Computer Club Algorave

20 March
Access Space

What the heck is algorave, I hear you ask? It's a portmanteau: the melding of algorithm and rave, used to describe music partly or fully generated by lines of computer code. That's a somewhat academic distinction, given that the majority of electronic music is created using computers and specialised electronic hardware, so it might help to think about the difference between a musician selecting the notes, tones and patterns to be used in a piece, and a musician writing lines of programming code which make those selections on their behalf, with some degree of randomness thrown in along the way.

This session at Computer Club is not the first such event I've been to, but it's by far the most musical. Algorave started as a branch of the digital arts, a thing more of galleries than of club nights, and it sometimes prizes the novelty of its aesthetic over its musicality - which is to say that it can be pretty undanceable and sometimes all but unlistenable. But tonight's performances are more dance-oriented, sandwiched between DJ sets combining classic and contemporary techno sounds, and the tiny Access Space maker lab is packed with nodding heads and tapping toes.

There's a sense in which this feels like a natural evolution of the ‘trainspotter’ culture of 90s techno, where the appreciation became more about method and hardware than about groove and melody. The wall behind the performers displays their laptop screens, where program variables and what look like exploded mathematical equations are spliced in real time. Has electronica finally found its equivalent to the performative technicality of prog rock, a heroism not of Fender, Marshall and fretboards, but of Apple, Ableton and computer keyboards? What does it matter - there are beats and bass, and your feet won't care how they're made.

Paul Graham Raven

San Soda

13 March
Theatre Deli

It would be an understatement to describe the booking of San Soda by Sheffield promotion collaboration Nice Like Rice and Lunar as a hefty one. The Belgian DJ-cum-Berlin producer regularly finds himself behind the decks at the German capital's world renowned Panorama Bar and only recently returned to Europe following a stint in south-east Asia that included sets in Bali, Beijing and Hanoi.

On Friday 13 March, the co-founder of We Play House Records haunted the decks at a lesser known Sheffield dancehall - the old vacated Woolworths on The Moor. 

Blasting through a mammoth, four-hour set playing mostly vinyl, the DJ drew upon a lifetime's worth of record collecting and a variety of subgenres, from garage house to straight-up disco and funk, often mixed above a bed of afro drum loops. San Soda duly delivered a set to galvanise the crowd on the packed makeshift dance floor, most of whom remained for the duration.

But for all the talent on show during the main event, it's possibly those who organised the night who are deserving of the most recognition. Some of the old shop remnants remained in evidence, from floor tiles to cash register, but that didn't stop the venue being dressed like a deranged urban garden parlour that could only be accessed via a dark corridor of Sheffield-inspired art and heart-shaking bass.

The only faults lay in the lack of rave lighting and the presence of a dismembered mannequin, which embedded an unsavoury image in the minds of some of the more tripped-out party goers. Any negatives were inevitably offset by the nostalgia of pick ’n’ mix sweets and the varied barrage of high-brow dance numbers. 

Will Hitchmough

Sivu

12 March
Bungalows & Bears

Sivu is the nom de plume of singer songwriter James Page, Sivu being the Finnish translation of his surname. He released his debut album, Something On High, late last year and has received acclaim from various radio stations and broadsheets.

Dan Whitehouse has the perennial support slot troubadour problem - facing a crowd who are busy chattering at the bar, armed only with an acoustic guitar, but he performs his folk-influenced songs with a confidence and maturity. There is a mix of material from his Stories For You album along with unreleased works-in-progress. Penultimate song 'Win Again' is the highlight, a new song which showcases his lyrical dexterity.

Tonight, Sivu is joined by Lucy Parnell on keyboards, guitar and effects, while he plays spare, haunting guitar. But it’s his dreamy, falsetto voice which really adds lustre to this set. The first two songs, 'Sleep' and 'Communicate', follow a similar low-key gossamer path - lightly strummed guitar, a sympathetic keyboard phrase and vulnerable, shimmering vocals.

'Feel Something' and 'Bodies' are higher tempo with rhythm tracks energising the sound, giving the necessary pulse and momentum. The overall sound is still full of grace and emotion, but is denser and has a definite backbone. The closer is 'Better Man Than Me', his debut single, which has garnered much interest via an innovative video shot inside an MRI scanner. Shorn of the visual trickery, the song stands up well, with Page's soaring, impassioned vocal melding with a simple piano motif.      

Page labels his music as alternative pop, but at its core are simple quasi-folk songs which are given a modern twist with a tasteful, slightly off-kilter sheen. He aspires to the timeless melodies of Frank Sinatra and, though he is somewhat adrift of that, he certainly has an ear for a delicate and sensitive tune.

Pete Martin

Bonetti / Juxtamapigeon / Mysteron

20 March
Audacious Art Experiment

It seems only right that I start this review off with a brief tribute to the Audacious Art Experiment itself. I don't think there's anywhere else in Sheffield I look forward to going to for a gig so much. It really feels like a different dimension from your typical venue, and clearly is a true labour of love for the people who run, maintain and use it. Most of the time when I show up there, carrier bag of tepid lager in hand, I know almost nothing about what I'm going to see, and that makes the prospect of the evening ahead all the more enticing. Tonight falls very much into that category.

The superbly named Juxtamapigeon kick us off with a nice folk-punk kind of thing, impressively varied with a fair bit of instrument swapping throughout (always nice) and some virtuoso flute playing. They switch fluently between moods, one moment brooding and mysterious and the next raucous and dynamic.

Things take a darker turn with synth-punk band Mysteron. Their sound, particularly the singer's vocal style, is certainly heavily influenced by Nick Cave in particular, but the dense, interlocking synth patterns and charisma elevate them above straightforward pastiche, and their po-faced but self-aware charisma makes for an engaging set.

After a little wait, Bonetti get going around midnight. Made up of members of local DIY staples Avida Dollars, Che Ga Zebra and Wooderson, they bring together familiar elements of all those bands, with intricate rhythms produced by two drummers forming the backbone of their jaunty, off-kilter psychedelia, and closing a highly enjoyable evening of diverse music.

Thomas Sprackland

Kiran Leonard

16 March
Harley

Kiran Leonard has been releasing music since the tender age of 12. At the age of 17, the Lancastrian released his debut album, Bowler Hat Soup, to much acclaim. Every inch the musical prodigy, he used over 20 instruments on his first album.  Fast-forward less than two years and Kiran is touring ahead of his new record, Grapefruit. His follow-up promises to be louder and longer, reflecting both his musical progression and musical tastes.

Containing many familiar faces, Sheffield's Extra Lives open their set with a prog-inspired rendition of the theme tune to Zombie Flesh Eaters. This is only their third gig, but you would never have guessed from their assured performance. They've recently been recording their debut EP with Alan Smyth at 2Fly Studios, which is due out this month. Tonight, they impress both as a live band and with the freshness and energy of their songs. ‘On The Corner’ is a particular highlight.

Joined onstage by his incredibly tight band, Kiran Leonard starts as he means to go on – like a whirlwind. There's a sporadic energy driving his performance tonight, a feverish, kinetic intensity.  Playing many of the songs that will feature on Grapefruit, there's a clear sea change in his sound. Gone, to a large degree, is the almost Vaudevillian mix of folk and blues, replaced by a dizzying mix of prog rock and garage punk.

Seeing Kiran Leonard play live feels like an extended jam session, filled with jaw-dropping chord progressions, myriad changes of time and tempo, and sporadic bursts of sonic eloquence.  The newer songs retain the same effortlessly mature song writing and lyricism, whilst feeling more structured and intense. It's the difference between merely answering a maths problem and slowly working through the equations.

Rob Aldam