Shield Patterns

4 March
Rude Shipyard

The Shipyard excels at this kind of gig – close, intimate, very human. First up is Sheffield’s Phoneutrian, purveyor of pulsing, Warp-style ambient. It’s honey to be dripped into half-sleeping, half-dreaming ears.

It seems all the projects Richard Knox lends his hand to are worthy of attention, particularly Rustle of the Stars, and Manchester’s Shield Patterns are no exception. They’re organic electronica, Knox leading on the kit and the shimmering Claire Brentnall on vocals. Imagine the duskier sister of Múm’s Finally We Are No One - dense, layered and knowing - or erstwhile Gizeh label mates Conquering Animal Sound through a glass darkly.

Beats trip beautifully over themselves in slow motion, temptingly up-tempo then perfectly-too-soon merging back to contemplative, almost jazz, swing and sway. The bass swells and resonates, loops stratify and dissolve, like watching mountains evolve. Vocals alternate between nuzzling your neck and cutting to the spine, lyrics drift between light and dark, coldness and warmth.

There are glints and hints of Arabesque melodies; of music boxes wired into the 21st century; sunlight catching this quintessence of dust; of portals to hell, all the while reaching for the stars in the knowledge they’ll never be touched. Latest single ‘Dust Hung Heavy’ is exemplar and ‘Ruby Red’ is particularly stunning. As with most decent live projects, outstanding recordings are no comparison to seeing them in the flesh.

You could place these songs in the mouths of the dead - more than sufficient payment to the ferryman - or blast them nice and loud to soundtrack Prometheus as he steals fire from the gods. They’re not to be taken lightly, this band. Allen Ginsberg believed the only work worthwhile is to ease the pain of living. With the beauty of their music both Phoneutrian and Shield Patterns certainly help.

Jake Karlov

Roots 15

7 March
Yellow Arch Studios

As a recovering dubhead prone to relapse, I’d been eagerly anticipating this latest instalment of Roots at the much improved Yellow Arch Studios. Channel One Sound System - Notting Hill Carnival veterans, international roots and culture ambassadors and true stalwarts of the UK sound system scene - were to be returning to Sheffield for the first time since 2010. In addition to a rowdy backroom line-up of local bass orientated DJs, Sheffield’s own Will Tee would be guesting on Channel One’s world class system, a rare honour for any aspiring DJ and a testament to Will’s raw talent and promise as a roots producer.

Roots has successfully garnered a loyal following since its inception a mere two years ago and nowhere was this more obvious than at Yellow Arch Studios on 7 March. On arrival we were greeted with a well spirited queue of truly biblical proportions. Maybe it’s because I’m getting on a bit, but I did find the night was overly crowded, thus rendering my fantasies of peacefully dancing to my favourite roots numbers a distant dream for most of the evening. Not that this bothered anyone else - both rooms remained firmly rammed with happy revellers from dusk till dawn.

Musically the night was of high quality and, despite sandwiching their Sheffield appearance in between shows in Scotland and London, Channel One showed no sign of fatigue, running a wicked dance packed full of their characteristic energy, positivity and rocking basslines. Will Tee’s set showed a more contemporary side to roots music and was duly well received. The second room remained an impenetrable fortress of limbs and bass for the full six hours (blame the beefy 20hz Sound System), so I’m not going to pretend I could hear any of the music going down in there but it did look and sound like fun.

Undoubtedly, the whole evening was a runaway success and for this credit is due to the organisers. More generally, it’s great to see the Yellow Arch team successfully working together to establish this historic building as a more permanent venue.

Barney Harris

Oliver Wilde

27 March
Bungalows & Bears

Something Anorak are a quirky two-piece with a lot of talent. Using a guitar and drum to produce vocally harmonised, lullaby rock, they treated us to a well rehearsed and enjoyable set. An unlisted duo also supported with epic female vocals with a 60s pop music melody. A lot of fun.

Bristol-based soundscape rocker Oliver Wilde was in Sheffield to support the release of his new album, Red Tide Opal in the Loose End Womb. Although his music carries his own name, this time around he has recorded with a band. The five-piece group began with a brief sound check before opening with a clever mix of sampled and effected voices. Within a few moments, a drum cracked into a beat and the guitars all began playing in time.

The lift from what began as interesting noise and impressive use of pedals and looping gadgets into a full wall of sound was inspirational. I felt like a wave had hit me and in its flow I had been swept to the crest like a sitting duck.

The band brought something extra which those who have seen Oliver perform by himself would fully appreciate. Apart from the usual members of a rock band, the keyboard player also held a violin. She used it in most tracks, lending a folky yet spacey sound as its notes were infused with an effects combination which appeared to be altered periodically.

This group know their sound and they sound great. The little fills and intriguing rhythms bring what is a decent song into a sonic experience. Every song has a clever edge that sticks out from the rest and when introducing older material, quality remained but musical progression was apparent. A dynamic artist is a long lived one and Oliver Wilde is growing. After a stint in hospital from a serious illness, he is once more reaching out.

Rowan Blair Colver

Laurel Canyons

5 March
Green Room

Two of the region’s best bands returned from an extended winter hibernation on the latest Sheffield Sound bill at the Green Room.

Brothers Leigh and Adam Greenwood are Low Duo, who have played locally for the last two or three years and have picked up some extremely positive reviews from The Guardian and 6Music. They are here tonight to promote their upcoming fifth EP Everything Was Blurred, recorded at Tesla Studios and “detailing a crumbling relationship as the protagonist realises that his girlfriend is having an affair”.

The studio recordings flesh out the overall sound somewhat, but in a live situation the guitar is the only instrument. The sound is therefore spare, but Adam uses his electric and acoustic guitars in interesting and inventive ways to elicit the necessary mood and emotion. Leigh then uses his impressive vocal range to tell his tales of ambulance drivers and spiders. One new song featured tonight sees them exploring uncharted territory with some spoken word, which, though indecipherable, was a brave departure.

Laurel Canyons also have a soon-to-be-released EP to promote, songs from which they debut tonight. They start with a restrained instrumental, then play ‘Cry Hard, Cry Fast’ with dextrous guitar and bass interplay on top of an inventive drum pattern. The band's range is further evidenced with ‘Love In The Wine’, a solo spot for singer and guitarist Jake Cope, the general chatter from the bar totally silenced by a soaring a capella.

‘Owe Nothing’ and ‘Never Said A Word’ are beautifully crafted songs with arrangements that allow the four musicians to both flex their muscles and relax into a cogent, potent ensemble. Drums are abandoned for finale ‘Led Me Astray’, where minimal guitar and bass are the only accompaniment to soaring four-part harmonies. This isn't music that you usually stumble across in a half-filled bar on a cold Wednesday night. It is tight but loose, dynamic but graceful. A scintillating performance by a frighteningly talented band.

Pete Martin