Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Meadows Festival, Edinburgh 6th - 7th June 2009

Saturday - Festival Stage

Townhouse are the accompaniment to a sunny day that rains, which, coincidentally, was the weather on Saturday at The Meadows. The band play an acoustic set of funky folk songs, usually with female vocals. The percussion is usually hand drums, giving an earthy undertones to the light and fluffy surface of the music. The overall effect is one of subtle satisfaction. The tune to watch out for is 'Here Come the Vampires', which although lyrically quite different to the rest of their music, is a great refection of the curious musical shadows behind the yellow sunbeam melodies.

The Banana Sessions (pictured) present a different world view. Again, there is acoustic guitar and jaunty female vocals, but this time we're taken on a journey reminiscent to a Disney story of student life and mischievous rabbits. Guitar and vocals are backed by a reserved drum kit, a flirty flute, played particularly expertly, and, intriguingly, a tuba forming the basslines. About two thirds of the way through the set, the small, painted-face children that had been running around the stage area like playful pixies, began to dance to the music. Then the drunks and hippies joined in. Before long, most of the audience had gathered in front of the stage for a boogie. Their set included a Nouvelle Vague style re-imagining of a Prodigy song, and after some serious chanting from an on-their-feet audience for another tune, the band played a similar upbeat cheery cover of Technohead's 'I Wanna Be a Hippy' as an encore.

Sunday - Forest Stage

What interests me most about the style of music of Jesus H. Foxx is the lack of ego from the non-front band members. While all clearly masters of their respective instruments, who can prove it at the appropriate moment, they only ever play what is needed, so as to slot neatly into the musical jigsaw puzzle, executed to compliment and become part of the soundscape, and never to draw focus. The effect then, is a complete sound, not a collection of parts. Following in the style of The Bees and The Polyphonic Spree, with a full-bodied light-hearted psychedelic pop music. The seven-piece band include many guitars, and also incorporate some xylophone and floor tom among other rotational instruments.

Countering Jesus H.Foxx's many instrumented playful exuberance, is Punch & The Apostles' many-instrumented controlled cacophony. Drawing influences as wide as baroque, Chicago jazz and funk metal, the six-member band have decided that tunefulness and time signatures are useful tools, but far from essential; many of their dramatic songs end with violent dissonance. The route they take there is an adventurous path, and far more high-brow than simply playing some open chords and letting your guitar feedback. A typical Apostles tune will include a quiet, confessional aria, and explosive brass war cry, and a distorted guitar thrash and drum crash. With a lot in common with World/Inferno Friendship Society, this band are not one to accompany afternoon high-tea. But if the apocalypse was nigh, these guys would help you end the world with a bang.
Myke Hall

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Future of the Left @ Powerup - Studio 24 Edinburgh 5 Jun 2009

On paper, 1" Volcano have a pretty good style. Hard rock riffs, with some groaning vocals. The bass has a great rattley punk sound, and the guitars go from distorted power chords to shiny picking with relative ease. The band are lacking in two departments though. The first is live performance. Entirely unentertaining to watch, the band barely move as they go from song to song like they're collating spreadsheets, which it isn't too hard to imagine these men doing. The second is originality, the music they produce has been done before by every guitarist who's ever put up an ad on Gumtree saying "lets start a kick ass rock band. I like AC/DC and The Pixies." Also, I'd rather not contemplate the connotations of their band name too long. That being said, the last couple of songs in their set had more of a foot-tapping enjoyability.

There's definitely aggression at the heart of Degrassi's music, taking in two metalheads and a bassist who looks like he plays for Weezer, the band are an odd power trio to look at. In a way, this reflects their music, which is two parts tough-guy power chords, but with a shot of college-radio inventiveness. In performance, however, the band are one voice. Their maturity and togetherness pays tribute to their experience. Their dirty, grungey rock was well executed. The only issue was a lack of catchiness - these weren't really songs to sing along to.

Future of the Left (pictured) rocked the Studio. The three-piece are two Welshman and a Geordie singer. The guitar and bass are both heavy, deep and distorted, while the drums are tight and rocky. As the set develops, the two frontmen's banter begins to strengthen; starting with some ill-conceived comparisons to Glasgow, and building up to humourous anecdotes and audience participation. For some songs, they replace either the guitar or the bass with a dirty Roland Juno synth. The vocals are screamy, the melodies are good but not too memorable, and the lyrics are difficult to decipher. If the singer could relax his neck muscles a little when singing, they'd be a truly terrific grunge band. As it is, they're falling short of metal due to their limited personnel.

The performance, though, is undeniably brilliant. From the charismatic comedy duo at the front with their crowd interactions and funny accents, through their purposeful riff hammering, they never stoop to egocentric posing. The stand out track is the angular synth-and-bass Manchasm. During the final song, the bassist joined the crowd, slamming his instrument while pogoing in the mosh pit, then crowd surfing around the room for a while. Meanwhile, onstage, the singer was moving the drummer's kit, one piece at a time, to the front of the stage, while it was still being played. Never a dull moment with these chaps around.
Myke Hall

Friday, 19 June 2009

My Latest Novel - In-store @ Avalanche Records Edinburgh 5 June 2009

Preluding their official album launch gig that night at Sneaky Pete's, My Latest Novel treated us with the time honoured tradition of the in-store performance. Avalanche Records was filled to overflowing with perhaps half a dozen pleasant and polite fanatics who knew each and every song like it was the back of their refrigerator.

In fact the smooth indie-flavoured folk music of the quintet, shortened to a four-piece for this performance, is ideal for stripping down, as much of their music already involves acoustic guitars and fiddle.

The singer, a little uncomfortable without a microphone and instead clutching a can of lager like a security blanket, sang introspective songs in a small but rich voice. His understated subtlety was juxtaposed well with the energy of the louder, confident vocals of the guitarist, who is short in comparison and ginger, and may have felt he needed to make up for it by stealing the show. A feat he would have just as easily achieved with his guitar work, with which he exquisitely shouldered all the dynamics and moods of the songs.

The violin provided a meandering counterpoint to the melody, with smooth strokes and some occasional backing vocals. And the tapestry was weaved together by some rich chords from the standing-accordion at the back. If it wasn't for this final touch, the music may not have had the Cure-like magic touch.

The tune worth checking out is probably 'Dragonhide', and the finest moments of the set came when the whole band were singing in harmony.

Of course this miniature set is just a snapshot of the bands full live potential, but the intimate poster-lined walls provided an interesting view on the Greenock band.
Myke Hall

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

News: The Edge Festival line-up announced

This years line-up for The Edge Festival (formerly known as T on the Fringe) has been announced. The headliners are David Byrne, of Talking Heads, and proto-punk legends The Stranglers, and among the 18 acts announced are indie stars The Bluetones, Edinburgh band Broken Records and edRock.net favourites Frightened Rabbit and Malcolm Middleton. DF Concerts promise us that there going to be around 30 events in total, plus support still to be announced, in the festival that runs side-by-side with the Edinburgh Fringe to bring us the best music over the month of August.

Tickets are available now from Gigs in Scotland or by calling 08444 990 999, and you can sign-up for the latest information at The Edge Festival.

Edit 19 June 2009: Update
Myke Hall

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Cryoverbillionaires and The Void @ Duty Free - Cabaret Voltaire Edinburgh 4 Jun 2009

"Good evening, we're Smashing Pumpkins", began Lions.chase.tigers, in tribute to the backing track playing before the band. The dry humour is unsurprising from a band whose foremost instrument is swooping sentimentality. The standard two guitar quartet are from the Snow Patrol school of songwriting. Pulse rhythms and teensy indie riffs that build up, with lots of reverbs and whaling cries of passionate emotion. The lyrics sometimes crossover into emo, but the Scottish accent keeps it sounding heartfelt. The band have a strong presence without indulging in showmanship, and a tightness that keeps "epic" from becoming "shambolic".

With a little less seriousness and a lot more overdrive, cheeky four-piece The Void (pictured) play overdriven power chord alt-rock. With elements of emo and pop-punk, not least of which are the hoodies and faded jeans they sport, the band have a good humour and a loving fan base. Employing vocal harmonies, and a start/stop, staccato/legato, jagged/flowing juxtaposition to their angsty music and lyrics, their tone is more intelligent and more danceable than their genre would have you believe. The highlight of the set is the heavy rocking 'Reunion'.

Over The Wall follow a much rarer template.... In fact I’m not sure they’re following a template at all. The guitar and keyboard two-piece break the mould. Unlike most bands that employ a laptop for bass and drums, the moustachioed Glaswegian duo play delicate indie-folk, a genre that Scots continue to dominate. The keyboard, which is usually set to glockenspiel mode or similar, plinks in accompaniment to the rich guitar plucking of the lead singer. Occasionally they also bring out a harmonica or a trumpet. The laptop is really there to fill in the gaps, and isn’t even always needed. Bands missing live drums often have a hard time winning over an audience, but the sweetness and ease of listening of Over The Wall's songs keeps them accessible and puts a smile on your face.

The final band, Cryoverbillionaires, bring the night to a disappointing anti-climax. Failing to bring the catchiness and excitement of their recordings to their live set, the Edinburgh lads strum their gentle rock without too much confidence or personality. The songs got better as the set went on, each one getting catchier and more fun, they were able to turn their seeming lack of focus into more of a deliberate psychedelic aura that hovered around some exciting drum parts and moany-child lead vocals. One assumes they were just having an off-night, but Cryoverbillionaires do need some better songs and rethink of their delivery.
Myke Hall

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

News: The ATP Film at Edinburgh Film Festival

All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival are debuting their new film, aptly named ‘All Tomorrow's Parties’ at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this year. ATP is an alternative to the muddy, rock and pop, mainstream festivals. It showcases experimental, avant-garde and underground music and weekend attendees get a chalet with a warm bed and a shower at a Butlins or Pontins holiday camp. The other twist is that each weekend is curated by a well known act, who choose which bands to book, or turn it over to the fans to vote for which bands they want to play.

The documentary, described as “a kaleidoscopic journey into the parallel musical universe of the cult music festival”, will feature bands like Belle And Sebastian, Iggy and the Stooges, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sonic Youth, Patti Smith, Grinderman, Seasick Steve, and of course Mogwai, who curated the first event and shaped the musical style of the event. The material comes from over 200 different sources, including filmmakers, fans and musicians.

The film debut, which is rather cheesily titled ‘The Night of Musical Delights’ takes place at Edinburgh’s HMV Picturehouse on 24 June 2009. In addition to the screening, the night will feature a DJ set from Chris Geddes (of Belle and Seb), Northern Soul dancers, bingo (yes, bingo), a “lovely legs” competition, and a musical performance by a still secret headline act.

Tickets for the full show are available from the Edinburgh International Film Festival Box Office.

If you can’t make it to the show, the film will be released on DVD on 21st September 2009. Keep up to date on the film’s website.

Myke Hall