It has been relatively quiet of late. No bad thing really with lots of other distractions to keep me occupied. However there have been a couple of sad pieces of news. The recent passing of local music business figure Alan Wise came as a shock. Alan was instrumental in developing a lot of opportunities for the young talent in the Manchester area which blossomed out of that infamous gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1976, which of course has been much covered over the last few days. I was still down in Northampton in that June, working in a Venetian Blind factory of all places so I missed it, but I lived around the aftermath of that event for many years. Alan was the key players around the birth of Factory and also in later years looked after The Fall for a while. I should also note the passing of Lost Cassettes bass player Gary Bamforth who was taken at far too young and age.
On to matters around new music and a catch up on a few of things that have caught my eyes…..
Local musician, record label guru and DJ Mark Corrin has released a “double album’s” worth of selection from his raft of 2015 EPs many of which have been featured on my podcasts. The 16 track release covers a wide variety of styles and genres and is a perfect introduction to the work of one of the most important talents living and working in the Greater Manchester area.
“Parking Lot”, the new self-produced EP by the critically-acclaimed, young, genre-bending, female-fronted trio The Accidentals, tells the powerful story of coming of age and coming home. For the band that launched their career in high school with over a thousand concerts, to becoming Billboard Magazine’s top breakout artist at SXSW 2015, their story is packed full of opportunity, pitfall, and resilience. High quality folky Americana with a good melodic feel.
New Zealanders Civic Union had an album out in May which I have just been sent details of. The band have a memorable post-punk sound which is added to by a remarkable vocal style which sort of hangs around the grunge area but and is vaguely in the direction of The Birthday Party meets Sonic Youth in the dark end of town. You can get the album at Bandcamp in the usual way. Anyone who name checks the legendary Country Teasers is OK by me.
Also notable, and on the same label as the above, i.e. Melted Ice Cream, is the breathless shuffle punk of Invisible Threads whose recent release is called Oxide. Quality stuff and well worth a listen.
And further, on the same label, is Wormstar, which appears to be the vehicle for Auckland based multi-instrumentalist Alex Angrignon who delivers a jangly punk sound, again in the Moore/Renaldo area but also maybe a bit of Ty Segall and people of that ilk. This album is a “name your price” release and you would do well to drop a few coins in their direction.
Turning to more noisy matters I strongly recommend Greek Hardcore band Sarabante who have a second album out on June 10th. Pretty intense stuff!
And to conclude the ever excellent Dogs Got A Bone label has a compilation out featuring the best of new bands from north of the border. There are some exceptional bands on the label, including the excellent Girobabies , so I recommend you give it a listen.
And so into 2016 by mopping up the rear end of 2015 and running through my top twenty albums of the year.
Theologian’s latest is 70 minutes of industrial noise, buried drum machines, layers of ambience, occasional spoken word, howling guitars and menacing intent. Those bought up on a diet of early Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle and Test Department will no doubt enjoy it. It’s a distracting enough listen to get me through a boring New Years Day afternoon with nowt good on the bad telly-v. Anyway it’s called “Dregs” and you can find it on Lee Bartow’s own Annihilvs Power Electronix label. With Bartow on this release are Daniel Suffering (Whorid, Slavernij) and Dave Brenner (Militia Men, Heidnik), together with vocal contributions from Gretchen Heinel, Faith Ciavarella, and additional percussion by BJ Allen (Full Scale Riot). (to be featured on Aural Delights Podcast 163)
Mark Corrin finished off his ambitious plan to release 12 EPs in 2015 with hours to spare. Number 11 is a remarkable trio of stark improvised pieces from a session in Istanbul.
He has saved the best to last with Number 12, a breezy, bright and compelling trio of electro-pop gems which demonstrate Mark’s more accessible side. A fantastic achievement across all 12 releases which demonstrate considerable variety, invention and quality.
A germ ridden Dr Kloos completes a busy year with a great live album from the Crescent in Salford. Containing some of his “greatest hits” the set, which was recorded on the 6th June 2015 by Jim Watts, is a great summary of Johann’s work to date.
I don’t know about a lot of this so-called “nu folk” stuff. Most of it leaves me pretty cold. This chaps voice has a quality and the lyrics are suitably interesting to grab my ear. He is Jamie Beau and this is the lead track from his debut album ‘Tales of the Earth, Tales of the Sea…’. I am reminded, to some degree, of John Martyn.
Richard J. Birkin, so called “sound artist, composer, live concert performer and creative technologist”, will release his new 11-track album “Vigils” on March 11th 2016 via Reveal Records, which will be available in CD, LP and digital download formats. Here’s what he sounds like…
And to close my top twenty albums of 2015 starting with my best of the year…..
The Seven Twenty – The Seven Twenty
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Just Sit A Think And Sometimes I Just Think
The Holy Soul – Fortean Times
Alif – Aynama –Rtama
Monkeys In Love – Take The Biscuit (couldn’t find anything on You Tube from the album so here’s a classic)
Dave Graney & the mistLY – Play mistLY for me – live recordings vol 1
Things tend to slow down at this time of year music wise, if only to make space for all the nonsensical tat that gets offered to willing punters in the shape of “Xmas” frippery. In the best traditions of Scrooge I tend to try and ignore most of the so called holiday period as possible, it has lost the charm it used to have with the relentless commercialisation and capitalist fervour that appears to apply these days. In any event despite the attempt to ram yet another “christmas single” down my throat from a good number of the promo people I remain steadfastly obdurate and only share with you music which is of value and lasts longer than past 25th December.
Doctor Kloos is back with a new one which as he says was “Made specially for my first London gig on the 12th December 2015, a nice breezy compilation of latter day Kloos tracks, which is sure to get under your skin. There are physical copies of this on CDR, called “Sounds Like Kloos” with unique individually made sleeves if anyone wants to order a copy, contact me at email@example.com.”. As supporters of Kloos-mania we recommend this to you.
And while I’m at it I seem to have completely missed his October release “Carousel” which is very remiss of me…..
The tenth in a series of monthly (mostly) EPs from Mark Corrin is called “Xenomorph” and is a marked change from the previous nine. Mark describes it as a “……more experimental post-rock / ambient collaboration with David Fox. It’s certainly got some influence from the likes of Mogwai and later era Talk Talk”. As with the rest of the 2015 series there is plenty here to get excited about.
And that’s your lot for 2015. Fascinating Things will be back in 2016 with more news and views about music.
Straight into it this time, far too many new things to share, so lots of links and very little in the way of words:
Proggy stuff in a Porcupine Tree style from South Wales. The band is Goldbringer:
Maini, from Sweden, starts off a bit Enya and then oddly goes a bit Sabbath, more Enya and then an AOR solo….. strangely compelling:
The new Kristian Harting album “Summer of Crush” will be featured on this weeks Aural Delights Podcast, here’s video from it:
Ummagma are back with a new release called “Frequency” here is the delightful, but far too short, opening track:
On Friday 13th November 2015, R*E*P*E*A*T Records and Pure Deadly release THIS IS THE SOUND OF SUGAR TOWN: a 12” vinyl and download album featuring twelve acts from “the UK’s unsung DIY rock capital, Bury St Edmunds”. All profits go to the towns’ Women’s Refuge. The CD is hopefully winging it’s way to me for airplay – pending that have a gander at Bandcamp:
Righteous Reprobates seem have picked on the sound of Burnage, which is interesting was they are from London/Kent. This is their first single which is out in early December. Useful to fill the Gallagher shaped hole in your life:
Avec Le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche, Montreal’s premiere purveyors of long-form experimental kraut-funk, will head to Europe for the first time this November. The quartet will bring their idiosyncratic and uncannily cohesive pairing of dizzying conceptual headiness and dancefloor-ready rhythmic precision, sadly they are only playing London and Coventry. Their album “Zubberdust!” was very good indeed.
Mark Corrin‘s new EP is excellent. Stop sitting around listening to Adele and go and get it…..
The Deadline Shakes have re-recorded their excellent tune “Sweeten The Deal” and very good is it to:
From their beginnings, Zrazy have tackled social and political issues head-on through their music from feminism to abortion to gay rights, leading to an outright ban on Ireland’s national radio. Their new single is here and is very good:
And finally, a new one from West Yorkshire’s finest Monster Jaw
And still they come, it has been a bumper year for new music, and this week in particular has been replete with fantastic, fascinating things:
Mark Corrin – EP7 0 Earthbound (Bandcamp)
Mark continues his run of EPs with three slices of ambient, glitchy, soundscapes. Lots of things going on here, all of them interesting, continuing the quality of material released to date this year.
Dave Graney – Night of the Wolverine demos/Early 90s songwriter demos
Seven songs recorded in 1991 on a 4 track cassette that eventually ended up on the Coral Snakes album, “Night Of The Wolverine”, which was recorded in a weekend late in 1992. The other songs were recorded around the same time. Dave Graney felt hollowed out after the failure to get the album “I Was The Hunter and I Was The Prey” out. Recorded in London with the original Coral Snakes in 1990. It eventually came out in 1992 on Fire Records in the UK. The idea of gathering another head of steam or bunch of songs as strong as that seemed impossible and Dave thought his future lay in being a songwriter for other artists. The last four of these songs were intended to be sung by a female. “I walked with a Saint” and “I’m gonna live my life” which was eventually covered by Lisa Miller. “Somewhere in the world” was recorded by Tex Perkins for his debut solo album, “Far be it from me” in 1996. This is a stripped down and laid back Dave exploring other avenues and trying out ideas. Historically important as it demonstrates the eventual way forward as well as a different direction that was never embarked on. The first seven songs are included in the expanded version of Night of the Wolverine recently released on I-Tunes/Amazon so be careful!
Northern Uproar – Hey Samurai! (Pledge Music)
Effortless, beautifully recorded, laid back superior pop music, a unique blending of classic indie with Spanish influences. It releases on October 9th. I must admit I missed out on the first phase of the band so this is all relatively new to me.
Theologian – A Means By Which To Break The Surface Of The Real (Nothing Under The Sun)
Further extends the immense catalog of recordings through labels including Crucial Blast, Handmade Birds, Malignant Records, the artist’s own Annihilvs Power Electronix. The latest tortured auditory from the soloist and collaborator, Lee M. Bartow (a.k.a. Theologian Prime), comes in the form of four sequences, nearly forty-five minutes of new material, the closing track taking up nearly twenty-two minutes on its own. This work was created through Bartow’s collaborative explorations with David Castillo (Primitive Weapons, White Widows Pact) and Daniel Suffering (Whorid), with contributions from Matt Slagle and engineer Kevin D. Reilly, Jr., who has periodically worked with Bartow since the earliest incarnations of Navicon Torture Technologies in the mid-late 1990s. “Tortured screams reach out over the tumbling industrial workings below. Low register whispered meanderings slowly rise to meet those screams. Machines’ rhythmic drones fold in on the voices. Sirens invite and warn. Sink into the synthetic abyss” says the promo. Yep, pretty accurate. Not for the faint-hearted. Out on 28th August.
The Happy Fallen – Lost and Found (Bandcamp)
The Happy Fallen is a solo project by Neale James. He has played in many bands over the years, and played with many well respected Manchester musicians/artists including Craig Gannon (of Aztec Camera/ The Smiths), Ivor Perry (Easterhouse/The Cradle), John Bramwell (The Mouth/ I Am Kloot), Stella Grundy (Intastella), and still working on occasional musical projects with Monica Ward (Happy Mondays/Domino Bones). This album is a collection of old and new recordings. The older recordings have been remixed, remastered with new vocals and instruments added. I have been featuring much of Neale’s work over the last five years and it is really great to finally get a full album from him. Neale creates of heady brew of garage and psychedelic rock – but he does explain that he thinks all music is psychedelic.Highly recommended.
You know we just might well be at the beginning of something rather special here.
By here I mean Salford, or more specifically The Crescent Pub, on The Crescent (naturally). For those of you who don’t know the place it perches on the edge of the A6 going into (or out of) Manchester overlooking the loop in the River Irwell. It’s where Marx and Engels sat and chatted about life, politics and other important things many years ago, and it is where a long awaited venue for cutting edge music is emerging.
Tony Thornborough, Steve Nicholson, Jim Watts and Gerry the landlord are a formidable partnership. They have taken the empty shell of the previous concert room, have completely turned it round, literally speaking, the stage is at the other end! But more importantly there is a decent sound system and mixer, a sound engineer in Jim Watts who knows what he wants and knows how to get it, and a promoter in Tony Thornborough, who together with his side-kick Steve Nicholson, with the vision to actually create a venue that works for the musicians and audience. Add to that ambitious plans to create a bar area in the concert room, open up the rear to the beer garden and make the whole thing more accessible and user friendly and you have all of the ingredients for a very bright future.
The concept is relatively simple and the ingredients that make it work are so easily realised. Drum Kit, bass and guitar amps, and microphones are provided on site, the bands will not have to pay to play, and the pub has an excellent range of quality beverages, and food, at reasonable prices. It’s a five minute bus ride out of central Manchester, walking distance from Salford Central and Salford Crescent rail stations, and a fifteen minute walk from Deansgate if you are feeling healthy. If you are in the car there is ample parking around the back of the venue.
The two nights that German Shepherd records put on there recently are testament to the current developing success of the venue and it’s huge potential to become the premier small gig venue in Salford and more importantly the conurbation core/city centre. Bands who haven’t quite reached the audience capacity to fill the nearby Islington Mill, or some of the medium sized venues in the city centre now have a place where they can play, and in most cases, get paid.
Last Friday (5th December) saw the first of two nights of German Shepherd artists and some special guests playing at The Crescent. John “The Junta” Montague kicked things off with a superb set of dance orientated electronica featuring music from his album Art of Glass. John’s ability to fuse 70s/80s electronica with current dance trends creates a maelstrom of laminal synthesis and funky beats. Standouts were the rich textures of “Orca” and the spooky “Devil”. The revelation was the closing tune where “Monty” demonstrated he has a fine singing voice.
Johann Kloos was up next with a selection of his psychedelic pop and rock nuggets. For someone who had not played a gig for a year he was in fine fettle rattling through a mixture of melodic songs, psych-punk, and eerie electronica. Variety is the key word in Johann’s music and he amply demonstrated his talent across a range of styles and sounds,
The ever stunning Factory Acts improve each time I see them. With sure fire favourites like “Thirst” from the new EP, the enviable majesty of Susan’s voice and keyboards, and Matt’s pungent bass and beats, makes for one the most exciting live experiences in the Greater Manchester area at the moment. The ever excellent “American’s With Guns” needs to be recorded soon and a stunning cover of Grinderman’s “No Pussy Blues” had Susan exorcising her inner Nick Cave. If you haven’t caught them live yet then I suggest you do at the next available opportunity.
Unfortunately it was getting late by now which meant I missed the last act of the evening, Una Baines excellent Poppycock, but I am advised they delivered a wonderful set. However I was able to hang around long enough to witness the return of the legendary Hamsters. With his recent departure from Kill Pretty Moet has decided to bring back the band where he feels “the most comfortable”. Nigel Blacklock, Jon Rowlinson and Damien Hughes provided a brutal and unforgiving sound to back up a bellicose Mr Morse. The band kicked off with a brand new tune, a homage to Vince Taylor, and powered through a series of classic Hamster tunes from across the years concluding with a slightly ramshackle but delightful reading of “Drowning” with guest appearances from Lucy Power and Una Baines.
Before The Hamsters were let loose on the world once more we had the debut performance of The Teenage Propshafts with Monty guesting on bass and Moet on Zen keyboards. Mr Doyle’s energetic performance of “Salford Streets” proved very popular with the crowd and no doubt is a prelude of more output from this artist.
Saturday was a more relaxed affair with the more eclectic and esoteric artists on the German Shepherd roster getting an outing. The evening kicked off with a short set from the excellent The Prick Jaggers who were charming, self-effacing, funny and down right entertaining. Patriq and Rob were in fine form and I look forward to hearing them live again.
Rose Niland, ably supported by Mark Corrin, was spectacular, her unique and compelling vocal style and her, sometimes, otherworldly music transports the listener to dusty Moroccan streets via chill Scandanavian landscapes to the heart of the blues. Her attention to detail and stage make-up demonstrates that this is artist who demands to be heard and wants to create a lasting impression. One of my missions in the next twelve months is to try and get this exceptional artist a much wider audience.
And then the force of nature that is Modal Roberts. Again an artist that puts considerable effort into his stage presentation, this evening Modal appeared to channelling a heady combination of Jack Sparrow and Q from Star Trek The Next Generation, and towards the end of the set, either Marilyn Monroe or Olive from On The Buses, at least in visual terms. Musically we got the delightfully rude “Full Sore”, a unique rendition of Eno’s “Baby’s on Fire”, a great version of “Derbyshire” and a chilling reading of “Brown” plus a selection of other tunes from his vast repertoire. Marvellous and slightly unhinged.
Due to illness the ever excellent West Coast Sick Line were unable to appear and the reliable Aidan Crossstood in. Playing a selection of Bacillus songs plus some new material Aidan’s rich voice complimented the stripped down sound of his acoustic guitar, the highlight being the wonderful “When Strangers Step in the Bar”. He is working on new material at the moment and the newer songs in the set sounded very good indeed.
And finally, and my personal favourite of the weekend, the brilliant Loop-aznavour. I was expecting him to be good having heard a lot of his material, he far exceeded my expectations. His mastery of the theremin is wonderful, his songs are memorable and his stage delivery is stunning, channelling anger, frustration and anarchy into a ferocious bundle of energy. With Moet guesting on the marvellous “Justin Beiber Must Die” this was a wonderful way to conclude two nights of genuinely unique music.
Chatting with Tony Thornborough over the two nights he was keen to describe his vision and expectations for The Crescent as a venue. The ambition and passion to create a performance space for artists is strong and the facilities that are being put in place will eventually create an unenviable live music location. German Shepherd plan to repeat the recent experience again in the new year in partnership with Tony, Steve and Jim. Something I am particularly looking forward to.