Sunday 17 August 2008

The B Of The Bang - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

The B Of The Bang are the most recent signing to the Jelly Maid Music label, which was formed in 2007 by Richard Tamblyn who has previous production and engineering credits with Lou Rhodes and The Strange Death Of Liberal England.

Strolling out of Portsmouth, UK, The B Of The Bang are a collective of musicians lead by songwriter, wandering minstrel and lead vocalist Christopher G Whitear, who sings with a deep, dark, brooding baritone that will appeal to fans of bands such as Joy Division and Interpol.

Having released the self financed Citizens EP earlier this year, the band have just released a further four songs via the Souls EP. This release demonstrates that this is a band who are prepared to cast their musical web wide with four very different platters being served. Seeds bears distinct similarities to Editors with its commanding repeated vocal of “Seeds were there for you to sow,” chanted over a brooding elegiac bass line. Elsewhere melancholic beauty can be found through organ and xylophone on The Making Of The Making Of. There is also the squalling noisy rock of Little Bean, probably the most formulaic of the four songs on offer, before the EP finishes with the delicate medieval acoustic lullaby of Desire Lines, a duet featuring the haunting vocal of Jessica Spencer.

The band state that their sole purpose is to sound unlike anything else you've ever heard whilst sounding exactly like everything else you'd ever want to hear. An ambitious, if slightly confusing statement; most people prefer to wallow in the warm comfort of hearing sounds that they are familiar with, rather than wanting to hear sounds unlike anything they have ever heard. But then ultimately maybe The B Of The Bang are doing this for themselves, and to use a cliche, if anyone else likes what they do, it’s a bonus.

In the live arena, just like the assortment offered on the EP‘s, gigs by The B Of The Bang are also constantly evolving and changing, offering something new almost every time. From epic building rock with songs such as Lung, shown on the video below, through pulsing dark new grave electronica with added detuned lo fi guitars, to new folk with banjo, mandolin and accordian. This is not a band who are constrained by musical boundaries. Even limits between audience and performer are sometimes broken, with the whole group having been known to play fully unplugged in the middle of the crowd; or to lead everyone outside of the venue pied piper style. You simply never know what you are going to get. One thing however is certain and that is that an album is on its way, currently being recorded for release later this year or earlier next, preceded by a further single.

Portsmouth is not known for its rich musical heritage, its insularity and ability to not look at the bigger picture often holding bands from this south coast city back, but The B Of The Bang do have a wider, bigger, varied perspective that should stand them in good stead.

Lung - The B Of The Bang

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Oh, Atoms - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

With Noah And The Whale now assaulting the charts with banjo’s and ukulele’s and The Ting Tings showing that the boy-girl pop duo is a long way from dead, the time would seem just right for a band like Oh Atoms. Debut single Sugar Mouse is a sherbert saccharine summer folk pop song that conjures images of boy meets girl under a shimmering sun. And from where this came from there is more sweetness to follow with songs such as Brooklyn Cheesecake and Ice Cream Blonde likely to feature on an album You Can’t See The Stars From Here, being released sometime this September.

Oh Atoms are Marc and Gwen and both have a musical history, having been around the block as members of a variety of other bands before they got together. However, none of their previous groups have had the commercial potential that Oh Atoms have. Inspired by 1930s tea dances, victorian darkness, dead film stars, suspicious circumstances and selected confectionery, this is a band that the word ‘nice’ really suits. Having recorded a pick and mix selection of songs in a Hackney attic the band have been lucky enough to gain some early exposure with single Sugar Mouse making its way onto the soundtrack of teen movie Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, the latest movie by Gurinder Chadha, the director behind cult favourites Bend It Like Beckham and Bride & Prejudice.

So, if you like your music whimsical and cute, full of star filled skies and candy kisses, Oh Atoms could just be the sort of band you would like to hug up to in your fleece pyjamas.

Monday 11 August 2008

Summer Sundae Festival @ Leicester

The Summer Sundae Festival may not on first glance have much to sell itself against some of the appeals of other UK Festivals. It does not have the big name headliners of V or Reading, the quirkiness or colour of the likes of Secret Garden Party and Bestival, the cultural styling of Latitude or the shear scale of Glastonbury; yet this festival rates as one of the best in the UK.

Why? Because Summer Sundae has some of the best infrastructure, management and organisation of any UK Festival.

What makes Summer Sundae unique is the way in which it runs. Rather than all stages running at the same time, when an act is playing on the main stage all the other three music stages are silent. Then when the next act is being set up on the main stage, the other three stages play. This is because the stages are so close together, being only two or three minutes walk apart ,that the sound from the main stage would drown out the sound on the other stages.

The Festival itself is sited in the park and gardens of the Leicester De Montford Halls which is a 2,000 capacity venue in itself and forms the ‘Indoor Stage’. This must be the only UK Festival where you can take a break from bands playing in the open air and large marquees and instead go and sit on the balcony of the De Montford Hall to watch a band. After three days of full on activity the balcony offers a soft, comfy chaired welcome respite. Using the De Montford Halls as part of the Festival also means additional indoor bar facilities and nice clean non portaloo type toilets with warm water to wash your hands.

There are many other benefits to Summer Sundae. The security and stewards are the most friendly and helpful I have ever met at any festival I have ever attended. The main site is only two minutes walk from the two campsites; Victoria and the family friendly Regent. There are also no security restrictions on bringing your own drink into the main arena area, except for the balcony of the De Montford Halls which you can’t take drinks. The nature of the line up means that it appeals to a wide mix of ages yet doesn’t attract the more undesirable types you find at the big corporate festivals like V and T in the Park. The viewing at the main stage is excellent due to a neatly sloping and slightly bowl shaped site. The place is well drained meaning that despite heavy rain on Saturday the place never becomes a mud bath. The festival also properly attempts to deal with green issues rather than just being tokenistic. Set in a city centre location, the festival has a good sustainable transport policy, with a well used bike park and being close to the rail station. Besides the usual recycling bins the festival also recycles vegetable oil from food traders to recycle into bio diesel, the bars and food stalls use compostable glasses, plates and cutlery, all waste paper is recycled, the number of generators has been reduced from 11 to 3 with the remaining power being supplied from the Councils provider which is on an eco tariff (and is carbon offset). Finally by giving each punter a free energy saving light bulb, the festival effectively went carbon neutral.

But enough of the merits of this 6,000 capacity gem. What about the music? There really is something for everyone here. From left field indie to mainstream Britpop to dance to folk to pop. In one evening you can sample everything from the Bleeper dance floor madness of The Count And Sinden Soundsystem to New York anti folk art punk with Jeffrey Lewis to the soulful acoustica with loops of Foy Vance shown in the video below, playing a short set in the BBC 6 Music 'Hub' beside the main stage. The highlights were often surprising and wonderful.

The performance of the weekend was undoubtedly the bewitching Rachel Unthank and the Winterset who played twice, once in the De Montford Halls, and then again in the Hub Tent as a recorded session for BBC 6 Music Radio. Fresh from their Mercury nomination, their often dour, sparse folk was truly spine tingling. Simply accompanied by piano and fiddle Rachel and Becky Unthank’s untainted Northumberland vocals reached out and pulled at your heart in a ghostly mesmerising way. Blue Bleezing Blind Drunk was the saddest but most beautiful moment of the whole Festival. I suspect a very large number of copies of The Bairns will be sold this week in Leicester. They were astoundingly astonishingly good. And if you haven’t got a copy of The Bairns yet, do yourself a favour and add it to your collection.

Orphans & Vandals

Other surprises came in the form of Macy Gray who headlined the main stage on Saturday night and won over cynics with great showmanship, personality, strong vocals and an amazing cover version of Radiohead’s Creep. Orphans & Vandals were also an unexpected highlight in the Poetry Tent, playing a blend of arty evocative eloquent spoken word pop reminiscent in places of The Tindersticks and James more leftfield songs. Fine stuff indeed. The Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir also won over a chilled out early sunny Sunday afternoon audience with their banjo fuelled blues and ragged gospel that sounded like Seasick Steve and Gomez sitting out in the yard with a bottle of Jack Daniels and a rocking chair.

Lykke Li

The Rising Stage also played host to some great performances. Lykke Li demonstrated star qualities, bashing out rhythms, clanking cymbals and singing through a megaphone whilst stomping her way through her debut album like a tribal witchdoctor on heat; with added cover versions of A Tribe Called Quest and Vampire Weekend. The Howling Bells returned to the fray with Juanita Stein sporting a new haircut and a more confident stage presence, her voice still astounding both on new and old songs. And Noah And The Whale celebrated Top 10 chart hit status with a big community sing a long on Five Years Time to a capacity crowd.

So Summer Sundae was full of musical treats. I will most certainly be back next year.

And to finish, here is a clip of Simian Mobile Disco and their flashing lights on the main stage, sorry it's not the whole track but my memory card ran out !

Tuesday 5 August 2008

DJ Hojo Hits

One of the more unlikely ‘stars’ of this years Bestival Festival on the Isle Of Wight is a certain DJ Hojo Hits, a man who by his own admission has no DJ ability whatsoever. This maverick, from the south coast of the UK is planning to DJ an hour long set of songs which consist solely of those recorded by eighties synth pop star Howard Jones. Yes, that was the man with the spiked blonde hair and a mime artist called Jed. If you are young enough to not remember Jones, here he is back in the eighties.

Howard Jones - New Song

Jones had a series of worldwide hits including New Song, What Is Love, No One Is To Blame and Things Can Only Get Better. He still performs today, and later this year will be celebrating 25 years since New Song bounded into the Top 5 in the UK with a big show at the Indigo O2 in London.

So who is DJ Hojo Hits, and how did he come about ? Well this is what the man himself had to say when I caught up with him the other day. “It all came about when a group of us ran a two year internet campaign to get Howard Jones booked for the Bestival. The campaign failed, but instead Radio1 DJ and Bestival organiser Rob da Bank has allowed me to do this DJ set, after I wrote him a poem which I posted on the Bestival forum. I think Rob da Bank said yes just to get me off his back,” laughs DJ Hojo, who seems strangely familiar to me.

So what started as a bit of a joke, seems to have taken off in a strange way. DJ Hojo Hits has become a bit of a hit with regular Bestival go-ers.

“I’ve had quite a few messages on the Bestival forum from people who say they are going to come along and dance to my set. It’s all a bit bizarre. One so called fan from the U.S.A has even set up his own DJ Hojo Hits unofficial website !” The site is

So if you are attending this years Bestival, get there early and search out the Hidden Disco on Friday afternoon where a man dressed in a bad 80’s pop star wig will be DJing badly with no mixing skills whatsoever, playing Howard Jones CDs in a shambolic, yet strangely sincere way. All DJ Hojo Hits asks is that you learn the words to New Song and What Is Love?

So is DJ Hojo Hits actually a fan of the real Howard Jones ?

“Absolutely. I’m a massive fan of Howard Jones and a massive fan of Bestival, so this will be a marriage made in heaven!”

And who is DJ Hojo Hits really ? The mystery isn’t hard to solve. DJ Hojo is closer than you think. Here's a video on You Tube which reveals his identity...

DJ Hojo Hits revealed (Video 2 of a series)

Catch DJ Hojo Hits and his Howard Jones CD’s at The Hidden Disco at Bestival on Friday 5th September between 2pm and 3pm. He will also be appearing with the bands Bastila and Finger Monster at Waverley Park, Isle Of Wight on the 3rd September playing a non Howard Jones set of Bestival inspired tunes.

The real Howard Jones will be playing at the London Indigo O2 for his 25th Anniversary show on 20th September and as part of the Portsmouth and Southsea Music Festival on October 12th 2008

Saturday 2 August 2008

Broken Records - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

Broken Records produce the big music. Multi layered songs that powerfully build to exuberant crescendos, with violins, trumpets, cellos and guitars; there are comparisons with Arcade Fire, Hope Of The States and The Waterboys in what they do.

Formed in Edinburgh, it will take only one listen to One Good Reason to convince you of their merit. It is the sound of a violent bar room brawl in eastern Europe with violin wielding gypsies charging through the melee, kicking everything out of their way. But not everything they produce has such aggression. Take their new single, Slow Parade which is released on 7” vinyl in August through the Club Fandango record label. It starts with a mournful falsetto before moving via tinkering piano to a gorgeous swooping blissed out ending. The word beautiful should be used reservedly, and today I reserve it for this song. Here it is recorded at the Rockness Festival in Scotland a few weeks ago.

Broken Records @ Rockness Festival 2008

Broken Records music is based on the use of traditional instruments, and it appears that their philosophy and approach is also very much of this nature, building a profile steadily this year, through playing soaring live shows that have received some glowing reviews. There is no Myspace or other social networking buzz about the band. They’ve just been getting out there and connecting with people in the way that groups used to build a fan base before the internet came along; and are all the better for it.