Amelia’s Magazine | Woodpecker Wooliams at King’s Place: Live Review

Woodpecker Wooliams by Sam Parr

Woodpecker Wooliams by Sam Parr

Turning a corner from King’s Cross station, it was a chill wind that blew as I hurried down York Way. Past those Victorian facades touched by the regeneration that is fast spreading through this part of London, I spied that most modern of constructs, King’s Place. Opened in 2008, a mixture of the artistic and commercial (as well as performance and exhibition space, it’s also home to the Guardian newspaper), this was my destination for the evening.

I’d been to King’s Place once before, to catch Laura J Martin just before Christmas, but tonight’s action was taking place in the venue’s main room, Hall One, a curious space (apparently a structure within a structure, a box sitting on rubber springs to acoustically separate it from the rest of the building, and layered in veneer that comes from the same 500 year old German oak tree) which strangely reminded me of a lecture theatre.

The final day of The Local’s “three day mini-festival of modern-day existential songwriting”, The Stranger The Better, tonight’s fine line-up included Sons Of Noel And Adrian and a solo set by Meursault front-man Neil Pennycook, but opening proceedings was Woodpecker Wooliams.

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Hailing from Crawley but based in that musical hotbed-by-the-sea, Brighton, Woodpecker Wooliams (otherwise known as multi-instrumentalist, shaman and bee-keeper Gemma Williams) was apparently once told by Brian Eno not to bother with music. Ignoring his sage advice, she has instead spent time crafting darkly delicate melodies tinged with electronic flourishes and occasionally unsettling lyrics, delivered in an idiosyncratic style that has drawn comparisons with Björk (“creepy, but in a good way” is how the Guardian described her – creepy from Crawley indeed, to borrow a music journo description of another of that town’s famous sons, Robert Smith of The Cure). Touring around the UK and Europe has led to radio sessions (most recently on BBC Radio 6 Music, with Tom Robinson) and the release of her debut album, The Bird School Of Being Human, on Robot Elephant Records.

Woodpecker Wooliams by Gilly Rochester

Woodpecker Wooliams by Gilly Rochester

It was a prompt 7.30pm start and I’d just made it to King’s Place (having come straight from home), but, on discovering that no drinks were allowed in Hall One, I had to endure that most novel of experiences – a sober gig. As Woodpecker Wooliams (tonight, a full band) walked on stage and settled down in their places, the strangeness of the atmosphere was heightened by the fact that the audience was completely hushed, there was none of the background chatter that you normally get in venues.

The set tonight was a run through of tracks from the album, which all have a common theme (in title, at least, as they’re all named after birds). We got songs like Red Kite and the most recent single, Gull, with Williams sat with her harp as around her dissonant electronic drones warbled, backed with skittish drums, an occasional trumpet (and, on Crow, a grainy sample of the Last Post). There was even the parping of a deflating balloon – not the sort of thing you’d normally encounter, especially somewhere as refined as King’s Place! Williams moved behind a keyboard set-up for an incandescent Sparrow, bobbing to the beat as the searing vocals echoed off the laminated walls. The unusual quiet of the hall added to the often eerie nature of the songs, and focussed attention on the performers.

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Cheers broke the respectful silence as we reached the end, Williams and band taking the crowd’s applause as they walked off the stage as we, in turn, filed out to lay siege to the bar during the brief intermission.

There don’t appear to be any more live performances on the immediate horizon for Woodpecker Wooliams, at least until an appearance at the End Of The Road Festival during the summer, so we can only wait and see what more magic she is concocts in the meantime.

Categories ,BBC Radio 6 Music, ,bjork, ,brian eno, ,brighton, ,Crawley, ,End Of The Road Festival, ,Gemma Williams, ,Gilly Rochester, ,King’s Cross, ,King’s Place, ,Laura J Martin, ,Meursault, ,Neil Pennycook, ,Robert Smith, ,Robot Elephant Records, ,Sam Parr, ,sons of noel and adrian, ,the cure, ,The Guardian, ,The Local, ,The Stranger The Better, ,Tom Robinson, ,Woodpecker Wooliams

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Amelia’s Magazine | My favourite finds from the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition 2014

Ellie Ford by Daria Hlazatova

Ellie Ford by Daria Hlazatova.

A few weeks ago the final showdown between 8 finalists was held at Pilton Working Men’s Club, with the ultimate winner of the 2014 Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition announced as M+A with their super catchy tune Down the West Side, below.

When I wrote about my top picks for the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition I promised to also share some of the great bands and tunes that did not make it on to my short list. I was given a long list of 140 bands and musicians to listen to, from the genres of folk, country, dance, electronic, dance, indie, pop, acoustic and singer/songwriter – so obviously this selection reflects that choice. The eagle eyed amongst you may note that I was mainly given those bands with names starting in the early or late sections of the alphabet. I hope you’ll enjoy these finds as much as I did – you can hear all the tunes I like in no particular order on my soundcloud playlist, embedded directly below. I have a feeling I might be making more of these, and I am certain we’ll be hearing more from a few of these bands too.

I was really taken with the giddy oddity of Maxine, We’re Alive! by Liverpool duo A Lovely War. Unusual, weird and wonderful.

Sunsets is a great tune from Irish singer songwriter Wendy Jack, based in County Tyrone. Over the years she has worked widely to raise awareness of human rights and environmental issues.

Beautiful folk with a harp; Low is from Brighton based Ellie Ford, who is playing at this year’s Wood Festival (listing here).

Who Made Heaven is a beautiful slice of subtle country infused folk from Charlie Law, released through the The Davenport Collection folk label late last year. Despite a foundation in tune making of yesteryear the bittersweet lyrics tell a very modern tale of cross cultural love.

Bless is a slice of Japanese ambient electronica by Akisai.

Live For is a stunning banjo driven duet between Elvina and I.

Horses in Midstream by You, Me and Him was one of my favourite tracks, featuring a distinct 80s vibe in this epic tale of deception and greed.

Firewoodisland by Daria Hlazatova

Firewoodisland by Daria Hlazatova.

Simon is by the enigmatically named Firewoodisland, rollicking ‘celtic viking’ infused folk music made in Cardiff with a Norwegian lead singer.

A strummed guitar is the back bone of Stranger, a luscious slice of folk from Fenne Lily.

A harmonica opens a sweet little ditty called Back On The Bike by Four People.

Think Again is rollicking folk from Welsh singer Geraint Rhys.

And We Disappear is a prime example of 80s influenced dark wave electropop by AlterRed.

Alaskan Faction by Catherine Pape

Alaskan Faction by Catherine Pape.

We Disappear is super twinkly indie from Alaskan Faction.

A touch of the Cure, no? The Heart Transplant by Adam Clark has a subtle start but soon takes on their trademark wobbly vocals.

Like Ted Dexter by Alex Moir is feel good indie a-go-go with a psychedelic interlude!

Lost is by North Ireland based band Amidships.

Empty My Head by Youdid is a catchy piano tune with a female vocal from German singer Judith Severloh.

SwanSong is another cool indie tune featuring soaring vocals and a curling fiddle, from the London based Amberlandband.

There’s something about this that I quite like… Blackpool based Avishek Choudhury sings of the Journey Of A Lifetime in this jaunty tune featuring a female backing singer with bleeps and sirens set against a piano and driving electrobeat.

I like the jazzy big band sound and sultry vocals from rising star Ally Kemp in The Tardis.

Freya Roy is a very young Suffolk based singer songwriter with an ear for a bouncy tune, as shown in her entry Tomorrow.

Local Town comes from Brighton boy Ally Jowett.

They’re going to turn me into sushi & chips…” So goes The Whale Song by All At Sea… overly chirpy or an apt way to draw attention to a big issue?

Kids from the Sky by Young Stadium Club features jangly guitars aplenty in a soaring tune that features a veritable choir of backing vocals.

A Drastic Love by Younger Hall features a grungy baseline combined with a pounding piano. They hail from St Andrews in Scotland.

I loved the soaring Ten Years by Baby Gold, a duo from Leeds, but for some inexplicable reason it’s a private link on soundcloud so you will have to trust me on that one. Their lack of an online presence is a serious down point, but I look forward to hearing more from these guys.

Similarly I can’t share Only One by Devon based Alice Jemima, featuring a lovely breathy vocal over carefully picked chords and a nice little beat.

Finally, I can’t finish without including my favourites: firstly the clever Memphis by Alev Lenz.

George Boomsma by Simon McLaren.

George Boomsma by Simon McLaren.

And the wonderful folk sounds of George Boomsma in How High the Mountain.

Sadly my first choice disbanded just as I chose them to go through (brilliant timing!), hence my renewed desire to give some promotion to all the other bands that impressed me.

Categories ,2014, ,A Drastic Love, ,A Lovely War, ,acoustic, ,Adam Clark, ,Akisai, ,Alaskan Faction, ,Alev Lenz, ,Alex Moir, ,Alice Jemima, ,All At Sea, ,Ally Jowett, ,Ally Kemp, ,AlterRed, ,Amberlandband, ,Amidships, ,And We Disappear, ,Avishek Choudhury, ,Baby Gold, ,Back On The Bike, ,Best Of, ,Bless, ,Catherine Pape, ,Charlie Law, ,country, ,dance, ,Daria Hlazatova, ,Down the West Side, ,electronic, ,Ellie Ford, ,Elvina and I, ,Empty My Head, ,Fenne Lily, ,Firewoodisland, ,folk, ,Four People, ,Freya Roy, ,George Boomsma, ,Geraint Rhys, ,Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition, ,Horses in Midstream, ,How High The Mountain, ,Indie, ,Journey Of A Lifetime, ,Judith Severloh, ,Kids from the Sky, ,Like Ted Dexter, ,Live For, ,Local Town, ,Lost, ,low, ,ma, ,Maxine We’re Alive!, ,Memphis, ,Only One, ,Pilton Working Men’s Club, ,pop, ,Simon, ,Simon Mclaren, ,singersongwriter, ,Stranger, ,sunsets, ,SwanSong, ,Ten Years, ,The Davenport Collection, ,The Heart Transplant, ,The Tardis, ,The Whale Song, ,Think Again, ,Tomorrow, ,We Disappear, ,Wendy Jack, ,Who Made Heaven, ,Wood Festival, ,You Me and Him, ,Youdid, ,Young Stadium Club, ,Younger Hall

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