Saturday, April 28, 2012

Karine Polwart - Live @ Rook Lane Chapel, Frome

Following on from the success of the first Frome Folk Festival came the first visit to Frome of Scottish singer-songwriter Karine Polwart. Rook Lane Chapel is a wonderful venue and absolutely ideal for concerts such as this and there was nothing to disappoint a near sell-out audience. Support was provided by an up-coming artist from Bath, Beth Porter, who was playing solo (rather than with her varied-in-composition backing group 'The Availables') but that did not did not detract from the performance one bit.  Songs such as murder ballad 'Salty Water' are good in whatever format they are played. She announced that her début album is on course for release before the end of the year; there is an EP 'Red Floor #3' already released.
Karine and her two accomplices, her brother Steven and multi-instrumentalist Inge Thomson (originally from Fair Isle, no less), provided a lengthy and stellar set.

As well as the expected favourites it notably included at least five tracks that will be on her forthcoming fifth studio album: 'Traces' is due for release on August 13. Judging from what we heard yesterday evening it is going to be rather special and most certainly not apolitical. That is something artists only tend to do when they feel comfortable and the audience is already on-side, which it clearly was as demonstrated by two encores - the second of which was a audience sing-along cover of Abba's 'Waterloo'.
There were a couple of solo numbers and this one is Inge singing a traditional Shetland song accompanying herself on piano accordion.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Music 2012 - Part 15 - Dear Prudence

One of the best things about new music is when it just appears in my consciousness quite unexpectedly. So it is with this five piece, fronted and founded by Madi Ponica and based in Brighton, that has also taken a rather dangerous name as its own.  It could, owing a debt in kind to Siouxie and The Banshees and maybe even The Beatles via The Cure, have been a complete disaster from the outset. It isn't. The first single is 'Valentine' and this is the artwork for it.

It is early days, certainly, but I'm listening carefully and think 'Dear Prudence' has potential in 2012. They are too young to remember and also too wise and ingenious to merely parody...
Were I booking acts for summer 2012 this one would, without doubt, be high on my list. If they can pull off an album as good as these songs, that matches their obvious talent and ambition and they are wisely being secretive about their plans for realizing this, then I wouldn't bet against them for a moment. In fact it is already a much better bet than you-can-guess-who (for prudence does not become him) --- and that is why I am at home and writing this just now: His loss and their gain!
Link added April 24, 2012:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Music 2012 - Part 14 - Metric 'Synthetica'

Metric will release its fifth studio album on June 11 in the UK and June 12 in North America (that is simply a chart-counting related issue).  This is the album art now that I have reduced it from 3690 x 3690 pixels to a more manageable, unless that is you want to project it on to a large flat wall, 800 x 800 pixels!

The usual problem with pre-release album art is that it is small and grainy; so even making it workable at 320 x 320 pixels for use in the side-bar of the blog can be a challenge. That is not a problem in this case but on the other hand I have never seen Metric live, which is something I might just have to put right this year and, because I can certainly do so, this is the track list:

1.     Artificial Nocturne
2.     Youth Without Youth
3.     Speed The Collapse
4.     Breathing Underwater
5.     Drums So Real
6.     Lost Kitten
7.     The Void
8.     Synthetica
9.     Clone
10.   The Wanderlust
11.    Nothing But Time

Their second studio album 'Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?' (2005) was one of the first I ever posted a comment on and as such it pre-dates this blog. Rather more importantly I still love it to bits!  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Record stores, vinyl, live music and poster art.

Saturday next, April 21, is Record Store Day...  certainly the biggest and sure to be the best yet.  All kinds of traditional High Street shops have been struggling of late, and record shops for longer than most - a couple of decades at the very least - but now the green blade rises.

I believe that, while it may sound contrary to say it, the legion of ways that the rise of the internet has heralded in recent years actually has something to do with this. In particular it has provided new means for artists and fans to speak once again, other than chance meetings at live performances. It has cut out much of the stultifying meddle-middle-muddle that did nothing for communication and, very often, little more for the acts in terms of meaningful promotion either.  If they didn't turn into an instant 'hit' for the major label they were cut-adrift from the contract and, more often than not, simply vanished.
North America kept live music going, more or less, and in time that slowly spread back to the UK and Europe. I am not there, sadly, but I can watch many of the highlights of Coachella 2012, and pretty much live, if I chose to do so. It made very diverting breakfast-time watching (owing to the time difference) this last weekend, I must say.
Returning to Record Store Day 2012 the wealth of special, limited edition, releases is quite simply staggering...
It has also stimulated an outbreak of poster art from the stores taking part - also part of a resurgent theme as it has become a feature of live events once again.  Here are half-a-dozen that have caught my attention over the last fortnight or so and in no order other than that in which I noticed them...
OK, it is a baker's half dozen because I couldn't resist the last one.
Neon Music has decided that Hungary needs a Record Store Weekend and, who knows, maybe that is the way to go.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

It is just one of those things...

To be fair it is not often that one needs 'one of those things' and especially when a new release is concerned. The 'thing' in question pre-supposes that you are already equipped to play vinyl. They were widespread way back when - not least because most foreign (that is in this respect non-UK) and also almost all juke-box vinyl 45s used this format.
This one does too, and it is about as new as you can get.

Heavy Chevvy, Pocket Change and Mama are not tracks on the album 'Boys & Girls'.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Last Thursday is a long time in Music

Last Thursday I wrote something, about the passing of Jim Marshall and his influence on electric guitar music. That included the comment that, at least in the UK, it is somewhat out of fashion.
That would be quite inconsequential were it not for this...  much hailed as just more 'southern fried rock', something long forgotten and also forever indie, so Alabama Shakes was derided by much of the music industry. It is a cliché that, I'm pleased to say, I don't think they could ever stoop so low as to reach; it was, however, tentatively predicted to gradually conquer at least the more receptive parts of the UK audience through live performance.
Be that as it may, the latest UK album chart mid-week predictions suggest otherwise - the début album 'Boys and Girls' is really on to something... it was only released - vinyl, CD and d/l on Monday, 9 April in the UK by indie label Rough Trade Recordings.  There's serious trouble afoot and it is just possible that it will top the UK album chart on its week of release. WTF is that about?
The album is extremely good, and not just for a début, but more than that the band's live reputation is already firmly established. The band is awesome live but, unusual in such a genre, so too is the contribution by vocalist Brittany Howard.
The album artwork has a quite unsurprising geometry:

Alabama Shakes is confirmed for End Of The Road 2012 (EOTR 2012). I, for one, can't wait.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Thoughts of forthcoming UK 2012 Festivals.

I haven't forgotten how to write, and I certainly haven't forgotten how to read or listen either. To follow in the coming weeks are some of my thoughts summarized by the post title and also by this lyric...
But who cares what the night watchmen say
The stage has been set for the play.
Townes Van Zandt is sadly unable to be there in person, although perhaps still present in spirit. On the other hand and in a similar, but mortal, vein Richard Buckner will be appearing at End Of The Road 2012. If that is something the same event also features a legend of Americana before the term was coined, or at the very least widely understood - Van Dyke Parks. From writing lyrics for The Beach Boys album Smile (he lived to see it released, if not as it was originally intended), as amazingly so did Brian Wilson (although not functional as originally intended), much more recently he conceived much of the arrangement and the production of Joanna Newsom's Ys (2006). In-between times, and amongst many other projects, he recorded and released six albums of his own material.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Jim Marshall - a man beyond music

It is so iconic, of amplified music, that it is indelible. Today Jim Marshall passed away... you know those ubiquitous amps, of course you do, but likely never thought about how they came to document and then define electric guitar music in particular for almost half a century.
Now you do.  The next time you see one, and I'd wager that will be soon,  just remember Les Paul and Leo Fender too: the electric guitar ain't dead yet... far from it. Here's to the next half-century.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Murderous, Modern and Urban?

Much has been written, and much more doubtless will be, about the corrasion (rather than mere corrosion) of some modern 'urban' music and in particular that it dwells heavily on themes of injustice, death, violence, and murder.

That is true but equally it is nothing new - the folk canon is replete with such themes in all forms --- from the night songs (of lovers lost) to the murder ballads in which the boot is on the other foot.  The stories are often old, the telling of them not always so much so:
Charlotte Dymond
In early April
I heard you talking
By the barn door
You agreed to go with him
To a church upon the moor
You planned to leave me
You'd be mine no more
Two years I loved you
Two years you were mine
I swore I'd love you
Until the end of time
But now you've found a new love
You crossed the line
Oh what have I done
I'll hang for my crime
You went walking up on Bodmin
An early start that day
Never said where you were going
But I could walk with you some of the way
Well you never reached that chapel
You never got away
For by the stream I killed you
And there I hoped you'd stay
On my return I told the others
New work you had found
They did not believe me
And with your absence I was bound
Oh, curse you Charlotte Dymond
Where you lay on the ground
For along with my boot prints
Your body was found
I tried to hide it
Tried to save my own skin
But the Mistress turned against me
With all her kith and kin
I know that I must suffer
For this dreadful sin
Now the gallows await me
Hell's gate says welcome in.
Lyric: Charlotte Carrivick (2011), based on traditional sources including the twenty-three four-line verses of Charles Causley's 'The Ballad of Charlotte Dymond'.  Fiddle and backing vocals: Laura Carrivick.
Matthew Weekes was convicted of the murder of Charlotte Dymond and was sentenced to death by hanging. This took place in Plymouth.