Wednesday, 22 December 2010

MJ Hibbett lands NOT number one

MJ Hibbett & The Validators have thanked everyone who helped them to achieve their aim of NOT getting to Christmas Number One this year.

"We're especially excited," said MJ Hibbett, "because, with the possible exception of Simon Cowell, we're the only group whose Christmas Number One campaign was in any way successful!"

The campaign began a few weeks ago when the band decided NOT to try and get their Christmas single The 29th Day Of December to the top of the charts. "So many people try for the Christmas Number One these days that it's become boring", said violinist Tom 'The Tiger' McClure. "We decided to go the other way - and succeeded!"

The 29th Day Of December was accompanied by a stop-motion animation which has similarly managed not to top the YouTube charts. "That wasn't part of our original intention", says drummer Tim Pattison, "but it's a nice extra Christmas present for all of us."

The advantages of the band's victory are many. Just this morning bass player Frankie Machine didn't have to get up extra early to appear on Daybreak to talk about it. Singer Emma Pattison, meanwhile, didn't have to cancel an appearance on The Andrew Marr show when her flight home was delayed by snow. "Being stuck in an airport was stressful enough", she remarked by telephone, "without having to reschedule TV appearances!"

Friday, 3 December 2010

ShadowPlay dons its anorak for new radio show

ShadowPlay has extended its tentacles into yet another ocean hoping to find the clairvoyance of a certain psychic octopus. Fortunately apart from discovering who is due to win the 2016 European Championships, we have a new radio show.
Teaming up with long-time collaborator Tom Bonnett (aka DJ Teddy Stones) and reggae aficionado and BBC bod Alex Burnard, the new collective The Anoraks will appear bi-weekly on Shoreditch Radio. Broadcasting at, the magazine show will cover the most exciting new labels and events across a ridiculous combination of musical stylings.
This week don their macks for a deluge of musical mightiness. The Nerd-Js discuss the new compilation Tradi-Mods Vs Rockers - Alternative Takes On Congotronics featuring Juana Molina, Andrew Bird, Kasai Allstars, Juana Molina and more, go down to the bottom of the garden to find out what's in Micah P Hinson and decide how best to an achieve an orgasm at the Christmas dinner table.
Download, subscribe or stream the podcast here:

Friday, 17 September 2010

Chloe: One in Other

Ears from both within and outside the hardcore electronic music scene have been pricking up since the mysterious Chloé came to prominence with The Waiting Room in 2007. Alex Lawson caught up with the DJ to discuss bringing her bedroom out to the watching world

It’s 4am in an aeroplane hangar of a building outside Barcelona and Chloé Thevenin is making a lot of people incredibly happy and dancing like they are nursing an ingrowing toe nail simultaneously at Sonar festival in the summer of 2008. She flicks up eyes up for a second from her precious vinyl, surveys a crowd dancing inside a giant igloo and blinded by the giant blue lights that accompany her triumphant set, allows herself a flicker of a smile and gets back to work.
Two years later these same eyes stare out from the cover of new record One in Other, a record hotly anticipated thanks to performances like the one in Catalonia and the underground success of her full debut, The Waiting Room. The French DJ’s passionate intensity is portrayed in the cover image captured by friend and photographer Bruno Staub and in there is a sense that Thevenin has stepped up a gear in the interim, upping the tempo of her electronica which falls somewhere in between the chasm separating Ulrich Schnauss and Clarke. So what’s changed? “Between the two albums, I started to play live. It was a new experience to me on the top of DJing and producing in the studio,
playing live meant bringing my studio in front of the crowd and get a direct feedback. It gave me a lot of new ideas like on how I wanted to record my next record, like recording my music live, to be quicker, more spontaneous.”  Thevinin first appeared on the scope of many minimal electronic producers and DJs with her first EP, Erosoft in 2002, but with no avenue to see her live it has been slow going for the undoubtedly talented noise inventor until signing to the ultra cool Kill the DJ records and playing out. Her new record, with its subtly humorous pun and flurry of heavy, teasing beats which bring the listener to the brink of frustrating such is there psiren-like promise, reflects this evolution into a fully fledged live entity. “I wanted to be the closest of the feelings I get from my DJ set during the weekend,” explains Thevenin. “I wanted to give back this great energy I receive but give it back on different tempos to build this new album, probably this is why you get this positive atmosphere.
“I build the track playing it live in my studio to keep something spontaneous. I use what I know to do as a DJ, I play with the dynamic, play with the music, the people, give or hold, I really like the idea of performance, as a DJ, in the studio or playing live, it's a good game which is very inspiring.”
Growing up on an aural diet of Parisian club and rave DJs, Thevenin has released material on labels like Karat, Gomma and Bpitch Control and her status as a minimal techno figurehead is growing. With a series of gigs lined up from September through to December culminating in a performance backing a contemporary dance show, Pandora Box by the tres chic Fabrice Ramalingum, there can be little doubt Chloé’s quirky material is turning heads. And those live performances, can we expect the same intensity? “When I DJ I play club music – I can equally produce an EP or a remix for clubs – for me it's the same mood, it's just not the same tempo.”

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Come Get Felt Up: In Video Form

Wondering what this ShadowPlay hosted Come Get Felt Up Night night is all about? Get a taster here. It basically a monthly night at The Book Club in London where people craft to win prizes along to the sounds of great bands, good eh? More info at

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Field Day: A cracking time in the sack

It has been interesting to see Field Day evolve in its short history. Having attended each year since its inception four years ago, the small east London one-day festival has shown a certain amount of progression. Gone are the overflowing toilets and, for the most part, the giant queues for the bar. In their place, an army of amiable staff willing to have a laugh and who wince along with you when the painful booze bill looms into view. So, complete with sniffer dogs and, y’know, The Feds, but still with a craft tent and a mean tug of war, the fourth edition of the Victoria Park event got underway.

On a personal note, the day was a blur of bowling bacon (Frazzles up for grabs? Done), valiant sack races, silly dancing and a fervour to empty cans (10p each when returned, good to see an English festival finally follow Europe in working out a recycling method at festivals). Objectively, the line-up was not as strong was previous years. Pheonix do not have the cache of a Justice or Santogold, nor the talented Caribou (a Field Day stalwart) that of Les Savy Fav or Sleater-Kinney. But fuck it, the curators have taste. Thus the likes of Andrew Weatherall, Silver Apples, The Fall and Simian Mobile Disco stick their names on the bill.

In fact, the big names proved a little underwhelming, The Fall proved just as they have always been – stodgy ­– and Gruff Rhys vs Tony Da Gatorria sounded just that – a fight between two different styles which produced a cacophony so unbearable that the crowd quickly thinned despite the Power Ranger outfit. Among the highlights, and the reason Field Day has such a reputation for being on the mark, were The Golden Filter and Mount Kimbie. Both have been around for a little while but, in granting them early slots, they drew in the crowds (a tent bursting one in dubstep maestro Kimbie’s case) and proved beguiling. Aussies The Golden Filter are a hive of thrashing synchronised drums and inventive synth sounds which work perfectly to create fairly vicious pop; Mount Kimbie are an entirely different proposition drawing nodding heads and shuffling feet left, right and centre. Chilly Gonzalez also proves a popular delight, both defending his mix of jokey rap and classical piano (accompanied by duel drummers) and offering ‘stern words’ to those who doubted the combination, a genuine joy. Appearances from Hudson Mohawke, The Fact DJs and Gilles Peterson were cause for further salivation from any fingers attached to musical pulses.

What Field Day lacks in some of the logistical nous of making a one-day festival have the slick organisation of a larger, three to four day event, it makes up in passion for good, innovative music rarely seen in the often weary, lumbering cash cow genre that is British music festivals. 

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Come Get Felt Up, Thursday 15 July

Our monthly crafty gig taking place at The Book Club this month features...

Lime-Headed Dog, Tom Whalley (BBC 6Music, DJ set)
From 8:00pm until 11:00pm
Entry: £1
Venue: The Book Club, 100 Leonard Street, London, EC2 4RH
Blue Peter meets Art Attack while Anne Robinson watches on. If you fancy crafting an aardvark from pipecleaners while listening to funny, fullsome folk then Come Get Felt Up at The Book Club. Nip for a game of ping pong between carving a terrifying mask or assembling a robot from leftover Lego. This month Lime-Headed Dog provide tales of Cockney wonder to alt punk styling to front the craft bonanza. Creativity for all abilities with glorious prizes, all for free. Materials and vats of Pritt Stick provided. See for more information.

Monday, 5 July 2010

The Hand, Rachael Dadd and Itchi at The Union Chapel

Rachael Dadd storms on to the stage in a black leotard with red lightening insignias emblazoned upon her bejewelled thighs as she stands posing like She-Ra leaning on a Flying V…no, not really. In fact, Dadd acts as a host of this welcome sedate Saturday gig, part of a regular Daylight Music series at the hip place of worship in aid of the homeless and it’s actually her husband, Itchi, who makes an entrance more shocking than a sane person in a British lending library.
The little Japanese man lurches through the pews on a pair of homemade stilts, singing and ringing bells on his legs. Back on two feet, his set is a surreal half hour of astonishing rhythm with inventive ‘tunes’ largely involving Itchi singing in a high pitched voice through a manipulative fake moustache, deflating balloons and ending songs by bursting paper bags. But the most shocking thing – more so even than him filling a steel drum with water and swilling a golf ball round it – is that it’s actually good. In fact, when Itchi sings a couple of traditional Japanese songs with an instrument that looks like a saucepan welded to a bike lock, it’s beautiful. Apparently, he’s got an ‘experimental’ side project, the mind boggles…
Dadd flips the brains of the quite stunned audience shortly after Itchi has departed unsteadily on the stilts with her wholesome folk. Her wavering, Joni Mitchell-like voice finds a new level when backed by her accomplished piano-playing and belies the fact she has been touring and releasing records for almost a decade now. The Bristolian’s latest project is The Hand, in which she is joined by pianist and kora player Wig Smith, the driver on the tourist boat on which Dadd used to work, for the final set. The duo have palpable chemistry on stage and as Dadd’s vocal ebbs and flows over Smith’s steady shore of a singing voice, it is clear that the thoughtful lyricist is perfectly at home in such a reverential location.  

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Yunioshi - CTRL

Yunioshi - CTRL from Nathan Crawley on Vimeo.

With their latest effort CTRL, Yunioshi have affirmed what many in the glamour-ridden, cultural hive of the East Midlands (really!) that Nottingham's finest popstars really do come in perfectly offbeat forms. Check out this video for the EP, which sees keyboard culprit Anna Suzuki Yunioshi rather spooked out...

Monday, 7 June 2010

Stoke Newington Literary Festival: Stewart Lee and John Hegley

The problem with things that sound pretentious is, well, they’re actually fun. Justifying going to a literary fest to others is a difficult one, like convincing a doubter to climb aboard an errant camel to enjoy the view from the top. But we wouldn’t commit pretentious acts – going to see foreign language films we know will be slow and depressing, attending twee folk gigs where you have to sit on the floor – if it didn’t have an element of raw fun in there somewhere now would we?
The inaugural Stoke Newington lit fest has already garnered an impressive line-up, swelled by the likes of Tony Benn, Jeremy Hardy and incredible author/ShadowPlay contributor Toby Litt, at this early stage. The north London suburb is typified by its poor transport links, slightly yuppyish but charming streets and hoards of goods pubs and eateries.
My experience of the event centred upon two acts, Stewart Lee and John Hegley. Tucked away in a back street, the Stoke Newington International Airport is an instantly engaging venue. Essentially a garage filled with trinkets and mismatched chairs, Lee takes to the stage backed by a haunting painting of horses with a plane overhead and a kitchen dresser any house proud mum would desire. Lee, a Stoke Newington resident, is typically downbeat and modest and the comedian apologises for not being funny today, despite being just that. He proceeds to read a short story, N, by  Arthur Machen fluently and deadpan. Mackan’s tale is fit for this very occasion, a winding tome about visitors to Stoke Newington and perception of the village and its mythical park just four miles from central London. He’s an author for whom there is clearly much love and his gothic, accessible and eloquent 1930s tales are something deserving of further investigation. The heavens open outside as Lee reads, it seems entirely apt, they stop shortly before the end, not sure how much the organisers paid for that one.
Another local, John Hegley offers an entirely different prospect. Backed by double bassist Keith Moore (who also whips out a euphonium – an instrument which he can draw with some speed and skill – during the set), Hegley reads poems, letters and simple quips without breaking stride or hearing a lull in the laughter. The beautiful Assembly Rooms at the top of Church Street have clearly hosted the making and breaking of a hundred hearts over the decades but tonight the glitter ball merely reflected the positive. Urging the crowd to sing, translate French and even throw their glasses in the air, Hegley leads his audience through sidling songs of guillemots, Anglo-French romance and, ahem, hamsters. As the crowd file out, many clutching copies of Hegley’s book (which comes with lots of free space to draw pictures, nice) signed in pastels the smiles are as bright as the volunteer’s pink t-shirts. Stoke Newington, as an outsider, a comparative southerner, I salute you. 

Monday, 3 May 2010

Campaign against BBC cuts gathers pace

So I'm guessing you have all heard about the proposed cuts to vital parts of the BBC's radio offering. I received this update on the campaign to stop the cuts, do donate if you can spare the cash.

"The consultation on cuts to BBC services like 6 Music and Asian Network ends in less than a month. We need to make these last few weeks count. So we're going to put these massive billboard adverts right outside BBC buildings.
So far thousands of us chipping in has raised £13,000 to put these adverts up. That's enough for billboard campaigns around the BBC buildings in Manchester, London, Glasgow, Cardiff and Birmingham. If we reach £20,000 by Monday, we'll be able to reach other cities too including Edinburgh, Leeds, Bristol and Leicester, and also print thousands of flyers to distribute at concerts. Can you help by chipping in?
The more billboards we have, the more pressure we put on the BBC to protect services like Asian Network and 6 Music. Please donate now:
The billboards are going up on May 10th. BBC bosses pushing the cuts had been hoping our protest would fizzle out as the consultation drew to a close. But these billboards will make sure the pressure just keeps building. The more cities we can put them in, the more people we'll reach and the more powerful the message we'll send.
Together, we're proving that the public wants to save these valued BBC services. Over 35,000 of us have signed the petition, and over 20,000 have emailed the BBC Trust. We've persuaded more than 300 election candidates to pledge to oppose the cuts if they're elected. There are real signs that our pressure is starting to shift the BBC position. Now let's make sure in these final few weeks, our protests reach a real crescendo.

Thanks for getting involved,
The 38 Degrees Team"

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Son of Dave: Shake a Bone (Kartel)

Son of Dave has represented an odd entity for some time and this latest outing, produced by the legendary Steve ‘is that a grating sound I can hearing beneath that noise?’ Albini, is no exception. The follow up to 2008’s ‘03’, this is arguably Benjamin Darvill’s most classically blues album yet. Full of slow rhythm, like an ex-con dragging a ball and chain down a Roman road, tracks such as Guilty prove Darvill has the ability to gently cast his harmonica over the top of a beat and enrapture in the process.

He’s warped more into Tom Waits than ever before too. Hell, he even looks like the innocent dreaming stubbly legend on the cover, adorned in a fetching hat and with an earnest stare. The (real) r’n’b blues riffs here, the relative simplicity of the lyrics and the extremely danceable structure to the tunes make it an easily recognisable and accessible record from the anomaly of a modern artist. Highlights include the full on rock out of Revolution Town and the blistering title track which affirms all you ever thought about the wiseness of wearing snakeskin shoes and dancing in the desert. A well-paced record of perfect length, pick it up.
And that’s not to say anything of its published accompaniment. A new book published by those Junko Partners the Stool Pigeon. Two books to commemorate the glorious oversized music paper’s 5th anniversary were released in Islington last month and I was lucky enough to attend the launch. Alongside of a series of incisive and hilarious interviews, Son of Dave’s columns from the paper were released in the form of a new volume entitled We Need You Lazzaro, You Lazy, Greasy Bastard’ – doubtless a hit with the kids section at Waterstones. Funny and fascinating in equal measure, tales of celebrity burials and great music adorn its pages. Quite a character then, and a great musician to boot.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Come Get Felt Up @ The Book Club, near Old Street, London Thursday 22 April

This Thursday ShadowPlay will be hosting an ace gig featuring the wonderful Yunioshi
at The Book Club in Shoreditch, London.
It's free entry and there's a creative competition (materials provided)
with mega prizes!
Be crazy not to come wouldn't it?

Monday, 12 April 2010

Piano Time: Dustin O'Halloran feature

Californian pianist Dustin O'Halloran has carved an excellent career so far and here ShadowPlay examines the mysterious talent in profile.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Hello Thor presents Fists EP launch

Our good friends over at Hello Thor record are promoting an excellent gig in Nottingham this Friday, it's the launch of the glorious new Fists EP Olympic Hits and takes place at The Rescue Rooms where many of ShadowPlay's formative years (great gigs, dubious kissing on purple sofas and bitch slaps) were spent. Here I am rocking a Hello Thor tee in Amelie's cafe in Paris. Details of the gig below, go!

FISTS ‘Olympic Hits EP’ Launch Party! @ The Rescue Rooms
This Friday - 9th April 2010 - 8.30 til late - £5 (+ free EP with advance tickets)

Four of Nottingham’s brightest and best under one roof for one night only!
FISTS - on record their sound shifts from skiffle-punk to country-inflected indie pop. Live, Fists are a woozy, kaleidoscopic and riotously fun affair. "They do DIY and they do it well. Imagine the infectious anthemics of Broken Social Scene arm in arm with the eclecticism of Belle and Sebastian. Underlying this stargazing poppiness is a foundation of razor-edged post-punk." LeftLion
SWIMMING - avant-garde, euphoric and righteously poppy music.
PILGRIM FATHERS - awesome slabs of mind melting psychedelic post-rock.
ESCAPOLOGISTS - synth-heavy, drum machine backed, dark pop.
AFTER-PARTY!!! up in the Red Room featuring special guests:
* FRANK’S VINTAGE METAL DISCO featuring early ZZ-Top, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Led Zep, Black Sabbath, and Judas Priest.

Snap up an Advance Ticket for £5 (from Rock City box office / and you’ll get a FREE copy of the brand new ‘Olympic Hits EP’ by FISTS - just swap your ticket stub at the merch stand on the night.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

New ShadowPlay: Issue 27

Yep, my scissors (ow) and brain (kinda) have concocted a 27th issue, subtitled Out of the Light, Into the Dark covering the likes of street crime, violence, nightmares and addiction, cheery! But there’s plenty else in there too including African adventures with Debbie Ng, dubious debacles involving some slightly risky interviews from me and musical mischief as ever. For both fact and fiction email ( me your address for a free copy and distros get in touch for a job lot etc.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Print day: the stresses and strains

Print day for ShadowPlay is always a stressful occasion with last minute adjustments and chopped off edges always standard fare. I’ve been looking for a new print shop for quite some time, since moving to London in fact, and received a great tip off from a fellow zinester about one in the centre of town a couple of months ago.

I’ve started using an annual, How It Was To Be Young Then, about the swing era to keep the master copies flat and it was from this that everything fell immediately on entering the bizarre copy place. Housed in a disturbing quiet school-type atmosphere, it is staffed by a man of indeterminate eastern European origin wearing a large knitted jumper adorned with a Scotland flag on the top floor. After a last minute cut and Blu-tack job on some flyers featuring beautiful artwork from ShadowPlay fave Os Gemeos, everything is ready to go. Thus ensues the most circular conversation of my life:
“I’ve put this next to the edge to make it easier to cut, will it get cut off?”
“No, that’s not a problem. Is this not the finished cover then?”
“Yes, it is the finished cover.”
“Then why do you want to cut it?”
“It’s just the design. I do.”
“But why?”
“It doesn’t matter”

And so on. And so on for literally three minutes before the Groundhog day was broken by a paper jam, thank fuck. Of course there’s problems, missed off headlines that have disappeared, marks on the cover and a change in the price but, on getting the copies home (having skipped down the stairs of the weird building avoiding the lift in a cage and grappling with the heavy box and big umbrella given to me by a potato company on a tube packed tighter than battery hen) and assembling the protype it doesn’t matter. A new ShadowPlay is born and a sense of pride and dread installed. Now for the hard part, pass the long-armed stapler…
ShadowPlay #27 is available by emailing with your address, simple eh.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Mad March = Great Records

So when Howard Hughes greets the “interplanetary indiepop pickers” in the intro to The Pocket Gods’ new record he isn’t going too far wrong in addressing the average sanity, and musical taste, of potential listeners to Plan Nub, Behind the Fridge. In fact, by the time he invites us to “loosen those space belts and prepare to go down, deep down into Nub country…”, you’re either in or out. Luckily for ShadowPlay, we’ve already ripped off our leather waist strapping (it was purely cosmetic anyway, three quid from the British Heart Foundation) and are rolling in a veritable pig sty of bonkers tunage. Ahem. Billy Childish Enters the Space race gives an excellent early sign of the witticisms, perfect riffs and off key singing in store. Alien Xmas Song displays the indie poppers in a rare contemplative move, coming over all lighters in the air but, before the hankies are out over the irresistible slow strumming they’re singing “there’s a nipple fight in the car park, nipple nipple nipple fight..beautiful manboobs”. Perfect and bizarre, indiepop at its finest.
ShadowPlay’s favourite Barcelona-based ridiculously traditional folksome singer, Peter Loveday, returns with a new album, Standard Ideal, recorded last summer. Always full of erudite phrases and clever little imagery (“As the trucks roll by I step out of the way/I’m in no hurry and there aren’t that many anyway”), Loveday has beguiling, cracked voice now backed with some complementing vocal and violin tones by Naomi Weldman and Sarah Davison. Some of the duets here work better than others but there’s a genuine skill in the songwriting that make him worth investigation for lo-fi fans across Europe.

Talking of lo-fi, the crayon cartoons scribbles across Islands Lost At Sea’s new record (pictured) belie the stylish CD packaging with a bunch of funny bookmarks (sample “Read Thicko”) spilling out from its bambuzzling form on unfolding. It would be easy to get distracted from the music then, but this Staywarm Records release is a particularly charming piece of indiepop wizardry. A mix of plaintive peaens, chirpy tunage and even the odd carefully weaved in beat keeps the island floating on towards success. Oh, and the packaging’s actually a bookend, neat.
Not for the first time, Sunday Best are band on form. Well, more specifically their artist Dub Pistols are, with Rodney P taking some of the limelight on new A-side Ganja. We know what to expect from Dub Pistols – the slight warped reggae, the inevitable catchiness – but the added element of Monsieur P shouting “they got us under prohibition like it’s 1932” gives it an edgy, exciting top layer – to be skimmed off and enjoyed as 2 Bit Thugs and Nitenoise play around with it in subsequent mixes.

Elsewhere Skeletons, aka Nostalgia 77, releases Smile on Impossible Ark Records – a clever ‘act of mindless fun’ combining West African earnest jazz with more fun, upbeat offshoots. The man behind is, Benedic Lamdin, says Skeletons “is a made up band” as the musicians were never together in the studio and, after playing around with what was in vogue, he couldn’t stop. Whatever the process, it sounds good and very, very hard to turn off. Oh, and Alice Russell fans – get this if only for her usual supersonic display on Adam and Eve. Funk and soul act The Bamboos finish us off, Tru Thoughts luminaries they’ve been around for a while now and new album ‘4’ displays perfectly why their stock has risen steadily in the last few years. Turn It Up has the dusty feel of a classic while you can hear the stilettos squeaking on the two tone floor in Like Tears in Rain, retro stylings in its finest. A stellar month then, go forth and multi-buy!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Various Artists: Disco Love (BBE Records)

Just as you know Danny Dyer probably isn’t going to turn up in a period drama, cities can be typecast too. Musically certain cities are always associated with particular genres – Sheffield and Bristol breathe connotations of electronica, Manchester the stagnant fag smell of rock’n’roll – and it’s probably fair to say that Glasgow is as synonymous with disco as Rio de Janeiro is with black metal.

But Glaswegian native Al Kent, aka Ewan Kelly, might just be about to change all that. The talented DJ is best known for his label Million Dollar Disco and its Disco Demands series – a Northern Soul and disco digger if ever there was one he has added to this with his much lauded 20-strong Million Dollar Orchestra.

Here Al kicks off the exciting new Disco Love series covering rare disco and soul over two discs (originals and remixes) of sheer delight. There’s plenty for the casual disco acolyte, as well as the aficionados as Kent delights in sharing his eclectic taste. His liner notes for Sweet Daddy Floyd’s irresistible I Just Can’t Help Myself expose this raw passion as he urges listeners to “give it three listens and you will love them too”. And it’s true, there’s so many tracks here that do what both disco and soul should do – be impassioned but tight and clean cut, show some hard graft but be smooth as the proverbial swan on the water and provide something to dance your badly laced boots off to.

The mix from Bob Williams’ I’m Alright into the classic Nite Life (Let’s Get It On) by The Midas Touch shows Kent’s skills at their exemplary best while the smooth transitions that guide the second disc through remixes of Patricia White, Quinn Harris and JNB show a style that explains his appearances at London’s Soul City and Edinburgh’s Ultragroove among other big names. Al Kent has a heartening and genuine talent for mixing and provides a disco mix that can’t fail to please in this well thought-out appearance.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Zero dB: One Offs, Remixes and B-Sides (Tru Thoughts)

As much as experimentation and diversion from what’s gone before is the spice of life when it comes to contemporary music, there is something perfectly satisfying when a new release does exactly what you’d hope, and expect, of it. Obviously, with an off-cut type of album like this two disc set, these expectations can sometimes be negative ones, tinged with worries over quality-quantity balance and whether it’s the artist or the label who wanted to release it.

No such concern here though, as Zero DB and Tru Thoughts could be one of the most reliable combinations in the world of beats and breaks. The experienced remixing duo of Chris Vogado and Neil Combstock have here combed the edges of their back catalogue to form a retrospective that says as much about their calibre as it does how good they must be at going to the right sort of parties. On their illustrious guestlist Alice Russell, Quantic, Hexstatic, Javi P3z Orquesta, Frank De Jojo, and Bonobo appear, along with remixes from Seiji and Aaron Jerome. The Vogado Projects’ glorious ten minute triumph that is Mas Feurte Que El Sol proves a particular highlight, ponderously mixing deep house (stay with me) style piano with a Latin rhythm and flecks of sax in the same way that made Quiet Village’s Silent Movie an effortless piece of perfection.

Zero DB may always remain deliberately shadowy figures, sat at the bar sipping a beer while some of their labelmates bare all on stage. But their gliding skills in production and ability to move from smooth low tempo work to textbook breakbeat will ensure they will keep winning and keeping fans time after time.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Ty: Special King of Fool (BBE Records)

Special Kind of Fool represents a first outing for Ty, aka Ben Chijioke, on BBE Records, having formerly only really arrived in the public’s ears through the established auspices of legendary hip-hop label, and Ninja Tune sub-label, Big Dada.

Interestingly Ty describes the record as his story. And an interesting tale it is – that of artist who after ten years, three critically acclaimed albums (Awkward 2001, Upwards 2003, Closer 2006), collaborations with the likes of Tony Allen, De La Soul, Damon Albarn and Estelle, a Mercury nomination amongst other accolades, and a worldwide army of fans, has always followed his heart it seems.

But it feels like there’s too much heart and not enough of what makes Ty great here. His burly, thunderous rapping drawl has always contained plenty of humour in the past with the frontman always bouncing live and with an irrepressible amount of charisma. But somehow his passion has been channelled in the wrong direction here, passing on the vocal duties to a posse of impressionless, sometimes irritating guests. Many of them try so hard to sound soulful that they just appear vacuous and you are left craving more of the main man’s sturdy vocal. The beats are also a little pedestrian, rarely stepping up a gear and providing the genuine hooks usually so evident from the London-based Tony Allen associate.

There are a few positive signs though. The appearance of Sway and Roses Gabor does genuinely complement the ebb and flow of Heart is Breaking and there is a span of several songs, including the relaxed rhythm of Me and the clubby feel of I Get Up, where Ty is at his swashbuckling best saying: “where I’m from I’d probably make twice the money/if my skin was a different colour ain’t that funny?” before nonsensical lyrics and nursery rhyme rip-offs. But it’s too little, too late and it feels like a waste opportunity for one of Britain’s biggest hip-hop talents to burst back out of an overlong hiatus.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Ulrich Schnauss: Missing Deadlines (Selected Remixes)

This record begs the question - at what point is something so altered from its original form as to be unrecognisable? Now, you might think this is a question best posed to the likes of the late Michael Jackson or the hideously reformed Sophia Loren, but in this case it is master craftsman Ulrich Schnauss falling under the auspices of the surgeon’s knife.

The ambient German producer is a well-known aficionado of shoegazing, pulsing works and here he applies his touch for warped remixes of contemporary tunes. As chief alchemist he rearranges and restructures pieces way beyond recognition to glorious effect.

Schnauss said of the work: “Essentially what makes me really happy about this album is the fact that it’s a selection of the – in my opinion – best mixes from a musical point of view, rather than a compilation of the commercially most successful ones, or the tracks that have the biggest names associated with them.”

Thus, we get Howling Bell’s Setting Sun becoming an edgeless, lilting wonder more akin to My Bloody Valentine’s abstract waves than the Australian’s usual bruising torrents. Dreamy New York band Asobi Seksu also get the treatment, with Yuki Chikudate’s ebbing vocal over a beautiful wash of sound on their iconic track, Strawberries. Mahogany, The Dragons and I’m Not a Gun all provide particular highs here while the denoument provided by the 10-minute reworking of Mojave 3’s Bluebird of Happiness, complete with ‘found sounds’ and carefully constructed piano-vocal combinations, provides an excellent representation of the album. Meticulous, faraway yet completely, disturbingly full of focus.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Brighton Zinefest

It’s always tough to write about zines without falling into self-referential piffle – we are afterall unsubbed and unvalidated – but events such as this genuinely does remind me why I bother, sporadically, to produce material. There were a number of events, including a gig featuring the wonderful Bobby McGees and a knees up at the Cowley Club, around the festival but I just managed to leg it to the London Bridge train down from London for the main Saturday sale the fest was centred upon.

Having been to similar events in Manchester and London, I had an idea what to expect but it never fails to make me smile how much passion, genuine excitement and creativity can be so immediately evident. Sure, there’s some of the old record shop intimidating-ness about the situation – where self publishing is involved, there’s always a level of pretentiousness and feeling you’re being judged – and there’s some awkwardness to studying, and sometimes rejecting, someone’s wares right in front of them.

But the overwhelming feeling is one of worth. The host of papercuts, the empty wallet, the lack of sleep – worth it to see people enjoy zines. Needless to say I bankrupted myself fairly quickly and there were many zines I would’ve loved to have picked up but the coffers didn’t allow. Of the massive pile I did pick up a number stood out. It’s great to see a new issue of Bubblegum Slut zine, a mere six years after I started reading it, A Call from Karl effectively combined simple drawing with gentle humour, likewise Joe Decie’s What I Drew while The Quick and The Dead was very affecting and tackled the issue of depression engagingly, the list goes on… Emma Falconer also gave an interesting talk on the difficulties and tricks of putting zines together which even opened my realitively zine-wisened eyes to a few things. Honourable mentions go to the lovely people at Shebang, Dead Trees & Die and Beat Motel’s stalls who are always a pleasure to see and I was particularly glad to see Gadgie has been put into a book in the form of Now Then Gadgie – which you can get hold of here.  Love to the zinesters, party for the fight to write, and write on…

Monday, 15 February 2010

Champion Kickboxer: Clouds

To celebrate glory of more impending snow, ShadowPlay would like to post up its favourite weather-related tune ever. Here's Sheffield's finest, Champion Kickboxer playing on our old show, Faces for Radio.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Listening in Tongues podcast: The human voice and the warmth of the machine

So I've pulled my finger out and got back in the studio to record a new podcast you can get hold of here. Trailing the latest Broken Yolk night at the Pangea Project, Tom Bonnett and Alex Lawson look at combinations of man and machine, looking at how they can complement each other and work together in a creative crunch of vocal chords and circuit boards. 
The likes of Jamie Lidell, Scott Walker, Four Tet, Mount Kimbie, Schneider TM and Raymond Scott join Yolkie stars Ryat, Segment and Mataniu to explore the theme and provide a backdrop for cheeky chat and bootlegging banter. 
More info on the night at:  February 20th - Ryat, Mataniu and Segment. Free before 9pm, £4 after, Broken Yolk DJs spinning ‘til late. 
Pangea Project, 72 Stamford Hill, Stoke Newington, London, N16 6XS
Download, subscribe or stream the podcast here:

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Live: The Golden Filter at Pure Groove // Piney Gir at the London Transport Museum

I’ve long held a theory that the thing that puts the beauty of going to gigs apart from, say, going to the cinema, is that you never know what’s gunna happen. Even in a venue you’ve been to loadsa times, seeing a band you’ve seen loadsa times – maybe even a band you’ve seen in that venue loadsa times still present something different, exciting, new people, a bum note, a longer set, a new support band, the potential to find an artist that engages so much that whole swathes are your life are soundtracked differently. It’s always a possibility.

So this weird combo was very welcome. First we dash up to the beautiful Pure Groove, the record shop/café in Farringdon which has put out so many great records it’s almost sick, to see an ‘in-store’ (cue images of thousands of teens queuing up outside Virgin Records to see Mel B sing solo or some shit) which is thankfully busy but without any acne-covered scamps armed with a black marker and crop-top they’re desperate to get signed. The Golden Filter, an NY three-piece fronted by model Penelope featuring synths and nice, heavy drumbeats take some time to drum up an atmosphere in the un-clubby atmosphere near the twee-tees but their sheer class shows through their net-happy hit Hide Me evoking the most reaction. Favourite Things, with its New York, Sydney, London, Paris mantra evokes both joy at the simple song at envy at the well-travelled gits. They’ve certainly been provoking plenty of reaction and there’s no doubt there’s any extra something, maybe in the league of St Ettiene, in there, I’ll be watching with interest.

A quick dash to the Transport Museum in Covent Garden (yep, that’s right) brings one-time ShadowPlay agony aunt Piney Gir happily to our ears. As part of an Arts Council funded monthly night the fulsome folkster follows a glorious screening of a video of some couples dancing in the 50s (on a screen 20ft up above a light up London 3D map). Piney, aka Kansas hailing and London-living Angela Penhaligon, takes the stage amongst the red buses and old taxis with a welcoming crowd cheering on her every accordion stroke. With some fine backing singers and a beefed up band in the shape of the Age of Reason, Piney has moved away from her original electronic-y ways to a much more traditional, perhaps ironic given her quite stringent upbringing outlined in several interviews, country-style with the twee but lovely duet Of All the Wonderful Things, the new single, a particular highlight. And as Gir finishes her set choo-chooing around the rather splendid, if nerdy, museum singing you have to say there’s a lot to say for having a night less ordinary.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Wire: "No one wins. One side just loses more slowly." - Prez

What felt like an important chapter in my life ended yesterday…yes, I finally finished what appears to be the last series of The Wire. First off, I realise how silly it is for me to be so involved about a television programme but then, when people are so crushingly earnest about films, it only seems fair that the only programme I’ve seen ever approach its style in novel form is worth it.

Quick background – The Wire is an American police drama set in Baltimore, Maryland largely following detectives as well as drug dealers, gangsters, politicians, judges, blue and white collar workers and solicitors – the whys, hows and wherefores of its background are too variant and, as the programme outlines, unsolvable to go into but I wanted to look at my response as a viewer.

Firstly, as a white, middle class viewer in the UK, it’s fair to say my life is far removed from those on the stoops and corners of Baltimore, let alone the courts and city homicide department. But it is the meticulous detail in which the show approaches each episode which evolves and reveals this unfamiliar world for me. I have often been critical of the extended series that are produced in the US, many comedy series are flabby where series like Peep Show and Black Books show you can say as much in six episodes as you can in twelve. But The Wire is different. It’s not just passive, each series is a project as they deal with the issues of the drug trade, smuggling, reform, education and journalism in turn. It is with this trust in creator David Simon that the viewer goes with each addition to the plot, each unsolved particle, each heartbreaking killing or smeer on the progress of evidence.

Ultimately, few series will engage the viewer in the next few decades. It has had me hooked when I should have been going out, on trains when the power cuts out and you’re begging the laptop battery to hold out and, amusingly, in an airport lobby in Egypt when I had to trail the wire (ironic huh?) across an escalator to plug it in. I don’t watch much TV these days, preferring to watch either catch up at my own leisure or, as this, hoards of DVDs, and in characters such as McNulty, Bubbles, Stringer Bell, Bunk, Kima and Omar Little (pictured) my faith in modern television, and the excellent HBO, may just rest. Adios.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

ShadowPlay..slowly, slowly slowly

So just a quick update as to where I'm up to with the latest ShadowPlay, I'm sure regular readers will be aware that it's been over a year since the last issue - a fact I find painful but also realistic. The problem with having a day job in which you both expend a load of energy and also, y'know, give a toss (previously unheard of for me) is that it really does test the energy levels.

Anyway, excuses over, its shaping up to be a really good issue under the particularly vague and pretentious theme of "darkness" and submissions are most welcome. Articles of 400-500wds most welcome, likewise, am ALWAYS on the look out for new artwork on account of not being able to draw and the like - do get in touch at ahead of submission. Just on a bit of a hunt for printers in London at the moment, any suggestions of cheap places welcome though I reckon there's one in Holborn that might just do the job. Cut'n'paste zines are always a struggle what with copiers usually needing to feed the page through a machine for double-sided - never too friendly towards the carefully tacked together proof it must be said. So any thoughts and ideas welcome and fingers crossed for a spring birth for the little un. Alex