Monday, 28 February 2011

NEWS: Denmark's Efterklang win IMPALA award for best European Independent Album of the Year

I am a huge fan of these Experimental/Indie/Art-Rockers and think that they wholeheartedly deserved to win. Here's a link to the beautiful, 'Modern Drift,' the first single off their third studio album, 'Magic Chairs' (released February 2010):

Saturday, 26 February 2011

LIVE: The Naked and Famous @ Bodega Social Club, Nottingham - 18th February 2011

The Naked and Famous are not quite as internationally-renowned as their name boasts, regardless of their success in their native New Zealand, but the Bodega crowds’ excitement before the Electro-Pop band’s headline slot was more than tangible. Following on from Wolf Gang’s promising performance, The Naked and Famous started the show with an unusual song choice, ‘All of This’, which with its mid-tempo beats and oscillating crescendos made it a frustrating opener. Nevertheless, they made the brave decision of playing arguably their most popular song, ‘Punching in a Dream’ second, which really lifted the crowds’ spirits and allowed the band to shake off their somewhat hesitant dispositions.

Front-man and woman, Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith, share beautiful falsetto harmonies and have real chemistry on stage, with Powers often stringing out discordant guitar notes that add darker layers to the band’s essentially classic pop music, and Xayalith firing out rippling synths while impressively whipping her hair back and forth more times than lil’ miss Willow Smith herself. Jessie Wood’s machine-precise, yet remarkably inventive drumming is fashioned by a half-acoustic/half-electric kit that drives The Naked and Famous’ thunderous and explosive set forward.

The band’s delicate track ‘The Sun’ nicely interrupted the set mid-way through, beautifully unravelling its subtle tones so that it echoed the minimalist experimentalism found in Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’. The heavily -distorted guitar riffs in ‘No Way’ following this further proved that this band are no one-trick pony, and ending on their anthem, ‘Young Blood’, The Naked and Famous sent their intimate crowd into a flurry of call-and-response ‘Yeah oh yeahs’, delivering the perfect ending to a very enjoyable gig overall.

4/5

Published for 'Impact Magazine' on 25th February 2011.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

FEATURE: Helplessness Blues...

I was raised up believing,
I was somehow unique,
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes,
Unique in each way you can see.

And now after some thinking,
I'd say I'd rather be,
A functioning cog in some great machinery,
Serving something beyond me.

But I don't, I don't know what that will be,
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see.

Monday, 7 February 2011

LIVE: Annie Mac @ Stealth, Nottingham - 1st October 2010


3.05am. The wait for Annie Mac is over. After rushing from one of her gigs in Lincoln, she takes to the stage unannounced and lets the music explode before the crowd, dropping melodic synths, clipped samples and heavy beats from every corner of Stealth’s sweat box. As a relatively new fan, it was incredible to see the room come alive so quickly with her presence, regardless of the fact that she had not spoken a word nor lifted her dark mass of curly hair from the decks. The crowd happily delved into the dubstep bass lines and syncopated rhythms and before long, Annie threw them off course by creating her own live mash up, switching to DnB with the likes of Shy FX and then mixing her set further with Swedish House Mafia’s energetic, ‘One’.

Annie consistently attended to everyone’s musical needs – she successfully prolonged breakdowns for a good few minutes, before swelling crescendos finally exploded into cacophonies of heavy beats and frenzied dances. She also continued to display a perfect balance between the unpredictable and predictable; one minute presenting you with an eclectic mash up of underground electro and dubstep tunes, and the next, briskly moving on to more well known tracks, such as the first lady of dubstep, Katy B’s track, ‘On a Mission’. The power behind the sub-bass here propelled itself through the hundreds packed into the club before the final song, M.I.A ‘Paper Planes’ burst onto the scene, with Annie’s repeated and spliced samples adding yet another dimension to the immense diversity and excitement of her set overall.

Published for 'Impact Magazine' on 12th November 2010.

FEATURE: What is it like to be in a band in Nottingham?


Playing in a band at Nottingham may seem like too much to balance for us students with our heavy workloads and social lives to lead, but for me it is fundamental creative escape. There is something really exciting about getting a group of like-minded people into a hot, sweaty and steamy...no wait, crammed, practice room, ready to join ideas and play loud music for a good few hours each week. While this can be paralleled to the reverberations of weekly clubbing, it is indescribable how elated you feel when a song comes together, or when a stranger after a gig claps you on the back to say “well done”.

Being in a band at Nottingham is totally different to my home experiences (in my case, Oxford).  Before, I was sometimes having to get my parents to help me lug equipment to the outskirts of the county; from run down pubs with seemingly inbred audiences, to popular venues in the city and even playing at my school. Although Nottingham is a much bigger city, the music scene appears to be more localised yet with the similar range of venues. Seven is one of the best known venues for university bands, with its acoustic bar downstairs and the area upstairs allowing the gain to be increased. While this is probably the most regularly played venue for bands at Nottingham, I have also had the opportunity to play at the Rescue Rooms and at a little-known venue called the Maze, situated on Mansfield Road. On first impressions it appears to be a standard pub, but as you delve into its depths, an intimate venue emerges with corner staging, a bar and a large audience area. Apart from the above, there are still so many places to explore across the city and the range that I have experienced so far is varied and refreshing.
So how do you get involved? Well, for the individual artist, just grab your guitar or whatever instrument you play and book yourself in at places such as Snug and Wax Bar. The atmosphere at both is always chilled and extremely welcoming. For the group artist, firstly knock on a few doors in your hall. I can guarantee that at least one person will play the guitar or have a half-decent voice. Get chatting and get jamming. Alternatively, become a member of Nottingham’s very own Band Society...surprisingly called BandSoc, which hosts regular gig nights at Seven featuring university bands. Membership enables you to have access to its fully- equipped practice rooms, joined to the New Theatre and to the Archaeology building. It is really fantastic to be involved and I would recommend anyone with a burning musical desire to give it a go. Who knows, one day you might be headlining the Summer Party...
To get involved with BandSoc, check out www.bandsoc.net

Published for 'Impact Magazine'.

REVIEW: 'Impact's' Top Albums of 2009 - xx, 'xx'

File:Xx album cover.svg
xx’s debut presents a minimalistic blend of softly delayed guitars, clipped synths, off-beat bass lines and sexually-charged lyrics that suffocate the listener in a world of dark, melancholic pop music.
Many of their songs are reminiscent of past hits; creations that have been stripped back with simple notes and reverberating guitars. ‘Crystallised’ is clearly Interpol-inspired with chord/vocal dissonance, while Romy and Oliver’s call-and-response vocals accumulate in beautiful crescendos - reflecting the relationship struggles illustrated in the lyrics. This album leaves you overwhelmed from the first time you hear it.

REVIEW: 'Impact's' Albums of the Decade. Sigur Ros, 'Takk'


Describing 'Takk' in less than eighty words is near impossible. Ethereal, transporting, elevating, depressing, breath-taking, mesmerising, simple, complex, beautiful and disturbing are but a few words to illustrate this Icelandic band’s masterpiece of an album. Singer, J√≥nsi Birggison’s passionate falsetto vocals are enough to put Chris Martin in his place; accompanied with intricate string arrangements, powerful bowed guitars, trancelike xylophone melodies, rolling drums and songs that are sung in a nonsensical language. The music speaks for itself.

LIVE: Bat For Lashes @ Rock City, Nottingham - October 2009.

After a hectic first few weeks at university, sometimes all you need is a bit of escapism and Bat For Lashes most certainly offered this. In just over an hour, Natasha Khan and her band of multi-talented musicians took us on a journey through the elements; through "emerald cities" with rumbling bass progressions and roaring drums to poignant violin ensembles and longing, autoharp melodies. Khan sings with such a mystical and ghostly tone that you inevitably become immersed in her world, and you can’t help but draw parallels with Kate Bush. Ex-Ash guitarist, Charlotte Hatherley, put on a stunning performance, effortlessly moving between instruments and harmonising beautifully with Khan’s vocals. Crowd favourite, ‘Daniel’ was surprisingly disappointing; however ‘Glass’, ‘Priscilla’ and ‘Siren Song’ were undoubtedly the most powerful songs of the evening. An essential band to see live.                                                 
4.5/5

INTERVIEW: Bombay Bicycle Club

 


Bombay Bicycle Club released their first EP in 2007, and then another one the same year. Two years later and they have finally released their debut album, 'I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose'. At their Nottingham gig Impact’s Charlotte Krol sits down and chats about, band names, their love of Reading Festival and sporking.

Impact : Could you tell us a bit about how the band formed?
Jamie: We met at school, like a lot of bands do. (To Jose) You heard our first gig?
Jose: Yeah, you were lame (Both laugh)
Impact: Are you guys musically- taught?
Jamie: Suren is classically taught, but I’ve never had a guitar lesson in my life.
Impact: What about your front man?
Jose: Yeah Jack can play Jazz guitar!
Impact: I bet you’re excited about playing with The Pixies on 7th October in London. Have they been a big influence on your writing?
Jamie: Err, I don’t know, not really. Jack and Suren love The Pixies
Impact: So it was a random set up then?
Jamie: Yeah, pretty much.
Impact: Who are your influences then?
Jamie: We like a lot of American Indie music of that era really.
Impact: Do you have any kind of ritual before you go on stage?
Jamie: Like a big hug? (Laughs) No, more like a big punch! (Punches Jose on the arm). I recently hurt my hand punching one of the band members…So, we don’t really do anything.
Impact: You just bite the bullet and get on with it?
Jamie: Yeah, we also have a few drinks.
Jose: We get CRUNK!
Impact: Crazy drunk?
(Laughs)
Impact: Moving on then. You’ve played Reading and Leeds Festival three times now. Is it one of your favourite gigs to play? I watched you this August and the tent was jam-packed with fans!
Jamie: I suppose, yeah, it feels like our home festival even though we’re not from Reading or Leeds.
Impact: Aren’t you from London?
Jamie: Yeah, it’s quite near to Reading, but we really like it.
Jose: We like playing in tents at Festivals because it sounds better.
Impact: I’ve noticed that, I couldn’t really hear the main acts at Reading this year.
Jose: Yeah it’s much louder in a tent and it’s kind of fever pitch. Everyone just goes for it. I much prefer it to Glastonbury where we played outside. Did you see The Klaxons play in 2006?
Impact: Afraid not
Jose: Oh, well it was pretty intense! There were so many people in one space.
Impact: I’m in a band at Nottingham -
Jose: (Interrupts) Oh really? What are you called?
Jamie: What do you play?
Impact: …Ghost Cassette.
Jose: (Laughs) Don’t be embarrassed; everyone’s running out of band names nowadays.
Jamie: Yeah ours is pretty stupid.
Impact: How did you get that name? Isn’t it the name of a chain restaurant?
Jamie: (Laughs) Yeah it was right outside of our school. One day we were walking past it -
Jose: (Interrupts) And Jamie said ‘let’s call ourselves that!’
Jose: So what do you play?
Impact: I play guitar and I sing. So, I was going to ask, as a member of a band, I was wondering do you tend to write the song lyrics first, or the music? Why?
Jamie The music comes first really.
Jose: And the lyrics a lot later.
Jamie: I usually don’t do anything (laughs).
Jose: Have you got our album?
Impact: I’ve heard it but I don’t actually own it yet. I’m going to buy it.
Jose: No you’re going to illegally download it (laughs)
Impact: No, no I never illegally download.
Jose: Yeah, yeah…
Impact: Someone back me up here! Every couple of months I save up and buy CD’s.
Jamie: Err, I think were banned from talking about illegally downloading music Jose! (laughs)
Impact: So, what would you be doing now if you weren’t in a band?
Jamie: Go to uni (laughs as Jose looks terrified)
Impact: Don’t scare him!
Impact: Are you going to write another album?
Jose: Yeah we’ll write another one similar to the first one, but it’ll get more airplay because the first album was so good…
(Jamie laughs)
Jose: Jack will make an album that’ll be full of Afro-Beats and Folk music.
Impact: And what are your ambitions for Bombay Bicycle Club?
Jamie: Go to uni.
Impact: You’re scaring Jose again! Would you consider going to Nottingham?
Jamie: I don’t really like Nottingham, no offence. But I suppose it’s better than Lancaster.
Jose: Or Glasgow.
Jamie: Oh, let’s not alienate their fans. I’m going to answer your question now.
Impact: Are you going to write the famous ‘concept’ album?
Jose: Jack might.
Impact: So does Jack come up with the riffs?
Jamie: Yeah, well…no. We kind of all have input. But the songs endings towards the end of the album are written by Jack, probably in his bedroom.
Jose: Have you heard ‘Cancel On Me’?
Impact: Yes.
Jose: Well that used to be just an acoustic song that Jack made up in his bedroom.
Impact: Wow, and now it’s possibly your most popular song. I’ve noticed that there is great audience response when you play it. Any more ambitions?
Jamie: Well put it this way, we’re not going for world domination. I can’t really see beyond the next few months so who knows.
Impact: Are there many bands you’d really like to tour with?
Jamie: I’d have to think about that…
Impact: Lastly, I’m going throw in a good ol’ random question. If you could be a kitchen utensil, what would you be and why?
Jamie: I’m never really any good at these questions because I always pick the one that I like the most without a reason.
Impact: You don’t have to have one.
Jose: (Interrupts) I’d be a frying pan. Because I’m hot and I make things tasty.
Jamie: No, because you’re greasy (both laugh).
Jamie: I think I’d be a spoon.
Impact: Because you like spooning?
Jamie: Yeah, in more ways than one. And a spoon is versatile.
Jose: Did you know that a fork was the last utensil to be invented?
Impact: Actually no, I think it was a spork.
Jose: Oh right, so this is what you students get up to in Nottingham? You use sporks like Campers?
Impact: Yes, we camp all week long.

Published online for 'Impact Magazine' on 13th October 2009.

LIVE: NME Tour - Florence and the Machine & Friendly Fires @ Rock City, Nottingham - 12th February 2009

Considering that she hasn’t released a debut album, Florence and the Machine has certainly made a stance this year on BBC Introducing and performing on the NME’s sold-out tour. And my gosh did she champion the stage last night; with her eccentric, soulful voice dominating her backing quirky pop-rock band, filled to the brim with gritty guitars and mischievous on stage ‘kiss-chase’ sequences. Friendly Fires’, ahem...disco-funk-punk-pop music is, as evident, hard to pigeonhole, but it no doubt makes anyone want to dance. Ed Mac’s vocal range was a little weaker than hoped, but while there were a few moments of disappointment, there came moments of complete synth-infused bliss.
4/5

Published for 'Impact Magazine'.

LIVE: Death Cab For Cutie @ Rock City, Nottingham - 15th November 2008

I arrived at Rock City with high hopes of what Death Cab For Cutie could offer, and they most certainly surpassed my expectations. The Washington Indie band’s renowned ability to blend simple chords with experimental, angular guitars to mathematical precision is a rare quality, and yet the band still manage to preserve this live for an awaiting audience. There was real chemistry between the members on stage throughout - to the extent in which exchanging their instruments and continuing to uphold flawless musical production was very impressive. Crowd pleasers included their recent single ‘Cath’, but the catchy ‘Soul Meets Body’ and ‘Company Calls’ were also equal in popularity. A personal favourite was Ben Gibbard’s brilliant solo of ‘I Will Follow You into the Dark’. However, the band’s rendition of ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’, with its silky bass-line driving Gibbard’s sensuous vocal tone and haunting piano, as well as Jason McGerr’s thunderous drums, was undoubtedly one of the best live performances I have ever seen. An incredible evening.
5/5

Published for 'Impact Magazine'.

REVIEW: Bloc Party, 'Intimacy'


'Intimacy' is undoubtedly an extension of the soundscapes in 'A Weekend in the City', yet it’s more refreshing and bares similarities to the Bloc Party's debut, 'Silent Alarm'. ‘Ares’ opens with a cacophony of raging drums, sliding distorted guitars and Kele’s political vocals immediately instigate a new excitement. The band return to the splendour of previous songs such as ‘So Here We Are’ in ‘Biko’, which is so utterly honest in its lyrics, "you’re not doing this alone/resist" against cancer. The progression of a sensual bass, overlapping of voices and pulsating synthesisers formulate an overtly beautiful song. Upbeat melodies also frequently juxtapose gentle ballads - ‘One Month Off’ has the potential as a new live favourite with its dirty mix of heavily distorted guitars and joltering synths as does ‘Halo’, while ‘Ion Square’ displays an epic closure with haunting keyboards and jangling guitars. ‘Trojan Horse’ and ‘Zephyrus’ are slightly stale; however don’t miss ‘Signs’, ‘Mercury’ and ‘Better than Heaven’. Overall, a definite must-have!
4/5

Published for 'Impact Magazine', December 2008.