Monday, March 02, 2015

Festivals in 2015 - whither do I go?

The question in the title has been on my mind for some weeks now. There were already two given results here, as I have had a ticket for Behind The Castle and End Of The Road for months now. Last year I went to south Wales and Green Man Festival for the first time. I had a wonderful time despite driving most of the way there through the impressive remnants of Hurricane Bertha! In fact it was so good that last week I committed to going again this year.
Much as Glastonbury does, Green Man holds an emerging talent competition 'Green Man Rising' and the winner gets to open the Mountain Stage (the main one) on Friday. I was reminded of that this evening  - in 2014  it was London three-piece Wyldest - this is what 'The Telegraph' had to say quite recently and I wouldn't disagree. I came to much the same conclusion about five minutes into their set and here they are that day.

The band's first proper release, an EP, is imminent. This track taken from it is why I got back on to this today.

I'm interested to see what both Wyldest and the Green Man new music panel come up with in 2015. Its Glastonbury counterpart too for that matter but you can take it as read that Glastonbury is one 2015 festival that I am not, and never had any intention of, going to.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 18 - Danni Nicholls - Mockingbird Lane

In Spring 2013 UK-based Danni Nicholls and her largely acoustic take on Americana, tinged with country blues, came to my attention courtesy of her first full-length LP 'A Little Redemption' and I mentioned it, as part of the new transatlanticism, here.
That album was crowd-funded and very well received. She has wasted no time planning and plotting the follow-up and in keeping control of the process to herself. 'Mockingbird Lane' has been recorded (in East Nashville, like its predecessor), mixed and mastered and entirely crowd-funded through PledgeMusic. This does, incidentally, show that people are still very much willing to pay for music that they believe in and up-front too.
It is too early for album art or any of that so here instead is the title track 'Mockingbird Lane'.

Recorded live in the most famous garden shed in Somerset and quite possibly the UK. For lots more acoustic diamonds, amongst the dust, inevitable spiders and amazing collection of ephemera, pay a visit to Songs From The Shed.
Thinking about it, here is the title track of the first LP 'A Little Redemption', recorded in the same session.

Astonishing as this might be, all it not lost.

You haven't actually missed the boat - it doesn't cast off until 22 March. You can still grab a peice of the action.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Marnhull Acoustic Sessions - Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston

This evening Marnhull Acoustic Sessions celebrated its second birthday with its return for 2015 at the customary venue deep in the north Dorset countryside. Always a gem, it showcases astonishing acts in intimate surroundings and today the treat was Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston.

Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston, Marnhull Acoustic Sessions, 22 February 2015.

The duo is currently part way through an extensive UK tour ending late April, after which they tour with US guitarist Grant Gordy as a trio. That is certainly something that I would like to see and hear live.
If you miss all that they then return to Dorset (as a duo) at the second Behind The Castle Festival at Sherborne Castle on Saturday 13 June.

This is shaping up to be a quite awesome day and Miranda Sykes actually appears twice in different rôles - as above and also as one third of the legend that is Show of Hands, with Phil Beer and Steve Knightley. The *BIG ANNOUNCEMENT*, that of the main stage headline act, is happening this coming Thursday (26 February). Last year The Levellers filled that spot most admirably and this year's act in that slot will not disappoint!

Before Behind The Castle Festival happens Marnhull Acoustic Sessions has another three spring editions:
Serious stuff at a venue that seats approximately one hundred.  Just take the first of the three; their ten-date tour includes nine UK cities and Marnhull Acoustic Sessions.

* The Waterboys
Mike Scott and company are confirmed as Behind The Castle 2015 main stage head-liners. Here they are seen at Green Man Festival 2014.

This prompts me to think that I should write more about 2015 festivals. My plans in that regard are near complete. I like the idea of plans and dates that I can work around.
Here is an artist pictured at Behind The Castle 2014 but, as mentioned above appearing at Marnhull Acoustic Sessions.
Megan Henwood releases her second LP 'Head, Heart, Hand' this spring.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 17 - Suzanne Jarvie - Spiral Road

This next album is interesting. It was great to see it reviewed by Netherlands-based blog De krenten uit de pop. It beat me to it, I should have got my act together on Thursday, but that is just fine; we seem to share similar tastes in music.
This is a début album with a difference. In an age when artists get younger and Taylor Swift has released five LPs before the age of twenty-six, this is a début LP by a Canadian artist born in the 1960s. Its genesis is both tragic and an interesting story of how music can be inspired.

Spiral Road is released by independent label Continental Song City, one of those independent labels that can now be relied on to produce interesting fare, on 23 February in the UK. It is already released in North America.
Can I pick favourite songs here? Well no, at least not yet, but it is early days. That is a good sign; were the LP marginal in any sense I would be stating my stand-out(s) and then cutting loose.
Not so long ago I wrote about another Canadian artist, Lynne Hanson and her latest LP Rivers Of Sand. That was also released by Continental Song City and it looks like the label has more interesting releases forthcoming.

Folk, Roots, Americana - whatever you want to label it.

It seems that my music theme for 2015 is to be set to folk/roots/Americana in all its many varied guises. I should probably mention here that the "new to me" festival for this summer is in fact one of the longest running of the kind - Cambridge Folk Festival. Conjured up in the autumn of 1964 it made its first appearance in the summer of 1965. I've had it in mind as one to try for a while now and this coincidence seemed to be the perfect excuse. I have my ticket.
I don't know if this is generally true or not but I think that my liking of such genres may be down to the music I was exposed to as a child. In particular, and I was reminded of this just yesterday evening, live music.

I saw Leveret at Rook Lane Arts, Frome yesterday evening and I'm happy to say that the event was very well attended. It was lengthy set that consisted of tunes (not songs) mostly traditional but a scattering of new compositions in the style. It served to remind me that despite a very rudimentary knowledge of music theory I can spot a slip-jig when I hear one.
More interesting was the commentary by the trio about something I had never considered. Many of the traditional tunes, and there are thousands of them, are now known only from manuscripts and some dating from the mid 17th Century. For the most part all they contain is the basic melody. To make the tune truly fly again the harmony, ornamentation and speed is all pretty much a case of reverse engineering. That, needless to say, takes a great deal of time, patience and skill.

It was an issue that had never really occurred to me before if I am honest.
The trio comprises Andy Cutting (diatonic button accordion, also known in some countries as melodeon), Rob Harbron (English concertina) and Sam Sweeney (fiddle) and the set was astonishing. I do wonder if had I been new to such music this might actually have proven an overwhelmingly intense experience. It could have felt like a lecture, albeit light heartedly-given, in an esoteric subject.

I wasn't the youngest member of the audience, that's for sure, but I reckon that I was well below the median age. On the other hand I am older than all the members of the band.

My next post will likely serve to illustrate the obvious - such as night follows day. It also reminds me of something I was told at one of the first festivals I went to.
I guess I must have mentioned that I didn't know anything about the majority of artists. It all seemed too much to get my head around and therefore what I went to see play was something of a lottery - fortunately, as it turned out, one with damn fine odds...  What I was told was roughly this: keep listening, remembering and making notes and in time it will become second nature. I only remembered this last night and I can't remember if I was awake or dreaming but it was a real conversation in origin.
Seven or so years after the origin of this I have realised that this is in fact entirely true. 
In a sense that is why photography plays a part for me - it is a kind of note-taking. There are two strands. One is that I can now find new music that I like almost on a whim and especially that in categories that back then I would have been rather dubious about. I still dislike pigeon-holing music by genre but had you suggested alt-country to me back then I would have probably thought you were trying to lead me on a wild goose chase. The second is that now the music quite often finds me instead. This year I am for the first time attempting to listen to music by many of the festival artists in advance. I know lots of people that do this but, until now, it has just seemed like a whole lot of effort and what is more I really like the surprise factor of festivals.
I know that I won't be able to do that for all acts in advance, so I won't really spoil that aspect for myself. 
If I were in danger of doing that at least the reason is simple - I'm hoping that it will allow more informed choices about which acts to see when there are the inevitable clashes.
If it does then the reality is rather prosaic.  It is to go to more festivals.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 16 - Eilen Jewell - Sundown Over Ghosttown

I don't keep statistics of my posts to quite the level of either Wisden or the NFL (select region as appropriate) but I suspect that this is my most lengthy succession of posts on new music.
My view of this is that if there is music that captures my attention there is no reason to ignore it. I will miss plenty for sure but I can't help that.

This is a double-bill, more than that really, by the same artist - Eilen Jewell. At the end of 2014 I posted about live albums. I deliberately held this one back because I had a suspicion that a new studio album was in the offing and I felt that they belonged in a post together. The live album is self released. Here it is.

Eilen Jewell and band was recorded live at The Narrows, Fall River, MA, in February 2014.

The new studio album will be released by Signature Sounds as always and, in North America at least, on 26 May 2015. It is 'Sundown Over Ghosttown.' No idea of the artwork yet but trust me, when I have I'll be on the case and ordering the LP on vinyl (and I strongly suspect that this will be possible).
I still haven't seen her live and I was lamenting that as long ago as 2011. This needs fixing, particularly given the class of the live album mentioned above. I recommend a listen to the four LPs that the songs are taken from.
'Live at The Narrows' comprises twenty-nine tracks over a pair of CDs and was recorded over two successive nights at the venue. It is epic in any reasonable sense of the word.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 15 - Evi Vine - Give Your Heart To The Hawks

If the number of people that find themselves on these pages while searching for Evi Vine and her 2011 début LP 'And So The Morning Comes' is any guide, her soon to be released follow-up 'Give Your Heart To The Hawks' should be something of a winner. It is released 21 February in the UK on 12", CD and d/l.

Early indications are that it will not disappoint. My wish, since I have pre-ordered the LP, would be to see her play live at a festival this summer.
Like its predecessor I suspect that there will be little in the way of  froth and poppy circumstance to be found; much, however, for the lovers of melancholy and mystery. That is not to say that I don't like a good dose of pop, for I do, but that is in the capable hands of others - Charli XCX being just one example that I might mention.

Choose your poison.

This is mine.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 14 - Golden Fable & Purity Ring

My only New Year resolution at the start of 2014 was to listen to more music that was new, or at least new to me, on a sustained basis. I think that it is one that I not only kept but comfortably exceeded on a week-by-week basis and without counting festivals. My intention for 2015 was to keep up the momentum and, as I mentioned recently, my January hibernation has had nothing but a beneficial effect on that. I have also been listening to a lot of stuff, old and new, that I had never really got around to before. This includes a great deal of a capella and other close-harmony music, both traditional and modern-traditional. This post has nothing to do with that at all.

It has to do with two releases, one recent and the other soon to happen, that echo in some way the idea of the coming of Spring. I can tell you that I and seemingly most others are anticipating its arrival with fervour. Both releases are LPs by a male-female duo and both are dreamily electronic pop. They are also both the second full-length from the respective artists. Logic dictates that I start with the one already released at least in the UK (Full Of Joy Records, November 2014).

Golden Fable - Ancient Blue is the follow-up to 2012 début Star Map (mentioned here).

The second LP in this post is released by 4AD on March 2, 2015 in the UK (March 3 2015 in North America).
 'Another Eternity' is the second release by Canadian duo Purity Ring.
The first track to be released from it is 'push pull' and most tracks on the album have names that are less unfathomable than those on 2012 LP Shrines, which I have on vinyl, but still hardly the kind of thing you are likely to find yourself singing along to in the car. That said the above song has been play-listed by BBC Radio1; I almost lost concentration when I heard it whilst driving home from work one day. Here is track 6 - 'begin again'.

While I'm at it, this is the playlist for the LP (capitalized exactly as it isn't):
  • heartsigh
  • bodyache
  • push pull
  • repetition
  • stranger than earth
  • begin again
  • dust hymn
  • flood on the floor
  • seacastle
  • stillness in woe
Just to say, that link below the Golden Fable cover also concerns another band - Stealing Sheep. It has a new album, and again its second, in the offing too. It will rate a post all of its own.

Monday, February 09, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 13 - Torres - Sprinter

I wasn't planning on this but then, at least in my world, it is as well to go with the flow when writing about new music is involved. It is little more than a week since I mentioned that Torres was one of the artists confirmed in the first tranche of revelations for End Of The Road Festival 2015, and now this happens. Her first LP was self released and I commented on that too.
Things only get better.

Her second LP 'Sprinter' was recorded in both Dorset and North Somerset with recording and production from Adrian Utley (Portishead). This is the album artwork for it. The supposed release date in the UK/EU is 18 May 2015. The US release is by Partisan Records on 5 May 2015.

The first track, of the nine on it, to be revealed to the wider world  is 'Strange Hellos'. Here it is.

The full track list is this:
  • Strange Hellos
  • New Skin
  • Son, You Are No Island
  • A Proper Polish Welcome
  • Sprinter
  • Cowboy Guilt
  • Ferris Wheel
  • The Harshest Light
  • The Exchange

New Music 2015 - Part 12 - Robert Chaney - Cracked Picture Frames

It is true that I spent much of January in self-imposed hibernation; the only obvious sign of life being that I wrote a fair number of posts here, which is something that I failed to do in January 2014, and have listened to a whole lot more that I have yet to mention.
This is not part of that, because I only became aware of it and only then via the artist Friday last. There are several issues at work here - I like it a great deal and it seems that it fits so well with much that I have been listening to over the last year or so. If there is a better case of musical 'transatlanticism', about which I wrote here last Spring, I can't think of one at the moment. The simple acoustic, sparse tales of assorted misfortune and missteps are applicable and in measure timeless wherever one might be.

Robert Chaney hails from Florida but moved to London a couple of years ago. This is his first LP.
What I do know is that if someone had spun me a false tale that said otherwise then I might very well have believed it. 'Cracked Picture Frames' is released in the UK by Jagged Lines (JL001) as a download on 15 February and on CD on 26 April. I have had the good fortune to be able to listen to all ten tracks on the LP a fair few times now. It is quite the reflective work throughout and final track, The Ballad of Edward and Lisa, is certainly no exception. In fact the tale it tells is horrific. It is not my favourite here, by a margin, but the point is there are absolutely no tracks that I would skip.
This is very definitely an album for listening to from start to end and then only in carefully chosen company; it's too good to waste on those who would not bother to listen attentively.

The playlist is as follows:
  • Black Eyed Susan
  • The Morning After
  • Does Your Love Pay Out In Full?
  • Patch It Up
  • The Simplest Words
  • The Cyclist
  • I Didn't Want Her Anyway
  • Birds and Bees
  • Corazones Amarillos
  • The Ballad of Edward and Lisa
I can also imagine that it could be stunning live on a small stage at a festival - indeed I have several such in mind - but for now I'll keep those to myself and wait to see how the situation plays out. It's still a full four months before the UK summer festival season starts to play out for real.
On 15 February 'The Ballad of Edward and Lisa' made its first near show-stopping début, and the artist's first appearance, on UK- based but internet-wide Amazing Radio on Baylen Leonard's weekly show 'The Front Porch'.

Monday, February 02, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 11 - 'Animal Fear': video and two forthcoming LPs

The start of February is something of a 'light the blue touch paper' moment; in large part due to the impending flood of new LPs but also the much-anticipated summer festival artist announcements.
This missive concerns two forthcoming albums by artists that I have seen live at festivals before. This is the first to be released and if the video to the first single from it (below) is to be believed the second album in this post will be a posthumous release! Both artists already have a history of somewhat unsettling songs and I'm thinking of these, 'Night Terror' and 'My Manic and I' (2007), here.
Now they are neighbours in London's East End this is what happened when Marika Hackman enlisted Laura Marling for the video to 'Animal Fear', on which she plays electric bass, and taken from the forthcoming album of the former.

'We Slept At Last' will be released on 16 February in the UK.

The video below is not for little ones to watch.

Laura Marling releases her fifth studio LP 'Short Movie' on 23 March.  Both releases, I rather suspect, will propel the cause of modern folk-pop further into untraditional territory. It is in the process of evolving into something that is in-and-of-itself. Other artists I could list here are many but one that I noticed a couple of years back is Lucy Cait and especially the 'Gabriel's Wharf EP' (2013).

Saturday, January 31, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 10 - Clara Engel - A Little Slander, A Little Lace

I suppose that Saturday lunchtime is an odd time to write a post but never mind.  It is a cold, grey blustery day and I have done all the things I needed to do that involved being outdoors so now I'm at home and doing domestic things while listening to music, of course.
This, released digitally today by Canadian artist Clara Engel who I have mentioned several times before and most recently here, caught my attention immediately.

The download [from US $2] also includes track 'What's The Damage'.

Pay 50% more than the minimum asking price and it is still no more than really good coffee. It is bottomless too - you can have another dose as often as you like, for as long as you like. You won't find a deal like that at any coffee shop that I've ever come across.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

New Music 2015 - Part 9 - 'L' is for live music and also these artists...

Both these artists start their moniker with 'L' and both have connections to the forthcoming Behind The Castle Festival 2015. Of these two, one has just been announced as a headline act and the other is already announced for BTCF 2015. Lizzyspit playing live is a treat that I have had the good fortune to witness twice.

This is happening at Kings Place in London and is also the formal launch of music consultancy and label Upturned Pebble, which is the power behind Marnhull Acoustic Sessions and, of course, Behind The Castle Festival. There is a theme here.

Today Behind The Castle announced one, but only one, of the two remaining headline acts. It is Georgia, USA based Larkin Poe who I have never seen live. Larkin Poe is touring in the wake of the well regarded LP 'Kin' (2014) and a raft of EPs before that. I can hardly wait.
The announcement of the final act is eagerly awaited and it won't be long in coming.
Lizzyspit will be playing Behind The Castle again but, I predict, to a much larger crowd this time.
It is not going to be winter forever even though at the moment it might just seem like that.

Monday, January 26, 2015

End Of The Road Festival 2015 - The first artist announcement.

To cut to the chase here is the list announced today, completely without any comment on my part at least for now.

The accompanying video, which may or may not drop further hints, is here. 
The EOTR animals seem to have developed a taste for vinyl...

My ability not to comment further did not last long. Jessica Pratt was scheduled for EOTR last year but was unable to attend. Not only is it good news that she is on the first list of artists to be announced this year but her second LP 'On Your Own Love Again' is released, at least in North America, tomorrow (27 January) by Drag City Records. I shall add Jessica Pratt as my first 'one to watch' at EOTR 2015.

Reviews are all well and good. I have read several of this release already and perhaps I will write one myself in due course. The live truth will out in September and I'd be very surprised if I were disappointed.
Another inclusion that excites me is Torres. I bought the album last year, direct from her website.
I searched it on yesterday and the result, in terms of 'other artists I might like', was interesting.  Of the eight of them it suggested I have already seen all of them live at least once! I'm not sure whether this says more about me or Amazon's algorithm except to say that if I let Amazon choose suggestions for me based on all my searches in music it veers all over the place. It is often quite fascinating, however, so read into this what you will.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

New Music - 2015 - Part 8 - Rae Morris - Unguarded

One summer Sunday morning, in North Yorkshire in 2012, I took this picture. There were not very many of us there to experience Rae Morris open the main stage of Deer Shed Festival 2012 as the ungodly hour of midday approached.

 It was clearly something special. I rarely make predictions like this. This could be one of the major label releases of 2015. 

Her début album 'Unguarded' is released tomorrow on Atlantic Records.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Old dog. New tricks. And a total bargain...

My liking for music in physical format needs no further mention. That is still true - I have not changed my spots all of a sudden.
When, however, Spotify offered me 'Premium' for three months at the princely sum of £0.99 and that payment is for all three months, not per month. It would have been churlish to look a gift horse in the mouth.
It will not alter the amount of physical music I actually purchase but, my goodness, it is facilitating the task of listening to new music and, especially if I'm uncertain about it, also making it a whole lot easier. It might even lead to me purchasing more physical music. It is not that it is impossible to do this with Spotify 'free' but the lack of advertisements actually does make a difference. The blurb said that the sound quality is also noticeably better. I was slightly dubious about that, but then again 99p is not a sum even I was afraid to wager on the possibility. Pending more demanding tests this coming weekend I'm inclined to the idea that this might actually be true.

What has impressed me, and again I could have done this with 'free' but this was the impetus to explore, was the coverage. The removal from Spotify of the music of Taylor Swift became something of a cause célèbre in late 2014 but it is just one small canon of work in the great scheme of things. It was an otherwise unremarkable and quite acceptable commercial response to perceived market forces. It, the music and the publishing phenomenon, is easily found elsewhere quite legally and not least in physical formats, including vinyl. Deleting pressings to promote the sale of newer ones is as old as the mass market for music.
What impresses me more is the sheer scope of the music to be found here - both old and new and across all genres - and with that comes the opportunity to discover, listen and then promote the music of artists less well known should one feel so inclined.
It is something human to look for the newest things and music is no exception - the internet is perfect for this. Finding older, often obscure, things has also been revolutionised but the foil is not so easy to overcome; the contemporary details are either unavailable or require lateral thinking and often more than a little guile to uncover. That, however, is also part of the thrill of the chase - and another use of foil.

I have an idea:
It is not scientific but nevertheless empirical observations can be of great value. It is to test Spotify by searching for a variety of recordings
, both recent and old, that I know or believe are hard to source on a physical format and that I either already have or have tried to find in the past. It has already yielded, as a more or less random 'hit' -  an album of folk music from NE England that I was only faintly aware of hitherto and was released in 1975. The result... I have now bought it on original vinyl.
This new resource will quite possibly shape much of my thinking over the next couple of months. I'm also imagining those artists that I expect/desire to see at the festivals that I shall or even just may attend this coming summer.
Items never released in a digital format are, unsurprisingly, extremely unlikely to feature. This is not to be found therefore - Cate Le Bon 'Edrych yn Llygaid Ceffyl Benthyg' (2008). It was released only on 10" vinyl  but the title is to a reasonable degree the Welsh equivalent of the English phrase 'to look a gift horse in the mouth', more literally it is 'to look into the eyes of a borrowed horse'. I rather like that - there's something about it that makes the horse, rather than the lessor, the more important part of the deal.

I know that it is not the weekend yet...
What the hell, I'm doing some testing now and not least because I'm thinking about those artists that I might be seeing at this summer's festivals. There are some big announcements coming soon.

This artist would be high on my wish list. To say she is underrated is only the half of it.
The Spotify search box is not, or so it seems to me, nearly as good at guessing your mind as some but it's worth a few tries to find what you are searching for. It is also less comprehensive in its results, so you need to be as precise as you are able to be for that reason alone. You can also do this reversibly to good effect - if you know only a song title and artist you can fairly easily get back to the album or other resource from which it came.
It is a collision of new and old technology and quite possibly not to the detriment of either. If you want an old physical recording then not only can you find a source of it on-line but, quite possibly, you can even listen to at least some of it the same way before you commit to purchase.
The sale of an LP that the purchaser regrets buying does neither party any good in the longer term: a fact that, in the quest for 'first-week sales' and 'chart penetration', the major labels forgot somewhere down the line.