Friday, 28 March 2014

Competition: Project Mooncircle label showcase @ Soup Kitchen

The Project Mooncircle label has been making waves beyond its Berlin basecamp for a while now and has gained keen admirers in the shape of Manchester's Mind On Fire Collective, whose previous bookings include Shigeto, fLako, Fingathing and Mount Kimbie.

So, given the chance by FutureEverything festival to put on a show synchronous with its avant garde vision for music arts and technology, Mind On Fire wasted no time in contacting PMC label boss Gordon Gieseking to assemble some of the label's finest producers of deftly structured electronica and abstract hip hop.

Headlining the resulting show at Soup Kitchen is KRTS, whose knack for finding melodies in medleys of samples and minimally layered clicks, clacks and shimmers is no mean feat. His latest EP, The Foreigner, bridges tubular bells with percussive stoicism and synthesised ambient progressions to tell the conceptual story of a newly landed alien's view of earth.

In support, London-based beatsmith submerse brings his carefully crafted digital soundscapes up north, while Rain Dog returns to perform tracks from his new album Two Words, following a debut Manchester show at last year's Sounds From The Other City.

We have a pair of tickets to give away to one lucky Now Then Manchester reader. All you have to do is like and share the image via this link (making sure it's set to 'public' so that we can see that you've entered).

We'll notify the winner on Saturday 29 March. Good luck!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Bombay Bicycle Club @ Albert Hall, 20.03.14

Following the enormous hype from their new chart-topping album So Long, See You Tomorrow, Bombay Bicycle Club chose to end their tour in Manchester’s newly opened, Grade II-listed Albert Hall to an energetic and enthralled crowd, and they did not disappoint.

Easily woven together, the band played an excellent and well-considered set list that aptly highlighted the band’s popularity. A sincerely captivating array of euphorically playful and upbeat crescendos included opening number ‘Overdone’ and the Bollywood themed ‘Feel.’ The odd slower-paced song revealed the softer substratum of the album, such as ‘Eyes Off You’ – a song that lead vocalist Jack Steadman played effortlessly centre stage under a singular spotlight. Ironically, no eye in the room was looking elsewhere.

Following the evolution of the band, they seem to have cut loose. The desire to reinvent themselves with every album has worked in their favour. After a couple of years away from the scene, this album feels like a natural progression of their sound, safely forsaking their past influences for an energetic, world-heavy electronica and dance with an excitable ease and a definite confidence.

Rae Morris had earlier provided great support as the warm-up act and even joined them on stage for a dreamy collaboration of ‘Luna’ along with another vocalist, Liz Lawrence.

Venue-wise, Albert Hall provided the perfect backdrop to the gig, with Steadman professing his pleasure to be closing the tour at such a good venue, saying: “Let’s tear this beautiful, ornate building down”. The crowd responded in kind, with a floor-shaking and inevitable encore of the catchy ‘What If’ and the somewhat ravey first single of the new album, ‘Carry Me’.

For a band of 20-somethings, they’ve made a surprisingly brooding and impressive comeback with the once-shy Steadman taking an impressive lead and surpassing all expectations, making for a great live experience throughout.

Words and photos: Becki Clarke

Monday, 24 March 2014

Review: F.O.E.S - Ophir EP (Self-Released)

Liverpool's F.O.E.S have an excellent pedigree – drawn from bands like ConnectingFlight, In Casino Out and Always the Quiet Ones, among others, this new project, while projecting post-hardcore sensibilities live, takes a more atmospheric tack on record.

There are still the hints to bands such as At The Drive-In and Yourcodenameis:milo that were introduced with their first single 'Ruin Lies in the Bow & the Sword', but writ large on Ophir are the post-rock inflections of Oceansize and Aerogramme. 'The Writing On The Wall' and 'The Four Of Oxblood' alternate between a sharp dynamic shift from loud modern rock in the vein of shouty, jaggy early Biffy Clyro to almost a mainstream radio-friendly alt rock touch with earnest, self-assured vocals. When the band cuts loose during a middle eight or an outro, the effect is infectious. James Lorenzo's drum parts always claw the most they can out of every situation, and the quality of musicianship consistently shines.

Single 'Ningyo' starts off as a more meditative post-rock-lite ballad before exploding from the speakers when the chorus kicks in. Again, the rhythm section is tasked with keeping the energy levels up while the guitar heads off into more angular territory, but the effect is thrilling nonetheless. 'The First Rook To Flee As The Thunder Rolls In' combines all their competing sensibilities in a slow burning track that builds to a passage counterpointing screaming vocals with quieter, melodic guitars, before finally breaking loose and crashing to earth with an ending that really does deserve the 'epic' epithet.

With such a fully-formed release only running to EP length, the prospect of a full F.O.E.S album is an exciting one indeed.

Words: Alex Lynham

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Orlando @ The Royal Exchange, 25.02.14

Virginia Woolf’s time travelling love story has been adapted by Sarah Ruhl for modern audiences, and the resulting play will garner their awe and amusement. Orlando, the hero, is pursued by many types of passionate and determined women, for he has the most enchanting calves ever seen on a young man: even Queen Elizabeth the 1st is not immune to his charms.

Suranne Jones, as Orlando, demonstrates fluidity and flexibility in presenting a rollercoaster of emotions through Orlando’s highs and lows, as well as through her ability to inhabit different gender roles. In the beginning we meet Orlando in the Elizabethan age – with its different ‘morals’, ‘climate’, ‘poets’, and ‘vegetables’ – and Jones plays the young, impressionable and excitable male Orlando to perfection. Later we are introduced to the female Orlando, now age thirty, elegant and lovely as she wakes after a very deep sleep of seven nights in exotic Constantinople.

Orlanda is a character of great dichotomies: sometimes words fail Orlando, like when he meets Sasha (Molly Gromadzki) and he needs “another landscape” and “another tongue” to describe what she means to him, but sometimes he is able to chat all night, surrounded by those who adore him/her. Sometimes he is in love and on top of the world, but sometimes his heart breaks like on the last day of the sixteenth century where he is grief-stricken and “done with women.”

Much of the humour is provided by the chorus (Richard Hope, Thomas Arnold and Tunji Kasim) as they narrate the magical adventures of Orlando and his many loves. The chorus are sometimes serious, other times caricaturising, always entertaining. They are vital in illustrating descriptive and dramatic elements, as well as some wild action and seasonal changes, and the non-stop lyrical lampooning keeps the audience highly amused.

The beautiful skating sequences with Sasha are unusual and impressive, as she and Orlando depict how they skated through London further and further away from court – a wonderful piece of directing from Max Webster. Their adventures lead them to mingling with the common folk, encountering fortune-tellers and watching Shakespeare’s Othello being staged (a poignant parallel moment for the theme of jealousy strikes a chord with Orlando).

A special mention also for Isobel Waller-Bridge, the composer and sound designer, for the musical elements are perfected to present the distinctive moods experienced by Orlando. The costume design is also consistent to the time-travelling theme: the magnificent outfits reflect the changing times over many eras, thus the audience can keep up with Orlando’s travel through time.

This is a play for lovers of poetic language, who will be mesmerised by the narration of Orlando’s loneliness and deep passions, as well as by the grand descriptions of the ships on the sea and of frosty cold London with its weird and wonderful inhabitants like “the riff-raff” (who actually smell better than the Queen). Orlando is a fantastic, fun and well thought-out production, well worth seeing.

Words: Sadia Habib

Image: Courtesy of The Royal Exchange

Friday, 21 March 2014

Review: Deathcats / The Fruit Tones - Thplit Tape (Fuzzkill Records)

Scottish independent label Fuzzkill Records’ recent split single Thplit Tape offers sample tracks from Glasgow band Deathcats as well as Manchester-based The Fruit Tones, the two having just completed a miniature tour together at the end of February. The two tracks by Deathcats, ‘Dreamz’ and ‘Alligator’, demonstrate a clear mastery of forward-moving indie garage sound, with the vocals of James McGarragle meshing well with guitar riffs and symphonies.

The latter three tracks are by The Fruit Tones. ‘Just Feeling Lucky’, ‘Chicken Lollipop’ and ‘Will My Life Live Without Me’ provide an appealing, tropical pop sentiment to the record, contributing to its overall upbeat sound. Both bands rely on their strong sense of instrumental prevalence, but while they appear to have a clear grasp of their genre, there’s nothing terribly revolutionary about either’s sound that seems destined to stand out amidst the ranks of countless others on the indie circuit.

Words: Ruby Hoffman

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Competition: Fingathing @ Sound Control

Combining an MPC and turntables with live double bass and unique cartoon visuals, Peter Parker, Sneaky and Chris Drury have built up a strong reputation within the field of leftfield live hip hop under the banner of Fingathing.

They bring their legendary live show to Manchester's Sound Control this Saturday 22 March as part of a spring tour of the UK.

Support comes from local drum and bass band Red Sky Noise and Hoya:Hoya resident Jonny Dub.

We've teamed up with Sound Control to offer Now Then Manchester readers a pair of tickets to the show, so for your chance to see some astoundingly dexterous live hip hop, like and share the image via this link (making sure it's public).

We will notify the winners on the evening of Friday 21 March. Good luck!

Thursday, 13 March 2014


Our first issue of 2014 will be on the road next week, featuring newly designed pages. Even the back page map has taken on a different complexion, courtesy of local design team, Mogul.

Inside you'll find the words of the people of Manchester on topics as disparate as graffiti, house sharing, food, film, theatre, music, fracking, local history and independent trade, as well as interviews with Polar Bear, Louis Barabbas, Public Domain Review founder Adam Green, and Beth Hoeckel, whose artwork is featured across the magazine. Click the link below for the online version, or wait a little longer to pick up your copy across the city.

Here are our supporters for this issue (in page order). Be independent, buy independent.

Manchester Academy.

National Media Museum.
Kagyu Ling Buddhist Centre.
International Anthony Burgess Foundation.

Battery Park Juice Bar.
The Eighth Day Shop & Cafe.
Proof Chorlton.

Outstanding Beers.
Marble Beers.
The Hope Inn / Fool Hardy Ales.
Abbeydale Brewery.

Q3 Apartments.

Opus Distro.
Manchester Print Fair.

Manchester MIDI School.
Delia Derbyshire Day 2014.

Glasswerk Concerts.
Band On The Wall.
Cloudspotting Festival 2014.

Stockport Old Town.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Review: We The Dead – Victor (Victoria Warehouse Records)

To paraphrase Iggy Pop, a good song should have ‘a good hook and a couple of good tricks’. I would like to apply that principle here regarding Victor, the latest four-track EP by We The Dead.

Some quite impressive art work wraps up this release which has obviously taken some time and consideration and you would think that there is a similar craft in the music because, well, somebody does.

‘Dule Tree’ kicks in well early on, and stays that way. It’s probably their live set closer. The other songs are okay but they need a couple of new tricks. ‘Thelema’ does its best to try and do that, which might be a way forward. Otherwise, it’s hard to differentiate between the tracks.

By the third track, ‘A Tomb For The Moon’, the guitars are getting obvious and closer ‘Let Me Be’ almost shares the same licks. By that point, those plaintive but slightly obvious keyboards get a bit annoying. I am sure Korg have a few more presets than that.

The only thing missing is what Mr Pop would call a hook. On this showing, We The Dead need that and a spark because, currently, it’s one dimensional.

Words: Dave Jones

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Review: Beach Skulls – A Different Kind Of Smooth EP (Cheesus Crust Records)

Surf rock duo Beach Skulls have again brilliantly illustrated their own unique dream pop sound on their latest EP. Unarmed with complicated production or instruments, the songs give us stripped down and honest sounds. Much like their music the boys are laid back and grounded, with their passion going into their songs rather than a constructed image.

A Different Kind of Smooth has an air of surfed up jazz and the two best friends’ laid back approach to life comes through effortlessly within dreamy riffs and lofty vocals. Although individual – ‘U Were Mine’ hitting tones of melancholy while ‘Looking From The Water’ has a lighter touch – the tracks all culminate in the duo’s most chilled and arguably most accessible EP to date. Wistful guitars and soft drums leave you thinking of summer days, making this release one to listen to in order to see us through these cold winter months.

Words: Tilly Sharp

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Review: ThisIsDA – Super Arkane (Produced by Mankub)

Super Arkane is the long-awaited debut LP release from aptly named Bristol hip hop artist, ThisisDA. The alter ego of 19-year-old David Aidoo comes from a family of musicians, with his younger brother Just Scribble causing ripples in the UK rap scene. David is no stranger to the game either, being tipped by BBC Introducing in 2012 and supporting grime artist Tinchy Stryder soon after. His unique style encompassed by the onomatopoeic genre of boom-bap has attracted attention across the spectrum with support pledged by Scroobius Pip to Chris Brown.

The album sees a partnership with Mancunian producer Mankub, responsible for the funky soul vibe emanating through the backing tracks. Unlike most vocalists’ albums, ThisisDA chooses to selectively showcase his own voice with the sole exception of ‘Taking Over’, which features Temz. The addition of a softer female voice brings a more melodic downtempo side to the LP, which at times can seem repetitive due to their monotonic nature. But I must say that the combination of dexterously delivered lyrics over the definitive instrumentals of Mankub creates a prominent blend.

Lyrically each track tells an almost autobiographical story of coming of age in the urban ecosphere, without falling into the habitual trap of an unrealistic egotistical hoodlum filled narration. The occasional skit breaks up the album, sampling quotes from movies including American Gangster and Single White Female. This is a brief insight into the spread of David Aidoo’s talents who, aside from his music career, is a published writer, photographer and producer. After completing a BFI Film Academy course, he was named as one of the promising future talents in production.

This free release LP will go a long way to showcase the talents of both ThisisDA and Mankub, tipping both of them as ones to watch in 2014.

Words: Charles Veys