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Entries in brighton (13)


The Great Escape - Day Two

We're on a roll now - soaking in some wildly different styles, singer-songwriter to dubstep to prog. At least a couple of excellent discoveries and all rounded off with another blast from the wonderful Cloud Control.

Lunchtime with the snappily named Woodenbox With A Fistful of Fivers, who'd driven through the night from Glasgow to be there. Sax and trumpet alongside two guitars, bass and drums. Less folky than I was expecting - driven from frontman Ali Downer's tightly strummed acoustic but subtle, shifting rhythms and excellent textures from the brass. Confident enough to begin one song with some whistling... The final 'Twisting Mile' (also available on white vinyl 7", collectors) has almost show-tune elements before storming into a frantic controlled accelerando to finish. Downer remarked after one song 'We normally play this off our faces, late at night... I don't know why I told you that.' Appetite nicely whetted for their (evening) appearance at the Heb Celt festival in Stornoway in July, especially after a nice chat with their fine and friendly drummer Nick Dudman.

They were followed by fellow-Scot Rachel Semmani - lovely, big voice, good fingerpicking, sweet stories (the travails of working on a burger van)... I was less immediately convinced by her songs, but definitely worth a listen.

Then an unplanned stop for Coda, not knowing what to expect. They were great: guitar, trombone, drums, keyboards and what the frontman introduced as 'effects and shit', seamlessly blending dub, techno and almost metal guitar parts into something infectious and accessible. I was left reflecting that The Clash really started something with 'Police and Thieves' on their first album - and that testosterone will win out whatever genre young lads choose.

The evening shift began with Sweden's Thus:Owls, on the basis that any band with a colon in their name deserves some attention. (Punctuation is important: I always placed 'Paint It, Black' higher in the Stones' canon than it would otherwise be on the song's merits because of that crucial comma. But I digress... ) Slow, portentous prog - but always interesting and effective. Singer Erika Angell has a striking and powerful voice - if you can imagine a Venn diagram of Björk and Renate Knaup of Amon Düül II (do try, now), the interface will be pretty narrow but it's a good place to be. Erika also has an appealing habit of jumping up and down on the spot at moments of particularly high drama. Definitely worth further study.

My cunning plan then was to squeeze in to the Hope, if possible - it's always heaving, and wait for Cloud Control's set at the end of the evening. The plan worked but involved absorbing a determinedly weird set from Paris Suit Yourself (loud, punky, repetitive beats, incomprehensible frontman giving the front row libations from a litre bottle of Smirnoff, wild (male) drummer in a black miniskirt - I know it all sounds good in theory, but it didn't really gel for me); and a rather duller one from Breton, boys in hoodies and caps from central casting, hunched over laptops, projecting seemingly random images onto a creased white sheet they'd clipped to the back wall, beats, beats, beats - oh, and beats... It was also boiling hot.

Still, the plan worked - and brought the bonus of a chat at the bar with Cloud Control's lovely Heidi Lenffer who'd spotted my notebook and suspected journalistic intentions. We touched on their BTV session (it was cold) and I said that it was a good test of a song's strength that it will hold up in very different arrangements - duly exemplified when they opened with a blistering take on 'Meditation Song #2'. It was a similarly structured set to the day before, and delivered with the same intensity. Guitarist Alister Wright seemed more relaxed, grinning through streaming sweat with a rueful comment of 'My voice is fucked', although it didn't seem to be... A great set and well received. Onwards and upwards, Heidi - you're definitely on your way. I'm sure Bliss Release is going to get a fine reception when it's finally released here later this month - of course some reviewers, like this one, were well ahead of the pack and even placed it in their 2010 top ten...



Great Escape - Day One

Roaming round Brighton for a taste of seven different acts to get this three-day festival underway: lots of interest, some big queues, good feel…

The main news is that the favourites romped home, on splendid form: Cloud Control and Brasstronaut, the two bands I'd most been looking forward to seeing, did themselves more than justice in their very different ways. But no big new discoveries to press on you, so far.

Brasstronaut made a fine start. It's difficult to define the style if you haven't heard them: their Facebook page defines their genre fairly accurately as 'mutt'. But the mongrel, as usual, displays hybrid vigour. There are both classical and jazz chops in the mix of ambitious, big-screen, arrangements; a lot of subtlety in the interweaving of trumpet, clarinet, lap-steel, glock - and an amazing looking wind-synth I hadn't seen before, the Akai EWI.

They seemed a little nervous and don't have the greatest stage presence, but relaxed into it and got chattier as the set progressed - taking it in their stride when a guitar amp packed up completely in their penultimate song. Bryan Davies is perhaps the most obvious showman, playing flugelhorn and glock simultaneously at one point and treating us to some appalling jokes in the downtime. Drummer Brennan Saul was infectiously enjoying himself throughout and pounding out a storm - and was friendly and appreciative in a chat afterwards: a nice guy. They're off to the continent and will be recording again in the summer. Brennan had good memories of their BTV session last year, which is always worth another look...

Cloud Control's early evening set was markedly different. First on to the NME stage in the cavernous Corn Exchange, they were obviously determined to take no prisoners and make life difficult for anyone following them. Very loud, very energetic - Sydney's finest are convincing as a band on the threshold of something bigger and ready for that. Slight disappointment for an aficionado of their lovely album Bliss Release because some of the space and quirkiness and jingle-jangle was sacrificed... but my sense was that they were on a mission, and the mission was duly accomplished.

The songs were strong enough to take it, and it's remarkable how, one album in, they can play half an hour that feels like a greatest hits selection - opening with 'Meditation Song' (still my favourite) and including 'Gold Canary', 'Nothing In The Water...' and 'Ghost Song', to whoops of recognition. Heidi Lenffer announced that the band had relocated to London so 'we'll get to know each other' - well enough to calm things down a notch next time, I hope, and let the melodies and harmonies shine through a little brighter.

I went on to see Alexander Tucker at the Pavilion, but left unconvinced. A big table of noise generators and effects promised an interesting range of sounds, but too often things descended into echoing, muddy, layers of similar sounding stuff, with the odd burst of completely undecipherable and not very melodic vocals. Things perked up at one point with an interplay of sampled cello and sleigh bells, but they were soon buried again...

Special mention for John Cooper Clarke - not sure what he was doing at a new music festival, seeing as he's neither, but he was on good form and a big crowd at the Komedia lapped up his poems and a stand-up routine that is now very well honed.


The Incredible Mike Heron

I'm still smiling thinking about a lovely evening in the company of Mike Heron - a review is here. You may recall that I started the year revisiting old Incredibles albums and singing 'A Very Cellular Song' to myself... What a joy to hear the man himself singing it a few months later AND to have the great Nick Pynn alongside him AND for it all to be in the cosy basement at Bom-Bane's, with Jane's splendid food and Muscadet inside us. Setting the bar very high for the rest of the Festival month's music. Thank you to all concerned!

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