Tuesday, 23 March 2010

GIG REVIEW: Ellie Goulding, Dingwalls, Camden Town, 28/01/10.

I was looking forward to this gig a lot. Ellie Goulding is one of my favourite artists around at the present, and Dingwalls is a great little venue which has hosted many famed artists over the years. Ellie was the winner of this year's Critics' Choice Brit Award and the BBC Sounds of 2010 poll and has been tipped for greatness. She was appearing at this gig as on of the '10 for 10' artists tipped, by MTV, for success in 2010. Despite having not at this stage released a single track with her label, Polydor, the venue was packed on a Thursday night; I managed to edge my way to the front of the stage.
Ellie opened with 'Guns and Horses', her voice perfectly pitched over her strummed guitar, and backed by some nifty keyboard and bass playing, and a pounding drum rhythm. Ellie is upfront about labelling herself as a folk musician, but the influence of her producer Starsmith gives her a more poppy/indie sound.
She appeared fairly self-effacing, even shy, with her between-song banter but she had the crowd captivated. Other song highlights were a reworked version on Midlakes' 'Roscoe', a slowed down 'Under the Sheets' (Ellie now minus the guitar), the wonderfully whimsical 'Wish I Stayed' and the finale - 'Starry Eyed', including Ellie's drum-bashing interlude. General reviews elsewhere havve been pretty mixed; the NME was pretty negative, but for me this performance bodes well for the forthcoming album.

Set list:
  1. Guns and Horses
  2. Every Time You Go
  3. This Love
  4. The Writer
  5. Swimming Pool
  6. Roscoe
  7. Under The Sheets
  8. Wish I Stayed
  9. Starry Eyed

Thanks to retroremo for the YouTube video.
Photograph by NickOLarse.

RUTH LORENZO, The Bull's Head, Barnes, 05/10/09.

Front seats in a very cosy venue!

Monday, 22 March 2010

NEW MUSIC: The Morning Benders

I laughed when I stumbled upon their name on YouTube (don't ask what I was searching for) and 'The Morning Benders' from Berkeley, California, do seem to have a sense of humour as well as some pretty nifty tunes. They have a loyal band of local followers and their web audience is growing, and they have had live appearances supporting, amongst others, Death Cab For Cutie and MGMT.

The Morning Benders: Boarded Doors (official video)

The Morning Benders perform an acoustic version of 'Crosseyed'. Funny video.

The Morning Benders' YouTube channel.

DEREK BAILEY: Seriously, wtf?

Watch this video, and if you are not familiar with the music of Derek Bailey I can almost guarantee that you will experience a 'wtf' reaction. Things start off normally enough. Some old duffer ambles in to what must be a folk club, with a typical audience of other old duffers. There's a bit of banter, he sits down, takes his guitar out of its case, and seems to be tuning up. But this goes on a bit long, and we realise that he is already playing, and then comes the wtf moment. Is this for real, or an out-take from a comedy, 'The Fast Show', perhaps? Is this guy serious?

He is deadly serious. This is Derek Bailey (1930-2005), the Sheffield-born experimental jazz guitarist. Don't imagine for a moment that Bailey simply cannot play the guitar. Early in his musical career he earned a living playing musical accompaniments for showbiz acts. He became a highly talented session musician, and played 'conventional' jazz before moving towards avant-garde 'free improvisation' and developing his unique style.
As stated on his Wikipedia entry: "For listeners unfamiliar with experimental music, Bailey's distinctive style can be initially quite difficult. Its most noticeable feature is what appears to be its extreme discontinuity, often from note to note: there may be enormous intervals between consecutive notes, and rather than aspiring to the consistency of timbre typical of most guitar-playing, Bailey interrupts it as much as possible: four consecutive notes, for instance, may be played on an open string, a fretted string, via harmonics, and using a nonstandard technique such as scraping the string with the pick or plucking below the bridge."
Bailey was an uncompromising musician, refusing totally to bow to any form of commercialism.
You may or may not like Bailey's music as I do, but it is surely hard to deny that it is different and interesting.


Derek Bailey on Spotify

Wikipedia entry

Review of Bailey  on 'Socialist Worker Online'


The current popularity of 'acoustic' music can be traced back to the 1990s TV series 'MTV Unplugged'. Of course acoustic music, in the sense of music not involving or accompanied by electronically amplified instruments, has been around from the very beginning. But a large part of the 'Unplugged' ethos was that much rock music sounded purer and less cluttered in the absence of electric guitars. It's true to say though that in a lot of 'acoustic' music today you can hear amplified guitars and keyboards, but their sounds tend to be less 'up-front' or 'in your face'.

Personally I enjoy rock music of the plugged and unplugged kind, but there certainly is a purity to the best of the contemporary acoustic music, whether it is music written for the acoustic format or electric music given the 'unplugged' treatment. There may be something in the idea that if a song is decent it should hold up with just a simple guitar or piano to accompany the vocal.

Here are a few of my favourites, both old and new. I've gone for those with guitar accompaniment; I may do a seperate entry for those with piano, keyboards etc. They are in no particular order and are not meant to be representative of the genre:

This is Ian McCulloch of Echo and the Bunnymen performing 'The Killing Moon'. The original recording is great but it sounds haunting here, just the srummed guitar, the subtle piano notes and McCulloch's laid back vocal.

Here Mick Hucknall of Simply Red performs 'Holding Back The Years'. I wasn't really that keen on the original until I heard this version; now I like both. There's just three chords strummed on an acoustic guitar and Hucknall's voice here.

This is Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star (I don't know the guitarist's name). The original pretty much fits the acoustic genre itself, but this is even more pared down.

Amy Winehouse. What a voice! Her phrasing is pefect. I love this intimate performance. She sings it with soul.

River Man, by Nick Drake, from his album 'Five Leaves Left'. This beautiful song has an unusual time signature; on the guitar you can hear the river rolling through the English countryside. The string arrangements work well on this album. The video is from a documentary which was i think shown by the BBC.

Leonard Cohen sings 'The Stranger Song' on the Julie Felix Show, 1967, with a tear in his eye at the end.

Adele delivers a soulful version of Daydreamer on Later With Jools Holland.

More to come! I would welcome any suggestions for inclusion here.