late 70’s punk style. Don’t be lead down a path of thinking this band are a 3 piece punk outfit pulling a 3 chord trick from their sleeve at every opportunity though, there’s a lot more going on here and it’s another affirmation that this band cover pretty much all musical bases.

More punk style sounds ensue on the next track, Free To Do Whatever They Say, with a snarling, spitting vocal and guitar fuelled intro that builds into a bridge and chorus with some perfectly placed repeated backing vocals. It’s a chant, a probable crowd pleaser and again has all the energy that the first 3 tracks set the bar for.

The energy doesn’t subside on I Wanna Take You Home, but things do slow down a little here and enables Walk In My Shoes to follow with it’s more sombre and deep feel. The piano comes to the fore much more prominently this time and compliments the almost haunting backing vocals perfectly.

Kill The Messenger keeps the keyboard but layers of distorted guitar and bass ride over the top and makes for a Pink Floyd-esque sound with it’s low chord changes ebbing and flowing through the chorus line of the song.

Although there’s a hell of a lot of energy in this album the band resist the obvious temptation to be more crude with their language and instead express their lyrics in a much more subtle and well crafted fashion. It’s a surprise then when Into Dust starts with the F word in the second line. This is not the recurring theme of the song however and it quickly develops into familiar expressive and well crafted lyrics.

Moths To A Flame is arguably the album’s standout track and sometimes it’s easy to forget this is a three piece band when you hear such a vast, complex sound all rolled into one song. It has emotion and expression in abundance and this carries throughout the whole track from the Kings Of Leon sounding intro to the Biffy Clyro-esque ending.

Sandwiched between Into Dust and Falling Down, Moths To A Flame would possibly sound completely out of place on any other album, but, as The Virginmarys have so many influences to draw from it’s no surprise that Falling Down starts with a vocal that’s everything Mick Jones in both its sound and delivery. More proof that not only the band have a range of sounds but Ally is equally adept at displaying his own vocal range to suit the songs, lines, syllables . . .

Motherless Land is a nostalgic trip back to the early 80’s and if John Cougar or Springsteen had written this one then we wouldn’t bat an eyelid, although neither do we here and instead get caught up in the story of the song, listening intently as it builds and builds to a crescendo, a well placed clean sounding guitar solo and a very fitting sudden ending.

If Moths To A Flame was arguably the album’s standout track then it would be fighting with Living In My Peace for the title, and it would be a closely run thing. The album’s closing track, draws on everything that’s gone before, energy, haunting backing vocals, a big vocal range, guitar driven melodies with pounding drum fills and beats and an emotive, expansive and atmospheric crescendo. It typically rises and rises then drops in that well fitting sudden ending to leave you thinking about what may have happened next.

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If you’re a fan of music, listen to this album because I really think there’s something here for everyone and you won’t be disappointed. The north west seems to give us a lot of very respectable bands and The Virginmarys although not the typical shoe-gazing, jangly-sounding 60’s influenced mods that we’ve become accustomed to seeing from this neck of the woods, they can undoubtedly claim to be part of the club if they wanted to, but then again they’re likely to be perfectly at home being slightly different, and not in any way pigeonholed . . .

* Photos are from Ally’s recent gig in Peterborough as part of The Virginmarys’ People Help the People tour in aid of local food banks. Photos taken by and copyright to Fi Stimpson.

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The music that changed my world… by @precenphix

Written by @precenphix

Prior to ever hearing the term “techno” or “industrial,” my exposure to electronic music was fairly limited. The pulsing arpeggios of Pink Floyd’s “On the Run” from Dark Side of the Moon and McCartney’s “Temporary Secretary” from 1980’s McCartney II were my first taste. I loved The Cars album Heartbeat City and became an ardent Prince disciple a little while later. Both artists seemed to have a mastery of this sound I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but found captivating. Without some finagling, synthesizers were strange, frigid instruments I assumed you needed a degree to operate or play and they were used only sparingly in pop tunes, peppering the sonic landscape as an afterthought. You certainly couldn’t build an entire song with them, as far as my young mind was concerned. It wasn’t until 1984, when I heard the Beverly Hill Cop theme, that I became aware that these were actual, playable instruments. I had to have a copy of that record…and a dinky little Casio so I could play along. I begged my parents for both. As happenstance would have it, my dad mistakenly brought home a copy of Herbie Hancock’s “Rokit” on 45. The A-side was great, but the B-side “Megamix” was incredible. I was in love.

Flash forward to 1994. I was 15 years old when a friend let me borrow his copies of Nine Inch Nails’ Broken EP and newly released The Downward Spiral concept album. The summer was gone, the colors of autumn had faded and I had just been dumped by my then girlfriend of a whopping nine months. That’s a decent swathe of time in dog years and about twice as long for a teenager with a freshly broken heart. I was utterly shattered and needed something to quell my existential angst in a hurry.

My friends at the time were into metal, but it just wasn’t me. I craved a broader palate of sound beyond slappy bass drums and palm-muted guitars. Reznor’s work was right up my alley. The Broken EP hooked me, but I stayed for the fearless experimentalism of The Downward Spiral. Suddenly, everything I knew about the use of electronics in music was wrong. Here were the sounds I thought I knew having new, visceral life breathed into them. This was music that sounded remarkably heavy, academic, dark, sexy and vulnerable at the same time.

Fueled by a rearing on The Beatles’ groundbreaking production techniques while being an avid listener of dense hip-hop a la The Bomb Squad, I had an insatiable appetite for unique music. Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet – hip-hop meets musique concrète. Bob Power’s work on A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, with the rest of the crew taking notes for their third record, Midnight Marauders – this took the idea of constructing a tune solely from samples to a new level. Newcomers Wu-Tang Clan’s debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) – there was a dirt and grit to the production that lent a hand to the subject matter. These were my real precursors to pure electronic music. Paired with a newfound love for the more guitar-driven work by then up-and-coming Seattle acts Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam; as well as the volcanic art-rock of Sonic Youth, the transition to Trent Reznor’s work as Nine Inch Nails was a natural progression for me.

Prior to this, my knowledge of sampling was constrained to hip-hop’s crate-digging culture, mining Motown records for breakbeats or cutting up old George Clinton tunes over deep, bass bin-shaking 808 drums. Downward Spiral opener “Mr. Self Destruct” sounded as if a microphone had been laid beside the tracks of an elevated train, acting as a texturizer to the song’s verses. The guitars of the chorus cleaved through the mix like the teeth of a saw blade. Just as the close of the song reached a fever pitch with white noise bucking and aliasing from my speakers’ tweeters, a bank of coarse feedback guitar loops and scrapes filled the void where the tune’s refrain dropped off – only to be interrupted moments later by the comparatively serene, slinky second track, “Piggy.” This was an artist who understood how to dress the set with aural contrast and certainly had a penchant for theatrics. It was exactly what I needed.

I bought both singles from The Downward Spiral and also flagged down a copy of the Broken EP’s remix disc, Fixed. It was around this time I balked at the naysayers’ idea that this was a self-indulgent process. These records introduced me to the idea that remixes weren’t reserved strictly for house tracks, club music or the occasional hip-hop re-work. Both the “March of the Pigs” and “Closer” singles were shining examples of taking a tune, re-shifting its direction and bludgeoning it into abstraction, yielding a barely recognizable version of the original. It was refreshing to hear an artist put a different spin on his own music as well as having other people the artist respected deconstruct the same work. It wasn’t an entirely foreign idea to me, yet the methods employed on these NIN records were. But it wasn’t until 1995’s Downward Spiral companion remix album Further Down the Spiral that I would once again have my eyes opened to what music (electronic or otherwise) could be. It was the recording that properly introduced me to the music of Richard D. James, otherwise known as Aphex Twin.

Further Down the Spiral went out of its way to be abrasive, focusing primarily on the tracks from The Downward Spiral album that had no earthly chance of becoming a single. Rick Rubin contributed a remix of “Piggy,” while Coil, an act I was only marginally familiar with at the time, reworked the album’s title track. But it was an instrumental track contributed by Aphex Twin that really turned my head. It seemed to fit the landscape of despair that created by the album, but no source material from the original record was used. “At the Heart of it All,” was a sprawling, 7-minute slab of industrial doom that sounded as if the seven horns of the apocalypse were bleating directly from within my sternum. It was a purely electronic composition that stood out from the rest of the pack yet retained this intangible organic feeling that elicited an almost overwhelming emotional response. I couldn’t explain it, but it just felt like “home.”

I had to have as much of this music as I could absorb, so I began working backwards, flagging down as much of the Aphex discography I could get my hands on. Distribution wasn’t what it is today, so it took some work finding shops that carried these records. I was able to pick up copies of …I Care Because You Do and the Ventolin EP. …I Care was more of a compendium of his work that was largely taking cues from the artist’s work in ambient electronic music. It wasn’t what I was expecting. While being marginally familiar with the work of Wendy Carlos, this was the first time I was hearing truly composed, contemporary experimental electronic music. The Ventolin EP was a stark contrast of much less polished garage techno that was playful yet caustic at the same time. I was almost loath to admit that I liked it so much. Prior to this, I was riding the good ship Indie Snob, a vessel where “techno” was dismissed as unemotional, push-button drivel that had very little value in terms of having something to say. But these records were proving that theory dead wrong. I had to have more.

Once I finally worked my way around to picking up Selected Ambient Works Volume II (commonly referred to as SAW2), I was curious as to what I would be getting. It was a double CD album with a foreign, weathered, almost alien-looking logo of some sort on the record’s cover. It spanned 23 untitled, largely beatless tracks that were represented by a color coded series of pie charts in the album art. Once again, I was taken aback. I knew who Brian Eno was and had heard enough of his production and music to understand what might have been an influence to James, but the music of SAW2 was so far into the abstract that the similarities were fleeting. One thing this wasn’t was “new age” music.

This music could be anything you wanted it to be. Warm, almost nostalgic tones on this expansive record could easily move one to tears in one breath while searing, glacial sheets of terror-inducing noise could send a shiver down the spine of even the most seasoned horror film veteran. This music ran the gamut of the human psyche without uttering a word. For a period of years, I would put SAW2 on the deck to concentrate on the music itself just as much as I would play it to study, sleep or get ready for the

day. It seemed as if it were custom built for my purposes and it was my go-to recording to unwind, meditate, brood, love, eat or sleep. It was a miraculous record in that it was my final gateway drug to so many artists I would have previously dismissed as “not my thing,” because “this music has no soul.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

If Nine Inch Nails introduced me to the work of Richard D. James, Richard D. James opened the door to a whole new world of sound for me. I found Autechre, Boards of Canada and Björk as well as a host of more obscure music by RDJ himself on his own record label, Rephlex. I began to take notice to Beck’s methods of production, DYI ethic and sample-mining. UK act Portishead showed up on the scene with an amalgam of jazzy, noir-infused beatnik soul, rife with layers of turntable antics. Drum ‘n bass was beginning to take hold with its frantic, skittery rhythms pushing the envelope of speed and micro programming. I discovered Jack Dangers’ act Meat Beat Manifesto who spent a short stint on Reznor’s Nothing Records imprint. All this was just the tip of the iceberg. Friends and I would trade mix tapes of the strangest music we could find.

The world was my oyster once these records changed my opinion of what music could or should be. And this is why I’d be doing myself a disservice to pick a favorite artist when the story of finding them all is so interwoven with personal milestones and moments growing up as a ravenous devourer of what was considered unusual music.

These two records, Nine Inch Nails The Downward Spiral and Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II opened my slumbering third eye to a world that had been quietly lying in wait. I’ve followed both artists since 1994-1995 and marveled at their output prior to those years and everything that has been released since. Not only were they pioneers back then, their music is just as relevant today. My life would be incomplete without it. Hearing the work of both artists gave me the confidence to try things with my own writing that I might have otherwise sloughed off. Most importantly, I had found two artists who used electronic and sample-based production techniques because they liked these sounds independently. They weren’t employing these methods to mimic more traditional, physical instruments. They took care to make sure these sounds stood on their own as a backbone to their compositions.

It wasn’t just a bunch of smoke and mirrors. These were artists who held a mastery of their craft while stepping firmly outside the Venn diagram of sounds typically used in popular music. But somehow they made their work accessible while simultaneously being influential zeitgeists in their respective genres of music. Reznor’s point of reference lay more in 80s post punk while James culled more influence from the rave culture in Detroit and UK scene. Yet both could produce music just as emotional and moving as any classical passage. But with their output, the studio became an instrument itself in the same way George Martin and EMI’s engineers had done with Beatles recordings of yesteryear. So if I were forced to pick a favorite artist of all time, both James and Reznor would receive the same accolades. They’ve changed my life for the better and I couldn’t imagine a world without their music.

Gig Review: @KateTempest at The Plug, Sheffield, 3rd December 2016

Photos: Fi Stimpson

Words: Richard Mackman & Fi Stimpson

Kate Tempest would make a great resistance leader. Her charisma and intellectual persona are beyond captivating and convincing. There is almost an obsessive and rabid bond with the audience tonight – everybody is paying attention. Simply, what we get tonight is the entirety of the new album “Let Them Eat Chaos”. In a nutshell, it’s a damning indictment of the state of the world right now. I can almost smell revolution in the air with each inhalation of breath.

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An interesting crowd, this – older Corbyn types mixed in with politically aware student bods. Intelligent dance music and rap aficionados, pockets of crust punks and squatty folk. Kate attracts the cynical, the thinkers, those that do not believe the news on their TV screens, those of us that are mightily dissatisfied with the human condition.

This gig pans out like a play; the songs are the acts and scenes. Tempest’s poetic imagery is all-consuming – her conjuring up of characters, settings and situations is almost 3 dimensional. You can’t take your eyes off her – at points, the sensory overload is profound. Lyrically, there is an abundance to ponder.

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The way she asserts herself is almost frightening to behold at times. Her sense of injustice and outrage expressed so compellingly febrile. This woman is a tormented poet of our time. I am acutely aware that I am witnessing something sacrosanct. For someone who is short in stature and, dare I say it, ordinary looking, Kate Tempest is a formidable maelstrom.

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I played the album in its entirety in the car on the way home, and recalled almost all of it from the show. Bear in mind I had never heard those songs before tonight…

To experience this again is mandatory. Watch this space.

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Gig Review: Dr Feelgood at Voodoo Lounge, Stamford, 1st December 2016

Photos: Fi Stimpson

Words: Richard Mackman and Fi Stimpson

Dr Feelgood are an enigma of a band. The fact that they feature no original member and all current players are third generation is unusual to say the least. However, what you have on offer is a ferociously tight and joyfully authentic Rhythm and Blues outfit that does credit and is a worthy testimony to the two early classic line-ups.

Front man Robert Kane is a striking, dapper fella, almost like an action man, all starey eyed and jutting jaw. He’s not Lee Brilleaux, but who is, eh? His soft but assertive Sunderland accent is endearing yet commanding. He is also a mean harp player. Considering he has such a big set of shoes to fill, Kane performs with confidence and ease.

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Guitarist Steve Walwyn is quite possibly the most consistent and focussed guitar player I have witnessed in quite some time. He plucks a rich, ripe tone from his Telecasters and with traditional player dynamics and staggering slide skills, he is enthralling to watch. He also comes across as being an incredibly genial gent.

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Stand-out numbers in the set were “Back in the Night”, “If My Baby Quit Me”, “She Does It Right” and “Rolling and Tumbling” – Walwyn’s opportunity to really shine both vocally and with the bottleneck.

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Phil Mitchell governs stage left wielding probably the most road-worn p bass I’ve ever seen, like some kind of rock n’ roll John Pertwee, locking in effortlessly with drummer Kevin Morris.

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The crowd this evening – the Feelgood Family – are into this show 100% with a loyalty and familiarity for the material. The intimate and cosy setting of Stamford’s Voodoo Lounge is perfect.

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This is only the third time I’ve seen them in recent years, but Feelgoods are always a band I’d be very keen to see again. Long may they continue.

Gig Review: @Pixies, 02 Academy Brixton, Monday 28th November 2016

Pixies, 02 Academy Brixton, Monday 28th November 2016

Written by Zoe Spencer

It’s been 11 years since I last saw Pixies, at the Aircraft-Hanger-esqe Alexandra Palace. It was the fulfilment of a childhood dream. We camped out for hours in the empty hall to be sure of a front row spot. My other half had never really heard of Pixies but he still describes that night as one of the best live gigs he has ever seen. I was the stereotypical fan girl, totally smitten from first note – utterly blown away – it was a real high point of my gig going career. So, to say my expectations were high would be a gigantic (get it?) understatement.

Upon arriving at the 02 Academy I was treated to a very thorough frisk (I’m not sure the third bottom squeeze was entirely necessary…) and a bag search – sadly there was nothing more exciting than a notepad and pen (much to my friend’s amusement at how “old school” I am). Looking around at my fellow concert goers, I was hit with a sense of my own impending middle age; where were the Grungers? The Punks? Where were the bloody teenagers? I was awash in a sea of hipsters and ridiculous moustaches. My sense of displacement was further deepened by catching sight of the tea towels on the Pixies merchandise stand… what every middle-aged rocker needs….

Taking my place in the 5000-strong throng, a shadowy Pixies took to the stage, and without so much as a “hello Brixton” pre-amble, they are straight into the good stuff with the anthemic sing-a-long, “Where is My Mind?” The band is on form this evening, Black Francis’ vocals are as strange and wonderful as ever as they motor from one classic to the next – the set is relentless and spans all seven albums with even a couple of b-sides and covers of Neil Young’s “Winterlong” and Scottish veterans The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On” (featured on Pixies Trompe Le Monde Album) getting a look in.

The set sways from one decade to another, in a collection of songs spanning nearly 30 years. And yet, there are no songs that jar, of course the “Doolittle” and “Surfer Rosa” tracks are the ones that have the crowd singing along – the irresistible nod at a pop love song “Here comes your Man” is a particular highlight for me, and “Havalina” was beautiful. But newbies like “Tenement Song” from “Head Carrier” stand strong amongst the classics.

If I’m being completely honest there were times when the sound guys could have been working harder – bass and vocals were feeding back at several points in the first hour but Pixies have always had a rawness that can take a bit of buzz. I would have been disappointed to have left without a little bit of a headache!

The set motors on, song after song (although of course most Pixies songs come in short bursts) with not a peep in between – the stage is dark and back lit, full of smoke and the lack of banter adds to the surrealness they do so well… I was happy to see that guitarist Joey Santiago was completing the line-up after his recent stay in rehab with signature unpolished surfy tones. However, the real revelation for me was the wonderful Paz Lenchantin – having seen the original line up featuring Kim Deal, bringing a splash of colour to the monochrome stage with a large floppy red flower attached to the headstock of her bass. After so much time I wonder if the comparisons to Kim Deal become galling (Gigantic was a notable exception to the set – Monkey’s Gone to Heaven also sadly absent) however Paz stood her very leggy ground. The bass was deliciously punky and growly and her vocals strong – in that quirky way Pixies do so well.

When this 2-hour marathon draws to its tumultuous conclusion with a fantastic last run of “Hey”, “Gouge Away”, the magnificent “Debaser” and finally the throat wrenching “Tame”, the band take their bows in silence and leave the stage. Still not a word.

They return to the stage for their encore and the whole room is flooded with smoke – seriously it was like walking into a cloud – Pixies humour perhaps, because Paz then delivers a haunting version of “Into the White” before they disappear in the smoke screen like ghosts in the night.

In short as loud and weird and wonderful as you would come to expect although, next time guys, maybe say “hey” – after all we’ve been “trying to meet you”.

Set list;

Where is my mind?

Nimrod’s Son

Break my body

Brick is red

Winterlong (Neil Young)

Blown Away

Mr. Grieves

La La Love You

Ana

All the Saints

Here Comes your Man

Motorway to Roswell

Magdalena 318

Tenement Song

Classic Masher

Head on (The Jesus and Mary Chain)

U-Mass

I’ve Been Tired

Velouria

Havalina

Snakes

Caribou

Rock Music

Baal’s Back

Isla de Enchanta

Oona

Planet of Sound

All I Think About Now

Hey

Gouge Away

Debaser

Tame

Into the White