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Live Reviews (Nov '19): Lamb / Binker Golding / Sailing Stones / The Rhythm Method / Bo Ningen / Self Esteem

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Lamb

The Leadmill, 25 October

We often go to see legendary bands to hear their classics and revel in nostalgia, certainly not to hear their new material. Lamb are an exception to this rule.

While other trip-hop groups have faded away or rested on their 90s laurels, Lamb's sound has evolved and outgrown such labels. Touring their seventh album, The Secret of Letting Go, the electronic duo showed The Leadmill that they are more relevant than ever.

That's not to say that their old hits weren't hugely appreciated. After the glitchy and bassy support act, Eckle, warmed the crowd, Lamb opened with the choir-like vocals and gentle piano of 'Phosphorous' from the new album.

Then they slipped into the rumbling electronic drums of 'We Fall In Love'. Andy Barlow energised the crowd between hitting keys by raising his arms in the air and vocalist Lou Rhodes went from standing as still as a stunning statue to pacing the stage sassily in her Grecian white dress and plaited crown of hair. They were enjoying this as much as we were.

Instrumental track, 'Deep Delirium' gave the violinist, drummer and bassist a chance to shine and gave Lou's vocals a rest. Andy introduced the track by admitting that Lou had lost her voice a few nights ago, but you wouldn't have known it. 'The Secret of Letting Go' was followed by their best-known track, 'Gabriel', a clear favourite out of the whole setlist.

'Bulletproof' had everyone dancing, proving that the oldies weren't the only goodies, then the band returned for a five-song encore, featuring pure classics, including the gorgeous 'Gorecki'.

Halfway through, Lou exclaimed, "It's so good to be back up North!" Looking around The Leadmill, Lamb's Sheffield fans certainly felt the same.

Phoebe Seymour

Binker Golding's Band

Crookes Social Club, 18 October

Jazz can seem like an inaccessible and highbrow genre if, like me, you have little understanding of how it all works. So despite my excitement as I ventured into the world of live jazz for the first time, I was unsure of what to expect.

I'd come to Crookes Social Club to see Binker Golding, a London-based saxophonist and composer best known for his MOBO-winning collaborations with drummer Moses Boyd. Golding and his band, a quartet made up of Artie Zaitz on guitar, Daniel Casimir on double bass and Zoe Pascal on drums, were here touring his new album, Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers.

The band entered the stage dressed casually rather than the suited and booted look I'd half expected. This put me at ease and was the first of a few myths that the band busted for me: not all jazz musicians dress as though they've stepped out of the 1920s.

The band soon began to fill the room with their sound and I was immediately comforted by the soothing sax. There was a real warmth to the performance which was in no small part a product of Casimir's powerful double bass. You could feel the deep notes travelling through you, creating a homely atmosphere throughout the venue.

Golding's compositions allowed each musician a chance to swagger through solos and truly show off their craft. Yet Golding, standing centre stage, was the dominant figure, managing to bring an intensity while remaining gorgeously understated with his expressive melodies.

This performance shattered my perception of jazz as a grand and complicated art form. Instead this was simple, intimate and comforting.

Josh Bolton

Sailing Stones

Cafe #9, 12 October

Sometimes it's worth being quiet to let others do the talking. Any instrument would do the work if there's someone to make it sing. That's what happened at Cafe #9, this tiny, colourful venue near Abbeydale Road. While inside incense was burning quietly, outside the pouring rain was knocking on the door relentlessly, a perfect background for the evening.

No matter if he's playing in front of thousands in the US or here in Sheffield, this 40-something guy, Glenn Roth from the States, doesn't have to say a word as long as his guitar does its job. A little bit of New York came to South Yorkshire. The crowd, watching Roth with pure joy, loved every minute of it. You were able to feel the misty, dirty, always-busy NYC subway system in those tunes.

After Mr Roth's outstanding performance, the extremely talented Bristol-based Jenny Lindfors (Sailing Stones) played an hour or so. Boy, does she have a pleasant vocal. Not to overhype her project, but there was one moment when she reminded me of the Danish superstar Agnes Obel. Lindfors started strong with 'Don't Tempt The Shadow' from her upcoming album Polymnia, a rather beautiful piece about the dark side of the human psyche.

The vast majority of songs Lindfors performed, like 'Telescopes', 'Wasted Moon' and 'Polymnia', had a deep, melancholic tune. As the incense burned down almost entirely, the atmosphere inside the cafe changed irreversibly. The crowd stopped nodding and everyone was trying to listen carefully between the lines.

Some members of the crowd seemed deep in their thoughts. Others were smiling intently at the singer. Maybe she didn't even notice. She just shut her eyes and let people enjoy this sweet mixture of music, knocking rain and the last moments of the incense.

Roland Sebestyén

The Rhythm Method

Network, 3 October

South-west London duo The Rhythm Method christened brand new venue Network last month as they toured their first full-length, How Would You Know I Was Lonely?

Recently launched by Record Junkee and DINA, Network is Sheffield's newest live music and club space. The Rhythm Method boys certainly made the most of it, though they did lament the lack of a champagne bottle to smash onstage.

The band's distinctive indie music documents the familiar angst of British suburbia. Infused with eighties beats reminiscent of Squeeze and The Pet Shop Boys and deadpan lyricism comparable to The Streets, the duo cover topics as diverse as football, gentrification, pubs and drug abuse, all tinged with a powerful sense of nostalgia.

The swaggering Joey Bradbury acted part-frontman, part-standup comedian throughout the night, spouting one-liners like, "I can't down beers / I've got a very sensitive gag reflex," in response to an audience demand. Pleasantly juxtaposing this raucousness was the brooding Rowan Martin on keyboards and guitar, with catchy riffs, synthy keys and crooning eighties vocals.

The spoken word verses made excellent fodder for the punters, who shouted along to all the band's hits - 'Local, Girl' (reportedly written as a joke, in equal measure a love song and an ode to the local pub) and 'Party Politics' ("this song is about shit parties and shit politics") - as well as new material like 'Wandsworth Plain', which features Squeeze's Chris Difford on the chorus (though he didn't make a guest appearance, unfortunately). Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps the biggest hit of the night was a rendition of Robbie Williams' 'Angels', sung with great passion by the audience, Joey and Rowan alike.

The venue was packed out - an impressive feat, given that The Rhythm Method are a uniquely London-centric band, whose lyrics rarely stray beyond the M25. Despite the newness of the venue, the place had a great atmosphere.

After about three encores, the band called it a night. A brilliant showcase for a duo with a unique sound who are certainly on the cusp of big things, as well as a brand-new Sheffield venue.

Georgina Collins

Self Esteem

Picture House Social, 15 October

As a project, Self Esteem fully embraces the spotlight-seeking nature of being a solo artist, in an industry where female artists face pressure to avoid categorisation as a prima donna. Self Esteem is an act formed explicitly to make up for years of toning oneself down for the comfort of others. As a concept, Self Esteem is a celebration of being 'too much'.

To see Self Esteem play a sold-out hometown gig on her birthday, then, is perhaps the best way to see Rebecca Taylor. Her set, all off the new album, Compliments Please, featured a voice just as big as her presence. Her vocals, supported by a satisfying bass drum, two dancing backup singers and a guitar, made for a goosebump-inducing, full-bodied, power-anthem sound, which paired perfectly with her powerful lyrics. It's a combination which drove several in the audience to tears, even as they kept dancing.

Framed by balloons, her band wore identical purple t-shirts with "I want someone who'll fuck me on my period anyway" in large white letters, while Becca herself wore a "slutty dress", giant fur coat and rhinestone-encrusted hairpins.

Joking in between songs that this was her sixth 28th birthday - "it's been a long 28" - her stage presence was incredible. Complete with a wind machine through her hair, a synchronised phone check and a backup singer on either side, the show was self-aware and beautifully genuine.

Everyone on stage, even during moments of sultry, almost cheesy choreography, gave off an air of having intense, sincere fun. Being in the audience felt like being a part of a communal singing-into-the-hairbrush moment, all the holistic joy of dancing alone in a bedroom made public. While her brand is self-referential, no part of Self Esteem's act seems designed for any purpose except to please herself - and that's exactly what makes it genius.

Alice Flanagan

Bo Ningen live score The Holy Mountain

Sensoria, 4 October

Live scoring Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1973 cult classic The Holy Mountain is a daunting task for any band. This sprawling, psychedelic epic is one of the 20th century's most infamous and controversial films, and the music has to compete with incredibly rich, disturbing and frankly bizarre imagery on-screen.

But the film does lend itself to musical interpretation. When image is everything and the plot is almost incidental, the audience can focus on the sensory experience and a live band can be more ambitious with their score. Jodorowsky deliberately edited out almost all dialogue from the film, giving a score more room to manoeuvre and allowing the audience to follow events without subtitles.

Bo Ningen are also a good match for the challenge. These four London-based Japanese expats are heavily influenced by the sort of noisy, anarchic psychedelic rock made famous in Japan by bands like Les Ralizes Denudés. It's a sound that's perfectly tuned to the film. It isn't Magic Roundabout psychedelia we're talking about with The Holy Mountain - it's a sketchy acid trip of flayed dog carcasses and technicolour bloodbaths.

While improvisation has always been central to Bo Ningen's music, they obviously had a plan and reined themselves in to beat-perfect synchronicity with the film at key moments. They also judiciously let the sparse dialogue reappear during certain iconic scenes for maximum effect.

It's a grim film at times, but there's also plenty of playful, surreal humour. This is where Bo Ningen's performance was most interesting, as it's not something you see much in their records. In these moments, a funk groove led by bassist Taigen Kawabe often appeared, simultaneously lightening the mood and evoking the seventies exploitation films with which The Holy Mountain shares its midnight movie reputation.

Michael Hobson

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Next article in issue 140

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