Friday, March 27, 2009

THIS WEEKEND IN MANCHESTER: Buffalos and Shell-suits

'Don't Be Scared' the debut album by its a buffalo was released on 16 March. The launch party is tonight at Academy 3 (advance tickets here). The first solo album from Homelife's Paddy Steer, 'Dragon's Breath', is released on Monday 30 March. The launch party is tonight at Klondyke Bowls Club (advance tickets here). C'mon chaps, get your diaries lined up a bit better!

I wrote about its a buffalo elsewhere. Their countrified, lofi Mancunian pop does have a certain shambolic charm - enough for them to survive the curse of being Liam Fray of the Courteeners favourite band I hope. Homelife have been making some excellent and eclectic records over the course of the last seven or eight years - but 'Dragon's Breath' sounds as though it excels in its eccentricity. I haven't heard it yet but this review at High Voltage has me sufficiently eager:

Instrumental, incidental, innovative, Paddy Steer’s 20-track deep collection of oddly-titled, often skit-sized sound bites are more barmy than eccentric, but every bit as lively as the appealing cover artwork... These tracks are packed with head mashing surprises galore and it’s this strong sense of the unexpected that’s sure to grab and hold even the shortest attention span. From the random jazz/bass electronica of the xylophone-happy title track all the way to the acoustic clockwork clip-clop of the penultimate dreamscape ‘Spanish Tea’, many corners are turned along the way.
Buy Dragon's Breath here.

its a buffalo
Don't Be Scared [BUY with bonus tour CD!]

Flying Wonders [BUY]

And tomorrow night Liverpool pop-punkers goFASTER>> are in Manchester touring in support of their new EP 'A Modern Education'. I'm not actually sure if the tour is billed this way but you can see how I'm trying to cram stuff in.

goFASTER>> are signed to the very special Alcopop Records and courtesy of them I have just started listening to the EP. My first reaction is how OLD it makes me feel - the youthfulness of the band just leaps out of the speakers. On one listen it's too early for me to venture an opinion but I can imagine live in Dry Bar will be a fitting setting for their 'pop songs about rubbish jobs, daytime television and STD's'. Advance tickets here. Plus here's last year's single about shell-suits.

A Modern Education [BUY]

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

You Can't Force A Dance Party

Now that I have been informed of the correct spelling of 'ukulele', what should land in my listening intray but Dent May And His Magnificent Ukulele.

Although on Animal Collective's Paw Tracks label, the sound of Dent May is a world away from their uber-cool avant-noise pop. Dent's music is quite conservative, staid, even simplistic. He croons sugary-sweet over simple instrumentation - said ukulele often playing against another instrument (tuba on 'Oh Paris!', pedal steel guitar on 'Howard'). Similar in some ways to Jens Lekman or Stephin Merritt (both ukulele players) but without the lyrical dexterity of either or the lush swoon of the former.

The overall feel is of early 70s easy listening combined with Jonathan Richman at his most winsome and gauche, playing the lonely outsider (listen to 'Girls on the Square'). In my first couple of listens I find myself alternating between being totally won over or wincing at the tweeness. Or thinking the whole thing is a camp wind-up.

It will be interesting what prolonged listening will do. Or how he comes across live. Dent plays Trof in the Northern Quarter on 1 April (presumbably with his Magnificent Ukulele but it is not actually credited). Support from Sparky Deathcap and Jam on Bread - tickets here. Other tour dates here.

Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele
The Good Feeling Music of ... [BUY]

Friday, March 20, 2009


Tomorrow night is the first gig from the New Ears team: "A night of bands, DJ’s, drinking and dancing @ Saki Bar, MANCHESTER, 7pm – very late" AND "Cheap cocktails".

Headling are O CHILDREN
Take you pick from “Psychedelic post-punk with a gaze of the shoe about it…this noirist quartet are a must-see live band.” [NME] OR "Like a giant Grace Jones, with the brooding post-punk authorial voice of Ian Curtis, Tobias of O CHILDREN delivers a booming exercise in how to perform a static dictatorship, as his band play a set of whirling melodies". [Artrocker]

Also on the bill Citizens, Egyptian Hip Hop, Sir Yes Sir and DJ’s from: May68, Natalie Esquire, New Ears, Super Super. All for £4. Don't think there are advance tickets so best to get their early.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


The Phantom Band wish to appear enigmatic and shadowy. Given their name and what I had read about them (including the bit about performing with sacks over their heads) I was expecting a performance to match. And initially lead singer Rick Princeton delivers as he stands behind the mic appearing like a bearded hellfire-and-damnation preacher, intoning strange incantations with arms outstretched. But then between songs he smiles and mumbles 'thanks' and you realise he's just an ordinary Scottish musician. But playing extraordinary music.

Opening song 'Burial Sounds' is a good introduction to the world of The Phantom Band - the best showcase of their potent mix of motorik rhythms and voodoo-swamp-blues-rock with a touch of psychedelic jamming. Reviews for Checkmate Savage draw the strangest and broadest list of band comparisons (Beta Band meet British Sea Power? TV On The Radio and Violent Femmes?? Nick Cave meets Neu?). Most should just be ignored and the music listened to.

On record it is confident distillation of all these influences or elements. And live it's pretty much the same - and still utterly compelling - played faithfully by the six piece band (so no studio-based creation then) They may be a surprisingly ordinary looking band tonight (except the keyboard player: either an extra from 'Paris, Texas' or the lost member of Grandaddy) but still with presence and a sense of originality. But it's the music wins you over - some songs feature three guitarists, instrumental 'Crocodile' builds and builds to a finale including two melodeons, rhythms are beaten out on a series of found (or unrecognisable) instruments including what looks like jagged metal shelving brackets. If it all sounds overkill, trust me it works and doesn't convey the subtlety they can bring. My appreciation of the subtlety may at times have been impaired by Guinness but overall this was a great performance and any disappointment at their ordinariness soon dispelled by the songs.

Set list translation: 'Dancehall' is 'Burial Sounds'; 'Mountain' is 'Folk Song Oblivion'; and 'Bee Flight' (or is that 'Beef Light'?) is 'Halfhound'.

Tonight was an Akoustik Anarkhy evening; support was from Easter and Three Trapped Tigers. Flyers for Easter's debut EP referenced Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine but they were not as noisy as this suggests - closer to the melodic, meandering end of the Sonic Youth spectrum. Definitely had some moments but didn't keep my attention throughout - get their EP here. Three Trapped Tigers on the other hand were very noisy. They received some enthusiastic reactions but their instrumental avant-noise just passed me by.

The Phantom Band
Checkmate Savage [BUY]

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Crystal Antlers forthcoming album Tentacles will be the last new album released by Touch & Go. However they are being talked about - and I suspect will be remembered - for much more than this.

If fuzzy, garage rock with an heavy dose of pysch is your thing, tonight's gig at the Retro Bar in Manchester is for you. Part of their first UK tour, it will sell out - tickets in advance if still available here.

Presented by WotGodForgot, support is from Sycamore and Plank!

Crystal Antlers

Monday, March 09, 2009

So listen to the words of my best friend, take your time, take my time.

You like me must have asked yourself “If I ran a record label, what would I call it”? Well we’ve all been beaten to one of the best names around, one that instantly conjures up music and heartbreak: Crying Bob Records. And then I learn the label is based in Sweden, home of melody, intelligent song-writing and crisp production for many a decade now. And then that this an artist-run, independent label. Before I’ve even (consciously) listened to any music, I like the sound of Crying Bob Records a lot.

Daniel who is/runs Crying Bob (and is one-half of Friska Viljor) sent me some music to listen to and write about. I’ll save his band for another time and first write about De La Mancha.
Before listening to their album from Atlas, I imagined De La Mancha would sound like Sigur Rós: other-worldly, probably instrumental, post-rock. The artwork reinforces this and makes me want to write 'glacial' before even hearing a note. Now 'glacial' might not be out of place in describing the music but overall the sound is epic, wide-screen indie-rock closer to say Doves or Spritualized. And the latter reference is given more weight by song titles like 'Superstoned' and 'So Let's Blow Up Our Heads and Leave'.

Of the nine songs on this album, six clock in at over 7 minutes; none of them are in a rush to be out of your way. And whilst there may be a familiarity to the template (moody, slow-build intro - mid-tempo drums - then layers of crashing guitars) there is a freshness to the delivery, a touch of experimentation and a variety across the songs that makes the whole never ponderous, often joyous. Even the songs that tend to gloomy introspection (the vocal on 'Lotus Seven' recalls Bends-era Thom Yorke) have something, a chime or a chord, that uplifts. All in all, a surprisingly satisfying listen that manages to weave that (whisper it) glacially crisp Swedish production with superior Brit-friendly indie-rock, and is certainly deserving of a wider audience.

De La Mancha
Atlas [BUY or BUY]

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Well I missed this gig but Ms L didn't. She sent in this short report for us: "Full house. Loyal support. Check shirts. Beards and a cover of Waterfall. Better sound at the Met. But excellent value". Ms L as well as value-conscious is always to-the-point.

The set list:

The Travelling Band
Under The Pavement [BUY]

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Somewhere between the chilly isolation of Bon Iver and the cool introspection of Elliot Smith lives Jason Ringle of Horse Feathers. Actually he hails from Portland, Oregon but you know what I mean. Tonight he and his touring band were in Manchester at Dulcimer in Chorlton as part of a short European tour. Last year's album from Horse Feathers 'House with no Name' augmented Jason's sparse acoustic folk with strings and atmospherics. And delighted to say these were here live with cello and violin accompanying the acoustic guitar.
This creates a chamber-folk sound which is perfect for intimate venues like this, moving from moments of serene beauty with a haunting space between every word or solitary chord, to more intense playing with violently plucked strings or a foot stomping on a tambourine to provide rhythm. The band claimed they had trouble getting their instruments warmed up but they certainly hit stride towards end of set: 'Heathen's Kiss' played with bowed saw was dramatic and moving. Jason can resemble Bonnie 'Prince' Billy in appearance - thick of beard, bald of pate, but slightly shorter and squater. You could draw similar musical comparisons but Horse Feathers manage to mark out their own territory and it was a joy to spend some time in their space.

Earlier that evening, Animal Magic Tracks (aka Frances Donnelly) had started the evening. At first she appeared to be a straight up folkie, finger-picking her acoustic and keening with the best of them. But putting down guitar to play haunting chords on keyboards to a soundtrack of clanking chains (or that's what it sounded like) on a small mp3 player showed another side to her. Easy to see why Fence Records have signed her - traditional folk stylings that take abrupt left(field) turnings.

If Frances was a bit reticent tonight - she kept apologising for tuning up in public and was clearly nervous - Men Diamler was not. He starts the set hunched over his acoustic with the microphone close to his bowed head. But he soon abandons the closeness to the microphone - and even the microphone. For some songs he stands and stomps, for others he goes walkabout in the small crowd.
What starts as folk-blues veers from a comic song about a horse (sung almost in the style of a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta) to covers of Fats Domino and Jacques Brel. He asks the crowd if they want a depressing song, a happy song or a play school song. The latter wins the public vote but in his set he gives us all three. There were CDs from Men on sale but surely the point is to see this performance live?


Horse Feathers
House With No Name [BUY]

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Manchester Gigs in Music: March 2009 Pt.1

A 45 minute music compilation of some highlights of live shows this coming month: download link in post below this one.

Eugene McGuiness Rings Around Rosa (4 Mar Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Wavves So Bored (2 Mar The Bay Horse BUY TICKETS)
Fanfarlo Harold T Wilkins (3 Mar Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Alela Diane White As Diamonds (27 Mar Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Horse Feathers Rude To Rile (4 Mar Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
The Phantom Band Folk Song Oblivian (13 Mar Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Crystal Antlers Until The Sun Dies (Part 2) (12 Mar Retro Bar BUY TICKETS)
Broken Records Nearly Home (30 March Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
The Boy Least Likely To My Tiger, My Heart (17 Mar Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Emily Barker Disappear (18 Mar Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
Tinariwen Amidinin (20 Mar with Tuung Academy 3 BUY TICKETS)
The Travelling Band Desolate Icicle (6 Mar Academy 3 BUY TICKETS)
David Byrne & Brian Eno My Big Nurse (30 Mar Bridgewater Hall BUY TICKETS)

And not forgetting:
4 Mar Shooting Spires Retro Bar / 6 Mar Peter, Bjorn & John Academy 2 / 6 March African Soul Rebels Bridgewater Hall / 8 Mar Emiliani Torrini Ruby Lounge / 8 Mar The Durutti Column Deaf Institute / 10 Mar The Answering Machine Ruby Lounge / 12 Mar Damo Suzuki Ruby Lounge / 14 Mar Air Cav Abode Chorlton / 14 March Noisettes Ruby Lounge / 15 Mar Howling Bells Club Academy / 16 Mar Tim and Sam's the Tim and Sam Band Retro Bar / 20 Mar Joe Gideon & The Shark Ruby Lounge / 20 Mar Pulled Apart by Horses Islington Mill / 21 Mar O Children Cafe Saki / 27 Mar Paddy Steer Klondyke Bowls Club / 27 Mar It's A Buffalo Academy / 28 Mar Sweet Billy Pilgrim King's Head

And tonight at Night & Day from 6pm:
Night & Day presents...Transformer... An evening of Lou Reed & Velvet Underground songs played by a fine host of Manchester musicians featuring.... SILVERCLUB / THE JANNOCKS / MAUPA / SYCAMORE / THE BOTTOMFEEDERS / POCKETKNIFE / KIN / BEAT THE RADAR and DANIEL LAND with very special guests TBC. To celebrate the great man's 67th birthday on Monday 2nd March. Tickets £5 on the door.

Happy Birthday Lou.

Manchester Gigs in Music: March 2009 Pt.2

The link here [51MB]