Sunday, 30 August 2009

Sunday, August 30

On stage 10:00pm
Where? Upstairs at Dempseys (opposite castle)
How much? £5

Tonight the irresistibly sweet Silence At Sea play their last live show before a break as the two core members expect a bambino in the near future. They kindly did my work by describing their sound as ‘sappy folk music with sweet lady-singing, plinky plonky guitar and robot drums’.

A possible solution to climate change, their charming live performances fill a room with pure, unaffected warmth, marking them out from the majority of bands who produce ‘too many songs with not enough feeling’ (Memorise Everything).

Their set is followed by the legendary Twisted By Design, named by BBC Radio 6 as the second best indie night in Britain!

For fans of: The Moldy Peaches, Seabear, Little My, Boy Least Likely To

Silence At Sea MySpace

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Green Man 2009 Review

The seventh Green Man festival kicked off with Pagan Wanderer Lu’s underwhelming set at the Green Man Pub Stage. The one man band’s lo-fi tunes and oblique humour requires the full attention of an audience, which on this occasion was lacking as the crowd settled in while basking in the glorious sunshine.

Midway through their storming set, Errors frontman Simon Ward mischievously announced that his post-electro band were happy to be back in their ‘spiritual home’ at this most folky of festivals. They provided a perfect serving of dance music with a hearty slab of throbbing bass, a side order of dazzling bleeps and a garnish of glistening electro fuzz that had the youthful front rows of the Far Out Stage in raptures.

In fact, Animal Collective could have taken a few lessons from their Scottish peers, as their vapid performance lacked any concessions to the verve or vibrancy needed to entertain all but their most fervent of admirers. Not even the brilliant-on-record My Girls could fully rouse the ever-thinning main stage crowd, proving beyond doubt that the Baltimore trio’s brand of experimentalism is unsuitable for a festival headline slot.

The anticlimax to Friday’s musical line up could not dampen spirits, however, as many of the 10,000 plus revellers huddled together in the communal bonfire area where they spoke to newly-made friends or sang along to strummed songs around the warmth of the blazing flames, before heading back to their tents for some much needed rest.

Most of the musical highlights were to be had on Saturday, which saw lovely daytime sets from The Leisure Society, Jonny and Blue Roses to name but a few. The latter’s singer Laura Groves has the most delicately beautiful voice this writer has ever heard, and the duo’s vocal harmonies during opening song Greatest Thoughts was sure to give goosebumps to even the most thick-skinned members of the spellbound audience.

The cutest moment of the festival occured when a girl of around two years old tottered to the railing at the front of the Pub stage to show her cuddly toy to singer songwriter Le B who giggled through her words throughout the song. It’s safe to say you won’t see anything like that happen in Reading or Leeds this weekend.

Nor will you have the chance to hear legends such as music journalist Jon Robb or PiL bassist Jah Wobble wax lyrical about their experiences in the music industry. One could have sat in the literature tent all day listening to Wobble’s tales of his time spent with the agent provocateurs of punk in London in the ‘70s, had there not been so many great bands to act as distractions.

Later, Wooden Shjips brought their psych-trance-garage histrionics to the Far Out Stage, then Beach House filled the tent with a delightfully warm ambience, before singer Victoria Legrand joined Grizzly Bear on the Main Stage for an unforgettably stunning rendition of Two Weeks. The band got their performance spot on, including fan favourites such as Lullabye, Knife and On A Neck, On A Spit, which sounded even more gloriously uplifting live. Each member was given equal prominence with the drummer sat under a spotlight stage left, and even the bassist found time to compliment the beautiful surroundings of the Brecon Beacons and pay tribute to cleanliness of the site. How rock’n’roll!

Bon Iver headed up an incredible pairing of bands, performing songs from the much-heralded log-cabin album For Emma, Forever Ago as well as the recent Bloodbank E.P. Justin Vernon’s distinctive, heartbroken vocals caused a hush to fall over the entire field as most of the audience held back the tears, while the others cried like babies. The silence was broken only during Wolves, when the crowd sang ‘What might have been lost’ in unison as the dusk settled and Sugarloaf Mountain became silhouetted in the background. Mesmerising.

I can fully believe that Erol Alkan’s ‘60s inspired after dark DJ set was as good as the witnesses reported on Sunday morning, but I’d passed out by that point through sheer drunken exhaustion.

The final day of music was the least exciting on paper, but there was still plenty to look forward to. Camera Obscura got heads nodding to the excellent French Navy, and it was a pleasure to hear them play on a vastly superior P.A. system than that at Cardiff’s Big Weekend, which buried their lush arrangements and shimmering percussion under a ton of thudding bass. It’s apparent just how little work their producer has to do in the studio, as the songs sound fully realised when played live, but it was disappointing that they omitted the meandering, melancholic ballad James from the show here.

As the night came, Amorphous Androgynous’ singer bounded around stage looking like a loony Jesus to his band’s impressive psych-rock; Unicorn Kid had parents and kids alike dancing to his Tetris tunes, and Joe Gideon & The Shark brought with them gloom and spectacular drumming.

The scene was set for Wilco to close proceedings in style, and they delivered an almost regal performance to justify their position at the head of the folk rock table. Jeff Tweedy and Nels Cline’s virtuoso guitar playing transformed the band’s modern classics such as Jesus Etc and Spiders into a soundtrack to the festival in the Beacons’ natural amphitheatre. The band were clearly enjoying themselves as they implored those of us sat on top of the adjacent hill to clap along during their two song encore. A class act.

Then it was time for the festival’s emotional climax, as thousands of bleary pairs of eyes witnessed the Green Man himself, carved from a looming tree in the top field, set ablaze. Fireworks lit the sky as the crowd felt a mixture of awe and sadness, as the Green Man would not be resurrected for another year.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Gig Listings August 3 - 9

Thursday 6 August
Where? Buffalo Bar
How much? £5

Multi-instrumentalist and all-round nice guy Rob Jones brings his one-man band to town to celebrate the imminent release of his debut album, ‘The Voluntary Butler Scheme At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea', which is available later this month.

As you might expect of an act called The Voluntary Butler Scheme, both words and music display a quintessentially British eccentricity, as demonstrated in the instantly memorable singles, Multiplayer and Tobasco Sole.

But Jones is not simply re-treading the well-worn path of The Beatles and The Kinks, as he incorporates a broad spectrum of sounds coloured by the motown funk of the Jackson 5 and the sunny psychedelia of the Beach Boys, resulting in the musical equivalent of a stroll through a field of rainbows.

The incessant childlike innocence may leave some listeners scrambling for the nearest Crass record, but if you like your music cutesy and charming in equal measures, this is for you.

For fans of: Sweet Baboo, Badly Drawn Boy, Noah & The Whale, early Of Montreal

The Voluntary Butler Scheme MySpace

Sunday, 2 August 2009

All Apologies

What can I say? I failed to preview Crocodiles in time for their show at Clwb on Saturday night.

It completely passed me by, but if you ask nicely I'll burn you a copy of Psychocandy to make up for it.

They're pretty damn good, but in my opinion if you're going for the feedback sound, you should REALLY go for it like A Place To Bury Strangers or Wavves, or risk sounding a little like a crocodile without teeth. See what I did there...

What do you think?

Crocodiles MySpace

Gig Listings July 27 - August 2

Sunday 2 August
Where? Cardiff Big Weekend, Park Place
How much? Free
7:00 - 7:50PM

It’s fair to say that Camera Obscura have served their apprenticeship over the past decade, releasing four albums on as many indie labes, and garnering a cult following of devoted fans.

During this time they also recorded five studio sessions for legendary music connoisseur John Peel, who championed the band at a time when their position in the lineage of great pop groups was overlooked by many.

A fully paid up member of that lineage, Morrissey once famously said that writing for The Smiths was akin to launching his own diary to music. The same can be said of singer Tracyanne Campbell’s songs, which deal with the schism between the beautiful ideal of love und romance, and the reality of the heartbreaking aftermath. When Campbell’s words are not enough, the heart-swelling strings express the inexpressible, no doubt owing a debt to the soul music of Gaye and Springfield.

Latest album My Maudlin Career may have been criminally overlooked by this year’s Mercury Music Prize judges, but the timeless shimmering melodies of songs like French Navy and the sublime James, will surely earn the band the widespread recognition that they so thoroughly deserve.

For fans of: Belle & Sebastian, Lloyd Cole & the Commotions, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Dory Previn

Camera Obscura MySpace

Sunday 2 August
Where? The Gate
How much? £14
Doors 7:30; First band 8:30

Owen Pallett is a busy man. When he’s not arranging strings for the likes of Arcade Fire, Hidden Cameras and Beirut, or touring with said bands, he finds time to record his own material under the guise of Final Fantasy.

He describes the video game that lends its name to the project as “ridiculously overwrought and convoluted emotionally” which gives an indication to the sonic oeuvre of his work, which lends a thatrical element to everything he touches.

While Final Fantasy's string-laden pop is beautifully constructed, the same meticulous detail is dedicated to the lyrics, which are by turns tender, impenetrable, and laugh-out-loud funny. Pallett paints portraits in the listener's mind which draw closer comparison to Dylan Thomas’ literature than any other lyricist, though he inhabits the dark side of humour where Xiu Xiu and Morrissey are also found lurking.

Live, he plays violin through a sampler which loops previously played rhythms, giving the impression that he’s playing with a full band, when in fact he is alone, or with only a drummer as accompaniment. His chamber-pop sensibility will lend itself perfectly to the intimate surroundings of The Gate, where Pallett will showcase songs from his breakthrough album He Poos Clouds, as well as forthcoming L.P. Heartland.

For fans of: Andrew Bird, Patrick Wolf, Xiu Xiu, Sufjan Stevens

Final Fantasy MySpace