Along with the rest of the country, Manchester has been gleefully reveling in the recent outbreak of glorious weather baking the city (rumours of increased admissions to A&E due to severe rainfall deprivation are as yet unconfirmed). But alongside the myriad ice creams, cold beers and assorted fully-clothed loons dancing into the fountains in Piccadilly Gardens, the weather has also been extremely kind towards a number of excellent musical events in and around the city.
In the last six weeks we’ve had sun-baked stadium shows to excesses of 250,000 people from Muse, Kings of Leon and Robbie Williams, while doubts and fears that Parklife Festival could pull itself round from last year’s muddy and intimidating surroundings were blown away in a gorgeously hot and improbably joyful weekend at Heaton Park in early June. And then there has been the unqualified success of the Manchester International Festival, which has enjoyed a surfeit of exceptional performances, including The xx’s intimate and intense shows to 60 people at a time. And while those attending Massive Attack vs. Adam Curtis’ musical and video showcase expecting a simple playing of the hits will have been (disturbingly) disappointed, those who have appreciated the complex and deep nature of the installation have been left stunned and staggered by the power and intensity of the performance.
With summer festivals in full swing and plans being made towards shaping the traditionally busy autumn period underway, major events and gigs are running slightly more thin on the ground at the moment. But we thought we’d do a brief compilation of some of the recent releases from local acts, followed by four new bands to check out and a run-through of what’s going to be happening between now and September.
Local News Round-Up
From The Kites Of San Quentin release new E.P. And it’s ace!
In the last edition of this column, we brought you the breaking news (quite literally – the email dropped as I was about to send copy through!) of From The Kites Of San Quentin’s new EP – 7.83HZ Earth Chorus. A wonderfully divergent and multi-layered series of tracks bristling with intent and ideas, it’s a notable step on for a band whose ability to blend electronica, ambient sound, dub influences and floating ethereal vocal textures is unique and rightly praised. Amongst the bass throbs and dense squalls of sound sits a deep and tender heart, a quality which propels the EP throughout. Out now on Victoria Warehouse records, they’re also in the process of announcing some live dates. Including an appearance at...
Carefully Planned manage to outdo themselves and everybody else with their latest event
Those lovely people behind Carefully Planned have been bringing us a surfeit of excellent festivals, one-dayers and one-off events in Manchester over the last few years, choosing to give air and coverage to so many new bands around the city with their genuine DIY aesthetic. But even those of us who have been fortunate enough to attend their events are quite staggered at the quality of their A Carefully Planned Festival #3, taking place in and around Manchester’s Northern Quarter on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th October 2013. Fitting neatly into the gap left by In The City, this year’s event takes place between Kraak Gallery, Night & Day Café, Soup Kitchen, The Castle, Gullivers and Bakerie and features a raft of excellent local and national bands including (deep breath) The Physics House Band, Air Cav, From the Kites of San Quentin, Johnny Foreigner, Plank!, Richard Dawson, DBH, Spotlight Kid, Mayors of Miyazaki, Trojan Horse, Palmstruck, Rachel Hillary, Literature Thieves, The Wobbly Hearts, This Many Boyfriends, Cyril Snear, Rook and the Ravens, Bastions and many more. It’s one of the best line-ups we’ve seen in Manchester for a long time and to say we’re excited is an understatement! Even better, tickets are available for the quite ludicrous price of £10.00 for an Early Bird Weekend Ticket, rising to £12.50 after they’re gone, and £7.70 for individual day tickets (£0.70 - £1.25 booking fee extra). I’m tempted to mutter the Homer Simpson quote about “prices being so low, you’ll think I’ve suffered brain damage” but instead I’m going to just urge you all to come along as it’ll be a wonderful two days of music from one of the most forward thinking promotion teams in Manchester.
PINS return with excellent new single ahead of their debut album
We really love PINS. And we kinda hope they love us too. But while we’re waiting on mutual approval, we really are reveling in the news that following their excellent LUVU4LYF E.P. from last year, they’ve finally announced details of their debut album. Titled Girls Like Us, it’s out 30th September on Bella Union and they’ve chosen to trail it by way of a fantastic single - ‘Get With Me’ which you can hear below through Soundcloud. They’re also going on an extensive UK and French tour after the album’s release, with details available through their website. Frankly, they’ve been due a proper breakthrough for some time now and there’s a lot of excitement building around this record.
Shield Patterns sign to Gizeh Records and prepare debut single and tour!
Claire Brentnall’s woozy, sighing, ethereal melodies and minimal keyboard chimes have been getting our hearts all a-flutter since February when we first discovered her while doing a piece on her (also excellent) other band Glass Ankle. But we’ve been massively heartened to see that we’re not the only ones and last month brought the excellent news that she’s signed up to Gizeh Records to release her first single in September, alongside a tour of the UK with Conquering Animal Sound. Tour dates are here and we’ll have an exclusive debut interview with Claire as part of our September edition, as well as a preview of the single. Good things do happen sometime to good people. And in breaking news, she’s also been booked to join the Carefully Planned Festival #3 line-up. Triple yep!
Manchester to get their first Glastonbury headliner since 2004?
Greater Manchester has been somewhat lacking in Glastonbury headliners since 2004 when Liam Gallagher decided that the magic combination of zero enthusiasm and a white fur coat were just the sort of thing to inspire the Pyramid Stage to frenzy (– it didn’t work). But now according to rumours from the eFestivals website, it seems that next year’s festival might be crowned with a North-West flat cap in the form of Elbow, who are apparently being lined up to headline the Worthy Farm bash next June. In many ways it wouldn’t be a surprise, given their rapturously received performances in 2008 and 2011, as well as their legendary 2002 appearance as recorded on Grace Under Pressure. It’d be a huge step-up for the band and a massive challenge to take on such a major moment in the spotlight, but with so many albums behind them and a communal swell of goodwill towards Guy Garvey and company's homespun anthems, it could well be a savvy booking. For the record, the other eFestivals headliner tips are Fleetwood Mac and Depeche Mode. While Drowned in Manchester is a big fan of both, our smiles would be that much bigger if they became Arcade Fire and Prince. Just saying in case you’re reading Mr Eavis...
Some new bands to get your teeth (or rather, ears) stuck into this month. We don't condone biting around here...
M O N E Y
For anyone stuck with the foolish notion that Manchester bands only wear plaid shirts, shout “SUNSHIIINE” and talk about football all the time (they do still exist, and there are still those who play to that particular crowd), M O N E Y are a perfect example of what the rain and gloom of the city coalesces into when it meets the white-hot heat of the soul. There’s a true emotion and deeply-drawn melancholy within the vocals of lead singer Jamie Lee, but any self-indulgence is washed away in a glorious swirl of hypnotic beats, counterpoint guitar and bass figures and a sensitive and joyous touch to the whole mixture – never allowing intelligent musicianship to cloy, clog and stir the combination. It’s the meeting point of where ambience, sound-collages and experimentation meets conventional pop music: think Eno if he was working with Wild Beasts or Glasvegas. If we’re being overly specific and surgical about it, M O N E Y aren’t really a new band – they’ve been appearing around the city in one guise or another for the past few years – but their recent appearance at the Manchester International Festival Pavilion Theatre and a recent signing to Bella Union (them again) for their debut album suggests that their star is in the ascendancy and that their peculiar and beguiling cocktail of sounds will be shared much further afield before the year reaches its conclusion.
Though Embers are far from the finished article, there’s a unique and anthemically luminous quality to their hybrid of post-rock and indie fist-pounding excess: each track lurching wildly out of its base of support and tethered down by only the most tenderly whispered Arcade Fire backing. There are hints of the Montreal Masters in there, the odd touch of Godspeed! and a noted ability to do that heavy E-Bow/Piano combination that used to work so wonderfully for Hope of the States. Heck, they even have the ability to go totally off-track and start pushing dangerously defined dub buttons. So yeah, a pretty great combination of influences. What Embers have on their side is that they genuinely sound like a band making music for themselves, as opposed to any template or pre-determined industry plan. They’re new and they’re raw, but there’s an energy and an excitement inside of Embers that hints at a huge potential.
One of the things I love is taking on people’s recommendations and discovering that you’ve been missing out on something bloody marvelous. So, when I had Doctrines recommended to me after my last Manchester column, I was thrilled to spend an hour listening to their brilliantly articulate punk-funk-lofi mayhem – a bundle of sheer energy and exuberance. There’s an element of hardcore punk in their style but there’s a humour and a vibrant colour that raises them above the spectrum of most guitar-bashing angry young things. Fans of Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, Mudhoney and Dinosaur Jr should certainly approve (as well as those of us who remember when Green Day were actually good) and their debut album ANX (released on the ever-excellent Alcopop! Records label) is a thirty-five minute blast of perfectly measured adrenaline. Good for the soul and the feet. Less so for the neck…
It seems that Brown Brogues have been around for ages now, but it’s worthwhile mentioning them again in light of their recent burst of gigs, releases and presence around the city, hinting at a belated breakthrough for the duo. Think of that typical idea you have of a drums/guitar duo and then crumple the idea up, though keeping the basic principle. Take the unfiltered guitar of Mark Vernon and the thumping, monstrous drums of Ben Mather and then soak it in the depths of The Blues, before dragging it kicking and screaming along a live railroad track of The Cramps, The Trashmen, Dick Dale and The Del-Tones and Link Wray, with the odd sniff of Phil Spector cropping up every now and again, only to be slapped firmly in the face. Their debut album Born to Lose is an exhilarating and exhaustingly intense experience but it’s live that they really come to light – playing their hearts out and pulling out weird shapes and moves that are as baffling as they are thrilling. A unique and curiously fitting blend of America and Manchester – joined in unholy unity.
What Manchester has in abundance are singer-songwriters. What they have less of is genuine, raw heart and gin-soaked soul in the form of Rachel Hillary. On one hand, her songs flow with a pretty air and grace, but on the other hand her lyrics sting with true folk grit and sawdust – heart open and feelings spilled out on the floor. It’s true folk in the sense that it verges on the darker outlines of life, but there’s a certain element of theatre and circus that hints occasionally at Tom Waits territory, with a voice that oscillates between Eliza Carthy, Laura Marling and Joni Mitchell. To be able to pull off power and emotion in such a way is a rare gift, and Rachel Hillary certainly carries that gift within her bones.
That’s it for now but we’ll return in September with a full preview of the new Warehouse Project season (eagerly awaited) and an interview with the quite marvelous Miss Claire Brentnall – a.k.a. Shield Patterns – ahead of her debut single release and tour with Conquering Animal Sound in September. Until then, stay safe and remember the sunscreen. And enjoy it, it won’t be long until the grey clouds re-appear. Get the most of it while you can ?