Tuesday, August 30, 2011

TASSEOMANCY "Ulalume"


Tasseomancy is twin sisters Sari and Romy Lightman, originally from Nova Scotia now resident in Toronto, who also form part of Austra as backing vocalists to Katie Stelmanis. After a 2008 EP under the name Ghost Bees, their debut album, produced by Timber Timbre’s Taylor Kirk, is out this week.


And if familiar with Austra and Timber Timbre then the overall sound of album may not come as a surprise. For “Ulalume” takes their extraordinary, beguiling voices as evidenced on the electro-goth-pop of Austra’s “Feel It Break” album and sets them amongst the sparse noir-folk of fellow Canadians Timber Timbre: gently plucked strings, eerie keyboard washes, occasionally punctuated by pounded drums. However this musical signposting may be insufficient preparation for the out-of-time singularity that is “Ulalume”, eleven fantastical songs that appear to be drawn from myth and pre-civilisation history. Tracks named after jackal-headed Egyptian gods or ancient Canaanite sea-ports, tales of tombs and scarabs, Diana the Hunter, buried bed-sheets and wolves eating leopards that span centuries and continents. The stories and sources may be arcane but they are paired perfectly with the otherworldly, ethereal vocals of the Lightman sisters which draw the listener, moth-like, into these ancient and fabulous worlds. The curious inflections and precise pronunciation of the sisters adds to the sense of otherness.

‘Soft Feet’ recalls the faerie madrigals of Joanna Newson on “Ys”. Others like ‘Anubis’ or ‘The Darkness of Things’ (with guest vocalist Taylor Kirk) recall the post-classical reflective reveries of Clogs; and the more thickly layered songs like 'Healthy Hands (Will Mourn You)' point towards the fuzzy psyche-folk of School of Seven Bells. There is a cool devotional gravitas to the delivery especially with the spectral bare-bones orchestrations but as well as occasionally unsettling the album also contains undiluted beauty in ‘Up You Go Little Smoke’, the gentlest of lullabies sung to a sleeping daughter.



A band name that refers to the ancient divination of tea leaf patterns and an album named after an obscure Edgar Allen Poe poem make this is a difficult record to ask for over the counter of your local record shop. To make things odder although on CD and Vinyl in North America, “Ulalume” is released in the UK as a candle (yes you read that right) with tracklist, matches and digital download code. But ask you should, because the album’s spooky charms are not as obscure or off-putting as its titling or format would suggest. From this introduction to the Lightman sisters it is difficult to imagine conducting a normal conversation with them but spending 45 minutes enthralled by their atmospheric music is an addictive pleasure.



Tasseomancy Ulalume [BUY]

Thursday, August 25, 2011

GREEN MAN FESTIVAL 2011 Day Three


Sunday was a warm, blue-sky greeting after the mixed weather on Saturday. And fitting in perfectly with the weather was the Welsh country-and-western of Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog. These cowboy songs were slowly unwinding, graceful anthems all sung in Welsh by youthful singer Iwan Glyn Hughes fronting the six-piece band. There was a swelling beauty that never became epic or overblown but made you feel in touch with humanity and connected to something larger. The spell was not even broken by finding out that one song was about a roundabout near Swansea. A gorgeous start to the final day of Green Man.



The Travelling Band were a more familiar offering up next on the same stage – particularly having seen some of the band perform just a few weeks earlier. However they are dependable, congenial entertainment. And even with their meticulous attention to detail and the extra orchestration (cello, violin and three-piece horn section) work brilliantly on a festival stage – calling out to different parts of the crowd, finishing songs with singalong sections, knocking over cymbal stands when lost “in the moment”. Tales of making plectrums out of old credit and loyalty cards ("this one's Travelodge 2008") and needing to sell some T-shirts as their van has broken down suggests empty-pocketed penury but there’s nothing cheap or impoverished about their lush, detailed folk-rock.


If the first part of Sunday had been spent leisurely in front of the same stage, the next couple of hours became a pacy flit around the site to dip in and out of what was on offer. So I saw Matthew and the Atlas on the Main Stage (can see why they got the Mumford support slot), was scared off from the Welsh surf-folk of Under The Driftwood Tree by the appearance of a didgeridoo, then caught the “post-drone baroque beachcore” (their words) of Bleeding Heart Narrative who were most entertaining of that trio: post-rock dynamics with frequent instrument swaps.


In the Cinema Tent I caught the drum and trumpet duo Eyebrow accompanying a 30 min film of abstract images of dancers (produced to be projected onto Newport Civic Centre for its opening) and then a couple of songs of arty pop-rock from Efterklang member Anna Bronsted's own band Our Broken Garden.

Then I settled down for The Sleeping Years on the Pub Stage. These were gentle acoustic songs about hometowns, rivers and family from Dale Grundle accompanied occasionally by melodica or accordion (the latter from Gill Sandell). I’d come across The Sleeping Years via their cover of The Go-Betweens but these original songs were gently captivating. Must hear more.



I then popped my head in to The Far Out stage on spec and was so glad I did. In total contrast to The Sleeping Years here was Tweak Bird. The two brothers combine thunderous drums and heavily distorted guitar into an electrifying, experimental noise-rock at times so pacy and intense it feels like speed-metal. The intensity of the playing and sudden changes of pace and direction were thrilling, driven by some seemingly telepathic connection between the Bird brothers. Did they play a whole series of short songs or a couple of long ones? No idea but there was huge love and appreciation for Tweak Bird in the tent. Best surprise of the weekend.


Next up in the Far Out Tent was Brooklyn’s The Antlers, originally a solo project of Peter Silberman now expanded and here as a four piece. This was my first time seeing them and although undeniably high quality it didn’t quite meet my lofty expectations – it was a close reproduction of the last two albums, subtle textures and steady momentum with only the drums sounding more aggressive than on record, but it never soared. The band’s attention seemed to be on replicating studio sounds rather than playing out and at the audience.



And to finish off my Sunday night The Low Anthem. Now here’s a band I’m much more familiar with live so no surprises and no disappointments here – just a spell-binding performance from the quartet. It was a set filled with hush and intimacy despite being on the Main Stage. I think The Low Anthem had taken it literally that Green Man was a ‘folk’ festival. Only one of their more raucous numbers (‘Home I’ll Never Be’) and no drunken or unpredictable behaviour just a set that got quieter and quieter. Magnificent.





The Low Anthem Set List: Smart Flesh / Ticket Taker / Ghost Woman Blues / Sally Where D’You Get Your Liquor From? / To Ohio / Home I’ll Never Be / Apothecary Blues / Love and Altar / Matter of Time / This God Damn House / Charlie Darwin; encore of Bird On The Wire

I started these posts about Green Man with a grumble about scattergun programming. Looking back however the route I took through the festival was an impressive span of bands and acts, both firm favourites and new experiences. It was never random just eclectic. There were some disappointments for me (AND I managed to miss Josh T Pearson, The Cave Singers, Ellen and The Escapades, Emily Barker, Treecreeper, Lia Ices, Neverest Songs, Destroyer, Gruff Rhys and Laura J Martin) but Green Man still feels like a special happening and one in a beautiful setting. Whatever the vagaries of the programming or weather I’ll definitely be back next year. Diolch Green Man!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

GREEN MAN FESTIVAL 2011 Day Two


Day Two at Green Man Festival started for me at the Green Man Pub. A light rain may have been falling from the overcast skies but on stage the music of We Were Evergreen recalled summery childhood innocence via ukulele and toy instrument tweeness. The Parisienne trio’s sweet, airy songs and good natured warmth won over the lunchtime crowd and even promoted a spontaneous of outbreak of crowd dancing. Copies of their EP sold out in minutes.

In the Cinema Tent, I caught end of R. Seiliog, the vintage synth kraut-rock project of the H Hawkline drummer. It was only one song but its Neu motorik left me wanting to hear more, much more.


Next up in the Cinema Tent was duo Trwbador who played a seven song acoustic set starting with covers (Kate Bush and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci), then English language songs then Welsh ones to finally be joined by “two more Owains” for the seventh song ‘Shapes’. I’ve written about how much I like the Trwbador EP before and was equally charmed here by the band live. The simplicity of Angharad van Rijswijk’s child-like voice, even on songs with more adult themes like war, over-consumption and bitter relationships, with just acoustic guitar and toy glockenspiel accompaniment is enchanting. Utterly lovely.





I’ve missed out on earlier She Keeps Bees appearances at Green Man but this time managed to get to their Main Stage debut, the duo here joined by Oh Ruin’s Eoin O'Ruinaigh on second guitar. Their gutsy blues-rock had a tremendous, husky sexiness to it live, off-set by Jessica Larrabee’s humbled reaction to the enthusiastic crowd response and the Welsh scenery. The occasional lapse into between song ditziness or talk of star signs slightly took away from both the toughness and the sexiness but I’m being overly harsh. Must listen to their albums properly.





Back in the Cinema Tent briefly for Yoke, the electronic side project of Cate Le Bon and Meilyr Jones from Race Horses. The darkness of the tent and the curious Casey Raymond and Ewan Jones Morris videos were a perfect backdrop for the eerie judderings of the three songs I caught – one largely instrumental, one sung by Meilyr and one by Cate. This all too brief listen was enough to whet the appetite for seeing Yoke properly later this week and to prove again that the daytime programme in the Cinema Tent is often the place to discover weird and Welsh gemstones.





Dry The River on the Main Stage slightly disconcerted me. The handful of songs I had heard prior to today sounded impressive. On stage they were given more a rock edge than I was expecting: big, explosive drumming, lots of flinging guitars around on their straps and tattoos and shaggy hair a-plenty. As much as I enjoyed some of the songs, I was left with a feeling of something not quite authentic about Dry The River, as though they have taken the Fleet Foxes songbook as a template to achieve chart success rather write their own songs from the heart. Again too harsh probably. I will definitely be giving them the benefit of the doubt and giving them a proper listen.

Last year one of the joyful surprises at Green Man Festival was H Hawkline’s lunchtime set in the Cinema Tent. This year (“today’s our first anniversary – happy birthday us”) the band were on at tea time in the Pub; and if last year was droning krautrock and post-punk shoutiness, today’s excellent set was angular Welsh garage-beat and shoutiness that had more in common with The Fall than Faust. None of these songs were from quiet, melancholic second album “The Strange Uses Of Ox Gall” out next month – instead Huw Evans and co had decided to play a set of (largely) unrecorded songs that will probably form album number three. A talented trio as prolific as bass player Stephen Black’s Sweet Baboo output but five times more contrary. Great noisy fun and one of the festival highlights for me.





The H Hawkline Set List:


In The Far Out Tent, the chiming, late summer guitar sounds and melancholic undertow of Wild Nothing was a pleasant diversion but it never really engaged: singer Jack Tatum was just a bit too much of a tender soul to play the front man. Still worth catching and final song ‘Summer Holiday’ deservedly got the biggest cheer.


Next a surprise on the Pub Stage. I have the Oh Ruin single on Static Caravan: a doomy piece of acoustic alt-folk. So here I was expecting an introspective solo performer. But clearly Eoin O'Ruinaigh has moved on. With full band, fierce electric guitar playing and guest vocals from Jessica Larrabee of She Keeps Bees, Oh Ruin here played some noisy, rockin’ blues – still doomy but with the volume and the intensity jacked right up (He Keeps Bees maybe?). A surprise but a gem of a performance.



On to the Main Stage next for North Carolina’s The Avett Brothers. In a word “barnstorming”. The five piece delivered their bluegrassy folk-rock with a minimum of glossiness and a maximum of sweaty, energetic playing and passion. Two years ago, I saw Dent May scissor kick whilst playing the ukulele; here Scott Avett was dropping to his knees whilst playing the banjo with the cellist head-banging and everyone else was giving it their all. And The Avett Brothers proved adept at changing the mood without becoming over-sentimental: a duet from the brothers dedicated to their father had at least one person next to me in tears and then the final song ‘I And Love And You’ had the whole crowd singing out those words to the Welsh hills was a touching moment of warmth and unity rather than mawkish soppiness.


Another artist who I have consistently missed live is Hannah Peel but the intimacy of the Pub Stage at Green Man felt the perfect place to break that duck. And this was another treat – the intricately layered full band songs were clever and engaging but the quieter moments with just Hannah Peel’s high, airy voice, music box and subtle guitar or keyboard accompaniment from Laura Groves aka Blue Roses were mesmerising.





The Hannah Peel Set List:

And to close the evening on the Pub Stage was the ever reliable James Yorkston here performing with a band comprising guitar, accordion, two violins, clarinet, two backing singers plus The Pictish Trail on “space invaders machine”. The band opened with an acapella version of ‘Tortoise Regrets Hare’ but the remainder of the set was a more animated, foot stomping party if a little rough at the edges (“we had a rehearsal”).



It wasn't as emotionally devastating or as accompolished as some of my favourite James Yorkston performances (my expectations are always exceptionally high) but it was a brilliantly celebratory way to finish Saturday night. And to top it a cover of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ to close the set and the evening.



Now I did not see that coming at all. Saturday had definitely upped its game and proved to be a treasure trove of good music and frequent surprises.

The James Yorkston Set List:

Monday, August 22, 2011

GREEN MAN FESTIVAL 2011 Day One


All my festival eggs were in one basket for this year: Green Man Festival at Glanusk Park, Crickhowell. And with a line-up that was so wildly eclectic it could be accused of an incoherent, scattergun approach to programming, this year’s Green Man didn’t feel an unmissable selection (see the sold out End of the Road Festival - which I'm missing - for that).

However Green Man is always an enjoyable and welcoming experience and to arrive in sunshine and blue skies (particularly after the thunderous rain of last year) was a promising sign.


First up for me on the Main Stage was Londoners The Ramshackle Union Band. The four-piece, partially bearded and checked shirted of course, played indie-bluegrass given an emphatic rhythm from electric bass and drums to counterpoint the banjo-led folkiness. If their songs about crumbling empires, suffering, salvation and being cold were lyrically chilly they were a warm, convival start to Green Man.


In the Far Out Tent, Gareth Bonello aka The Gentle Good was making his sixth Green Man appearance and celebrating in grand fashion: five-piece band, changing line-up of backing singers including Lisa Jen from 9 Bach, and a string quartet. The sumptuous chamber-folk of record transferred beautifully to this setting and with the lighting gave the backdrop curtain a rich velvet sheen making the whole thing feel luxurious and special.



Next up in the Far Out tent was Admiral Fallow; and with lead singer Louis Abbott taking to the stage with a “Born In The USA” T-shirt and a bottle of Jamieson’s they promised a very different experience. This was my first time seeing the Glaswegian five-piece and they did not disappoint: combining jaw-jutting, foot-stomping, punchy tunes with quieter heart-melting ballads with a picked-on-at-school vulnerability and given classy touches with clarinet and flute. A highlight alongside songs from debut album “Boots Met My Face” was new song ‘The Way You Were Raised’, Buckfast themed and complete with crowd-singing.





Over at the Pub Stage, the weather had take a turn for the worse and was overcast and threatening rain. What better then than to be warmed up by the Snowdonian surf-rock of Y Niwl? I’ve gone on before about how good Y Niwl are and today only confirmed that. A reassuringly ace set of their instrumentals-named-after-numbers that saw them doing a roaring trade in records and T-shirts afterwards.



The Y Niwl set list:

On the Main Stage, Robyn Hitchcock promised a “compressed set of psychedelic classics”. He cut a striking figure in purple trousers, polka dot shirt and ageless shock of blond hair but the pop-psyche tunes (including covers of The Beatles ‘She Said She Said’ and to finish three Captain Beefheart songs: ‘Big Eyes Beans From Venus’, ‘Sun Zoom Spark’ and ‘Electricity’) were equally fresh and striking. It was a delight to see the all-ages Green Man crowd (including 8 year olds) avidly hooked on songs about "dreaming of an Ant Woman with her Audrey Hepburn feelers". Too idiosyncratic to fit the National Treasure tag but a fine songwriter that should be celebrated more.



I dipped in and out of a few things at this point. Caught enough of Villagers to confirm my partial opinion of their recorded music (bland) and a few songs of San Fran basement punk from Sic Alps in the Far Out Stage: much more interesting. And much louder.


Next I returned for Bellowhead on the Main Stage. Normally I would have pegged them to be too trad for my tastes but was won over by their bagpipe-and-bouzouki folk dance tunes. The 11-piece, including a three fiddle front line at times, proved to be great fun with front man Jon Boden acting as a long-limbed circus master for this motley big band. And it wasn’t just me that found it infectious: these songs about dead lovers, damned sailors, prostitutes and whisky had huge sections of the crowd in congas or linked arm reels.

Not quite sure what happened to the next few alcohol befuddled hours but I don’t think I saw any more music before hitting the sleeping bag. A good start to Green Man if no major surprises, but enough to reassure me that the Festival weekend - and not just the weather - would prove to be be good.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

MOUSTACHE OF INSANITY "Album of Death"


The chosen name of the band of Bill Botting (bassist in Allo Darlin') and Nik Vestberg suggests they may not be taking themselves entirely seriously. And then the sci-fi B movie dialogue-sampling ’Intro’ that opens their debut album suggests more tongue-in-cheek goofiness. But this is followed by 'Talk Along' a touching ode, all gentle restraint and lush melodies, about how touring musicians maintain long-distance relationships by listening to each other’s songs in the dark (“it’s the closest I get to talking to you these days”). It does indeed as the lyrics suggest make you want to burst like a heart-shaped balloon. Of course it is the exception.


The majority of the album that follows is twee casio-pop that mixes wide-eyed Jonathan Richman sugariness with skits and songs about movie action heroes, horror flick clich├ęs, death curses and dinner parties with Billy Joel, Werner Herzog and Milla Jovovich ("I’ll... ask for her advice about killing zombie dogs"). It’s like a cocktail of The Moldy Peaches, Milky Wimpshake and The Twilight Zone served up as peppy party tunes and silliness with vocal duties shared between Vestberg and Botting. If a song ('We Need More Awesome') that praises Schwarzenegger’s “Predator” not just as a good night-in but as a life-lesson for an unborn son about machine guns and killing aliens doesn’t raise a guilty smile this may not be the record for you – but if not Pulitizer Prize profoundity there is more to Moustache of Insanity than pop culture-referencing lunacy.

Despite the daftness and zombies (see also single ‘Lynn Lowry’ a homage to the cult horror movie actress favoured by George Romero and David Cronenberg, and an indie-pop mirror-image distortion of The Go-Betweens’ ‘Lee Remick’), “Album of Death” never descends (to these ears) to annoying fannying around. In fact the refined 'Dinner Party' edges towards the louche Cole Porterisms of Stephin Merritt and 'Superiority Complex' suggests the assured sway of Jens Lekman. And in ‘Dancing For Emma’ the duo manage to combine dancing and revolution effortlessly without appearing earnest or ridiculous. Well, maybe a bit ridiculous.



So yes it's cheesy, yes sounds at times like rehearsal room sketches and childish jokes, and yes "Album of Death" is littered with swearing and exclamation marks, but even with (or because of?) a lean 23 minute running time, the smiles outweigh the groans, the tunes reward repeated plays and there is a depth peeking out from behind the goofiness.

“Album of Death” is jointly released on Pull Yourself Together and Fika Recordings next week on limited edition vinyl and CD versions.

Argh! No! - Moustache of Insanity by FollyOfYouth

Moustache of Insanity - Lynn Lowry by pullyourselftogether

Moustache of Insanity Album of Death [BUY]

Monday, August 08, 2011

PAWS / LADY NORTH "Split Single"



If the part-homage, part-pun name wasn’t enough, you’ve got to love Gerry Loves Records for their heartfelt fan-boy beliefs: “At Gerry Loves Records we love the intimate feel you get of an artist and their music through vinyl pressings. To us there is nothing quite like buying vinyl - unwrapping it when you get home, carefully taking it out of the sleeve, delicately laying it on your turntable and placing the needle on the record before waiting for that first crackle”.

Following earlier releases by an eclectic collection of artists including Conquering Animal Sound, Debutant and Miaoux Miaoux, today marks the fifth release from the Edinburgh-based micro-indie: a split vinyl 7” single (with extra download tracks too) by two contrasting Scots bands.


Edinburgh’s Lady North is an energetic collision of math-rock intensity and prog-jazz variation. Over its near six minutes ‘It’s All About Getting That Claude Monet’ shifts pace and focus from furious drum patterns to intricate guitar riffs that sometimes howl and crunch, other times chime like synthesisers. There’s so much going on in its caffeinated rhythms and irregular time signatures, it's a surprise to discover there are only six hands at work, the band being simply a bass, guitar and drums three-piece. ‘Rub ‘n’ Scrub’ continues the robotic avant-pop with a quasi-oriental feel but adding strange wordless, nonsensical chanting; ‘Acid Trips and Pussy Whips’ is a longer, more expansive piece of psychedelic exploration. Put the word ‘jazz-fusion’ in any description and I’d normally pass – but this ain’t tame or smooth, it has a depth that never becomes overly cerebral and its swings from wild looseness to aggressive intensity are thrilling.


Paws are another trio, this time based in Glasgow, but one that joins up all the dots from the pop-punk of The Undertones to current US no-fi scenesters like No Age in a trio of sub-three minute songs (‘Booger’ is actually over four minutes long but other than an extended outro feels punchier). The claws-out ferocity and heads-down pace of ‘Lekker’ kicks off proceedings with taut, exuberant melodies; ‘Booger’ recalls “Copper Blue” Sugar mixed with this year’s lof-fi slacker poster boys Mazes. ‘Kitten’ eases off the accelerator a tad and muffles the vocals somewhat but is still a sturdy, rolling J Mascis-leaning treat.

This split single (three tracks on the vinyl, those plus an extra three come as digital downloads) is a pithy, hard-hitting introduction to both bands but given the format never outstays its welcome. And the contrast in musical styles between both acts only helps to amplify the respective qualities of each. By all accounts the live reputations of both bands are formidable. Sadly if like me, Glasgow and Edinburgh gigs are not an feasible option, you’ll just have to content yourself with the recorded alternative. As Gerry Loves Records remind us at the top: there's nothing quite like buying vinyl.





Paws/Lady North Split Single [BUY]

Saturday, August 06, 2011

JONNIE COMMON @ THE CASTLE HOTEL 4 August 2011


The Manchester launch night for the Jonnie Common album started with intense discussion as to when was the last time we had seen Aidan Smith and on what stages (and did we really see him at The Ritz once?). Tonight he was “a guitar guy not a keyboard guy” but these songs about cinema complexes, silver pentagrams and cannibalism plus a Kate Bush cover (‘Army Dreamers’) lost none of their great wit or charm through the choice of second instrument. He finished with the pairing of ‘Song For Delia’ (“I wrote this about 40,000 cigarettes ago”) and a genius song of heartbreak and humour about being a songwriter man. What a criminally over-looked songwriter. And whenever we did see him last, it was too long ago.





Next up was Adam Gorman and Jo Dudderidge, two-fifths of The Travelling Band and co-promoters of this evening under their Sideways Saloon guise. Tonight was a repeat of their first ever gig night with all the same acts performing (Jonnie Common was then Down The Tiny Steps).

The quick wit of Aidan Smith was replaced with a more earnest but enjoyable alt-folk sound performed on just guitar, banjo and harmonica plus with extra guitar for some songs from Steve Mullen “the Nels Cline of Northenden”. If more serious, the friendly intimacy of the evening was maintained (although in the tiny back room of The Castle Hotel it is nigh impossible for any event to be anything other than intimate) and these spare renditions of Travelling Band songs sounded glorious.





Jonnie Common tonight had a table-top of gadgetry and wiring sat within a large aluminium flight case: keyboards, samplers, switches and Lord knows what else plus two microphones. Before he started, Common apologised if “this is too much”. The live drums from Pete Kelly sounded great and added an emphatic thump to the songs and the overall volume was noticeably up from the quieter acoustic sets earlier but it was a surprisingly short set at just six songs. The songs from “Master of None”, including the Lauren Laverne endorsed ‘Exit Stage Left’ (“mentioned in her Grazia column too”), were missing the subtle detail of the studio versions but their charm and melodic delights were intact.





An uncomplicated, unfussy but fun evening of contrasting music not overshadowed by the furnace-like heat of the room and not allowed to descend into a muso love-in despite the long-standing friendships and collaborations between all involved. Professionals and gents all of them. There are only 300 vinyl copies of the Jonnie Common album “Master of None” and by rights they should sell out soon – grab yours now.

The Set List:
Hand – Hand
Summer Is For Going Places
Photosynth
Exit Stage Left
Bed Bugs
‘Wet Behind The Ears’

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

JONNIE COMMON "Master of None"


With an album title implying a deficit of skills and artwork depicting a headless dog you’d suspect that Jonnie Common has some confidence issues. (He also confesses in ‘Hand-Hand’ he “can’t skate-board to save my life”). Stepping out from behind his previous musical incarnation as Down The Tiny Steps, he unveils this week the first album under his own (real) name; and ‘Master Of None’ shows a songwriter lacking neither craft nor assurance.


In addition to Down The Tiny Steps, Jonnie Common has developed quite a jack-of-all-trades musical CV – currently one third of Inspector Tapehead, remixer, producer and arranger-cum-curator of the Deskjob collaborative project (it’s an impressively extensive discography on his website). Common does has a twitchy tendency to re-edit and re-shape: pre-orders of this album came with a ‘Scrapbook’ version, tagged as an ‘alt-mix’ but actually a substantial overhaul of the tracks into single 37 minute piece. These multifarious roles and the “eternal rehash” approach could lead to a slop of indulgent studio boffin tinkering. Instead the result is a winning distillation of the off-kilter rhythms and inventiveness of The Beta Band with the homespun innocent charm of King Creosote’s “Kenny and Beth’s Musakal Boat Rides”. Although Common loops, layers and adds in fielding recordings of ansaphone messages and radio announcements, it never over-runs or obscures the gorgeous melodies and his deep but soothing Scots burr. ‘Summer Is For Going Places’ is a perfect example –a glitch-fest of cut-up and backwards voices at times but all used sparingly to underpin and even strengthen the song.



There’s a plethora of these little moments of creative knob-twiddling - treated banjo ('Lungs Are Important'), hissy drum machine rhythms ('Heir To The Throne'), shiny glockenspiel chimes ('Infinitea') or electronic squelches and trills ('Photosynth') – that only add to the summery affability of "Master Of None". It all fits together beautifully even when Common is pushing himself towards “Mellow Gold” Beck-style beats and rhymes on ‘Bed Bugs’. What could easily have been a clunky miss-kick is instead one of the album’s sure-footed highlights.

Alongside the Awesome Wells album released in May, ‘Master Of None’ is another accessible and joyfully quixotic record from the Red Deer Club stable (or should that be deer park?). Restless studio experimentation added to great song-writing and condensed into an uncommon alt-folk treat.

Hand - Hand - Jonnie Common

Jonnie Common Master Of None [BUY]

Monday, August 01, 2011

MANCHESTER GIGS IN MUSIC: August 2011 Pt.1


Summer's here and it's festival season. It may be quieter on the local music front but there's still plenty of gigs including many provided by bands criss-crossing the country and the skies to play in those green fields.

Pick of the bunch this month in Manchester is the Cloud Sounds and Hear Here gig at The Castle Hotel: H Hawkline, Yoke (Cate Le Bon + Meilyr from Race Horses) and The Maladies of Bellafontaine. All for just £5 advance.

As ever a mixtape [47 mins / 54 MB] of bands playing Manchester this August to help inform your gig-going decision-making - link in the post below this one.

Manchester Gigs In Music Mixtape: August 2011

Ringo Deathstarr So High (1 Aug Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Sic Alps L Mansion (23 Aug The Castle BUY TICKETS)
H Hawkline Gelly (Lleuad II) (25 Aug The Castle BUY TICKETS)
Jonnie Common Bed Bugs (4 Jul The Castle BUY TICKETS)
Chad Vangaalen City of Electric Light (20 Aug Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Bleeding Knees Club Bad Guys The Castle (3 Aug BUY TICKETS)
Trouble Books Song for Reinier Lucassen's Sphinx (13 Aug The Castle BUY TICKETS)
Other Lives For 12 (17 Aug Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Wild Nothing Chinatown (21 Aug Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Givers Up Up Up (10 Aug Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
The Maladies of Bellafontaine Black Biro (25 Aug The Castle BUY TICKETS)
Wye Oak Civilian (22 Aug Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Jo Rose Balcony Doors (5 Aug Fuel BUY TICKETS)

And not forgetting:
3 Aug Laura J Martin Dulcimer / 4 Aug The Jayhawks Academy / 5 Aug Walton Hesse Fuel / 5 Aug The Datsuns Roadhouse / 6 Aug Louis Barabbas & The Bedlam Six Ruby Lounge / 6 Aug Far Out Fest Islington Mill / 8 Aug Mark Kozelek St Ann’s Church / 8 Aug Lucy Rose Ruby Lounge / 8 Aug Washed Out Deaf Institute / 9 Aug How To Dress Well Deaf Institute / 9 Aug Meddicine + ASSS Bar Centro / 9 Aug Ben Butler + Mousepad Islington Mill / 10 Aug R Stevie Moore The Castle / 10 Aug The Slow Show Dulcimer / 12 Aug Daniel Johnston Manchester Cathedral / 12 Aug Chameleons Vox Ruby Lounge / 13 Aug Shonen Knife Deaf Institute / 19 Aug Liz Green + Prism Quartet Whitworth Art Gallery / 19 Aug The Pulsebeats + Emperor Zero Islington Mill / 20 Aug Janice Graham Band Ruby Lounge / 23 Aug Jason Webley Gullivers / 23 August Sebadoh Academy 3 / 25 Aug Folk Apocalypse 2 Night & Day / 27 Aug Jesca Hoop Band on the Wall / 30 Aug Cansei de Ser Sexy Academy / 30 Aug Comet Gain Roadhouse / 31 Aug Arcade Fire MEN Arena / 31 Aug Gordon Gano & The Ryan Brothers Ruby Lounge

MANCHESTER GIGS IN MUSIC: August 2011 Pt.2

Mcr Gigs in Music Mixtape: August 2011 [47 mins / 54 MB] - download here