Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ancient Voices.

It seems that the next thing I've just got excited about has been under my nose for some time now. I picked up a copy of Ancient Voices: Handcrafted and Unmastered Demo Tape for free  from the Provide shop in Digbeth. The two piece had put out the tape to celebrate Birmingham's City Of Colours Festival.  Until yesterday this tape had sat quietly in my bedroom. This is a mistake I regret.
Right from the first track on the tape its obvious that Ancient Voices are a world away from the grime music that usually gets made in Birmingham. This duo share more in common with the likes of Young Fathers or ghostpoet. Dark Materials creates spare backdrops for Kahm's Raps, using carefully placed samples, as well as guitar and piano pieces throughout, his production is melodic yet has a similar rough and raw quality to the early Wu Tang Clan recordings, which is unsurprising considering that the record was put together in only two days.
Maseo Kahm is as unique a rapper as DM is a producer his brummie accent is deep, yet it has been altered somehow, and on this record it has an echoed quality, instead of sounding like a brummie shouting at you, it feels more like you've taken a hit of some herb, at an ancient tribal ceremony, and what your hearing is coming from behind a wooden oracale's mask. His style of 'ghost-rapping' comes thick and fast, yet without ever overshadowing the back drop of beats behind him.  His raps are tales from the streets, gritty stories of experience, and he doesn't brag or try to glamorise any of what he is rapping about.  It might be a while before I figure out what on earth he is rapping about with his fast, rhythmic flow and deep voice, but it's probably very profound, and I'll understand it more the more I hear this tape.

For a long time I've felt very underwhelmed by West Midlands based Hip Hop, but these guys are in a complete class of their own, this is amazing hip hop. Check them out here.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Opinion: Fuck Ed Sheeran

Seriously, fuck him.

My confusion and annoyance at the hype surrounding this man began a few years ago as I watched him as a support act, (I cannot remember who for) I was surrounded by screaming fans who were loving every moment as this ginger guy with an acoustic guitar beatboxed and accapella'd his way through a short set list, wondering why on earth people were loving it so much. Later I saw him on Jools Holland doing the same thing. Suddenly, he was everywhere.
'+' was no doubt the sales success of whatever year it came out in.  I even bought it myself (for my mum).  It sounds petty to say so, but it annoyed me for a long time seeing this chart juggernaut hog the top ten, pushing many more worthy records off the top-spots they deserve.
It also sounds petty to say that he lacks talent, because that obviously isn't true. I admit I liked his 'Slumdon Town' joint ep with Yellawolf, (mainly because of Yellawolf). I also admit that I kind of liked 'You need me..'  it sounded fresh for a bit, until i got sick of hearing it
And, yes it's great that a man who put a lot of hard work into his music and worked his way up from a homeless busker into a massive success. But fuck me some of his songs are boring, take 'The A-Team' I get that prostitution is an important socio-political subject, but you have to sound so bloody wet while singing about it? where's the anger? where is that fire in the belly?*
What angers me most is the fact that people seem to think that he is a genius for simply standing up on stage and playing a guitar, something mankind  has been doing for hundreds of years, has mainstream pop music really got so plastic that people simply cannot believe a man is playing acoustically?
Honestly if you are a 'sheeranator' then answer this, have you ever listened to Bob Dylan? Leonard Cohen? or if you want something more modern then check out Willis Earl Beal. There is more passion and heartfelt emotion in one of his songs than ED's entire back catalogue, the same goes for Sharon Van Etten, Ben Howard, or even Jake Bugg. If you like Ed's more social commentary/rap based side then you should hear Scroobious Pip or Kate Tempest, both are genius storytellers, who create incredibly believable, characters and scenarios in their songs. 

What annoys me most about the man is that in an era where musicians have had to go back to basics and rely on touring and merchandise to barely scrape by. His face and album covers are everywhere, he's one of the most marketed artists of the past 5 years, and as such it is impossible to get away from him. Don't just listen to what is in the charts, go explore that huge musical world out there.
One last question Ed, are you the critical darling? the man who makes the heartfelt ballads? or the twee pop star who sells millions of records about drinking and partying to teenage fans?
You can't have your cake and eat it, ED.

Other recommended acts: Raury, Courtney Barnett, S.Carey, The War On Drugs, Kurt Vile, Jamie T, Lou Reed, George Ezra, Gary Clark JR.

* Action Bronson has an amazing song about prostitutes called 'hookers at the point' I don't recommend it if you like Ed Sheeran though. 
Brand New Second hand Nikes - Trunk Junkies Birmingham £15

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I completed the Bupa Great Birmingham Run!

I would like to tell you all about the great effort that I put in today taking part in the Bupa Great Birmingham run.  A distance of 13.1 miles over terrain that is noted for being difficult. I had been training for this run over the previous weeks, running alone through Robin hood and Yardley Wood. Unfortunately after all this effort I had picked up a cold  two days ago which I am still shaking off, and the night before I hardly got any sleep at all, So I was feeling confident but a bit worried before hitting the start line. The main irony which I have noticed about this race after watching it on TV is that some of the most famous runners in the world took part in this race yet I bet I felt more like a celebrity than they did.


Warm ups began near the Jewellery Quarter as some bloke from Free Fm got us to all march, squat, wave and stretch to a bunch of pop hits.  It took a while for things to get underway as each group separately left the gates but once we did I felt good. 


I had to remind myself a lot for the first part of the run that I should not be tempted to sprint ahead like the many people overtaking me. I realised that I had to stick to the same pace that I would during a practise run or I would end up burning out.

Throughout the entire run there were people cheering me on throughout, reading my name then shouting it back at me, there were kids hi fiving the runners as they came past, there were people sitting outside their houses blasting the rocky theme tune to encourage us and handing out jelly babies for us (which I sensibly avoided). There were many bands on the path, from old timey swing to bluesgrass, there was about three different groups just playing the drums. People took it upon themselves to help out with this whether it be people in their front garden shouting  or the one person doing a DJ set in the gazebo in  her front garden. It was hard to argue with the amount of good causes being raised for, shout outs go to the Lion guy, Eagle Guy, Giraffe guy (Who I think gave up after a while) and the Wolverhampton bobsled team'. 

Another new experience was never being low on water. I felt sick after drinking too much lucozade, but on the plus side I could amuse myself by stamping on water bottles, creating little water jets that sprayed the other runners. The last mile or so was every bit as difficult  as the hype suggests, with at least two miles of solid up hill climbing. I made it though!  and apart from a piss I didn't stop once. i feel good but very tired  from this run,  it was hard work and I've got the sores to prove it, but I also got a rather cool little goodie bag. 

Oh and my time? 2:31:45


Please donate to my Diabetes UK Fund-raising page here

Runners in the Great Birmingham Run


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Steve Craddock (Live at The Ambersham Arms, 20/9/14)

I was on a total high after watching Sin Fiction, which was ruined slightly for me the moment that Steve Craddock came on stage. The DJ was playing 'Drain' by Peace, and when Steve came on he told the DJ to 'turn that shit off'. Within seconds the man had unwittingly slagged off my favourite band and pissed me off. You know what  they say about Glass Houses...

The ability to hear colours is a strange trait possessed by creative people, examples include Tyler,The Creator, asking to make the song more yellow on the intro to IFHY or Captain Beefheart berating the magic band for not being able to play the colours  he was seeing. I must too possess this trait as throughout the show I saw beige, a sea of beige. What didn't help was the man's sartorial sense, dressed in a dull grey jumper, with white casual trainers that stepped on his own trousers. Performing on stage with his own wife and singing songs in a low key voice with titles such as 'Finally Found my Way Back' 'Anyway the Wind Blows' and ' I am The Sea', Steve's music came across as a man having a bit of a midlife crisis, singing about escapism and travelling to far out desert islands. These songs were all as comfortable and satisfying as putting on a pair of slippers, and all about as dangerous or thrilling as making yourself a cuppa tea.
Annoyingly this could have been much much better, all would be forgiven if he could just play The Riverboat Song, or the Day we took the Train. But not a single Ocean Colour Scene track was on the list. Things looked up when his band bought the funk on 'steppin aside' which was the real highlight for me. Throughout the set it was obvious that Steve Is a hugely talented songwriter. Each track he played proved this, and there were mellow traces of psychedelia in his sound. Some people seemed to love the gig, one man who I think was a friend of the band stood at the side of the stage in a silent reverence, while two guys started doing a sort of strange cross between moshing and slow dancing. Plenty of people in the audience seemed to be enjoying the show. Yet I just felt underwhelmed. Rock n' roll is by no means a young mans game, and there is no problem with songs being laid back or mellow. But there was no grit or emotional power to make these songs inspire me. The sad truth is that Steve seemed outclassed by his own support bands.