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A Magazine for Sheffield
Live / stage review

Force Majeure / Parquet Courts / Marmen Quartet

8 September
Audacious Art Experiment

The Audacious Art Experiment is the kind of place where the longer you’re there, the more unusual things you’ll notice. In the main room there’s a pig’s head on a shelf, an air horn by the speaker and the figure of an owl by the decks. In the seating area there’s a SNES with a Street Fighter cartridge inside, and Force Majeure’s Friday night line-up reflected the randomness of its adopted venue.

Each DJ was distinct. TACAT’s set included bits of hip hop, trap, grime, bass music and juxtaposed sounds and remixes that made what would otherwise be pop music feel underground. There were also several moments in her set where, following a heavy track, she’d play something calm, throwing the audience into suspense and keeping them waiting for a drop that wasn’t coming.

Fruitboy followed with a set that was drum-heavy and of shifting musical identities. His track selection ranged from grime to garage, as well as other genres, creating a sound that felt staggered but also melodic.

Yak continued with a pounding set filled with shaking bass, while LURU closed the night with one of the best, most consistent selections of the night. His set felt like it was from the heavyweight division of music, made up of constant, deep-rolling dance music filled with grimy, dubby tones.

It’s a cliche, but Force Majeure at Audacious was small and packed a heavy punch. The sets were musically unhinged, random and fitting for the venue. Another good night from the Force Majeure crew.

Akeem Balogun


30 August

While a drooling Leadmill crowd turned out to see the Sheffield debut of Brooklyn's alt-rock darlings Parquet Courts, support band Ultimate Painting were a real bonus. The four-piece were mellow and laid-back, with strummed guitars and two-part harmonies evoking a beautiful summer's evening (anytime from the Summer of Love through to C86). Starting with the self-titled song from their debut, they played tracks from all three of their well-received albums, with interweaving guitars and vocals creating a sweet and lowdown vibe.

After settling in New York from their native Texas, Parquet Courts have progressed from cassette-releasing DIY punks to slightly more reflective and much more respected indie stalwarts, even appearing on late night chat shows. Eschewing social media, the band still prefer gig flyers and a good old-fashioned work ethic.

They started with a five-song salvo from last year's Human Performance that displayed their full range of raucous but mature tunes. Their set mixed earlier pop-punk blasts with more melodic stuff, plus minute-long bursts of kinetic energy. They occasionally played almost radio-friendly songs but, being the contrary cusses that they are, slipped into 7/4 or inserted bursts of atonal guitar at irregular intervals.

Being hip New York royalty, they have inevitably been cursed with Pavement, Velvets and Television comparisons, but the angularity of their music and lyrics distances and separates them. They are witty and oblique, sardonic and reflective, often at the same time.

The final song is a 12-minute jam that’s not for the fainthearted. Bass and drums are steady and anchored, while the twin guitars exchange riffs and walls of feedback. The pace slackens and almost comes to a stop, but gradually some sort of order returns, before a final cacophonous flourish ends proceedings. A disenchanted punter exclaims: "Thank fuck for that.”

Pete Martin


2 September
St Martin’s Church, Stoney Middleton

I’ve not yet found the Marmen Quartet to be anything less than superb. This concert, though, involved two unknown variables: a venue completely new to me and a viola player, Bryony Gibson-Cornish, new to the quartet.

From opening with Haydn’s 'String Quartet Op. 74 no. 1 in C major', the entire concert radiated note-perfect brightness, with the seriousness of Beethoven’s 'Op. 95 in F minor' doing nothing to dim the sparks.

The so-called ‘Serioso’ quartet works perfectly for Johannes Marmen’s team, moving as it does between moments of profound complexity and an essentialist minimalism that reflects not just the piece’s overall feel, but also much about the Marmen Quartet’s approach to performance. After the interval, Ravel’s 'String Quartet in F' was played as exquisitely as the rest of the programme, with evident exuberance and zest from all four members of this exceptional quartet.

Identified by the late Peter Cropper, founder of Music in the Round and erstwhile mentor to the Marmen Quartet, as a great venue for quartets, the 1415 church in this quiet Derbyshire village offers a venue true to the concept of music ‘in the round’. Visually, it’s a real pleasure. Aurally, my impressions were mixed. The sound seemed blurred or blunted, as compared to the sound in other venues including CAST’s (acoustically unforgiving) Second Space and Music in the Round’s home, the Crucible Studio. This slight lack of acoustic clarity, though, did not spoil my enjoyment of the playing.

Samantha Holland

The Marmen Quartet play MITR concerts in Sheffield, Doncaster and Barnsley in October and November 2017. Tickets from £5 for students and under-35s.


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