Category: Reviews

Album review: Kev Minney ‘Modern Stories’

KEV MINNEY Modern Stories [self-released] Northampton born-and-raised Brighton resident Minney is back with his second long-player, following the rather excellent 2017 work Stories Of The Sky. New Boots is pleased…

KEV MINNEY
Modern Stories
[self-released]

Northampton born-and-raised Brighton resident Minney is back with his second long-player, following the rather excellent 2017 work Stories Of The Sky. New Boots is pleased to report this album is even better than that ruminating debut. Ten numbers that come straight from the heart, every track here is full of affection, with no affectations to distract him from his purpose.

Minney’s guitar finger-picking style is rhythmic enough to become hypnotic over the timespan of each song. The string flourishes that pop up regularly on Modern Stories are often sudden and striking, bringing to mind the work of Nick Drake arranger Robert Kirby. Minney’s whispered vocal style is perhaps a reflection of his quiet and shy persona, but they are custom-built for the songs he writes.

His often powerful lyrics can throw you out of your daily step; e.g. “wouldn’t it be wonderful if angels helped us cry?” as heard on opener ‘Magic’. There’s a few themes that come across here [besides love!] – technology, addiction and climate change being obvious examples. It’s hard to pick out specific songs and go into depth about their showy musical range, for this is a folk album that is about the “feel”. The only number on here that shouts “radio play” is ‘God Is An Algorithm’, with its easy to remember, elevated chorus. But whilst some may worry that’s a weakness, it more than likely just shows you the confidence level we’re working with here. These songs speak for themselves; and the musicians allow them room to breathe. His musical and life partner Steph Brown adds touches of piano and backing vocal here and there, adding more layers to build the sound – especially effective on the dynamic loud and quiet passages of ‘A Way Out’. Their duet on ‘Natural Disaster’ is a highlight; their vocal interplay the result of many an hour spent harmonising.

Modern Stories is that classic ‘slow-burner’ album which reveals itself more each time. I can’t imagine someone in a rush giving it time to impart its many qualities, and with its minimalist design maybe it will sit quietly untouched in some reviewers drawers. Which is criminal. Minney should be whispered about in the same influential circles as your John Grants and Bon Ivers and Fleet Foxes are. He’s Northampton’s best-kept secret, but we can help change that. Listen in below, and tell your friends. Gifts like this are there to be shared.

Phil Moore

Modern Stories is out now via the usual digital platforms, and on CD from his shows.

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Live review: THUMPER | Tragic | Deaf Trap

THUMPER + TRAGIC + DEAF TRAP The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes March 2nd 2020 This is a dreamy line-up for alt-rock fans. The new hurricane on the block from Dublin,…

THUMPER + TRAGIC + DEAF TRAP
The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes
March 2nd 2020

This is a dreamy line-up for alt-rock fans. The new hurricane on the block from Dublin, plus two of Northampton’s finest noisy pups. Your reporter did not let it being a Monday night stop the rock, though a sparse crowd reflects other didn’t feel the same way. Your loss, mothers.

Deaf Trap have swiftly become something of a staple amongst the NN scene; admittedly not gigging that often, but always putting in the whole nine yards in their pursuit of sweaty good times. It’s great to see them cross county lines for a change, and they open things magnificently here. With tunes as good as ‘From The Floor’ and ‘Real Nice Night’ it’s always a pleasure to experience their set.

Tragic are very easy to wax superlatively about. The teenagers from Northampton have brought a vigour to the East Midlands music world that could put the energy companies out of business. They positively burst at the sinews to wring every inch of meaning from their instruments, and their manic energy is ever-present tonight. Previewing upcoming single ‘PIG’ alongside last year’s modern-day grunge-punk classics ‘Sloppy Kiss’, ‘Sammy Set His Bed On Fire’ and ‘Walking’. Their melodic skill is perhaps their secret weapon, creeping up on you through the swampy fuzz. And “England is full of scared little boys” feels a very apt lyric for the current state of the nation. Move over slowthai, someone’s coming for your crown.

THUMPER are Dublin’s widescreen screechers of the faith. Never less than fully committed, the six-piece [two drummers and three guitarists, obviously] are treading the noise-pop line of contemporaries IDLES, Fontaines DC, Girl Band, King Gizzard etc but bringing enough of their own personality to proceedings to make them no mere imitators. New single ‘Ad Nauseam’ is a deep rumination on empty ships making the loudest noise. Singer Oisin Furlong is a proper frontman, looking into our very souls for an answer to something, and dealing with mundane broken strings with aplomb. The band never let up for a second, locking into their well-worked groove with motorik precision. Furlong’s foray into the crowd late into the set says “we are you” more than any clever soundbite could. And with ‘In My Room’ and ‘Down’ they’ve started their career with songs others still can’t match after many years of trying. In an increasingly dystopian world we should perhaps let these Irish men lead us to eternal salvation. When music is as joyous as this you can’t help but catch it now and spread it around.

Words: Phil Moore. Photos: David Jackson

 

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Live review: The Rezillos

THE REZILLOS + THE MEMBERS The Roadmender, Northampton February 21st Tonight The Members are performing as a power trio and, stripped back with the absence of a second guitar, proves…

THE REZILLOS + THE MEMBERS
The Roadmender, Northampton
February 21st

Tonight The Members are performing as a power trio and, stripped back with the absence of a second guitar, proves the band to be a multifaceted animal. Lively opener ‘Soho-A-Go-Go’ pulls the slackers in from the bar as the bass heavy ‘Offshore Banking Business’ follows. Not only is that song vitally relevant 40 years later but it’s a perfect example of how punk and reggae cross-pollinated and created a little harmony in a time of racial strife. The high energy rhythm and blues of ‘Working Girl’ swings like Dr Feelgood, and precedes the groove-laden and punchy ‘Muzak Machine’. Next they take the cool Germanic brittleness of Kraftwerk’s ‘The Model’ and infuse it with the warmth of reggae, which sounds like a strange combination, but The Members make it work by creating a whole new beast. ‘The Sound of the Suburbs’ is a song they must’ve performed thousands of times, yet they play it with an energy and respect that a song which defined a generation deserves.

Eschewing the nihilism of their peers, The Rezillos always stood apart from the prevailing punk scene into which they were birthed. Preferring to call themselves a ‘new wave beat group’ they meshed ’50s rock n’ roll and ’60s garage to ’70s glam rock, and added a touch of retro sci-fi imagery. While the Clash sang ‘No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones’ The Rezillos were busy exploring their roots, which is why they sound timeless and much of their generation seems of its time. Aided by a clear, crisp sound ‘Destination Venus’ finds them on top form with the original twin vocal attack of Fay Fife and Eugene Reynolds firing off each other. By second track ‘Flying Saucer Attack’ they’re firmly in the groove, and are propelled forward by hard-hitting drummer Angel Patterson. In a set that’s always shifting gears the high octane rockabilly of ‘It Gets Me’ sits effortlessly along side the reverb soaked ‘(Take Me To The) Groovy Room’. It’s all killer and no filler as The Rezillos play with an energy and effervescence that’d put many younger bands to shame.

A crowd pleasing set touches all bases from their debut album [1977’s Can’t Stand the Rezillos] to their critically acclaimed 2015 opus Zero with two following from that record in the shape of ‘Spike Heeled Assassin’ and the title track. Attesting to their deep roots an amphetamine-charged cover of The Beatles ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ is played with so much velocity it veers into psychobilly territory. The distinctly garage-rock feel of ‘20,000 Rezillos Under the Sea’ is paired with another cover, a song they helped to revive: Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked in Tonite’. Like The Members ‘The Sound of the Suburbs’ The Rezillos ‘Top of the Pops’ is a song that has a life of its own, appearing on almost every punk and new wave compilation that it’s overshadowed much of their other work, and with a discography as good as they’ve displayed tonight that seems a trifle unfair. Nevertheless they treat it with the respect it deserves, and there couldn’t be a better way to end the set.

However the band return for a well-earned encore. When they were forced to change their name to The Revillos [for contractual reasons] there was no drop in quality, and it’s one of those gems that closes the show in the shape of ‘Do The Mutilation’. Like The Cramps mating with the 13th Floor Elevators it provides a suitably largess conclusion that sends all home happy.

Peter Dennis

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Live review: Half Man Half Biscuit

HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT + WEST WICKHAMS The Roadmender, Northampton February 15th Originally hailing from Tresco, Isle of Scilly [but now residing in sunny Richmond, Surrey]. the West Wickhams are…

HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT + WEST WICKHAMS
The Roadmender, Northampton
February 15th

Originally hailing from Tresco, Isle of Scilly [but now residing in sunny Richmond, Surrey]. the West Wickhams are a rather tasty garage rock/psychedelic noir duo. Attired all in black and white (as if a negative photograph) opener ‘Every Moving Picture’ is the perfect introduction, with vocalist John Othello wrapping his chords in glorious fuzz and Elle Flores pulling a fine retro sound from the keyboard. Like the love children of Patti Smith and The Jesus and Mary Chain, ‘Kick the Habit’ is delivered with foot heavy on the distortion pedal, before ‘Where the Creatures Rule’ captures the sinisterness of early Cure. Each song is a succinct ball of warped sound; but dig to its core and you’ll find a strong melody. Case in point being their debut single, ‘He’s Acquired a New Face’, which is simultaneously discordant and catchy and which will, undoubtedly, ensure we’ll be hearing more from the Wickhams very soon.

Alongside the Clash, Half Man Half Biscuit are surely England’s finest folk group. Exploring the minutiae of modern life and deconstructing current popular culture, they’ve given voice to the sidelined, the maligned and the just plain weird. They tell the tales of the bus station drunk or the Big Issue seller who nevertheless have great insight into the absurdism of the world. But it’s also life’s cruel ironies: it is tending the wrong grave for years [‘Excavating Rita’] or the sudden realisation of tonight’s opener: ‘The Light at the End of the Tunnel [is the Light of an Oncoming Train]’. Evolving from their early post-punk roots to incorporate blues and folk tonight’s set includes all stages of their 35 year career, with ‘Venus in Flares’ and ‘Bad Losers on Yahoo Chess’ following in quick succession. The festival nightmare that is ‘Running Order Squabble Fest’ raises a few smiles as does ‘Ode to Joyce’.

Once the rallying cry of students everywhere ‘Fuckin ‘ell it’s Fred Titmus’ is sung by a raucous, near capacity crowd as is a lively ‘The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman’. Slackers anthem ‘Floreat Inertia’ provides a nice change of pace before we arrive at the foil to The Doors’ ‘The End’, ‘Footprints’. Slightly surreal in meshing a biblical tale with Junior Kickstart vocalist [and guitarist] Nigel Blackwell sings with just the right amount of bemused cynicism. It is Nigel’s ability to get under the skin of the character’s that inhabit songs like ‘All I Want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit’ that prevent Half Man Half Biscuit becoming pastiche or a parody. It’s that plus Nigel’s attention to detail, a conscientious proofreader, that give the lyrics backstory and depth. And don’t forget the biting satire and deadpan delivery of songs like ‘We Built This Village on a Trad. Arr. Tune’ and set closer ‘National Shite Day’ [“Overhead a rainbow appears, in black and white”].

The band return for four [count ‘em!] well deserved encores, the highlight of which is a brutally heavy reading of Killing Joke’s futurist nightmare ‘Wardance’, on which they capture the monolithic enormity of the original. That stands in marked contrast to closer ‘Everything’s AOR’ which, with its references to leather swivel chairs, Kendo Nagasaki and tennis racquets, sends all home happy.

Peter Dennis

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The New Boots Year In Review – 2019

It’s been a fantastic 12 months for Northamptonshire’s music scene, with the county in the national and international press more than it maybe ever has been. We’ve had the return…

It’s been a fantastic 12 months for Northamptonshire’s music scene, with the county in the national and international press more than it maybe ever has been. We’ve had the return of Bauhaus who reunited for trio of gigs in LA and who have now announced a London show, slowthai who has been taking over the world, Billy Lockett repping NN on The Late Late Show in the US – all while Temples have been circling the globe again. Amid all this, we’ve had dozens of other musicians playing great shows and releasing inspiring music.

In fact, it’s hard to imagine a year with more musical focus on Northamptonshire than this one. And that’s something to be rightly proud of.

So, without further-ado, here’s the second annual New Boots round up of the last 12-months, bought to you by site founders Phil Moore and David Jackson.
SONG OF THE YEAR
We decided this year to hand this one over to you and 900 of you voted over seven days. We were watching the voting unfold in the background and are hugely grateful to everyone who took part. The lead and top five changed hands several times. Here the top five based on the final count:

1. King Purple ‘Warning Signs’
2. Sarpa Salpa ‘Before It Goes Dark’
3. Kenneth J Nash ‘The Explorer’
4. Krysthla ‘Zero Sum Game’
5. The Barratts ‘Lights Out in London’

In the end it was King Purple who took the top spot with their psychedelic, slow-burning single ‘Warning Signs’. Congratulations guys. We told frontman Callum Connachie and he said: “It feels great to win. We would like to thank every single soul that voted for ‘Warning Signs’, it means a lot. We will be back in 2020 with even bigger and better tunes.”

What did we think? Phil also went for ‘Warning Signs’, with Dave opting for ‘01604Ever’ by Blood Visions.

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain
Krysthla – Worldwide Negative
Thee Telepaths – The Velvet Night
Nina Harries – Nina Harries

Dave: “There’s two albums which stood out for me this year, without doubt clocking up the most hours on Spotify for me were slowthai’s Nothing Great About Britain and Krysthla’s Worldwide Negative. Although some of my favourite slowthai songs are the likes of ‘T N Biscuits’ and ‘Drug Dealer’ [which aren’t really considered proper LP tracks] the record is incredible and absolutely worthy of the critical acclaim it received. There’s obvious comparisons to Mike Skinner but 17 years on from his debut, I think this record stands shoulder to shoulder with it. There’s an excellent mix of grime and punk-influenced music peppered with a great sense of humour and story-telling throughout it.

Phil: “I’ve listened to Nothing Great About Britain a lot and really enjoyed it – it’s totally deserving of the praise. It’s an album which has really redefined a lot of people’s relationship with modern hip-hop and grime and made people think about Northampton in a different way – both positive and negative. Seeing a guy brought up in Lings become this international superstar is just so heart-warming.”

Dave: “Last year we talked about an absence of metal on our lists, and I think Krysthla totally delivered on third record. They took their sound in a few different directions but it’s an album full of brutal riffs and great songs and a reminder of what a great band they are. They deservedly got to open the main stage at Bloodstock Festival this year and I’m sure it was in part down to the strength in this LP.”

Phil: “For sure – you know Krysthla are a band which can stand tall against any band at any festival. One of the albums for me was The Velvet Night by Thee Telepaths. It came out at the beginning of the year and it’s an incredible piece of art really. There’s only three tracks spread out over twelve different ‘parts’, but it takes you on a real krautrock/psychedelic/drone/noise journey. It’s got so much going on and even after several plays I’m still finding something new buried within. Second to meniton is an album, which probably hasn’t really had much impact locally I’m afraid to say, is the self-titled effort by Nina Harries. Her debut album is something just so unique. She plays double bass and sings and she gets her brother and her dad and a couple of friends to play on the album. It’s very haunting and ethereal, just beautiful and really feels very like she’s opened herself up to get the best piece of art she can. I don’t think people here know enough about, and absolutely it’s worth checking out.”

Dave: “I also want to quickly want to mention Hot Motion by Temples. Indie-psych isn’t my ‘go to’, but Temples have rediscovered their guitars on this record and there’s just some really great songs on it.
BEST LIVE BANDS

The Big Dirty
Nailbreaker

Phil: Here’s two very different ones from me. Firstly, it’s The Big Dirty. The last time I saw them I remembered why they’re now bringing fans to their Northampton shows from all over the country. They’re such a fun and powerful and energetic live act, with the ability to get everybody to hone in on what they’re doing. They’re one of these bands you just can’t take your eyes off. They’re working hard now to get to the next level, they’ve got management for example, and are doing really well going into the new year.”

Dave: “The Big Dirty are just great fun and deservedly were taken by BBC Introducing in Northampton to the BBC’s Maida Vale studios to record a session, and those tracks have recently been aired. They’re just undeniably, unapologetic fun. Great rock – how it’s meant to be. And they look kinda fantastically ridiculous.”

Phil: “If there’s a Trousers of the Year competition, all four of them would win in.”

Dave: “I don’t think they’ve got their own boxer shorts yet, though?”

Phil: “Secondly I must mention George Hammond aka Nailbreaker. It’s “digital hardcore”; he’s manipulating sounds with his laptop and stalks around venues and screams a lot, basically. It’s one of the greatest things you’ll ever see.”

Dave: “He’s joined Sharkteeth Grinder, right? They opened for ACODA in Corby and adding George into Sharkeeth has given that band another dimension, which you didn’t even know they needed. Without a doubt, two of the most exciting bands to watch live, so seeing them sort of combine has been great.

EVENTS OF THE YEAR

slowthai – LP launch at The Garibaldi Hotel
The New Boots stage at the Northampton Music Festival
Local acts in the Roadmender’s main room

Dave: “This is a simple one, slowthai’s album launch at The Garibaldi. From seeing fans queue up in the morning at Spun Out Records to get a wristband, to Skepta walking in at the end for ‘Inglorious’ – it was amazing. The place was absolutely rammed and it just felt an amazing celebration of the album. One of the hottest gigs ever. Ty spent most the gig aloft a speaker stack, or among the audience. Within minutes he was just down to his pants and socks and the venue was full of family and friends. It just felt a really special occasion. You just get the impression it’s going to be one of those gigs people talk about for years to come and about 10 times the number claim they were at.”

Phil: “Ty – you absolutely smashed that one from all accounts. I wasn’t there [I was working, what a tool!]. I want to talk about two events. The first one is slightly self-congratulatory. The New Boots stage at the Northampton Music Festival was a new thing we did for the first time, and I didn’t know how it was going to go. However I’m pleased to say it went really well, and I’m really grateful to everyone involved and everyone who came. We’re going to have another stage in 2020 it looks like. Things will be slightly different this year, you’ll find out early in the new year. I’d like to think we got to show what original music in Northampton sounds like, and stuck it on a stage.”

Dave: “I don’t think it’s a secret there’s been some criticism of the direction of NMF in recent years with some people thinking it’s not for them. The New Boots stage hopefully reminded people it is and will be in the future. It’s always going to be serving a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be for you.”

Phil: “Also, we have some local bands that are so popular now they can play the main room at the Roadmender. In recent years you’ve had a lot of local bands playing the smaller room and that’s been an “aim”, to be at that level. And then four bands this year took it a step further! Sarpa Salpa, King Purple, Stormbringer and The Barratts all did it, they all played to hundreds of people. The general thing in the music press these days is that guitar bands are not interesting anymore. “No one cares about guitar bands – people only care about hip-hop, singer-songwriters and pop music”. This year showed guitar music can bring big numbers, and long may that ring true.”

BEST TOURING ACTS TO COME TO NORTHANTS

Sleaford Mods
Enter Shikari
Madness
Red Rum Club

Dave: “The two for me are actually bands who have headlined here before, Enter Shikari and Sleaford Mods – both at the Roadmender. Enter Shikari are always great live and didn’t disappoint. I wasn’t really a big fan of their last album, but I think they’ve evolved amazingly over the years and they’re always such an assault on the senses and amazing to see live. They’re also a band which can play arenas, but open talk about the importance of playing towns like Northampton. Additionally, much like Gary Numan, they’re a band who’ll cram as many lights on stage as possible. Then, the other end of the visual spectrum, we have Sleaford Mods. They released one of my favourite albums this year so to see them come back was great. They feel like a very important band right now.”

Phil: “I’m going to mention three gigs of different sizes. Madness at Franklin’s Gardens – it was incredible to see so many people having a fantastic time and skanking away to great pop hits. Sleaford Mods at the Roadmender again – Eton Alive was such a statement record to lose yourself in. And I must mention Red Rum Club at The Black Prince. That was a superb live show – a six-piece band with trumpet. Loads of energy, great tunes and lovely lads to boot. They played to 1400 people in Liverpool the week before, so to come to play to 150 in Northampton and be really pleased to be here was great. Three gigs of very different sizes – but all great nights out.”

ACT OF THE YEAR

slowthai

Dave: “It’s difficult to not make this this the New Boots slowthai awards. However, he’s had an amazing year and that’s gotta be recognised. He’s had some iconic moments: watching him in front of so many people at Glastonbury, selling out Brixton Academy, and two tours. He was by far the most entertaining person on the red carpet at the Mercury Music Prize, and he’s always looks like he’s having so much fun. Holding the severed head of Boris Johnson is one of the defining music images of the year.”

Phil: “I love the story that’s being woven with him, and hope we’ll be talking about him for years to come. I agree, it’s been a huge year for slowthai and it’s hard to look beyond him. I’ve seen him three times, he’s been on the front of magazines and newspapers everywhere. Just incredible. I do also want to mention Izzie Gibbs. He had some health issues at the start of the year, and in fact he hasn’t played any shows this year, but what he has done is put out five singles and they’re all banging pieces of work. He’s got an audience now that love him and I think that perhaps in the slipstream of slowthai he could do great things in 2020. I hope he’s got a masterplan. I hope it all comes to fruition for him, he deserves it.”

FLYING THE FLAG FOR NN AROUND THE WORLD

slowthai
Billy Lockett
Bauhaus

David: “There’s a few to mention here. Ty, again for all the reasons we’ve discussed. We’ve had no one who has had the national and international impact which he has. Then, there’s the return of Bauhaus who have finally hopefully realised they have a legacy to claim.”

Phil: “No-one saw this coming, Peter Murphy had a heart attack in the summer, there was the big tour with David J in 2018, but out of the blue we had those LA shows with all four of Bauhaus. Their last live show was 2006 so it’s been a while, and I don’t think anyone ever expected it to happen again. If you remember how acrimonious the previous reformation was in the end – no one suspected anything else at this point. I’m so glad they’re back on it, even if it is only for a short while.”

Dave: “Billy, on The Late Late Show with James Corden was another huge moment.”

Phil: “If you’re going to take on America, what a great start. He’s moved back to Northampton. The move to London really helped him, but he said it was time to come home. And what has he done? He immediately records four tracks, puts them out and now he’s playing one on James Corden in America to millions! Also, Temples have gone around the world on the ‘Hot Motion’ tour, it’s great to see them back on it.”

Dave: “Temples went away after that second album, wrote a great third album, gold-plated a load of equipment and toured the world. Good work lads.”

ONES TO WATCH IN 2020

Tragic
Baby Lung
Caliburn
Wishing Wolf
Mali Mae

Dave: “Tragic. I don’t know a lot about them and haven’t managed to see them yet but they’ve released a great debut EP which features the singles ‘Walking’ and ‘Sammy Set His Bed On Fire’. I know they’re young guys but hopefully they’re going to carry on doing good things next year.

Phil: “I’m going to mention three other artists I’m really buzzing for. Baby Lung put a stunning single out at the start of the year, ‘Casualty’, and are about to release the ‘ShoeTown Blues’ EP. They’ve played a bunch of shows locally, and are like nothing else around really. They’re an indie-lounge-jazz thing, with songs to get the pulse racing. It’s good to see them slow everything down a bit, and up the drama. I also want to mention Caliburn. I don’t know a lot about them, but they put this EP out and they have such a ‘pinned against the wall’ sound, we couldn’t ignore them.

Dave: “I’d like to get a mention in for Wishing Wolf. With a lot of bands concentrating on singles and EPs it was great they put out their debut album out, which sounded incredible. It’d be great to see them take that leap forward next year.”

Phil: “Finally from me Mali Mae. She’s a singer songwriter from south Northamptonshire. She’s put an album out called Personal and I was just blown away at how a 20-year-old could write such amazing, affecting songs.
I just think people should keep an eye out on all that’s going on round these parts. Generally I think there’s been a lot of seeds planted this year. We’ve talked about it been very good nationally and internationally, but I hope we all can build on that and help bring some more of these acts up to the next level in 2020.”

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Album review; Ashborn

ASHBORN Awakening [self-released] A band of four Polish émigrés now residing in Northampton, Ashborn have achieved much in their two year history. Highlights include winning Metal 2 The Masses which…

ASHBORN
Awakening [self-released]

A band of four Polish émigrés now residing in Northampton, Ashborn have achieved much in their two year history. Highlights include winning Metal 2 The Masses which culminated in an appearance at 2018s Blooodstock Open Air, and performing at Northampton’s own HopFest. What they’ve achieved in under 24 months shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider that band members have appeared in metal heavyweights Ghost, Grin and also DieRevers. It’s a pedigree Ashborn have brought to their debut album and ensures that Awakening is a full-on, no holds barred, metal assault.

Opening with ‘Mute’, an almost ambient piano introduction that’s textured with shades of Bach and Mozart, it’s an instrumental of ethereal beauty, poetry without words, that lulls the listener into a false sense of security. In an intelligent use of light and shade ‘Mute’ contrasts with the next track ‘Monsters’ that tumbles over the listener like a landslide. Ashborn race out the blocks with pedal pressed firmly to the metal, as drummer Marcin K fires his drums with piston-like precision and vocalist Marcin D delivers his words with a mixture of the clean and guttural. A riff-heavy affair ‘Monsters’ is akin to a five minute musical pummelling, with little respite. Again the use of sonic dynamics is put to good use on ‘Crushed Ant’, a track which bassist Peter bookends with two solos which makes the contuse music sandwiched between even more weighty. It’s a punchy song that’s given a modern hardcore feel by the lack of guitar noodling.

To record Awakening the band spent two weeks holed up at Initiate Audio and Media with Neil Hudson at the helm, and his expansive production finds the band attacking the listener from all angles. On ‘If The Walls Could Speak’ the guitars fire from different speakers creating the feeling of being under fire. Like Pantera at their most brutal it’s a song that seems to breathe as the guitar ululates in a groove metal way. The aptly titled ‘Light That Creates Darkness’ was the albums lead single. Lyrically it details the subject of nuclear Armageddon, and it’s a theme that’s mirrored in the music as the riffs erupt like mushroom clouds then fan out like radiation – the soundtrack to global apocalypse.

The album is kept interesting by tempo changes which pepper the record and also by changes of pace, most notably on the mean and moody ‘Awakening From The Death’. Like an anchor tied to a drowning man it swirls around a whirlpool while the song is punctuated with haunting interludes. The artillery barrage ‘This Is Slowly Killing Us’ picks up the pace again, and shells the listener for five minutes and with an air guitar inciting solo curtailing the song it’s all very whiplash inducing. This warlike theme continues on closer ‘We Are Going To Die’. A musical maelstrom in which drums fire relentlessly, guitars squeal as if shocked by electricity and tortured vocals float atop. It fairly races along and musically captures that brief moment in time just before a head-on car crash when there’s no chance of aversion.

Two bonus tracks appear on the end of the album and in truth they wouldn’t be out of place if they were shoehorned in anywhere on Awakening. Both of these songs appeared on the bands Demo CD with ‘Every Word’ being a more measured affair and has a metalcore feel very much in the vein of Hatebreed and Merauder. With Mietek’s guitar ringing like sirens ‘When Darkness Comes’ brings the disc to a suitably cataclysmic conclusion.

As a genre metal is much maligned and often overlooked. However along with Krysthla’s Worldwide Negative Ashborn’s debut album proves the subculture is alive and kicking and in Awakening [alongside Worldwide Negative] I’d argue they’ve not only produced one of this year’s best metal records unleashed in ShoeTown but one of the county’s best albums released this year regardless of category.

Peter Dennis

Awakening is out this Friday. Order here

Cover photo by Artur Tarczewski

 

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Album review: Nina Harries

NINA HARRIES Nina Harries [self-released] If you have not already had the good fortune to be acquainted with Nina Harries, let New Boots introduce you. Nina is a British double…

NINA HARRIES
Nina Harries [self-released]

If you have not already had the good fortune to be acquainted with Nina Harries, let New Boots introduce you. Nina is a British double bassist and vocalist hailing from Northampton. She comes from a family of musicians, she trained in western classical music for four years at the Royal College of Music under double bass professor Enno Senft of the London Sinfonietta. In the last two years of her degree at the RCM she began to work as a soloist and band bassist for several acts from the London band scene, namely The Burning Glass, John Fairhurst Trio, Barbarella’s Bang Bang, Symphonica Feat DJ Switch and the London Electronic Orchestra.

At this point Nina also began to discover a love for solo performance, and began to experiment with performing a mix of original and cover songs using only double bass and voice. She fits nicely under the ‘dark folk’ genre, but also brings with her some flavours of rock, trip-hop and EDM. She has a fantastic range – massive respect for hitting those real low notes – and her vocals appear different on every track, whilst still managing to maintain her own ‘Nina style’.

Each perfectly-formed song on Nina Harries has new, fresh influences, when compared to the previous track. You can never be sure where she will go next. The album was recorded with producer and engineer Peter Miles at his studio Middle Farm Studios in Devon, and has an overall feel of the later albums by Nico or more modern styles like music by This Is The Kit.

The album starts with a slow build and absorbs you in with ‘Heavy Doubt’, which does what it says on the tin, perfectly reflecting the feeling of doubt in the mind, but even if this is not your thing do not rest here. There are two stand-out tracks on the album, and the second track ‘Lose Yourself’ is definitely one of them. With its faster-paced rhythm and the way she bends the opening notes on the bass is reminiscent of Mick Karn from Japan. Accompanied with Nina rapping in unison, she is absolutely nailing the experience of being a woman in a male dominated musical genre. It is an immediate ‘add to play list’ moment.

Track three ‘Icarus’ has an eastern vibe and once again has a slow build; at 8 minutes 34 seconds it is the longest track on the album, but is well worth the investment of time. At this point in the album she could have gone anywhere, and she certainly doesn’t disappoint. This track captivated me, in the same way The Doors captivated me with The End. It is truly mesmerising, sit back, relax and enjoy. ‘Will; I’m Not’ is a collaboration with the album producer Peter Miles, and sticking to the view that the bass and vocals can do anything and go anywhere, Nina moves into the zone of EDM dance music. Re-enforcing the fact that she has the skills to do what ever she wants, in whatever genre she sees fit.

On ‘O’Lothsome Day’ and ‘Pendle Hill’ her vocals have a slight ASMR quality as the album moves back to her dark folk and gothic rock roots. The second stand-out track is ‘One Hard Task’, an alternative rock track which hooks you in immediately and sounds so perfectly formed. Along with ‘Lose Yourself’ they are the “check out Nina Harries” songs from this album. The final track ‘Int;;Ext;;Int;;Ext;; / Butterfly’ is a beautiful conclusion to the album moving back to the EDM-style and includes the piano, bass and of course the superb ethereal vocals of Nina.

I think it is fair to say that you cannot and should not underestimate this lady, you cannot take her for granted. This album will move you through a rainbow of sounds and is deeply captivating. But just like the butterfly, do not attempt to try to pin her down: she will sit with you, but she cannot be boxed. She is on a mission to explore all the realms available to her musical craft, and to create new ones. She is certainly one to pay attention to.

Lisa Eversden

Nina Harries is out September 13th [order vinyl and CD here]. The album launch show is the same day at Hoxton Hall.

https://www.ninaharries.com

[cover photo by Joe Brown]

 

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Album review: Krysthla

KRYSTHLA Worldwide Negative [PHD] Formed in 2013 Wellingborough’s Krysthla have been carving out their own niche in the realm of extreme metal. Their first album A War of Souls dropped…

KRYSTHLA
Worldwide Negative [PHD]

Formed in 2013 Wellingborough’s Krysthla have been carving out their own niche in the realm of extreme metal. Their first album A War of Souls dropped in 2015 and was followed in 2017 by the critically acclaimed Peace in Our Time. Their third full length Worldwide Negative comes hot on the heels of a triumphant main stage appearance at this years Bloodstock Open Air festival, and this record is the sound of a band confidently reaching maturity and standing on the verge of world domination.

By way of an introduction opening salvo ‘Negative’ is the perfect calling card. Beginning with a brief, cascading guitar motif that gently reels in the listener, it creates a moment of serenity that means when Krysthla arrive as a band they hit with the force of a hurricane: a blast beat that’s overlaid with a tortured scream breaks the still, and heralds a musical maelstrom. The guitar motif recurs throughout as Liam Turland’s powerhouse drumming dictates the pace and gives proceedings a groove metal feel as the group constantly shift gears and effortlessly switch tempos. The incendury ‘Negative’ would make a great set opener for Krysthla’s live show, and it seems destined to ignite mosh pits wherever they play. Next track ‘Reawaken’ is bookended between two punishing riffs, and the mid section evidences an intelligent use of light and shade as clean vocals juxtapose the more guttural – while the intricate guitar lines highlight the hammer blow riffs.

‘Grief is New Love’ has a real industrial, surgical feel, kinda like Fear Factory on amphetamine, the drums fire like pistons while the guitars capture the cold, brittle atmospherics of black metal. Next cut, and lead single, ‘Zero Sum Game’ continues in a similar vein, relentless without being repetitious. Krysthla have a modus operandi similar to Killing Joke, but whereas the Joke use the same riff as a battering ram Krysthla have more in their arsenal and attack your senses from different angles. Guitarist Neil Hudson also produced Worldwide Negative and his wizardry unobtrusively brings different instrumentation to the fore at various junctures, and subtly repositions the listeners perspective. Despite the band drawing on different strands of extreme metal this album has a unified feel. That’s partly due to the production, but primarily it’s the introspective lyrics that deal with alienation and the impact of our actions on ourselves and the planet. Linking all the songs thematically gives Worldwide Negative the feel of a concept album, and ensures it hangs together as a cohesive whole.

‘White Castles’ is like facing an artillery barrage as vocalist Adi Mayes tackles his lyrics with hardcore fury and sings with indignation. However the band aren’t all about pure bludgeon, as some nice guitar work provides brief respite; the band lulling us into a false sense of security before we’re attacked sonically once more. On ‘Psalm of Heartlessness’ the band have created a song that simply sounds huge and towers over the listener – threatening with a monolithic enormity. Penultimate track ‘Aurea Mediocritas’ swirls in a musical tempest with sinister guitar flourishes that suggests we’ve arrived at a dystopian future. Befitting of an album closer ‘The Gift’ is truly epic and neatly pulls all the bands influences together. It begins by thrashing like Metallica’s ‘Battery’, before undergoing a transmogrification and then sinking like Immortal’s ‘Beyond the North Waves’ which ensures the album ends of a rather ominous tone.

Artists often speak of the ‘difficult third album’ but obviously Krysthla haven’t had that problem. By refining their sound and playing to their strengths they’ve produced an album in Worldwide Negative that could propel them into metals top tier.

Peter Dennis

Worldwide Negative is out on Friday. Pre-order here

Feature Photo credit: Amplified Gig Photography

 
 
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Twinfest 2019: The Review

TWINFEST July 25th – July 28th 2019 Northampton, various venues THURSDAY, THE LAB The weekend starts early at Twinfest, the annual hootenanny / shindig that celebrates all that is good…

TWINFEST
July 25th – July 28th 2019
Northampton, various venues

THURSDAY, THE LAB
The weekend starts early at Twinfest, the annual hootenanny / shindig that celebrates all that is good about the music scenes of Marburg, Poitiers and Northampton. Tonight is special in that we get just the German and French acts, and it’s Oclaire‘s honour to kick us off. Before we get to the amiable German fella, can New Boots just point out that it is literally a sauna-type atmosphere in here tonight, as befits the hottest day of the year. If you didn’t go we will simply say: we suffer so you don’t have to. Not that we really did, what with what’s happening on stage. Oclaire is a man who frenetically strums his acoustic guitar, and sings his heart out. Playing songs from his recent sophomore album There Is More, his songs are open like gaping wounds, a space for him to pour his jumblebox of emotions through a redemptive filter and find some solutions to share with us.  We are blessed to hear them.

From solo to duo, and French pair The Aries. Jeanne Casseron and Chloé Bonnet are your chanson for the evening, as they give off sweet and unassuming vibes. They sing solely in French, so goodness knows what the songs are actually about, but one would hazard a guess they are as charming in word as they are in voice. A nifty version of the Beatles classic ‘Across The Universe’ is the icing on the cake.

Cressy Jaw are your solidarity brothers, a trio who take on social and environmental subjects and pull no punches, Reggae-type songs, the rest of the tracks developed into a wild mixture of punk, grunge and blues. Their tight songs switch between reggae-rock and RATM-style alt-rock noise. Their reggaegrungepunk works surprisingly well. 

By the time Bazouka Groove Club unleash their primal rock’n’roll the Lab is producing casualties, and standing outside and listening to the music is becoming a real survival option. Luckily there’s enough punters around for our German friends to work their magic, and work the crowd. Theirs is a modern alt-rock sound mixed up with more of a noughties pop-punk spirit. Singer Basti took his top off [it was definitely a night for that], people moshed until they, literally and figuratively, dropped: it was one of those instantly memorable nights.

It would have been easy to have gone home now satisfied. Bazouka have absolutely destroyed all listening, and the body count is still rising alongside the steam. Yet Full Fiction still have something in their locker to make you reconsider any premature evaluations. The slightly bashful French trio have got some musical chops, as they unleash their slightlydelic punk rock that gets heads nodding furiously, even without anyone knowing the songs. FF felt like the awe-inspiring bonus album track you were not expecting. Tonight the taxi ride home was very, very beatific.

FRIDAY, THE LAMPLIGHTER
The Vincent Vega Band start off proceedings at the Lamplighter in suitably sharp and sophisticated style. Drummer-less and acoustic they are on fine laid back form. Tonight, the band’s sparse, stripped back instrumentation leaves plenty of room for their lyrics, reminiscent of a lo-fi Scott Walker, to shine. Their songs play out like snippets of kitchen sink dramas; held together by moody bass lines and decorated with pretty viola passages. ‘Claude’ and ‘Fireflies’ are particularly well-received moments in a superb opening set. ‘Tout royale pas de fromage’, as they might say in Paris.

Following, in the spirit of these events, with something completely different are Krankhead, aka Mio Flux & Patchy, The Rockstar. Their party-starting hip-hop gets the crowd well warmed up, starting football chants as well as a one-fingered salute to the new prime minister that is much appreciated by the Twinfest crowd.

Upstairs at the Lamplighter, with its fireplace and atmospheric lighting, it feels more like a classy house party; a setting that fits quirky folk-pop duo The Aires quite well. The first of the acts from Poitiers tonight, they instantly win over the Northampton audience. Songs sung in a language the audience may be unfamiliar with are very much dependant on the strength of the performance, but this pair have a wonderfully expressive stage presence and vocal harmonies that cross any language borders.

By the time those watching The Aires get downstairs quite the crowd has amassed for local boys The Barratts, whose mid-evening set showcases why they are quickly becoming one of the towns biggest acts. Punchy indie rock with stinging guitar solos and an assured presence marks them as a force to be reckoned with. By the second song things are already getting rowdy at the front, and your left with the impression that the band are destined for bigger venues than here. The band closed with ‘Lights Out In London’ leaving the audience howling for an encore, but it was already time for the next act to start upstairs.

Oclaire, one of the musicians from Marburg, is up[stairs] next. An acoustic singer-songwriter with a punk spirit and a big heart, he talks openly about the mental health issues that he’s dealt with as he sings about learning to be positive. Throughout the set he drinks from a cup of green tea due to the bad throat he developed on the plane over, and apologises. But his voice is in no way hindered, and he storms through his set with a bit of audience participation.

Back downstairs for the second of tonight’s German acts and Cressy Jaw keep the night pumping with their mix of reggae, punk and bluesy rock. While the audience had thinned a bit since The Barratts, by the end of the set the room had filled up again and there was quite a bit of dancing down at the front. The band’s final song tuned into an extended jam session, with each member of the three-piece getting a spotlight and inviting the audience to join in.

The final act on tonight are Full Fiction, from Poitiers, who pretty much level The Lamplighter with their full-throttle rock and roll. The songs are largely instrumental, with some occasional screamed vocals, but the draw here is the face-melting guitar playing and raw power of the band as a whole. Partway through the set a pit opens up at the front, the front man leaping over the monitor, guitar in hand to shred amongst the audience. The set comes towards its close with the him dropping his guitar on the floor and kneeling over it, attacking it to coax out all manner of sounds. A powerful end to a great night of music from the three cities.

FRIDAY, THE GARIBALDI HOTEL
At 26°, The Garibaldi resembled a blazing inferno, though, the topic of conversation was how it was not as hot as the Lab the day before, when temperatures had reached 37°. The newly formed Joe B. Humbled & His Band opened proceedings with their debut performance, fronted by Joe Martin on guitar and vocals [also known for GOGO LOCO and previously The Mobbs], and joined by his brother Jon Martin on bass and Alex George on drums. The band performed previously-released tracks ‘The Straight & Narrow’ and ‘To Be True’ with some new numbers, such as, ‘Why Did You Kiss Me’ and the never heard before track, ‘Bloodshot Eyes’. With less jumping around, this is Joe’s opportunity for more singing. The new solo venture stays true to Joe’s blues and rock’n’roll influences, with an added essence of some soul. Their admirable cover of Alabama Shakes ‘I Don’t Wanna Fight’ gave severe evidence to said soul influence. With a live performance that was true to the record, Joe B. Humbled are a musical treat with lush, panoramic tones reminiscent of influences from the likes of The Doors and Buddy Holly.

“Are we all drinking ir-responsibly?”, asked Jordan Jones, as he took to the stage. The Keepers were up next with two new faces to the indie-mod quartet. Introducing Charlie Pinnacle and Jack Isaacs to the mix, The Keepers still delivered a tight knit performance. The setlist included some older anthems such as ‘Here Comes The Spring’ and ‘You’re All I Need’, as well as, still-to-be-released ‘Velvet Hands’. Opening with the lines “Don’t take me to the movies, take me to a cemetery,” the song is influenced by the line from beatnik poet, Gregory Corso’s ‘Marriage’. A riotous performance of ‘Cocaine Champagne’ from frontman Jones had the crowd’s eating out of the palm of his hand, as he used the bar as an extension of the stage, crouched below the hanging industrial lighting.

Next on the bill were the night’s hosts, Deaf Trap, marked by Tom Wright’s signature suit and Matt’s ever-impressive beard, they performed before a moshing crowd, whilst meanwhile others melted and fanned each other on the outskirts. The set included firm favourites ‘Guillotine’, ‘Fate Thinks’ and ‘Dirty Echoes’, as well as upcoming single ‘Face’.

Bazouka Groove Club headlined the evening. The conscious-rap group performed in their native tongue, to the remaining survivors of the room, headbanging until the very last note, the audience demanding an encore which was gratefully received.

SATURDAY, THE POMFRET ARMS
In true summer fashion the rains come in early on Saturday and by the time the Saturday leg of Twinfest is open the picturesque beer garden on The Pomfret resembles an overgrown water feature. But the show goes on, and in the barn Laughing Man Marsh kick things off with Crowded House’s ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’, and it definitely isn’t. The band played a solid set of blues-rock with a mix of originals and covers, ending in a storming cover of ‘The Chain’, assisted by two of the festival’s organisers on vocals.

Due to the delays in starting this is immediately followed by singer-songwriter Andy Hawkins, who apologises for being slow and not as funky as the preceding band, but that’s no problem. The emotional songs complement the atmosphere of this rainy afternoon and capture those inside.

This is followed by another set from Marburg’s Oclaire, whose emotional folk-punk has been one of the many highlights of the festival. While on stage he is sweet and just happy to be able to play music for people, his songs are still sung with emotion and power that could fill a much bigger room. He ends the set in the middle of the audience with an unplugged sing-along rendition of Frank Turner’s ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’.

Following this, and something you don’t see that often, is Northampton’s Jack Vs Hotdog, a solo performer appropriately dressed as a sausage in a bun. Starting with a Scroobius Pip line seguing into a fantastic cover of AJJ’s ‘Brave As a Noun’ he plays through a set of originals and covers ending with ‘Please Don’t Feed The Crackheads’, a song deemed not safe for anybody.

Another wonderful find from our French twin city has been The Aires, and despite technical issues they once again wow the crowd with their francophone folk-pop. Despite self-deprecatingly referring to some of their songs as “stupid love songs” they wow the afternoon audience, whose calls for an encore at the end of the set are actually answered in the shape of a cover of Vance Joy’s ‘Riptide’.

Fossilheads are next and the self-descibed folky/comical/theatrical/eco-political duo’s songs about the looming global climate catastrophe are as timely and pointed as they are funny. The pair are fantastic performers with great chemistry and stage presence. Songs about climate change denial and corporate greenwashing are delivered with a mix of comedic character work and incredible musicianship. As per their introduction, they do indeed put the ‘ooh’ back in ‘existential doom’.

After a delay due to more technical issues Jono and the Uke Dealers take to the stage. Whilst ukuleles are commonly seen as somewhat of a gimmick or at best a bit twee, the band is never in danger of seeming like a novelty. The band balance heavier political tracks with lighter fare, but either way underpinned by assured songwriting and performance. They performed well known tracks ‘Beautiful Things’, ‘Speccy Four Eyes’ and ‘Joe Meek’s Ghost’ with Katie Paton, known for P-Hex and Kings Gambit, joining him on stage for a sobering song dedicated to the troubles in Palestine. The slightly abridged set is brought to an anthemic close with new anti-war track ‘Old Grey Wolf’.

New Boots couldn’t get into the barn for Kings Gambit, as it was packed with people dancing to their pirate-esque dance folk-rock. Old-time rockers The Mental Straights were up next with some nostalgic numbers, followed by Tom Rose & The Heathen Orchestra. Tom stunned audiences into submission with his Nick Cave-esque, gravely, macabre tones and Tom Wait style quirky charm, completed by his heathen orchestra, featuring not one but two percussionists. The band performed some personal favourites ‘Dance to Hell’ and ‘Trouble’s What You Got’.

Your correspondent got right to the front for rock-garage, heavy-blues trio, Full Fiction, from Poitiers, France. They tore it up with their guitar-humping, floor-rolling solos that were so epic frontman Camille Pizon broke a guitar string. With more hair-flicking than a l’Oreal advert, Full Fiction, proved their worth. Bazouka Groove Club performed again, before psychedelic rockers King Purple from Corby, the penultimate band of the evening. They delivered their smooth panoramic sound, with intricate layers interwoven with different shapes and textures. The atmosphere was dense, and drenched with entrancing guitars and hypnotising melodies.

Cressy Jaw headlined the evening, with their reggae punk-rock, managing just four songs before they were sadly unplugged. The revelries still carried on well into the evening though, with the night-time hours melting into day for many of the bands and festival goers.

SUNDAY, THE BLACK PRINCE
With a few still jaded from the night before, and the weekend catching up with many, some acoustic acts were just what the doctor ordered. The crowd congregated, sat cross-legged before the stage, in atypcial intimate setting. Dan Plews was up first with his beautiful acoustic guitar/ ukulele variety performance. 

Duncan Bisatt was up next with original tracks; ‘White Shoes’ and the ethereal ‘Captains & Kings’. Duncan’s track ‘Capybara Love Song’ became the soundtrack to the rascality and roguishness during their trip to Marburg earlier this year, for ManoFest, that saw them miss the flight home. It was met with knowing appreciation from those in the travelling party. Duncan performed his up and coming single, ‘Young Man’, and had local audiences laughing to tongue-in-cheek number, ‘£1 Town’.

The Aries were next on the bill with their charming Francophile tunes, that were rhythmic, upbeat and humorous. As much a duet in life, as they are on stage, Jeanne and Chloe’s friendship shows through in their performance.

Occlaire, from Marburg was up next. The solo acoustic artist delivered his dynamic compositions, ranging from soft to loud in a colourful alternation, conveying passion and emotion, supported by catchy melodies. One could lose oneself, just for a moment, and wander through the alternate planes of the music.

Next up are Rolling Thunder, a relatively new, lively indie-rock five-piece, who stepped in at the last minute. Very tight from the get-go, they jangle and fuzz like true pros even at this early stage of their career. Chant-worthy choruses are their trade in stock, and with the likes of ‘Break In At The Nachtwinkel’ and ‘John Doe’ you can already see them being firm festival favourites throughout the land. Some more variation amongst the bangers wouldn’t have go amiss [the New Boots lighter remained firmly in pocket throughout], but they have an awful lot to work with there already. Popular already, gang spirit, and charming banter from singer Charlie: they have all the right ingredients to do great things in 2020. The boys certainly made an indelible mark, and are here to stay.

Cressy Jaw really are very good musicians, that much is clear by their fourth weekend appearance. After the disappointment of an abridged set last night they really turned it on to an appreciative crowd. The songs seemed more 4/4 today, the reggae edges smoothed off [or maybe that’s just New Boots’ brain after four days of drinking]. The drummer from Bazouka Groove Club got up to join in with a double-drumming solo which was one of the many highlights of the weekend’s festivities.

Our next act, Baby Lung, bring some perfect Sunday afternoon relaxed vibes. Max, the two Matts and Harry are the NN band who only began a few months ago, but now seem indispensable to our scene. The quiet drama encased in all their sax-filled, jazz-chorded indie-pop is as seductive as it is unexpected from a band from the East Midlands [we can say that, right?] . Following highlights ‘Casualty’ and ‘She’ is final song ‘Falling’, which, with the help of a devilishly handsome guitar solo, ratchets up the drama to fever pitch. The love affair has just begun, Northampton.

Full Fiction, who have been reminding us of Hyll all weekend, are still on fire today. Their Thee Oh Sees/King Gizzard wig-outs have been propelling everyone out of any stupor they may be in. Proper good guys.

Locals The Jackal Nine are back for a one-off. Like they were back at Twinfest in 2017. Why mess around trying to be ace every weekend when you can do a show every couple of years and knock it out the park with ease? They start with a lengthy intro music, the spoken word effort from Meatloaf, ‘Wasted Youth’. The busy room knows they are going to burst into life any moment now. And when they do it’s with considerable vigour; like a bat out of hell, perhaps. The mosh pit is perpetually busy as they work though their intelligent punk rock repertoire – ‘S.A.D’, ‘Gruffalo’, etc – with gleeful abandon, as you might imagine from people having not performed for that long.

“You gotta choose between those who love you and those that wanna own you” states Danny Adams, the singer/guitarist. “This [his protruding middle finger] is a toast to Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and all their ilk”. Toward the end of their set a young rapper called Paton comes on briefly and gave it some serious, glorious attitude. Then there’s the ‘Fuck Brexit’ chant, and you can quietly be assured of their political leanings. In these tumultuous times the Jackal Nine are a reassuring presence, so we’re quite sad that they now go back into the toy box. Time to start a petition perhaps…

Bazouka Groove Club are again monumental. There’s a small stage invasion tonight, and plenty of crowd interaction in general. So pleased to say this weekend they’ve lived to the quality of that first-rate band name.

Phantom Isle are the final band of the weekend. The Northants-and-now-in-London band are doing great things wherever they land, having the songcraft to match almost any new band around. They dress up in ritualistic outfits to scare the bejeesus out of us Sabbath-observing folk. They open with ‘Channel’, then run through a confident set which includes the recent singles ‘Focus’ and ‘Four Walls’. Their indie-psych pop is infectious and skyscraping, and they feel like worthy headliners for an eclectic festival which has covered a range of styles.

And that’s it for another year. Time for a lie-down. See you in 2020.

Words by Phil Moore, Rachel Thomas, Sonny JD, and Tom Rose

Photos by David Jackson and Phill Phree

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Album review: Empyre

EMPYRE Self Aware [self-released] The opening track ‘My Bad’ sets out the template for the debut by this Northampton quartet and their wrought, minor-chord melodrama of a debut album. Solid…

EMPYRE
Self Aware [self-released]

The opening track ‘My Bad’ sets out the template for the debut by this Northampton quartet and their wrought, minor-chord melodrama of a debut album. Solid and thick rhythms; crunchy blues-metal riffs, intense-yet-introspective lyrics sung by front-man Henrik Steenholdt. Self Aware is not something that’s ever going to wash over you in the background.

Taking their cues from the likes of Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots, with occasional forays into Muse-like bombast, Self Aware is a thrilling and atmospheric ride to be on. Recent single New ‘Republic’ is the first heads-down rocker to come along, cruising confidently on those Soundgarden-style verses and Metallica vocal workouts. 

A band that’s no stranger to accomplished and almost progressive songwriting ideas, they aren’t afraid to be bold when they need to, as ‘Just A Ride’ with it’s gentle feedback passages, ably demonstrates. But then ‘Too Close’ shows they are able to be just as melodic as any classic band you care to name. Steenholdt’s wail on the latter is something to truly behold too, holding long notes with aplomb.  

‘Drive’ perhaps sees them coming too close to aping their heroes, not offering the originality that’s clearly evident elsewhere on the album.  It’s the mid album dip I guess; same applies to ‘Only Way Out’. ‘Cut To The Core’ though has a touch of the pop-punk in its rhythm, and it suits them well. The previous single, the catchy and hard-hitting ‘Too Little Too Late’, is the one to ease yourself into their world; the drums cut hard, as do the lyrics. By the time the finale, the atmospheric and epic grunge workout ‘Homegrown’, finishes you do feel emotionally exhausted, but in the best way possible.

A hard-working band, the general buzz around Empyre is there for good reason. They come alive in the gig environment, and they’ve done a great job of getting that energy in the studio across these eleven tracks, whilst still adding enough texture to warrant repeat plays. If you like your hard rock with some proggy bites then Self Aware really should be happy nestling in your collection very soon.

Phil Moore

Self Aware is out now

 

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