Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Get Your Own Song... There's Nothing Going On Here"

Towards the end of last year two things hit me hard: I was spending more time deleting emails than listening to music and Haim topped the Blog Sound 2013 poll.

Now it’s always nice to receive email but there’s only so much inappropriate and unsolicited messages one man can take. And amongst the deluge of dross (commercial hip-hop, piss-poor Croatian synth-wave, the fourth re-send of that generic introduction from the PR intern, more Croatian synth-wave) I was probably overlooking some utter new music gems. And surely Haim is self-explanatory? When a new music bloggers poll IN WHICH I TOOK PART selects the same band as BBC Sound of 2013, the game really is up isn’t it?

But instead of doing the honourable, clear-cut thing, I took a six month break. Shilly-shallying indecision. So I feel the need to apologise and properly, definitively draw things to a close.

So if I’d been active I would have written about: The Android Angel, Asian Babes, The Doomed Bird Of Paradise, Emperor Zero, Fire Island Pines, Haiku Salut, Hookworms, The Indelicates, Jacco Gardner, H Hawkline, Literature Thieves, Meadow, Parquet Courts, Psychic Ills, Rat Bit Kid, Mat Riviere, Sweet Baboo, Toxie and The Wobbly Hearts. Plus those delivering as-expected excellent debuts: Brown Brogues, Eagle Owl, Stephen Hudson. But especially that Trwbador album – now that’s a leap forward! And if there was ever a theme to this blog, it was celebrating the richness of excellent music that is overlooked, the gems that should be better known and more widely heard. Like the above list.

And some contributions from Twitter for you to consider of excellent music from the first half of 2013: Boards Of Canada (@LizardVanilla), The National (@GirlOnATrain), Phosphorescent, TE Morris, Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie 'Prince' Billie, The Besnard Lakes (@UraGrayMalkin) and Ulrich Schnauss (@GoldenFable).

But what might be my favourite to top all the above is the Threatmantics long-player “Kid McCoy”. Partly it has to be said because it so overlooked and appears only on physical sale in Spillers Records in Cardiff but mainly because it’s just such catchy and clever fun. Angular arty folk-punk but with big melodies, a big heart and some surreal silliness to boot. So I now finally leave you with the words of 'Archaeopteryx' from that album: “Get your own song... there’s nothing going on here”. Sorry for drawing it out.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

DAVID THOMAS BROUGHTON, ICHI & RACHAEL DADD @ King's Arms, Salford 24 June 2013

I missed the exact name of Rachael Dadd and Ichi’s son but for the purposes of this account let’s call him Yukio. I tell you now: Yukio is not a child who has a set bedtime routine.

Rachael Dadd opened this evening’s proceedings, the last date of a short tour from all three artists, armed with a ukulele and with Yukio wrapped in a papoose on her back. Her early songs, with clear voice and gentle percussion from shells around her ankles, were quite straight-up, homespun folk for an evening of surprise and experimentation. If anything her halting, lucid almost jazzy enunciation recalled 70s singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell or even Nick Drake at first. After a few numbers on David Thomas Broughton’s acoustic (“this could be the last time I touch it”), her final two songs on the ukulele took on a more animated, flighty even psychedelic streak with closed eyes and soft chanting. Accompanied by Yukio’s delighted gurgles and then finishing with him attempting to yank the lead out of the uke, it was a wonderful collision of the transcendental and the domestic.

If you’ve never seen a man play a fretless, two string wooden stilt, then you’ve never seen Ichi. And like last year when I first saw him, I can never compensate for this loss in your life with words. They will only fall short. Ichi is a one-man band extraordinaire; this time with balloons, hand-made thumb pianos, random pieces of plumbing, multicultural patty-cake games and rhythms made from the amplified sound of brushing his own teeth. Songs about kumquats, stag beetles and reindeer in Japanese or wordless antics with golf balls, steel drums and party-poppers shouldn’t work on stage but the sheer inventiveness and giddy astonishment draws gasps. And yes from Yukio too who no doubt has seen it all more times than we ever will.

That press photo of David Thomas Broughton with the stern, staring eyes and dark, gothic beard is growing a little over-familiar. Still, I was totally foxed at first as to who the baby blued eyed figure with the M&S casual zipped top and Berghaus walking boots on stage at the King’s Arms was. He looked more like misplaced Chemistry post-grad with swept fringe but he soon revealed himself to be the headlining folk provocateur. If previous times I’d seen David Thomas Broughton had been about uncomfortable confrontation or lengthy drones, tonight was about the fragility of the lone performer.

It was a set of all new songs performed as a single sequence but with loops and glitches and gaffes in which it was difficult to tell what was accidental and what was deliberate. For every hip-swinging pose with the guitar, there was a dropped microphone or missed cue or pen that wouldn't find its pocket. A microphone is hidden in a bag but it never stops being used. Again words cannot capture how clever and coordinated this clumsy performance was. “A second rate event” he sang in one of the songs towards the end but for Yorkshire’s most puzzling export there’s no such thing.

I wasn’t going to write about this gig – I’ve had six months just enjoying live music without having to have an opinion – but I needed to write down how special and transfixing tonight was, for myself if no-one else. In a world of sanitised and safe musical acts, here was intimate surprise and sharp delight that fell somewhere between music and performance act. It started off sparse – only just double figures for the start of Rachael Dadd – but filled out as the evening went on. Still - not enough people were there. You dear reader should have been, but I know you weren’t. I carried out a headcount and found you missing. Don’t make this mistake again for any of these performers. Or indeed for any show promoted by Hey Manchester like tonight's was. Quality guaranteed.

And Yukio? Well I know it’s not your real name but Yukio my boy what a start in life you have. Even if on tour those bedtimes go a bit awry.