Saturday, 30 June 2012

Francois and the Atlas Mountains Review

This review will appear in Plugged In Magazine, a not-for-profit social enterprise with the aim of improving the literacy skills, confidence and educational/vocational opportunities of young people through workshops, practical experience and copy in a quality publication. The magazine is produced by volunteers and funding is gained to cover the print run only. I help out with the mag as a volunteer writer and sometimes organise workshops with Plugged In in music journalism, photography and event organising as part of my job in Community Arts. I am continually amazed by the dedication of the guys who run this venture, and the great results they achieve. Now they've been nominated for a National Lottery Award in the Education Category - please could you spare a moment of your time and vote here? If you'd like more information on Plugged In, you can find it here.

May 9th 2012
Clwb Ifor Bach

Listening to Francois and the Atlas Mountains’ 2010 record E VOLO Love made me a fan, but experiencing the French male foursome in the musical flesh was something quite different, an encounter which propelled me into SUPER fandom. Their live performance offered so much more than the already wonderful Gallic chamber pop tracks that the album presents. In person, their formula of layering keys, African percussion, glistening electric guitars, electronic sounds and intermittently upbeat and wistful vocals becomes magical. On this night in Clwb Ifor Bach, the floor was layered with bright blankets, the multiple leads and wires connecting amps to instruments were covered in coloured cloth, the drummer wore bells on his legs, no socks on his feet and a sequinned t-shirt. They looked great – pleasingly eccentric, likeable, vibrant - and the sound was out of this world. The bones of the tunes were fleshed out with tiers upon tiers of beats, jangles, and dance making morsels which collectively elevated this show to nothing short of fantastic. The sparkling crown on top of the kingly set came in the form of synchronised dance moves the guys suddenly broke into at regular intervals. Surprising, yes, appreciated and massively entertaining, definitely. My cheeks ached with the force of an uncontrollable happy grin all evening, and to not dance would have been impossible. I attended the performance on a very rainy Wednesday night with no expectations. I left with memories of my number one gig experience to date, in addition to confirmation of why I love live music and will never stop seeking its pleasures and life affirming benefits.

Japandroids Review

Thursday May 17th 
Clwb Ifor Bach

Packed, sweaty, pulsating with bodies and alt-punk/garage rock beats, Clwb Ifor Bach was bouncing with energy generated from this Pitchfork recommended Vancouver duo. They attracted a stack of gig goers despite this being a school night and were as noisy as a band double in numbers. Brian King (guitar/vocals) and David Prowse (drums/vocals) stated at the beginning, “We don’t do set lists or loads of talking, we play you as many tracks as we’re physically able to.” And that they did, tearing through fourteen with what seemed like every ounce of vigour they possessed, accepting requests along the way from fans who clearly knew their material well. Tracks played included 2009 Post Nothing anthemic favourites The Boys are Leaving Town and Young Hearts Spark Fire, mixed with material from the brand new release Celebration Rock such as The Nights of Wine and Roses and Younger Us,  and one of my favourites the heavy, sombre, insistent Darkness on the Edge of Gastown from 2010’s record No Singles. Japandroids’ music makes you ache for an American road trip and a reversal in time to be an early ‘twenty something’ forever; such is its emotive youthful power. I am positive that if a DJ set had not taken place immediately after Japandroids’ slot, an encore would have been demanded by the hungry-for-more crowd and the dancing uber-fans in the front row would have moshed until the sun rose. The boys might have left town to continue their tour, but I hope they keep their promise to return to Cardiff and share their passionate playing again later this year.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Swn Presents Canton Crawl - April 28th 2012

Entire days of Swn served music are usually reserved for early Winter time when the eagerly awaited annual festival takes place, so I jumped at the chance of attending a Spring taster. Little did the organisers or attendees know this particular Spring afternoon would come with arctic gusts fit to freeze even the hardiest of krautrock fans. Soon (Swn?) after arriving at the new not-for-profit art space The Printhaus, I realised my error in dressing for summer, so an early survival dash back home for hypothermia preventing clothes was essential.

H. Hawkline, R. Seiliog, Tender Prey, Stacking Chairs, and No Thee No Ess were amongst the literally super cool line up, with Fist of the First Man a particular highlight for me. The trio are a new project by Cardiff electro king Zwolf. Using his alter ego, composer Tom Raybauld can usually be found wielding a laptop to create his sound, but on this day he appeared with old school instrument in hand. Along with two band members walls of technical guitar were created, which were intense yet engaging with reverberating psych edges. I couldn’t help be reminded of Right Hand Left Hand in terms of their vocal free, almost mechanical style, but there is something warmer about this threesome which doesn’t just leave you impressed by their playing skills but fully captivates. It was a tiny set of three tracks, but a big sound and a taster of an album with a lot more to offer, including layered electronica, scratchy dance beats, and vocals ranging from haunting to the bluesy funk variety. A listen on Soundcloud is recommended.

Next up came much hand warming around mini-bonfires and drinking of hot drinks and alcohol at the onsite bar. A discount arranged at the nearby Chapter Arts Centre also proved popular as people ran across for between-band-hand-defrosting before gathering expectantly in fur coats, scarves and bobble hats to wait for Cate Le Bon. The weather seemed a perfect accompaniment to the Camarthenshire born performer’s set. Her penetrating glacial vocals and mix of quirky experimental spooky folk suited the wintry people huddle which had formed. Le Bon’s feels like music for the night and the dark, particularly when considering the often death-focused lyrics. Tracks including the title song from latest release CYRK were played, along with (my personal) old favourites from the 2009 Me Oh My. A few technical hitches didn’t annul the atmosphere, and as the sun set a magical set by Le Bon and band created a perfect full stop to the great Cardiff line up.

Thankfully this festival experience, as with all Swn events to date, culminated in the comforts of sleep in my bed rather than a shivery tent. The lingering campfire aroma which had secured itself to my hair continued to remind me of a wonderful day for the remainder of that weekend.