Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Interview: Plyci

Our next headliner at Antwerp Mansion will be Welsh electronic music whizz Plyci, with live music support coming from Borland and Swansong and intervals filled by DJ sets courtesy of From the Kites of San Quentin’s Blood Boy and ERRrr.

Plyci, along with his label Peski Records, has been championed by BBC Introducing DJ Huw Stephens and refuses to be pigeonholed into one area of electronic music having shifted through, in his own words, “synth pop, glitch, ambient, electro, techno and IDM”.

Now Then fires some questions in his direction about that, his forthcoming EP and Welsh music generally.

Now Then: How did the involvement with Peski Records begin? You have an EP planned for release via the label – when can we expect this?

Plyci: Well me and Peski go back about 5 years now, I was asked to join Rhys Edwards in his Jakokoyak project which he released through the label; I handled all the live electronics at his gigs. We always spoke about releasing a Plyci EP on the label and now it's finally happening. We've finished the artwork and everything's ready to go so it should appear very soon.

NT: You’ve remixed tunes by your Peski labelmates; how do you choose which direction to go with your remixes? Are there any more in the pipeline?

Plyci: With remixes they tend to just happen, I never have a definite plan as to which direction to take. I begin with just the raw audio and see where it takes me. I can't really think of any remix I've done where I knew exactly what outcome I wanted, they’re very spontaneous.

NT: Aside from being part-based in Manchester, Peski has strong Welsh connections – where you’re also originally from. Do you think it’s important to keep the Welsh language alive in non-Welsh speakers’ minds through the medium of music? Which other Welsh-speaking artists would you recommend, in electronic music or otherwise?

Plyci: There's a great sense of identity among Welsh people, it's very obvious among Welsh musicians especially. My music is instrumental therefore has no language so in order to give it an identity I used Welsh words for song titles sometimes and reference various Welsh establishments along the way. In terms of Welsh artists there are some great acts such as Crash.Disco, Ifan Dafydd, Y Niwl, VVolves among others. There really is a lot of ace music in Wales; the scene in Cardiff is full of great bands!

NT: How did you choose the Plyci alias?

Plyci: I made the word up, it doesn't exist is Welsh but does in English as 'plucky'. I've never really liked it but it stuck so I kept it.

NT: What urges you to sit down and write music? And what is it that draws you to electronic music? Do you think you’ll settle on any one style?

Plyci: I really love the process of creating something from nothing. I could quite happily make music all day if I could. I’m initially drawn to electronic music because you have endless possibilities in terms of sounds. There is no limit. Over the years my style has changed, I started with broken beats and moved through synth pop, glitch, ambient, electro, techno and IDM and probably won't settle on any one. I create sounds that suit my mood at the time, what I'm listening to and other things I'm into. I see influence in a lot of different places.

NT: What do you have planned for Plyci’s future?

Plyci: I want to take Italo disco to North Korea! If I can't I'll just keep on producing and promoting my work, keep busy and hopefully create some sounds that people enjoy listening to. After releasing the EP I hope to start an album, we'll see.

Interview: Ian Pennington
Images: Courtesy of Plyci & Peski Records
Flyer design: Hattie Lockwood

Plyci headlines Antwerp Mansion on Thursday 26th April. Support comes from Borland (whose recent Islington Mill performance is described here) and Swansong (whose performance at Gulliver’s last year is reviewed here). Blood Boy and ERRrr take to the decks between performances. Pay what you like; £3 suggested.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Interview: Veí

Jonn Dean has been a constantly shifting musical experimenter during his time recording and performing music from a Manchester hub. An electronica project took the backseat while he played keyboards with local alt-rock group Kin, but since they disbanded Veí has moved to the fore.

The name itself is curious enough without introduction to the open-minded approach to musical composition lying beyond. Even the name ‘Veí’ has evolved during its lifespan, as Dean explains. “I started working on my own material whilst I was still playing keys for Kin, but I was quite keen to start writing with someone else rather than it remain a solo project. I worked on a few tracks initially with Paul Mckie (formerly of From the Kites of San Quentin) and I was trying to think of a suitable name for the collaboration. As we lived opposite one another at the time I thought it would be interesting to see whether the word 'neighbours' had a quirky ring to it when translated into another language. The Catalan word for neighbours is 'Veïns' which I loved instantly and we stuck with that.”

He continues: “When Paul became busier with Kites and wasn't available to continue with the project, I was curious to know what the singular of Veïns would be, so Veí was born. The notions of producing electronic music and writing and performing under a pseudonym have always felt synonymous to me, especially given my influences, and I enjoy the association with the actual meaning of the word – everyone is someone's neighbour.”

His tracks have been included on compilations and a debut digital EP, Thank You For Talking, was supported by forward-thinking music collective Mind On Fire. It could be said that recorded music is all about capturing a moment to be repeated as an exact copy; a live show is about recreation of that in person. Veí has until recently struggled with this dichotomy and there were always issues with preserving his improvised live show as a recording, given that reproducing the same song was a rare occurrence. That EP now remains distinctly in the past as Dean has adapted his live show by trimming down the wealth of flashing LEDs and bulky hardware at his disposal in favour of a simpler – and easier to control – laptop-based set-up. “I love improvised music and the processes associated with it,” he states, “but I personally feel that in the long run there is only so far you can take it.”

There was also only so far he could go in the eyes of local promoters. Veí’s name would often adorn posters as a warm-up act, meaning that only the early birds into any show would see his set. Given his proclivity towards ambient orchestral arrangements and only small remnants of recognisable individual songs, it was not surprising that he would precede more uptempo acts. Nowadays, tracks are still modified onstage, but the level of control is higher with a more stable groundwork laid.

He admits that the equipment progression has afforded him more freedom then before and has in turn affected the recreation of tracks for an audience. “My old live setup was primarily based around limitation. With the set-up I put together it meant that there were things that I couldn't do easily, but that in turn forced me to be creative and think of ways around those shortcomings and also focus on the things that I could do well with it.”

“Instead of improvising and creating tracks on the spot I've been focussing more on writing and production values from the outset of a track. I'm still experimenting of course, but I feel that now I can capture that experimentation before anyone else hears it and add it into my work, rather than getting lost in the moment of an improvised show and not being able to recreate it.”

It was a Now Then Manchester gig in December 2011 that became the first road test for that new, less improvised set using laptop software, supporting thebrokendoor and Jason Singh at a show, ironically, focussing on improvised and semi-rehearsed musical accompaniment to previously selected films. Although uncertain at first, he can reflect on having made the right move. “I felt at first as though I had abandoned my roots to an extent, but the tracks were really well received and I felt like I had definitely made the right decision.” His selection was a walkthrough for the Limbo computer game and the differentiation from the rest of the show in terms of improvisation mattered little, as Branching Dialogue’s reviewer afterwards expressed “an urgent need to buy the game and to see every gig Veí does from here on out”.

There will be another opportunity to witness that particular show, as he will perform to the same video clip for the Soundtracks From The Other City stage at this year's Sounds From The Other City festival in Salford. As no stranger to cinematic and musical cohesion, he will also take on the final segment of a combined re-soundtracking of 1980s sci-fi film Dark Star at Dulcimer bar on Sunday 22nd April, with his set following instalments by Christopher William Anderson and Yes Blythe.

The switch was in part due to an affiliation with the new Baptists & Bootleggers label, which provided the platform for his new production ideas. “I had been thinking about switching from improvisational shows to writing some actual tracks for a few months anyway,” says Dean. “But when B&B asked me to do the EP I thought that would be an ideal opportunity to make the transition.” His physical self-titled EP launch at the start of 2012 was a part of the launch of the Baptists & Bootleggers label as a whole, where his performance acted as further evidence of his move away from the unplanned and chaotic constructs of old.

The show later saw Borland (who will next perform at Antwerp Mansion on Thursday 26th April) and Go Lebanon tread the stage; the former shrouding the room in dry ice, leaving only their candlelit corner of mystical noise-craft as a visible reference point. Their audio reference points sway all the way from vocal parts as heavily encrypted by effects as Animal Collective to an incongruent rendition of Rod Stewart’s words in ‘Da’ Ya’ Think I’m Sexy?’ – and all backed by steadily mellow ambient duskiness to match the artificial atmosphere. The latter takes on a military guise both in terms of costume and their satirical humour (playing a “song about men who touch things they shouldn’t – called ‘Sarkozies’”) for a set of angrily cranked up injections of tinnitus. It is a show indicative of the variety of genres encouraged by the Baptists & Bootleggers label.

For example, another of Veí’s involvements with B&B was contributing one of the five tracks on the main launch record, ...Of The Wolves, which comprises a multiple arts smorgasbord centred around Dante’s Inferno, the 1930s film based on Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. His fifth of the record – an interpretation of the same 8 minute 12 second visual clip selected for each musical act – is named ‘Decaying Bodice’, a typically serene piece of music even in response to a film whose fiery despair erupts loud and ferociously through the other musicians’ versions. It is almost detached from the imagery; accepting of the depicted hell and tapping into a quiet place, watching the bedlam from afar. Such is the paradox of Veí; a neighbour by name, but with a street to himself where music is concerned.

That isn’t to say he doesn’t have influences. Radiohead was a noticeable starting point with Kin, while his Veí EP nods towards Four Tet in parts. Dean also cites Bjork, Baths, Aphex Twin, James Blake and Amon Tobin.

He first became involved with the label after being introduced to its co-founder Callum Higgins at the launch event for a Mind On Fire and OneFiveEight collaboration, Hear No Evil, See No Evil, the CD for which features tracks by both Veí and Higgins’ solo music project, Yes Blythe.

“After meeting Callum at the launch, one of the MOF boys informed me that he was doing a soundtrack project and put me in touch again. As I was only using hardware with live improvisations at the time, I recorded 'Decaying Bodice' pretty much the next day, which was well over a year ago now. I knew there were plans to release it and I was really interested in the idea that it would be a compilation of tracks all inspired by the same piece of film. I didn't know at that stage that they were looking into the Umbro Industries bursary or that they would ask me to write an EP to coincide with the launch, so when all that came together it started to gain momentum and become very exciting.”

Since that meeting and subsequent support, Veí is growing in confidence and looking to the future. “I just wanted to show what else I am capable of. I still use elements of my old methods in the writing process but for now I definitely feel as though I'm moving in the right direction and don't plan on taking a step backwards.”

Words: Ian Pennington
Photography: Paul Green
Sunday Soirée poster design: Craig Brown - Beards Club Illustration
Now Then B&B poster design: Hattie Lockwood
B&B logo courtesy of the B&B label
Rod Stewart sourced from the internet

Veí will perform next at Dulcimer bar in Chorlton as part of a Now Then Manchester and Baptists & Bootleggers co-promotion featuring three electronic musicians re-soundtracking the 1980s sci-fi film Dark Star. He will take on the final section of the film, after Christopher William Anderson and Yes Blythe have performed live soundtracks the first two thirds. The gig takes place on Sunday 22nd April from 5.30pm.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Now Then Manchester presents: Vieka @ Dulcimer, Chorlton, Thursday 12th April 2012

Chantelle Scott doesn’t come across as a bit of a diva or someone thriving on the belief that the world revolves around their whims and wishes, so I’d like to confirm that the 25 minute delay to Vieka’s appearance is entirely down to the previous act who seemed to think that his two minutes to finish was the musical equivalent of Fergie time, where he could play until someone scored next. I think he modelled the role on the Wigan game when Fergie’s team could have played until midnight and not have scored.

Quality is worth waiting for, although some punters could not wait ‘til the 10.45pm start without having to depart, having paid their £3. The show goes on though and, without their usual drummer, the pared down trio have kept the instrumentation to a minimum.

Trumpeter Will Lewis sets the tone for the evening’s performance, delivering single notes, held until you think he will turn blue. Sometimes a mute is added before the keyboards, or “technology”, via Lewis Edwards are introduced. This dark and brooding show is simply a change from the livelier tempo they are capable of delivering. Mirroring the more restrained but concentrated performance, Scott keeps the limiters on a voice that’s capable of being heard three streets away. Yet the threat and emotion are still present, so when she recites “Never again will you touch me”, I feel scared – and I’ve never spoken to her.

The restrained performance seems to suit the late night setting and those that have stayed warmly applaud each song, causing Scott to break into warm smiles.

Words & Photography: Ged Camera

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Review: Stickman EP

Stickman’s three-track EP on 12” vinyl follows earlier Mindset Records output by the likes of xxxy, Synkro, Hatti Vatti and AnD, many of which were debut physical recordings by a Manchester record label willing to take chances with electronic music producers they believe in.

This latest record falls somewhere in the midst of techno, future garage and post-dubstep music makers from Scuba to Burial and is akin to both his label mates and some of the line-ups of the Sankeys’ monthly new music showcase Continue.

The music itself often seems manic, belying its subtle minimalism that remains darkly ambient despite the persistent pulses. It varies across each of its three parts though. ‘The Verge’ welcomes tinny shuffles before expanding into an uptempo march of squashed and fizzing synths.

‘If You Stay’ holds the urgency of deep house with its metronomic beats and edgy dystopian fills, while ‘Known’ relents into a less forceful atmospheric funkiness, which although lacking the earlier energy still drifts into a crowded musical space filled with echoing clacks and claps, stunted bassline thuds and wailing vocal clips.

Words: Ian Pennington
Images: Courtesy of Mindset Records

Monday, 9 April 2012

Review: Cogidubnus - Memorabilia

Following a residency at Sicknote clubnights focussing on the musical sub-genre tangents of dubstep and dark electronica, local DJ and electronic music producer Cogidubnus set up his own record label, named Broken Bubble, which features digital albums by some of his favourite artists. The latest release via that label is his own material.

I could write this review in fifty words. The opening track, ‘The Future Boards of Cheadle’, neatly surmises the relevant reference points in a nutshell; Boards of Canada meets The Future Sound of London as produced in the Stockport suburb of Cheadle.

But it’s not as simple and kitsch as that. As the record progresses, other influences are unleashed, not least the self-coined dubfunk genre pigeonholed for artists on the Broken Bubble netlabel he founded last year. Comprising six original tracks with four remix versions by other artists, Memorabilia is the sixteenth Broken Bubble digital release and, even in the company of London based Mothers Against Noise collective’s Hurtdeer, Second Line and Duskky as well as more recent output by Fedbymachines and Hotflush Recordings alumnus Gravious, it is one of the label’s strongest.

Within a mindset that is altogether mellower than his previous bassy garage template, Cogidubnus still fluctuates from ambient textures by introducing dynamism to the wispiness. The tempo picks up at various points in a way that Boards of Canada rarely would. ‘Dudeslice’ fires off zaps and lasers into an insecure sci-fi battlefield of drum and bass and squelches while the Sipp remix of ‘Autoslouch’ pushes its chest out and raises its clenched fists to the air with a pomp in stark contrast to the Burial-esque dark electronica of the original Cogidubnus version.

The scenes are largely serene though, with echoing vocal samples bridging downtempo flows. ‘Tricolor’ takes after Boards of Canada’s ‘Hey Saturday Sun’ but with its melodies slightly sped up and fed helium, before ‘Prism Reform’ picks up by leading the record along a theme of lonely shuffles of warped sound, woozily accompanied by percussive pops and clacks. The Future Sound of London references are fewer and further between, other than the mutual appreciation of sci-fi soundtracks, although Cogidubnus favours more artificial soundscapes than FSoL’s instrumental psychedelia.

Words: Ian Pennington
Photo: Gary Brown (GB Multimedia)
Poster design: Hattie Lockwood

Cogidubnus next performs his new set at Dulcimer bar in Chorlton on Thursday 12th April, supporting Vieka. Memorabilia is available to buy via digital download at

Friday, 6 April 2012

Chorlton Arts Festival and Flash Tag call for submissions

The organisers of Chorlton Arts Festival are preparing for its twelfth year in 2012, with the town-spanning multi-arts celebration scheduled for 17th to 27th May.

Tickets are available for the larger events via the Chorlton Arts Festival website. Standouts so far include The Handsome Family, Chew Lips and a solo show by Cinematic Orchestra’s Stuart McCallum, while Swimming will perform the first ‘binaural’ headphone event to appear in Chorlton, at Wilbraham St. Ninian’s United Reformed Church. For that, a live performance by Nottingham band Swimming will be broadcast to a separate room from which binaural artist Dallas Simpson will remix the sounds before they reach the headphones of audience members.

On the literary side of the festival a group of Manchester based writers, editors and bloggers named FlashTag will judge a short story competition, which will culminate in a literary event as part of the festival on 23 May. The deadline for submissions is 27 April and guidelines for entry can be found on the FlashTag website.

The FlashTag group are also involved with the organisation of National Flash Fiction Day, which will take place on 16 May and will accept entries until 10 April.

Words: Ian Pennington
Images: Courtesy of Chorlton Arts Festival

An edited version of this article first appeared on Manchester Mule.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Monkey Poet: spoken word, Spoke'n'Heard and Dulcimer all dayer

Matt Panesh, aka Monkey Poet, is a poet with a plan. He is seeking to refresh old-fashioned preconceptions about spoken word as a dull and forgotten art form by curating a series of monthly nights at Gulliver’s in the Northern Quarter.

They are events organised in his own image, showcasing an infusion of comedy, poetry recital and dramatic performance all hinged around rhythmic complexities and linguistic delights. Even the title, Spoke'n'Heard, is an indicator of his penchant for puns.

The next opportunity to experience this will be on 18th April, where Kate Fox and Tony Walsh – of Radio 4’s Saturday Live and Glastonbury Poet Laureate fame, respectively – will take on the task of entertaining the upstairs room at Gulliver’s, armed with only a microphone and their arsenal of articulation.

His own show can be seen at an all day event on Easter Sunday at Dulcimer bar in Chorlton, as compere at a showcase of live acoustic, folk and spoken word co-promoted by Now Then Manchester and Imploding Inevitable.

Known for his raucous performances and rhythmic wordplay, Matt will recite some of his own work between curating a line-up of other local poets and introducing open mic slots scattered across the billing. Any poets keen to be involved should contact ian [at] nowthenmagazine [dot] com.

Elsewhere on the day, there’ll be an array of live musicians, including David A Jaycock who will headline as part of his current North West mini-tour. His second album of a few years back, The Coleopterous Cuckoos Collude, was released via Manchester label Red Deer Club Records and is an all-encompassing crossover between darkly delivered instrumental stories and finger-picked folk, à la Rick Tomlinson of Voice of the Seven Woods and Voice of the Seven Thunders. Its darkly psychedelic edge caught the attention of Sheffield’s Blackest Rainbow record label – home to Manchester’s Gnod amongst other acid-folk and psyche-rock talents – who have subsequently aired his latest two records.

As compere for the day, Panesh will have a busy Bank Holiday Sunday with nine more musical acts to introduce in addition to extended spoken word slots.

Words: Ian Pennington
Now Then poster art: Hattie Lockwood
Spoke’n’Heard posters: courtesy of Monkey Poet

The Now Then Imploding Inevitable All Dayer will take place at Dulcimer in Chorlton on Sunday 8th April from 1pm until 11.30pm. Tickets are available here or from the venue.

Spoke’n’Heard continues every month on the third Wednesday at Gulliver’s. Click here for more information.