Trembling Bells

The HUBS
4 April

Heading up the stage at Hallam Students' Union, preceded by the Sufjan Stevens-esque Baby Copperhead and the frankly bonkers Out Ink, Trembling Bells ensured the ground shook and the bells chimed as they roared their way through a selection of songs from their latest offering, Dungeness.

Opening with 'Knockin' On The Coffin' and proving even more of a monster onstage than on record, the Bells performed for what turned out to be a surprisingly modest crowd. Lavinia Blackwall's soothing voice is as effective at slicing through butter as it might cut through cheese. Piercing and serene, and combined with the pounding drums of Alex Neilson, it saw the five-piece group put on a star turn.

The band wasted no time in wrenching every last wail and screech from their guitars, Neilson practically beating the life from his drum kit during furious and frenetic, yet extremely satisfying, breakdowns. They stuck mainly to songs from their latest record, interspersed with a couple of older numbers from 2011’s The Constant Pageant, all of which went down to rapturous applause. Perhaps on account of the length of their songs, the set seemed relatively short, but that is surely testament to their prowess at keeping their audience enthralled.

A particular highlight for the local faithful saw lead single ‘Christ's Entry Into Govan’ introduced as ‘Christ's Entry Into Hallam’, a sure-fire way to cement this band's loyal following. They may have been around since 2008, but Trembling Bells are easily Glasgow's coolest and craziest hippies, recreating music from an era seemingly long past and doing so with an epic and original modern flourish.

Jordan Ingram

Ligeti Quartet

Firth Hall
24 April

Performing as part of Sheffield University’s Sound Laboratory festival of new and experimental music, the Ligeti Quartet played a series of works which pushed the boundaries of the relationship between electronic and instrumental sound, exploring how technology can enhance an acoustic performance. It was an evening that left me invigorated and inspired, stepping out of the hall feeling like I’d witnessed something genuinely futuristic.

The headline piece was Jonathan Harvey’s 'String Quartet No. 4', written for strings and live electronics. The sounds produced by the strings are closely amplified, processed and transformed, before being spacialised around the hall by the university’s monumental sound diffusion system. Think of it as a supercharged surround-sound system, with multiple speakers, each independently controlled, able to precisely pinpoint a sound anywhere in the room. Watching sound being produced live onstage in front of you, while simultaneously hearing that sound hover around your head before rushing away and bouncing off a wall on the opposite side of the building is a genuinely thrilling experience. Meanwhile, any worries that this might be experimentation for the sake of it were blown away by the emotional depths found in the music, taking the listener on a series of journeys and meditations through sound.

Another experimental highlight was a work by Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina, where the quartet’s performance - a combination of both live and pre-recorded layers - was accompanied by a specially-commissioned film. The constantly moving colours and shapes were tailored to the sound of the composition, encouraging the audience to have a synaesthetic experience, bridging the gap between seeing and hearing.

My favourite piece, however, was Anna Meredith’s brief yet incandescent ‘Tuggemo’, where the quartet were accompanied by a furious and breathless techno soundtrack, which to me seemed like a positive manifesto for a brilliantly creative future of live classical music.

Ben Eckersley

Jarvis Cocker

6 April
Devil’s Arse, Castleton

‘Jarv is..’ reads the minimalist promotional material for the former Pulp frontman’s seemingly spontaneous tour announcement. That seems to be enough to sell out two nights in the mouth of the Devil’s Arse cave in Castleton. Jarv is many things and he has masterful control of them all: frontman, radio presenter, author, activist. At times, comedian wouldn't be a stretch.

And tonight, at the first gig at the Devil’s Arse, he is a pharaoh, or so the first song of this hilarious, wonderfully energetic set claims. Faking the application of make-up through a handheld mirror, Cocker whispers and struts his way seductively through a very Pulpish number about being stalked by a living statue, before donning a guitar for the colourful cultural referencing of ‘Elvis Has Left The Building’.

Few can command an audience with such charm. From ramblings about ABBA’s Eurovision win to impulsive interactions about Malteasers, satsumas and “a shop on West Street that you used to have to go up some stairs to get to”, the banter is almost on par with the captivating set. The songs are complemented wonderfully by occasional sprinklings of harp and violin, alongside distorted guitar and plinky keyboard.

Established solo highlights ‘Fat Children’ and ‘Cunts Are Still Running The World’ are met with the loudest roar. Yet new tracks - from the almost epic philosophical piece ‘Must I Evolve’ to the straight-outta Different Class lyrical wit of ‘Swanky Modes’ - are early hints that a new album could be Jarv’s strongest solo release to date.

Dialogue for the one-song encore teases ‘Common People’, but even those disappointed to hear the band strike up ‘His ‘n’ Hers’ are equally captivated by the conversational interlude about Jarvis’s apparent fear of microphones, though that’s far from evident tonight. A musical and spoken word triumph.

Jordan Lee Smith

Let's Eat Grandma

8 April
Plug

Let's Eat Grandma were formed five years ago in Norwich by childhood punctuation fans and multi-instrumentalists, Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth. They released their quirky debut album, I, Gemini, two years ago to positive reviews and increased their profile with a spot on Later.... Those songs were mostly written while in their mid teens, so it will be interesting to hear what the new album, I'm All Ears, released at the end of June, will sound like.

The support act tonight is local pop princess Tyni, who has a strong voice and a very confident stage manner. She is focused and driven and has big ambitions of inhabiting the LA music scene. Good luck to her.

With a sparse crowd and a good chunk of tonight's set consisting of unknown songs from the upcoming album, there is a strange, almost eerie atmosphere for Let's Eat Grandma's set. They start with recent single, 'Hot Pink', with its woozy synths and desultory, chanted chorus, then proceed to transfix and baffle the audience in equal measure. Jumping from intense dual vocal interplay and elegiac soundscapes to outbreaks of playground hand-clapping, they attempt to incorporate their disparate influences, from Frank Ocean to the Beatles to Steve Reich.

They are receiving lots of adoring coverage from Pitchfork and the broadsheets, who are desperately looking for the next big thing, with occasional dissenters asking questions about forced eccentricity. The last three songs range from a simple piano and vocal ditty to 'Deep Six Textbook', with its sombre beat and wailing saxophone, before finishing with their 11-minute prog magnum opus, which rises and falls with guitar noodling, drones and synth strings aplenty.

Pete Martin