Thursday 31 October 2013

The Darlingtons - Don't Give Me Hope

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Ralph makes no secret of his love of The Darlingtons track 'Bats' (closely followed by 'Watch Yourself'), both of which have featured regularly on his Radio KC Sunday Indie Show.  So it's no surprise his tail was wagging with news of their debut self-released single 'Don't Give Me Hope', due out November 25th 2013 along with an almost countrywide autumn tour.

THE DARLINGTONS - Don't Give Me HopeThey're putting it out through darlingtonsmusic and it's a more grown up, reflective Darlingtons sound, reminiscent of Leeds band Swim Deep's, 'She Changes The Weather'.  They're growing stronger lyrically with each release and back it up with a depth of musicality difficult to find in bands with many more years behind them.  It's matched by an ever so slightly esoteric video by Reel 35's Karl Taylor and features a performance filmed in The Live Room, Taunton interspersed with a dancing rabbit (Luis Young of Elementz Street Dance) at the stunning location of the Quantocks in Somerset.

The Darlingtons vocally strong, guitar driven live performances are a force of nature (I was lucky enough to catch a live streamed performance recently and look forward to catching them live at Winsford in December). Their reputation has grown with hard work at the core of their ideology, gigging relentlessly across the country, resulting in their being one of the tightest live bands on the circuit.

Upcoming gigs 

Nov 01Gypsy TearsCleethorpes, United Kingdom
Nov 02The LeopardDoncaster, United KingdomTickets
Nov 03The HopWakefield, United KingdomTickets
Nov 08King ArthurGlastonbury, United Kingdom
Nov 09Bar Youth CafeWeston Super Mare, United Kingdom
Nov 15Mammy Liz's Voodoo loungeStamford, United Kingdom
Nov 23Lock 42Leicester, United KingdomTickets
Nov 29Lincoln ImpScunthorpe, United KingdomTickets
Dec 06The DrednoughtBathgate, United Kingdom
Dec 11Death2Disco Nottinghill Arts ClubLondon, United Kingdom
Dec 19Da BeeWinsford, United Kingdom
Dec 27The LouisianaBristol, United KingdomTickets

Album 4 Album 3 Album 2Album 1

The Assist

One of the tracks that's had a lot of feedback since Ralph gave it an Intro spin on his Radio KC Sunday Indie Show recently was 'Control' by up and coming young Walsall band The Assist.  They're a four piece Alt/Indie group with an infectious, bouncy Brit Pop-esque style that's proving popular not only locally, but country-wide despite their only being fully formed this year.

The band originated from the idea of a 365 day music project which tracks their progress throughout a whole year. After much discussion the band was formed on the 1st of January 2013. They feel that unsigned bands today spend too much time being critical of the music around them and not enough time on their own music. They believe to be a successful band you can't rely on one style of music and that musical depth is the key.

The Assist’s avatarWhereas many bands seem to be around for ever achieving little recognition, they believe their fast approach and young, ambitious personalities will stand them in good stead when it comes to progressing at each stage.  The Assist are Mikey and Ryan Stanton, Jak Baker and Ben Faulkner who aim to write 'real music, with honest hard hitting lyrics that speak for themselves'.  Well so far so good with the energetic 'Control' (got to be a fans favourite at gigs) with its shades of the now defunct Nizlopi fitted with brand new Duracell Extra batteries. They're a more frenetic, grittier version of that other Birmingham band The Twang

The Assist have some impressive gigs under their belt already, including supporting Bruce Foxton and the near legendary Reverend And The Makers so take a chance and go see them November 15th when they headline The o2 Academy 3 in Birmingham with support by Action Replay, Hightower, Superficials and State Of Suburbia.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Plum - Betsy Thunder EP and gig review

Betsy Thunder cover art

Building on the impetus of her SAMA Best Electronic Award Plum (aka Shona Maguire) has released a new EP 'Betsy Thunder'.  Just after releasing the EP she played a gig in The Pleasance, Edinburgh supporting Conquering Animal Sound so in order to introduce Ralph's former man in Scotland, Malcolm Parry as a fully fledged blogger (Scottish Sounds) in his own right, here's his review of the EP and gig...

The EP opens with 'Burn Us' and There's a real Goldfrapp/Saint Saviour feel to the intro with it's haunting choir like vocal style. The opening tune creates a grim electronic vision with the lyrics - “Burn us if we're not like you” - a song that could easily have been written about witches in the dark ages. 

betsy thunder ORIGINALBut this is a concept EP about a imaginary native American Indian so we're in Soldier Blue territory. A dark time none the less. Plum sings in whispered tones until mid song we get soaring synth, a tempo change and the lyrics - “Cut me til I bleed for my life” - to fade. A promising start.

'Casting Shadows' is the first of two new tunes co-produced by fellow Scottish Electro bass-heads Roman Nose. Melody wise reminding me of the tune from 'The Seed' album 'The Truth And The Knife', building to atmospheric levels while remaining restrained and never unleashing a full throttle bass attack on the listener.

My favourite cut from the EP is 'Catapult' and sees her reunite with electronic producer Teklo. It's a perfect slice of ghostly Halloween style Electro pop and a great release for October. Spine tingling Xylophone sounding notes are heard under a drop bass attack, this reviewer imagining being at a Rave on Elm Street.

'Death Comes With A Bow' is the nearest Plum gets to the commercial sounding side of electro pop music with her slightly off kilter keys intro before the uplifting sing along - “Capture my heart in the thunder” - and it's real anthem for the imaginary character on whom the EP is based. If CHVRCHES run out of tunes they know where to come.

010credit-jannicahoneyShe takes it down on 'Only Human' which is a dreamy, floaty imaginary soundtrack snippet in the characters life; maybe about losing her loved one's in a battle or on death's door herself with the lyrics - “Hanging on by a thread, wishing I was dead” - while overdubbed vocals - “Letting go, letting go..” - fade us to black.

'To Destroy Everything' is a track where the keys melody has a early 80's Depeche Mode - 'A Broken Frame' - period feel, before Roman Nose add euphoric pulsating synth on the chorus - “Did you come for me to destroy everything that I love” - and I imagine Betsy losing it catapult in hand poised ready to enact revenge on the soldier boys. “This is what I need, this is what I breath, this is what I am” - the outro is brought back down to hushed vocals and ambient soundscape.

All in all a great little concept EP and it definitely works well as a whole listening experience and a sneaky insight in to the world of one Betsy Thunder. Plum showing there's more 'strings to her bow' in her writing duties and not just songs about her own life experiences. I say bring on the album.

Limbo – Pleasance Theatre , Edinburgh 24/10/13

A review by Malcolm Parry:  Being an electronica fan I was quite excited about the prospect of tonight's line up, all electro artists from Glasgow/Edinburgh.

First up Glasgow based Engine 7. The duo of producer Alan McNeil and Glaswegian but based in London Marie Claire Lee. Main man takes the stage creating ambient electronic soundscapes while visuals are projected onto a screen behind. Its all atmospheric and music to soundtrack a cool indie movie. Singer Marie Claire Lee joins him while the first piece flows seamlessly in to the next. She swoons and sways along like a snake in a trance to the charmed beats from McNeil, she floats in and out from the Mic, adding loose lyrics. 

Unfortunately I couldn't quite make out the lyrics, maybe the sound levels were out, but the beats were loud, I like. In the last tune I can make out a chiming melody like a ice cream van at the Sonar Festival, the lyrics are more prominent and I hear a touch of Bat For Lashes lead lady Natasha Khan in Marie's vocal style. Some great pieces of music and production.

Speaking to Marie before she told me the new album is sounding cool and she's excited to get it out. What I've heard tonight I’ll be getting my hands on a copy. Nice start to the show.

Plum quietly takes her place in front of her table of electrical tricks, holding the mic - “Hello, I am Plum“ - then joking “I'm sounding like a comedian." and 'Meadow of Weeds' is first. She's recently defected to Brighton and since being there had a few mishaps happen to her; including injuring her wrist, so unfortunately we don't get the full Plum experience moving between bass and acoustic guitar.

My New Website Before she was like a mad professor, now more of a one armed DJ/vocalist. Having said that she still provides a great show, adding warmth and charm when she makes a mistake, laughing and telling us what she has done wrong. The beats and tunes are still there, especially the excellent new material from her new EP, 'Betsy Thunder'.

Catapult takes us to new highs with it's spine tingling xylophone melodies and thunderous bass all mixing in to the electrifying set with tunes from The Seed. She banters with her old sacked producer (in joke) Martin who's sitting in the audience and tells us her dad loves that new track 'Death Becomes A Bow' and who says it like - "take a bow" - an uplifting piece of electro pop.

Last tune 'Smile' she introduces us to her favorite song to play live, it certainly has brought smile's to the faces of tonight's crowd. An electronic artist/producer with bags of talent and a favorite I never tire of seeing live, especially nice to see her back in her home town.

Little Buddha I have been looking forward to seeing for a long while and they don't disappoint with their Bass heavy sounds and tight production from main man Grant Tyrie , keyboardist of three years Fergus Black and lead lady ( slightly scary ) vampirish looking Kat McDonald who jokes and banters, but leaves us all slightly unnerved.

McDonald sings the songs like she's providing the soundtrack for a Tim Burton animated movie or theatrical musical. Hints and nods to Massive Attack and Portishead on 'Life Support' with its trip hop stylee and dark noir-ish overtones, slightly electronic/jazz with more focus on the bass wizard trickery. I'm loving their set until just before the last song an emotional Grant takes the Mic and announces - "This will be our last gig. I've loved being with the band and partner Kat making music together for 15 years“ - all very sad and slightly uncomfortable for the audience, also a shame as they looked like they were getting somewhere with recently being featured on BBC radio live in the Edinburgh Fringe. I'm glad I got the chance to see them live and they will be missed.

Finally it's up to head-liners Conquering Animal Sound to pick us back up. The electro duo consisting of Anneke Kampman and James Scott create strange other wordly experimental electronic music. The petite Kampman live on stage is a intense force, moving back and forth, confidently singing in to the mic like Bjork. Scott provides minimal sounds and gentle comments between songs.

At times it's a trance like experience, especially on one of their new tunes with it's hypnotic beats and ending with it's - “I did not look like me mother” - lyrics. They’re an intriguing live act but unfortunately not captivating enough for me to last out the full set.

Friday 25 October 2013

Ralph's Top 10 Blogged Band Chart - 25.10.13

OK bands you know the score.....

the more hits your blog gets by the fans..... 

the higher you go.....

So Tweet it, Facebook it.....

and generally expose yourself.....

Now Mr Snuggles and me have been sitting with our heads down counting the hits on each bands blog to see who's got which place.  

So here it is.....

The Top Ten Blogged Band Chart .....

Have Mercy Las Vegas were the third and final of Ralph's trio of lively and energetic folk/rock bands reviewed back in November of last year. They're causing a bit of a stir on the Glasgow music scene with their unique sound, which although largely folk and blues based, is hard to pin down exactly as they appeal to a wider audience with every gig.

I recently attended a gig in Liverpool's Leaf Tearooms to take in local bands Lumin Bells and Red Sails which included an appearance by This Morning Call.  Main interest on the night was Lumin Bells but after their set probably a third of the audience left.  To their loss as it happens as This Morning Call produced a set that was as eclectic as it was mesmerising.

No 3.....Kidsmoke

Kidsmoke are Lance Williams, James Stickels, Tomas Hassall and Chris Trow and despite being long time friends they've only formed as a unit in early 2013.  That being said they've come up with a solid, eminently listenable debut EP.  The lead track 'Higher' kicks off with an almost psychedelic/60's California vocal.

No 4..... Under A Banner

Ralph previously looked at Wolverhampton Alt Folk/Rock band Under A Banner back in May when they released a single 'Some Stories' to aid the soldiers charity Help For Heroes.  Since then the band have been working hard to produce their ¿Acoustic? EP and the result is a heartfelt collection of well crafted songs. 

No 5..... Red Sails 

If you're looking for well crafted, melodic tunes in a Steely Dan sylee then you've come to the right place because Ralph's been listening to Red Sails from Liverpool and it's time you did too!  Their tracks sound simple but are actually complex well written musical gems that soar, taking you on highs and lows with their lyrics and melodies.

No 6..... Graham Marshall

I was sent a You Tube video a few weeks ago that not only made me laugh but also renewed my faith in seeking out unsigned indie music.  It was self-made by Graham Marshall who three years ago tried to make a living in music but had to do the unthinkable – go back to a 'real job' as a truck driver for ASDA. Almost giving up hope of a musical career he now boasts a trophy awarded by the panel of the Barcelona International Film Festival and a newly released EP.

No 7.....Crumplehorns

Casting the unsigned Indie net wide on Twitter to get some tunes for this weeks show on Radio KC I snagged the slightly elusive yet interesting Scarborough band Crumplehorns.  On first listening I was whisked back to the early days of Wedding Present  gigs and lo and behold on checking their info they've been tagged as 'striking a claim for being the best British Indie band since The Wedding Present'.


Ralph's an equal opportunities Jack Russel and having just covered Scottish Indie folk/blues band Have Mercy Las Vegas decided to stick with the genre in order to bring you news of the latest (and apparently final) album release by The Low Countries

No 9..... Carlito

looking for a bit of guitar driven post-punk pop? Well then I've got just the band for you as Carlito have just released a track 'Sandcastles' that delivers exactly that.

No 10..... GRIMderry

It's a dismal, wet and windy Monday morning, so what better time to check out Irish musician GRIMderry whose angst fueled electro/rock/blues/jazz blend of music suits the mood.  GRIMderry aka Laurence McDaid is about as Indie as it gets, creating and self-producing his thought provoking music using Ableton from the shed in his back garden, which includes the recently self-released EP - 'Digital Throw-up' - of which more later.