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There’s something quintessentially English about the band Feet. I’m not the first person to point this out, and no doubt I won’t be the last, but if I was asked to describe them, quintessentially English would be my response. This is partly because remind me in some ways of another quintessentially English band, Madness. Both write well-crafted songs about their day to day observations on life, neither of them seems to take themselves too seriously and then there’s the videos and the live performances. There’s also the songs about the English Weather and Dog Walking, and their antics on Feet TV which make you think that if the
In-betweeners had graduated and formed a band it could well be them.
Some of the many glowing reviews of their debut album have made comparisons to Blur, but don’t let that put you off. Musically they sit somewhere between Baggy and Britpop, although they do have their own unique sound which is quite hard to pin down as it chops and changes that much.
The band have been around since 2016, and they released their first single ‘Petty Thieving’ on Yala Records later that year. The first thing I heard of theirs was English Weather, which came out in April and sounds a bit like Kinky Afro. A month later they released Ad Blue, another catchy little baggy era number.
Seeing that they were on the bill at All Points East on the Yala stage, I thought I’d check them out live, and promptly made my way over after seeing the Viagra Boys play.
I didn’t really have any huge expectations but I have to say I was blown over. They put on a real show, were an absolute joy to see and I watched the whole thing with a massive smile on my face. Both guitarists and the bassist bounced around the stage with vocalist George merrily cavorting about in his tucked in jeans and hush puppies. Loads of energy and a friendly mass bundle at the end to boot.
After that display I was looking forward to seeing them again the next month supporting Cage the Elephant at Heaven, but CTE’s careless guitarist managed to break his hand or something and the gig was cancelled. I bought the very last ticket for that gig, and was really looking forward to seeing CTE play in a venue that intimate so was a bit miffed, although the situation was much worse for Feet, who I believe had laid out a load of cash to cover hotel rooms, and would have probably have gained a lot of new fans on that tour.
Feet released three m ore tracks (Outer Rim, Petty Thieving and Dog Walking) in the run up to their debut album 'What’s inside is more than just ham' being released. Have a look at the videos on You Tube via the links below, they’re worth watching. The album was recorded a year ago and originally scheduled for release in August, but release was presumably delayed to coincide with their UK tour.
What’s inside… has undoubtedly one of the worst album covers that I’ve ever seen in my life, the sort of artwork that screams ‘find me in the bargain bin’, but is musically a triumph. Some albums require a few listens to get into, but this one immediately hits the spot and it's already up there as one of the albums of the year for me.
Album opener Good Richard's Crash Landing flits masterfully between Britpop, the Kinks and Indie Rock and is followed by Ad Blue possibly the first (and only) song ever written about the fluid made up of the mix of urea and deionized water that Diesel vehicles need to keep them going, and once used by bassist Oliver to make tea. English Weather is next and then the pace picks up with Petty Thieving, about an associate of the band who believed that if you look clean cut you’ll get away with stealing and Outer Rim.
There’s a bit of a fifties feel in Dog Walking, and Chalet 47 and Axeman saunter along nicely after, before the album’s title track in, a song about the love of a hot dog no less. The album closes with the sound of Hawaiian Guitars gently playing us out on Wiggy Pop with its irreverent lyrics perhaps summing up the album ‘I’m just taking the piss, having a laugh’.
Feet must have thought a lot about the running order on the album as its flows really well. Tracks like Outer Rim and Petty Thieving are standouts on their own but there isn’t a weak track on the album, its just a really well constructed, and handsomely written record.
Feet have a UK tour scheduled for later this month going into November and are well worth the entrance fee. I’m off to see them at Bedford Esquires (supported by Sheafs) and Brighton Patterns, so they better be good!
Click for Tour Dates
Reminds of: Cocteau Twins, The Cure, Lush, Curve, My Bloody Valentine, The Verve, Ride
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There’s something that about the term ‘dream pop’ that makes me feel nauseous. Its sounds so naff. What is it describing exactly? Pop and all its interpretations and dreams? What’s that all about?
Austin Texas band Blushing use the term ‘dream pop’ to describe themselves and I wish they wouldn’t. I was ready to completely dismiss them on the basis of that association, but I thought I’d at least give them a listen and I’m glad that I did as it turns out that they’re actually rather good.
The band are comprised of two married couples, Michelle and Jake Soto, and Christina and Noe Carmona. They self-released their debut EP ‘Tether in 2017, followed by another EP ‘Weak’ on Austin Town Hall records in 2018. Later that year they released ‘The Truth’ single via The Nothing Song Records and their eponymously titled debut album, produced by Elliott Frazier of Ringo Deathstarr came out last month.
The album starts with So Many, starting like something from ‘The Top’ era The Cure and ending with a fierce guitar crescendo. A good start.
The My Bloody Valentine-like Dream Merchants is next, followed by fan favourite The Last Time which sounds a bit like Lush and describes having to endure a job or a situation a job you hate. Another fan favourite ‘Control’ describes the ability of your own thoughts, memories and feelings to exact control over you, according to guitarist/vocalist Michelle.
There’s a very Cocteau Twins like feel throughout the album, especially on tracks like Control, Pressure, The Truth and Sunshine, which is of course no bad thing. Sunshine in particular, sounds like Pearly Dewdrops Drop. In other places, such as on album closer Her which sounds like something you’d find on the Verve’s ‘Storm in Heaven’, the band drift into shoegaze territory, which they do very well.
Despite the ‘dream pop’ thing, I’d recommend giving Blushing a good listening too, particularly if you’re a fan of shoegaze or early 80’s post punk/indie. Shimmering Guitars one minute, heavy fuzz the next and ethereal vocals throughout, what’s not to like?
The band are touring across the states in November with Ringo Deathstarr.
Reminds us of The Slits, The Go-Go’s, Joy Division, Tubeway Army, Neu, Suicide, Lizzy Mercier Descloux, The Cure.
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I first came across Automatic in June this year when their debut single Calling It was released. Calling it is dubby, slightly eerie and quite strikingly different, so it’s unsurprising that it made be sit up and pay attention. The band issued three more quality singles over the following months, and released their debut album Signal in September. It’s also very good.
Automatic come from LA and have been making music together since 2017. The band is comprised of Izzy Glaudini (synths, vocals), Lola Dompé (drums, vocals) and Halle Saxon (bass, vocals). Lola is a daughter of Kevin Haskins, the drummer from Bauhaus, who previously appeared in the band Blackblack with her sister Diva and some dude called Alex Greenwald, who was in Phantom Planet.
The name Automatic was chosen after a song by the Go-Go’s, whose influence is evident throughout the album, particularly on tracks like Too Much Money, Signal and Champagne. There however is a wide array of influences on show here, although Automatic manage to forge their own identity with their icy vocals, slightly off kilter bass and chilling synth.
Suicide in Texas is aptly very Suicide like. I Love You, fine evokes Tubeway Army. Tracks like Signal and Damage channel Joy Division. At times you can hear the Cure around the time of Seventeen Seconds and Faith, at others on tracks like Highway, Krautrock comes to the fore.
Overall it’s a very enjoyable listen, poppy in places and yet spooky and intriguing in others. The band cite film as an important influence, especially the likes of David Lynch and his somewhat dissonant approach definitely comes through the music.
The band play just two UK gigs in October as part of their European tour, at the Shacklewell Arms (22nd) and at the Lanes in Bristol (23rd).
Reminds us of: The Fall, Wire, That Petrol Emotion
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The first thing I heard by the Fall was ‘Spoilt Victorian Child’ on a Beggars Banquet compilation alongside other notable acts of the day such as Bauhaus, The Cult, The Icicle Works and Gene Loves Jezebel. I thought it was a great tune, and it set me off on a voyage of Fall discovery, attempting to navigate my way through what was already a massive back catalogue. These days and indeed in them days I’d describe myself as an occasional fan of their music though, as I love some of their stuff but struggle to make it through a whole album.
Occasional fandom is certainly not the case for the band Life though. They openly cite the Fall as a key influence and its pretty damn obvious in their music. If you have a look at the band’s Spotify page you’ll notice that one of their playlists is titled ‘Mark E God’ too, although they also have the good taste to also have a Leonard Cohen playlist.
As a rule I’ll always have a look at the Radio 6 playlists published online to check out any new music that hasn’t flown past my radar, which is where I became aware of Life, through lead single from their new album ‘Moral Fibre’. I was impressed enough by Moral Fibre to keep my eye out for future releases, and next single ‘Hollow Thing’ piqued my interest too, although both tracks are very obviously Fall-like. Latest single ‘Bum Hour’ swung it for me though, a well-crafted little number that shows a lot of progression in their music.
The band are from Hull and in their previous incarnation as The Neat, managed to share a stage with Mark E Smith who promptly insulted them. They describe this moment as a special honour. Three of the band work or have worked in the Warren Youth Project, which offers education programmes for young people, and there is strong sense of political awareness running through their music.
First album Popular Music is a coming together of a number of single recorded over a three year period. The album was critically lauded and band received a lot of attention from the likes of Steve Lamacq, even making it onto the BBC Radio 1 albums of the year list. Lyrically the songs cover a range of topics including Brexit, Austerity, Trump and supermarket 2 for 1 deals. It’s good, although inevitably for an album of attention grabbing singles like Rare Boots, Sugar God and Euromillions it’s not particularly cohesive and all that energy gets a bit hard to get through in one sitting.
New album ‘A Picture of Good Health’ however is a different matter. It kicks off at pace with the title track and Moral Fibre, the latter of which critiques music industry moguls (Pissants!) who ply the next big thing band with coke to get them onto their roster. Bum Hour follows, sensibly slowing things down a bit, describing the experience of moving into a small flat have moved out of a family home ‘all my mates are out of town, this is the bum hour calling’.
The frenetic pace of the albums opening doesn’t come again until Grown Up and Niceties which is a good thing - Hollow Thing, Excites Me, Never Love Again and Half Pint Fatherhood are all good tracks that build the album nicely, and give it an appropriate amount of variation and depth. Don't Give Up Yet and New Rose in Love bring the album to a close.
There’s a wide range of subjects covered in the album, from mental health, break ups (and subsequent child access issues) to consumer culture on ‘It’s a Con’, and it’s clear to see that although the Mark E Smith influence is undeniable, the band are much more than just a Fall tribute band.
A Picture of Good Health is a very impressive album, and one that sees the band maturing at pace.
For more on the band, go to their website.
The band head out a UK tour in October and November, have a look at the Gigs and News page for more details.
Reminds us of: Brian Eno, Laraaji, Terry Riley, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, The Orb
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‘I'm sometimes tempted to make my own music, and Kavus is encouraging. It would never be anything more than a whim, though. I'm 56; I'd have known years ago if it was any kind of calling. And even if I do come up with something, I'd never play it on our show. No way. I have a feeling it would be pathetic’.
Steve Davis, interviewed in the Independent in 2014.
I nearly fell off my seat when I saw a post announcing that 6 times snooker champion, Steve Davis had teamed up with Kavus Torabi and Michael J York to make a ten minute plus track as the Utopia Strong. I should have known it would be good though, given that it was being released by the ever reliable Rocket Recordings, the home of such quality music as the wonderful Gnoomes and the sadly now defunct Josefin Ohrn and the Liberation.
So I put Brainsurgeons 3 on and was pleasantly surprised to hear its rather appealing blend of Komische, Ambient and Psychedelia.
Whilst Steve Davis is a household name, and one of Romford’s best known sons, I had to do some digging on Kavus Torabi and Michael York. Both of them have been making music for many years within bands such as Gong, the Cardiacs, Coil, Current 93, Knifeworld, Teleplasmiste, and Guapo. Davis met with Torabi at a Magma gig in 2009 and they hit it off, Torabi soon discovering that Davis was a music nerd with a liking for head music. The story of their meeting is told in that article in the Independent.
After Brainsurgeons 3 was released in June, the three of them announced that an album would be released in September. One further track appeared prior to the album’s September 13th release date Konta Chorus, which suggested that the album would be something to listen out for. I went a little bit further and got myself a copy of the orange vinyl in its holographic packaging!
and The album begins with Emerald Tablet, an elegant Terry Riley-esque drone that comes and goes in the blink of an eye. As is the case with a number of tracks on the album, Konta Chorus builds beautifully to the point where its myriad elements perfectly collide. Swimmer is an ambient Laraaji like wash of soothing sounds (minus the zither) that as with later tracks like Transition to the Afterlife and Do you believe in Two Gods? could do with being a lot longer.
A couple of short interludes Unquiet Boundary and Pickmans Model and the excellent ‘Brainsurgeons 3’ complete the album, along with closing track Moonchild – the only part of the record that features any form of vocals, albeit looped and submerged within the mix.
All in all, ‘The Utopia Strong’ feels like the coming together of three talented friends who have each brought their love of music to make something quite special. I get the impression that the respect each has for each other has probably led them to temper the length of some of the tracks here, because you really are left wanting the music to go on for longer in places. It may be that they explore more when they play live, which I’ll get to find out when I catch them on their tour in December.
For the meantime however, put the album on, sit back, close your eyes and enjoy.
For more information on how the band came together, have a read of this interview in The Quietus.
The Utopia Strong play live in November and December. For details, please click here.
Click here to buy Rocket Recordings stuff and here to read their blog.
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Its difficult to know where to start with a profile on Oh Sees. Twenty odd albums, countless line ups, numerous name changes, with the only constant seemingly being front man John Dwyer. The notion of trying to go through their entire back catalogue seems ludicrous, so I thought I’d concentrate on their latest album, a recent gig and a maybe a steer to their earlier albums.
The band were originally known as OCS (Orinoka Crash Suite, Orange County Sound, whatever) and have been known as The OhSees, Thee Oh Sees and now Oh Sees. Their output has been prodigious – 20 plus albums, some live sets as well as compilations. The level of output is almost on a par with the Fall, as is their absolute disregard for doing anything apart from what they want to, it would seem. Given the influence that the Fall has had on modern alternative music you wonder if the Thee Oh Sees will leave a similar legacy, and their influence is already obvious with bands like Slift.
Latest album Face Stabber came out in August, encompassing garage/psych rock, Krautrock, Jazz, punk, prog rock and funk. Its quite a commitment to listen to in one sitting, 80 minutes long in total, although two of the fourteen songs account for 35 of those minutes, including album closer Henchlock, which was released as a ‘single’ prior to the album coming out.
The Daily Heavy* kicks off proceedings, a frenetic little psych rock beast that starts like Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice. Next up is The Experimenter, powered along by the shuffling beats of the twin drummer set up, reaching its climax with a free-flowing saxophone expressing itself. Most bands choose the third track of their album to slow down the proceedings if the opening tracks canter along, but not Oh Sees – Face Stabber is an instrumental wig out work out, although there is respite at the end, as the track segues into birdsong. The pace slows a little for Snickersee before picking up again for the prog rock Fu Xi which concludes with a freeform synthesised collapse.
Scutum and Scorpius combines prog rock, 70s funk and psychedelic jazz over its 14 minutes but doesn’t really outstay its welcome. Just when you thought you might be getting comfortable, Gholu comes along to wake you up, or rather pummel you into submission. Poisoned Stones* follows on with its slightly manic headbanging pysch-funk and then there’s Psy-Ops Dispatch – jazz, prog, funk, psych all coming together. S.S. Luker is another instrumental wig out blending pysch and funk which leads into the punk onslaught of Heartworm. Next up is the dizzying Together Tomorrow*, and then of nowhere comes Captain Loosely* Captain Nowhere, like some Bill Laswell/Laraaji experimental/ambient construction. The album closes with Henchlock, a 20-minute jazz/funk/psych-rock work out. ‘Where is that cup of tea?’ indeed.
Overall the album works and it is rewarding to take it all in one go, but it does take a bit of getting used to. Until I saw the band live I hadn’t realised they had two drummers in their set up, but listening to Facestabber again you kind of get the point of that – you get some much percussive energy and it must be great for the rest of the band to feed off, although at times it’s a little exhausting!
Onto the gig – I had the pleasure of witnessing the band play live at London’s Troxy for their sole UK gig, and I have to say it was a great night. Having read a post that said that they would be on at 9.40 until 11 and not fancying the support, we got into the venue about 9.20, only to find that they had already started. I would have preferred to have got myself down the front to see the band but this was practically impossible given the swathes of people who were going mental. They powered through their set, and it has to be said they really are an absolute machine. The amount of work those drummers got through was mind blowing, they create such momentum and add so much body to the music - brilliant. Have a look at some of the clips here and here.
In addition to tracks from the new album the band pounded out a series of old stalwarts including Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster, a turbo charged version of Withered Hand and C from the last album. Then they were done. This was the first time I had seen them before but it was obvious from looking at the satisfied faces of many at the end that most of the crowd had been there before, knew what they were going to get, and had certainly had their fix.
If you are new to the band, you might want to start by listening to Mutilator Defeated At Last, Floating Coffin or A Weird Exits before tackling Facestabber, both are relatively short and pretty immediate. I’m still trying to work my way through myself. And if you get the chance to see them play live, I’d certainly recommend that you do. For a taste of that experience, have a look at this gig in Paris or this KEXP session.
Reminds us of:
The Velvet Underground, Jean-Jaques Perrey, Brigitte Bardot, Loop, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Francoise Hardy, the Liminanas
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2019 has been an interesting year for psychedelic music, with some unlikely forces combing to make some great music. Who would have thought that five times world snooker champion Steve Davis would get together with Kavus Torabi and Michael York to make trippy psychedelic krautrock that actually sounds rather good? Or that French actress Emanuelle Seigner would get together with Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre fame and the Liminanas to make a super cool Pysch Rock record?
It’s the latter combination that we focus on here, as they have formed a band named L’Epee (the Sword) and created a wonderful new album ‘Diabolique’. The band announced themselves to the world via the excellent single Dreams earlier this year, sounding like Jean-Jaques Perry’s EVA mixed with Brigitte Bardot’s Contact and the Eurotrash theme.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the names, Emanuelle Seigner is best known as an actress, having appeared in a number of films since the 80’s including Bitter Moon and Frantic. She’s also been in another band ‘Ultra Orange’ and is married to the film director Roman Polanski. The Brian Jonestown Massacre have been around since the 1990s, consistently making quality psychedelic / shoegaze music, and the Liminanas are a French psych rock duo who’ve been around since the mid 2000’s. This is not the first time they have appeared together – Seigner provided guest vocals on their Shadow People album, as did Anton Newcombe but it’s their first album under the ‘L’Epee moniker.
If you know the BJM and the Liminanas you’ll kind of know what to expect on ‘Diabolique’, although the album has a definite 60’s French pop sensibility about it. This pop influence comes out most on ‘Dreams’ and Springfield 61, both magnifique, and with Springfield 61 sounding like it could have been produced by Phil Spector.
The album opens in spritely fashion with Une Lune Etrange, curiously sung in English despite its French title. Lou follows, which like Ghost Rider later on is the sort of Velvet Underground-esque drone that you’d expect from Newcombe. After ‘Dreams’ Seigner narrates La Brigade Des Malefices, which sounds not dissimilar to Vapour by Loop from their album ‘A Gilded Eternity’.
The drone effect comes into play again with Grande and Un Rituel Habituel before Last Picture Show brings the proceedings to a close. It is all good stuff.
Prior to the album’s release, the band released teaser clips of the tracks with notes (presumably translated from French) which are listed as they appeared below:
Une Lune Etrange: ‘There is a New Order Aspect in the construction of this song. It may come from our collaboration with Peter Hook on Shadow People album
Lou: I Love him and I hate him. How could he has forgiven his parents the electrochoc therapy they used to treat him of rock and roll?
Dreams: Dreams tell the misfortunes of a women harassed by a bad guy she finally eat.
Les Brigade Des Malefices: For the atmosphere the song owes a lot to SHERLOCK HOLMES and JACK THE RIPPER
On Dansait Avec Elle: Emmanuelle and Bertrand are singing in Duo, its one of my favorite songs
Ghost Rider: Of course, it’s a tribute to ALAN VEGA
Grande: The atmosphere has never been to minimalism. Its rather to maximalism
Springfield 61: This song refers to 60s movies as the Great Race, as well as eroticism
Un Rituel Inhabituel: The song took so much breath in studie in Berlin than it might be difficult to play it on scene. We will have to adapt it
The Last Picture Show: It looks like closing titles
There’s a good interview in the Guardian which gives further background to the band and the album which you can read here.
The band are playing a couple of UK tour dates, click here for more detail.
What have Greek Potions, Italy, Shoegaze and Psych got in common? Rev Rev Rev, since you ask, band from Modena who have teamed up with Spiritualised producer James Aparicio (who has also worked with Cult of Dom Keller and Dead Vibrations) and Fuzz Club for their latest album Kykeon.
Kykeon in case you’re wondering, is a Greek word meaning to mix or stir, and it’s also the name of an ancient Greek drink, fabled to be psychoactive.
The band were recently named by Daily Bandcamp as 'One of Europe’s finest ’gazer bands of the last decade'. They received airplay on Radio 6 and have appeared on the festival circuit with the likes of Jesus and Mary Chain, Brian Jones Town Massacre and Wire.
Kykeon starts with ‘Waiting for Godel’, a bruising track that reminds me of Loop (obviously a good thing). This means loud fuzz guitar, feedback, submerged vocals and repetition, all done very well. The track ends a little bit abruptly, and then goes into the single Clutching the Blade, another bruiser that smacks you round the eardrums. The Loop theme continues with '3 not 3', slower paced and not dissimilar to ‘Forever’ from Loop’s first album ‘Heavens End’. The curiously titled ‘Gate of the Dark Female’ follows in a similar psychedelic vein. So far so noisy, so good, albeit each track could do with being expanded on and developed further.
Next up is the albums other single One Illusion is Much Like Another, which takes the album into Shoegaze territory. Egocandy and Sealand bring the noise again, with the next two tracks ‘Adrift in the Chaosmos’ and ‘Summer Clouds’ coming on like My Bloody Valentine. Cyclopes and Spots on the Dice complete the album nicely.
If you're a fan of shoegaze and psych rock, this should be right up your street. Kykeon is released on Fuzz Club on the 20th September, and you can pre-order it here:
The band are also playing a few UK gigs in October:
22/10 The Lanes Bristol
25/10 Chameleon Arts Centre Nottingham
26/10 The Waiting Room London
Reminds us of:
Neu!, Can, Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, the Velvet Underground, Devendra Banhart, Finlay Brown, Crosby Stills and Nash, Neil Young
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If you’ve read the about section of the website, you’ll be aware that I’ve only really got back into contemporary alternative music over the last year or so. So when I read the bio on a band that I’ve heard and liked, and it tells me they are a project comprised of members of other bands, it’s kind of a bonus as I get to investigate their stuff too.
Modern Nature are one of these ‘projects’, made up of Jack Cooper (ex Mazes, Ultimate Painting and his own solo work) and Will Young of Beak> (and Moon Gangs), and supported by Aaron Neveu of Woods and Jeff Tobias out of Sunwatchers. I do need to spend a bit more time properly listening to these bands, but so far the one that’s stood out is Mazes.
The first EP from Modern Nature arrived in March of this year on Bella Union, with Nature as its lead track, which also appears on the album. Their bio on Spotify (courtesy of Timothy Monger, Rovi) describes them as ‘a meandering blend of bucolic folk, experimental jazz, and psych-tinged indie rock’ and this description is probably best exhibited on a track from the EP Supernature which combines Fairport Convention, the Velvet Underground’s Venus in Furs and free Jazz. Flats and Blackwaterside complete the EP, and err more heavily on Folk, very nice, chilled stuff.
The band’s debut album ‘How to Live’ was released in August to widespread critical acclaim, and I like it too. The album begins with the beautiful, mournful Bloom, setting the tone for the rest of the album. Stand out track Footsteps follows, clearly NEU! influenced, with a dash of wonderful jazz. We then hit turbulence (the next track) a lovely folky drone, and a series of very chilled (and in places slightly psychedelic) folky tracks Criminals, Seance, Nightmares, Peradam, and Oracle. The almost whispered vocals and music throughout are very Nick Drake and reminiscent of that late 60s early 70’s folk movement.
The Motorik feel returns for Nature and then the album concludes with Devotee, a song in two parts which acts as almost a summary to the album, folky to start and Krautrock to finish.
Overall ‘How to Live’ is a fine listen and thoroughly enjoyable if you’re looking to sit back, relax and take it easy. The experimental jazz elements are also a good reminder that there is a very healthy UK Jazz scene worth listening to, with the likes of Binker and Moses and Kamasi Washington coming to mind.
Modern Nature head out on tour in September. For a list of dates, check out the Gigs and News section of the site.
Guest Post by Peter Smith
We have had the hottest day ever in Britain this summer, and last weekend was the hottest Reading Festival of all time too. Three days of 30C temperatures meant the default resting place for attendees was in the shade within one of the tents (stages) or basically in any bit of shade that could be found. That meant even bands that might not have attracted much of an audience found themselves playing to good crowds, which helped make it one of the best Reading Festivals I’ve been to in 15 years.
I don’t go to Reading really because of the headliners, but to check out new bands. However, this was for me also the best headliner roster for a long time (Post Malone excepted). Twenty One Pilots who co-headlined Saturday with Malone really shouldn’t work as a concept. Only two of them, a chiselled drummer and a jack of all trades frontman. A weird mix of rap, metal, pop, dub, a bit of gymnastics on stage, a climb up the lighting tower, emotional engagement with the audience… but somehow it all comes together live and draws a huge response from the audience. The albums are OK but you really need to see them live.
Twenty One Pilots
The 1975 are both old fashioned (some of the music could be 1980s pop, or even MOR) with the very contemporary – lead singer is a woke (in the best sense) frontman as well as an old-fashioned rock idol, adored by fans of both sexes, a Jagger for this age. They absolutely worked as the headliners on Friday, with great visuals, slightly too many monologues about the meaning of life, and they will be back I’m sure.
Along with Billie Eilish, who drew arguably as big a crowd as any headliner, and showed that she can absolutely handle a big stage and audience, these acts made the Foo Fighters seem a little … old? To be fair, I only watched a quarter of their set (3 hours!) but covering Under Pressure, bringing on Rick Astley and doing basically a greatest hits set all seemed a little less contemporary than the three acts above. Anyway, they went down a storm, so what do I know.
Part of my absence from the Foos was because I joined around 700 people in the Festival Republic tent for the last set on that much smaller stage and the best party of the event. I haven’t seen the Crystal Fighters before, and my goodness, they were dynamite. Basque / Caribbean dance pop with an anarchic edge, a crazy shaman-like singer plus two superb female vocalists – our 30-year-old friends were dancing, as were my friend and I who are (ahem) somewhat older. Not a pretty sight, but a great way to end the Festival.
Kudos too for the organisers. The toilets have improved beyond all recognition – even the blokes now have proper “buildings” with cubicles and sinks like you see at golf tournaments, as well as the traditional metal troughs! “Health and safety” have been improved too, with a “pen” to stop the mosh pit getting crazily crowded, and more thought about traffic flows. The main stage sound was the best ever and the huge video screens are state of the art – super high-definition, so during close ups of Royal Blood’s singer and guitarist, I could literally count the follicles on his stubbled chin!
So finally, my top ten relatively “new” British artists from Reading that you may not know. What are the odds one of these will be headlining in a few years’ time? We saw both the 1975 and Twenty One Pilots here in the smallest stage around 2013, (and did identify them as future stars) so the odds are pretty good on at least one of these becoming huge! Here is the list with a very brief description and some references for older readers – by definition, all were very good live, but do go and check them out on Spotify, YouTube or wherever.
The Larkins Strong songs from young Manchester indie band with touches of classic 90s pop - Reminds us of: Blossoms, Bastille, ABC, Duran Duran
Anteros Bouncy pop / rock with a dance vibe and a charismatic, capable and gorgeous lead singer Blondie, Garbage, Of Monsters and Men
Crystal Fighters See above ... Paaarrttyyyy! Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Chic
Sea Girls Classic indie with a rock edge, big tunes, emotional engagement with audience and I’d be amazed if they don’t get very big - Coldplay, Maccabees, Catfish and the Bottlemen
Sophie and the Giants Female singer with a big, soulful voice, and tuneful rock with touches of new wave - Florence and the Machine, Siouxsie Sioux, Adele
Vistas Melodic indie / punk with energy and commitment from Scottish threesome - The Strokes, The View, Courteeners
Basement Been around a few years but gaining momentum with their classic rock allied with grunge and punk edges - Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Biffy Clyro
Marsicans Intelligent pop / rock with harmony vocals and strong songwriting – The Beatles, The Feeling, Mystery Jets
Cavetown Young self-effacing Cambridge singer-songwriter, slightly drippy but engaging songs and performance - Isaac Gracie, James Taylor, early Ed Sheeran
VC Pines – “altsoul” artist with touches of poetry / rap, as well as a great falsetto, with a tremendous bass player and horn section playing chilled soul. Perfect on a hot afternoon! Van Morrison, Marvin Gaye, The Streets