100 not out

Various Artists

100

German Shepherd Records

30th October 2015

100

So let’s be clear from the outset, this is shameful nepotism of the highest order, but I can’t find anyone else willing to review it so I may as well take up the cudgels and have a go. Given I have a rather thorough inside perspective on this compilation, as I actually compiled it, I am in a position to be both honest and accurate, and perhaps somewhat effusive. If I am breaking some sort of record industry kayfabe by doing this so be it, but German Shepherd was set up to be doggedy (pun intended) independent, and to operate outside of the norms of the music biz, so in that spirit here goes.

Set up in February 2014 the label was originally intended as a vehicle for the work of co-owner Ian Moss, who had vast library of unreleased material he wanted to share with the world. Once word had got around about the endeavour other like minded souls expressed interest or were dragged into the inner circle of the label.

The manifesto is very simple, if the music that is offered to the label is sufficiently different and does not ape current trends and fads then it will probably find a home in the German Shepherd kennel.

21 months in and the chance to mark the milestone with some of the current and future artist on the label. Requests were sent out and a delightful pot-pourri of styles and genres emerged.

For German Shepherd virgins and, for those DJs who need accurate information(you know who you are), here’s a run down of all the tracks and the artists.

Loop-aznavour – theremin toting Loop, also a member of the remarkable Adventures of Salvador. offers a single from earlier in 2015, a remarkable distiller of styles and influences Loop is a captivating live performer and a consummate songwriter. From – Bury, Greater Manchester.

Pearl Divers ; the first band I ever “discovered” in radio land they have been through many line-up changes since 2009 but always centre around leader Carl Lingard. The tune on the album is a radical -reworking/second cousin to the bands “I Love The Music” – mixing Barryesque chords with a cold war soundscape one could, and should, argue that this would be a far better Bond theme than the odious one being used for the latest movie. The band are currently working on an album. From – Eccles/Irlam, Greater Manchester.

The Get – we love this band. They are great live, they write memorable songs, and they have a unique, sometimes unashamedly ramshackle sound. From – Bournemouth, Leigh on Sea etc, down south somewhere

Bouquet of Dead Crows – some folk will have been surprised about this band being on German Shepherd, one of aims is not to be complacent around what we are about,  dealing with any preconceptions of our mode of operation by throwing a curve ball in every now and then.  On first hearing, Bouquet of Dead Crows are conventional rockers, on deeper exploration the nuances emerge, from Toni Cooper’s excellent vocals, through the great rhythm section, to the multi-guitar talents of Neil Bruce. This is a band with a lot of depth. A single and cut from the new album “Of The Night” due out soon. From – Cambridge, east of Northampton.

Loop-azznavour
Loop-aznavour

Poppycock – working with Una Baines and her collective of musicians is always a pleasure and she offered up a live recording of the band from The Crescent in Salford. Recorded by Jim “Jedi” Watts, thus perpetuating the “every other musician you meet in Manc-land used to be in The Fall” myth this lovely tune first appeared on Una’s The Fates “Furia”  album. From: Manchester.

Franco Bandini – the buzz about Franco’s recent release of the label “2014 was a bad year” is increasing daily. Perhaps slightly less dark than the tracks on the EP this offering is from the same sessions and indicates his ability to create an epic sound. We predict great things. From –  Atherton/Manchester.

IKMRAO – the two label owners don’ t consider themselves to be musicians as such, they play with words and sounds and sometimes it comes out as music. Always making a point whenever they can this one has a much needed dig at the scenesters that hang around in clumps reeking of their own self-importance. From – Ashton Under Lyne/Eccles, Greater Manchester.

The Junta
The Junta

Captain Black – once a member of the aforementioned Pearl Divers and the main writer behind the much missed Positronik, Captain “Jeff” Black is adept at creating perfect pop tunes, and this is a sublime example. From : Swindon/Manchester

The Junta – it’s obligatory to say “aah yeah” or “shabba” at this point. Also once in Pearl Divers but now in Kit B, John “Monty” Montague brings an encyclopaedic knowledge of electronica  into play for  his tunes. Also a DJ on Salford City Radio Monty is a very busy chap. From : Salford, Greater Manchester.

Staggs – probably the most fascinating duo on the label in that they continually create tunes that both amaze and confound. Main vocal man Michael T Scott has a wonderfully acerbic outlook on the world at large. Music man Ridley is able re-invent well known sounds and turn them into something new. Staggs Disco is from one of their releases before they joined German Shepherd. Deserving of international acclaim I reckon. From –  Newcastle Upon Tyne,

Passage of Time – sounds influenced by 1969 Miles Davis together with more contemporary electronic textures. The closest thing to jazz on the label. From – Eccles, Salford. Greater Manchester.

Rose Niland and Mark Corrin
Rose Niland and Mark Corrin

Ion-Morph with three albums of the man’s spoken word releases on the label it would have been remiss to exclude a performance. The featured tune is a reworking of an old song and a hearful paean to Manc-land. From – Ashton-Under-Lyne

Moff Skellington – a genius, an iconoclast and a dealer in optical creosote. Moff creates music which defies description other than to say it hangs precariously between The Residents, Tom Waits, Pere Ubu, The Fall and Hank Marvin. His wordplay is completely unique, the aural equivalent of Salvador Dali.  As I may have said before, on many occasions, my crusade is to get him much more exposure and recognition. From – Abstercot

Rose Niland – we love Rose. She has a magical voice, she writes breathtaking tunes, and her words are memorable. Soulful, psychedelic and bluesy. From – Manchester

Monkeys In Love
Monkeys In Love

The Electric Cheese – captivating alternative rock with a unique sound. This trio is gaining a growing reputation as a must see live act. From their first EP with the label.  From – Chorley, Lancashire

West Coast Sick Line – Dusty Moonan, another genius, a man who can write memorable songs. The band has recently undergone a line-up change and the track on the compilation is an indication of things to come perhaps, a more powerful more rock oriented sound. New album “Europee” is imminent i.e. when they get out of the pub. From – Deganwy, North Wales

Monkeys In Love – a special band, they have been with the label from the start, helping and supporting. The track on the album is, dare I say it, one of their best yet. A remarkable live act and a lovely bunch of people. From – Manchester.

The track-listing

  1. Loop-aznavour – Ed’s Place
  2. Pearl Divers – Smoking Gun
  3. The Get – Say You Love Me
  4. Bouquet of Dead Crows – Just A Little More
  5. Poppycock – Ceaseless Effort
  6. Franco Bandini – Side B
  7. IKMRAO – Art
  8. Captain Black – Lost All Sense
  9. The Junta – Carnival 80
  10. Staggs – Staggs Disco
  11. Passage of Time – Round About Now
  12. Ion-Morph – Manchester (Slight Return)
  13. Moff Skellington – Potato Pickers
  14. Rose Niland – 5 Times
  15. The Electric Cheese – Gold Divers Under The Ice
  16. West Coast Sick Line – Best Lost In Translation
  17. Monkeys In Love – Installation Song #1

The album is a digital only release, is priced at £5, and all proceeds will go towards the Emmaus Homelessness Facility in Salford.

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Bouquet of Dead Crows
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I Just Want Room To Live

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 and Steve Nicholson
Tony Thornborough and Steve Nicholson

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.

Jim Watts and SD
Jim Watts and SD

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.

Patriq Gannon - The Prick Jaggers
Patriq Gannon – The Prick Jaggers

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.

The Junta
The Junta

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
Johann Kloos

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,

Susan from Factory Acts
Susan from Factory Acts

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.

The Hamsters
The Hamsters

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.

A Teenage Propshaft
A Teenage Propshaft

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.

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Rob – The Prick Jaggers

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 and Mark Corrin
Rose Niland and Mark Corrin

Rose Nilandably 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.

Modal Roberts
Modal Roberts

And then the force of nature that is Modal RobertsAgain 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.

Aidan Cross
Aidan Cross

Due to illness the ever excellent West Coast Sick Line were unable to appear and the reliable Aidan Cross stood 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.

Loop-azznavour
Loop-aznavour

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.

Material from most of these artists can be found at the German Shepherd Bandcamp site.

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.

……by any other name

Rose Niland

From Now

German Shepherd

16th May 2014

Rose Niland ep

Rose Niland is a singer-musician-songwriter from Manchester.

Rose Niland’s music reflects her obsession with the production and development of musical ideas in the studio. Her working process involves using a free-flowing ‘stream-of-conciousness’ approach to composing, capturing the freshness of ideas quickly; these captured random moments are chopped up and moulded into songs that Rose brings to life with her spontaneous vocals. Rose’s debut EP,”From Now” is a selection of her songs composed during the last year.

Rose has created a stunning and innovative sound-scape with the four songs in this EP. Mixing traditional musical elements (guitar, bass, drums) with swirling electronica and exceptional multi-layered vocals, this is a breathtakingly good debut. Her approach mirrors to some degree the performance work of Robert Ashley, albeit couched in a dub soaked ambient world. There’s an other worldly quality to her vocals which capture a wide span of emotions and the music weaves seamlessly through the laminal textures of the voices.

Opener “Dominate”, featuring lyrics from Tamra Smith, uses post-rock/punk stylings under a half-whispered rap as Rose colours the sound with vocal improvisation. “Extended” captures a muezzin quality as visceral synth sounds surge around a dub beat – Rose improvises half formed words which remind me of the word play that Phillip Glass and Robert Wilson used on “Einstien On The Beach”. “Greenest Green” is something special indeed – pushed along by an insistent acoustic guitar Rose sings in a unique style and throws in little snippets of laughter in the background – the song evokes the blues, eastern european songs, and chanson all in one heady mixture – almost operatic in its’ complexity. Closer “Love’s Gone Away” builds around a simple bass line through which choir like vocals tastefully interweave, my only concern is that it is far too short. Many kudos to Rose and Mark Corrin for creating a stunning production.

A sensational first offering from a very talented performer.

Rose is planning live gigs to support the release sometime in the summer. Rose is also one of the singers in Una Baines “Poppycock” band.

Rose Niland Album Cover