Thursday 28 May 2009

Run Toto Run - Sleepyhead

Here is something that fits absolutely perfectly into the Breaking More Waves aesthetic from Run Toto Run . Animal heads? Check ! Passion Pit ? Check ! Beautiful female vocals that sparkle with sunshine ? Check ! One of our favourite songs of last year ? Check ! A sneaky sense of humour ? Check ! Loveable tweeness ? Check ! Fiddles ? Check !

Virtually every single one of our boxes is ticked. Run Toto Run take on Passion Pit, ditch the samples and steal a slice of summer. Perfect.

Catch the band on tour in the next few months and treat yourself to the bands toytown electronica by buying their single Plastic Gold on the Lost & Lonely Singles Club, reviewed here, on the 8th June 2009. Sleepyhead will not be on the Run Toto Run single, so instead enjoy the video below.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

Passion Pit - Manners

OK, let’s get this straight. Some of the songs on Manners by Passion Pit are some of the most musically joyous pop moments you will hear all year. The evidence ? Listen to opener Make Light, a humping indie disco track which rises tower block high in the chorus. Or perhaps Little Secrets with its squelchy synthesiser workout that finds its groove and drives it straight into a giddy hook with a children’s choir singing about feeling higher and higher. Then there’s Moths Wings where Passion Pit show that pop music can take big widescreen cinematic sounds and claim them as its own; hands in the air euphoria doesn’t have to belong only to rock beasts or dance heads. You’ve probably heard The Reeling, a juddering bucking animal of a pop single, that has that rare quality of sounding good on first listen but gets even better on the twentieth. You just know that the killer “Oh no, oh no,” is going to slay you every time. And even where the tunes are not so joyous such as the downbeat Swimming In The Flood the level of musical consistency remains high. If you like what you have heard so far from Passion Pit you will like this album.

Manners is an advert for technicolor studio perfection. The production is huge and imaginative, taking pop music to higher and bigger levels. It’s the kind of album that shouldn’t even be attempted to be played live. All credit to the band for not taking the brilliant Chunk of Change EP and just adding a few tracks; only a re-recorded woozy and multi faceted Sleepyhead crosses over from that release onto Manners.

Yet for all the “Na na na” hooks on Eyes As Candles and dreamy “Oo oo oo oo‘s,” on Let Your Love Grow Tall, Manners is unlikely to cross over to the mainstream. This is strictly pop music for those who like their sugar with a little sharpness amongst the smiles; call it indie if you will. It is probably just too quirky for most and is unlikely to find itself chart bound. The squealing asexual falsetto chipmunk vocal of Michael Angelakos will grate with many, and the bands lack of visual identity will give the fashion hipsters little to hang on to; but for those who enjoy the buzz of quality melodic music with plenty of keyboards, hooks and a whole raft of decent songs, rather than two or three singles and some filler, Manners will do the job very nicely indeed.

And on the subject of Passion Pit, check back here tomorrow for an amazing cover of the band (and it's not The Mummers one !)

Tuesday 26 May 2009

The Leisure Society @ Brighton Hanbury Club

“This is our third Brighton gig in two weeks, I’m glad that so many people have turned up,” says the seated, suited, floppy fringed, quietly spoken Nick Hemming. Hemming really shouldn’t be that surprised, after all his song The Last Of The Melting Snow was recently nominated for an Ivor Novello award alongside heavyweights such as Elbow and Coldplay. It wouldn’t be against the odds if his band also pick up a Mercury nomination later this year. Describing the award ceremony as a “terrifying experience” it is probably just as well that Hemming didn’t win the thing, the exposure may have just been too much.

Tonight Hemming and his band The Leisure Society do what any musician worth their salt craves to do; they play their beguiling and emotionally raw songs to a packed audience who have fallen in love with their sound and are prepared to listen intently. The Leisure Society make perfect pastoral folk pop with hints of American influence. It is gracefully subtle and lovingly crafted even when stripped of the string section that usually accompanies them. With hints of Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian and Nick Drake, The Leisure Society melt hearts through the simple application of perfect instrumentation; piano, flute, acoustic guitar and bass combine to produce soft harmonious melodies. The Last Of The Melting Snow is of course a highlight, but there are many other songs here that are just as touching. There’s the sublime medieval guitar and simple piano on We Were Wasted and the closing power of Matter Of Time, which Hemming explains was written just a few feet away on Brighton beach. The Leisure Society are blessed with talent and produce a live sound that is magically tender. At the moment Hemming may still be working in a fabric warehouse, but on the basis of this show, surely it can’t be long before The Leisure Society becomes a full time occupation.

Sunday 24 May 2009

Jean Michel Jarre @ London Wembley Arena

French synth wizard Jean Michel Jarre is probably better known for his huge and spectacular futuristic sound and light extravaganzas where he illuminated cityscapes all over the world. Rendez-Vous Houston with its record breaking estimated live audience of over one million and Destination Docklands for which he sold over 200,000 tickets are probably some of the most colossal shows ever staged. Therefore to see Jarre playing a tour of arena sized venues seems almost strangely intimate.

That is not to say that Jarre still isn’t thinking big. From the start of the concert where he emerges from a pyramid shaped mass of smoke and lasers like a spectral being with keytar in hand, to the gladiatorial Second Rendez-Vous which brings images of the apocalypse, all flashing strobes and cacophonous beats, Jarre still puts on a big show. To create such an experience Jarre uses visuals that are simple in their operation, but complex in delivery. There are no obscure pseudo arty film projections, or huge banks of lights typical of shows by Britney Spears or U2. Instead Jarre relies on a multitude of lasers, dry ice and singularly powerful flashing coloured spotlights to create a spacey atmospheric gig.

Jarre may have never been considered particularly hip, but his music has a legacy of influence. Kraftwerk, Orbital and Aphex Twin all owe a debt to Jarre’s pioneering sounds. As he wheels out what is effectively a greatest hits set there are moments where you can hear elements of rave, ambient house and techno but much of this was created long before these genres had even been invented. Occasionally the tunes veer into self indulgent prog, particularly when he straps on his keytar, but even this can be forgiven as the plethora of lasers keep everyone entertained.

Jarre himself is a massive showman, punching the air with glee between pieces, bashing hand cymbals and running through the waves of dry ice that fill the room to greet his fans. Sometimes he comes across like a mad professor having fun in the lab as he twiddles knobs and presses buttons smiling crazily to himself. Variation from keyboards comes from one track played on a theramin and another on accordion, but for the most part it’s electronics all the way.

Electronica can often be criticised for having little emotional soul or intimacy, but Jarre manages to capture the heart several times. On two occasions he comes to stage front to use a laser harp (video shot by Breaking More Waves below - now the is it live or not arguments begin, but this clip suggests it could be), which plays a note each time he breaks a beam. It’s a quiet and relatively still moment away from the lush sprawling pulsing synth sounds. Then there’s the poignant moment when he dedicates a song to his father who died just a few weeks ago - it is widely known that Jarre did not have a good relationship with him. These moments are rare though, the majority of the set being satisfyingly uplifting without ever reaching a deeper emotional core. Such emotional depth is not necessary though - he leaves back through another pyramid of dry ice to a standing ovation.

Saturday 23 May 2009

Florence And The Machine - Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)

On 21st June Florence And The Machine release Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) the follow up single to Dog Days Are Over, a track from the forthcoming album Lungs which is due for release at the start of July. The video shows Florence completing her transformation into a soft focus druid lady who is seduced by beautiful creatures, before she feasts and is sent to a watery grave.

Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) sees Florence tweaking it up a notch and heading in a new direction. Rather than the more primitive and raw sounds of her previous two singles, Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) has a bigger production delivering a Balearic mystical Bat For Lashes she is the shaman sound. With a huge gospel chorus of “This is a gift, it comes with a price, who is the lamb and who is the knife, Midas is king and he holds me so tight, and turns me to gold in the sunlight,” it is certainly not your typical three minute pop song and screams out for some epic tribal dance remixes. Exuberant with harp and echoing weighty drums Florence And The Machine have produced a single that may see Florence take a significant step towards more mainstream popularity, whilst maintaining her leftfield kookiness. If Florence has her way it looks like this summer you may well be taking off your clothes, dancing round the maypole and singing about offerings and sacrifices. Sounds like it’s going to be a strange and exciting summer.

Friday 22 May 2009

Mirrors + Yes Giantess + Erik Hassle + The Dolly Rockers @ London Hoxton Bar & Kitchen

A few days ago Breaking More Waves reported on the Great Escape in Brighton where two of our highlights pulled us into the world of synthtopia where Apple Macs and keyboards rule. These highlights were Brighton based pop noir specialists Mirrors and Boston, USA funksters Yes Giantess. At the Gold Dust club at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, a venue of huge disco balls, black painted blockwork and industrial urban trendiness, both bands collide to bring an evening of electronic ecstasy with not a guitar in site.

But before the fingers can glide across the keys we have to endure the crime against pop music that is Dolly Rockers. An X Factor riot of sequins, short skirts and sauciness, they are a hand on the hip, dancing in front of the bedroom mirror, amateur Girls Aloud. Without a live band it’s backing track karaoke. They even have the audacity to sample a section from one of the best pop songs of the eighties - Duel by Propaganda - and destroy it. We’ll give them some credit for a song called Champagne Shirley that slags off girl glamour models and their most un-Girls Aloud use of the F word, but when they say “We’re going to do a rubbish ballad,” we couldn’t agree more.

“We couldn’t bring our full band all the way over from Sweden,” announces the Popjustice approved and Mystery Jets haircut a like Erik Hassle. So instead he serenades the audience with simple acoustic arrangements on the only guitar that will be seen for the evening. His set is short with well crafted songs and a flawless voice that could easily slip into the mainstream if given the right exposure.

Then the new princes of the keyboard take to the stage in two chapters. Yes Giantess have a song called Deceptive Man, and believe us these guys are deceptive men. They may not look like hot lovin’ sex machines whose mission it is to make the ladies swoon, but they have a few cheesy yet sincere tricks up their sleeves. Witness lead vocalist Jan announcing that “Making love to a tambourine ruins my hand.” This guy doesn’t bash or hit a tambourine, he makes love to it. Get that girls. His band mates join in with the physical arousal, bouncing and thrusting against their synths whilst throwing their heads back in sweaty orgasmic excitement whilst their drummer pounds away in shorts. And for girls who want some lyrical come on action try “I just want to say that you’re beautiful, you’re looking incredible, girl you’re making everybody’s day,” from the immense Daft Punkish slow groover Tuff N Stuff and then be prepared to practice making babies.

Then there’s the music. We’d love to rifle through the Yes Giantess record box. It wouldn’t surprise us if we found Passion Pit, Michael Jackson, The Human League, Madonna, New Kids On The Block, James Brown and Cameo in there. This is a band that are clever enough to play the three killer tunes currently on their Myspace first and then throw down slab after slab of spunky grinding synth wash to get people moving. Ladies, they’re asking, and you’re dancing.

Mirrors (pictured) may also bring synths by the van load but they bleep and pulse from a different shadowy zone than Yes Giantess. As the room darkens a flickering electronic riff pulses out, whilst the bands name glows at the back of the stage. Suddenly it disappears and is replaced by a single white square projection and the band enter to a large cheer. The square becomes animated with smaller squares inside whilst Mirrors cover the crowd with lush ambient textured electronic noise. It radiates out across the room to create an atmospheric soundscape filled with pop melody. Abstract images and patterns develop from the square whilst haunting melancholy keyboards cascade into songs such as Look At Me; it’s all Blancmange meets The Human League meets OMD with a tiny bit of Ian McCulloch in the vocal. Yes it’s very eighties, yes its very cool and yes it’s very good. A Mirrors show is more of an evocative experience than a gig. Go experience.

It seems incredible that both Yes Giantess and Mirrors are still unsigned bands. Surely that cannot last ?

Wednesday 20 May 2009

The Great Escape @ Brighton - Day 3

The third and final day of The Great Escape in Brighton starts with an Irish music showcase upstairs at The Prince Albert. It’s still very early and many heads in the audience probably warrant Valerie Francis and her comforting warm voice to revive them from the previous nights proceedings. Her songs use unusual instrumentation such as hand bells, trumpet and recorder alongside acoustic guitar to produce a gentle soothing calmness to a short set which is only interrupted by the ringing of a mobile phone of the next artist Iain Archer.

Archer is most probably best known for his work with Snow Patrol, being the co writer of the song Run. But whilst Snow Patrol continue to fill arena sized venues, Archer is playing to a handful of people in a Brighton pub. “Glad to see you’ve left some space for dancing at the front,” he jests at the emptiness. Later he jokes about the mobile phone incident. “This is a mobile free zone - that dick, you know the one.” It seems that every earnest male singer songwriter these days packs themselves off to a cabin or shed in a forest somewhere and is inspired to create poignant music, and Archer has joined that crowd with a new album To The Pine Roots. Explaining that the record was recorded in a cottage in Schwarzland in Germany’s Blackforest he plays a number of songs from it. The Acrobat has a lilting drifting softness and visual captivating words that tell the tale of a gravity defying hero. It sounds a little like an Irish Bright Eyes. Before Frozen Lakes he talks of confused ducks sitting on the frozen water. Archers voice is light and slightly dreamy and his sense of humour makes him an engaging performer.

Angel Pier are the first band of the day and take a traditional approach to chiming melancholic guitar rock. They are hardly original or particularly inspiring, but develop a neat sense of atmosphere with their layered guitar approach which momentarily spirals and soars to higher places. By the end of their set the Prince Albert is packed and a queue leads all the way down the stairs, but nobody is going anywhere because everyone here wants to see Fight Like Apes . There are people craning their necks and standing on chairs to get a view of the band.

We’ve raved regularly about Fight Like Apes, for example here and here and today is no exception. Taking to the stage with false black eyes and cuts on their heads, Fight Like Apes are without doubt the best band from Ireland right now. Bono did you hear that ? Fight Like Apes are like the most pleasurable fistf**k from a stranger you could ever have. With Maykay head slamming like she’s trying to shake her brains out and Pockets seeming to disappear into the ground as he bends ever lower and lower to reach his collapsing microphone stand, the band drill hardcore pop into the crowds ears like the world is about to end. They throw milk crates at each other, Maykay writhes in the crowd and despite technical problems with one of the synths they create a glorious energetic violent performance which is offset by their good nature and slightly humorous approach. Any band that can write a lyric such as “No black bits and no cheese, its just plain toast for me, and did you f*ck her, did you stick things up her?” before joyous synths and guitars collide is always going to get our vote.

Next its down to the seafront and Arc for Gold Teeth, who we wrote about just a few days ago. Their charismatic, good looking singer Joe De Costa could certainly make a few girls hearts melt. He even succeeds with that today, particularly on the danceable Everybody and next single Tasty which manages to sound like a hybrid nutty boy cousin of Madness in the verse and early Blur in the chorus. A couple of songs remind us a little of Hard Fi which is not so good, but these are early days for the band.

Then there is just one band left to see. That band is Yes Giantess (pictured), a band that we first tipped as a One To Watch last December and have been getting continually pumped up about ever since. First a more low key gig at Arc, their first ever in the UK, followed by a late nighter at the Neon Gold records party at Ocean Rooms; both sets deliver - big time. Jan Rosenfeld and his cohorts whack down layers of star bound synths that groove like a vodka fuelled space ship. With heads bobbing in unison and high handclapping a plenty this band have beats thrusting out of them like a sex starved disco queen. Tuff N Stuff is the tune of the event. No question. But it’s not their only song that we get all over excited about. When The Sun Gets Low is equally good. Here Yes Giantess bring to Great Escape heavy clubbed up beats and spunky eighties hallucinatory keyboard riffs that would get even a corpse up dancing. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again - Love it love it love it.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

The Great Escape @ Brighton - Day 2

Day two of The Great Escape in Brighton brings more musical highlights than you can shake a treble clef at. The day starts slowly however with a so called ‘Gaymers Grassroots’ gig for The Maccabees at the Pavillion Theatre, a return to a smaller venue than they are now becoming accustomed to. In the same way that other alcoholic drinks producers have marketed their product to live music audiences, Gaymers are campaigning hard this year. Their contracts include a series of grassroots gigs of which this is one, where bands return to their hometowns to play small venue shows and acting as main suppliers of cider to a number of large festivals including Glastonbury and Bestival.

“Good afternoon cider drinkers” announces Orlando to the free alcoholic apple juice drinking crowd, as The Maccabees launch into a relatively straight set, starting with No Kind Words, some new songs, some old ones and ending with a brass enhanced Love You Better. Being an early afternoon gig the crowd are in parts restrained and part buzzing, Orlando identifying which parts of the crowd are being sensible drinkers and which are not. “You lot will be trouble in a few hours,” laughs Felix to the non-sensible. Its a workmanlike set, the group retaining their boyish awkward charm of old, but maybe it’s the time of day, or end of tour fatigue, but The Maccabees do feel a little ‘safe’.

Before The Maccabees, The Lyrebirds warm up the audience, bringing their blend of slightly gloomy but ambitious indie rock to the building as the room fills up. A guitar band with a slightly deeper sounding demeanour, they produce songs that have slight stadium aspirations but not enough originality or spark to be anything but a passing diversion whilst the crowd sup free cider.

After an early afternoon barbeque and DJ set at Audio, a battle with the seafront elements leads the windswept Breaking More Waves crew to the Moshi Moshi showcase at Po Na Na. If ever there was a strong argument for the relevance of record labels, this is it. Moshi Moshi have continued to release eclectic, quirky left of centre pop records, sometimes acting as a springboard for artists to enter the public consciousness. Whatever they put out you know its likely to have some merit. Without Moshi Moshi the world of independent music would be a less colourful place. The line up at Po Na Na demonstrates this perfectly with four superb acts.

“You look a bit like Noel Fielding,” jokes James Yuill to a member of the crowd. Unfortunately they are not quick enough to answer back with “And you look like a scientist or a geography teacher.” Or rather Yuill is the geeky looking, head bobbing laptop minstrel with an acoustic guitar slung over his back. Like a thinking mans Calvin Harris caught in the headlights, James is surrounded by his kit, the set up looking like an Apple Mac updated version of something last seen in the eighties when spikey haired keyboard wizard Howard Jones brought his one man show to the masses. Yuill combines bragging beats with sweet melodies, particularly on Over The Hills which is extended and disenfranchised from the original with a big old techno wig out. The combination of synthetic and organic led Breaking More Waves to choose James Yuill’s album as one of its albums of the year in 2008, and his cool meeting of Aphex Twin electronica and warm melodic folk wins hands down again today.

Up next is Slow Club . They are utterly fantastic. They remind old cynical heads why we go to gigs in the first place. Starting from the back of the venue, they sing unplugged and walk through the rammed crowd to the stage. With them they bring country styled acoustic pop, charm, great songs, humour and tales of dropping beer from balconies of Paris houses that look like seventies styled coke dens. Every song they play makes hearts swoon and leap clouds. Most perfect is When I Go (video below) which questions the spark in a relationship “If I get to thirty and I don’t have a wife, I’ll ask you nicely but won’t ask twice,” they coo before questioning at the end “Will you hold my hand when I go?” It’s simple, beautiful and perfectly harmonised. Rebecca stands and bashes the small drum kit with real energy whilst still somehow managing to sing perfectly. Even when a song falls apart at the start their radiant charm makes it seem like something special. So wonderful are they tonight that Breaking More Waves almost has a tear at the end as they finish back in the middle of the crowd playing unplugged again. Consider ourselves smitten with Slow Club. Maybe even love.

Casio Kids (pictured) from Norway swing from the beams of the ceiling, have a singer that looks like a younger version of Beck, a bass player who sports a ruffled shirt and maroon flares, another singer that looks like a surf dude and sings falsetto and sound like an indie electro claypso version of Royksopp dancing drunkenly on the tables with Hot Chip. The vibes are happy, happy happy and the grooves are delicious. Twenty four hours later Casio Kids country will win the Eurovision song contest. We need to watch out for these Norwegians you know.

It’s left to The Mae Shi to mess things up at Po Na Na. The Mae Shi are like nothing you have seen before and nothing you will ever see again. A brutal, screaming, barking chaotic melee of different sounds that punch, pummel and party the air so hard it’s a wonder that they don’t leave holes in it. When they’re not trying to detonate the room with their noise art they’re throwing a parachute over everyone to cover heads or climbing over speaker stacks to the higher levels of the venue. There is a raw intense energy to what they do that connects with the crowd and depending on your perspective it's either scary, entertaining, funny, savage or just plain stupid. Or maybe a combination of any of these. A ferocious band that will one day probably spontaneously combust as they play. In the words of a certain Mr Rascal "Bonkers."

After such mayhem in a small space the vast 1200 capacity Corn Exchange is Breaking More Waves last stop for the evening. At this event last year Mumford & Sons were third on the bill in a venue a third of the capacity. Shortly after we arrive we hear that security is now operating a one in one out policy, such is the increased popularity of the bluegrass influenced group. The band look a little over whelmed by it all, but still manage to get the crowd to shout the word “Down” after they say “Hoe.” And a hoe down it is. This is a whole new experience for Mumford & Sons. There are people moshing near the front and young girls are screaming at the band. The group still deliver a note perfect soulfully harmonized set however, even if the huge space loses some of the subtleties of Marcus Mumfords beautiful croon on songs such as The Cave and Little Lion Man.

It leaves Metronomy to finish the evening. With a new line up Metronomy seem to have deserted the band they once were and attempted to become a more organic live act with two new members, including a female drummer. Unfortunately the updated model sounds like they would have been better sticking with the old banger. This new vehicle seems to have little mileage. The music fails to connect in any way feeling staid and lifeless. It's the only low of the day. Time for bed again Brighton.

Monday 18 May 2009

The Great Escape @ Brighton - Day 1

With not a campsite or drop of mud in sight and over three hundred bands playing in over thirty venues over three days, The Great Escape is the ideal festival for music fans whose idea of a weekend without a shower is absolute hell. Now in its fourth year, the Brighton event goes from strength to strength with punters being able to see a number of established acts as well as a host of up and coming bands around the city, for a fraction of the price of a huge outdoor festival. Inevitably some of the more hotly tipped artists will draw full houses and some people will be left standing in queues if the particular venue is at capacity, but Breaking More Waves encounters none of these problems with the bands it sees. Careful planning is the key word here.

Thursday starts with a busy lunchtime gig at Arc on the seafront. Sporting one of the finest beards in folk music William Fitzsimmons talks about how he has “A terrorist looking face,” which led to detainment at Stansted airport on his arrival to the UK. Seated under a single spotlight, Fitzsimmons brings harshly intimate lyrics and gentle sounding acoustic songs concerning divorce, death and his troubled relationship with his father to a hushed audience. “The only goal I have is to make you feel worse about yourselves than when you arrived,” Fitzsimmons half jokes. With his soft easy on the ear Sufjan Stevens styled vocal ,the overall sound created lacks the deep emotional resonance to achieve this goal no matter how bleak the subject material.

For a contrary musical perspective, a short walk to The Hope finds Vile Imbeciles, who bombard the small crowd with a jerky stumbling freeform frenetic brand of guitar noise and Horrors like goth haircuts, tattered jeans and jackets. It’s an ugly cacophony that disregards melody completely and tries to rape the audience via an uneasy listening experience. Ears bleed. Perversely we like it and don’t bother finding the music doctor or police.

The long mirrors, domed roof lights and bohemian feel of the Red Roaster coffee house is almost the perfect space for acoustic music and Charlie Calleja does a sterling job in bringing his classic singer songwriter style to the small seated audience of about thirty people. With a creamy voice that soars effortlessly and a red wine warmth that calms, his honest songs are the perfect end to that first compilation mix tape for a new girlfriend.

Continuing at the same venue, Dan Mangan is even better. The moment he opens his mouth and huskily croons his way through The Indie Queens Are Waiting, we are smitten. With a roll of throat that could have come from a pirate ship, Mangan is the missing link between Damien Rice and Mumford & Sons. With an admission that he once fell asleep at a Mudhoney concert, Journal Of A Narcoleptic is finely framed and precisely played. To finish, even though the room is half empty Mangan is brave enough to leave the stage area to stand on a piano stool and conduct the audience to sing the simple melody of Robots; “Robots need love too. They want to be loved by you.” Everyone joins in. You know when those in the media like to proclaim that “That was a real moment,” at every opportunity at every festival they cover ? Well this really was one of those moments.

Our love of Laura Groves aka Blue Roses is already well documented on this blog and it appears that this love is not alone, with swelling numbers of punters coming through the door. Blue Roses is virtually perfect in every way, from her choir girl vocal to her complex piano work. Even the moment when she pauses during Coast and someone’s mobile rings seems impeccably timed, although of course it gets a large round of laughter. Doubtful Comforts is the highlight, a ghost walk through loneliness, it’s a song from another time, unique in its music box late night ambience.

Leaving the Red Roaster with a delicious warm and fuzzy feel it is time for a change of mood and instrumentation as The Sallis Benney Theatre plays host to Brighton band Mirrors (pictured), who we first posted about last month here . Mirrors are ostentatiously lofty and uber cool. Brooding ghoulish gothic church music echoes through the room and like a scene from Poltergeist a huge screen at the back crackles into life. We almost expect a small child to cry out “They’re here,” as the band take to the stage. Dressed in matching suits and ties Mirrors line up in front of keyboards and an electronic drum kit, two members stage front, two slightly staggered behind. They stand motionless, arms by their side in darkness except for a flashing strobe fixed to their electronica. Then they start to play, lit only by the colourful abstract films behind them. Their references are Kraftwerk, New Order and most notably OMD in both their sound and look. Artily pretentious, highbrow and executed with perfection it seems amazing that this is a new band, so complete is everything about them. Each year names are touted as the next big thing. Mirrors may just be a little too cool to appeal to the mainstream, and there is a nagging doubt that their obvious pomposity may be their undoing, but their synth laden brand of pop noir may be a good sneaky outside bet for a One To Watch in 2010.

After such a run of highs, the evening finishes with a low. Grasscut are Andrew Phillips an award winning televison film and television composer and Marcus O’Dair who adds additional double bass to their experimental electronic sound. Playing to an ever dwindling audience, one person in the room says “They’re like a rubbish Enigma.” Whilst their work may be more abstract and nerdy than that, he’s not far off.

Day One is done. But rather than trudging through mud to a tent where drunkards will regularly wake us by tripping over our guy ropes all night, Breaking More Waves heads off to a warm inviting bed in a decent hotel and the promise of no queue for a shower in the morning.

Thursday 14 May 2009

Alessi's Ark - Notes From The Treehouse

Until recently only one of the artists we named in our Ones To Watch 2009 list had actually released an album. That was White Lies, who managed to sneak to number one in the UK LP charts near the start of the year. In the next few months however a large number of those we named will be putting out their debuts and the second act out of the blocks is Alessi's Ark.

Back in December we stated that Alessi Laurent Marke was unlikely to find huge commercial pop success, but was certainly an act that deserves to be championed. Her album Notes From The Treehouse gives us no reason to change that statement. It is a delightful album full of dreamy sounding American folk, subtle symphonics, and acoustic sounds which is underlain with guitars that twang and Alessi’s pretty girlish vocal. It will be cherished by a small audience who have been, or will be, swooned by her innocent summery sound. It will not be too every persons taste. Some will find it too twee vocally; Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish on BBC 6 music radio station recently portrayed Alessi as the pixie queen singing about worms she had found in her garden. Her sound is more 'Folk Of The Faraway Tree' than 'The Exorcist' that is for sure, but there is an audience out there who will appreciate the sound of such enchantment.

The album opens with Magic Weather, an enchanting almost orchestral pop piece with warm strings, fairytale harp and Alessi’s wondrous voice which is equal parts Bjork, Joanna Newsom and Raissa Khan Pranni of The Mummers. Followed swiftly by the two singles The Horse and Over The Hill, these two tracks set the backbone for the majority of the album, a collection of dreamy sounding country pop songs, coated with Alessi’s very precise saccharine vocal.

Those who have seen Alessi play live may be surprised by the levels of production on the album. Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes has worked with Alessi to help her achieve a much fuller sound. Songs such as The Asteroids Collide are given a lush string laden polish, whilst Hummingbird is full of quirky orchestral moments, Alessi’s voice quivering as she sings “Close my hand tight we will survive the night.” However elsewhere Woman is left sparse and haunting, a song suited for the dark and candlelight. Likewise a secret hidden track at the end of the album sounds like something Coco Rosie could have produced, all fractured creeping percussion and eccentric instrumentation.

There’s a sense of musical wonder and magic that pervades this album, together with some delicately charming melodies. It certainly won’t be fighting with White Lies for chart positions, but is all the better for it.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Stornoway - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

Stornoway are an impressive pastoral folk pop band from Oxford who consist of two groups of brothers and one other non related member. First forming in a snow encrusted garage in early 2006 Brian Briggs (vocals), Adam Briggs (trumpet), Rob Steadman (drums), Ollie Steadman (bass) and Jonathan Quin (keys and strings) bless the listener with unaffected, often beautiful song writing. They will be bringing their songs of nature to audiences this summer via a number of festivals including Glastonbury 2009, where they won a place via an Emerging Bands competition to play the legendary event.. They have also just played a slot on the BBC Introducing Stage at Radio One’s Big Weekend.

There are hints of early James and Belle and Sebastian in Stornoway songs such as Fuel Up, whilst on the rousing We Are The Battery Human the group feature some neat Mumford & Sons meets The Leisure Society style Americana banjo and vocals that beautifully harmonise the line “We were born to be free range.” Other songs include The End Of The Movie, a gentle acoustic guitar led piece where Brian’s soothing voice soars in a sad hearted way. Then there’s forthcoming single Zorbing, where Stornoway produce a natural, pure and cheering tune with joyous trumpet and lyrics about lying in the attic and feeling the static in between the sheets of life. Not everything the band do is folk pop though; they have also recorded a cover version of Tina Turners James Bond classic Goldeneye which is all bonkers lo-fi electro pop atari keyboard madness.

Stornoway have already gained a reputation for being slightly more educated than your average band; one of their number has a PhD and another a masters degree. Therefore it is no surprise to see that the subject matter of their songs can also take a more intellectual approach. For example The Good Fish Guide was written to help listeners remind themselves what fish it is best to eat in order to help protect our fish stocks for the future. All proceeds from the song were donated to the Marine Conservation Society. But before you label them as do good boffins, have a listen to their songs on their myspace and enjoy their musical intelligence which is plain to hear.

Stornoway will be releasing their first national single Zorbing on the 8th June and will be entertaining festival audiences throughout the summer.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Gold Teeth - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

Since Vampire Weekend first hit the airwaves, we’ve been surprised that there haven’t been more indie / afrobeat bands trying to get a slice of action. However in Gold Teeth we find a wonky pop group who take some of the quirky rhythmic sensibilities of said band and add to it elements of calypso, reggae, electronica and Britpop to create something with enough spark to convince us that they could be going somewhere.

Their song Tasty takes a mellow slice of Madness and Blur and squeezes it in a way that convinces us that modern life isn‘t so rubbish after all. Then there’s This Cartoon, which sounds like a summer beach party held in outer space, with a mellow pulsing electronic vibe. Gold Teeth also have a nifty little single entitled Everybody, it's a track that really gets our groove on. Sounding a little like the middle section of One Pure Thought by Hot Chip, it makes us throw stupid bent double drunk dad disco dancing shapes to its infectious tropical electro sound. Lead singer Joe Da Costa delivers the infectious hook of “Everybody wants to see, that you don’t even look at me, no you don’t even love me,” before repeating over and over “Everybody is everybody”. Give it one listen and you’ll be singing it in your sleep. You have been warned.

Toothpaste kisses of a golden kind that will give you a million dollar smile.

Monday 11 May 2009

La Roux - Bulletproof

With La Roux still riding high in the UK singles charts at number two with In For The Kill, it’s time for the next dose of synthtastic jiggery pokery from the nations current favourite androgynous retro futurist pop star. With Bulletproof La Roux aka Elly Jackson sings “I’m having fun, don’t put me down, I’ll never let you sweep me off my feet,” as the sound of Yazoo and Blancmange playing You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) by Dead Or Alive twitches like a small child playing hopscotch on a keyboard behind her. It’s utterly brilliant and is bound to follow In For The Kill high into the charts.

The video for the song is a super space age polygon shaped liquorice allsort fighting with eighties film Tron and a big old can of hairspray and you can view it here now. Girls Aloud, The Saturdays, Sugababes, your time is up. La Roux is currently invincible, as well as Bulletproof.

Sunday 10 May 2009

The Maccabees - Wall Of Arms

The Maccabees second album Wall Of Arms is an accomplished piece of indie guitar work that certainly won’t alienate their existing fan base, but is unlikely to bolster their following significantly either. It takes a subtle step away from the boyish charm of their debut Colour It In to a slightly darker place displaying more maturity. Markus Dravs, who has previously worked with Coldplay, Arcade Fire and Bjork brings a bigger sound to the bands repetoire, but the sound is still undeniably The Maccabees. Brash, frantic, repetitive guitar lines are still the order of the day and Orlando Weeks still turns a fine hand in delivering charming lines such as “I grew up in the bosom of my family, eight strong arms around me.”

The jewel of the album is No Kind Words. Here the band sound melancholic and restrained with Orlando’s bleak recital of the chorus “Alone alone alone, Not alone at all.” It’s designed to be chanted by indie rock fans in church like concert halls throughout the country. Elsewhere The Maccabees show that they can sound joyous without being overly pop in the same way that bands such as The Futureheads and Maximo Park have managed. On William Powers, they charge through with a blistering guitar workout, with Dravs surging Arcade Fire production at the forefront, as the song reaches for the stratospheres at the climax with its “Now now now now there’s something in it,” rabble rousing call. The Maccabees have obviously been doing their Arcade Fire homework with Dravs as the teacher on the song One Hand Holding with its exuberrant Win Butler styled "Oh Oh" backing. Sometimes however the songs are just too similar to the debut album, single Love You Better and Can You Give It being particular victims, but title track Wall Of Arms makes subtle steps away from the template with a carnival feel before ending in a solidly noisy way.

Wall Of Arms has enough tense dark guitar thrills to see them grow as a band with their audience. Maybe there is not quite enough originality, experimentation or creative commerciality to see them step outside the safety of the indie Brit guitar band ghetto, but there is enough to suggest that The Maccabees have left the door open and are tiptoeing over the threshold. The Maccabees are one step closer to delivering something of heavier musical weight.

Saturday 9 May 2009

Lisa Hannigan @ Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms

Irish singer Lisa Hannigan is probably best known in England, Scotland and Wales for her past work with Damien Rice, supplying the smooth soft feminine side of the song Nine Crimes. However in her home country her status as a solo artist has a higher profile, with a Choice Prize nomination for her debut album Sea Sew. With the album now released in the UK, it gives Lisa a chance to tour and promote the work and fully establish herself here as well.

With an audience seated at tables the atmosphere is one of relaxed hushed reverence, not something that Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms is ordinarily used to, being more traditionally a standing only venue. With such a layout and Hannigan elevated on stage, her performance very much feels as if she is on show; this is emphasised at the end when all of the band applaud the crowd and take bows in a manner more commonly seen at the theatre.

Backed by a group of first class musicians, there is a warm and varied mix of instrumentation including trumpet, melodica, harmonium, double bass, drums, acoustic guitar, xylophone, keyboards, banjo, tambourine stick and even stylophone on display. Hannigan sings with an almost constant smile on her face and a voice that massages the ears. Often appearing completely immersed in the songs, her slightly awkward gangly frame often gives way to expressive dancing, her movements not dissimilar to Ian Curtis of Joy Division in slow motion. Her band are highly competent, every note and sound etched from their instruments with care and precision, from the soft Regina Spektorisms of the pop folk of I Don’t Know to a sultry seductive new number where Hannigan sings “I’m a high school lover, and you’re my favourite flavour.” Lille is probably the highlight of the set, a sparse understated song where Hannigans voice caresses the air with feathered beauty. There are moments where the spot on musicianship and Lisa’s effortlessly pure voice cover up the fact that the gentle professionalism of some of the songs makes them lack that special emotional resonance with the listener, but this is picking holes when Hannigan is obviously blessed with such real ability.

There is certainly much more to Lisa Hannigan than just Damien Rice’s ex backing singer. She is a talent that can easily stand alone.

Friday 8 May 2009

The Horrors - Primary Colours

In the indie rock world of today where the debut album of many artists is considered their defining moment, commercial concerns often lead to album number two offering up a lesser version of the former, with a corresponding drop in sales and the inevitable parting of ways with the record label. In the case of The Horrors, a while back even album number two seemed just a dream. After just one long player release the band were dropped by Polydor leading to a distinct feeling that their haircuts were bigger than the hype and the band were destined for the trash can.

Anyone who had seen one of their exhilarating live shows, all flashing strobes, searing guitars and front man Farris Badwan stalking and climbing the stage like a man possessed would have known however that there was something more to this band. It seems that XL Recordings realised this, signing the group to their ever increasing diverse rosta to release album number two; Primary Colours.

Produced and mixed by Craig Silvey and Geoff Barrow of Portishead, with additional input from the renowned dark lord of video direction Chris Cunningham, Primary Colours is an album that sees The Horrors exceed their debut in every respect. This is certainly no lesser version of the former. A kaleidoscopic menagerie of psychedelic mystery, atmospheric noise, nightmarish brutality and brooding krautrock that recalls Joy Division, Psychedelic Furs, My Bloody Valentine and Jesus And Mary Chain this is an impressive, shocking album that shows that indie guitar rock can still create something beautiful out of a racket.

Take one listen to Who Can Say, a pounding art school cinema piece of work complete with swirling seaside pier organ and a tambourine stamped Phil Spector-ish spoken word interlude of “And when I told her I didn’t love her anymore, she cried,” and be amazed. This is a dark single minded album full of vast angry guitar and swirling vintage keyboards. Badwan’s baritone is trippy, echoing and hypnotic. It is a vocal delivery which has the same echoing garage atmosphere of Ian Brown on the Stone Roses classic debut. Scarlet Fields brings in droning bass, LSD weird noises and distorted vocals and wouldn’t have been out of place on one of the earlier darker Cure albums. Then of course there is the epic closer, Sea Within A Sea, a fitting climax to the album, with an ocean of pulsing sequencers drifting into the darkness. Whilst Primary Colours is possibly even less commercial than their debut, in terms of ability to take on influences but at the same time be bold in creative artistry it utterly succeeds.

Primary Colours is the sound of a band finding and properly defining themselves. Polydor you were wrong. Heres to album number three.

Thursday 7 May 2009

Alessi's Ark @ Brighton Freebutt

A nearby funfair punches out blasts of hyperactive techno, but over the road in the Freebutt, Alessi Laurent Marke and her band are producing songs that are more fairytale than fairground. Yet the only children’s story you would normally associate The Freebutt with would be one by the Brothers Grimm. The place is certainly not salubrious, with its down on its luck character and stinking toilets, but this doesn’t seem to bother Alessi at all. “What a nice night,” she starts, before adding later “It’s like a dream room, who is good in Brighton is in the room.”

If this is a dream room, then the music of Alessi's Ark is perfectly suited to it. Dreamy and fleshed with a country twang, her band are subtle and restrained; allowing Alessis’s gentle wistful voice space to be heard. Her vocal is innocently childlike yet strong, even after promises of vocal surprises due to a cold “Not the piggy flue,” she adds. Highlights of the set include the opening haunting Hummingbird, The Horse with an initial rhythm tapped out with a drumstick on the keyboard and The Asteroids Collide, played as part of an encore which she didn’t seem to expect to receive. “I’m an encore virgin,” she beams.

In the live environment Alessi is a delicately engaging performer, more relaxed and confident with her own small audience than when we last saw her supporting Mumford & Sons in Reading. The centre of the sound is Alessi’s voice; a number of the songs start and finish abruptly after she has finished singing, but the music and melodies are also pretty and vulnerable. So with the funfair forgotten, Alessi’s Ark manage to transport the small Brighton audience to a very different world than that of a smelly black room pub venue. At its best it’s a magical, enchanting world.

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Beans On Toast + Peggy Sue + Cherbourg + The Agitator @ Brighton Hanbury Club - Communion

With its central glass dome, black interior, wall lampshades, patterned wallpaper, decorative mirrors and flamboyant bar the Hanbury Club has always been one of the most exotically retro venues in Brighton, recalling the 1920’s in its ambience. This lends a sophisticated feel to Communion, the new folk club, direct from London for its opening night in Brighton. Not that everything here fits under the easy label of new folk.

The Agitator is the new project of Derek Meins. Sporting 50’s styled slicked back hair and braces, The Agitator means business; delivering primal, visceral acappella rock and roll with just heavy thudding drumming to back him. His mouth contorts in rubbery shapes as he howls his way through a raw undiluted set, including Mr Wolf, a song about bills you can’t pay.

If Gary Barlow from Take That that was a little younger, had grown a beard and sported a waistcoat he may look a little like the lead singer of Cherbourg (pictured). Their songs fall into two camps. The first are almost medieval folk songs, such as set closer Never Love Again which is full of fiddle and chanted melodies, a song that is as sprightly as a child dancing around the maypole. The second are more straightforward brooding and building guitar rock songs such as Scattered at Sea, which has just a hint of Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol in its vocal delivery. The band gush about the other acts on the bill and are obviously delighted to be playing, and by the end the audience appear equally as delighted with Cherbourg.

Peggy Sue have evolved somewhat since Breaking More Waves last caught them live. Then they were known as Peggy Sue and the Pirates. They are still resolutely lo –fi, mixing elements of blues, soul and alt. folk together in a slightly scrappy detuned style. But now they flesh out their material with accordion, ukulele and a drummer who bashes and clatters heavily, occasionally sounding like the start of a war march. Katy Klaw is dressed in an Eminem T Shirt, a reference and influence which seems about as far away as you can get from the sound they make. There are lyrics concerning sins and forgiveness on Lazarus, stomping changing time signatures, and a cover version of a Missy Elliot number. They remain quirky, odd and charmingly uncommercial despite their big bluesy harmonies doing their best to make them more accessible than their lo-fi leftfield acoustic sound really is.

The late night graveyard shift is left to Beans On Toast. Beans On Toast stands on a chair, elevated for easy viewing. With just an acoustic guitar and a gravel rough voice his performance is a mix of the comedic, personal and political. “You don’t like me in Brighton, because I make jokes about gays,” he gamely grins at the start of his set. Then as everyone begins to clap along to a simple riff, he announces “Let’s all clap hands,” pauses and then adds “F*ckin’ queers”. There’s plenty of laughter. Beans On Toast gets away with what could be conceived as arrogance and homophobia through his cheeky humour. With songs about rich kids in the music business and being old “Just turned 28 and going bald,” he wins virtually everyone over. “I think this is the best Beans On Toast gig ever. I’m gonna crowd surf in a minute,” he jokes. From way up on that chair it’s probably a blessing that he doesn’t as it’s a long way to fall; if he did though you get the feeling that he would be held triumphantly above the crowd in the manner of a rock star.

So the first Brighton Communion is a success. Breaking More Waves will be back for more soon.

Monday 4 May 2009

Bestival 2009 - Returfed Reseeded Revamped

Last September Robin Hill Country Park, Isle Of Wight paid host to the fifth Bestival and the worst rain Breaking More Waves has experienced at a music festival since Glastonbury in the late 90’s. The site, normally a beautiful woodland and grassland country park, looked like the photo above. But now almost seven months on, the same location looks like this.

To say that the rain and mud at Bestival 2008 was cataclysmic would not be much of an understatement. The fact that the majority of the event was able to run at all in such conditions was miraculous, even if some stages such as the newly located BBC Introducing stage were rained off for significant parts of the weekend. With the Isle Of Wight receiving an amount of rainfall in twenty four hours that it would usually receive in the whole month of September, conditions were treacherous, muddy and desperate. But punters who left the site after three days of hard dirty partying, mud and mayhem to nice warm baths, didn’t have to endure what must have been one of the mammoth clear up operations of any UK festival.

Even Glastonbury, which has had its fair share of famous muddy years occasionally has a year off to allow the site to recover. Not so for Robin Hill Country Park which is a leisure attraction and has a business to operate for the rest of the year. Restoration works had to commence immediately. However even with significant reconstruction, the Isle Of Wight Spring Garden show due to be held in April 2009 had to be cancelled as the main area field, still being reseeded, would not at that stage have been able to withstand heavy traffic, particularly if the preceding week was wet.

Breaking More Waves recently had the pleasure to visit Robin Hill Country Park to see the work that has been carried out, four months before it once again welcomes the colourful sights and sounds of Bestival; and the work that has been going on is quite staggering. It appears that the field that has been used for the main stage for the last five years has been completely returfed, now a soft, lush blanket of green. The area next to this that houses the Bollywood Bar and a variety of other stalls and stages is being reseeded, and that grass is slowly beginning to take hold. New white gravel paths have also been laid and the hill that hosts the village and bandstand areas has also seen some significant returfing and reseeding works. Standing at the bottom of the valley on a sunny day at the start of May it is virtually impossible to visualise the carnage that occurred in the same place last September. This picture shows the area where the main stage has previously been located.

But now changes are afoot. It seems that after five years of gradually developing the site and improving the infrastructure, Bestivals head honcho Rob Da Bank is proposing a big site revamp this year. In order to mitigate some of the risks of a further bad weather situation the main stage is to be relocated to higher, possibly drier ground where the Big Top has been situated the last two years. This according to Da Bank will make the stage more accessible whatever the weather. The area that suffered the worst of the flooding, namely the bottom of the valley will be free from stages therefore reducing the risk of cancellations.

Here at Breaking More Waves we look forward to seeing the newly modelled site layout, and will be reporting back from Bestival later this year. As our Festival season is about to get underway, look out for reports from The Great Escape, Wychwood, Winterwell, Blissfields, Camp Bestival, Summer Sundae and Bestival itself. Fingers crossed for as little of this as possible....