Thursday, March 31, 2011

The truth is out there...

Cop a listen to this from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros frontman Alexander Ebert. IT IS FAB. Go on. Listen. SEE? FAB. Ain't music great eh?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jim Jones p-Revue

Hell yeah you motherhumping motherhumpers...rock n’roll behemoths Jim Jones Revue are on the road right now laying down the goooooood shit (no idea why I’m talking like this today, I’ve not been on the sherry again...). Think proper, old school rock...Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, early Elvis...add a dash of punk spirit to the whole shebang and voila. If you’re anywhere near Birmingham on Sunday night and you can tear yourselves away from Celebrity Cash In the Jungle or whatever yawningly dull Jane Austen book the BBC’s spent millions adapting for the 6 people who watch that crap (how about spending some of that on a decent music show you muppets?) then head on down to the Academy for some sweat soaked mayhem and great balls of fire (that'll serve me right for wearing tight pants again).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dan Sartain – ‘Legacy of Hospitality’

As thin as a rattle snake and just as deadly (musically speaking that is...he ain’t likely to bite you or shit like that...unless you’re into that kind of which case I’m sure he’d be happy to oblige) Dan Sartain’s been dishing up primal rock n’roll for over a decade now, so it’s high time he got the old career retrospective treatment. Whilst Legacy of Hospitality ain’t that exactly it is nevertheless a fine collection of rare and unreleased stuff that gives the listener a pretty good overview of Dan’s development to date, from the blues boogie cover of T-Rex’s Telegram Sam (from the rare as hen’s teeth debut album Crimson Guard...just 200 were pressed...and Dan still has 20 of ‘em stashed away...that’s the pension sorted) through to last year’s scuzzy God baiting ‘Atheist Funeral’ (here in its original demo form).

A lot of the tracks on offer are as raw as a freshly grazed knee ‘I Don’t Wanna Go To The Party’ for instance has the kind of live thrashiness that Dan brings to his shows, arguably serving as a better document of his work than some of the more polished releases over the years. Elsewhere ‘Strength in Numbers’ and ‘Besame Mucho’ (again both from that debut release), home recorded by the sounds of it (and all the more charming for it), provide a fascinating insight into the early days of Sartain’s musical development. It’s ‘Flight Of The Finch’ that’s the album’s highlight though. Far more mournful than the eventual release Dan’s vocal against the sparse musical backing is just beautiful.

I’ve been lucky enough to see Dan live a couple of times (once at the now legendary Coldrice 5th Birthday Party...oh my aching liver) and even got to meet the great man last year and I can happily report that he’s every inch the Southern gentleman you’d like him to be. That’s not to say that he ain’t a bit bonkers though... hell, you don’t want your rock stars to be too sensible, right? What you do want is an artist who does his own thing, regardless of the prevailing fashions or trends and, more than anything, this album proves Dan’s just such a dude. Now that’s the kind of legacy that’s worth celebrating.

Dan Sartain’s ‘Legacy of Hospitality’ is out on 25th April on One Little Indian records.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Irrepressibles / Sarah Johns Music Party @ The Town Hall, Tuesday 22nd March 2011

Wow. Okay, perhaps that’s not the most eloquent review of all time but when you’ve just sat through an hour or so of some of the most beautiful, heartfelt music ever written it seems pretty apt. I was lucky enough to see this show last year and part of me didn’t want to risk seeing it a second time in case it somehow spoilt what was, quite frankly, one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. I needn’t have worried. Before all that though opener Sarah Johns Music Party beguiled with a ‘sweet as sack of fluffy kittens’ set that included an awesome acapella number ‘Too Many Songs’ (which reminded me of the equally awesome Camille). The only constructive comment I’d make is that the first two numbers (‘Loyal’ featured two disembodied singers...check out the video) set the bar so high that the rest of the performance, good though it was, couldn’t compete. Spread the theatrics out a bit more perhaps? Or stick some more theatrics in? I do love a bit of theatrics...

On then to the main event. The Irrepressibles are a gloriously theatrical (see, I told you I loved the theatrics) ten piece (eight tonight) chamber pop band led by singer, lyricist, composer and all round genius Jamie McDermott. Many of their songs deal with the holy trinity of love, loss and longing, but it’s the way these emotions are communicated, and the performance itself that, as with the last show, took tonight onto a whole different level.

The show started with the stage wrapped in darkness. All you can hear is a single human breath, echoing throughout the cavernous Town Hall. As opening numbers go it’s an unusual way to start a gig but then The Irrepressibles aren’t your typical group. Embracing everything from the cabaret scene of 1930’s Berlin through to folk and sea shanties and formed around the hugely talented Jamie McDermott an Irrepressibles show is a true feast for the senses. Mirrors surround the stage on three sides reflecting back the automaton like movements of the band as Jamie bares his soul in an intensely emotional performance. His voice is an incredible instrument, recalling everyone from Anthony Hegarty to Kate Bush but at the same time remaining distinctively unique. Add some truly heartbreaking lyrics and it’s simply impossible to remain unmoved by it all.

Drawing mainly from the band’s Mirror Mirror album the highlights were relentless, from the teasing ‘I’ll Maybe Let You’ through to the hauntingly beautiful ‘Forget The Past’ (the hairs on the back of my neck still ain’t gone down). There wasn’t much chat (it’s not that kind of show) but Jamie did find a moment to observe that the relatively opulent venue was ‘So me’. It was too, the perfect setting for a performance that demands and deserves respect. It was the final encore though, 'In This Shirt', with its pleading choruses, soaring violins and organ (Town Hall’s own) that combined to make one of the most emotional pieces of music you’re ever likely to hear. The spontaneous standing ovation at the end said it all really. Wow.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sigmund Frued ‘Rock n Shock’

The latest release from the good folk of Speech Fewapy is a short n sweet sampletastic slice of jazzy beats from 16 year old Sigmund Frued. 16! Good god, I could barely tie my own shoelaces at 16. He’s got taste as well as talent too, drawing inspiration from Coltrane (John, not Robbie), Madlib and MF Doom. This, his first single (out on 28th March), is one of a series of downloads to be released over the 6 months and, get this, they’re all FREE! Niiiiice. Go on, download’d be...ahem...Frued not too.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

360 @ The Soul Food Cafe, The Yardbird, Saturday 19th March 2011

The 16 legged skareggaefunkpunkngroove machine that is 360 has been skanking it up locally for a while now but, with slots at Glastonbury and some profile raising dates in London over the last year or so, the word finally seems to be spreading further afield. It’s justified. I see a lot of live bands but few come close to generating the sheer joy that 360 are capable of when they really hit their stride and tonight, in the relatively intimate (and ever so slightly sweaty) surroundings of The Yardbird, they did just that.

Kicking off with a double header of ‘Kitty Kitty’ and ‘Crazy Lady’ the band skanked though a dozen or so hits in waiting in front of a well and truly ‘up for it’ near capacity crowd. Live music can be a joy and that joy’s multiplied if the dudes up on stage look like they’re having a great time. Hell, it’s arguably as important as the music itself. Put in 100% and there’s a fair chance the audience will respond. Happily, as tonight well and truly demonstrated, 360 have both the right attitude and the tunes, from the out and out skankers through to the funky jams and on to the more mellow reggae numbers. I’ve seen them a fair few times over the past 5 years or so now and...reviewer’s cliché ahoy (but it’s actually true)...they just keep getting better and better.

As well as the group performance it’s great to watch the individual players too. The brass section in particular is huge fun, neatly coordinating some neat dance moves and one bit where they all nod in and out of each other’s way in a circle, narrowly avoiding a teeth smashing collision. Get that wrong and it’d be a dentist's dream I tells ya.

On top of having the perfect voice for the job (able to adapt to the different styles of music) lead vocalist Ross makes an endearing frontman, he seemed genuinely touched by the crowd’s response...revealing that we had, collectively, caused his nipples to inexplicably go erect. Speaking of things sexual, the ‘mash up’ of the band’s various influences is pretty hot too. Tracks often seamlessly weave in and out of various styles...a bit of latin here, some funk there, a dash or two of reggae...along the way without making the whole thing sound clumsy or contrived. I’m no musician but I can’t imagine that’s an easy trick to pull off. Judging by the...ahem... ‘moistness’ of the crowd they were just as impressed.

For some magical reason the Midlands has long been the home of ska and reggae in the UK, everyone from The Specials and The Beat through to UB40 and Steel Pulse were formed on these streets. Now I reckon there’s one more band we can add to the list of greats...I’ll give you 360 guesses who...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Irrepressible urge...

Okay, I can’t resist it, I know I’ve mentioned this gig once or twice already but it stands a very good chance of being one of the best shows you’re ever likely to bear with me again. The Irrepressibles are a glorious fusion of chamber pop, fashion show, theatre and, for want of a better word, ‘happening’. It’s just beautiful, emotional, emotive and, what the hell, life enhancing stuff and I defy anyone to see them live and not come out of the gig with a memory that'll last a lifetime. At the very least. One of the highlights of the Fierce Festival (check out the rest of the line up) you can catch the full Irrepressibles experience for yourself on Tuesday 2nd March at the Town Hall. DON’T MISS me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Storyboard P performs 'Close Your Eyes' by The Bullitts

Wow. This video is awesome. Just watch it...I'll let it speak for itself for a change.

Check out more music from The Bullitts while you're at it.

Max Raptor ‘Portraits’

Is it just me or is there something in the air right now? It’s slowly stirring, but it’s happening nonetheless...I’m sure of it. Yep, music’s getting angry again...and it’s about time too. Perhaps it’s the economy...or lack of it...or maybe people are finally getting sick and tired of the pop idol production line and want something a little more, as Richey would’ve put it, ‘4 real’ again. Who knows? Whatever the reason here comes the debut album from Midlands four piece Max Raptor, a spiky kick in the crotch for a sadly all too apathetic nation.

From the rallying cry of ‘The King Is Dead’ through to the instantly addictive singalong of ‘Carolina’ it’s an impressive debut, at times recalling Maximo Park, Art Brut and Rocket From The Crypt at their finest. Lyrically there’s plenty of spleen venting going on, whether it’s raging against the celebrity machine on ‘The Patron Saint (of nothing) or taking a cheerful look at existential nihilism (yep, I’ve been reading Wikipedia again) on ‘Ghosts’. It’s ‘The Great and the Good’ that’s the standout track though, its blend of meaty drumming, head bangin’ guitars and scream if ya wanna go faster vocals seemingly tailor made for whipping a crowd up into three shades of mental.

Like I said at the start of this it’s about time there was more of a musical reflection of the situation we’re all in and if 2011’s going to see a summer of discontent ‘Portraits’ could well make the perfect soundtrack.

The album’s out on Naim Edge records on 11th April and the band’s on tour through May with a Birmingham date courtesy of our good friends at Birmingham Promoters on May 4th at The HMV Institute. Get in!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This, Kat and the other...

Picture courtesy of DRW-Images

The lovely Kat Vipers is back with a brand new EP, 'A New Career in a New Town' (click on the link for a cheeky listen)that simply crackles with inventiveness. She’s done some extraordinary work over the years, all sorts of different styles from classical to pop (and everything in between) and whilst this EP has a mainly synthy feel it really reflects that diversity. The old skool arcade game sounds of ‘Fake Ophelia’ open things up before the EP’s undisputed highlight ‘Blue Ice Lolly’. A dark, brooding piece of electronic, with hints of Tori Amos at an early 80’s New York electro warehouse party, it hits you like an electric shock to the frontal lobe.

‘Creation’ is a lighter one, the perfect celebratory soundtrack for dancing naked through the woods on a spring morning. What? Is it only me who does that? You should try it. Antichrist is deceptively simple at first but peel back the layers and, as the track climaxes, there’s all sorts of stuff going on there, “chaos reigns” indeed. But it works. The EP closes with the hauntingly beautiful ‘Put Out’, a sparsely used church organ feel giving way to lush orchestration (all synths I guess) as Kat backs herself with ghostly whispers in a tale of lost love.

What this EP really screams is that Kat’s not afraid to experiment and mix things up a little. In the hands of some artists all this eclecticism might be a bit too much but, no doubt down to her classical background, she clearly understands a thing or three about getting the musical structure just right. Impressive stuff again from a true original.

Listen to the EP through the soundcloud link above then buy it for yourself right here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blancmange @ The Academy Birmingham, Friday 11th February 2011

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Given Blancmange’s 25 year absence that might go some way to explaining the rapturous reception the band got this evening. In fact I’ve seldom seen so much love for a band in my life. Remarkable. The applause began when Neil, Pandit and Graham (original keyboardist Stephen was cruelly diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurism…with complications…on the eve of the tour) came onstage and it was every bit as loud and enthusiastic when they left an hour or so later. Bookending the set were a couple of tracks from the rather splendid new album ‘Blanc Burn’. ‘I’m Having a Coffee’ kicked things off, a remarkably low key way to begin a comeback gig but somehow just a very Blancmange thing to do…understated and down to earth…exactly like frontman Neil in fact. “Flippin’ ‘eck” he’d mutter throughout the evening “25 years!” as if even he couldn’t believe they were back. But they are. And, I’d be inclined to say, better than ever - vocally, musically and performance wise (although Neil’s never been one for overdoing that aspect of a show). We got pretty much all the hits from the track that perhaps kickstarted the comeback, a mass singalong ‘Livin’ On The Ceiling’, through to earlier, slightly lesser known numbers like ‘God’s Kitchen’.

The evening was peppered with little anecdotes from Neil, on ‘Waves’ he let us know that he’d suffered a monster case of seasickness during the filming of the video and after a frenetic run through of the new album’s highlight ‘The Western’ he, somewhat breathlessly explained that they hadn’t thought about how difficult it might be to do it live. Happily percussionist Pandit was on hand to help out with the chorus. Getting him to play on these dates was an inspired move. I’m a real synth lover but the addition of more organic live instruments (in this case tablas and other drums) really helped to bring the show to life.

The set finished with an energetic 'Starfucker', “Thank goodness I’ve had me knee done” acknowledged Neil beforehand, reminding us once more of the frankly huge passage of time that’s elapsed between their last tour and this one. To be honest for most of the rest of the gig you could’ve been watching a band fizzing with all the energy and excitement of one of their first tours though, such was the obvious joy and gratitude oozing from every pore of Neil’s being. The feeling was mutual.You hear that applause at the end of the gig Neil? That’s love that it is...

Friday, March 11, 2011

New Music Meltdown

Lucky bugger that I am I get sent oodles of new music these days and post far too little of it up here (too many tunes, too little time). In a vain effort to overcome this slackness I’m going to experiment with just banging up the tunes with a line or two of comment rather than the endless waffle that you’ve grown to love and cherish...relax though...the gig reviews will still be full of endless waffle. After all you’ve got to have something to read while you’re pretending to work, right? Thank goodness your boss can’t see your screen from their desk eh? Anyway, strap yourself goes...

Poly Styrene – Virtual Boyfriend

X-Ray Spex punk goddess Poly’s back with a suitably punky electro mash up and a new album. We are not worthy.

DJ J-Boogie & J-Hood – Unsigned Volume 1

Pure 100% undiluted hip hop featuring a collaboration between Birmingham’s Tusche De Costa and J-Hood himself. Download the whole motherhumpin’ thang right here...for F-R-E-E!

The Young Knives – Love My Name

They’re back in time for the hot summer. Angsty new wave brilliance with shades of Gang of Four and Wire in the mix.

Nottee – Don’t Waste Your Light On Me

Ace of Bass meets St Etienne courtesy of Sweden’s lady of pop, Nottee.

New Villager – Light House

TV On The Radio meets The Irrepressibles. A cracking video too.

Phew. That’s enough new music for anyone in one posting. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Sound Bar RIP

Sad news reaches Baron Towers with the announcement that Sound Bar is to close this weekend. I've seen some cracking gigs there over the years and they were simply lovely when they hosted my birthday bash last year. I'm ashamed to say I didn't pop in as often as I should've though. No idea why...I guess I (like many people) got locked into the Institute/Flapper/Hare & Hounds/Academy circuit. I always thought the Sound Bar would be rammed to the rafters with students, after all Aston Uni's just across the road, and that the place would be a goldmine. Great music, cheap drinks, a nice atmosphere...what more do people want eh? It's a sad loss and I guess people will only realise this when it's gone. Good luck to all those who put so much effort into the place over the years. You will be missed.

West Midlands Pilot Project

Wow. Somehow this passed me by last year but it seems that there's now a website - Pilot Project - that lists most of the great local bands in Birmingham together with a track or two by each one. I go to a fair number of gigs (many of which have a 'local' support)but there's a bunch of names on there that I don't recognise and if they're as good as the ones that I do, well...happy days.

While I'm at it a big shout out to Brumcast (aka Little Chris...aka Chris Downing) who puts together regular collections of the very best tracks from Midlands bands (it must take him hours). It seems he's involved in this Pilot Project too. Good work fella. I've added links to both Brumcast and Pilot Project under Da Blogs to the left...just over there. Yep, there.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Decemberists / Blind Pilot @ The Institute, Monday 7th March 2011

On a night that was cold enough to make the headliners really feel at home a particularly healthy crowd made it along to, I think I’m right in saying this, the band’s first ever Birmingham gig. Wow. Over ten years into their career and this is their first chance to sample the delights of the Rag Market, Mr Egg (re-opening soon oeuf fans!) and the Balti triangle. First up though opening act, Blind Pilot. All the way from The Decemberists’ home town of Portland, Oregon they’ve got a nicely chilled out folky feel, perhaps a little too chilled out for some of the audience tonight judging by the chatting, but there we go, that’s audiences for you. Some people obviously don’t get out much eh? A good job if you ask me...

For the uninitiated The Decemberists are, depending on their mood, a country...pop...folk...baroque band revolving around the genial Mr Colin Meloy. Less of a songwriter, more of a storyteller (it comes as no surprise to learn that he’s a ‘creative writing’ graduate) Colin fits more material into one of his tracks than the average Hollywood blockbuster these days, covering everything from historical events through to Irish mythology. REM and later period XTC are obvious touchstones (and acknowledged influences) and during tonight’s value packed 2 hour set the spirits of both bands were firmly in evidence.

The show started with an audio only intro from Sam Adams (Portland’s current mayor) who solemnly informed us that he was hovering above the venue in some kind of blue orb...okay. He then asked us to turn to the left and introduce ourselves, then turn to the right and do likewise. As I was standing next to a pillar on my left side and a man who must’ve been 7ft tall on the right this was tricky. I did try turning to the right but found myself staring at his groin. Thank god I didn’t try to shake his ‘hand’ as Sam had asked us to...boy that could’ve been embarrassing. Anyway, intro’s over , Colin and co kicked off with a seemingly pretty low key number ‘Lesley Anne Levine’ from their 2002 album Castaways and Cutouts. You know I was referring to the storytelling stuff earlier on? Well here’s the perfect example. It tells (or at least seems to tell...a lot of Meloy’s lyrics are endlessly pored over and analysed by superfans) the tale of a baby “born at nine and dead by noon” to a feckless mother sometime in the 19th century whose spirit then goes on to find love in the company of the spirit of a dead chimney sweep. Phew! You don’t get that with Tinie Tempah do ya eh?

The audience (perhaps some of whom were still mulling over the lyrics as much as I was) clapped appreciatively, a few chins were stroked, no doubt websites were surfed, tweets were issued and we all stood awaiting the next track. “God you’re quiet” observed Colin. Cue numerous ‘amusing’ shout outs from some of the audience and a few cries of “We’re being respectful” in broad Brummie accents. It broke the somewhat reverential spell though which was, I think, his intention and after that the band began cantering through their rich six album strong archive (an impressive body of work by anyone’s standards). The new album ‘The King Is Dead’ got a fair airing (‘Down By The Water’ and ‘Rox in the Box’ were particularly strong) but tonight was just as much of a greatest hits set with (oh happy day) plenty of tracks from the band’s breakthrough album ‘Picaresque’, the pairing of ‘The Bagman’s Gambit’ and ‘Engine Driver’ justifying the ticket price on its own.

Colin continued chatting in between songs (perhaps regretting berating us for being so quiet) and did his best to encourage one chap to leap from the balcony. Sadly he wimped out, that would’ve made quiet a good Decemberists’ song though I reckon. The Ballad of the Broken Brummie. Hmmm. Sometimes the dramatic veering between the Country & Western stuff, the poppier material and the folk tracks made things seem a little disjointed but at the same time this willingness to mix it up is, I guess, one of the band’s strengths. Further evidence of this saw Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins stepping up to the mic for a rocking version of ‘Won’t Want For Love’ (shades of Fleetwood Mac in there) then, breaking from his pleas to get his audience to leap to their deaths, Colin dedicated ‘This is Why We fight’ to the striking teachers of Wisconsin, sadly an all too rare appearance of politics in gigs these days. The last track of the main set simply had to be their biggest hit to date, the distinctly (by their standards at least) poppy ’16 Military Wives’. Conducting the various sections of the audience in the ‘La Di Dah’s’ of the chorus (“sing quieter, now speak it, now sing it like it’s a question”) Colin turned puppet master before uncharacteristically kicking the mic off the stage in a mock rock star move. One of the stage guys retrieved it only for Colin to launch it off the stage again before walking off. Who says The Decemberists aren’t badass eh? Having already dabbled in the old audience participation routine the encore included the epic accordion-tastic ‘Mariner’s Revenge Song’ in which we were all press ganged into action to scream as though we were being eaten by a whale. Despite most of us having limited experience of this (I was one nibbled by a parrot and gently caressed by an overly amorous butterfly) we made a pretty convincing effort. After a quick regurgitation (and now two hours into the set) ‘June Hymn’ sent us back out into the bone crunching cold dreaming of the summer, which Colin promised us faithfully was just around the corner. He’s not from round here is he? Still, as the lyrics to the last number put it, tonight had indeed been a "panoply of song" so we'll let him off that one.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Remix Fewapy Competition Speech!

"No Excuses" by Waler by Speech Fewapy Records

Yes, those lovely folk at Speech Fewapy records are giving all you budding Jive Bunny’s out there (what...ain’t Jive Bunny cool no more...oh...I’m so out of touch...hangs head in shame) the chance to remix Solihull based post punk skunk funkers Waler’s new single ‘No Excuses’. The winning mix will be released to the masses and untold wealth, sex and drugs will no doubt wash over the lucky mixmaster/mistress in a tsunami of pleasure. It’s actually a cracking track to begin with so I’ll be intrigued to see what the winner comes up doubt it’ll be some form of hybrid dubstep death metal synth garage skank. Obviously. To be in with a chance of winning head over to Speech Fewapy central and get mixing (you can download all the bits you need there too). Deadline’s 6pm on Friday 25th March. Anyone entering after this time will be jammed into a liquidiser to experience a different kind of remix altogether...

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Fujiya & Miyagi / Mirrors / Free School @ The Hare and Hounds, Wednesday 2nd March

March already. Jeez. Soon be Christmas. It’s cold enough dammit. Where’s spring when you need it eh? 1st March that’s supposed to be spring, right? Pah! Happily my deep frozen extremities were nicely warmed up by tonight’s openers Free School, a Birmingham based outfit specialising in what those ‘in the know’ might possibly call shoetronica (the bastard love child of Mr Shoegaze and Miss E. Lectronica).

Sounds that wash over you like warm milk mix casually with the beatier stuff and random spoken word samples, creating a craftily layered sonic cake. Yep...a freakin’ sonic cake. With a cherry on top. After perfecting their sound for a year or so this was Free School’s debut live show. Why the delay? Given all of the sonic knob twiddling it seems they were a little unsure of how to make it work live, something they’ve well and truly addressed by donning scary sheep masks and whacking the bejesus out of electronic drum kits. Ones to watch and comes the obligatory pun...class act. Music to chill out, tune in or turn on to.

After chilling out, tuning in and getting a little turned on (must’ve been those sheep masks)...a midweek cider or two has that effect on me... it was time for Mirrors.
I was as gutted as a kipper that I missed their last Birmingham show but tonight more than made up for it. Imagine a more human Kraftwerk, with a dash of OMD, a sprinkle of The Smiths, a drizzle of the Human League and...oh go on then...a hint of the Pet Shop Boys and you’ll have a decent idea of the Mirrors sound. As a self confessed 80’s music lover I was in hog heaven (17) from the moment they struck the first note. There are four of them in the band and they all have their own metal ‘desk’ replete with keyboards and all sorts of other techy stuff. Dressing up in matching suits adds to that classy 80’s pop vibe whilst acknowledging their obvious debt to the corporate look and feel of das ‘werk in their prime. Tonight was the first date of their tour (supporting Fujiya & Miyagi) and their first live outing since the release of their debut album ‘Lights and Offerings’ (which I’d not heard before the show...slack I know). It’s crammed full of classy synth pop (or pop noir as I think the band prefer to call it) and whilst previous single ‘Ways To An End’ remains my favourite track tonight showed that there’s a whole bunch of others queuing up behind it. The Human League-y synths on ‘Hide and Seek’, the more clinical feel of ‘Fear of Drowning’ and the plaintive ‘Into The Heart’ could all easily claim their place on ‘Now That’s What I Call Music Vol 1’. And that’s some claim. Lead singer, James, twitches and pulls shapes along with the music and this, coupled with a back projection that ran throughout the show, added more of a visual element than you’d perhaps expect from them. Given the size of the stage there wasn’t quite enough room to appreciate all of this, but somehow I don’t expect they’ll be playing venues of this size for long.

Finally, and back to the more chilled out end of electronic music, it’s Fujiya & Miyagi. The beauty of F&M’s music lies in the combination of David Best’s (aka Miyagi) whispery, half spoken half sung vocals and Steve Lewis’ (aka Fujiya) hypnotic Krautrocky beats. It’s a bewitching mix and, after seeing them play at the Big Chill a few years back, I was hooked.

Tonight they played a pretty much perfect selection of tracks from their albums to date including the darn fine newbie Ventrilloquizzing. As a live act they’re as understated as much of their music. There’s no in between song banter or whoopin’ and hollerin’. Instead you’ll get gently drawn in their dreamy world where the ghost of Lena Zavaroni mixes happily with Hans Christian Anderson over a Knickerbocker Glory or two. They like repeating phrases in songs and this adds to the hypnotic feel , in fact once or twice during the show I found myself muttering along with certain phrases without realising what I was doing, but then again I’m a bit odd. Pick of the set included ‘Collarbone’, the aforementioned ‘Knickerbocker’ and closing number ‘ Ankle Injury’, its repeated Fujiya Miyagi refrain reminding us, as if there’s anyone else that sounds like this, of who we’ve been watching. Then they were gone. No encore. No “good night Vienna!” No pleas to visit the merch desk for all your Fujiya and Miyagi needs. Like the dreamy sounds we’d been watching they drifted away into the night...maybe they had a date with Lena?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

So, it's a Wednesday...

Fujiya and Miyagi - 'Yo Yo' from Casey&Ewan on Vimeo.

Fancy a night of Krautrock tinged electronica? Good. Head over to the Hairy Hounds then for a king size helping of Brighton’s finest Fujiya & Miyagi. Support comes from the Kraftwerk-tastic Mirrors and Birmingham’s own shoetronica head boys Free School.

Ways To An End from Mirrors on Vimeo.

Click on the vids above for a sample of what’s on offer and ditch that night in front of the telly for an all out vodka fuelled binge that’ll see you throwing up on the bosses desk and urinating over that all important client. Go on. You know you want to...

Tickets are a mere £7 from our good friends at Birmingham Promoters.