Acolytes

January 22, 2010 at 4:11 pm (Uncategorized)

Delphic – Audio, Brighton – 19/01/10

In theory, Delphic should have well and truly missed the boat by now. Having almost made it big as wide screen melodic guitar outfit Snowfight In The City Centre a few years ago, the band have re-grouped and re-invented themselves as a dance-rock hybrid some two years after new rave was foisted onto the world.  In theory, the prospect of yet another act intent on splicing 80’s electronica with 90’s indie is enough to make any jaded music hack want to put their head through the nearest Klaxons picture disc. In theory, no one should care.

It seems a little surprising then, that Delphic should enter 2010 with their star firmly in the ascendancy, yet they seemed to have followed the template for new band stardom down to a tee. Having appeared on consecutive editions of the highly respected Kitsune Maison compilation towards the end of 2009, they made their first appearance on ‘Later…’ in November, were short listed for the BBC’s Sound Of 2010 award a month later, and released their debut, ‘Acolyte’, to glowing reviews from all corners of the music press at the start of the year.

As a result, tonight’s show at Audio is absolutely rammed, with a crowd eager to see the band in a relatively small setting, and curious to discover if the hype is justified. The band take to the stage backed simply but effectively by strips of coloured neon lights, and launch into ‘Doubt’. Jittery drums intersect with cut-up vocal samples beneath a haze of dreamy synth tones and sweet harmonies, and though the band are extremely tight and confident, their sound is hardly groundbreaking. As the track builds, however, and more and more elements are brought to the fore (a bit of ‘Wicked Game’ style guitar here, some weird panning effect between speakers there), the lights start dropping into deeper and more intense flashes of crimson and violet, and the audience gradually find themselves in the presence of something special.

The band showcase a range of dance sub-genres, shifting from Erasure style pop (‘Submission’) to out and out techno assault (‘This Momentary’) without losing their sense of cohesion or resorting to throwing in incongruous elements of electronica for the sake of novelty. Every track seems to have evolved organically, and even songs like ‘Red Lights’, which starts fairly innocuously and threatens to peter out into gentle ambient dance eventually works itself into a proper pulsating frenzy of euphoric trance at its conclusion. The band finish with an epic working of ‘Counterpoint’, which evolves sublimely from a restrained, emotionally tense slice of New Order style pop, to something akin to Orbital’s 90’s live heyday. The crowd are thunderous in their applause, and baying in their cries for more, but the band, consummate professionals already, leave them hungry.

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A Strange Beauty

January 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm (Uncategorized)

Vivian Girls – Freebutt, Brighton –  14/01/10

Vivian Girls arrive in Brighton for the first leg of their UK tour with a fair amount of hype behind them. Their debut album was released to favourable reviews in the Indie music press in 2008, and their live shows, including a set at last year’s Great Escape festival, have helped push them onto many critics ‘Pick Of 2010’ lists. Indeed, the Freebutt is packed to capacity tonight to catch a glimpse of the beguiling Brooklyn three-piece, who arrive on-stage with little fanfare and proceed to casually sound-check their way into their set.

Their style is a seemingly contradictory mix of 60’s style girl-group staccato pop and fuggy 80’s shoegaze, which makes for a fairly disorientating experience. Vocals are rendered insensible by cloying coatings of heady reverb, drums pound ominously throughout, and the two guitarists somehow conspire to create an intense wall of sound that is simultaneously a shimmering haze and an oppressive droning maelstrom. Heads bob along on-stage beneath blonde, red and dark brown fringes in a carefree pastiche of American wholesomeness, but there is an underlying sense of sly deviance that underpins the performance, and it is this combination that makes the band so interesting.

‘Wild Eyes’, for example, marries sweet, yearning vocal harmonies to a discordant, opiated wall of guitar squall, while ‘Can’t Get Over You’ follows a similar formula, sounding akin to a wasted Ronnettes covering Joy Division. Both are over almost before they’ve begun and as such the band are able to rattle through a fair number of tracks in a similar vein, but this does lead to a pretty worrying sense of déjà vu as the night draws on.

The fact that there is relatively little to choose between each song can be fairly helpful, in that if one particular take on lo-fi shoegaze-meets-Spector-in-a-submarine pop doesn’t quite float your boat, there will be a marginally different one to try in less than a minute. However it does quite quickly leave the impression that maybe four or five of their songs could be successfully amalgamated into a brilliant distillation of their art without too much being left over.

Some newer songs do hint at a touch more depth (some of them even break the three minute mark), and they are at their best on the rare moments when they fully let themselves go and start manically ramping up feedback during mid-song instrumental breaks. The live context allows them the freedom to expand and explore some of their songs in a way they have seemed reluctant to do on record thus far. On tonight’s evidence, this would certainly be a step in the right direction and may ensure that Vivian Girls are still making waves on these shores once the hype has abated.

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Futureshock and Awe

January 17, 2010 at 6:06 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , , )

Future Of The Left – The Freebutt, Brighton – 04/12/09

It would appear that the audience for punk, and indeed straight-up rock music as a whole is rapidly diminishing. True, the Freebutt does feel pretty rammed from my vantage point tonight, but on closer inspection this is largely due to the massive supporting column that has been handily plonked right in front of the stage, forcing the crowd into two equally crushed groups. There is still a fair amount of space at the back of the small venue, and with reports that Future Of The Left have been performing to crowds of 50 and 60 on the tour, the signs for the future of balls-to-the-wall rock are worrying.

This is a huge shame, as Future Of The Left seemed to have defied the odds and finally escaped the trappings of being two-thirds of legendary underground band Mclusky, by releasing one of the albums of the year with ‘Travels with Myself and Another’. It was a taut, focused album that perfectly fused lean, hardcore rock with a witty pop sensibility, and the reviews that followed suggested the band, and hardcore rock in general, may have been in line for more mainstream success.

Support act Tubelord manage to weave twitchy guitar lines and intricate drum patterns round some heavy, but fairly standard shouty choruses, and seem to have the whole quiet, quiet, quiet, LOUD! dynamic down to a tee. There is a bit of innovation in the more intricate musical passages, and the band seem very tight and together, but the lack of variety between songs coupled with the nagging feeling that all this had been done to death a good ten years ago didn’t really hep their cause.

Future Of The Left on the other hand, may not be overly original and have about as much subtlety as Katherine Hamnett’s wardrobe, but what they do, they do very well indeed. Opening with the savage ‘Arming Eritrea’, their ferocity is evident from the get-go. Lead singer Andy Falco’s hammering at his guitar, veins popping and eyes bulging as he screams ‘I’m an adult!’ into his mic like a tantrum-ing two year old in Tesco’s.

‘Stand By Your Manatee’, a song which seems chiefly concerned with the shame of eating with plastic cutlery, bounces along with a surprisingly jaunty riff, and maintains much of its harmonising charm in the live setting. Lyrically, it provides a glimpse of the band’s dry humour, which is further evidenced later, as the band relax into some genuinely hilarious back and forth with the eager audience.

Some tracks, notably ‘I Am Civil Service’ and ‘Land Of My Fathers’ are bereft of some of their on-record intricacies in favour of a blanket of screaming aggression which makes them sound a touch samey at points, but for the most part the live transition is near perfect. ‘Chin Music’ and ‘The Hope That House Built’ showcase a perfect mix of violence, wit and pop-savy choruses, before closer ‘Cloak The Dagger’ ends proceedings in an ten-minute orgy of feedback, audience participation, screaming and general mayhem that sends everyone home happy.

First published in XYZ Magazine

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Does It Offend You? Well, Only A Little….

January 17, 2010 at 5:55 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , )

Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Concorde2, Brighton – 19/11/09

The mosh circle, such as it is here, is like some kind of crèche for kids with ADHD. Tiny limbs fly around in joyous abandon even during the two support acts, whose mediocrity is rewarded with a display of exited adoration by those already crushed together at the front, thrilled to be let out on a school night. The over-eager dancing and general sense of being in a school disco is clearly bothering some of the older spectators, but it does make for a great atmosphere, and after all, it’s hardly as if we’ve come to see Sigur Rós.

DIOYY make the kind of music that is pretty much pointless to experience from a distance. There is barely any traditional musicianship to admire, little emotional connection to be made to the band other than a hyper-aggressive sense of anger and for the most part very little to be enjoyed in the way of melody. What they do specialise in, is a sound-clash of old school Prodigy beats, Daft Punk style synth lines and hyped up punk vocals delivered with power, force, and absolutely zero subtlety or originality. It’s a dirty, almost guilty pleasure that serves little purpose other than to soundtrack an evening’s wasted abandon, but on that level it delivers pretty well.

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The band begin with a fairly slack version of ‘With A Heavy Heart…’ which doesn’t generate nearly as much heat as it should, although the crowd are up for it immediately, before segueing straight into ‘Weird Science’. This comes over much better, as do the other tracks that make the band sound like tight electro DJs, as they actually end up sounding tighter than the more band-based songs. Immediately proving the point, ‘Being Bad Feels Pretty Good’, drifts by in dull anonymously, while ‘Doomed Now’, with its distorted vocals and emphasis on clashing guitar and synth lines is riotous, with the atmosphere towards the front verging on actual violence.

A couple of new songs are aired with mixed results. One tentatively entitled ‘Techno’ takes the tolerable bits of Kasabian, ramps up the intensity and then drops a massive techno bassline underneath to great effect. ‘Over Your Shoulder’ on the other hand, merely sounds like Kasabian being covered by a bad Bowie impersonator which is every bit as terrible as it sounds. ‘Lets Make Out’ sees the band accompanied by some kids from the crowd, but as none of them seem to know the chorus (which consists of shouting ‘let’s make out’ repeatedly), the whole exercise is rendered pretty pointless.

A mixed bag then, but on form (a frenetic ‘Battle Royale’ and closer ‘We Are Rockstars for example) DIOYY are capable of delivering some truly joyous moments of wasted, violent excess. On this basis, it seems to suit the kids just fine.

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From Here We Go Sublime

January 17, 2010 at 5:43 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , )

The Field – Audio, Brighton – 11/11/09

There is an enticingly strange selection of sounds emanating from Audio’s basement room tonight. An unholy union of trance and techno assaults the senses, played with power and intensity by an odd looking quartet, whose only connection seems to be a telepathic understanding of how each track should evolve.

While The Field started life as one man’s experimental DJ project, the recent release of second album ‘Yesterday And Today’ hinted at an evolution in sound, from bedroom atmospherics towards a more varied musical palette based around live instrumentation. As a result, tonight’s performance is enriched by the heady throb of a live bassist, the cataclysmic drumming of a man who bears an uncanny resemblance to WWE’s The Undertaker, and the fruits of a man sat with a laptop who is either a vital component of the group’s sound, or is simply an accountant sat doing their tax returns.

The Field, scary drummer watches on...

In amidst the chaos, stands Axel Willner, hunched over an array of mixing equipment and looking somewhat like a depressed Nordic fisherman. The Field is very much Willner’s project, and as such, he remains the focal point around which his live cohorts must work. The simplest of basslines weave in and out of the mix, fleetingly pushed to the front, before being swallowed in the melee surrounding them, whilst the tiniest alterations to the drum patterns help slyly subvert the rhythm of each track, in a way that seems almost unintentional. Indeed the focus on repetition within each piece often gives the listener the impression that they have been listening to the exact same song for several minutes, before suddenly realising that its fundamental principles have long since been changed in their entirety.

The overall effect occasionally makes for a rather disconcerting experience. The outward simplicity of each track constantly negated by the scope for alteration that the band finds within them, twisting each phrase into something vibrant and new. Most importantly though, The Field provide uplifting ammunition for those who simply came to dance. While most revellers are left in a trance like state of hypnotic wonder at the whole experience, there are still a fair few flailing limbs about to endorse the pure pleasure derived from the ominous bass rumblings, compressed drums and eerily distorted house vocals of tracks like ‘Over The Ice’. In fact, come the final song of the set, the crowd are practically baying for an encore, which they are given with a joyous rendition of ‘A Paw In My Face’. It leaves an indelible print of happiness and warmth on the beaming faces of the crowd as they are hastily hustled out into the night air. Just as well, it’s freezing outside.

First published in XYZ Magazine

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‘Like Watching The A4 Paper Taking Over The Guillotine’

January 17, 2010 at 5:27 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , , )

Everything Everything – Jam – 03/11/09

It’s nice to be surprised sometimes. Having become fairly well acquainted with Manchester’s Everything Everything through both their performance at this year’s Great Escape festival, and a fairly rigorous addiction to their MySpace page, I was expecting quite a lot from tonight’s performance. What I wasn’t expecting was two support bands providing quite so much in the way of killer pop hooks, brilliant falsetto vocals, laptops on ironing boards and live trumpet sampling. Both Brighton’s Rob The Rich and Scottish electro multi-instrumentalists Findo Gask were superb in their own right, and while space considerations prevents a full discussion of exactly why, my advice would simply be buy some tickets and find out for yourself.

Findo Gask - More To Follow, Hopefully.

By the time Everything Everything have morphed from enthusiastic onlookers into the evening’s main event, there is a palpable sense of anticipation in the air. They open proceedings bravely with the light ambience of ‘Tin’, which features beautiful vocal harmonies over a dreamy Eno-esq electronic soundscape. It’s a low key start, but in the context of the rest of the night’s offerings, gives a breathtaking display of the band’s versatility. Debut single ‘Suffragette Suffragette’ follows soon after, and somehow succeeds in marrying a Battles style drum and keyboard backing to a heavy guitar break reminiscent of Radiohead’s ‘Myxomatosis’ and a perfect pop chorus.

It is this kind of thrilling hybrid of styles that is central to the band’s approach. They wilfully chuck everything they feel like into a musical melting pot, twice, with scant regard for time signatures or the difficulty that HMV’s shop assistants will have in filing their CDs. There are moments tonight when this doesn’t always work. Some of the subtle nuances of tracks like ‘Hiawatha Doomed’ for instance, are somewhat compressed by the Jam’s low ceilings and cramped stage with only a few fragments of melody and some strained vocals surviving.

Overall however, they demonstrate an incredible flair for a huge range of musical styles, often within the same song, with the result that many of their four minute songs sound like absolute epics. ‘NASA Is On Your Side’ for example, starts a bit like a weird of hybrid of Radiohead’s ‘Pyramid Song’ and ‘Hmmm Hmmm Hmmm’ by the Crash Test Dummies, before gradually easing through 80’s balladering and into Sigur Ros territory.

It has the potential to sound like an unbridled mess, yet every song has a definite structure, sometimes only discernable after a few listens, and more often than not reveals an uncanny pop sensibility. The best is saved till last with a double whammy of ‘MY KZ, YR BF’, which features one of the best pop choruses of the year, and ‘Photoshop Handsome’ which perfectly sums up their crazed kitchen-sink alchemy in four minutes of perfect pop, at the end of a near perfect night.

First published in XYZ Magazine

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Miles Ahead

January 17, 2010 at 5:06 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , , )

Dizzee Rascal – Brighton Dome – 27/10/09

Dizzee Rascal as photographed by Rosie Johnson

Dylan Miles has come a long way from the ‘Boy In Da Corner’ of a Bow Street council flat spitting paranoid rage over an unnerving assortment of hacked up digitised weaponry. It only takes a cursory inspection of the assembled masses at the Dome tonight to prove beyond doubt that Dizzee Rascal has truly graduated to bone fide pop star status. Sweaty gelled-up lads rub up against glow-stick wielding ravers, who bounce into indie kids clad in scarves and sunglasses, while a smattering of middle aged mums and dads try in vain to keep an eye on their wildly over-stimulated offspring.

This transformation may be troubling to some purists, and it’s pretty obvious from the get-go that tonight’s show is going to be about as grimy as Kym Woodburn’s kitchen, but it’s hard not to smile at just how far Dizzee’s come with just his natural talent and good natured cheek to guide him.

The queen of grime....

Dizzee arrives, bang on time, to a rapturous ovation and immediately launches straight into a hyper aggressive ‘Bad Behaviour’ from his latest ‘Tongue and Cheek’ LP. It’s a brutal and discordant opener that recalls Public Enemy at their finest, but the host of new tracks that follow, including ‘Road Rage’, ‘Cant Tek No More’ and ‘Money Money’, offer little variation from a deep house and booming drum-loop backing,  and have the effect of blanketing most of Dizzee’s lyrics. Even ‘Flex’, while still deservedly a crowd favourite, is stripped of the horn lines and subtle synth effects that made it sound so innovative on record, and as a result ends up blending into the rest of the set.

One of Dizzee’s biggest achievements has been how he has constantly developed his musical palette to incorporate a huge range of styles, but it seems he has eschewed this variety in his live shows in favour of the more upfront dance beats that have carried his last three singles to no 1. This is perfectly understandable, but hopefully his recent Electric Proms show could give him the inspiration to use a range of styles and even live instrumentation in the future.

It’s a minor gripe however, as the 2nd half of the show, following a quick costume change, is absolutely superb. Dizzee rattles off hit after hit, starting with ‘Jus’ A Rascal’ and ending with a predictably euphoric version of ‘Bonkers’ which sends the crowd into raptures. Tonight Dizzee Rascal not only proved not only that he is now among the major league of UK performers, but also just how naturally it comes to him. If he could just have the courage to let some of his earlier work and album tracks breathe for themselves, he could find himself on the way to the global stardom that he deserves.

First published in XYZ Magazine

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