Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Listening in Tongues podcast

Songs from a parallel universe and the black magic of soul

Journeying to a world unlike our own, Tom Bonnett and Alex Lawson ask what tunes might top the charts in another dimension and take their chances with the occult investigating the secret spell behind a perfect soul record. The ponderous duo take you through some pop puzzles and play some genuine classics to boot. Enjoy.
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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

MC Lars makes plea over suicides

Had an interesting email through from old ShadowPlay friend and hip-hop fiend MC Lars, if you can help him out, get in touch...
Hey everyone,

As I'm sure many of you know, a song on my new record TWENTY-THREE details the life and tragic death of a best friend and Stanford roommate, Patrick Wood. You can read more about him on his blog. He was a brilliant friend who battled with depression and took his life in Berlin in early 2006:

We are making a video for this song, as it is the next single off of THIS GIGANTIC ROBOT KILLS.

To make this video be effective and raise awareness, we NEED YOUR HELP!

If you have any friends or family members who know or who have lost anyone to suicide, please get in touch with us. We want to feature photos of loved ones who have taken their own lives. The goal of this video is to help raise awareness that this is an issue that affects us all, and pay our respects to those who have passed on. One of the things that helps me get through losing Pat is having a song about him to sing and listen to. I hope that you will share this with me if you have gone through anything similar.

Please hit me up at - with photos and stories if you have friends who haven taken their own lives.

Thank you for all of your help! Together we can help raise awareness and help prevent suicide. We are talking to non-profit organizations to have some promotional support and help change the world together.

Much love and Happy Holidays.

MC Lars

P.S. Just on a legal side-note - we will need signed waivers, so before you get in touch with us with photos of your friends, please hit up your friends' families first. We know this is a sensitive issue and just want to make sure everyone's on board.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Psychoville returns to UK screens

BBC Two has confirmed its weird, incestuous comedy Psychoville will return for a one-off special programme to be shown next year, and a new, six-part second series will follow.
Written by League of Gentlemen masterminds Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, rhe dark comedy thriller was centred on very different characters, who each received an anonymous mysterious letter claiming: "I know what you did..." in the last series.
The final episode concluded the story at Ravenhill Hospital, for the completely insane, with a huge explosion. In the new series, all will be revealed as to who managed to survive the blast.
Steve Pemberton said: "We're delighted that BBC Two commissioners have responded in the right way to the notes we sent bearing the words 'We know what you did'. We look forward to being able to tickle and terrify our audience once again - preferably at the same time."

Monday, 9 November 2009

Anti-Pop Consortium: Live at the Scala, London 05/11/09

The re-emergence of Anti-Pop Consortium has been one of the undisputed triumphs of the CBRA (Continual Bands Reforming Age) as the stream of consciousness hip-hop merchants delve back into the world of collective creativity. Individually, there were signs of brilliance. Since their split in 2002, Beans has been perhaps the most successful, releasing four generally well-received efforts while High Priest and M. Sayyid as Airborn Audio plied their trade on Ninja Tune but didn’t follow-up debut Good Fortune on the label.

So their reformation, in August 2007 ­­­­– five years after the barn-storming Arrhythmia – was welcomed by band’n’fans alike. Two years on and the first release from this second phase, new record Flourescent Black, shows excellent, witty signs of a return of a hip-hop act who can genuinely refer to themselves as ‘fresh’. Full of the quirky, intelligent discharge that made oft inaccessible beats irrelevant with a flow sharper than a nerd’s pencil always in charge of each tune.

In London, the New York foursome show their classic vigour. Facing inwards towards a desk, concentrating on their collective whole rather than individual style, predictably white crowd and APC-alike know this is about the music rather than the style. A year earlier at Sonar in Barcelona, ShadowPlay say this as a sign of an act still getting back on their feet, now it looks like pure, brilliant arrogance. Beans does turn ringmaster on a couple of occasions, the glib Apparently initiates the biggest roar of the night while Born Electric, also from the new record, sees them change pace and take a slower, more considered approach as they intone “can’t take my powers”.

There’s little doubt APC offer a refreshing antidote to the bling, overly smooth side of American hip-hop, what’s more impressive is that they do it while remaining out of the more nerdy fringes of it, maintaining their calm coolness and a rare hip-hop characteristic: integrity. Viva la reformation.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Latest Reviews: Aural October

Where better to kick off this month’s reviews round-up than with a bizarre, disparate and confusing release? Ok probably with something straight forward but that just wouldn’t do. The concept of DJ Yoda and The Heritage Orchestra’s new release – ‘G.Prokofiev Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra’ – is an excellent one. Few would think to combine hip-hop and classical music (I mean, really combine them, not just a sample here and there) in a full length LP with movements and everything and the ambitious project has rightfully drawn some attention. But, well, it just doesn’t go far enough. As someone who likes their classical music I enjoyed the ridiculously sinister violins and the scratching combined nicely with the brass section but, well, where was the hip-hop? If Yoda, Mr Adventurous and supreme VJ was gunna take on a project like this I’d expect beats galore and those symbols to be sounding on top form, what we get is disparate, occasionally brilliant but far too often pulling up too short of its ambitious targets.
Those Northwesterly people at Cherryade Records have been busy as ever. Firstly they’ve released The Lovely Eggs’ record If You Were Fruit which, if a little sickly, brings a smile to the face of twockers (twee rockers) everywhere with their naïve lyrics. Secondly they glorious entity that is the Bobby McGees have release record L’Appropration Bourgoise De La bobby McGees and are on top form with opener Tractus Logico-Musica talking about innocent girlfriends and pepper spray and setting the tone from then on. The Bobby McGees are one of those special bands with perfect self-perception and an equally perfect lack of ego – they right fun songs with too many horns and far, far too many great hooks. Set aside a frantic half-hour.
From folk to funk, Bugz in the Attic have brought out a remixes collection, Got the Bug, which goes some way to displaying their sleek, undoubted talent and souped up version of Roison Murphy, Amy Winehouse and Bunny Mack tunes are decent but perhaps a little mainstream to attract core Bugz fans into this purchase.
Two beautifully packaged records in spray-painted wonderment reached ShadowPlay from Belle Records with Sol Gravy’s Sun Son proving a sombre affair with a beautiful harmonica and some nice lyrical touches adding to the jangly 70s dark folk feel of the record while labelmates Water were apparently one of THE Yorkshire bands of the end of the last century before their implosion through sex, drugs and ‘skullduggery’ fail to live up to the excitement of these pursuits with their flabby and meandering record Monkey Steps. Similarly attractively packaged, Bay of Islands’ Winter Vignettes, on Dizzy Records, provides a more soothing, intriguing record with the chirp of a scratched string and the sound of an undoubtedly talented pianist creating a sparse and beautiful record. Bear Driver’s Paws & Claws has a similarly lackadaisical rhythm to it with the Leeds-based psych-pop band displaying some promising signs with excellent vocals and an ear for when to make the tune go off on one, dancing into the woods without a cursory look back… Le Reno Amps return with their EP, the Stand Off, this month but, in all honesty, the grating lyrics and confusion over whether they want to be a straight up pop or kinda country-tinged indie band,a t least in the listener’s ears, is very off-putting.
Perhaps the prize for wild strangeness from a nutty duo this month goes to Misty Roses, the London/New York duo who, in their second album Villainess, create more mystery the Poirot puzzling over a particularly ripping Soduku. Singer Robert Conroy leads the tunes well and with ethereal backing and the skills of multi-instrumentalist Jonny Pearl, it’s definitely worth investigation.
A couple of harder releases come through TNS Records with the thrash of Revenge of the Psychotronic Man (and their barnstorming record Make Pigs Smoke, yep…) proving the custard shower effect, quite strange, fun once in a while but not for regular consumption. Meanwhile Halcyon Days are slightly lees all-out but provide some nice, threatening basslines and decent riffs, not to mention some quality boomed out harmonies. Good stuff.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

ShadowPlay site moves on

Long time readers will be familiar with the old, ramshackle ShadowPlay website. After six years and thousands of hits it
's time to say a tearful farewell to my little blue creation and move, full time, to this blog. I would still hesitate to call myself a 'blogger', the connotations are of someone with too much time (never the case here!) on their hands, issuing rash, thoughtless opinions.That said the ease, speed and sleekness of this blog has been refreshing, proving you needn't have all the web skills in the world to make it readable. I'll be working on adding extra detail to this site so all the ShadowPlay contact details, links and stuff about the paper fanzine (which remains the priority) is included. For now, I bid farewell to the old site, it's all over now baby blue.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Sounds Like Teen Spirit (2009)

Kids can’t sing. People who enter Eurovision generally can’t sing (Gina G, I apologise…). So here’s a perfect match. This “popumentary” follows a number of kids vying for the title of winner of Junior Eurovision 2007. Pitched at an interesting level, this neither takes the piss out of Eurovision in a Wogan-esque way, nor takes it as seriously as it clearly is by many of the “smaller” countries around the continent.

First off, this seemed the wrong approach to take, afterall what dramatic interest are a bunch of kids singing going to provide if it’s not comedy. But actually this film connects on a real emotional level as the viewer feels complete empathy with the junior contestants, some of which seem to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Perhaps the best example of this is Mariam, a 13-year-old Georgian who goes to the competition without her mother, who lives in a ramshackle tower block and vows to take tranquilisers before her daughter’s performance. Given free fruit and blessings on the street, Mariam carries the hopes of her country on her shoulders and stars in the live final, which receives no less than 23 million viewers before being caught up in the Russian offensive which took place in summer 2008.

There’s also plenty to laugh at though, perhaps the deadpan Belgian commentator who says “they are not singing very good” of three Dalton Sisters aged no more than nine or Belgian finalists Trust who have had a street in their native town of Ypres named after them, such is the measure of their success.

This documentary gave a real insight, perhaps for the first time for, as to just why people from so many, realistically, fairly unremarkable countries get so worked up by Eurovision. With over 14,000 entrants vying for the Rotterdam final it’s clear the stakes are high for a competition which says as much about fragmented European politics as it does about mini-camp entertainment. An interesting documentary, a DVD in front of the fire watch for sure. 

Tru Thoughts Round-Up

Those glorious people over at Tru Thoughts have cooked up a storm for the autumn period, celebrating 10 years of the label that has boasted the kind of cutting edge music, in Quantic, TM Juke and the Bamboos in particular, that has marked it out as a forerunner in the UK funk and soul scene.

Earlier this month it hosted an excellent, hot and sticky night at Vibe Bar on Brick Lane, London where Alice Russell and Belleruche in particular gave the night the kind of swagger only 10 years of hard work and good times can bring. The label’s three disc anniversary release is a triumph in displaying the diversity and quality of the label. Thus the usual faces are joined by the likes of Kinny, Kylie Audist and Nirobi & Barakas. The main theme is of a label firmly focussed on taking life at its own pace, grab hold of it and saying “look, I’m gunna relax for a minute, ok?”

Elsewhere on the label, Natural Self releases his second album My Heart Beats Like a Drum next month, full of the kind of minimal chirpiness that will see him open up top-end nights aplenty I suspect. Meanwhile, Domu, aka Dominic Stanton, has released a collection of One Offs, Remixes and B Sides but it does feel a little like that, not exactly rjects but not top-cuts, also his choice of vocalists seems a little dubious, some dodgy vocals/lyrics here. Overall, Tru Thoughts spoil their listeners beyond belief, a label of true class and style will leave you far from hiding under the Munka Moon. (AL)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Kid606: Shout at the Döner (Tigerbeat6)

Kid606, aka Venezulan electronica supremo Miguel Trost Depedro, is one of those artists who, when on top form, is really on top form. The riviera kid has bust through the speed of sound on many previous occasions, with rip-roaring efforts like Don't Sweat the Technics and Kill Sound Before Sound Kills You marking him out as a real talent, if a little prone to the odd random mix too many.
Back with the bizarrely-titled Shout at the Döner (advice on Glaswegian kebab shops is offered in the notes), released through glorious off-kilter visionaries Tigerbeat6, this is a surprising release just in how fresh it seems despite some tunes, such as the menacing Samhain California, sounding like they coulda come out of the Steel city in any time in the last two decades. There are heavy strokes of futuristic LFO here while other reference points like Mouse on Mars and more minimal acts (that don’t have agoraphobia and play out) are bang on the money. The record is split into four ‘movements’ with Kid606’s Mozart moments coming in the form of nice glitches, tapered high-hats and strange clips which, to be honest, can only have been recorded and subsequently re-used under the influence of something a bit stronger than a bottle of Calpol left out overnight. There’s plenty of moments here when ‘606 hits real top form and create music to go to a fucking good party to and that is so invigorating you probably won’t even cringe when your mate flashes at the complaining neighbours. Get it.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Spotlight On: Blind Blake and Lecube

“There is no bank on Wall Street that belonged to me..” croons Blind Blake, aka Matthew Town, the legendary singer from the Bahamas who was born in 1915 and carved out an illustrious if a little under-recognised career from the 30s through to the 60s. As the leader of the house band at the Royal Victoria Hotel in Nassau in the Bahamas his music combines the glory of ragtime blues, island classics and American pop with some quite forward-thinking jazz elements. Listening to Bahamian Songs is one of those truly positive experiences that can change an mood and get even the clumsiest of toes twinkling. Credit must also been given to the technical elements of this record which, on CD, sounds crystal clear and surprisingly for a record from the early 50s has very little hiss and crackle (not always a good thing I hasten to add but a pleasure here). Highlights include the effortless fun Yes, Yes, Yes, his particularly familiar John B Sail (sloop would be proud) and My Pigeon Got Wild show the skill the man had on his banjo, ukulele or six-string to create a rhythm and style that would entertain contemporary audiences and generations to come. A must have if you like both music and smiling.

It would be unfair to describe Frenchman Julien ‘Lecube’ Barbagallo, architect of his debut From Here to Now, as fey but there’s a certain otherworldliness to the breathy, sidling pace of the record. Recorded in Toulouse, this eight-track offering shows some definite promise with Barbagallo presenting at times incredibly very intricate songs in a simple fashion – breaking down from tumultuous drumming into the kind of carefully plucked guitar-work which led Nick Drake to the forefront of those talented yet mellow musicians who preferred to shun any egocentric qualities in favour of an educated sound. That said, he does whack himself on the cover and grate a little vocally but on the whole, definitely worth a hop over the channel.

Monday, 24 August 2009

ShadowPlay// Broken Yolk fledgling podcast

ShadowPlay teams up with Teddy Bones, aka long-time SP contributor and fiend on the ones and twos, Tom Bonnett (pictured right) for an early precursor to a long-time partnership. This episode we introduce top monthly Stoke Newington night Broken Yolk, conducting some pointed ramblings about music consumption (including the mysteries of spotify) and featuring some aural delights in the form of Lord Tanamo, Acoustic Ladyland and a certain familiar reggae face.

Stream, subscribe or download it here:

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Sunday, 23 August 2009

Bent: Best Of

Nottingham lads Neil "Nail" Tolliday and Simon Mills will always have a special place in ShadowPlay hearts not only for their origins in the fair Midlands but also for their debut, Programmed to Love, which was probably the best record the city has produced and certainly the most impressive in the field of cleverly-worked electronica. Accomplished DJs and superb musicians, Bent are due a Best Of and, having always kept  a fairly low-key profile, it is nicely packaged as an introduction to the duo. Far from a flung together collection of their tunes, there’s a flow and control over this record which belies its status as a compilation – spreading the band’s work across two CDs.

The seven new songs here also serve to remind listeners that Bent are still fresh, coming up with a number of up-tempo, quite guitar led tunes to intersperse old favourites. But, in the end, long time listeners will enjoy a reprisal, Private Life and Magic Love still causing a tingle. Bent are a band who have often been under appreciated, their legacy starts here. 

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Melt! Festival: Ferropolis, Germany

Astonishing discoveries are one of the things that makes life interesting: finding out what that button on the remote does, what colours food can turn if you leave it long enough and what that thing does you’ve been puzzled about for the earlier part of your life. Melt! is one such discovery. Now in its twelfth year, locals on the site tell me its profile has lifted considerably in the last couple of years with bigger brands, and bigger name acts, drawing the attention of a truly international audience.
Situated in Ferropolis, a complex created from an old quarry complete with a man-made lake and towering excavators, outside Dessau, an hour from Berlin, there’s plenty going for this cheap, large, three-day event.
Largely centred upon the more funky side of electronica - your Erol Alkan, Diplo, Digitalism type acts – there is a good diversity in terms of music, if not food where sausage dominates to a degree never before seen, even the usual dog burger is a rarity. Day one kicks off with some scepticism, Foals and Metronomy proving big name pull outs but ShadowPlay checks out the tenacious La Roux, full of spirit and, more crucially, tunes. Elsewhere, Aphex Twin (pictured below), making a rare live appearance, arrives onstage in the giant concrete bowl which mascerades as a main stage, to put in an hour of glitches, churning fun and a performance to set your teeth on edge – legend. Simian Mobile Disco and MSTRKRFT also prove popular before the torrential rain cut proceedings short at a mere 5am with a soggy Melt! going to bed cold but happy. The switch up in set times, compared to the more reserved, license-bound, UK festivals is notable. Here, the music doesn’t start until 7pm, meaning peak sets are 1-4am, and the freezing nights and wankers-shouting-fueled late night anger of festival camping are replaced by a serene knackeredness which both breaks and energises those in attendance.

The second day continues in a similar vein, Diplo and Boyz Noise put in masterful displays on the ones and twos, the artificial builders merchant sand of the man-made beach adding to the Brazilian DJs best-bits set while searchlights add to the effect, sat atop the humungous cranes. Digitalism also impress, proving more than just bleep-pop also-rans as they dominate main stage activities. The final day is an odd affair, opposite to the previous days, the music starts relatively early with many people descending for the day, doubtless drawn in by Oasis’ name at the top of the bill. Patrick Wolf delivers an impressive display, his stocks (which do in fact exist, he’s backed by Band Stocks) rise as he poses, pounces and prances around the stage in giant black wigs and backed by his increasingly glorious catalogue of pop songs. Various DJs continue to capture the weekend’s spirit, everyone still in seemingly good mood as the only sun of the festival appears. Oasis, for their part, put in an excellent, strangely professional and incongruous display. Along with the usual jibes about Manchester and laddish stuff, Gallagher junior shouts something about playing at Legoland and the band deliver a tight, wide-ranging and ultimately satisfying set. Devoid of the crap that has made going to see them in the UK an unappetising prospect – the piss throwing, chav presence, massive waits to get a spot – this was the best place to see an ace who are, realistically, still capable of putting on a great, enjoyable show. Even if it does involve lots of loud, shouty Swedish blokes.
A truly international festival, Melt! is a gem of an event, full of fun, intrigue and individuality, it’s well worth a flight out. Next year promises to be even better, with the event looking to expand even further size and acts-wise. Pack your muddy dancing shoes in anticipation.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Hop Farm Festival, Kent

The idea of this festival is right up our street – no branding, no sponsorship – a great idea perhaps surprisingly brought about by former Meanfiddler magnate Vince Power who has evidently tired of the corporate, fan-fucking events he used to arrange in favour of, well, peace and love. And, true to its word, this is no Reading & Leeds, thankfully, thus we get an weird and wonderful array of food, celebrity 5-a-side football and the illustriously named Main, Dance and Third stages. At a moderate size and with nice, booming soundsystems, there’s a lot to like about this fest, which takes place near Paddock Wood in the heart of commuter-belt, London accessible society. The line-up, as last year when Neil Young led the line, is led by an old geezer in the form of Paul Weller who draws in a laughably large amount of over-sideburned, sunglasses-wearing middle-aged men. Elsewhere, the line-up is a bit stodgy with the Fratellis, Pigeon Detectives and The View offering a pretty pathetic threesome on the Saturday.

But the Sunday bolsters things with a Ladyhawke putting in a stellar performance and getting the crowd dancing and bellowing in front of the main stage. In the dingy third stage tent, first Fight Like Apes, and then Danananakroyd, offer bolshy brilliance in abundance. Fight Like Apes snarl and shout at the adoring crowd (while giving them a cheeky smile) and bashing out the likes of Jake Summers from their incredible debut while Danananakroyd throw themselves around a lot, shout a lot, cover up a ten minute technical hitch by playing Grange Hill and Hollyoaks theme tunes, and shout their way off stage. Overall, the festival lacks a little strength in depth, there was little genuine choice and the few surprise delights offered by unknowns, such as Synth Eastwood who offered a parade of delights to a ‘super chilled’ zonked out dance tent mid-afternoon, were a little too rare. A good festival, well organised with great intentions, just a few more top-quality acts please.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Fists: Cockatoo/Skit (Hello Thor)

Fists have been blazing a trail across every dirty pub, middle class arts café and delirious DIY gig in Nottingham for some years now. But the (now) five-piece finally come to release the record the quirky, indie public of Nottingham has been waiting for.
Released on a label rumoured to be run by the charity shop vinyl-addicted spirits of Buddy Holly and various bearded sea monsters, the record bleeds passion, a sense of assurance and the ability to pull off wearing a flat cap in style.

Cockatoo kicks off with a fairground waltzer into before singer Angi Fletcher kicks into a vocal with flecks of Kim Deal and the ability to perfectly reflect the off-kilter, staccato rhythms of the song. Flipside Skit sees James Finlay take up the vocal reigns over a hypnotic, driving bassline. The band have received some excellent coverage from Steve Lamacq, our friends over at Stool Pigeon and the BBC’s Glastonbury coverage, and good luck to em.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Tru Thoughts Recordings – Shapes 09:01 and other offerings

This latest offering from the frankly pioneering jazzy funk label Tru Thoughts is almost too cool for school. Shapes featuring the likes of Quantic, Nostalgia 77 and Bonobo this collection is an earwatering array of aural delights taking a laid back approach to blowing the listener away. Starting off solidly with some soul diva type musings in the shape of The Bamboos, it’s really in the drifting offerings of the Unforescene (with the glorious Phil King, not the ginger ex-Wednesday player though), the shimmering Jint with Laura Vane offering beautiful vocals and Felvans whose tune, Mad Perks, that some serious talent is on show. A label this good shouldn’t rightfully exist, but we’re damn happy it does.

Elsewhere on the Tru Thoughts, Kylie Auldist offers an interesting proposition in old style funk on her new record Made of Stone but her vocal is a little staid and too strong to be enjoyable at times and some nice brassy backing is slightly marred by her dominance across every song. At the other end of the scale, displaying the label’s diversity, Lizzy Parks releases Phonica (one of London’s finest magical musical outlets) favourite This and That, a folksome effort full of faraway stares and breathless vocals. Sparse at times Parks has the personality to carry an album which could easily drift by and, despite lacking rhythm at times, it’s an accomplished and promising second album from Parks. 

And, to round it off, the label has released a summer special in the form of a covers album. Thus Alice Russell finally puts her Seven Nation Army cover to wax in astounding style, Quantic Soul Orchestra cover 4Hero and mix Mr Scruff classic Get a Move On; Jumbonics funk up the Strokes’ Last Nite hilariously and Nostalgia 77 forget about Dre in a cover of Eminem’s My Name Is… - it’s as funny as it is enjoyable, clever and a sign of label who can do no wrong it seems.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

The Wave Pictures: Live & On Wax

A real unique edge is hard to come by in UK guitar music at the moment, one you can grasp on to, live or at home, straight away is even rarer. But the Wave Pictures, who will be as familiar as a pair of old Midlands-made slippers to long-time ShadowPlay readers, have that direct quality which can be latched onto within seconds. Perhaps it’s lead singer David Tattersall’s ever lilting vocal, or maybe his off-the-cuff lyrics (I cut my hair and you grew yours/there always has to be the same amount of hair in the world) are the key, but it’s as likely to be Franic’s basslines or the ever-impressive supporting vocal from drummer Jonny Helm are the irresistible element.

On new record, If You Leave It Alone, the prolific trio step up their style a little, opting for their high tempos and cheeky guitar solos more often than not. The title track opens the album with vigour and finesse, setting the listener up for the bizarre and meticulous imagery to come, elsewhere Your Bed Hung off the Wall and Too Many Questions also display the kind of harmonising that sounds like the Beach Boys if they’d put down the Beano and picked up Razzle. Live, they’re such a perfect proposition, full of self-effacing modesty, but also a cheeky confidence borne from hundreds of shows to increasing adoration and success. At the Lexington last month the band show off material from the new album, already know to much of the hardcore audience in attendance at the fantastically booze north London pub. Choruses, and more importantly certain marmalade-y verses, are bellowed back, pins are dropped and heard when silence is needed and, most importantly, the Wave Pictures are treated as the treasures they so clearly are.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Homelovin' zine returns

ShadowPlay has a few long-term friends it likes to cross paths with, share staples and generally be traded for in the kind of free trade, papery agreement which would put the Doha round to shame.

Homelovin’, the decade-old brainchild of Amsterdam-dwelling Lancastrian artist Paul Haworth, is one such companion.

Paul has long written about offbeat music in a quirky style, usually in capitals. The tenth issue continues in the same rich vein musings on Kevin Rowland, Bruce Springsteen, the Replacements, the Music Tapes, Freddie Mercury, American Music Club, Josh T. Pearson, an essay by Bunny Poe, and a few drawings to accompany them.

Homelovin’ hasn’t changed much over the years: folded A4 pages, stapled together, a sky-blue cover, type-written, Paul talking about the records he's been listening to, shows he's seen and some of the unfinished thoughts that these have inspired.

The zine is personal, engaging, human –what fanzines are good for really – and in the writing it wishes to celebrate great artists who have put wonderful things into the world.

If you would like a copy it's €4/£3 + postage and you can pay through PayPal or bank transfer. For more details write to

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Patrick Wolf: Live at the Electric Ballroom

Patrick Wolf is the opposite of an enigma. Someone who has given his all to his music and putting his vivacious personality across and has been stung, labelled and misunderstood. He does split opinion but, from the opinion of someone who has always followed his music with admiration and largely ignored the comments Wolf tonight dubs ‘jealous’, there can be little doubt over the man’s talent as a musician and a lyricist.

Tonight, Wolf is preceded by Yacht – a daunting, clever, strange and frustrating band from Portland. Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans make up the two piece which spent the entire set leaping up and down, enjoying impressively choreographed dance moves and shouting down their white microphones. In possession of, realistically, no more than three decent tunes Yacht go for the jugular, encouraging audience participation, constantly asking questions – there’s no way this was just an exercising in waiting for the main act with a presence in front of you. The force an opinion, one way or the other, and for this audience member it was nice attitude, live drummer please and learn to sing in tune.

Wolf himself enters the stage to an atmosphere not unlike that which a boyband might meet. Screaming girls jossle for position, men in gold sequined trousers (yes) vie to be seen by the figure in the middle of the stage dressed in a cape, jump suit and sporting what can only be termed a ‘Britney-mike’. The handsfree device causes Wolf problems throughout the set, constantly slipping but does not affect the sound and allows him to express himself in his unique, ostentatious manner. Rattle through hits from his most popular third record, The Magic Position and new album, The Bachelor out today that day on new label Bloody Chamber Music.

If Wolf is scarred by the inferences and jibes that have been made about his vast redirection in music (when first ShadowPlay reviewed him he was a lang-haired shy type who spoke through his stark violin) and bisexuality then he shrugs it off well. He mentions the media a couple of times and touchingly dedicates the rip-roaring set closer The Magic Position to ex-girlfriend Ingrid who used to live above the Camden Underworld just a few yards away from tonight’s venue, but he comes across as someone more than happy in their own skin and persona. Climbing up ladders, attacking his piano, praising his band (which includes Electric Soft Parade and Brakes guitarist Tom White sporting a dubious ‘tache) and gentle playing the dulcimer bathed in a spotlight Wolf is a multi-faceted, multi-talented chameleonic musical superstar of the type that Bolan or Bowie would be and are undoubtedly proud of. We’ll even forgive him for using the word ‘showbiz’.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Put a Donk on it...

Le Donk, an improvised comedy shot over five days by Shane Meadows in cahoots with Paddy Considine, is set to have its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on June 23rd. The following day Shane Meadows and producer Mark Herbert will give a talk about their new five day feature programme.
Rock roadie and failed musician, Le Donk (Considine) has lived, loved and learned. Along the way he’s lost a girlfriend (Olivia Colman) and his life has turned to shit. But, he has found a new sidekick in up-and-coming Nottingham rap prodigy Scor-zay-zee (playing himself). With Meadows’ fly-on-the-wall crew in tow, Donk sets out to make Scor-zay-zee (and himself) a star…with a little help from the Arctic Monkeys… This low-budget rockumentary follows Le Donk and Scorz on their journey of a lifetime; it’s an unpredictable, irrepressible ode to spontaneous filmmaking – and to a burgeoning UK hip-hop talent.

"After taking two life sapping years to make This is England, I decided it was time to get back to my roots as a Guerilla Filmmaker. So me, Mark and our miniscule team decided to stick two fingers up to the establishment and make a film with our own money in only five days. Oh yeah, and we had to somehow get 50,000 people in our final scene for free," said Meadows.

Le Donk is the first in the 5 Day Features series created by Shane Meadows and Mark Herbert and released by Warp Films. Hurrah for Nottingham and Sheffield talent as ever...

Monday, 25 May 2009

London Zine Symposium: May 09

This event has managed to elude me for reasons of music, travelling and, erm, Owls matches for quite a few years now so it was a pleasure, last week, to trundle along to The Rag Factory off Brick Lane for the biggest zine gathering (read, slightly nerdy but fun) in the UK of the year.

From the moment you enter the tight, sweaty venue you can’t help but be inspired. The sheer volume of the zines, imported (and there are issues from all over Europe and beyond) or otherwise, is quite astonishing with some exhibitors carrying as many as 100 titles it seems.
Some personal highlights were the thick little blue bueaty which is Shebang zine, a new un to the zine from the South West, covering loadsa of ShadowPlay-faves in an intricate, personal style. Beat Motel was there in force also, with the excellent latest issue spearheading a stall featuring plenty of US and Australian zines, some of the You letters and some prison writings. Dead Trees and Dye ( distro carry some great stuff, largely of the arty variety and now some ShadowPlay issues so snap em up. Ricochet Richochet also offer up some excitement of the punky variety with the Anarchists Teapot supplying some tasty cakes too.

With all these things there’s an element of nervous embarrassment, wanting to buy zines from everyone just because I know how crap it can feel for people to look at your zine, and then seemingly reject it by returning it to its spot. But it’s totally worth it to chat to the great people you meet, reads some offbeat thoughts and ultimately open your mind to things that are different, but not necessarily worse (or better) than mainstream coverage. What is prevalent that I’m writing about this on a blog, but I would stress that it’s a matter of ease rather than preference and the paper issue of ShadowPlay will always be my main focus because it is the passion in printing and crafting, shared by everyone in that room, that remains the driving force. It does bring me to one small gripe which is prices. To me, no zine is worth more than a couple of quid. It’s always about covering printing costs of course but this rarely supersedes that price and, like independent record labels, if you’re in it to make cash, don’t bother. I’m not saying people were being greedy capitalists but to me a pile of unsold zines at five quid looks more pathetic than the one scruffy 50p one left in a pile of snapped up issues. Overall a fantastic event, some incredible people and unashamed inspiration for zinesters everywhere.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Marrisa Nadler: Live at the Luminaire

It’s always worth the trip up to Kilburn to the charming Luminaire with its ‘sshhh, we didn’t come to hear you talk to your mates’ type signs and canny nack of snapping up the kinda mid-sized acts with enough of a name and plenty of intrigue to draw in plenty of punters.
Marissa Nadler is one such. Since she released her third album, Songs III: Bird on the Water, in 2007 her name has slow crept through folky-fingertips worldwide an, as the ethereal Nadler takes the stage it’s easy to see why. An instantly likeable character Nadler promptly commands the attention of the entire audience, putting them in instant silence, something they stay in – trance like for the rest of the set.
Playing largely from Bird... and her new album Little Hells the songs are undulating and interesting. Kicking off with Diamond Heart, sinking into her voice like pebble into sinking sand, and continuing to offer the kind of soaring, heartfelt saddened-tinged vocal that is so easy to get wrong but Nadler nails spot on. She’s not afraid have a little fun too have a ‘covers time’ featuring Neil Young’s hit Lonesome Me, which she adds a new, even more plaintive angle too. Marissa Nadler is incredible talented, sings beautiful songs and, unfortunately for us, won’t be playing venues of the Luminaire’s size forever.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

MJ Hibbett & The Validators: Regardez, Ecoutez et Repetez (AAS)

If you’ve read ShadowPlay for any amount of time you’ll be fully aware who, and what, MJ Hibbett is – for some the funniest guy in indie music who tells it like it is, for others, I’ve been told, he comes across as smug and judging. Evidently I agree with the former so it’s a pleasure to see the man from Peterborough/Leicester return with a new studio album, Regardez, Ecoutez et Repetez which commits to record some of the tunes he’s been touring for the last year or two.
So, he bounds in with Being Happy Doesn’t Make You Stupid – something I totally agree with as cheerful prose can often come across as irritating when really, why not? I know it’s not very English though – Do the Indie Kid and It Only Works Because You’re Here. In true Hibbett style they’re great stories – French mid-90s discos, dancing at weddings and broken computers leading to romance, you know the score. Elsewhere we get the glorious My Boss Was in an Indie Band Once and One of the Walls of My House Fell In which are both as much for fans of a good story tape as a tune. Hibbett’s always adjustable, cheery vocal can sometimes get a little over the course of a whole record but some beautiful work from his Validators, namely Tom ‘Tiger’ McClure in particular make this as enjoyable, original and funny a record as the comic legend has produced so far.
[A book of all the lyrics and the story behind each song is also available and an engaging read]

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Brakes: Touchdown (FatCat Records)

Brakes have always been a marmite band. Even for those who make it past lead singer Eamon Hamilton’s opinion-dividing, ultra-precise diction the roots of love for the band’s other incarnations British Sea Power, although Eamon’s departure didn’t impact too heavily, and the subsequent lack of attention given to the Electric Soft Parade has alienated some fans.
But for those who do follow the Brighton-berthed Brakes it is a rewarding experience. Frantic live shows, irrepressible character and three albums in four years (relatively prolific for a mainstream band) have seen them garner considerable favour.
This is an interesting effort given the herd of singles that previous albums have offered, notably the success of All Night Disco Party and several other from debut Give Blood. Touchdown offers no less in terms of tune but, where before it was hammering the peddle with a hot trainer, it’s more of a leisurely summer ride in a regal carriage. Tracks such as Crush on You and Do You Feel the Same? steer the listener into a dreamier space than ever before offering something different from Brakes’ trademark swagger.
Ultimately there’s still enough venom to please long-term plans but maybe signs of Hamilton’s soft underbelly may just offer signs for the future from this vastly talented, oft-overlooked band.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Plus One Magazine

Our good friends over at Plus One Magazine are appealing for writers in Nottingham and further afield to provide the latest previews, live reviews, dates and news from bands playing in and around Nottingham, the Midlands and beyond.
Plus One are a team of like minded, music enthusiasts, not connected to any group, organisation or venue headed by Pete & Faith who work tirelessly to keep the site interesting and updated. Reviewers, photographers, interviewers, gig goers, all the writers do it for the same reason - the love of music in all its forms.
If you wish to get in touch, just visit the site here.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Photo(s) of the Week: Costa Rica

A recent visit to Costa Rica revealed it to be a fascinating country, a tranquil sea in an ocean of unrest across the Central American region. Stabilised by its American contingent, largely incumbent along the coastline and in the west of the capital, San Jose, Costa Rica’s scenery frequently turns your eyes to dishes and its Spanish-speaking people proved particularly friendly. Here’s a few images from the trip:

Monday, 4 May 2009

Miranda Lee Richards: Light of X

ShadowPlay’s first encounter with Miranda Lee Richards was a couple of years ago, strangely supporting feedback-laden lords of darkness and general rabble The Warlocks in as incongruous a billing as you’re likely to discover in the glamorous world of Nottingham. But from that day to this MLR has continued to unveil her voice as a thing of true beauty, possessing the kind of wistful country beauty that has propelled Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams into a mature yet impressive stages of their respective careers.
Richards has renewed her feedback-friendly ties in teaming up with Rick Parker, producer for the Von Bondies and BRMC among others, though there is little sign of this in the clean, crisp presentation here. The singer-songwriter from San Francisco uses a mix of strings, piano and most evidently a softly played yet ever-present acoustic to create a the kind of misty, sunlit record which could easily drift by but thankfully gets caught on a rock. It’s true it would be very easy for Richards’ often fully-stretched vocal chords wash over you without impression but distinctive hooks on the likes of breathless, lifeboat and first single early November confirm her place as an intriguing and endearing songstress and I have the feeling the best is yet to come.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Fujiya & Miyagi: Live at Cargo

Fujiya & Miyagi have always been an understated band, whistling by, collecting fans like a snowball on a slowly declining hill – one flake at a time. But this gig at the ever-busy Cargo brought this element to new heights as the band displayed some of the tunes from their third album, Lightbulbs, released last September to their London fans.
Originally a duo, F&M are a four-piece live band backed, throughout the set, by a big screen displaying patterns, words and pictures made up of dice. It’s all very impressive, and quite engaging, and makes up for the band’s lack of stage presence. It is this which holds the key to a gig full of little hooks and signs of greatness which faded away as lead singer David Best continued to stare at the floor. Either extremely shy or extremely arrogant (one suspects the former) the band’s refusal to acknowledge the crowd or create anything that the clearly partisan audience can up the gears with is incredibly disappointing.
There’s no doubt Fujiya & Miyagi have some tunes. Ankle Injury, Photocopier and Cassettesingle present some of the finest moments tonight with the krautrock element coming to the fore. F&M are true builders (ok, well not in a bum’n’The Sun way no) – they lay the foundations, bring in some heavy drumbeat - then accelerate picking up a well-known phrase or rhyme (including the Funny Bones headbone connecting to the neckbone one…) along the way. There’s no way they’re not good enough for a venue of Cargo’s size, or equally the adoring following, put if you’re gunna throw a party don’t forget to enjoy it yourself.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009


As Liverpool pay tribute to the 96 who lost their lives at Hillsborough 20 years ago I thought I'd re-publish the short piece I wrote on the home of my beloved Owls in ShadowPlay #22.

Hillsborough, Sheffield Wednesday
A spiritual home of sorts some of the best afternoons of my life have been spent in the blue plastic seats of S6. All those names, few of quality calibre, to pass before my eyes on the programme – some heroes Carbone, Di Canio, Hirsty, Pressman, Brunt, McGovern, MacLean and some error-ridden but loveable – Bullen, Peaks, Di Piedi. A few times I’ve looked at the Leppings Lane end from the Kop and thought about all those people gasping for air down there and I’m appalled at myself for coming to this place for something so futile. But it’s an age gone by and soon I’m up and complaining about a foul throw or a bad pass and I realise it’s just a place of passion.

Offhand comment you may think but really, as with many disasters, some bad decisions, some indecisive ones, and the passion, which allows football to be the great game it is, prove some of the causes. Rest in peace to those who lost their lives.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Photograph of the Week: Peacedrums

Ok, so not a great piece of photography but it nicely encapsulates Mariam Wallentins' passion during The Wildbirds and the Peacedrums' glorious sweaty set at the Luminaire in Kilburn on Tuesday. An excellent mix of steel drums, Swedish shouting and heartfelt, endearing. Investigate.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Tunng and Tinariwen: Live at Koko

Morecambe and Wise, Mark and Jez, Cannon and Ball, Richard and Judy – seminal combinations I’m sure you’ll agree and some of them you wouldn’t really have imagined (though a twitchy shoplifter and a boozy flasher were always a decent bet for union) – tonight is one such. Touched, as I’m sure many a listener in this country has been, by the pure rhythmic beauty of Tinariwen, the scale at which words which I’m the first to admit I don’t understand at all, can affect you so much was probably what drew Tunng to this glorious meeting.

As previously documented in ShadowPlay Tinariwen were a group of travelling nomads in Saharan Africa with many of their songs, including those on the beautiful Radio Tisdas Sessions, birthed in these dusty surroundings. Championed in the UK by dubious genius Andy Kershaw Tinariwen have built quite a following over here and could doubtless have sold tonight’s gig at the impressive Koko in Camden out alone. But their partnership with folktronica darlings Tunng confirmed the gig’s place in the hearts and buzz of all the self-respecting pretentious vaguely arty nerds (I’m nothing if not modest) of the time.

And it doesn’t disappoint, with the first few songs played by Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni (guitar, vocals), Eyadou Ag Leche (guitars, bass guitar, vocals) and Said Ag Ayad (percussion, vocals) alone you start to panic, maybe I misread the poster? Maybe they’re not playing together afterall? But then Tunng bounce on to the stage, clearly excited at the end of a tour which has seen them wow nationwide. Tinariwen largely oblige on lead guitar and percussion while Tunng offer up backing vocals and, well twiddly bits, on the former’s songs. For the most part it’s the Algerians who dominate the set (incidentally fine by me, I very much like Tunng but they’re capable of washing over in a way their stage-mates seem incapable of) with some choice cuts from their last outing Aman Iman: Water Is Life with Mano Dayek and Matadjem Tinmixan proving particularly incredible with Tunng’s Becky Jacob’s providing surprisingly accurate (to the record) backing vocals. It’s an experiment for sure, sometimes songs trail on a little too long, sometimes Alhousseyni becomes obsolete and goes offstage but Mike Lindsay, Tunng’s frontman shows such exuberance and excitement about the night that permeates through the crowd. The highlight has to be Lindsay’s interpretation of Tinariwen’s love of listening to metal – a two minute rock-out pretending to hit screaming solos on his acoustic guitar providing laughs all round. An adventurous project, fully pulled off, let’s hope they get something down on record.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Soha and Titi Robin: Live at Cargo

As an outsider in London sometimes I forget quite how diverse its population is, which I know the majority of people are and that’s kinda the point. What I hadn’t really thought about is the subsequent affect on the city’s music scene which can happily host a two-day festival of French music at Cargo with an enraptured and good-sized audience in attendance.

Titi Robin kick-off in the opening night in the shape of an accordion player, Titi Robin himself playing every string from mandolin to guitar, and his ab-fab drummer. The ponytailed percussionist spends the hour-long set thumping the box he’s sitting on, attacking the skins with his elbows, kneading the bongos – it feels like a struggle and a fight with the instrument but sounds like the opposite. It’s a sight to behold and one that is only distracted from by the perfect interplay between the gypsy-ish twinges of the guitar and accordion’s mini-duel (literally, at one point they mimics each other’s tones and try to better them).

Enter singer Maria into the fray, full of evangelical charm (she crosses herself on alighting the stage), imploring the listener (unfortunately ShadowPlay is in the ten per cent in attendance who do not understand her words) and dancing. But not just swaying, it’s stylised, full speed and, as she chases her hands across the stage back and forth, undeniably Indian-influenced. An unexpected wonder.

Soha may already be known to you. Savvy, chique, sexy and soulful she’s a PR man’s dream, her sultry tones offering nothing if not passion, verve and, most importantly, a versatility that’s astonishing. One minute she’s relaxing into her smooth tones, pulling the audience, literally, forward with her brown eyes. The next she’s skanking, full of reggae empowerment, putting hands in the air and shouting “the show is for you, enjoy”. An incredible spectacle that breaks far beyond the clumsy, patronising term of ‘world music’ which I doubt will be shaken off for some years to come. Luckily, neither will Soha.

Anyway, I don’t usually do this, but don’t just take my words for it listen here.

You can thank me later…

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

G20 summit poses questions

So tomorrow the City of London braces itself for the arrival, and resultant protest, of US President Barack Obama and the rest of the leaders in the G20 (which seems to expand and retract from the G7, or G8 when Russia can be bothered, almost weekly).
The advent of the so-called ‘summit’ brings mixed feelings to ShadowPlay towers. On a personal note I have family who work in the City (who aren’t greedy wankers but hard-working people by the by) and do not, as you or I do not, deserve to have to face possible violence merely to journey to work and return.

But really the protests, and the boarding up of every building in sight in the City, are indicative of how wrong it is possible to get things. To make things clear I agree with many of the issues being raised by the protestors on an incredibly large range of issues from human rights, nuclear disarmament, anti-war and even the pretext the summit is based upon – fiscal policy. The idea of protestors playing a giant game of Monopoly outside the London Stock Exchange is perfect, smashing windows, attacking people and getting involved in altercations, however innocently, with police is not. The line between protestors and anarchists is a thin one easily crossed and, although it proved ultimately ignored, the fact one million people marched to try to stop the UK entering Iraq in 2003 showed how to protest in a way that was universally noticed and astonishingly disregarded. To put it into context as a young man from Nottingham it’s not too hard to imagine a scenario where a drunk bloke in a short-sleeved shirt is drunkenly shouting at me outside a Yates’ and then smashes something. Now, am I more or less likely to listen to him than the still drunk but talkative bloke at the bus stop causing no harm? Transpose the boozers with the protestors and you see that smashing up the Starbucks opposite the RBS building near Liverpool Street (that’s my bet for taking a beating) is of little use.

With more than 2,000 protestors set to march on the Square Mile tomorrow I would just say that direct action does not necessarily lead to direct action – given the barrage of words Those of the Overblown Egos in the G20 are used to dealing with – maybe fight them at their own game. That soapbox is quite unsightly, let’s get back to the music…

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Fight Like Apes // Dananananakroyd: Live at Camden Barfly

There’s something about the Camden Barfly which makes you feel a bit like when you turn up at your Nan’s – it is a bit old and crusty but you know it can produce treats and has one hell of a history. Tonight XFM, the inconsistently excellent capital station which has birthed the likes of Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Steve Lamacq, host with its X-posure night. ShadowPlay bustles through the door just in time to spill some lager on new shoes, take up a position with said shoes locked to the floor, and still be blown away by Dananananakroyd. Well, kinda pushed a bit further back.

The Glasgow six-piece are full of such exuberance that, while other bands so in your face would be accused of arrogance, the youthful sextet prove merely endearing and, well, fucking tuneful. At times they step intothe realms of hardcore, some vocals barely distinguishable between that of a human voice and a shredder with a wadge of particularly guilty invoices. But for the most part they’re punk with great riffs, their determination to jump into the audience, make everyone hug each other in a barn dance style pair-off and make even the most cynical little faux-editor put a sweaty paw around a young man from battered Mars Bars Mecca. Glorious.

It says a lot about Fight Like Apes, having only just released their excellent debut album Fight Like Apes and Mystery of the Golden Medallion, that tonight the doors are locked tight shut as it’s a sell-out in some demand. Led by extreme-bonneted femme-fantastique ‘Mackay’ the Apes are a rare breed in being able to execute sarcasm and, strangely, not being cunts. So while they play up to tonight’s radio audience giving mums shout-outs and chastising all before them the Irish wizards underly this with a visceral, convincing display of brutal prowess. The genuine passion in this band bristles, even before amusing synth player Pockets (aided by a Gandolf the Grey-esque superfan) battles with his mic long enough to say he’s decided he is enjoying himself.

Fight Like Apes are in possession of some incredible tunes – Digifucker, the bellowed Lend Me Your Face and Lumpy Dough at a glance – which resonate around the small venue and are the main reason that most of those assembled were once failed beam away from finishing their pogoing in the bar below. The real belter tonight comes in the form of perfectly formed single Jake Summers in which Mackay shouts in her cheeky American-accent-tinged tone “hey, you, get some graceace, you’re driving miss daisy all over the place/ hey you you’re taking up space and you’re a fucking disappointment to the human race” – I love a singer who doesn’t mince their words and, in Mackay, the Apes’ adoring following have so much more.

February Reviews Round-Up

So ShadowPlay’s first foray into Oh-Nine-Online comes in the form of our reviews collection, a chance to round-up and rinse out the music that’s been passing through the ever-changing letterbox of 1 ShadowPlay Street. Kicking off this month is Stonephace, I’m not sure when it became cool to replaced Fs with PHs or if it even ever has been but my guess is that the 24-year career of member Larry Stabbins who waqs in Working Week and has worked with Robert Wyatt, was in music at the time. This is a relaxed, spacey kinda record, beginning uptempo with inflections of jazzy sax before the sax takes hold and guides the record through its Sunday morning feel. Some offbeat electronica spices things up at time but for the most part its enjoyable if over-trippy fare from the Tru Thoughts act.

I’m not gunna lie, my thoughts on the new Sergeant Buzfuz record, High Slang, wasn’t heading towards the glowing fires of over-exuberant adjectives until it hit Cockney Rebel – a Camden-bashing, speedy chuntering piece of Wave Pictures-esque lyricism which elevates them beyond simply the Sheffield-origins and nice minimalist artwork which had previously counted in High Slang’s favour. It’s a really varied record, steering from Cockney Rebel’s cheeky charm to some genuinely beautiful instrumentation, investigate. I’m not sure I’ve ever used the phase, a French Tom Waits, before but it has to be applied in the case of Le Skeleton Band who’s broken strings and gravely tones do actually merit the high accolade. Entertaining, dirty fun throughout for Waits fans who want a little more of the great man’s irresistible style. This is stark contrast to Smilex who show no style in thrashing out seven screamed pieces of filthy Damned-style rock which doesn’t do a thing for me except to realise how many English words rhyme but are completely unrelated. Likewise imagine this but at the other end of the scale, Unfinished Drawings are a sappy, over-ambitious version of this but I don’t like ripping into small bands so I’ll leave it there. Again The Curfew’s intentions seem good with their new record Inside but it’s attempt at early 90s style Massive Attack style slow-beat soaring female vocals just turns into ten overly-long songs which don’t add anything to the musical sphere worth keeping once its gone. The same can bee said of 28 Costumes who’s album sampler does little to whet the appetite with repetitive and quite irritating shouting.

An altogether more sprightly album presents itself in the form of Navvy’s Idyll Intangible – a perfect collection of angular pop from the Sheffielders which keeps ears on tenderhooks and the mind on edge. They’ve definitely got something, punky charm or nice heavy harmonies. Watch this space, then grab it up. Another enjoyable effort this month is St Gregory Orange’s Things We Said in Bedrooms which sails along a sea of reverb with a kind of distance, unreal sound reminiscent of Winter North Atlantic with its Boards of Canada-lite ethos.

ShadowPlay favourites Le Reno Amps have returned with their beautiful brand of punch-drunk indie pop in the form of new record Tear It Open funded bizarrely enough by the Scottish Arts Council so I guess they must be contributing more than ace songs to society. Teaming up with Brakes’ Marc Beatty you can definitely see the Brighton bands influence on LRA with some electrifying thrashy fun and bizarreness. Pick this one up on release in March.

As far as singles go it’s a breathless one this time as Light Sleep/Heavy Dreams’ Leon Millar gets all home-studio-y with the minimal crunching excellence of WILD (Wake Initiation of Lucid Dreams), Depth Charge up the anti on that Mecha Squirrel finally getting a release in all its razor sharp glory – a triumph of samplin’n’dancin’ from ‘burbs to bars. Vile Imbeciles double A-side Tramp and Jennifer teaches us to make a guitar squeal in many ways and is value for money with a 30 minutes racket, I mean, b-side. A real gem comes in the form of Cuddly Shark’s Woody Woodpecker/ Bowl of Cherries double A with the former a glorious tribute to our little blue friend even including a ‘peck peck peck’ refrain while the latter tears through its two minutes with venom, a great little band. As are Kids Love Lies who’s debut single Count in My Headhas some topsy-turvy charm though steers a little close to the Winehouse wind at times. Another debut is Siegfriend Sassoon’s Muscle Beach which shows just that with angular harmonies, the flip features Laura Mary Carter of Blood Red Shoes fame. Wakefield label Philophobia is also releasing the Rocket Footage EP featuring the Lapels and the Sponge Wings in March with the former fun little faux-American jobbie and the latter reminiscent of something from a musical of Kate Thornton’s life, yep that good. Finally The Ironweed Project reminiscent of Chicken Legs Weaver’s raw croakiness and Tenek's Submission is a bit mid-80s and underwhelming in it’s overarching attempts to be dancey get epic. And where better place to leave you than Herman Dune who’ve released Try to Think About Me from Next Year in Zion, one of the best tunes from the record it is a surprisingly hopeful song for the Swedes who simply go from strength the strength as the years go by. See you again soon, keep stuffing those ears fulla music.

Psapp: Live at Cargo, 11/03/'09

The audience rise as one as Psapp arrive on stage at Cargo, a venue which has long been a bastion for cutting edge music across all genres. And, despite the fact it’s largely because they have been mellow-ly, attentively waiting sat cross-legged on the concrete floor, you get the feeling Psapp have a standing ovation awaiting them from the start. Rarely does an act evoke such pure good feeling, without tipping over into anything sickly sweet, so instantly.
Lead singer Galia Durant displays an empathetic, shambolic charm throughout delving into a Poundland bag to supply the audience with sweets, toys and, bizarrely, vacuum packed pickles. Durrant’s bag of brilliance also features several medals (which may have been dog collars in a previous incarnation) which she readily dishes out. Unfortunately she gives the first out to one adoring fan, who sounds of Swedish origin, encouraging him to praise his parents in accepting the award only for the man to inform her that his father had died this year, a statement which leaves band and audience in slight shock until he sweetly states that his father would be enjoying the gig from heaven. A touching moment in an evening of similar emotions.
Material tonight comes largely from last year’s The Camel’s Back and 2006’s The Only Thing I Ever Wanted with delights such as Tricycle and The Monster Song enriching the quirky verve of the set. Typical eletronica style soundscapes are added to by much more natural sounds with Psapp – the two violin approach adds an immediacy to the tracks not found on record while made up instruments such as the boneafone, made up of bones procured from butchers by bluffing about non-existent dogs, add a 'unique' element to the night.
Last time Psapp did a gig in London Durant’s father got up and did a lecture on Darwinism and she baits her mother, in attendance, to talk on Middle East politics but in the end we get more soundscapes, more cats as instruments, kazoos and a farewell tinged with disappointment for fans who will have to wait till a sprog is popped before seeing the band in the capital again. Enjoy their increasingly illustrious back catalogue in the meantime.

ShadowPlay enters the nether regions...

Hmm, ok. Well we've been heading this way for a while and updated the website has become far too convoluted in terms of space (online) and time (mine) in the last couple of years so in the name of productivity and getting more reviews and updates online as regularly as possible we turned to the lowest form of online posting...but after ditching Twitter ShadowPlay arrived here! Hope you enjoy the higher frequency and check back soon...

Love & Rockets,