Clint Mansell - Union Chapel, 20 July 2009

August 3rd, 2009

photo by wanterlustg - http://www.flickr.com/photos/wanderlustg/3740971292/in/set-72157621628239137/

After a suprise introduction by friends including none other than Darren Aronofsky praising his music, you’d expect a relative air of confidence about Clint Mansell, but as he even as he took to the stage, he was quietly and unassuming.
Clint as a musician has had quite a meandering path to where he is now, some of which, if you didnt previously know about, you might find abit suprising. In particular the contrast between his last band, the extroverted Pop Will Eat Itself and the relatively introverted compositions he makes now. Of course, those of us who are familiar with both sides of the coin can draw similarity between the two - I often imagine hearing the PWEI guitars powering away in tandum with his current works.

The contrast of work was joy to hear - the serene beauty of the work in The Fountain to the heaving brutality of Requiem For A Dream. Watching the lead guitarist hammering the bridge of his electric guitar with his fist, or teasing out textures with an ebow was simply awe inspiring.

I’m fortunate to have seen Clint live, as I believe this was only the 2nd time ever they’ve performed in the current format. I’m not sure how many more of these he’s doing, but if your into him, you’d do well to go along and check him out!

heres an sample:

Clint_Mansell-Death_Is_The_Road_to_Awe.mp3

photo by wanterlustg - http://www.flickr.com/photos/wanderlustg/3740971292/in/set-72157621628239137/

Noah and the Whale - First Days Of Spring

July 20th, 2009

Noah and the Whale - First Days Of Spring Album Cover

I’m sitting at work, listening to Noah and the Whales new album ‘The First Days of Spring’, and I’ve just had to down tools - its so darn good I had to write a quick review of it.

Melancholic, moody and totally Stupefying - its a marked departure from their first album which has always been seen as abit twee in parts. This is clearly a breakup album as most of the tracks revolve around that subject, but I’m glad this album wasn’t around last time I had a break up, or I’d have sat in my room with this on repeat for weeks, and never left the house!

Theres also a definate show of craftsmanship here - they’ve clearly shown their capabilities as musicians with stark melodies, to thoughtful use of instrumentation, including choirs, slide guitar, strings, brass, and even prepared piano.

If your hoping for an album like their debut that you can bounce around to, this album isnt for you. However, if your in an introverted mood, you should really dig it. Its out end of August, so do the right thing - support indie music, and go BUY it!! (I know I will be :)

Download the title track off their new album (FOR FREE!!) off their website (http://www.noahandthewhale.com/FDOS.html), so do yourself a favour and go have a listen!

M83 - Koko, 7 July 2009

July 14th, 2009

m83Anthony Gonzalez (aka M83) started the show in the dark, with 25 minutes of new, solo instrumental music. Of course, while I thought this was pure genius, it appeared many of the Koko crowd were a little confused by the extra long ‘intro’.

In fact the entire set was a departure from their show I’d heard a few months ago, containing a larger proportion of old and new M83 instrumentals. M83 must have played at the most 4 tracks from the last album, and even those were virtually remixes of the originals - every time you expected a certain riff to kick in, it had either changed, or would be a new riff entirely. The ‘Kim and Jesse’ crew did not seem that happy about it - the girl next to me kept on shaking her head as yet another ‘unknown’ instrumental began.

While they didnt sell out Koko, they seemed to suit the bigger venue, if only for the vastly superior sound system. Having also seen Simian Mobile Disco - also reknowned for their improvisation and live skills - at the same venue, I must admit I preferred seeing M83. Call me a nerd for liking the more experimental of the two, but perhaps the fact you have to work harder to appreciate it appeals to me more…

check out some samples:
M83-Unknown.mp3 (new?)
M83-Coleurs.mp3

Bon Iver - Serpentine Sessions, 30 June 2009

July 13th, 2009

photo by minifig - http://www.flickr.com/photos/minifig/3675887643/

Bon Iver’s show started with a Justin and band wandering on stage in a typically unassuming manner and taking to their instruments quietly, setting about silencing the audience with their beautiful music.

But this was the second time I’d seen Bon Iver, and to be honest, I preferred the first time around. While they were more polished this time, with a more defined, substantial sound, it was clear this show was nearing the end of a long tour. They’ve been on a constant world tour for the last 2 or so years, and has been in high demand everywhere as a boutique act. Many festivals have shown alot of interest - Glastonbury even had them play 3 different stages on 3 separate days just before this show, so its not suprising they seemed abit fatigued.

However, this was by no means a weak performance - the songs and performance still held the intensity that every audience member have come to love in their music, and an intensity on stage that would put the majority of bands to shame. In Justin Vernon’s own words they “wont be playing here again for a very long time”, implying they were due for a break and a long hiatus. I even got the feeling that it may even be more permanent than that, but lets hope not!

heres some examples:
Bon_Iver-Skinny_Love.mp3
Bon_Iver-Re_Stacks.mp3

Regina Spektor - Serpentine Sessions, 29 June 2009

July 13th, 2009

Regina SpektorHaving only discovered Regina Spektor’s new album ‘Far’ 5 days prior to her Serpentine Sessions show, i was looking forward to being suprised and hearing more of her earlier work. Fortunately she lived up to my expectations, and those of the couple of fans I went with. Her set was as varied and eclectic as her writing style, and seeing her in action certainly competes with other Songwriting diva’s such as Tori Amos.

Regina looked honestly suprised at the size and enthusiasm of the audience - surely she’s had audiences like this before? perhaps just not in europe?

Indeed, if your a Tori fan, I’d recommend giving her a listen. Heres a few samples from the night:
Regina_Spektor-Blue_lips.mp3
Regina_Spektor-Fidelity.mp3

Tracy Chapman - Roundhouse, 25 June 2009

July 12th, 2009

photo by Pieter Morlion : http://www.flickr.com/photos/pietermorlion/3028127026/On the night Michael Jackson died, I was appropriately paying homage to another fine musician. No disrespect to the man as a musician - his music was world changing… 25 years ago… and then theres also the media’s (and the worlds) apparent loss of memory regarding his rather blatant indiscretions.

In stark contrast, Tracy Chapman, also a pop prodigy of the 80’s, is still producing great music, touring, and looking a picture of health in body and mind. Indeed, her most recent album ‘Our Bright Future’ and reason for touring, is as good as any of her prior albums.

Tracy’s set played out like an anthology of her work, and her fans were very enthusiastic in cheering her on. (Except for the 2 die hard fans behind us who managed to listen to themselves talk through every song save the 2 they knew)

It was a great gig, even if it was overshadowed by the MJ factor - having listened to Tracy many many times over the last 2 decades, it was fantastic to finally have caught her live.

Check out a few samples:
Tracy_Chapman-Love_Song.mp3
Tracy_Chapman-Subcity.mp3

also, if your interested in cool websites, check out her (flash) coloring-in website - http://www.tracychapman.com

photo by Pieter Morlion, check out his flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pietermorlion/3028127026/

Noah and the Whale - Crisis Hidden Gig, 24 June 2009

June 29th, 2009

Noah and the Whale - First Days Of Spring Album CoverThe gig included Jay Jay Pistolet, Wave Machines, and Noah and the Whale (Natw), all playing for a hidden gig at the Freedm Studio (at Camden’s Roundhouse) for the Crisis homeless charity. The studio itself is a small space, perfect for an intimate show. I much preferred hearing Jay Jay Pistolet and NatW in this intimate setting, than the massive Shepherds Bush Empire, filled with screaming/shouting fans.

The last time I saw Noah and the Whale, I wished I’d heard them with Laura Marling still in the line up, but now I realize that her departure has allowed them to evolve away from their first album, into something other than folk. Now I hear twangs of The Cure, Sigur Ros and even Mazzy Star interwoven into NatW’s melancholic melodies and riffs. Since their last London show, I could hear that they’ve now worn in their new tracks, which sound alot more settled and organic than before.

I would offer more of their new stuff, but as I’d prefer you all to go see them and buy their new album in August, I’ll give you a single taster:

Noah_and_the_Whale_-_Love_Of_An_Orchestra.mp3

ps - you can download the title track off their new album (FOR FREE!!) off their website (http://www.noahandthewhale.com/FDOS.html), so do yourself a favour and go have a listen!

Bobby McFerrin - Royal Festival Hall, 17 June 2009

June 22nd, 2009

Bobby McFerrinWhile the Meltdown Festival has previously brought us wonders such as Jeff Buckley performing classical repertoire, it has taken me until now to get organized enough to take in a show from its programme. This year, with the jazz master Ornette Coleman curating, the selection of performers was very interesting indeed, but I naturally took to Bobby McFerrin.

Having heard a few of Bobby’s live recordings, and seen his youtube videos, I knew his show would be dynamic and varied. He opened with 3 tracks of improvisation before satisfying some of his fans with a few of his standards. What impressed me was his pure enthusiasm for music and his love of sharing it with people - he had me crying with laughter one moment, and then feeling like dancing the next - and in fact, that’s what some of the audience got to do - Bobby let audience members on stage to dance / sing while he accompanied with improv.

Even though I knew he’d be great on stage, I wasn’t expecting how truly inspirational he was in reality - after 2 standing ovations and an encore with Ornette Coleman himself, I honestly felt like going home and making my own music. I don’t think I can even recall feeling that stimulated by music by any show I’ve ever been to.

I know I’ve said it alot before, but to not repeat it now would be travesty - if you get a chance to see him live, by all means do it! you wont be disappointed.

here’s a few samples:
Bobby_McFerrin-Sweet_Home_Chicago.mp3
Bobby_McFerrin-She.mp3

The Whitest Boy Alive - Scala, 16 April 2009

May 22nd, 2009

photo by graham Racher - http://www.flickr.com/photos/wanderlustg/sets/72157617037921156/In contrast from the Sisters of Mercy show, this gig was filled with the short-haired brigade - not a single mullet or teased up coiffeur in sight. I wasn’t expecting it to be that popular, and almost didn’t go myself, but the gig turned out to be sold out.

The Whitest Boy Alive came out at 9:15pm and lived up to their name, the drummer with his moustache and pineapple shaker, the lead singer in big school teacher glasses, and the bass player in tight white pants. If nerds wrote catchy rock / pop, this what be it. Like The New Wine before them, they’d done away with the lead guitar, opting for rhythm guitar, leaving the riffs and lead melody to a capable keyboard. Interestingly, they also all switched instruments at one point, in mid song, which was quite impressive.

I’ve always considered The Whitest Boy Alive to be alittle bit Royksopp, and alittle bit early The Cure, while they were still punk-pop (Three Imaginary Boys sorta era), but in performance they seemed more upbeat and electronic than I expected. They slowly wound up the audience into a bouncing frenzy, at one point even doing a parody of a parody - The Prodigy’s ‘Out of Space’.

Overall it was an unassuming, and energized set, with the band interacting with the crowd more and more. In their final encore the lead singer even did a full lap off the room and moshed on the dance floor, after being sung back onto stage by the audience.

heres a sample from the night:

The_Whitest_Boy_Alive-Above_You.mp3

Photo by Graham Racher:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wanderlustg/sets/72157617037921156/

The New Wine - Scala, 16 April, 2009

May 21st, 2009

I should have expected these guys to be good after the lead singer of The Whitest Boy Alive introduced them. Regardless, they started playing, and it was instantly clear that while they had there own style, they were quite similar to The Whitest Boy Alive’s sound. For such a young band, they played really well together, and are talented players, especially their keyboard player who wasn’t afraid to rock out the riffs (instead of the usual pad-playing keys man).

Their enthusiasm and music was strong enough that the audience were cheering and dancing, which is a response I haven’t seen much of from an opening act. Their demo was £3 well spent - I’m not sure if these guys are signed yet, but if they continue with their current form, it shouldnt be long before they are. They have a bright future ahead of them. If you get a chance, go see The New Wine and make up your mind for yourself!