Earlier this month we introduced the remarkable Swedish sugary high camp that is The Sound Of Arrows in a blog here. Now courtesy of those good people at Neon Gold Records the cola cube electronic duo have put out a video remix. Yes, that’s right, Into The Clouds has been remixed so the band thought it deserved a different video. This time The Sound Of Arrows have spliced and cut up footage from the 1985 film Explorers and the 1986 film The Boy Who Could Fly and the remixers have given it an electronic high camp beat that sounds more Pet Shop Boys than the Pet Shop Boys themselves. Then just as things are getting a little too obvious the mix dissolves into a dubious anolgue synth workout that harks back to the era of eighties soft rock, with just a sprinkle of Physical by Olivia Newton John added to both the melody and rhythm. This is surely about as ostentatious as things can get. The people to blame or salute, depending on your perspective are Fear Of Tigers who have also created remixes for Visitors and Infadels.
The remix makes us cringe and smile in equal measure, and in a couple of years time we will wonder 'what were they thinking' but right now if it makes you grin and tap your feat you can order the remix on 12” vinyl from Pure Groove Pure Groove.
From the pastoral pop of previous single Zorbing, Stornoway take a big step up with Unfaithful, their new single released this week. Unfaithful lacks the immediate pop sensibility of their previous single, but instead kisses with harder sounds and melodies that spiral and soar creating a mountainous imprint. With uplifting strings and a country blues guitars, Unfaithful sounds like late eighties indie folk nothings turned nineties stadium heroes James at their best. “No one ever said this would be problem free, but it never crossed my mind you would be unfaithful to me,” sings vocalist Brian Briggs, his honesty sounding crushingly sad but also strangely celebratory.
Unfaithful is powerful, tender and strikes affection in our hearts. Stornoway remain on track to becoming one of our favourite new bands.
There’s a lot more to Slow Club than you might catch on first listen. One of their most endearing qualities is their subtle interplay with words and often very witty humour. Slow Club come across very much as the kind of band that on one hand take what they do very seriously; with good and ever developing song writing combined with piles of passion when they play live. Yet on the other hand seem to take the whole thing with a pinch of salt and a good deal of couldn’t care less joviality. If this is correct, it’s a good place to be, comedy and humour being a level headed way to keep things both grounded on the highs as well as up on the lows.
This humour is readily apparent on the video for the new Slow Club single Trophy Room which is released on 12th October through Moshi Moshi. Here Slow Club joke at themselves and the idea of bands wanting public recognition through huge You Tube hits. We love it when Charles states through subtitles “MTV only plays us at an hour that nobody watches,“ and Rebecca replies “Well some people watch them, my mum watches them.” Then Charles adds “Yeah but it isn’t gonna go viral is it?” It’s charming, inventive and pretty damn funny. In fact unless you have your multi tasking head on it is easy to forget to listen to the song which the video promoting, it's so funny.
So listen in because Trophy Room by Slow Club is a rather brilliant piece of lonely primeval delicate folk punk structured thrash that by the end will have you bouncing off walls, sweating and lusting for a shag with whoever walks through the door next. Make it go viral folks.
Since we first posted about Ellie Goulding back in February 2009 here , the Hertfordshire songstress has been a busy girl. Uploading haunting covers of Bon Iver and Passion Pit on Myspace, a big NME feature in August, getting blogged by Perez Hilton in September, dirty dancing on the brilliant juddering synthtastic floaty, dub step disco Jakwob remix of Starry Eyed, wrestling with a vacuum cleaner for Popjustice (honestly) and then finally topping it all signing a major label worldwide record deal. Come October Ellie will be supporting Little Boots on tour and when December rolls drunkenly in we fully expect the name of Ellie Goulding to appear on the better Ones to Watch / Sound of 2010 lists.
But despite celebrity blogs and a host of golden producers ( Starsmith, Mark Ronson, Frankmusik) working with Ellie, when it comes to playing live shows an audience has still to be found. The small basement venue of Audio in Brighton is less than half full, but then this is to be expected with Ellie yet to officially release any material and little promotion of the gig.
The songs that Goulding has posted so far on line have been full of studio trickery; electronic dance pop folktronica production, sweetly polished with girlish delicate vocals that have elements of Cerys Mathews, Stina Nordenstam and Bjork in them over tunes that subtly grow on you with each listen. How such arrangements could be transferred to the live arena is a question that until this first show with her new band has been unanswered.
The answer is simple; it takes just the opening number Guns And Horses, for Ellie Goulding to convince Brighton that she is a viable live proposition. Halfway through the song there’s a moment when the music drops off, Ellie sings the line “I see your face in every star,” the crowd woops, drums kick back in and we feel spine tingling goose bumps. If there were any doubters in the room, Goulding banishes them. No question, this is exhilarating stuff.
Playing as a three piece the tiny Goulding is highly charismatic in her performance. She may be pint sized but she has big stage presence, playing and singing with raw potency, even if she is almost dwarfed by her huge acoustic guitar. The disjointed tricky electronic laptop beats from the studio are replaced with forceful live drums and occasional distorted synth pads, whilst Starsmith adds keyboard sounds, electronic cleverness and guitar. The sound is gutsier than one would expect, Ellie Gouldings’ voice impassioned, the live drums blistering and uplifting. This is certainly not just an exercise in coffee table nicety, but fervent and exciting music underlain with Gouldings distinct songwriting ability. The mid tempo groove of forthcoming single Under The Sheets with its chant of "We're under the sheets you're killing me," is instantly likeable and Myspace favourite Starry Eyed is blissfully exciting. Only Wish I Stayed doesn’t quite work, its live version a little too scrappy and lonely, missing big washes of electronica.
Towards the end of the set Ellie ditches the guitar and pounds along on a single drum in front of her. The rhythm was perfect and so was the timing. And talking of timing this young singers time must surely come soon.
It seems like an absolute age since we first wrote about The Joy Formidable, way back in January. Since then their mini album A Balloon Called Moaning has brought Breaking More Waves fuzzy fast lane highs at regular intervals during the year. Recently the band put out a new free download which you can grab from the bands Myspace using the link above. Entitled Greyhounds In The Slips the song is hardly likely to turn stubborn aethiests into believers of the ways of The JF but the converted will be more than satisfied. The biggest difference with this tune is a male voice being added to the blend from one Paul Draper, yes he of Stripper Vicar ex Mansun fame, it complements the effervescent Ritzy nicely. Raw guitar brashness, energy a plenty and distant cooing “Ooo ooo,” backing vocals mark out this thundering shake down. Check out the rather odd ending as well, what is going on there we wonder ?
Something that strikes us about The Joy Formidable which sets them apart from many other new UK bands is that they appear to have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic, having gigged heavily this year whilst producing significant amounts of merchandise and releases to sell. This hard slog continues this autumn when the band are out doing some serious fan and profile building on the road with both Editors and Passion Pit.
Australian chanteuse Lisa Mitchell has recently released her debut album Wonder. A quirky tender mix of dreamy acoustic based folk pop, with occasional country rock tinges, the album could appeal to the mainstream as well as those who like slightly more leftfield female acts such as Emiliana Torrini, Alessi’s Ark, Julia Stone and most notably Lenka, whom Mitchell shares a vocal similarity to. But for many potential listeners, the words “Came 6th on Australian Idol,” would be enough to make them turn about face, which is a shame, because Wonder is a pleasantly enjoyable listening experience a world away from Gareth Gates or Alexandra Burke. Lisa is virtually unknown in the UK, having played just a handful of pub dates, one of which we wrote about here , and a slot at Glastonbury, but she will be raising her profile this autumn when she heads out on the road supporting Newton Faulkner on his national tour.
You may be familiar with the xylophone based “Ba-da, ba-da,” catchiness of Neapolitan Dreams; a song which has been used in a variety of advertising campaigns including a Spanish department store and a well known brand of washing powder in the UK. Indeed it’s not hard listening to Mitchell’s music to imagine that the lady herself smells all lemony and fragrant, with another one of the songs on the album having a washeteria referencing title - Coin Laundry. It’s a tune that features a human beat box “Boom boom,” sample and a cute hooky mid-tempo chorus of “Do you have a dollar? Do you have a dollar for me?” Coin Laundry is one of the more slightly eccentric numbers on the album, and for those who love remixes there's a wonderfully blissed out non album dance mix available online here by the mighty Starsmith. By the time we get to Clean White Love we begin to wonder if Lisa is mysophobic, such are all the references and links to hygiene. But as you continue to listen to Wonder, Mitchells’ fresh faced approach and almost baby-doll vocal wash away any negativity you may possess.
Not everything is so cute and clean though. Sidekick starts with industrial clanking drums before punching with jazzy entertainer style piano, bluesy rock riffs and horns. It adds variety to the album that features a number of different styles that all complement each other well and never seem too misplaced.
Overall Wonder is a kookily innocent light of touch sounding record that shows that Lisa Mitchell has some song writing talent; the best songs on the album are ones that she wrote alone. Co-writers such as Ed Harcourt and Ant Whiting add variation, but not always quality. Wonder does not ever achieve greatness, but is without question a commendable debut with a pleasing wistful disposition that smiles at you with simple and direct loveliness. Reality TV did something good for once.
Since we posted about The Drums and their whistle laden, twangy, bop at the hop debut single Let’s Go Surfing there has been a fair amount of buzz about the band. Just a few days ago The Drums arrived in London town to play their first ever gig outside of the States and only about their twentieth ever. The location was The Flowerpot, Camden - a venue that seems to rapidly becoming one of the best places to see great music for free, you simply turn up and watch, and the band take a cut of the bar profits rather than ticket revenue.
Unfortunately we weren’t at the gig, Southsea Fest in Portsmouth taking priority. However there is some neat You Tube footage of some of the songs the band played, one of which Best Friend we have shown below. It’s worthy of watching even if you don’t have a sound card on your PC/ laptop / phone for the lead singers upright floppy dance moves and the most excitable ‘not quite sure what to do with myself throw myself around legs akimbo’ tambourine playing we have seen for some time. No change that, not for some time, more like ever. Described by the in attendance Boy George as looking like rent boys, the bands have a fresh faced take on catchy bleak pop melodrama that encapsulates many UK new wave bands of the early eighties. The Drums will be back in the UK for a couple of London shows and at the Cardiff Swn Festival appearance at the end of October.
The Antlers describe Hospice as ““The result of Manhattan isolation and Brooklyn re-emergence recorded over the course of two years in an apartment.” That only touches the surface. Hospice is a powerful and sonically masterful indie rock record that combines some of the most moving and disturbing lyrics you will hear all year with an aural assault of heavy heavenly beauty, both electric and acoustic. Expect to see it on a number of the better end of year lists.
Hospice is a thematic album, dare we say it, a concept album. Whether it’s fictional or non fictional is almost beside the point, but it does tell a story. A layered tale of two characters relationship, one of whom is dying. It is profoundly dark, flitting between memories of abuse and the present until eventually “Every machine stopped at once, and the monitors beeped the last time.”
In an age where the digital download has led to the average listener being unable to connect with any listening experience over five minutes long, Hospice is a kick back against such attention span deficit. This is an album that demands to be heard from start to finish in its entirety. Individual tracks simply don’t work as well as how The Antlers probably intended you to listen to their work - immersed and uninterrupted. It’s also vital that you listen with the lyric book held in your hand, only this way can you feel the austere weight of this recording as some of the words are difficult to make out without it. For example on Two, as vocalist Peter Silberman describes the inevitability of the girls death he also sings of past betrayals “They should have listened, they thought you were lying. Daddy was an asshole, he fucked you up, built gears in your head, now he greases them up. And no one paid attention when you just stopped eating. Eighty seven pounds and all this bears repeating.” Elsewhere the rage and madness of the situation is described on Atrophy in the lyric “Someone, oh anyone, tell me how to stop this. She’s screaming, expiring, and I’m her only witness.” It’s pretty uneasy listening.
Besides the black current and poetic density of the lyrics the music is mighty and intense - a mix of the subtle and the explosive. On Sylvia waves of crashing noise and feedback ring hard as lead singer Peter Silberman wails “Sylvia, get your head out of the oven. Go back to screaming and cursing, remind me again how everyone betrayed you.” Thirteen starts off with a moody haunting ambience before gradually morphing into waves of shimmering shoe-gaze guitar which then drops into almost silence for a ghostly female voice to call “Pull me out, pull me out, can’t you stop this all from happening?” over the lightest of piano sounds. On Kettering Silberman sets the scene of the two main characters, it’s never clear if they knew each other before this moment - “You’d been abused by the bone that refused you, and you hired me to make up for that. Walking in that room when you had tubes in your arms, those singing morphine alarms out of tune kept you sleeping and even,” over distorted distant piano that evolves into distraught and angry noise. It’s not always an easy listen requiring some patience, but the journey is worth it.
Hospice bears some similarities to another recent release - First Days Of Spring by Noah and the Whale, in that it that feels more like a film than simply a collection of songs and is bare and gut-wrenchingly sad. Buy the CD (not the download), admire the well thought out internal cover art picturing stark hospital scenes in black and white and read the lyrics rather than just listening to them. Hospice is the rarest of things in this decade; an extraordinary album that demands to be physically owned and consumed with your ears from start to finish.
This is obviously a joke. Just in case. We don't do this kind of thing very often, if at all, except today - obviously. But just for now we thought we would turn into a minor version of Popjustice. Thank you. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.
Southsea Fest is modelled on events such as The Great Escape in Brighton and Swn in Cardiff but on a smaller scale. Established in 2007 the first event was held to raise funds for the promoter Josie Cutis’ younger brother, a musician, to record an album after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The event has now expanded and this year took place in twelve venues with over one hundred and fifty acts performing with some profits given to charity.
An entry wristband was budget price, being the same cost as a standard gig ticket, allowing access to all venues which were situated within close proximity to each other, mainly on Albert Road in the south coast town. Unlike similar larger events such as The Great Escape there was no need to turn up at a venue early and queue to guarantee entry, wristband holders were able to freely wander between locations as they chose. At times the event resembled something more like a giant pub crawl than a music event, with bands providing a backing track for happy drunken punters roaming the street. Breaking More Waves took a more conservative approach however, remaining in one venue all day, (Little Johnny Russells) except for our surprisingly well received DJ Set early in the day under our DJ Hojo Hits guise at Cafe Citrus, where we managed to bring dubstep, synth pop, vintage rock and roll, and seventies disco to the artists VIP area.
This years event was crammed so full of bands that it is no surprise that several stages ran behind the scheduled timetable, but most punters seemed unconcerned, happy to catch whatever artist they stumbled across at any particular time. The line up for the event consisted of a number of small national bands previously featured on this blog such as Peggy Sue, The Joy Formidable, James Yuill and Alessi’s Ark as well as plenty of local artists. So to the bands we saw..
With lead singer Clym Arnold swinging from the stage balustrade till it almost collapses, diving onto the floor and his band raping your ear drums with a fistf*ck of visceral punk, The Deads mean business; and we don’t mean the kind that involves hot desking, water cooler moments and power lunches. No this is business that is primitive, brutal and likely to find you sprawled over the photocopier with a microphone stand thrust up your backside. We have no idea about the songs they play, except for a dirty cover of Helter Skelter, but finding blood gushing from our ears actually seems like fun.
The Hall Of Mirrors are about as far removed from The Deads as you can imagine. Every song is a delicate spoonful of sugar adventure of perky tunefulness. “This next song is all about love,” gushes singer Jessica Spencer and we are sure we see fairy dust sparkle from her keyboard and Mary Poppins skipping around in the background. Only at the end when she kicks back her piano stool and delivers a harsher bluesy number do things become a little more unsettling.
The keyboard remains for a short set by Loz Bridge , this time without his backing band The Box Social, who we have featured here before. Bridge produces a short, accomplished set of jazzy rootsy sounds, full of earnest musicianship with just a hint of Chris Martins more reflective moments. One for the more mature listener, his sound is better suited to a quiet theatre or lounge bar than a chatty south coast pub on a Saturday afternoon.
Little Johnny Russells fills up rapidly after Bridge finishes for the megaphone wielding Holdfast, who having recently bagged support slots with White Lies, These New Puritans and in the near future The Chapman Family. The band have developed a confident swagger as they race through their charged punkish riot of keyboard and energetic guitar laden noise with glittery dress clad singer Roberta stepping into the crowd. They may not yet have perfected any killer songs, but they have a dark raw shout about them that takes them above the level of your standard local indie no hopers.
Breaking More Waves regulars The B of the Bang have been peddling their wares for some time now and tonight feels like one of closure, songs from their debut album Beginning Middle End being performed for possibly the last time before some new material is unleashed. Lung is still a colossal beast of a song, triumphant in its sadness and set closer Alaska bristles with taught atmosphere, but their live centrepiece remains Last Day On Earth which is performed with members of The Dawn Chorus; full of soaring trumpets and men singing the words “La la la,” as if it were the most important thing in the world.
Rather like a game of tag The Dawn Chorus continue where The B of the Bang left off. The band are a menagerie of multi instrumentation and subtle tunes with heavenly trumpet fanfares that uplift and involve, and on one song the band even have a little stab at some ska which seems rudely off centre to the rest of their country tinged rock sound. Strangely endearing and glorious.
Eight piece Revere (pictured) are physically and musically too big for such a tiny stage as Southsea Fest. The band bring military jackets, waistcoats, strings and a big big sound that comes from the same musical space as bands like Broken Records and Arcade Fire. Their songs sweep and soar gloriously high, powerfully evocative and beautiful. With due respect to all of the bands that have come before them, Revere stand that much taller, that much stronger and bring the most illustrious sounds we hear all day.
After Revere ‘dirty folksters’ Billy Vincent have a tough job. A slimmed down check shirted version of the whole band, they play with just two acoustic guitars, and as the beer flows more readily you have to feel sorry for any act that really demands quiet attention.
Next up are San Francisco’s Love Like Fire who play a fairly straightforward female fronted blend of indie rock that has a vaguely early to mid nineties feel to it. The band suffer from an audience that now seems more interested in alcoholic kicks than actually listening to the music. There are hints of something epic trying to break out, but it’s a case of seen it all before with this band.
“Give me some love it’s tough up here,” announces Chris T-T. Good god the man’s right. At this point in the evening we wonder if anybody is actually interested in the music at all. Chris T-T could have probably come on stage, pissed in a pot and walked off again and nobody would have noticed. So all credit to the man who has played on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square for having the guts to force out his political acoustic folk rock to those who care. Breaking a guitar string after his first song, he continues a cappella, before thrashing out tunes about getting older, hunting and the wonderful Preaching To The Converted which has thrusting intensity and humour in equal measure. “Billy Braggs gone fishing in his 4 x 4,” he sings to a an audience who are drowning in lager.
At this point it doesn’t look good for James Yuill , but miraculously his beats, loops and geekoid electronic wizardry win the day. The inebriated crowd are ready to dance and the heavy beats and laptronica that Yuill produces work well. His sound mixes elements of Nick Drake, Radiohead, Aphex Twin and Calvin Harris into something that is uniquely his own. As songs such as the dreamy rotating No Surprise and the gentle bounce of This Sweet Love are played out it reminds us why we put his Turning Down Water For Air album in our Top Ten of 2008. Enchanting electronic melodies with a human side, from one of the nicest men in music make a fine way to end the evening.
At the start of the year we wrote here about fashion and pop music and how they do not ‘wear out’ but ‘go out’. We suggested that as the landfill indie bands fell out of fashion quicker than you can get Scott Mills into a spray tan booth, some of them may remould their look and sound for a new audience and find new peaks of creativity. We have argued before that all great art continues to evolve, that those with true creative passion will never be satisfied just doing or listening to the same thing as they did in the past.
Editors may have never fallen into the landfill indie category, their music being of a darker taught widescreen tone, but it seems that this creative urge runs through the groups veins. New single Papillon retains the essence of what has gone before with Toms recognisable Joy Division styled baritone vocal singing “Darling, just don’t put down your guns yet, if there really was a god here, he’d have raised a hand by now,” but the major departure is that guitars have been dropped in favour of Depeche Mode / Gary Numan style synths. Yes it may be jumping on the bandwagon with the world of synthtopia so in fashion right now, but better to be still riding the wagon both creatively and commercially than being left behind alone disappearing off the radar. Of course the truly great bands don’t just ride, they drive along the roads they build themselves and collect passengers on route. Editors are not doing that yet, but Papillon is still worthy of attention.
The album In This Light And On This Evening from which Papillon is taken is released next month.
After two days of almost incessant main stage hogging, Sunday takes Breaking More Waves to virtually every other point on the Bestival site.
Peggy Sue's alt. folk harmonies give a lo-fi kiss to a large hungover crowd at the Jim Beam Bar. Conveying hippyish ideals with flower garlands in their hair, lyrics declaring that “Love will save the day,” and strong soulful female vocals the group are just the tonic for sore heads. After they finish with a stomping version of The Sea The Sea they sell out of the CD’s that they’ve brought with them, a good sign.
The shadow of a ferris wheel creates rotating patterns on the arc shaped canopy above the stage as Ohbijou play songs from their album Beacons. With silken strings and lush violins tussling with Casey Mecija’s angelic girlish vocal, their folk rock sound could easily become twee and indistinct, but it never does, always falling into something more substantial. Intro To Season sounds like Arcade Fire snuggling up with Joanna Newsom and barely lasts over two minutes, but is so lovely it wouldn’t be strange to be found wanting to give the band a hug.
Over in the Big Top Hockey demonstrate with a beach ball that yanks can’t do soccer, and neither do these lads seem to be able to score any musical goals. The bands white boy indie funk has a fair amount of groove but lacks capacity for tunes. It’s only when the LCD Soundsystem sound-a-like pop of Too Fake gets an airing that ears stir. When one particular loon of a punter manages to get on his friends shoulders and presses his face close up to the camera filming proceedings, his ugly mug covering the large video screens to the side of the stage, and it is the highlight of the set, you know something is wrong.
Delphic from Manchester are much better, particularly when they drop their guitars and let washes of indie dance synths cascade around the tent on the loopy and Orbital influenced Counterpoint. Then there is the monumental This Momentary with its “Let’s do something real,” chanted vocal call to arms, where building percussion creates space and energy that given a later night appearance would have developed into a transcendental hands in the air moment.It may not be staggeringly original, 'indie dance' is the category here, but if they can create a body of work as good as these two songs they will be onto something.
Back at the Jim Beam bar Polly Scattergood (pictured) is resplendent in silver, pink feathers and neon yellow / green. Polly is an unusual creature, although very young she seems much older, her girlish vocal and dark sometimes sexual lyrics confusing the issue even more. “You can spit on my French knickers sir, you can call me a whore, if you roll in, roll out, roll up to the Bunny Club,” she sings in a destitute vulnerable manner during Bunny Club, her next single. On Other Too Endless she utters “And I gave you my body, and when I said I did I meant it, and you gave me your anger, and for that I’m still trying to vent it.” It’s all pretty disturbing stuff, with themes of suicide, abuse and clinging on to long gone lovers permeating her performance. Yet despite these themes Polly sings with a smile and theatrically poses her way round the stage as if she were auditioning for Yo Gabba Gabba whilst unsettling electronics add to her blend of broken Prozac Nation pop. It’s oddly schizophrenic and enjoyable all at the same time.
Doves represent our first and only trip of the day to the main stage. The band provide a functional greatest hits set which is watched by Guy Garvey of Elbow in the wings. Doves are talented and accomplished musicians (even permitting the false start on the opening song they play) but after four albums their sound and set is becoming predictable. We would have bet our lives on them finishing with There Goes The Fear, and indeed they do. We said it earlier this year and we stand by our statement that we wish that Doves would now go and do something to surprise us. Maybe a rejuvenation of the Sub Sub ideas would be a neat twist to the left ?
The Bandstand area of Bestival is virtually empty as The Cordelier Club play with just a smattering of friends and stragglers watching. The Cordelier Club sound is very much one of adult middle of the road pop from the eighties with a powerful female rock vocal. There are hints of Stevie Nicks, Roxette, The Pretenders and Eurythmics circa Revenge - not particularly hip reference points, but it is exactly that and the quality of their songs that makes the band stand out. The group have hook after hook, sharp enough to gut wrench you in. One listen to Fire In The City with its “Don’t stop, we go far, running from the city in a getaway car,” chorus and our head is spinning dizzily. Stolen Lovers is even better with big Radio 2 styled high catchiness, it could easily sneer with vibrant abandon from the top of the pop mountain. In a festival full of oddness, The Cordelier Clubs mainstream position seems strangely leftfield and staggering brilliant because of it.
And talking of odd, we take a brave (many would say stupid) decision to miss Elbow (who as much as we love we have seen many times before) to sample Squarepusher, who we have never seen and on paper sound like they will tick our box. If ever there was an argument for taking risks then this would be it. Squarepusher would blind us with brilliance and we would go away happy. Unfortunately the whole thing is a massive endurance test. Faceless experimentation can be brilliant at times, but in the Big Top Squarepusher barrage us with dirty noise, erratic beats and utter chaos in their sound. Headache inducing tosh. Sometimes there’s an argument for playing safe as well. Apparently Elbow were brilliant. Damn.
And with that Bestival begins to draw to a close. There is more dancing to be done still, but in terms of live music that’s it. Bestival 2009 was the biggest yet and in places (Kraftwerk particularly) was the best it’s ever been. There is no doubt that Bestival as a festival has changed. The quirky randomness that the original first two events in particular had still exists, but it has been pushed to the side through its sold out 40,000 capacity popularity. There will be some who will say that the festival has lost its vibe or soul, and certainly the respect for the site at the end of the event seems to have disappeared with the camping areas resembling other large festivals in terms of littering (see video below) and some graffiti terrorism spoiling the hand crafted artwork in the main arena areas. However there will be others who say that there is now even more fun to be had and that the organisation of the event gets better every year. Purely in terms of live music (sound issues from the main stage notwithstanding) and bill quality Breaking More Waves is of the opinion that Bestival 2009 was the best yet. God knows how Rob Da Bank and crew are going to top Kraftwerk next year, but we’ll be looking forward to finding out.
For Breaking More Waves Saturday is the day where pop and synths take over. From the folktronica of James Yuill, to the pure pop of Lily Allen, to the refined computerised beauty of Kraftwerk. If you only connect with ugly male skinny jeans indie guitar bands, then you wouldn’t want to be hanging round with Breaking More Waves today as a number of our favourite acts take to the stage.
But at first it seems like one of those ugly indie boys has put a spanner in the works. Thirty seconds into the James Yuill set in the Red Bull Transmission tent, as swishing electronics build and the bass kicks in, all we hear is the sound of silence. It’s not just a laptop malfunction, but a proper power cut. Yuill appears totally unfazed and pulls out his acoustic guitar, sits on the front of the stage and softly serenades the silent crowd unplugged. The irony in this is that there are booming sound systems all around the place and yet here is a man beguiling an audience with no amplification whatsoever. Utterly endearing and gently wonderful. Two songs later, an audience transfixed, the power is back on and the digital beats and fuzzy warped electronica slaps back in, to add sonic power to Yuills warm balladeering. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again he’s the thinking mans Calvin Harris with Aphex Twin, New Order and Radiohead implanted in his brain. No Pins Allowed gets several people air drum machine playing and an extended Over The Hills is universally gorgeous. We’re sure we see a lad with a curly mop of hair, skinny jeans and electronic guitar skulking out of the tent.
After a disappointing non appearance by Blue Roses at the Jim Beam Bar, Little Boots is Go! bringing Thunderbird chic to the main stage. Dressed as Lady Penelope in a platinum wig and sporting a pink boa and cocktail dress Victoria Hesketh arrives on stage driving a tiny car, with the rest of her band togged up as Brains, Parker and the International Rescue crew. Little Boots set is becoming rapidly polished and professional, the electro pop of Remedy, New In Town and a cover of the Freddie Mercury song Love Kills all going down well, but sometimes it is a little too shiny and lacks a raw and undiluted quality. The best moment is when Victoria displays her more awkward geeky side, tottering undextrously over the stage in an attempt to stand on the low level speakers where she almost slips. This ungainly nerdiness is more charming than the girl who swings her arms aloft with shouts of “Let me see your hands.”
The pop revolution continues in an overblown hysterical way with Mika . Not to be out done by Little Boots, Mika sports an astronauts costume, and adds dancing Stormtroopers and a meteor shower, or rather someone wearing a shower curtain with meteors stuck on it. With silver balloons unleashed into the crowd Mika knows how to entertain the masses for sure. From the Elton John vs. Billy Joel orgy of next single Blame It On The Girls to old songs such as Grace Kelly, Mika struts and preens his way around the stage, his voice sounding like Leo Sayer in a whorehouse. His music is as camp as canvas and as nauseating as a bucket of sick, but we salute the man for at least knowing when irritation turns to absolute annoyance and exiting the stage before we have to abandon the no guns on site rule.
Today the crown of pop is presented to Lily Allen. “I’m Barbarella or Lily Alien,” she announces with a charming giggle. Dressed in a revealing backless white dress / leotard affair with a split down the front and silver tassels stuck around the bottom. Allen commands the stage in a way we have never seen her do so before. Puffing at her “theatrical cigarette,” for the jazzy He Wasn’t There and dancing wildly for a cover of Britney Spears Womaniser, Allen appears self assured, confident and a complete pop star. The last time we saw Lily she meandered around the stage looking like a vacant lost girl. Today she knows exactly who the star is and she shines brightly. Getting everyone to put their fingers in the air for F**k You she explains that the song was originally about the BNP, but then it was changed to be about George W Bush. “Who’s still a c**t, but not as powerful.” We never thought we would say it, but Lily Allen is starting to turn into a half decent live act.
With the nu rave scene now being almost old grave, Klaxons find themselves in a difficult position. It’s been three years since their Mercury winning debut hit the streets. Since then there have been tales of shelved recording sessions and the ‘difficult’ second album has become a massive understatement. So when the band launch into Atlantis To Interzone as their opening song there are mixed emotions. One, it’s good to have Klaxons back. Two they are starting with a song that we first heard in its demo form about four years ago. Are they really in so much turmoil that they haven’t moved on at all ? Luckily as the set develops this crisis call lessens. They play a bomb of new songs that are edgy, angry and apocalyptic, mixing dance and rock synergies. Some are as heavy as Manuel Uribe and then some. The crowd go utterly mental and as Jamie Reynolds announces “From where I’m standing - front to back mayhem - thank you !” you begin to realise that as the band sing themselves, it’s not over yet.
But it gets better. After Underworld warm the crowd up with a DJ set, it’s time for one of the most seminal bands in the world - Kraftwerk. Starting behind a curtained screen, four shadow silhouettes of motionless men standing at laptops / keyboards are projected from dull red light. The curtains part and there they are. Motionless, expressionless, staring straight ahead. One of the most visionary bands of all time. The electronic minimalist rhythms begin to pulse across the arena and Bestivals main stage becomes one mammoth industrial dance floor. Kraftwerk deconstruct every rule of live performance, ripping up the rock rule book and instead create their own elegant space. The band never look at each other, never talk to the crowd, never even move, communicating only through the music, playing one classic track after another. From Tour De France, The Model to Autobahn Kraftwerk find romance in the most unlikely subjects and soundscapes. And as the main set comes to an end the curtains close only to open again to find the band gone, replaced at their workstations by robots for We Are The Robots. Kraftwerk was one of the most anticipated performances at Bestival 2009 and it easily lived up to expectations. The coolest band in the world ? Hell yes. Absolutely inspiring.
There is of course no way that synth pop revivalists La Roux can come close to Kraftwerk, but by playing the slowed dubstep version of In For The Kill and finishing with a mass singalong to Bulletproof in the Big Top, La Roux certainly keep the night on a high. The sound may be a little on the quiet side and Ellie Jackson has yet to come out of her shell as a really engaging front woman, but with her eighties shoulder pads, and ultra quiff she certainly looks the part.
As the night goes on the outer space theme of today’s fancy dress takes on a new meaning for many punters, who really don’t know what planet they are on. The Breaking More Waves approved Casio Kids are determined that those space cadets don’t crash land just yet either, bringing their percussion heavy Hot Chip styled rhythmic dance pop to the Red Bull tent. With one of their singers looking like a camp version of Beck sporting a bow tie, much instrument swapping, songs about villages in Tanzania and wild horses, sumptuous sky high falsetto vocals and a perfect structure to their set the atmosphere feels like a very big house party. As Finn Bikjenn kicks in towards the end bodies are grooving in every direction, the place shimmering in joy and as the band finally leave the stage and the sounds of Paul Simons You Can Call Me Al start to play, Saturday night / Sunday morning has never felt so good.
After a quiet opening on the Thursday night with a screening of This Is Spinal Tap, some DJ’s and The Cuban Brothers gracing the ten thousand capacity Big Top, Bestival 2009 starts properly at Friday lunchtime with local electro brother sister duo Arcade Eden opening the main stage to a small crowd. Like a fertilization between Crystal Castles and The Ting Tings, the Isle Of Wight bleep kids set the scene with lead vocalist Clare twirling around arms aloft and sporting the shiniest figure hugging silver dress this side of the solar system. The bands sound is achingly now, full of computerized zap that would be better suited to the dance floors than an almost empty field, but they do a pretty good job of bringing the disco outside.
“This is the start of the festival, you’ve all had a bath and now you’re ready to get dirty,” announce Efterklang from the Big Top stage. Not that their Nordic orchestrations are in any way filthy. The bands expansive organic sound is just right for a little afternoon dreaminess, the lead vocalists humbleness seeming well pitched with an audience who have yet to rise to their feet. Trumpets and violins sweep and soar till eventually everyone gets up, the bands bold warmth coming up trumps.
A few days ago Breaking More Waves saw Passion Pit play one of the most exciting gigs we have seen this year in a sweaty club in Brighton. Today at Bestival a small young partisan crowd feel that excitement at the front of the main stage, but the groups performance is also tempered by a large number of curious onlookers. The studio trickery of the bands debut album is inevitably going to be difficult to produce live, but to Passion Pits credit they manage to force a bonanza of euphoric juddering synth sounds out into the space. Passion Pit will always be a band who polarise audiences such is the nature of the squealing asexual falsetto vocals, but those who can stand it will find their schmaltzy hooks infectious. When we first saw the band earlier this year (review here) lead singer Michael Angelakos was restricted by playing keyboards. This idea has now been ditched, Angelakos storming the stage with venom, leaving the music to his band members. It gives the band an extra energy and vibrancy that they haven’t had before, meaning that tracks such as the bouncing Make Light and the kids choir pop of Little Secrets leave you feeling stupidly great.
Part of what separates Bestival from other festivals is the way it mixes comic elements amongst the coolest bands and DJ’s.Barry Peters Halifax Hospital Radio are in their own words “Wrong but correct,” a Bestival institution fitting the comic bill perfectly. Bringing dance routines from the lycra clad camp duo Double Pentration and whole chunks of DJ cheddar Barry Peters asks us to “Don’t be shy show us your pie, don’t get nasty show us your pasty,” before introducing a track by his ‘ex girlfriend’ Gloria Estefan. If you fail to laugh at Barry Peters you obviously left your sense of humour at the gate when you came in.
The main stage continues with Friendly Fires. Now, we’ve seen this band several times before but today they are a revelation bringing a colourful adrenalin rush of funky disco beats and clattering percussion to get the dancing started. Lead singer Ed has possibly the most saucy spasming hips in the world; his lack of self conciousness in his dancing generating vibration in the audiences sexual organs. The man is possessed by the rhythm. Indie dance suddenly seems like a great idea. Jump In The Pool and Paris are tight and fit, the band sounding like gay sex with a straight man. It may be formulaic but when the formula adds up this nicely, why subtract anything ?
Regular readers will know that we love Florence and the Machine, and two of our favourite performances this year have come from young Florence. Maybe it’s a case of one too many gigs or the quiet volume at the side of the stage where we stand, but this time Florence fails to move us. Both Florence and her band are glamorous in green and gold, but her deranged passion seems lacking a little today, only Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) with its Italian house piano towards the end really igniting the fire as red as Florence's hair.
Opting to miss MGMT on the main stage, we instead seek out Little Boots who is performing a DJ set in the open air Rizla Arena under a gorgeous pinky orange sky; by all accounts its a good move on our part, reports reaching us that MGMT were atrocious. We can see today why Little Boots is called such - she can hardly see over the DJ booth. Whilst she's not the greatest of DJ's, she does a reasonable job, but suggest she keeps on with her main occupation for now.
So our final live band of the day before we dance into the night at the Afterburner stage are headliners Massive Attack. The band are dark, atmospheric and brooding, frostily touching with cold beats and opiate synths. Massive Attack are probably not the ideal band for a hedonistic and by now rather drunken audience, bringing subtle politics by way of an impressive dot matrix screen behind them that flashes messages such as Wordsworths “We must be free or die,” and the universal declaration of human rights. Vibrant party classics are not what you get from Massive Attack, instead an awkward but imposing moodiness is their realm. However as the set builds and Martina Topley-Bird is reunited with the band, the feeling seems to slowly lighten, the grooves becoming more fluid. Teardrop gets a huge cheer and Safe From Harm is a fist through glass explosion that shatters the night sky. The band communicate very little with the crowd except for when Robert Del Naja quips that it’s his sisters birthday which is “quite positive actually.” Massive Attack let the music do the talking, and that talk is earnest and deep not superficial chatter.
It’s our last band of the day, and as the site really lifts off into the early hours of the morning with a booming party vibrancy, the DJ’s continue our pleasure trip bringing the night to a superb close at the Afterburner (described in Part 1 and pictured above), with explosions of fire, searching spotlights and big big tunes. Its sets everything nicely up for Saturday.
After the mud and mayhem of Bestival 2008, high ball smiles and sun for miles returned for Bestival 2009. A glorious weekend intoxicated with perfect festival weather meant that Rob Da Bank and his organising crew could thankfully jump out of their wellies and into their sandals.
Bestival 2009 meant colour, character and conviviality. Oh, there was some damn good music as well.
The biggest change for 2009 involved the relocation of the main stage to a new spot at the top of a slope to ensure that should adverse weather conditions similar to 2008 hit the Isle Of Wight, the party could continue. Unfortunately this lead to some fundamental issues with poor sound for those who weren’t close to the stage and sight lines for those further back. You can read what a variety of punters thought about this by clicking here.
Breaking More Waves has been attending Bestival since the inaugural event and has witnessed the site grow from its boutique beginnings to the relatively large party it is now. And whilst it has yet to morph into the full ugly corporate monster that is a Reading or a V Festival, there are signs year by year that more and more corporate partners are being involved. This year Pizza Express and TK Maxx had a presence on site and Red Bull, Rizla, X Box and Jim Beam were all sponsoring stages. Bestival does however still retain plenty of its quirky charm, from the W.I Tea tent serving tea and cake at the top of the site with wonderful views available, to a gazebo in the woods featuring all sorts of strange goings on. Then there was the now traditional fancy dress day where thousands of Bestivalites dressed as robots, aliens and other assorted space themed characters (as well as a collective of Freddie Mercurys, see video below) to dance well into the night. Much of this dancing was done at the new Afterburner; a 360 degree stage formed from silver jet engine components with fire, smoke and lighting effects blasting from it. It created a centre piece for DJ’s to perform from and transform the end of the site into something resembling a film set from Mad Max. The Afterburner was utterly spectacular and one of the highlights of Bestival 2009.
Besides the DJ’s, burlesque performances, cream teas, comedy and circus that was available Breaking More Waves also caught up with a significant number of bands, and the next three parts of this blog, published over the next three days will focus on some of these live acts that we caught from quiet anti folk to electro pop.
The Walls Are Coming Down is our favourite song from the Fanfarlo album Reservoir so we are very pleased to see that it is being released as a single. Did you get the album for the $1 download they did a while ago? Surely one of the musical bargains of the year. The Walls Are Coming Down has a swooning, swaying folkiness to it that combined with an uplifting celebratory trumpet sound and an almost Talking Heads styled vocal makes it eminently listenable.
The video features an escapologist escaping from a strait jacket Houdini style above the band. Maybe their next video will feature the band being buried in a pit of earth six feet deep and then trying to play their instruments, just like Houdini’s buried alive piece. What more could you want? Actually, we wouldn’t want this for Fanfarlo, but we could think of several bands we could quite happily see buried alive with little chance of escaping. Talking of which, what has happened to the Pigeon Detectives recently.
Last month we called the album Starsign Trampoline by Lucky Elephant ‘Very special and unique.’ Now the group are about to release their second single, the warm off kilter Rev Tisley And His Magic Lantern. With a cute stop motion video created by Ruth Barrett the song brings grooving wurlitzers and keyboards to create a nostalgic rich sound nourished by the ability to pen a good tune. Lead singer Manu Labescat produces his distinctive French accented nasal vocal to the almost reggae tinged vibe of the song which shimmers with catchy hooks. Listen to the way he sings the word lantern as ‘lonturn’ - it’s positively delicious. Four minutes of musical bliss.
We’ve written about Mumford and Sons live shows quite a few times on this blog having seen them play four times this year, and so it’s nice to finally have a video to show you. This performance shoot for the single Little Lion Man came up on line a few days ago and shows Mumford and Sons exactly as they are, right down to the bands waistcoats and jackets which they seem to sport nearly all the time. The video was originally due to premiered at a special show at The Borderline in London but we hear that although the gig was blinder, the video never happened.
The chart students amongst you will have noted that the single itself has been gradually rising up the I Tunes Top 100 and is almost threatening to break the Top 40 with some now well deserved play on daytime Radio 1.
Little Lion Man is trademark Mumford and Sons, all stomping banjo, growling pirate vocals, blessed harmonies and quality song writing. The bands following continues to grow and their biggest UK tour to date 'The Gentlemen Of The Road Tour' starts on the 12th September in Glasgow after an appearance at the End Of The Road Festival this coming weekend. The album Sigh No More follows in October.
Today sees the announcement of the Mercury Music prize, and whilst our money is on Florence and the Machine to win, (there that's the kiss of death for Florence) La Roux has to got to be up amongst the acts jostling for the prize as well.
I’m Not Your Toy is the next single to be taken from the debut album and features the strangest and most oddball pool party you’ll probably see this year. Featuring Elly Jackson emerging from the water, floaty blue neon objects and some nonchalant dancing, the video is the moment where future pop goes on a weird electro dream holiday. It may not make much sense, but the look suits the sound - electronic steel drums and snappy beats merging to produce what sounds like yet another hit single. The tune is almost knowingly cheesy - expect to clink cocktails and dance on your sundeck whilst Elly trills about a relationship that is just for show. “Yes it’s all false love and affection, you don’t like me you just want the attention.” Poor lass. We wonder who is getting the most attention now though ?
However, the most important question to ask about the video for I'm Not Your Toy is how does Elly keep her hair like that when she's been underwater?
This week Breaking More Waves is off to its last UK summer festival, one of our favourites; Bestival. Whilst we're there we'll be rolling out our DJ alter ego Hojo Hits again to play at the pre Bestival party at Waverley Park in Cowes, Isle Of Wight. For anyone coming expect to hear a fair few tunes from artists we've been blogging about this year.
So whilst we are enjoying the festival, we'll be making sure to clear up after ourselves. This year we have been pleased to see punters making a real effort to keep festival sites clean. At Camp Bestival this year there was only a very small percentage of rubbish left on the site, it gave us some faith in human nature again. However, unfortunately not every festival has done so well. As you can see from the videos below Reading Festival was like a war zone and Glastonbury, a festival that prides itself on its green credentials, looked more like a tip than a field in Somerset. Watch and prepare to be appalled. As the poster states, Glastonbury is now a festival created by people who care, for people who don't.
Breaking More Waves asks that you respect your festival, and have a look here at a new website which is currently being developed.
Yes we’re still Little Boots chart watching. Remedy continues to hold its own in the UK Top 10 singles, just dropping one place to number seven. However despite the heavy discounting of the album - down to five quid on Amazon, Hands can do no better than go up two places to number twenty three. Some would say it isn’t a sprint but a marathon. If this is the case Little Boots is still jogging in amongst the chasing pack. Mind you, better to still be in the running than pulling up kerbside, tired, strained and knackered.
We think we’re done with chart watching now. It's time for us to enjoy the music, irrespective of chart positions.
In the meantime here’s an interview that one of our favourite journalists, the brilliant Paul Morley, carried out a while ago with Little Boots. The interview focuses on synth pioneers Kraftwerk and the world of possibility they created for artists such as herself. This is not your typical “So how does it feel to be nominated as the Sound Of 2009?” interview. Instead it throws some arguments out there to musicians who argue that synths are not ‘real’ instruments and shows the extent of Little Boots electro fetishing geekiness.
Next weekend Little Boots and Kraftwerk both appear on the main stage at Bestival, Isle Of Wight on Saturday. It is going to be a day of sequencing, sampling, modulating heaven. See you down the front (again).
How strange, there we were pondering again about the chart position of Little Boots (more of that later this afternoon) when we heard someone singing about her previous band Dead Disco. Or rather they we’re singing about a dead disco dancer. But this collective certainly didn’t sound anything like Little Boots .
The group in question are O.Children . They sound like Bahaus, Joy Division and Interpol loaded up with sordid lust. It seems that dark bilious baritones are back. The band claim that they make pop with an edge, but their sound is hardly pop like Girls Aloud or, erm, Little Boots. (Ok, those examples aren't edgy but they are pop). So what do we know about O. Children apart from the obvious fact that they were named after a Nick Cave song ?
Well, O. Children have been in existence for about 18 months having grown out of a previous incarnation that was the ‘legal issues likely’ Bono Must Die. The O.Children sound rummages around in the graveyards of the 80’s which seems to be the route for all indie bands who want to get noticed at the moment. In a way its a shame, because as much as we love many of the sounds from that decade there comes a point where you want to hear something different. And are O Children that different ? Possibly not. So why even blog about them ? Because despite not being that enthused about their music (yet) we think they look good (in a this could almost be a joke but obviously isn't kind of way) in this video - almost like they’re actors brought in to mime to the parts, their bodies not seeming to suit the vocals. They also have a song called Ace Breasts, which is not the kind of thing you would expect from a band from the dark side, and this naughtiness we quite like. The direction of this film seems so obviously influenced by The Horrors recent offerings, although it's unlikely The Horrors would bring in a cavorting underwear clad lady to add to the 'artistry'. So O. Children contrived or genuine ? You decide....
The myth of the difficult second album has been debunked significantly this year. Artists such as The Horrors and Jack Penate have both brilliantly exposed the theory that a young band spend the first eighteen years of their life conjuring their fantastic debut, only then to fall at the second hurdle as too much sex, drugs, hype and record company pressure lead them to creating the dismal flop of the not so good follow up. In the cases of both these acts album two was far better than the first.
Here’s another one that bucks that idea. The First Days of Spring by Noah and the Whale is a dismally great album. Dismally great because the tone of this recording is one of almost constant sadness - with just one simple concept; ‘I’ve split up with my girlfriend, things are crap, I’m lost , I’m trying to move on but I’m hoping she’ll come back.’ It’s an album about a broken heart, and although there are occasional glimmers of hope, with song titles such as I Have Nothing you can guess where the central core of this album lies. Lyrics such as “I don’t think it’s the end but I know we can’t keep going,” from Open Window and “I’m the flower you’re keeping, that without love will wilt and die,” are all over the place. Its simple, almost embarrassingly clichéd, but then what isn’t clichéd about emotions ? It takes an extraordinary poet to create something original out of an emotion that the vast majority of us will experience at some point in our lives. Vocalist Charlie Fink may not be that extraordinary poet, but at least he wears his heart on his sleeve. By the end of the record you will either want to give Fink a big old hug or slap him round the face and tell him to stop gazing at his navel.
Whilst all of this introspective glumness may not sound like the most rewarding or inspiring of experiences, Noah And The Whale have sound tracked the self pity with some beautiful music that is in places sparse and in places of epic proportions. The album is structured with much thought, the songs providing an interlinking soundtrack divided into two equally sorrowful parts. The title track opens with brooding funeral drums and lonesome guitar, gradually soaring to a glorious climax reminiscent of Arcade Fire. In the middle, separating the two parts are two short instrumentals and the stupidly upbeat and positive Love of an Orchestra. In this chirpy tune Charlie finds solace in the fact that as long as he has music there’s no need for despair, whilst choirs, clattering percussion and church bells sing out around him. The album ends on a moderately hopeful note as well, Charlie noting that “Now I’m free of all your pain,” over country tinged steel guitar, but even then he can’t help wanting her again as he softly croons that “My door is always open.”
The First Days of Spring works sonically far better than Noah and the Whales debut as the instrumentation is for the most part less busy, less quirky and more rewarding as a listening experience. It's an accomplished journey through heartbreak that will secure your return far more often than the bands previous work. At this rate, whatever Charlie Finks next emotional experience, album three will be a corker.
Are local music ‘scenes’ a healthy idea in terms of creativity or do they stifle innovation? It’s a question that we’ve wrestled with for some time at Breaking More Waves.
Every large town or city has to a greater or lesser extent its own music ‘scene’. A scene is difficult to clearly define but would certainly include bands, regular punters who go to see the bands, the venues and spaces that the bands play in as well as the promoters who promote the shows. The people in any one scene will probably know or at least know of each other and will probably end up gravitating towards the same locations in terms of geography and quite possibly musically.
And it is this movement towards similar musical locations that can make scenes unhealthy. There is a danger that scenes can become so inward looking that bands can simply become copyists of each other; the whole thing becomes simply an exercise in back slapping, with objectivity thrown out of the window. The scene becomes full of homogenous groups congratulating each other for producing a sound that everyone else in the scene likes. Anyone attempting to break the mould and do something different is quickly ejected and looked down on. The scene becomes pure music snobbery and loses sight of original creativity and innovation. People end up becoming part of ‘the scene’ because they fit a particular model and peer pressure means that conformity is the only way. This drive towards greater conformity creates the dreaded ‘scenester’ - the individual who turns up to the gig simply because they think its cool to be there and in order to seek approval from their friends. Then as music and fashion changes, which it has to, in order to survive (we wrote about this change here), the scene itself suddenly finds itself isolated and redundant; to concerned with itself to have noted what is going on in the outside world, unable to respond to the changes.
However that is not to say that all scenes are unhealthy. Scenes can provide initial support. They give the bands opportunities of venues to play in and people to play to, an important first step for artists. Not all scenes are inward looking. The healthiest of scenes bring artists and bands of all types to the mix adding a diverse range of influences to the pool. These scenes also welcome newcomers and work hard together to enable the musical community to develop. Have a look at the interview we did here with Peggy Sue and their description of the Brighton musical scene. This is in our opinion a model of a healthy scene.
So are local music scenes a good thing? Well, yes and no. They can be stifling environments, but they can assist new artists. Ultimately it is the artists who take risks, and swim away from the pond where they are big fish into bigger wilder seas that will be more successful artistically, but sometimes the currents are strong even in the pond.
As the UK summer festival season slowly draws to a close, with just Bestival and End Of The Road waiting in the wings to finish things off, the good people at Sunday Best have recently posted up this lovely little video of this years Camp Bestival. It sums up the beauty, colour and relaxed vibe of the family friendly festival better than any words could. It also gives us an excuse to bring to your attention the song Edgar by Lucky Elephant, taken from Starsign Trampoline reviewed here , one of our favourite albums of the year so far. Enjoy.
For a full review of Camp Bestival click here (overview), here (day 1), here (day 2) and here (day 3).
Don’t you just hate records with children singing on them ? Well so did we, but recently there has been a school bus full of great songs with kids choirs on them. Passion Pit started things rolling with the fantastic Little Secrets and now here come The Sound Of Arrows with M.A.G.I.C, a song that’s so sugary it’ll probably end up being used in a Disney commercial. But sugary doesn’t mean bad. The Sound Of Arrows make playschool pop like the Pet Shop Boys having fun. It's camp on a grandiose scale, very electric, very eighties, yet very modern. The group have even covered 80’s power ballad The Power Of Love by Jennifer Rush live, but thankfully don’t have the same big hair. Into The Clouds is musically and visually (check the video below) Vangelis meets the Never Ending Story and is due as a single on 21st September. The band have been working with the pop prince producer Richard X and given some time we suspect The Sound Of Arrows could find themselves chart bound.
Hailing from Sweden (what do they put in the water there to make the pop so good ?) The Sound Of Arrows are Oskar and Stefan. The group have described their sound as synths drenched in reverb, stardust and nostalgia and we couldn’t have put it better ourselves. It will make music snobs cringe, but ignore these big bad ogres, because for those who love big widescreen pop sneezed out of fantasies, it doesn’t get any better than The Sound Of Arrows.
The August bank holiday weekend brings about a significant number of festivals in the UK, including Reading, Leeds and Creamfields. Not wanting to miss out on a slice of the action, London has the terribly but rather appropriately named Get Loaded In The Park, a one day event on Clapham Common which this year is for the most part aimed squarely at dance heads, ravers and clubbers. It’s for those who fancy a little bit of the festival experience without the rigmarole of camping or even a late night; due to licensing restrictions the whole thing finishes at 9pm, early enough to carry on to a club afterwards if you fancy.
The Clapham Common site is functional rather than exotic with one outdoor stage and three big top stages decorated with large inflatable shapes including a huge green, white and purple octopus in the XFM tent, a number of bars, a couple of fairground rides and banks of toilets all set up in a fenced enclosure. There is very little here besides the music, even the grass is almost non existent, worn away in a dusty dryness from other events that have occurred there over the summer.
Two of the big tops are rammed from early in the day as acts such as Laurent Garnier and Felix Da Housecat take to the decks, but its not all about DJ’s. A number of live acts also fill out the bill.
“You look like you’re going to be trouble,” states Marina of Marina And The Diamonds to a bunch of boisterous raver boys who shout “Give us a song love,” at the beginning of her absurdly early set. It turns out they’re not, the lack of pumping dance beats in Marina’s songs leading to their early exit from the tent. The band play an eclectic set that veers from the beautiful and melancholy Regina Spektor-esque Obsessions with its hushed opening lyrics of “Sunday wake up, give me a cigarette, last nights love affair is looking vulnerable in my bed, silk sheet, blue dawn, colgate, tongue warm,” to a high adrenalin electropositive version of Space In The Woods, originally written by Late Of The Pier. The ravers may have liked that one if they had stuck around. Marina may sing of vulnerability but on stage she appears completely sure of herself with confident movement and expressive singing.
After the personality of Marina the dark faceless industrial after hours electronica of Telepathe feels completely misplaced out on the main stage in the early afternoon. With possibly the smallest crowd of the day watching, the two Brooklyn girls tunes demonstrate a marching, disconnected, experimental sound with singsong rapping. The trouble with Telepathe is that they look so bored, so vacant and so lackadaisical that one cannot expect the audience to feel anything but the same. If the music was astonishing then Telepathe could get away with it, but the occasional bursts of electronic drum pads and stuttering, pulsing computer trickery miss the target far more often than they hit it. “Have fun,” they announce at the end of their set. We’re not sure if they would know the meaning of the word.
Six piece Miike Snow (that isn't a spelling error) from Sweden are however far more fun, even though they struggle with a few technical problems during the set. Dressed all in black with blank white robot face masks on to conceal their identity, they intelligently and effortlessly join the dots between pop and dance music, which is what you would expect from the men who wrote Toxic by Britney Spears. Although their very short set has nothing as compelling as Toxic in it, the electronic dance-skank of Animal gets hands in the air. Pleasurable, even if the vocals sound a little bit like Sting with a Swedish accent.
What to make of VV Brown ? (Pictured) On the one hand she can sing well and has a tight competent band that can deal professionally with technical hitches. When the electronics crash, she announces “The systems fucked up, but we’re gonna keep on rolling.” On the other hand VV seems incredibly desperate. The number of times she shouts “C’mon you guys, are you having a good time,” and “Clap your hands like this,” is huge - seriously, we lose count. A Kings Of Leon cover - Use Somebody - attains her even further lowest common denominator status. Sure the music is passably fun, a mix of soul, rockabilly and jaunty pop, with Vanessa dictating the crowd with a megaphone, but as VV shouts “Everybody clap,” for the hundredth time we feel like punching her rather bowing to her commands.
Roni Size and Reprazent once won the Mercury Music Prize for their album New Forms, which at the time was seen as innovative and modern. The jungle beats and live double bass brought Roni Size to a worldwide audience. Watching the group now however, the tunes sound less fresh and somewhat old fashioned, such is the way that dance music constantly evolves. In ten years time we’re probably be saying the same about dubstep. With a vocalist dressed in what appears to be a Bacofoil dress and an MC who seems to have taken a page out of the VV Brown school of over enthusiasm “Jump, jump, jump,” he shouts like a gym instructor, it all feels a little crass. “Congratulations you have all passed the energy test, A+,” he informs us. Well, at least we don’t need to enrol at Fitness First then.
Royksopps set in the big top will probably be best remembered for two non musical moments. The first being the girl who somehow manages to climb to the very top of one of the structures supporting columns to get a birds eye view of the band, to much celebration by the crowd. The second being when Svein Berge sports a space suit capsule on his head. This says much about Royksopp at Get Loaded. The bands breed of ethereal ambient electronica mumbles and pulses along, although the sound is not particularly good; vocals being lost as if someone had put cotton wool over the speakers. The music is never fully engaging - non musical moments are the highs. At the back of the tent much of the audience seem more interested in taking the name of the event literally, downing Tuborg lager and Brothers cider as if a new prohibition starts tomorrow, as well as a few other less legal substances, rather than really embracing the music. Eple with its neat Clangers go dancing loop and shimmering synths is still of a higher order and gets a big cheer, but other than this unfortunately today Royksopp are largely forgettable.
As darkness begins to fall it is left to one of the UK’s most seminal electronic dance acts to close the main stage. With their self possessed beats and electronic looping riffs Orbital are hugely inspiring. How can two men wearing lights on their head, twiddling some knobs make something so utterly beautiful that it makes you want to kiss complete strangers dancing next to you ? The bleeps and bass of Chime, the floating tapestry of Halcyon, and the clunking solidity of The Box are all present, then towards the end they drop in a sample of Heaven On Earth by Belinda Carlisle and the crowd erupts. A sea of smiling faces and upturned hands says it all. Blissfully good and worth the ticket price alone.
Here's a short clip of Orbital playing out their classic Belfast from the show.