Album Review: Jessica Pratt – Quiet Signs


For all the qualities Jessica Pratt’s music is rich in, its peculiar relationship with time is the one that’s the most undeniably headf***ing.

Quiet Signs sounds like it could’ve been written at any point during the last five decades such is the rootless universality of its grain; in making everything appear to have stood still, the Californian has stolen its secrets and convinced us she doesn’t exist. Take for example As The World Turns, which contains the first moment on which words appear, disembarking gently as if summoned up from a dimension somewhere between magic and the stars, Pratt’s voice elfin and yet indefinably alive. Built from little more than two or three repeated chords, the effect is mesmerising, an uncorking of the playful detachment from which the singer rarely deviates.

 

We begin, however, with Opening Night, its notes sketched from a gently coaxed piano, Pratt’s melodic hums drifting in from a distant breeze. The title is a reference to John Cassavates’ 1977 film of the same name, a visceral drama about the cost and duality of both performance and performing which she claims was a source of inspiration, albeit tangentially, throughout the recording process.

One aspect of the woozy disorientation Quiet Places brings on is the constant sensation of being in two places at once, the sound bending around vocals which are often gently distorted and hazy, the ambiguous words like shadows. Often voices come from the distant past; Fare Thee Well seems to be haunted by the spirit of Karen Carpenter, while all Here My Love’s gorgeous, skeletal bossa nova lacks is the footsteps and shy loneliness of Astrud Gilberto.

This chamber in which the silence is as loud as the notes is something which follows a trail of precedent: on her eponymously titled first album, Pratt recorded using solely analogue equipment, a deliberately lo-fi technique dispensed with for the first time here by relocating to a Brooklyn studio. The resultant shift meant even something this slight – nine songs clocking in at less than thirty minutes – took almost 18 months to finish.

The glacial pace of its creation has no bearing however on the richness and ethereal fascination of the material. On Poly Blue a flute spirals gaily, pirouetting around sing-song tones whilst the almosts and nothings are as happy and intimate as a stolen kiss. Like those, Quiet Signs is a series of simple pleasures, on Silent Song words pipe innocently about a state of mind that harbours both love and regret: ‘Soft, sweet as the air/I longed to stay with you/Or did I belong to my song?’, while the organ of closer Aeroplane gives it the tone of a weary confessional, the gentle flow weaving through the husk of another dead affair.

Musically there are few parallels with other artists who can induce this sort of dappled nostalgia – the only other obvious one being Scottish duo Boards Of Canada, who twenty years ago on Music Has The Right To Children fused cinematics, hip-hop and mellowed ambience into a dreamy teleport that remains a similarly tripped-out form of suspended animation.

In the end though, it all comes inevitably back to time: the time you’ll lose listening to this record until you’ve managed to work it out, and the time you’ll spend wishing you were listening to it instead of being distracted by the snakes of counterfeit real life.

Once locked away again from there, Quiet Signs will leave you stranded in your own head.

(Andy Peterson)

By Live4ever - Posted on 11 Feb 2019 at 10:07am 

Foals, Two Door Cinema Club, Elbow to headline 2019 Y Not Festival

Foals’ Yannis Philippakis performing at Wembley Arena (Photo: Alberto Pezzali for Live4ever Media)

Foals, Two Door Cinema Club and Wolf Alice are becoming familiar names on the 2019 European festival scene.

 

All three have been confirmed for this year’s Y Not Festival, with Foals and Two Door Cinema Club due to headline along with Elbow, and Wolf Alice leading the charge of the other main acts that also includes Franz Ferdinand and You Me At Six. “After an amazing 2018 festival we’re so happy to have a 2019 line-up bursting at the seams,” Y Not organisers respond.

“We’ve got a huge mix of new and old faces to the Derbyshire Dales, with massive returns from classic bands such as White Lies, plus the huge welcomes to the UK’s hottest emerging stars like Idles and Mahalia. Not forgetting 3 huge headliners.”

Foals’ regular festival outings will help support part one of their new album Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, which is due for release on March 8th.

By Live4ever - Posted on 07 Feb 2019 at 6:29am

Album Review: The Specials – Encore



This shouldn’t be happening.

It’s indicative of where Blighty is right now, both musically and socially, that this album has not only been made (the first album from this version of the Specials in forty years) but also that it’s depressingly relevant.

A quick recap: The Specials shot to fame in the late 1970s with a string of Top 10 singles. Their ska sound was revivalist, but the content wasn’t. Social commentary was the order of the day against a backdrop of urban decay and violence in the inner cities, most famously detailed on their 1981 UK number one single Ghost Town. From there they became something of a revolving door for members, to an extent that you’d need a flow chart to keep track of it. They span off into various collectives but always maintained a key message of equality and, most especially, anti-racism.

They’ve been ‘back’ for a good while now, but Encore is their first album of new material in that time. Sadly, in the age of Brexit, austerity and Black Lives Matter, they and their message have never been more prescient and vital.

 

Although a cover (the original by the Equals back in 1973), opener Black Skinned Blue Eyed Boys is their manifesto; ‘The world will be half breed’, they sing against a disco funk that Chic would be proud of. Hammering home the message, B.L.M. (see above) is a desperate tale of one Jamaican man (guitarist Lynval Golding) orating his experiences of discrimination from being a Windrush passenger to strolling around contemporary America. Lead single Vote For Me pulls from their past most obviously; the haunting trumpet echoing Ghost Town as Terry Hall laments the dire state and short-termism of modern British politics. The Lunatics is another diatribe against those in power, they having unsurprisingly ‘taken over the asylum’. It’s not hard to see who he’s referring to. (Hint: he lives in a white house.)

By now you’ve got the gist; Breaking Point is an ooompa-loompa tread around where we are as a western society, with all the pressures we work within. Embarrassed By You is a scathing condemnation of the more confidently certain characters that walk our streets and occupy our screens. Blam Blam Fever takes a more light-hearted tack on rising gun crime. Best of all is 10 Commandments, with vocals from Saffiyah Khan, the young woman who was famously photographed standing up to a member of the EDL. It puts you in her shoes and is unforgiving but enlightening.

If this all sounds a bit intense, fear not. Musically the Coventry mob are perhaps more jaunty than they’ve ever been, their traditional ska sound given a rhythmic bounce which is held together by some outstanding bass work. Closer We Sell Hope is more reggae than ska and accentuates the band’s strength as more than a one trick pony, a slower beat requiring much more discipline. ‘We’ve got to take care of each other’ as a closing salvo complements the opening track perfectly.

There’s an argument to be made that their peers four decades ago were Madness and The Jam, in musical style and lyrics respectively. Paul Weller no longer sings the songs of the suburbs, and Madness do what they always do. Probably due to their own internal diversity, The Specials were always more intent on railing against the wrongs of life. It’s no different on Encore, and once peace is made with the sound of men in their 50s railing against the inequalities of life, you’re left bewildered as to why they should still be doing it.

We’ve never needed them more, but to be listening to music of this quality is some consolation.

(Richard Bowes)

By Live4ever - Posted on 05 Feb 2019 at 9:44am 

Review: The Room In The Wood – The Mars EP


There are as many complainants about music wickedly going unseen, unheard or unloved as there are those who talk about the lasting differences between the stuff produced in Liverpool versus almost anywhere else in Britain.

Both groups have a point but neither really bottles the essence of The Room In The Wood, a confection of Paul Cavanagh and Dave Jackson, working together again for the first time since their highly cultish post-punk outfit The Room split back in 1985.

Since reuniting they’ve been prolific; in 2018 releasing the EP Magical Thinking and their eponymous debut album – both, whatever accusations of bias you can level, cruelly ignored by the public at large – and now this, three more new songs and an encore, each of which borrow in different ways from a grab-bag of mostly Northern eccentrica, showcasing in the process their multi-threaded and unorthodox approach to learning new tricks.

 

The title-track is an admirably riffy sideways look at whether the red planet is the sort of place that, courtesy of the damaged Elon Musk, billions of normal people who want to stop our own world and get off could use as a lifeboat, a hope dashed in the deadpanned, scientifically accurate lyrics, ‘Mars can’t save us/Mars has no air’.

The duo reckon that this paired together with Time Machine – in form laid back and almost jazzy but about H.G. Wells hopping back in his gizmo to the start of a failed love affair – gives the impression of a scientific edge, but if anything this is primal learning, not the stuff of Bunsen burners and lab coats.

If there’s a welcoming unorthodoxy to that approach, it’s equally a cliché to automatically associate the region with a left of centre political consciousness. The duo seem more than happy though to respond to it on Every Lie, a marching sort of blues which doffs a hat to Johnny Cash whilst decrying the rise of the populist right, both too close to home and in Trump’s morally crippled America.

Before you can fully wrap your head around that they conclude with Get Clear, the song’s Latin mood a cryptic background for a tale which is ostensibly about a cult member performing an intervention on themselves whilst apparently acting it out in a crackling, ancient Spaghetti Western.

Each to their own. Up until now The Room In The Wood have been something of a secret society in a city which intentionally or not loves to keep good things to itself. Mars won’t save us, but music like this gives us more of a chance of redemption.

(Andy Peterson)

By Live4ever - Posted on 01 Feb 2019 at 10:13am 

January 28, 2019

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Track Of The Week: Working Men’s Club – Bad Blood

By Live4ever - Posted on 26 Jan 2019 at 6:24am 


Rosie Butcher

The Track Of The Week is Working Men’s Club‘s debut 7″ single Bad Blood.

 

The single was confirmed earlier this week for release in February, and is a great start from singer and guitarist Sydney Minsky-Sargeant, guitarist Giulia Bonometti and drummer Jake Bogacki. “We grew up in northern towns trying to get in to pubs in social clubs because that’s all we had,” Minsky-Sargeant explains. “The name is an ode to that. Our surroundings and their differences has influenced us a lot on these tracks.”

“The songs are based on the culture of walking round Manchester every day then going back to the countryside each night and how the contrast of going back into the hills made us sane.”

Look out for a Live4ever Presents feature with the band coming up next week.

Live Review: Al Moses & This Feeling’s Big In 2019 tour at Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

By Live4ever - Posted on 26 Jan 2019 at 7:33am 


Andrew Cooper

Wales continues to obtain high scores for the quality (and quantity) of guitar bands it produces, and 2019 also marks the year when Cardiff gets to host its first ever This Feeling ‘Big In…’ gig.

A sold-out show at the iconic Clwb Ifor Bach venue tonight (23rd Jan) puts Bute first up; their latest single Rest Assured shows their aptitude for catchy riffs combined with steady drum beats. The combination works, showing how far they’ve come, there’s confidence and presence. Similarly, The Rotanas’ infectious Rolling Stones-encounter-Oasis riff-ridden tunes are executed well. Frontman Harry Watton and guitarist James Wilson entertain the crowd and deliver their intense indie rock and roll with energy and vigour.

 

Following exposure on UK local and national radio, Newport’s indie kid Jack Perrett has been at the receiving end of acclaim for songs which take their inspiration from The Stone Roses and Oasis. Tonight, tracks such as Like A Fever and Drunk And Stoned are a great indicator of Perrett’s knack for measured songwriting, it’s an impressive performance highlighting the style and consistency of his music.

The Pitchforks, meanwhile, continue to impress with songs like Afflictions and Waste Of A Day demonstrating their gift for writing melodically without losing energy and pace. Having gained respect for the high-intensity of their live shows, it’s a strong delivery here too inviting moshing, diving and singing, and leaves no doubt about the band’s strengths.

But headliners Al Moses’ performance is something else entirely. The release of debut single I Want More created a buzz, the loud guitars, catchy riffs and melodic-writing forced a traditional genre into new territory. What they do feels fresh and new. What’s delivered live is special. It’s loud but refined, super-forceful yet adapted. It’s individual and exciting. The chemistry between the two frontmen, Jack Shephard and Daf Thomas, is fascinating; think of Carl and Pete, or Liam and Noel. It’s on that scale of intensity.

Taking ownership of the stage from the start, they kick things off with infectious confidence and self-belief whilst exercising their rock mannerisms effectively. The first track is the throbbing punk-rock feel of Taxidermy, followed by Gutter Rock Moxie, both tracks induce energy and excitement in high doses.

Am I So Vulgar and Bad Brother British Empire, followed by Ametuer Pornography and Taragonna, keep things sublimely sweaty with en masse moshing and crowd-surfing, while completing the set with I Want More and He Truly Is The Son Of God creates still more euphoria. It’s chaotic and insane, in a good way, and they conclude events by giving their instruments a good kick.

Al Moses project youthful rock and roll spirit and attitude. Considering the pace things are moving at, it’s unlikely to be more of the same next time.

(Susan Hansen)

New Order, Hot Chip join Kraftwerk as headliners for this year’s Bluedot Festival

By Live4ever - Posted on 22 Jan 2019 at 7:20am 


2018 Bluedot Festival (Gary Mather for Live4ever)

New Order and Hot Chip have joined Kraftwerk as confirmed headliners for this year’s Bluedot Festival, which is due back at Cheshire’s Jodrell Bank Observatory site for a fourth year in July.

 

They join a line-up which already includes Jon Hopkins, Kate Tempest, Anna Calvi and Gruff Rhys, as well as John Grant who’ll be at the event with his 2018 album Love Is Magic – one of Live4ever’s top picks of last year:

“John Grant’s fourth solo album seems straightforward enough on the surface,” our review opens. “‘Love is magic’, he sings on the title track, his dreamily smooth baritone steering the casual listener towards a typically sentimental – and hopeful – perception that merely being in love is a life elevating panacea for the beholder that makes all the bad stuff go away.”

“So far, so fifty-year-old man that’s stepped away from a mid-life that featured drugs, emotional laceration and the disintegration of The Czars, a band he fronted who also made sensationally beautiful and melancholic songs in an era when repression was a just another word for the life of being a guy.”

January 14, 2019

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Octavian leads BBC’s Sound Of poll for 2019

By Live4ever - Posted on 11 Jan 2019 at 7:20am 


Photo: Paul Bachmann

“That’s lit,I don’t even know how to feel right now,” Octavian has said after becoming the first rapper since 50 Cent in 2003 to top the BBC’s Sound Of poll.

 

Octavian heads the list above other longlisted acts such as Sea Girls, King Princess and Grace Carter. “From the very first moment I heard his music I was hooked,” Radio 1 DJ Benji B has said.

“The first couple of tunes he released – Party Here and Hands – were some of the most futuristic, forward thinking, raw and inspiring tunes to come out of the UK in the last two years.”

While these industry start-of-the-year lists often closely resemble one another, this time the BBC has differed more greatly from the BRITs Critics’ Choice with only Mahalia making both final cuts, while the BRITs’ overall winner, Sam Fender, was not highlighted at all by the BBC.

“Being nominated was crazy enough, never mind winning it,” Fender said upon his win. “I’m so grateful to everyone back home for believing, and to my band and team for all their hard work.”

Alias Kid back in February with new single, Manchester gig

By Live4ever - Posted on 11 Jan 2019 at 10:23am 


Alias Kid are back with a new single ahead of a hometown gig at The Deaf Institute in Manchester on February 2nd.

 

Inglorious will come out a day earlier and is available to pre-order now for the band who were featured by Live4ever in our Presents series back in 2015. “We have so many influences it’s impossible to tie down,” they told us then. “Sean’s into the Sex Pistols and that, I’m into Lennon but loads of other stuff. Nick and James are pretty much into the same as me in the main, Col is well into his punk. But there is loads of cross over for us all.”

“We get tagged with the ‘Oasis thing’ because we’re signed with McGee and from Manchester; I don’t think me or Sean would have picked up a guitar if it wasn’t for them, but truth is we aren’t the ones saying that, we say we’re Alias Kid.”

Doves’ 2019 live comeback continues with Bearded Theory confirmation

By Live4ever - Posted on 21 Dec 2018 at 5:26am 


Photo: Gary Mather for Live4ever Media

Doves‘ live comeback keeps expanding and has now been confirmed to include an appearance at Bearded Theory in May next year.

 

They join others such as The Cult, Suede, Oh Sees, The Orb and Editors at Catton Hall next year. Doves’ return is set to include a couple of outings with Noel Gallagher next summer and will start at the Royal Albert Hall for Teenage Cancer Trust, whose organiser Roger Daltrey said:

“I’m incredibly grateful to all of the artists who’ve given up time in their busy schedules to help young people with cancer get the specialist care they deserve.”

“Looking back, we’ve had so many unforgettable moments at the shows over the years and these moments are amplified by the wonderful young people with cancer I have met. I’m consistently overwhelmed by their positivity in the face of a life changing circumstance. They are the reason we strive to make these shows the very best we can and this year will be no different.”