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Great Escape 2018: Day 1 Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Monday, 4th June 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Before I headed out to blighty, I joked to my blogger friends that I didn’t think I would be eating dinner any night at The Great Escape 2018. Why? Each night, I had bands on my schedule starting as early as 6 PM. I thought, hm, maybe everyone will be too busy drinking in a pub with their mates or on the beach that the 6 PM shows won’t be busy. WRONG! London via Limerick pop trio whenyoung were playing to a massive crowd at the Haunt, one of the lesser-known venues of The Great Escape. The closest I could get to the stage for this London in Stereo showcase was standing next to the soundboard in the back. Their female-fronted guitar pop was just the thing for many punters in Brighton to start their Thursday night with, many moving and grooving in the Haunt to the band’s infectious melodies. Check out whenyoung’s newest single ‘Heaven on Earth’, released 2 Fridays ago.


There wasn’t far for me to go for my next stop. I’d advise against visiting the gender neutral bathroom stalls at the Arch (like walking into a pitch-black room, seriously) but the venue was serviceable enough for the Clash magazine showcase. Don’t be confused that there are no actual females in the all-male Sea Girls. The Londoners are a band favourite of NME and Huw Stephens of Radio 1 and judging from their merch, they refuse to take themselves seriously (‘Indie Landfill’ is not a phrase from the end of the Noughties I’ve not heard bandied around these days). Like whenyoung before them, they’re firmly in the pop camp, but Sea Girls swing back and forth between anthemic pop and muscular pop/rock. I have to admit that because my musical taste has been going towards the more weird and unusual lately, I wasn’t wowed by their performance, but I can see that with a little luck and the great songs they’ve written so far, they have the potential to gain a massive following very quickly. Watch this space.

Sea Girls Thursday The Great Escape 2018

As I’ve probably mentioned in past Great Escape reports, Brighton is a hilly place. I don’t care how well you think you’ve organised your schedule. At some point, you’re going to have to walk from the lowest point of the seaside back up to the Brighton train station at the top of the hill. (Incidentally, I did this back and forth several times Friday night because, well, sometimes, needs must.) To make things easier on myself, I took it easy up the hill to arrive at the Green Door Store for the last few songs of New York’s Bodega at the Upset magazine showcase. As one might rightly expect, American bands are big draws at a festival like The Great Escape, and there were plenty of folks in the main room at the Green Door, plus those who spilled out into the bar area before it. Knowing that Austin Brown of Parquet Courts produced their upcoming debut album to be released this summer should give you some idea of Bodega’s punky, devil-may-care kind of music. Not my thing, but they might be yours.

Black Futures Thursday The Great Escape 2018
apologies for the quality of this photo; clearly, it’s not my best work, and it didn’t help that it was nearly pitch black during Black Futures’ performance

London duo Black Futures describe themselves on their Facebook as “A no-holds-barred aural assault of Anarchic Electro Psych Punk Noise that is something like Death From Above and the Chemical Brothers’ bastard offspring”. Their recorded sound was intriguing enough for this hard rock and electronic fan to tip them in a preview of Live at Leeds 2018 and The Great Escape. Synths and guitars aplenty arrived on stage, while their mask and hazmat suit-dressed non-musical companions stood guard down front. Naturally, the spectacle caused the audience’s anticipation for the band to build. Programmed beats came in first, then the wailing guitars. Then, a ferocious scream from one of the guys on stage. You didn’t know if you should shake a tail feather or headbang. Me? I opted for the latter.

Mansionair Thursday The Great Escape 2018

The main problem with the Green Door Store, which has been true every time I’ve visited, is that the place is like being inside a pressure cooker: hot, sweaty and uncomfortable. The upstairs venue space of the nearby Prince Albert is probably the only place worse for someone with claustrophobia, while the Hope and Ruin (formerly the Hope) offers the same level of discomfort. In order to take a breath, I dove for the exit, able to take in the precious fresh air all the way on my walk to Komedia. I couldn’t help myself: I just had to pop in to see Mansionair at one of their many appearances in Britain over the last 6 months. Even though I only saw them play two songs during their set at the ATC Live showcase, it was crystal clear from their closing with single ‘Astronaut (Something About Your Love)’ that they were a huge hit with the Great Escape crowd, their arms to-ing and fro-ing in time to frontman Jack Froggatt’s directions from the stage. The sexiness and baby-making potential of Mansionair’s sound wasn’t lost on punters, as I uncomfortably stood amongst lip-locking couples.

Back down closer to the seaside, I stopped in to the basement venue of the Walrus for another act I tipped ahead of Live at Leeds 2018. Who Zapatilla is remains a mystery, his identity cloaked both literally and figuratively. While listening to his music on Spotify made his music seem dancier, the few songs I witnessed live Thursday evening were more subdued and less engaging than I’d hoped.

Feeling less than energised from Zapatilla’s set, I thought I might change gears completely and end my night with a bit of singer/songwriter Blanco White. As Carrie wrote previously, Englishman Josh Edwards’ project is infused with Latin-American influences. By the time I figured out where the Unitarian Church was behind all the construction work, I sadly learned the intimate, all-seated venue where I’d previously seen a magical set by Marika Hackman was one in, one out. So much for planning. Feeling slightly defeated, I decided to call it a night.

All my photos from Thursday at the Great Escape 2018 are here.

 

Album Review: Blanco White – The Wind Rose EP

 
By on Friday, 5th February 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Blanco White The Wind Rose EP coverOver the Christmas holidays, I had the pleasure of writing a Bands to Watch feature on Blanco White, the solo project of London singer/songwriter Josh Edwards. Highlighted in that article was debut single ‘November Rain’, which appears on Blanco White’s new EP titled ‘The Wind Rose’, along with three other Latin American-influenced songs that put a decisively contemporary spin on a traditional folk style.

Edwards initiated the Blanco White project in 2014, after studying classical guitar in Spain and learning to play the Andean charango in Bolivia. His vision for the project involved “bringing together elements of Andalusian and Latin American music alongside influences closer to home.” The end result is a set of songs with decidedly English lyrics and themes, set over the classical soundscapes of South America.

The Latin American influence here isn’t the uptempo salsa dance style often heard in mainstream pop music, but rather the contemplative minor-key sound of traditional Spanish and South American art song. Edwards’ orchestration includes the expected prominent virtuoso guitar figures but employs vividly modern, minimalist arrangements in the other instruments, creating dramatic energy to match his evocative lyrical style.

Opening track ‘The Lily’, recently featured by Adam Walton on BBC Radio Wales, begins with some of the EP’s most breathtaking imagery in the lyrical lines, “I left a sign with a candle in the streetlight that shone below / where through the night the people dance in linen and smoke / I still remember her song in my head . . .” Melding romance with impressions of fire and sea, Edwards’ rough-hewn singing voice is emotionally raw and instantly captivating as he sings of his elusive Lily, “vanished, some other place by the sea. . . banished by herself, not by me.”

The aforementioned ‘November Rain’ sets another oblique tale of emotional loss against the grey backdrop of a train platform on a cold autumn day. Its unanswered question “so is this why I couldn’t stay?” is never explained in the lyrical monologue, but its anguish is clearly expressed by each insistent repetition. The yearning woodwind solo following the repeated line “there’s nothing left I owe” leads into the song’s dynamic climax, where Edwards unleashes the strength of his voice ahead of the reflective final refrain.

Slightly gentler and more introspective, ’Chalk’ delves further into the feminine mystique with the vivid description of a palm reading enchantress who predicts her subject’s trip to Spain. The accordion and bowed strings in the song’s instrumental arrangement give a hint of the heady atmosphere of a street fair and Edwards’ lyrics are once again as beguilingly quixotic as the imagined siren of his serenade.

Final and eponymous track ‘The Wind Rose’ is even more strongly Latin-flavoured, with gently rolling harp and guitar figures under lyrics that switch between elegant English and sensual Spanish. Edwards is accompanied in the singing of the Spanish sections by Malena Zavala of Argentine indie rock band and Yucatan Records labelmate Oh So Quiet.  Zavala’s light, clear vocals float delicately above Edwards’ coarser tone and echo hauntingly over the song’s closing lyric, “as the wind moves the water, in the chalice of a rose.”

Three of the songs from ‘The Wind Rose’ EP are streaming now on Yucatan Records’ official Web site, ahead of the EP’s impending release. If you’re as enchanted by Josh Edwards’ stunning voice and nimble guitar playing as I was, you can also watch a live video of Blanco White performing ‘Rust’, at the bottom of the page.

8.5/10

Blanco White will play a one-off show at London’s Sebright Arms on the 31st of March supporting Eliza Shaddad. His EP ‘The Wind Rose’ is out today on Yucatan Records.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/LlTTBG5SmWw[/youtube]

 

Bands to Watch #365: Blanco White

 
By on Thursday, 24th December 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

London singer/songwriter Josh Edwards has only recently finished recording his debut EP under the reiterative moniker Blanco White, but his music has already created a stir on Spotify, receiving over 150,000 plays. Featured last week on the streaming service’s New Music Friday U.S. and Weekend Buzz playlists, Blanco White’s new track is called ‘November Rain’, but it is most definitely (and most thankfully) not a cover of the early ‘90s Guns ‘n’ Roses song of the same name.

Instead, Blanco White’s sound is more along the lines of Nick Mulvey‘s globally influenced folk. Josh Edwards’ singing voice is immediately suggestive of Marcus Mumford, which will appeal to pop-oriented listeners who might prefer the easy accessibility of Mumford and Sons, but Edwards’ vocal delivery is much more emotionally refined, and his music spans a more subtly shaded dynamic continuum.

The distinctly Spanish flavour of ‘November Rain’ should come as no surprise, as its arrangement reflects Edwards’ guitar studies in Cádiz, as well as the time he spent learning to play an Andean stringed instrument called the charango in Bolivia. ‘November Rain’ is driven by the momentum of its ornate and deftly executed guitar rhythms, while its pervasive minor key harmonies mirror the vaguely dark sentimentality of its lyrics. Lofty bowed strings and woodwind countermelodies in the orchestration infuse the song with just a hint of inviting warmth, perhaps an allusion to the gentle glow you’d long to feel upon coming in from the chill outdoors in the bleakness of mid-winter.

You’ll have to wait nearly until winter’s end to hear Blanco White’s full debut EP titled ‘The Wind Rose’, which is due for release on the 6th of February 2016 via Yucatan Records. But in the spirit of the current season, you can stream ‘November Rain’ on Spotify or take a listen just below.

 
 
 

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