Tuesday 31 March 2015

Princess Slayer - Living

Nathan Rasdall
"Tonight you should expect big bass, ethereal soundscapes and very loud beats" promised Princess Slayer drummer Vince Welch, but he gave us more and they gave us everything. It was a verve of  energy and performance, it proved an impossible task for myself. Sketching live is always a challenge but to capture the whipping fringe of Welch or the pogoing jack-in-the-box that was singer  Casey Lim was too much in their short 25 minute RADAR set. So apologies for the brevity of drawing.
Vince Welch
The RADAR night (26/02/2015) at Chelsea Stadium's plush Under The Bridge venue is one of the hottest live events for both the music industry and fans alike. It is a platform to showcase the best unsigned and just-signed talent who are emerging from under the wings of Music Week, ILUVLIVE and MusicConnex.
Casey Lim
The label of electronica suggests a coolness in approach, a calculated appearance and Princess Slayer have that composure but they're also intent on turning the tap on the red side not the blue. The crowd embraced their passion and although our main two protagonists of Welch and Lim propelled us forward as we cut and undulated through 5 tunes my sketchbook stuck on the bass and keyboard of Nathan Rasdall.
Jack Kendrew
It isn't just the name that talks of death, the band demand a commitment, for that is what they do, laying themselves before us without pretence. They climbed toward their summit with a penultimate song that chewed us slowly at first then crushed under the hammer blows of Welch. It was the furnace of the blacksmith, the bang of heavy machinery and teetering pulse of near-molten metal. The finale, 'Living', was the expected eruption. If this song is their current raison d'etre then we admire their zest for life and many will worship at their Vulcan temple.
You have time to experience Princess Slayer at their first headline show. They will also be launching their EP 'Living' at The Stillery, 18 Kentish Town Road, NW1 9NX, London, Wed 8th April 2015, 7.30pm- midnight, £5+bf in advance / £8 on the door. TICKETS

Monday 30 March 2015

Jungle Doctors - Settle

Will Tyler - Jungle Doctors
The RADAR night (26/02/2015) at Chelsea Stadium's plush Under The Bridge venue is one of the hottest live events for both the music industry and fans alike. It is a platform to showcase the best unsigned and just-signed talent who are emerging from under the wings of Music Week, ILUVLIVE and MusicConnex.
Louis Watton - drums
It was a first outing of the year for the fresh sounds of South London five-piece Jungle Doctors.
Formed in late 2011 out of boredom during school lunchtimes, their name is inspired by Louis Watton's (JD drummer) dad, who's own band was called ‘Jungle doctor spots a leopard’ after a popular children’s book series.
Angus McGuinness
Following the release of their first EP in July 2012, the band has caught the eye of kingmakers Tom Robinson and Gary Crowley at BBC Introducing. In April 2014 they released a free download single ‘Dry’, taken from their ‘Open Up’ EP. Both this and their follow up 'Falling' garnered healthy air time in the following months.
Sam Budd
Here at Under The Bridge they started with the aforementioned 'Falling', blowing off the cobwebs in a matter of seconds to give a buoyant and effervescing performance, followed in this short set by 'Late' .Usually it would be the handsome prow of such a fine vessel that took the attention, particularly when under a four guitar assault but it was the drums of Louis Watton who beached the song on our shores.
David Thomas
Normal service was resumed on their current single 'Settle' which fizzed with the vocal of Sam Budd and guitar of Angus McGuinness. In recent weeks Jungle Doctors have supported The Cribs in their own backyard, the confines of which wont hold this burgeoning group for much longer.

Friday 27 March 2015

Bella Figura - Under The Bridge

 Justin Gartry
The RADAR night (26/02/2015) at Chelsea Stadium's plush Under The Bridge venue is one of the hottest live events for both the music industry and fans alike. It is a platform to showcase the best unsigned and just-signed talent who are emerging from under the wings of Music Week, ILUVLIVE and MusicConnex.

The newly formed London based trio Bella Figura gave us a heavy and resonant set of 30 minutes to whet our appetites. The three members, Justin Gartry (Guitar & Vocals), Mikey Cooper (Bass & Vocals) and Rhys Maslen (Drums & Vocals) met studying music production, and are all multi-instrumentalists.
Mikey Cooper
It is the figurehead of Justin Garty who sets the tone. A timbre which cuts thick and deep, hitting a frequency that makes your inner organs vibrate in purring pleasure. The shadow sounds from Cooper and Maslen are as viscous as a good gravy, pouring their blanket of meaty vibes into more than a few open mouths.

There is a simplicity to their songs and their often slow pace creates a deliberate and powerful edge. Never Learn was such a moment, Garty stood alone in the dark, a single man in a landscape of telegraph straight trees. The darkened earth on which he stood was gouged and pounded by Bella Figura, the air haunted by the call of Rhys Maslen on vocals.

Rhys Maslen
Bella Figura launch their new EP, titled after the aforementioned Never Learn, on 17th April 2015 at the Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen (2-4 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU London, United Kingdom). Advanced tickets are £7.50 including a copy of the EP (to be collected on the door), Tickets on the door will be £6 (without an EP). LINK to buy tickets.



Monday 9 March 2015

Kara at Twickfolk

Daria Kulesh - Vocals
It is understandable that the weight of folk music history creates slow change on our proud and virile scene here in the UK. This is only a half truth of course because if we blur the lines of the genre's definitions then there are exciting collaborations bubbling away all over the country. Whether Kara are erupting from the volcano's mouth or burning into the fringes of folk music outposts it matters little, especially for the listener.

Gary Holbrook - Accordion
Kara are Ben Honey on guitar, Gary Holbrook on accordion, Daria Kulesh on vocals and Kate Rouse on hammered dulcimer and backing vocals. Their music is both twist and traditional. They are described by Rebekah Findlay (The Folk Show on Bishop FM) as "Russian, French, English fusion of folk". Their debut album Waters So Deep has inspired many positive reviews with 'creating waves', 'buzzes' and 'gems' glowing in the journalists' copy. Despite a union of only 2 years their debut album already sits proudly in The Telegraph's best folk music albums of 2014 and they have a Love Folk LIVE award for Most Exciting Live Performance.

Kate Rouse - Dulcimer/Vocals
I first drew Kara's lead singer Daria Kulesh as a fresh face in December 2012 whilst I was artist-in-residence at cherished folk venue Twickfolk. She was supporting Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston then and I described her as a Strawberry Delight. It is with great pleasure that I can reveal that time has neither diminished her colour nor her verve. She is just as vibrant and makes one feel glad to be alive. You always feel as though someone has cranked the colour saturation dial on an analogue TV vision such is the presence of her likeable personality.

Ben Honey - Guitar
This night at Twickfolk (22/02/2015) Daria Kulesh started with Russian tale Rusalka, which was coupled later in the set by Mermaid's Lullaby, both in Kulesh's native tongue. They both amply fed our imaginations, the words were thick and plump like a mysterious fog that encompassed us all. The lightness of Kate Rouse on dulcimer cut through this fret, but never weakened it's spell.

In fact a Daria Kulesh vodka inspired song (no name, sorry?) was even richer and deadlier than those that proceeded it. Once again it was an impressive Rouse start with lightness in both sound and heart but soon descended into Russian darkness. For Kulesh there was a piercing pathos that cut through the audience, a slight tumble to the voice and an undertow that caught us in it's swell. The mind thought of the blood that runs, whether that be in the veins or pooling at our feet.

Juilan Peers
Amongst the set were Ben Honey's home grown fare Union Street and Seaview which were tender and unsurprisingly effective amongst our island race. Even less of a surprise to you will be that a foray into jazz dulcimer with Devilry Dance was a hit with this artist. Again we heard that wisp of darkness in Kulesh's voice and the all too brief accordion of Gary Holbrook. Like all the songs on show at Twickfolk it was Kulesh's presence on stage that sold many of them to us. Her hands and movement pulled us in, maybe there was tricky in the air but we were willing putty in her grasp.


Friday 6 March 2015

Jack Marshall with Kirsty Marshall - Twickfolk

Jack Marshall
Jack and Kirsty Marshall gave us a bright opening set at Twickfolk on 22nd February 2015. It was a long awaited return to a familiar stomping ground for myself. I had spent several happy months here as artist-in-residence in 2012/13. Although I returned briefly in 2014 this was a first chance to see Twickfolk in its new home in the purpose built Patchworks bar. It is an improvement in ambience and warmth, something that must benefit the performers as well as audience.

George Marshall
Jack Marshall shared his burgeoning modern folk repertoire with pep and zeal. It gave us an easy strolling start to the night with the occasional running jump and somersault to get the blood flowing. Joining brother Jack and Kirsty on stage was George Marshall on hand-held stompbox for new tune Earthquake.

Kirsty Marshall

The skipping Callous One got us into our full stride with Kirsty Marshall holding tight with her harmonies but it was their finale Blue Moon that caught the imagination of the audience. The tambourine passed from hand to hand in the ample crowd, and those that didn't rattle it joined in with rhythmic clapping.

Jack Marshall has a wildness in the eye which steams on the page of the sketchbook. It will be fascinating to see if this spirit is captured in his music in the years to come.

John Hocking
Twickfolk Introduction

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Martin Callingham - Tonight, We All Swim Free

Martin Callingham
Martin Callingham launched his debut solo album, Tonight, We All Swim Free, on the 19th February 2015 in the bowels of the Betsey Trotwood, London. We were crammed into this vaulted underworld, rubbing knees with the full Callingham gamut of Tom Van Eker (guitars, vocals), Anna Kissell (violin, vocals), Anna Strudwick (cello),  Philip Collings (drums) and Andy Smith (bass).

Joyce the Librarian's
Blue Plaque
Released just days before on Folkwit Records, choice cuts have already been played on the Radio 6 (Gideon Coe, Steve Lamacq and Tom Robinson) and BBC Bristol. Despite making a Blue Plaque for Callingham as his previous incarnation, Joyce the Librarian, this was a first chance to pen his hirsute mug in the sketchbook.

Anna Kissell - Violin/vocals
A first time for Callingham to step out of his alter ego's shoes too. “It feels odd to put this out under my own name. Partly because it’s comfortable to separate your musical self from other aspects of life; it feels sort of like coming out in some way. But also because there have been more people involved in the making of this album than last time around. Some who I’ve played with for a few years now, but also great talents like Gareth Bonello (The Gentle Good) and Anne Kissell who I’ve met since the release of the Joyce the Librarian record.”

Philip Collings - Drums
The six strong Martin Callingham experience started with the title track but it wasn't until the 3rd tune Knots that we really started to swim free. It was a fine balance between instruments, each emerging from the compositions with clarity and warmth. It's unusual to notice the drums for their delicate touch but Phil Collings' brush work caught the ear as much as his hair did the eye. Callingham's vocal delivery was a minimal one, barely spoken. You lean close and are a nipped by meaning of his graceful words.

Anna Strudwick - Cello
 The sound of Folding works against its name, instead of being reduced again and again to the size of a postage stamp the song oozed out into the audience. It was an overflowing vessel of a tune, its viscosity never dripping, just endlessly consuming the ground beneath our feet in an endless rising Plimsoll line.

Tom Van Eker - Guitar/Vocals
Water was a recurring motif, both in sensation and subject matter, Tide Returns didn't wash with rolling waves but picked out the shiny pebbles after the water had receeded. Again it was the clarity of the instrumentation that made you think of tiny pin pricks of reflected moon as they twinkled on glossy dark stones. It was the sharpness of those small round moons that kept with us, it was the spark that exists in a truly living eye.

Andy Smith - Bass
The album Tonight, We All Swim Free (Folkwit Records) is available from Amazon and other outlets I'm sure. Keep up to date with Martin activities at www.martincallingham.com


Tuesday 3 March 2015

Halfbeak - Almost Smiling

Tim Gum
Who knows which coloured line ran under our feet as we stood listening to Halfbeak in the Betsey Trotwood, London. The rumbling Tubes of the Metropolitan, Circle and Hammersmith & City added to an almost Victorian ambience in the catacombs of this famous music niche. It was apt that we should be here in the Betsey for Halfbeak provided us with more searching narratives than a Dicken's novel.

Halfbeak on this occasion were Tim Gum (vocals/guitar), Theresa Elflein (vocals/guitar) and Rob Hartley (bass). They have 5 albums/EPs to date, Almost Smiling (2012), The New Happy (2012), The Jogger (2012), Killing one bird with two stones (2012) and Things I knew (2014).

Theresa Elflein
For us it was a night of sitting on Tim Gum's metaphorical knee as he led us through his stories and modern day fables. This wasn't of the fairytale kind though, here protagonists left their rose-tinted glasses at the door and wore hearts on sleeves. Often there were pangs of loneliness despite both the voices of Gum and Elflein working together. They rarely played the conversational game between the two of them for it was us who were the target of their confessions and hopes. For Anon was such a song, even though they called out to us as friends we remained behind the latticed screen of the confessional.

Fine instrumental work on The New Happy gave us the choice of differing paths again but warmth won true by the end. The charms of Halfbeak were real ones, not silver baubles hanging on a chain, but keen observations which once shared become new truths and common ground.

Rob Hartley
By the end we had died, fallen out of love and been reborn several times, so much so that we had absorbed the gallows humour of Halfbeak and swayed together in their questioning light. If you want The Answer to some of their teasing lyrics and what to do with a swooning fat baboon then their album 'Almost Smiling' is available for a modest £3 from Bandcamp.


Monday 2 March 2015

Dear Light - Delight

If you think that Dear Light would be just the opening line for a correspondence with Martin Callingham later on the bill at the Betsey Trotwood (19/02/2015) then you would be wrong. This duo headed by Philip Collings gave us a delightful and magical set of 5 tunes that could have run for many more pages.

Philip Collings

Like a good letter this was a personal narrative from Collings with seesaw stories and a healthy amount of navel gazing (for who wants to read a letter that doesn't describe the author and how they feel). These Dear Light words and thoughts are made of the sticky toffee kind that eyes and ears want to chew upon. In fact their residue got temptingly stuck in the molars of my mind, where they have remained ever since.

Dear Light have recorded 4 albums to date, 'Dear Light' (2010), 'Sternenfall' (2011), 'The Observer' (2011) and 'Shepherd Moon' (2012). There is an epic album in production entitled 'Broken Hymns'. On this night at the Betsey Trotwood bassist Andy Smith added his colour to Philip Collings' guitar, vocals and keyboard palette.

Andy Smith
The songs were a journey of nostalgia and dreamy revelation for this listener. You illustrate my dreams featured Colling's on a slow organ journey, it was sleepy (understandably) and beautiful, like watching scudding clouds move across the horizon. Time dawdled in the Betsey as we all listened, the sandwich corners of our collective hearts curled just a little in the heat from the song's warming sun.
The colour that emanated from Sternenfall was equally technicolor and saturated with such an orange glow it burnt a sunspot the size of a Spacehopper in my imagination. It felt like magic.. Like watching the toes wiggling on a sunbather while all the rest remained still as a cadaver.