Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Safires – Epic in The Ordinary

The Safires are a group that combine the 90’s trip-hop with folk, acoustic guitar and drum ‘n bass inspired rhythm. Championed by composer and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Nitin Sawhney, it’s clear why he took such a shine to them. The sounds on this record vary from traditional folk to dance and everything in between. This is all well and good, but what makes this album really quite special is that it remains cohesive throughout. With such a varied spectrum of influence, it would be very easy for the record to sound fragmented and compilation-like. What remains, however, is a well rounded, thoroughly pleasant and complete piece of work.

With a luscious female vocalist reminiscent of the wonderful Lou Rhodes [Lamb] Listening to The Safires is like sitting in a meadow in a summer sunset, the sound of the album akin to a honey-scented warm breeze swirling around and encapsulating the senses. This is a band that deserve success, and with endorsements and recommendations already coming in from all directions, The Safires are a band that will no doubt attain it.

Epic in The Ordinary is available as a free download from thesafires.com

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Lost looking for Bank Holiday fun? You need some MAPS in your life.

Maps is an arts and music festival that takes place over the Bank Holiday weekend in venues across Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Now in it’s third year, the lovely folks behind the event are looking to expand on the success of the previous years to bring a unique and diverse celebration of Manchester’s creative talent to the area. Unlike other multi-venue city festivals, Maps is unique in that it does not exclusively focus on music, art, or poetry but exists to showcase all kinds of home grown creative work together in one place. Expect to see acoustic singer/songwriters alongside illustrators in one venue, and full-on rock bands playing harmoniously alongside poets in the next. Nowhere else can such a diverse and multi-discipline arts festival be found on such an intimate scale.

Manchester has an internationally-renowned reputation as a hub of creativity and innovation, and we believe that Maps is a wonderful contemporary celebration of that heritage, while looking towards putting the next generation of Mancunian artistic talent on display.

Maps looks to be a great weekend for all ages – expect to find youngster-friendly craft and drawing workshops by day, and when the sun goes down for those of you who’ve still got the energy for a good party expect you’ll be able to groove along to some of the city’s best cutting edge bands and DJs til’ way on into the early hours.

The full lineup of events can’t possibly all fit on this page, but here’s a sneaky preview of who you can expect to see playing this year, with much much more to follow:

  • Doll & The Kicks
  • My Luminaries
  • Tubelord
  • Jo Rose
  • Orphan Boy
  • Danny Mahon
  • Sophie’s Pigeons
  • The Bedlam Six
  • Circus Jam workshops
  • Craft activities
  • MMU Photography Exhibition
  • Odd Bar’s Quizimodo

Maps takes place on the weekend of the 30th April – 3rd May across various venues in the Northern Quarter. Full weekend tickets cost £20 and are on sale now from Ticketline. For more information, have a look at www.mapsfestival.com.

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The Miserable Rich – Of Flight & Fury

The Miserable Rich are a band on the cutting edge of the explosive ‘nu folk’ scene that seems to have taken over the airwaves at the moment –  The Miserable Rich are taking the British folk scene by storm. This, their second LP, builds upon the intentions and direction of the first album – combining wondrous yet distinctive harmonics with inspired strings and sometimes dark, almost tongue-in-cheek lyricism with great effect.

The Miserable Rich, however, are not just a band. They are the cornerstone of Brighton’s Willkommen Collective, a group of artists and musicians who collaborate on various projects. Member groups include the aforementioned Leisure Society as well as Sons of Noel & Adrian, Shoreline among others.

The album, while forward looking, contains many elements from historical literature and fairytale. For example, in The Mouth of The Wolf, the lyrics include:

“If you’re afraid of the wolf, don’t go to the forest at night / the flash of teeth under the pale moonlight / I’m not afraid of scratches, I’m not afraid of bites, I’m not afraid of howling / at the light…”

Listening to this album is perfect for a summer’s evening – it reminds me of stories told as a child, of dreams and of nightmares. It is trip-inducing without having to resort to tired psychedelia cliché. A distinctly English, sophisticated and forward-thinking example of contemporary folk music that while paying homage to the past does not rely on it wholly for inspiration.

Of Flight & Fury is out on May 31st through Humble Soul Records.

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Live: Revere – Leaf Tea Shop, Liverpool

I’ve written about Revere before. They’re an folk-influenced rock band based in London. An eight-piece mini rock orchestra who take influences from traditional folk stylings, as well as contemporary pioneering epic bands like Radiohead, Muse, Elbow and British Sea Power.

I had never seen them live before, but have been a fan of their music for a few months. Live, they are even more powerful than on record. In frontman Stephen Ellis, they have a performer who is a strange mish-mash of Guy Garvey and Ian Curtis – a mesmerising and seemingly possessed demonstration of sophisticated rock ‘n roll. Combine this with a whole string section, piano and quite brilliant percussion (way, way more than just ‘drums’) and you have a sound – a live presence – that defies the humble audience size. This is a band that should, and could, be absolutely huge. Think Pyramid stage at Glastonbury at sunset type huge. Music to send shivers down the back of your neck, this. Totally, and completely awesome.

Liverpool’s Leaf bar was, to be honest, deserted. The main audience seemed to consist of the other bands on the bill (of which there were too many). All very good in their own right but there was so much going on that each band only had a short space of time to play. I spent more time watching equipment being moved around than watching the music itself. Revere seemed to only play about 5 songs, which is a criminal shame considering how good they are.

Revere are currently on a UK tour in support of their new single We Won’t Be Here Tomorrow.

I urge you, go and see them – you’ll be blown away.

9/10 (Just a massive shame that the promoter didn’t give them longer on stage)

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Live: James Kelly + Walton Hesse + Emanuel & The Fear

This was just what the doctor ordered on a bank holiday Sunday – an evening of wonderful music in a wonderful little venue (one of Manchester’s gems, and quickly becoming one of my favourite places), the Dulcimer in Manchester’s Organic Quarter, Chorlton-cum-hardy.

After a very disorganised start to the show (now free, as nobody was there to collect our golden coins..) involving a lineup shift around, a sound engineer who looked either confused or hungover (possibly both) and no distinguishable transition between soundcheck and the start of the show, the music began one way or another and first up were a band I’d never heard of, Walton Hesse. We were told acoustic flamenco-blues maestro James Kelly was supposed to be on first, but hey-ho, let’s roll with it and get a Guinness in.

Walton Hesse take their infuences from the dirty americana blues/country rock of the late 90’s, when bands like Lucero and Whiskeytown were in their heyday, as well as earlier pioneers such as the seminal Uncle Tupelo. In fact, parts of their set sounded a lot like A Ghost Is Born-era Wilco, with lovely guitar/piano extended solos. Walton Hesse really, really dig Jeff Tweedy, it seems. Which isn’t a bad thing, Tweedy rocks.

The combination of loud balls-out rock n’ roll, alt.country pearlsnap twang and softer more experimental improvisational solos works well for Walton Hesse and I’ll definitely go and see them again. One thing though – I’m really not sure what purpose the female vocalist has. Couldn’t hear her and she seemed to just stand there hitting a tambourine for the whole show. Kind of like a non-cool Joel Gion. This may well have been down to the dodgy sound though, so for this I’ll reserve judgement until I see them again (which I definitely will).

Next up was James Kelly, whom I first met a couple of months ago while doing a radio interview and was instantly captivated. Combining blues riffs with flamenco rhythm on a spanish guitar, with percussion provided by hitting a kickdrum pedal against a guitar case, there’s nobody quite like him. He is, as one very drunk guy proclaimed last night, “fucking wicked!”

Can’t really disagree with that. The future is bright for James, and he did really well last night – it’s never easy for an acoustic act to go on after a loud rock & roll band – he coped and grabbed everyone’s attention brilliantly. He should’ve been on first though.

Emanual & The Fear are from Brooklyn. In fact, they couldn’t possibly be from anywhere else. They look like a school chamber group gone bad. Cello, flute and violin is paired up with metal guitars and manic drumming to create a sound that is loud yet orchestral, epic, and easily transferrable to a larger stage. They are a big band who deserve a big show. Cue the drunk guy again “Yeah! Go Brooklyn!”. They’re not a metal band, they’re not a chamber pop band, they’re not an orchestral Spiritualized or Arcade Fire-type band. I have genuinely not heard anything quite like it before. You’ll just have to go and see them. I hope they’re back soon.

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Das Racist – Shut Up, Dude!

My initial reaction to Shut Up, Dude! was pretty much just one great big moment of WTF?! After some consideration though, and deciding whether it was a work of insane genius, or if fact just a load of old shit, I’ve decided that it’s probably a bit of both. From the outset this is an outrageous and ridiculous collection of hip-hop remixes and mashups, with everything from rap sequences about the glories of the MacBook (over, say, bitches, ho’s, guns and bling?), to a quite frankly fucking brilliant remix/mashup of Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out. Oh, and there’s a homage to fast food entitled The Combination Pizza Hut & Taco Bell. It sounds pretty much as you’d expect.

This is a record that is firmly taking the whatsit right out of West Coast hip-hop, a big ‘fuck you’ to the million dollar rap star. However, this is achieved with wit and charisma that puts Shut Up, Dude! in a category higher than a simple ‘comedy’ record. There’s subtlety  in those rhymes – Rainbows In The Dark featuring the line “its, its…DR [Das Racist]!” being a reference to the seminal west coast hip-hop record Fuck Wit Dre Day by Dr. Dre, which has the line “mighty, mighty…DR [Death Row Records]!”

There’s a serious side, too. As well as the comedy factor, there’s an underlying social commentary  to the album. I’ve given it a few listens so far and each time I find another line to make me both chuckle and sit up and think – “We tried to go to Amsterdam, they threw us in Guantanamo”. Even the name itself Das Racist/Shut Up, Dude! is political in nature. While this is of course no Billy Bragg-meets-Lupe Fiasco, it is well worth noting that it isn’t exactly Goldie Lookin’ Chain either.

Clever stuff then, and best of all it’s totally free. And there’s artwork by Aakash Nihalani, one of New York’s finest up and coming artists. However, what does concern me is the longevity of the album. Will I still want to listen to it after the gags have worn off after a few listens? While I do think there’s enough in there to justify it as a ‘real’ album, I can’t be 100% certain. I do hope so though and I’m pretty excited to hear anything else from this great emerging Brooklyn duo.

7/10

Shut Up, Dude! can be downloaded (legally) from here.


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