Thursday, 31 July 2014

#328: Blackthorn Music Festival, Blackthorn Farm, Stockport - Day 2

Blackthorn Festival Day 2

Blackthorn Farm, Stockport

25th – 27th July, 2014

As Saturday rears its not-so-ugly head, we relish in the fact that our silver tongues have managed to alleviate us of today’s shift, and as such we can treat ourselves to an early tipple, something which, when we arrive on site a little after midday, it’s clear many other punters have partaken in as well. What’s also clear, is how many more people have descended on Blackthorn Farm than yesterday, though given the weekend’s line-up this of little surprise and is something organisers should bear in mind, should they want a more consistent attendance next year. 

This review was originally written for Louder Than War. Click here to read in full.

#327: Blackthorn Music Festival, Blackthorn Farm, Stockport - Day 1

Blackthorn Festival
Blackthorn Farm, Stockport
25th-27th July 2014
Nestled on a farm towards the back of Etherow Park in Stockport, South Manchester, Blackthorn Festival seems to work as a microcosm of your traditional festival experience. Dave Beech attended this year’s festival for Louder Than War and his review of King Kartel from day one can be found below, with a longer review of day two to follow.
This review was originally written for Louder Than War. Click here to read in full.

#326: Alvvays - Alvvays

Album Review: Alvvays - Alvvays (2014)

This review was originally written for Shout4Music. Click the link above to read in full.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

#325: Jubilee Courts - Go From the Blue Light In to the Moonlight (EP review)

Jubilee Courts

Go From the Blue Light in to the Moonlight

August 8 2014 (Stalkers Records)


Back in December when we reviewed the debut single (and its respective B-side) from Northhampton's Jubilee Courts, whilst both tracks differed from each other aesthetically, what they did do was make it clear the band aren't one to linger too long on any one genre; incorporating their influences, no matter how varied, into a sound that's very much their own. This is something made all the more evident on their debut EP, 'Go From the Blue Light in to the Moonlight'.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

#324: Got a Girl - I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now

Released: July 2014
Genre: Indie Pop
Label: Bulk

Brainchild of actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead and producer Dan Nakamura, the first thing one notices about I Love You But… is just how cinematic the composition and production both feel. As such it’s easy to imagine any one of the album’s twelve tracks soundtracking a quirky indie flick by the likes of Zach Braff or Wes Anderson. This should come as little surprise however, given that the duo met on the set of Scott Pilgrim vs the World and bonded over a shared appreciation of the French yé-yé music popularised by the likes of Serge Gainsbourg, an aesthetic that is manifest throughout most of the record.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

#323: Woman's Hour - Conversations

Released: July 2014
Genre: Indie Pop
Label: Secretly Canadian

Three years ago, a little-known outfit from Kendal called Woman’s Hour released their debut, a double A-side entitled “Jenny/Human” and then, like many contemporary acts these days, promptly faded into obscurity. Or so we thought. Truth be told, Woman’s Hour didn’t just fall off, they went back to the drawing board, honed their sound and, if Hype Machine is anything to go by, set bloggers abuzz in 2013 as the sixth most blogged band that year. And then they came back with this, Conversations, a record which, like its namesake, works deeply on several different levels.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

#321: Acre Tarn - Deaf Institute, Manchester - 11/06/14

It's always awkward when you go to a gig to watch or review the support band. Rarely is the crowd at full capacity, and not very often are they particularly interested. Unless of course the support band you're going to see is Acre Tarn, and the gig in question is their debut outing. With a veil of mystique surrounding the band, not a huge amount is known about them other than that they're an ambient duo who tested the waters with their debut track 'This Once' back in May. The enigma around the band looks set to dissipate however, especially if tonight's set is anything to go by. Dark, atmospheric and ultimately captivating, Acre Tarn are a band you should be very excited about.

At only six tracks long, their set is over too soon, and as the house lights at Manchester's Deaf Institute go flick on, there's a far bigger crowd blinking at the brightness than was present in front of the stage half an hour previously, serving as a testament to the band's beguiling charm and enigmatic ambience.

Opening with 'Serene', they quickly assert themselves as something different from the other bands on the bill and despite having a similar to set up to headliners Alpines, Acre Tarn's drum loops and synth hooks drip with a chilly darkness; the vocals only adding to the overall majesty of it all. An early inclusion of 'This Once' draws yet more of the crowd towards the stage, whilst what follows is all completely new to us, tracks such as 'Wishing Bones' and closer 'Skeleton Key' really exhibiting the diverse musicality of the band before us.

If tonight's set is anything to go by, then it should go without saying the band's forthcoming EP should be something we're counting down the days for. Indeed, whilst their mystique is still very much in place, as their reputation grows that will certainly change, but it isn't strictly a bad thing and the more people who would consider themselves fans of the band, the more my confidence in music-buying public will grow. For the minute though, the band should continue to relish in relative anonymity, shrouded by the strobe lights and haunting synths of live performances, because before long the wheels of the hype train will set in motion, and all it can do then, is gather momentum.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

#319: Tobacco - Ultima II Massage

TOBACCO – Ultima II Massage (Ghostly International)
Out now
Warped synths, scuzz, ruptured bass – Tobacco succumbs to his pop urges with Ultima II Massage and kicks downs electro doors in the process. 
“This might be my most purposely difficult album yet, but I promise if you let it in, it can fuck you up” claims Pennsylvanian beat-monger Tobacco. But after one listen to Ultima II Massage I was, metaphorically, a spent force, ready to reach for my cigarettes and my wallet, pay my $200 and emerge panting from the massage parlours that populate the record’s sleeze-soaked narrative. After several listens however, I found myself drawn in to its spasmodic whimsy and ultimately upifting nature.
This review was originally written for Louder Than War. Click here to read in full.

Monday, 14 July 2014

#318: Sisters In Crime - Local Manchester Labels Announce Partnership

Sisters in Crime - MUK Records and Scruff of the Neck Records announce partnership


Scruff of the Neck Records Active Roster: DELAMERE / YOUNG. / THE FEVERS / JOLANGA / DAVID LIVERSIDGE

In a week that saw MUK recording artists accounting for nearly 25% of the music played on Saturdays ‘BBC Manchester introducing‘ radio show, the Manchester based independent is proud to announce that they and fellow Mancunian independent record label Scruff of the Neck are amalgamating and will become sister labels in crime as of Monday July 14th.

The operations merger of MUK and Scruff of the Neck, two of Manchester’s newest and brightest young record labels, will allow their respective current artists and future additions to their repertoire a more widespread and robust team and skill set. With increased opportunities for their music on both a national and international platform, the affiliation will also bring increased awareness of both labels and their artists via already existing European licensing relationships and a dedicated synchronisation partnership in the US .

As well as their record company arm, Scruff of the Neck also represent a successful events company which prides itself in promoting carefully programmed music shows, festivals and pop-up live events, as well as boasting their own video production and recording studio in the bohemian suburb of Chorlton, South Manchester.

In a working capacity, both labels will keep their respective individual identities, but benefit from a larger team and wider facilities including recording and video production as well as press and network connections. Musically, MUK will continue to work predominantly with more electronic/crossover artists, whilst Scruff of the Neck will carry on with their excellent record in bringing more underground guitar music to the attention of both the Manchester and National music scene.

MUK & SCRUFF OF THE NECK… Made in Manchester.

Follow Muk on Twitter here.
Follow Scruff of the Neck here.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

#317: Catching Up With...No Hot Ashes (U&I Music Magazine - July Issue)

Back in February, when Mr Rock 'n' Roll himself, Alex Turner, talked about smashing “through the glass ceiling” at the Brit Awards, the chances are he probably wasn't thinking about four lads in a funk band from Stockport. Many suggested he probably wasn't thinking much at all, whilst others suggested he was probably thinking about the rolled up 20 in his jacket pocket and his favourite mirror backstage. The fact of the matter is however, that No Hot Ashes are closer to the embodiment of traditional rock 'n' roll (as an idea, rather than genre) than the Monkeys have been since their debut. And whilst they might not yet have shattered that ceiling, with the way they've progressed recently it's hard not to imagine the first cracks appearing before long.

Indeed, the band aren't even your traditional rock band, fusing together a host of styles in to cohesive hybrid that drips with the best aspects of funk, ska and rock; never feeling convoluted, never feeling self-indulgent. Tracks like single, 'Cigs and PG Tips', seem loose enough to adhere to the band's funk aesthetic, whilst in actual fact, are tight jams in which the spaces between notes are just as important as the notes themselves.

Despite only having a small of arsenal of songs at their disposal, the tracks they do have have make for both a solid debut EP in the form of last year's 'Wob', and a solid live experience that oozes swagger, without any of the arrogance; singer Isaac careers across even the smallest of stages, feeding off his band mates, and just looking like he's having the time of his life. Perhaps one of the most exciting things about the band, is the potential shown in the newer tracks they debut live, 'Goose' and 'Skank' for instance both suggest the band have matured since their EP, and serve to heighten any sense of expectation behind their inevitable second release.

It's the potential exhibited by the newer material, especially in a live environment that makes it easy to see why people are getting excited by No Hot Ashes, a relatively young band whose ideas and influences, not to mention musicianship and chemistry, reaches out far beyond their actual ages. They might not be anywhere near the dizzying heights of stardom that will win them a Brit Award just yet, but there's more rock 'n' roll in fags and teabags than there is in corporate award ceremonies anyway, no matter how shiny your leather jacket is.

U&I: Cheers for taking the time out to have a chat with us guys. First of all, you've been a band for a couple of years now, and have started to make a name for yourself over the last few months or so. What do you think it is about yourselves that has allowed your reputation to gain momentum?

Isaac- Hi, no problem, it’s a pleasure.

Lui- Yeah, we’ve been at it for 2 years now but it really doesn’t feel that long. The past 6 months have been ace, been nice to receive so much attention, we want as many people to hear our tunes as possible and it’s exciting to see it happening.

Jack- I know it’s pretty cliché of a band to say it but we really think our sound is unique, and we like to cover a wide spectrum of genres when planning our set so I think that’s what has grabbed people’s attention.

U&I: Your sound isn't your straight forward indie, more a fusion of influences and styles that manifests itself as a punk/funk hybrid. How have you found supporting more traditional indie sounding bands? Has your sound gone down well?

Matt- Yeah, we like to keep things fresh and we think it shows in our mixed genre sounds. To be honest we have supported a lot good bands in the past two years but then we’ve also supported a lot of shitty sounding bands, I think we shock people once we hit into our set, they’re always expecting your generic group of four young Manc lads to start belting out a few Oasis influenced, Arctic Monkeys rip off tunes but that’s not what we’re about.

Lui- I think overall our sound goes down well at gigs. It’s always going to be hard for any band to find entirely compatible support acts, but if the audience is up for going out to see unsigned talent, then they’re up for seeing something a bit diverse.

U&I: Your growing reputation has obviously allowed you to start playing some bigger gigs and festivals of late, most recently the Deaf Institute and Headlander Festival, but how do those kind of gigs compare to each other, is it a different kind of buzz?

Isaac- Definitely, we’ve really enjoyed playing at a couple of well-established venues, I think we all agreed after the Deaf Institute gig that it’s now our favourite venue, such a cool fucking place.

Lui- The Deaf Institute gig put on by our good mates Puppet Rebellion and the man himself Mr Peeps was up there as one of our biggest gigs, a top night and we smashed our set. Headlander Festival was a different buzz, not the best crowd we’ve played to but again, stuff like that doesn’t bother us and we still just go ahead and smash our set regardless, I think it’s important that bands give their all when playing live, regardless of who you’re playing to. We always want to give it our all, not look like a bunch of moody pricks.

U&I: You recently released your debut EP, the fairly self-descriptive 'WOB', how has that been received?

Jack- “WOB” went down really well, it’s picked up loads of attention in the past few months and people seem to find the tunes catchy, which is good to hear. Both tunes are pretty long and kind of tell a story really, we went through a stage of writing really long 6/7 minute songs with complex structures and lots of twists so there’s only two tunes on the EP which we recently found out doesn’t count as an EP but we stuck with it anyway.

Isaac- We got a lot of radio airtime from this EP, it got played on the likes of “ALL FM 96.9” “Fab Radio” “Terry Christians Show” “Salford City Radio” and a few others. It’s always a nice feeling when people are asking to play a song you’ve written on the radio.

U&I: Similarly, any plans for another EP, or even a full-length before the end of the year?

Lui- Well we’ve just recently been successfully funded on our Kickstarter Fund which was amazing, we got well over what we asked for and that has been a massive help in funding our studio sessions. Keeping on the topic of studios, we have something pretty exciting in the pipelines for that so keep your eye out. Our next project will be a “proper” EP. We’re looking at something around 5/6 tracks to put on there so if all goes to plan that should be ready for release in September of this year.

U&I: Being from Manchester, you're obviously involved with a large amount of other local bands, who are some of your favourites. Anyone you'd really like to gig with but haven't yet had the chance?

Lui- A band that stood out for me after catching their set at Headlander Festival last weekend, are called PURGE. These guys are something pretty special and unique, they reminded me of a kind of RHCP/RATM fusion and throwback, very funky with loads of metal riffs. The lead singer’s pretty mental, he’s got a mad style of singing, and you can’t knock that Indian headdress. All I would say is check them out.

Isaac- We like to think we support other bands from Manchester a lot, we’re involved on social media sites and interacting with other local bands, getting down to their gigs and gigging with them. One of my favourites would have to be PURGE too. They’re something else. Puppet Rebellion have been a favourite of mine for the past year, their riffs and lyrics are maybe the best I’ve heard from any of the bands we’ve played with. Watching them at Deaf Institute after we’d supported them was a treat, as was watching The Backhanders. Another band who we’d love to give a big shout out to is Jipsy Magic, a Brighton band who supported us a while back, they’re funky as anything.

Jack- The Backhanders are definitely one of the best bands we’ve seen and played with. They’re a real throwback to the classic Manchester sound. Witty lyrics and anthem worthy song structures.

U&I: On a similar note, what do you think it is about Manchester that makes its music scene as vibrant and as eclectic as it is?

Matt- Manchester is thee place for indie music to blossom. People are still massively influenced by bands that emerged from eras like Madchester and Britpop, I know that we all are. There’s so many cool venues to play and happy people to meet, it’s a unique place and has such a rich musical history. Even the Bee Gees grew up in Chorlton.

Jack- Manchester is full of culture too, and I think a lot of people will agree that music is a big contributor to this.

U&I: As the city seems to be moving away from the traditional indie band format, and more and more acts are diversifying, have you got any ideas of which direction we could be heading in now?

Isaac- We’ve always been lovers of funk music and I think we’ll always keep that element in our music. People like new wave funk without even realising I think, with Nile Rodgers and Daft Punk making a name for themselves in today’s charts, it goes to show that there’s room for funk in modern music. I think we try to be kind of punky in the way we convey our music too. I think we’ll always be heading in the direction of indie funk with a bit of attitude.

U&I: Have you got any plans to diversify your sound even further? Or do you think you've carved yourself a niche that works?

Lui- Who knows? Over the past two years its changed massively but I guess some elements remain pretty grounded in your influences, I`d like to think we can keep experimenting with our sound and keep moulding it to our own tastes and just hope people enjoy it. I`m a huge fan of guitar effects and as you know from seeing us live there’s a few mad sounds that we like to mess about with.

U&I: Finally, any parting words or exclusive news you'd like to share with our readers?

A big thanks again to anyone who funded our Kickstarter Fund, our fans really have kept us going as a band and well we wouldn’t be recording anytime soon without that.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for a big party in September. WOB.

Probably one of the biggest gigs of our year will be “Blackthorn Festival 2014” with headliners “Reverend and The Makers” and “Dodgy” it’s going to be a good weekend.
(25th – 27th July)

U&I: Thanks guys, it's been a pleasure, as always.

Cheers Dave.

Friday, 11 July 2014

#316: Kult Country - The Eagle Inn, Salford - (04/07/14)

Kult Country

The Eagle Inn, Salford

July 4 2014

The Eagle Inn, nestled on the border between Manchester and Salford, is rapidly becoming the venue to go to to see bands on the rise. While its location may be a little off the beaten track, what it's lacking in locale it more than makes up for in both charisma - and in the acts that grace its small stage.

This review was originally  written for Little Indie Blogs. Click here to read in full.

#315: Stephen Steinbrink - Arranged Waves

Released: July 2014
Genre: Folk
Label: Melodic

“I’d much rather hear a folk song about how someone is frustrated at their iPad, because although the subject is banal, the relevancy isn’t” proclaims songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Steinbrink, suggesting a wisdom that hugely belies his 25 years. A wisdom though, that has almost certainly arisen from Steinbrink spending more than half of those 25 years in a reflective sense of wanderlust; not just taking in the sights and sounds of our world and its people, but trying to work them out as well, such was his inspiration for his latest record Arranged Waves.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

#314: Kutosis - Dream It Away


Dream It Away

June 30 2014 (Jealous Lovers Club)


In 2012, Cardiff three-piece Kutosis came roaring out of the ether with a multi-faceted debut that cherry-picked elements from a host of genres, fusing them together to create something bold, abrasive and ultimately excellent in the form of 'Fanatical Love'. Two years down the line and the band haven't strictly lost their angular edge, but rounded it, an aspect of their follow up 'Dream It Away' brought to the fore by producer Rory Atwell (Veronica Falls, Yuck). Kutosis' propensity for genre-bending is still very much the driving force behind this record, however, flirting with post-punk, dream-pop, shoegaze and garage-rock all with wilful abandon.

#313: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Ruby Lounge - Manchester (2/7/14)

Gig Review: The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, The Ruby Lounge, Manchester (02/07/14)

This review was originally written for Muso's Guide. Click the link above to read in full.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

#312: Catching Up With...Kult Country

One of the most exciting new bands out of Manchester at the moment is Kult Country, whose impossible to pin down sound and incendiary live shows have become something of legend over the last few months. After being mightily impressed with their follow-up (to 'Slowburn') single 'Trembling Moon', which was released yesterday (June 30) - see our Track Of The Day feature, and 9.5/10 single review - we caught up with the band for a quick five minutes.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

#311: Warehouse Eyes - Carvings

Warehouse Eyes


May 23 2014 (self-release)


Up until May, very little was known about the Minneapolis-based five-piece Warehouse Eyes other than what they wanted us to know. The extent of this knowledge fell at the feet of teaser track and their EP's inevitable lead single 'Tokyo', something which ultimately whet the public's appetite and left them clamouring for more than just a taste. Fortunately, their 'Carvings' EP works as a stepping-stone, sating said appetites and bridging the gap between single and full-length. At four tracks long it's the perfect length for an EP, and as the band's analogue synths entwine themselves around the luscious vocal melodies, building themselves up as the record progresses, any sense of mystique surrounding them breaks down, and the vocals of Jennie Lahlum soon feel familiar.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

#310: Plank - Hivemind

With their debut LP Animalism, Manchester’s Plank! introduced both themselves, and their love of krautrock-inspired, instrumental prog-rock to the world. It wasn’t something to everyone’s tastes, but it was ultimately something which garnered them fans and allowed the band to develop confidently, even after the departure of  their previous drummer. Now, having dropped the exclamation mark from their name, Plank have released their second album Hivemind, a record that might have downsized significantly in subject matter from 2012′sAnimalism, but one that has absolutely grown in ambition.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

#309: Jack Robert Hardman - I Don't Need An Answer (single review)

'I Don't Need An Answer', the latest single from solo singer/songwriter Jack Robert Hardman, sees a return to his unique brand of folk-pop, floating hazily forward on wave upon wave of melody. Taken from his current EP 'The Great Unknown', the track feels somewhat more radio friendly than other releases ('Plymouth', for instance) but it works in Hardman's favour: his pop sensibilities shining through, like a more polished Beulah, the vocals providing at times, an almost-gruffness that prevents the track from being too polished.