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

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”

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