Listen to this – Sabrina Altan

It’s been a while since anything got me excited enough to inflict my opinions on the Internet (today that’s you), but that brief reprieve is now over. Something or someone (hint: it’s a someone) has me so jumpy and excited I just couldn’t make it through the weekend without letting you know about it. If you want my opinion (I hope so or this is really the wrong website to be on) if you’re not frantically Googling the name Sabrina Altan by the time you’ve heard the audio embedded here, I’m afraid you’ve probably been born with a complete lack of conscious thought and you’re most likely to be dangerously insane.

 

Go go go

 

She’s taken the basic elements of music best referred to as Neo-Soul and filled in the gaps with her Freudian superego. Quality Neo-Soul looks to both the past and the future – maintaining a fiery outer shell of musical elements swirling around the immense gravitational pull of the central performer, and Sabrina brings a comfortable confidence to her performance that staples her message to the front of your brain, while her band backdrop it all with the relaxed style of people who really know what the fuck they’re doing. The brief moments of explosive virtuosity shining out through each song launch each stunningly executed phrase into the next, as sultry verses suddenly mushroom into vigorously amorous choruses. Continue reading “Listen to this – Sabrina Altan”

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”

Songs from a room: Sofar sounds Brighton

I want to make you aware of Sofar Sounds. The website gives a short, simple description:

“We have created a movement which brings music lovers together in secret living room locations to hear some of the world’s most cutting edge artists. In order to create an intimate and spellbinding atmosphere, we ask that nobody talk during performances.” www.sofarsounds.com

Here’s what it looks like:

 

 

A simple concept, but started in the same spirit that made me want to write this blog. It’s a platform for bringing people and music together in a memorable atmosphere, and by doing so, gives the art a way of recapturing its aura and authenticity. Bringing the quiet respect and reverie that accompanies a poetry reading and applying that to an art form that, at times, appears to be floundering in a miserable state, partly of its own creation.

In the good old days, it was easy to make people pay for music. They simply had to; there wasn’t an option. At first, people were able to sell recorded music in the form of written notation, distributing instructions on how to recreate the sound of the piece in your own home, using nothing more than a simple piano and your own voice. If you wanted to hear music, you had to learn how to play it. Or, you could find a friend who knew how, but you’d have to find someone willing, then sit down together and experience it, most likely with even more people involved. It was a group experience, shared interpretations of a composer’s vision. Otherwise, you’d have to go to a scheduled live performance. Music was impossible without investing either time or money, but most likely both.

Even with the arrival of mechanical reproduction, allowing for most of the 20th Century music industry to happen, the music industry held all the cards. Recording equipment was expensive. If a songwriter wanted to record, they had to find someone with enough money to buy and maintain this equipment, and they’d have to work out an arrangement with them to use their facilities in return for a fee, or a share in the profits of the music. The people who owned the equipment could make as many recordings as they liked, transforming various materials into objects that would recreate a musical performance in people’s homes. Whatever the specifics of the artist/manager/record company relationship, the audiences couldn’t get their mitts on the music of their favourite artist without going through the men who controlled the recording equipment.

Now though, we’re here. Digital reproduction allows any of us to make endless free, perfect copies of any music we own. We can call thousands of songs within a few moments of deciding we’d like to hear something, and all this does something to the power music can have to affect us. With fewer people respecting music as art, and with so many subcultures through the last century co-opted by mainstream companies and used in advertising, songs which may have once poignantly expressed a social injustice or beautiful captured a moment in time are shackled to this week’s special at Burger King or last month’s car insurance deals.

 

Continue reading “Songs from a room: Sofar sounds Brighton”

Can removing arts from schools inspire effective rebellion?

Along with Grayson Perry, and “leading arts figures”, when I read about Government plans to scrap art subjects from GCSE’s (now known as English Baccalaureate or ebacc) as of next year, something inside me died. Briefly. Then I had a sneaky nagging sensation that all was not as lost as it first seemed. If Schools Kill Creativity, then surely purging them from the clutches of Government controlled curriculums will blow wide open the possibilities for the next generation of artists? These people will grow up in a world where dance, music, painting and any other “arty” intellectual pursuit will be subject to the anarchic rules of play and entertainment, and will feel no obligation to spend hours pouring over the melodic contours in Stravinsky, or over the back catalogues of bands writing songs for an entirely different time.

My eyes cast over this month’s edition of Uncut magazine, with the iconic image of Mick Jagger loaning his brand of rebellious cool to the pages contained within. Where did he come from? I highly doubt a convincing argument could be made that a Government curriculum crafted the cultural gift that was the Rolling Stones. The fact that they were so divorced from that environment gave them the air of hedonistic freedom that people sought when they looked for entertainment. Something to distract them from and diminish any lingering memories of time spent doing anything that was unfun. Continue reading “Can removing arts from schools inspire effective rebellion?”

Thavius Beck: The Most Beautiful Ugly

So I spent my Sunday listening to the latest album from LA based Thavius Beck, ‘The Most Beautiful Ugly’.

Before I even begin tell you about the sound, take a look at the album art.

At the centre, a digital face with Thavius’ likeness fixes the listener with an intense stare, further heightened by the snatches of imagery warped inside the outline of his hair. It hints at a city struck by lightning, bordered with flames and meteors burning around the creator’s cranium. The blank stare, directly into the eyes of the beholder, converges this imagery into an idea, fixed on us with an unwavering concentration.

At least that’s what I see, now I’ve heard the noise it represents.

Continue reading “Thavius Beck: The Most Beautiful Ugly”

Stream: Submotion Orchestra – Blind Spot

For the dedicated followers of any artist, experiencing the live performance of amazing records can lead to a very personal, almost religious experience unfolding inside your own head. Somehow, in the strange mess of coincidence (or not?) that lead to evolving the human brain, and our self-awareness, our noggins have found the space to allow us to stand in the middle of a crowd of strangers and connect with the sound created on stage. Perhaps it links up with the listening experience most people enjoy outside of live performance – the personal space created by headphones. Walkmans and iPods allow everyone to block all other distractions and fill their entire aural sensory experience with the music created by their favourite artists.

Transpose that into the middle of a Submotion Orchestra set, in a venue as snug as Concorde 2 (they’re there again 13th Oct), and you potently mix a recipe for an explosion of brain chemistry. The way they combine influences seems to encourage and welcome personal connection. The vocals cut through your skull and communicate on a carnal level that has little do with anything as modern as language. Despite the contemporary sound and the modern tools, the band are able to touch all the nerve cells usually reserved for quiet contemplation in the personal space, and bring them into the public sphere of a musical performance. Their music seems entirely suited to this purpose, remaining faithful to dancers, intellectuals and casual listeners alike.

This latest track offers me exactly what I wanted. More music that seems to touch all the bases at once, inspiring both the mind and the body to embrace the sound.

Continue reading “Stream: Submotion Orchestra – Blind Spot”

Review: Volume Contrast Brilliance, 10th Anniversary BIMM Album

Apologies if you don’t use Spotify, but their play button was the most convenient way for me to embed tracks for this post.

Having recently completed a degree at BIMM, I remember that appearing on the BIMM album could be a contentious issue. On the one hand, you gain the recognition, and maybe some added confidence in your work, having passed through the screening process for demo submissions and been deemed worthy. You gain the pre-production with tutors, the recording and, seemingly at worst, a free recording of one of your songs. On the other hand, it does carry a reputation, deserving or not, as selling out to the man, letting the college tell you how to write and any listener will hear the recordings through the filter of their opinion of the institute.

As I don’t hold any grudges myself against good old BIMM, I feel it would be unfair to completely neglect to mention here the tight budget and time restrictions placed on the album.

So, I’ve tried to be as subjective as I can, but my own experience studying at BIMM was a positive one, and it seemed right to mention that at the start of this review.

“You gave it all for the recognition, you gave it all for the rock n roll.”

Wisely picked to open the album, Spit Shake Sisters kick it all off with a whoop, a hi-hat count and a fill round the drums that flows into the gratifying groove that follows. Almost immediately, the band play with the underlying tempo, suddenly switching to a heavily accented offbeat that jars quite satisfactorily with the cowbell groove that plays through the opening. The guitar work is almost pure virulent riffs, and the band’s attitude almost seeps from the speakers as the song plays.

The chorus lyric could have come straight from the reincarnation of Detroit garage rock, smelling of motor oil and positively wallowing in its own nihilism. “I am a man of no releejon / I believe in death and UFOs.” After being drawn in by the infectious guitar riff, the song sells itself with a relentless rhythm, pounding into your subconscious until the temporary move towards the accented offbeat provides fleeting relief. Continue reading “Review: Volume Contrast Brilliance, 10th Anniversary BIMM Album”