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 | The Best Christmas Indie Tunes of 2016: Listen to them all HERE!

It’s nearly Christmas so it must be time for my annual round up of beautiful, interesting, weird and fantastical seasonal tunes, many located this year via Twitter. If you’re reading this in years to come, do get in touch and tell me about your tune so I can include it! That’s what San Diego band Pony Death Ride did a few months back.

Nothing Beats Old People at Christmas was actually released last year and features in the Pony Death Ride annual Christmas show. Look away if you are easily offended, it takes a kooky (and not entirely generous) look at those always tricky family dynamics. Boy can I relate.

Moving on, Low have come up with a gorgeous lilting song that celebrates friendship, Some Hearts (at Christmas Time). I appreciate my true friends more than ever at this time of year.

I love this song by LA based electro singer songwriter Andrew Belle. Back For Christmas is featured on A Very RELEVANT Christmas, Vol. 6, for cool young Christians.

Released in aid of Human Appeal, Christmas Number One (On My Own) by the Raglans continues in the grand tradition of charity singles. It’s a plea to consider the plight of others, with proceeds going to help people in war torn areas. A worthy cause if ever there was one.

An Old Fashioned Christmas Song by Les Bicyclettes de Belsize is a jaunty tune.

If you love your 80s vibes you’ll love You Bring the Snow by The Crookes, complete with fake retro video and subtitles. Dance along to it after one too many sherries.

Featuring an eerily similar knowingly retro video, Christmas Without Snow is by Neon Dreams from Canada. It sounds a bit rave, and more than a bit like Coldplay.

For more 80s electro vibes look no further than This Fucking Time Of Year by Charles Cave, this time with original 80s footage from a family Christmas in Pennsylvania. He says “I think it is every musician’s duty to have a stab at a Christmas song, if only once. The festive season is full of all the emotions that fuel the best songwriting at all other times of the year, so digging into those complicated family dynamics, the bleak weather, the reflecting of the year gone by can be hugely inspiring for an emotive pop song.”

All these 80s vibes resonate with me because I was a child of the 80s, and I also spent quite a few Christmases in the USA, so it all feels (un)comfortably familiar. At one time we lived on a road fondly nicknamed Christmas Tree Lane, where each house competed for extravagant Christmas decorations in the front gardens. We never drew the curtains and I remember that at dinner time I felt like I was living in a dolls house with crowds of people peering in. But I digress…

The Stars Are Made Of Mistletoe is a typical indie Christmas tune by Maylee Todd & Steve Singh, featuring cutesy female vocals and sleigh bells.

Best Coast have released this lovely Beach Boys-esque holiday tune, Christmas and Everyday, which features in the movie An American Girl Story – Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas.

An exciting new discovery for me this year is the second annual playlist compilation available exclusively from Amazon Music on Prime. Indie for the Holidays features some absolute corkers, some of which are listed below.

Los Campesinos! contribute When Christmas Comes (Boxing Day Version).

I love the sweetly harmonising voices of Joseph in Sister Winter.

Hear Holiday Road by Tennis here:

There are also a few good tunes available on Amazon from their Acoustic Christmas playlist:

Trampled by Turtles sing about Christmas In Prison.

Train contribute I Miss You, Christmas.

Jon McDevitt takes on the mysteries of Father Christmas in his new single, featuring a driving beat and jaunty fiddle. A bittersweet reflection on the real nature of Santa. Listen here as it can’t be streamed elsewhere.

Emma-Lee gives us a sparkling pop song with It Won’t Be Christmas, which owes more than a little debt to Mariah Carey.

Natalie Prass takes a lo-fi approach to the video for Everybody’s Having Fun (It’s Christmas Time) – an ode to the troubled world we find ourselves living in and the difficulty many are having in getting into the Christmas spirit this year.

I absolutely adore this echo-ey electro-pop version of the ancient carol O Holy Night by Nat Jay + Cookie Cartel. Listen to O Holy Night here.

Lastly, Hannah Epperson gives us an experimental Christmas tune in the form of White Flag, which she describes as her “post-apocalyptic Christmas single”, here paired with her simplified version of White Christmas.

With thanks to Andrea Warner for my Canadian finds. Read her original article here. I hope you enjoy listening to these alternative Christmas ditties! A very Merry Christmas all xxx

Categories ,Acoustic Christmas, ,Amazon Music, ,An American Girl Story – Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas, ,An Old Fashioned Christmas Song, ,Andrea Warner, ,Andrew Belle, ,Best Coast, ,Charles Cave, ,Christmas and Everyday, ,Christmas In Prison, ,Christmas Indie Songs, ,Christmas Music, ,Christmas Number One (On My Own), ,Christmas Tree Lane, ,Christmas tunes, ,Christmas Without Snow, ,Emma Lee, ,Everybody’s Having Fun (It’s Christmas Time), ,Father Christmas, ,Hannah Epperson, ,Holiday Road, ,Human Appeal, ,I Miss You Christmas, ,Indie for the Holidays, ,It Won’t Be Christmas, ,Jon McDevitt, ,Joseph, ,Les Bicyclettes de Belsize, ,Los Campesinos, ,low, ,Maylee Todd & Steve Singh, ,Nat Jay + Cookie Cartel, ,Natalie Prass, ,Neon Dreams, ,Nothing Beats Old People at Christmas, ,O Holy Night, ,Playlist, ,Pony Death Ride, ,Raglans, ,Sister Winter, ,Some Hearts (at Christmas Time), ,Tennis, ,The Crookes, ,The Stars Are Made Of Mistletoe, ,This Fucking Time Of Year, ,Train, ,Trampled by Turtles, ,When Christmas Comes, ,White Christmas, ,White Flag, ,You Bring the Snow

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