Slow Club Gig Preview For Their Queens Social Club Show (Harley Live – 12/12/13)

It’s all very well to “hold on to where you’re from” if “it’s where your heart goes, when you’re done”, but what happens if that place is Sheffield? Thus when you return to the Steel City and walk through the Wicker Arches dilapidated, tired-eyed but transformed; you’re greeted not by caterwauls of comfort but the apathetic and cacophonous snap! of countless Red Stripe cans, LAD chants of “you’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham!”, the final splutter of departed industry and an unsympathetic “yeah…so?” from the opportunistic, austerity adoring, trust fund activists. You realise that although you might know where you’re from, it doesn’t quite know you anymore.

Homecoming can be hard for the wide-eyed, especially if, on the road, you’ve developed a penchant for the exotic. But unlike Sheffield’s fab four, entrenched South-Yorkshire stalwarts Slow Club (Rebecca Taylor – Vox, Guitar & Kit, Charles Watson – Vox, Guitar & Keys) haven’t lost their roots in the bustle of New York or suddenly found themselves in the deserts of Deep South. Instead, through deft subtlety, they have slowly evolved from the Folk-Pop, cutesy, chair-playing ‘mixtape band’ of yore (providing wistfully naive young love odes to soundtrack many a hormonal bedroom teen’s tentative first romantic steps) into reluctant mentors and observers who in turn soundtrack those teens’ mid-20s weight-of-the-world crisis’ with a now far heightened arena-pop tower of timbre. Despite this sonically transformative journey, the duo have retained their prized ability to emphatically tease out the colours and shades of youth’s often erratic and delicate emotions. Which, combined with their aforementioned idiosyncrasies, heartbreakingly relatable lyricism and affection for festivity gives us all the more reason to longingly await the return of Slow Club.

Fitting, then, that their forthcoming gig at Queens Social Club combines not just a homecoming show with last-stop-of-the-tour fervour, but the date also falls far safe within the cosy boundaries of the festive month, and for a band in no way adverse to a Christmas tune or two (…they have a whole EP’s worth of them) punters can expect a raucous display of giddy Folk-Pop that tumbles sonically from the Peak-District highs of chorus-biting ‘Two Cousins’, ‘Me and You’ and ‘Our Most Brilliant Friends’ to the lyrically sublime lows of tentative, thought-stompers ‘Christmas TV’, ‘You, Earth or Ash’ and ‘Boys On Their Birthdays’ that, in ramshackle defiance, flicks two fingers at the meticulous falsity of seamless Indie Rock.

Powered by homely colloquialisms (such as Rebecca’s penchant for wearing the infamous ‘Rotherham is the New Berlin’ t –shirt), down on the farm (in Yorkshire) harmonies (their third album material is sounding increasingly Gospel and R’n’b influenced) and fireside cheer (it is Christmas after all) Slow Club will bring a brilliant, cacophonous 4-piece Rock show to perfectly compliment their majestic 2-piece performances of yore, and prove that sonic evolution does not have to entail emotional diminution.

LOW at Queen’s Social Club 16/11/13

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“We know your hills….we know your shhhhopping…stretchessss” sarcastically sneers Alan Sparhawk (Guitar, Vox),   as he leers out over Queens Social Club, the scattered remains of crowd pleaser Canada spluttering and dying behind him. Quiet and deadpan yet unequivocally cocksure, his message is one of greeting, as he explains how Sheffield has ‘taken care’ of Minnesota’s LOW ever since they started coming to Britain after the release of their debut LP, way back in 1994. But despite the cordial nature of this reassurance of friendship between band and audience (and the packed out club hanging faithfully off his every word) something seems very wrong here. His message is one of comfort, but the delivery says otherwise, as it hints at a simmering, below-the-surface hostility that seems to infiltrate his every word. Thus the tone is set for the night, the bright house lights leave nowhere for LOW or the audience to hide and they must sonically commit to this nest of simmering angst if they wish to succeed tonight…and commit they do.

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Django Django at Plug, 22/10/12

Edinburgh-formed, London-based art rock quartet Django Django stopped over at Plug on Monday night for their UK autumn tour. 2009`s driving single “Storm” (Think Metronomy by way of Devo) had not been followed by an album release until the band`s eponymous debut this January. Huge critical acclaim for the album recently led to nomination for 2012 Mercury Music Prize shortlist and an age-wise rather varied crowd came down for their second Shef visit to see what the fuss is all about. 

Super Furry Animals bassist Guto Pryce`s latest side project Gulp duly prepared the stage with a couple of tipsy, hypnotic pop tunes. As the drums backed off in this psychedelic journey, Lindsay Leven`s voice reminded me of a spooked Nancy Sinatra, while touring guitarist Gid Goudry seemed to enjoy shoegazing. 

Drums provided by band mastermind David Maclean however kept it all together, when after almost an hour neatly-nerdy uniformed Django Django entered stage, proudly introducing their much thought-through light show and setting an exotic mood with crickets, shouts and synths. Kicking off with “Hail Bob”, they brought about a jingle jangle with a guitar twangy enough to provide the ground for a catchy tune, carried away by Vincent Naff`s seemingly passionless surf vocals. Uniting a relaxed, joyful West Coast mindset and rather snappy indie rock seems to be their success story (“Zumm Zumm”, “Life`s a Beach”), and of course there are echoes of the MacLeans Brothers’ Beta Band like the clattering “Love`s Dart” and the rattling “Firewater”. 

It all got incredibly eclectic: bouncing electro took over in “Default”, a likely matchup between Battles and Hot Chip. And it goes without consulting Pitchfork that stomping, clapping, alarming “WOR” steals from a Pulp Fiction motif, while “Hand of Man” remembers the Shins’ bane that is “New Slang”. This influence however was less obvious given how much the multi-instrumentalist boys engaged in at the same time. Synth operator Tommy Grace and Naff did some percussion, a ubiquitous tambourine got passed around and soon they left it all for synths and oriental grooves (“Skies over Cairo”). 

The audience enthusiastically joined the band on this neo-psychedelic journey. Although their appearance must have lacked the excitement of early days, as people don’t really seem to fall for the danceable stuff, this band`s complex repertoire is still to be discovered in full. 

By Malte Hakemann

TOY at Plug, 19/10/12

Clearly no one told TOY that the snapback is in vogue. Clad in flamboyant coats and wearing eyeliner, the band may have learnt some fashion lessons from recent touring partners, The Horrors. Fortunately they also share an ability to write interesting songs that are tinged with woozy psychedelia. TOY’s first single, ‘Left Myself Behind’ is a seven minute cacophony of music with a sound reminiscent of The Psychedelic Furs.  Live it sounds magnificent, each band member really going for it.

There is a lot of hype around TOY, with publications like NME eager to proclaim them as the new indie heroes. There is a danger with building bands up before they have actually released their first album and although TOY possess a couple of brilliant tunes you can tell they are still finding their feet.  As a band they are familiar with the pitfalls of exposure too soon. Three of the members were in Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, a band that were crushed under the weight of expectation. Sheffield was the first stop on their nationwide tour and some of the songs felt self–indulgent, but this is to be expected from a band who only recently released their debut album.

‘Motoring’ was a tune that hinted at the band’s promise. The tight structure of the song was a welcome break from the meandering pace of the previous tunes.  The audience seemed suitably impressed with the set. The mix of old and young gig-goers were dressed as extravagantly as the band and seemed a far departure from the usual clientele of Plug. It was really refreshing seeing a live band again: since coming to Sheffield, I’ve only gone to Techno or House nights. I enjoy listening to that type of music, but watching a DJ twiddle on their laptop for hours lacks the excitement of a live band. It’s a shame the bouncers at Plug didn’t share my enthusiasm for TOY. I was thrown out for being too drunk after the show, but I still had a brilliant evening listening to a band that has a lot of promise.

By Ciaran Davis      

Spector at the Leadmill, 18/10/12

Since early 2012, the anthemic-indie five piece Spector has captivated the UK music scene, building an ever greater fan base upon the release of their successful debut album, ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’.  So, choosing to stop off for their current tour at the recently award-winning Leadmill was always going to make for a memorable evening.

First to hit the stage as supporting act were Swim Deep. Having emerged from the recent Midlands ‘B-Town’ scene, they brought with them their dreamy surf-pop and harmonic melodies, which warmed the hearts of the crowd. The quartet finished with their latest single ‘Honey’, due to be released this November; the title certainly did not disappoint, as they left the stage on a deliciously sweet vibe.  Splashh continue the aquatic theme, with their Californian grunge, reminiscent of the 90s with songs such as ‘Washed Up’. Think Beach house meets Wavves.          

After two incredible support acts, the crowd wait in anticipation for Spector. After finally taking to the stage, the band is greeted with a roar of delight. This roar only becomes heightened when front-man Fred Macpherson enters; he has become something of an icon in the past few months, probably due in no small part to his now famous flamboyant shirts and chunky glasses, not unlike those of 70’s pop icon Elvis Costello. The set begins with the uplifting ‘Twenty Nothing’, and the mood is thus established for the rest of the evening to come. The charisma and charm of Macpherson shines through, as he manages to get everyone in the crowd to sing along to ‘Grim Reefer’, creating a beautiful moment for Spector’s fans.   Intermittently the showgoers chant ‘Yorkshire’ for what seems like the majority of the night, showing that Sheffield really does have immense spirit and are not afraid to share it with London-based Spector.

Whilst making their way through the rest of the crowd pleasing album, the gig is temporarily put on hold for an unexpected marriage proposal. Macpherson allows a woman to propose to her boyfriend on stage, and much to the audience’s delight, he agrees.  To commemorate this special moment Spector dedicate their next song, all-time favourite ‘Chevvy Thunder’, to the couple, allowing the crowd to let go for one last time. Finishing the set, Macpherson employs some classic audience sing-along participation, with the more tranquil but much appreciated ‘Never Fade Away’.  

To top it all off, Swim Deep, Splashh and Spector later reconvened at The Great Gatsby for an after-party DJ set, which provided a more intimate feel for the dedicated follower. The crowd were certainly in for a treat as they were played an eclectic mix of 90s house and 00s indie. For all the pressure of their quick-paced rise to fame this year, Spector were able to show their down to earth side at this special after event, as they mingled, talked and danced amongst the small crowd of devoted fans. Whilst their rise in popularity will continue to be on the up, Spector fans can be reassured that their early indie magic will ‘Never Fade Away.’

By Lucy Amos

AlunaGeorge - Your Drums, Your Love

London based duo Aluna George have been building hype better than the next Justin Bieber-esque-youtube-hit wonder for sometime now. From a first free download Double Sixes (still available from their website), to a Tri-angle records released EP and now, this single Your Drums, Your Love out on Island as of Monday just gone.

Your Drums, Your Love is an incredibly accomplished production which balances retrospective 90s RnB hipster-cool with a sense of modern pop and electronic music almost perfectly. Accompanied by a sleek body bopping suitably arty video. See here:

My only qualm with Your Drums, Your Love is that Aluna George seem to have lost a little the post-dubstep wonkiness that I loved about that first track Double Sixes. In comparison Your Drums, Your Love just sounds a little safe. Then again, perhaps that’s why it’s being released on the major Island as opposed to Hyperdub or R&S. Above all of this Your Drums, Your Love is still a fantastic piece of futuristic and interesting music that very well might do well in the charts too, so well worth a listen!

Alex Gowan Webster

Holy Ghost! - It Gets Dark

One of the most underrated albums of last year, in my opinion, was Holy Ghost’s self-titled debut. Sing-a-long, 80s style disco/electro with throwbacks to early Human League and Depeche Mode, with a smattering of label buddies Juan Maclean and LCD Soundsystem made for a frankly fantastic album, with enough fun and groove to keep you going for at least until the next installment.  

So when I spotted a new track, ‘It Gets Dark’, I was more than excited. I was not disappointed. Originally a very limited edition 12”, ‘It Gets Dark’ has the same catchy hooks, throbbing baselines and standout chorus, but with a Halloween-esque depth to it, like Ultravox crossed with Chic, with a sprinkle of Tiger and Woods. This is kept throughout the track, with the shadowy undertones peeking out at the fringes, shattering the glossy disco façade of the lyrical progression.

A plethora of claps punctuate the chorus of ‘I hope it all falls apart, Let the end, Start to Start, I hope it all falls apart, It’s the end, Cross my Heart”, and I hope that this is certainly not a haunting premonition for this band. 

By Joe Carr

Flying Lotus - Until the Quiet Comes

It is clear that Flying Lotus, also known as Steve Ellison, had a clear vision of what he wanted to create when he was making his 4th album, Until the Quiet Comes. Before its release he spoke of his aim to create an album that revolved around the dream world of the artist, the ‘notion of the unknown.’ Musicians are often left looking foolish when they aim for such lofty ambitions and the music they produce then fails to live up to the self-induced hype. 

Until the Quiet Comes, however, doesn’t conform to this trend. Instead Ellison manages to create a record of lush soundscapes that is both beautiful and unsettling, often at the same time. The cover art hints at what he sets out to achieve; a blurred image which conveys feelings of comfort through the use of rich colours, but also claustrophobia, as shown by the woman’s flailing limbs. This ambivalence of feeling is mirrored in the songs themselves.

On the opening track, ‘All In’, the central melody of the track breaks halfway through, with vocals fracturing the rhythm of the song. This technique is sometimes used in techno in an attempt to unsettle the listener. However, Flying Lotus reverses the technique, giving the vocals a soothing feel, making songs sound like electronic lullabies. The arrival of Erykah Badu on ‘See Thru to U’ takes the album into more jazz influenced territory, although the songs still retain the dense sound that is so unique to Flying Lotus.

During the middle of the album, tracks can feel more self-indulgent and less fully formed. The song ‘DMT’, for example, is a meandering collaboration with Thundercat, which makes the record briefly lose coherence.  It is interesting to compare Flying Lotus to his label mates on WARP, Rustie and Hudson Mowhake. Each producer experiments with similar sonic landscapes, but Flying Lotus’ willingness to incorporate sounds unheard in a dance environment propels this album to the next level.

Perhaps the reason why Flying Lotus is popular with people unfamiliar with electronic music is that many of his tunes sound thoroughly human.  There is always underlying warmth, a beating heart hidden away amongst the dense layers of music.  The warmth that is offered on earlier tracks is snatched away as the album progresses. On the album highlight and thoroughly unsettling ‘Electric Candyman’, Thom Yorke adds a barely recognisable vocal over a snarling convoluted drum loop.  Yorke seems completely enamoured with electronic music and it wouldn’t be surprising if Radiohead’s next record is four on the floor techno. It will be interesting to see how Flying Lotus’ music works in a live event. I snapped up a ticket for his Warehouse Project as soon as it was announced: the prospect of Fly Lo playing before DJ Shadow was too good to miss.   

By Ciaran Davis

TNGHT at The Warehouse Project, 06/10/12


Battered and bruised, having weathered the relentless storm that was Disclosure, I’m stood clutching the barrier, beer in other hand, smack in the middle of the front row. The room’s the size of a football pitch, with 2000 booze-laden folks behind me, as a crescent moon appears on the 40 foot LCD screen in front of my puny retinas: TNGHT’s logo.

All cheer as Lunice, snapback on head, wanders on stage, burying his head behind his laptop which is invisible behind a slanted table. Out comes Hudson Mohawke (HudMo) and promptly imitates Lunice, head down, deep in focus.

What happens next is quite frankly a blur, with the rasping bass, bodies and lights becoming far too overwhelming for me to coherently explain. However, what I do know is, IT WAS AWESOME. From the squelchy ‘Bugg’n’,to the fantastic ‘Higher Ground’ (see video below, wait till 1:47 for the full scale of it), to a impromptu version of ‘Cbat’ (a HudMo original), via a plethora of bassy hip-hop, the atmosphere and energy was ridiculous, far too crazy to even comprehend.

To rapturous applause, the set ends on ‘Goooo’, and as I stagger out of the crowd, soaked in sweat, to formulate some form of coherent thought, the only thing I can comprehend is the ring in my ears.

By Joe Carr

Review: Emperor X - Western Teleport

My first exposure to Emperor X (a.k.a. Chad Matheny) was through the Nervous Energies session he recently did (if you’ve not heard of Nervous Energies, look them up, there’s some awesome stuff they’ve done recently). For whatever reason the nerdy looking dude playing the 12 string guitar on the side of the road seemed pretty cool to me. There was something charming and unassuming about ‘Canada Day’ which made me want to explore his stuff and thankfully the album that track is taken from Western Teleport doesn’t disappoint.

Opening with the (almost) titular ‘Erica Western Teleport’ it’s pretty clear what Emperor X’s USP is, off kilter indie-pop songs in the GBV mold, and through out the record he keeps to that mission statement pretty tightly. The thing that separates this from the million other albums in this genre is the sheer quality of the songs and the weird, if endearing, production. The songs are stuffed with hooks, melodies which’ll stick in your head without being brain numbingly obvious, with perhaps the best example being album highlight ‘Allahu Akbar’.

For a load of reasons this’ll get labelled lo-fi, although it’s a bit of a misnomer, the production, as noted earlier, is weird but it’s hardly Bee Thousand. Auxillary guitars often sweep dramatically from ear to the other, and unexpected noises, or voices, pop up every once in a while, but that fits the mood Matheny clearly wants to create, serving the songs as opposed to distracting from them. For another load of reasons this album will be (and in fact has been) ignored by the big indie boys, it’s the type of recording which could hardly be described as zeitgeist-y and to be honest its difficult to imagine a world in which it would be. However for those of us looking for a collection of good old fashioned indie-pop songs 2011 couldn’t have offered up a better collection.