With the August Bank Holiday weekend finally landed, Getintothis’ Banjo finds himself at a loose end.
Liverpool is a vibrant, busy city, we all know that. But despite this knowledge, it still has the ability to surprise you.
Take this weekend. For some reason (to busy, too stupid) I had failed to realise that this weekend is August Bank Holiday. Traditionally, this is a BIG weekend. Reading and Leeds festivals are kicking off, Creamfields is showing its glittery face and people are up for a summer party. It’s the last bank holiday before Christmas, so everyone tends to be up for it.
Following hot on the heels of my realisation that the long weekend had landed was a second dawning that I had absolutely nothing arranged. The weekend was upon me and I had no exciting plans, hadn’t been in touch with anybody and, unless something miraculous happened, I was facing the prospect of telling people I had spent the weekend ‘chilling out’. Now as we all know, chilling out is a modern age euphemism for doing fuck all and being bored, and that was not how I wanted to spend the long weekend.
But then, Liverpool saved me.
A Facebook post told me that The Jacaranda was starting it’s 60th birthday celebrations on the Friday, so it was an easy decision to be part of that.
On the way to The Jac from the Pier Head, I must have passed over half a dozen buskers, of varying degrees of skill, appeal and bonkersness. My own favourite is the guy who ‘sings’ with the most gravelly voice in the world. I remember him starting out years ago, when he would stand at the bottom of Church Street, hands in his pockets, and just try to sing. Words and tunes were very possibly in there somewhere, but were not immediately apparent. But hey, he was trying and was hopefully earning enough from his endeavors feed himself and find somewhere to bed down.
Over the years though, his act has changed. First there came a plastic microphone that he would sing into, despite the fact it served no practical purpose whatsoever – he had found a prop. Then came a plastic guitar, which was similarly incorporated into his performance. Nowadays, he sports a full on wacky suit, complete with green top hat, a proper acoustic guitar and as fine an fine array of backup guitars as any stadium star, albeit these ones are made of plastic, and broken. Then again, these ones don’t get played, so that’s all fine.
I do wonder if these items have been donated, or if he is investing some of his profits back into the business with the deliberate intention of improving his gigs. Parts of me hopes this is the case. Either way, good luck sir.
On arriving at The Jac, free prosecco and canapes were passed around, which is a good start to a night out in anyone’s book. The opening salvo of the birthday weekend was a Q & A from Dave Haslam, DJ, author and, nowadays, expert speaker. Focusing mainly on his excellent Life After Dark book, Haslam told tales about the evolution and the importance of clubs, and how entering a particular basement or bar for the first time can sometimes have unknown and far reaching consequences on the rest of your life.
Haslam’s research and enthusiasm shine through when he speaks, his knowledge on this seemingly knowing no bounds. A few odd interjections from the audience aside, this was a cosy and interesting chat with a person who knows his onions and is a joy to listen to.
Haslam then headed to The Jac‘s sister venue Phase One, to DJ alongside a whole host of local bands, including the ever wonderful Three From Above.
From here, The Shipping Forecast provided a fine selection of beers and some more substantial fare than canapes. An interesting and popular place, The Shipping Forecast is always worth a visit.
Then it was off to The Merchant, to see Cream resident and Ibiza veteran Andy Carroll play a set of balearic disco. This he did, getting in amongst the songs, head down and focusing on the mixer and its box of tricks. The set was full of unusual mixes and choices, and it is a pleasure to see him play in a smaller venue. The Balearic tag meant that he was able to play a broad range of songs and genres, and this he did with gusto.
So, Liverpool, with its staggering amount of pubs, clubs and bars made the start to the long weekend one of unbridled joy. It is also worth mentioning that there was free entry to all of the venues mentioned, not forgetting the free food & drink at The Jac.
And with Folk at the Dock, beat poetry and rockabilly at The Jac and a reggae social at District, the rest of the weekend has fallen into place, without even a hint of an admission fee.
Perhaps this is the best way to celebrate the long weekend – by also celebrating Liverpool and all of the wonderful choices it has for us.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going out. – Banjo
BC Camplight: Deportation Blues
Manchester based multi-instrumentalist BC Camplight brings us his fourth instalment with Deportation Blues via Bella Union. From the onset the whole album is a car crash of sound, at times difficult to absorb, taking the listener to places of the unknown, unorthodox, and uncertainty. But that’s what makes this album so fucking good.
Recorded here in Liverpool’s Whitewood Studios, it’s born from a culmination of anger and frustration within his own life events of being deported from adopted home of Manchester back to the US. This just days following the release of previous album How To Die In The North.
A drawn out process ensued whilst back living with parents to finally allow him to return when granted Italian citizenship through Grandparents heritage, albeit to then get smacked in the face with Brexit. This portrayal is embedded throughout the songwriting.
There is absolutely nowhere to pigeonhole the record, collectively it’s a creative explosion of rule breaking, with wrong turns throughout, although the musical discomfort is what makes it work so well given the narrative.
Starting with the album title track, we’re right in with a pounding electronic percussion, combined with cutting synths. Subtle vocals are overlaid but it’s the backing harmonies that hold it all together. There’s a real 1980’s Miami feel to the song, but with punchy overdubs and a commanding base.
Other notable tracks include the truly disturbing Am I Dead Yet?, and Hell or Pennsylvania, which throws the listener deep into a harrowing film noir set. Evocative piano loops are mixed with smokey jazz sections and a 1950’s diner-like chorus just to complicate everything.
Recent release I’m Desperate is the stand out track of the album, an electronic and synth frenzy, coupled with frenetic piano, and free for all vocals is hellish to comprehend, yet beautiful in context.
Only later in the album are we brought back to BC Camplight‘s familiar work with Midnight Ease providing an undemanding ballad. Likewise with the final track Until you Kiss Me.
This album certainly pushes the boundaries for BC Camplight, and will open doors that may not have been considered beforehand. – Kev Barrett
Bellini: Before The Day is Gone
After a nine year absence, math-rock quartet, Bellini, return with their fifth album, Before The Day is Gone. Worth the wait? Quite possibly.
With Steve Albini once again resuming recording duties, Before The Day Has Gone has the trademark razor wire guitars, blistering drum mixes and that raw quiet/loud openness in sound we have all come to know from his work behind the glass.
There’s a real nexus here between husband and wife duo, Agostino Tilotta (guitar) and Giovanna Cacciola (vocals). The rhythm section comprising of bassist, Matthew Taylor and drummer Alexis Fleisig (of the brilliant Girls Against Boys), provides a rollicking backdrop for the skewed time signatures ricocheting off Tilotta’s guitar and Cacciola’s rigid spoken word-vocal delivery.
While Clementine Peels is the out and out standout track, the album as a whole doesn’t quite recapture this moment. It’s no bad thing, though, with the nine remaining tracks happy to play the proverbial bridesmaid, bleeding into one another as one big mind-bending math-rock opera.
Before The Day Has Gone is not an instant hit of a record, but there’s something here that makes you keep going back. It’s one for the old brigade missing their dose of Slint, Rodan and Shipping News and while younger audiences could do far worse by indulging in this. Sadly they probably won’t. – Simon Kirk
The Blinders: Columbia
Modern Sky UK
Anyone who’s been to Festival No. 6 knows it’s a more fantastical affair aligned to wistful psychedelia, cosmic disco and lo-fi guitar heroics. So it was pretty refreshing to see three lads in corpse paint being carried over a ferocious moshpit in a real ale tent.
Powered by naughty axe licks, political lyrical verbosity and old fashioned rock and roll attitude, this was exactly what we were in need of. ‘Dance, dance, dance to the hate song’ isn’t likely to be in CHIC’s next set list.
It seemed Liverpool-based Modern Sky records were suitably impressed too, snapping them up soon after and all roads have led to Columbia, their debut album. Which for the most part is a rip-snorting, bone-rattling experience.
Aligned to the likes of Shame, The Wytches and (whisper it) Kasabian, much of Columbia is positively HUGE. Indeed, the colossal I Can’t Breathe Blues could have dropped straight off the Leicester jesters 2004 debut album. They were good back then.
For what the record expertly captures the band’s incendiary live appeal. Which is really something and testament to the production by Gavin Monaghan at Magic Studios.
Early single l Etat Cest Moi sets the scene for a rampaging listen while the metaphorical Roman empire epic Brutus is a snarling seven minute Nick Cave-like centre-piece on a record which pushes them to the forefront of new UK rock n’ rollers. – Peter Guy
- The Blinders play Liverpool’s Buyers Club later this year – full details.
Cult Party: And Then There Was This Sound
Manchester’s Cult Party, centred around the talents of Leo Robinson, quietly released a new album last month. And Then There Was This Sound is an underwhelming title for such an ambitious and well executed longplayer; recorded with the help of friends including rising star Kiran Leonard, the record is confined to four songs. The first, Hurricane Girl comes in at just over 20 minutes. An opener that lasts for over half of the album is a bold, confident move.
It’s a good thing, then, that Hurricane Girl is a satisfying journey on its own. Leo Robinson’s low, steady baritone is softened by an almost-choir of female harmonies before it slows and we get him and a mournful cello alone, before marching on into a chant, slowing to guitar – Robinson again – as soft as gentle raindrops, with a low drone underneath. ‘I cut your throat and watched the flowers spilling out, the crumble out of your mouth as you sink into the snow an then there was no sound’ is so dark, bordering on death ballad stuff.
The folky Rabbit Dog follows – Robinson’s voice is way deep in his boots on this one – and I Got The Blues This Morning is gorgeous; with pretty violins, it’s warm, witty – ‘I’ve not heard from my baby in a while…she’s not heard from me neither…so I guess that’s just our style’ – and wistful.
It’s wrong to describe Leo Robinson’s vocal delivery as dispassionate exactly, but on Pastures of Plenty, we get more textures and a very lovely rise and fall, on top of a delicious, fluttery acoustic guitar and low drone. The violin at the end is totally to die for, Pastures of Plenty bringing the album to a most rewarding and wonderful conclusion. – Cath Bore
- Cult Party support Kiran Leonard at the Partisan Collective in Manchester on September 8.
Gabe Gurnsey: Physical
There’s a turning point most people experience on a night out when you know you should go home – but you step over the line and things get messy.
Your body, mind and soul tell you it’s a bad idea but a certain predilection for hedonism kicks in and all sensibility goes careering out the window and proceedings inevitably turn fuzzy. Neon lights blur with foggy floors. Senses are heightened yet dulled all the same. A lack of control takes over. A third eye seems to hover over your physical self – watching from above with a knowing that all stability has gone and a new ego presides.
Gabe Gurnsey creates music which regularly seems to fit this neverland of club culture. An audio bath of extremities which is taut and fraught with edgy danger – yet compellingly seductive all the same.
As founding member of post-industrial London dance outfit, Factory Floor, he’s already adept at minimal repetitious beat-making, however on Physical, his first solo outing, he’s colouring their breezeblock greys with a slightly more pop filter.
Indebted to Chicago house, Hacienda rave culture and Detroit techno, there’s oodles of tight hooks perfect for those late, late nights which stretch into mid-morning affairs while the likes of Heavy Rubber provide a sexual militant funk more aligned to Fever Ray than anything he’s released previously.
Much of Physical could soundtrack a Nicolas Refn flick – with it’s vivid stabbing beats (Ultra Clear Sound), modulated mechanical textures (Harder Rhythm) and slinky perversion (I Get).
But ultimately, underneath it’s warped dynamics, Gursney has created a pop disco record which while malevolent captures the reckless abandon and carnal pleasures of the night. – Peter Guy
Giant Sand: Returns to Valley of Rain
Returns to Valley of Rain, a track-by-track re-recording of Giant Sand’s early-80s debut Valley of Rain, is a searing joy in its own right. Howe Gelb assembled a mixture of original and new band members and replicated the 1983 process of one-and-a-half days of studio time with a $400 budget that birthed the original, but this time using a valve amp to get the sound it was always meant to have. The result is a wild serving of garage Americana, simultaneously sharper-sounding and lower of fi than the original, and vastly enjoyable even if you have never heard anything by Giant Sand or Howe Gelb before, and care little for the relative merits of Roland JC120 and Fender 30 amps.
Returns to Valley of Rain is an eerily besotting listen, swerving across an unclassifiable landscape of grunged-up alt-country. From the punk urgency of Tumble and Tear to the driving guitar-fest finish of Black Venetian Blind it’s an album of energetic charm, filled with strange wit, crunching riffs and yearning desert melodies. Gelb’s lyrics seem to come sideways into reality, his voice projecting a kind of dusty evocative poetry, with Annie Dolan’s harmonies adding depth to several tracks.
There’s a live-in-the studio feel to the album reflecting its headlong, adrenalinised methodology. Gelb and associates are clearly having a lot of fun celebrating and resurrecting a seminal cowpunk classic, and in so doing creating a raw, fresh and infectious beast of must-play-on-repeat unfiltered rock. – Roy Bayfield
Odetta Hartman – Old Rockhounds Never Die
By God, this is odd. But in a good way.
Blues? Nope? Country? Perhaps. There’s a banjo and a slide guitar. But we can’t see many country fans digging it. It’s too leftfield for them. Cowboy Song doesn’t really evoke stallions galloping over the Rockies; it’s much more subtle.
It’s a kind of stripped down love child born of Bjork and Dolly Parton, but without the trademarks of either of them. The Bjork ‘weird’ is left behind as is the big voice of DP. It’s like they were both asked to collaborate on an album and not do the thing they’re best known for.
So what we get is an actually quite beautiful album, full of unexpected twists and turns and a gorgeous voice from Odetta Hartman. There are signals of the same kind of melancholy we’re used to from Lindi Ortega and there are definite parallels. If you dig Lindi, then we think you’ll dig this.
Some of the songs check in at well under a minute. The 32 seconds of Auto is a sublime humming thing, just because she can. On the other hand Carbon Copy is a full 5 minutes of alternated guitar picks and that voice again. Just all coming together in a curious mixture Odetta’s voice and frogs croaking and birds singing. Really. You need to be paying attention, but it is truly worth the effort. – Peter Goodbody
With many still holding faint hope that Interpol will return to the days of Turn on the Bright Lights, the reality is this – Interpol are simply not that band anymore.
Since the departure of bassist, Carlos Dengler, the band has slowly shed it skin, eventually reinventing itself from a ruminative post-punk animal to an ethereal rock band.
While Our Love to Admire and Interpol showcased a band running on empty for ideas and seemingly on the sharp descent, their fifth album, El Pintor, demonstrated flourishes of a transformation, resulting in Interpol‘s finest album since Antics.
Marauder continues the momentum gained on the back of its predecessor and ultimately completes that transformation. Enlisting producer, Dave Fridmann (Low, Sleater-Kinney, Mercury Rev et al), appears to be a coo of sorts. With his methods of sonic brushstrokes and a capability of opening up sound, he has energised new creative life into Paul Banks, Daniel Kessler, and Sam Fogarino.
First single, The Rover, is arguably the closet thing Interpol has written that forms any kind of nexus between the acclaimed Turn on the Bright Lights. While it may have lured the most devoted fans into thinking that were stepping back into 2002, alas, not the case, folks. In saying that, it’s certainly the best single they have delivered since the Antics days.
Flight of Fancy is upper echelon Interpol in their new guise – a no-nonsense collective with renewed vigour, largely powered by Fogarino‘s driving performance from behind the drum kit. Mountain Child and Number 10 follow in a similar vein.
Then there’s closing track, It Probably Matters. It’s arguably the track that seals the deal. Banks‘ melodies soar and work gorgeously alongside Kessler’s ethereal guitar hum.
Marauder is an album that brims with rich textures and with Fridmann‘s recording techniques and Kessler‘s spacious riffs, it’s a shrewd collaboration and a timely one for Interpol.
Marauder confirms that Interpol are nowhere near a spent force. If you can accept that this is a new band, a band that finally doesn’t feel hemmed in by its past, a band that finally sounds at ease with themselves, then you may just get on with this album famously. – Simon Kirk
Ross From Friends: Family Portrait
The dreadfully named Ross From Friends is a key player in the Lo-Fi House scene, which is a reaction against the current high sheen glossy productions and a desire to look back at the early dance scene. But far from creating an old school sound, Ross From Friends’ debut album is a trip through a calmingly modern sound.
Known to friends as Felix Weatherall, Ross From Friends has apparently used looking back to create a forward looking album. There are nods to modern production, with time-stretched vocals and skittering drums over simple but effective riffs. Disclosure may be one point of reference, as may Aphex Twin.
The album’s title is pertinent, as Weatherall’s dad toured Europe with his own sound system, creating parties as he went. He must have passed his enthusiasm for dance along to his son, and Family Portrait is a testament to a love of dance music. So the backward looking influences of Weatherall’s Lo-Fi House have a personal slant, it’s akin to looking through his family’s photo album.
Album opener Happy Birthday Nick is a brief introduction to the album proper, clocking in at just over a minute and a half. Follow on track Thank God I’m a Lizard is one of the album’s highlights, with hints of Autechre’s Warp glitch sound running through it.
Wear Me Down sees Weatherall enter the 21st Century, with disembodied vocals that stop frustratingly short of actually saying anything. It is astounding how a snatch of a human voice can add emotion to a song, despite the lack of anything actually being verbally communicated. Clever stuff.
The pace is varied, but never gets intense. Repeated listens to Family Portrait reveal an album that is well crafted and cleverly put together. – Banjo
Pete Spiby – Failed Magician
The album is named after a drunken (probably, very) conversation in which one of Spiby’s mates slurred out the words ‘I just don’t want to end up being a failed magician’. From a mate with no Magic Circle ambitions that seems to have stuck with Spiby, who was sufficiently sober to be able to file away the phrase for future use. And here we have it. A double album. Of rock songs. In the good tradition of all those bands of days past who used to punch out double albums just because they could. Yes, Thin Lizzy, UFO. That lot.
This isn’t one of those.
The erstwhile Black Spiders frontman certainly knows how to do rock. It is after all in his DNA. And in many ways this is another one to be added to the, admittedly rich, shelf of long haired, rocking, headbanging albums and that’s fine left just there.
But what makes this one different and interesting is CD2. It’s the same songs all over again.
And this is a much more enticing prospect as Spiby re-works the songs on CD1 away from their classic rock riff style into blues, bluegrass and generally more experimental mixes. The words are the same and the tunes are the same, but the changes of rhythm and the use of different instruments gives a totally different feel to the songs.
We can well see why he wanted to do this. It’s quite brilliant. Whereas CD1 gave us everything rock – wise we’ve heard before – and that’s fine, we like rock, CD2 just takes us on a journey.
Album opener Lightning Bolt – a Deep Purple type behemoth if ever there was one gets an altogether more stripped back southern porch style slide guitar feel on CD2, where it’s renamed Lightning Bolt Blues. You’d be moshing in the pit to the first version; you’d be pulling up in your Pick Up and digging out the Coors at the BBQ to the second.
Similarly, Working For Mary Jane is an anthemic, brutal, heavy, stadium rabble rouser that would have crowd surfers floating above outstretched arms. The contrasting Mary Jane Blues on CD2 is a gentle and rather beautiful pub / bar lo-fi that would not seem out of place in your local.
We could go on, but maybe you should go search. Friday Night Blues is just amazing, though. Sorry for the spoiler. It just died in Saturday morning’s arms.
Were this to have been CD1 only, we doubt we’d have been interested. That’s just a rock album. It’s the contrast between the two versions of the songs that makes this fascinating.
So, well done Spiby for putting this out. It’s a real eye opener. – Peter Goodbody
Stuart A Staples – Arrhythmia
Best known for his work with Tindersticks, Stuart A Staples may have made on of the strangest, most intimate records of 2018.
Arrhythmia isn’t strange because of any innate oddness to the music itself, consisting as it does of sparse arrangements and low key vocals, but rather because of its structure. Arrhythmia consists of just four songs, the last of which is over half an hour long and .
Entitled Music for a Year in Small Paintings, the track was created for an exhibition of 365 daily paintings by his wife Suzanne. Staples pieced the 30 minutes together by using musical snippets of songs that were used to soundtrack the exhibition. The result is an ethereal, ambient soundtrack that shifts and changes, but is never in any hurry to grow. Creating a track like this shows Staples to be a singular mind indeed and a master of restraint.
Before this though, opening track A New Real sets out the stall for Staples first solo album in 13 years. Starting with a minimal drum machine, the song builds over the course of its five minutes (the album’s shortest song), until it reaches dizzying heights, with some of the instrumentation almost sounding distorted in their attempts to reach the top of the song.
Memories of Love, clocking in at over ten minutes, is sparse to the point of occasionally sounding like dead air. The spartan instrumentation and the tone of Staples’ vocals have the effect of drawing you in, as if you are sat at the singer’s feet while he transfers his emotions to you via song. The lyrics are personal reflections at their purest, as he sings ‘Sometimes we live on our memories of love, sometimes we live on our memories, and breathe the fragrances’
It is a hard trick to pull off, to create something so personal but that can transfer to a mass market. It is also one that Staples pulls off with considerable aplomb. – Banjo
White Denim: Performance
Since releasing their debut album back in 2008, White Denim have been both unrelenting and prolific. Their new record Performance, the bands eighth release, is certainly no exception to that.
Considerable upheaval has surrounded the band over the last few years. They lost two original members to Leon Bridges before the recording of 2016’s album Stiff and made further amendments to the line-up for Performance, having drafted in Michael Hunter on keyboards and Conrad Choucroun on drums. Many bands would find these regular changes unsettling but thankfully White Denim have excelled, producing an album that encapsulates everything that has made them so interesting on the ear for the last ten years whilst incorporating new elements into their sound to keep it fresh and exciting.
This is evident from the off, in opener Magazin. With a sultry saxophone accompanying the big, customary White Denim riffs, they set their stall out early for what we can expect from the record, an urgency that hardly ever wavers as they sprint through the album in just over 30 minutes.
The funky Double Death is a gem. It oozes intrigue, and fully highlights the prowess of vocalist James Petralli. As a unit it is a fitting example of how tight the band are, with musicianship of the highest order to create this undeniable ear worm.
The grizzly Moves On adds another welcome dimension. Dipping their toes into the psychedelic, the track careers along with high-octane guitar and synth, whilst It Might Get Dark does nothing that the title may suggest, a real fun T-Rex-y rocker.
We only see a noticeable change in tempo with the final track Good News. With shimmering guitars at its core it contains a warm, country-fuzz that gently quells the unrelenting pace of eight tracks before it, bringing this well-crafted, interesting record to a beautifully melodic close. – Luke Burrowes