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Camden Rocks is one of a new breed of urbane festival that has infiltrated the scene across the U.S. and Europe. It requires the special kind of electric setting that can be found in places like Camden and Dublin, or organically grown ala SXSW; the corner of Texas that grew into national new music mecca. On 31 May, 20 venues across the borough will fire up their PAs, and over 200 bands will take to the stage from midday through to the small hours. There’s no mud, no tents and no burst fibreglass urinals. But what it lacks in escapist appeal, it will surely make up for in cultural backdrop and convenience. The Subways are what you might call the conventional headliners, but you can almost guarantee that it will be one of the plethora of lesser known talent that will steal the headlines.
Camden Rocks was conceived as homage to the borough’s staggering influence over the British music scene for the past 50 years. For so long an incubator of fragile new talent – from psychedelia to punk to Britpop – festival promoters have sought to express this diversity with an eclectic line up set across 20 of the town’s famous aural boltholes. It began as a one off, headlined by Pete Doherty and Carl Barat in 2009, and boasted a distinctly London chic, even if its scope was embryonic by comparison.
Resurfacing again in 2013, this year’s line-up is now a leviathan with hundreds of slobbering, stage-hardened heads just waiting to gnaw your face off. Some, like electronic punk rockers Sonic Boom Six, will be returning for another bite after appearing at the festival’s inception, whilst the likes of young guns The Hell will be attempting to muscle in and gain their share of the spoils. And, with festival scene rival Camden Crawl shipped over to Dublin in 2013, the locale will likely be chomping at the bit to host an event that expresses the veracity of the areas musical mythology.
For many, it won’t be headliners The Subways or Reverend and the Makers that are the big draw (although the £25 ticket fee would get you little change from going to see either individually on any other night). It is in the malaise of the lower line-up that the rare stones can be found. Starting at the top, Turbowolf and Orange Goblin will be representing the more traditional end of the hard rock spectrum, whilst Hacktivist’s intense hip hop/metal crossover is sure to compliment the likes of the anarchic Gnarwolves, and slackers Nine Black Alps. Further down the list and there is a thread of uber aggressive noisemakers that can be traced through the likes of Hang the Bastard, Crazy Arm and The Hell – the latter of which are solely responsible for leaving Watford as the wasteland it is today. Even the famous London poseur will be catered for, thanks to Blitz Kids and The Blackout.
It may just be a hyperbole of a standard Camden evening, but when your starting point is the motherland for so many generations of musical genres, the magnification creates a heady brew. It’s on nights like these, when Dr. Martens delve into every dive bar from Dingwalls to Dublin Castle, that you can sense the ghosts of Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Clash and Ramones – even Winehouse. On that Saturday in late May, the music of the new generation will do the talking; Camden Rocks has seen to that. But, it’s rare to find a festival at which the talent will be conscious of playing second fiddle to the venue itself.
Tickets and lineup info are available now from the Camden Rocks Web site.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 10th April 2014 at 6:00 pm
David Brewis via his solo project outside of Field Music, School of Language, has a new album out this week, ‘Old Fears’. Read my review of the LP from last week here. This is the promo video for the nattily rhythmic ‘Dress Up’. Watch it below.
Our Martin just caught David Brewis and co. in Newcastle on Monday; read his review here. Don’t miss David on tour later this month in the UK.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 10th April 2014 at 4:00 pm
County Wicklow born singer/songwriter Hozier wowed the audience, including Carrie, at the Communion night at St. David’s church at SXSW 2014 last month. But this seems an even more appropriate venue for him to perform in: the Langton House Ballroom, where he filmed this acoustic performance of ‘To Be Alone’. Watch it below.
‘To Be Alone’ features on Hozier’s upcoming EP ‘From Eden’, out on the 28th of April on Rubyworks.
One would be forgiven for not understanding the subtle difference between School of Language, in which David Brewis sings and Peter Brewis plays the drums, and the Mercury-nominated Field Music, in which David Brewis sings and Peter Brewis plays the drums. Well, School of Language is ostensibly David’s solo operation, so despite the live presence of Pete (and the bassist looks somehow familiar too), pretty much everything on the album was written and recorded by David. So tonight there’s no Field Music-style instrument swapping: David takes full frontman responsibility throughout.
And he’s rather good at it, clad in ‘70s-dad chic complete with slacks and linen jacket, displaying an awkward cool which reflects the mindset of the music. He helpfully points out that this is the first School of Language gig since September 2008, a fact which surely does nothing to calm first-night anxiety – nervous fiddling with guitar controls and an in-and-out-of pocket plectrum are telling giveaways. Perhaps the knowledge that bro isn’t going to step out from behind the drum kit tonight adds an extra frisson of tension. But as the photos attest, when initial nerves give way to concentration and growing confidence, Brewis certainly looks the part, sharp of cheekbone and jawline, even throwing some modest guitar-hero moves.
The songs are as precise and efficient as the workings of a Swiss watch. ‘A Smile Cracks’ has two electric guitar solos and a drum solo, which in another context could be a byword for excess, but in fact both are the very model of restraint. There’s acres of space in the arrangements, allowing exact placement of the various melodic components. As the album cover art suggests, this is the motion of an architect’s pencil made music: line, form, and placement are elegant, specific and unambiguous – as if played on a set square and recorded in thin graphite strokes.
One shouldn’t assume that such methods preclude the portrayal of emotion, or that the end result must be soulless. Far from it: the whole SoL experience is one of restrained white funk. Mary has already mentioned Talking Heads in her review of ‘Old Fears’, and the comparison is apt indeed. Self-described “kinda the single” ‘Between the Suburbs’ hints at Nile Rodgers-era Bowie in its stop-start rhythm and chorused Stratocaster work. ‘Dress Up’ is so retro it hurts, heavy with FM synth, tremendous auto-wah guitar, and drums that again refuse to play anything even vaguely resembling a conventional beat. ‘Suits Us Better’ is a dreamy interlude of ethereal backing vocals and reverbed guitar, and a groove conjured from looped beatboxing: at once ethereal and lo-fi.
The introspective-on-record ‘So Much Time’ is slightly faster and certainly more intense live, and works well as a full-stop to an evening of fine virgin music. It’s the sort of gig one wishes to experience again – not because of any particular mind-blowing spectacle, more because of the nagging certainty that with music as subtle and charming as this, the first reading cannot reveal the true depth of everything that’s on offer. Oh well – that’s what records are for.
I’ve been, shall we say, mildly obsessed with Glass Animals since seeing them at SXSW 2014 last month. They were on my peripheral radar, one of those bands I’d heard of but never really listened to, until their oozing electro sensuality captured my attention first at Harvest Records showcase and again at the the British Music Embassy. It seems appropriate that their latest EP centers around a track titled ‘Gooey,’ as their overall vibe does have a sort of thickness to it, a stickiness that grabs me and holds me in, though not entirely against my will.
I’ve discussed my feeling of disorientation regarding electronic music on several occasions, (read here and here for example), but I think I’ve connected to the Glass Animals’ take on it because they come from a more visceral and organic direction; the melding of the reverberant live instruments, the synthetic electro effects and the soulful R&B vocals is as palpable as it is audible. Bayley’s soft falsetto slithers smoothly around often nonsensical lyrics that are almost tangible themselves, including “I’d say I told you so, but you just gonna cry / You just wanna know those peanut butter vibes”.
The ‘Gooey’ EP contains the dizzyingly sensual original version of its eponymous track, as well as a reworked version with a rap overlay by Chester Watson and remixes by Chicago producer Gilligan Moss and Los Angeles DJ / producer Kingdom. The Gilligan Moss remix is a bit more crisply upbeat, the percussion a bit sharper, the electro sounds a bit edgier than the original. The purely instrumental Kingdom remix is ethereal and dark, even a bit harsh without the fluidity of Bayley’s vocals.
‘Holiest’ features responsively slinky female vocals by urban r&b singer Tei-Shi mingling with Bayley’s. Speaking of the collaborations on the EP, Bayley says, “I love collaborating. I love it when someone outside the group can bring something to a track that we can’t ourselves. Be it a crazy idea, a skill or something stylistic…we’re only four boys from Oxford and there’s only so much we can do musically.” However, this EP proves, if nothing else, that Glass Animals are more than willing to stretch their limits. [Then again, we already knew this from their covering of a Kanye West track down under last week. - Ed.]
Stream the entire ‘Gooey’ EP below. The EP is out now on Wolf Tone/Caroline International.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 9th April 2014 at 6:00 pm
Wild Beasts will be releasing their next single, ‘A Simple Beautiful Truth’, on the 16th of May on Domino Records. The track appears on the band’s current album ‘Present Tense’. Ahead of that single dropping, they’ve revealed the promo for the single, in which we see the guys dancing on a hill. Yes, you read that right. Watch the video below.
The band from Kendal will be headlining Friday night at this year’s Great Escape; more details on that event here.
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