Friday, January 13, 2017

Charlotte Church's Late-Night Pop Dungeon at the Lexington

I went to see Charlotte Church’s late-night #pop dungeon last weekend. It’s a label-resisting mix of cover’s, mashups and top-rate karaoke.

The obvious highlight was a formidable mashup of Bootylicious and Killing in the Name but the show closed out with a tender and slightly haunting pairing of Every heartbeat that transitioned into a beautiful rendition of Sufjan Stevens’ Chicago.

There were also all kinds of pleasurable throwaways, such as a few lines of Love will tear us apart at the end of I’m not in love.

While remaining delightfully goofy all the way through, the whole performance was tight, high-quality and technical. The jokes definitely didn’t extend to the performance or the music. A distinct pleasure.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

London gig crowds

It's been a while since I've been to a live gig that wasn't essentially in an arts centre. I'd forgotten how much London gig crowds are essentially an assemblage of colossal assholes.

In any London gig about one-third of the people are there to score drugs, one-third are there to meet friends and socialise and one-third are there because of, you know, those people on the stage.

You have to play pretty loud in London, because if you don't then half the audience will be talking loud enough to drown you out.

It reminds me of descriptions of Regency pleasure gardens and Sadlers Wells in the same period. Sure you have to have some entertainment to hang all this stuff off but really your just out to see people and be seen.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Cate le Bon at the London Assembly Rooms

I've only encountered Cate le Bon as a recording artist before now, in that context you have a Welsh folky singer-songwriter with a chanteuse vibe. However within minutes of arriving on stage you have a very different take on the same music, all angular head flicks and fierce sharp rock from a jet-black Thinline Telecaster.

The sound has some of the Swansea, south coast Welsh psychedelic swirl along with the occasional freakout. For the most part it is fierce, controlled melodic lines in the style of Krautrock and the Velvet Underground.

The words and sounds remain accessible but the presentation defies expectations.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Entering the digital music era

I recently started to spruce up this blog after having spent a long time cataloguing and discussing my music purchases at RateYourMusic. One of the more amusing things was that the blog's strapline used to mention CDs. It's been a while since I've purchased music that way and it is usually just out of solidarity with good stores like Rough Trade and Sister Ray.

Music has gone digital and it no longer means torrenting music. There's a number of digital music stores that are not iTunes or Amazon (although I do like the latter's Cloud Player), I use Boomkat and (the also ironically named) CDBaby a lot along with the occasional purchase from Bleep and Rough Trade's Album Club.

I also found Deezer to be an engaging streaming service with a good catalogue after trying Spotify and 7Digital and not really being that impressed.

However it feels as if there are two digital services that are really changing the way we discover and consume media. Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

Soundcloud is like the world's demo tape. Whenever I read something about a new band I go and see if they have some tracks on Soundcloud.

Bandcamp is the service that feels like it is really changing the relationship between fans and artists. Being able to buy almost direct from the artist is like creating a global gig stall for every musician.

The issue with things like Napster and torrenting was that taken to their logical conclusion they would genuinely turn music into a hobby pursuit. The new digital services provide a way to create an audience without any limits beyond the interests of the listeners but also make it possible to allow musicians to create and be rewarded for creating.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Nick Cave - Push away the sky

I missed this initially but the Push away the sky is so full of brooding Australian rock and ballads that it kind of feels like fan service. It feels close to the tone of Murder Ballads and other classic Cave and doesn't feel the need to fight or revel in it.

Opener We No Who U R is beautiful with Cave's haunting voice over a simple piano line. The closing title track is equally affecting. In between there are growled intimations of lust and death and gloomy vocal pictures of grim but beautiful life.

A very lovely and low-key release.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Andrew Bird at Union Chapel

I only heard of Andrew Bird this year when he was part of the Rough Trade Album club but I thought as an acoustic singer-songwriter he would be a good fit for the venue.

The show was better than I could have expected though. Bird (on stage by himself) mostly plays violin with a Phrase Recorder to create a layered sound and manages the trick far better than previous people I have seen use it. He made heavy use of a picked or strummed violin that reminded me a bit of Final Fantasy. He mixes virtuosity with a lot of playing panache so it was a really impressive show to see as well as listen to.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Max Richter at the Union Chapel

Max Richter is a hard musician to categorise, if he didn't use loops and samples he would one of the world's most enjoyable composers of modern classical music. But he does and therefore he kind of straddles that space between electronica, classical music and music as multimedia art performance.

He has a new album coming out and on Sunday there was a gig at Union Chapel to coincide with the release. Although a huge fan of Blue Notebooks and Songs From Before I have never had the chance to catch a live performance.

The support act was Johann Johannsson whom Amazon has been recommending to me for the last year. In this case Amazon is right, it is the kind of art noise meets string quartet experience I enjoy.

And then the sun began to set and a truely magical experience began. It was partly the light and atmosphere of the old church but it was mostly about beautiful music. A swooping, haunting melody that captures so many complex feelings. All of Max's releases have a concept and narrative that binds together the fragments of themes and individual pieces and the performance, though mixing music from four different releases, had the same sense of a journey through melancoly, stasis, loss and hope.

The performance was fantastic, with the playing matching the quality of the recording but adding an emotional feeling on top of the technical reproduction of the recorded sound. Everyone on stage seemed to be caught up in emotion of the music and everyone in the audience seemed rapt (rather than doing the normal London gig audience thing of talking incessantly).

It is truly the most amazing gig I have seen since I moved to London and is really one of the highlights of my life. I'd love to do it all again.