Friday, December 30, 2011

New Music 2012 - Part 3 - a.k.a. Electra Heart

I seem to have started this thread on the subject of sophomore albums and I'm going to continue with another few before, probably, heading off in the direction of new acts and artists.
This particular story started back at Latitude 2009 when I saw one of the first festival performances by the band, about which I was reminded while driving home last week and ended up listening to the first album 'The Family Jewels', which was to come later. She had arrived at the event in the nick-of-time and had no time to prepare, which was perhaps telling. Just occasionally there are acts or artists that, whatever the circumstances, have quality written through them like a stick of seaside rock. I've had the great fortune to see several over the last few years; it's not something that you realise later, you know it in an instant. Marina Diamandis is one such.

The album 'Electra Heart' is another slightly dangerous game as it introduces a new character that, rather than her alter-ego, is her antithesis. It will still be the strong pop that we know - as 'Radioactive' and newer still while not a finished "single", 'Fear & Loathing' demonstrates but just don't expect unchallenging lyrics - as if you would had you ever heard her appearances on the BBC Radio 1 'Review Show'.
Now listen carefully to, and in particular 'Hollywood' from, the first album again and take an educated guess at the world that Electra inhabits.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Music 2012 - Part 2 - First Aid Kit - Lions Roar

This, as it happens, is another sophomore LP and the follow-up to 'The Big, Black and The Blue' (2010) and the EP 'Drunken Trees' (2009). That is to mention, furthermore, that 2012 is most certainly not the year in which to underestimate music from Scandinavia, always a dangerous game as it comes in all moods and not least this from the Söderberg sisters - First Aid Kit.

Woolly jumpers and fingerless gloves notwithstanding they do barbed lyrics far better than many much older but there is competition. New album 'The Lion's Roar' is released early in 2012 by Wichita Recordings and First Aid Kit is confirmed as appearing at End Of The Road 2012. Tickets available now - see you there!

New Music 2012 - Part 1 - Phantom Limb - The Pines

Where better to start than with this?  'The Pines', released in the UK on February 13, is the second studio album by Bristol-based Phantom Limb and the follow up to their 2008 eponymous début. The more recently released 'Live In Bristol' only me makes me want to hear this LP more, and then live once again.

It has long escaped me why Phantom Limb is not already better known. This, I would like to think, is the album that will finally make amends for there is nothing even two-dimensional about the whole deal: A remarkable vocalist for sure, but most importantly a band that is supremely able to cope with the considerable demands she places on them. Better still is the song-writing and the arrangement is top-drawer.
February 9, 2012.
The reviewer at The Independent (London) seems to like it too...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Driving Home from Christmas...

I did this early this afternoon and it was slightly mad. All the vehicles with 'Baby on board' stickers were weaving between each other and flashing past like they couldn't care less. I decided that ten minutes late (for nothing in particular) is better than a life lost and, in the slow-lane between the few trucks on the motorway,  we almost kept pace with the train on the line alongside that was carrying about 650 tons of timber!
I wonder what everyone else was listening to?
I was in a particularly electro-mood so when the mad ones did their thing I trundled along at about 65 mph listening, and perhaps even singing along (very badly), to an artist who might just be one to watch in 2012.  It is one of my guilty pleasures.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Latitude Festival 2012

I have been to five Latitude Festivals, 2007 - 2011, and loved them all in various ways.
This time you really need to persuade me that I should do so again in 2012.  I feel a change is as good as a rest and, to this effect, I have several alternatives in mind.  I could still be persuaded but I'm certainly not buying a pre-sale ticket this year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Latest 'Thought on Music'

Is a stunningly simple revelation:
Much of the best music is that which I failed to find, appreciate or write about last year. My year-end report says that I must try harder.
If you want an alt-Christmas song then Pulled Apart By Reindeer might just be for you and the guilty party is London-based Kimmy Reader, who is one to watch in 2012.
If you want a cover song then here is her take on Temper Trap's 'Sweet Disposition'; covered acoustic and unplugged on a late night Metropolitan Line tube train. Why not take live music to unsuspecting people and record their reaction?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

2011 in Music - EPs and mini albums

Several people have mentioned that, along with vinyl, the EP is enjoying a welcome and long overdue return in all formats and for reasons that are entirely practical.  It provides a way for artists to release a connected piece of work whether that be on vinyl or download, rather than just odd tracks, and for whatever reason.  It can be a new artist with only a small collecton of completed material or an established artist with a collection of material that in some way does not sit well with the bulk of their output.  Whatever the reasons for this revival are it has been a good year and I'm going to start on a year-high. When I discovered this my 2011 in music changed. Very few people can do that.

The next one is equally different and difficult to classify but I'm going to continue with this, which comes from an artist that few had heard of at the start of 2011 and myself included. It is difficult to describe its genre - tenebrous, intellectual, indie-dance does it for me.
Its creator is Estonian writer-singer-DJ Maria Minerva. Were it not for this EP (vinyl & download) and my self-imposed rules concerning these lists (see previous post) her 2011 album 'Caberet Cixous' might just have been included. I chose this specifically because of its tight and distinct focus.
There will only be three items in this post - the connecting theme being they are neither depressing nor euphoric - and that is what sets them aside. 
What they mean to me, and what I feel about these songs, is like looking in a quite special mirror: one that changes like the sky and can reflect things that otherwise I cannot see.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

2011 in Music - Albums - Part 2

I was planning to do the '2011 in EPs and mini-albums' section before this but that has (once again) proved more complicated.  This, which is not a second-string selection of albums, hasn't been much better and actually more difficult that the first because I have, in order to limit to a dozen, been forced to be even more ruthless.
Here it is, again in alphabetical order by act/artist and (for now) without further comment:

  • Alessi's Ark - Time Travel
  • Black Keys - El Camino
  • Demdike Stare - Tryptych
  • Eilen Jewell - Queen of the Minor Key
  • Gill Sandell - Tarry Awhile
  • Jackie Oates - Saturnine
  • Joy Formidable - The Big Roar
  • Kitty, Daisy and Lewis - Smoking In Heaven
  • Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know
  • Low Anthem - Smart Flesh
  • Naked and Famous - Passive Me, Aggressive You
  • Veronica Falls - Veronica Falls
I might attempt the aforementioned '2011 in EPs and mini-albums' this evening. I have also introduced a new rule for these lists - although I don't think that even retrospectively I have actually violated it - and that is the the same act/artist combination cannot appear in more than one list in a given year with the exception being the 'Live List', if I ever get around to posting one.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

2011 in Music - Albums - Part 1

No real change in presentation here from last year; two lists of albums strictly in order alphabetical by artist. The difference is that this year I'm going to publish the lists first and, only when you have had a week to consider (and comment - see below), shall I add the links and my thoughts on why they are included and, perhaps, others are not.
In no way is this intended to be a balanced list, far from it in fact: It is quite utterly biased to what has caught my attention in a lasting way in 2011.

  • Adele - 21
  • Amy LaVere - Stranger Me
  • Austra - Feel It Break
  • Bella Hardy - Songs Lost and Stolen
  • Emily Barker - Almanac
  • Esben and The Witch - Violet Cries
  • Jessica Lea Mayfield - Tell Me
  • Lanterns On The Lake - Gracious Tide, Take Me Home
  • Seapony - Go With Me
  • Thea Gilmore - John Wesley Harding
  • Widowspeak - Widowspeak
  • Yuck - Yuck
Please feel free to add comments, queries, suggestions or questions. It is what this is all about, whether negative, positive or simply mystified!  All comments are moderated (by me alone, so you know that I read them) and while I prefer it that you can put your real identity to your piece, because you should believe in what you are saying and be prepared to stand up and be counted, I will sometimes sanction the publishing of "anonymous" comments. Comments that are defamatory, offensive or simply irrelevant in content or context will not be published regardless of source.
I'll attempt to answer valid questions and comments either in comments of my own in reply or in a more general 'round-up' post.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Acoustic+ - November acts 1,2 & 4

This starts where the previous post left off. In some ways this is the less acoustic side of Acoustic+, but in several different ways that is rather telling.

The first to perform was Alex Veale who performed some tracks solo and some accompanied, but all acoustic.
His other musical outlet is an all-electric rock outfit...  and this is in fact an acoustic cover of a Metallica song. That is no surprise really and certainly nothing new: Lucie Silvas covered 'Nothing Else Matters' as a piano ballad on her 2004 album Breathe In. Done well, and this was, it can work even if the die hard fans might say otherwise. 
Next up was Bristol/Bath based four-piece Furlined. They were not entirely acoustic, as electric bass was involved. No matter though: so is one of the acoustic instruments much in vogue at the moment - 'cello played by Tegan Thomas.
All songs are by Neil Crossley, also lead vocals and acoustic guitar. Engaging lyrics, a band so good and this was interspersed with intelligent patter; sometimes poignant, sometimes truly comedic retrospective.  I kid you not - this is what 1990's music could have been if it were done properly.
Of the four acts performing the only one that I had seen before was the last, and the youngest, Amplified Silence. To state the obvious, they are in the "+" category as they are not acoustic at all! I think I could have a good guess at some of their musical influences. I'm not going to do that - they don't need it. They perform as a five-piece outfit except for a couple of instrumental numbers...
...leaving their vocalist in the rôle of on-stage muse.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Daturas - Acoustic+

Frome's very own Acoustic+ is something of a regular on these pages now - and with good reason in a local scene that, as well as thriving, has many competitors. The most recent event was last Friday. Sometimes I cover the acts/artists in order of appearance but this time that has gone out of the window.  The Daturas were actually the third of four acts to play and, although they were very good, I've chosen to mention them first for this reason alone... 

Earlier this year, when commenting on unusual instruments that had appeared at Acoustic+, I mentioned that it would make my day if pedal steel guitar were one of them. I first became acquainted with it in the live environment at festivals a couple of years ago and thought it as remarkable as the sound is distinctive. The stranger thing is that, despite the above comment, it is a sound that with judicious consideration can fit well with many genres of music (in that sense perhaps like saxophone) in which it is non-traditional. To be honest I'd have liked the sound of The Daturas even without said instrument - they have presence, something that actually applied in its own way to all four acts - and songs to pull it off.
Not to mention a distinctive and charismatic front man.
The next thing, you might reasonably wonder, is how the other three acts measured up in comparison. 

Dead season? Songs don't write themselves...

Some things have disinclined me to blog for a couple of weeks. They are mainly music related but that is not a reflection on the music. It is indeed rather the opposite and while the major train (I shall comment specifically on EMI later) heads for the comforting buffers of compilations and bankers in an attempt to shunt sales into a slightly better place in the run up to Christmas, sometimes saying nothing is a sign in itself.
We know that the current economic climate, even if steps are being taken to address that, is entirely poisonous. Things are tough, no doubt about that in almost all sectors, but the UK music industry is still a net exporter - and this applies to the independent sector almost exclusively. There is much said about the decline of manufacturing - don't forget that music is in fact a manufacturing industry right from point of song writing...
When the up-turn comes, as sooner or later it will, there will be serious opportunities both creative and commercial and UK music will be in a good place to take advantage.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Live and Local - Archangel

You could spend Saturday afternoon driving to some impossibly distant 'branded retail experience'. On the other hand you could take advantage of that which is local. Call me old-fashioned if you like but I rather prefer walking for ten minutes to get where I want to be. That applies to the shops. This is a bonus - it is much cheaper and more satisfying than retail therapy too.  

Nicky Swann and Katie Marie @ Archangel, Frome - November 5, 2011.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Acoustic Moon 3 - Without words and in other tales

I shall continue with the performances of last Thursday evening, and not before time, with a trio of artists whose principal weapon is acoustic guitar. If you think that might be a recipe for tedious similarity then think again.

The first of those to play was Chris Woods and while he was very talkative between tracks they are all entirely instrumental. I must admit that I'm pretty tolerant of instrumental music but even if that were not the case it would have pushed me to think that way and, apparently, most others thought the same. It did however make me think about the way he was playing, and how to take photos of it. I never did quite succeed in doing the latter. No excuses on my part --- it was astonishing just to watch and wonder. In retrospect it is amazes me that I took any pictures at all. I've seen more than my fair share of live acts this year and this was right up there with the most remarkable.
When it came to it Cole Stacey, who has recently been touring the UK sometimes with and sometimes without Chris Woods, was certainly in competitive mood.  I should say that this was the closing date of that tour and a coup de grâce.
It was a contest of a kind...
Cole sings his own songs; he also picks judicious cover versions too. He then conjured Jennifer Clark, up from Devon, to sing on some songs and even got the audience singing too. There were only winners here.
This one was 'The Boxer'. There is however no animosity.
Together unplugged, at Acoustic Moon 3, with Chris Woods on banjo.
Top of the evening, and dealt a tough hand, was Mark Abis. Have no worries about this for he thrives on songs about that sort of thing...  and a new album is on the way soon.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween - Without Sinking

It is not that I had forgotten about the night when music is more eclectic than on most others. I just needed to find something to suit and so from Iceland, as it is darker and more inexplicably musical than anywhere else I can think of, comes this...

Difficult, unapproachable, scary even... Isn't that what Halloween is about?
This is 'cello-based music intent on challenging even the warmest heart. Survive this without shivering and you are all set for whatever, indeed the worst, that the forthcoming winter might throw at us.
If you are still up for more then anything by Demdike Stare would be good - particularly 'Tryptych' and if you still can't face being the wrong side of dead (or bed) and trying to sleep here is a suggestion: 'Sadly The Future Is No Longer What It Was' and that is itself only one third of a trilogy...
After that you probably will believe absolutely anything. Real spooks love vinyl.

This spook forgot to mention that Leyland Kirby's 'Intrigue and Stuff - Vol 3 (of 4) is released on November 7. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Acoustic Moon 3 - Where were you when...?

If you were bemoaning the vile weather, thinking about the logistics of Christmas and being autumnal in all the wrong ways, together with the fact that it was still only Thursday, then here are three words:

If that is so then you have only yourself to blame. You could have been in a cosy village pub, with great food - from three-course feast to bar snacks - and drink at very reasonable prices, listening to some of the finest and most varied acoustic music that the UK has to offer. That is Acoustic Moon and the admission charge for that aspect is £5 on-the-door.  Trading Standards Authority motto to the public is this: "If something seems too good to be true then it probably is."
It is indeed good advice but, then again, all rules need a few exceptions for validation and this is one of them. Yesterday's selection of music was nothing if not varied except in that it happened to include two very different artists playing one of the rarest of percussion instruments and one that is new in the 21st century...
One of the oldest tuned acoustic instruments of all is, in its various forms, dulcimer. It doesn't have to look or sound ancient and around here we know that. It has been hammered into us in the best way possible.
Opening the evening - Intricate.
Barbara J Hunt on guitar and lead vocals with Dizzie on a thoroughly modern hammered dulcimer and sometimes including theatrical interpretations. There are absolutely no warm-up acts here and very soon that 21st century creation - the hang. It combines mid-19th century physics of acoustics, courtesy of Helmholz, and late 20th century metallurgy in the form of ammonia-gas-nitriding in an instrument that both looks and sounds like it might have actually been around since forever.  The first example did not however make a public performance until 2001 and they are all still made by a "cottage industry" in Switzerland.
To see one hang player in an evening is good fortune, to see two is a miracle.
The second hang player was Venus Bushfires and I do not actually have any pictures of that. It is for a reason. I was borrowed for another duty. I was watching, listening and recording but have no pictures of the set. She played solo, sometimes actually acapella, and showed a completely different aspect of hang playing. It sat in her lap rather than on a stand and was in support of a quite different style of music.
This is the one photo I did take, just after her set had finished.
It is rare that I don't write about an evening such as this in a single post, rarer still that I don't stick to the order in which the artists or acts appeared. In this case I have decided to do both - the three acoustic guitar artists are to follow.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More Thoughts on Americana

We have been here before, readers new and old. Once I thought it was just a passing phase of mine but as 2009 has slowly moved on towards the end of 2011 I'm no longer so sure about that.  
It is time to start thinking about those 'Best Of 2011' lists and don't get me wrong for I am - but there is also the fact that UK folk - new or traditional, strictly original or not, acoustic or not, is hardly a new beat on my drum and yet a huge feature of 2011. All thought of that is not going to trouble me tonight. Predictions for 2012 are interesting but they too will have to wait.
I write things with the hope that people might perhaps think to look beyond that music they already know and love and therefore discover something new to them. I don't care if you like it, that you are opinionated and disagree, unless you are offensive. I would far rather deal with that than battle apathy, particularly my own.   
The first LP is something that should have been obvious to me for quite some while and that, until very recently, I did nothing about seeking.

This next album has a title that you might find almost strange but they chose it. It was mentioned, just in passing, by one of those whose likes in music are certainly not always the same as mine but whose opinions I respect.
It demonstrates exactly why I think I should do things this way. If you have an appreciation of the sheer variety of UK folk I now think it hard to see why you might not find this interesting. Neither of these albums are 2011 releases.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Acoustic+, Frome, October 14, 2011

OK. I have finally got round to starting this and that, more often than not, is the hardest part. In fact I'm currently accumulating items and topics to write about much faster than I'm doing the writing. Perhaps now the days are shorter and colder I will make a big effort to catch up and to that end will start with some notes from the most recent Acoustic+, and apparently the 77th such, last Friday.
One interesting change from the last few that I have been to is it included only acts and artists that I had never seen before; all but the last being (almost) entirely acoustic.
The evening started with two shorter-than-usual sets of which the first was by Maisie Robinson solo. With an audience that I estimate was just the right side of one hundred it must have been pretty daunting. 

The first song almost immediately put me in mind of Illinois singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield, with its careworn yet stoic theme and accompaniment to match, but that is no bad thing at all in my book. That is not to say that there was anything at all wrong with the other songs; rather that it is unusual that I find myself thinking something like that so quickly particularly because I don't want to pigeon-hole by using such comparisons -  just go listen. As soon as you get the chance.
Next up was another short set by Josh & Ethan White. They are brothers but I'd like to know what they thought about some factions in both audience and management that decided on a vote to re-name them 'The White Brothers'. I'm not sure whether they were consulted so it is perhaps just as well that the vote, a TUC-style show of hands, was quite convincingly inconclusive giving them a mandate to call themselves whatever they want. Frome is a haven of grass-roots democracy, right down to matters such as this.
One admission that I shall make, and it should matter to them, is that they were far better than my attempts at photography. We have now worked up from solo artist to a two-piece and that is in fact an electronic drum kit, hence my proviso above.
The next act, another two-piece, was a different challenge entirely. Soundgarden doesn't come from Frome. Xenophobia has no place here either and Soundgarden comes from Bradford-on-Avon, although originally clearly even further away than that. This probably explains why one song was sung in Finnish.
Soundgarden - Acoustic Plus - October 14, 2011.  
Joining the phalanx employing once almost forgotten acoustic instruments that have seen a huge resurgence, and therefore I have seen played live on many occasions, in the last couple of years it saw employment of the 'portable' harmonium.  It is however the first time that I've seen one played predominantly as a lead instrument. Awesome. Some of the other songs they played had so much Roma influence that it sent me off in search of some vinyl (in my archive) from long, long ago...
Then this... and very different to all that had come before. Al O'Kane and Richard Kennedy have, so they say, only recently started playing as a duo.
Be scared. This is Americana territory - dust, rust and things more visceral. The next hobos, they might even have left for good on the next freight train out of town as it passed by the back of the Cheese and Grain, but who knows? I rather hope not.
Last to play was a very new-formed band, also all young, Haters. Yes, they are not acoustic, in fact quite the opposite, but I don't hold that against them not least because I like much electric and electronic music too. They were last to play and also suffered an electric guitar failure that upset their first track and were thus indubitably flustered. Such things happen. That can happen to any act at any venue, it was quite probably no fault of their own. I do, however, think that it might have been better if they had opened the event with all the others, in the same order and with the same time-slots, following.  The other issue, and perhaps a more generally important one, is that if the drummer and guitarists are going to take to stages, ones as far apart as is obvious here, there will likely be a problem even if it is one only perceived by the audience.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Behold The Machine - Vernian Process

Just to demonstrate that I scour the corners of as much as I can of that on offer, here is a free slice of Steampunk music for you.  The artwork is very reminiscent to my mind of that of Hawkwind, Magnum (the earlier albums especially) and many other bands from that era. If I did not like it it would not be here.

Click image to stream the track (free, for now) or download the album.

New to me... music I found and more that I want.

I'm not sure where to start this.  It has some aspects of things I saw and heard at festivals this summer and more than a bit that also comes from almost all things Americana, which comes from the last four years of festivals and then just trying to find what else is out there. It will be a strange mixture - rent by contradictions - of genre and style. It think I'll start with two artists who are in fact English. Most of us can be snobby about the music we like and I'm no exception but ultimately I don't mind if I hear about something I really like via obscure recommendation or daytime commercial radio.  If you find something that catches your attention here, that you then discover you like, then that is a bonus for me.
I have decided to start with the gentler option first.
The music is soft and ballad-heavy delta blues recorded in Nashville, with the vocal tropes that go with that, but then again 'Delta Maid' comes from Wavertree and while Merseyside has a long and glorious music heritage it is hardly on the scale of the Mississippi. Equally surprising, and perhaps a reflection of the change in UK music taste and the situation of the industry, it is a major label release (Geffen/Polydor).  The two album tracks that also appeared on the 2010 vinyl Broken Branches EP are less raw and conventionally produced, which might be a reflection of this.

The aforementioned EP is also well worth having. The version of 'Any Way I Want To' on it is for my money the best thing that she has done so far; it is world weary and yet perfectly resigned to the fact. If you can find the promo CD version of the EP it includes two very good cover versions too.
If it however leaves you thinking that it is all a bit soppy and easy listening then try this instead.  It is way more rattling and certainly not something to attempt if you are feeling the worse for wear - unless of course kill or cure is what you are after, in which case its just the job.
Ten all original songs from an artist in her early twenties when this, her début album, was released in 2009.
I had a listen to the songs on her myspace page but there was no easy way to be sure if it was representative of the album. It is released by German-based independent label Ruf Records and so I ordered it there and then. What a good idea that was!
It is quite a long album, at over 51 minutes, and I can't actually decide on my favourites on it despite a week of listening. One thing I can say for sure is that it doesn't suffer from the tendency of some such albums wherein either one or both of the artist and listener flags rather before the end.  Indeed it finishes with the longest track on the album  - Blackest Day - and despite its 8¼ minutes it is absolutely awesome.
It hardly needs to be said that her 2010 follow-up, Diamonds In The Dust, is next on my wants list and then to see her perform live.

I think I'll continue the theme with some genuine US artists that, although not new on the scene, have come in to the foreground of my conscience in the last couple of months.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Blackest day; brightest stars

This is part thoughts on music for Halloween, part reflections on autumn and on music in general. There is nothing like economic uncertainty to inspire music. You can say that I am maudlin, if you wish to do so, but be aware that I might attempt to do more than merely defend myself against the accusation. I shall start with a frank admission: I never liked Morrissey's music much. I still don't to be quite honest but I do have to concede that he was spot on when it came to observation. He wins and I lose. Nothing changes much; Marr still plays guitar - I've seen and heard him doing it live - and he is still f***ing good at it. That is a point, but not my point here...
That all happened a quarter of a century ago. I can remember it, sort of I think, but it is no longer of today. I can certainly understand that too. What is surprising is the influence it still has and, more surprisingly, what is happening now. Try telling me in 1989 that we would be where we are in 2011 and I would have just laughed at the improbability of it all. Suggesting that I'd be writing this would have been a rather bad place to start.  That is without the fact that, back then, we had no concept whatsoever of the revolution that Steve Jobs had in mind...
Steve Jobs did more for music in his lifetime than Michael Jackson could ever have hoped to do. Sorry.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

What You Just Missed... Acoustic Moon 2

It's still pretty new and it certainly hasn't settled in to any comfortable slot yet, but that is not to say that Acoustic Moon is anything other than remarkable.   It is now harder than one might imagine to find an evening when there is not at least one live, often acoustic, event taking place within a few miles of Frome. In a local live-music milieu that is currently firing on all cylinders live, and in particular finding an audience, is not always easy however good the event and reasonable the admission.
Spoilt for choice, you might say, but you'd surely miss it if it were to disappear. This is just a flavour of what you missed last Thursday evening. It is not, in any sense, a rarefied or exclusive event. However little or much you know about the acoustic music scene is quite unimportant - all that matters is the enjoyment of live music whether it is familiar or not.
The first to play was an act, Cadencia, that I had not seen before. Original compositions played in Spanish guitar style, this was both acoustic and entirely instrumental.

Following that came Frome-based guitar duo Leonardo's Bicycle - it takes its name from a relatively obscure cover version that, of course, they played. Part of their special appeal is the irreverent and rather varied banter that intersperses the songs some of which, including the splendid 'Cley Hill' that is about a local landmark, are their own compositions.
They were one of the guests on the monthly 'Live Lounge' on Frome FM in September and that is worth a listen (which you can do right here and right now).
The second half was given over to two artists who had come up-country from distant South Devon especially for this.  Nicky Swann previewed several songs from her forthcoming album, which has as its theme stories of the sea and seafaring.
This one is 'Newfoundland' and is about the fishermen who, from the 16th century onward, set sail from the ports of Devon and Cornwall to catch cod on the far-off Newfoundland Banks. There is an awful lot of very impressive new folk coming from the south west at the moment and this album is destined to add more to it.
She returns to Acoustic Moon for a second time on November 25, and I expect we shall hear more from this project then.
Last to play was Katie Marie, also from South Devon, and someone I have have heard and also mentioned in these posts before who also accompanied Nicky during some of the aforementioned set.
This was taken during the song 'Rostock', about touring in Germany.
Why not come along and join us for the next Acoustic Moon on October 27?  If you can't wait that long then just sidle into Acoustic+, at the Cheese and Grain, Frome, on Friday 14 October - doors 8pm and admission £5 - for a slightly different take on acoustic.
Live music is not scary - all ages can enjoy it and are welcome...
A young audience and Lady Nade, live at Frome Festival - 9 July 2011.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thoughts of Festivals - Latitude 2011 again.

I decided to continue the theme. Almost as soon as I posted the previous one I was already half hoping that someone will convince me to change my mind.
Here are some more photos from Latitude 2011, starting on the main Obelisk Stage again and then working through the others.

Wanda Jackson covering Amy Winehouse's 'You Know I'm No Good'.
That it has a clock in it as rather strange: in her introduction to the song Jackson spoke of her concern for Ms. Winehouse's health.  Almost exactly a week later it was announced that she was dead.
Isobel Campbell again, on the same stage that her former band Belle and Sebastian had headlined on the Saturday in 2010.
A highlight for me this year, and not just because it is tented and out of the rain, was the Word Arena; they had done a pretty good job of picking the acts for this and they were very varied, which formed the basis of the post about Festival Variety in late July. Here are a couple more pictures from the Saturday.
I have only ever seen a few acts that come from New Zealand performing live. Ladyhawke (second album eagerly awaited) and Otago's Ruby Suns being two that come to mind. This is the lead vocalist of the third one...
Alisa Xayalith of The Naked and Famous during a volcanic set.
As the rain continued to fall some good old-fashioned party spirit was needed and what better to conjure that than Bellowhead?  Complete with a fiddle-duel.
That is the two larger stages done, at least for now, with the Lake Stage and Sunrise Arena to follow soon.

Thoughts on Festivals, 2011 and onwards

Going to festivals is in fact an unexpected bonus that accrued from deciding to start this blog. Put simply it finally gave me the impetus to do something I had long wanted to do, which was to see and hear much more live music. In that time I have spent the equivalent of a month camping and experiencing outdoor festivals and I am in no mind to give it up now, indeed I already have tickets for two such in 2012. It all started with Latitude in 2007 and, after five years I will, more likely than not, give it a miss next year in order to try something else instead.  Here are a few more photos from the Obelisk Stage that I took at Latitude this July and in this case of artists that are well established.

KT Tunstall 
Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
I thought that both these sets were astonishing, so that is not an issue that I have with Latitude, but I do think that they are in danger of letting the music suffer in the pursuit of the big picture.  This is going to become ever harder on the smaller stages where the bespoke, often more nimble, festivals are able to compete very successfully indeed.
Lykke Li, on The Word Stage at Latitude 2011.
This was very good too but, while I didn't see it owing to a clash, I was reliably informed by others, who saw both this and also her subsequent performance at EOTR 2011, that the latter was even better. One might argue that after six years Latitude is maturing with its core audience. I started late in this, at least in the age game, and new music still excites me more than ever. EOTR was also on its sixth edition in 2011 and it just got better.
You can probably see my line of thought here and, with no Glastonbury in 2012 either, it will be interesting to see how the whole dynamic alters.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sleepless nights and new music...

The perhaps strange title of this post is less so to me. I have so much to write about and have listened to so much at festivals over the summer that it is now almost an inevitability. Some of this struck me whilst I was listening to the radio this last week: all full of students off to university for the first time and pondering the possibilities and pitfalls of Freshers' Week.
It made me think: that seems like a different life now. I tried to think what music I was listening to then. Not much I suspect, and even less that bears remembering let alone sharing with you. That was just short of 28 years ago!
More interesting perhaps is what, now twice-as-old-plus-a-decade-for-good-measure, I then imagined I might be listening to now. I don't think it ever crossed my mind...
One thing that I CERTAINLY never imagined is that I would be here, just now, writing this! Look at it another way - this was the time when CD players were as rare as rocking-horse shit and, once one had invested that money (and we are looking at near £1000 in actual cash then), there was precious little available to play on it and that which there was was mostly classical music.
Since then a great deal has happened, in music as in everything else. In these uncertain times it bears repeating that music has remained a steady companion. Of course it has changed but that is why it endures. I have changed too.
I still hate the person who lived above me in my first-year halls and went away for the weekend leaving Culture Club's 'Colour By Numbers' on continuous-play on their cassette player (remember those?). Even now, if I hear Karma Chameleon, I get flashbacks...
Forgiven but not forgotten. Musically things, mostly, got better after that and it might be time for some reminiscences. There is something about autumn and music for me. They just seem to go well together.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Acoustic+, Frome, September 16, 2011

After a summer recess, following the Frome Festival, the event returned to the Cheese & Grain Friday last.  The turn out was very encouraging and the audience was to hear some great music.

Four acts, as usual all very good, and the first to play was Ali George. Great guitar song-writing and largely unaccompanied.

The second is one that I have somehow managed to miss on more than one occasion previously. They come from Bristol and are Poppy and Friends.
There is a new EP - Flagged and Born To Be, just released to d/l (and also as a limited CD)...
...almost all of which are not however prone to fraying around the edges.

Next up was Dirk Landish. The album 'Blissful Drunken Blues' should be added to my suggestions for autumnal/fall music (see preceding post) and in this case it is harder to tell from which side of the Atlantic it draws the most inspiration. 
Excellent I thought and seemingly I was far from the only one to think so, at an event that was very well attended. You can listen to much of the album on his site and also buy the album direct from there too.
Last, and thus headlining, were Bakudan. Combining African rhythm with other influences they are fusion beyond pigeon-holing. I saw a bit of Tinariwen (at End Of The Road Festival) a couple of weeks back and I didn't really get that. Perhaps it was just a case of live music overload but, whatever the matter, I found this much more accessible and appealing.
So much so that, rather than choose between these pictures, here are both of them.
All of this for £5.  The next Acoustic+ takes place in the same venue, Cheese & Grain, Frome on October 14, 2011.
Of course you can't wait that long but then you don't have to because Acoustic Moon 2  is barely a week away and also promises a full evening of music for £5.