Tag Archive: black sheep apprentice


532525_10151752635811804_1749102226_nIt’s funny how the different strands of past musical activity, the bands, the people, the places and of course the songs themselves, seem to weave in and out of your life, like a maypole lacing together ever tighter so that ever more tapes are running cheek by jowl with their neighbours. I noticed it today when two scheduled posts over on Dancing About Architecture popped up side by side and reminded me of how history follows you around.

Completely out of the blue, a new Black Hat‘s record came my way for reviewing. They were a band who I used to help get Railway Town gigs for, with my erstwhile colleague Gimli the tallest dwarf in Old Town, under our Songs of Praise promotional umbrella. And what a fine band they were too, a wonderful blend of Jam-esque punk edge, reggae back beats and indie chops all coming together to forge incendiary and most memorable anthems. But before the Black Hats, there was Chamfer, and that was where I first saw frontman Nick leading a band making beguiling orient meets occident sounds.

I first saw them at Level III supporting Space Hopper, a band who would shortly evolve into Belarus, produce one near perfect indie-pop album and fade out, though I would get to know some of them through subsequent bands, namely Dave Corrigan’s raggle-taggle roots outfit Good Things Happen in Bad Towns, whose music would later be the starting point for the brilliant Astral Ponies…also featuring Belarus’ mainman Lee Alder.

But I mention this because also crucial to the Space Hopper/Belarus story is Rich Millin, someone who was the tub-thumping better half to my bass lines in a couple of later bands, particularly for the red wine fuelled, folk frolics of Sweet Plums and for a couple of gigs, pig-town, country-punks, Black Sheep Apprentice. And this is where the other review comes in to play. Siamese Youth are a new outfit, based in Berlin and heavy on the 80’s synth=pop groove and they are being helped along their way by none other than my good friend Rich, who has made his home there for many a year now. Hence the review and the serendipitous timing of which prompted this nostalgic wander.

It’s a small world and every now and then something comes along to remind you just how closely knit and global village-like it truly is.

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18195037_10155309848293308_5220412152281987086_nIn some respects this week is the calm before the storm, the deep breath before the plunge, the prawn cocktail before the chicken in a basket…okay, that one is a bit dated, a quieter week before next weekend’s annual Swindon Shuffle hoves into view. But there is still enough to whet your musical appetites and it isn’t every week that a music venues gets given a new lease of life and a major league act rolls into town.

The current wave of younger, local indie bands shows no sign of losing momentum with three of the finest bands of the moment taking the stage at The Victoria tonight. Basement Club make accessible, textured and fluid music based around funky grooves and nuanced guitar work, Xadium take a harder-edged route into the indie-rock sound and Kaleido Bay juggle some sumptuous and psychedelic sonics to make their sound.

A real slice of old school Americana and outlaw country comes to The Beehive in the form of Christopher Rees who delivers tales of optimism and consolation with a dash of whiskey wisdom via a passionate and memorable voice and deft rootsy songs.

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151612241.jpg.galleryI’ve been listening to this album on and off for the last week trying to formulate a way of starting off this review but never really feeling like I have enough information to give a review befitting what occurs within the 10+ tracks of this collection of songs from Swindon’s ‘grown-up Country’ specialists, so I find myself returning to the album to try and kick my ears into instructing my hands what to write.

And it’s proving difficult.

I think maybe the best place to start is with the warning; don’t get comfortable. This is not a generic album by any means and is happy to make you tap your feet and slap your thighs as it is in giving you a dizzying moment of “well where the hell are we going now!?”.

I’ve made no secret in previous reviews that I like opening tracks and this album’s opener starts in moody, Sergio Leone territory, a land of squawking buzzards overhead, dusty plains, creaking salon doors and a lone church bell ringing, it’s quite cinematic, it’s dramatic and you settle down for a dip into country music but no, this isn’t that kind of a show cowboy, after 35-40 secs we’re replacing that atmosphere with a bouncy opening track called ‘Let It Go’ which almost acts as a piece of advice because if you had any preconceptions about what to expect from this band, forget it, let it go because what you can expect – other than well written songs and more than a nod to the macabre – is the unexpected.

Tread carefully because this path isn’t familiar to most.

 

The music runs a deftly course between the dark ‘deal-with-the-Devil’ country music through the blues of the whiskey joints of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana where ghosts sit on the shoulders of wandering strangers, into rock and maybe even a little indie-rock. It wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve and the songs are songs of regret, often loneliness but definitely of experience the running order of the songs at times feels like they are going through certain emotions from loss (in Let it Go, Thrown Away, Water) to acceptance (Born to Walk Alone) to resolve (in Pheonix, I Curse Your Name and the demented but crowd roaring Black Sheep Apprentice) and they are all delivered with a voice sounding closer to Geddy Lee of Rush than the storytelling voice of Johnny Cash. Another leftfield twist.

I would have liked to have heard more growl on the bass at times and a few of the songs could have been shaved here and there but one man’s snack is another man’s feast and this is a big album, an album that gives you a lot of bang for your buck and doesn’t skimp on what’s included, which seems to be the band’s heart, blood, sweat, tears and balls!

After hearing what the band can do I’ll be catching them live very soon, there seems to be energy in spades on offer here that can only be best experienced live, so give the album a listen and catch a gig or two.

 

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706278_10151048704753039_833851308_oThe big noise this week, quite literally in this case, has to be that it is Easter Bank Holiday which mean’s that it is time for this years VicFest. As always this celebration of local and regional, cutting edge original music takes place over four generically themed sessions and tonight The Victoria presents a wonderful array of young and happening Indie bands.

Getrz lead the charge with their brand of high octane and deftly delivered wide screen indie, Sweet Tooth head up from Bristol to deliver some eclectic and wonderfully soulful indie-pop and We Are Parkas are a trashy take on the Manchester sound. Opening the night is the sweet sound of The Basement Club.

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1278861_573888912660792_1813647107_oNot many musicians deserve elevation to celebrity status. In fact celebrity is a word so devalued by its application to reality TV chancers and inflated pop dross egos that we need a new label for the likes of David Bowie. Maybe Icon is a better fit. 25 of the most influential albums of all time, film and theatre roles and untold creative innovations; he embodied art, androgyny, contradiction, mystery, elegance and eloquence and even his death and final musical statement seem like a work of art.

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14449011_673379056164128_4679448363774001003_nThis week we head into the Christmas party zone, and thankfully it isn’t tinselled up to the max but more takes the form of some choice musical gatherings to celebrate and see the year out with.

At The Victoria, Songs of Praise, has their last big show for a while as they head towards a year of much reduced bookings. Before that happens though they have lined up a great night of old school rock, sleazy grooves and boogie beats to put this year’s activities to bed.

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14468193_10153789195910025_4105194703030807599_oIt’s nice to see another week where Swindon continues to embrace original and often out of town bands, if nothing else it gives me nothing to moan about as the length of this introduction attests to.

Thursday

Flight Brigade, George Wilding Band and TriAmi @ The Victoria

If some of the recent big names have hailed from a slightly earlier time, Flight Brigade (pictured) is a band bang on the moment. Festival favourites, beloved by bloggers and journalists and adored by the more adventurous side of the national radio posse and tonight you get to see why. If the idea of a folk heartbeat wrapped in layers of indie cool, rock drive and pop sensibility and then delivered with energy and style doesn’t get your blood pumping then you may as well give up on music and go back to your Stephanie Meyer novels and your collection of vintage manhole covers as it doesn’t get much better than this.

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13116233_1147335191965449_4162624693147308179_oI’m happy to see that the autumn dance card of bigger, out of town acts is continuing with some pace. Tonight, Songs of Praise bring you the first of four gigs they have scheduled around town, beginning at The Victoria for some highly accessible alt-rock fusion.

Flight Brigade sit in the same place as the likes of Imagine Dragons or early Arcade Fire, blending lush indie soundscapes with radio friendly melody, elements of folk sit at its core but get wrapped in swathes of energy, passion and panache. Also on the bill is George Wilding who continues his journey from nostalgia tinged troubadour to forward thinking textured pop icon and TriAmi, a fantastic folktronic trio who have the ability to say more in the atmospheric spaces within their songs than most bands can with actual chords and words.

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13770448_10153879878179422_708032630940904024_nWith the rise of the Pokémon Go madness, I’ve had a great idea of how to invigorate the local music scene. Pokeband Go. Same concept but the avatars of the local bands and artists that you have to capture can only be found in the bar or venue that they are playing in. You can then take them to a “gym” – normally a music or record shop – to battle with other players. You get awarded candies for buying band merchandise and stardust signing up to their mailing list. What do you reckon? If imaginary Japanese cartoon creatures can become a worldwide phenomena, surely this has a chance. Right? Maybe not.

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