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a1436536964_16.jpgLife. It’s a funny old business. One minute you are sat in the south of France drinking wine, sketching the surroundings, writing songs and soaking up the sun, the next you are in a Swindon recording studio putting down one of those songs, surrounded by some of the best musicians the region has to offer. Having submitted a song, this song in fact, to a competition called For The Song, things moved at quite a pace. The song was selected as the winner, then there have been recording sessions, live shows in two countries and now work on a full album is on the cards. All in just over a year. Tempus does indeed fugit!

And if Paul started the competition with a good song, he came out of the studio with a great track.  Like the story behind it, there is a natural momentum to the way it builds, from a spacious, acoustic indie-folk vibe to a roots pop-rock final destination, but does so by adding supple sonic layers and subtle musical textures almost without you noticing. And unusually for a song which starts in such understated territory there is an addictive beat right from the start, a beat that drives things on to their natural conclusion, infectious and energetic, allowing the instrumentation to deftly and quietly join the party, a guitar motif here, some extra percussion there, building vocal harmonies and shimmering peripheral sounds. Why be big when you can be clever?

It also paints some wonderful images lyrically, a reflective and poetic tale of living your life to the full, embracing what the world has to offer and filling your “eyes with amazing things.” And whilst the lyrics might be urging you to give new things a chance, nothing underlines the rewards of just saying yes to new things better than this songs back story.

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mail-1It’s got to the point now that any time I find myself coming back to Wasuremono after any significant time away from their music, it feels slightly like coming home. Or at least returning to a place that you didn’t realised you had missed until you find yourself surrounded by its radiant charms. And Wasuremono’s charms are many and as the album opener, title track and recent single Are You OK? washes over me with its hazy, soothing sonics, its slightly oriental, descant vocal harmonies and its blend of the quirky and the ethereal, all seems good in the world.

But knowing that familiarity breeds contempt, the band have always, whilst moulding a wonderful signature sound, used those particular traits merely as a springboard, a launch pad from which to explore some wonderful, tangential musical ideas. Roads less travelled and all that. Even structurally they are happy to do their own thing and whilst most bands seem work from the guitars outwards, Wasuremono prefer to work from the rhythm section up. Phoebe’s bass in particular providing deep rooted melodies upon which guitars add chiming beauty, keys wash around, behind, between and beyond the root notes and drums are happy to emphasises the groove with little show or bluster. Having four voices also gives the band a wonderful dimension and it is the way they layer these vocal textures as much as what they actually sing which really grabs the listener. Vocals aren’t just about communication, they are also instruments in their own right and if you don’t agree, consider this album lesson 1. Make that lessons 1 to 11.

Lonely Type has a wonderful Cure-like feel, yes, a band I all too often reference when reviewing their music but not a bad band to tip your hat to, A Lesson To Learn is full of skittering beats and resonant lead vocals and Nothing is Easy sees them play it straight…well, as straight as they are able…to create something which already feels like an underground anthem, if that isn’t indeed an oxymoron.

Whilst it is easy to pick out post-punk fingerprints and Bowie-esque subversions, Wasuremono is very much a band of the here and now, although their here and now might not be quite where everyone else’s here and now is. But that is what makes their music so great, it’s modern but not conformist, it references the past without pillaging, plundering and plagiarising, it looks to the future but doesn’t feel the need to try to invent new genres. In fact Wasuremono is what pop music could be if only people were brave enough to stop following fad and fashion, convention and convenience. Think about how great the world would sound if everyone started to follow their lead? No, really think about it….

a1637603134_16One of the great things about Grasslands’ broad sonic scope is that the music seems to genre-hop brilliantly, ignoring the rules and regulations, fads and fashions of any particular style and yet tipping a hat, in this case a wolf-themed one, naturally, to many. It’s a trick he is able to pull off live, though then his wonderfully chaotic manipulations of the massed technology he has assembled around him tend to send him down some very improvised routes. This EP is, as expected, a more disciplined, but no less mercurial, affair.

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68605259_1745210538955896_7744477048650858496_nIt’s always fascinating to track an artist’s evolution over a number of years and Tamsin Quin is someone who has followed a wonderful path as a musician, artist and performer. To be honest, it’s always been in her, even in the early days a certain charm and charisma, humour and confidence was obvious and the songs where always there, but like any journey it takes a while to bed in, get comfortable and develop that meaningful stride. Scandal is the sound of Tamsin Quin being…well, just more Tamsin Quin and its glorious.

Her songs have always featured the universal subjects of relationships, of love, loss and longing but have also always done so in a very mature way. Not for her the histrionics and drama that the pop world is filled with nor the cliche and bravado of the rock world, for though her music is best described as roots pop, it is the roots element which she leans toward lyrically. The music is accessible, pop aware and easy on the ear but lyrically she taps into older, more mature ways of discussing those subjects and Scandal is the perfect example of this old folk-wise head on young pop shoulders.

Just the sweet and spacious acoustic guitar to rest her voice on, her vocals are both soothing and   alluring in equal measure, like a whisper in the ear from someone close, reassurance with just the right amount of excitement. And even the language she choses takes her a step above a lot of the competition, mythologising the everyday world into a place filled with outlaws, tyrants and villains, vagabonds and scoundrels. But it is the spaciousness that really seals the deal, those gaps where the notes are allowed to fade away into the distance, the breathing spaces between the words all building atmosphere and anticipation. Perhaps if, as they say,  less is more, then more less should make for much more more…or something, I’m not great with adages.

60487714_331289560889406_5618553556656193536_nFor the last few weeks I have been working for an events company. Although they have a background in sports talks they were putting together a “Back to the 80’s” event at Old Town Bowl, the idea being that as the 80’s revival vibe is pretty much covered by synth bands and established local cover acts, delivering a series of artists doing 80’s songs but in slightly different ways might be a different take on things. And so 80:Three, a conventional pop cover band, Emily-Jane Sheppard performing a tailor made solo set, Sonore String Quartet and Ghetto Blasters brass to headline were hired in to offer something leaning to the more unusual.

At the point of me working with the company things were well underway, or so it seemed and my role was promotion and social media, that sort of thing. It quickly became clear that there were many, many holes in the arrangements so far made, including them not having secured a PA, a task which was dropped on my desk with less than a week to go. Glastonbury week, when every PA company in the South West was hiring out and working at that not so small event.

But I managed to get them a PA, though the company was short of crew. I then managed to hire a sound engineer and between the two of us became the technical wing of the event…let me tell you putting in a 15 hour day and setting up and decanting (I’m sure that’s the word) a festival size rig really came as a shock to my out of shape body.

But it all worked, the bands all came and went…perfectly to time, the stalls all reported reasonable takings, the Bowl had a reasonable but slightly smaller than expected crowd and the event seemed like a great success. A visit from the council inspectors even left us with a warm and positive glow. Then as we were packing up and ushering people out…the complaints started. People moaned that they couldn’t bring picnics in whilst saying that here should have been more food options as well. The beer at £4.00 a pint was too expensive, the music, though delivering what was advertised was not what people want. Some said that nothing interesting ever happens in Swindon but this was too different. One person even said that they hoped that we lose so much money that we don’t get to put anything else on. A nice thing to say to people putting their first event on and learning steeply with every hour that passed. I think her wish has come true.

Then the real clincher came from an unexpected direction. On the Tuesday after the event I was told that I was being let go as (having plugged all of the holes in their event and worked my day off to help staff it) I was an “unnecessary expense.” A bit of a blow, especially after a few months earlier being told that the Swindon Advertiser was dropping my music what’s on column of 9 years for being ” no longer compatible with the on-line direction that the paper is going in*.” To lose one job in 6 months is careless enough but to loose two….

So between the organisers and the punters attitudes and lack of gratitudes, this story probably goes some way to explaining why there isn’t much out of the ordinary going on in Swindon. It also explains why most of my efforts these days go to writing about and promoting bands in the Minneapolis and Berlin, New York and London (in that order) rather than worry about anything happening in my own post code.

* it was replaced with a column cut and pasted from bands own event descriptions.

 

 

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Having a sartorial image that falls somewhere between the guy who drove the van for The Waterboys in the late 80’s and All About Eve’s roadie around the same time, I tend to do most of my clothes shopping on-line or in charity shops. Today, as the sun beat down on Railway Town I braved the heart of the metropolis for coffee, cake and a rummage through the second had book shops. On the way back I thought I’d have a look through some of the mainstream outfitters for perhaps an interesting shirt or a new pair of suede boots.

I came away not only empty handed but wondering when exactly did the powers that be decide that we should all dress like a prep school twat from a medium sized town in Iowa? I don’t want chinos. I don’t want a fitted check shirt. I don’t want a pair of daps!* I certainly don’t want a pair of big shorts and a baseball cap! Why is it with apparently more shopping choice than ever on the high street we are becoming increasingly more conformist and unadventurous in our fashion?

*showing my age there.

 

 

56730687_2207978619283075_2894034240620462080_oAre you ready for an unforgettable night of rock, prog and freakish twists and turns – from three bands making big waves on the international rock scene? If so then all discerning music fans need to make sure that they catch CIRCU5, I Am The Manic Whale and Let’s Swim, Get Swimming at LEVEL 3 in Swindon on SATURDAY 21 SEPTEMBER.

CIRCU5… imagine rock and prog poured into a blender, mixed with a dash of 60s vocal harmonies and lashings of hard-driving rhythms. But while certain influences spring to mind, CIRCU5 exists in its own world of adrenalin-rush anthems, addictive choruses and goose-bump melodies. CIRCU5 is the project of Steve Tilling – multi-instrumentalist and guitarist/vocalist for TC&I (the band of Colin Moulding and Terry Chambers from XTC).

I Am The Manic Whale are unashamedly a progressive rock band. While evoking many of the great progressive artists like Genesis, Big Big Train, Spock’s Beard and Neal Morse, the band brings something new to the table. Their intelligent lyrics touch on unusual and interesting subjects – from science fiction to the history of printing, the decay of a derelict swimming pool, and the artistic creations of Dutch artist Theo Jansen (Strandbeests).

Let’s Swim, Get Swimming are an instrumental math rock band hailing from Surrey, UK. The band consist of drummer Thomas Shrimpton, bassist Andrew Stokoe and guitarist Paddy Towner. Paddy is a new addition to the band as of July 2017, replacing the incredibly talented Will Lancastle. The three remaining members all studied at The Academy of Contemporary Music.

Debut record Islands brought the band immediate attention and landed them support slots with well established acts such as Totorro, The Physics House Band, And So I Watch You From Afar, Strobes, Tangled Hair and more. On the back of this success, Lets Swim, Get Swimming organised and embarked on 3 tours around the U.K, one consisting of a headline tour of 10 shows in 10 days.

Get your tickets (£6) HERE

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