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Live review: Hello Thor’s Christmoustache Party

12 Dec

We Show Up On RadaR, Fists and Hot Horizons played at Hello Thor’s Christmoustache Party at The Chameleon on Saturday 12 December 2009

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

“Welcome to Thor’s Cave… Tonight it’s decorated with baubles and fairy lights”.

After a greeting and introduction from one of Thor’s mustachioed minions, Andy Wright (AKA We Show Up On RadaR) took to the Chameleon’s floor. Andy’s sets are always a lovely mellow treat full of music to dream to, and he kicked off the ‘tache-tastic proceedings with subdued, blissful tones. Christening the evening with his latest single Mountain Top (a single, we were informed by Thor, that was picked by ArtRocker as one of the top 100 singles of the year, and it comes on pink vinyl too!), he immediately instilled the room with his inimitable sense of quiet English whimsy and charm.

Apart from a flourished discarding of his impressive novelty ‘tache halfway through the song, he lulled the audience effortlessly into a quiet and calm appreciative state. He followed with his single’s B-side Spider On a Thread, it’s lilting chorus borrowed from the classic Que Sera Sera and a gorgeously sparse arrangement of barely-plucked guitar strings and tentative, heartfelt vocals delivering a beautiful few minutes of vaguely tragic yet inherently uplifting folk. Finishing off a short but wonderful was a cover of Blue Christmas, a perfectly fitting melancholic ode to the season from one of Nottingham’s finest and most unique folkeys.

Next came about as extreme a change of pace as you could find, in the form of chaotic rockers Fists. Sounding something like what I’d imagine Pixies would sound like if they started making music today, they were unpredictable, brazen, hilarious and quite honestly bat-shit insane, in the very best possible way. Starting off with smile-inducing rockabilly with distorted vocals, acoustic guitar complimented by crunching, thundering electric guitar and bass with some synths chucked in to make sure they had no hope of sounding ordinary, they see-sawed between intentionally discordant messes and jaunty, melodic tunes. Filling the gaps between each song with great-humoured banter, including a discussion of which band members could take each other in a fight, they were constantly engaging and about as far from mundane as a band could get.

As the evening drew on I felt the pull of the last tram home looming, so unfortunately I had to miss what I expect was an equally excellent set from Hot Horizons, but nonetheless thoroughly enjoyed my evening in Thor’s Cave.

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Reviewed: The Portico Quartet

8 Dec

The Portico Quartet played at Rescue Rooms on Wednesday 25 November 2009

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

I unfortunately arrived just as the silver-tongued, honey-voiced songstress Nina Smith was finishing up her set, which is a real shame as after seeing her fantastic performances at both LeftLion’s Circus Extravaganza and the Hockley Hustle I was raring for more.

But I was lucky enough to see experimental jazz foursome The Portico Quartet on what was the last night of their UK tour, riding on the wave of their recent second album ‘Isla’. An intriguing and hypnotising lineup of double bass, drums, saxophone and a steel drum-type instrument called a hang, along with various electronic additions combined to provide the Rescue Rooms with some of the most encapsulating music to have drifted into my ears for some time. Delicate, intricate noises flitted across the stage whilst raucous saxophone shone through, delicious depths were reached by the hang and smoke drifted through the audience.

The Portico Quartet

Milo Fitzpatrick on double bass was extraordinary, producing unusual sounds that were difficult to believe emanated from an organic source as well as more traditional but no less beautiful backing. One of the most heartbreaking sounds on earth, to my ears at least, is a bowed double bass, which he delivered in haunting tones whilst it mixed with the lilting, undulating saxophone. The saxophone was manned by Jack Wyllie, who’s playing and improv was strikingly inventive and journeyed through ethereal and eerie to cutting prominence. Moving through complex time signatures and keeping steady yet interesting rhythms was Duncan Bellamy, who also strayed onto the glockenspiel to give the music a twinkling aura.

But by far the most unique element of TPQ, comes in the form of the hang – a tuned percussion instrument similar to a steel drum – played by Nick Mulvey. This gave the music a truly one-of-a-kind sound, the likes of which I doubt anyone in the audience will have heard before or since.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of TPQ is that whilst they are an instrumental, experimental outfit, unlike so much modern jazz their music is inherently accessible to any music-lover and had the entire audience enthralled throughout their set; never before have I seen the crowd at Rescue Rooms looking so serene and captured for such a long show. With gorgeous moments of dissonance and hints of chaos peeking through a serene jazzy haze, The Portico Quartet are a group that are shattering the moulds and preconceptions of modern jazz and creating beautiful sonic sculptures with the remains.

Live review: The Swiines

18 Nov

The Swiines played at Rescue Rooms on Friday 13 November 2009

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

In a thumping throwback to the glory days of 90s Brit Pop with deft brushes of modern indie rock, the Swiines took the stage at Rescue Rooms on Friday night.

The Swiines

Supporting headliners the Complete Stone Roses, their audience was initially thin on the ground as the sold-out crowd of Madchester fans drank, smoked and swaggered around outside in the beer garden. After one or two songs, however, they began to be drawn in by the Swiines’ driving rhythms, chest-beating bass and attention-grabbing vocals, and by the end of their set the Nottingham rockers had amassed a very healthy-sized rabble.

With a pounding mix of upbeat, sometimes fleetingly dark indie rock and intense energy they performed in the true spirit of classically British rock ‘n’ roll; no silly antics and no pissing about, just pure rock and attitude. Frontman Scott Bugg held the audience with agressive vocals and unfazed confidence, whilst frantic lead guitar cut through the reverb and the heavy, driving bass and drums. They had a pleasing air of arrogance about them that didn’t hint at pretense, which made them all the more enjoyable, but you could see a smattering of smiles flitting across their faces as they watched the room fill up.

Whilst it wasn’t a school night unfortunately I had to trot off before seeing the headliners, but I left with my appetite for rocking goodness well and truly satiated for the week by these swaggering, ballsy Swiines.

Live review: The Hockley Hustle 2009

28 Oct

The Hockley Hustle is a city-wide music festival held in Nottingham across more than 20 venues

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

After fuelling myself with an obligatory bacon cob from the ever-lovely Homemade Cafe, I headed to Lee Rosys Tea Room for coffee accompanied by music from Folkwit Records. I caught a charming set from Marc Block and the Breezes, who furnished the early afternoon crowd with warm, harmonica-filled folk with deliciously subtle dark undertones.

Whilst wandering down Pelham Street I was caught off guard outside Cape by the Nottingham School of Samba, an awesome community project who lit up the street with thumping rhythms and broad smiles. Any Hustlers suffering the after effects of Saturday night would have been well and truly shaken into a more lively state, and the group pulled a pleasingly large group of onlookers from the Hustle crowd and regular folks alike.

Down to the Pit and Pendulum, which was filled with the glorious post-rock vibes of Beyond This Point Are Monsters, as well as frankly more audience than it could comfortably handle. Reverb, crisp, complex guitar work and fleeting moments of discord abounded, with the boys from Derby building each song through constantly morphing shapes and sounds up to epic, crunching crescendos.

Still at the Pit, I managed to catch a glimpse of Alright The Captain! before having to scuttle off to pastures new. Having only just recovered from seeing them play a week or so ago, I was happy to be plunged into their enveloping math-rock, chock full of huge noises and complex structures, once again if only for a short while.

Oh my, good grief and holy crap, what a sight was Shaws. Being a big fan of soulful singing sensation Nina Smith, I was excited that she was being showcased by the BBC Introducing.. stage – turns out I wasn’t the only one. The crowd was so huge I barely had room to sip my beer and there were people desperately trying to cram their way in throughout her whole set. It was worth the big squeeze though as she was on sparkling form, with her pristine, porcelain vocals permeating through the chilled grooves of her full backing band. Definitely one to watch, and I have a feeling I’m going to be glad that I got to see her before she gets whisked away by a major label.

Nipping back down Pelham street I was drawn into the Pit and Pendulum once again by the ethereal, ambient sounds coming from Brighton lads Monsters Build Mean Robots. As well as marking a personal first for me – seeing two bands with monster-themed names who play epic post rock in the same afternoon, completely by accident too – they played an encapsulating set of slow-burning, steadily building numbers with heartfelt, tentative vocals and even managed a full-on audience singalong at the end.

Back to Shaws to see Captain Dangerous who served up frantic indie rock laced with violins and keyboards, and who are some of the cheekiest chappies I’ve ever clapped eyes or ears on. With the charm and chaotic energy of your favourite 6th form band but the tightness and polished performance of accomplished professionals, they laid on a relentlessly fun and enjoyable set of poppy, rapturous yelp-rock tunes.

Without realising it my feet somehow found their way over to Dogma, because it appears that I am now utterly incapable of missing a set by Rebel Soul Collective. And thank goodness, because they were on the best form I’ve seen them as they bounced, thrashed and stomped the crowd every which way they pleased to their unique mix of soul, jazz, rock, electro and anything else they feel like chucking in to the mix. Everything clicked, the band looked ecstatic as did the crowd of manically dancing fans.

After a sizeable break for my feet and ears I headed over to Broadway, where I was just able to catch the tail end of Ulysses Storm. By the time I got there the crowd was in an adoring frenzy as they pumped out intensely funky, bluesy numbers.

Having work the next day I decided that it might be an idea to call it a night, but as I made my final descent down Pelham Street I was caught again, this time by the fiery gypsy jazz sounds of Maniere Des Bohemians emanating from the Bodega Social, and was unable to continue my journey without one last stop. Having amassed an unbelievably riled up crowd they had the walls dripping with red hot fiddle playing, jaunty accordion sounds and had the audience almost literally swinging from the rafters. It was perfectly debauched sight with music to match, and a spectacular end to a ridiculously fun day and night.

Live review: Souvaris / Sincabeza / Alright The Captain!

16 Oct

Souvaris, Sincabeza and Alright The Captain! played at The Chameleon on Friday 16 October, 2009

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

Two bands from Notts, one from Bordeaux, no singers, a metric ton of very loud noise crammed into The Chameleon’s tiny loft and some mild resulting tinitus; it was a night of mad math-rock to satiate nutty rockers as well as the most avid music geek.

First up were Nottingham lads Alright The Captain!, who dove headfirst into a set of thumping, thrashing, intricate creations. They showed off a wide range of talents, taking one song from light-hearted ska to heavy metal by way of guitar-pedal-mashing madness, and incorporating the kind of time signature and tempo changes that meant that anyone trying to be a casual head-bopping listener looked like an idiot. Perhaps it was the low lighting in the Chameleon loft, but at times their guitarist seemed to be moving his strumming hand faster than the eye could see – it’s a good thing he wields his guitar for the good and pure forces of rock ‘n’ roll; if he turned his talents to the dark side we’d all be fucked.

Up next were Sincabeza from Bordeaux, who produced a wall of guitar noise speckled with synthesised sounds, held together by some of the tightest and insane drumming this reviewer has ever seen. They were comprised of a guitarists-come-keyboardist, a bassist-come-keyboardist, a guitarist-come-keyboardist-come-trumpeter and a mental drummer – and I know, anyone would think I was starting an erotic novel with that sentence! But their multi-talented lineup fared well and filled the loft with cohesive, discordant and engaging energy. It’s a difficult thing to engage an audience with no singer, especially when half the band was facing away from the crowd, but their explosive instrumental metallic math-rock was enthralling.

Headlining were Souvaris and I must admit, even the music geek in me struggled to keep up with these guys (yes, I’m a geek rather than a nutty rocker, can’t help it!). They threw out varied, interesting and audience-screwing beats that forced you to pay close attention, which is what this genre is really all about. It was a glorious cacophony, a wall of dense, well-organised noises which pulsated through the flood and right up to your chest. Souvaris make you feel a strange sense of achievement in your musical appreciation of them; if you can tap your foot in time to their constantly changing beats you feel as if you should win a prize. And if you ever want to see a gig end on a truly epic finale, see this band.

Live review: LeftLion Presents… Circus Extraveganza 2009

6 Oct

A shed-load of bands played all around Canning Circus for LeftLion Presents… Circus Extraveganza on Saturday 3 October 2009

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

LeftLion's Circus Extraveganza

Every now and again I am reminded of the reasons why I decided to stick around in Nottingham when I finished uni; Saturday on Canning Circus encapsulated nigh-on all of them. Trying to cover the music at the Circus Extravaganza was honestly a little daunting, but feeling overwhelmed by the amount of talented bands and musicians that I just HAD to see is one of the happiest problems I’ve ever had!

I started with a couple of coffees in the Sir John Borlase Warren, dosing up on caffeine in anticipation for what was going to be an epic and exhausting day. The first notes to tingle my eardrums came from the guitar of Steve Pinnock, whose dexterous, jazzy finger picking was a lovely start to the day. After a suitable intake of caffeine I headed over to the Running Horse where I got to catch a set from Nina Smith and her genre-mashing band of musicians. It was an entrancing mix of acoustic guitar, electric bass, a beatboxer providing beats and a frighteningly vast array of oral sound effects and Nina’s lilting, soulful vocals that blended beautifully to create a truly unique sound.

Following Nina was acoustic folkers Northern Monkey, who dealt out a set of classically British foot-stomping folk whilst the band members’ children ran riot around the pub.

After I’d had my fill of folkey goodness I walked over to Seven hoping to catch a few songs from the lovely Lisa de’Ville, but unfortunately I missed her. From past experience, however, I can say that she would have been as emotive and engaging as ever. I did, however, get to hear a few songs from Rapunzel M.A.P.; just a girl and her guitar, singing with a dewy, honey-dipped voice and telling stories of love, loss and holograms.

To the Red Lion, and the rock ‘n’ roll stylings of Terminal 5 Experience. Classic pub rock that would make your Dad thoroughly happy!

Trying to cram Notts music staples Rebel Soul Collective into the Red Lion was something akin to Meatloaf trying to get his pins into a pair of hipster skinny jeans, but nonetheless they filled the pub to bursting point with funky rhythms and energetic, tight-as-hell sonic madness. They never fail to slap a smile on my face, and it’s always fun to notice your feet moving of their own accord halfway through a song.

Next on the agenda was The Ropewalk, and Hhymn. I was excited before they even started playing owing to the huge array of instruments that littered the stage (an electric ukulele, cello, double bass, two trumpets..), and I wasn’t disappointed. They seemed happily at home in the crowded, warm ambiance and their vaguely melancholic yet hugely powerful chamber pop resonated through the top floor.

Back to the Running Horse to catch the end of exciting youngsters Swiines’ set of quintessentially English indie rock…

…leading into a bizarre and intriguing show from Luxury Stranger, whose lead singer looks like a cross between Robert Smith and Gene Simmons and fronted the stage with a look of confidence mixed with mortal terror. Gothic sensibilities, chanted vocals and wonderfully dark tones made for a strange but enjoyable end to the live music part of my day.

Finally, I staggered into Moog for some end-of-the-night, might-as-well-make-a-twat-of-yourself dancing, to Hexadecimal’s set of breakbeat and electro goodies, and when Moog stopped serving, I decided that it might be an idea to call it a day…

On the cold, slightly wobbly walk home, after a full day and night of stunning music, real ale and many marvelous revelries I realised that what had just transpired was a rare and brilliant thing, and one that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the country. If I had my way this would happen every month, so here’s hoping the Circus comes to town again!

Full photo gallery at LeftLion.co.uk

Live review: Rebel Soul Collective EP Launch

25 Sep

Rebel Soul Collective, Green For Go and Lisa de’Ville played at The Bodega Social on Friday 18 September 2009

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

In celebration of the release of their new EP, the Bodega Social was treated to an evening of spectacular music from Rebel Soul Collective and friends.

First on was Nottingham’s soulful songstress Lisa de’Ville, whose pristine vocals echoed across the room as she slinked through a set of emotionally charged songs, sometimes cutting, sometimes achingly heartfelt. With her acoustic strumming backed by electric embellishments courtesy of an accomplice, the tone was taken from fiery and forceful, through ethereal and darker, haunting territories to shy, vulnerable and delicate. It was a thoughtfully constructed set, with a colourful pallet of passionate emotions.

Next was Green For Go, who’s unique brand of bass-driven alternative rock caught the audience somewhat off guard before enthralling them with heavily punctuated, highly dance-able rhythms and catchy melodies. Clean, layered tunes with crisp vocals descended into dense guitar fuelled melancholia, before picking up into punchy, upbeat indie madness. Their tunes are heavily punctuated, full of layers and melodic vocals, very noisy and a little chaotic, and combined with a cracking stage presence they made for a hugely enjoyable act. They put on a blinding show that was tight as hell, and you could tell that not only were they clicking musically but that they were having a smashing time on stage, with excited energy spilling off onto the dance floor.

Rebel Soul Collective live at the Bodega Social

Finally came Rebel Soul Collective, clearly buzzing off the release of their shiny new EP and raring to beat the crowd into dance-induced submission. Their insanely contagious multi-faceted mix of funk, soul, jazz and rock with an extra helping of synths would be enough to get even the mopiest of dreary hipsters up on their feet, and occasional gems such as a drum, bass and cowbell solo meant that anyone looking out into the audience was met by a sea of smiles. There were multi-part vocal harmonies, funky wah-wah guitars, infectious rhythms and glimmering synth sounds along with sporadic trumpet solos, all wrapped up in a glorious blanket of beautiful chaos. This is a band that will not stand for quiet appreciation; they demand, nay deserve, that you dance like a tit and leave their gigs soaked in sweat and beer. Thank heavens it was a Friday night.