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Manchester quartet PINS have followed up their cassette-format EP ‘Come Back’ with a video for its title track, a cover of The Belles 1966 garage rock classic. Our own Martin featured a stream of the track in his previous review of the EP, but the video adds a new dimension to PINS‘ quirky take on the song. Directed by Amy Watson, it takes an off-kilter, behind-the-scenes look at the sterile and artificial quality of bands in manufactured television appearances. As in Honeyblood‘s recent video for ‘Super Rat’, the pristinely made-up members of PINS eventually descend into chaotic destroying of desserts and the systematic ruin of their carefully coiffed image. Are these grunge rock girl bands trying to make a point or something?
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 20th October 2014 at 2:00 pm
If you were to run into Tom Vek in an everyday situation – say you’re in Gregg’s buying a sausage roll and he’s behind you in the queue – you would have no idea a bloke like him would be a cult electronic hero. With his black, thick-rimmed glasses and massive head (hey, big heads = big brains, I can attest to this, I have a big head too), he looks more like a boffin who should be in a lab coat, working out the cure for cancer.
But no, thankfully this anorak has focussed his energies and synapses towards music. In certain circles, Vek is a big deal, and understandably so: he’s a producer as well as being an adept musician, showing off his prowess Sunday night in Liverpool. Although he will be showcasing at CMJ in New York this month, Vek is just not massive enough stateside for anyone, much less himself, to take the financial risk of him touring there, so I’d never seen him until the night.
Opening at the Kazimier were Leeds four-piece Fun Adults. They’ll remind you a lot of Wild Beasts; like the Kendal band and Vek, they take full advantage of both traditional rock band and electronic elements. However, I mention Wild Beasts because this band has two vocalists that take turns with the spotlight and both favour a falsetto, admittedly not my favourite.
The real question we’re left with is, does the world really need another Wild Beasts? To their credit, Fun Adults can be much more dancier and funkier than the Kendalites, which is always a plus in my book, and they also showed their versatility in track ‘Eavesdropper’. Starting the song quietly as the singer gently strummed his acoustic guitar, what a shock it was as the number built into a monster, the funky drummed rhythm propelling the song towards its climax.
Vek had taken a 6-year hiatus between the critically acclaimed debut from 2005, ‘We Have Sound’, and 2011’s ‘Leisure Seizure’, so waiting another 3 years for ‘Luck’ to appear wasn’t a huge surprise. However, you could tell easily that many of the punters in attendance at the lovely Kazimier, a Sound City venue near and dear to us TGTFers, were fans from way back, cheering and whooping at the mere mention of “..in a black 1989 Mercedes Benz…” of ‘Nothing but Green Lights’. One of them Liverpudlians even went so far as humming – loudly and emphatically – the too familiar opening notes of ‘’, with Vek smiling, insisting, “but that’s not one of mine. I think you’re at the wrong gig!”, all before his sequencer / guitarist Sam (who Vek referred to as 5 AM) repeated the same notes with buttons of his sequencer pressed in quick and impressive succession.
A lot of people who aren’t into electronic music, and who are sceptical of the genre like my own mother, think these kinds of artists aren’t real musicians, that everything they do is computer generated and there is no real artistry to their sound. So I was actually quite pleasantly surprised to see Vek showing off his guitar and bass playing abilities, proving to anyone who needed evidence that unlike the manufactured pop stars of today, he is an artist not borne of a well-stocked studio but of true musicianship along with quite good production chops!
Where to begin? Vek played for over an hour and a half with minimal stoppage time between songs. It was, in short, an electro head’s dream. I thought several times during the set I might need to pinch myself to confirm this show was actually happening before my very eyes, on the same stage I’d seen Glass Animals and We Have Band unleash their own selections of synths on a Sound City audience this past May. One can see why Vek’s voice divides opinion: its nasal, atonal qualities make it sound nearly robotic, but if you consider it in the grand scheme of his music, it completely works as another one of his instruments, a disaffected, unemotional player while the instrumentation serves to bring the funk.
As he’s got several albums to his name, Vek had an incredible back catalogue to draw from, while also bringing to the fore several of the tracks from ‘Luck’. One of the most successful of these were ‘Pushing Your Luck’, which benefitted from a surprise mix into Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s ‘Push It’. Imagine it being sung in Vek’s voice! After it was played and Vek was sure about its warm reception, he quipped, “everyone needs a little Salt ‘n’ Pepa in their life every once in a while”. Indeed, Mr Vek. ‘Aroused’, from ‘Leisure Seizure’, with its massive trilled beats, reverberated off the walls of the Kazimier. If a man who looks as geeky as Vek can pull off a song about sex and get a whole crowd in Liverpool all worked up, it gives us all hope, doesn’t it?
His set ended with recent single ‘Sherman (Animals in the Jungle)’, the entire crowd moving and grooving to every beat, proving even 3 years out from ‘Leisure Seizure’, he’s still got it. Like so many indie acts I love, I wish for Vek to do massively well commercially around the world. At the same time though, watching him at the Kazimier last night play to a very decently-sized crowd, all of whom clearly loved and enjoyed his music, made you feel like you were part of something very intimate and special and I wouldn’t have traded anything in the world for the experience.
After the cut: Tom Vek’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Tom Vek with Fun Adults at Liverpool Kazimier – 12th October 2014
Alt-folk trio Bear’s Den have just released their much-anticipated debut album ‘Islands’, after achieving critical success with two previous EPs. Signed to acclaimed UK/US record label Communion, the band took part in the label’s Austin to Boston Tour in March 2012 on the strength of their first EP, ‘Agape’, before releasing ‘Without/Within’ in October 2013.
Now comprised of frontman Andrew Davie, drummer Kevin Jones, and guitar and banjo player Joey Haynes, Bear’s Den have been on TGTF’s radar for several years now, dating back to July 2011. But Davie cites the following year, 2012, as a major turning point for the band, starting with the recruitment of Haynes. “I got goose bumps at the first rehearsal”, he recalls. “We’ve got wildly disparate influences, but the three of us together have got real chemistry.” Then the aforementioned cross-country tour of America, beginning at SXSW 2013, saw them join the likes of fellow Communion-associated acts Ben Howard, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Staves. “That was the point we really bonded as a band”, acknowledges Davie.
I first encountered Bear’s Den myself when I reviewed ‘Sahara’ from the ‘Without/Within’ EP, and I was lucky enough to see their repeat appearance at SXSW 2014 earlier this year. A mere 6 months later, they have emerged with a full LP combining a handful of previously released tracks with newly composed songs, including recent singles ‘Elysium’ and ‘Above The Clouds of Pompeii’.
The album title ‘Islands’ shares its inspiration with the moniker of the band itself, as Davie reveals in the accompanying press release. He says that Maurice Sendak’s 1963 children’s story ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ allows “a dual perspective of seeing the world through both a kid’s and an adult’s eyes. A lot of our songs address the world in the same way. Bear’s Den is our name for the island the kid escapes to”. The island metaphor goes back to early track ‘Stubborn Beast’, included late in the tracklisting here, which Davie says “was the first song our manager heard and connected with. The isolated nature of it embodies pretty much everything we’re trying to express”.
The album’s general theme of exploring personal relationships is more straightforward in some songs than others, encompassing the idea of platonic love in opening track ‘Agape’ and the idea of an idyllic afterlife in ‘Elysium’. The child-adult dichotomy is sharply illustrated in ‘Above the Clouds of Pompeii’, which considers the instability of a child’s relationship to his parents. The Biblical setting of ‘Isaac’ reverses that perspective, examining the relationship of parent to child in the lyric “Isaac, I could never learn / that a father’s love must be earned / while your mother need not learn / how to love you”. The opposition is fully elucidated in the music as well, with the gradually building instrumental background of ‘Above the Clouds of Pompeii’ contrasting the static, introspective setting of ‘Isaac.’
The overall feel of the music on the album is atmospheric and ethereal, often lulling the listener into a trance with its subtly layered beauty. The warm acoustic sounds of ‘Agape’ and closing ballad ‘Bad Blood’ are balanced in the more progressive rock feeling of ‘The Love That We Stole’ and ‘Think of England’, but nothing on the album ever threatens to cross into the frenetic folk energy of the inevitably-compared Mumford and Sons. Davie’s calm, even lead vocals and the steady harmonies in the backing vocals give ‘Islands’ a sense of stability and continuity, providing context for a few surprising moments, including the jarring lyric “I want to fuck away all my fear” in the dynamic climax of the album ‘When You Break’.
If ‘Islands’ is a somewhat predictable full length debut, it’s only because Bear’s Den have taken plenty of time to refine their sound and their songwriting before releasing it. Here, they’ve taken what clearly works best for them and displayed it to their best advantage, combining simple folk song structures with thought-provoking lyrics and effective instrumental arrangements to create a record that is at once cohesive and expansive, appealing to both intellect and emotion.
Bear’s Den‘s debut album ‘Islands’ is out today via Communion Records / Caroline International. They will tour the UK and Ireland in early 2015; all the details can be found right here.
Brighton rock duo Royal Blood have just announced that they will follow their sold out autumn tour of the UK and Ireland with another round of live dates scheduled for early next year. The new string of shows is part of a massive European tour, which will include the band’s largest ever headline appearance at the Brixton Academy in London. A complete list of Royal Blood’s worldwide tour dates can be found on their official Web site. Tickets for the following shows are on sale now.
Sunday 22nd February 2015 – Glasgow Barrowland
Monday 23rd February 2015 – Glasgow Barrowland
Friday 27th February 2015 – Plymouth Pavilions
Saturday 28th February 2015 – Bridlington Spa
Monday 2nd March 2015 – Portsmouth Guildhall
Tuesday 3rd March 2015 – Newport Centre
Thursday 5th March 2015 – Norwich UEA
Friday 6th March 2015 – Blackpool Empress Ballroom
Sunday 8th March 2015 – Belfast Ulster Hall
Monday 9th March 2015 – Dublin Olympia
Tuesday 10th March 2015 – Dublin Olympia
Wednesday 11th March 2015 – Wolverhampton Civic Hall
Friday 13th March 2015 – London Brixton Academy
Saturday 14th March 2015 – Nottingham Rock City
Alt-folk trio Bear’s Den have just published the video for ‘Above the Clouds of Pompeii’, the next single from their upcoming debut album ‘Islands’. Lead singer and guitarist Andrew Davie says, “‘Above the Clouds of Pompeii’ is a song we started playing in the back of a VW camper on our first-ever tour, and we’ve played it live at every show we’ve played since”. It’s easy to see why, as the song captivates from the moment it begins, with the understated yet poignant opening lyric “You built our home out on the slopes, Pompeii beneath, she laid above / How she haunted our home, how she haunted our home”.
The video for ‘Above the Clouds of Pompeii’ is equally compelling, its austere simplicity matching the instrumental arrangement of the music and allowing the lyrics their full emotional impact. The subtle expression in the dancers’ faces and especially in their hands is a perfect pairing for the same graceful quality in the song itself.
‘Above the Clouds of Pompeii’ by Bear’s Den will be released on the 13th of October, with the full album ‘Islands’ following on the 20th of October, both via Communion Records. Catch the trio live on tour in February and March 2015 in the UK and Ireland.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 10th October 2014 at 4:00 pm
French Web site La Blogotheque does atmospheric on location filming very, very well. Take for example their most recently revealed video featuring Sivu, who will be releasing his debut album ‘Something on High’ on Monday on Atlantic Records. The album’s stunning, I can assure you; I reviewed it earlier this week.
This live video takes us to Cap Blanc Nez, a cape in Northern France with stunning cliffs ala the White Cliffs of Dover, and Sivu’s accompanied by a brass band. While Sivu will be playing London Oslo Hackney next Tuesday, the 14th of October, as well as continuing as the primary support for Nick Mulvey on his UK tour which lands tonight in Falmouth, you’re unlikely to see a performance of ‘Better Man Than He’ like this at those shows. Watch the video with a gorgeous French sunset in the background below.
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