Consequences of Travel

Big Satan, Hexagon Theatre, Midlands Art Centre, Birmingham – 8th February 2018

Tim Berne occupies a large section of my ever expanding collection of Compact Discs. He nestles comfortably behind The Fall, Miles Davis and Dave Douglas, just inching in front of Dave Graney in respect of shelf width. His music has been a main part of my listening since I first read of him in The Wire back when Richard Cook was the editor. Oddly though, through a combination of distance , broken ankles, kidney stones and work related distractions I had never seen him perform live until now.

His back catalogue is immense with probably the greatest variety of band names and combinations of musicians known to man. Whether it be Paraphrase, Hard Cell, Bloodcount, Buffalo Collision or the more recent Snakeoil, there has always been a mind tingling variety of music in his output. but all dominated by his unique approach to writing and playing.

This is not easy music. The “when does the tune start” mob should stop reading now as you will not be interested. The pieces are often lengthy, complex, tangential and challenging. But it is a aural journey you should take if you are interested in the capacity of music, especially jazz, to grow and influence all around it.

Tim only played two UK dates on this tour, and generally only plays London. Fortunate and pleasing therefore that his group with Marc Ducret and Tom Rainey , collectively known as Big Satan, are playing in Birmingham. Only 90 minutes on the train from Manchester Piccadilly to New Street and a short  bus ride to the Midlands Art Centre, and tickets a bargain at £10!

I meet the other Bob (travelling north from Northampton) on the main concourse at New Street and we decamp to a delightful pub called The Post Office Vaults for a couple of beers. Another pub and then a quick Italian (where the concept of El Dente was perhaps taken too far) precedes a bus journey to Edgbaston where nestles the sprawling Midlands Arts Centre, which appears to have been designed by someone on psychotropic drugs with a fondness for M.C.Escher, and where the majority of the toilets are out of commission. Another quick beer and then into the Hexagon Theatre.

A compact room in a semi-round formation the distance between the performers and the audience is small allowing for an intimate appreciation of the music.

Tim, Marc and Tom launch into a fascinating performance which contains the familiar elements of Big Satan music (from the three albums to date) but also new aspects. The three players have distinct personas within the collective sound, but the overall combination is seamless and there is a distinct lack of ego in the delivery.

Rainey is more than impressive, whether it is his effortless delivery, the use of hands, brushes, sticks, bags of sticks or even the music stand, to create a range of percussive treats, or indeed the poly-rhythmic interplay with the other two. There are few drummers I have had the pleasure of seeing who can use the kit as a genuine tonal instrument and Rainey is one of the best.

Ducret is similarly captivating, he has is back to us for most of the set due to the configuration of the room but he still manages to captivate. His body arches as he delivers either flurries of notes, impressive finger breaking chords, or slaps to the strings. I was fascinated with his continuous use of his volume knobs and pedals to create unique sounds. One of the most captivating guitarists in terms of “how the hell is he doing that?” is has been my pleasure to watch.

Berne is, of course, superb. His self-effacing air, his studied concentration, and his fluid delivery all added to the overall enjoyment of the music. There are so many notes it is no wonder that sheet music is needed to deliver this complex and impressive material. He moves between delightful melodic playing to reed bending sound creation with ease. The music is the jazz equivalent of say Trout Mask Replica or Lick My Decals Off, or Gentle Giant at their most inventive, if you want some sort of rock comparison. Not that you should need that sort of yardstick of course, this is music which stands very well on its own occupying a singular place in the world of jazz.

Much of the set is unfamiliar , but a Julius Hemphill tune, and one of Ducret’s I think I recognise from one of the earlier albums, are included.  It is mostly new material all of which is excellent and I hope gets recorded at some point. During the break Tim hawks the new 3CD set of Science Friction recordings (Big Satan + Craig Taborn = Science Friction) but I know have them all already so a purchase is not necessary.  The short interval however puts us up to the wire on getting back to New Street to catch the train back to Manchester and Northampton respectively so we have to leave half way through the final number of the second set much to my disappointment.

Fortunate that we left when we did though as the taxi driver struggles to find his way back to New Street due to road works and the monsoon like conditions do not help. However we make it in time to catch the penultimate train back to Manchester and Northampton respectively.

A long desired wish to see Tim Berne has been realised but as the train slowly makes it way back north I ponder on the need for me to make this journey and the paucity of free/avant garde jazz music in the Manchester conurbation, and, what steps need to be taken to get someone like Tim to play in the North West.  Surely there must be a big enough audience for this type of music in the so-called music capital of the North to make it all viable? With venues like The Peer Hat I suppose anything is possible but are there are enough like minded souls to venture out on a Thursday night to listen to music of this type? Can we have a Vortex or Cafe Oto in Manchester and make it work? It’s hard enough putting “rock” gigs on, times are hard and money is tight. I guess the consequence of this journey was that it has made me think about why excellent music of this nature isn’t afforded more access. Not to sound like a broken record but the domination of the majority of venues in Manchester (including sadly the Band on the Wall) by cloned tribute acts is a sad indictment of the way new music, whether it be jazz or rock, is treated these days.

Not from the gig I attended but from a few years back here is an example of what you missed


Never Tweet Your Heroes

2018 is only two days old and the new material is coming down the internet pipe at a rate of knots, i’ve a feeling this is going to be a busy year.

A good way to start is the Boxing Day release from The Strays which is indeed called “Never Tweet Your Heroes”. I waxed lyrical about the bands debut here and i’m going to do the same for this sophomore effort.

It is important that you note that this is the electro-punk duo from North West UK and not the garage rock band from Gloucestershire, or indeed a trio from Darlington. What a confusing world we live in!

This moves on from “Explicit Content” in that it reduces the level of cussing thus making it far more possible to achieve airplay on mainstream radio and hopefully this will get the band more exposure. In addition there is the application of found sounds/film clips during and in between tracks (including a memorable Nicholson snippet from Cuckoo’s Nest). The duo move from their straight ahead electro punk on the first four tracks and, as with the last release, conclude with a funky little disco thing called “Milk and Honey” which I reckon is their best to date.

In any event five songs in 14 minutes demonstrates the Ramones like efficiency of the bands output and their joyful application of their craft which marries clever and  often politically astute lyrics with crisp punk-electronica. They appear to be gigging rather extensively at the moment so check out their Facebook page for a chance to see them live.

Highly recommended for lovers of fine music.


Music Criticism – Objective or Subjective?

Some thoughts to close down 2017……….

Last week………As we do, over a pint, we started discussing music and, as usual, we agreed on the relative merits of quite a few things, but on many others, there was divergence. As we are friends we tend to agree that whilst one or more of us like one artists it may be one of us, for whatever reason, disagree on the relative merits of the local rocking teen combo. It’s not something to fall out over, there is some playful banter, especially when the beer has been flowing, one man’s LCD Soundsystem is another man’s New Order etc etc.

One of us made the point that “Music Criticism” had got safe, or perhaps too objective, and that you never seemed to see a bad review of anything these days. How can one retain any form of critical appraisal of the overall scene if the general output of reviewers was predominantly positive? Conversely the violent and sometimes nasty divergence of views on the relative merits of one artist over another on social media is decidedly more subjective.

Perhaps more worrying though is the propensity for music criticism to be restrained, and confined to what is popular. What is acutely clear to me is the difficulty of breaking bands into the wider world so that their efforts might be appreciated by a bigger audience. After 45+ years of serious, and sometimes obsessive, music listening I reckon I have a pretty good take on what is good and what is bad (notwithstanding the previous comment about relative viewpoints of things) and it galls me that the same old faces keep appearing on end of year lists, and local gig guides. This is further compounded by those same old faces being cloned by tribute bands so that despite them not being available for gigs there is always a xeroxed version somewhere being trotted out to feed the nostalgia gene of your average punter.

Criticism is difficult in a music context. A general criticism is easy, a wide snipe at tribute bands is perhaps a lazy assertion on my part, struggling musicians need to earn a crust to pay for strings, plectrums and amp repairs, rehearsal room hire etc, so why should I moan about it? Well, and again it’s a subjective view I suppose, I just get the feeling that the balance between “new and innovative” and “tribute” has leaned towards the latter. And OK, if you want to go and see a tribute band that’s your choice, However when it becomes more difficult for artists genuinely trying to break the mould to get any sort of oxygen in an increasingly crowded scene then I get frustrated.

A general moan about the scene around the Manchester conurbation is that it, at least from a public perspective, “rests on it’s laurels”, with perhaps an unbalanced proportion of reportage and criticism being focused on established artists – James, Oasis (and it’s sibling progeny), Elbow,  Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays etc etc. A Heritage Theme Park for 80s/90s music? Even the more recent “darlings” – Cabbage, Blossoms etc seem to get more than their fill, when equally valid bands tend to get little air time/column inches. It’s like the attention span of the industry can only cope with one or two bands at once.

Breaking bands into the national consciousness these days, post-Peel, is increasingly difficult, with commercial broadcasters constrained by the need for advertising revenue and safe playlists, and BBC an increasingly more complex glass ceiling to break with it’s Krypton Factor like maze of getting music through the first hurdle of the unpaid work experience intern, with a pile of e-mails/sack of CDs to wade through, before it gets anywhere near a DJ/Producer. There are few notable exceptions, Tom Robinson for example, who seems to put some effort into getting less well known people some attention.

We released 50+ albums, EPs and singles this year. We’ve not made enough money to cover the cost of our distribution deal. As a not for profit label this makes it difficult to countenance continuing as we are not even breaking even. With the exception of two gigs we have made a loss on each event we have put on. Punters seem to want free entry to gigs, and free or stream-able cheap music these days. The number of cheeky chappies who try to jib into gigs is quite astounding.

As an example one of our most popular releases this year Drink and Drives “This Is What Happens When A Fly Lands On Your Food” has received 1226 plays on Spotify since it’s release. To put that in context that’s around three times higher than our second biggest artist Issac Navaro. That many plays in a month for a small label might seem good in the overall scheme of things. However just feed that amount into the online Spotify Calculator you will see it raises a paltry £3.67.  For further context if we weren’t offering a collective approach via our label the band would have to pay around £20 (which recurs annually) to get the album onto digital distribution. We can reduce that cost to around £7 for an album with one of the deals we get with the distributor. So we need around 2500 plays to break even. If we sell an album on Bandcamp (which is outside the general distribution deal) then we get hit with admin fees of around 15% from Bandcamp and around 10% from Paypal just for selling something. So a £7 album will net around £5.25. Having said that Bandcamp is probably the most cost effective way of distributing our releases given the poor stream-revenue rates with the wider digital distributors.

I write the above paragraph as context to attempt to describe how difficult it is to continue to offer new/challenging music in an environment where there seems to be an increasing reliance on what people already know, what they feel comfortable with, and where their expectation of getting it for next to nothing. And musical criticism which fails to offer a proper context, and fails to balance both an objective fact based approach, with a more visceral subjective, emotional response is not helping.

An industry which maintains the familiar (and some might argue bland) to the exclusion of the genuinely new and exciting and different is heading into an evolutionary blind alley. Criticism need to describe where artists are treading water and repeating what they have done before. Criticism needs to be honest. As a case in point “Luciferian Towers” feels safe and predictable in the context of “F♯ A♯ ∞” – the shock of the new of the 1997 release being reduced to a pallid copy in the 2017 – a balanced critique demonstrates that point but it still gets into a chart of one of the best releases of the year.  Play it alongside the aforementioned Drink and Drive album and you can see the marked difference between what feels like cosy conformity with a model that works and sold units and the righteous anger of something like “Itch Scratch Cycle”.

So what does the subjective part of my brain scream at me while I am reviewing the best of the year lists for 2017? Here are a few thoughts……….

Current darlings Public Sector Broadcasting appear to be on a revolving carousel of producing the same thing album by album, yes they are good but where is the progression and doesn’t it all sound a bit like Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds or Rick Wakemans Journey to the Centre of the Earth?  Hergist Ridge was no Tubular Bells. Why does the industry allow musicians to repeat/xerox themselves?  Do Sleaford Mods really need to be encouraged to continue to  produce the same formula each year? Can I really be bothered to wade through all this stuff when our record label is putting out stuff which I believe is more challenging and ground breaking – m.t. scott, Moff Skellington The Screaming Love Collective, Cannonball Statman, Issac Navaro and Four Candles to me seem more interesting than established bands that repeat themselves. But I would say that wouldn’t I?

Not to come over as too negative 2017 has been a genuinely great year for music, even beyond the boundaries of German Shepherd records, with new bands emerging, and material from the past being discovered from the first time. So I do move into 2018 with a degree of optimism. One goal. or resolution if you will, should be to ensure that any blogs or radio shows don’t slip into a tired recycling of bands that should be stretching themselves when they are treading water.

Ian Moss’s Manchester Meltdown at the Peer Hat in January will set a benchmark for the year — with a manifesto to expose genuine talent to audience that needs to be refreshed,  – Different Music For Your Ears – if you are willing to listen?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all……



The Best of 2017

Yes it’s that time of the year again when people make lists…..

I was going to do a podcast/radio show on all of this nonsense but I ran out of time and frankly there was so much new stuff I hadn’t caught up on yet that I couldn’t make it work with the remaining available podcasts.

It has been hard to be objective with so much material being released by German Shepherd that I truly felt was outstanding and frankly I could have listed everything we put out in a best of list but i’ve restrained myself and just included those that had the most impact.

The amount of new material i’ve been sent/bought this year is in the 1000s of items, i’ve done 152 radio shows at the time of writing and working back through so much material means that something will have been forgotten, neglected or lost in the mists of time.  But the lists below are things that stand out.

Many thanks to all those that accompanied me, or came to gigs during the year especially SD, Moet, and Bob S and the incredibly tall people of Warrington!

Thanks to Brad Cain and Dave Hammond specifically for support above and beyond……and the wonderful chaps at Analogue Trash  for letting me play Jazz music on their excellent radio station.


  • Dave Graney Pop-Up Band/Loudhailer Electric Company – O’Riley’s Hull
  • Dave Graney Pop-up Band/Poppycock/Uke Punk – Fred’s Ale House, Manchester
  • The Cravats – Star and Garter, Manchester
  • The Coathangers – Night and Day, Manchester
  • Ian Moss’s Birthday Party – The Witchwood, Ashton U Lyne
  • Blaney – The Castle, Manchester
  • Boz Hayward Tennessee Ten album launch – The Eagle, Salford
  • Barry Melton at Freds Ale House
  • Keltrix / Johann Kloos at Freds Ale House
  • Factory Acts Single Launch at The Crescent (sadly the last gig I saw at the venue)
  • Sandells/Factory Acts at Gullivers, Manchester
  • Four Candles/The Junta/Cannonball Statman at The Eagle
  • Adventures of Salvador – Blind Tiger, Bury
  • Moff Skellington, Ian Moss and Loop Aznavour – The Castle, Manchester


  • The Screaming Love Collective – Thought It Would Have Been Better By Now
  • Issac Navaro – Paths to the Shore
  • The Necks – Unfold
  • The Screaming Love Collective – Spirit Radio
  • Ian Moss – Words and Music
  • Ian Moss – Music and Words
  • Keltrix – Bobby Says
  • Moff Skellington – Golfer In Disgrace
  • Captain Black and Friends – The Madman In The Attic
  • Boz Hayward – Tennessee Ten
  • Moff Skellington  – On Flanders Moon
  • Cannonball Statman – Playing Dead
  • Drink and Drive – This Is What Happens When A Fly Lands On Your Food
  • Four Candles – Killing The Image
  • Curry Quiche – Behind The Machine
  • The Fall – New Facts Emerge
  • The Sandells – Forwards
  • The Stevenson Ranch Davidians  – Amerikana
  • Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher
  • Cam Butler – Find Your Love
  • Dälek –  Endangered Philosophy
  • The Dream Syndicate – How Did I Find Myself Here?
  • Ron S. Peno & The Superstitions  – Guiding Light
  • Peter Hammill  – From The Trees
  • Georgio “The Dove” Valentino  – The Future Lasts a Long Time
  • Havania Whaal –  Elaborate Minor Crisis
  • The Cravats – Dustbin of Sound
  • Go Go Sapien – Love In Other Dimensions
  • Trojan Horse – Fukushima Surfer Boys
  • Total Victory  – English Martyrs
  • The Sexual Objects – Marshmallow
  • Blaney – The Severance
  • JD Meatyard – Collectivise
  • Mammoth Penguins & Friends – John Doe
  • Nadah El Shazly  – Ahwar
  • The Sand Pebbles – Pleasure Maps
  • Charlie Marshall & the Curious Minds  – Sublime
  • Dave Graney and Clare Moore – Let’s Get Tight
  • The Stress of Leisure – Eruption Bounce
  • Umbrella Assassins   – 12
  • The Blackeyed Susans – Close Your Eyes And See
  • Sad Adults – How To Be Afraid


  • m.t. scott  – A Ticket For The Titanic
  • Monster Island – King of the Minglers/The New Vernacular
  • m.t.scott & the swing youth – Live at the Edelweiss Lounge
  • Lusterlit – List of Equipment
  • Issac Navaro – Terminals
  • KIT B – 6 Singles
  • Dominic Carlton Jones – 1
  • The Scissors – Sjhake
  • Issac Navaro/mark t – Aa
  • The Scientists   Mini Mini Mini/Perpetual Motion
  • PrunX –  Mind Trajectory
  • Pearl Divers – The Past Ain’t Made To Last
  • Mark Corrin- EP III Dystopia
  • PrunX – Vol III
  • Cannonball Statman  – Cackles
  • West Coast Sick Line – Someone Else’s Band
  • Staggs – 2.4
  • The Strays – Explicit Content
  • Factory Acts – Second Amendment
  • The Junta – Ergo


  • The closure of The Crescent
  • Missing Tim Berne in London (rectified next year with a plan to see Big Satan in Birmingham)
  • Even more covers/tribute bands filling the diminishing places for live gigs
  • Jools Holland continues to be allowed by the BBC to peddle mediocrity
  • The inability to break through to BBC with our artists
  • The sound at Academy 1
  • Bands with over-inflated opinions of themselves that have no perception of how their behaviour impacts on other artists and their audience


  • Emily Oldfield – Louder Than War Articles
  • Dave Graney – Workshy and Blog
  • Robert Forster – Grant and I


  • The return of
    • Positronik
    • Monster Island
    • Sandells
  • Moet and Patriq performing Lou Reeds Supper Club

The Cabin Girls were… accommodating

m.t. scott’s Austeresque tale of a failed lion tamer, who becomes a Punch and Judy man on the Titanic, dominates a six track release from German Shepherd Records,   Scott, of Staggs and then solo work fame, has created another musical play  which describes some sort of journey between apparent failure and unexpected redemption, and a lucky escape.

A sideways trip to Hamlet (the play) country, and a tales of suburban life and holidays in Scotland , is couched in an orchestral soundscape which incorporates a variety of fascinating sounds and musical motifs.

I find him to be completely unique and rather fascinating….


Blaney – A new chapter

“It’s like writing a book – many people start it, but don’t finish it. We did it.” – Ed Blaney

You get a sense of a long-desired renaissance from Ed Blaney. The title of the new album from his band Blaney “The Severance”, the follow up to last year’s critically applauded “Urban Nature”, implies a change, a break from the past, and a positive future direction.

Is it a that difficult second album or is it something new entirely?

When asked about this Blaney is candid:

I think it was a bit of both, ‘ leaving it all behind, a cleansing of the mind is’ a line from The Severance. Indeed it is a total break away in many aspects, that was the whole idea and in the new songs you will hear and feel a sense of freedom, there’s a nice rawness, a complete coming together of the people involved. It was very spiritual for me and it worked a treat with the band. We all got and understood the concept of ‘ The Severance ‘. I have few regrets about my past musically but I felt it was time to escape from it.

Blaney is justifiably proud of the first album which garnered countless positive reviews. He found a new set of fans, and shocked a few people, with an album he describes as “a gathering of the ghosts” where a few past demons were exorcised and a strong platform for future endeavours was built.

Ed Head Shot

A proud son of Salford, Ed Blaney’s first musical venture, the band “Trigger Happy”, was co-opted into The Fall in 2001 and Ed’s own musical career was put on hold for a while. However, the last few years have seen successful duo collaborations with Smith, the rebirth of Trigger Happy, a number of other successful projects, and eventually last year the emergence of the Blaney band. Much of Ed’s time in the last few years has been taken up with the creation and management of the highly regarded Salford Musical Festival which is on hiatus this year as Ed concentrates on this new album.

Whilst Ric Gibbs remains on drums the band has seen a change since “Urban Nature”.

Blaney says “The last ‘ line up ‘ was kinda cobbled together as a “mates” thing just for the 12 or so gigs we did, it was a good thing for what it was but was never gonna be a permanent fixture as a band.”

The new bass player is Lian Pienaar, and on guitar and piano, is long time Blaney associate Sophie Labrey, best known as a drummer, previously with Girl Peculiar, Shuttleworth and Shoshin, she also played on “Urban Nature. Indeed Ric, Sophie and Ed had planned this “second phase” of the project before the release of “Urban Nature”.

“The Severance” was recorded in Berlin, where two of the band members are based, heading away from the constant distractions of Salford/Manchester and embracing the multicultural vibes and the creative attitude of the German capital were key elements in that choice. The idea of recording in Berlin came about after a few beers, Ed and Ric had a chat about it and Sophie was asked to look into it as a viable option. In the past Blaney has not always enjoyed recording in UK studios finding their corporate feel restricted creativity and did not allow band members to relax into the creation of the album

Blaney says ….” In Manchester band members have the option of going ‘ home ‘ when things were starting to happen creatively, being distracted by day to day things. Being right out there in Berlin, almost in a blind sense. really worked, considering probably 7-8 of the songs were written over there in the studio. I followed my instincts and all the signs were pointing to Berlin. I don’t think we could have landed on our feet the way we did in any other studio or city in the world, it was that good. Everything we had discussed came to be, the idea of going over with no instruments and just the title song of the album sounded like a great idea to us, crazy in some ways but also perfect. Tito who owns the studio is an incredible person to work with, we hit it off straight away over emails. He listened and understood exactly what we were looking for. The studio itself was an old 1950’s cinema previously, it had so much history I could feel and was a really brilliant space to be creative in. Having been there on 6-7 trips since February, the locals have got to know us and have took to us too, it was a really great experience indeed”.


Those who enjoyed “Urban Nature” will love “The Severance”. As with the first album it’s a good mixture of swagger meets sensibility, but it is much more accessible, and those who think they know Ed Blaney and his music are in for a bit of a shock, albeit a pleasant one. In terms of subject matter there are both autobiographical and political elements. Reflection on growing up, how things have changed not necessarily for the good, society wise, learning from past mistakes in love, and at the same time, keeping a positive fresh approach. All of these spill out of the tunes with typical Blaney enthusiasm.

Self-belief, spirituality , escapism, new beginnings, realism, forgiveness and understanding are all key themes of the albums’ title track.

Ed says …”….in the track ‘ The Arrival ‘ which is a funny upbeat song, we basically stick up a nice two fingered salute to any doubters about my persona”.

Wandering around Eccles on my daily perambulation with the I Pod blasting out the new album I got a real buzz from the positive vibe bursting from the ten tracks on the album From the pulsing bass of “Happy Return” which builds a tension that releases with a punk chorus and kicks the album off with a statement of intent, this is joyous stuff.

The album captures not only the raw energy of those early Clash records,  but also the Manchester pop sensibility of 10cc, and the unbridled joy of 90s Madchester. Once in a while the Greater Manchester conurbation gets back to what it is good at, making perfect pop and rock music, and this is a perfect example of that long held tradition,

All of the tracks move on from the excellent benchmark set by “Urban Nature” but there are several absolute classics that stand out.  My favourite is “Blackpool” a glorious piece of writing and an indication of the potential of this band. The glam rock bounce of “Feel The Rain” and the soul-pop strut of “Bin Liner” are refreshing,  there’s a tendency these days to make pop music too complicated and too muso, those two tracks prove you don’t need to do that,  you can get down to the elements that make good music great, strip back, get back to basics, and deliver, that’s a winning formula. Title track “The Severance” sums up the thinking behind the album in a perfect pop/rock tune.

There are a couple of interesting variations in the mix with the dub reggae version of “Thinking Of You”, originally a garage rock tune on Urban Nature, which should have people making shapes in a live setting. “11007 days old” dials things down with a plaintive pastoral feel and a nice mid album relaxer before things build to an explosive conclusion. An emotional recollection of days past with memories of childhood. The delightful “Tessa” is pop magic, “The 11th Man” is an excellent driving rock song, and the sheer joy of closing track “The Arrival” spills out the speakers and sums up the positive nature of the album…….the only thing to have a word with Ed about his lack of appreciation of cricket!

The album will be launched at a gig at Posh Teckel Berlin on 23rd November.

A home town launch will follow at The Castle,  Oldham Street, Manchester on Thursday November 30th.

The album is released on Friday November 10th. (CD/Vinyl ). You can order it via or grab it at HMV,  Amazon and all other good record stores. I think you should it’s bloomin’ marvellous.

Blaney Gig


Ed Blaney
Ric Gibbs
Sophie Labrey
Lian Pienaar




Somewhere between something and the other

So much music I get sent, and I get sent a lot, tends to be bland and cloned. It’s as if there’s a factory/laboratory somewhere in a nameless city/town/village (delete as applicable) where the “magic formula” that made Busted “successful” is applied to fifteen year olds to turn them into avatars of that inane indie guitar thang. The guitars all sound the same. the vocals all sound the same. the chords are inevitably major and all predictable. I guess there is a human capacity for some to mimic/imitate what they like and try and replicate it in the hope of some sort of career coming out of it. Some have the mystery element of being able to turn it into something new and interesting. Others are merely copyists and either pass it off as new or end up in tribute bands. Nothing to get too hung up about I guess but a reason why my radio shows tend to feature stuff, in the most part, that doesn’t sound like anything else, hopefully.

I’ve also been around long enough to realise that some things are cyclical and styles tend to come back so you may not have heard it before but I have.

There’s a lot about Havania Whaal that you will have heard in other bands but they have a knack of altering/subverting/enhancing what has gone before them. Which is why they get my attention.

Their Bandcamp bio says:

Havania Whaal is a three piece noise pop band from Portland, Oregon that formed in a musty basement during the cold winter months of 2012. Drawing inspiration from a large spectrum of artists like Joy Division, Sonic Youth and Cocteau Twins, Havania Whaal’s sound has been described as “stargaze pop” by two girls in Olympia.

They have a big sound for a three piece and in no small part the three voice attack and Noelle Magia’s full poly-rhythmic drum attack make up the major part of the wall of noise which emerges from their new one “Elaborate Minor Crisis”. Paul Billy Sobeich conjurs huge layers of shoegazey/sonic youth noise from his guitar, The trio is expanded on some tracks with effective additional violin tracks provided by Melody Wilbrecht.  Caroline Jackson holds it together with some pungent bass which locks seamlessly with Magia’s rhythms.

This is an album which explores several angles of the same overall sound, which feels like something like some other stuff you will have heard, but also manages to emerge in other directions into areas which you will not have heard before. It’s definitively American, it’s plain daft in places, “The Party” feels like a Thurston Moore laconic ramble through a Bongwater track with a no wave bad attitude nibbling at your ears. Other parts are plain shoe-gazey in a Cocteau’s stylee. Sometimes, on “Chambers” particularly, Sobeich channels Ian Curtis, which is slightly incongruous, and in particular said track heads in an early goth direction  before sounding like it has leaped, kicking and screaming, from the back entries of Northampton in the 1980s. “Spiral Out” is particularly memorable juxtaposing a poppy Liz F verse with a punky Coathangers chorus. Closer “Dylan McKay” is as relentless a closer as any band would sell their souls to Jools Holland for.

All in all it’s a damn good set of tunes. Click on the thing below to see how to get it.

Havania Whaal