Thursday, 8 May 2014

Sounds From The Other City 2014, Path One

There are various ways of approaching Sounds From The Other City. First and foremost, as an open-minded musical explorer keen to turn your ear towards the innovative sounds on offer; some with, others without an airtight route plan for the day. You can also join the team of volunteers who will have the benefit of seeing many of the positive responses while also glancing at a small section of the hard work that goes into staging the event. Or be more proactive as a hands-on reveller taking part in the Volkov Commanders’ fancy dress theme of giant, colourful helmets.

Then there’s the perspective of the many musicians themselves, who’re often living round the corner from you in this city or the other city and just as keen as the rest of us to see their fellow sound merchants in action. For me, wearing a reviewing hat, there are too many highlights to see through one pair of eyes, so we’ll feature more reviews of the festival over the coming days.

The event has gradually migrated from its original location, based around the crossroads where Chapel Street meets Bloom Street and New Bailey Street, to now centre on the organisers’ arts grotto Islington Mill. It stretches from Uni of Salford venues Maxwell Hall and Peel Hall at one extreme to the fledgling brewery First Chop and Bexley Square at the other.

Having narrowly missed the excitement emanating from Islington Mill’s Gallery space during the Blind Date game show revisit (more on that later), Bexley Square is where my journey through the day began. Seasoned pros in the audio visual matchmaking game, Video Jam had again amassed a healthy mix of musicians and filmmakers, including Mike Halpin’s live sampling of bicycle sounds to accompany Cote D’Azur and the FX pedalling, eyeball helmeted trio who tampered with their own voices in scoring The Summoning, a film depicting the aforementioned Volkov Commanders in action. Later on, O/L/A’s beautifully nuanced live soundtrack of a section of Baraka was a fitting curtain closer for this gazebo stage.

Deli Lama’s stall offered vegan nourishment outside another of the festival’s venues, The New Oxford pub, where Easter guitarist Thomas Long performed a few songs from his band’s forthcoming album, capturing the breadth of Idlewilderness and trad folk in his emotive delivery. Later the Carefully Planned Festival favourite Tekla found herself performing from the same seat in intimate surrounds.

In an instance of film translated to real life, The Summoning by Volkov Commanders manifested itself as a parade from the Old Pint Pot which I’m told later snaked past St Philip’s Church and the Angel Centre, where Deep Hedonia’s AV sermons and Tru Luv’s dream pop hopefuls were staged respectively.

Inside the Pint Pot was the other end of the noise spectrum as Mistoa Poltsa’s 12-stringed audio anarchy blitzed through the rafters. On this stage Kult Country also unleashed layered soundscapes in the name of psychedelia.

Back at Islington Mill were the Grumbling Furs, who were a departure from Mind On Fire’s usual bookings, sounding as they did like 80s pop fed through stabbier soundscapes. Only their prolonged ambient waltzes diverted from visions of the last dance at a high school prom movie – perhaps following ‘Forever Young’ in Napoleon Dynamite.

In the gallery, the Blind Date matchmaking from earlier in the day heralded some indifferent results as two pairs recounted their days together. Then, on The Word variety show, the John Cooper Clarke influenced Thick Richard spat his venomous tales about bus seat MCs and hypothetical obituaries for Bez, before sack-wearing band Horrid answered questions. Other 90s TV shows rebooted for the occasion include Stars In Their Eyes and Family Fortunes, pitting contestants inside a giant TV box by virtue of some thinking that was decidedly outside the box and very at home in the world of SFTOC.

The First Chop Brewery made its SFTOC debut with aplomb. Many of its patrons went away more smiley than one of the venue’s featured acts, Happyness, whose conversely moody outlook was potentially prompted by their US college indie rock tinted specs. By the time its in-house band Karate 5 took to the stage, the brewery was left with only two ales on tap – down from nearly ten at the start of the day. Exclusive event ale TOC was one of those devoured.

Back with Karate 5, they were one of the highlights. In Denis Jones’s ‘Beginning’, perhaps his most widely known song and formerly a regular set-closer, he sings of a “super band where they all lend a hand”. In a sense Karate 5 is the realisation of this vision as he lines up alongside members of Honeyfeet, Walk and Cat In Paris to form a boogie jam band capable of instilling rhythm into even the weariest of jivers. Led by Rik Warren’s husky tones, their rendition of Ann Cole’s ‘Got My Mojo Working’ saw no foot remaining unmoved under the arches.

Back at Islington Mill, Pete Herbert and later the El Diablo DJs were stepping up the groove that Werkha and 2 Billion Beats had earlier set in motion. The rest is a joyous daze.

Words: Ian Pennington
Photos: Ged Camera

Early bird tickets are now available for next year’s event here.

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