Ásgeir Trausti supporting John Grant – 17th May 2013

Over the Great Escape weekend you probably heard a lot about the theft of John Grant’s laptop at his gig (more on that below), but definitely not enough about the support artist… Ásgeir Trausti.

 

 

In fact, John Grant is working with Ásgeir to translate the younger artist’s highly successful album, Dýrð í dauðaþögn (In the Silence), into English to try to bring his music to even more people. Ásgeir and his father have both received awards for the album, with the latter having contributed most of the lyrics. Which always brings up an interesting point… are English audiences missing out on a hidden meaning in the words, something that can only be expressed in Icelandic?

Maybe. There’s certainly a lively debate on most of Ásgeir’s YouTube videos along those lines, but I can’t think of anyone better suited for the task than John Grant. Not that anybody asked me, but if they had, I’d probably have recommended the one guy I know of who’s just moved to Iceland. Among the best currently working lyricists, John Grant is best placed to teach the younger musician how to reach out and really grab audiences with a simple, staggeringly honest couplet, and can draw on that to convey to us the stories of lyrics written in a language that still allows its speakers to read medieval texts. 

Purists will probably insist on owning the original with the Icelandic vocals, but having seen this humble and earnest performer sing in both English and his native tongue, I’m inclined to trust his judgement on this one and just roll with it. The underlying poetry inherent in the Icelandic comes through, unhindered by a language barrier even to an English speaker. But check out the English version of ‘Going Home’ and the Icelandic ‘Heimförin’ on this post and make up your own mind. Continue reading “Ásgeir Trausti supporting John Grant – 17th May 2013”

Billy Mather – Art in the Brighton Music Scene

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We’ve all been there… You become conscious of your surroundings for the first time in god knows how many hours and realize you’ve definitely taken advantage of one too many drink offers in a bar somewhere in Brighton. Dimly self-aware and currently micturating, you glance up and realise that dancing around you are lines and colours, grins and eyes and shapes that hint at what demons might occupy and enjoy the gradually ubiquitous blurring and slurring of your senses. A vague thought bubbles up about the artist behind it, but you’re too drunk and too determined to waste what’s left of your work-fried brain to think about it too much. So I’ve decided to write you this.

Instruments from Sofar Sounds Brighton

Billy Mather is an illustrator who lives in Brighton. Influenced primarily by the darker side of our music scene here, he seems to have a gift for channeling his thoughts into darkly comic expressions, scattering themselves across the seaside of sin from gig posters to toilet doors and pianos. He’s got plenty of other work too so check it all out on his site, link’s at the bottom.

Billy told me that he’s never forgotten a piece of advice given to him by one of his illustration tutors on the BA in Southampton. In art, there is a difference between being accurate and being believable. What comes out of this guy’s mind motivated by that phrase is some of the most distinctive art in the city, somehow managing to retain an incredibly strong sense of the artist’s character; even as the lines and colours begin to intertwine in your head and become part of your thought process. Just like editorial illustration accompanies words on a page, so his work complements and influences your internal monologue as you’re exposed to it.

Click to enlarge

For a Brighton local, the sense of familiarity that emanates from even the most twisted smile and reptilian eye in the center of his most contorted face feels commonplace and natural without ever needing to veer toward a convention. The faces in Billy’s work dance at the edge of recognition, demonically dancing on the ledge between chaotic artistic interpretation and comfortable verisimilitude, which is a long way of saying you really need to check this guy out and give him more work.

Unlike those last two paragraphs, the artwork never smacks of too much thought or trying too hard. It stands out in its naked honesty; it’s inclination to bend further towards expression than conformity. His work across the toilets of the Blind Tiger Club stretch out, allowed a luxurious amount of space yet still reaching further, expanding and moving as you look. Other pieces to watch out for around Brighton decorate Sticky Mike’s Frog bar and Northern Lights.

Please forgive the following phrase, (I promise I’m not just being lazy) but you really can’t sum his work up in words. That’s why this art exists. It expresses the feeling of standing in that space, the artist’s thoughts as he listens. Somehow, he translates the committee of voices that characterise an active mind and regiments them with ink and paint, producing expressions of the space or the event that simply couldn’t exist any other way.

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Links:

Billy’s Website

Facebook

Gentleman’s Dub Club Live and Q&A

(Scroll to the bottom for the Q&A)

You can tell a lot about a band from the atmosphere they create leading up to their set. Below Audio, on Brighton’s seafront, the atmosphere was a smoky mix of bright lights and deep bass – the grey haze floating above the dancers constantly coloured by the laser beams and PAR cans dotted around the ceiling. As I stepped into the room,  with every liquid molecule vibrating in time to the dub, there was no escaping the unmistakable smell of dancers and emotion, carried by the incessant pulse of the electronic beats and deep bass that thumped through the room.

 

 

From my position at the back of the crowd, I could faintly see shapes moving onstage through the smoke and lights. In the moments while they set up, Gentleman’s Dub Club revealed, for a few precious minutes, the ardent concentration and serious dedication that their music requires. All around them, the DJ and the dancing went on, seemingly oblivious to the coalescing musicians onstage. Then, emerging from the mists, a live band began to play. Continue reading “Gentleman’s Dub Club Live and Q&A”

Artist Feature: Stone Sun

The best way to describe the sound of local Brighton band Stone Sun is with some big, dramatic, Hollywood style visual metaphor. Bear with me on this. I need you to concentrate. Stone Sun is their name, and I want you to work from that, imagining scorched desert sand in Nevada, somewhere outside Las Vegas. The occasional large rock is dotted around the landscape, but watch out, because this is bat country.

 

In the distance through the mirage you catch sight of a lone motor vehicle cruising through the heat, making its way across the arid landscape towards you. Don’t worry though; it’s still far off in the distance right now, driven by a lone figure. The breeze brings you the distant sound of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The song has taken on a unique tonality telling you that the driver of the car is playing his music loud.

Nevada Valley By Cooper, in Wiki Commons known as --Cooper.ch 22:17, 20 August 2006 (UTC) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia CommonsWithout warning, the camera cuts to right next to the open top car, placing you inside the noise blasting from the car’s speakers, distorting the air around them as they frantically push out bar after bar of human emotion. Pushed to their maximum capacity, they add an extra layer of distortion to an already ferocious sound.

That’s the closest I can get you to Stone Sun’s sound live.

I saw the band perform on a Sunday at The Hope, a small venue for a band with a sound like this. Their sound is full-bodied grunge, with an appreciation of the more subtle dynamics required offset against the potency of a truly beasty riff.  At their most powerful, you hear snatches of influences in bands like Smashing Pumpkins or Pearl Jam but these moments contrast with the technical proficiency of bands like Incubus.

Guitar Ricky Bass Live ShotTake their song “Memories” for instance. It somehow manages to remind you of moments sitting with your Dad, or perhaps a more elderly relative, in his workshop, the sound of hard rock reproduced via a small, tinny radio. The song suddenly twists; it speeds up and takes on an altogether different connotation of something like anger, or intense sadness. The mental image becomes that time when you were left standing alone as a teenager. At the last moment the song twists again, this time into a euphoric guitar solo reaching a peak and pushing the energy level in the room up over the edge for the final chorus. Continue reading “Artist Feature: Stone Sun”

Submotion Orchestra @ Concorde 2

 

Introducing Submotion Orchestra. Here’s their latest video:

DJ/ producers live in a world where a great deal of the creativity occurs via conscious and deliberate tweeks to a record done over a long period of time. I always get the image of one man surrounded by computers, tweaking sounds and combining samples to create a mood, or make a point.

Conversely, live bands can make use of a much more subconscious creative process. Otherwise known as the “jam”, it’s how I’ve written most of my drum parts to this date. A musician playing an instrument practices and hones their craft, perfecting techniques, which can cause unexpected combinations and interesting noise when they jam with other musicians.

Watching Submotion live, the physicality of the performance is as controlled and perfected as their sound. The slim statuette of their singer Ruby Wood on a brightly lit stage, bordered on all sides by boxes spewing wires out of every available hole, provides a striking image. Surrounding her are the men responsible for operating the musical machinery, all intently focussed on performing their part in the cacophony of sound.  Continue reading “Submotion Orchestra @ Concorde 2”

Roots Manuva @ Concorde 2

Roots Manuva on stageThe entire set for Roots Manuva’s tour date at the Concorde 2 could be a representation of two sides of popular music. On one hand, it’s serious business, and on the other, pure hedonistic fun. Roots starts the night as a figure to revere, dressed in a black suit and bowler hat, contrasted by a red bow tie and accompanied by a dark green jacket. He could be a parody of a teacher, and his famous lyrical talent gives the air of a learned man on the mic. As the band moves into the second set, he loses the hat and jacket, visibly relaxing, showing a more fun, comedic character.

For the first set, kicked off by ‘Here we Go Again’ from his latest album, 4everevolution, much of the energy comes from his live band, and two very charismatic accompanying vocalists. The term “backing singers” doesn’t do justice to the amount of rapping, singing and crowd pleasing these two guys do. Acting more like accompanying frontmen, they’re an extension of Roots’ persona. The band, a live drum kit, DJ, keyboards and guitarist along with his two accompanying vocalists keep the energy on stage flowing out into the crowd. Roots himself is an oasis of confident charm, grounding the performance and somehow channelling the energy by way of his sophisticated charisma. There’s no escaping the fact that the whole world, for this evening at least, revolves around one man.

Then the set ends, the band leave the stage and the lights go down. Roots Manuva on stageThe crowd noise swells up to a deafening level in such a channelled venue and the band comes back on, kicking up the groove for the first track of the second set. This time Roots bounds back on stage, performing windmills with one arm in time to the music, taking on an entirely new, fun persona. As though he’s been storing everything up, biding his time so he can blow us away with everything now.

The second set is where the fun factor of popular music diffuses through the atmosphere. To make quite a sweeping statement about the contrasting sets, the music switches from a serious Brixton vibe to become more recognisably Reggae and Caribbean. Funnily enough, although we’re there to see Roots, the highlight of the second set for me was the song ‘Move ya shoulder’ performed by one of the accompanying vocalists: Seanie T feat Roots.

Roots Manuva on stage

Whats Your Vice, Live Like Kings, The Icarus Youth, Time for T & MC Cashback @ The Hope

Traditionally, Mondays in January are supposed to be utter rubbish. The weather is all grey and depressing, there’s no money left after Christmas, and that slightly tacky RC helicopter you happily unwrapped on the big day crashed and burned because the damn thing won’t hover when I want it to. Good thing then, that my mates over at Danger Music were putting on a gig I could go along to and review last Monday. I needed a damn good gig to start lifting the January blues, and we’re well on the way to February so it was high time January buggered off and stopped bringing everybody down.

MC Cashback

MC CashbackTo that end, the evening took off with the ridiculous and surreal one-man band, MC Cashback, (aka Angus Greenhalgh) a comedy rap act focussed on food. How much can music say about food? How much of that is funny? MC Cashback’s here to answer those questions. There’s a need for some light hearted comedic music to balance out all the gloomy news floating round the UK at the moment, and the surreal, endearing nature of someone on stage running backing tracks from his iPod and rapping with cookbook in hand definitely lightens the mood. If you like Goldie Lookin’ Chain, you’ll enjoy this. Although it was the least polished performance of the evening, that added to his charm and many of us were in stitches way before he broke the fourth wall and lobbed a naan bread into the crowd. I’d love to see him play more gigs, which will definitely iron out any of the criticism that could be levied against his performance that night. His charismatic and naturally entertaining character carried his whole performance, as well as an unnatural enthusiasm for sandwiches. It was an easily digestible, light hearted and entertaining starter before the main course of bands.

Time for T

Time for TTime for T is the band bringing several new dimensions to singer songwriter Tiago Sa-Ga’s work, and this was their first performance. Tiago himself hails from Portugal, and the band brought the climate of a sunnier country into the small piece of England occupied by us at the gig. They’ve got a baggy psychedelic summer vibe that reminds you of decades of brilliant music all at once. I couldn’t help but be reminded of The Doors, which is definitely a good thing.

Continue reading “Whats Your Vice, Live Like Kings, The Icarus Youth, Time for T & MC Cashback @ The Hope”