Introducing Matthew Hopkins

In 1974, two Catholic schoolgirls met at the age of 5 over a scabby knee and sang together in praise of the lord, ‘til they discovered Salvation in the form of Hex Enduction Hour. An explosion of hair spray, eyeliner and ideas ensued.

Julia moved to Blackpool and joined the band The Tingletones as singer before moving to Manchester, when she became singer for the short lived Arthur Badfrown Band. A move to London at the turn of the century saw her finally pick up a guitar. Upon returning to Manchester, she joined Government Death Epidemic as guitarist. She has recorded with Craig Scanlon and Steve & Paul Hanley (ex The Fall).

Matthew Hopkins

Anne has sang, go-go danced and played tambourine in 60’s- garage outfit The Stags since 2001. They are stalwarts of the garage scene playing around the UK and Europe and worked closely with Frank Sidebottom.

Matthew Hopkins

Max, Anne’s son, has been playing drums and guitar with bands since the age of 13. He is currently playing his own material in duo Fibs as well as occupying the drum stool for The Stags.

Matthew Hopkins

A hiatus in both womens’ musical projects gave them the chance to get together and get creative – Matthew Hopkins was born in 2016. Max completes the team, bringing exceptional musicality and skill to the bandi

The trio’s marriage of tight harmonies and a post-punk sound gives them a unique sound which is rapidly gaining attention on the Manchester Music Scene.

Anne and Julia have also contributed vocals to Four Candles recent album “Nettle Rash”.

Here is their first release on German Shepherd Records.

And here they are live at Manchester’s Peer Hat Venue…..

Fascinating Things : Issue 65

It’s usually  quite quiet in June, not this year, with a raft of new things worthy of your aural consideration.

To kick off a few things from the north of England which caught my ear:

Self described as “blues-laden menacing psych” the sample below leaps out at you as an unctuous  mix of Arthur Brown and Tex-Mex imbibing something mind expanding in an opium den in a Bill Burroughs tract .  Moody, brooding, and sensuous the band comprises  Stewart Kinloch – Vocals,  Mark Stainton – Guitar, Dave Royston – Guitar, and,  Mike Smith- Drums, They are from Leeds and are called Mesmer Disciples and we will no doubt be hearing a lot more from them.

tAngerinecAt are Eugene Purpurovsky and Paul Chilton. Their music is unique and compelling. Paul provides a selection of electronica and rhythms with occasional penny whistle and Eugene creates a fascinating sound with the traditional instrument the hurdy-gurdy. They have been blazing a unique trail across the music venues of the north and beyond with their fascinating sound and overtly political/polemical music. Someone needs to snap them up quick and get them out to a wider audience. They are based in Manchester.

Also from Leeds The Masses sound like something from the mid 80s – the tracks below is a sort of amalgamation of Dinosaur Jr, The Smiths and The Wedding Present. They describe themselves as “jangly indie pop” but I think they are a little more than that They are Nik Klimanski – Guitar, Vocals, Jack Hunt – Bass, Backing Vocals, and Roan Jenner – Drums

Completing the Leeds trio of bands are Deathtripper who manage to tick any number of my Aural Pleasure boxes with ease. There’s some post-punk, some Krautrock and some other bits which make me smile. I can’t find much more about them sadly as their Facebook age is bereft of info.

Scatter Factory, is the solo project of Will Foster. After many years of working with (as either a recording or touring artist) numerous notable artists, including The Fratellis, Martina Topley-Bird, Heather Nova, and Suede’s Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler he releases his debut album on July 22nd. Here is the single from the album which marries classic electronica with more modern proponents.

Off World, who are Sandro Perri, Drew Brown, Susumu Mukai, and Jesse Zubot release their debut album on Constellation in the Autumn. On the basis of the teaser track below I am looking forward to it. Go here for more detail.

New album  “A Boat Upon Its Blood” is from Montréal-based improviser, composer and reedist Jason Sharp; a fixture of Montreal’s avant-garde and improv music communities, and an alumnus of Sam Shalabi’s Land of Kush orchestra and Matana Roberts’ Coin Coin Chapter One ensemble. With this debut recording issued under his own name, Sharp presents contemporary electro-acoustic music that reveals the shape and scope of his vision as a composer and bandleader in his own right. More info here.

In Black Crack Mark Tilton (guitarist, singer and founder member of The Membranes) fronts his five-piece band  which is a vibrant mix of garage rock, post punk and half spoken half sung intensity. It’s a take no prisoners blast of sound with its in your face attack. Good stuff!

Dark wave goth in abundance  comes with the new video and final single from Bradford (UK) based They Called Him Zone‘s   ‘MiamiEP.  Spooky psychdelic and somewhat trippy.

The excellenr Dutch insrumentalists Radar Men From The Moon recently released “Subversive II: Splendor of the Wicked”, a heady mix of space and stoner rock with an almost industrial edge to it and is well worth a listen  – it’s a pay what you want offer so I suggest you dive into the psychedelic wonderment as soon as possible,

Latvian band Tesa tour with Neurosis in the Autumn and their previous Bandcamp release “Ghost” is now coming out on My Proud Mountain. Heavy wall of sound instrumental rock which should blow your socks off.

And last but not least that troubadour of the obscure Moff Skellington is back with a new album – his 30th – called “Sherbert is the Culture of the Void”. It seems somewhat odd that Moff Skellington is not a national institution by now. As an artist who combines the unique other-worldliness of Ivor Cutler, the singular English whimsy of Viv Stanshall, and word mangling obtuseness of Lewis Carroll, together with a musical pot-pourri combining elements of Tom Waits, Pere Ubu, The Residents, The Fall, and the folk band from your local pub, after several doses of mind-expanding substances, he certainly challenges conventions. I would have thought that this convention defying approach to music would have caught the ear of those in search of something new. However he has not broken the glass ceiling of fame as yet.

Maybe this time?

“Sherbert Is The Culture Of The Void” comprises 14 tracks and lasts just over 41 minutes. More experimental than his recent work this album explores familiar and unfamiliar themes in Moff’s world of Eddodi. Busy, alien sounding, instrumentals coupled with songs with fascinating titles, spoken word in broad Abstercot, and mind curving subject matter ranging from obesity, via Orthopaedic Chairs, to the sobriety of witches this is Moff at his most challenging.

Moff is currently working a new joint venture with Iron Mouse & Loop-Aznavour entitled The Mouse Engine which will be released later in the year. He also a couple of new albums in the pipeline.

The album was released on July 1st and is priced at £5.


Sherbert Cover








Fascinating Things : Issue 62

in And the summer rolls in with it’s misery inducing mix of ridiculous heat and torrential rain, there’s quite a lot going on but frankly I can’t be bothered getting out of my sweat soaked chair to attend. Instead a ramble through some of the better things that have been sent my way in recent weeks…..

A current obsession is The Drones (no not the ones from Manchester 1976 but the Australian current band). Their recentish album “Feelin’ Kinda Free” manages to do what a lot of people cannot seem to deliver these days which is sound like nothing else that’s prowling around the ether at the moment. The exciting thing (and it takes a lot to get me excited these days) is their unique use of guitars to create new sounds and the adoption of some interesting dance flavoured rhythms on the album. Their back catalogue is equally fascinating and is worth investigating.

From Atlanta, Georgia Gringo Star  (it took a while to sink in with me but the relevance of the name becomes more apparent when you hear the music) have just signed with Nevado Music and have a new album called “The Sides And In Between” out on August 26th.  Pending that they have a single out called ‘Rotten’ which according to the promo:

“presents Gringo Star’s love for nostalgic sounds of rock in the style of The Kinks. Sat between The Shins’ folky twang and Tame Impala’s generosity on the reverb, the melody beautifully shines through the raw psychedelic finish.”

My immediate reaction on seeing the vid was it felt like the The Beatles to some extent, it may have been the Rickenbackers that sparked that thought, or maybe there’s a bit of Yardbirds in there somewhere. The forthcoming album, which I haven’t heard yet, is described elsewhere as a the bands own version of British invasion rock with the sounds of The Animals, Tame Impala and Buddy Holly. I get The Animals reference.

On our record label we have the excellent Bouquet of Dead Crows from sunny Cambridge, and they can seen working as the backing band for Gavin Chappell- Bates who has a single out on the back of his recent album. It is the opening track from the album “Church of Rock and Roll”. Sadly I don’t have a video or a soundcloud at this point but search him out on You Tube and you will see what he is up to.

Alternative electronic producer Dean Garcia, the man behind seminal alternative rock band Curve and electronic dream pop duo SPC ECO, has joined forces with Preston Maddox of post-punk noise-rock band Bloody Knives in a new project, called S T F U. Their debut LP ‘What We Want’, planned for release on July 29, is all about unfolding hypnotic loops that gradually progress to uptempo electronics, trip-hop laden beats, lush noise entwined with shimmering synths, and Maddox’s hazy trance-like vocals. Dreamy with a shoegaze backbone this is epic stuff.

Vogue Dots are Canadian and deliver moody, layered pop styled music…..comparisons with Beth Orton have been made, which means nothing to me, but it sounds nice….

Two years after releasing ‘Best-Selling Dreams’ to wide acclaim around the world, Novanta will soon release his new album “Hello We’re Not Enemies” on Seashell Records. The first single from this release is ‘Goðafoss’. Novanta is Manfredi Lamartina, a musician who is originally from Palermo but has been based in Milan for many years now. On this album, Novanta further evolves his sound, falling effortlessly between shoegaze, post-rock and electronica. Sounds like relentless euro-pop to me…..

Those lovely people at Acid Cosmonaut Records have shared a preview from the second album from DSW.  I got a serious 70s flashback when I heard it, pretty heavy blues rock with a metal undercurrent. Lots of wah-wah going on here….!

Wolves In The Throne Room  re-release their 2006 debut album “Diadem Of 12 Stars” through their own Artemisia Records on 17th June. . Its raw analog sound in many ways pays homage to the band’s varied influences: the harsh black metal of Norwegians Ulver and Emperor or their American counterparts Weakling and Ludicra, the monolithic heaviness of Neurosis and Swans, the sorrowful Funeral Doom of My Dying Bride and in places, the mournful goth of Dead Can Dance.  Described by guitarist Nathan Weaver as the rawest and most “punk” of their five full-length releases Diadem Of 12 Stars was recorded live to tape in Oakland by Tim Green. Joined in the studio by Jamie Myers (Hammers Of Misfortune, Sabbath Assembly) and Dino Sommese (Asunder. Dystopia), every song was recorded in one or two takes and the album was mixed without the aid of a computer. Originally released on a small DIY label and unavailable physically for many years, this reissued version has been carefully remastered by Jason Ward at Chicago Mastering Service. It’s intense stuff but worth the effort if you want a different take on the sub-genre.

After Ian Moss left Hamsters (Manchester)  in early 1981 the band continued with drummer Steve Middlehurst’s wife Tricia taking the vocalist position before she in turn left due to pregnancy . At this juncture , now down to a three piece, guitarist Bobby Williams became lead vocalist . Wayne Edwards found a studio in Middleton and the band was captured for posterity after explaining to the engineer they most definitely were not after a Wishbone Ash sound. Lo-fi, wonderfully cack-handed, and cocking a snook at the wider music world these three tracks are previously unreleased





A Young Persons Guide to Staggs

With the release of a new double A side single this Friday it seems timely to focus on the work to date of the mighty Staggs.

Staggs are Scott and Ridley a pair of north eastern England musicians, artists and raconteurs. The Staggs project was born out of a one-off experimental remix of their own anarcho-punk track (the band was Reality Control and they formed 50% of it*) from the early 80s. The production is wholly contemporary but the anger of that era lives on in their energy, lyrical content and vocal expression. With a healthy cynicism towards British culture contained in the wealth of nostalgic samples and a bizarre smattering of French language thrown in for good measure, STAGGS give a sly “clin d’oeil” to 1970/80s Britain.

The latest release from the band, on German Shepherd Records,  “A Rum Do” finds the duo dabbling into techo/electronica and krautrock via two stand out tracks – “Robotomy” and “Don’t Call Me Satan”

But lets go back to the beginning and work our way through all their back catalogue.

June 2013 saw the first release from the duo with the fascinating “Weird Kids” EP with a clear statement of intent.

Later that year the sophomore effort was the challenging “Mother Natures Bastard Sons” ….

This was quickly followed by a vivid aural dissection of Sir Cliff in the memorable “Staggs Xmas”….

In April of the following year an ep of reinterpretations of the work of Staggs was released under the intriguing title of “Smart Husband” Resonator Set (reviewed by myself here)

In the same month the cheeky “Risqué But Not Blue” saw the light of day with its’ baleful commentaries on middle class existence (reviewed here)

In October Staggs took the brave step of aligning themselves with German Shepherd Records kicking off with the memorable single “When Eartha Kitt Met Pete Tong”…

The now traditional Staggs Xmas single was revealed, partnership with Cryptic Cut, with a remake of two songs…

There was a long wait for the next release, but the wait was worthwhile for the stunning “Shy Bairns Get Nowt” , again reviewed at the time, including a revealing interview with the pair.

The Xmas single for 2015 was the suitably challenging “Funk Me Jesus” which included a remix from Space Museum.

Pending the release of the newest offering of the band which is out on May 6th, February 2016 saw the release of a solo effort from Scott described at the time as follows “Moving sideways from the warm embrace of Staggs, m.t.scott revisits his back catalogue giving us an insight into other parts of his musical endeavours. The usual Scott themes are in play, biting and caustic wit set amongst cinematic aural adventures providing a challenging and fulfilling listening experience“.

So there you have it, everything you wanted to know about Staggs but were afraid to ask.  True iconclasts, challengers of the mundane and damn good at what they do…..

* Reality Control were the Sound of the Newcastle suburbs! Heaton Manor’s very own Anarcho Punk band! – a 21 track retrospective of their work was released in 2013 on Anti-Society via Flat Earth records on vinyl and CD . The bands “Nice” track subsequently re-emerged in Staggs form on “Shy Bairns Get Nowt”. They are not to be confused with a  contemporary band with the same name from Aylmer, Ontario. You can grab the album here.

Fascinating Things : Issue 57

I was engaged in one of those “list your ten favourite albums without thinking about it too much” things on Facebook the other day and I asked a like minded group of souls to do the same thing, as you do. The surprising , and perhaps concerning, result from this swapping of ideas was, in the most part, there were not many current/contemporary releases in the lists submitted by my chums. I was also a culprit in this regard, which got my thinking about my current listening patterns, and maybe the digital revolution had somehow, altered the way I absorb and remember music. Maybe it’s an age thing? Anyhow that’s another discussion….

The other notable thing was the lack of music from Australia in all of the lists except my own, I  had two albums – Night of the Wolverine by Dave Graney  ‘n’ The Coral Snakes, and Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express by The Go-Betweens. I considered the lack of Aussie material to be a matter of some concern given the quality of  both historic and current music emerging from the other side of the planet that I am aware of. So I set myself the task of exploring some recent music with a view to sharing some of the albums I consider deserve a wider audience.

I’d guess for the unenlightened Aussie “rock” music begins and ends with AC-DC,  with the occasional thought for the likes of  Men at Work. Midnight Oil and INXS. The more enlightened might have cause to mention The Birthday Party, and consequentially Nick Cave, together with The Go-Betweens, and The Triffids. Beyond that initial list of “well known” bands there is a vast array of exceptional talent in Australia both current and historic. Last years break through of Courtney Barnett, merely scratched the surface of what is, if you do enough work researching what is out there, a very impressive scene. Like the UK the scenes are disparate and different between the big cities like Sydney and Melbourne. Bands like The Holy Soul and singers like Jess Ribiero have been featured on my podcasts but I am lightly dipping my toe into a huge musical stew, there is a lot more out there.

It is no coincidence of course that I have been somewhat engaged with matters Antipodean over the last few months, what with Mr Graney and his band of merry troubadours paying a visit to Salford/Manchester. As is my custom when these things present themselves a detailed  examination of the wider  Melbourne music scene followed. Which lead to many hours pouring over arcane links between musicians and bands and many pennies spent acquiring material for consumption.

As discussed with the Graney band pre-sound check at the Eagle as couple of weeks back there are direct parallels between Manchester and Melbourne in that they are both music cities. The population of Melbourne is substantially larger than the Greater Manchester conurbation but there are comparative spreads of townships and settlements with their own disparate scenes across the geographies of both city regions, and both have dock land developments. There was mention when Dave was chatting to Marc Riley on Radio 6 the night before that the view was Sydney echoed London, in that it was more corporate, in music terms, whereas Melbourne was more like (Greater) Manchester.  There is a real sense of that “underground” “diy” “screw the system” approach in both of the latter cities. It appears from a distance, as unfortunately I have never visited, that Melbourne has a greater variety of choice of venues and that the pub/club scene there is more geared towards breaking new and established musicians, compared to the increasingly worrying trend here of venues closing or “tribute” bands dominating. Maybe it’s the economy, or maybe we need a cultural kick up the backside, but Melbourne seems to be a model of music provision we need to aspire to up here in the North?

Harry Howard and the NDE

So where does this take us?

As I am always in search of new and interesting music, I thought I would explore some of the better releases that I have come across, and starting with Dave Graney, one can map a series of links across to some fascinating music indeed. Although they’ve had albums out for a while, I’ll begin  with the band that Dave and Clare Moore play bass and drums in, that being Harry Howard and the NDE. Harry was notably in Crime and the City Solution with his brother the late Rowland S. Howard, and These Immortal Souls. Harry writes a mean tune and his two releases to date are highly recommended for lovers of post-punk styled garage rock. There are some certified bona fide ear worms on both albums and notably, on the 2012 released “Near Death Experience”, the epic closer ‘History is Linear’.

2013’s “Pretty” is jam packed full of great tunes, and builds on the first release to create a memorable listening experience. The music is delivered with a great swagger and deserved confidence. It makes me smile when I listen to it and it has that inspirational rock and roll feel. The unique sound of Edwina Preston’s Acetone Organ gives the music that extra edge which sets it apart from others in this genre.  I wait with some anticipation for future recordings from Harry and Co.

Stu Thomas has occupied the bass seat in Dave Graney’s bands since the early 2000’s, as well as that he is a busy man with his own projects, notably The Stu Thomas Paradox which he describes as “voodoo surf”.  Stu has formed and fronted many musical units, as well as  The Stu Thomas Paradox there are  Stu & The Celestials, The Brass Bed, Crumpet and Organism, all of which will need investigating at some point of course. Pending that, the 2010 album “Escape from Algebra”, which features Graney alumni Billy Miller (and I must get around to listening to his stuff) and amply demonstrates Thomas’s excellent song-writing prowess. There’s a joyful playfulness running through all of the music on this release.

Aside from the about Stu has, more recently, released a couple of Lee Hazelwood tribute albums which I  haven’t got around to as yet, pending that I would point out his 2007 solo debut which is a more introspective affair than the Paradox work. It’s an acoustic focused set of songs with a series of duets from notable female vocalists –  Charlotte Thomas, Clare Moore , Anna Burley (Killjoys), Barb Waters, Amanda Rochford (Gusset Rustlers), Emilie Martin (Luxedo).  There are also some notable guest musicians featured Mike Noga (The Drones), Delaney Davidson (Dead Brothers), Chris Hughes (These Immortal Souls, Hugo Race), and Lemmi Schwarz (Neon Dorn).  Another fine album which I strongly recommend, and a pile of other bands to look into due to the associations. The Gusset Rustlers are intriguing to say the least!

Following the continuity trail, Stu has also played bass with Kim Salmon, in the band The Surrealists. Salmon has been described as  as one of the first Australians to “embrace wholeheartedly the emergent punk phenomenon of the mid-to-late 1970s” with The Scientists. He described a later band Beasts of Bourbon as “masters of uncompromising gutbucket blues and hard-edged rock’n’roll”. He has a massive back catalogue which will need some time to absorb, including the need for a retrospective on the excellent Scientists. Pending that notably, the 2010 album “Grand Unifying Theory” from the Surrealists, brings together Salmon’s love of Sun Ra, Miles Davis and Can, in a melange of music described as “polyrhythmic beats, its atonal keys, its heavy funk/punk grooves “. To keep the conceptual continuity of this piece alive,  Kim’s vocals were tracked by Dave Graney at the Ponderosa (his home recording studio), and Clare Moore provides backing vocals. Stu Thomas plays bass, and Phil Collings, from the Paradox band, is the drummer. This is the least commercial of this selection of albums, and the most challenging, as Salmon merges free funk, jazz and scabrous rock improv workouts into a curates egg  of a collection of material, with the stunning “Predate” standing out. It is sadly short at 23 minutes but packs enough into that time to keep the mind alive and the attention grabbed. On the basis of this album I shall be diving head first into Mr Salmon’s back catalogue with some vigour.

Material from the above will featured in Aural Delights Podcasts 178 and 179, and of course going forward as more emerges.

dg Eagle 1
Dave Graney and the mistLY : Live in Salford



Right Place, Wrong Time

Cheap Thrills

Disambiguation warning : This is not about the American Indie Rock Band The Dodos but their precursors, a band from Manchester, UK.

Manchester. 1981

Working in the city centre was a dour affair. I had just returned to the cavernous corridors of the Town Hall after being exiled to Moston (part of the north Manchester suburbs) for 12 months. It seemed to be grimmer than I remembered after the leafy greenery of the north side of the city.

It was a city in transition.

I worked in the Housing Department, dealing with what was called “Miscellaneous Properties”, the thousands of homes the Council had acquired over the years as part of municipalisation. My job involved regular trips to Moss Side, via Hulme, to check on the property around the Great Western Street area. Travelling through Hulme was always an interesting experience.

Hulme was something else, it was truly the architects/planners dream gone haywire. I remember it being built around the mid 70s, it wasn’t going to last the 60 year life expected of modern developments  By the turn of the eighties family units had fled from “The Crescents” which dominated the landscape. It was somewhere between ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Mad Max’ , a dystopian neo-brutalist edge of city centre zone that was home and playground to students. drop-outs and alternative types of all persuasions. Several years later the council would launch a task force to attempt to resolve multiple problems, and decades later, when I has crossed the Irwell to work in the other city, the Crescents would be demolished to be replaced by modern redevelopment.

But at the time Hulme was wild , dangerous and fun , Hulme had The Dodos.

Hulme had cheap accommodation and a sea of possibilities, Hulme had a recording studio, where the  tracks for The Dodos album, which are about to be released for the first time, were recorded. It was called ‘ Out of the Blue’ and set up by an enterprising soul, take a bow Adam Lesser, then a four-track, before it moved to the more salubrious surroundings of Ancoats.

The Dodos were formed when the singer (Ian Moss) approached the guitar player (Graham Ellis) in Rafters , at the time Manchester’s pre eminent venue. They had both recently left well established bands , the Hamsters , and Elti Fits. They fixed up a rehearsal to take place in the cellar of the War on Want offices on Oxford Road for the following week. The guitarist brought along a drummer and a trumpeter (Matthew), songs were ripped from the ether and it was decided to debut the band that very night when the rehearsal space was opened, to those in the know, as ‘ The White Noise Club’. The bass player from The Fall (Steve Hanley) stood in that night and the band played a hardly ground breaking set, by the next week the Dodos had their own bass player (Tim Oliver) , who provided the magic ingredient , an appreciation of space to let the rhythm breath, that made the band stand apart from their contemporaries , The trumpeter departed and the singer brought in a keyboard player , a female non-musician seemed just the random element the band needed.

The band lasted twelve months recording three sessions in the aforementioned “Out of the Blue” , played live on a regular basis constantly striving to stretch their parameters.
They were in truth a band out of kilter with their contemporaries in northern England. In in New York at the same time a scene dubbed ‘ no wave’ flourished , The Dodos were making music remarkably similar a transatlantic journey away. Clearly a case of ‘ Right Time , Wrong Place’ as Kurt Vonnegut Jnr expressed in such a bitter sweet fashion and so succinctly in ‘ So it goes!’.


So, a city in transition with a music scene in transition. The heady punk excitement of 1976 to 1980 was fading away.

Time for something new, exciting, different. The Dodos tried to do something different probably 18 months before they should have done.

In the wider music world things were changing as well, but not quite fast enough.

Manchester and the surrounding boroughs lacked focus at the time. The Hacienda was a year away, Wigan Casino had closed, Buzzcocks and Magazine had both split. The overall feeling was depressing, nationally punk had spluttered out from a populist movement into a second phase of leather clad copyists who were altogether more harder (more metal leaning) and violent. There was post-punk, but it was disparate, there was no youth movement to latch onto.

The venue dichotomy was clear across the city centre Rafters, Fagins, The Gallery, The Beach Club, did the local and underground stuff, but in the outskirts/suburbs it was a different matter The Apollo hugged the mainstream for dear life, and the Universities took on the mantle of the music in between. The Factory in Hulme was closed, Pips hadn’t risked bands for a few years, too much trouble, the Mayflower had the Exploited and all those other “studs and leather” punkers , Rafters ruled the roost as a regular gig and hangout , The Dodo’s played it a couple of times. Manchester Poly had bands , as did Devilles , but from a cultural point of view the Beach Club, on Shudehill, run by New Hormones was the most interesting place.  The Cyprus Tavern was another place that had pretty much forsaken live music by then.

As for local “stars” Joy Division had moved into New Order land and were struggling to make an early impact.  The Fall had stripped themselves down to a spidery jangling alley of their own making, and spent a lot the year in Germany and the US. Slates was a remarkable release but very much a bridge to the monster that was to follow in 1982. Blue Orchids had a new line-up. The Distractions slowly started to unravel when Steve Perrin left.

Nationally the last vestiges of phase one punk were moving slowly into something more pop (Adam and the Ants, Toyah), or shifting into anarcho territory or getting considerably darker (Crass, Discharge,The Exploited, Anti-Pasti). A new pop sensibility was emerging via jamaican music (UB40, Madness) or pop electronica (Depeche Mode).

In Manchester a sign of things to come were the early stirrings of James and Happy Mondays

From Ian Moss’s viewpoint the best bands were the Fall , the Glass Animals , the Passage and “bits and bobs” by A Certain Ratio , he was belatedly developing a taste for northern soul and going to a few all nighters . In the mainstream the two tone stuff seemed the most obvious street music. Ian remembers Madness doing Grey Day on TOTP as The Dodos finished one recording session. The music that fed the Dodos wasn’t local, it was from Was Not Was, Grace Jones, Smokey Robinson, Earth Wind and Fire we played James Brown and Funkadelic. Exceptions that year came in the form of guitar bands The Birthday Party and The Gun Club, being the most notable.

The No Wave scene was sort of finding it’s way into the Manchester psyche via James White and the Blacks, the Bush Tetras; the Speed Trials compilation was on the cusp between punk and the new approach, and the Mutant Disco compilation album with Material merging jazz and funk, with a hard jazz edge, was a break through. There was an undercurrent of soul/funk rumbling in the basement bars of the city, Colin Thorpe’s Disjunct were a fine example of what was possible.

The Dodos seem to have captured that zeitgeist.

New Order would of course absorb that whole dance thing two years later and make a name for themselves. It is clear listening to the new collection of Dodos material, to be released on German Shepherd Records in May, that the band were breaking new ground. No synths, no arpeggiators etc, just guitar, bass, organ and drums. You can listen for yourself when the complete recordings are released on May 13th but i’ll tempt your interest with a sample track to be going on with. Raw, ground-breaking and marvellous. An exciting mix of Moss’s punk aesthetic with jagged post-punk guitar and funk rhythms and bass lines.

This is raw Manchester music, never before heard except by a select few, and masterfully reproduced by Tim Oliver for a new audience.

Thanks to Ian Moss and Tim Oliver for background information to this article.




Fascinating Things : Issue 49

As you will be well aware,  if you read this nonsense on a regular basis, there is a lot of new music out there which barely gets the recognition it deserves. It is a sad indictment of the increasingly polarised music mainstream that a handful of artists dominate the media when arguably more talented folk don’t get a look in. The so called arbiters of taste peddle the promo gubbins that pluggers and labels zap their way. When I listen to some of the dross that gets peddled on so called hip radio or red buttons I get a tad grumpy.

I’m also acutely aware of the passage of time and the regular repackaging of formats so that material from across the long history of my music listening regularly reappears in what is the latest “hip” format. Following the deification of vinyl over the last year or so the CD lovers (of which I am one) have started the inevitable fight back against what must be the biggest con job the music industry have foisted on the public since 8-track cartridges. There will be several friends and acquaintances that will vilify me for calling out the great god Vinyl but I remain convinced that the great listening public have been tricked into purchasing music in a format that has inherent built in obsolescence and is horribly overpriced as well as being bad for the environment and taking up far to much space. Whatever, it’s all about opinion, if you want to  collect vinyl because it fills you with misty eyed nostalgia of a time, in the vast majority of cases when you were not  even born,  and where music was more legitimate because it was played on a  dansette, that’s fine with me. I don’t recall it being much fun picking up a copy of “Selling England By The Pound” at the shop on Piccadilly Station approach and having to take it back several times because of the skips, jumps and crackles. As things stand I couldn’t possibly afford a home that could house all the vinyl versions of the music I have collected over the years, CDs are pushing it a bit space wise but I can just about accommodate them, MP3s on external hard discs are the most convenient option as the moment.

I must reference the sad death of Keith Emerson. ELP have got a bad press over the years, and I would be the first to admit that after “Brain Salad Surgery” my interest in them waned, not helped by that completely over the top BBC feature on them and their touring excesses. Notwithstanding that Emerson’s early work with The Nice still stands up well and the first four ELP releases had some fine moments. I saw the band twice. The first time was at the Oval in 1972 when “Tarkus” had just been released; on the day they stole a march on Genesis with Peter Gabriel in his red dress and foxes head (Foxtrot had just come out), with two giant Tarkuses appearing on stage. The second gig was in 1974 -ish I think  at a cavernous Wembley Arena where the band were reduced to mere cyphers and which more or less put me off stadium gigs for life. Emerson, for all the faults of ELP at their worst, was a fine showman and his marriage of classical music, jazz and rock was innovative.

Enough of my ramblings what can I share with you this week which you may not have heard elsewhere, or isn’t getting the wider attention it deserves? :

  • Southern Lord will be bringing back the early work of Wolfbrigade (then Wolfpack) in a trilogy of reissues encompassing the Swedish d-beat hard core goups first three LPs (A New Dawn Fades, Lycanthro Punk and Allday Hell), which will be available from April 15th, as well as a boxset including the remaining two EPs released before their name change. This marks 20 years since the release of their first two records Bloodstained Dreams and A New Dawn Fades. Expect a new album from the band later in 2016.
  • Formed in Liverpool in 2014, Indie Pop/Rock band Seprona practice in an abandoned pub on the outskirts of Liverpool city centre where they have locked themselves away, writing profically. Each band member brings their own influences to Seprona’s sound, but the band agree that the likes of Arctic Monkeys, The Black Keys, Interpol and Radiohead are their common denominators. Facebook:
  • I got sent the below with absolutely no information other than the soundcloud link, which would normally put me off, but I was impressed by the sounds so I thought I would share it and let you have the fun of finding out more. It reminded me of early Phillip Glass in places, which is no bad thing.
  • Lauren from the ever excellent Rarely Unable says “The collaboration between Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Bitchin Bajas shares a passion for arresting the moment in the process of now. Their ability to stretch time, coupled with their ability to explore and meditate on words, make them the most pertinent of partners. On Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties, they combine forces to travel down a celestial path that knows no bounds – won’t you follow?” You can watch a video at another site as I have nothing I can embed for you. It’s Will Oldham cast in a new light, which is no bad thing, and there are echoes of Neil Young in some of it, but the Bajas influence is strong and good. It’s out on March 18th and you can pre-order it here.
  • After a bit of a hiatus the eclecticians at Superstar Detroyer as back with their unique brand of math and madness. They have just released I.I.A.H.S.W.E.S EP by BRITNEY which is a riotous melange of chunky red zone bass and heavy percussion in a Beastie Boys punk soup with a sprinkling of post punk overkill and the occasional dip into manic piano distress. Fascinating and slightly disturbing. Also new on the label, on April 11th, but with nowt to embed from it, is  the excellent Polymath with an album entitled “Melencholia”..
  • The refreshingly heavy duo Rusty G’s are back with a full length album and a new single. Having got quite excited about them last year I can confirm that the band have continued their fine run of form with some blistering rock noise. A hell of a bg sound for a pair of people and well worth some of your time. They have a small tour coming up and are well worth checking out.
  • Ghold return  with a new album PYR (Ritual Productions, 7th May), which also marks the band’s first recording as a trio with multi-instrumentalist/guitarist Oliver Martin. They play Islington Mill, Salford on May 11th as part of a run of dates. More info to follow on the release but its out 7th May on LP, DIGI and CD formats, the latter comes with a bonus track.
  • I have been featuring the new Rangda release (as well as working my way though their back catalogue) over the last few podcast. I was pleased to get an interesting video of The Sin Eaters from the new one “The Heretics Bargain”.  I’ve seen a couple of bad reviews of the album which I thought were a tad mealy mouthed, this is good stuff and continues the work of some fine exponents of multi guitar rock.
  • As previously mentioned Moulettes are a Brighton based British band of Björk, Frank Zappa and Gentle Giant loving multi-instrumentalists that weave in and out of several genres with 3 part harmony female vocals, amplified Cello, distorted Bassoon, Auto-Harp, Guitar, Drums, Bass and Synths into an incomparable alt.pop/rock/folk universe. Since the success of ‘Constellations’ (No.7 Indie Charts, Spiral Earth Best Album 2014), Bajian Irish Londoner Raevennan Husbandes has joined the band on Vocals and Electric Guitar. With this new line-up the band have made their fourth Album ‘Preternatural.’ Sadly they have failed to send anything through to share but you can pre-order it in several formats over at their website.
  • Seven years on from 2009’s Afterlife EP, Amenra are to release a new collection of songs, titled “Alive”, a counterpoint to the band’s Mass series, featuring brand new compositions and cover songs, as well as appearances from special guests and additional musicians. This marks their second acoustic release, and first live release.It was recorded at Ancienne Belgique in Brussels by Hein Devos, and mastered by Frederic Alstadt. You can hear a track in advance of its release below. More details regarding tracklisting and release dates will be shared in the near future. Alive is set for release at Roadburn Festival, with all pre-orders scheduled to ship in the week following the festival. Pre-orders will be available via Consouling Sounds. Hypnotic stuff.
  • Almost three years in the making, ‘Soundtrack Doom’ band Merrin have  released their follow up to 2013’s “Doom Cinema”. “Midnight Movies! is a 6 track collection of songs inspired by late night movies. Everything from horror, to kung fu, to post apocalyptic action movies and the plain bizarre, the band have broadened their scope beyond simply rehashing Goblin scores  to deliver something more unique, unpredictable, cinematic and very much in the spirit of the films they take inspiration from. It is also the first release to be recorded with a full band present for the entire session. The result is an album that sounds heavier and more driven than before, featuring Chris Purdie on all guitars, Arturs Reirs on Drums and Misha Hering on Synth, the band sounds bigger and more epic.
  • Joy abounds with news of a new Melvins album and it sounds like a cracker. The band, who have a history of imaginative line-up changes, feature not one, but six different bass players on their appropriately titled new album, “Basses Loaded” (June 3, Ipecac Recordings).  The collection features Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover joined by Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic, Redd Kross’ Steve McDonald, Butthole Surfers’ J.D. Pinkus, Big Business’ Jared Warren, Mr. Bungle/Fantomas’ Trevor Dunn (aka Melvins Lite) and Crover swapping the drum kit for bass in the Melvins 1983 iteration. Here is a taster via Rolling Stone. They will be back in Europe in the summer, the only date pencilled in so far is in Bristol but hopefully more will follow.
  • The duo of Stuart Dahlquist and Edgy59, under the banner of The Poisoned Glass, have released the video for ‘Toil And Trouble’ ahead of the launch of their debut album 10 SWORDS on April 22nd via Ritual Productions. The video uses footage of a performance of the work of Bauhaus artist and choreographer Oskar Schlemmer – the surreal costume design and faceless dancers mesh with The Poisoned Glass’ aesthetic, which echoes Peter Hammill at his most cinematic and intense. I’m looking forward to the album based on this teaser.
  • ……..and to close Richard Citroen & Stephanie B, aka Lola Dutronic are back with a new video from the excellent “Lost In Translation” album – a marvellous band.

North Atlas

North Atlas are a Scottish electronic rock band, based in Glasgow. Formed in late 2015 the group comprises of the two Hunter brothers, with Scandinavian roots, and two members from central Scotland with a background in heavy rock.


After releasing the bands first single ‘Hal’ with a tongue-in-cheek video filmed across Scotland/England/Finland/Japan & America, the band have begun to gain momentum and the beginnings of a strong following.

Having been featured by prominent XFM new music DJ Jim Gellatly, performing a well received headline show at beloved Glasgow venue Stereo and another forthcoming headline show in March at Sound Control in Manchester on March 17th the group’s fan-base is  growing steadily.

With a ‘no backing tracks’ policy and innovative use of electronic sounds played on drum pads and triggered by the bass guitar, alongside the use of the conventional rock band set up (Drum kit, Guitars etc.) the band have a distinct sound; not a crossover genre, but an amalgamation of Electronics and Rock.

What’s In A Name?

Franco Bandini

2014 was a bad year

German Shepherd

23rd October 2015

FB Cover Original Sharpened

It’s a strange old world. Full of coincidences and serendipity. Packed full of highs and lows, sideways steps and reversals. No more so in the world of music.

A couple of years back I was in a bar in Castlefield in Manchester, July 2013 to be precise, a place I don’t normally frequent, mainly due to the serious lack of pubs selling decent beer in the area, no Holts = No Go for me. For those of you that don’t know Castlefield, it’s a new City Centre development of flats, restaurants and bars nestling between the east Salford border at Ordsall/MIddlewood, and the northern edge of Moss Side/Hulme, a sorry testament to over-development and embourgeoisement, all middle class and aspirational and frankly mostly depressing.

The Courteeners were wailing away in the Castlefield Bowl a few hundred yards away, it was packed out, young girls were vomiting on benches outside the Bowl entrance, there was a heavy police presence. We moved round to Barca to get away from it all.

The sun was shining, the beer was flowing, what a perfect scenario for a  young rock band called Sam Smith & Co to stamp their identity on the middlemass of Manchester, you would have thought. I reviewed it all in a gushing fan-boy way and prophesied in Landau-like manner some sort of epiphany.  The epiphany, no matter how deserved, never occurred. Names got in the way.  Mostly notably, to quote Neil of Bouquet of Dead Crows, “is that the bloke that sounds like a cow mooing?”, “Sam Smith” the brand  got in the way, and record company lawyers got a bit involved.  Sam Smith & Co got lost in the miasma of Cowell-world.

Move on thirteen  months, a change of plan, a change of direction and a new name. Excitement ensued,  New tunes were revealed and they were special.  Teasers on video and bandcamp were excellent. Sam become Franky (Jameson) and a gig was planned at The Castle on Oldham Street. They were called The Parish Church Fire.  And then it went quiet, the gig was cancelled. Life had got in the way.

14 months after that hiatus the talent that is Sam Smith/Franky Jameson/Franco Bandini emerges from a dark chrysalis with a new sound, a new manifesto, and his best work to date. There had been discussion about the potential for German Shepherd to release something, and then things went quiet for a while,  However September saw the arrival of some demo songs which were remarkable. I often get quite jaded sitting listening to some of the material I get asked to review and play – but these songs were very special indeed. They made me stop and think, they moved me. We had to release these songs, no question about it.

And so you have four new tracks from Franco Bandini. Now all of these names can be quite confusing so for the purposes of the rest of this piece please assume I am talking to and about Franco.

What we have hear is a remarkable set of songs which mark a huge transition from the punk/rock approach of the previous two bands to a stripped back, angst ridden, tortured blues soaked ballad format. If you are not immediately grabbed and impressed by this music then I fear for your eternal soul.

You can pre-order it now and it will be released in full on 23rd October. There’s no vinyl or CD version so don’t bother asking if there will be one. Unless of course we sell a lot of these digitally and we can afford to fund it.

The promo prepared for the EP says the following:

A twenty first century outsider figure, Franco Bandini possesses a style of deceptive simplicity, full of emotional immediacy and tremendous psychological point. Among the releases that have comprised his career, Bandini’s crowning accomplishments were, for many, his hard rock work under the name ‘The Parish Church Fire’. An impoverished young Lancastrian-Mancunian, Bandini, armed with no high school education and the insane desire to write music, escaped his suffocating hometown of Atherton to seek glory in a dystopian millennial-era Manchester. He arrives with big dreams but he finds the reality; a city gripped by nostalgia. He now makes music for the people who lurk in the outskirts of this commercial hell.

An ‘Acoustic EP’ containing no acoustic guitar, ‘2014 Was a Bad Year’ is a record made by an outsider for outsiders. After achieving a modicum of success with a string of punk musicians, Franco Bandini has retreated on this record to explore a sound more in line with his dark, depraved inner voice. Tales of murder, abandonment, alienation and suicide adorn the 15-minute extended play and the music reflects these lyrical themes. Recorded over just two days with no other musicians, the four songs are a nod to the great-underrated author John Fante (his novels ‘1933 Was a Bad Year’, ‘Ask the Dust’ and ‘Wait Until Spring, Bandini’ providing obvious inspiration). The artwork depicts John Fante himself, with an added semicolon used a symbol of hope for those suffering with depression, anxiety and thoughts of self-harm, the underlying engine room of the themes presented on this record.

Of the 9 songs recorded by Bandini in the session, 4 appear on this release courtesy of German Shepherd Records. With the idea of creating something raw, all songs were completed with minimal accompaniment, no overdubbing and no more than 2 takes were attempted on any of the tracks throughout the recording process. The result is a broody EP that provides a true representation of the emotions felt within the recording process; no glitter, no sparkle, just Bandini in a room with a microphone.

Keen to learn more, and so some things could be clarified I asked Franco about life music and, naturally, football, given his abiding love of Manchester United FC:

Where was the EP recorded? and when? Is it just you performing?

I recorded it one Sunday morning in my home studio. In total, I recorded 9 tracks, 5 of which have been delivered to German Shepherd Records (4 for the EP and one for a compilation) and I’m still mulling over what to do with the other 4. I wanted to do the entirety of the recordings in one take, which didn’t work so I stretched to no more than two, which thankfully did. I didn’t want to involve anybody else at all so I dug deep into my vaults, found some songs and completed them and also wrote some new ones. I also didn’t want to use any acoustic guitar, just to see if it could be done initially. This worked out and I’m so glad it did. Even the sketchy solo on ‘Ask the Dust’ wasn’t done with an acoustic, it is my unplugged telecaster with the microphone gain turned right up to pick it up from across the room.

What led you from the harder rock/punk sound of Sam Smith & Co and The Parish Church Fire to this new sound? The Parish Church Fire had a lot of promise and I was genuinely excited by the sound – it seems a pity it wasn’t taken further?

Those two bands and the way they faded to black are what happen when you rely on other people, especially in the case of the latter. Obviously Sam Smith & Company could go no further because of Universal Music Group’s ignorance, which is regrettable in itself but with The Parish Church Fire, just as we were finding our feet, I had a full scale mental breakdown and just couldn’t go public with any of my music for over a year. The new record is about mental illness so it is important that I talk about that. The semicolon I placed on the artwork is a symbol of hope for people suffering with depression, anxiety and thoughts of self harm. I physically couldn’t go public with any of my music during that period as a result of my own conditions, despite trying. I joined a thrash metal band at one point during that period which just didn’t work (The Whiskey, Guns & Bridges Blues and Videotapes have their roots in those sessions) and then I made ’2014 Was a Bad Year’ to draw a line under it. I made it completely by myself because I didn’t want to work with other musicians.

My new sound is still “hard” in my eyes. I found this great quote from Tom Morello when I was in Nashville last year which helped me see everything differently. “Folk music – the music of Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs, early Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger – could be as heavy as anything that comes through a Marshall stack. The combination of three chords and the right lyrical couplet can be as heavy as anything in the Metallica catalogue”.

Being where I was both geographically and mentally certainly helped me make more sense of it and I’ve carried it with me since. I’ve recently sold my massive guitar rig that I carried on tour with Sam Smith & Company and am I at all restricted from making “heavy” music as a result? Absolutely not, the songs speak for themselves musically and lyrically.

There is a lot of raw emotion in the songs, quite angst ridden in places, where did this come from?

It came from the place I was in; reading a ton of dark literature, drinking too much beer, eating too much pizza, taking too much valium and listening to heavy metal all night in a chair in the centre of a dark room. The lyrical content and the subsequent meanings are to be decided by the people that listen to them, the music is where the story is for me. Channeling that Morello quote, I tried to get the essence of something you’d hear on a Slayer record without using the same tools as Slayer. In my mind, I delivered this in spades. I’m proud of this record, it has been, by far, the easiest to make by virtue of how it was made and also because it was no labour of love like my previous two. It had to happen like that in hindsight.

The last track ‘Ask the Dust’ presented itself unbelievably. I have absolutely no recollection of writing that song, I was just trawling through hundreds of songs in my “demos” folder and there it was. I “blacked out” for a period of about 7 months in the pits of that depression and I barely remember anything from it. Now I’ve found a ton of songs that I don’t remember writing from that period and Ask the Dust seemed to fit better than any of the others.

Franco Bandini Base Image

Are there any specific artists that inspired this new sound? in terms of a stripped back change in direction the obvious comparison, knowing your fondness for the man, is Springsteen’s Nebraska. But i’m also thinking of Steve Earle’s album of Townes Van Zandt covers, some of the rawer Americana that Southern Lord have put out recently (Steve Von Till etc) and Mark Lanegan – when he is on form.

Obviously Nebraska, as Springsteen is the centre of my universe. I’ve always loved Country, Americana, Blues etc but something about spending a lot of time in the southern states last year really rammed it home. I did a road trip in the name of Springsteen which took me to Chicago, Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia and Washington D.C. You can’t visit those places as a musician and not be inspired to make something similar. This was supposed to be a Country EP in honour of that but rather than force that style upon it, I decided to just let it flow when recording and the result is ‘2014 Was a Bad Year’. It isn’t country at all!

Other influences, as always are Greg Dulli & Mark Lanegan. The album they did together as The Gutter Twins has always been my own personal Magna Carta on how to make music since its release in 2008. It seeps into absolutely everything I do somehow and this was no exception. And of course Cash of all incarnations. When I was in Nashville, I blagged my way onto the stage at the Ryman Auditorium (where they used to record the Grand Ol’ Opry and of course, the Johnny Cash Show), grabbed a guitar and performed Folsom Prison Blues which was incredible. I hope that one day, I will headline there and tell that story to an audience that probably won’t believe me! Good job I have a video of it…

Are you planning any more Franco Bandini projects?

Of course. This is me now. I legally cannot be Sam Smith anymore so I am Franco Bandini, wherever it takes me, for better or worse. My next releases may not follow in this vein, although I can’t really say at the moment. I wanted to make a statement with this record and it was relatively easy because my remit and my resources were in line with each other. If I wanted to make a bonafide country record (something which I have the songs for & did consider), I may struggle as I don’t own a pedal steel guitar and I don’t live in Nashville. I’d also need other musicians for more ambitious projects and I’m in ‘camp sound engineer’ when it comes to this…musicians are all fucking cunts

You’ve indicated that John Fante’s writing has been a big inspiration. Could you tell us a bit more about him.

In my one-chair-pizza-beer-heavy-metal sabbatical, I read a lot of fiction by a lot of great authors and nobody struck me harder than Fante. Bukowski cited him as an influence and, being an avid fan of his I checked him out and was mesmerised. I’ve read his works in the last 12 months which was a bit of a challenge as some of his novels were out of print but I got there in the end and to quote Bob Dylan “every one of them words rang true and glowed like burnin’ coal. Pourin’ off of every page like it was written in my soul from me to you”. That’s how I felt about Fante and his limitations and I identified with it all. He is greatly under rated and despite losing his sight to diabetes, he continued to write by dictating to his wife before his death in 1983. Everyone should read ‘Ask the Dust’, the story of Arturo Bandini & Camilla’s non-romance. It’s so good that I wrote a song about it. I’d never do that for The Great Gatsby or The Catcher in the Rye but then again who would? Overrated toss.

You have said this is a studio project, although I think a certain DJ wants you to so some songs when you go in to see him. Have you abandoned live performance completely?

There will be absolutely no live shows (in Manchester at least) ever again. I tentatively accepted a gig in London in September which never materialised and looking back I’m glad. I struggled to captivate the smartphone obsessed wankers that stain my generation with the loudest punk band in Manchester so the odds of me doing it on my own with my guitar and piano are slim to none. Either way, I’d rather not find out. Besides, I’ve sold all of my gear so I couldn’t do it anyway.

I’ll probably knock out a couple of covers on the radio as I always do. Thrasher by Neil Young or Idiot Wind by Dylan…something long, designed to bore people to death so I never get asked again (I jest)

What music are you currently listening to?

At this present moment I’m listening to Seasons in the Abyss by Slayer as today is its 25th anniversary and with it being my all time favourite metal album, I couldn’t resist. More generally, iTunes tells me I’ve been listening to a lot of Neil Young, Afghan Whigs, Mastodon, Glen Campbell & Ernest Tubb this month which is just a snapshot of course. I recently fell in love with Chopin again, drunkenly declaring his style the invention of punk rock (in my eyes of course). I stand by that and I listen to his music more now than I did when I fell in love with him first time round. I went to Warsaw last year, maybe that has helped although, I must say that when I drive through Middleton it makes me dislike The Courteeners even more than I already do so its swings and roundabouts.

Louis Van Gaal – yes or no?

I absolutely adore him. I must admit, at the time, I wanted Ancelotti as I absolutely love that guy too but I read a book about van Gaal and I just bought into the whole thing immediately. He only runs into trouble when people lack ambition, work ethic and the discipline to succeed and because his methods are entirely built around total immersion in that “philosophy”, he has occasionally come unstuck. Incidentally, it reminds me of my two failed bands in some weird way. Had everyone else shared my drive & ambition they’d have had to bring back Top of the Pops just to indulge how successful we’d have inevitably become. I joke of course, but there is a shred of truth there. I’ll settle for a European Cup

Are you worried about Jurgen Klopp?

No. He got Mainz relegated, failed to get them promoted back into the Bundesliga, resigned, went to Dortmund and had a questionable record, spent half a season in the relegation zone, resigned again and somehow they are calling him elite. Had he got the United job after Moyes I would have been very disappointed and there is a reason why he didn’t get that job…because he isn’t good enough. He will fit in very well at Liverpool.




Fascinating Things : Issue 28

As Mr Moss once said “Strap yourself in, it could be a rough ride…..”, welcome to another bumper edition of some Fascinating Things sent to me by those lovely promo people…..there is a curious mixture of things this week from sprightly pop, via electro, ethereal drones to more heavy stuff.

Kranky have announced plans to release the fourth Loscil album, “Plume” for the first time on vinyl format. This classic record, originally released May 2006, will be released via the label on double LP 16th October. This news arrives as Loscil aka Scott Morgan also reveals tour dates in November, which marks the first official European tour since the release of the most recent album “Sea Island”.  For those of you who live near me he is on at The Eagle in the Blackfriars area of Sunny Salford on November 23rd, one of only three UK dates, so a bit of a coup for us lot round these parts.

​Scottish four piece Proud Honey launches new single ‘​Weekend Millionaire’ ​out on the 17th October 2015, Influenced by a credit card fuelled stag do on which the band members went out on the town and spent ‘ridiculous amounts of money we didn’t have’, Already nominated for best British band 2015 by Pure M magazine (never heard of it but I don’t suppose they’ve heard of me), the band have also been compared to the varied and brilliant likes of The Stone Roses, The Verve, Primal Scream, Oasis, the Charlatans and many more classic British bands. Of course they sound absolutely nothing like any of them – I was reminded of the blues rock bands I used to go and see in the early 1970s…..Stray, UFO etc

“Mississippi Beat” is the first single from forthcoming album ‘Companeros’ from Ian Prowse. A duet between Prowse and legendary Irish Gaelic singer Pauline Scanlon. Mississippi Beat is a  break-up song. The two singers became firm friends after performing together at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall with Dublin legend Damien Dempsey. Prowse also tours with his band Amsterdam later this year and will play Gullivers. Manchester on 14th November.

“The Camel, The Lion, The Child” is the eight-track, near hour-long sound excursion from Seattle-based  progressive doomgaze collective, He Whose Ox Is Gored. Tracked at Red Room and Ex Ex Audio in Seattle by Robert Cheek (Serial Hawk, Noise-A-Tron etc.) with additional recording at Avast Studios with Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Earth, Wolves In The Throne Room etc.), mixed by Matt Bayles (Isis, Mastodon etc.) and mastered by frequent collaborator, Blake Bickel, The Camel, The Lion, The Child is sonically and conceptually very interesting indeed. The band – members Brian McClelland (guitar, vocals), Lisa Mungo (synths, keyboards, vocals), Mike Sparks (bass) and John O’Connell (drums) – transcend musical boundaries with a meticulous  amalgamation of technical guitar structures and atmospheric synth over a pummeling rhythm section, the end result yielding a unique cinematic soundscape. Check it out on the Sonic Attack podcast.

Photo by Amy Billharz

Irata’s second album, “Sweet Loris”, will see release through Kylesa’s label, Retro Futurist, on  October 9th, 2015. The sound of Greensboro, North Carolina-based trio dodges genre barriers with dexterous, infectious grooves influenced by a variety of underground rock and metal scenes. Once an instrumental act, the lineup has shifted from a trio to a duo and back, and following several lineup shifts since their inception eight years ago, the band has solidified things with its most impressive recording yet.   With nearly forty minutes of material packed into seven new tracks, Sweet Loris was recorded by the band  at The Jam Room, produced by Phillip Cope and engineered by Cope and Zac Thomas, and the record completed with artwork by Santos and design by Phillip Yeary.  A fairly pungent release with a lot of energy echoing early Sabbath in parts – most enjoyable.


Transcendental Canadian duo, The Visit — comprised of cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne (Musk Ox, Woods Of Ypres session) and vocalist Heather Sita Black -release their debut on October 9th. Fittingly titled Through “Darkness Into Light”, the album was recorded and mixed by Leon Taheny (Owen Pallett, Ohbijou) at Union Sound Company in Toronto, mastered by Alan Douches (Between The Buried And Me, Martyr) at West West Side Music in New Windsor, New York and offers up a five-track, hour-long journey that is both hauntingly beautiful and epic in scope.  A musical dialogue that transcends genres and idioms, the duo’s sound is characterized by long, compositions which can be compared to sacred music in their form and delivery.

The Visit  have received virtually unanimous praise for their live performances as well as their debut recording “Between Worlds”. The band secured coveted slots at Nouvelle Prague Festival in Prague, Czech Republic, Ottawa’s RBC Bluesfest, and the Royal Conservatory’s esteemed 21C Festival in Toronto. After refining their craft and sharing stages with artists of all genres, only one element was missing: an album. Combining the structures and instrumentation of classical chamber music with the intricacy of Middle Eastern and Persian music and the emotional and rhythmic weight of metal, their lengthy, through-composed pieces conjure sonic worlds in which listeners can immerse themselves. I don’t think anyone else will release anything remotely like this at any other time. It is completely unique, a partnership between a fragile voice and a riffed/bowed/plucked cello. Stark and uncompromising it demands your attention.

A new studio album from SUNN O))), “Kannon”, will be released officially on 4th December 2015 via Southern Lord. Composed in the after-shadow of SUNN O)))’s most recent successful  collaborations (the group worked with Scott Walker on Soused, Ulver on Terrestrials in 2013 and 2014) and also from the success  of their  Monoliths & Dimensions album, “Kannon” emerged both independently as a conceptual entity and with roots in the legacies of those projects, yet was fully realised years later, in 2015. The album consists of three pieces : Kannon 1, 2 and 3.

The album celebrates many SUNN O))) traditions; Kannon was recorded and mixed with SUNN O)))’s close colleague and co-producer Randall Dunn in Seattle, in Studio Litho, Aleph and Avast!; and the LP includes performances by long term allies and collaborators Attila Csihar, Oren Ambarchi, Rex Ritter, and Steve Moore to name a few. At the core, the composition centres around the dynamic and intense guitar and bass interplay of SUNN O)))’s founders: Stephen O’Malley & Greg Anderson.

Southern Lord say:

“It is possibly the most figurative album SUNN O))) has created, which is unusual as they usually dwell in layers of abstraction and subjectivity. On the other hand the album is the most outright “metal” in years, drawing personal associations and memories of cherished albums like Panzerfaust and Twilight of the Gods again to the forefront of consciousness. Kannon is also very close to the cyclical character of mantra which the band has evolved into as a living creature, the enormity of intense sensate detail and manifestation of the live in concert element of SUNN O))), the organism that has flourished, metamorphosed and transcended tremendously over the past ten years.”

Kannon will be available on gatefold LP, CD and digital formats worldwide on 4 December, with a limited number of clear vinyl available on Black Friday RSD, Friday 27 November.

Photo : Peter Beste
Photo : Peter Beste

Nina Schofield is a London-based singer-songwriter who’s hard work and DIY attitude have gained her a pretty impressive music CV. She’s co-written and co-worked with Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe winners and nominees including a striking list of names such as Morrisey’s Richard Niles, Gabrielle Aplin’s Tom Wilding, Usher’s Angelo Valentino and Orbital’s Lloyd Perrin.

After casually self-releasing one of her singles, Nina instantly charted on number 4 on iTunes which got her a buffet of industry individuals wanting to get behind her as an artist. Totally by chance Nina’s paths crossed with a BMG/Chrysalis writer/producer Jo Pereira, known for his ‘out there’ way of thinking and ‘behind-the-scenes’ approach in production. The outcome of their collaboration comes in the shape of Nina’s upcoming new single Come Down.

Sounding like the perfect lovechild between Sky Ferreira, Ella Eyre and Major Lazer, Come Down is current, cool, edgy, memorable and worthy of everyone’s attention. Why, I hear you ask? Well, first of all, Nina’s vocals literally sound like silk covering a ticking bomb pulsating in the background. Then with the help of gritty synth bassline and powerful arrangements, the track explodes massively in each chorus whilst quickly becoming an unforgettable pinnacle to any listener’s ear.

The contrasting sonic spectrum of vulnerability and perseverance makes Come Down a powerful track and will be available for sale and download via 23rd Precinct/ Notting Hill Music on the 6th November 2015.

Stockholm’s Jenny Hansen’s new record “River” is a subtle blend of electro and pop. Down tempo, minimal electronic music powerfully led by a lush  vocal arrangement echoes Bjork during her Medulla period.  There’s enough glitchy things going on and a blues tinged soulful vocal makes this stand out, ‘River’ will be released on Monday 26th October.

Album Nº3 from Christina Vantzou is the result of a two-year process of composing, arranging, rearranging, experimenting, and melding classical instruments with synths and electronics. Recorded in Belgium with a 15-piece ensemble of strings, horns, woodwinds and micro-choir, the tracks vacillate between orchestral, ambient soundscapes and more structured works that the composer refers to as “pillars.” The internal core of the record  is a series of  drones surrounded by soft, subtle and sometimes intense clusters of sound.

The structured tracks mark a new direction for Vantzou. Whereas 100% of the music on albums Nº1 and Nº2 was composed without time structure or steady click, the pieces on Nº3 adhere to a solid mathematical scheme.  Nº3’s virtual instruments and voice samples hearken back to Vantzou’s time with The Dead Texan, specifically tracks like “Aegina AIrlines” and “When I see scissors I cannot help but think of you”. The synths on Nº3 were given special attention and were recorded over a 2 week period using a DX7, Yamaha CS20, Roland Juno-6, and a selection of eurorack modular synths, making Nº3 very much a hybrid record, both symphonic and synth-based.

It’s her best work yet.

Photo : Julie Calbert
Photo : Julie Calbert

Kowloon Walled City release their long-awaited new full-length this Autumn. “Grievances”, their third album and first for Neurot Recordings, finds the San Francisco band at its artistic peak, having moved even further away from its sludgy, post-hardcore origins and toward a more sparse, more melancholic detuned heaviness.

This shift began with 2012’s critically successful Container Ships, which Lambgoat described as “spacious” and “hypnotic,” with a “Shellac-like use of dead time and instrumentation,” and The Obelisk called “cerebral in approach.” On Grievances, the band takes these elements to even greater extremes. The strings rattle. The guitars crackle and blister. The notes ring out, at turns bleak and beautiful — sometimes both at once.

“We dug into this expansive, less distorted vibe. The songs are mostly slow and bummed out but we still want them to push, to have energy,” said vocalist/guitarist Scott Evans.

Evans, together with guitarist Jon Howell, bassist Ian Miller, and drummer Jeff Fagundes spent over two years working on the seven songs for Grievances. The intense editing process weeded out about two albums’ worth of songs. Howell’s unusual chord changes and discordant aesthetic channel Unwound and Slint. Miller’s gritty bass adds a surprising layer of depth and melody, while Fagundes’ drums resonate in what sounds like an impossibly large room. Evans’ shouted vocals are raw with frustration and disappointment, but without the typical veneer of macho aggression.

“We’re not interested in doing something that’s good enough — we want to do something that we believe is good,” said Miller. “With Scott’s concept and sonics and Jon’s playing and our rhythm section, we feel like should be able to do something interesting. But it’s hard work.”

The concept of work forms the thematic foundation of the entire record, from the cover art to the title and the lyrics. Whereas previous Kowloon Walled City releases were largely inspired by the band’s hometown of San Francisco, Grievances focuses its attention on our complex relationships with work and the power our employment — and employers — have over us.

As with Kowloon Walled City’s previous releases, Evans recorded and mixed, starting in Sharkbite Studios and finishing in his own Antisleep Audio, both in Oakland. “We’re not a fancy band. There are no effects to speak of, no reverb, no delays,” said Evans. “We each play one guitar, one pedal, one amp. So there’s not much to hide behind. I try to respect that in our recording process and our recordings.”

Kowloon Walled City formed in 2007 and has released an EP, Turk Street (Wordclock, 2008), and two full-length albums, Gambling On The Richter Scale (Perpetual Motion Machine, 2009) and Container Ships (Brutal Panda, 2012), as well as two splits. Among the bands it has shared stages with are Neurosis, Tragedy, Sleep, Thou, Coliseum, Zozobra, Fight Amp, Roomrunner, The Body, and Helms Alee.

Grievances will be released worldwide on October 9th, 2015 on Neurot Recordings, with vinyl on Gilead Media.