Amelia’s Magazine | Hot Club De Paris – Live At Dead Lake

Not as impressive as their first output, more about mind not as depressive as their comeback, ask their third album manages to have some really solid hits while they explore their own roots and bring the angular guitars back. Unfortunately, site the excessive number of fillers making the experience less pleasant than it should be. You can’t blame them for trying. Their new songs see them trying to sound like their old selves – back when they had enough dancefloor anthems to make Franz Ferdinand jealous, and a major behind after them. After being dropped by their label because of News And Tributes, the second album which lacked the material which made them interesting in the first place, they had no option but to go back and give us their best impression of The Jam playing punk versions of Beach Boys songs. In The Beginning of the Twist, Radio Heart and Broke Up the Time they show that they still have what it takes to create shiny pop-dance songs. So what am I forgetting to mention? Oh, yes, the bad songs on the album. The ones that sound like a pastiche of themselves; soulless use of guitar and drums (as well as their accent – which we all liked) making me wonder where the energetic, meaningful two minutes of punk madness went. It could’ve been their chance to make it via their self made label, but regrettably This is Not the World could only be a good if it was an EP.

The member of Black Ghosts‘ solo project Lord Skywave is steeped in biographical influences and sways into the worlds of pop, and dub reggae and avant-garde electronica. Then again, order when you look at Simon Lord’s musical career you can see why his solo project is such a multi-genre mish mash.

Perhaps the most heartwarming part of this album is his extensive use of his families musical past. He samples the music his grandmother used to make so many moons ago. After a summer of visiting his grandfather’s house and going through his collection of old reel-to-reel tape recordings and 78′s, pilule he had an entire archive of her fantastically composed sweep off-your-feet instrumentals to work with.

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As well as this, all the electronic bass sounds on the album were produced using the Lord Skywave synthesizer which was built by Simon’s dad in the 70′s, and only 10 were made. Which I find hard to believe with such a tantalizing name, surely there must have been more demand!

I don’t know about you, but I find all this absolutely fascinating, and such a refreshing change from the majority of music, which can sometimes can appear to be something of a soulless, money grabbing, dried out husk.

It’s so hard to pinpoint my favourite tracks on this album because it’s all so diverse and to start comparing them makes my retinas hurt. I think what I find so gripping about his style is his voice. At points it’s heartbreak in a sound wave and at others it‘s the happy morning shower singing that I thought only really occured in plays set in New York in the 1950′s.

Even though Simon Lord is an established musician, as both an ex-member of Simian and current half of The Black Ghosts, this album sets him apart from all his previous endeavors. It sounds like Prince if he was quintessentially British. What more can I say?
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I’d seen the Amarylas a couple of weeks ago at an Oxjam night at Brixton’s Windmill and had been pleasantly surprised. Heading over to Islington’s hallowed pharmacy +Greater+London, what is ed +UK&fb=1&view=text&latlng=469594232395886090″target=”_blank”>Hope & Anchor, it was time to reacquaint myself with their psychedelia infused sound.

Tonight they were the opening act on the bill, so the venue was still pretty quiet, which was a shame. A guitar based four-piece, led by mop haired singer Luke Segura, they blend that classic, slightly psychedelic pop whimsy of Syd Barrett or Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake-era Small Faces with a Clash inspired New Wave edge. Basically, what Pete Doherty might sound like if he didn’t have quite so many, er, distractions!

For all of you still mourning the passing of the Libertines, make sure you check out the Amarylas when they play a venue near you.

Calling all budding fashion designer’s, adiposity Carla Fernandez, medicine founder of the leading ethical label, there Taller Flora, is giving designers the opportunity to jet over to Mexico to become part of her team for five months.

After winning the British Council’sInternational Young Fashion Entrepreneur Award, Carla has been rewarded with a cash prize to spend on a project which both tailors to her specific interests and contributes to developing the relationship between her country and the UK. The Mexican designer has chosen to give a printed textile designer and menswear designer from the UK the fantastic opportunity of working with herself and the Taller Flora team on two lines of clothing in Mexico in August 2008.

This is not, however, for someone who just likes the idea of sipping tequilas in the sun. The menswear candidate will work with Carla to develop tailoring within the range while the textile designer will help out on her printed textile designs.

Requirements for the menswear applicants:

Should have a BA or MA in fashion or be a talented designer.
Demonstrable competence of pattern cutting is mandatory
Ability to work independently
Team player with good interpersonal and communication skills
Knowledge of and an interest in ethical fashion
Knowledge of Spanish would be an asset
Must be a resident in the UK.

And the requirements for the textile applicants:

Should have a BA or MA in textile design or be a talented print designer
Excellent freehand drawing skills
Knowledge of Photoshop is mandatory
Silk screening experience
Ability to work independently
Team player with good interpersonal and communication skills
Knowledge of and an interest in ethical fashion
Knowledge of Spanish would be an asset
Must be a resident in the UK.

Sound like you? Designers interested in the project are asked to send a short (no longer than 300 words) written statement outlining why they want to be part of this project, up to 12 images of their work, their CV and the details of one of their references, to Alison.Moloney@britishcouncil.org or Carla Fernandez at carla@flora2.com by 16th June 2008.

For more info visit the British Council website.

Good Luck!

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JUNE

Wednesday 11th

HEALTH at Korova, abortion Liverpool
Emmy the Great, web Diane Cluck, buy information pills younghusband at Cargo, London
White Williams at Puregroove Records, London
The Dodos at Night and Day Cafe, Manchester
I Was A Cub Scout at Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
Semifinalists at Amersham Arms, London
Beach House, Fleet Foxes at ULU, London

Thursday 12th

Gnarls Barkley at Bush Hall, London
The Dodos at Crawdaddy, Dubin
O Children, S.C.U.M. at Puregroove Records, London

Friday 13th

Little Boots at Club Pony w/Midfield General, Sheffield
Sportsday Megaphone at Club NME @ Sin City, Swansea
Wild Beasts at Cross Keys, London

Saturday 14th

Deerhunter, High Places at Dublin Vicar Street
Leonard Cohen at Irish Museum Of Modern Art, Dublin
Meltdown – Massive Attack, Fuck Buttons at Royal Festival Hall, London
Sportsday Megaphone at Club NME at Welly Club, Hull

Sunday 15th

The Twilight Sad at Edinburgh Bongo Club
The Sugars at Fleece, Bristol

On Monday evening Ethic held the award ceremony for it’s annual ethical fashion competition in London.

Being one of the hottest days this year, buy I arrived at the uba trendy Fashion and Textile Museum feeling slightly harassed having endured 10 minutes of the rush hour on London’s sweaty central line. Thankfully I quickly located the bar and after gladly helping myself to a chilled white wine and tasty mini tuna baguette I was ready to fully immerse myself in the show

Now in its second year, more about The Ethic Competition is a contest open to over 150 fashion courses in the UK. Students were given the brief of designing a garment under £100 which addressed a key issue surrounding ethical fashion (eg fair-trade, organic materials, recycling, animal friendly or innovative environmentally friendly new materials), while still maintaining elements of current trends.

While I’d admit that none of the finalist’s work could be worn beyond the museums four walls, credit has to be given to the students for managing to produce garments that were at least visually appealing and a pleasure to watch on the catwalk. Design team Reduce, Reuse, Recycle managed to create a strapless full skirted gown using just newspaper, bubble wrap, bin bags and scrap pieces of recycled material.

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The winners, and admittedly my favourites, were Nicole Da Silva and Phong Nguyen from Hackney Community College, who used second hand materials and clippings from the BBC website to address the issue of recycling while still managing to incorporate this season’s obsession with volume and ruffles in an extravagant tiered wedding gown.

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Once the winners had taken their lap of honor and the buffet started to fizzle out, I made tracks to leave feeling very inspired and I must admit, a little merry!
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Whether you’re eco-minded, page bemused by the concept, price or like me, help just generally confused; scribble down in your diaries ‘Climate Forum’, which is happening this weekend! The event includes a huge range of 50+ seminars with speakers varying from Michael Meacher MP, Tony Jupiter (Director Friends of the Earth UK) to George Galloway MP. But, you’ll not be listening to others all day as workshops, art, music, performance, stalls and exhibitions allow you to get stuck in straight away. There’s even a Saturday night party ‘Climate Caper’ at the Synergy Centre for those groovy rebel campaigners wanting to throw some shapes.

The event is organised by the group CCC (‘Campaign against Climate Change’) who seek to raise awareness about the gravity and urgency of global warming. They aim to get people together, forming street campaigns, pushing for a reduction in global emissions. The first day’s plenary is: ‘Are we losing the race against climate catastrophe?’ where workshops will investigate solutions such as climate justice, biodiversity and even ‘Youth and climate change: Campaigning for our future’ (so all you raging student activists with burning questions to ask-note this down)! Sunday will consequently focus on ‘Climate change from around the world’ where speakers will be holding a selection of workshops, including: ‘direct action’, ‘climate change, energy and health’, ‘combined networks’ and many more.

One workshop that pinpricked my interest was: ‘Youth and climate change: Campaigning for our future’ with Abigail Jabines of Greenpeace on Saturday. In a 2007 seminar in Sydney she stated that a one-metre sea level rise would result in 700 million square metres of land where 15 out of 16 regions’ coastlines would be affected. Not only does risen sea levels effect eco systems but it also has immediate consequences for small communities ill equipped to deal with climate changes.

The assortment of workshops happening throughout the weekend range from the political (‘Energy and Anarchy: why we need to escape from market-based thinking’), economical (‘Climate change and your bank’), political (‘Direct Action’), to spiritual (‘Faith and Climate Change’). One organiser told me the objective of the Weekend was to ‘raise awareness and forge a community of people who care about these issues; through political action as well as individual choices’. Her sunny outlook imparted a sense of positivity in me, as in the words of Abigail Jabines in her lecture; ‘We can do something. The window for action is getting very slim and the time to act is now.’

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The line-up tonight does appear a little bit thrown together, page as all the bands don’t really lead on from one another. What Would Jesus Drive kick off the night’s proceedings. I’ve yet to decide on how feel about bands who get their names from bumper stickers, but judging a band by their favored car trinkets should always be avoided. This duo and their drum machine manage to put on a quirky live show of American tinged indie rock that seems to entertain this crowd at least.

Next on the bill is Polka Party, who offer a perfectly enjoyable bunch of pop songs with more southern drawl and dandy temperament than you could shake a stick at. Their latest single ‘Japanese Haircut’ is almost perfect indie disco fodder and it certainly had one girl at the front pulling Agyness Dean style pouts for the camera. I think this must be how indie music is rated nowadays.

Dananananaykroyd stole the show quite easily, though it’s not their style to do things effortlessly. The energy from their live show was infectious, and I’d have to say the catalyst for this was their duo of drummers. Facing opposite ways they dual perpetually, and the effect is almost hypnotic. Thankfully there is a large distraction from all the fun drumming in the form of the ever so brash lead singer. His microphone seemed to be broken for the majority of the set, but he truly didn’t care, and neither did I. He was shouting so loud that you could get the jist of what he might sound like if the microphone was working, and his flailing was for more interesting than any type of lyrics. I’d like to think of him as a lead flailer than a lead singer.

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Amelia’s Magazine | Modernaire: VELVET NEVER DRIES

Alex Gene Morrison’s art can’t help but attract attention. Despite being displayed on a backward-facing wall, mind purchase the second I walk into the ‘The Future Is Now’ show, website like this my eye is drawn straight to it. He is exhibiting three large canvases; each of a painted face, buy more about but it is the middle one that I find most conspicuous. The head, body and hair are hidden under a dense layer of matt black paint, leaving only a set of menacing eyes in the picture. The larger than life size does nothing to mask the unnatural peculiarity of Morrison’s portraits either. My walk around, champagne glass in hand, takes me past the odd inspiring piece. Somewhere on a balcony above me I spy a tower of precariously balanced teacups that look fairly beautiful from afar. Still on the ground floor, however, I stop to admire a row of miniature portraits, skilfully painted in muted colours. Each displays a varying degree of abnormality – none of the delicate faces are by any means normal.

David Hancock‘s enormous, hyper-real landscape is definitely something to be seen. Vaguely reminding me of one of those children’s T-shirts with unicorns, hills and fairy dust on, the canvas depicts a fantasy mountain scene, with wonderful skies and a dreamlike river. Hancock has chosen to makes certain parts of the canvas 3D, presumably using something lumpy like mod-rock to create an unsatisfying surface you want to reach out and touch.The piece that really stayed with me that evening though was by Alexis Milne.

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Whilst scanning some art on the other side of the room I caught sight of Amelia and the crew hovering around a small, darkly painted shack. On closer inspection I discover that inside the hut is the scariest clown I have ever seen, complete with tarot cards and a fake American accent. Pinned to the walls are various masks of animals and child-like paintings. The clown (perhaps Milne himself?) is reading Amelia’s ‘tarot cards’ in his loud,phoney, and frankly creepy voice. He tells her that she is a horny schizophrenic. I decide I must also have a go while we’re there. He wastes no time in telling me that I am to end up a chariot racing, lap dancer with a fondness of eating.

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Hmm. He also makes me wear a creepy cat mask whilst talking to him, so I understand this is to be taken with more than a pinch of salt. On the whole ‘The Future Is Now’ show displays an array of style, quality and substance in the pieces they have chosen to exhibit. I am left feeling overwhelmed (it really is quite a big exhibition) but more importantly inspired.

Photography: Amelia innit!
Photo 1: Sophie, Anna, James and Tim

After forgetting to RSVP to the Young KnivesRough Trade instore, case some of the A-Mag team and I were sitting outside nursing ciders wondering whether it was time to try and sweet talk the doorman. Funnily enough, approved munching on some food next to us was none other than the Young Knives manager, who took pity and kindly put us on the door. Thanks Duncan!

After trying to scull the rest of our cider – yes, all class we are – we walked into Rough Trade to the sounds of the song The Decision, and an epic, Phil Collins style drum fill. Oh yeaaah baby. I, not having the vertical advantage of my companion’s six foot four inches, had to crane my neck from mid-way through the crowd to glimpse the thick rimmed geek chic of Henry and Thomas “House Of Lords” Dartnell and Oliver Askew, garbed up in what Tall James described as conservative shirts and ties, looking like they’ve come fresh out of their nine to five jobs at a real estate agent.

With mature, well-crafted indie pop songs, the Young Knives are musically tight like tigers. As has happened in the past from what I gather, Razorlight got a mention – as they have a song called Up All Night as well…incidentally, as do Unwritten Law, Lionel Richie, Boomtown Rats and the Counting Crows. Their vocal harmonies are reminiscent of Crowded House. Repetitive guitar riffs ran under infectious hooks, getting heads bobbing and a warm reception from the crowd.

With their easy stage presence and self-deprecating banter that conveyed their confidence and self-assurance at the quality of their own music; and whether they were sartorially splendid or committing fashion faux pas in their outfits, they could convince me to rent a property any day. And then I’d ask them to play at the housewarming.

It was the most incestuous night of music ever – though apparently every night at the Brudenell Social in Leeds is a musical pit of incest…

Besides being an opportunity for solo music makers to take their bedroom brainstorms out onto the stage, visit web MAN ALIVE! borne of Leeds artist collective Nous Vous, pharmacy included a number of other artist collectives showcasing and selling various works and bits and bobs.

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First up was Dinosaur Pile-Up, recipe popping his gig cherry with a two song set. With a hand injury in play and the first rehearsal with a band backing him up that same afternoon, performance-wise it was much better than some could have done under the circumstances. It sounds like commercial success to me. Love is a Boat (And We’re Sinking) is an infectiously catchy anthem for frustrated heartbreak and confusion at relationships enough for an entire American teen series (enter Ryan and Marissa).

Glaciers, one Nic Burrows was up next with a bumbling Mr. Bean-like stage presence that really charmed, to many female exclamations of “Aw How sweet!” One of his mates actually commented “That slick bastard knows exactly what he’s doing.” Musically, he certainly does. Plaintive, earnest and warm, Glaciers is lovely. Guest appearances by the darling she-beast Katie Harkin of Sky Larkin fame and Mike Payne aka Mechanical Owl in Melamine made it an onstage pow wow.

Vest For Tysso is Will Edmonds and is a one, and occasionally, a two man band. Glaciers’ Nic Burrows popped in and out of the set on various instruments. Sweet, rich and multi-dimensional, just like a hearty carrot cake, this was, amazingly his first and last gig before jetting off to play at Canada’s Pop Montreal Festival.

Star of the night though was Mike Payne aka Mechanical Owl, who surprised with some genuine pop gems. After some technical mishaps including a core meltdown on his MACbook, and a badly placed mobile phone (which resulted in the tell-tale interference of an incoming SMS – though in this context, it may not have been totally out of place), Mechanical Owl impressed with the well rounded maturity of his varied and well thought out songs – smile inducing, strong and melancholic.

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Then came Napoleon IIIrd, who never disappoints, with his heady mix of strummed acoustics, undulating synth, full of cuts and clicks, a triumphant trumpet section, and impassioned and ragged vocals. His is a set full of choruses that will march around in your head, with a broody, somewhat troubled, but ever hopeful Napoleon IIIrd fully in command of his electronic brigade.

Whether you like it or not, the royal family themselves are a result of inbreeding; as are most sovereign clans. Generally, this sort of family tree results in at the very least, mildly cross-eyed, buck-toothed, hammy-eared dolts. On the other hand, the MAN ALIVE! bill saw everyone having some kind of finger in everyone else’s pie; and instead of the usual weak specimens, gave birth to the rather uncanny result of an unfairly talented line up, despite springing from a small (and refreshingly un-skinny) ‘jean’ pool.

Flier by The Nous Vous Collective
Napoleon IIIrd Photograph by Christel Escosa
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One of my favourite artists at the moment, illness and one of my favourite London venues…. surely Bat for Lashes (aka Natasha Khan and co) at Camden’s majestic Koko would be fabulous, approved right? Of course it was. I missed the support because I was running late: I simply couldn’t decide what Natasha would want me to wear. When I finally arrived, mid the Bjork-esque Trophy, the quiet crowd were already mesmerized by the sound of Khan and her band. I couldn’t fathom whether the eerie, sombre silence and general lack of movement was good or bad – until the raucous applause at the end of the opener. Clearly the room was full of Bat fans, and it was a struggle to find any spot in the whole venue where a good view was to be had. I weaved in and out of folk until I found myself at the highest balcony, which was surprisingly only half full.

From here, a clear view of the stage was to be had. Winter trees framed the singer and her band, whilst a mystic moon hung creepily over the ensemble featuring interesting projections – available as a post card set for you to treasure after the gig.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this incredible act live, and instead have only read a syndicate of reviews, by now you will no doubt feel nauseous reading the following words: eerie, scary, spooky, haunting, chilling, magical, bewitching. I’m afraid, dear readers, that only this compendium of descriptions summarises a gig like this. But what most reviewers often omit is that, beyond the monstrous melodies, this is a stunning woman – musically, technically, physically.

Natasha, dazzling as ever in a bat-winged glittered smock, leggings, long boots and staple headband, moved effortlessly from track to track – presenting her svelte frame sometimes at front stage centre, bells and all; sometimes taking time at the piano, or on one occasion brandishing her recently acquired ‘wizard’s stick’ for a reworking of classic track Sarah. Natasha firmly has her feet on the ground, and spoke short, sweet sentences in between songs – her timid demeanour shining through on lines sung bashfully – such as Taste The Hands That Drink My Body.

Seeing the gig from the upper balcony was a true experience – the crowd wore their complimentary Bat For Lashes paper masks (featuring Khan’s original trademark feather head dress) and witnessing them all lined up, facing the stage, heads tilted upwards – was a little disturbing. Feeling like a prize pervert at a strange cult meeting was not what I expected, but nevertheless it was entertaining.

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Songs like the dazzling Horse and I and crowd favourite What’s a Girl To Do? were given an more interesting up-tempo flavour; it was a huge shame the latter was let down with weak backing vocals. These tracks were interspersed with softer choruses such as The Wizard and the poetic Saw A Light, which were kept at their spellbinding best. A sweeter cover of Tom Waits’ Lonely was an attractive interpretation and would have gone unnoticed to all bar revellers acutely familiar with Natasha’s music. New track Missing Time was also showcased; it sounded great but stuck out like Natasha’s outfit might do at a funeral.

Last night saw the end of the Fur and Gold tour, an album that has lauded critical acclaim internationally. Let’s raise a toast to Khan and Co, and keep everything crossed that the follow up album will be equally as affecting as the debut.

Photography by Matt Bramford
Nate Smith and Pete Cafarella met years ago at university and played in a lick of bands together, page during which time Pete also starred in Nate’s student films. After uni they were reunited in New York and started as a duo in Nate’s bedroom in Queens. Shy Child was born.

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They don’t discuss references or influences, order as it is too difficult. As Nate states, ‘ How many tracks are on our ipods?’ They would like to go down as a modern-day Chas and Dave, and currently listen to Metronomy, SMD, Black Sabbath and classic Wu Tang, amongst many others.

This new-wave/electronic/techno/punk pairing are going down well here in the UK and had made it their focus for this year, and after the festive season they’re heading back Stateside to pick up where they left off there.

Saturday saw their last date in London, at the Carling Academy in Islington. Nice little venue. I had been banging on about this band for a while, so I took two friends along as they were keen to offer a listen. What I failed to tell them was that it was a MySpace backed night, beginning very early, and featuring the youngest crowd I have ever seen at a gig. Ouch. Now I know it’s a little while ago now, but at 16 I do not remember skipping everywhere. Honestly. And I have no real qualm with skipping, but it is really all that necessary? Maybe skipping is the new black, or the new new-rave, maybe. Hopefully not.

Anyroad, we arrived and were asked for ID. With 80 years between the three of us, I’m hoping as we enter that this isn’t going to be the only pleasurable part of the night / late afternoon.

Whilst in the UK, Shy Child have performed a number of gigs, appeared on Jools Holland and more recently teamed up with Stella McCartney for Swarovski Fashion Rocks, which saw them enjoying a little musical chairs action with the models. “It was really fun and different for us,” says Nate. “And what we did together was a lot more exciting than some of the other pairings.” Agreed. Such a gig has brought their music to the fashion set, and their synth-styled, new-wave beats have hit the right market (it is no haphazard coincidence they have supported the Klaxons, amongst many others). The true measure of this band’s phenomenon, though, is that they can appeal to such diverse crowds – from Stella’s shmoozers to angst ridden teens, whose parents just, you know, don’t understand. That sort of thing.

I bumped into a friend of mine from Vogue there, who had a tale to tell. She’d gone into the toliets with a girlfriend, and a young girl had run out of the toilet, sssshing anyone who entered. Politely, my friend asked “Why do we need to be quiet in the toilet?” Naturally, the girl remarked, “Because Leanne is in that cubicle on the phone to her parents, and they think she’s in Pizza Hut.” Classy.

The duo that are Shy Child, on record and on stage, sound much more than two guys with a keytar and a drum kit. They are innovative, exciting and raw. They’ve stripped what was a heavy, electronic sound back to basics. Painfully catchy Drop The Phone is an immensly funky beat and is a pastiche of all sorts of tunes. Other favourite tracks of the night were Astronaut which has a distinct Giorgio Mororder disco flavour. The superb Good and Evil also floated my boat and has an incredible reggaeton influence. All enjoyed by a huddle of excited teens bouncing at the front – as well as everyone 18+ tapping their feet at the back.

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A great night had by all, not least the kids. So it was time to head home, and play muscial chairs.

Photography by Matt Bramford
It’s a brand new kletzmer world!

The new Rough Trade superstore is cavernous and full of trendy young things casually perusing the flyers and freebie magazines near the coffee shop, viagra many on their own like me, website due to the stringent ticket conditions of this in-demand gig. Yes, visit this this is a gig to be accompanied by coffee or fruit juice only – beers to be had later in the bar next door.

At the back under a sign saying Dance CDs, a small stage had been erected and the racks shunted out of the way. Beirut is a cute teddybear of a man accompanied by his scenester hoodie crew. Only here will you see what looks like a new raver playing double bass to a new wave kletzmer soundtrack.

Beirut is discombobulated…he’s got jet lag and the mikes are having feedback issues that mean I spend most of the gig with a hand over the ear nearest the speakers – but that doesn’t stop a rousing set. Accordians, multiple ukes, a man playing a funny drum thing on the floor next to the cds, mandolin, violin, trumpet – all musical bases are covered. This is the return of the rock orchestra – people are bored with the traditional guitar, bass, drums combo, and everywhere I turn I’m seeing a move towards the instruments of an orchestra or big band. This is music that wouldn’t be out of place in Red Square in Moscow, but suddenly it is being feted as the next big thing. Not a bad thing I say.

I met Nancy at Thermal Festival in September. She’s ace. Wearing a very fetching grey jersey dress – that I am sure had more than a few men drooling over some carefully revealed chest – she sat down between guitar and harp.

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In her hair were some artfully arranged buttons (tip: she sews them onto hair grips) and on her lap she placed her harp. Nancy sings songs that touch your heartstrings. It’s just her, more about her pure sweet voice and a harp or guitar, nothing else. She peppers her uniquely modern folk songs with funny little Nancy-isms and anecdotes. “You’ve cheered me up. I get all flustered when I come to London; I feel all weird. I stayed on my brother’s sofa in Hackney and he told me not to leave the house today cause I didn’t have a key. So I stayed in on the sofa watching daytime TV. Not good!” Down to earth and naturally talented, Nancy didn’t disappoint. Not many people seem to know of Nancy in London yet, but with a multi-album deal sorted her reputation is bound to grow. Catch her while the venues are still intimate, where she can leap off the stage to sell her merch as soon as she finishes playing. “There’s albums over there for sale. By the way…”
Three years young and buoyed by the glowing acclaim heaped upon their second LP, approved 2006′s Yellow House, try Brooklyn’s own Grizzly Bear offer up something of a celebration of their talents with the release of Friend – a ten track compilation of covers, nurse collaborations, new material and reworked favourites. Having invited the likes of Band Of Horses, CSS and Zach Condon (Beirut) to contribute, Grizzly Bear have managed to avoid notions of ‘shameless cash-in’ and produced an offering of merit. Indeed there is lots here to enjoy.

Brooding, dirty guitars help define opener Alligator, an alternate take on a cut from GB’s debut release. It features the first contribution from Zach Condon, and though it plods and outstays its welcome slightly, a glorious choral burst midway through manages to save it from being the drab opener it threatened to be. Things take an upturn with a brilliantly dark cover of The Crystals smash He Hit Me. It’s sinister tone is offset by a vocal that tips it hat to the late 80′s new romantics, and the sporadic sonic explosions serve to create an unforgettable slice of haunting pop.

The middle of the record then drifts along in a pleasant enough manner, without really exciting – which is a bit of a shame. The bizarrely titled Granny Diner exemplifies the problem. Positively, things are kick-started again with an energised, disco version of Knife courtesy of CSS. It begins, rather unfortunately, with a sample that appears lifted directly from StereophonicsDakota, but soon recovers itself. Punchy, choppy beats and a wave of synths dominate, and the upbeat tempo is just what the record needs. Band Of Horses then take us from disco to country and western with a banjo led take on Plans. It doesn’t quite work, but there are enough quirks – a lovely honky tonk piano solo outro being one – to engage. The record ends in a melancholic way, with a rather dreary Daniel Rossen home recording entitled ‘Deep Blue Sea’. It’s inclusion ill-judged.

Despite it’s flaws there are some lovely moments on Friend. It is diverse, sonically ambitious and at times captivating, which is no mean feat.

Gigs like this, no rx epic ones, medical are always daunting. You want to see all the bands but you’re clearly not going to. At ALL TOMORROW’S PARTIES, pharmacy it works. It’s over a whole weekend and everyone is in the right mindset. So that is what made this gig kinda strange; as essentially it was all the same people you get at ATP looking slightly bemused.

With a line-up of bands like these, even though they are becoming big, you still like to think of them as your little secret. So when you see them playing at a venue like that of The Forum, the enchantment is somewhat lost, you wish you were seeing them at Barden’s or at a festival, or, most idealistically, your friends’ warehouse. Especially, ESPECIALLY, when at first you’re told you cannot leave the balcony (what is that all about?!) where I was confined to as I watched Black Lips. Who – besides being as far away as I could possibly be – were exciting. I missed Fuck Buttons and all but one song of Deerhunter, because I was putting my white face paint on. Which is a little unforgivable, as Fuck Buttons are one of the best dirty yet beautiful duos around of late. Though Black Lips, with their lo-fi garage punk and their sloppy vintage sound and sweaty little faces, was the perfect start for me. They did a very special cover of Thee Headcoats ‘Wildman’, which was the point when we got distinctly pissed off being stuck on the balcony so snuck downstairs, for Liars.

The Liars’ new album is strange. It is just really simple. Had it come first, before ‘They Threw Us In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top’ and two more equally as concept driven albums it would have made more sense. But ‘Liars’, self-titled as it is, is a key, not just as noise led or art like, like their set, which bar the old songs, resemble more of a 1970s garage band than that of the beautiful, sadistic nature of the Liars we have come to expect. Its like they’re doing everything backwards; digressing to a pared down, more simple punk sound. But they’re Liars, so in all probability just messing with us, so maybe we should just let them get on with it.

SO.

By Deerhoof I wanted to expect big things, a grand and innovative performance. It all began charmingly enough, but by this point and most of my friends were trapped outside because they smoke and I really wanted find two them to be there as Deerhoof are so magical you want to re-assure yourself its real. So I spent a good deal of time during Deerhoof’s set wondering around as a lost zombie, and the big venue meant I kept losing the sound and meeting more equally frustrated people who were leaving. So halfway though their set I did just that. Left. ATP do festivals best.

Gillan Edgar (yes, dosage that’s his real name) is a Scottish songsmith who has set up home in Manchester with his girlfriend, prostate their two dogs, rx and an cluster of instruments. His performances tend towards the retro; reliant on basic acoustic grooves, and he has a unique, happy-go-go-lucky sound. Imagine how today’s fix of troubled indie bands might sound if they actually had a smile on their face, and you’re half way there.

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On Monday, Gillan and his band put on a show at the Indigo2 – the new, lavish O2 arena’s cooler, alternative sister venue, housed in what was the Millennium Dome. Edgar is, at the moment, unsigned; but the clock is ticking for him to find his perfect match in the music industry. Bound for the pop charts with his boyish good looks, Gillan exudes confidence and is a completely natural show-off. I’m not usually one for crowd participation, but encouragement by Gillan to sing The Greatest Gift’s chorus (No no no no, no no no no) was met by myself and the crowd with excitement. This is exactly the kind of thing he promotes at his intimate gigs, which light-up the faces of his small but loyal following. In between marvellous melodies he connects with his audience with his laid back, witty persona and larger-than-life stage presence. I had been waiting for him to play in London for a while, so imagine my excitement when I heard the Bedford (the small Balham live music venue) were to host him here at the Indigo.

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Edgar’s music is exciting indeed – and can only be described as pop and rock sitting contiguously, providing heart warming lyrics and a musically ‘up yours’ to pretentious indie bands who have the attitude but not the substance. Gillan has the credentials to perform with his band in such a grand venue, and I’m sure seeing him play solo with his guitar at a cosy gig would be equally impressive.

It’s so refreshing to find a musician who combines honest music with good old-fashioned fun. Gillan knocks out quality tunes with a huge smile on his face. Hooks like Mr Inconsistent and The Eureka Song make you bounce with glee, whilst the more poetic The Greatest Gift and Victoria Has A Secret make the mind move instead.

Gillan’s music isn’t complicated, assuming or prescribing – it’s just effing good. I smile smugly at my compadres with a look of ‘I told you so’ as Gillan plays his last tune. A long awaited debut CD is in the pipeline (hurry up, man!) but until then, it’s back to his MySpace for a listen.

Photography by Matt Bramford
It’s the politest crowd of all time. People move out of the way without me asking them to. One skinny guy, site wearing glasses and a cardigan, sildenafil apologises for no discernable reason. This isn’t surprising. Nice people generally come to the Luminaire. Normally to watch nice men play quiet acoustic guitars, nicely. A bit like Gravenhurst’s first record Flashlight Seasons.

The first shock for anyone whose only involvement with Gravenhurst being Flashlight Seasons – an accessible, downbeat folk album – is that this is not just that one guy. It’s a four-piece ensemble onstage. Singer Nick Talbot wears earplugs, unnecessarily. He makes some Slint-y harmonics on his electric (!) guitar. Alex Wilkins on other guitar echoes it with warm swathes of gentle noise. The rhythm section is pounding, concise and unrelenting.

This is unsettling. Gravenhurst’s four excellent albums sound markedly singular, the product of one brain. But the band’s performance is crucial to their live sound; the instrumental moods build up, develop and fade. Talbot’s voice, when it finally arrives after a drawn-out jam, is fey and resigned. His voice is often the band’s main draw on record, but live it’s not quite translating. On The Velvet Cell, Talbot’s a pissed off computer techie, singing about murder “lying dormant in the heart of every man” with a touch too much passive relish. It’s great, but the harmonic guitar stuff at the beginning of the set led the songs better than his paper-thin voice, which was weedier and shyer than it should be.

The second shock is the music. It’s hard to think of a neater, more comfortable niche than “that band on Warp who do the quiet folk thing,” but to their credit Gravenhurst have moved closer and closer to total psych noise mania with every release. Hollow Men from new album The Western Lands is total Dinosaur Jr territory, without the solos. Talbot strums his guitar manically, making his right arm look like a crazed, live side of ham.

They get called “post rock” a lot. I guess that’s fair. The quiet parts are inventive and fluid. The loud bits are rocking, not revolutionary, but totally worth the wait when they arrive. That’s about the biggest plaudit I’m ever likely to give “post rock”. But it sounds more like bastard Kraut to me, anyway.

Occasionally the strumming, feedback, fragile voice and layered drums catch alight and it feels like everything is beautifully interlocking. Except, you know, in a non-stoned way. Talbot’s voice warms up and becomes the beautiful counter to the instruments’ tired, reliable funeral song. It’s weirdly welcoming, but it wasn’t what I expected.

When music editor Christel told me I was on the guest list for this gig, patient she was greeted with a week of agitated over-enthusiasm and stupid Devendra-related questions. Not only was I smitten for the Banhart, I was a recently converted Laura enthusiast too, after weeks of listening to her soothing melodic tones in Amelia’s kitchen. To say that she has featured on every one of my recent mix tapes is an understatement. (She’s made it on to each one twice.)

So finally the evening arrived, and with my floral maxi-dress and lace headband in place I met up with my +1 (boyfriend Jake) for a pre-gig beer in Camden.
I thought I might be a teensy bit jealous of Laura Marling before the gig – (she’s a 17-year-old singer/songwriter extraordinaire who gets to support folk legends for god’s sake!) but after watching her I was absolutely green. How dare she be so unfailingly talented and successful at her age! And her attributes didn’t even seem to end there: to watch, she was the cutest of urban nymphs: tiny, with somewhat scene (click on this, no really) peroxide hair, an oversized hoodie slung off the shoulder and an unassuming manner that found her mumbling graciously between songs. Though she looked like she might not be enjoying herself, she was making a lot of us in the audience happy. I sang along fanatically to the ones I knew, and enjoyed hearing some new tales from her latest repertoire. Unfortunately the set was pretty much over before it began – she slunk off stage after five prettily concise tunes (alas without playing my favourite New Romantic) but left me in high spirits.

Devendra kept an impatient audience waiting for half an hour after Laura’s set, while he probably did something cool like smoke a joint backstage with his bohemian friends. We were pretty heated up by the time he stepped out from the shadows (hey just ‘cos it’s folk doesn’t mean the audience don’t push and shove a little) but oh my god did he make up for it! The most beautifully enchanting man I have ever seen, Devendra practically seemed to shine in the light of his own velvet clad aura. He opened the set with a joke song that he deliberately mimed, and just kept the skillz coming and coming, somehow managing to be funny, talented and entertaining the whole way through.

His voice sounded quite different live, and I mean that in a good way. Maybe it was just to do with getting the whole Devendra Banhart experience. It would be unfair not to mention his band while reviewing the gig because they obviously play a big part in his live performances. I couldn’t stop looking at the guitarist to his left. I swear he had actually stepped right out of ’69, complete with a shoulder-length mat of centre-parted hair and three piece flared suit. Together they made a pretty marvellous bunch.

I left the gig with an even bigger crush than I’d arrived with and a desire to pick up the guitar and learn a few tunes… perhaps next time I’ll be the supporting act.

Aaaargh UPSET THE RHYTHM. What would I do without them? They make seeing the noisy and alternative acts so easy for me. Just pick up a long orange flyer from your local east end haunt and you’re pretty set for your spiky, here choice, information pills and intercontinental for most part of the month. I got to 93 FEET EAST, a relatively new venue for UPSET THE RHYTHM, (which sound wise I am fine with, but in terms of character I’m not so sure) in time for YACHT. Active is definitely the word. Bouncy, fun, epileptic dance moves bordering on ADHD. Formerly the second half of THE BLOW it is the best music for indie kids to dance to. Jona Bechtolt’s percussion is infectious with jerky legs and shoulder thrusting all over the show. I am willing to forget the Michael Jackson sample used as an intro and his public school boy style rambling, as he was much fun.

Then NUMBERS. Trios really work! CELEBRATION, GET HUSTLE, PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED. NUMBERS are a no-wave-art-punk band of relentless drumming. They are coarse but ultimately captivating. They make a powerful noise, which, although better in previous recordings, makes you stop and fucking pay attention. Indra Dunis on drums and lead vocals is scratchy and piercing in the best possible sense. NUMBERS claw away at you, drawing you down and throwing you away. And there is a synthesizer. Need I say more?

Oh the anticipation! Toe twinkling, recipe shoulder shivering, check hand tingling excitement; the kind that reminds you of waiting for Christmas, or going on a ride in a hot air balloon. Though my evening shuddered to a start by being in a decidedly bad mood, the infectious promise of the night ahead soon took over, imbuing the pilgrimage to The Roundhouse with impatience at all manner of minor public transport issues (like waiting nine extra minutes for the tube – well I never!).

The crowd at the Roundhouse was eclectic, and as excited as I was; waiting anxiously for Beirut to get onstage with the boy wonder Zach Condon at the lead. When they ambled on, there was a warm roar of approval as the raggle-taggle gypsy mob began to play.

Zach has the quiet self-assured confidence of one having been around for a little while and knowing what he’s doing. With his brass (a flugelhorn to be precise) slung over his shoulder, baggy white tee-shirt and tousled hair, he is a rather unassuming figure…until he begins to sing. Condon’s undulating voice soars over the joyful raucous of the other nine musicians who make up the collective that is Beirut.

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It is a gorgeous din they make, warm and fresh. Their music manages to make the most jaded cynic feel like there’s still the endless possibility of many journeys to be had. Incongruously mature, yet still curiously innocent, the atmosphere that Beirut creates is simply a happy one. Uplifting and beautiful, the wide-eyed optimism of youth conveyed with well-travelled worldliness that is addictive to listen to. You just don’t want them to stop playing; even though the whole set sounds sort of like one long song with different variations on the theme – this is irrelevant, just like their image or whether they ‘put on a show’. Because it’s simply their sound, the purity of the music that absolutely holds you in rapt attention. Beirut is robust and swirling, just like snow and makes you feel like you’re seeing such a phenomena for the first time. Every song is epic, the soundtrack to the homecoming scene after the kind of adventure told in folktales, with a kind of refreshing joy and resolution that is ultimately satisfying.

For my virgin experience at the Roundhouse, I couldn’t have asked for a nicer time. And then came the after party in central Camden. The free bar made this buoyant Beirut fan a little more buoyant. The only vaguely eye-rolling thing was the opening few songs from the Djs – who I observed had a little trouble getting in at the door –making Liz (yet another tall companion of mine, who has the advantage of not having to crane to see ANYthing ANYwhere) and I raise our eyebrows. Ambient house at the Beirut after party? Hmmkay.

So we decided to make an exit a little while after the free bar dried up. Our timing was canny, as Beirut decided to make like trees (and leave) also. I caught Nick, the Beirut drummer, on the way out the door to tell him – like countless others had in the past no doubt of course – how much I enjoyed the gig. After a happily tipsy chat that I can’t actually recall very much of besides the fact that I flashed some blood (TRUST, click this) at him, my stomach grumbled and the best egg and bacon baps in London called my name. These are so good in fact, that Liz broke FOUR YEARS of vegetarianism to scoff a bit of my bacon a week ago. OH YES.

Nick decided that he too, could hear bacon calling him, and came with us. The lovely chap then proceeded to buy me an egg and bacon bap with BARBEQUE SAUCE! I had lost all hope that this condiment existed in the UK, and this event restored my faith in both rock stars and British condimentation. On that note, it was the perfect night…

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…And the bus ride back into East London was free too, innit. Hollaaaa.

{Somewhat dodgy) Photography by Christel Escosa
Despite their credentials and that Robot Man song, sickness the Aliens just aren’t cutting it. Black Affair, cialis 40mg Steve Mason’s new incarnation, doctor is at once audacious and amazing but probably won’t please the faithful. So what are those once enamored with and still lamenting the demise of perhaps the only British band of the last decade to actually be any, er, good, to do? I’m mean fans of the Beta Band, of course. Easy now. You’d do well to investigate this stone cold gem of an EP by Peter Hedley a.k.a. Beneath Fire and Smoke.

Sounding not unlike a Romanian folk band free-styling over the best bits of the Beta’s first three EPs, this has much to commend. No surprise then that Hedley is a sometime collaborator with whacked-out-folk genius, Voice of the Seven Woods. His music is shot through with the same rustic romance and bleary eyed wooziness…but it’s so much more. Opener, Smoke and Flames, is the finest cut. It uncurls, ebbs and flows over euphoric flutes and strings, electro-acoustic beats, monastic, loved-up vocals and down right cheeky Fairport’s style bass. Hot damn! Songs from a Slipway is how A Hawk and A Hacksaw wish they’d sound whilst The Iceberg Waltz deals in the same desolate and disconcerting piano led melancholia last heard on a Beach Boys Smile bootleg circa December 1966. Closer, So It Came To Pass, contorts celestial psychedelic string parts over minimalist bass and heart broken lyrics of unrequited love: So it came to be/That you and me will always be/Apart

Beautifully packaged vinyl courtesy of the bespoke Battered Ornaments label, this is what it’s all about. No downloads. No guerilla PR campaign. No hype. Music for music’s sake. And don’t doubt it, pal – this is fucking music.
Dearest Anarcho-Hillbilly Barn Dance Compadres, visit this

Cut-a-Shine are at it again, viagra buy hosting another rip roarer at the glorious Finsbury Town Hall. It’s going to be a bonafide hoe-down; themed as a Barn Dating night, click with plenty of lil dawgie roping, partner swapping, do-si-do-ing, gingham neckerchiefs and yeehaw-ing.

Couples, trios, doubles, groups, gay straight bi, tri, or try anything, come on down. Single as sliced cheese? You might just meet a sweet thing to take you off to the love parlour for a roll in the hay. If you’re feeling really lucky, you might receive a gingham beard (for the girls) or a pretty bow (for the boys), with a saucy love note attached. If you’re from the house of jealous lovers though, maybe stay at home, as it’s gonna be a mixing and mingling good old fashioned time, and we don’t want no fighting shenanigans going on.

Opening up the evening will be The Bona Fide Family Band, promising some hillbilly mountain music on a wealth of odd instruments like mandolins and banjos.

Cut-a-Shine are on 9pm-11pm with Amelia calling some dances, if you fancy meeting the lady herself.

After all that there’s Fat 45. Jump jivin’, jitter buggin’, rock’n’rollin 11-piece swing band.

Can’t get any cooler than a shindig like this one. And whilst you’re cutting a rug out there on the barn dancing floor, spare a thought for the poor old band stuck up there on the stage, and send us some love too (cider will do).

So long now, see you at the shindig this here Friday!

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Huw Stephens – Radio 1 DJ (and all round good egg) have afforded the gig going hordes of the Welsh capital a real treat this weekend in the shape of a three day musical feast. It’s simple title (‘swn‘) belying the riches on offer. Aside from Sons and Daughters, more about tonight features the likes of The Cribs, stomach Beirut and The Duke Spirit scattered amongst a host of venues throughout the city. Over the course of the weekend there will also be the opportunity to catch anything from Two Gallants, viagra 40mg to DJ sets by Annie Mac and Steve Lamacq – these being just a handful of acts from the impressive 120 plus assembled by Stephens for the inaugural event.

The Scottish quintet arrive in Cardiff midway through a tour in support of new album This Gift, due early next year. Rather unusually, the bands online tour blog boasts of the pre gig joys of consuming Chinese green tea in Cambridge. So much for the Rock ‘n’ Roll excess then. But in the flesh they do a stellar job of presenting themselves as strangely stylish, sexy and diverse outfit. The striking presence is most welcome.

Style aside, so to the substance – and the songs. Or rather ‘song’ as it turns out. Tonight’s performance is so repetitive in nature that it almost feels like the set is one big song. From a very early stage in the set, songs blend into one another, and the absence of differentiation is stark with the overriding effect being one of tedium for long periods.

As a unit, the band kick and splutter without really going anywhere – even if at times they manage to create a surprisingly big sound. The lack of craft however often relegates this to mere ‘noise’. But, on occasion everything does fall into place. Cathy Come Home (a homage to socialist stalwart film director Ken Loach) has the necessary chorus, and said big sound (not noise in this instance) to resonate somewhat. Whilst new single Gilt Complex – which we are reliably informed is ‘about c*nts’ – recalls the wilder moments of Echo and The Bunnymen with some zest.

It’s all a little too late, but there are glimpses of excellence right at the end of the set. Chains is definitely the best new song on offer, it’s defiant energy and bite offering hope for the new record, and they end on Johnny Cash – with a bit of Iggy and The Stooges thrown in for good measure.

So much for the green tea eh.

It’s a Friday night and I’m in the SEOne club situated beneath London Bridge Station for an Evening with The Rakes. An interesting line up of new musical ‘talent’ including the likes of The Metros, sale We Start Fires, page Ghost Frequency and various DJ sets seems to have drawn in a mixed crowd for a Friday night knees-up south of the river.

Strolling between the two stages/bars (separated by a DJ room in which I thoroughly enjoyed some old school reggae) I caught bits and pieces of the support acts; none of which left a real impression on me – they weren’t bad, seek just not quite my cup of tea.

Not massively impressed at the new music on display, my ears pricked up when I heard the rumor that the special guests had “good shoes”. True enough half an hour later the Morden boys made an appearance on the second stage and ripped through the majority of their debut album Think Before You Speak as well as a new song for good measure. The fact that not only were they on top form but that all the scene kids were at the other stage awaiting The Rakes and guarding their “spot” only widened the grin on my face. That was more like it. With my clothes suitably ruined and my beer everywhere it was time for the main event (via the bar of course!).

Having been a fan of The Rakes first offering Capture/Release and a critic of their second, far more commercial album, Ten New Messages, I was both excited and apprehensive to see what was on offer. Opening with lesser-known songs from the second album and a few new ones left the crowd somewhat bemused. However, The Rakes soon riled us all into frenzy performing riotous renditions of Strasbourg, 22 Grand Job and Retreat. The front of the room seemed to erupt into chaos as tune after tune from Capture/Release got a much-deserved airing. With Alan Donohoe twitching and jerking around the stage like he’s the secret love child of Ian Curtis on speed and the band drilling through their best material, I stumbled home with my grin still firmly in place…

It’s the end of the show already and the stage is dripping in red light. From where I’m standing, what is ed the perspiration in the room looks like blood. Two Gallants have just been on for over an hour, so the perspiration on the walls feels like blood too.

They have wrecked this place. Their blues, rock, folk, punk, loud, quiet, angry, sad mayhem has blown the place to smithereens. Adam Stephens‘ voice is cracked, rasped and broken. His heart is heavy, his songs are long, his words are laced with the worn down dejection of a hard life. The mouth organ can barely hold up for the rust and rot.

Tyson Vogel bashes his drums like he’s making up for a past deed. He has no crash cymbal, just high hat and ride. He provides the drama, the beard, and the mystery. There’s just the two of them. Named after a James Joyce short story, as you know, they are literate. They tell tales: “I shot my wife today/Hid her body in the ‘frisco bay”. That’s a tough gig. They repent: “If you got a throat/I got a knife”.

But they’re not depressing. They’re painting a picture, writing a novel, making you think. Amidst the almost White Stripe-y rock-outs and the down beat Americana they’re doing rustic graffiti on the side of an old wooden cabin. They’re drinking whisky and opening their heart to a best friend because things haven’t worked out how they planned and they don’t know what to do about it. And they do it every single song.

Long Summer Day is as controversial and opinion-splitting as ever, the Gallants belting out Moses Platt’s lyrics as if they were their own: “And the summer day make a white man lazy/He sits on his porch killing time/But the summer day make a nigger feel crazy/Might make me do something out of line.” It raises an eyebrow, provokes, and stretches boundaries. But as reckless and offensive as some might see it, that, compadres, is what it’s all about.

The five piece – three scrawny men, abortion one portly man and one petite woman – clamber onto the stage. Fashion doesn’t trouble them. It’s five-years-too-late skinny jean/tie combos for the men (great for squeezing the tunes out presumably) and a trashy silver cocktail dress for the girl. They pick up their instruments and play a pick ‘n’ mix selection of all the pop you’ve grown to hate (Wham!, pills Katrina and The Waves, Aha), but somehow they’ve jumbled, mashed, stretched and twisted it into something kind of… well…good.

Really good actually. These geeky kids can play. And for all the cruise ship Europop melodies (they’re from Denmark) and synchronised shimmying you can’t help but move your feet with them. Your poor old heart – smacked around by dull jobs, worn-out worrying over neglected friendships and Kasabian on the radio – starts to really kick again. A weird craving for Nerdz and Curlywurly’s and Dib-dabs creeps up on you. Suddenly you want The Beano and Live and Kicking on a Saturday morning. Look around and see a dark room above a pub in North London half-full of thirty-somethings dripping from the miserable weather all lost in similar reverie.

Before you know it lead singer Anders SG is introducing the final song of a far too short set. Alphabeat scamper into a note-perfect performance of their flagship hit Fascination – sample lyric: “fashion is OUR fashion” (that’ll explain the wardrobe then). Andres whoops, spins, shakes and slams his tambourine against his chest. His band skip around the stage bellowing “Super-duper!” in unison and beaming at each other with undisguised affection. Alphabeat are making that kind of giddy pop that makes you want to run all the way home and yell: “Mum MUM, I found this brilliant new band and they made me dance until my feet were sore and they sound like S Club 7 smacking the snobbery out of Arcade Fire and let me sing you their songs and I want to BE in their band and can I go and see Alphabeat again tomorrow night please please PLEASE!?”

And if she’s seen them, she wouldn’t be able to say no.

The way into our hearts here at Amelia’s Magazine, link is through our stomachs. Faye Skinner, treatment the clever little muffin, wooed us with cupcakes hand delivered to our door – these ones in fact:

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After worrying about whether they were actually meant to be eaten or not (admittedly, we were only briefly torn about it) and whether we wanted to digest the lovely little things, leaving only crumbs and paper cupcake wrappers as evidence that they ever existed, these three piglets couldn’t help but scoff the lot (with Amelia’s help).

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In one fell inhalation, all the cupcakes were gone, so we thought we might ask Faye a few questions…

Who were the illustrations of on the cupcakes?
They were a little bit of everything that influences me, queens, victorian children, dolly birds and female musicians.

Were the illustrations actually edible?
Yes, entirely edible. I painted them onto wafer paper using food colouring which work just like watercolours. I then stuck them on with the pink icing.

How do you feel about people eating your illustrations and them disappearing into the bowels of their stomachs?
I quite like the idea of eating very pretty food, like sugared rose petals! Mary Pickford used to eat flowers when she was a little girl in the hope that she would be beautiful when she grew up. It must be very good for the soul.

Can you tell us the recipe for the cupcakes?

Right:

5 oz (150g) Butter – softened
5 oz (150g) superfine (castor) sugar
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
drops of pink food colouring

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350oF (180oC).
2. Line a 12 cup cake pan, with cup cake papers.
3. Crack the eggs into a cup and beat lightly with a fork.
4. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl.
5. Beat with a whisk for 2 minutes, until light and creamy.
6. Divide the mixture evenly between the cake cases.
7. Bake for 18-20 minutes until risen and firm to touch.
8. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.
9. Allow to cool fully before icing.

For the icing whisk together water and icing sugar and a drop of food colouring until slightly thick and runny, then dribble onto the cupcakes, stick on the wafers while the icing is still sticky.

You can buy packs of wafer paper which you can then directly paint onto with the food colouring and then cut out with kitchen scissors ready to decorate the cakes with.

Do you bake other things? Like what?
I do make a lot of chocolate cupcakes for my flatmates when I am having a domestic housewife kind of day. When I was younger I was obsessed with baking salt-dough fat mermaids.

Tell us some of your favourite things.
Some of my favourite things include Vivien Leigh, The National Portrait Gallery, The Electric Ballroom, pub quiz and kareoke on a tuesday, Katie Jane Garside, classic children’s novels, and shopping in and around Dalston’s £1 emporiums with my friend Victoria.

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Scrumptious. Find out more about Faye at www.myspace.com/fayedoll

Photography by Amelia
Photo 2, L-R: Jess Jayne and Christel
Photo 3: Jess

He’s come a long way has Dan Snaith aka Caribou. From the purer electronic instrumental cut’n’paste soundscapes of his Manitoba guise to this: the Odyssey and Oracle goes Pro-Tools psychedelic pop of his Caribou incarnation. Summer’s Andorra long player exemplifies just how a musician, medications given time to grow and develop creatively, can create beautiful art. That’s not to negate his previous works but Snaith’s most recent album is fucking light years ahead, marrying choral song-structures with a left-foot sensibility.

So, how to rock this complex and multi-layered beast in a live context. Get a bad-ass band together. Lap-tops, two drummers, vintage guitars, neck-ties, wigged out projections, Electric Prunes circa ’66 haircuts…Check, check, check….Oh man, it’s gonna so fucking rule. In truth, it nearly didn’t. Squandering triumphant nugget, Sandy, as first number was a shame. You could hear the band finding their feet and acclimatizing to the stage as the song thundered on in cack-handed fashion. No bad thing of course, but when it’s such an unabashed turntable hit as Sandy it kinda grates. Still, with Snaith finding his voice and his beautiful boys kicking up a psych-storm they lay waste to Brighton’s Audio with aplomb. Melody Day does that whole scorched earth thang leaving the audience mouths agape whilst She’s The One is just sublime, like Kieren Hebden producing the Beach Boys today. Desiree is heartbreaking; with soulfully strained harmonies seeping into our ears, glooping down like wild honey over a Midi-orchestra backing. Sweetness personified.

You rarely get to hear such celestial orch-pop made flesh. Vibrant, human…alive. Dan Snaith and friends know how to do retro and make it so fucking fresh. Tell that to the hordes of dim guitar slingers taking up space in this town or in the pages of the NME. This is how you do it, boys. Class dis-fucking-missed.

He’s come a long way has Dan Snaith aka Caribou. From the purer electronic instrumental cut’n’paste soundscapes of his Manitoba guise to this: the Odyssey and Oracle goes Pro-Tools psychedelic pop of his Caribou incarnation. Summer’s Andorra long player exemplifies just how a musician, information pills given time to grow and develop creatively, site can create beautiful art. That’s not to negate his previous works but Snaith’s most recent album is fucking light years ahead, prescription marrying choral song-structures with a left-foot sensibility.

So, how to rock this complex and multi-layered beast in a live context. Get a bad-ass band together. Lap-tops, two drummers, vintage guitars, neck-ties, wigged out projections, Electric Prunes circa ’66 haircuts…Check, check, check….Oh man, it’s gonna so fucking rule. In truth, it nearly didn’t. Squandering triumphant nugget, Sandy, as first number was a shame. You could hear the band finding their feet and acclimatizing to the stage as the song thundered on in cack-handed fashion. No bad thing of course, but when it’s such an unabashed turntable hit as Sandy it kinda grates. Still, with Snaith finding his voice and his beautiful boys kicking up a psych-storm they lay waste to Brighton’s Audio with aplomb. Melody Day does that whole scorched earth thang leaving the audience mouths agape whilst She’s The One is just sublime, like Kieren Hebden producing the Beach Boys today. Desiree is heartbreaking; with soulfully strained harmonies seeping into our ears, glooping down like wild honey over a Midi-orchestra backing. Sweetness personified.

You rarely get to hear such celestial orch-pop made flesh. Vibrant, human…alive. Dan Snaith and friends know how to do retro and make it so fucking fresh. Tell that to the hordes of dim guitar slingers taking up space in this town or in the pages of the NME. This is how you do it, boys. Class dis-fucking-missed.

When one thinks of Washington DC’s musical scene, website like this it evokes images of right-on punkers kicking up a politicised, ask Converse clad riot. Loud guitars. Soap box sermons between songs. Well, meet Washington’s Mark Charles, a.k.a Vandaveer, and prepare to swoon to a different beat. Or lack of beat…

There’s no shortage of neo-folkers right now and some might say we need another one like the world needs another epidemic of the Black Plague. But Vandaveer is something else. What he has is soul; and that genuine, bohemian restlessness that characterises truly great singer-songwriters. Seeing him play to six people in Brighton the other week did little to diminish his aura and captivating stage presence – it oozed into every nook and cranny of the venue.
Vandaveer’s debut album is a sonically stripped down affair that serves to melt the listener’s heart in slow motion. Its minimalism renders Charles’s voice the main weapon here. A good thing given that he sounds like a most pleasing bastardisation of Dylan and Donovan. These are appropriate musical and lyrical references too but, at times, Vandaveer seems even more archaic, beamed down from another place and time. The harmonies that caress the chorus of Grace and Speed are almost pre-Beatles in their innocence while the tumbling chords of Parasites and Ghosts will make the hairs on your neck stand up. Dark humour, too, abounds on Out Past The Moat, its mellifluous melodies couching disconcerting lyrics: “Got my guns, I got ‘em both/Now’s a good time as any, tell my brothers I love them both…”

There’s more to meets the eyes and ears then. All human life is here and then some. Not bad for a dude with a guitar. Clear all that Homefires Festival endorsed shit and make way for a talent that demands a place in your life.

Reckon you’ve got Sons and Daughters sussed? Think again. Over their successful five year career, cost the Glasgow foursome have released two addictive albums of lusty, rx ragged blues punk, ambulance but they are set to blow expectations skywards with forthcoming effort This Gift, out in January, which finds their trademark, dark and ferocious sound rubbing up against 1960s girl group stomp and straight-up pop with magnificent results.

Tonight in the normally clinical surroundings of the Islington Academy we are treated to a preview of this latest material as they mix songs old and new throughout a fiery and captivating set. But before they take to the stage, Foxface work their folky magic on an initially uninterested smattering of people, followed by an intense performance from Victorian English Gentleman’s Club who arrive sombrely to the sound of a single clanging bell and climax with ear-shattering howls, menacing basslines, scratchy riffs and the colossal impact of two thundering drummers when Sons and Daughters’ sticksman David Gow joins the Cardiff trio for a dramatic finale.

The crowd is clearly unsure of the second support act, but not so by our headliners who whip up a storm as soon as they kick into rhythmic opener Broken Bones, provoking a sea of flailing bodies and lobbed pints. The dapperly dressed band make for a striking sight – the boys boasting quiffs, braces, colourful shirts and skin-tight jeans and the girls in glittery gold tops and short skirts – and they have immensely grown in confidence since they last played the capital as they attack their instruments unabashedly, while bassist Ailidh Lennon skips and hops in time to the music and Adele Bethel prowls the stage, switching effortlessly between sweetly sung vocals, soaring choruses and blood-curdling shrieks.

Gilt Complex is a highlight, as are warmly received newies like Rebel With A Ghost, The Nest, House In My Head, The Bell, Darling and Chains, however, the most frenzied reactions come in response to the airing of fan favourites Taste The Last Girl, Dance Me In, Red Receiver, Rama Lama and finally Johnny Cash which sees the quartet bathed in flashing red and white strobe lights and ends with guitarist/vocalist Scott Patterson screaming into the front row astride an amplifier. Explosive stuff indeed, and on form like this, Sons and Daughters seem unstoppable.
With recent solo exhibitions at Rotterdam’s Witte de With Gallery and the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, treatment one might imagine Tris Vonna-Michell; who has spent the last few years zigzagging across Germany and Europe, sick making and performing his work, would be in the throws of nervous collapse. But with future appearances scheduled at Performa, New York (2007), the Berlin Biennial (2008) and judging from the energy and dynamism with which he delivers his performance it would seem not.

Act three of Tris Vonna-Michell’s performances in the “Tall Tales and Short Stories” series will be showing at Islington’s Cubitt gallery on November the 24th. Those patrons of performance art who favour public nudity, blood and guts need not look this way however, as an all together more understated idiom of performance prevails.

Incorporating, slide photography, moving image, documents and found objects Tris’s performances are essentially stories, albeit with meandering and non-linear narratives. What is charming about this artists work is its uncontrived nature as well as his near obsessive engagement with its subject matter. Tales of intrigue and espionage are woven around the topography of various European cities. Those big themes of the late twentieth century, the chaos in the aftermath of the Second World War and the division of Europe are touched upon too, but strangely through references to Quail eggs and through rather fragile, melancholy photographs, often concentrating on objects which themselves have something of a faded and nostalgic feeling. Curious art lovers who long to see new work with real passion and individuality should seek out Tris’s next exhibition no doubt coming to a country near you.
Daniel Johnston has bi-polar depression. He has a unrequited love for Laurie Allen. A girl he met whilst at Art College and whom he idealizes and uses as his muse for his music. He also sings of Christianity, visit this Captain America, try Casper the Friendly Ghost, malady the Devil and has fixation with number 9. He was born in 1961. He was there when MTV boomed and in 1985 they did a special on Austin, which brought Johnston to a broader consciousness. Record shop started selling his cassettes which he had largely given away. He was hospitalised when he wrestled the controls form his father who was flying the plane in which they were travelling. In 1991 whilst hospitalised he was able to air his music where he sang of Mountain Dew and requested Yoko Ono produced his music. Kurt Cobain loved him. Wore his t-shirt on TV and his live performances are the most emotional and affecting you will ever witnessed, with each line you feel like you are watching some crumble. He is an unassuming genius.

Johnston never intended for drawings to be sold. They are his cartoons about his personal battle between good and evil, like missing frames of a much longer story. So the fact that they are now adorning the walls of galleries far and wide must be bemusing for him. Like when he painted the “Hi, How Are You?” frog, also known as Jeremiah the Innocent on the Austin Sound Exchange music store. It was initially going to be torn down when the shop closed but public outcry meant that $50,000 was spent to save it. His work is enjoyed. They are witty cartoons with characters like Joe The Boxer with his head cut off. He references from Greek sculptures that have been defaced though time in art books he get from the library. He doesn’t want to insult girls too much though, so he draws them with heads. He is Joe The Boxer. He is battling Vile Corrupt in his drawings, Vile Corrupt being is his alter ego. He is all of America’s ideologies residing in one effected fellow. His life in part hiding and consuming of comics and popular America culture combined with poetic and intuitive nature has made art wholey pure in intent but riddled with excessive certitude and fundamentalist rigor. I am not arguing that Johnston’s drawings convey the purest most infinite beauty but like Johnston once said ‘–if you’re not entertained, depression will get you.’

Alongside Daniel Johnston’s work in this exhibition is that of James Unsworth, I suppose a rather more together version of Daniel Johnston, whose work is darker than Johnston’s visually, dense and macabre. He uses print to develop his pen and ink drawing into something even more forceful. He is destined for seminal. His work is honest, dark and gruesome, which although some won’t admit is work we can all relate to sometimes. In short go see this show.

Johnston’s drawings were also featured in the 2006 Whitney Biennial. His artwork is shown in galleries around the world, including exhibits in London’s Aquarium Gallery (April 28-May 20, 2006) and New York’s Clementine Gallery (March 16-April 15, 2006). Unsworth has had previous shows at Crimes Town Gallery, Atlantis Gallery, The Boys Hall and NOGgallery.
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Giant bow necklaces. There are not enough accessories that make me feel like a 5 year old kicking about nowadays. I’m not one to favour delicate jewellery, page and maybe that says a lot about my Peter Pan like refusal to grow up, more about but if brands like Neurotica have jumped on this idea then I guess I can get away with it (until my next birthday). Neurotica’s Spring/Summer 08 collection, Dark Heart/Grinning Soul, has been inspired by sci-fi culture including Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, but the part of the collection I’m most interested in is the accessories. Complementing the prismatic designs are giant bows hanging on silver chains, neon fireworks on black fabric. It’s all very futuristic and fun, and what better time of year to dress up like a Christmas present? When taking the photos of Jess wearing the bow, there was an old man larking about in the background wearing a boiler suit with what looked like a jet pack on his back. Maybe the world’s gone mad with sci-fi influences, but I wouldn’t mind running into Harrison Ford trying to save the world from old men cyborgs the next time I leave the house.
It’s always infuriating when you hear about a band, patient roughly about your age, visit from the same country as you, who suddenly grab everyone’s attention in the best possible way.

Now this is one of those things that’s just about possible to deal with if the artists in question are untalented and/or a flash in the pan and/or play thrash metal. Elle
S’appelle
are fortunately none of these things. Having only been together for less than a year, they are a wonderful mix of bouncy guitar pop with perfectly fitting lady vocals over the top. With beautifully worked in melodies, they’re just as catchy as one could want.

Little Flame is a perfect debut single, with the silliest lyrics this side of a Decemberists B-side, about a cheeky little flame who burns his way through a neighbourhood. The vocal harmonies of girl (Lucy) and boy (Andy) are delicate, sweet and sing-songy in equal measures. B-Side She Sells Sea Shells is perhaps superior even to its bigger sister, with layered keyboards on organ setting, it’s as chirpy as one
would hope for, and with a boy taking the main vocal line, it is a nice variation from Little Flame.

It’s only a matter or time before you see Elle S’appelle filling the more Death Cab inclined indie dance floors across the country, limbs will flail, feet will stomp, beer
will be spilled.
The Drawing Rooms is one of those rare salvations in deepest Dalston. True beauty amidst lofty tower blocks. Their current exhibition Every Eye sees Differently as the Eye, page has taken words spoken by William Blake to present what is almost certainly the most elegant body of art you will see in East London this year. It is truly stunning drawing. It sees existing visionaries expressing true imagination through their drawing for an exhibition that marks Blake’s 250th Anniversary.

Ernesto Caivano perhaps represents the most contemporary approach to folklore inspired narrative drawings. His long panels convey a story of a love that cannot be shared between a knight and a princess. Their paths are dogged with twisted trees, cheapest toothed plants and increasing branches and conveys their 1000-year separation. In his heartache the knight and the wood’s inhabitants struggle together incapable of movement. All off which meticulously drawn on an epic panoramic panels. Medieval in spirit but with present-day signifiers, Heiko Blankenstein‘s works on light boxes and paper cite humanist metaphysics and systems of chaos. The cognitive principles conveyed in his works are equaled in his drawing style, which is architectural. Augmented landscapes with depth and feature no figures, heightened in dynamic by being back lit. Charles Avery’s work is finely researched and philosophical in approach. He has twice been nominated for the Jerwood Drawing Prize and cites PG Woodehouse, Jorge Luis Borges, Joseph Beuys and Joseph Kosuth as influences. He work is extremely well observed and passionate and absorbs you. And you are left feeling like you have read a novel. Work by Dirk Bell and Kerstin Kartscher is also featured to make up a show of pure and striking hand rendered works that is truly inspirational, that I plead you to go see.
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Beauty is a concept that we never tire of debating. Whether you’re philosophising, help politicising, fantasizing or simply scouring Perez Hilton for car-crash beauties fallen from grace, we are all out there searching for the secret behind the allure. One valiant attempt to unearth some truths on beauty in contemporary society is the fifth and latest issue of Garageland, a captivating magazine of substance from the editing suite of Cathy Lomax, a prolific east end painter and director of the Transition Gallery (which plays host to the launch of each issue).

On a low key, Sunday afternoon, works taken from the Beauty issue were sporadically displayed in the small yet adequate gallery and proved more than a warm welcome from the torrential downpour outside. Gentle conversation acted as an appropriate pre-cursor to the thoughtfulness and sensitivity used to explore the themes of art and beauty/beauty and art in this lovingly put together tome. Garageland is fortunate enough to boast some of the most revered names in contemporary modern art on its contributors roster, who do well to prove that their talents extend effortlessly from the paintbrush to the pen (surely this is unfair?).

The contrasting depths of commentary and insight sit comfortably side by side; Dolly Thompsett digs deep to uncover the beauty within war films, while Alex Michon looks into the effect of blusher in the childlike paintings of Stella Vine. And, what joy! To find a truly laudable article on the legendary John Waters, life-long purveyor of all that is revolting in its beauty. This article alone is well worth the modest £3.95 asking price. The true appeal of Garageland however, is that it is not solely a retrospective nor is it obsessed with deconstructing the zeitgeist; it is a serenely happy marriage of the two. Here, beauty is at times, disgusting and putrid and as such, it is a constant source of fascination. Beauty is not (as so often chimed into us by commercial mags for girls) all-encompassing and happy and glowing, it is a striking image, a brave representation of one’s self and bold step into the unknown.

My only discontent is that I now have to decide whether to rip out the gorgeous Garageland pages for my bedroom wall or archive it, untarnished in its original glory for lazy Sunday reading in years to come.

Ah London – cobbled streets, information pills spooky fog and Dickensian urchins around every corner. That’s what I expected when I moved to the big smoke. Not monsoon style rainstorms that make me look like a drowned rat and smell like a wet dog. But that’s enough about the effects of global warming, my point was that I got rained on when traveling to the Swarovski press day and I wasn’t too happy about it. Especially when it was held in the achingly hip Sanderson Hotel whose elegance was more than matched by the designs in the Swarovski suite. If Marilyn Monroe were alive, she would have been cooing over the contents. Crystals were strewn over Marios Schwab designs, evoking both frailty and defensive armour, whilst Hussein Chalayan‘s crystal dresses refracted light in a futuristic boudoir. Hot on the heels of Fashion Rocks, Swarovski have continued their commitment to nurturing the hottest new designers. As well as working with Schwab and Chalayan, highlights of the Swarovski collaborations include crystal skullcaps designed by Giles Deacon and encrusted bangles by Jonathan Saunders. Perfect for magpies (last animal analogy, I promise).

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Bonde do Role are a 3 man band, order slash circus act. The relatively intimate venue that is King Cross’ Scala suits this shouty, effervescent band perfectly. With no instruments in sight – cheating a little, maybe – a rotund fella (DJ Rodrigo Gorky) bounds on to the stage and starts with a 90′s rave track (that I now cannot remember the name of, after a few beers) but it certainly brought energy to the crowd. The singers (shouters) come on when said rave track finished, and jump straight into crowd pleaser Danca do Zumbi. BDR have a certain baile sound which sounds incredible live, an attractive pastiche of disco, funk and metal. Marina Ribatski, the female lead, is a diminutive creature with the attitude and vocal capacity of Beth Ditto, but much nicer to look at. BDR fly through tracks from their debut album, mixed interestingly with a medley of past and present dance tracks. Personal favourite Davine Gosa is not showcased, which is a little annoying, but Gasolina and Office Boy are – and certainly make up for it. A small set finishes with a stage invasion from forty or fifty members of the crowd. Bonde do Role certainly know how to throw a party.
Arriving at the Finsbury Town Hall in jeans and a jumper, information pills hair bedraggled and mascara running down my cheeks, there I was initially there to help set up, but within minutes I had been roped into dancing with the band (Cut-A-Shine), drinking far too much Red Stripe and forgetting that I was at a single’s night after all… Welcome to Barndating Heaven!

We do-si-soed ‘til the cows came home, with flowers in our hair and our cheeks blushed… Amelia was carried through the cheering crowd to call some dances and following her instructions couples entwined and herds of people trampled on each other’s feet and laughed and drank and kissed and laughed and everything was bloomin’ marvelous!

If you haven’t been to the Finsbury Town Hall before I advise that you do so – it is a beautiful space with original décor and eccentric light fittings (random, I know but true). The ceilings are soooo high yet still, the place was bulging with crazy faces by 10pm – men were donning handmade bows and women wore elasticated beards and everyone was having a jolly old knees up to some rocking country sounds. In the corner of the hall was a Romancer’s Retreat (beautifully designed and manned by an East-end creative duo Lightning and Kinglyface) where couples could go to ‘gaze into one another’s eyes…’ There were a few snoggers and a certain amount of loving was most certainly kicking off but by the end of the evening a few people were having a kip in there. Notes of confession were pegged onto strings in this haven of love, a certain pencil-scribble stuck in my head and read ‘yesterday when you called, I pretended I was asleep’ – ah it makes your heart sink doesn’t it!? But others weren’t quite so romantic, and more explicit, and bloody hilarious…

The evening was heady yet relaxed and I remember I spent a lot of time twirling around in my gingham dress and probably looking slightly mad, hence I didn’t spot my nice young farmer (haha) but the night was brilliant and I hope there’ll be many more to come… Cut-a-shine – you rock. All in all a very groovy night. (Sorry – groovy, maybe not the right word) All in all a foot-stamping, dress-twirling hoe-down which left me aching and laughing for days…
After seeing Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong up all over the place on the Levi’s One To Watch posters being touted as ‘ones to watch’, nurse hearing they were playing Wembley supporting none other than Babyshambles was impressive. They have a Kooks-esque kind of feel about them; with their trendy looks and sounds – they’re catchy, but since someone else has done it first (second, third, fourth….), not particularly a stand out.

And onto the main event: He turned up! Surely an accolade in itself after his infamy for all the no-shows. Maybe now EMI are behind the non-shambles that is Babyshambles Peter Doherty has to put his money where his mouth is. And he has – selling out Wembley Arena (or nearly selling it out – whatever, it’s packed and everybody is wearing rosary beads in homage to their God) is perhaps a testament to this new-found direction whereby the band turn up, play a tight set and then leave.

It’s great. Everybody loves it and knows all the words to every Babyshambles song that is played (only ONE Libertines song is played during the whole evening – ‘Music When the Lights Go Out’ – and I don’t even hear any hecklers requesting anything from Up the Bracket, weirdos). But whilst this sleek professionalism is all well and good, I’m looking for a bit of mess – you can’t have the word ‘shambles’ in your band and turn up wearing pin-striped suits and acting all civilised. But this is how it is. And while part of you thinks, “Good on you, Pete.” You’re left feeling rather distanced by the whole experience.

Would it be wrong to call Emmy the Great‘s new single lovely? Well, drugs in the simplest sense that’s just what Gabriel is and unfortunately this review will be full of polite (anti) folk clichés, ed for this I apologise in advance.

Here Miss Emma Lee Moss continues in a similar vein to her debut EP My Bad, keeping production to a minimum and allowing her greatest strengths – her voice and prodigious song writing skills – take centre stage. The song itself was written and recorded in a matter of days; and this kind of DIY, back to basics approach is very much evident in her sound, as Emmy’s music is best served live and here she successfully brings all the encompassing atmosphere and low-key effectiveness of her gigs to this latest release. Lyrically, she is head and shoulders above many of her scene counterparts; intelligent, considered, poetic, no whimsical ‘slice of life’ musings or kooky intonation, thankfully choosing to instead creating something a little more left of center, otherworldly in places.

Supposedly written with ‘a cute boy from Myspace’ in mind (ok, I know, I know) it soon becomes clear that the spirit of the song lies somewhere else entirely, in fact the lady herself refers to it as a period drama, ‘about selling out, but in the 19th century..’, an altogether more convincing description. Written as a farewell letter, Emmy tells the story of a young woman set to follow convention and marry into money, leaving behind her girlish innocence, optimism (and Gabriel himself) for a life of security and predictability; and hey, I’ve seen my future in an evening dress and I’ve been walking to her step by step.

Performed and written with an incredible lightness of touch, Emmy isn’t interested in bludgeoning you over the head with stories of tragedy and lost love, preferring instead to present the intricate and melancholic wrapped up in the sweet, uncomplicated package that is her astonishing voice and way with melody.
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Modernaire are tight. There aren’t many emerging bands in this genre of electro disco pop that are doing it this well. And at first glance, this Modernaire may be misconstrued as pretentious in their motifs, order with all their pop noir chic going on; but on further scrutiny there’s most definitely a sense of humour, along with their razor sharp wit and a tidy vocabulary.

After seeing Modernaire one rainy evening at what was described to me as the ‘asshole of Manchester’, they have been on constant rotation in my playlist. This EP named Velvet Never Dries is full of brilliantly composed electro pop; perfectly balanced in it’s juxtaposition of dirty bass/dark deep use of strings and light lady vocals, which are sexy and slinky. That said though, I hesitate to call them ‘girl vocals’ as they’re far more mature and well rounded to be so simply labelled; despite the deceptively innocent timbre of Cruella de Mill’s voice, just take a listen to what she’s singing and it’s far from sweetness and light, the saucy minx.

Velvet Never Dries opens with Bloodshed In The Woodshed; and at this point I wondered whether they were squandering their best first. But as Rain relived my own experience of Manchester, with a tongue in cheek cry of despair/homage to the city that birthed Modernaire, before moving onto the sea shanty that is Bonnie and Reade, I was more and more impressed. Then Scalpel storms in with it’s ridiculously infectious and dirty beats, lit up by glicks and cuts with laser guns beaming. “Your love/Cuts like a scalpel/Your kiss/Sweet like Calpol/In the grip of your infection/My only hope is a quick dissection.” Like I said – saucy minx. Followed by Nosferatu with it’s undulating bass and tinny 80s toy guitar sample (that in other hands could have gone so, so wrong) alongside the swashbuckling, plundering cello solo. Stabby and pulsing September rolls into Terry, with more of that lush cello as well as gorgeous harmonies. Nothing is surplus on this EP – it has intelligence and class in (grave digging) spades.

Modernaire are as serious as a heart attack, but don’t take themselves too seriously.
Deliciously dark, a tad eerie and a little haunting if it wasn’t so damn catchy.
One of my favourite bands for the past six months and a mainstay on my playlists for whatever the occasion; from death to divorce, discos and drama all the way to delerium and a fully blown dance. Forget new rave, this is new grave (forgive me), and despite being one of Modernaire’s ongoing themes, their music is far from deathly, unless under the context of being dead good.

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Amelia’s Magazine | Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll – Film Review

S&D&R&Rresize

The biopic. It’s a strange bird. When your subject is Ray Charles or Johnny Cash the thing must write itself. The drugs! The women! The soundtrack! But it’s this kind of lazy obviousness that has put me off watching the likes Ray and Walk the Line, perhaps to my discredit. They’re probably as good as everyone says they are. If they’re not? If they’re as hackneyed and clichéd as I expected? Well, at least I can enjoy the music.

With Sex & Drugs & Rock n Roll I couldn’t help myself. I’ve been a long-time admirer of Ian Dury’s work and especially the juxtaposition between his seemingly knockabout lyrics and the tight musicianship of the Blockheads. I caught some of the hype, a couple of Andy Serkis interviews about his preparation for the starring role and that was it. My distaste for the biopic was gently put aside for an evening.

If you’ve seen the poster, you’ll already know that Serkis is magnificent. And if you’ve got any sense you’ll also know and love the music (or be on your way to discover it round about now). Right there are two reasons you should go and see this film. Another is a wonderful opening credit sequence by none other than Sir Peter ‘I’ve done more than just the Sgt Pepper cover, you know’ Blake. But don’t expect to get much else. Fair performances from the rest of the cast and attention to period detail do not raise this biopic from goodness to greatness.

The film is in loose chronological order, with the occasional flashback to a troubled childhood. The story touches upon Dury’s contracting of polio and subsequent disability, his relationship with his father, his unstable family life and a tempestuous time with his bandmates and, of course, the music. It rattles through, giving us the odd bit on how much of a bastard Dury could be, or how he came up with some of his most famous songs. But there’s little depth and no tension to hold it all together. The film opens with Serkis’s Dury saying something along the lines of ‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story’, but then the film appears to do just that.

This film is clearly a labour of love, a love for both for the music and for Dury himself. But if there’s a good story arc in Dury’s eventful, colourful, lyrical life – a beginning followed by a middle and an end – the writers haven’t found it. For example, Dury’s mate the Sulphate Strangler is introduced grandly, but then does very little and exits the story in a bit of throwaway dialogue. And the relationship between Dury and his son Baxter forms most of the film’s action, but I didn’t get wrapped up in a real story. It’s just a bunch of stuff that happened.

But these are niggles. What you want at the very least from this kind of film is an outstanding central performance and excellent music, both of which Serkis himself gives. He sang Dury’s words so well that I couldn’t keep his face out of my mind when later listening to the original recordings. What you also want is an insight to the real Ian Dury. Despite it not having as good a plot as, say, 24 Hour Party People, it does give you an idea of what sort of man he was.

Despite ticking the essential boxes, the film doesn’t have that extra bit to make me watch the film rather than listen to the records. As far as I’m concerned, the biopic can be rather tricky, but this one deserves to do very well.



Categories ,24 Hour Party People, ,Andy Serkis, ,Ian Dury, ,Johnny Cash, ,Ray Charles, ,The Blockheads

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Amelia’s Magazine | Red Bull Music Academy: Steve Reich Lecture on Tuesday 16th February 2010

Steve Reich by Gemma Milly
Steve Reich by Gemma Milly
Steve Reich by Gemma Milly.

Steve Reich is a seriously cult figure for contemporary beats based music. Famed for his minimalist compositions from the 60s onwards he continues to be active today and even though I’ve heard he can be a difficult old bugger to interview, erectile at 74 years of age he was charming and lucid when he gave his lecture to the students of the 2010 Red Bull Music Academy.

Red Bull Music Academy lecture theatre.
Red Bull Music Academy lecture theatre.

I skirted into the back of the packed lecture theatre just as he was starting – and I use the term ‘lecture theatre’ lightly because we are talking the most comfortable lecture theatre you ever saw. Designer arm chairs stuffed with colour co-ordinated cushions were orientated around a sofa interview area above which hung the distinctive Red Bull coat of arms, if you will. Emma “rabbit” Warren, who I’ve known since I was an intern at The Face over a decade ago, was tasked with asking the questions – over the years she has carved a niche for herself in this particular music scene and acts as a “team member” for the academy.

emma-warren-gemma-milly
Emma Warren by Gemma Milly.

What follows is by no means a direct transcription of the interview, but an edited version that I hope will make sense to not only those who attended the lecture but anyone who is interested in finding out more about what makes Steve Reich tick. It was certainly an education for me.

Steve Reich‘s musical career started with piano lessons and then the study of drums at the age of 14. This conversation began with his move to San Francisco in 1962 where he decided to become a cabbie so that he wouldn’t have to teach. Emma asked whether it was hard to make music around his day job. “Night job,” he corrected her. “Necessity is the mother of invention – I coulda taught harmony and theory in Nebraska but I’d had it up to here with the academic world.” He saw how his friends became beaten down. “In my time almost all the composers in the US were in universities because that was the easiest job to get but I’m sure that now even being a DJ will be turned into academic trash. But you need to put a lot of energy into teaching and I think if you can’t then that’s immoral, and if you do then you’re gonna be too wiped out to make music.” Surely a sage piece of advice to anyone considering juggling teaching with a successful artistic career. “I had a good time driving the cab and I wasn’t invested in it – it really fit me and was making more money than most musical professors too!”

Unfortunately he wasn’t a cab driver for long: “I inched forward and bumped into someone and ended up working in a post office.” Emma asked if this was an influential period – down amongst the sounds of the ‘street’. “I don’t know how true that would be. All music comes from a time and place. I come from New York, the West Coast, during the 1960s and 70s.” New York was a noisy place to be. “I used to wander around with earplugs in.” He attributes his early experimentations with loops and phasing on a tape machine to such ideas being “in the air” during that period. “You are who you are and your music will bear evidence to the honesty of the situation.”

In the early 60s the Cuban Missile Crisis got everyone “kinda concerned… we felt the clock was ticking. The crisis passed but it made its mark.” In 1964 he recorded Brother Walter in Union Square preaching about the flood and created seminal work “It’s Gonna Rain” where he made use of the sounds without focusing on their meaning. “Do you hear the ‘wap wap’ in the background? That’s the wings of a pigeon, a pigeon drummer.” He described at length how he played around with the sounds, feeding them through mono into stereo and then back again, to offset the source material and create the pioneering phasing technique that has influenced many contemporary composers since. Because he cut the tape loops by hand there was always going to be a bit of drift, creating a “sense of direction”. He gleefully describes how the sound “slides across your testicles, it’s really creepy! You can feel the vibration, and then it gets to one ear sooner than the other.” He found it intriguing that he could splice things together to make sounds that resembled the beats found in African music. “I thought – what have I got here? Mechanised Africans!” The piece becomes progressively more spooky and paranoid in feel. “We’re in the ark, locking the door, it’s the end of the world… a betrayal in sound.” Lest we doubt this sudden moribund turn he confirms, “Yes, I was in a bad state of mind at the time and given what was going on in the world.”

steve-reich & Emma Warren by gemma-milly
Steve Reich & Emma Warren in conversation by Gemma Milly.

A trip to Ghana in 1971 to study music was a key turning point. “All music there was a religiously, politically or historically orientated part of everyday life.” Whilst there he managed to contract malaria by picking up 100s of bites on his sandalled feet, despite a dose of anti-malarials. He realised that music was a form of communication that families were morally obliged to upkeep, but laughed that he met a Ghanaian man many years later who was no longer interested in “grandpa’s music”. Tastes change all over the world.

But Steve was keen not to fall into the trap of trying to adopt African music wholesale. “Many people from my generation drowned in India – it’s like an ocean containing thousands of years of music and as an individual it’s hard to make any sense out of it.” He bought some gang gangs in Ghana – iron bells that are used to accompany songs with a beautiful rattle. “They’re not that big, and I bought six of them. I thought I would use them in my music, but I don’t have perfect pitch and I was like ‘what do I do? They don’t sound right, should I get out the metal file?’ But then I felt like they would be saying ‘hi, I’m a gang gang, pleased to meet you,’ if I used them in my music. I am not an African and they carry the weight of a culture that’s not mine – so I had to think about what I had learnt that could travel, and that was the structure.”

He returned keen to play around with rhythmical complexity of the kind that is used in jazz such as the big band classic Africa/Brass by Coltrane. “It sounds like elephants coming through the jungle for half an hour, there’s no harmonic movement and yet it’s definitely not boring!” He concluded that there was tension and intensity precisely because there was no change. “In Shotgun by Junior Walker you’re waiting for another section, but there is no other section. There was something in the air [during that period] and it was harmonic stasis – even Bob Dylan was experimenting with one chord. It was coming in from other sources outside the west; the structural idea of a canon as an empty vessel that can travel anywhere.”

1971 was also the last year that Steve used the looped tape phasing technique, although he was keen not to be rude about laptop music in a room full of predominantly electronic musicians. “My live ideas came from a machine because all divisions are permeable.” Yet he felt trapped by gadgetry. “I felt like ‘I can’t leave this thing and I can’t do it live!’ I didn’t want to be a little tape maker.” The fact remains that he sees synthesisers and their ilk primarily as a means to an end. “I like the analogue sound so I was excited when the sampler was invented.” He felt liberated and exhilarated once he was able to say “look ma, no tape!” and started teaching ensembles to play his compositions live without the aid of traditional musical notation. Since then his music has got progressively more complex and he has always toured with a close clique of live musicians that he’s worked with for many years. “We’re the gold standard but other generations have picked it up. For instance the musicians in Riga in Latvia burnt Music for 18 Musicians right down into the ground.” Nowadays he uses midi mockups of live compositions to send out for performers to learn across the world.

Emma asked if there was some benefit in musicians learning his compositions without the benefit of written musical scores. “When music began we can speculate that there was no notation. Even early notation is in question. Notation as we know it started during the 10th and 11th centuries in the West – to save music for posterity. There were little pockets where people wrote things down, such as some isolated forms in Indonesia, but it was a marginal thing.” He concluded that notated music has only ever formed a very small part of all the music created worldwide and wonders if it even has a future. “Nowadays the normal position for walking down the street is like this,” he says, standing, head down, arm up, as if his mobile is in his hand. “It won’t be without it’s consequences…”

Steve believes that folk music can be used to describe whatever we interact with that’s around us, and can spontaneously arise in any culture. “Pop music is the folk music of our culture so in some sense electronics are the folk instrument of our time.” We’d come to the end of the guided lecture time, and sat in awed silence as Steve Reich played arguably his most famous piece, Music for 18 Musicians, through the huge lecture PA system… that is until an abrupt technical glitch snapped us all out of our reverie. “Anyone know how this thing works?!” asked Steve, frustratedly betraying his technophobery.

Find out how Steve answered a series of very well thought out questions from the floor in the next blog

Categories ,60s, ,70s, ,Coltrane, ,dj, ,Electronic music, ,Elephants, ,Emma Warren, ,Gemma Milly, ,ghana, ,jazz, ,Junior Walker, ,Minimalist music, ,Orchestras, ,Philip Glass, ,Red Bull Music Academy, ,sampling, ,San Francisco, ,Steve Reich, ,The Face

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Amelia’s Magazine | In conversation with Little Fish

Little-Fish-by-Octavi-Navarro
Little Fish by Octavi Navarro

I saw you guys at the Royal Albert Hall, advice supporting Them Crooked Vultures, clinic and was completely blown away when I saw you play and by your sound, but what was it like for you to play a venue of that size?
I don’t think I realised how big it was until we got on stage-I knew it was big, but I don’t really think about it until I’m on stage and then I go, ‘shit there’s loads of people and lights, and there’s a huge screen behind me, a huge screen!’ It felt a huge privilege to support Them Crooked Vultures as they’re such a great band, it was nerve wracking, and it’s a big prestigious venue to play.

Are you fans of the Vultures?
Definitely. We met them briefly, and Dave Grohl was really lovely. He’s got the reputation of being one of the nicest men in rock and roll and he really was. It was for the Teenage Cancer Trust, [a trust founded by The Who’s Roger Daltrey to raise funds and awareness for teenage cancer] and there were loads of kids backstage and he was really nice to them.

I’ve unashamedly had a crush on Dave Grohl for years, have you ever had any rock crushes like that?
Ha! I have had a couple of rock crushes, I even wrote a fan letter to someone once, and that was probably the hardest letter I’ve ever written! Trying to write a letter to someone you don’t know is pretty hard. It was to someone who had written a song with ‘devil’ in it, and it was the first time I’d ever heard a dark song and I was so inspired by it, it kind of changed my whole way of writing. I used to write really happy songs and I realised you can be dark and angry. So I wrote a letter, and said thank you for inspiring me. I wrote an answer to them in one of our songs called ‘Devils Eyes’, which is a response to their song ‘The Devil’s Song’.

Little Fish

Your debut album, Baffled and Beat, was produced by Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes fame, I hear it was at times a gruelling experience and recording process, was it quite intense? Or was it a good way to progress further as a band?
It was a big learning curve because we’d gone from just doing a demo in a garage to recording in a big LA studio with a big producer, and it was really shocking. It made me question what I was doing and why I was doing it. Was I doing music because I wanted to be a rock star? No was the answer. I was doing music because I loved it and I found that hard because when you’re thrown into that situation, automatically you’re in a position where you’re supposed to be a rock star and I felt like that wasn’t why I was doing music. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in that situation, but then I realised actually I love writing and I love doing music and it’s what comes with it so I carried on. But it was hard to realise.

How long did it take to record?
We recorded the album really quickly, over three weeks, pretty much live, and what took a bit of time was choosing the songs. We didn’t do any pre-production really, I think that was the hard thing, it would have been nice to have a bit more time, but it was the first proper experience and we learnt so much, and Linda Perry makes you work very hard, so we really learnt how to work hard, and that was great because now I think we’ve stepped up a big gear and we’d like to record our next album.

When I listened to your EP and your album, I heard a definite change, but it still sounds like you kept the rawness there, but it’s slicked up. Is that your take on it?
Yeah, I think we’ve also developed as a band, as we got signed as a two piece and now we have our Hammond player [Ben Walker] as a three piece, so now we’ve evolved as a band. We were in LA as a two piece, and now we’re three, and creating different sounds and writing different songs so we’re evolving and that’s magical.

Have you had pressure to add more instruments or do you want to keep the sound as stripped as possible?
We’re quite purist in that way, and we like to stay true to the challenge of staying pure. A lot of bands have got their five or six pieces, a wall of sound, but I like the human side of things, I like the calamity, and I don’t like things to be perfect. I like that struggle, and I think you’ve got to keep things with a little bit of a challenge and stay small.

With the garage sound, it doesn’t stay that way for many bands, and it’s good to see as a band gets bigger, you’ve still kept that sound.
I don’t know if that works against us in this industry- I think a lot of people like the instant, big, quick and simple sound, but it’s a bit more challenging with us. We’re definitely going to stay true to [our sound] for a while.

Back to the album, many artists see their work as their babies; do you have a favourite baby on the album? Or is the whole album one big baby for you?
I think I’d like to give birth all over again. The baby is good, but I think that because we were so inexperienced in a way, I’d like to have that opportunity to really record an album that is exactly what I’d like. We were learning with the recording process, so I think that album is a discovery album, I think there are some bits we will take and some we will leave for the next one. I’m really happy with it, to have had the opportunity to record an album is amazing, and to have someone like Linda Perry support you is amazing, I just want the opportunity to keep going.

Little Fish by Little Fish

You guys picked up music at different ages (Nez started drumming at five, whereas Juju began playing the guitar much later), do you think that’s helped create the distinctive sound of Little Fish?
Probably! Nez and Ben are really proficient, well taught, trained and naturally amazing musicians, I’m a bit of an eclectic, self taught manic person, who jumbles songs together. I think that mix helps it because Nez really helps ground the songs, and I think if we were both too calamity we would be a real, calamity sound! To have the privilege to play with such great musicians is really grounding and they’re so good they allow me to explore things, which is great. It makes us who we are.

What’s the writing process like? Is it difficult, or do you have to be in the right mood?
I used to think I had to be in the right mood, but when we did the album with Linda she would just send me off in the morning to write a song, and that was a lot of pressure, obviously everybody’s waiting for a song! You realise that you can write, you’ve just got to apply yourself. It’s more about applying yourself then being in the mood! I tend to brew, and maybe not write for a month, because I’m brewing, and then I get really depressed, and just write!

Have you written a lot of songs waiting to come out?
Yeah we’ve recorded a few new demos, and we’ll be recording a few more in a few weeks. So that’s really exciting. We’ve no idea when a second album will come out, but not too long. It’s going to be called ‘Re-baffled and beaten’!

What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t doing this?
I don’t think I’d ever go down a different path until I’d have to, but whatever I do I just apply myself 100%, this is more like a compulsion. I love writing and singing and I think it would break me if I had to do something else. I’ve always written, I love writing little stories, poems, I’ll always write songs whether I’m in a band or not, whether I’m a mother with lots of kids running around-I have to do it, if I don’t I just don’t feel well, it’s kind of like therapy. The best advice for anybody in a band is to not have a plan B.

There’s a bit of buzz recently about the position of women in rock today (see the recent Elle article on Elle honouring women in the music industry). Do you see yourself as one of the woman in rock?
I never thought about it before, it’s only now that I’ve started to realise it since I felt, dare I say it, a bit of sexism for being a woman in a band. You realise how much you actually have to step up a little, and it’s only recently, I never thought about it before and didn’t care, and you realise the women [in rock] today are already big icons, but how did they get there? It’s not impossible for a woman to be the forefront of a band, but it’s hard. That’s why I want to make people aware of it, to dip into people’s consciousness.

Little Fish’s video, Whiplash

Categories ,4 Non Blondes, ,Ben Walker, ,Dave Grohl, ,Elle Magazine, ,Juju Sophie, ,Linda Perry, ,Little Fish, ,Nez Greenaway, ,Old Blue Last, ,Roger Daltrey, ,Royal Albert Hall, ,Teenage Cancer Trust, ,the who, ,Them Crooked Vultures

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Amelia’s Magazine | Rainbow Reservoir: City Bike video exclusive

Rainbow Reservoir 400 imperfect rhymes
Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Angela Space works under the moniker Rainbow Reservoir, producing surreal tunes with poppy arrangements that only hint at her classical background and an alternative career teaching saxophone at the University of Southampton. Here she describes the making of the video for City Bike, which we have on the website as an exclusive. Enjoy!

City Bike was inspired by my first trip to Berlin. I had an entirely surreal couple days where people turned into other people with the same name, a monster drove a cab, and things came out of the darkness that were beautiful and unexpected and terrifying. The video was all shot in Berlin, mostly from a bike. It is supposed to give you that slightly mad feeling of a night out where you are just going wherever the bike, tram, or train takes you.

My second EP 400 Imperfect Rhymes was recorded in Oxford at Oli and Rob Steadman‘s studio. Oli and Rob played bass and drums respectively and Oli did the engineering. Duncan McNaughton played the trumpet track on City Bike. The beautiful album artwork was done by Kiri Kopcke and depicts Berlin, which is a city that had a great effect on me and my songwriting.

400 Imperfect Rhymes was mostly written at Tegel Airport and if I were to do a video for 400 Imperfect Rhymes it would probably involve Tegel Airport arrivals and departures displays.

Rainbow Reservoir pic by Tom Weller
Photo by Tom Weller.

400 Imperfect Rhymes by Rainbow Reservoir will be released on July 14th 2014. Find Rainbow Reservoir on band camp here, and facebook here.

Categories ,400 Imperfect Rhymes, ,Angela Space, ,berlin, ,City Bike, ,Duncan McNaughton, ,Kiri Kopcke, ,Kirini Kopcke, ,Oli and Rob Steadman, ,Oxford, ,Rainbow Reservoir, ,Tegel Airport, ,Tom Weller, ,University of Southampton

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Amelia’s Magazine | Petter & the Pix – Interview

Last week I had the pleasure of reviewing Petter & the Pix‘s second album, prostate Good As Gold, pilule an eclectic bundle of folk and rock that never sits still longer than one track at a time. I urge you to seek it out, and you can listen to the first single off the album (Never Never) here. Petter, lead singer and ringleader of the group, of sorts, is an Icelandic chap from something of a musical family – his brother, Pontus, is half of the successful pop songwriting duo Bloodshy & Avant (not sure which one), and Petter himself used to be in Iceland’s first big reggae band, Hjálmar, as well as in a few other acts making everything from house beats to jazz. The Pix is Petter’s band, consisting of Mike Svensson on piano, Andreas Gabrielsson on bass, Nils Törnqvist on drums, and Mattias Franzen and Klas Ericsson on guitars. I had a quick catch-up with him to ask about his songwriting process.

Hi, Petter. What is it that you’re trying to do with the Pix? As in, what are you aiming for?

To make music and let everyone that is involved feel as involved as we are. I see music as some sort of get together, and I don’t want to work with anyone unless I can trust them to do their very best. For me a very big part of making music is to find situations where you can create moments of trust, with both your fellow musicians and a possible audience.

How would you describe your sound?

I’d say it some sort of pop.

Your music is extremely varied in style and instrumentation – how much to do you draw upon your experience with genres other than just ‘indie’ in making music?

I don’t really know how to define indie or pop if you are referring to it as a certain style of music. There are so many different music styles that people call indie or pop. The expressions seem to change depending on the decade in which they’re used. I think that for musicians, every piece of music they participate in changes the way they think about making music. If the musical history of the members in a group is varied, the outcome will somehow be a reflection of this.

What’s it like working with such a talented range of musicians? How much do they help in achieving that semi-orchestral breadth of sound?

The musicians are everything that there is! If I would choose another constellation of musicians then I’m sure that it would sound very different, not necessarily bad, but different. The fact that we’re all old friends makes it easier to work together.

What else influences you in your work? Where do you draw your ideas from? The world around you, friends, things like that?

The fact that it’s possible to survive as a musician, and that I enjoy playing and recording music, of course, are definitely the reasons why it’s worth making the effort to finish a song. But I think that what actually triggers the ideas could be just about anything, most likely it’s a combo of different components that effects your emotional state and I believe that music is just a product of that process.

This is your second album – do you feel that you’re progressing as a band?

Yes, I think that this album sounds different from the first one, so that would be progress. We haven’t been touring with this band so we haven’t been able to evolve in terms of meeting an audience. But we’ve played together in different constellations for at least ten years so I think that gives us the comfort to play what we like, even if doesn’t happen that often.

Categories ,Good As Gold, ,ian steadman, ,iceland, ,Indie, ,interview, ,Lykke Li, ,Múm, ,Never Never, ,Orchestral, ,Petter & the Pix, ,Petter Winnberg, ,rock

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Amelia’s Magazine | Jesse Malin – ON YOUR SLEEVE

A worryingly bright room with the stench of fresh white paint known as the Nog Gallery was illustrator Marcus Oakley‘s chosen venue for the launch of his new book.

Framed art and canvases, order website like this none much larger than A4, were hung tightly together in a line around the room. This was a collection of work that made the book that we were there to drink our beers to.

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A colourful collection of trendy, childlike illustrations were bought to life by Oakley and his fat marker pen, HB pencil and a selection of coloured papers and paints. His work involved a mixture of typography, pattern making, still-lifes, houses and numerous quirky characters and animals such as the creepy bear (above).

Oakley’s work also involved portraits of more familiar (yet still rather creepy looking) characters including Fleetwood Mac, Simon and Garfunkel and Neil young. There was definitely a 1970′s air around the exhibition: bygone architecture, retro pot plants and large collared fashion. Oakley appears to be influenced by the aesthetic beauty of the decade’s architecture, fashion, graphics and typography. The subject matter and his taste in music may be a little old but his style of illustration is definitely contemporary.

Marcus%20Oakley.jpg

The Glasgow School of Art undergraduate fashion show has been an annual affair since the 1940s, viagra approved so it’s no surprise it has established a reputation for being dynamic and innovative. This year proved to be no different, more about with 40 students from second and third year showing 108 outfits.

The theme for this year’s show was ‘Avant-Garde’ and the students aimed to challenge mass-produced fashion to create exciting and daring one-off pieces.

The show opened with work from the second students, salve who showed one garment each, followed by the third year students who specialise in one of four areas of textile design – knit, weave, embroidery and print – to create a three garment collection.
Featuring fluorescent colours on neutral backgrounds, jewel bright colours from opposing ends of the colour wheel, layered tones and rich hues, this was a show saturated in colour. The voluminous shapes and intricate folding, tucking, draping and pleating showed guest lecturer Julian Roberts influence.

The designers cite inspiration from architecture, industrialism, Optical art and the glamour of 1940s screen sirens. One minute cubic shapes in knits and print evoked city skylines, and the next Surrealism and Romanticism took over as the models were transformed into Cottingley-esque fairies in light chiffons and appliquéd flowers.
Using a toned down palate of coffee tones in gold and cream, Natalie Graham created a collection of juxtapositions. Masculine tailoring challenged ideas of femininity while her choice of tough woven tweeds patterned with mechanical shapes was classic and sophisticated.

Stephanie Parr drew inspiration from dilapidated buildings, and used thermals with laser cut fluorescent fabrics. The layered train of one dress, lifted and lowered by the model like fabulous neon parrots tail, created endless shapes and movements.
Nautical stripes were toughened up in Ian Porters capes in which striped panels and red rubber panels seemed more like an apocalyptic day by the sea.
This was a bold and self-assured show that once again cemented Glasgow School of Arts reputation as the place to look for new talent.

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You can tell Armen Eloyan lives in Zurich. With claustrophobic cabin interiors, health sparse, snowy landscapes and a cast of animal – human hybrids: wolves, dogs and black cats, his paintings seem like stills from a half-remembered Mitteleuropean fairytale. Take ‘Man Dressed as Wolf’: a figure in a stove-pipe hat and a vulpine smile stalks amid the fir trees, on the way, you can only imagine, to eating someone’s grandma.

Eloyan inhabits much the same territory as the notoriously grim Chapman Brothers, but while their demented cartoon characters are drawn with a twee neatness that underlines their menace, Eloyan’s visions are smeared onto the canvas with splenetic vigour. Cartoon imagery is removed from the flat safety of the printed page; in ‘Bear and Dog’ a speech bubble emerges, filled with frenzied, illegible writing, while in ‘(Bunch of a Story) Tea Table’, the viscous substance oozing from the pot doesn’t look much like tea. Random details surface from the swirling depths of the paint: although you can’t quite work out what infests the outer reaches of the canvas, you can bet your life it’s nothing friendly.

It’s well known that modern anxieties about childhood and the American film industry have excised the darker content from children’s stories and folklore. In Eloyan’s nightmare-world, these dark and haunting subtexts burst through to the surface, creating queasy juxtapositions between the painterly, expressionist backdrops and the goofy-eyed figures therein. In short, Bookstore Cure celebrates the triumph of the macabre.

Armen%20Eloyan%20Man%20Dressed%20as%20Wolf

After a guestlist mix-up that had me convinced I’d be attempting to review this gig from outside the venue, seek we finally get the green light and find the perfect perching spot for first support act Youthmovies as a heaving throng of expectant early arrivees go wild for this Oxford fivesome’s thrillingly complex riff attacks. They are also very keen on next act Esser and rightfully so, as the pint-sized ex-Ladyfuzz drummer kicks off an energetic and compelling performance by dramatically thrashing at a cymbal and snare. Along with frYars and Micachu, the quirky chap is currently one of the capital’s most innovative young songwriters as he caters in everything from dark, off-kilter pop to shimmering electronics, stripped-down hip-hop and frantic thrash, throwing in maracas, creepy piano samples, strings and cowbells along the way. ‘I Love You’ and ‘Headlock’ sound like hits in the making and as Esser tumbles off at the end of a thundering finale, kicking over drums and microphone stands in his path, he leaves us gagging for more.

However, it’s headliners Foals that really bring the house down tonight, rather unsurprisingly as before they are even on stage a real party atmosphere pervades the Astoria with pissed-up punters chanting the band’s name and excitedly lobbing glowsticks into the air. The extremely talented quintet commence an intense and perfectly executed set of tracks from debut ‘Antidotes’ with a brief warm-up as smoke fills the stage, blinding us with red and blue flashing lights before ‘The French Open’ surges into action, all discordant horns, juddering guitars and clattering percussion. Gone is the tight circle formation of old, replaced by an increasingly confident live outfit unafraid to own all of the space they are entitled to – Jimmy Smith manically thrashes at his guitar while Yannis Philippakis pirouettes, hops and skips around the stage gesticulating wildly from behind his microphone and even launching himself into the front row at one point to dance with the crowd.

‘Cassius’, ‘Balloons’, ‘Heavy Water’, ‘Hummer’, ‘Two Steps, Twice’ and ‘Electric Bloom’ all incite screams and hysterical flailing from audience members, however, it is nothing compared to the encore of ‘Mathletics’ which sees people grabbing at the frontman and guitarist, pulling them into the pit and hugging them, as growling basslines, twittering riffs and rhythms at breakneck speed erupt around the venue. Anyone worried that a move to stages of this size would detract from the power of the Foals live show should leave tonight feeling appeased. The band are now more adept at putting on awe-inspiring performances than they ever were…

After having met Chris – Yeasayer‘s front man – the other week, ailment he extended an invitation to watch the band’s final London gig at the ICA last night. So with a note to himself written as a reminder to submit my name, page we parted ways with a sincere promise of a catch up on the following Monday.

I’d heard nothing but good reviews from an eclectic selection of people, so I was anticipating whether Yeasayer would live up to my expectations. Rolling up to the venue early in the hopes of catching one of the super sized fig rolls that the ICA has to offer, we were met with “We’re still waiting for their guest list.” Man, all I wanted was one of those fig rolls, could I wait in the café? No. So I was relegated to the lobby to await the royal list.

Not only were we at the mercy of the bureaucracy that comes with guest lists, but also the sticky red tape of being at the ICA. In my frustration I wanted to shout at someone, to para-phrase CSS, to ‘suck my art’, bizzatch!! Despite being amused an hour earlier to observe the ‘art crowd’. But some dim sum and a lot of phone calls later, we skidded in just in time for the lights to come up on the four piece that is Yeasayer.

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I wondered how Yeasayer were going to translate onto a live stage; as they were the kind of band that I imagined to have a raggle taggle but Slick Rick type gypsy orchestra backing them up. So when the sound swelled (the sound at the ICA is amaaaaaazing darling…but not up toooo loud, it’s all very civilised up in there) I thought that it was all too good to be true. And then I realised, and was initially surprised, at how electronic and backed up they were. I was skeptical for about a minute, when it all began to make sense to me. Recorded, and on a romantic level, Yeasayer are a seemingly untamed wilderness of exotic sound; a whirling dervish of drums, vocals chanting with abandon and organic handclaps. Often, images of bare feet kicking up dust as they stomp and dance cross my mind when I listen to Yeasayer. But of course, on an intellectual level, I know that every sample, every wail and every drum stroke has been carefully executed with the pride and precision of a military operation. And on observing the live version of proceedings, it was clear that it was almost a Wizard of Oz type procedure, with live mixing as well as live instrumentation.

I was hanging out to hear Sunrise and they didn’t disappoint me, I was appeased. Yeasayer lived up to my expectations, and were well worth the trouble that I, and everyone on either side of me on the food chain, had to go through to get me there. I got what I went for: the urge to gyrate, throw my hands up, dance in a fashion that would clear a wide circle around me and, despite one of my pet hates being anyone who thinks that going barefoot is a cool idea (vagrants), I also felt like I wanted to chuck my shoes off for a stomping jamboree with Yeasayer. Fantastic.

The introductory song of Jesse Malin‘s On Your Sleeve set the scene of the album well: the scene of an episode of Baywatch. Thereafter, sick a procession of power ballads marched on with ‘vim, search vigour’ and all the originality of a victoria sponge. The influences that he claims to have were difficult to detect – despite my strain to do so. Tom Waits! The Ramones! Where? Where? The entire album seems to merge into one mediocre commingling of many an eighties epic, nurse deep-and-meaningful pop rock effort. It did give my colleague hot flushes upon hearing it – although I’m not sure whether or not that is necessarily a good thing. There are many songs on this album, fourteen in fact, and many of them are rather catchy, but none of them – not even Rodeo Town or his rendition of Walk On The Wild Side filled me with optimism for the singer’s future in music. I understand that he is not trying to be edgy, and is singing truly from the heart, but I still can’t imagine anyone wanting to listen to it who doesn’t already have the greatest hits of Lou Reed. In fact it left me wondering, does he wear beads? Is it ironic? Is it a pastiche? It could be a quiche for all I care.

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Amelia’s Magazine | Daniel Johnston @ The Union Chapel

Kuri Yashiro 2007
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The Union Chapel in Islington was a perfect venue for Daniel Johnston to display his talents to his adoring London fan base. The church setting and pew seating inspired a hushed reverence and allowed almost everyone an unrestricted view of the stage. After two excellent support acts (Jake Bellows and James Yorkston), Daniel Johnston sloped into view and picked up a guitar. Overweight, grey haired and wearing tracksuit bottoms and a sweatshirt he looked exactly like a man who has spent a large proportion of his adult life being cared for.

A transformation happens as soon as he starts to play and sing. It is the contrast between what Daniel Johnston is and what Daniel Johnston does that has provided him with his unique position in modern music culture. His voice has range and emotional intensity, but it is his ability with lyrics and melodies that makes Daniel Johnston into a modern music icon.

His lyrics, which seem to have by-passed most commonly understood notions of lyric writing, could be considered childish or naive at times. Yet somehow they manage to transmit an intensity of feeling or a truthfulness of expression that renders such considerations irrelevant. Playing guitar and piano and often almost unable to control his physical infirmities, he played a long and varied set that mixed his most popular songs with recent work.

Sometimes he performed solo and at others he was accompanied by a whole band or by a varied combination of guitarists and organists. In each of these permutations he produced a performance that convincingly displayed his song writing talents and his unique persona. My favourite combination was the young six-piece band he played with towards the end of this set.

Their slightly ramshackle delivery perfectly matched the material and it was a shame they played only a handful of songs. Between songs and personnel changes he showed the audience that on this particular day Daniel Johnston was happy and well telling jokes and providing pseudonyms for his band members.

I can only guess at the level of support Daniel Johnston had in London prior to the release of the 2005 film “The Devil and Daniel Johnston”, but his audience at the Union Chapel twice gave him a standing ovation, once as he left the stage and immediately after his simple one minute encore.

I really enjoyed this gig and after listening to his last two albums I think that he has a valid present as an artist as well as a rich past. However, I was left with some strange impressions of the audience. Throughout the gig I had a niggling feeling that the varying quality of song writing was being ignored by the audience, though this I suspect was suspect partly because of the partisan nature of the crowd and partly because of a misguided notion that he is somehow not comparable to more conventional musicians or deserves some kind of special consideration. Daniel Johnston’s ‘outsider’ song writing by any conventional comparisons is often excellent, but just like most of his more mainstream peers (a lot of whom are also his fans) he also writes songs that are simply average.

Don’t miss Daniel Johnston when he comes to London again. He may not be the normal mix of mad bad and dangerous to know that you expect from a rock musician, but the unique combination he possesses is equally compelling. James Yorkston was also magical in his support slot and I would also highly recommend seeking out his next performance.

Categories ,Daniel Johnston, ,Gig, ,Live, ,London, ,The Union Chapel

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