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CMW 2016: electropop at Studio Bar and more from the Music from Ireland showcase at Rivoli Thursday – 5th May 2016

 
By on Tuesday, 24th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

So that I would not miss one of my must-see bands a good 20-minute walk away, I left the Music from Ireland showcase at the Rivoli before Dublin grunge act Fangclub settled onstage. From what I heard from other punters, they went down a treat, so Carrie and I will need to investigate them further at some point. Walking up Spadina Avenue, then west on Dundas Street, I returned to the Studio Bar, where I’d interviewed Llanelli, Wales group Cut Ribbons earlier before dinner.

Featurette CMW 2016 Studio Bar Thursday

I understood The Studio Bar’s lineup for the evening to be entirely electronic, or at least electropop / synthpop based. So it was no surprised to see electronics at the ready when I arrived and local Toronto duo Featurette were performing. They weren’t that bad, per se, but having seen my fair share of mediocre electronic acts at festivals all over the world, it was hard to be impressed. Further dampening any enthusiasm I may have had about them was singer Lexie Jay singing (er, shouting) into a megaphone a song that I’m guessing was by Drake (?), complete with lyrics that can’t be repeated on a family Web site. I give them credit for giving it their all to a handful of onlookers, but not much else.

Cut Ribbons CMW 2016 Studio Bar Thursday

Cut Ribbons, whose debut album ‘We Want to Watch Something We Loved Burn’ was among my top 5 albums of last year. After some warm-up shows in Guelph and an invigorating visit to Niagara Falls that very morning, they were raring to go, eager to show off new material they’ve been working on at home. While I enjoyed them as much as I did seeing them on the Horizons / Gorwelions stage at the Great Escape 2015, I wish there would have been more punters seeing them that night. That would be one of the cons of Canadian Music Festival: if you’re not hyped enough going out to Toronto, and you find yourself at one of the further out venues, you might not get a great turnout. However, professionals as they are, they put on a great show and I’m really looking forward to hearing their newest music – their new acoustic-based music! – when they make it available to the public. For now, check out a live session track of ‘Helen of Troy’ they shared 2 months ago.

Walking back to the Rivoli with much purpose, I was all about making sure I made it in time for Daithi, with whom I’d had a great chat with Wednesday afternoon in Toronto. On paper, a traditional Irish fiddler mixing his instrument with disparate genres of electronic, house and math rock shouldn’t work. However, live, it’s an entirely unique, lively performance. It’s my understanding that many of the punters who saw him earlier in the evening at Drake Underground walked quite a distance back east to see him play a longer set at the Rivoli. At 1:30 in the morning thousands of miles away from Ireland, Daithi succeeded in being the centre of attention at a dance party of his own creation.

Daithi CMW 2016 Rivoli Music from Ireland Showcase Thursday

While I have some friends enjoy EDM a whole lot but don’t enjoy watching an electronic master at work, I love the spectacle. Making something off the cuff, from general guidelines the artist has set but otherwise allowed himself to improvise up and away from, and being present while that ephemeral art is being made is an amazing honour in itself. For more on this exciting musical alchemist, have a listen to my chat with him in Toronto here. Want a feel for his music and with a very happy tabletop cat? You’re welcome.

 

CMW 2016 Interview: Cut Ribbons

 
By on Tuesday, 10th May 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2016 turned out to be the location of, or at least played a part in facilitating many firsts of the artists coming out for the week of activities. Cut Ribbons from Llanelli, South Wales, played their first North American shows during their time in the Great White North when they were here on our continent last week. Prior to coming out to Toronto, they played two warm up shows in Guelph, another town in the Province of Ontario. The morning of this interview, the band also made it out to Niagara Falls, which along with the CN Tower, proved to be one of the most popular tourist sightseeing spots that bands I ran into during CMW reported as wanting to visit.

Listen below to my interview with the entire group – Aled on vocals and acoustic guitar, Lluan on vocals and synth, Chloe on bass, Christian on lead guitar and Ray on drums – in which we talk about the Canadian acts they find inspiring, as well as what sounds like a new direction for the band in new material they’re working on as we speak for their next Cut Ribbons album. Also included under the embedded interview stream is their promo video for ‘In the Rain’, one of the tracks they did play at the Studio Bar show I managed to catch during CMW.

 

(CMW 2016 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #111: Aled Rees of Cut Ribbons

 
By on Monday, 2nd May 2016 at 1:00 pm
 

We are now at the actual week of Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2016. I know, exciting! And we’re rounding things off in our preview of the festivities with the last few CMW 2016-flavoured Quickfire Questions answered by actual artists scheduled to showcase at the festival. Cut Ribbons released one of my favourite albums of 2015, ‘We Want to Watch Something We Loved Burn’, last summer. We are lucky today to have Aled Rees, guitarist and singer/songwriter of the Welsh band, answering our TGTF questions for us. Which beloved author who favoured a drink (or three) in his time does Aled name as his favourite writer? You’ll have to read on to find out…

Describe your music / sound in three words. (We know, tricky…)
Pop with teeth.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the word ‘Canada’?
Arcade Fire.

What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Toronto? Have you been before?
It’s our first time, we are really excited. We’re looking forward to checking out the sites, going up the CN Tower, all the touristy things really. We are going to have to take a trip outside the city to Niagara Falls too.

Of the bands who have already been announced (https://cmw.net/music/artists/), do you have any that are must-sees on your schedule? If yes, who are they and why?
We’ll catch the bigger names like Eagles of Death Metal and Tegan and Sara for sure. There’s a cool new British band called The Orielles playing, we’ll probably go catch those guys, and we’ll definitely go catch our homeboys and girl HMS Morris! Other than that, just really excited to wander around Toronto discovering new bands and eating lots of poutine!

Name something you’re packing in your suitcase for your time at CMW that we might find weird or unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
Lluan. We are saving the price of a plane ticket by packing our singer in our hand luggage.

You are receiving funding from Arts Council Wales to make the trip over to the pond to showcase at CMW. Tell us about how you got involved with Arts Council Wales and what their funding means to your trip / your career.
They have been incredibly supportive over the last couple of years. It’s organisations like the Arts Council that makes things like this possible.

After CMW, what’s up next for you? Writing and recording? TGE / summer festivals / etc.? Do tell!
Lots of writing. We are hoping to get the new album finished and get a few of the tracks recorded before the summer festivals begin. There is a lot more acoustic guitar on this new one but that doesn’t mean that they are stripped back and bare, quite the opposite actually.

We’re switching over to our usual list of Quickfire Questions…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
It’s probably just aimlessly strumming the open strings of my dad’s old Shaftesbury guitar when I was about 3. I must have driven my parents mad. I still have that guitar too.

What was your favourite song as a child?
I can’t really remember but it was probably something folky like Simon and Garfunkel, Tom Paxton or Ralph Mctell.

What song makes you laugh?
‘Word Up’ by Cameo. Whenever I hear that song the thought of that red codpiece always makes me laugh. It reminds me of a back to front baboon.

What song makes you cry?
Sigur Rós – ‘Ára Bátur’ at Abbey Road. When this kids start singing I have to use the old, ‘I have something in my eye’ excuse. Anything by Elliott Smith. His songs are beyond beautiful.

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
Taylor Swift used to make me feel angry every time I listened to her but through listening to Ryan Adams covering ‘1989’, not so much now.

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
There are just so many. I say out loud almost on a daily basis that I wish I had written some song or other. ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen was the most recent to date. That line, “It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift,” is just genius.

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
It’s Hemingway. Not so keen on the decimation of the Serengeti or the bull fighting bit but I can fully support his “Write drunk; edit sober” maxim.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I’ve always wanted to have a crack at writing a children’s book, so hopefully I would be doing that, but who knows? I could just as easily have become the ringmaster of a cat circus.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
If God said anything at all to me I would have to rethink a lot of things. Also, if I was going to heaven, you would have thought they would already have it.

Thanks Aled for your kind answering of our questions. See you all in Toronto!

 

Top Albums of 2015: Editor’s Picks

 
By on Monday, 21st December 2015 at 11:00 am
 

It’s definitely been a roller coaster of a year, full of highs and lows of surprises and emotional moments. So when it came time for me to sit down and consider which would be my top albums of 2015, the qualities I was looking for were a little different as they have been in the last 5 years I’ve offered my end of year choices. (To have a read of my best of lists in 2010-2014 while I’ve presided as Editor at TGTF, go here.)

While the following five albums all met my usual primary of criterion of, “will I listen to this album again and again in years to come?”, it was important to me this year, more than any other time in the past, to choose albums that I felt truly emotionally connected to that I feel that you, the readers, will feel too.

1. Fictonian‘Desire Lines’ (Distiller Records); Fictonian coverage on TGTF

When we approach the start of summer or winter, I get a nervous but inescapably excited feeling in the pit of my stomach, probably much like the feeling the members of the Academy Award nominee committee have as they head towards Christmas. To me, it should be a no-brainer that any album released during or right before summer should be written with the intention that one would listen to it blaring from an open-top convertible, just as the best released near the holidays should be the one you’re listening to with your loved ones while trimming the tree.

Glen Powers’ debut as Fictonian, ‘Desire Lines’ released in mid-November, definitely fits the bill for the latter. What makes ‘Desire Lines’ a stroke of brilliance is as its demonstration of Powers’ talent. It has moments of true beauty: you will want to hold close to your heart the smoky emotional haze of ‘I Remember’, gently tempered by the sweeping gorgeousness of more upbeat ‘Make It Be Ours’. This album was crafted lovingly in rural Herefordshire, and it shows.

On the other side of the spectrum are the wonky melody of ‘Mrs. Jones’ and the playful rolling beats of ‘Little Black Book’, showing off the whimsical side of Fictonian songwriting. He’s the kind of artist you expect to be knocking back a couple of Oscars for best song or best score from a film chosen by that same committee I mentioned earlier. Suffice to say, I’m truly excited to hear more from him.

2. East India Youth‘Culture of Volume’ (XL Recordings); East India Youth coverage on TGTF

Where do you go from a Mercury Prize nomination? Luckily for William Doyle, aka East India Youth, this wasn’t an issue: his sophomore album ‘Culture of Volume’ and the follow-up to last year’s hugely feted ‘Total Strife Forever’ was already written by the time Young Fathers were announced as the surprise winners of the industry gong in November 2014.

While we’ll never know for sure if the gravity of potentially winning the Mercury Prize looming over him would have made a difference in the finished product, ‘Culture of Volume’ will stand as an interesting milestone in East India Youth’s career because it’s so different – and refreshingly so – from his admittedly somewhat inaccessible Mercury-nominated debut.

Taking advantage of what I feel is one of his unsung strengths (no pun intended), the pop sensibility in Doyle’s voice shines like a beacon of light in the darkness of ‘Carousel’, and it’s impossible not feel the pain of leaving a lover in the words of ‘Turn Away’. He also indulged in his love for industrial techno in instrumental ‘Entirety’ after the pulse-pounding ‘Hearts That Never’, while also channeling the Pet Shop Boys in ‘Beaming White’. I’m alternately intrigued and terrified of what the third East India Youth album will sound like. The rumours indicate we’ll hear nothing until 2017, so we’ve got some time to wait.

3. Public Service Broadcasting‘The Race for Space’ (Test Card Recordings); Public Service Broadcasting coverage on TGTF

Novelty is still one of the unique characteristics distinguishing indie from mainstream music. Public Service Broadcasting first came to prominence to 6 Music listeners through the single ‘Spitfire’, a driving toe-tapper highlighting the British invention of a single-seat fighter plane developed for use in World War II, using archived footage from public information films from a bygone era. The song went on to appear on the duo’s ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’, released on the act’s own Test Card Recordings. They became, in my mind, the poster boys for music for the thinking man.

In February, their second outing ‘The Race for Space’ cemented in the public consciousness Public Service Broadcasting’s ability to write a cohesive and impressive set of songs highlighting humankind’s innovation while looking towards the heavens. Russian (‘Sputnik’, ‘Gagarin’, ‘Valentina’) and American accomplishments (‘Go!’, ‘Tomorrow’) during the Cold War were equally lauded, and this is important to note, given the political climate we find ourselves in now. How incredible that music written with the help of propanganda clips, clips originally created to provoke nationalist sentiment, could be repurposed to applaud the human spirit? Fantastic.

4. Cut Ribbons‘We Want to Watch Something We Loved Burn’ (Kissability); Cut Ribbons coverage on TGTF

It’s a funny thing that in the year New Order decided to return with a new album (I know, I know, without Peter Hook), a far younger band from Wales came out with their own debut in the genre of synthpop that Bernard Sumner and co. were one of the vanguards of in the ‘80s. And totally obliterated any other competition they might have had in the same genre, adding anthemic and dream pop elements to further bolster their sound.

The booming bombast of slower tempoed, well restrained ‘Clouds’ provides a welcome contrast to the cardiovascular workout and title track ‘We Want to Watch Something We Loved Burn’. Overall, including ‘Walking on Wires’ below, this is an optimistic set of songs, that I appreciate as a jolt of sunniness during the darker times.

5. Broken Hands‘Turbulence’ (SO Recordings); Broken Hands coverage on TGTF

It might seem strange to go from the lightness of a synthpop album into the deep, dark recesses of a hard rock album, but stay with me here. Being a Led Zeppelin fan from way back, my hard rock litmus test is difficult to pass, because, Led Zep set the bar pretty high. As a result, it’s difficult for me to cosy up to just any hard rock band. They have to prove themselves to me, and Broken Hands has done just that with ‘Turbulence’.

A searing live rendition of ‘Meteor’ at SXSW 2014 melted my face, and its recorded version does not disappoint (have a watch and listen below), and neither does single ‘Who Sent You’. But this band is no one-trick pony, proven by the grandeur of surprising ballad ‘Impact’. Excellent stuff.

 

Album Review: Cut Ribbons – We Want to Watch Something We Loved Burn

 
By on Thursday, 20th August 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Cut Ribbons We Wanted to Watch Something We Love Burn album coverIt’s a precarious time for synthpop bands. With the return of both Leftfield and The Chemical Brothers, not to mention the reappearance of The Prodigy, synthpop bands would do themselves a favour if they went back to basics their pop sensibility. This includes keeping their distance from what the top 40 pop sound has turned into, tracks tinged or dunked into r&b and soul. Glaswegians Prides have done this to some extent in their Island Records debut last month, ‘The Way Back Up’, but they couldn’t maintain the quality of their songs. In contrast, the buoyancy of the songs on Cut Ribbons‘ debut album tell me they’ve got both the songwriting and performing chops, and I believe both will serve them well as they support this album and beyond.

Frankly, I have no idea how you can listen to ‘We Want to Watch Something We Love Burn’ without smiling and wanting to wave your arms in the air. Outside Patterns on Thursday at the Great Escape this year was a rainy, dreary mess to open the festival. The kind of day where drinking seems to be the only decent option to spend the day. The Llanelli, West Wales band paid no mind to this, as their light touch with their songs brightened everyone’s spirits and closed out the Gorwelion / Horizons afternoon showcase on a high note.

There’s something very special in the main singing duties shared between Lluan Bowen (keyboards) and founding member Aled Rees (guitar), whether they’re singing in sweet harmony or they’re taking turns on lead. Cut Ribbons songs can sound like the kind of music you’d expect soundtracking the latest Disney flick, except that you’re continually reminded by the nimble synth lines that this music can be enjoyed by adults too. Like the aforementioned debut from Prides, there’s been effort on here to include some slower numbers to break things up but comparatively, the Welsh band come through head and shoulders better on the ballads than their Glaswegian peers, showing believable sensitivity on the dreamy ‘Truth in Numbers’ and ‘I’m a Wretch’.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80BYiJShfpg[/youtube]

But you’re not really here to listen to me waffle on about the ballads on a synthpop group’s debut LP, are you? Right, let’s get to it. With its booms of percussion and synth chords alongside the memorable guitar riffs, ‘Clouds’ mesmerised me live, with the chorus “Saw all the colours with you / kaleidoscopes with a view / caught everything that you threw / ‘cos that’s what lovers should do” chronicling the unbreakable bond of a strong relationship. Less about destruction than the end of an era, a synthpop ‘There Goes the Fear’ contending “we’ll sink like a stone, into the unknown”, the relentless title track is a cardiovascular workout. Similarly, album standout ‘Walking on Wires’ will keep your heart rate up, while lyrically being inspirational as two people go forward together in strength, just as Bowen and Rees’ voices join in beautiful harmony: “hold on tight this time / two lost souls defined / everything’s gonna be fine / everything’s gonna be fine”. Near the end of the tracklisting is ‘Bound in Love’, its ’80s pop heart on full display while the guitar and xylophone notes bounce and its connecting passages build anticipation to ride you out to the crest of the next wave.

Less frenetic in structure and more anthemic is ‘White Horses’, which skirts that Disney / Olympics-ready line. Throughout the song, the band build a wall of sound with guitars, synths and drums that’s more reminiscent of what a psych band would do. But it works and works well in this context because they’ve arranged it smartly so that Bowen and Rees’ vocals sound sweet and are loud enough in the mix to hold their own against the instrumentation. And hurrah, I think Cut Ribbons are the only pop band whose album I’ve heard this year that didn’t end with a snoozefest. ‘Sink Ships’ concludes the album on another bright anthemic note, even if the song revisits the earlier theme of the unknown. Cut Ribbons are a young band, so anxiety is to be expected about the future. Though one wonders what they’re feeling so anxious about, putting together a winning album like this.

8.5/10

‘We Want to Watch Something We Love Burn’, Welsh band Cut Ribbons’ debut album, is out tomorrow, the 21st of August, on Kissability. To read my coverage of them performing at the Gorwelion / Horizons showcase Thursday at the Great Escape 2015, go here. To see them in action as well as see yours truly be interviewed about their performance, watch the video here on >the Gorwelion / Horizons page on the BBC Web site.

 

Great Escape 2015: Day 1 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 20th May 2015 at 11:00 am
 

Ah yes, Brighton. London by the sea, rainbow flags a-flyin’, the smell of skunk hanging in the air if you walk down the wrong alley (or most places if it’s sunny), a place populated by way too many aggressive seagulls. It has been 2 years since TGTF last stepped foot in the seaside town to cover the annual emerging music festival here, which of course is The Great Escape 2015. Some things have happened since John and me were last in Brighton and due to some things in 2014 transpiring to keep us away (and I think for good reason too, if you want to get all moody and astrological about it), it was time for my return.

Model Aeroplanes @ Brighthelm Centre (Showcasing Scotland)

Within 30 minutes of leaving the flat I’d booked for the duration, the Great Escape 2015 wasted no time to remind me of my first rain-drenched event here in 2012. Like a scene out of Mary Poppins, my brolly turned inside out, pieces fell off and yes, it became entirely inoperable. Somehow after getting my photo pass from the press centre in the Dome, then getting lost (a recurring theme when I’m running behind schedule) I made it to the Brighthelm Community Centre without looking like a wet cat; the place is connected to a church and it was where the Creative Scotland afternoon showcase would be kicking things off. First up were the rough and tumble Model Aeroplanes, who you readers are aware I’m a big fan of. You might think that at 12 noon on as dreary of a day as it was, they were unlikely to draw a sizable crowd.

Model Aeroplanes at Great Escape 2015

Wrong. The lively four-piece all the way from Dundee were raring to go, and a pretty packed out room awaited them. ‘Deep in the Pool’ is their latest single, and as their past releases, it’s a fun little guitar number that I expect will go down well in front of festival crowds this summer, as will recent tropical-tinged single ‘Club Low’. However, I still have a soft spot for earlier songs such as ‘Whatever Dress Suits You Better’ and the lovely honeyed way ‘Innocent Love’ has about it, and their guitar-swinging energy was just what Brighton needed on the rainy start to the festival. The band also brought me a gift: bottle of very special Dundee marmalade down with them, which was a very sweet and nice touch – thank you lads!

The Merrylees @ Brighthelm Centre (Showcasing Scotland)

From the footloose and fancy free and sunny indie pop / rock of the opening band, The Merrylees couldn’t be more different. Having already supported the likes of legends Paul Weller (in town to play a not so secret show on Saturday) and Richard Hawley, the Merrylees are clearly on to something, but what that is might be marmite for at least part of the British population, the six-member strong band finding themselves galloping away on a country/western-themed bent for most of the set.

Confusingly, lead singer Ryan Sandison of the group has a haircut and dresses all in black like Alex Turner, yet when he opens his mouth, he sounds nothing like the Sheffielder, instead alternating between a croonery vocal style (ah, so now the Hawley connection makes sense!) and the theatrical, as if he’s playing to a cabaret in the West End, not a community centre rec room this afternoon. The cautionary tale in ‘It’s Catching Up With You Now’ is dark Hawley-esque territory, as is the haunting beautiful ‘Turn for the Strange’, and their debut single produced by Bill Ryder-Jones, ‘For You’, barely skirts the psychedelic line until heralding horns kick up the dust. Definitely unique, but I wonder if they can really make a go of it. I bid my adieus to new Scottish friends made and master of ceremonies, BBC Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway, and emerge to head down in the direction of the seafront to immerse myself with music from another part of the UK. (Hint, not England…)

What used to be known as Audio on Marine Parade was just recently refurbished, turning into another nightclub called Patterns. I’m actually disappointed that I can’t tell you the place has changed dramatically and for the better – all that really obvious to me was that the stage in the upstairs performance space was rotated 90 degrees and the actual stage was made lengthwise longer. I’m never in a club long enough nor do am I there to check out the cocktails or the clientele. The upstairs area Thursday afternoon was host to the Gorwelion Horizons showcase being put on by Music Wales. No stranger to the funding project after meeting funding recipients The People the Poet at SXSW 2015 in March, I was eager to see who else was on the Welsh music radar and also to meet BBC Radio Wales presenter Bethan Elfyn, who appreciated the work I’d done in reporting on their show in Austin.

Casi @ Patterns Upstairs (Gorwelion Horizons)

Casi at Great Escape 2015

The venue was running at least an hour late, as when I arrived after getting a bite and a drink in a pub, I assumed I would enter in the midst of Cut Ribbons’ set. No, the tall, leggy blonde Casi, with her soulful vocal stylings, had yet to perform. The Bangor-born beauty and her band crafted a very pop, radio-friendly sound that I can see having massive mainstream appeal. I prefer the icy crunchiness of a track like ‘Grace’, while Radio 1’s Huw Stephens favours for his Radio 1 programme ‘Roads’, with its syncopated r&b beats.

Cut Ribbons @ Patterns Upstairs (Gorwelion Horizons)

Cut Ribbons were to close out the Gorwelion Horizons showcase, and they’re definitely more my bag. Fusing the best elements of electronic, rock and even a little pop, the London via Llanelli group also employ alternating and harmonising male/female fronting vocals, which I can always get behind. ‘Walking on Wires’ has a relentless rhythm and anthemic quality, almost as if Kodaline had gone much more electronic and added a female frontwoman to join Steve Garrigan. If you are a fan of Prides, you will want to take note of Cut Ribbons too; the Glaswegians remixed the Welsh band’s ‘Bound in Love’. I reckon they will be future touring buddies once Prides’ debut album on Island Records is out in July.

Cut Ribbons at Great Escape 2015

This is also the kind of music you want playing while you fall in love with someone under a mirrorball in a club. Well, I do anyway, in my dreams. (I assume John has a completely different kind of fantasy, probably involving Josh Homme and Dave Grohl beating some guitars in.) Pardon the cliché, but ‘Clouds’ lets you float satisfyingly, the synth notes and guitar notes springy, while the main vocal lines are gentle until the chorus pulls you in with “…and that’s what lovers should do.” Vigorous nod. Yes.

STAL @ Digital (Clash)

After a brief break for food and drink, it was down to the Arch to check out two bands at what was formerly known as Digital. Along with the new to me dance club Shooshh and our old friend Coalition where we hosted the TGTF stage in 2011 (starring a then-unknown Foster the People, I might add), The Arch is one of several true seafront clubs in Brighton. Clash Magazine’s night there began with STAL, an electronic trio from Paris. Well, at least I thought they would be straight electronic and that would be the end of it. That would have been perfectly fine with me, because I love electronic and if they kept laying down big beats and synths, I would have been a very happy panda.

STAL at Great Escape 2015

STAL, however, had other plans for us. I’m still not sure exactly how to explain what I witnessed. I’ve never heard of the band and neither had another music editor friend of mine who was also at the Arch, and I was just gobsmacked by the amount of singing along – and screaming and squealing – there was by the girls down the front, who then went over the barrier and crawled onstage to get their set lists after the band finished. How on earth did we ever miss these guys? Upon further examination of STAL’s Soundcloud, you learn that STAL is actually the stage name of Pierre-Marie Maulini, who acts as lead vocalist, guitarist and synth player live.

Because they are both French, I think STAL will be inevitably compared to M83; nevertheless, I find the celebratory, positive feel good vibes of STAL’s ‘Gone’ to be a real winner eclipsing anything I’ve heard from Anthony Gonzalez (I know, them’s fighting words), while the interesting juxtaposition of otherworldy synths and banging guitars on ‘Burning Desire’ live reminds me oddly enough of the bombast you might feel at, say, a Muse concert. I have heard the complaint on occasion that electronic music is too fey, too feminine, not manly enough. Well, listen up. If a bunch of Frenchmen like this can make electronic sound muscular, have a listen and you might change your mind.

Neon Waltz @ Digital (Clash)

Neon Waltz at Great Escape 2015

Neon Waltz were next up on the Clash showcase. Another six-member band, it seemed trying to fit them and all their gear onstage at the Arch would be a difficult feat, but they got it to work. The band from Caithness in Scotland just released their debut EP on Atlantic Records in April, ‘First Light’, so it’s still early days for them. I really liked what I heard on the EP, so I was disappointed when I heard them play ‘Sombre Fayre’ Thursday night, the gentle beauty of the lead vocal on the records lost against the harder instrumentation. I’m guessing the mix in the club wasn’t right, since an electronic band performed before them. Or maybe having so many instruments on stage was muddying up the overall sound? I’d be really curious if they are ever in for a Sofar Sounds session or something similarly acoustically just how different it would be.

Part 2 of Thursday’s coverage at the Great Escape 2015 follows this afternoon.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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