Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 43 - Trash Kit - Confidence

When I wrote this post, about their self-titled début album back in 2010, I didn't really anticipate reviewing its sequel. Although I had liked it, as the years passed I thought nothing more of it. It seemed just to be a case of the three artists doing exactly what they felt like doing on the spur of the moment with little thought to convention, let alone thoughts of the future, as it blasted through seventeen tracks in twenty-seven minutes. I am glad to say that once again I was wrong!
The core trio of Rachel Aggs, Rachel Horwood and Ros Murray remains, as does the contribution (brass in this case) of Verity Sussman, on recent release 'Confidence'.

In this the eleven tracks make up a play-length of just over 29 minutes. The second one 'Medicine' nears the four-minute mark!
Fear not - the self-imposed restrictions on song structure, particularly the lack of chorus, and the ways and means to avoid problems with that are reason enough to persevere. So too the often almost impenetrable vocals, that are usually low in the mix. This tendency is brought over from Murray and Sussman's previous life in Electrelane - I'm really thinking 'No Shouts, No Calls' (2007) in particular, though the prog tendencies are much less pronounced here.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Betwixt the old year and New Year.

At this time every year I feel like writing; that inclines me to think I should be able to write either about the past year, the coming one or even both with some insight. The fact is, and this year is no different, that to a great extent I cannot and that is not for a shortage of content.
Be that as it may I still feel like writing and so I have settled on a suitably time-indeterminate solution. Here are a couple of LPs or suchlike that I have not mentioned in 2014.

This first, released as the end of 2014 approached is a good example of the fact that some of the best Americana comes out of Canada and it isn't that easy to find on physical format in the UK at the moment.

'Chasing The Sun' is the third LP from the female three-piece The Sweet Lowdown based in Victoria, British Colombia. The sound is entirely acoustic and based on traditional and Appalachian playing but many of the songs and tunes are self-written.

Little May is also a female three-piece, but in this case from Sydney, NSW, Australia., and again not that easy to find all that much music from except to say that which I have heard I like. More about this very soon.

To finish a post that has wandered the world more or less on the theme of Americana perhaps less well known I will finish with one from the USA. That is this release by Pennsylvania-based Caroline Reese and The Drifting Fifth.
Electric Year EP (2014).

This track is not from the above but from the 2013 album Slow Code.

I can't wait to see and hear any/all of these artists, and many more, live in 2015. Now that I have started listening, reading and writing after the welcome Christmas break who knows where this will go next? I'm not sure that I do but when I started I didn't know that either. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ten years of writing - and some thoughts on music

Having finally got something of the festive feeling, and also read the suggestion from one of my fellow bloggers that writing a blog displays a certain vanity, I thought I might indulge myself a little.
First things first and a very simple luxury - make a tartiflette and sit in front of a real fire to eat it, accompanied by some wine and recorded music.

This specific idea for this post actually came about as the result of a Spotify advertising link - “What did your 2014 sound like?”
My thought was "Why did my 2014 sound like it did?"

One thing I must say about 2014 is that without doubt I have listened to more music, both live and recorded, than in any previous year. I can't put numbers to that but, trust me, it is true and by some considerable margin. I'm not sure that eight years of writing a blog has done much, whether positive or negative, for my vanity. What it has certainly done is provide me with huge satisfaction and at times a sanctuary from the everyday and the mundane. Not just the writing that is, although it has; the live and recorded music that I have heard and all the people that I have met along the way and the ones that I anticipate meeting in the future. One thing is certain; it is both absorbing and time-consuming. It is also absolutely fascinating. I have spent a great deal of time mulling (perhaps I should have done that with the wine too) over the music of 2014 this last month or so. I suppose with good reason that my 2014 has been dominated by acoustic-folk-Americana-roots. I can see that trend continuing in 2015 but that's not all that I like by any means.

The first time I wrote about music in the public domain was some amazon.co.uk reviews in 2005. I was reminded of this the other day while reading reviews and suddenly finding myself confronted by one of my own - that for the LP 'Old World Underground Where Are You Now?' (2003) by Metric.
That I suppose, and then the desire for freedom to write just what I wanted, led to this blog starting in September 2006 if only by accident rather than design. In 2007 this led to my going to festivals although it had been on my mind for a while. This was hastened by the new-found need to have original material to write about. Then came photography to go with it because festivals are as much about watching as listening. This bare-bones timeline says nothing at all about the music that accompanied it .

This got me thinking about how my current tastes in music have evolved to the point at which they are now. That is proving a tricky thing to do and harder to explain, not least because of the self-analysis that it predicates.

This evening I decided to listen to absolutely any LPs that I thought inspired my, or the purchase of which was inspired by my, decision to start (and then continue) going to festivals back in 2007. Whilst my liking for acoustic folk goes way further back it would seem, on reflection, to have had nothing to do with this particular decision. It seems to have been largely indie-driven; my choice of Latitude Festival 2007 as a starting point was specifically because Arcade Fire was headlining the Sunday. One thing yesterday's playlist demonstrated was that I still like much of what attracted me then and not all of this indie in the period 2007-9 was indie-rock; that appellation doesn't apply to New Young Pony Club or Polly Scattergood, both of which I first became aware of by seeing them play live at Latitude Festivals. I then bought the LPs and indeed have continued to do so. Both have disco as a pulsing heart - the twisted nature of 'Bunny Club' (Polly Scattergood) and 'Ice Cream' (NYPC) have both stood the test of time I think. 

To use a geological analogy, the growth of my music collection in the last ten years has been a largely sedimentary (rather than volcanic) epoch. It does, however, include a couple of fault planes within it. The most obvious of these is connected with my decision to go to End Of The Road Festival for the first time in 2009. This decision was certainly responsible for stirring my interest in Americana and roots and (while I don't much care for the descriptor) 'alt-country' too.
This fed-back into a revived interest in UK folk music (both traditional and new) that served to fill the gaps in live music between festivals.  That is when things became really interesting. It gave me the idea to go looking for new music myself, be that local in origin or further afield, rather than just wait for it to come to a venue that I was at.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Marnhull Acoustic Sessions - Pete Robson & Rodney Branigan

I have just returned from another excellent evening at Marnhull Acoustic Sessions that was arguable made even more special as a result of a minor electrical hitch, of which more later. As I have mentioned before I count myself as truly lucky to live within easy reach of so much good live music of all kinds. For anyone within reasonable travelling distance, if you have been wondering whether to give it a try then I strongly recommend that you do. You get to see and hear artists of national stature, at the very least, in an intimate venue. To whet your appetite Marnhull Acoustic sessions return on 22 February 2015 with Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston headlining with, no doubt, some cracking support.

Support artist this evening was Pete Robson whom I had never seen live before. This saw things get under way with a distinctive acoustic blues slant and a melange of covers and his own compositions. I listen to quite a bit of blues inflected music, although more often of the electric and rock-blues persuasion, so this made an interesting and very welcome change.

Rodney Branigan does things with guitars (or occasionally a mandolin and hand drum) that Health and Safety would advise that you never try at home. He hails from Texas and so, although now resident in Somerset, the rules don't apply in his case. Some of them are not actually dangerous; just both hands to the fret.

During the first half-hour or so of the set there was an intermittent issue with the sound and this resulted in a brief pause to investigate the problem. It was swiftly resolved: the performance would continue front of stage. Sometimes you get more than you bargained for.
We got to hear a couple of OutKast songs played in a folk-roots style unplugged, interspersed with his own compilations, some of which are very much blues influenced and all punctuated with the tricks that he does (only video could really do this justice - the point when he swaps them over without ceasing to play either, in particular).
WTF live - this went from the amazing to the quite astonishing almost by accident.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 42 - The Leylines - Let It Go

The problem with this time of year is that amongst all the others I get to discover some of the things that, due to inattention or oversight, I have managed to miss over the previous eleven months. This is one of them and only made worse by the fact that the band is fairly local and the influence of another although not local, The Levellers, of whom I was writing praises in June, is clearly important but not overbearing.

The Leylines is a five-piece, based around-and-about Weston-super-Mare in Somerset. The first release was an EP Let It Go at the start of 2014. Better still have a listen now and then buy it.

The Leylines are most certainly on my list of acts to see live in 2015 as are another, somewhat better known and longer-established one. Mad Dog Mcrea, to pursue the above analogy, might just be Plymouth's answer to (the early days of) The Pogues.
The recent song 'Am I Drinking Enough?' certainly suggests a kindred spirit. More importantly, so does their reputation and especially that for live performance.

Simply because such a thing is possible, here it is - recorded live in a very special shed in Somerset!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

My 2014 in Music - Live Albums & New Music 2015 - Part 2

A few years ago I thought that EPs were a dying breed. I was wrong about that. More recently I thought that live LPs were for the most part a highlight of the 1970s and 1980s; I have plenty of those, almost all on vinyl, that attest to that. My inclination even then was that the costs involved were something that only well established acts, with major label resources both logistical and financial, could really contemplate and that therefore they tended to be recorded at large venues or festivals and where such facilities were more likely to be found in any case, only served to reinforce that idea.
I am happy to report that I was seemingly wrong about this too. Whilst obviously no replacement for seeing the artist actually playing live they have interest. Here, in no particular order, are a few that have caught my attention in 2014.

  • Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin - Live in Calstock
Overlooking the Tamar in far-eastern Cornwall this venue is something of a hidden treasure.

In a wider sense that was also somewhat true of the artists until they won the 'Best Duo' award at the BBC Folk Music Awards 2014. I have been lucky enough to see them live on a number of occasions. Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin are confirmed to play Behind The Castle Festival, Sherborne, Dorset on 13 June 2015.
  • Rachel Sermanni - Live in Dawson City
I have mentioned this in some detail here. Suffice it to say that Dawson City makes Calstock and Carrbridge seem like accessible places to play and record! The march of technology has had more than a few downsides in music - the ability to make very respectable recordings at reasonable cost in small venues is not one of them. I'm hoping that her follow-up to Under Mountains (2012) will appear in 2015.
That turned out to be more prescient than I could have known when I wrote the foregoing paragraph last week. Sometimes, but rarely, not finishing posts has unanticipated advantages!
It was announced only today. 
'Tied To The Moon'. This, I believe, will be the album artwork. It is due for release in late February 2015.

  • Dana Fuchs - Songs From The Road
In the last couple of years the live CD/DVD format presented by Ruf Records 'Live On The Road' has been a major influence and I have mentioned several of these already. This one by Dana Fuchs is the latest to find favour with me and the album artwork is, as ever, totally generic. It was recorded in a single take before a sold-out audience. In this case it was the Highline Ballroom, NYC, March 14, 2014.
The label favours blues but the remit is liberally interpreted and I don't have any problem with that - soul blues, blues rock; whatever and however it comes it is likely to at least catch my attention, to be quite honest. The production is, however, uniformly top-drawer as are the performances so recorded.
I will probably never understand why, as I approach fifty years of age, I like a far wider range of music than I did when I was eighteen or twenty-one. I reckon that I am amongst the lucky ones.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

My 2014 in Music - Albums - Part 2

I seem to have the bit between my teeth at the moment as regards remembering, researching and writing so it is my inclination to just go with it. This list of ten albums is in no way a second-tier one in comparision to the first. The emphasis is slightly different however. The first list, viewed simplistically, comprised six UK artists, three US ones and a Canadian one. This next regarded similarly consists of six US artists, three UK ones and again a single Canadian one. It is also less heavily biased towards acts that I have seen live, at least in 2014, and more heavily towards those that I wish to see live in 2015; quite how this might influence my festival choices in 2015 remains to be seen.

  • Angaleena Presley - American Middle Class
  • Barr Brothers - Sleeping Operator
  • Chloë Warren - The Midnight Novel
  • Hannah Aldridge - Razor Wire
  • Hurray For The Riff Raff - Small Town Heroes (*READ THIS!)
  • Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker - Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour
  • Otis Gibbs - Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth
  • Red Molly - The Red Album
  • Samantha Crain - Kid Face
  • The Willows - Amidst Fiery Skies
In this list I have seen six of the above live at least once. Of the other four one of them is UK based but I've got it covered. That band is The Willows and playing Behind The Castle Festival on 13 June 2015.
This is the sole Canadian act in this list and the second time that I have seen Barr Brothers live. They are playing seven UK dates at the end of January 2015.
Tipi stage, End of The Road Festival, 30 August 2014.

When I took this picture, at one of the smallest stages, I knew almost next to nothing about the artist. I did however implicitly trust the curators of the stage because I was familiar with it and them. I wasn't to be disappointed.
Otis Gibbs - Saloon stage, Truck Festival 2014.

This next artist is one in the above list that at the start of the 2014 UK Festival season might have been regarded as a very long shot for inclusion here. This is how live music plays such a huge part for me;  I saw her twice in three weeks. I was it would seem far from the only one to come away with a very favourable impression. I wonder if I will be able to take a photo quite like this again...

Samantha Crain - Tipi stage, 30 August, End Of The Road Festival 2014.
Her recent touring, supporting First Aid Kit in the US and beyond has been very well received indeed and I hope has propelled her to a new level. Be that as it may, the album Kid Face is certainly worthy of all the praise that it has gathered.

This next one may be a curiosity: Amazon UK will tell you it is to be released in 2015 and also offer it for near immediate delivery. 
That might matter but it is so good and legally available that it shouldn't; I don't much care for this apparent nonsense of geographic distribution.
She, nickname 'Holler Annie', is the least known member of the Pistol Annies and the last to release a solo album. Does this matter?

On the basis of this recording the answer is a resounding NO and that is exactly why it is here. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

My Music in 2014 - EPs and mini albums

Just four out of so many possibilities are included in this list but there could always be a 'part 2'. These are not in alphabetical order either but rather in ascending order of the number of times I think that have listened to them since I came to be aware/it was released and this is not adjusted for the time factor in each case - I don't keep statistics in that detail.  It is also less influenced by that which I have seen live but I have designs on that too.

  • Aimée - Codes
Originally the solo project of Aimée Mackenzie from Liphook, Hampshire, Codes is the latest EP and one on which she has been joined by younger siblings Freya (violin and backing vocals)  and Ross (cajón).
The first Aimée LP should appear sometime in 2015 and this is not only something I look forward to because I have never seen this outfit live either. It should not be a problem; Aimée is announced to play at Behind the Castle Festival, Sherborne, Dorset on 13 June 2015. Their music while predominantly acoustic is really quite a challenge to categorize, which is no bad thing I hasten to add, for it jumps styles and genres between, and sometimes even during, songs.

  • Cardboard Fox - Cardboard Fox
This is the most recently released of the four in this list and it is a début release of kinds - three of the four members of this acoustic quartet have featured in these pages as the still fully functioning Carrivick Sisters - Charlotte and Laura Carrivick and John Breese are joined by Joe Tozer on mandolin and acoustic guitar in Cardboard Fox.
Still very much folk based and with self-penned songs this is rather less heavily bluegrass influenced than the Carrivick Sisters' recordings.

  • The Black Feathers - Strangers We Meet
This is a duo that I have seen live twice in 2014 and I'm planning on making that three times at Nunney Acoustic Café later this week.
I'm rather hoping that Gloucestershire-based Ray Hughes and Sian Chandler's Strangers We Meet EP might presage, in a wholly good way however, an album sooner rather than later. I just have a feeling that it could be the start of something big. 
The Black Feathers, Cheese and Grain, Frome, 24 October 2014.

I have, unusually for me, chosen three acts based more or less in central southern England here. This next, although I was alerted to it by Folk Radio UK, comprises three young ladies from thousands of miles away.

  • Free The Honey - In Our Hands
Free The Honey is from Gunnison in the high mountains of western Colorado, USA. 

This EP had, in so far as I was aware until this week, no physical release and so it marked a rare foray into downloads as far I am concerned. 
This it seems is not true any longer. The rest of this shop looks fascinating too!

That it is my most played EP or mini-album of 2014 says a great deal. As I mentioned back in June it is a delight of unexpected twists and  turns. At seven tracks it is the only one in this list that truly counts as a mini-album although as strictly-defined EPs should have only three, not more or less, and all the above fail on that criterion: Strangers We Meet has five and the other two four tracks each. The really key thing and I think it important to the renaissance of EPs and mini albums in the last several years, is that there is no need for filler. New music, even just a small body of work, can be made available in a physical format, as well as on-line, as a unified whole far sooner and at less cost than heretofore.

Monday, December 01, 2014

New Music 2015 - Part 1 - Leveret - New Anything

I decided that my consideration of Music Lists 2014 should be punctuated by other posts, especially those concerning that which is forthcoming in 2015.

At the very end of September I wrote a post that really should have been the first 'New Music' post dated 2015. At that time of year the whole idea felt premature but, now we are into December 2014, it does so no longer.

The band Leveret is new - the début LP 'New Anything' is released (in the UK at least) on 26 January 2015. The members of the trio are not new and are all astounding musicians in their own right and between them have worked with almost everyone folk-famous in the last twenty years...
Andy Cutting is a melodeon player of the highest order and fame, possibly even more renowned on that instrument than John Spiers of Bellowhead. That connection is real however, for Sam Sweeney is a fiddle player of repute and indeed a bona fide member of Bellowhead. The line up is completed by Robert Harbron, a multi-instrumentalist just possibly best known for playing the concertina.
I know that many people hate the family of "squeeze-box" instruments (piano accordion in particular) with a passion that I would only reserve for rice pudding with pineapple chunks stirred in to it. I am not one of them and Leveret is just the kind of band I want to see live.

It doesn't look like this will be a problem on 20 February 2015.