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Live review: Anxieteam

16 Sep

Anxieteam played live at Cafe.Bar.Contemporary on Saturday 28 August 2010

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

What happens when you take a German contemporary pop artist and a doodle artist from the Midlands, and give them a synth, some sample pads, a ukulele and a projector? Well, one of the most fun, light hearted and engaging gigs you’re likely to have been to in a while, for starters.

Jim Avignon and Jon Burgerman, both internationally renowned artists in their own rights, have decided to put down the pens and paintbrushes for a bit and team up to start making some music.

The evening started with support from the intricate and rhythmic guitar of Matthew Stephen Cooper, who surprised the crowd with his strong, growling voice and dark, bluesy tones. During the break between sets I chowed down on an Anxieteam-themed cupcake from Star Bakery, and I also snuck over to buy a copy of the single – a glorious vinyl double A-side picture disc, both sides lovingly designed by Jon and Jim themselves.

Before they started, the two of them went around the crowd handing out hand-drawn balloons, which they made “just in case nobody showed up, so we could still have an audience”. Thankfully, the turnout was super and things just got better from there. With Burgerman tackli

ng vocals and ukulele and Avignon on electronics (read: everything else), Anxieteam created charming and wry songs full of lyrics with far more meaning that you first realise, simple uke strummings, bleeps, bloops and ridiculously infectious synthy pop beats.

In their own words, Anxieteam “talk about the very big in terms of the very small”, and that’s just what came across as they jumped about the stage, dancing with broken umbrellas and donning angry Pac Man masks. The whimsical, lighthearted nature of their shows masks a deeper level to the whole endeavour – you get the feeling that they just want to make the world a little better in whatever way they can, and if that means singing about soya and video games, well then so be it. It certainly made me happy!

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Live review: 65daysofstatic

10 May

65daysofstatic played live at Rescue Rooms on Friday 7 May 2010

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

After a day of looking more down in the mouth than a toddler who’s had her balloon taken away, having seen my idealistic political dreams pretty much stomped on for the past 20 hours and facing the prospect of a shiny-faced ex-Etonian, hater of skint folk and bullshitter extroardinaire, running the country in a few days time – without a doubt the best cure for my malaise was a hefty dose of very, very loud music.

As luck would have it, 65daysofstatic – generally credited with the ability to immerse their listeners in a sonic bath of sweeping aural landscapes whilst they beat your troubles over the head with a large stick – were in town and playing at the Rescue Rooms, and were clearly the perfect remedy. The set began with the stuttering, juddering beat of Drove Through Ghosts To Get Here, which felt as if it were dragging itself through mud with sporadic beats and jittery melody, as the band trickled on to the stage, before materialising into the familiarly solid flow of soaring post-rock that would continue throughout the next 90 minutes.

Seamlessly melding electronic elements with organic, they powered through a relentless powerful attack that took the audience from tempo-defying favourites like Radio Protector, to tracks from their new album ‘We Were Exploding Anyway’ which has taken them to dancier territories with elements that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Pendulum record. But just as you thought they were teetering on the edge of sounds that would sound quite comfortable next door in Stealth, they punched you in the ears with some guitar-led madness that threw you right back into a rock frame of mind.

The highlight of the night personally, was the epic Retreat Retreat; the track has long been my ‘everything’s going to be all right’ anthem (as I’m sure it is for many others), and I don’t know if it was me just being the sad git that I am, or the discourse of the past couple of days, but I must admit, it made me a tad misty-eyed.

For 90 glorious minutes that felt all too short, my worries were kicked into touch and drowned out by the epic, engulfing sounds of 65daysofstatic’s unique mix of rich textures, crazy beats, powerful guitars, hope and promise.

Memo to the British public: No matter how shit things get, never underestimate the power of great live music. If things look bleak, sack it all off and eff off down town to see some music – the floors will be sticky, the beer will be over priced and warm, but you’ll feel the bassline right between your ribs and for a short while everything will be amazing.

Live review: Manieres des Bohemiens

18 Apr

Manieres des Bohemiens played live at Cafe Bar Contemporary on Saturday 10 April 2010

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

For one night only in our fair city of Nottingham, I was temporarily transported to a basement bar in a Parisien ghetto when I went to see Maniere Des Bohemiens at the Cafe Bar Contemporary. Inspired by the likes of Django Reinhardt and Duke Ellington, Maniere Des Bohemiens have jazz in their blood and gypsy fire in their soul, producing improvised gypsy swing that is as passionate as it is skillfully played, which was truly exhilarating.

Manieres des Bohemiens

The band is fronted by violinist Rob Rosa, who was sometimes joined by Robin Hevness on soprano sax, underpinned by a solid, grounding rhythm section of Roger Rosa on guitar and Mark Lewandowski on double bass, and on occasion John Kerry on accordian. Their renditions of traditional gypsy-folk tunes, jazz/swing standards and little-known gems took the set from slow, emotive numbers to raptuous and highly charged upbeat tunes. Rosa’s violin playing, which is almost entirely improvised and technically outstanding, captured the audience’s attention with every flick of his bow but did not overshadow the skill of the rhythm section, and when combined with Hevness’ sax produced some interesting and imaginative solos which bounced between the two of them seamlessly.

Everything was in the true spirit of improv jazz, from the bass solo breakdowns to the unspoken communication between the musicians which steered each song through undulating sections and captivating solos. They are well schooled in the etiquette and deep-set traditions of their genre, but their interpretations incorporating French swing and Eastern-European gypsy-folk were refreshing and exciting. They also achieved something which I have rarely seen ’round these parts – they got people dancing. To see an audience go from fairly non-plussed at the start of the set, to quickly realising what fantastic music they were lucky enough to be listening to, to straight-up attempting to swing dance and crying out for more by the end was really something.

Stand-out tunes included jazz standards Autumn Leaves and Take the A-Train, which were given a new lease of life by the group’s arrangement and unique Bohemian/Romany/Parisian interpretation, and Romanian Train Song, which started out at a frantic pace and got so speedy that Rosa’s arm looked like it should have been falling off. The night as a whole was a right good frolic, full of dancing, merriment and music that would have made the old masters proud.

Live review: Alright The Captain! / Beyond This Point Are Monsters / You Judas

11 Mar

Alright the Captain!, Beyond This Point Are Monsters and You Judas played at The Chameleon on Tuesday 9 March 2010

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

The Chameleon played host to the launch of Beyond This Point Are Monsters and Alright The Captain!’s joint EP release, and although admittedly it’s pretty hard to get a good crowd of Nottinghamites out on a dreary Tuesday night – even for a kicking evening of metal, post-rock and very loud noises – it was enjoyable nonetheless.

Kicking off this evening of noise, noise, math-rock and more noise were frenetic Derby riffers You Judas, whose set was, well, noisy. In a good way. The gig may have been somewhat sparsely attended but that mattered not to these boys. They filled the room with a dense wall of crunching metal that wavered between slow-driving post-rock and frantic, discordant madness, and ended on a demonic waltz in 3/4 time.

Following them was the ambient post-rock haze that emanated from Beyond This Point Are Monsters, who stand somewhere between the calmer turns of 65daysofstatic and the livelier elements of Explosions In The Sky. They make up for their lack of a lead vocalist with the wonderfully lyrical feel of their intertwining lead guitar melodies, with intricate, sporadic time changes kept in check by stellar drumming. Even though their lead guitarist had to do a runner from the venue before the end of their last song (a note on Zig Zag bus tickets: good value for money, a bit crap for late-night EP launches!) they played through an articulate set of rhythmically and melodically complex, carefully sculpted post-rock tunes.

Last up were Alright The Captain!, who as well as producing an unholy amount of noise for a three-piece were on top form despite the arguably low audience turnout. They churned out an impressive set of intricately constructed yet undeniably ferocious tunes. Complex guitar work dripping with double-hand-tapping, thumping, chest pounding bass and fast paced, twisting, turning time changes that would make your head spin, all wrapped up in a crashing, jagged metallic blanket. I waited all set for the tune that had stuck in my mind from my previous encounters with the Captain, the absurdly named Honey Badger, and was not disappointed as they dove into the track headfirst at the end of their set. Their songs have a habit of sounding like 4 or five tracks melded together into one, but in a cohesive and coherent way that keeps the audience on their toes and the casual head-bopper with neck ache.

I left the Chameleon’s loft with that oh-so-familiar ringing in my ears and rolled onto the tram, my appetite for complex, brain-melting rock satiated for the week.

Live review: The Phenomenal Handclap Band

10 Mar

The Phenomenal Handclap Band played at The Bodega Social Club on Sunday 7 March 2010

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

It’s been said a hundred times, but this band really live up to their name. On a dreary Sunday night in March, The Social was jumping to the sounds of NYC-based 8-piece disco-rock-pop-soul-hip hop-anything else you want outfit The Phenomenal Handclap Band, who delivered hugely unique and upbeat tunes and were tighter than John Travolta’s bell bottoms.

The Phenomenal Handclap Band

The Phenomenal Handclap Band

Starting life as a collaboration between two New York DJs, the band have grown into a thundering collective that, despite having the widest range of influences, functions as a tight and cohesive musical unit. They are retro in the best possible way, pillaging the best elements from their favourite genres and squashing them together to create an infectious blend of industrial strength dance-floor music.

Their instrumental introduction was a menagerie of genres spanning four decades, at first sounding like a lost psychadelic relic of Pink Floyd’s back catalogue before turning into a retrospective of music from the past 40 years. The evening was an explosion of funky, furiously energetic soul perfectly punctuated with New York attitude. With copious amounts of tambourine, cowbell, wah-wah, sweeping synths and soulful vocals they were undeniably dancable, fun and engaging – this was music that you can’t help but move to. They are clearly out to have a good time and make sure the crowd does too, and they do so with outrageously enthusiastic aplomb.

Their elongated breakdowns were daring but effective, stripping down songs to their barest elements before building them, as well as the crowd, back up to a crashing frenzy. They emanated with rapturous energy, grabbing the audience by the throat and bending them to their musical whims – so much so that the crowd literally begged for an encore.

Forget trance, electro, house or techno – The Phenomenal Handclap Band are truly dance music for the 21st century.

Live review: FLUX & I’m Not From London all-nighter

3 Feb

Captain Dangerous, Hot Japanese Girl, Dead Spex and Spiders Eat Vinyl played at The Central on Saturday 23 January 2010

Reviewed forLeftLion.co.uk

The evening kicked off with Sheffield four-piece Spiders Eat Vinyl, whose sparse, lo-fi experimental rock was full of interesting twiddles and turns from intertwining lead guitar and synth. They churned out driving songs with an occasional jazzy groove provided by their excellent, nimble-fingered keyboard player.

Next up were the screaming, furious and ear-bleedingly noisy Dead Spex. With a name like that you would rightly expect punk, which is what the three lads delivered and more; their tunes were juttering, angular and chaotic, delivered in blistering short bursts with a healthy amount of screams and yelps. They delivered dancable, fun beats with more energy than seemed possible for the sum of their parts, and were enjoyable even for those of us who have never had a mohawk or a tunnel piercing; Dead Spex are pop-punk for the masses.

Following them were Notts favourites Hot Japanese Girl, who have the somewhat distinct advantage that the majority of the band are stark raving lunatics. Their punkish, metal-laced tunes begged to be danced to, and they were the only band of the night to garner a mosh pit. The anarchic and faintly surreal mood grew throughout their set, with its climax seeing singer Ali Powers nicking half the drumkit for himself, spending most of the final song on the floor before pegging it off the stage with the lead guitarist. A truly unpredictable set, and hugely entertaining.

Last up were the night’s headline act, the raptuous indie-gypsy-swing-yelp-pop mashup that is Captain Dangerous. Fresh from a fantastic gig at Rock City last week, they were clearly riding the wave of a great start to the new year. Back to their usual five-piece lineup (they were joined by a newly acquired string quartet last week), they launched into a set of gloriously unique jaunty pop laced with gypsy-folk tones, and underpinned throughout by fantastic song writing. With a full-time violin player, a guitarist who seems to play any instrument you could chuck at him and heartfelt lyrics delivered with fervour and huge energy, their cheeky veneer conceals a very skilled and thoughtful group of lads. They were fantastically passionate, engaging and clearly loved being on stage – this is a band that lives for playing live, and rightly so. They were a hugely fun end to a cracking evening of local music.

Live review: Captain Dangerous / Fists / Lisa de’Ville

18 Jan

Captain Dangeous, Fists and Lisa de’Ville played at Rock City on Friday 15 January 2010

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

I walked in to Rock City’s basement bar to behold Lisa de’Ville, whose shimmering, emotive melodies drifted around the room, dripping with a dark and angsty soulfulness. But just as she had enveloped the room in a thick, brooding cloud, she led seamlessly into a mood of lilting, folksey loveliness that was warm and inviting. Backed by electric guitar and bass, she poured feeling and soul into every uttered word, melody and acoustic finger-picked note. As well as her emotional variation which undulated between light and dark, one of her main attractions is always her incredible vocal range – apparently 4 octaves – which was put to gorgeous use. As captivating and versatile as ever, she held the crowd throughout and set the tone for an excellent evening of music from Nottingham’s finest.

Then entered Fists stage right, armed with a megaphone, a bucket-load of ingenuity and a flagrant disregard for any reasonable semblance of normality. A DIY-blend of acoustic and electric guitars, shared male/female vocals, strong rhythms and a handful of synthy sounds, they began with a rockabilly-style intro before diving into a set of indefinable controlled chaos, with smatterings of banter and talk of Jim Morrison’s cock slotted in between songs. Their songs are lovingly and thoughtfully constructed, but were performed with as much rawness that it seemed as if they might have written each one only a couple of hours before they took to the stage. With stacks of quality musicianship wrapped up in a lo-fi cacophony and more energy than a sack of angry badgers, they stomped their way through a fantastically entertaining set.

Finally came the night’s headliners Captain Dangerous, who along with their usual lineup boasted three extra violinists (as well as their regular guitar/fiddle player Miles Clark) and a host of other classically-minded treats to add to their frenetic, yelping indie pop. Celebrating the launch of their newest single Everything Beautiful Reminds Me Of You, they looked genuinely ecstatic to be on stage in a venue packed with so many fans, and just exuded infectious happiness. It was a mad mesh of genres and sounds, from cabaret rock-styled debauchery to bouncy, poppy indie, and with some touching heartfelt moments of emotion.

They were skittish, punctuated and tight as anything, with their cocky, cheeky attitude concealing a very clever knack for writing insanely catchy tunes. The string section, though risky, proved a hugely effective addition to their sound, adding punch to upbeat songs and depth to down-tempo ballads. The gloves came off towards the end of their set, and they finished with their guitarist on french horn and their bassist on a upright double bass, in a show that set them apart from regular indie rock counterparts into a league all their own.