Amelia’s Magazine | Musical Listings!

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.


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?

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 or Carla Fernandez at by 16th June 2008.

For more info visit the British Council website.

Good Luck!



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

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Amelia’s Magazine | One to Watch for 2010; The Lovely Laura J Martin

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I could say that Laura J Martin is as ethereal and otherworldly as Bat For Lashes, seek and I could tell you that her haunting musical tales reminds me of listening to a young Kate Bush, and if I really wanted to, approved I could say that her ability to take a pastoral folk sound and twist an electro beat around it puts me in mind of the great Alison Goldfrapp. Like I said, I could say all of that, but that would be thinking inside the box, and I’m going to take my cue from Laura, who has probably never thought inside the box a day in her life. Instead I am going to say that she reminds me of a hummingbird. Watching her on stage, wielding her flute with the swiftness and precision of a warrior using a samurai sword, you can’t quite believe that something so light and delicate can beat its wings so fast. But she does, and we can only stand in awe.

Described by the people behind The Big Chill (who obviously know what they’re talking about) as “the world’s finest flute wielding, piano playing, mandolin toting singer-songwriter”, Laura goes one step further and offers up this description of her sound and style; “think folkie weirdie beardie (without the beardie) funki (with an ‘i’) mixed in a cauldron with some jazzy slurp + niceness squared = me.” Well put. Now, when I first saw her play, I knew nothing about Laura and I will take this opportunity to shamefully confess that I quickly summed up this adorable pixie in front of me with her flute and her mandolin and thought, “Oh OK, it’s going to be a bit folky.” (Not, I hasten to add, that there is anything wrong with folk.) My point is simply this; if you go see Laura J Martin live, expect the unexpected. Armed with her trusty loopstation, which sits at her feet, she takes the already beautiful sounds that come from her instruments and creates a multi-layered composition of melodies that perfectly compliments her sweet but haunting voice. Catching up with her during a phone chat recently, the Liverpool born, Leeds based singer mused upon the nature of musical genres, and how defining her sound into one style will never give you the full illuminated picture. “My style derives mainly from the instruments that I play, and my main instrument is the flute. So my sound definitely has elements of folk, but I wouldn’t like to be boxed as just that. In the past when I’ve taken part in jam sessions, I’ve played a lot of funk flute. I don’t want people to get the impression that it’s all serious folk” she adds, “I do like to have a beat in my music, in fact, the tracks that I like to perform live the most are the ones with a beat.”


Live at The Bowery, Sheffield. Photography by Peter Martin

Over the course of our conversation I discover that validity of this statement. Laura is a jam session veteran; lending her voice and musical ability to performances by hip hop, experimentalism and jazz artists (a much beloved musical style of Laura’s, who rates Herbie Mann as a key influence). Recent collaborations have been with diverse and left-field artists such as the hip hop/turntablist/rock and blues singer Buck 65 (“He’s one of my hero’s”) and kidkanevil. “He’s a hip hop producer and beat maker”, she tells me, “His style is very eclectic. I was involved in his live show for a few years.”


So how did this petite virtuoso come to possess her musical wizardry? I suggested to Laura that her childhood must have involved imps and faeries and nights spent running across deserted moors. “Not quite!” she laughs, “I did go up in suburban Liverpool after all!”. Still, she reflects, “I was a geek. I used to like climbing trees and exploring. I would find excitement in very small things.” Clearly, this free spirited childhood helped shape the creative and imaginative grown up Laura. Case in point; when she “gets up to mischief” in the name of finding a beat; “I’ve gone into the kitchen and banged pots and pans…. it’s all about getting a stick and banging things and seeing what comes out!” And when I ask about the inspiration for her track Dokidoki, she cites the weather for pointing her towards the melody that she would use. “It was a very sunny day,” she explains, “And I was in a really good mood. I went into the shower and the melody came out!”

A major creative highlight of Laura’s was a year spent in Japan, where she immersed herself in the music scene, taking part in numerous jam sessions, namely with the group Soil & “Pimp”. Already being fascinated with Asian culture (and a devotee of Kung Fu films, “the melodies are ace!” she laughs) she used her time productively. “I didn’t watch much T.V, it was all about listening to music, practicing music and reading and not being spoon-fed anything.” Her time in Japan was certainly eventful; one night she awoke to discover that her balcony was in flames, in what was later discovered to be an arson attack. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and Laura – as ever – was open to inspiration in the most unexpected of scenarios and took the opportunity to research the history of Japans arson attacks, a journey which led her to the mother of all arsonists (and legends) Yaoya Oshichi. Oshichi, she explains, then went on to become the subject matter of her track ‘Fire Horse‘. See? Like I told you, her influences and inspirations are as diverse and eclectic as she is.

LJM by Jess SwainsonIllustration by Jess Swainson

Now back on her home turf, Laura plans to keep going full steam ahead with her career. As well as releasing her new track ‘The Hangman Tree’ in early 2010 (check her MySpace for details) she is finishing up her new album and planning her gigs for the months ahead. Lucky Londoners can see her performing this Saturday as part of the You Choose Jamboree night. The venue is undisclosed, but sign up to You Choose Jamborees guest list, and the location will be emailed to you. I can’t wait to see what the New Year has in store for Laura J Martin, and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us.

Categories ,album, ,gig, ,live, ,music

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Amelia’s Magazine | These Monsters – Call Me Dragon – Album Review

These Monsters

Throughout the history of popular music the alliance between guitar and saxophone has always been an uneasy one. A number of brave musicians have experimented with this combination, from burdened Baker Street busker Gerry Rafferty to (c)rap-metal also-rans Dog Eat Dog – and the results have always been mixed.

On These Monsters debut album, the Leeds-based rockers use the infamous aerophone to provide the albums most interesting moments, weaving thrilling trails of melancholy and surprising sensuality between the agitated guitars and muscular rhythm section. The band creates a beautiful, bruising sound. The sax on the outro of Dirty Messages wrenches the song from a black hole of noise allowing it to glisten dramatically for the last few bars. This secret weapon is also used to particular effect on the title track, the sprawling Space Ritual and the thundering Harry Patton.


The album is given a shiny finish by Napalm Death producer Chris Fielding and save for a smattering of heavily distorted Sepultura screams it is predominantly instrumental – erring towards prog rather than post-rock. These Monsters are definitely an acquired taste, but most of the time it works.

These Monsters_Crickets_By_Bart_Pettman_Hires

On final track Deaf Machine, however, the lack of variation in Sam Pryor and Ian Thirkill’s relentless hard-rock riffing combined with a Saxophone melody that begins to ape the incidental music from The Rockford Files, the exhilaration begins to wane slightly, with the track sitting just on the wrong side of experimental.


Equal parts palatable and impenetrable. With Call Me Dragon These Monsters have succeeded in creating some of the most captivating yet frustrating music so far this year.

Categories ,Dog Eat Dog, ,Napalm Death, ,These Monsters

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with singer songwriter Phildel

Phildel by Laura Hickman
Phildel by Laura Hickman.

Singer songwriter Phildel celebrates the imminent launch of her debut album The Disappearance of a Girl with the launch of a special remix of her song Union Stone, created to accompany a video collaboration with ethical fashion designer Henrietta Ludgate (read more about her here), artist Sam Birch and choreographer Rachel Riveros. The film reinterprets the aeons old ritual of the Maypole dance, and will be performed live on 15th May during a gig at Bush Hall in west London. Watch it here:

I asked Phildel a few questions:

How do you create your music?
It involves quite a process – as I write the songs, compose the arrangements and map out the production before we go into the studio to record everything, each of those steps takes a while. I don’t try to write a song unless I feel overwhelmed by a strong kind of emotion, but when I am – I sit down at the piano, play the first note – and the melody just unfolds in my mind, I ‘hear’ what should come next…it’s organic and feels quite cathartic. Then the lyrics come to me in fragments – I don’t consciously try to think up lyric topics – I just let my subconscious or deeper ‘dreaming mind’ communicate. Often, the lyrics make no sense to me at first…but once a few months have gone by, I look back at the same lyrics and they make total sense in relation to what I was going through at the time. Whereas in the beginning I’d look at the lyric fragments and just think…“Really!? This makes so little sense to me!” Now I just trust it. I think that’s the amazing thing about psychology – we often don’t see our own patterns in the eye of the storm…but our dreaming minds, our imaginations – what some would call the subconscious – tends to be more aware and lets us know, through our dreams – how we’re feeling (resulting in things like stress dreams etc). But it’s not until we look back on it all through time that we have more conscious awareness.

Phildel - Press Shot
Once the song is written, I can start really imagining the kind of space, the colour, the world that the song exists in. And I begin to hear the spaces around the melody which I can fill with sounds that to me, represent key things about that song world. So for example, in The Disappearance of the Girl – the choirs towards the end represent ethereal water spirits. Choirs tend to represent loving ethereal spirits to me apart from in The Wolf and Storm Song where they represent the ‘chorus’ in a more Greek mythology kind of way…I don’t really pay much attention to genre – I’m more interested in finding the right sounds to paint the picture of the album world. Really, my main priority is to use sounds and instrumentation that serve the ‘spirit’ of each song.

Phildel Maypole Exclusive All
As we have a world full of possibilities – the process of selecting the best sounds for the job, then bringing them together and making them work together is a long one. Because some of these sounds are not conventionally used together and getting their frequencies to sit well in a mix, presents another range of challenges. It’s not like working with a conventional arrangement using say, a bass, a guitar and a drum-kit – where the way those sounds sit together in terms of frequencies is reasonably well mapped out. There are all kinds of different obstacles in achieving a great sound with an unconventional arrangement. So there’s a lot involved in the process on both creative and technical levels. 

May rituals By Briony jose
May rituals by Briony Jose.

Your debut album contains songs of resistance and escape, what inspired these themes?
From the age of 8 until 17 I lived in a house where I had no access to music. My mother re-married a religious fundamentalist, where as we had lived in a very liberal household with my father up until then – so there was a massive culture shock for me. I was forced to change my culture and identity completely. As well as the cultural change, my mother’s new husband was abusive. And so the experiences I had to contend with were dark – so I became used to escaping into my own imagination from a young age. I played piano at school lunchtimes, which I loved and so was able to nurture my passion for music that way.

I suppose I always felt like I was living three different lives simultaneously – the lie of a life where I was forced to accept all these religious principles that I didn’t believe in and was told to remain silent about the abuse I was experiencing and witnessing, then the hours at school where I could preserve myself and my identity, and thirdly, my own identity within the world of my imagination – which was what really saved me. In that dream-world I could do anything I liked, I could exact revenge for everything I’d been put through. Songs like The Wolf capture that element of my world. Where as songs like Beside You capture the lighter, more enchanting side. The title of the album The Disappearance of the Girl for me represents disappearing from the liberal world of my birth, into a world of silence and restriction. It also represents my disappearance from reality into the refuge of my imagination. I think disappearing is a major theme for me.

Phildel  Maypole Stag
What made you decide to reinterpret the May Day rituals?
For a while now, I’ve wanted to explore the concept of the ‘ritual’ and how it manifests in communities as well as individuals lives. It’s a massive part of our psychology and comes up all over the place. I asked my supporters on facebook what rituals they had as individuals and I looked through cultures at various ritual celebrations. As May was approaching, it felt like the right time to explore the Maypole dancing ritual. It’s something that’s appeared through history and even popular culture in cult-classic films such as The Wicker Man. On top of this, I’ve always felt a deep connection to the land and nature. And so, I thought it would be interesting to create a re-interpretation of the Maypole dance in collaboration with other artists.

Phildel  Maypole Exclusive
Rachel Riveros choreographed the movements beautifully, Henrietta Ludgate adorned the dancers in her amazing collection, artist Sam Birch designed the set and Maypole and I created a bespoke arrangement of my track Union Stone to soundtrack the film. We ended up capturing many authentic details so in fact, we stayed quite true to tradition. I had a response from a Wiccan high-priestess in the US who said she was so pleased to see so much attention paid to detail, which was lovely.

Phildel Stag Girl
What prompted the collaboration with Henrietta Ludgate?
Henrietta Ludgate is an incredibly creative and visionary fashion designer. I’ve worked with her for a number of things, namely her first London Fashion Week presentation for which she asked me to supply the music for the catwalk – which I performed live for the runway. Her catwalk theme was an indoor installation of an enchanted forest. Her designs are beautifully structured – I really feel there’s a sense of the iconic about them – but they maintain a playful edge so have this really extraordinary balance. So, I felt like her collection would be perfect for the project as it would add a sense of iconic, sculptured form to the dancers whilst looking very fresh and playful. I asked her if she’d like to be involved and she and artist Sam Birch (who designed the set and Maypole), were both really excited about it. The Maypole was actually created by Sam Birch entirely out of ‘found’ items – and he crafted it to replicate a Birch tree which is what is traditionally used as the Maypole. 

YouTube Preview ImageStorm Song

What were the logistics of filming and when did you find such fine weather?
It’s actually a little cosmic. Because we all had Friday 3rd May down in our diaries for the filming…but it was overcast and rainy every single day of the week except for Wednesday 1st May –  traditionally the day to dance around the Maypole. And it was a truly glorious day, the sky was blue the entire time and loads of people came up to us to say how lovely it was to see the Maypole up on May 1st and on such a perfect day. With the glory of the weather, the date and performing the dance, everything felt so right, we were overjoyed with how well it all turned out.

YouTube Preview ImageBeside You

What next for Phildel?
We’re about to perform the Maypole dance live for my show at Bush Hall on Weds 15th May – so we’ll be erecting the 15 foot Maypole in the venue. After that, I’ll be performing live in Manchester and Bristol as part of Dot-to-Dot Festival followed by a performance at How The Light Gets In Festival of art, music and philosophy at Hay-on-ohe-Wye. Then I’ll be off to the USA in July for a collaboration with a great artist called Sleepthief amongst a few USA live dates. I’m also really looking forward to performing at Vancouver Folk Festival and Secret Garden Party both in July, before a show at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.

Randomly, my album track Holes In Your Coffin is on the Hollyoaks trailer on tv at the moment and a few radio stations will be giving it a spin over the next few weeks, so listen out for that one – I’m actually currently creating the music video for Holes In Your Coffin which will be a compilation of footage submissions from my supporters, who are helping me create the video, some outstanding submissions from those as young as 10 and 11 – so I can’t wait to make the video public.

YouTube Preview ImageThe Wolf

The Disappearance of a Girl is released on 3rd June, featuring twelve magical songs of resistance and escape, inspired by a period during Phildel‘s childhood when music of all kinds was forbidden in an oppressive household.

Categories ,Briony Jose, ,Bush Hall, ,dance, ,Dot-to-Dot Festival, ,edinburgh fringe festival, ,Henrietta Ludgate, ,Holes In Your Coffin, ,Hollyoaks, ,How The Light Gets In Festival, ,Laura Hickman, ,London Fashion Week, ,Maypole, ,Phildel, ,Rachel Riveros, ,Sam Birch, ,Secret Garden Party, ,Sleepthief, ,The Disappearance of a Girl, ,Union Stone, ,Vancouver Folk Festival, ,video, ,Wiccan

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Amelia’s Magazine | Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – The Road Soundtrack – Review

The Road

The year looks to be getting off to a pretty weather-beaten start across Great Britain. It seems rather apt that it also see’s the release of The Road, doctor a film adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Cormac McCarthy. The story follows the journey of a father and son as they travel through an ash strewn post-apocalyptic America, ailment scavenging for food and generally trying to survive.

Accompanying the film is a score by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis. These two are better known for their collaboration in Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Grinderman. They have also worked together on two other scores, for The Proposition (which Cave also wrote the Screenplay for), and The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford.

Warren Ellis & Nick Cave

If you’ve seen, and heard the music from, either of the two films mentioned then you should have an idea of what to expect. This haunting, brooding, and chilling score should definitely serve to highlight the grim journey the characters take. The film is released on January 16th so I have only read the book, which I thought was incredibly powerful and moving. However I found it easy to imagine how each piece of music would work with its cinematic counterpart.

The tracks are simply titled, with names like; The Boy, The Mother, The House, and Water and Ash which is in keeping with the economical writing of the book.

The Road Poster

One problem with film scores is that while they often work well with the film itself they can be rather boring to listen to without the accompanying images. Not so with Ellis and Cave’s work.

Each piece is steeped in their trademark sound, violin and piano respectively. This is most evident on the track The Far Road which has both instruments entwining around one another to create a beautiful piece of music. There are some breaks from this however, most notably on The House which begins with violins layered over the top of each other. It gradually builds a feeling of dread which is only broken with the introduction of a fearsome guitar riff, and galloping drums.

It’s nice to see that music is being taken seriously when it comes to its use in film. A good piece of music can enhance a scene, or it can completely detract from it. From listening to this album I am looking forward to seeing the film it soundtracks which I expect will be every bit as haunting as the music that accompanies it.

Categories ,Cormac McCarthy, ,grinderman, ,Nick Cave, ,Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, ,The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, ,The Proposition, ,The Road, ,Warren Ellis

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Amelia’s Magazine | A Hawk And A Hacksaw

Five albums in, medications malady and with only mild commercial success to date, it would be a reasonable assessment to describe Rufus Wainwright’s dramatic, theatrical pop as something of an acquired taste. For many, he over eggs the pudding , and then some. But whilst bold ambition may be a deterrent to some, his loyal fans will rejoice at this offering. This is classic Rufus, and whilst it wont be winning him many new fans, this simply doesn’t matter. This is a record to admire, it may even be his most satisfying work to date.

As expected, Wainwright offers up his usual mix of epic and restrained throughout the 13 songs, and there are a number of gems. Striking orchestration and characteristically high in the mix Rufus vocals lead us into opener Do I Dissapoint You. It is a brilliant opening song to set the tone for what is to follow. The diversity of instruments employed here alone is staggering, and like many songs throughout the album the arrangement is gloriously ambitious. The recurring operatic theme, present throughout all his previous work has been thankfully maintained.

First Single Going To A Town (which was B listed by Radio 2) follows. Its mournful tones echoing latter day Beatles balladry (think Fool On The Hill) and it features the albums most engaging lyrics. Amidst numerous misforgivings with his homeland, Wainwright again finds himself lost in the confusion of love and religion (another recurring theme here), “Tell me, do you really think you go to hell for having loved?” he pleads. For all the record’s grandiose, it is these moments of human insecurity that really strike a chord. It is also one of a number of outstanding vocals on the record.

The pace doesn’t let up throughout the opening half – Nobody’s Off The Hook, Between My Legs and Tiergarten sit easily amongst the artists best work. But, it cannot quite be maintained throughout the second half – a better focus on sequencing next time perhaps. But this is a minor gripe. With each listen, hidden depths are revealed, suggesting that this is a record that will endure also. It is a joy.

Troubles! That’s exactly what the Concretes got into during the last year. One of the three founding members and nonetheless the lead vocalist of the band decided to quit to start her solo project Taken by Trees. If that was not enough the destiny decided to punish them furthermore and as a result they had all their equipment stolen during the U.S. tour. Quite a difficult time for a band, sildenafil isn’t it? However, The Concretes decided to look ahead and continue their career as a seven piece band, giving Maria Erikkson the difficult task to substitute the charismatic and easily recognisable voice of Victoria Bergsman.

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Amelia’s Magazine | A Summer Punch Up at Sutton House: Kotki Dwa Staycations Album Launch Party Review

Kotki Dwa Staycations CD bundle by Sam Glynn
Kotki Dwa Staycations CD bundle by Sam Glynn

Staycations. A word us Brits are getting more and more used to: when the sun shines, there is honestly just no place like home. Great Britain has been the centre of attention this summer. After all, if it’s good enough for world record holders and a Queen, it’s good enough for us. The beautiful rolling green hills, still blues lakes and near-empty endless beaches. We’re spoilt for these spots, everywhere. So why not celebrate them? Forget the rain and embrace our terrain right? Right. Amelia’s Magazine music favourites, Kotki Dwa, well and truly do. So much so, Staycations is the title of their follow-up album. But wait… Here comes a very interesting tale.

While fans sat patiently waiting for second record news, the boys Alex, Tom and Tristan, were hatching quite the plan. An idea long in the making, came true this summer on 2nd July, the release date of the album. And this plan? To ask the National Trust to be their record label. They gave a firm yes!

Kotki Dwa Cakes by Abi Renshaw
Kotki Dwa rice paper printed jam cupcakes by Abi Renshaw

So we’ve all been to a National Trust property right? Yes? Well there are over two hundred historic houses open to the public. Your folks probably took you to an endless amount as a kid. Visiting these properties seemed like a staple part of growing up. Now I’ve hopefully got you reminiscing, it’s filled you with fond memories hasn’t it. The pristine gardens (with a maze if you were lucky), the delicious dairy ice cream from the café, the views from high above. Kotki Dwa thought the same. Dreamt up by the boys, which must feel like an awfully long time ago now, was this rather genius idea. Once they secured the all-important ‘yes’, the possibilities became endless. They knew exactly that this would open all kinds of (historic and stately) doors – to be inspired by, write about and record in.

A Summer Punch Up on Saturday 14th July was their big night. The album was out there, glowing reviews were flowing from Pitchfork, the Guardian and the BBC. This launch party was set to go off. Plus, the venue was quite special in it’s own right. Many ran through the doors bang on 7pm into Sutton House, Hackney’s oldest house and a National Trust gem. So much so, Alex spilled they wrote a track based on its ghost. Buried deep in Homerton, 80 lucky people got to party in this property, built in 1535 by a prominent courtier of Henry VIII. WOW. The Summer (it was raining) Punch Up started with the twilight punch picnic.

Cucumber triangle sandwiches, scotch eggs, jam filled cupcakes with their Polish name on rice paper (lovely touch and too pretty to eat) and flower cakes fashioned in plant pots with Oreo ‘soil’. Delicious.

Kotki Dwa Summer Punch by Edie OP
The Summer Punch Up cocktails menu by Edie OP

They even had themed cocktails after three of their songs. Outside in the bunting-filled courtyard was an ice cream cart. Pay a donation for a scrummy pot of Taywell and cover it in their home-made Pimms syrup. Yeah!

Supporting Kotki Dwa were two fantastic bands, Glaciers and Niteflights. Each surrounded by Kotki Dwa’s British holiday themed set of picnic hampers, hay bales and a snorkel. Once the twilight picnic had gone down and the dancing to both bands over, it was to be their finest hour. The first quarter of the hall filled with the 80 strong crowd. I’m pretty small in height so was pleased with my wing position right by the grand piano, oohhh. The room was beautiful, with its red walls and high beams. Sticking to songs solely from Staycations, you could just see it in their faces, how happy they were they’d got to here. The idea had become an album, and it was rattling that ghost upstairs no doubt. I very much enjoyed the heavily loud instrumental ending of The Wolf, and the single Poison required some serious dancing. The absolute highlight for me was during the song Staycations. A girl dressed in a crab costume was throwing beach balls into the crowd to lyrics such as ‘you la la like it when we go away’ and ‘didn’t I read that sunshine repairs your sanity’. A fantastic night ending with a disco hosted by DJs Midnight A-Go-Go and NZCA/LINES.

Kotki Dwa King Crab by Dan Morison
King Crab by Dan Morison

Oh to re-live that night all over again, yes please! I did the next best thing, I quizzed singer Alex about how they bagged the National Trust as their label and where you can see them play live this summer: read my interview with Alex Ostrowski here.

Categories ,A Summer Punch Up, ,Abi Renshaw, ,Alex Ostrowski, ,Bandcamp, ,BBC, ,Beach balls, ,Box Hill, ,bunting, ,Crab costume, ,Dan Morison, ,Edie OP, ,Geoffrey Taylor, ,Ghost, ,Glaciers, ,Great Britain, ,hackney, ,Halloween video, ,Harpsichord, ,Hattie Newman, ,Homerton, ,Ice Cream, ,Kotki Dwa, ,Lake District, ,Limited edition CDs, ,Lunch EP, ,National Trust, ,Niteflights, ,Picnic hampers, ,Pimm’s, ,Pitchfork, ,Polish, ,Queen, ,Recording, ,Robin’s Clogs, ,Sam Glynn, ,Sam Parr, ,Scotch eggs, ,Staycations, ,Sun shine, ,Sutton House, ,Taywell, ,The Guardian, ,Triangle sandwiches, ,Twilight picnic punch, ,World record holder, ,YCN, ,Yorkshire, ,Yorkshire Dales

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with James Levy and review of Pray To Be Free by James Levy and the Blood Red Rose

James Levy by Natalia Nazimek (Nhtlee)
James Levy & Allison Pierce by Natalia Nazimek aka Nhtlee.

James Levy may need something of an introduction, but his cohort Allison Pierce has already risen to fame as one half of The Pierces (read my welcome back interview here). Not that James Levy hasn’t paid his dues… after touring extensively in the mid 2000s with his previous band Levy he almost kicked it all in before deciding to make one last ditch attempt with his music. Picking over an extensive songwriting back catalogue he chose the best tracks and enlisted Allison to duet with him. The result is a richly satisfying album of songs that reek of infidelity and betrayal: James Levy‘s throaty growl is perfectly complemented by Allison’s honeyed vocals on tunes which whisper of folk, old school romance, big band and country influences.

James Levy & The Blood Red Rose by James Grover
James Levy & The Blood Red Rose by James Grover.

Firstly, how did you two hook up?
I’ve known Allison for about 7 years or so, we were good friends at times, and at other times the currents blew us in different directions. I knew her from around, but ultimately she heard my music on myspace. We tried to sing together over the years, but it never seemed like the right moment until now.

James Levy & Allison Pierce
Why is Allison known as the Blood Red Rose? (it does refer to her right?)
Yes, it refers to her. I suppose the Blood Red Rose is the muse, the angel hovering above.

James Levy and the Blood Red Rose
How would you describe the style of music on Pray to be Free?
I would like to think that it has the swoony arrangements of great crooner records, but I hope it’s modern too. We all tried to keep the spirits of the gentle bedroom demos, and tried not to add melodies or sounds that weren’t intended from the beginning. The strings and horns are a big part of the songs.

James Levy & Allison Pierce by Elizabeth Hudson
James Levy & Allison Pierce by Elizabeth Hudson.

What inspired the lyrics?
Death, love, relationships, and the death of relationships.

What was it like to work with Guy Berryman of Coldplay fame?
Having Guy produce our album was a great experience. He knows what he wants and how to get it, and truly does it for the love of it. He’s a kind soul and a good friend.

James Levy and the Blood Red Rose By Abi Stevens
James Levy and the Blood Red Rose by Abi Stevens.

You’ve been on the alternative gig circuit for some time, what have you learnt over the years?
Don’t try too hard. Nothing good can come from it. Though, maybe I didn’t try hard enough! Oh, and be nice to people.

YouTube Preview ImageSneak Into My Room

Any anecdotes you can tell us from your days touring with the Maccabees?
Orlando and I gave turns giving each other sponge baths each night, as Hugo read to us. (er, really?!) That’s all I’ve got.

James Levy Allison Pierce
What next for James, and will you be collaborating with Allison again?
It seems to be in the cards, but I try not to think about it too much. Maybe a record on my own, maybe with Allison. There are always lots of ideas spinning, but one can’t control the wind 

James Levy Allison Pierce
Pray To Be Free by JAMES LEVY & THE BLOOD RED ROSE featuring Allison Pierce is released on Heavenly Recordings on February 6th 2012.

Categories ,Abi Stevens, ,album, ,Allison Pierce, ,Coldplay, ,Elizabeth Hudson, ,Guy Berryman, ,Heavenly Recordings, ,interview, ,James Grover, ,James Levy, ,James Levy and the Blood Red Rose, ,LEVY, ,Natalia Nazimek, ,Nhtlee, ,Pray To Be Free, ,review, ,Sneak Into My Room, ,The Maccabees, ,The PIerces

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