Saturday, 29 August 2009

Broken Records and My Latest Novel @ The Edge - Queens Hall Edinburgh 17 Aug 2009

My Latest Novelare now the first artist to be featured on twice, but I can safely say that their performance at a fast-filling Queens Hall theatre was quite different to their in-store performance at tiny Avalanche Records.

Nonetheless I'm going to use some similar words to describe them. The broad, sweeping melodies and vast soundscapes are rich in musical textures. The sound is loud and full, without crossing into "noisy". Always tuneful, despite some post-rock influence, especially in the oceanic crashing of the drums. The harmonies are beautiful, and the wistful fiddle and semi-acoustic guitar play nicely with the folk motif. The keyboards are pretty, and fill out the already blanketing sound, and the performance is measured and appropriate. A fine show that threatened to upstage the act they were opening for.

Listening to a Broken Records(pictured) tune is a roll of the die. The mix of acoustic and electric instruments allows them to float between Eastern European folk, Scottish indie, North American hoedown country; they were all over the map. It speaks well of the Edinburgh septet that they can convincingly land in a plethora of different genres and make themselves comfortable, never sounding out of place.

While they claimed to be excited to be playing a concert venue in their home town, it was difficult to spot the excitement from the members. Stage presence was not strong from them, but it could definitely be heard in their music. The cello throbbed and percussion slammed with a fervour rarely felt in acoustic music. The vocals yowled with desperation as they expressed songs of mournful reflection and all-consuming emotion.

Such a wide sound from such excellent musicians could have been taken one step further, with a set of beautiful harmonies, especially in the slower, ballad-style songs, where it seemed a bit unnecessary to have so many bodies filling up the expansive Queens Hall stage. Nonetheless, the band achieved a tightness during some complicated movements that probably requires classical training and the music succeeded in transcending its surroundings, plonking us in a barn filled with hysterical lovers, where every exit leads to a different continent.
Myke Hall

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Isa and the Filthy Tongues + vikisellotape DJ set @ The Bang Bang Club - Teviot Underground Edinburgh 8 Aug 2009

The Bang Bang Club is a late night music club running in one of Teviot House's dungeons as part of the Fringe. Rather than a support band, vikisellotape, of sellotape, brought us a great DJ set featuring synth pop and the darker side of new wave. For one of the songs the girl herself came down to the dancefloor, unashamedly dancing in an almost robotic fashion in a room full of knackered Fringe goers and 90s rockers to Gloria Jones' 'Tainted Love'. The entire room was transfixed on her subtle stepping movements and her goth meets two-tone outfit.

While Isa and the Filthy Tongues origin is in Edinburgh, their music certainly isn't. Their slick, smooth grunge is rooted in the Seattle sound with the sleek shroud of LA magic ("they like it with a lot of flash, but its still that same old back street rhythm that really really kicks 'em in the..."). The smooth but dark rock is comparable to the Breeders and Joy Division. The Oregon-born lead singer is a slightly less punky Courtney Love, and the backing band are well versed in making their instruments sound simultaneously noisy and controlled.

After an instrumental introduction, the singer arrives onstage, her blonde hair a contrast to the blackness of the rest of the bands clothes. The guitar riffs are showered in glittering chorus and reverb as the bass rattles along with punk bones.

Highlights of the set included the Stooges punk of 'Finders F***ckers' and the catchy pop-rock of 'Big Star'. Towards the end of their set, the band played their new single, 'New Town Killers': an anthemic gothic country track of Lydia Lunch-esque debauchery, the title taken from a Richard Jobson film of the same name.

The performance was rousing, despite it being the graveyard hour, and by the end of the set a good few of the bleary eyed punters were dancing to the beat.

Monday, 24 August 2009

News: The Edge Festival Line-up updated

Continued from The Edge Festival Line-up announcement:

24 Aug 2009: Due to circumstances beyond his control, Ian Broudie's shows at Cabaret Voltaire, which were due to take place on Tuesday 25th and Wednesday 26th August, have had to be cancelled. Full refunds are available at point of purchase.

21 July 2009: The good news: Emma Pollock confirmed as support for Andrew Bird at The Picture House on the 23rd Aug. Also Carolina Liar added at Cab Vol on the 24th.
The bad news: Múm supported by My Latest Novel has been cancelled, a casualty of the Studio 24 close. Full refunds are offered at point of purchase or the tickets will also be valid for the Glasgow gig at Oran Mor on the 15th Aug.
In other news: Boys Noize added for City Nightclub on the 27th (what?), and the Edge present a whole series of small gigs at Sneaky Pete's over the course of the month. These won't be tracked on the calender, as there's too many of them, but all the other changes have been made on the calender.

19 June 2009: Four more acts announced, including new headliners. Legendary experimental rockers Faith No More (pictured) on the 25th and Scotland’s own Biffy Clyro on the 21st, both at the Corn Exchange, and The Juan MacLean and Frank Turner at Cabaret Voltaire on August 17th and 28th respectively. The calender has been updated accordingly.

6 July 2009: N-Dubz, Ian Broudie (of Lightning Seeds), Metric, Starsailor, The Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Dinosaur Pile Up, Metric, The Living End and Jefferey Lewis added to the festival. Emiliana Torrini cancelled. Due to Studio 24 losing their license and closing (again - sadface), all Studio 24 Gigs at The Edge have been moved to HMV Picture House. The calender has again been updated.

Friday, 21 August 2009

David Byrne @ The Edge - Edinburgh Playhouse 8 Aug 2009

So, a live show from David Byrne. Between his solo stuff and and Talking Heads back catalogue, there's enough variety in music that you'd expect a big band. Although Byrne is the only guitar, there's bass, drums, and some additional percussion. He's not known for stunning vocals so much as innovative songwriting, so some back-up singers, check. The tour is called "Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno" so we're gonna have to have a really good keyboard player with all sorts of different sounds to replicate all of Eno's ingenuity. And Byrne is a little eccentric so lets figure he dressed them all in pure white (to match his hair). What else is there? Hmm.... how about three choreographed backing dancers that look like they're fresh out of 'Fame'?

As unexpected as this choice was, it definitely worked. Byrne was able to punctuate each song differently. Some were straight up jams with the band in full swing. Some had choreographed routines, crazy lights and projected backdrops. And it meant there was spare bodies around the stage when they needed people to play hand shakers or strum an acoustic guitar. The band used no amps (except for the bass) and only in-ear monitors meaning, like a musical, there was more space on the stage for the dancers to play with, and less stuff for them to trip over. David Byrne played the ringmaster in a circus of on-stage activity, putting the entertainment value high above other early 80s stars touring their back catalogue to the 35+ market.

The music played in the set is drawn only from David Byrne songs where Brain Eno was involved. So that's three Talking Heads albums, two David Byrne albums, and a handful of other tracks. The material ranged from ethereal cosmic jams, quirky pop tunes, heavily rhythmed world influenced indie and rocking new wave.

While usually the 57 year old from Dunbarton seemed in full control, even joining in with the dance routines sometimes, like when the dancers all came on with guitars that looked like his and danced in a diamond shape, there was one moment that betrayed the man's cool. You wouldn't expect a musician of his experience to struggle so much with a guitar that wasn't tuned properly. About 45 seconds passed as the band waited patiently and the heckles started. A helpful roadie came on offering a replacement guitar, he refused at first but gave in to the pressure. It was a distracting moment, and it shattered the illusion of perfect control he had created by a meticulously rehearsed and choreographed show. We saw the man behind the curtain.

As fans of his may expect, however, he made up for the blunder ten-fold. He deserved at least two of the three encores he played (which were really more like curtain calls, the amount of production that went into this Playhouse performance) and the crowd were delighted when he broke his "Byrne/Eno songs only" rule to play the Talking Heads classic Burning Down The House, while he and the band wore white skirts and tutus.*
Myke Hall
*Seriously, I have pictures if you don't believe me.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Mumford and Sons @ The Edge - Cabaret Voltaire Edinburgh 7 Aug 2009

Article originally published by, and property of The Daily Record:

Mumford & Sons
begin their The Edge festival set with all four members in front of the stage, singing a four part harmony over a repeating guitar and double bass riff on the song Sigh No More. As the song swells to a crescendo, more instruments are brought in; a warm piano-sounding Nord keyboard and an electric banjo. While the band lack a full-time drummer, lead singer Marcus Mumford has a small kick drum at his feet to keep time and add emphasis in the louder parts of their set, and at a few junctures either Marcus or one of his “Sons” will get behind the drum kit at the back of the stage (and of course there’s a microphone back there too, couldn’t do without those harmonies).

It makes sense that the London-based quartet have played support slots for the likes of Noah and the Whale and The Maccabees, as their acoustic-housed folk indie shares a lot of similarities with their city-mates. Their lyrics depict the wistful fantasy of the wind and the hills clashing with the reality of modern lifestyle. This seems to be mirrored in their music, as they occasionally bring in electric guitar or electric bass in an otherwise acoustic sounding set: at one point they even used a distortion pedal.

“Sorry for the self indulgent rock songs,” Mumford announces, in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner. “One day we’re going to realise we’re not a rock and roll band and go back to playing folk songs”. Self-deprecating as this statement is, he has a point; although it’s not the one he thinks he’s making. While some of their songs draw an influence from 50s rockabilly, such as Roll Away Your Stone, the bands best “rock out” moments are when all four are head-banging to an instrumental section, led by a banjo riff and powered by the solitary kick drum.

The set closes with the surprisingly dark, piano led Dust Bowl Dance, a confessional cowboy song Johnny Cash would’ve been proud of. A truly dramatic climax, spoiled only a little by their awkward confusion afterwards about whether they should come back on for an encore. “I’d forgot what Scotland was like”, Mumford declares, as they have to turn the house music back off because the crowd won’t leave without one more tune.
Myke Hall

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Remnant Kings - Whistle Binkies Edinburgh 6 August 2009

Edinburgh four-piece The Remnant Kings played a sweaty Whistle Binkies on the eve of the first day of the Edinburgh Festival. Opening their set with fan favourite 'Ketamine Kiss,' the band played to a handful of hardcore sing-along fans and a slightly indifferent festival crowd. The Remnant Kings make solid, catchy rock tunes with a pop side. Great hooks, upbeat choruses, smart, sometimes snarky lyrics and jangly guitar punctuate their funky indie sound. Standout tune 'George Street,' whose snide chorus "I'm going to be a footballer's wife on George Street" reveals the band's attitude toward the infamous Edinburgh party spot, added a fun bit of locals-only humour to the set. Lead vocalist Rich's earnest, stirring vocals lend the band a distinctly soulful sound, while bluesy guitars, crashing drums, and harmonies characterize the band's tunes.

Despite the apathy of most of the crowd, the band put on an impressive stage show. Frontman Rich leapt about the stage clutching his mic stand fervently, and guitarist Andrew engaged in some rather dramatic showmanship, strumming his guitar above and behind his head at the end of the band's set. This is a band at their best on stage, not to be missed live.

Danielle Mattison

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Not Squares, Dead Boy Robotics and Found - Sneaky Pete's Edinburgh 24 July 2009

Article originally published on Is This Music?, and is therefore their copyrighted material:

The night of electronic splendours began with Belfast-based Madchester-inspired three-piece Not Squares. It’s music not 100 miles away from what you might hear in the background of an early 90s video game. The two standing band members face each other over a deck of synthesisers, effects units, and some more gadgets that seemed as if they’d be more at home in a radio repair shop, and between them the drummer rattles the high-hat. Occasionally they chime in with some reverby indistinguishable vocals; all three members sing. Their cries echo like distant battle cries of warriors in the next valley. Maybe it’s the association with video games but the music conjures up images of vast landscapes and fantastic scenarios. In the catchier tunes, the keyboard players pick up electric bass guitars – one with a deep, rich, warmth, and the other more trebly and woody, so its higher riffs are audible over the top over the deeper basslines

The trend of two synth players facing each other was continued with fresh-faced Edinburgh duo Dead Boy Robotics. Their name is very fitting. It combines the electronic gadgetry of their synthesisers and laptop samples with the noisy guitars and metal screaming vocals, that both indulge in. The first song sees them playing guitar and bass, but as the band declare after a technical hitch “since we don’t know how to work guitars, this next one doesn’t have any”. Through the course of the set we see them play guitar and bass, their synths, or hammer aggressively on a pair of floor toms, all to backing tracks of beats and noises piped out of the laptop in the corner. The mood is much more serious than Not Squares, with a gloomy gothic moodiness hanging over their electro beats. The band themselves, seem to be a lot happier than their music, joking with each other between songs. While they may be young blood, their recent invitation to play on the T Break stage at T in the Park shows they are the new masters of the digital realm.

Headliners of the night were FOUND (pictured), who are quite the novelty themselves. Combining folk sing-a-longs with beats and beeps, the five piece are on Fence Records, the record label version of the famous Fifian Fence Collective, and represented Scotland at this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. However, only three of the five attended the evening’s festivities, doing their rather distinctive interpretation of a stripped-down set. The lead singer, Ziggy, played an electric guitar, backed by two other members who punctuated the songs with hand percussion, sample workstations, electric bass guitar and even a Game Boy. The songs themselves have a strong rural melody that feels like it should be backed by harps and violins. Instead, orchestra hits, 80s loops and distorted guitar riffs undercurrent the songs, creating tension, agitation and above all uniqueness. As the band were proud to admit, they’re Edinburgh natives too, and although the oddity of the group, especially in the incomplete form, may have been lost on much of the audience, they also put smiles on the faces of those of us who seek originality done well.
Myke Hall

Friday, 7 August 2009

News: Edinburgh MELA Festival 2009

'Mela' is actually the Sanskrit word for gathering. Its the word used on the Indian subcontinent for, what we would call, a country fair. A Mela in this country is both a subcontinent style country fair and a celebration of cultural diversity. The Edinburgh Mela, an annual event founded in 1995, is taking place at Pilrig Park this year from Friday 7th Aug to Sunday 9th Aug. There's music, dance, other performances, food, crafts and workshops.

Here's some details from Mela Director Liam Sinclair; “This year’s Edinburgh Mela promises a host of new performances. We have an even bigger big top which has increased the scope for performers and audiences. Once again we have acts coming to perform from overseas, but also performers who are UK-based but whose roots lie elsewhere. This year there are also a number of performances and artists that are working cross-culturally, often with exciting and surprising results.

“Among these is Yatra who are back with a performance that builds on their world premiere last year with the addition of a dance element provided by South Asian classical dancers from Dance-Ihayami and a film element by Krish Shrikumar. This performance is supported by the Scottish Arts Council National Lottery Fund in celebration of Homecoming 2009.

“Finally, the Mela will end on Sunday in true Scottish style with a jam session and ceilidh as musicians from a number of groups attending bring the festival to an exciting close.”

Also, this year, they've got BBC Asian Network involved, and they'll be broadcasting live from the site. You can find the full programme on the Mela site.
Myke Hall

Thursday, 6 August 2009