Wednesday, May 30, 2012

JOHNNY 5TH WHEEL & THE COWARDS Nancy / In My Laboratory

This - the third single from their forthcoming second album - is my first proper listen to Prestonian pranksters Johnny 5th Wheel And The Cowards. Or as the band would have it
johnny5thwheelandthecowards. The first song on this AA release is not packed so heel-to-toe tightly as that compressed version of their name. ‘Nancy’ turns out to be a leisurely unfolding tale of “a man obsessed / by a dream of a girl possessed” featuring librarians, a giant eye-ball and an abrupt ending. For all the dressing-box flamboyance to their self-proclaimed 'steampunk-doom-jazz', this oddity is more modest, a meeker Jacques Brel quietly rakish with a folky air.

Companion piece, and more obvious single material, is ‘In My Laboratory’, a nifty piece of boffin-pop that combines ‘Monster Mash’ silliness and groove with the playful seriousness of fellow contraption-wrangler Thomas Truax. For all the surreal lunacy of said laboratory ( “10,000 purple moon-bears dance for me / Genghis Khan is coming round for tea”), it’s also a playground where its mad scientist “could do anything”. These two brief tracks, despite their idiosyncratic charms, don’t have the space to push all those boundaries yet but this tantalising teaser bodes well for September’s sophomore album. The single is out on 25 June via Sotones.

Johnny 5th Wheel And The Cowards Nancy/In My Laboratory [BUY]

Friday, May 25, 2012


Despite the tropical weather earlier the Deaf Institute is quite cool tonight. It’s also a little sparse of audience members as Seamus Fogarty takes to the stage. It’s a shame more weren’t tempted indoors sooner because they missed a treat. I was intrigued to hear how the songs from “God Damn You Mountain” would sound live stripped of the field recordings and unusual, unidentifiable accompaniments on record. Performing seated with just unvarnished acoustic guitar and harmonica, some of songs were uncomplicated folk airs, some were toe-tapping bar-room pleasers like the non-album song from his days playing Chicago bars (“mainly Johnny Cash and Rory Gallagher covers”) and then others like final song ‘The Wind’ captured that haunting, meditative simplicity of his debut album.

He cut an amiable and garrulous figure on the bare stage, cursing himself for overlong tune-ups but also providing some sublime and seductive moments. By the end of his set the Music Hall felt much busier and it was good to see that afterwards large swathes of people were coughing up cash for a copy of that highly recommended album.

I always waiver between whether I prefer seeing James Yorkston solo or with band. I say waiver but probably come down on the side of solo. But playing "Moving Up Country" on its tenth anniversary re-release – surely this dictated a full band? (as in the upcoming shows in Edinburgh and London)? The first ten songs of tonight’s set were a chronological rendition of that 2002 album but that doesn’t do justice to the unfolding journey therein. Just with guitar and harmonica, these slowed down versions of the songs captured their raw emotions but with an added graceful immediacy. I’ve never seen or heard a more engaged audience than the early part of this set. And this was before the emotional journey spread out into the between-song chat. This included farcical tales of stained sheets in B&Bs and punching people on trains, condemnation of David Cameron (“he’s a cunt”) and then joyfully celebrating the imminent conclusion of his three year old daughter’s chemotherapy treatment. These tour tales and deeply personal moments mingled in with the witty asides of ‘Cheating The Game’ or the tense, quivering seven minutes of final album song ‘I Know My Love’.

Seamlessly the set continued – ‘Temptation’ as requested from the crowd, three new songs from this August’s new album "I Was A Cat In A Book" and two more older songs. The emotional swings of the first half of the set continued: the heart-breakingly raw ‘The Fire And The Flame’ about his daughter’s illness drew tears from the singer and left the crowd devastated (no over-statement) but was then followed by a surreal and improvised musical tirade against Bob Dylan, Status Quo and other ropey parts of his older brother’s record collection. This led into an unlikely, unplanned and none-too-serious cover of Motorhead’s ‘The Ace Of Spades’ which then fed into a beautiful rendition of ‘Someplace Simple’.

The emotional depth and range of the evening was beyond compare – from bonhomie and comic asides to raw vulnerability between just two songs was astonishing. I’ve seen James Yorkston many times before but tonight’s gig was one of the best. He’s clearly been through hell but thank God he can still laugh and joke and bawl and cry about it and share these moments. Truly entrancing.

The Set List

In Your Hands
St Patrick
Sweet Jesus
Tender To The Blues
Moving Up Country, Roaring The Gospel
Cheating The Game
I Spy Dogs
6.30 Is Just Way Too Early
Patience Song
I Know My Love
‘Lately I’ve Found I’ve Struggled’
‘The Fire And The Flame’
‘Bob Dylan and Status Quo diss’
Ace Of Spades
Someplace Simple
Steady As She Goes

Thursday, May 24, 2012

THE LEG Eagle To Saturn

How is this music?” was the scathing reaction of the person who interrupted my solitary and loud playing of this record. My reaction was somewhat different: “I hope this keeps its immediacy after the first listen” followed swiftly by “hang on, this reminds me of Khaya”. And to my surprised delight the screeching-with-strings of The Leg is indeed a direct descendant of 90s Edinburgh noise-niks Khaya who then begat Desc. And in fact The Leg - Daniel Mutch (banjo/guitar), Pete Harvey (cello) and Alun Thomas (drums) – are on their third album with “Eagle To Saturn“. Previous label SL Records lays out the Khaya biog here and current label Song By Toad completes the other end of the tale here.

Khaya could emulate The Pixies at their most shrieking and weird. Here The Leg channel their undiminished energy for weird shrieking into a rabid folk-punk. With cello. And where cello is often used to add elegance or gravitas, here it groans and saws ominously to add a spooky underscore to Mutch’s psychiatric ward screams and surreal lyrics. ‘Bake Yourself Silly’ (free download below) is the litmus test for whether you will get this record or not. It’s sternly confrontational and angry banjo-driven tune, with a bitter humour that is almost extinguished by the sense of menace. “There are no stitches / cuz there was no operation” many seem tame written down but the simmering, implied threat behind Mutch’s delivery makes it deeply disturbing. Elsewhere the album twists through warped moonshine blues (‘God Don’t Like It’), Swans-like brutality (‘Freda Bolt’) and over-driven, hyper-fast rant (‘Twitching Stick’). The Leg can do slow and sinister too: ‘The Birds Are Falling’ is a sludgy belly-crawl with more of that sawing cello and the distorted wails of what sounds like the unremorseful man who poisoned said falling birds.

Last year I put Desc into Obscurometer - it was given a 97% obscure rating. Khaya does slightly better at 95.5%. This record like earlier mutations of the band is not an easy listen but the real question we should be asking is: “how is this music...not better known?”. “Eagle To Saturn” provides a happy re-connection with fond memories of an earlier band for me but also a unpredictable, wilful, alarming 29 minute ride for the brave-hearted.

The Leg Eagle To Saturn [BUY]

Friday, May 18, 2012


This was only Sharon van Etten’s second visit to Manchester, the first being “four years ago when I played solo”. Heather Woods Broderick from three-piece backing band had been to the Deaf Institute before however with Efterklang: “it was Fancy Dress Halloween AND we had a robot war”. Well tonight may not have contained kick-ass battling androids but it was special and memorable in its own way.

I’m normally uninterested in a musician’s appearance but I was surprised to see Sharon van Etten was in 3.5 inch stiletto heels, black lacy top, red lipstick and generously applied eyeliner - my expectation was she would be as plain-dressed and monochrome as most of her press photos depict her, and that she would let her confessional songs doing the talking. Well I was half-right. ‘All I Can’ was an excellent choice of opener – a start-small, soul-bearing honesty that builds and builds into an heavy-duty, anthemic thump. Most of the set tonight, ten out of eleven songs, was from this year’s album "Tramp" which has a fuller, more atmospherically orchestrated sound. And the band – Doug Keith on guitars and Zeke Hutchins on drums completed the line-up - felt hand-picked to replicate that sound live with intricate and precise playing, multiple instrument swaps, a wedge of effects pedals and even some looped vocals and percussion.

Their studious playing contrasted well with the relaxed bonhomie between the players and with Van Etten sweetly chatty between songs – talking about quitting smoking, thanking the supports, apologising for tuning up. She was not as shy or reticent as I had heard or expected but there was a slightly gauche girlishness to her banter. Again I foolishly expected the stern and battle-hardened warrior of relationships fought, won and lost. And there was plenty of this on show – and vulnerability, raw pain and forgiveness – but it was all channelled into her songs.

The main set ended with ‘I’m Waiting’ segueing into ‘ Joke Or A Lie’. For the first part, Doug Keith used a violin bow across his guitar strings before pressing up against his amp for some epic Sonic Youth noise before this ebbed away into the sparse and direct second song. It was cleverly theatrical but still allowed both songs to speak directly to the audience. I missed not having more quieter, acoustic numbers (and no ‘Peace Signs’!) but despite a focused brevity to the set this still felt like a substantial banquet. It was also good to find that Sharon Van Etten is neither a robot nor a tortured wreck in real life, and in fact a pleasantly well-adjusted normal person who’s not adverse to a bit of slap and glam. And of course it is her heart-wrenching songs that tower high, with no heels needed for extra lift.

The Set List:

All I Can
Don’t Do It
Give Out
I’m Waiting
Joke Or A Lie
Magic Chords

Thursday, May 17, 2012

ONIONS Pleasure Blast

If I understand this right, this album, the debut from the Manchester-based trio following singles in 2007 and 2009, has been six years in the making. Not only is the debut finally now here, the follow-up album is recorded and mixed AND all songs for the third are written too. Before we get ahead of ourselves, this year's release...

It may have been a long gestation for ‘Pleasure Blast’ but it is not an over-cooked affair. Instead it’s a richly piquant dish, in which Onions pack each song full-to-the brim with multiple variations of their chirpy, choppy barber-shop glee-pop. If you ever wondered what The Shins arm-wrestling with The Everly Brothers over who can play the better (and faster) hopscotch math-indie would sound like, then the majority of “Pleasure Blast” provides the answer.

Songs abound with ideas, wit, time signature changes and a vast armoury of vocal phrasings, tics and harmonies. But it’s a record that never stands still. There’s moments of social documentary vérité in the tattoos, pregnancy and knickers-round-your-knees opener ‘An IE or A Y” then ‘Word of Mouth’ takes you to the Pyramids of Giza and the Colossus of Rhodes. ‘Belle Vue Fair’ has a scally-wag roughness mixed up with its swiftly twitching rhythms (reminding me of lost-in-action Liverpool trio Hot Club de Paris). ‘Never Gonna Change’ is joyfully sunny-but-sad Buddy Holly-goes-surf tunefulness. The pneumatic bounce of ‘Silicon’ manages to sound (to these ears) like an amalgam of 80s quirk-pop lunatics Stump and 90s Swedish melodic alt-rockers The Wannadies yet make perfect sense. Throughout singer-bassist James Brown swings from flighty falsetto to mock-stern bass tones as deftly as the band (Martin Sherwood on guitar and Chris Vaughton on drums) change musical gears with some gorgeous three part harmonies and plenty of ‘ah-oos’, ‘bah-bahs’ etc thrown in too.

There’s no single song that represents the album as a whole but ‘Louise Louise’ comes close, combining ‘Chutes Too Narrow’ whimsy and pep with ADHD jitters, singing romantically of “kisses like peppermint” but also of Charlie Manson and domestic bedsit blues (“it’s fuckin’ freezing in here”). Not everything in the vitamin-packed 35 minutes is successful. ‘Il Seres’ is a lovely acapella - and fitting - coda to the record but a few tracks earlier the acoustic ‘Wide Eyes’ is another change of tempo but feels too close to saccharine Paolo Nuitini territory for comfort. It is however less than two minutes long and a rare, slight misstep in an otherwise sure-footed and slow-cooked treat of an album.

Onions Pleasure Blast [BUY]

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"We Just See Where It Goes..." Q&A WITH EASTER

As the name suggests, Manchester's sonic-screechers Easter have undergone re-birth in their longer-at-it-than-you'd-imagine history. They released an EP back in 2009 but before that band leader Thomas Long had been “writing, jamming and gigging in the city since he was fifteen”. Yet the current line-up of Easter is a fresh start – or development – of the band’s sound: brooding dark rock, melding pop hooks and post-rock experimentation to fine effect. Joining Long now are drummer Andrew Cheetham, experimental guitarist Danny Saul and bass player Gavin Clarke. On the cusp of the release of debut long-player “Innocence Man”, I asked Mr Long of Crumpsall, North Manchester to share some thoughts on where Easter is at now. And where it is going.

This is mark II of Easter. What has changed from the first version of the band and why?
It's a complete change really. I'm the only original member from the first line up, and Mark II is just far more rocked up. After we recorded the "Hob Talk" EP the line up just kind of crumbled, as I guess it was more like friends who were helping me out rather than this committed thing, but I was disappointed when Rich (original guitar player) left as it kinda started with him and he's a great guitarist with a whole sound. But it's worked out pretty well in the end cos Danny, Andrew, Gavin are awesome players and I had a much bigger sound in my head after the "Hob Talk" EP and I think we've pretty much realised it.

Think a musical backdrop of Godspeed and Sonic Youth melded together with the atmospheric vocal delivery of Red House Painters' Mark Kozelek” Handy summary of your sound but does it encompass the full range of influences for the band?
It is quite a good summary but it leaves out some British stuff which I think is definitely in there: things like The Chameleons, House Of Love, Joy Division. And the more poppier side of the American stuff - Sebadoh, Pavement, Dinosaur Jr which we all love. For me Dylan and Springsteen are pretty big too, and more recently folk stuff like Martin Simpson and Richard Thompson has informed my playing but that'll probably come through more on the second album. As for the others, Danny brings a whole world of noise music to how he approaches anything, intense stuff like Merzbow, and Andrew's playing is definitely informed by a lot of free rock, and free jazz stuff, and Gavin's into weird jazz stuff too like John Zorn. They're fun to play with!

Tracks can be a combination of verse-chorus-verse song structures and long, instrumental and improvised passages. How do you work as a band to create these songs?
I’ll write the core of a song usually on an acoustic guitar, and then bring it to the band and we just hash it out. I like to leave things open ended so there's the possibility of these expansive sections, and we just see where it goes. I've been thinking of us recently as a have-yr-cake-and-eat-it band, we like songs with hooks and lyrics, but we don't want that to stop us getting into some heavy jams.

On the spectrum that goes from meticulously planned to spontaneous, where would you put Easter?
Somewhere in the middle I guess, the end section of ‘Holy Island’ is never the same twice, and the middle bit of ‘Pages’ we purposely kept loose so it had that jammy feel. With certain sections putting definite constraints on it can suck the life out of it, in a way.

Hence the album was recorded live in one evening?
To be honest it was more a case of circumstance than anything else, the rest of the band all play in different things so it was becoming difficult getting us in the same room. We just went in to see what we'd come out with, recorded it in one night, then a year or so later of mixing and messing about and we had an album.

Is being in a band and releasing this album what those Crumpsall pipe-dreams [from 'Damp Patch'] were about? Or is there still more to be done to fulfil them?
From being sat around on the dole or whatever a few years back this would seem pretty cool to finally have an album in my hands - and it is a rush - but now it's all about working on new stuff and getting more stuff out there, so yeah a lot more to be done. Hopefully this will be one of many.

Beyond the album release and launch gig in June what are the plans for Easter?
Yeah we're fixing up a tour at the moment for July/August, then we're looking at doing a seven inch for the autumn which will be 2 new tracks, in the meantime just working on new stuff that should form the second album.

Second album teasers before the first is even released? One thing at a time please. And despite the line from 'Pages' - "
Second verse / It's always worse" - this second coming of Easter has already produced in "Innocence Man" one of the year's essential listens. It's out on 11 June on White Box Recordings accompanied by a Manchester album launch at Kraak Space on 22 June.

Monday, May 14, 2012

MOONFACE With Siinaii: Heartbreaking Bravery

Spencer Krug is a serial collaborator. Simultaneously a member of Montreal groups Wolf People and Sunset Rubdown he also formed Canuck art-rock super-group Swan Lake with Dan Bejar of Destroyer and Carey Mercer of Frog Eyes (another band that Krug used to feature in too). So it shouldn’t be a surprise that his third solo release under the Moonface moniker is not in fact a solo record but one in which he is backed by Finnish kraut-rock outfit Siinai (formed from the ashes of Joensuu 1685). So in response to the enquiry ‘what are you listening to?’ the answer “a collaborative Canadian-Finnish art-rock project” could either get you desired hipster points or a slap around the chops depending on the tolerance of your inquisitor.

Whereas earlier Moonface releases had been more playfully experimental (indulgent?) exercises built around organ or marimba, “With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery” has a more voluminous, fully-rounded sound courtesy of the Finns (and their contribution seems to be unfairly demoted to part of the album title rather than equal billing). There’s still an arty vigour and sternness to Krug’s commandeering pulpit lecture vocals but also an exuberant whoosh of chugging, propulsive rhythms and shimmering electronic textures. Songs are dense rather than difficult and many stick to a low-gear restraint but also as with TV On The Radio on "Dear Science" several are quite limber, loose and even poppy: the slinky, mid-tempo title track, the infectiously muscular pulse of ‘Shitty City’, and the sub 3 minute electro-rock firework jesting of ‘Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips’ (“make you look like Stevie Nicks”). So more toe-tapping than other Moonface outings and with greater variety of track duration but oddness and surprise still surface: ‘I'm Not The Phoenix’ with its cryptic incantations, jagged (melodica?) riffs and metronomic drumstick clatter sounds like the Silver Apples and the bubbling tension of ‘Faraway Lightning’ contains a curious whirring not unlike a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer as a backdrop to more darkly combative theme about violent relationships.

It’s a cerebral and moody record but also one where some of its prog-pop jams wouldn’t appear out of place on the dance-floor or at least on a DFA Records compilation. Its declared theme of heartbreak is often difficult to discern beneath the arty lyricism and swagger but both the forthright, charismatic intoning of Krug and the shiny, thickset, repetitive rhythms of his Finnish comrades-in-arms remain hypnotically compelling. Proving that sometimes a solo record can have too many cooks.

The Montreal-Helsinki partnership take “Heartbreaking Bravery” on tour in UK and Europe this month (including a Manchester date at the Soup Kitchen on 28 May).

Moonface With Siinai: Heatrbreaking Bravery [BUY]

Thursday, May 10, 2012

SEAMUS FOGARTY God Damn You Mountain

County Mayo-born Seamus Fogarty appears to be drawing on particular rural concerns and characters on his debut album: songs about mountains, water, the wind and apple trees plus titles featuring Dinny Phil (and his walking stick) and Rita Jack. But “God Damn You Mountain” never becomes locked to a specific place, country or even single mood - it’s a displaced record creating its own sonic landscape and Fogarty’s neutral even deadpan burr sounds closer to Fife than to Limerick. And Fence Records - headquartered in Cellardyke, Fife - is the faultless home for this release, with its wayward folky sounds formed on guitar, banjo, fiddle and cello with the added curious spaciness of analog synthesisers, laptop interventions and sea-shell percussion; a mixture the traditional and the experimental, of the DIY and accidental with a singular vision.

The elegiac ‘The Wind’ shares the same cathedral-hush baroque sparseness as Smog’s “Red Apple Falls” whereas ‘By The Waterside’, ’The Undertaker’s Daughter’ or the title track have deeper roots with echoes of traditional Irish airs or the pre-war folk-blues of the Harry Smith Anthology but with a distinctly modern crispness (Fogarty cites studio clinicians Tortoise and David Grubbs as inspirations in this interview for The Quietus). ‘By The Waterside’ and others feature some unusual/unidentifiable percussive tics and glitches (‘butter tray’ is cited as one of the instruments on the record) and the opening ‘Appletrees’ hypnotically and deliberately unfolds to the rhythm of what sounds like tightly coiled springs being stroked lovingly – but you’re never quite certain what is being stroked or by what. And at the centre of the album is the disorientating, nine minute ‘Rita Jack’s Lament', a shape-shifting collision of spoken word, finger picked guitar and musique concrète like an Alan Lomax field recording from peat-bog rural Ireland being simultaneously soundtracked by John Fahey and The Orb.

In its closing moments, ‘The Question’ provides a comically bleak and misanthropic moment: “When you’re young you think that life is shit / there must be more, this can’t be it / then the shit becomes your life / taking shelter beneath the trees whilst the rain pissed down on me / this was the question on my mind”. But “God Damn You Mountain” as a whole is an unhurried, life-affirming listen, mixing rough, earthy ruminations with a transcendental other-worldliness. Displaced, nomadic even, but a fine addition to the Fence Collective homestead.

Seamus Fogarty God Damn You Mountain [BUY]

Monday, May 07, 2012


In its seventh year, I finally made it to multi-venue one day festival Sounds From The Other City but nearly ended up spending all of it in just one one venue. The day started – and ended - at St Philip’s Church one of the twelve stages for the one-day festival, today programmed by Hey Manchester.

I’m not sure what factors led opening act Dancing Years to change their name from Joseph and David but factual accuracy may have been one of them. Performing as a six-piece - grand piano, violin, melodica, guitar, bass and drums - this felt like an ensemble of equals rather than a duo backed with hired help. As well as their mellow, gracefully arranged folk-pop, the Leeds band also gave us burger recommendations ("only £1.50. And with onions and cheese") and a final acoustic song performed in the church’s central aisle. A lovely start.

Seeing Withered Hand live has been a long time coming but it didn't disappoint. And as Dan Willson pointed out, church is the perfect venue for these religion-infused confessional songs of failure, heart-break and holy days peppered with off-hand between song reflections on communication between people, home-schooling and self-deprecation. A new EP is due later this year (“I’ll probably self-release it... look, I’m jaded already”) containing one of the two new songs he played. Like everything else he has recorded it will be essential, especially given the evidence on show this afternoon.

Withered Hand Set List: Cornflake / Providence / No Cigarettes / Gethsemane / Take Me To The Promised Land / Religious Songs / It's A Wonderful Lie / New Dawn/ Love In The Time Of Ecstasy

I stayed on in St Philip’s Church for Stuart McCallum’s instrumental jazz ruminations, mostly down-tempo numbers performed on guitar, double bass and drums except a final acoustic guitar-and-loops song ("here's a cheery one I wrote") to finish.

Restlessness finally pulled me out of St Philips Church to Islington Mill. It was a shame to miss Stranded Horse’s twenty-four string kora playing but it was time for something a bit noisier. Brighton’s Fear Of Men were certainly noisier than earlier fare but their dark reverb dream-pop also comes with waves of melody and sweetly sung vocals – as sugary soothing as it is fuzzily loud. Other than occasional swaying the band are largely impassive as they play – the exception being for their cover of The Chills ‘Pink Frost’ which became a spooky, almost hallucinogenic trip with the band twitching and convulsing along. Haunting and majestic.

Then back to St Philip’s for Laura J Martin. Now of all the day’s performers, Laura J Martin was the one who I was nervously interested to know how her delicate flute-and-mandolin-and-loops songs would work in the cavernous setting of the church. Brilliantly was the answer. She may have been a diminutive, solitary figure upon the now darkened parapet but the songs rang out, whether the frail, pin-drop quiet of ‘Tom’, or ‘The Lesson’ performed at the grand piano (“I like to keep it light: this is about family in-fighting mixed with cock-fighting”) or the furious flute-playing of ‘Spy’, tonight dedicated to Beastie Boy Adam Yauch.

Laura J Martin Set List: Fire Horse / The Lesson / It's Taking So Long / Spy / Tom / Black Caravan / Red Flag / Salamander

It was only a few weeks ago upon seeing this video that I realised how young Paul Thomas Saunders was. From the epic, cavernous sounds and emotions of his two EPs, I’d imagined someone with more years of bitter experience, remorse and pain tucked under their belt. Backed by a similarly youthful three-piece band, live these songs were just as sonically soaring and widescreen as their recorded versions. Another perfect pairing of music with setting. And imagine what Paul Thomas Saunders will sound like with a few more years of life’s ravages thrown at him.

I didn’t think Sweden’s Emil Svanängen aka Loney Dear could surprise me. I came expecting solo acoustic versions of the songs from his now seven album back catalogue. What I wasn’t expecting was the cleverly layered and hypnotic delivery of them. As well as acoustic guitar he was travelling with organ pedals, loop station and half a drum-kit. Seated he added subtle loops of guitar, voice, handclaps or individual pieces of percussion almost without you realising he had done so. It meant that songs were slowly and surely built up – often seven minutes plus in length – topped off with his emotive falsetto, just as moving as when wordless. Again the setting was perfect and the performance meticulous but deeply affecting. For final song ‘Resonance’ he tried to get the crowd to hum a specific refrain in f sharp – we failed but he really did not need any help from us or anyone else. A worthy headliner and a fine, fine finish to my first Sounds From The Other City.

I only caught seven out of eighty-three bands and made it – just – to two out of twelve venues but even that small sampling of Sounds From The Other City was fantastic value for money. In a week when a woeful BBC article wondered whether Manchester can get over its musical past (‘it can, it’s the media that can’t’ was the best retort I saw), here was another retort from a group of independent promoters looking forward not backwards, bringing local and international, new and emerging talent to the sunny city of Salford. Oh where many BBC departments are now based. A visit to their own backyard for SFTOC should put paid to such poor 'think' pieces in future.But as this article reveals Sounds From The Other City is 'up for review' by the organisers and will probably change its format to stay one step ahead. Definitely looking forwards not backwards.

Thursday, May 03, 2012


I last saw The Gentle Good as a five-piece band accompanied by a string quartet. Here Gareth Bonello, shorn of band, strings and even band name, was as sumptuously captivating as at Green Man Festival - even if the back room at The Castle Hotel is not as breathtaking as the Brecon Beacons. His six song solo set featured English and Welsh language songs, all softly sung, about lovers at dawn, burnt bridges and seafaring birds. The latter was from a forthcoming album based on the works of a Chinese poet and sung in Welsh. It may sound esoteric or specialist but it was utterly entrancing and instantly accessible. Bonello apologised for the length of time preparing for second song ‘Pamela’ but it featured an unusual tuning discovered when he dropped his guitar. A neat metaphor for the set – meticulous but spontaneous and filled with fresh discovery. Surprised to be saying it but I think I prefered these delicate songs without those string players tonight.

Richard James's recorded output may not be as erratic as fellow ex-Gorky Euros Childs but I have seen live performances of his that have veered from introspective folky intimacy to screeching rock melt-down. Tonight's gig followed the template of this month's album release however: quiet, exquisite finger-picked folk-blues, even opening and closing with first and last songs of that record ‘Pictures In The Morning’.

In this small room, the pain and the heart-break contained within them was starkly exposed but in a sweet confection of harmonies and gently interwoven guitars. The trio of performers, (Gareth Bonello returning on guitar and Andy Fung on hand drum) also gave us Welsh murder ballads ("everyone dies"), songs from the Pen Pastwn collaboration and hypnotic, almost Eastern, metronomic rhythms. For performers who already played a Marc Riley 6Music session and then got lost trying to find tonight’s venue, they were remarkably focused and assured. An evening of special intimacy and rare music-making that was a joy to witness.

The Set List:

All Gone
Baby Blue
Say It Ain't No Lie
Sun Instrumental
Shot My Baby Down
Familiar Roads
Cariad Y Wawr
Down To My Heart
Shake My Heart
Sinners And Movers
Wrth Y Llongau
Yes My Love Died

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


As if there weren’t enough gigs to miss in a month, May also brings over 100 bands playing three multi-venue city festivals in Manchester and Salford. Starting with Sounds From The Other City this weekend and finishing with the Chorlton Arts Festival Weekender at the end with Future Everything in between. If all goes well I may even get to more than one of these. This month’s mixtape leans more to many of the other gigs across the month including tomorrow night’s highly recommended Richard James gig at The Castle (see yesterday’s post on his latest album).

As ever a mixtape [65 mins / 75 MB] of bands playing Manchester this month to help inform your gig-going decision-making - link in the post below this one.

Mcr Gigs in Music Mixtape: May 2012 [65 mins / 75 MB] - download here.

Johnny Dowd Ding Dong [3.59]
(28 May The Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Girls Names I Could Die [6.15] (22 May Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Moonface with Siinai Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips [9.01] (28 May Soup Kitchen BUY TICKETS)
Library Voices Generation Handclap [12.58] (14 May Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Tennis Baltimore [15.18] (25 May Soup Kitchen BUY TICKETS)
Hunx and his Punx Lovers Lane [18.53] (13 May Islington Mill BUY TICKETS)
Hooded Fang ESP [22.32] (7 May Club Academy BUY TICKETS)
Human Don’t Be Angry H.D.B.A. Theme [26.05] (23 May Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Alt-J Matilda [29.51] (18 May Quay House BUY TICKETS)
Perfume Genius All Waters [31.56] (9 May Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Pond Mystery [35.59] (26 May Soup Kitchen BUY TICKETS)
Richard Buckner Escape [39.26] (3 May The Met, Bury BUY TICKETS)
I Like Trains We Are Matadors [42.33] (12 May Soup Kitchen BUY TICKETS)
Loney Dear Airport Surroundings [46.02] (6 May St Philips Church BUY TICKETS)
Bowerbirds Tuck The Darkness In [50.48] (4 May Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Young Magic You With Air [54.20] (9 May Trof Fallowfield BUY TICKETS)
Hauschka Radar [58.07] (21 May RNCM BUY TICKETS)
Richard James Baby Blue [61.18] (2 May The Castle BUY TICKETS)
James Yorkston I Know My Love (demo) [65.50] (24 May Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)

And not forgetting:
1 May Boxes Ruby Lounge / 1 May Savages + PINS Fuhrer Bunker / 2 May Richard James The Castle / 2 May Ladyhawke Ruby Lounge / 2 May Jake Morley + Ivan Campo Deaf Institute / 2 May Candi Station RNCM / 3 May The Coronas Night & Day / 3 May Weird Dreams The Castle / 3 May Team Me + The Barr Brothers Soup Kitchen / 3 May Richmond Fontaine The Met, Bury / 4 May James Blackshaw Sacred Trinity / 4 May Alice Russell + Quantic Band On The Wall / 5 May Mike Marlin The Castle / 5 May Tellison Sound Control / 5 May Papier Tigre Night & Day / 5 May Blood Red Shoes Academy / 6 May Here We Go Magic + Porcelain Raft + By The Sea Deaf Institute 6 May Sounds From The Other City Various Venues / 7 May Flats Sound Control / 7 May Howler Club Academy / 8 May The Three Johns Gullivers / 8 May Ahab Deaf Institute / 8 May Friends Academy 3 / 8 May Dan Sartain Night & Day / 10 May Quiet Loner Sacred Trinity Church / 10 May Grimes Islington Mill / 10 May Alabama Shakes Central Methodist Hall / 10 May Dan Wilde The Castle / 10 May A Place To Bury Strangers Sound Control / 10 May Trailer Trash Tracys Deaf Institute / 10 May Wallis Bird Jabez Clegg / 10 May Lianne La Havas Academy / 11 May Mother’s Ruin Islington Mill / 11 May EMA Night & Day / 11 May Lydia Lunch’s Big Sexy Noise Ruby Lounge / 12 May Zulu Winter Sound Control / 13 May Said The Whale Deaf Institute / 13 May My Best Friend Soup Kitchen / 13 May Duane Eddy RNCM / 14 May The Big Sleep The Castle / 15 May Princess Chelsea The Castle / 15 May Balkan Beat Box Band On The Wall / 16 May Mystery Jets Quay House / 16 May Shabazz Palaces Islington Mill / 16 May Tim Hecker + Forest Swords St Philip’s Church / 16 May Bird + Jo Rose Night & Day / 16 May Peasant The Castle / 16 May DZ Deathrays Soup Kitchen / 16 May Spoek Mathambo Ruby Lounge / 17 May Holy Other + Haxan Cloak Islington Mill / 17 May Moebius St Philip’s Church / 17 May Rooftop Runners Night & Day / 17 May Milk Music Soup Kitchen / 17 May Sharon van Etten Deaf Institute / 17 May Onions Gullivers / 18 May Money + Great Waves Quay House / 18 May Katzenjammer Ruby Lounge / 18 May Cheeba Islington Mill / 18 May Bridge & Tunnel Kraak / 18 May The Paris Riots Soup Kitchen / 18 May Matthew Herbert RNCM / 19 May Gemma Hayes St Ann’s Church / 19 May The Rubys Ruby Lounge / 19 May The Horrors The Ritz / 19 May Amon Tobin Academy / 19 May 12th Carefully Planned all Dayer The Castle / 20 May Death Grips Islington Mill / 20 May Bear In Heaven Soup Kitchen / 20 May Swimming St Ninian’s Church / 21 May Oberhofer Deaf Institute / 21 May The Crookes Sound Control / 21 May Dustin O'Halloran + Johann Jóhannsson And Ensemble RNCM / 21 May We Are Willow Band On The Wall / 22 May The Primitives Ruby Lounge / 22 May Get Cape Wear Cape Fly Deaf Institute / 23 May Brendan Benson Ruby Lounge / 23 May White Denim The Ritz / 23 May Belleruche The Roadhouse / 23 May Japandroids Soup Kitchen / 24 May The Handsome Family St Clement’s Church / 25 May Mighty Fine Ruby Lounge / 25 May Chew Lips St Clement’s Church / 26 May The Hounds Below Night & Day / 26 May Milagres Deaf Institute / 26 May Lanterns On The Lake St Clement’s Church / 27 May Neal Casal Band On The Wall / 27 May Dutch Uncles St Clement’s Church / 27 May Fixers Deaf Institute / 28 May Paper Aeroplanes The Castle / 29 May Into It Over It The Castle / 30 May Kathryn Williams The Ruby Lounge / 30 May The Melvins MoHo Live / 31 May Gideon Conn Deaf Institute


Manchester Gigs in Music Mixtape: May 2012

Manchester Gigs In Music - May 2012 by Follyofyouth on Mixcloud

Or download mixtape [65 mins / 75 MB] here.