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A Magazine for Sheffield

Ghostpoet / Opus Acoustics / Tinnitus 30 / Artery / The Theories

8th October. Harley.

Reviewer - Ben Eckersley.

Sheffield gig promoters need to work together more often. Drowned in Sound and X Ray Horse presented a perfect storm of eclectic bookings and musical innovation, perfectly crowned by typically genre-busting DJ sets from X Ray DJs along with regular collaborator Zxodiac (f.k.a. Baronvonbadd). There was so much music that much of it can only get a sentence or two (sorry).

Blood Sport are young, noisy and fun. They play 'agro-beat'. Yes, that's afrobeat, but with more aggression. I especially enjoyed hearing that The Audacious Art Experiment have released their debut on a cassette tape. Go see. Next up was Hourglass Sea, a producer from Bradford. I'd heard his music described as chillwave; I'd call it the happiest trip hop I've heard in a while. There's an enormous sense of scale to it. Deep, heavy synths are overlaid with live guitar pumping out non-stop power solos. This music could soundtrack any 80s movie montage you care to mention.

Breton are from South London (not France) and make music that's not far from the style of Dutch Uncles or Gallops - heavy on riffs and layers of detail, but with a large electronic component that adds an extra level of bassy psychedelia. They are a perplexing band, who brought guitars and drums on stage but hardly played them at all. Instead, beats were created with drum pads, and they played trigger pads like keyboards. Performing in near darkness, with faces hidden by hoods, they seemed like they were making every effort to straddle the very thin line between being a traditional live act and being a purely electronic act.

Despite all this oddness, they made music that was both cerebral and moving, and a real joy to experience. Despite all this great music, the capacity audience were clearly all here to see Ghostpoet. With a Mercury Prize nomination already under his belt, it's clear he's going a long way. I'm pretty certain he won't be appearing in a venue this size again any time soon.

He performed with a live guitarist and drummer. The sound at the start was unexpectedly psychedelic, with the guitarist producing pedal-heavy riffs drenched in reverb and delay to create something hugely beautiful and uplifting. The drummer's beats were in no way what I'd call classic hip hop, featuring a heavy swing on the ride cymbal, fluid toms and lacking a clear 4/4 beat. If anything, I'd say it shimmered. The jazz influences present (though not obvious on the album) really came to the fore. Meanwhile, 'Lines' descended into an unexpected level of Squarepusher-esque electronic anarchy.

Ghostpoet himself is a charismatic yet humble performer (the contrast with Jehst's histrionics at Tramlines this summer was palpable) with the appearance and manner of a wandering preacher, delivering slow, storytelling raps with a beautifully melodic cadence to his voice. He reminded me of an itinerant Maxi Jazz, creating an urban soundtrack to 'On The Road'. 'Survive It' picked up the energy to become a huge singalong. He's achieved something that very few other hip hop artists have managed: a completely unique yet totally accessible sound. I can't wait to hear what he does next.


6th October. Riverside.

Reviewer - Jack Unsworth.

At the Riverside on 6th October, two singers sang. Despite the autumn rain outside, we all came and were captured by the songs that were sung.

Rachael Dadd played first, opening with the spellbinding 'Elephants Swimming'. There was a point when I was actually looking around the room for the other instrument I could hear, unwilling to believe that so luscious a sound could come from just one classical guitar and one human voice. Her fingers played delicately, making both the guitar and ukulele sound like an orchestra harp. Her voice was sensuous, natural and sweet. Best of all, her songwriting is extraordinary, with dream-like melodies that lift and rise dynamically out of complex guitar parts, while her lyrics paint pictures that seem so sincere, almost magical and otherworldly.

With jingle bells around her ankles, she bobbed and danced to her songs, seemingly as high on the music as the rest of us were. It moved from powerful to playful and back again whenever she willed it and the whole pub got carried with her.

Liz Green must have played easier gigs when not following such a great act, but she successfully took hold of the atmosphere and made it her own. To start her set, she stood before the talking crowds and, away from the microphone, sang an a cappella song that wove a story. Everyone fell silent. Her voice was powerful with a slight vulnerability. Her style seemed to float ethereally between New Orleans and Paris of the 1930s, and best of all her songs told visual stories.

With great stage presence, she bantered and joked, almost as though she wasn't about to enchant us with each song. Before one song, she delighted us all with a flipbook of pictures of the characters she had created, and for the next she wore a strange bird mask, making me feel like I was in the (original) Wicker Man film, but in a good way. All this increased my enjoyment of the songs, creating a set that seemed out of place in any era, but utterly complete and whole.

To cut a long story short, these two sirens I saw that cold night transformed me into the kind of reviewer who can't think of anything bad to say, and this is embarrassing for me if I want more work. The best I can do is to complain about the weather.


21st October. DLS.

Reviewer - Gordon Barker.

Tinnitus have been Sheffield's finest purveyors of hard underground music for over five years. Bringing greats on the scene such as Murderbot, Dr Bastardo, Eraserhead and many others, their line-ups have always been solid and on occasion very impressive. Their latest night, celebrating the 30th Tinnitus party, took place at DLS and with this line-up they certainly didn't disappoint.

Warming up as you walked into the live room was Tinnitus' own Sinista Tek, whose set mainly comprised of first wave nu-metal tracks from all the classics - System of a Down, Disturbed and so on. This made me cringe at first - the word "really?" was uttered a few times - but after a couple of tracks I was genuinely enjoying hearing these lost guilty childish pleasures out loud again.

To the left hand side of Sinista Tek there was a strange looking box covered in lights, indefinable knobs and faders with wires spilling out all over the place. I didn't pay much attention to this as I genuinely thought it was just a stage prop. Sinista Tek then grabbed someone's attention from across the stage and pointed at the box. Headcleaner entered. Barely acknowledging the crowd, he stepped up to the box and as the last tune faded out he kicked the contraption into life. This stuff was bizarre - very hard acid techno, constantly moving arpeggiators and solid 808 kicks, whirls of bleeps and squeals, all with a very harsh, industrial tone. These noises were all created and sequenced live on the homemade contraption. The faster sections were messy and quite convoluted, but the half-time sections and dronescapes he created were amazing. It was fascinating to watch what he did and imagine how bloody long it's taken him to get to this stage.

Drumcorps is the moniker used by the mammoth Aaron Spectre when he wields a guitar, twisting hardcore and metal samples into his brand of vicious breakcore. With a guitar, two keyboards and an array of foot switches, he hardly looked at (let alone touched) his computer. He brought a huge energy into the room, switching from older classics like 'Alien Vs. Rodigan' to his newer, more guitar-orientated works almost instantaneously. Only stopping briefly to show his admiration for the crowd and the promoters, the man was totally in his own world when on stage.

With the live performances wrapped up shortly after midnight, there was still a good six hours of the night ahead of us. This was filled with a strong DJ line-up typical of Tinnitus, including Squire of Gothos, MacheeeN Boi and Distorted Panda spread across three rooms. This was an amazing showcase of what Tinnitus can be, providing a live introduction with prominent figures and continuing into the early morning with equally impressive DJ sets. Here's to the next 30.


15th October. Corporation.

Reviewer - Toby Williams.

Tonight the support act for Sheffield legends Artery were The Silent Age, a band that could easily be described as synthpop, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. It takes skill, humour and possibly foppish hats to do it well and this band have all these things. Taking inspiration from 80s synth and new wave, they are a band perfect for the kind of dancing that works well in strobe lighting while never coming across as vacuous or lacking in ideas.

A series of well constructed tracks follow, the highlight for me being 'Forever', which reminded me of the (mostly) defunct goth/electro acts of the early 90s like London After Midnight. Lead vocalist Leon Owczarek commands the stage with the aid of glitter, feather boas and masks, and what's more he does it with conviction. Goths and electro fans could both do a lot worse than check these guys out next time they play.

Artery were formed back in 1978 and have often been cited as one of the seminal post-punk bands. They were also compared to Joy Division, although the band have stated that Ian Curtis was never an influence. If there was a superficial similarity in their sound perhaps it could be called convergent evolution stemming from the bleak environments of their respective cities at the time.

They were known for their sheer stage intensity, creating an atmosphere a young Jarvis Cocker would later say embodied everything he always wanted from a live show but had never seen for real. Developing a loyal cult following in Sheffield, releasing three albums and a bunch of singles including the legendary 'Into The Garden', which I would urge readers to seek out if they've never heard, the band split in 1985, seemingly never to return.

Then in 2007 Jarvis Cocker was asked to curate Meltdown Festival in London. He asked Artery if they would reform for the showand they duly obliged. Now it's 2011 and in the small room of Corporation the aforementioned Jarvis-endorsed atmosphere is present. After letting the music build for a while, Mark Gouldthorpe (vocalist since the beginning) proceeds to get the audience's attention by staring right through them. Mark's eyes share equal weight with his half spoken vocals to create a spell that leaves pints hovering midway to mouths.

Both old and new songs seem to form a continuum, with no sense of the band having consciously re-invented themselves; songs written before and after their long hiatus sitting happily together. Highlights include new single 'Civilisation' and 'Unfaithful Girlfriend', along with classics like 'One Afternoon in a Hot Air Balloon'. Between verses the band allow space for pounding industrial percussion overlaid with wheeling (but never overdone) lead guitar, while Gouldthorpe prowls the stage in some kind of private ritual.

Artery are as relevant now as ever and are never merely quite good; a part of the Sheffield musical landscape restored and hungry for more.


1st October. Shakespeare's.

Reviewer - Phill James.

Locally formed indie folk band The Theories played Shakespeare's in a lively and incident-filled set. The band have been playing together since 2006 but have upped the ante of late, having released their debut album Crazy Road Trip late last year. A three-piece act, their music is broadly indie rock with a side-step towards country folk. Indeed, it is during these changes in style and pace that their music sounds fresher, more original and punchier.

They opened with two of their best songs. 'Black Coat' travelled along at a brisk pace and got the crowd instantly interested, while 'Am I To Go' moved up and down in tempo like a piston. The latter also contains some of the bands best lyrics which, thankfully, can just about be heard over the heavy bass. The rest of the first set was more of a mixed bag, as a few technical problems disrupted the flow and the crowd became distracted. But the band brought themselves back onside with the left-field but highly successful tactic of handing out free booze. In this case, a giant bottle of rum.

A mid-session break allowed people time to get more drinks and by the time the band began their second set it appeared that both audience and members alike were merry in more ways than one. Singer and guitarist Gav Anderson looked the part of the frontman and his voice was strong. He was ably supported by Sam Pugh, one of the better drummers on the local circuit, and even more so by his bass player Tash. Channelling an affable and comedic charm, Tash at times threatened to steal the show from his co-members with his quips to the audience and predilection for getting absolutely wasted on stage. Indeed, the aforementioned bottle of rum was promptly replaced by a litre bottle of gin, most of which Tash appeared to drink himself...

The audience and band picked up speed in a final three-song frenzy, including the wonderfully melodic 'Great Day'. Demanding an encore, the band eventually responded with a song simply entitled 'Fuck Off', which was probably not the tune to play your Nan but was otherwise lapped up by the crowd.

Shakespeare's continues to hold its own as a terrific live music venue following it's reopening, and with a wide selection of local ales, it's a more than suitable venue for an enjoyable and energetic band.


Next article in issue 44

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