DUNES | Take Me To The Nasties | ALBUM REVIEW

Dunes | Take Me To The Nasties | Album review

Review by: Graeme J Baty

 

Here’s a band that I’ve followed since their early days. That said, technically it still is the “early days” as the band have only been going since around late 2016. They’ve been consistently brilliant live and have carved their own little niche in the Northeast scene.

What they do, they do really well and it’s impossible not to adore their sound. Some critics might be a bit harsh in comparing them to some obvious influences (that will not be mentioned here!). It’s all too easy to dismiss music that way and not truly enjoy it for what it is. Dunes make fantastic anthemic riff-fests with tongue in cheek witty lyrics. There is nothing quite like them in the local scene and they’ve been a delight to witness as they evolved from their fist lineup as a four-piece then moving smoothly to three-piece as guitarist Scott departed. Since then they’ve released two well received EPs and have played countless gigs around the country.

At long last we get their debut LP! The LP will be released on legendary Durham based label Sapien Records (We Are Knuckle Dragger, Big Lad, Steve Strong). I’ve been basking in this rifforama album for a month or two and have been trying to put it into words. I’m not sure I can. To me, Dunes is more of a feeling than a definable sound. They bring a smile to my grumpy face.

The title track ‘Take Me To The Nasties’ kicks off the record and is classic Dunes. A well-placed track allows them to set out their stall and prepare you for a hook and riff barrage. Ten meaty tracks, smashed out in just under 43 minutes. It’s a no-nonsense, no ostentation album that will draw you back for repeated listens. Denim Casket proves the album standout and has become a live favourite recently.

The sound and production is really solid, the bass tone is simply lush, that coupled with one of the finest drummers in the region and the magic touch of singer/guitarist John Davies, everything he seems to be involved with turns to audio gold. The production recorded at their rehearsal rooms by Graham Thompson remarkably captures the Dunes sound and brings a vibrant live feel, yet polished and subtle. It’s the perfect balance for a band like Dunes. No gross over production and endless overdubs. The sound is minimal and all the more impactful for it.

It’s an album that you just want to crank up and bob your head until it hurts. Which, I must admit I have done, sorry neighbours! Dunes are a good old fashioned hook driven party band. It’s simply impossible not to smile and adore this record.

Out on 6th Sept 2019

PHARMAKON | Devour | ALBUM REVIEW

Pharmakon | Devour | Album review

Review by: Jimmy Hutchinson

‘Devour’ is the fourth album from Margaret Chardiet’s recording project Pharmakon, and it was recorded live in the studio by Ben Greenberg from hardcore act Uniform. The listener is encouraged to engage with the live nature of the recording, and to that end the digital copy of this album is provided in two continuous sides as well as five individual tracks.

‘Homeostasis’ and ‘Spit It Out’ begin the proceedings in a sinister but fairly minimal vein, employing looped noise, electronic drones, indecipherable vocals and the occasional beat to establish a disquieting atmosphere. By ‘Self-Regulating System’ at the end of Side A, however, the album starts to sound (for all intents and purposes) like a building site. In the grand tradition of early Einstürzende Neubauten, whirring, screeching and distorted yelling are all present.

The second side continues in similar aggressive fashion with a deluge of feedback and further screaming. ‘Deprivation’ could be a ‘Metal Machine Music’ for the 21st century, except that the production values aren’t much higher than they were in 1975. The vocals on ‘Pristine Panic/ Cheek by Jowl’ take on an insistent, rhythmic quality over a repetitive mechanical whir before further chaos ensues, and this is probably the most fertile section of the album. The relentless noise calls to mind a factory methodically destroying itself – a vision which ties in with Chardiet’s stated theme of cannibalism and human self-destruction. (Jim Jarmusch’s new film The Dead Don’t Die explores similar thematic territory.)

Not for the faint-hearted then, but if you are interested in music that pushes extremes to explore concepts then this album may well be of interest to you. In an era of randomly generated playlists, it’s refreshing when artists still encourage their audiences to experience music in longer forms.

RUSSIAN CIRCLES | Blood Year | ALBUM REVIEW

Russian Circles | Blood Year | Album review

Review by: Jimmy Hutchinson

Chicagoans Russian Circles have been steadily releasing material since 2004’s self-titled EP, and Blood Year is their seventh LP to date.

The record begins with the mournful, restrained ‘Hunter Moon’, before segueing rapidly into album highlight ‘Arluck’. This second track begins with insistent drumming and a distorted bassline, before guitarist Mike Sullivan unleashes a series of intricate lines and riffs which jump out of both sides of the stereo field. Despite its sonic assault, the track is restrained in its layering, and therefore retains a fairly sparse quality. This allows the drums – recorded in Steve Albini’s studio – room to breathe.

Blood Year may arguably be Russian Circles’ heaviest and least compromising record yet, although the band members take their time to develop the dynamics on even the busiest tracks. ‘Kohokia’, for example, features an excellent performance from the rhythm section (Dave Turncrantz on drums and Brian Cook on bass), who anchor the piece while Sullivan runs through a varied set of textures – including an uplifting harmonic break reminiscent of 2011’s ‘Mladek’.

Most of the songs are over six minutes long – the two quieter, shorter pieces serving as introductions to each side of the record. ‘Sinaia’ is Blood Year’s longest piece, and one of its most intense. After seven minutes of furious tremolo picking, the guitars drop out altogether, leaving Turncrantz to finish the track on his own.

Judging by the relentless, sludgy riffs on ‘Quartered’, someone was ‘hung and drawn’ too… It’s a dark and stormy end from a band who have often finished their albums with quieter, pensive pieces (e.g. ‘Praise Be Man’ on 2011’s Empros, or the title track on 2013’s Memorial). 15 years into their career, Russian Circles show no signs of compromising their vision, although their ability to structure tracks and balance dynamics continues to grow.

Blood Year is available on vinyl and CD (or as a digital download) from Sargent House on the 2nd of August. Make sure you get a copy, and try to catch them live as well.

KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD BAND | JARROD DICKENSON | 17.07.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band and Jarrod Dickenson – 17th July 2019 – Boiler Shop Newcastle

Review and photos by Graeme J. Baty from Blank Slate Creative

The Boiler Shop continues it’s now established a reputation for attracting stunning artists to the region. I can’t honestly say I’d ever expected to see thee Kenny Wayne Shepherd in Newcastle. This was one of those must-see shows! Judging by the sell-out (or very very close to a sell out) I am not alone in grabbing this opportunity by the bullhorns!

Jarrod Dickenson - 17th July 2019 - Boiler Shop Newcastle
Jarrod Dickenson – 17th July 2019 – Boiler Shop Newcastle

It’s an early show and the heavy summer rain ensure that everyone is sheltering in the venue enjoying a pint when support act Jarrod Dickenson and his wife Claire take to the stage for a rather humble and delightfully slow-paced set. Offering a sublime Americana, folk-tinged blues proving a perfect mellow start to the evening.

Kenny Wayne Shepard Band - 17th July 2019 - Boiler Shop Newcastle
Kenny Wayne Shepard Band – 17th July 2019 – Boiler Shop Newcastle

Kenny Wayne Shepherd is enough to draw in a crowd tonight but this is not just a Kenny show. He’s assembled a rather stunning lineup of musicians. In fact, it becomes quite a who is who of the blues-rock world! I’ll not go into the boring details but if you’re reading this I am sure you know who these chaps are and just how incredible a lineup it is.

They deliver a diverse range of songs, taking to the stage with a Women Like You, through to Turn to Stone. The evening seems to whizz by in the blink of an eye as they take to the stage for the encore. It’s a relatively short and succinct set, perhaps perfectly timed some might say. I was certainly left wanting more, although some of these types of shows can prove a marathon-esque task to get through. Not tonight, it’s a fast-paced pow-wow of a masterclass. Voodoo Chile ensures the guitar nerds get their fill of stunning playing with this massive and jaw-dropping version of the classic Hendrix song.


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FRANK TURNER | THE WILDHEARTS | 13.07.2019 | Wasteland Festival | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls | The Wildhearts | Holy Moly and The Crackers | Beans on Toast – 13th July 2019 – Wasteland Festival

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls – 12th July 2019 – Wasteland Festival

Review by Lee Hammond and photos by Graeme J Baty

The second day of Wasteland festival had also been moved at short notice, tonight though the venue feels significantly cooler than last nights sweat box. Arriving in time for local band Holy Moly and The Crackers, they set about starting the party as early as possible. A fun packed set as they entertain this exuberant early crowd with their own brand of folk punk. Bounding round the stage in enthusiastic fashion it sets a huge precedent for everyone who is to follow them.

From a local band of reprobates to a lone man, Beans On Toast slopes on to the stage to an excited reception. Straight into tearing a strip off Donald and Boris it’s clear Beans On Toast is in the mood for a party, he rattles off a plethora of his better known tracks including the chant-along MDMAmazing, which never fails to induce a brilliant reaction. He then offers it out to the audience to request tracks, only to find most of those they’re after he can’t play.

It provides a fun end to a brilliant set, completely different to those that went before him, yet still no less compelling. There is no set style or genre tonight as next up are local legends The Wildhearts, personally requested by Frank Turner to play a special hometown show tonight. They’re a band who waste very little time in chatting, instead it’s heads down for this short set as they crank out riff after riff and hit after hit.

It’s a jam packed set, early on the brilliant Everlone has a multitude of heads nodding along in unison. With the likes of Suckerpunch quickly following after, new track Let ‘Em Go sees Frank Turner hopping on stage and bounding around in suitably ecstatic fashion as he helps out with this track. They power through to the end of this insatiable set, you’d be forgiven for assuming they were tonight’s headliners with a set as tight as this.

As the lights dim for the final time at this years Wasteland festival, Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls file out on to the stage and immediately take the roof off with an astounding rendition of Get Better. It kick starts a hit filled set in which you can barely hear Frank and his band as Long Live The Queen, Photosynthesis, Polaroid Picture, Plain Sailing Weather all invoke massive sing-alongs.

There are few artists that can control a crowd in the way Frank Turner does, tonight he is on top form. Creating a circle pit, inciting deafening chants filled with heartfelt passion, for a moment it brings about that ecstatic feeling that takes you away from everything else. The odd track from Be More Kind softening the tone ever so slightly but he soon picks the pace back up.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls – 12th July 2019 – Wasteland Festival

The end of his set is an exceptional run through some of his most angst filled work, The Next Storm, Try This At Home, Recovery, I Still Believe and finally the ever brilliant Four Simple Words. It’s insane from start to finish this crowd moving as one, bouncing up and down to every beat. All lead in song by Frank, it is truly a sight to behold as we leave hoarse wishing it wasn’t over. Once again Frank Turner proving why he is one of the finest live acts in the country if not the world.


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STEREOLAB | 20.06.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Stereolab – 20th June 2019 – Boiler Shop

Review by Lee Hammond Photos by Gavin Wyatt

After a decade away the much loved Stereolab have finally returned, and so far on their tour they’ve wowed crowds across the UK and Europe. As they arrive in Newcastle tonight there is an excitement tinged with tension in the air, after the band had to cancel the previous two shows on the tour. However, the show tonight is still to go ahead, opening are Tomaga whose motoric beats quickly hypnotise this crowd into synchronised toe-tapping.

The duos incessant beats set the tempo for the rest of the night, the only issue being the pair seem to have one set groove and don’t deviate from that. It means that their set feels a bit flat, fortunately the same cannot be said for Stereolab who are welcomed to the stage with a rapturous reception by the packed crowd. Opening with Come and Play in the Milky Night they instantly have the crowd under their spell. Lætitia Sadier taking time out to thank the crowd in between songs as they erupt when she announces French Disko early in the bands set.

This set is packed with classic tracks and this is the first that invokes a huge sing-along from the entire crowd. These classic tracks making everyone swoon, the beautiful disco beats ringing out throughout the beautiful venue as the sun sets outside. The likes of Miss Modular and Ping Pong have similar effects on this crowd, both are tracks which prove why Stereolab have been lauded as so influential. Both tracks sound absolutely incredible tonight and have everyone dancing.

It’s rare in such a miserable and divided world to see such jubilation and excitement filling a room, but Stereolab achieve this with relative ease tonight. As their set builds to a climax the tracks become increasingly emphatic before they close out with Lo Boob Oscillator, this wonderful track caps off their set brilliantly. It’s euphoric tone enthusing the crowd the bouncing beats providing the perfect close to their set, which at times felt like a slow burn but in actual fact this was perfect as they gently ramped up the tempo to this amazing finish.

They use a similar tactic for the encore opening with The Extension Trip and closing out the night with the awesome John Cage Bubblegum. Tonight Stereolab are truly out of this world, a truly welcome return!

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HAWKEYES | Last Light of Future Failure | ALBUM REVIEW

Hawkeyes | Last Light of Future Failure | Album review

Review by: Jimmy Hutchinson

Hailing from Pittsburgh (correction) Kitchener, Ontario and boasting no less than four guitarists, Hawkeyes released their riff-laden first album Poison Slows You Down four years ago. Last Night of Future Failure finds the band experimenting with different styles, continuing the evolution already witnessed on their collaborative releases and soundtrack contributions over the intervening period.

Album opener ‘The Lickening‘ has a psychedelic, raga-esque feel. A strummed acoustic guitar establishes the rhythm while a synth adds texture, before the rest of the band joins in and the dynamics intensify. However, it’s a fairly restrained piece in comparison with the tracks on their debut.

‘Look At ‘Em Scramble’ is a lively slice of Stooges-flavoured rock, driven by wah-wah guitar. There’s so much going on that it’s a little hard to keep track of where one guitar line ends and another begins, but the propulsive rhythm sustains interest throughout the track’s six-minute duration.

‘Nude Karate’ starts with kosmische-style drums and a heavily modulated guitar riff. It’s another energetic and densely layered instrumental piece, in which the shifting tempo provides some interesting variation.

‘Full of Secrets’, the title of which may or may not be a Twin Peaks reference, brings proceedings to a close with an 18-minute slab of desert rock. Despite its initial bombast, there is greater clarity in the mix on this track. There is also a dramatic dynamic shift halfway through, when the track almost grinds to a halt; a minimalist section of white noise and atonal guitar tones is a nice development, before the track builds back up to a noisy finale.

Overall, the album demonstrates Hawkeyes developing their sound and tackling different styles. Fans of their debut may miss the all-out guitar assault, but the more varied structures and dynamics of this sophomore effort should attract a wider audience.

Last Night of Future Failure is available from Cardinal Fuzz from the 28th of June.

DARK MORPH | Dark Morph | ALBUM REVIEW

Dark Morph – Dark Morph | Album review

Review by: Jimmy Hutchinson

A palpable and sustained atmosphere of dread is not necessarily what one would expect from Sigur Rós’ vocalist/ multi-instrumentalist Jónsi, but that’s exactly what he has created on Dark Morph: a collaboration with Swedish composer Carl Michael von Hausswolff. These recordings were made using sampled hydrophone and field recordings, especially of humpback whales and the titular ‘dark morph’ heron of the Fiji islands. Von Hausswolff used the recorded sounds as the bases for drones, which were then developed into musical pieces by Jónsi.

The resulting album is a disquieting collection of pieces in the dark ambient vein of Robert Rich and B. Lustmord’s Stalker, or William Basinski’s more recent On Time Out Of Time. It’s something of a departure for Jónsi, whose collaboration with his partner Alex, Riceboy Sleeps, was more melodic and featured orchestral elements. Fans of Sigur Rós will miss his striking vocals on this release. It’s perhaps more typical of von Hausswolff’s work, which often uses found sounds and explores electricity, frequency and tone.

Opening track ‘So(ng)qe’ is built on a bed of mysterious wailing noises, which do call to mind whale song but which also have an oddly artificial, digital quality. ‘Ura Dardanella’ is ostensibly more musical, in that it uses sampled noise as a rhythmic device while a synthesizer plays a subtle harmonic progression over the top. Pieces such as ‘Wai’ and ‘Bani Manumanu’ are more atonal. The album perhaps succeeds the most when it strikes a delicate balance between its sampled sounds and its musical elements, such as on the atmospheric ‘Kavura’, where it’s hard to tell which sounds are natural, which have been manipulated and which are being generated by instruments. Overall, it’s an interesting and original piece of work, in what is shaping up to be a great year for dark ambient releases.

Dark Morph is available digitally on Bandcamp, and on vinyl from The Vinyl Factory. The duo performed in Venice last month to celebrate the album’s release.

EMMY THE GREAT | BISHI | 29.05.2019 | Newcastle Cluny | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Emmy The Great | Bishi – 29th May 2019 – Newcastle Cluny

Review and photos by Victoria Wai (Victoria Wai)

It was a night of everything from people drawing, to human keyboard stands and lyric prompters to even someone telling the audience that The Pixies were on the phone (well the ring tone was them!) but before all this we had an electrofused sitar set in the form musician Bishi donning a somewhat Morticia Adams/Cruella De Vil hairstyle. She’s got style, she’s got substance and she mesmerised us with things I never thought could be heard from a sitar.

The crowd were somewhat dumbfounded and some, once they finished telling each other about their evening meal, were under the spell of Bishi who loop pedals her vocals and commands the audience with power stances and stares which are quite a contrast for what was to come but one thing for sure, if you witness Bishi live, it is one name you won’t forget and I am imagining that maybe her own headline show will be something big and bolder than what we had on this night.

So, Emmy The Great. I was actually going to start this review with pure cheesiness by saying that yes, she is great and well, thank fook for that but what is it that makes her great?

This tour is the 10th Anniversary celebration of Emmy’s first album, First Love. In those ten years she’s had a Second Love and other releases and is celebrating coming off maternity leave from having her first child and returned to Newcastle to play the first venue she ever played in this city. The night is all about celebration and reminiscing that there are some in the crowd that mouth every word that is sung by Emmy keeping her in check. If you follow Emmy on the socials, she’s made no secret that she has been somewhat suffering baby brain. She has also stated that she doesn’t like calling her fans ‘fans’ and this is what the night feels like. She’s connecting with those friends that you don’t see for a long time and when you do you just pick it up from where you left off, even for the 2-3 people in the crowd that have never seen or heard her play.

Emmy has her setlist ready which is simply a playback of First Love. She gives us a commentary of most songs including the MIA encounter which she says should have led to a sticky on the album as “cute but offensive!” The ‘interlude’ song, Easter Parade Part 2, follows where she jokingly invites the audience to top up their drinks and even exchange sketches as one gig goer, Jim, actually sketches throughout her set. She engages the audience as much as she can throughout on a personal level leading to great short exchanges, otherwise people are just living the album like they did ten years ago with many singing along especially that one audience member, Helen,  right in her line of view nailing every word with the exception of Emmy just getting right into it and sings ‘fuck on your grave’ rather than ‘piss on your grave’ during the title track which then leads the room singing in chorus for the rest.

Closing the night she invites Gary on stage who at her show the previous night in Sheffield to take on the roll to steady her keyboard for the closing track of the night, Everything Reminds Me Of You. And as she goes to step off the stage to a thunderous roar she returns to sing the last song from the album which is City Song and then into three of the four bonus songs on the album. The album has a few extras in sound but tonight it is Emmy, her guitars, a keyboard and a roomful of ‘friends’ reminiscing the good times through heartbreak to celebrity references. It was one of the most relaxed and fun nights of music I have had and this is the first time in her 10year plus career that I got to experience the greatness of Emmy The Great live and surely it won’t be another ten until I get to do this all over again.

PHOTO GALLERY


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GOV’T MULE | 28.05.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Gov’t Mule – 28th May 2019 – Newcastle Boiler Shop

By Kevin Burdon (Kevin Burdon Photography)

Govt Mule are a jam band that features a powerhouse lineup of musicians, including the Allman Brothers’ Warren Haines on lead guitar and vocals, Matt Abts leading the groove on drums with clockwork precision, Jorgen Carlsson on bass and Danny Louis on keys.

It’s difficult to predict what you’re going to get at a Mule gig – the band are renowned for taking a potential setlist of hundreds of songs on tour with them, they’re not encumbered by having any ‘anthems’ that they’re obliged to include. What you can guarantee is an evening that includes some deep cuts, unexpected covers, and extended jams all delivered with stunning musicianship.

The band decided to kick things off in an atmospheric fashion, starting the slow slide guitar led Hammer and Nails, then into Larger than Life and Whisper in Your Soul, which all showcased the band’s masterful control of dynamics, which would be a recurring theme throughout the night. The number of extended jams and slow-burning songs may have been a bit heavy to digest for a casual listener, but the Newcastle crowd (consisting of many well-known local musicians) appreciated the talent on show.

That’s not to say that the gig was simply an exercise in musical over-indulgence, there were still plenty of ‘hookier’ songs in the set too.’ Fool’s Moon’, ‘Slackjawed Jezebel’ and a pair of songs from the band’s new album Revolution Come, Revolution Go (‘Stone Cold Rage’ and ‘Drawn that Way’) were some of the highlights of the first set.

The second set included some exceptional cover versions, ‘Don’t let Me Be Misunderstood’ featured some mesmerising instrumental sections, ‘30 Days in the Hole’ elicited the obvious cheer from the crowd for the “Newcastle Brown will sure smack you down” lyric, but the highlight of the set was a goosebump-inducing rendition of the Allman Brothers’ ‘Soulshine’.

The band closed off the night with Warren Haines giving yet another slide guitar masterclass on a couple of blues covers, leaving the stage to rapturous applause, having given every musician in the room a kick up the arse to get practicing!

Set One:

Hammer and Nails (The Staple Singers cover)
Larger Than Life
Whisper in Your Soul
Fool’s Moon
Birth of the Mule
Stone Cold Rage
Drawn That Way
Slackjaw Jezebel

Set Two:

I’ll Be Creepin’ (Free cover)
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (Nina Simone cover)
Mule
Soulshine (The Allman Brothers Band cover)
Broke Down on the Brazos
Tributary Jam
Time to Confess
30 Days in the Hole (Humble Pie cover)
I Don’t Need No Doctor (Ray Charles cover)

Encore:

Come On in My Kitchen (Robert Johnson cover)
Gonna Send You Back to Georgia (A City Slick) (Timmy Shaw cover)

PHOTO GALLERY

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