Friday, 26 October 2012

Preview: Efterklang @ Bridgewater Hall, 29.10.12

Simon Bray looks forward to Efterklang's performance alongside the Northern Sinfonia at the Bridgewater Hall, having previously lauded their "inventiveness and versatility" as performers.

Manchester welcomes the return of Efterklang with open arms, as they embark on their most ambitious tour to date. Previous visits have seen the band performing at the Deaf Institute and Academy 3, but this time round, they grace the stage of the magnificent Bridgwater Hall on Monday 29th October. They'll be accompanied by the Northern Sinfonia as they look to realise their latest release 'Piramida', an album that's recieved exceedingly high acclaim across the globe and sets them apart as one of the most inventive and accomplished bands of a generation.

The album itself was inspired by a nine day recording session in an abandoned Norwegian mine, from which the album takes its name. The field recordings provide a vast sonic landscape that scatters itself across the final album and this show will be a realisation of this vastly ambitious outing. In typical Efterklang style, it seems the orchestral performance itself isn't enough, with an accompanying narrative leading the audience around the world as the band enlist the orchestra in order to bring each track to life. Combine this with the appreciation that Efterklang deliver some of the most joyful musical performances that I've ever seen and I can assure you that this is an experience not to be missed.

Words & photography: Simon Bray (Simon Bray Photography)

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Why? @ Central Methodist Hall, 10.10.12

Hot on the heels of their latest release Mumps, Etc., kooky alt-hip-hoppers Why? stopped for a night in the centre of Manchester to engage with the rabble (as always happens at Why? gigs) in one big long glorious sing-along.

Let me just say, Central Methodist Hall has to be one of the strangest venues I've visited. Nestled right in the centre of Manchester it's a bizarre mix of musty office corridors and that faded creaking sadness that you find in most church halls. Down one of the corridors to the toilets there's a giant MDF crucifix and the stage is tiny. Yet, for some reason, modestly successful and popular band Why? is playing tonight... Yeah I don't understand it either. Nevermind.

The support was a four piece rap act called Young Fathers. They seemed a bit like the kind of vaguely inoffensive hip hop Blue Peter might put on if it's feeling daring with the censors. Frankly, they weren't great but the poor sound from the speakers made it worse.

Opening with the first song from their new album Mumps, Etc., Why? frontman Yoni Wolf swaggered around the stage throwing down his wordplays whilst the band bounced along joyfully behind him. The bulk of the setlist was from Mumps with the odd classic from older albums Alopecia and Elephant Eyelash thrown in. The biggest cheers were for the famous tracks ‘The Hollows’ and ‘The Vowels Pt.2’ but Yoni and the band held each song together pretty well. Their main foe wasn't each other, nor the song choice, but the venue sound.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the gig. The highlight was... everything. Seriously, every song, even the ones I would have expected to not work so well live, were all incredibly enjoyable. The decision to go for mostly new material and only a few call-backs to the fan favourites was a ballsy one but it worked. The interplay between the heavier and more serious tones of Mumps with the unashamed bombast of Alopecia worked incredibly well in changing the pace enough to always keep it fresh. As an added bonus Yoni’s ridiculous dance moves always raised a big cheer from the laughing crowd.

To see Why? again is always a treat and always fun. But the sound let them down a fair bit making some songs feel lacking when they could have really exploded. Of course, this isn't the band's fault, but sadly Yoni was a ladies man when, with the right sound, he could have been a landmine. (This terrible joke only makes sense if you listen to 'The Vowels pt.2'. Seriously though, it’s an awesome song.)

Words & images: Alex Adams

Saturday, 13 October 2012

MouthMusick to Launch New Video Series

The music industry by its very nature has always had its share of style but, from early televised performances and The Buggles’ breakthrough MTV video through to the internet and new digital media, the technological revolution has facilitated a sheen of superficiality within popular music. Conversely, some artists have deliberately played with themes of anonymity and mystery, and paradoxically achieved fame in doing so.

A new Manchester group named MouthMusick is aiming to strike a balance between those extremes. They have devised a media platform that they believe will allow musicians the freedom to be judged solely by the content of their work and not by what they look like or wear.

The focus will be on the spoken word, bringing to attention the many forms of expression reliant on the mouth.

Ahead of the launch on Sunday 14th October, a MouthMusick spokesperson took some time to answer our questions.

NOW THEN: What gave you the idea for it?

MouthMusick: The idea for MouthMusick initially came from our perception that the majority of music videos are moving towards a highly superficial and overly produced way of presenting ideas and sounds. We thought that with so much going on in these videos, are we able to really listen, understand and appreciate what the artists are trying to say?

We think this can be seen as an issue especially in hip hop, in the heavily commercialised forms that are popular today (no need to name names). Hip hop has moved a very long way from its ideas at conception about making a conscious statement.

MouthMusick is still very much about presenting style and originality, they are definitely something to be watched and enjoyed, just without all the excessive glamour. This project is about offering an alternative. Our videos are deliberately stripped back, and we’ve found that it encourages the viewer to listen in and to give more attention to what is being presented. To focus on the mouth was interesting to us - as the movements of the mouth sculpt our words and there is a beauty in that. It is also entertaining.

NT: What can viewers expect from the videos?

MM: MouthMusick is a combination of oratory and music in all its forms. Each ‘episode’ of this first series is a video titled Mouth#1, Mouth#2, and so on, focusing solely on the mouth. We have a range of artists who believe their work or their featured piece is best understood by what comes out of their mouths. We have lyricists, poets, MCs, beatboxers, and so on – they are all Mouth musicians. Each video will be released weekly on a Sunday evening, starting Sunday 14th October 2012.

NT: Why is it important to disguise the performer in this case?

MM: To create impartiality. We also enjoy this idea as a concept as it creates mystery.

NT: Would an audio track not be impartial anyway?

MM: Yes, completely. Although, if you know who it is – maybe not? This is a ‘Youtube era’; watching music videos online is now one of the main mediums through which we discover new music and listen to songs we like. MouthMusick is also about appreciating film and visual arts but just in a different way, like we say, without all the glamour.

The impartiality brought through initial anonymity of the videos is just one element of what this project is about. We won’t reveal who the artists are, but there is nothing stopping them revealing themselves or others doing so. MouthMusick in this way acts as a platform.

NT: If this acts as a veil of ignorance to make the listener / viewer's choice impartial then does that take something away from the performer's expression?

MM: We don’t think so. There is only going to be one video per contributor, it is in no way all encompassing of who they are and what they do. Everyone involved in MouthMusick wants to see what this idea could become. If people respond well to a video, it can generate interest in the performer’s work that may already be out there or yet to come.

What the videos allow is for the content to be at the forefront, something that we feel is being lost in the music industry. The MouthMusick team have experience working on various multi-disciplinary arts projects and this project is not about limiting expression, this is just an alternative way and concept that we think could really work.

The first MouthMusick video will be released at 8pm on Sunday 14 October.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


Out first batch of printed magazines has been distributed, but until you find one there's always this online version.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Hot Sketch Presents L’Amour Des Rêves & The Bell Peppers @ The Salutation, 15.09.12.

“Love is…warm sweat on a time machine”

“All you need for a love story is Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy gets her back again. The rest is detail,” a Mills & Boon writer told me once (long story). So agrees John Lewis’ new ad campaign, showing a time travel love affair between a Flapper and an Indie Kid. “The important things never change,” goes the tagline.

Time passes, but love stays the same. Lust is the locomotive of history, plunging like a Hitchcockian innuendo into the tunnels of time while empires rise and fall around it. Love & hate are a speedball burning through the veins of forever, base-jumping from synapses into new formations of being.

Time, then, is immutable but ever changing. The two bands here today, Sheffield lovers L’Amour Des Rêves, and Manchester’s The Bell Peppers, play out this paradox with a sound both old & new, borrowed & blue.

L’Amour Des Rêves are the “Love Is…” cartoons made flesh, playing Paradox Pop, a copy of a copy of a future classic. Drummer/singer Jess is a tropicalia glamourpuss with a Bardot up-do and a vintage reporter’s mic, streamlined for thrusting in the pursuit of truth. Guitarist/singer Thomas’ cherub face is framed by ‘The Hair’, a blonde bowlcut so iconic even Rotherham chavs treat him like a star.

They are in love, and their songs are an Escher staircase, ascending and descending the arpeggios of devotion, from the in-out of the hokey-cokey to the give & take of compromise. The first 2 songs sum up this bipolar mood: 'I Couldn’t Live Without'/'You Hate My Guts I Can Tell'.

“There were 27 mistakes in that song,” Thomas admits at one point. In a tweeted world, oversharing is both brave and expected, while choosing a French name is downright dangerous. “You heard that ‘Lammo Des’ree’ band? They’ve got that Dennis Quaid,” you may hear (translation: ‘You heard that L’Amour Des Reves? They’ve got that je ne sais quai’).

“Lean over,” demands my girl when I alight back in Sheffield. “Why?” I ask, expecting a cheeky kiss. “You’ve got travel sweat,” she says, rasping a tissue across my forehead. Love hurts. If passing through space gives you perspiration, what effect does time travel have?
The time sweat L’Amour Des Rêves’ 60s-plundering futurism generates is a sheen of dreams, passing in waves over the audience, a soft focus bubble into which surf pop headliners The Bell Peppers plunge gently at first and then insatiably like a long lost lover.

The Bell Peppers already had a place in my heart for their 90s referencing EP, Saved by The Bell Peppers. They are a Bill & Ted supergroup culled from music history: 50s beatnik, 60s mod and 90s jock. This is Paradox Pop eating itself, wild goose-chasing the provenance of a sound from noughties to 60s to 90s, drenching us in time sweat, gorging on genres and trampling them underfoot. The effect is dizzying but danceable, frenetic grunge with surf finesse.

I meet an old schoolfriend at the gig. While I still live the irresponsible life of a student, he has two kids and a mortgage. “You haven’t changed,” he tells me, “but I think I have.” Truth be told, he always was more adapted to adult life than me. We’ve both changed and stayed the same. And that’s just the way it should be.

Words: Vienna Famous
Image: Hot Sketch Poster