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A music 'zine devoted to the best audible delights that london has to offer.

Live review: Woods at Bush Hall

Photo by Tim Ferguson

Woods @ Bush Hall, 13/03/2011

Bush Hall is a strange place for indie rock gigs. Its plush carpets, elegant chandeliers and tasteful lighting are a startling change from the usual London circuit of darkened basements and the upstairs rooms of pubs. But that’s OK, because Woods don’t really play indie rock, and Bush Hall suited them suprisingly well. Walking in there feels like travelling back in time to an era when bands used to play concerts rather than gigs, when someone like Bob Dylan on his first electric tour could take his confrontational show to the Royal Albert Hall. In fact, the whole gig felt musically and atmospherically like we’d been transplanted back about 40 years (with the exception of the 95% check-shirted crowd). All three of the bands playing are steeped in musical tradition, managing to escape their influences to more or less exciting effect.

For the two support bands, The Doozer (shit name) and Spectrals (better name), everybody stayed sitting down around the sides of the room. That might seem a bit dispiriting for the bands, but The Doozer played the gig sitting down anyway (also in the slightly bizarre combination of smart shirt/v-neck jumper and tracksuit bottoms). Idiosyncratically English-sounding folk rock, with just electric guitar and bass, they were inoffensive enough, but equally there’s nothing particularly interesting either: the overall effect was of a band who’ve listened to a few too many Steeleye Span records and don’t really have the songs to do much interesting of their own at the moment. I wasn’t really sure why they’d be touring with Woods, but it was made clearer later when the bassist reappeared to play drums with the headliners on a few songs.

I saw Spectrals a couple of weeks ago supporting the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, when they were pretty much ruined by awful sound (they seem to be the current go-to support band for touring mid-level American indie bands). This time they were much better, and their woozy, deeply 60s-influenced pop songs came across well. They combine classic song structures with warped-tape guitars and reverbed-out vocals, which a lot of bands are doing at the moment, but I get the feeling it’s not quite there yet song-wise. They’re still a young band though, and I wonder if pretty soon they might start to really write great songs to go with the arrangements, which are good. Apparently Louis Jones, who pretty much is the band on record, just finished self-recording an album, and the songs he played from it sounded interesting, so I’ll reserve judgement until I hear that.

I suppose in a way that’s what Woods do too, combining songs which could have been written in the first summer of psychedelia with tape effects and home recording. But the way they pull it off is much more fully realised, creating a whole aesthetic with their cover art and self-run record label as well as with the music. There’s also the fact that Jeremy Earl, guitarist and songwriter, can really sing, a high keening falsetto which sounds like no-one in modern music as much as it does Richard Manuel of The Band. In fact, The Band as of about 1967 is the comparison that really leaps to mind with Woods in their more song-based phases: the frantic, brittle guitar solos on latest album highlight (and one of the best songs of the gig) ‘Blood Dries Darker’ could easily have been played by Robbie Robertson, and the overlapping harmony vocals work together like Manuel’s with Rick Danko. The whole way they approach performing live, too, feels like a basement jam session: instruments are swapped, people come onstage to play a few songs before leaving, arrangements are worked out on the fly (I’m pretty sure from the way he was talking to the guitarist that the drummer had never played the encore song before). But they manage to pull it off with such stylistic coherence that it never gets self-indulgent.

More so than either of the other bands playing (which I guess is what you want from headliners) Woods manage to actually engage with musical tradition, and add their own spin to the classic sounds they borrow. A lot of that’s due to tape operator G Lucas Crane, who fleshed out the sparse arrangements with subtle loops and harmony vocals, getting his fuzzy, tinny vocal tone by singing through one ear of the pair of headphones which he wears over his face like a mask. Only a couple of times the noise really made itself felt, invading the songs and twisting them out of shape, but it didn’t need to. Mostly this gig was Woods in pastoral acoustic mode, concentrating the crowd’s attention on Earl’s guitar and voice. Live, stripped of some of the sound collages and tape hiss which colour their records, they sounded more open and sunny, which favoured the more poppy end of their songs (‘Suffering Season’, also from the most recent album At Echo Lake, was another highlight). It’s a shame to miss some of the darker and more mysterious elements of the sound (although they did play the long psych jam ‘September with Pete’), but it worked well live.

Walking out of the venue at the end into the cold streets of Shepherd’s Bush felt slightly strange, like being pulled back into the present from the timeless and comfortable cocoon Woods create. But for that hour, you could forget you were in London in March and get lost in their atmospherics. And isn’t that enough from a pop band?

Edwin Shaw


Interview: La Sera

La Sera is the project of Katy Goodman bassist for the Vivian Girls, her new album, which shows more of her melodic side came out 14th February. We met up with her on the final date of her European Tour in London.

First thing I wanted to ask is that I always see you referred to as ‘Kickball’ Katy Goodman just wondered where that came from?

My nickname has been ‘Kickball Katy’ for the last ten years because when I was seventeen I was a member of a super secret Kickball society, in Rochester New York but I’m not allowed to talk about it

Was music something you always wanted to do?

I never thought I could do music; it was never even a possibility in my mind. I went to for college physics, finished then college for teaching, I was going to be a physics teacher, then the month I was looking for jobs was the month the Vivian Girls took off and started doing stuff. My music career happened by accident, a happy accident.

This album is quite a different sound to the Vivian Girls, what were the influences for it?

There were no direct influences, I wasn’t aiming for it to sound like anything. Actually the first song on the album, ‘Beating Heart’, I wrote after hearing Fever Ray, so I was like I wanna make my own creepy sounding songs. That was the only one where I was aiming for a particular sound.

One thing for me was the record seemed quite nostalgic, some similarities to Real Estate and that scene.

Real Estate? I went to high school with them. I dunno I think making music like this is all I’ve ever known, people always say to me very nostalgic, old timey sounding. I’m like “what’s new timey sounding?” When people say it’s very modern or new, I don’t know, to me ‘modern sounding’ means techno. I don’t know how to make music that’s ‘today’; I don’t know what that means. I’m not sure I want to know.

You seem to play London a lot; what’s your impression of London?

My impression of London is completely formed by my relationship with Male Bonding. If it weren’t for them I don’t know how I would feel about London because I don’t know many other people but from the day the Vivian Girls first stepped foot in England, through friends, like through a friend of a friend, we got in touch with John from Male Bonding, he let us stay in his house. From that day on we’re best friends forever. Whenever we’re in town we stay with them, they make us feel like we’re at home its very nice and so I’d say that’s my main impression of London, is how wonderful the boys in Male Bonding are.

I saw you tweeted that you didn’t like the fact that you were compared to other Girl bands, which I think was to do with the Coke Machine Glow review. But more generally I was wondering about your feelings of being labeled a girl group?

It seems completely unfair because, there are so many bands in this world that are all male, they don’t get compared to each other just because they’re all male, that’s not something that happens, it just doesn’t happen. Just because a band is all girls, La Sera is not all-girl but it’s female led, I don’t think it warrants comparisons to other bands just because of that. I think it’s unfair, especially because that article was very harsh to Best Coast who I’m friends with, really good friends with them, so its hard to have people write articles about your friends and say, “your friends suck”. I don’t want to read that. Who wants to read that?

Lots of Girl Bands get asked “are you a feminist?” Does matter much to you, or the idea that you somehow represent or encourage other girls to get involved in music?

I don’t think that being involved in music and in a band is necessarily feminist; I would definitely say I am a feminist, however. I think its still crazy to be a girl in a band is a political statement. It should just be normal, it shouldn’t be seen as being any different than if it a male band. It’s true that being girl in a band it is its own statement, it’s a thing. I do want to encourage other girls to play in bands till we’re at the point where it’s not a weird thing to be a girl in a band.

Were there any particular females figures in music that made you think music was more open to you?

One of the main reasons I started playing, when I was twenty I was listening to Julie Ruin, which is Kathleen Hanna’s from Bikini Kill’s side project. She had this song called the ‘Punk Singer’, it was my favourite song the whole year, my number one favourite song. I realised that song was only four chords, repeating the entire song, the song does not change at all, it’s the easiest song ever made chord-wise. That’s when I realised you can do a lot with just four chords and melody and so that was my main inspiration to play music at all. I don’t need to be a virtuoso on guitar in order to make music that I like, definitely Kathleen Hanna.

One final question, do you have any plans for more making albums under the La Sera name?

Yes definitely. The second album is half written. Right now I am thinking how I want it to sound, I’ve kind of envisioned the record as a record, that’s where I’m at.

Braids – Native Speaker (Kanine, 2011)

You may have heard a lot about Braids’ debut album already. A band to watch? Yes. A spectacular and original debut? Yep. Another Animal Collective? Not entirely. One of the most common tags attached to this new release is that they are just mimicking Avey Tare, Panda Bear, and the gang. Sure, you can hear AC’s influence, but this band are something a bit different, stringing out their 7 songs to 45 minutes, keeping the record pulsing with minimalistic beats, and an outstandingly dynamic female voice (even attaining Bjorkian reaches). They are patient; sometimes the songs take a while to grab you, which may alienate some people – but once it happens, it’s so gradual that you’ll wonder when it actually did get you. ‘Lemonade’, the opening track and leading single, sets the tone for the album; a progressive, hypnotic band, that make sure each of their drawn out tracks is layered, lovingly textured, creating a sort of soundscape yet with minimalism. It’s the vocals that go from whispering to bellowing, the reverb-coated lyrics, and the skilful and pulsating cohesiveness of the band; the Cocteau Twins meets Animal Collective (circa Feels), with a rainy twist. Another standout track, ‘Plath Heart’ is hard not to love, whizzing along as its own pace, with an irresistible voice, an assortment of instruments to match, and again making something great out of very little. Singing about pushing out babies has never been so amazing.


Nevertheless, there are the songs you don’t notice as strongly, drifting along, giving you a breather. And as a first release, the production isn’t always on the beat – for example, the drums could have been more pounding, punchier. But, you’ll forget all that with ‘Glass Deer’, their best song, epitomizing Braids: mesmerizing, elegant, gradual, just brilliant (you’ll be humming “oh I’m fucked-up-de-cup-de-cup-de-cup” for a long while). With the title track, what at first seems distant becomes mesmerizing – the empowered, yet vulnerable voice dominating the drifting sounds paints its blunt picture of sexuality and sensuality so well.


They have already been noticed as an upcoming force, currently touring the US with fellow experimentalists Baths, and granted, it’s not a masterpiece, but as debut record, its what it needs to be; not bland, confident, and something that you can’t get enough of.  It is a pop-laced experimental debut, and although the drawn out tracks, and the eccentric arrangements might put people off, Braids will find a home. So, with a new year, there are always worries about the new music; it’s in good hands with Braids. And with AC out until May at least, Braids can give you their own take on original, bellowing and minimalistic music, and hopefully remain alongside the Collective and Gang Gang Dance, providing their own blend of distinctive music.

Oliver Smith

Interview: Flashguns

After dropping out of UCL, Flashguns have toured with the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club, Jamie T and  Funeral Party; playing top-end venues in Paris, Amsterdam as well as numerous O2 academies across the UK.  Yet being the age of your average undergraduate, how has none of this has gone to their heads?

“You’ll probably want to wait to talk to Sam- he’s the lead singer” Olly Scanlon (bass, vocals) informs me when I arrive overeagerly early. Well dressed and welcoming, having just arrived himself, Olly masters his way through the bar to the main room as though he has already mapped out every music venue in the UK. He, along with Giles Robinson (drums) and Sam Johnston (vocals,guitar), who I am set to interview, make up the folk edged, thoroughly English, indie trio, I will simply refer to as Flashguns from here on.

Flashguns may have just come from their latest date in Birmingham but they are no strangers to London. It is where they are based, where Sam was studying philosophy at UCL before Hollywood (or in this case London and, perhaps more unexpectedly, Berlin) came calling, and where they lost their fourth member, in his decision to carry on in education.

Influences- or ‘inspirations’ as Sam would rather- “we are not trying to recreate anything”- include Nirvana, Biffy Clyro and Queens of The Stone Age. He emphasises that Josh Homme (lead vocals and guitarist for QOTSA, as if you didn’t know) has played a large part in his musical up-bringing, as did “..anything that makes me think ‘F***, I wanna be like that!’”.

Their comparisons, however, have been closer to Kings Of Leon, Mona, and how could they escape the gods of their Brighton/ London-based genre, Bombay Bicycle Club! They would generalise their sound somewhere in the midst of “rock, blues, maybe even metal… and pop.” Sam almost rectifies this last statement by adding “you have to appreciate people like Lady Gaga can write a good song.” So would he consider doing a cover of ‘Alejandro’? “No. I don’t do covers.” But then reveals “I have a list lined up for if we do a ‘covers’ album” then humbles himself, remembering they are still on the cusp of household-name-dom, no matter how fast they are hurtling towards it “you know, in the future, way down the road, I’d do ‘Man Who Sold The World’, the Nirvana cover..!”

Although they’re termed a ‘London band’ across the internet, there’s more to their UK identity than the somewhat clichéd Brighton and London. “Exmoor is where our creative influence comes from… Whenever we do anything creative, we go to Exmoor, there’s a national park there…” But we’ll have to wait until 28th March to see the evidence of this in their video for ‘Passions of A Different Kind’, and it should be well worth the wait, as the 3 lads (of a typical indie-build) roam the moors with large dogs and hunks of red meat.

Sam’s tips for a decent spot in London, if you’re already a local at The Fitzroy Tavern and Charlotte Street Blues, is The Gimlick in Shepherd’s Bush and nights by mates at Blue Flowers. But foremost “Ed’s! My favourite thing is pancakes and a plate of bacon at Ed’s Diner in Euston!”

But Flashguns have another half-life, nurtured by their German record label Humming Records. Independent and Berlin-based, it has offered Flashguns the chance to expose their music to an entirely new scene. But how did a British band go down in the country where young people stereotypically listen to techno and rap? As if to answer any of my concern, “…the response was amazing. It was a huge boost! The response you get there is more instant” Sam tried to explain, “music in Europe is less changing, not in a bad way – London is faster paced, people want a new type of music.” Random as it may seem “Germans just want ‘British music’” bringing up the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and other such monsters as examples of ‘British music’.

So is this true as to why are we taking longer to jump on the bandwagon? The songs take a few listens before the subtleties sink in, but this doesn’t mean they won’t get stuck in your head and hummed out at inopportune occasions – ‘Come and See The lights’ and ‘I Don’t Not Love You’ both spring to mind. And while the trio may not play up ADHD to get your attention – I feel it needs to be stated – man can they play their instruments! The originality of Sam’s voice I can only place somewhere between Johnny Borrell (of Razorlight) and Win Butler (of Arcade Fire).

Flashguns’ growing exposure is set to continue; so next time you hear their song on the radio, be patient and wait a few listens to let the background vocals creep into your subconscious. In a few weeks you’ll be singing ‘Racing Race’ uncontrollably in the shower.

Miranda Robbins

Live Review: Alexander at CAMP Basement, 15th February 2011

Having had a few typically unproductive reading week days to stew over Alex Ebert and his troupe of bearded men, or Alexander, I still can’t work out what exactly happened. The gig was disorganised, interesting, enjoyable, and ultimately a mess.

I guess I could start with the venue. Mildew and exposed pipes aside, the pub-come-creepy-basement-cellar did exude some sort of charm. It seemed the kind of place to come across a little known band, where the small dingy basement would add to the feeling of exclusivity of your discovery of said band. And true enough, it did do that… for the openers The Shute. With an element of grunge perfectly suited to the room, they managed to overcome the biggest challenge to support acts and actually capture the attention of the crowd. Though I can’t tell you what any of their songs were about due to a profoundly poor sound system, there was an eerie, captivating quality about the lead singer’s voice, which I have to assume was paired with fittingly mysterious lyrics.

Off to a good start, I had high hopes for the main act. Admittedly, all I knew about Alexander was that singer Alex Ebert had had previous success with the fun family of folk that is Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. I suppose what I expected was some easy listening American style folk, or sounds in a similar vein. This being a band with which Ebert created such emotive lines as, ”Nobody better pinch me, bitch I swear I’ll go crazy.” It was a shame the speakers didn’t clear up for the headline act. The set did start out well, with opening reggae-jazz number ‘Awake My Body’ getting the audience in high spirits, and ‘A Million Years’ showcasing some impressive whistling no doubt harnessed during his Edward Sharpe days. Silly and unnecessary hat aside, Alexander had a strong stage presence and blue grey eyes you couldn’t help but stare into.

The night, however, soon spiralled into chaos. It began with the failure of one of the guitars, which left the band an instrument short. Seemingly pointless pleas to the crowd for a spare following the disappearance of all members and instruments of The Shute were to no avail, and saw Alexander trying to excuse the mishap by arguing it was only his “second ever gig” in this line-up. It was during crowd favourite ‘Truth’ that the first of two restarts occurred, when the audience stopped the band because a man had fainted, not because they had found a spare guitar as Ebert had hoped. The man soon got up, and embarrassingly made his way towards the exit. The second restart happened when Alex stopped playing, saying the song would “sound shit” if they didn’t do it over. After changing nothing, it appeared it was not so much the way they were playing but the song itself that needed a rethink. The pathetic promise to “try [his] best to get through the set” left you with the feeling that there should have been a bit more practise before they started charging £7 to watch them epically crash. A guitar washing up on stage in time for the last song didn’t do enough to salvage the night. In fact it only helped to emphasise the fact that the band was incomplete for most of the time. Though upbeat songs like ‘In the Twilight’ momentarily got the crowd back on his side, it didn’t do enough for the long-term.

Overall, the music was good, but I would suggest giving Alexander some time before seeing him live.

Aimee Wang

Interview: DELS

For people who haven’t heard about you before, describe your sound to them; what can they expect from you?

DELS: Hip-hop, raw, honest, experimental… that’s it basically. Simple.

What sets you aside from the other hip-hop artists that are around at the moment do you think?

I don’t know. It’s not something I really think about really, but I guess that with the producers that I’m working with it’s got like a different sound to what’s currently out there.

I wanted to ask you about your choice of producers actually because you’ve worked with some really interesting producers – producers I really like –so I was wondering were you involved with those choices or were they suggested to you by the label? How did that come about?

I’ve been working on this record years before I signed with the label last year and I’ve been friends with Micachu, Joe Goddard from Hot Chip and Kwes since like 2006. That’s around the time when I started getting into their music, ‘cos before I went to university I was straight like hip-hop, dancehall music, stuff like that and then when I went to uni I met different people and got into different types of music and I guess that’s the reason why my music sounds the way it does. I don’t really listen to hip-hop that much anymore and I spend time listening to other interesting sounds.


So you mentioned you started way back in 2006 and then I think in 2008 you released a single with Moshi Moshi?


So what have you been doing between that release and releasing ‘Shapeshift’ on Big Dada?

Well, after that in 2009 I had ‘Shapeshift’ ready. We shot the video in 2009. So we’ve been sitting on that for a very long time and I only got to release it last year in July. I was just kind of trying to work out my live show, cos now I’ve got like a proper band and I thought a hip-hop show can be a bit boring when it’s just DJs and a guy on the mic. I just wanted to build that process you know. And make sure that when I’m onstage I’m communicating something to the audience because I feel like hip-hop could be so much more interesting if you have some great musicians around you.  I’ve also been working on my record. I finally finished it at the beginning of the year and it’s coming out in May.

How has your live show changed over the course of writing the album?

It started off with me and a CD player, to me with a DJ, to me with a drummer and a DJ, to now with two keyboardists, singers, delay pedals, bass guitar. I’m really happy with it, but the next step is to add visuals; I want my instrument to be a visual.

How long ago was you and a CD player?

Last gig was in Hull in a dingy club with about four people looking at me and that was in 2009.

Wow, that’s quite recently. I was thinking it would have been back when you were in college.

No, no, no it was recently!

Why is the album called GOB?

Just because I like the word “gob”. It’s very British, it’s something that my mum used to tell me to shut up all the time like “shut yer gob”. My friend Kwes who’s producing on this album he made this track called ‘Gob’ and I just thought it was so punchy. It’s gonna be the next single.

Are you going to make a video for it?

Yeah definitely. We’re shooting a week Tuesday.

You do all your own graphics and videos and things don’t you?

Yeah. With another design studio.

Does that make you feel like you have greater ownership over the whole project?

Yeah for sure. That’s how I’ve always wanted it to be. I’ve always said that I wanted this DELS project to be equally about the audio and the visual, because the times that we’re living in now everything’s online and people are interacting with music in different ways. I think pushing the whole visual element is a really interesting concept for me and that’s something that I’ve been interested in for the last few years. And coming from a graphic design background it’s kind of like a natural progress.

And my music might not last. I might fuck up in a few years time. So I don’t want to go to an interview at a design studio in London and they’ll be like “Ok so what have you been doing for the last few years?” – “Oh I’ve been making music.” But they want to see evidence that I’ve still been thinking in a visual way. So that’s like my plan b.

So it’s like at the same time you’re building your portfolio.

Yeah, exactly!

What kind of themes can we expect to hear lyrically on the album?

Basically the album’s all about the coexistence between fantasy and reality and it’s like an exploration of that space in between.

Yeah that’s what I got from the track titles…

Yeah. ‘Hydronenburg’: that’s about alcoholic water and it’s all about changing. There’s a lot of things where I’m talking about changing objects or changing myself or changing things about other people and stuff like that. So it’s kind of like this distorted view of reality. That’s what I was interested in for this album; just because it lends itself to such a rich visual. Cos if you just base everything on reality it’s too regimented but with fantasy you can do anything.

Are you inspired by things you read?

Yeah things I read, I love Aruki Murakami, the way he writes, he’s a Japanese writer.  Also I love Hayao Miyazaki, he’s amazing; and I just love the whole story element. That’s why when I was growing up I used to like people like The Streets, Roots Manuva or even like Notorious B.I.G. just because they all told stories and that’s what I really like.

And you’ve got Roots Manuva on the album, how did that come about?

Yeah! Oh my god. To be honest that was quite random how that happened. I played his night at the Queen of Hoxton and he came up to me out of nowhere and was like “Yeah let’s make a song.” I didn’t even meet him yet! We were label mates but I’d never met him and he’s like “let’s make a song” and he’s talking to me like he knew me. It was quite weird but I was really excited at the same time. I was trying to compose myself. He’s one of my idols and to make a song with him was just amazing. That was done with me, him and Joe Goddard and we had a brass section. Yeah it sounds really cool.

So you’ve got many different producers working across your album, how do you think all of their different sounds and styles tie together to make the finished product?

Because the beginnings of the instrumentals that they sent through to me I picked them while keeping in mind “how can these all go together?” So I wasn’t just picking any old instrumental, I was thinking “Nah that’s not right, we need to work on this.” And then as the album was coming to its completion we kind of just tied the sounds together. It was supposed to be Joe Goddard producing but it ended up with Kwes producing six tracks on the album, Joe Goddard having three and Micachu two. So that was quite interesting for me. The project was originally going to be a joint project with me and Joe Goddard and we were going to come up with a name for it, but we couldn’t think of a name; we came up with all these shitty names. Then he said “you might as well just call it DELS” and I became a solo act basically.

Speaking of names, how did you get the name DELS?

It’s a nickname from when I was a kid. This teacher got me confused with this boy called Delroy and everyone started taking the piss, calling me Delroy every day and then it kind of stuck. My mum calls me Dels. I’d quite like for people to start calling me Kieran again you know? Cos it’s like, just lost in the mist somewhere.

How did you end up signing to [Ninjatune subsidiary] Big Dada? Were there a lot of offers coming in?

They were the ones that were really passionate about what I’m doing and I felt like they understood my vision. That was the most important thing for me. I also wanted to make sure that I have creative control over what I’m doing, that’s important.

I noticed on the b-sides to ‘Trumpalump’, the Joe Goddard remix isn’t so much of a remix; it’s pretty much a whole new song.

Yeah I know!

Do you end up with a lot of extra lyrics that you don’t use?

I thought about using the same lyrics again, but then I thought that would be cheating the audience. I wanted to give the audience something fresh. And it’s quite a heartfelt lyric; it’s about my granddad. I don’t know, I just wrote it. Joe said we were gonna do a remix and I always wanted to do something with my friend Ghostpoet at some point because I think he’s a great artist. He did his verse and when he did that I said to Joe that I thought we should do a quiet remix, stripped down, less crazy, and I just wrote that verse and then that was it.

I wanted to ask you about Ghostpoet because in a lot of the press I’ve read you two have been touted together as a “new wave of hip-hop.” So with his verse on that track did you meet him, do you know him? Or was it something that was hooked up?

No, he’s one of my friends. I met him… I met Kwes, Micachu, Joe Goddard and Ghostpoet… Sampha… I met all of these great producers and artists all on MySpace! So this was when MySpace was booming. I was always talking to these guys every single day and I’d never even met them. It was really weird. So when I saw Kwes – I remember bumping into him on the underground I was like “Whoa! You’re Kwes,” and he was like “yeah.” Then we kept seeing each other out at like gigs and stuff. But I’ve known Ghostpoet for a few years and I think he’s a great artist and I think he’s going to do some really great things.

Would you consider getting together again and doing another collaboration?

Definitely! We did a mixtape, we released it in 2009 and it had everyone on it. It was produced predominantly by Micachu and Kwes, and it had Ghostpoet on it, it had The xx on it, it had The Invisible, Golden Silvers, Man Like Me, just a crazy amount of artists and we all know each other through friends of friends. It’s called Kwesachu Volume 1 and we’re going to do a Volume 2 this year hopefully, just everyone get together and make music.

Are you looking to get the same lineup with big artists on the second mixtape or have you got some new people in mind?

I don’t know; I don’t really control the mixtape, but I’m sure there’ll be loads of new artists on there.

You mentioned Sampha. Are any of the tracks you’ve made with Sampha ever going to be released? Are they going to show up as b-sides?

Yeah I’m sure they’re going to be released in the future, we just need to finish them. He unexpectedly got really popular so then he got really busy and we couldn’t finish the tracks. I really wanted him to be on the album but I think we’re going to do something over the next month or so and finish it and put it out there because I think he’s just a wicked, wicked producer and he’s an amazing soul singer as well.

So you’ve got a few people featuring on your album, are you featuring on anyone else’s album?

Not at the moment, no. Not any hip-hop records or anything.

You still live in Ipswich and you’ve been commuting to London to record; if this album is a success will you move to London?

The plan is to move to London this summer, obviously I lived here before, I moved back to write the album. I just wanted to write it in Ipswich for some reason and it’s worked. I’m looking forward to moving back to London but to be honest I’d probably prefer to write my second album in another city like Tokyo or New York.

That’s really interesting because a lot of the press that I’ve seen says that one of the reasons your music is so fresh is because you took that step away from the “London scene” and wrote it in a different city, so is that something you’re going to try to do; write each album in a different city and see where it takes you?

Yeah I’d love to do that, that’d be a good excuse to go travelling! I’d meet loads of new people, make new friends, stuff like that and I’m sure it would have a massive effect on my music.

In 2008 you released ‘Lazy’; do you think you’re still lazy?

No I’m definitely not lazy, not anymore. <laughs> That was kind of like a reflection of my teenage years before I went to college and stuff like that.

I suppose we should whack this in: every press release I’ve read about you says you were in a two-step garage band that John Peel played. What was the band called and can people still hear the song?

No, no, you can’t find the song. It was a band before the internet age so it doesn’t exist, luckily. <laughs> We were called The Alliance Inn. If you go on the BBC website and search The Alliance Inn we don’t come up, it’s like a picture of these random four white dudes with beards. <laughs> So you won’t ever trace it back to that period.

If you take off it might come out on an old John Peel sessions CD or something.

I hope not!

Rob Hakimian, Tom Riste Smith

Live Review: Funeral Party at Cargo, 10th February

There is often an energy to live music unattainable even by air guitar-ing to iTunes with your bedroom curtains closed. However only on the rarest of nights, at a hipster’s paradise known as Cargo, does a band unapologetically blow you away and degenerate your highest quality mp3 of their latest album one song at a time. From now on, whenever the first few beats of ‘Just Because’ begin to play, they will only sound flat and second rate in contrast to the fibrillated chords Funeral Party smashed out for their encore.

Chad Elliot’s (Vocals, Samples and Keyboards) voice is unfaltering, whether he is artistically positioning himself on speakers, parading the microphone stand like a trophy, or being taken off-guard by the guitarist adding in a (drunken?) diversion from the original melody. From his first step on stage Chad was casually confident. Too cool in his leather jacket, moustache combo, to acknowledge the other members standing beside him, let alone the gathering of fans before him. Tambourine in hand, Funeral Party broke open their set list, dragging the crowd into a sweaty whirlpool of moshing in less than a song.

Once bored of the speakers, tambourine, microphone- stand, lead and all- he moved to his keyboard for a dramatic instrumental, undeterred by Kimo Kauhola (bass) blocking our view. His new toy was his only audience, the one thing that could humour him in that moment.  Kimo was less blasé in the face of the spotlight. He amped up his performance to welcome our newly gained, although inadvertent, attention- only turning to take tabs on Chad’s whereabouts, presumably in fear that when the novelty wore off the keyboard, he would make a move for his bass.

The night was hardly insightful into the psyche of Funeral Party; there were no conversational interludes, throw-away banter or even introductions between the numbers, which was made more noticeable by the intimate 300 guest capacity. The few words said- over the prolonged, anticipatory introduction to ‘Finale’- were only to advertise upcoming tour dates around London.

But did this attitude put any of us off (as much as being charged £6.50 for a glass of wine)? To be honest, it probably gave momentum to the energetic atmosphere of the night, bypassing any awkward chit-chat and moshers left stranded in silence. And Chad was sure to prove his love to us by showering us in beer at the height of ‘Chalice’.

The crowd itself was not the young, indie Londoners that presumably account for many of their Youtube views. City men who had apparently been at the pub all day, with a week’s worth of energy waiting to be unleashed against each other and anyone in the circumference, hogged the floor.

Ultimately the Funeral Party experience is finding yourself in a sweaty high, an hour in the future, with no idea where the time went and why there is beer all down your tights. Is this an experience you would necessarily want? Well, it’s highly addictive. The morning after my night at Cargo, I booked to see them at Heaven in May!

Miranda Robbins

Live Review: Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards ft. James Blake, Flying Lotus, Mount Kimbie

It’s one of those days where I’m running late for everything, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve just arrived at the door with Thom Yorke. I can tell it’s going to be an excellent night.

I pick up my complementary Mojito (something Koko should offer more frequently) and move down to the main hall to investigate the minimal techno the DJ has chosen at such an early hour of the night. It turns out not to be a DJ at all, but the band I’ve always dreamed of seeing. Brandt Brauer Frick stand austere upon the stage, delicately layering up a blend of time signatures in a percussion epiphany. A classic Jazz chord progression filters through from the piano of Paul Frick; this is minimal with Steve Reich intelligence.

A pleasant mix of swing and hip hop is spun as the stage is rearranged for the next showcase: London-grown four piece United Vibrations. Hard-packed drums hit out an Afro beat with a two-piece horn section that calls upon Sun Ra‘s spirit. A fast pace bass line brings a sense of urgency to the floor as the group bellow their chant lines for opening number ‘No Space No Time’ in thick London accents. After a promising beginning the group invited a tuneless New York MC on to stage, his terrible dancing sadly taking the punch out of this exciting young band.
Another pleasant DJ set led onto Giles Peterson‘s first appearance of the night, as he introduced a very special collaboration of Kieran Hebden (AKA Four Tet) and RocketNumberNine. This really was a showcase of how experimental electronic music should be done, with Hebden attacking his sample pad as if it were a grand piano and Ben Page casually subjecting the audience to the most almighty of bass frequencies. It’s the deeply cool rhythm of Tom Page that provides the atmosphere, building the tension with sweeping cymbals and haunting rimshots, then dipping into understated breakbeat to the pleasure of the crowd. The set flowed together seamlessly, and there was much disappointment when the trio left the stage after only 20 minutes.

Next was the awards part of the night, presented by Giles. As the nominations were read out it was as if the crowd were choosing the winners, with overwhelming applause at the mention of names such as Flying Lotus, James Blake and Hot Flush records. A young James Blake sheepishly towered over Giles as he accepted his award for Single of the Year, ‘CMYK’ (R&S), somewhat naively thanking “anyone who bought the record, cd, downloaded it, ripped off a mix…it’s all the same, just as long as people are listening…” Flying Lotus showed his love for London as Thom Yorke presented him with Album of the Year (shortly after he had received Session of the Year), hinting at the possibility of an appearance later on in the night. Finally the John Peel Play More Jazz Award was presented in spectacular fashion to ex-Special and Two Tone founder Jerry Dammers. Giles paid a sincere tribute, with DJ Lefto appropriately dropping some of Jerry’s greatest hits ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘Free Nelson Mandela’. Dammers latest project, the Spatial AKA then assembled amongst the crowd in a procession and made their way to the stage playing a tribute to Captain Beefheart, which then blended to Sun Ra’s ‘Space Is The Place’, before Jerry eventually accepted the award and led the procession back through the crowd and out of sight. Throughout the awards process Giles had kept humbly cool never seen on television award shows, as he seemed just as excited to hear the music as anybody else. Nonetheless there was no impatient chatter; enormous respect was paid whenever he spoke; a testimony to both his influential reach and ability to draw such a pleasant crowd.

Arguably the most anticipated performance of the night was soothed in by a stark vocoder; perhaps not what everybody had expected from rising post-dubstep pioneer James Blake. His set was composed entirely of material from the forthcoming album, much of which had been unheard before. Each track was rich in the same delicate emotion portrayed in his popular Feist cover ‘Limit To Your Love’, some more so than others. By the second song the tension Blake was holding on the crowd split somehow, and eventually it almost became a strain to listen as the audience descended into small conversation, albiet mostly about how great they thought their entertainer was. Closing numbers ‘Wilhelm Scream’ and ‘Limit to Your Love’ retained his grasp with an air of familiarity, particular gratitude paid towards the tremendous bare bass of the latter.

I had read Tom Riste-Smith’s review of Flying Lotus live at this same venue back in October, and got the impression the performance didn’t quite live up to his albums. So as he strides unannounced towards a single laptop center stage, I’m considering navigating my way to the bar. But his smile was radiating his excitement so strongly I stayed, to be completely blown away. He blesses the crowd as a grid-like animation is generated behind him before everything is swamped in a whir of hip hop synth lines and acsending drum breaks. Everyone is fully aware that this spontaneous performance is going to be a short one, and so each scene is treated as if it’ll be the last, the result being a complete saturation of energy. Seamlessly he wove in well known hooks from his back catalogue, rearranging them into new experiences whilst dedicating space to his heroes, with J Dilla tracks and Alice Coltrane dedications. Thom Yorke looked down from the balcony, dancing approvingly. After 20 minutes a man approched FlyLo from behind and whispered in his ear. He paused to speak into the mic: “Oh shit, I only got another ten minutes!” as he dropped back into a supercharged version of ‘Kill Your Co-Workers’. Cutting half through a build up to continue his annoucement, he added: “Nah I’m just fucking with y’all!”, and continued for a further 20 minutes.

It wasn’t going to be easy for Mount Kimbie to follow up an act as loved and energetic as Flying Lotus, but a boost to the low frequencies and a darkly lit stage readjusted the atmosphere fittingly for their breed of claustrophobic South East dub. Gliding keys and eerie soulful vocals made a calm equilibrium with the glitchy off-beat drum sequencing; it was coming to that time of morning when dancing only requires hand and shoulder movements and you can open and close your eyes as you please. The set was a continuous flow of material from debut album Crooks and Lovers [Hot Flush 2010], with heavier dance elements added in places as the pair showcased the fluid motion of their live environment, demonstrating their ability to reconstruct their material in a spontaneous fashion. The set was closed with the pre album track ‘Maybes’, with James Blake appearing to lend his voice to his former bandmates.

After a deep set from Nihal, an excitable Cubic Zirconia entered; one of Giles most hotly-tipped new acts. A carnival-esque live section with a housey dance vibe sat on the backbeat whilst the front was taken care of by an energetic girl with her mic, whistle and high heels. The night was played out by a chilled Michel Cleis, bringing the 7 hour show to the end.

Reflections on the show say that Flying Lotus stole it; but despite being an awards ceremony this night was not about competition in any way, and every artist was as warmly received as the other, such were the friendly feelings amongst the crowd. Giles Peterson is someone I’m going to make much greater effort to listen to in the future, and I will eagerly anticipate next year’s show.

The winners and nominations were:

Track of the Year
**James Blake – CMYK (R&S)**
Jay Electronica – Exhibit C (Decon)
Quest – Smooth Skin (Deep Medi Musik)
Cee Lo – I Want You (Demo Version)
Jamie Woon – Night Air (Cadent Songs)

Session of the Year
Mount Kimbie
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
**Flying Lotus**
Matthew Halsall
Andreya Triana

Album of the Year
**Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma (Warp)**
Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two (The Return Of The Ankh) (Universal Motown)
Fourtet – There Is Love In You (Domino)
Darkstar – Gold (Hyperdub)
Gil Scott Heron – I’m New Here (XL)

Jazz Album Of The Year
**Jyoti – Ocotea (SomeOthaShip)**
Esperanza Spalding – Chamber Music Society (Heads Up)
Miguel Atwood Ferguson – Mochilla Presents Timeless : Suite For Ma Dukes (Mochilla)
Finn Peters – Music Of The Mind (Mantella)
Nick Rosen – Into The Sky (Porter Records)

Label Of The Year
**Hot Flush**
One Handed Music
Analog Africa

John Peel Play More Jazz Award
Jerry Dammers

Roger Stabbins

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (Rock Action Records, 2011)

When progression and development take the place of repeated song structures and throbbing guitars are put to use in texture and scope instead of hooks and choruses, you have ‘post-rock’. It’s about as pretentious a genre as it sounds, so after becoming labelled as one of its pioneers, Mogwai have tried to defy its definition. Nonetheless, it’s possible to describe at-least a few of those qualities in Mogwai’s 1997 debut Young Team that were foundational to the genre. For example quiet, brooding guitar and piano melodies over soft and sparsely placed beats that would build and build to dynamic heights, becoming swallowed in a thick wash of distortion. Sometimes the crescendos expressed rage, while others were uplifting, but neither was restrained in melodrama. From the mid-2000s bands like 65daysofstatic broadened the genre until the utility of the term was diminished, yet at the same time there was this slew of ‘generic post-rock’ acts. As the formula for immensity and atmosphere became routine, the impressions lost their force. However, in the last few years some of those original instrumental groups have left behind the central tenants of post-rock, and taken their ideas elsewhere. 65daysofstatic for one, returned to their roots last year to bring their odd time signatures to more conventional dance music. With most tracks barely passing the 5 minute mark and the substitution of pianos for synthesisers, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will is similarly divergent. Mixed in with some solid vintage Mogwai, there are good things for listeners both new and old.

Some of these changes may make original fans uneasy. Its first single, ‘Mexican Grand Prix’ is an atrocity on first listen. Its verse-chorus-verse structure, repetitive vocals and punchy beat comes across as a desperate drive to grab a wider audience. Similarly, ‘George Square Thatcher Death Party’’s opening synth sounds disgracefully like one in ‘Mr. Brightside’. However, even when breaking out of post-rock, Mogwai still finds a way to come into its own. Overall, the album just sounds more digital, but this has brought new scope for creating texture and ambience. Its vocals are processed to the point where they become indiscernible, and subtle static ambient screeches and glitches leave layers left to explore with each listen. The rough and brittle distortion through ‘Rano Pano’ shows unprecedented attention to detail in the treble, creating the cold and harsh sound that gives the guitars their menace. However, there are tracks left untouched by this treatment. ‘How to Be a Werewolf’ has that warm and indistinct bass which harks back to the Young Team era. Despite being overtly major, it manages to be uplifting yet not sickeningly sweet. There’s a patient three minutes build before it makes its powerful crescendo, while contrasting tracks like ‘San Pedro’ jump the gun and enter head on. Both are sure favourites, but one can’t help but feel that where they restrain themselves, the pay-off is far more rewarding. In all, it’s this kind of diversity in approach that make it hard to pin down the album’s sound. However, on any approach, no track is filler, and if you’ve been unable to get into instrumental rock before, then now is a better time than ever.

Oli Frost

Live Review: J. Cole at Koko, January 9th 2011

Hype is a dangerous thing. The first act signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation imprint, J. Cole (née Jermaine Lamarr Cole) shouldered the hopes and expectations of one of the biggest names in the business, stepping out onto a gilded platform large enough to launch any talent; Mr. Beyoncé didn’t join the label business to shore up half-baked rappers, however. If the signing of young Willow Smith wasn’t proof enough, J. Cole’s lyrical smarts are the confirmation.

Since being signed, his journey has taken an unusual turn. Cole’s rise has been anything but textbook; four years and three mixtapes into his career, there is no official date set for the release of his mysterious debut album. High profile cameos continue, whilst supporting tours roll on (this date coming amidst a European jaunt supporting Drake, the last major rap breakthrough).

Cole is anything but anonymous, however; for this, his first major bow in the UK, he played to a sold out Koko, full to its 1500 capacity. The crowd intensified during DJ Semtex’ warm-up set, bouncing jeers from the vaulted ceilings during Nicki Minaj’s verses, or brap’ing to Lethal Bizzle’s ‘Pow’.

The OG crowd were hard-core, delivering a less than warm welcome for support act Maxsta, who turned in a sub-par performance that only accentuated the divide in quality between the some of the UK’s grime MCs and a man who is ostensibly one of US rap’s best lyricists. He also had numerous hype-men, a notable (and welcome) omission during J. Cole’s set.

Prefacing the main event, Cole spoke at length about the importance of all the fans who were ahead of the curve, and there to see him alone. He returned the favour; for a rap show, the set-list stretched for a lengthy 90 minutes, taking in the best of his material from mixtapes The Come Up, The Warm Up and most recently, Friday Night Lights. The remainder of the set was fleshed out with his best featuring spots to date.

Little is known about the album, beyond the fact that Cole has been taking production duties into his own hands (as he always has done). The closest he got to this at Koko was a brief stint working the keys for ‘Lights Please’. For the remainder of the set, backing duties were left to two keyboard players and DJ Beat, who had their moment during a beat-juggling breakdown.

These skills, alongside an understated singing ability, make him a triple threat; the only thing lacking was a freestyle section, but a minute of digging on YouTube provides the goods we are looking for. The innovations continued, stripping back to acapella for some of his best verses, or unleashing a Notorious B.I.G. ‘Hypnotize’ instrumental for the breakdown of ‘Who Dat’ – “So anything you can do, I can do better/And any chick you can screw, I can get wetter.”

Talking about his past on ‘Dollar And A Dream’, Cole bent the truth somewhat; concerning his move to New York City to follow his dream with “a single dollar to my name”, the truth says that the move was in fact supported by an academic scholarship at St. John’s University. Indeed, his early education in Fayetteville, North Carolina took place at one of America’s best high-schools. Cole is a scholar.

Semtex spoke about this being a “legendary” show in his introduction, as you would expect. That word does strike a chord, however; how many hip hop artists are able to sell out a large venue on alien territory, before releasing any material? Reaching out to the crowd for his encore, one line stood out: “Never say I’m better than Hov, but I’m the closest one“. If ‘Monster’ and ‘H.A.M.’ say anything about the aging fortunes of Jay-Z, one might say the pupil has outgrown the master.

Will Hines