15 April 2014

New Sounds // Marc Ford – Blue Sky

With a new album out this week, Marc Ford certainly has predicted the blue skies that have blessed some of our cities of late. This charming video for song Blue Sky sees two children illuminate the monochrome aspects of life with their magic paintbrushes in a very endearing manner. We need more of these magic brushes!

The video is directed by David N. Donihue and stars Marc Ford, Andrew Ruiz with Chelsea Rifkin and Dave Truax. The americana tinged album Holy Ghost! is out now via Naim Edge Records.  

13 April 2014

E.P Review // Curelight Wounds – Silver Sand

The third E.P. from Brooklyn’s Curelight Wounds had us to attention rather quickly. Mixing the oft-quoted shoegaze genre with their already present dark metal ethos it’s a surprisingly effective listen.

Opener See It Burn is a fast paced, percussive intro that instantly expounds the new shoegaze element effectively. Asking the question ‘Do you wanna see me burn’ under a mat of bass and drums with that classic shoegaze styled guitar style it’s an impressive opening salvo. Following it up is the amped up Ride, with a faster pace and almost off the cuff quality about it. The fact it sounds so good is already noted, but considering we’re not usually taken with this particular genre it’s done a good job of converting us.

Silver Sand lifts it’s head out of the sea of liquid mercury that submerged the first half of the EP and the shoegaze element is less evident here, but the song is no less potent for it. With vox low down in the mix and the thunderous drums centre stage it makes all the right moves in its allotted time. Closer Empty Faith enters drone territory and with the shift in production that makes it all the more palatable. The EP is drawing to a close here and the climatic tone really makes it a highlight of the release.

So after just twelve minutes Silver Sand concludes and although it’s about two minutes too long for this particular genre to work well with, it’s a third EP that is most definitely worth your time. And if you haven’t got twelve minutes to play with then you need to find them…

Reviewed by C. Agent

Silver Sands is released April 22 via independent release. 

12 April 2014

Music Review // Shit Robot – We Got A Love

Dance music is a genre that can either impress or make hit the forward button post-haste.  There is so much of it out there that the good stuff often hides in little pockets of reality where all the best beats pump out for the pleasure of a more intimate venue.  We Got A Love, the latest from Shit Robot is definitely one of the latter propositions.

If you imagine the perfect venue for a party, it all depends on what you actually want to do. This is music that could fit into the intimate, more chill out scene than  full on rave party. There is more to the music than just beats for the sake of beats, there are sonic textures that conjure up ethereal cosmoscapes or neon lit revelries in the coolest cities at midnight.

Space Race, one of the albums two instrumental pieces perfectly sets the scene with its melodic nods to early Kraftwerk and driving but picturesque beats. Then there’s the hypnotic and endlessly listenable Do That Dance, featuring Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem that urges the listener to bring their love down to dispel the blues. It is certainly an album highlight for this reviewer. (Make sure to check out it’s excellent promo clip as well…)

As a whole though the album keeps a good pace, doesn’t repeat itself too often as many an album of this genre is inclined to far too often, and is certainly full of love. The influences here are certainly more positive than negative, with glowing warmth spreading about as it wends its way through a sea of neon tinged beats and constructs.

The Reggie Watts featuring opener The Secret kicks off things in a surreal, retrofuturist disco manner as the futuristic synth beds shimmer their way into your psyche and the vocal samples hide amongst the forest of beats tantalisingly. This continues into Dingbat (featuring Museum of Love) as the D’n’B influence kick in to great effect.

Arguably, this is not an instant album as such and that is only a good thing. Too often electronic music hinges onto lazy hooks that fail to engage the attention for longer than one track but there is none of that here. The nine tracks each give a measured dose of pleasure, rarely giving any hint of try-too-hard or filler. Shit Robot, aka Marcus Lambkin, should be proud to have avoided any ‘difficult second album’ clichés on We Got A Love with a perfectly pitched record that keeps attention on it all the way through.

Indeed, if he were a real robot we’d probably add him to our Robots We Love list. But as it is, We Got A Love is an album that is just the right thing for those looking to do some musical exploration.

Reviewed by Sebastian Gahan. 

Album Flashback #18: Shivaree - I oughta give you a shot in the head for making me live in this dump

It all started after an episode of Later… with Jools Holland way back in 2000.  #srcz Editor tells us how the discovery of an album in a Tokyo record store informed a lifetime of listening.

“I oughta give you a shot in the head for making me live in a dump like this…”

No, I’m not threatening you - I’m quoting. Of what I shall now reveal: Shivaree. Know ‘em? Well, you damn well should do! Shivaree were a trio of musicians who have released four albums of brilliantly effective, weird and bizarre alternative rock. 

Singer Ambrosia Parsley has a unique voice and turn of phrase that could make you shiver from fear of about to be Axe murdered or smile from ecstasy. This album is the band’s first album and is particularly worthy of being written about as not nearly enough people knew about them. (Parsley released her first solo disc Weeping Cherry in 2013 following the bands dissolution in 2007.)

It all started when I watched Jools Holland about ten years ago and saw Shivaree perform two tracks from this album. The tracks in question were Daring Lousy Guy and Goodnight Moon, famous for its appearance on Quentin Tarentino’s Kill Bill.  I loved it instantly, but couldn’t find the disc anywhere. Fast forward eighteen months and I’m in Tokyo. I’m in Nakano and mooching around the shopping mall killing time before work. 

Upstairs in this mall is a dirty looking record shop that outwardly, at least, seems like the kind of place Ayumi Hamasaki and Oasis records go when they die. The smell of dust, cobwebs and alcohol was evident. There were plenty of customers present though. Impressed, I started rooting through the record bin at the entrance. After much rummaging and eye averting from eighties junk and throw away J-Pop I saw the said album by Shivaree in front of me. The name clicked. I remembered the performance I’d seen on tv many moons ago and bought it instantly. 
The album presents a dark, industrialised view of life that incorporates poetry, technology and irony in combination with much more. This album is not perfect. It has to be said that it could have been longer and thus more fully formed. But, such all round talent is never perfectly formed. Perfection is the enemy here. The success of this album is sounding highly produced yet rough at the same time. 

Tracks such as Goodnight Moon and Arlington Girl present a world of monochrome quality that is scary as hell and sad as anything. However the emotion is not bitter, merely weirdly beguiling. Listening to the songs on the album one can visually picture what is going on. It is a credit to the writing ability of Parsley and co that such evocative work is possible. The world we see in most of the songs is a bleak picture of the songs characters living out their misery yet not being sad. The effect couldn’t be completed without the brilliant sound sculptures that form the backing music. 

 The piano on Arlington Girl perfectly paints the picture of blackness presented in the lyrics, with the grainy quality improving the sound rather than ruining the effect. The rough edges are present here and also on the sardonic album close Arrivederci. Lyrically, Ambrosia Parsley is gifted to say the least. Classic examples include “Well I think I hate you / Isn’t this fun? / You’re gonna shoot/ And I baby loaded the gun” from Bossa Nova, the whole of Goodnight Moon and much of the rest actually. Rarely does one find such a dark and atmospheric lyric base sung so frighteningly sweetly.

There still really is a lot to recommend this album. Take a few listens and you’ll be hooked. This music is dark, deliberate and non-commercial in its approach. The only really instant track is Goodnight Moon, which is not to put it down merely complement it.

There is really not that much more to say except seek it out.

Words by Sebastian Gahan. 


09 April 2014

On The Scene // SNØKRYSTALL at The Nordic Church, Liverpool.

#srcz loves churches, music and Nordic culture. Put all three of those together and you get a gig at the beautiful Nordic Church in Liverpool. Our man on the scene Joseph Crawford gives us his accout of a very special night... 

It’s Friday night and I’m in a church. It’s pretty ridiculous, but so is spending half your paycheck gulping down lumpy throatfuls of Popworld gunge for the twelfth night running – and this time it’s only to get pissed enough to stave off this cancerous boredom and still the decay of your poor brain’s whole left side! It used swim in creative juices… now look at it! All the while we, the live arts community, commune with wine and music - having our senses stroked by visual treats and strummy, yummy beats.

"The door’s open!"

 The Nordic Church here on the brim of Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle had already welcomed the likes of Moxxie, Alpha Male Tea Party, Silent Cities (and so many more) during this year’s Threshold Festival with open arms – and here I am again, thirsty for more. Less thirsty now I’ve got my wine bottle open. Damn surprise corkscrews! And no I didn’t sneak it in – it’s bring your own booze night, and I’ve spent a fiver on 750mls of Spanish red; 13.5% alcohol, and 86.5% pretentiousness.

Having heard next to nothing of Ragz Nordset or Henry Pulp, I can only imagine what lies ahead. I spy Threshold’s own Chris Carney jocking the pre-performance tunes as X-Ray Katt, and I’m reminded of the community these wonderful people have helped to create. I hope there’s time for a quick cigarette before the show…

Henry Pulp

No there isn’t, and I’m late for the introduction. Taking my seat, the small hall is already awash with acoustic pleasure from a three-piece electric/acoustic guitar and bass, identified to me as Henry Pulp. Resembling a drum-less Kings of Leon, Pulp’s sound consists of entrancing fingerpicking style ballads with strong vocal drive. Pulp himself is impressive, but I’ve never understood acts with 0 percussion (he says waiting anxiously for Silent Cities). A lovely opening, these three timely gents are worth clocking.

I am later informed that Pulp also has a 10-piece big band which can be found on Soundcloud. A good thing too: I am a beat-driven animal. Pulp’s fingerpicking is so consistent that the rhythm never loses pace, and songs of love and loss are performed with a genuine longing from this talented three-piece. They end as perfectly as they began – my cue for another cigarette before the next dose of entertainment.


By now you will have spent hours, days, weeks craning over illegible textbooks that sound like they’ve been written by pompous intellectuals with predilections for polysyllables… and now you need entertaining. You could try the Krazyhouse again, or perhaps Mojo… again – or you could shake off the routine and see something exciting instead!

Mellowtone/RebelSoul have done a wicked job with the décor – candles scattered across the floor, and glistening art pieces hanging from the walls. Most impressive are the light projections on the dome wall courtesy of Wunderkammer: visual representations of snowflakes, crystals and universal wonders. Pouring myself another glass of wine, the audience’s mood is feeling loosened. Strangers becoming contacts, conversation becoming banter, and I can swan around at my leisure before the next act starts. Speaking of which…

Ragz Nordset

Between worlds in this Anglo-Nordic church, Ragz said she felt ‘right at home’, taking a moment to teach us a Norwegian greeting before striking up her first song. Having supported acts such as Noah and the Whale, Laura Marling, and Wild Beasts, I had high expectations as she began her first song.

She was like a bird. For her first gig this year, Ragz (pictured) swept out of her cage with such refined grace, we were all spell-bound. A beautiful singer; falsettos rise and fall, transitioning perfectly from grounded altos to lullaby guitar picking. Another drum-less act, it seemed this place was too revered for much percussion – but for once I wasn’t complaining. ‘Jamie’, a song about a deceased friend, is over too soon, and with each song we are given a glimpse into Nordset’s personal life. Clearly a very empathetic human being, Ragz’ material centres on deeply personal events with story-based delivery. ‘Realist’ is a potent end to her guitar set.

On to the piano and singing in Norwegian, we are treated to a rare and lovely performance. ‘I’m gonna leave you with one last snippet of Nordic-ness’ she says – an acappella requiem that she belted out in her native tongue with passion. She was radiant.

Reading these notes back is getting a little difficult now - my eyes are blurry from the performance, but it could very well also be the wine.

Still think that getting sloshed in Yates’ surrounded by footy nuts and the stench of voyeurism is your only option for the weekend? Nonsense! You can be getting sloshed here surrounded by freaks, geeks, and good people in musical solemnity! And no I’m not against football: who doesn’t love the thrill of supporting something? If you’re feeling neither red or blue though, pick up a music mag (they’re free) and see what else you can be supporting. Like this…

Silent Cities

When I saw that Simon Maddison aka Silent Cities was being accompanied by cellist, Luke, I knew we were in safe hands. The announcement ‘ladies and gentlemen – Silent Cities!’ was followed by applause, and then total silence.

An electro-warped rivet stemmed from the front along with Cities’ tremored voice, and after a hypnotizing opening, the cello gives wings to ‘Global Aerobics’. At each fall, the audience is so still you can hear the pressing of the guitar wood, and the cello adding another blanket on the warmth of the room. Projected on the walls is a map of the constellations – as if we needed to feel any more like we were in space right now.

‘Haptophic’ finishes with a whispered ‘thank you’ and the cheers from the crowd are spotted with anguish. ‘Bass and drums never really seemed to work, but Luke here filled the gap’ Simon says, and I can’t disagree with him. It’s against the rules. ‘I don’t usually talk this much in gigs – I must be making up for all the others. Or it’s the gin.’ We are informed that the new material on the way ‘is all being funded and produced by RebelSoul’, and the response ‘is it?’ from the back gets a big laugh, bringing us back from the lonely precipice. It’s easy to get lost soul-searching during Cities’ performances, and I mean that as the best compliment I can imagine. We were a collection of lonely animals bathing in the music of the solitary. Sounds like a fairly typical Friday night to me.

Even after a string snap, Simon still finds a use for the dead metal, caressing the guitar neck and creating new atmospheric sounds – it’s magic. ‘Beating Heart’ is of the last tunes played, and the last reverbeautiful echoes die around us. As ever, Silent Cities was as consistent as he was engaging: never failing to turn his audience completely subjective.

"Right on Your Doorstep..."  

So in fairness, I didn’t leave home with some red hot chick desperate to tear my clothes off at the next hotel like I always hope will happen on a Friday night, but I did leave with something else. I left that church with a skip in my step - the words from our host Mark ‘Monkey’ Ross of Mellowtone ‘you don’t get this anywhere else’ still ringing in my ears.

Want to try something new for a change? Try this; real Liverpool, real music, real people.

Words:  J. Crawford Images: Glyn Akroyd

On The Scene // Threshold 2014 – Day 3

Threshold festival kept #srcz in a cozy corner of Liverpool for a weekend at the end of March. The final day was somewhat of a blur, getting from must see band to must see visual art show and, wrapping up the coverage of the festival until next year we present Helen Basil’s version of events of what was an excellent day in many ways. There is more from the festival over at our Threshold centric page… 

After two full days spent in the Baltic Triangle, it was easy enough to forget that there’s an outside world I would eventually need to return to. But it was no use crying over the unspilled milk bottle just because I knew I was going to finish it so, with a bit of a hurried start I plunged headfirst in the third day of Threshold.

The first that drew me in was the Baltic Bakehouse, a gorgeous, intimate venue where Homegrown Bananas’ ‘#Fruiturism’ stage was promising a mellow afternoon of acoustic goodness. (And it’s my firm belief that from now on it’s how every Sunday should start.) Groundhog was in charge of the crowd gathered as I meekly made my way in, my brain still on autopilot. But some coffee and the sweet sounds coming from this duo snapped me out of that pretty quickly: completely in their element, they warmed up the crowd with their bluesy jams and provided an excellent start to the day.

The afternoon went on as Creaky Bones followed up next.  Another musician with a fondness for more instruments than he can carry, he kept the audience up and running throughout his set. Drawing influence from a wide variety of genres, his trusty slide seems to be the silent partner in crime as its presence is heard in every song. Between this and his loop pedal he creates a wonderful range of sounds and rhythms, merging them together into his own distinctive style. With a balanced set toned down in all the right places, Creaky Bones closed off with a crowd-pleasing blues classic that had everyone’s feet tapping. (Though I was a bit disappointed at the overall lack of cowbell.)

Jim Pearson followed, accompanied by Nick Silver on violin. Using a slick, simple style, his songs wonderfully capture the more lackluster parts of life (‘Work Anxiety Syndrome’ is still stuck in my head). With topics ranging from whimsical idealism to somber reproaches and more, he gave a well-rounded performance that kept the audience interested from start to finish. His guitar was complemented by his violinist, giving it a melodious tinge of folk that worked wonders on the spirits.

Up next was another artist which seemed to fit in perfectly in the afternoon’s schedule. Yorkshire-born Jo Bywater (pictured) was someone I’d been on the lookout to see live for a while, and the recommendations didn’t do her justice. With her trusty guitars, she effortlessly combines folky fingerpicking with slides, all while putting her own spin on it. Topping this off is a warm, earthy voice which shows a seasoned musician as she was in charge of the room with every song. Gentle and thought-provoking at the same time, her music envelops the audience in her stories while capturing the nostalgia of old blues and folk.

I had the pleasure to meet Rufus Hok outside the venue earlier that afternoon and, somehow the topic of stage fright came up - which he confessed he still has. And well, I’m sure he could’ve fooled the lot: he comfortably took hold of the stage and kept the crowd’s attention from start to finish. Drawing inspiration from rhythms more familiar to punk and topping it off with a powerful voice, his original pieces entertain and evoke in all the right places.

The closing act was Coast (pictured), drawing the afternoon’s shenanigans at the Bakehouse to an end. Filling the stage between the five of them with too many strings to count, they lifted everyone’s spirits with pure folk. Clear, on-point vocals resonated in the room as they quieted down the place with a jazz classic. And the best part was, there’s a certain joyous feeling they bring through their songs and I could just tell they were having a great time themselves. For a moment there, Coast even made me forget that this was Sunday and everything was drawing to a close.

Soon after, I passed the doors to Unit 51 as Ed Poole was underway with his set. Another solo singer-songwriter from the Liverpool area, he’s one of those acts I’m disappointed in myself for not having caught play before. With an impressive set of lungs and carefully crafted songs, Ed Poole’s melodic performance was a delight to witness. His music influenced by a variety of genres, his performance kept the audience quite still until the last strum.

In my quest to shake off the afternoon blues, I headed off to District where Doodah Farm had the stage. Their folk-influenced sound was just a delight to the ears and feet. With a twang of country thrown in here and there for good measure, these four took over the stage and refused to let go until the last note was played. Their songs blend spot-on vocals and clever songwriting, wrapped up by playful rhythms and topped off with nothing less than an electric ukulele. The playful chase between the vocalists’ performance and the rest of the band was entertaining to hear and see, and they’ve definitely nicked a spot on my future gigs to look out for list.

The Siren venue was up next for me as Sam Cooper was getting on the stage. His original pieces well-received by the afternoon crowd, his songs were a delight to hear. With compositions ranging from thought-provoking protest songs to pensive afternoon melancholies, Sam’s set was balanced very well. However, what really blew me away in particular was his guitar skill: with a twinge of folk and medieval styles woven in, his fingerpicking style is something else to listen to. Intricate and always on point, he incorporates that into his own particular sound.

The Big I AM followed up, taking the stage with a cuatro and an ukulele. Their stripped down style was fascinating to behold: emulating a decades-old style of folk with harmonious vocals, the two took turns in showing off their mastery of the instruments. Cleverly, each of their songs focused on one instead of trying to do many things at once: a subtlety sometimes passed over by a world in which the louder, the better.

By this point, three days’ worth is not enough for habits to be formed but my feet had already decided I’m heading back to District for the last few acts rounding the night off. Thom Morecroft (pictured)was just starting off, a local musician originally hailing from Shropshire. I was familiar with his performances in quiet, intimate settings so far and he seemed particularly in his element tonight. Bursting with energy, it felt like he filled what otherwise is a huge stage for solo acts to be on. With a massive cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Big Love’ thrown in for good measure alongside his own, he drew his crowd in and performed his heart out.

Closing the night for me were Run Tiger Run, an emerging four-piece local band. Playing their own spin on indie rock tinged with sounds ranging from alternative to pop, their songwriting makes room for all of these. With soft guitar melodies punctuating silences and building up to a foot-stomping crescendo, their playful back and forth make for a full, well rounded sound – making it clear how much thought goes into their music. Bands like these just go to prove the rich musical backdrop that Liverpool has to offer – a variety perfectly showcased by smaller festivals like Threshold, a platform rife with opportunities for local artists of all flavours to showcase their work.

…and so, the countdown to Threshold 2015 begins.

Words and images  by Helen Basil. 

Note from #srcz: Thanks go to Threshold festival for being simply Threshold-tastic (you know who you are), the Threshold Media Team - Ash, Joseph, Helen, Andrea, Glyn, Roger, Adam and everybody else and the Iron Maidens for making the best Jacket Potato a person could wish for... and anybody else who helped us along the way whose name we haven't mentioned! 

08 April 2014

Music Review // Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band E.P

It’s not often we review a release this long after it’s hit the streets and got the people moving, but after we saw the Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band recently during our stint at Threshold Festival in Liverpool we felt compelled to make an exception.

With a distinctive sound, and definitive live energy, the band are certainly must listen territory for anyone who likes music that is both easy to love and difficult to pin down at the same time. Bold brass arrangements dominate the mix, with a smattering of horns and some very effective drums to boot. Add in the megaphone-intoned vocals and you have a four-track E.P. that will never be enough to satisfy the soul.

Of course, that’s no bad thing. As Marching Bands go, the Harlequin Dynamite crew are certainly tight, delivering music that is never less that joyous and always unique in its ability to keep your eyes on the band. Certainly, in the case of this E.P. anyway, it’s one that keeps your ears occupied for the full duration. Opener Jonah is an initially calm but cool track that soon bursts into a very vivid life of its own. Marching along in the most life affirming manner it ends far too soon!

The rest of the E.P is just as essential, (not a word I use lightly), with Singing Int’ Rain opening in a very Bondian manner (albeit with a lot more passion than the average Bond theme) and metamorphoses into a riotous march down the streets of a very funky rhythm.  If you’ve ever seen an advert for Hovis bread, you’ll recognise the feel of the similarly titled track. Will it have you running to the nearest bakery for some fresh bread? Hard to say, but you’ll want to hear closer Loneliness first, sounding far from the sad images such a title may evoke.

Instead this is a loneliness punctuated with New Orleans style rhythms and an energy that would ensure you never see a lonely moment again as long there is a marching band like this nearby. It’s not difficult to say that this E.P. needs to be listened to, but the live experience is recommended doubly so. Get on this now people!

Reviewed by Sebastian Gahan. 

New Sounds // Cosmo Sheldrake – Solar

Out 21 April via Transgressive Records is this ear-catching solar odyssey from Cosmo Sheldrake, B side to main single The Moss. Solar is ‘composed from recordings of the sun’ using a technique called Stella Seismology and although recorded in an unconventional manner, belies its unique qualities with an accessible sound that is easy on the ear but never boring.

The single is released on the 21 April, with its equally fascinating a-side ‘The Moss’, and is available for pre order now .