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.