Remain in Light

Every other Monday night Dave Hammond broadcasts on Cambridge 105 with his ever excellent Smelly Flowerpot Radio Show. A couple of editions back he had as guests a band called Ember Rev. They delivered a remarkable session which reflected their latest release “Premonition and Ruin”. I immediately hopped over to Bandcamp to purchase it.

This is mature music, very well written and delivered with excellence.  Opener “Bring It Right Down” is a gloriously upbeat song which belies its subject matter.  As with all of their songs the attention to structure, the use of dynamics, and the strong melodies set the band aside from their contemporaries in alternative music. They describe themselves as percussive, and as art-rock, and there are clear echoes of previous ensembles who had that label slapped on them. The glorious second track “The Fear” however is much more than that with vague memories of the work of Gentle Giant coming through to me as I listen. There is none of the po-faced seriousness of prog here though. The sound is imbued with a sense of fun even though the words might be a tad more serious. The instrumental “Something Almost Imperceptible” acts as a clever bridge to the rest of the EP, allowing a pause for thought. The stately “Papillon” has an appropriately Gallic feel evoking the smell of Gauloises and strong coffee in a bistro somewhere on the left bank. It builds into a wonderful polemical statement both musically and lyrically.  “My Sentiments Exactly” further develops the groups unique sound albeit with a set of mind-jarring time signature shifts which skirt a high-life/jazz feel on the guitar. The concluding “Englands Finest Hour” is a tour de force and does what every release should do and leaves this listener wanting more. Ecclestone’s lyrics are spot on here both politically and sociologically.

The band is

Guitar & Vocal: Dan Ecclestone
Accordion: Chris Peckham
Bass: Dom Hall-Smith
Drums: Ian Pickering

Check them out on Facebook

I took the time to carry out an interview with Dan about the band and this latest release…..

Who and what influences you musically?

I guess two bands whose sounds inform Ember Rev’s sound are Arcade Fire and Talking Heads; Arcade Fire for the emotional depth of their melodies and the sort of massive acoustics in their arrangements, also the sense of introspection and memory in their lyrics; Talking Heads for the focus on rhythm and wonky, asymmetrical grooves. I also love Peter Gabriel’s music from the time he was with Genesis; the dark and twisted sounds of creepy Victoriana mixed with more wonky time signatures

Where does the name of the band come from?

Ember Rev as a name is deliberately meaningless, so as to encourage the listener to invest their own meaning whilst listening…. Although that said, I did have a song called ‘I Dreamt of Embers’ and the idea of an Ember Reverie grew out of that

Feel free to explain the anti brexit sentiment that is the backbone to the release

Premonition & Ruin is based on snippets of conversation i heard around the time of the EU referendum; angry, scared, proud and confused voices all venting spleen in public. Some in conversations with me, some overheard. I thought the outcome was a disaster but tried to keep my take on it quiet, and let the disembodied voices speak instead. For instance, Bring It Right Down is about a train journey I had around that time; an old soldier said to me ‘We fought the war to keep them away’ and I felt really sad for him as a result. Papillon kinda twists the headline ‘Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel’ that the Times famously wrote about Mick Jagger after his drugs bust in the sixties; I felt we were crushing opportunities like butterflies by voting to leave. My Sentiments Exactly was a dream: I found myself in a speeding car, totally out of control, but all I could think was ‘Well, are we in control?’

Why an accordion…..? not a usual instument in modern contermporary music?

I love the accordion. I had a little harmonium and started writing songs on that but couldn’t really sing at the same time so got Chris in to play it. It’s probably because of Arcade Fire – they use accordians and they really kick. Possibly also Yann Tiersen, his stuff is great, really evocative. It’s not really a klezmer thing, more about creating sonorous and acoustic textures. Also, they look great…. I think keyboard players, in general, look a bit dull, hitting presets and dialing through sub-menus on little LED screens.

How and where was the album recorded?

Well we gigged it first at Hot Numbers Café on Gwydir Street Cambridge in around May last year, then at various pubs and festivals here & there. We then recorded the drums bass and accordion in September at Half Ton Studios, just outside Cambridge, with the awesome Neil ‘Bugs’ Rogers at the controls. I then took the files and did everything else at home. Simone Silvestroni mixed it at his place really creatively and added all sorts of great audio effects…. Job done!

The most impressive thing for me is the mature arrangements of the songs – for example the dynamic shift on Papillon is very effective – is structure/contrast important in getting the message across?

I think I’m most interested in creating the right texture and then once that’s established, letting it roll. Like a DJ building a live set, I suppose, I want to create the best possible performance by arranging the blocks in the right order so there’s a gradual ascent. But then, within a recording, the objectives are different. I love using a whole mess of different instruments that you couldn’t feasibly take out to a gig.

We don’t often play Papillon live because it’s all about the shifts in texture rather than the groove or energy. What it does have, as you’ve pointed out, is that massive shift of gear which is a device you have to use sparingly I think. Too many wild mood swings can demand too much of a listener. Talk Talk did it amazingly well on Spirit of Eden; it builds slowly then the massive shift in ‘Desire’ blows you away.

In terms of getting the message across – in Papillon specifically ‘how could we be so wrong’ – the shift from downtempo to full tilt should certainly draw the listener towards the words.

ER2

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Snakes with……

Tired.

Maybe getting too old for this.

It might be the Saltaire Blonde last night or the beers in the Port Street Beer House today. Or it may be the all-encompassing sun which is amplified in the pressure cooker of the tram to and from Manchester. Reading Alan Moore’s “Voice of the Fire” (a gift from t’other Bob)  on the way back I slip between waking dream states infected by the bard of Northampton’s potent imagery of various (historical) times and ponder on last nights events.

Anyway I need to write it down before I forget….

Ten slivers of a fractured culture…..The Peer Hat, Manchester – 23rd June 2018.

ONE: Monkeys In Love play their second gig this year, this time with new bass player Alex, the usual faves are there from the last album, which they haven’t got for sale, plus some new ones. They seem slightly “heavier” than previous, it may the sound in the Peer Hat, notwithstanding that observation, the dual vocal attack of Steve and Laura is in fine fettle. A new one about selfies sees Laura prowling the audience taking snaps with willing participants. The drum machine is playing up. They need to play more gigs, we need them, subject to child care permitting of course.

TWO : Flea are brutal, honest, and refreshing.   Primal rock music. Boz and Rat sound as good as they did when they were supporting The Cravats at the Star & Garter last year (if not better if I am truthful). The second band with a drum machine which malfunctions in the same way that the Monkeys one did. There must be something in the atmosphere. Looking forward to hearing the recordings.

THREE: Diagonal Science are missing a bass player but they remain inventive and intense, tambourine in full effect. The joy on their faces as they perform is infectious. People are piling into the venue so door duties distract from the music to some extent.

Time for a sandwich.

FOUR : O’Shea and Davies deliver 16 minutes of acid house with captured sounds about man-splaining and the stupidity of a male dominated profession from the female recipients perspective. Powerful and thought-provoking.  A premiere. Lots of dancing going on at the front. More of this type of thing is needed I think.

FIVE : Four Candles deliver their usual powerful manifesto with gusto and a healthy smattering of anglo-saxon language. David Wilkinson adds sonorous sax  Mr Moss pulls no punches attacking the establishment and former band members. The new album is launched. New song BBC is teetering close to Death Metal in places …. More gigs please.

SIX : Drink and Drive. Impressive as usual. Ben howls at the moon, the band power relentlessly through snippets from the album and EP and play a new one which sounds very promising. No Town Centre Drinker sadly but Itch-Scratch Cycle and Pale Brigade are faultless. It ends as it usually does with Greg’s Fault. Reptiles with mammalian protuberances……exit Toft stage front……

SEVEN: The Empty Page impact strongly on the senses. Off colour remarks about Salford are historically inaccurate, such is the folly of youth. The Teenage Propshaft makes an appearance. Mark is bending my ear about Download and  Kyuss so I miss bits of the set. Melania’s fashion choices are dissected. I need to go back to the album and listen again.

EIGHT: Bobbie Peru, New drummer. A blast from the past  “1971……today the earth stood still” glorious stuff… Ding is masterful on bass. Contagious remains one my favourites from the trio. Powerful music.

NINE: Sandells. A high point of the day for me. They are utterly unique  Singing along to Cowboys/Brollies. They play a tight set. Johann’s guitar playing is consistently excellent. A suitable end to a great day. A new album coming says Tim. Good.

TEN: In between DJ Doyle delivers a mixed bag sounds which vary between Tiny Tim and Miles Davis with a history of the best in music in between. Listen here and here. People dance to Althea and Donna. Eclectic but perfect.

All good but perhaps too much in one day. Maybe less bands next time and a later start.

“These are the times we dread and hunger for. The mutter of our furnace past grows louder at out backs, with cadence more distinct. Almost intelligible now, its syllables reveal themselves. Our world ignites. The song wells up, from a consuming light”. (Alan Moore)

 

I Had A New York Girlfriend

When music historians look back on the latter half of the 2010s two key things will become clear from their research. Firstly how the hell was Ed Sheeran/Mumford and Sons/Coldplay (delete as applicable) so successful when other bands and artists, clearly more talented, remained largely unnoticed?

Secondly, why didn’t my DJ chums (with the notable exception of Dave Hammond) pick up on the first The Seven Twenty album when I made it my album of the year in 2015.

Three years on from that first album The Seven Twenty are back with a collection of songs that were written around the time of the first release and have been languishing waiting for a record label with any degree of common sense to pick up on them. Such are the vagaries of the music biz these days the band have set up their own label to release it.

In a pub in Prestwich about a year ago I was berating Stephen Doyle about the need to find “The Grant McLennan Moment” in the outpourings of singer we were watching, who was trying hard but I was not connecting with. The “Grant” moment is that bit in a song where you get a shiver up your spine and you smile from the inside out. Very few musicians can do it. Capturing a moment in time through songwriting and making it last is an art. James Burling can do it, and he has a group of musicians around him that can deliver his vision. Their new album does the “Grant” thing on every track.

The Seven Twenty - band promo image 2018 - please credit Stag Lites Photography where used
The Seven Twenty (credit: Stag Lites Photography)

“Joy” is the second album from The Seven Twenty. It was written on a plastic guitar in New York in four days and brought back to the UK where it was polished and developed, before being finished in New York in the Summer of 2016. They have created a collection which is every bit of a triumph as the debut. I’d go as far as to say it’s better than the eponymous first release in that it is better produced and has a complete suite of songs feel about it. The thematic thread of the album is love, but a love separated by distance, lack of resources, cultural divides, and other distractions. New York, as a place, runs through the album with Paul Auster like psychogeographical abandon. Musically it is rich and memorable, with lush string arrangements, epic sweeping moments and also a  great deal of fun.

Burling can be firmly placed in the list of great songwriters like Forster & McLennan, Ray Davies et al. He captures the essence of pop/rock music and modernises it, you will recognise some of the themes, arrangements and melodies in that he has taken the ingredients that make a great song and distilled them into perfect little parcels. On one occasion the similarities to a track by a group from Birmingham are a little less tangential than they ought to be but manage to avoid being a copy/pastiche, in any event, anyone under the age of 55 wouldn’t probably get the allusion/illusion/connection that I got.

Comparisons can and should be made, in part, with The Go-Betweens. A female drummer and great songs are the pedantically obvious points.  What I mean is that this is a quality album in the adventurous spirit of Spring Hill Fair with the sentiment and accessibility of 16 Lovers Lane. And of course, Robert Forster had a solo album called “I Had A New York Girlfriend”.

 ‘Joyʼ is released on 22nd June 2018 on limited run vinyl and digital formats.

The Seven Twenty are James Burling (guitar, lead vocals), Stewart Harris (bass, backing vocals), Geoff Hinkins (keys, backing vocals) and Helen Robertson (drums, backing vocals). Stewart also plays in The Scissors and Helen & Geoff play in Goddamit Jeremiah (whose album I must get around to reviewing as well).

 “Joy “is the first release on the bandʼs Whiskey Ward Records label.  Order it here.

The promo says the album is already being described as a “cult” classic. It transcends cult status in my mind, it ought to be huge. Whether they will be able to break through the 6Music glass ceiling is in the hands of the gods, and luck, I’d guess but I already know that at least three community radio DJs will be featuring the band, I challenge my other DJ chums to ignore it at their peril.

Will it be album of the year 2018? Possibly but there are already six other contenders which are as good, and it is only June, so you’ll have to wait until December to find out.

As for Ed Sheeran and the others? Well, I don’t really care about them.

The Seven Twenty - Joy cover art

Landscapes of Insanity

Good music can always capture and reflect on moments in history.

It can deal with politically important issues without resorting to polemic. It can anthologise without being trite.

Mr Moss has been poorly over the last few years. He has battled two major health scares. His indomitable spirit has fought through these catabatic barriers and he has emerged phoenix-like with his mojo renewed and wholly intact.

I may have said elsewhere that Four Candles is the best band that Mr Moss has ever had, this is confirmed and exemplified by “Spiritual Rapture” their new release. Said band is Phil Peak – drums, Jon Rowlinson – bass and Mark Taylor – guitar.

Back in January, at the Peer Hat in Manchester, the six songs on this album were premiered and worked through. At the time I was struck by the huge change in the band from the sturm and drang of “Killing the Image” to a more measured and, dare I say it, progressive approach to the music.

Mr Moss writes internally for his solo stuff with various collaborators. For band projects he writes externally, he observes and comments, he anthologises, he is political, and also is a biographer.

The music here is mature and considered.  Mr Moss provides a balanced attack, both bucolic and bellicose. There is saxophone from David Wilkinson to add fire and fervour to the sound, especially on “Chastity Belt” the 657th song in the canon about the dissolution of a band which we don’t talk about anymore. The rhythmic interplay on said song between Taylor, Rowlinson and Peak is breathtaking.

“Dipping A Toe In The Water” is a song about a Muddy Waters’ tour in the UK and yet another swipe at the conservative idiots who are so-called music fans. Taylor plays one of many earworm guitar figures that appear across the album. Rowlinson and Peak swing effortlessly as Taylor arpeggiates and Moss testifies. Hypnotic music with a strong message.

“C33” has appeared, lyrically at least, elsewhere as a Moss Bros concoction. Here it most resembles the music that was on “Killing The Image”. Live it is a monster, big riffs and call and response vocals. Moss emotes his huge regard for Oscar Wilde, the rhythm section attacks with motorik menace, and the guitar assaults your senses.

The absolute triumph is “You Can’t Be What You Pretend” – rhythmically starting somewhere in Psycho Killer territory, all backbeat and attitude, but carried forward with one of the best guitar figures I have heard in a long while. If you are not moving sinuously in a slinky fashion across the dance floor on hearing this then you have no soul. Moss berates and bellows moving from declamatory to intense, this is head-shakingly, hip-movingly hypnotic stuff. It’s damn sexy. It transcends to a huge climax relentlessly drawing you in.

What to do after that?  Well, the answer is to dive into a delta blues with abandonment. A mutant blues which takes no prisoners. Moss tears his vocal chords apart as the band charge headlong into the heart of darkness that is Basket Weaving.

And back to the start…..the opening track is “Strange Things Are Happening” a masterpiece of restraint musically, with delightful guitar, Wilkinson’s sax, and the interesting interjection of a guiro as a rhythmic colour. Moss evokes the current political climate perfectly, he reflects the fear and concern that government is driving us to strange places where retaining a grip on reality is increasingly impossible. It is the other triumph in the set and a brilliant way to start an album.

The album was recorded at 6dB in Salford by Simon “Ding” Archer who has captured the band at their best.

There are around five albums vying for the best of the year at this point – this is one of them.

“Spiritual Rapture” will be available from Friday 22nd at the German Shepherd bandcamp page in CD format and will be released digitally as three double-A side singles in June, July and August

You can see Four Candles at Manchester Meltdown on June 23rd at The Peer Hat, Manchester.

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There’s still some good new music out there….

I’m reconciled to the fact, that due to other commitments, there is probably only going to be one of these every month. Too many distractions prevent focused writing. However, a plethora of excellent new albums have inspired this peroration, and it’s good to share. In one way or another, the releases featured in this blog will find their way into the Aural Delights Radio Show. I offer this information in the hope you might find something interesting to listen to that you might otherwise not be aware of. It might also tempt you to listen to the show. A pleasant aural distraction while you are doing the ironing or whatever.

Such is the nature of music accessibility these days that I am swamped on a daily basis by new releases and keeping up is almost a full-time job.  But I should not complain, I recall the early days of Sounds and looking longingly at the Virgin Records advert in the rear of said august inky news-sheet and wondering how I could ever possibly afford to purchase the likes of Ars Longa Vita Brevis by The Nice,

I digress.

Let’s start with TFS or to give them their full name Tropical Fuck Storm, which is also the name of their record label. Their debut album “A Laughing Death in Meatspace” is remarkable. Emerging from the Drones (the Australian version thereof not the Manc Punkers) the line-up is  Gareth Liddiard guitar and vocals and Fiona Kitschin bass (The Drones), Lauren Hammel (High Tension) on drums and Erica Dunn (Mod Con, Harmony) on guitars, keys and other gadgets. How do you follow up from the excellent last album from The Drones? Well with this amalgam of modern rock music. Liddiard’s laconic vocal style dominates and he has great lyrics. The use of guitars is as always with Liddiard’s work a key feature but is the repetition and layering and song construction that marks this out as a ground-breaking release. The music moves through a variety of types of rock and blues but those conventions of genre don’t do justice to what emerges from this album There are strong elements of rap/urban delivery that seep into the murky corners of rock to create a singular sound. Highly recommended and a strong contender for album of the year.

I find a lot of new music by listening to community radio, there are some great DJs out there and Brad Cain and Dave Hammond are two of the best. Brad works out of Nevis FM once every couple of weeks and is also syndicated to Radio Kaos in Austin Texas. There is a lot of crossover between what Dave, Brad and I do and you’ll often find some similarities between show playlists. A recent show from Brad featured some fascinating music by a band called Ten Million Aliens. They have an album out called “Road Trip (Fall Of The Rebel Angels)”.

I may as well nick their bio from the webpage as it articulates more efficiently than I can about this album

Ten Million Aliens are the latest incarnation of the partnership of musical Übermensch John Senior with producer John Rowley, ex guitarist from John Peel favourite’s Red Guitars. While they are largely unknown outside of their local musical orbit, the pair have worked together for years on some fantastic studio projects including the legendary Lords of Zubos and recently the superb album “On The Beach” from the sadly missed Eddie Smith. Now with the addition of Rich Banks on bass and guitar they have taken it up to another level. Their collective musical credentials over the years include studio and support slots with hundreds of bands from The Smiths, Radiohead, The La’s, Cast, Pulp, Kingmaker, and the Bhundu Boys to The Voice runner up Sally Barker.

The album Road Trip (Fall of the Rebel Angels) has taken two years to complete from inception to master and all the years of studio and live experience of this trio have been pulled together and condensed into the super massive black hole that is their magnificent masterwork. Senior is a simply unstoppable tsunami of musical ideas and improvisational dexterity playing in a bewildering patchwork of styles to create a roller coaster ride into the rotten belly of a dystopian America that has just arrived with perfect timing.

They could never have imagined when they started laying down the tracks two years ago that today America would actually be re living the civil rights struggles and nuclear sabre rattling of the 60s headed up by an orange man/baby who informs his world through Fox News and Twitter.

So what you have in broad terms is the amalgamation of,   sometimes frightening, spoken word from Trumpists, with american musical styles to create an almost cinematic aural confection which both astounds and gives pause for thought. I was reminded of the work of producer Hal Wilner (especially his Mingus/Harry Partch album Weird Nightmare) in the construction and format. It is an astonishing album, both in terms of uncovering some of the dark elements of the American Dream but in its use of that countries music to deliver its message. Again another strong contender for album of the year.

Finding out about The Red Propellers has been difficult. They don’t appear to have penetrated the Google-sphere to any great extent as yet. They appear to be from Bristol or maybe Stroud in Gloucestershire.  They have an album out called “The Fragility of Love: Collected Works” which is stunning.  Vocalist James Dick appears to be channelling either Lennie Bruce or Jim Morrison in many ways but also takes it past the Lizard King ,to an evangelical preacher level indulging in MES style rants with some fervour. There’s also a bit of early VU about them. The band delivers a surging, bubbling, almost funky blues rock bed over which Dick delivers complex and impressive vocal tirades. Three of the tracks on the album come from an EP called “Images” which was released in 2016.

As can be seen from the below guitarist David McEvoy can also create some more off-kilter experimental sounds. I can’t find something from the album to embed but you can track it down on Spotify, Deezer and the like. The live track below is a good indication of what to expect. A remarkable band.

Benign Astringency

The Junta is having technical problems. The truculent sound engineer can handle guitars, bass, drums etc but can’t seem to be able to cope with/entertain techno/electronica. Soundcards are not working and the AV laptop has developed deadly embrace. Notwithstanding that The Junta powers through 30+ minutes of old, new and cover material, the latter being a very interesting version of a Rammstein tune. Some of the crowd like it but this is perhaps this is not the ideal place for The Junta to ply his trade. The track “Ron Jeremy” stands out (obligatory Carry  On joke time), and gets a least one lady up off her seat to throw some shapes (she will reappear regularly throughout the evening). In addition, at least one new fan has been made as he comes up to congratulate Monty towards the end of the set. Some thoughts on current technical limitations of The Junta live setup are discussed in the car on the way home. Can’t help feeling he would better placed playing in a sweaty techno club in Manchester or Ibiza rather than in a pub in Oldham Town Centre?  Regardless of my musings, I admire his boundless enthusiasm in the face of uncooperative gremlins.

140418 - Hunta

Stepping back slightly. I seem to have spent most of my day on the tram network. It’s given me chance to listen to the new Lancashire Hustlers album (which is excellent) and to chill to Enrico Pieranunzi playing Fellini film scores. Eccles to Oldham takes longer than I anticipated due to the long wait at Cornbrook for the Rochdale Connection. For an early Saturday evening, the carriages seem extremely full. Late shopping commuters perhaps. By the time I get to Oldham (….. she’ll be rising etc) it’s dark. Ominously a gaggle of police officers join the tram at Freehold and there are one or two worried glances around me. The much-troubled network has suffered from an “unprovoked attack” violent incident recently. There is a claustrophobic feel to the King Street tram stop. Fortunately, there is only a short walk from the tram stop to the Bank Top Tavern where The Junta. Four Candles and Drink and Drive are playing.

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Four Candles have been somewhat busy recording the important second album, I’ve heard most of it. It will confound, impress and delight many. It’s certainly different from the first one. Tonight there is a subtle change from what was seen at The Peer Hat in January in that is delivered like a sledgehammer to the head. Phil has ditched his electric drum kit which seems to add a huge punch to the overall sound. Mr Moss appears intent on ridding himself of several demons this evening. His mojo has returned with vengeance. The crowd becomes enthralled, Mr Moss becomes more animated and manic. The reciprocal exchange of energy between band and audience builds to a huge climax. The impressive new tracks – Stranger Things,  You Can’t Be What You Pretend, Chastity Belt and a massive C33 dominate the old favourites. The hypnotic guitar figure of “You Can’t Be What….” is glorious, the impressive “Angels, Not Angels” will not be on the album but is a stand-out on the night. The crowd love it. People are dancing, Mr Moss becomes even more animated his shirt becoming soaked with sweat as he drives the band on. It feels like the edge of chaos, it is intriguing. These guys need to gig more and build the audience they deserve. “Stranger Things” with its consideration of dark political arts is a track which is both apposite and demands your attention.

140418 - FCs Spysch

What can I say about Drink and Drive? A Hometown gig will clearly bring their already large fan base out. The pub fills, people dance. Starting off with “Itch-Scratch Cycle” they demonstrate their intent. Powering through 15 tunes they cover most of the latest album, they try out a new one, and they dig up some much older material. The Adult Pig Suit makes its semi-regular appearance conjuring up memories of Peter Gabriel with a foxes head at the Oval in 1972. Both humorous but also oddly worrying. The band leap between the jaunty Country and Northern of “Dakota Hotel” to the full-on punk rancour of “Recession Man” with ease. “Spring Time For Drink and Drive” and “Greg’s Fault” are most impressive. If you want to fill that huge “Fall-Shaped” hole in your gigging life you should see this band. Whilst the manifestos and content are significantly different from “das gruppe” the underlying intent is the same. Repetition plays a huge part, and the juxtaposition of that with complex and far-reaching lyrical content, a benign astrigency of complex metaphors and rhythm, creates a dark matter heavy mass of emotive music which draws the listener toward it with an irrepressible gravitational force. They remain German Shepherd Records biggest success to date and they ought to be getting national recognition for what they do.

DandD

The night has been great. At one point during the D and D set Ben makes a remark about a lack of places to see live music in the Town Centre. Free entry tonight and a reasonably good turnout. No tribute bands. Seems like a winning formula to me. Two good gig weekends in a row for me.  One wonders why impressive new live music is suffering when the quality was as good as it was tonight. Landlords should be happy to fill a pub and sell lots of ale etc. It’s a conundrum.  The journey home is long and convoluted as for some reason the M60 is closed between junctions 6 and 12, I get home at 2pm, tired but pleased. The psychedelic carpet in the Bank Top Tavern seems to be imprinted on my retina.

BTT carpet

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independents Day

When I find that the state of the music industry is causing me grief once again, I can look back to 8th April 2018 when my faith in grassroots music was yet again rekindled by John Donaldson and his band of travelling musicians.

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A short tour involving the aforementioned John (as JD Meatyard), Tamsin A (of Mr Heart, Ill and Liines), Kin, Mankes and my co-conspirator in all matters German Shepherd, Ian “Moet” Moss had already touched Blackburn, Darwen and Sheffield before descending on Manchester. The city is still buzzing from the previous days’ derby match. The train from Eccles to Piccadilly takes me through the Ordsall Chord for the first time. The number of very high tower blocks along the route gives me the strong impression that Manchester aspires to be Manhattan. I do wonder whether sufficient planning has been developed to ensure that the infrastructure can cope with so much humanity in such a small area.

The walk from Piccadilly involves a complex dance around scurrying commuters, the number of people “living” on the street feels like it is inexorably growing, and they are all so much younger. The contradiction/disconnect between the expansive high-value housing market seen from the train and destitution on the city streets is chastening. It seems ridiculous that in a country with an economy as strong as ours that such things have occurred and are not being dealt with. I raise these somewhat political points to set a context for JD Meatyards’ set later in the day which covers them more effectively than I can.

Step back several years to the first Independents Tour at the now-defunct Crescent Pub (another victim of an uncontrolled housing/commercial market) where performances from Hamsters, Tamsin, Cannonball Statman, and JD Meatyard led to the release of three albums worth of excellent live music and set in course a series of artistically perfect relationships. A year later at the Salford Music Festival, JD Meatyard plays to a packed room at The Eagle Inn and wins over a boisterous crowd.  Up to date and this time around we are at The Peer Hat for a late afternoon/early evening of memorable music.

Huge thanks need to go to Paul Forshaw for diligently capturing this for posterity.

Tamsin begins proceedings following a short introduction from Mr Moss in his spoken word persona.  Her music has moved on leaps and bounds since I saw her last. It’s a trend for the afternoon that she and former bandmate in Mr Heart, Kin, use looping devices to a stunning effect. At times she can mirror the fractured fragility of Kristin Hersh at her best, and other moments there is a full-on wall of sound with layered guitars and vocals which can keep pace with any full-on punk band you would care to mention. The songs are stronger, the arrangements more complex, and the delivery the best I have seen from her. When she isn’t fulfilling her Ill or Liines duties she should find time to get this material recorded. Words are not enough to describe it so fortunately, we have this capture.

A short break for another glass of alcohol-free lager and then it’s time for Kin. It’s seven years since I last saw her do an album launch at the Castle before jetting off to Holland for another life, and another band, which has now dissolved. Time and distance have not diluted her amazing talent. She and  Moet kick things off with an improvisation around “The Wilsons”, a song that was supposed be done by Kill Pretty, was rescued by myself and Ian (in our IM-SM period), and also memorably was also given the Loop-Azanvour treatment at the aforementioned Castle last year. It’s one of Ian’s finest lyrics and this spontaneous version is remarkable. What follows is a triumph of technology, musicianship, and vocalese which sees Kin expanding beyond her influences into her own musical territory. Her voice is stronger than ever. Her command of a battery of pedals allows her to create percussion, orchestral guitar layers, and a truly dynamic performance. Again words do not do enough justice for a memorable set of cutting-edge music,  see for yourself.

Third on the bill are the remarkable Mankes. They are from Holland and comprise Selma Peelen, Johan Visschers and Peter Kahmann. For a three-piece, they make a huge noise. Acoustic and electric guitars and keyboards are combined to create huge cinematic statements. Selma’s voice soars incandescently over droning hypnotic rhythms, the tunes are great and memorable. Sometimes it is stripped back to just acoustic guitar and percussion to offer an impressive variety of impressive content. I buy the album from the merch table, and you will be hearing it on future editions of Aural Delights. Pending that bask in the sumptuous and organic sounds of a remarkable band.

And finally the remarkable JD Meatyard, Moet kicks things off with a great reading of “The Elephant’s Graveyard” (one of my favourite pieces that we have done together) and an acerbic “Freemasons” before a rambunctious set from the trio. Tamsin joins on guitar for an excellent collection of John’s best tunes including a breathless “Ubu@Erics”, an acerbic “St Peter at The Gates”,and the call to arms of the marvellous “Jesse James”. John has the ability to mix rich polemic rants, with beautiful heartfelt ballads, he can make you joyful, angry and tearful, he tugs at your heart with his words. He plays new songs from a forthcoming album which promised for later in the year. The Teenage Propshaft makes his inevitable and customary appearance. Matters conclude with a massive reading of “Palestine Song” which is clearly current. Members of Mankes join for a huge wall of sound conclusion. An encore of “Lies, Lies and Government” is unfortunately not captured visually, but an aural version remains for posterity.

Lets do it again some time.