Tuesday, July 27, 2010

THE LOST CAVALRY "Waves Freeze To Rolling Hills" EP

Mark West of The Lost Cavary was previously guitarist with indie-folksters Fanfarlo although I’m not sure at which point in time they parted company (he’s listed as one of the song-writers on "Resevoir" at Discogs). Since 2009 he has been singing and playing ukulele and concertina in The Lost Cavalry alongside Dave Roberts (drums), Oliver Whitehead (bass), Nick Goold (guitars) and Toby Atkins (glockenspiel, melodica). Now their sound is not a million miles away from Fanfarlo but no bad thing I say.

Lead track ‘Oh Sally’ is a love song to the trapeze artist of the title that brings to mind the theatrical story-telling of The Decemberists. The contrast of wheezy concertina and gentle glockenspiel and its swinging rhythms brilliantly capture that jumble of satin-spangle and saw-dust, the rough magic of the Big Top. The other three songs on this EP are more cryptic: I suspect ‘The Elephant of Castlebar Hill’ is about the last thoughts of a circus elephant before he collapses and dies based on a true-life incident from 1889 in West London (I found the reference in this curious MP profile of all places). The song is neither overly-sentimental nor oddly eccentric but as quietly moving and dignified as the animal of the title. Both ‘Secret Steps’ and ‘Only Forward’ hint at escape and new lives, of solitary beaches with ocean noise in your ears or of being far away at sea. The former is the song that for me sounds closest to West’s old band: a mid-tempo, yearning verse gives way to swelling chorus underpinned by marching drums.

August is a difficult time to release an EP (out on 2 August on their own label). Most people’s attention seems to be on festivals - and The Lost Cavalry don’t appear to be playing any this year or even leaving London. However with the summer release schedules quiet I hope this works in their favour. “Waves Freeze To Rolling Hills” is an unassuming record, it doesn’t shout for attention, but is too good to be neglected due to the distractions of the summer holidays. Pitched somewhere between the drama of Fanfarlo and the delicate poise of The Leisure Society, these finely crafted, literate and wistful songs are well worth giving your time and attention to whatever the season.

'Oh Sally' - The Lost Cavalry by FollyOfYouth

[BUY "Waves Freeze To Rolling Hills"]

Thursday, July 22, 2010

ADELAIDE'S CAPE "Last Sleep in Albion" EP

Adelaide’s Cape – the folk collective centred around Edinburgh-born, Norwich-resident Sam Taylor - was first introduced to me as ‘nu-folk’. There are so many sub-divisions of folk, no longer a scorned genre, it’s difficult to know what ‘nu’ signifies other than aligning Adelaide’s Cape with the younger faces of modern folk like Johnny Flynn, Laura Marling and even the dreaded ‘false folk’ of Mercury-nominated Mumford and Sons. Adelaide’s Cape have toured with Alessi’s Ark, First Aid Kit and The Miserable Rich which further suggests what type of folk to expect whatever you label it.

The five songs on “Last Sleep in Albion” all are based around the core of intricately plucked guitar and the rusty Scots burr of Taylor; and they reference cold air, witches, sea breezes, gnarly trees and cabin windows. So far, so folky. But on the EP there’s a surprising amount of variety and activity beyond simply the solitary folk performer chewing over familiar themes. Opener ‘This Fiction’ starts in crackle and hiss leading into an emphatic twang-and-thump full-band stomper with atmospheric cymbal crashes and floating female harmonies. ‘Girl of the Land’ is a rustic love-song to the mysterious heroine – it sings of “her life with the beetles, the dirt and the moles / she answers to wind” but is never as flighty or flaky as this might sound.

By the bucolic folk-jangle of ‘Rush Hour Wind’ you realise there’s not only a precision of playing but a seriousness of purpose to Adelaide’s Cape. Fourth song ‘Stay’ is the closest to levity you get: it’s a “lost-dogs-and-odd-sods” after-dark drinking shanty. Behind the joyful, ragged hedonism there’s the occasional catch of regret which is then drowned out in the accordion, fiddle and massed drunken choir finale.

On all my early listens to the EP, I thought ‘Anchored Down’ was the first song rather than the last (I managed to put it in a playlist in alphabetical order rather running order). Wherever it is placed though it sounds magnificent: a gorgeous land-locked folk-blues, opening with lapping water and seagull squawk, and equating a relationship in trouble to the immobile ship of the title.

Adelaide’s Cape have an impressively long touring schedule of festivals and gigs this summer including a planned date at Dulcimer, Manchester on 29 July. But the promoter of that gig announced this week it had been cancelled because Sam “has decided he will no longer be pursuing music professionally”. Shame because whether you call it ‘nu’, ‘trad’ or ‘alt’, “Last Sleep in Albion” is an impressive debut - and it would be a great loss if it sadly becomes an impressive curtain-call. Use the link below to buy it direct from micro-indie Dustbowl Records.

BELLE (non-EP track)
Adelaide's Cape
Last Sleep in Albion [BUY]

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I was very worried about this gig. It was part of Liverpool Summer Pops season - also playing this year Status Quo, The Australian Pink Floyd Show and Rod Stewart!?. This particular evening was billed as ‘Bob Harris presents’ and featured a couple of youthful, local support bands who had nothing to do musically with Kristin Hersh or even Bob Harris for that matter. It all felt like a poorly thought-through, hastily assembled event put on by a commercial promoter who did not know who or what they were dealing with.

Common-sense and experience though should have steadied my nerves and made me realise there is nothing to worry about when Kristin Hersh plays - whatever the set-up. Last year I saw her play in a lending library in Burnley - it was one of the best gigs of the year. Plus luckily tonight Bob Harris never made his presence known.

The smaller room at O2 Academy Liverpool is one of the better commercial gig venues I’ve been to and if you are at the front has a surprising intimacy. But once the five-piece support band removed all their kit (and their large banner) the bare stage suddenly looked intimidatingly empty and uninviting. If you haven’t seen Kristin perform before (and tonight I was accompanied by Mr H of Merseyside who hadn't) there’s not much of a ‘stage-act’ - she plays centre-stage with one guitar, one mic, rarely moving. But there is drama and passion and intensity a-plenty in her songs.

This was an eclectic set – older and new solo songs including five from the just-released-as-a-book “Crooked” album – and old and new Throwing Muses songs – all baring very little relationship to the hand-written ‘set-list’ below (more a menu?). So early in the set we got Muses rarity ‘Fish’ from 1987 or thereabouts and then later on 'Sunray Venus', one of this year’s Muses songs still being demoed.

She may not be an animated performer but the power of those stark, emotional lyrics, the rapid switches in intensity and her powerful thousand-yard stare make a compelling presence. Kristin thanks everyone in a ‘aw-shucks’ manner, tells funny anecdotes about bugs in German hotel bedrooms or weird neighbours but when she sings these raw, moving songs it is hair-raisingly spooky.

To be fair to Liverpool Summer Pops and even to Bob Harris, the breadth of music presented at this festival was far greater than just the hoary old stadium-rockers and has-beens I mentioned above – also playing were/are Tuung, Eve Selis, Piney Gir and Lightspeed Champion. But whoever you place her alongside, Kristin Hersh stands out as a true original.

The REAL set-list:
Mississippi Kite
Gazebo Tree
Hysterical Bending
Sno Cat
Speed and Sleep
Sunray Venus
Your Dirty Answer
Deep Wilson
Summer Salt
Snake Oil

Kristin Hersh is playing a few UK and Ireland shows including the Giant Sand 25th Anniversary event at the Barbican over the next week but will be back in the UK in January to coincide with the launch of her memoir "Paradoxical Undressing" (called "Bat Girl" for US release).

SUNRAY VENUS (Throwing Muses demo)
Kristin Hersh
"Downloads licensed with a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. The music here is yours to download. Please consider making a one-time contribution to the artist using the form". Or BUY or BUY

Friday, July 16, 2010

RICHARD JAMES "We Went Riding"

Some artists you always associate with a certain signature song, a memorable gig or an important time in your own life. Richard James, founder Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci band member and now releasing his second solo album, I always associate with a press review. Because this quotation (from The Times on albums that should have been on the Mercury Music Prize List) is such a simple and brilliant summation of his music: "Former Gorkys man re-imagines the Velvet Underground if the ratio of Welshmen to New Yorkers were reversed".

That was in reference to 2006’s “The Seven Sleepers Den”. And if that album had a quiet church-like intimacy (the intro and outro featured recordings from inside a cathedral) this year’s “We Went Riding” is a more expansive, outdoors record, as varied and changing as the seasons. The first three songs alone illustrate this. Opener ‘Aveline’ is a quiet, romantic folk ballad; ‘When You See Me (In The Pouring Rain)’ is swooning country-rock; and ‘Faces’ is a step in another direction again – a wailing lament of densely psychedelic guitars (I cannot work out if its two, three or more guitars making those sounds).

Imagery throughout is from nature or the elements - rain, hills, horse-riding, the ocean, sunshine, roads, more rain – and is as distinctively Welsh as the strain(s) of psyche-folk on offer. Even when James taps into other genres - the banjo and fiddle of ‘Yes Her Smile’s Like A Rose’ sounds like antique Appalachian folk music; ‘Blues (Hey Hey Hey)’ is a dirty stomping blues-holler – you are in doubt which ancient land this music comes from. And if the some of the preceding eleven tracks weren’t moving enough, the album closes with the sparse heartbreak of ‘From Morning Sunshine’ sung with the chilly composure of Nico (yet more VU allusions!) by Cate Le Bon.

The assured quality of this record is such it sounds as though James has spent every moment of the four years since his last album doing nothing but crafting these romantic, haunting and timeless songs. Some parts could have been recorded in any decade since the 60s but there’s no denying this is a musical high-point of 2010. An album to be treasured by a musician who deserves greater recognition whilst making and recording music - and not after the fact like The Velvet Underground.

From Morning Sunshine by Richard James

You can listen to and download album out-takes on The Line of Best Fit and Drowned in Sound. But remember these are out-takes. Heading straight for the final cut album tracks should be your first destination.

Richard James
We Went Riding [BUY]

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


This from last month's Chimp Magazine: The project of “one man and his assortment of randomly acquired instruments, ranging from frog guiros to pre-school toy drum kits”, Invisible Elephant (aka Blackpool’s Rob Blunden) delivers a collection of largely instrumental songs that teeter between psyche-folk drift, shoegaze haziness and occasional post-rock forcefulness. In this heady abstract world, found sounds and spectral vocals weave in and out of natural and synthesized instruments inspired as much by existentialist Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami as by noisemeisters like My Bloody Valentine. These are not immediate toe-tapping pop songs but for the adventurous listener with a patient ear they exert a curious and compelling attraction. Not so much a sunny stroll along Blackpool’s Golden Mile; more a spooky trip through the Hall of Mirrors, with distorted surprises hidden in each and every corner.

The 7 track “The Lights Go Out” album is available digitally via Bandcamp on a pay-what-you-want basis or as a limited edition CDr packaged in a recycled chipboard sleeve, hand numbered and hand stamped, via Sonic Reverie with two extra tracks.

<a href="http://invisible-elephant.bandcamp.com/track/communication-part-ii">Communication (Part II) by Invisible Elephant</a>

<a href="http://invisible-elephant.bandcamp.com/track/wind-up-bird">Wind-Up Bird by Invisible Elephant</a>

Thursday, July 08, 2010


Since it first opened it’s hard to find anyone with a bad word to say about Manchester's The Deaf Institute. Now I’m usually one of those indulging in the drooling love-in but c’mon let’s admit it – it’s far from perfect. The gents toilets are a whole two floors away from the Music Hall (and the wooden-then-stone steps are a killer for my decrepit knee-joints). And there’s no real ale on draught (true bottled ale is available and Sand Bar is only over the road) but these are serious failings.

Other than this the Deaf Institute is a model in tasteful architectural renovation, mixing period detail with effortless contemporary cool. The 300-capacity Music Hall has charm, character, a mirror-ball AND great sightlines and sound. And you can either sit OR stand. Since my first visit in summer 2008 a few months after it opened (Sweet Baboo, The Voluntary Butler Scheme and Walton Hesse) it's always struck me as "welcoming and decadent" at the same time.

Now to make good even better, The Deaf Institute has started a record label. Club night Suffering Jukebox has stealthily expanded operations into a label with recent and upcoming releases on vinyl and cassette tape (thus being as retro-futurist as its host building). The club night/label's great name alone (from a Silver Jews song) would probably deserve inclusion here. But then there’s the music.

Suffering Jukebox have made six songs available as a podcast (steam or download below) acting as part label-sampler, part statement of intent. And what fuzzy-edged lo-fi joys await: all unashamedly diy, delightfully spacey and big on melody. Excited about the new Best Coast record? Then check out Colleen Green immediately - you will not be disappointed. The VU-referencing simplicity of Milk Maid makes me melt. The initial rawness of Mazes is doused in bags of woo-hoo charm and fuzzy guitar. Former Bullies offer a subterranean field (or down a well?) recording and the previously applauded Brown Brogues finish off these seventeen and a half minutes with their primitive garage-thump. That's some statement.

I'm hooked - I hope will be too. If so, join me in investing in the (all-strictly-limited-edition) Suffering Jukebox forward catalogue.

Suffering Jukecast by Suffering Jukebox

1. Worship You - Colleen Green
2. Not Me - Milk Maid
3. Cenetaph (Slow Jamz Demo) - Mazes
4. Planeterium - Former Bullies
5. M&Ms - Colleen Green
6. You're Not Mine - Brown Brogues

Monday, July 05, 2010

WINDMILL "Ellen Save Our Energy" EP

Matthew Thomas Dillon (aka Windmill) claimed at the end of last year he would be taking an indefinite break from music. A live appearance at May’s Sounds From The Other City festival and news that work on a third album is scheduled for this year seems to suggest this break was shorter than I at first feared. This is a huge relief. Windmill’s second album “Epcot Starfields” was one of my top five records of last year and the thought of no more Windmill albums to join this and 2007's “Puddle City Racing Lights” had been unbearable.

And whilst waiting that new record, released today is this EP from Windmill. There’s no new music but lead track ‘Ellen Save Our Energy’ (“an anthem about our collective hopes and imperfections”) is worth admission price alone if you don’t already own it.

In addition on the EP there are three remixes of two of the other tracks from "Epcot Starfields", a 15-minute interview in which Windmill answers questions from fans and the videos for ‘Ellen Save Our Energy’ and ‘Big Boom’.

Those remixes: “New York’s Pocket adds beats and synths to 'Big Boom'; Munich-based trio Saroos bring crashing post-rock soundscapes and spare acapella vocals to album track 'IMAX Raceway'; and Finnish brothers Gentleman Losers deliver a gently flowing, rose-tinted remix of 'Big Boom'”. Nice extras to have - and the last one is the best for my money - but it’s that lead song you need - either from the EP release or from the original album.

Ellen Save Our Energy EP [BUY]
Epcot Starfields [BUY]

Thursday, July 01, 2010


Here we are again - monthly mixtape time to help you choose gigs in Manchester in July. The links in the listings all lead to where you can buy tickets - even for two of this month's gigs which are free. Firstly Adelaide's Cape at Dulcimer on 29 July and then this Little Soul event:

It's on Sunday 4 July at Soup Kitchen in the Northern Quarter: 10 excellent acoustic acts all on a summer's afternoon-into-evening and it's free. Cannot argue with that. And not in the listings below but I hear rumour of an event to celebrate the life of Frank Sidebottom at Castlefield Arena on 8 July. Keep eyes peeled for more info.

As ever the download link is in the post following.

Manchester Gigs in Music: July 2010 [50 mins /57 MB]

Jesse Malin & the St Marks Social Burning The Bowery [3.33] (7 July Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Dum Dum Girls Jail La La [6.01] (28 July Sound Control BUY TICKETS)
The Hundred in the Hands Dressed in Dresden [9.34] (8 July Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
School of Seven Bells Babelonia [14.32] (19 July Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Wild Nothing Summer Holiday [18.33] (29 July Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
The Sound of Arrows M.A.G.I.C [22.01] (1 July Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Toro y Moi Leave Everywhere [22.45] (30 July Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
First Aid Kit I Met Up With The King [27.33] (16 July Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Adelaide’s Cape Belle [31.44] (29 July Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
Shearwater Black Eyes [35.19] (31 July Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Moon Duo Stumbling 22nd St. [42.09] (29 July Sacred Trinity BUY TICKETS)
Joe Galen Fish & Chips [46.27] (4 July Soup Kitchen BUY TICKETS)
Otis Gibbs Bury Me On A Rainy Day [49.46] (20 July Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)

And not forgetting:
1 July Ólafur Arnalds Bridgewater Hall / 2 July Working for a Nuclear Free City Sound Control / 2 July The Features + Blind Atlas Roadhouse / 2 July The Telescopes Kings Arms / 3 July Noah & the Whale Manchester Cathedral / 6 July The Black Keys Academy 1 / 6 July Dr John RNCM / 8 July Holy Ghost Deaf Institute / 13 July The Lovely Eggs + Hotpants Romance Café Saki / 15 July Kaki King Ruby Lounge / 16 July Chief Ruby Lounge / 18 July Future of the Left MoHo Live / 23 July Rook & the Ravens Academy 3 / 25 July We Are Willow Odder / 28 July Silver Apples Deaf Institute / 29 July Jah Wobble & The Nippon Dub Ensemble Ruby Lounge / 31 July Kris Kristofferson Bridgewater Hall


Mixtape: July 2010 [50 mins/57 MB] - download here.