Proto Idiot

21 January
Tye Die Tapes HQ

Tye Die HQ is a tiny, barebones loft space that is perfect for this DIY gig. First up is the one-man Sammartino, who is playing his first ever show. Dressed like a geography teacher but wearing a Mexican wrestler's mask, he plays his seven-part song cycle, The Never Quenched Thirst. Driving polyrhythms and multi-layered melodies are topped with heavily processed, vocodered vocals in this electronic pop masterclass.

Starting with 'Awkward Dreams' and 'Brutal' from last year's debut album, Smiling, local heroes Thee Mightees play their summery pop paeans in these disconcerting sub-zero surroundings. New songs 'Yoko' and 'Postcard Dolphin' show the band refining their trademark jangly pop sound, with their set now expanding to include disparate snatches of both bubblegum and the Velvets. Their final song is the uptempo 'Blue Raspberry Dragon Soup', the band thrillingly just about hold it together through the rising chord progressions. A triumph.

The Red Cords are a noisy three-piece from the very healthy Falmouth scene. Their recent Vile Guy EP is full of raw rock'n'roll and, if possible, tonight's set is even more of a sonic blast. The bass/drums/guitar line-up is taut and potent, and the shared vocals provided a dynamic symmetry. Propelled by a drumming dervish, this proto-garage ensemble are electrifying.

Proto Idiot are art pranksters. They alternate between playing exhilarating punk riffs and going off on wilfully abstract tangents. They play "music for sophisticates", which, though tongue in cheek, highlights their contrariness. Super-tight beat combo or Dada advocates? You choose.

There are some certainties in life - four bands for £3 is an absolute bargain - but one question remains. Who was that masked man?   

Pete Martin

Field Music

22 January
The Harley

On the verge of releasing their latest album, Commontime, Field Music kicked off their 2016 world tour at The Harley. The night was a sell-out, perhaps off the back of BBC Radio 6 airplay for the first single from their new album, whilst a recent Twitter nod from Prince will no doubt have sold some extra tickets.

Fronted alternately by brothers Peter and David Brewis, the band kicked off their set with the aforementioned single, 'The Noisy Days Are Over'. The song, fronted on this occasion by Peter, uses a disco guitar loop to drive the track whilst the interesting arrangement, featuring cowbells and a funky bass line, was enough to get people's heads moving.

Following the first track, the front men swapped, something which became a feature of the night. This time it was David offering a higher vocal range to deliver some more material from the new album. 'Disappointment' and 'Don't You Wanna Know' continued to show prominent disco bass lines and offered a definite likeness to early Prince work.

The gig showed a contrast between old and new material. The band admitted that they were using the Sheffield crowd as “guinea pigs” to road test their latest tracks, a body of work which dominated the first half of the night. They were also noticeably gig rusty, taking longer than usual between songs, but this had no negative impact on the performance.

The set ended with '(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing' from their 2012 album, Plumb. This track and its snappy delivery reminded the audience of their indie background. For their first gig in three years, they began their UK-wide tour in a promising fashion that will no doubt see them appearing on one or two festival bills over summer.

Will Hitchmough

Fleetmac Wood

22 January
Harley

An inundation of Fleetwood devotees poured into the Harley to celebrate their group’s catalogue through remixes and re-edits last month. There was a definite sense of ‘fans only’ exclusivity to the evening. If you were not emanating Stevie Nicks or Mick Fleetwood’s look on the Rumours cover you didn’t really belong here. The producers did affirm, “If you’re not sure you like Fleetwood Mac please don’t come,” but dressing like the band seemed rather gimmicky.

The night suffered from a slow build, despite floaty but enthusiastic tambourine clapping from Roxanne Roll, who DJed alongside fellow Fleetmac Wooder, Smooth Sailing. The latter's style was rather more frantic than smooth. The duo also made it clear that they would not simply play Fleetwood Mac’s greatest hits, but it was not until late on that the tunes became recognisable, even to hardcore fans.

The concept of reworking the songs of global superstars for Fleetwood Mac’s own fans is a curiosity. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ seems to apply here. But the idea must be working on some level. Having ventured to and successfully gigged in Canada, Colombia and Australia, the global reach and success of Fleetmac Wood is undeniable. Perhaps the small, intimate setting of the Harley was inappropriate for Fleetwood style arm flails and sways. The Harley is indeed far from the stadiums and arenas Fleetmac Wood are used to. Take them back to Glastonbury and they’ll fit right in.

Jennifer Martino

Kaffe Matthews / Shelly Knotts + Holger Ballweg / Yaxu

16 January
Access Space

On Saturday 16 January, a friend and I made our way through the snow to the Avec Building on Sidney Street to see a live performance of 'Love Shark', the latest work by sound artist Kaffe Matthews. She was supported by other sound artists Shelley Knotts + Holger Ballweg and Yaxu.

The event was billed as a new four channel solo where Kaffe Matthews duets with six oscillators driven by underwater recordings of six hammerhead sharks. The recordings were taken during her month-long residency in the Galapagos Islands in 2009. On arriving at the venue, we noticed a small circle of chairs at one end of the room surrounding some complicated looking sound equipment. Positioned around the seats were mounted four large speakers to create a fully immersive experience.

The evening began with a projection of footage Matthews had filmed of her diving with hammerhead sharks. The visuals were supported with the shark's own strange, alien noises. This soon gave way to a sound-only experience. We were then bombarded with a variety of strange electronic sounds that felt as if they were reverberating through your sternum.

The problem with the event was that there didn't seem to be any real structure, so it was difficult to get a real sense of Kaffe's journey when diving with the hammerhead sharks. I believe the organisers also didn't expect such a good turnout. This meant a large section of the audience were stood outside of the main area and were unable to get the full immersive experience. It might have been better to spread the speakers further apart around the room.

Paul Robson