Wednesday, 14 July 2021

NEW #32 - Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan

 

It all starts with a rather upper class accent announcing: “It is an endeavour to provide a balanced town in which the motor car has certain privileges, public transport has certain privileges and people, perhaps most of all, have the privilege of walking about in safety…”. This is the start of Interim Report, March 1979 by Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan - a concept record that has grabbed me on two levels. First the music; sinister but warm sounding retro synth instrumental pieces with a rather melancholy and pulsing cinematic feel. They're like a long-lost cousin of Jean Michel Jarre or for a more modern reference, the soundtrack to Stranger Things. The second is because of my profession; design, architecture and construction is what I do and it helps pay for my music obsession. But that deep interest in buildings and place helps make this seem even more of a special record for me.

The cover of Interim Report, March 1979 reveals that the music contained within was commissioned as the soundtrack to a short film Gateway to the North, Gateway to the Future. The film publicised the work of the Warrington-Runcorn Development Committee in providing a thriving cultural life for the residents of the new estates of Warrington and Runcorn. It claims that excerpts were shown later that year on BBC’s Nationwide. Combined with the ‘Ex Libris Warrington Public Library’ stamp and the retro looking pictures of brutalist town centre landscapes it’s easy to believe the authenticity of this concept.

The reality is that this is all just the simply the brilliant imagination of one Gordon Chapman Fox who has created this impressive homage to these failed architectural and town planning orchestrations. The dream may have been an optimistic one; towns that were safe, clean and futuristic, but the reality was the opposite - grey, dispiriting and falling to pieces. Chapman Fox’s music undoubtedly provides the perfect soundtrack to this basic notion – even if the concept of the film and committee are fake.

Normally on Breaking More Waves I feature new artists who have just a handful of songs out, perhaps leading up to a debut EP. Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan is different. This album, released a few months ago, is already on its way to becoming something of an underground electronic cult-classic. It sold out first time round and is now being repressed on splatter vinyl with a further 600 copies available. But that’s just the start. In September Chapman Fox will release his second long-player under this moniker; People & Industry soundtracks the economic boom in industry in the Lancashire area in the late seventies. I’ve already seen record shops reporting that they are nearly out of their allocation, so as it’s not available on Spotify / Apple (just Bandcamp) you’ll need to get in quick if you want a copy.

Expect to see Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan's Interim Report, March 1979 on a few end of year lists come the close of 2021. Town Planning never sounded so good.

Warrington-Runcorn Newtown Development Plan - Gateway To The North

  

Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan - The Town of Tomorrow
 

Monday, 12 July 2021

NEW #31 - Cathy Jain

 

If you take a look at the cover art for the debut single Cool Kid by newcomer Cathy Jain (a simple line drawing of someone crouched on a skateboard) you may well come to the conclusion that she is the latest lo-fi indie darling, producing scrappy bedroom jams for the approval of the vintage clothing wearing, knit beanie wearing hipster crowd. Yet you’d be very wrong. Yes, of course, like most other artists she’s been making music in her bedroom the last year or so, but the production quality of Cool Kid is a long way from being full of imperfections and noise.

Instead Cool Kid has a warm languid feeling to it – think Maisie Peters jamming in the sun with Easy Life. Dealing with the concepts of authenticity and trust Cool Kid finds Cathy examining how some people can change the way they behave and their attitudes in order to make relationships work: “Lying while I’m lying next to you,” she sings after narrating the a scene where someone pretends to love a song that they don’t really like in order to find favour with someone. Is this fake or is it just someone naturally evolving and adjusting? Are we all truly authentic or just products of the environment and people around us? These are the questions that Cathy gets you thinking about in the space of her chilled easy on the ear four- minute modern pop song.

It's fine start (or that is to say new start as Cathy has released some songs in the past but you'll have to dig for them as they have largely been deleted) from this UK based 17-year old who was born in Salford but was brought up in China and Australia before returning to the UK 4 years ago. If you’re going to Latitude festival in less than two weeks you can catch Cathy on the BBC Introducing Stage there.

Cathy Jain - Cool Kid

Thursday, 17 June 2021

NEW #30 - Wet Leg

 

Two things that I’m a big fan of are musicians in the bath* (so many of them do promo pictures this way but nobody can explain why) and slightly idiosyncratic singers. Often the two go hand in hand as they did back in 2016 when I wrote about rising Isle of Wight musician Rhian (here) Since that time we haven’t heard a lot from her (she released the songs Time Traveller and Solid Gold in 2018) although she has popped up singing with fellow islanders Plastic Mermaids at some of their live shows.

However, now Rhian (full name Rhain Teasdale) returns alongside jeweller / musician Hester Chambers with a new project Wet Leg. Their debut is a gem of an indie pop anthem called Chaise Longue. It’s totally different to her solo work (the vocals are less Joanna Newsome and more in the vein of the current trend of spoken ASMR pop) and will get you on first listen. It does it with a simple but propulsive backing, sharp guitar riff and quick to absorb lyrics that will undoubtedly find audiences chanting along with them. Phrases like “I got the big D” and “Excuse me, what?” deserve to be shouted back at the band in sweaty rooms across the country. Chaise Longue is undoubtedly the first time I’ve ever heard someone ask “Is your muffin buttered” in a pop song and “I’ve got a chaise lounge in my dressing room and a pack of warm beer that we can consume,” is one of my favourite amusing or is it just real life (?) lyrics I’ve heard for a while.

Then we come to the video. Which is simple, but brilliant. Dressed in old time country dresses and hats Rhain delivers the words deadpan whilst Hester lurks around being somehow sinister and comical at the same time (watch out for the high kicks) her face covered by her hat. It doesn’t sound that interesting but by the end it will have you in giggles and in love with the song.

With the Isle of Wight already bringing us Plastic Mermaids, Coach Party, Lauran Hibberd, Champs and Roberta Fidora it’s a highly fertile breeding ground for new music. Soon they’ll be able to run their own festival with no mainlander artists at all.

Wet Leg are the latest newcomers to that list and on the basis of this debut they’re a very worthy addition. 

* Don't forget to have a look at the #musiciansinthebath hashtag on Twitter

Wet Leg - Chaise Longue

Friday, 11 June 2021

NEW #29 - Modern Woman

 

Modern Woman, the latest band to be introduced on Breaking More Waves are purveyors of leftfield experimental art rock. Then they throw in the surprising addition of supple vocals that you’d probably expect to hear in a traditional folk group rather than a band that are about to embrace a series of dates that include shows at various alt-rock / psych / indie festivals, including End of The Road Festival.

In fact End of the Road Festival is important here as Modern Woman are the first signing to End of the Road Records, a label set up by the festival. Simon Taffe, the founder of the event has said of the band; “As soon as we accidentally stumbled upon a Modern Woman live show, we were obsessed. They were so fully formed. We were stunned to discover they hadn’t even recorded a song.” 

Now they have. 

Let’s be clear here – Modern Woman are very much on the avant-garde side of things. They’re not searching for a hit. They prefer to explore areas such as free-jazz, noise and post-punk. They’ve also been known to create percussive sounds from instruments they have created themselves, such as an old table with a metal colander nailed to it. Their debut single is about desire and a voyeur leaving offerings for their neighbour. It’s edgy, weird and all over the place. The closest comparison I can think of is PJ Harvey going completely off-piste or perhaps Black Country New Road or Squid after a big night out.

Modern Woman make music that is uneasy listening. In places their sound is brutal. But Offerings is an intriguing start.

You can find Modern Woman on this week’s Breaking More Waves New Music Weekly Playlist, which you can find by clicking here.

Modern Woman - Offerings