Saturday, November 21, 2015

Ones to watch in 2016. Part 1

Obviously the whole idea of trying to predict who will make it big next year. Or who you should be listening to instead of those who are obviously going to make it big next year. Is a fun, yet futile and kind of pointless task. However, writing these stupid lists is a good way to get blog views. So here we go. First of all lets look at how my predictions/recommendations from last year went. Slaves have rightfully become very big, Allusondrugs are getting bigger and better support slots. Table Scraps and God Damn are still slaying venues, and have put out debut LP's. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have finally got some hype in the UK. The rest are all still pretty much where they were last year.

The following acts are from all over the place, two are from the Midlands. Most of these are acts I've seen live and I suggest you do yourself. Part two may or may not follow soon


PIXX are a newly 4AD signed trio. 4AD is famous for signing the Cocteau Twins and Grimes, and I think PIXX will fit nicely on the label.  They're hugely hip and very cool, but actually pretty good as well. Their minimalist sound isn't too far of from The XX, Daughter, or 2:54. Their music is intimate yet delicately played and woozily offbeat. Their songs are full of gently picked guitar, looped beats, strange keyboard melodies and darkly atmospheric tones. Basically PIXX are a very NOW kind of band. I've never seen anyone seem quite so 2015. I think in 2016 they're only going to get bigger

Hanz is a mysterious American producer. His music defies categorisation, shuns melody, structure and genre. It's like Aphex Twin but without the subtly or perfectionist streak or Death Grips without MC Ride's ranting. The songs have no beginnings or ends and the samples dropped in between are equally nonsensical. 'Reducer' was released for free in early 2015 and as proved one of the years best and strangest records. There are some nods to trip hop, yet Reducer has a grittiness to it that much trip hop lacks. Hanz has already put out a follow up tape. It's likely that there will be plenty more HANZ in 2016

Car Seat Headrest 
Finding Car Seat Headrest's band-camp was like stumbling on a treasure trove of free music. In only 5 years Will Toledo has produced 11(!) albums. Apart from the 'Not Very good' numbered albums. All of them are worth listening too. All of them are different and ape different styles. CSH is impossible to categorise into one genre. Will's discography takes includes his epic double album, his experimental, yet lovable 'How to leave town' and the incredible yet rough as fuck 'Twin Fantasy'. The new album 'Teens of style' is an LP of re-recorded older songs. Now that CSH have finally discovered decent recording techniques, the world is theirs for the taking.

Field Harmonics 
Despite all the fuss about rock n roll having a revival, the trend for 80's synth pop that started in the last decade still hasn't really died out. Of course there is a fine line between aping retro sounds and taking them forward. Which Field Harmonics seem to know. Despite only being a duo they make a huge wall of sound out of their synths, beats and sampling of their own vocals. Their take on 80's pop feels amazingly fresh and and easy to immerse yourself in. I reckon fans of Grimes, Crystal Castles and Chvrches will love them.

It's not very often that a song played on Radio 1 will cause my ears to prick up and listen, but 'Paris' by Zibra did just that. It's slightly naff, features rapping, and is very danceable. It's full of funky guitar riffs, bongos, and keyboardy bits. For all the damning by faint praise, it's actually nice to hear a band who make music that's fun. They remind me of the old Nu Rave days. Back when Friendly Fires, Fenech-Soler and the like were not only active but actually cool. Sometimes a bit of fun is what you need.

For some stupid reason the band formerly known as Baby Godzilla, are now known as Heck. The band reassure that  "We are exactly the same. The same band under a different name. To be honest, it did reinvigorate us, it has made us all never want to stop doing this." Which is just as well because Heck  were one of  the best live bands I saw all year. I saw them play on a little wooden bridge above a pool in the corner of the custard factory. The band played their insane mix of punk and metal while screaming into peoples faces, going for a dip in the pool, casually walking into shops, and climbing up onto the roofs of local businesses. They've yet to release an album but the band have won a large and loyal following of fans.

Crime and Punishment 2011

At first it seems that Crime and Punishment are a bit of a joke. A band who take prop chainsaws on stage, and don't seem to realise that NU metal ever died. Yet like all great Hip Hop groups they all have unique personalities. Their DJ "Jason Pink Violence Cassius Neon Tyler" makes the beats. Joey Sniper is a professional metal screamer. Glitch is the bands GZA, the straight talking MC. While D.A.N is the ODB. One of the funniest guys I've ever met. Jokes aside they're all great rappers. Put them together and you've got an amazing live show. D.A.N says their taking over next year. With that confidence who can doubt him?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

LA Priest, PIXX, Field Harmonics. Live at the Hare and Hounds, 11/11/15 Review

First of all a word of warning, there is a group of kids who hang around the hare and hounds and throw eggs at punters while swearing at them. That sounds a bit scary but their aim is so hilariously bad that we didn't notice they were aimed at us until after about 5 had been thrown. Something to be aware of if you visit kings heath. Nothing was going to spoil the excitement of this show though.
In the small room the first act on was Field Harmonics, a duo from Wolverhampton. They have a set up of a few keyboards and mics. Much like Grimes, or Crystal castles, their music draws a lot  from 80's synth pop but they've taken that basic concept and made something entirely new and engrossing out of it. By sampling teir own vocals and looping synth tracks they create a sound that is huge, and is easy to immerse yourself in. Their new single 'Girls'  is a great example of what's so good about them, for all the technology and experimentation, Field Harmonics can still pull out great pop songs. (7.2/10)

After that was PIXX, who are newly signed to 4AD records. 4AD is most well known for signing Grimes and The Cocteau Twins. I think PIXX will fit on their current roster very nicely. They are probably the most 2015 band I've ever seen on stage. From their singer's flashy style, the fact that they use drum pads instead of drums, and don't really care about genre constraints. Their sound is very minimalist, not that far off from The XX or 2:54. Gently picked guitar, soft beats and keyboard strokes, all give PIXX a very woozy, relaxed sound. After the huge sound of Field Harmonics, PIXX were a lot more chilled out, but its great music to lose yourself in. (7.2)

La Priest (aka Sam Dust) is one of the coolest guys I've ever met. Rather than a tour bus, he gets about in an old Mercedes. He builds his own instruments, and is the only guy I've ever met who owns more than one pair of velvet trousers. The stage was laid out from one end to the other with keyboards, synths, and a light up box, with wires and leads coming out of it. The lighting was a procession of light-bulbs and foil shades that lit up one by one, from one end and then started again. Sam hid under his long hair, crouching down, while his keyboards and synths made this amazing funky noise. I was standing right next to the speakers for this show, so I got a blast of air in my face from the bass. La Priest is a master of multitasking. Playing a bit of guitar, while twiddling a few knobs and playing little keyboard melodies, and also engaging the audience and singing. He got his breakthrough track 'Oino' out of the way early. If you've not heard it, the song is a great mix of funk, almost reggae rhythms and a catchy chorus. La Priest's music takes a lot from the past. He mixes funk, soul, pop and electronica. While he does throwback to the past. It's all so bonkers that it could only be from the present.
The real highlight was when Sam asked for some backing dancers and I got pushed on stage. I got to throw shapes on stage with two other guys, in front of a packed Hare and Hounds crowd. It was only for one song but it was still a fantastic experience. Once I was off stage, the show was still amazing. Sam showed off his new tea towel that a fan had made for him and responded to my heckle that it could be his second album cover. Replica tea towels will, be on sale shortly while the design is currently on tote bags.
The other song that really sticks out in my memory is the last one he played. 'Learning to love'  is a fantastically crazy mix of slap bass, synths and clicky beats. It's still playing in my head now.  There was also some messing around, where he passed the mic to us lot and sampled our voices, for a sort of extended vocal sample jam. After the show Sam was keen to meet every one who'd come to see  him. One couple had travelled as far as Ireland and really wanted a photo. Sam was happy to sign CD's and the poster that I had nicked. He drew a snail on my CD cover and did his signature as huge as he could. On the poster he drew a duck with tank tracks, and 'James is a good eggy'. Sam was really happy to answer questions, and his weird signatures hint at a odd sense of humour, but also a desire to make a connection with his fans.
I loved this show, easily one of the best gigs I've ever been too. (9/10)


Note about photography.
It was not my intention to have my photographs look as if they were taken on some cheap lomograph camera. I had to use flash and black and white settings to drown out the red lights for most of these shots. I got some cool pics, but the washed out look was totally by accident.

Monday, November 9, 2015


When I was at the Lunar Festival last year I was with my dad. I know most people who go to festivals go with  a group of mates but I don't really have that so I had to meet new people. It was easy enough. I'd made friends with the people on my camp-site within hours of putting up the tent. As the sun fell the temperatures dropped hugely. So the place to be was the campfire. By the campfire I met three people. Henry, Matthew and Henry's girlfriend. We danced about to psych rock DJ Sets, drank, ate pizza and had long conversations about jazz, (I hate jazz, they didn't). Throughout the whole time I don't remember Henry ever mentioning that he had made music of his own. If he did mention it then I probably forgot. After the goodbye's I logged back onto face-book to find Henry had released two albums for free on bandcamp as well as a bunch of stuff on Soundcloud. One band I've been loving lately is Seattle based lo-fi rockers Car Seat Headrest. CSH released a load of albums for free on Bandcamp (11 in the space of 5 years!) Henry is similar in his approach to releasing music, just record it, and put it on the internet to be downloaded for free by anyone who wants to hear it. The whole project is full of signs that Henry doesn't take his music making too seriously. His two albums to date are called 'HERTZ HISS HEAD' and his d├ębut, is the ironically named 'Lump Sings Again'.
Both albums were out out this year and both are free. HERTZ Henry's voice is deep and echoes throughout the record. Rather than writing about what he knows, he has songs about medical experiments, and being a ghost. There's barely any percussion throughout the album, and it's pretty much just him and a lazily strummed acoustic guitar. Though some of the guitar work is pretty impressive. The vibe is mostly relaxed, such as on the gently acoustic 'Room'. While Haunting the Halls' is fidgety and eerie. Lump has the feel of a bedroom project without the awful production that most bedroom projects have. The lack of instruments works in his advantage rather than against it. While minimalism is the trend right now, LUMP still sounds very unique. Lump is bluesy, and very lo-fi but also pretty surreal. Much like the aforementioned Car Seat Headrest, the more freebie albums he puts out, the more people will listen.