Glass Animals @ Oval Space

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Tuesday 14th October 2014

Glass Animals are without doubt one of the most exciting British bands to arise in the last year or two. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them twice now, firstly at Electric Picnic this year (which was unbelievable may I add) and on Tuesday at Oval Space in East London’s Bethnal Green. It is a trendy warehouse venue with epic views of the gas towers and sided by the canal. I’ve been previously for club nights, but it’s size and ambience made it a perfect gig venue.

The gig kicked off with a classy performance from support act Laura Groves and her band. It was gentle and consistent, and Groves has a really dulcet voice, but I wasn’t particularly engaged.

Glass Animals arrived with purpose, on a jungle dressed stage full of huge green plants. It was unusual and really fitted with their slightly psychedelic performance. Signed to Paul Epworth’s Wolf Tone record, the four-piece band have built a substantial catalogue over the last couple of years. Their debut EP ‘Leaflings’ was released in 2012 whilst they were studying at university and since then the band have grown into their distinguishable sound that’s really making a mark on the industry.

The lead singer, Dave Bayley, seems a tad geeky from the exterior, but the moment the bass-driven instrumentals drop he transforms into a surprisingly ‘rock n roll’ diva. For a band whose music is often chilled and kaleidoscopic, it was a highly energetic performance.

Black Mambo’ was the first official single released by Glass Animals, and remains one of my favourites. The moment the audience heard the introductory tinkling of keys creating that smooth anticipation for the bass drop, they were paying attention.

Hazey’, which was released as their latest single earlier this month and is my favourite on the album, was executed seamlessly. ‘Gooey’, ‘Toes’ and ‘Jdnt’ were also highlights for me. Tuesday’s gig kicked of their European, US and Australian tour with vigour and I can only imagine the progression of the tour will further refine the show (having said that, not much was needed). It’s astonishing how consistent the quality of their release collection is to date. The live experience makes you appreciate every single one, track after track after track; it’s so fulfilling.

After an hour of pure entertainment the boys came back on stage for an encore and performed their cover of Kanye West’s ‘Love Lockdown’ and crowd pleaser ‘Pools’, which was released in June. I might write to Bayley to express my need to hear them perform ‘Woozy’, which they released on their second EP in January this year and features Chicago luminary Jean Deaux. I think it was a shame to miss it off the album and I imagine would be unbelievable live.

Bayley’s vocals sound smooth on record, but they have such a gentle quality that you might be a tad concerned about the execution live. Rest assured, they’re as flawless on stage. He has such an interesting, soulful tone; I suppose hazey is the best way of describing them. Drew MacFarlane, Edmund Irwin-Singer and Joe Seaward make up the rest of the band. Boy they’re talented.

The only disappointing part of the whole experience was the crowd. Ok, it was a Tuesday night so it was a pretty sober group, but there was quite a lot of talking which I found distracting. The venue was chockablock of trendy hipsters showing their faces although maybe I was spoilt at Electric Picnic, where I’ve never experienced such vibrancy at a gig. Claps and cheers went on for minutes rather than seconds; and the elation on the faces of the band members really made that performance for me. Don’t get me wrong, Oval Space was a pretty faultless show and I’m definitely going to try and see them again at Shepherd’s Bush in March next year. If you’re yet to discover their talent, I wholeheartedly recommend. One of the best albums and live shows I’ve seen all year.

Jon Hopkins @ The Royal Festival Hall

jon hopkins 2Friday 19th September 2014

I didn’t know what to expect, having never been to see a contemporary performance at The Royal Festival Hall. It’s fair to say, I was blown away.

Jon Hopkins had an impressive introduction to the world of music. He played keys for Imogen Heap during her 1998 tour, has been heavily involved in the writing and production for number of Coldplay albums, as well as contributing to Brian Eno’s Another Day On Earth and producing for Natalie Imbruglia, David Holmes and The Pierces.

On top of this, Jon Hopkins wrote the soundtrack for British Sci-Fi film Monsters, for which he was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award for Best Original Score. He collaborated with Brian Eno for The Lovely Bones soundtrack and was solely responsible for the score for 2013 film How I Live Now. He produced the track ‘Midnight’ for Coldplay, which is by far the best track on their most recent album, Ghost Stories. Most recently, his album Immunity was nominated for the 2013 Mercury Prize, as was his collaboration with King Creosote on Diamond Mine in 2011; quite an impressive back catalogue to say the least.

The set began with an explosion of experimental dubstep; no, not the Skrillex kind, the dark, ethereal, chest-rumbling kind comparable to the pre-2000 dubstep, before EDM obsessed youngsters got their greasy hands all over it. The track was supported by a fascinating visual representation of the music, a feature that really locked in the audience (after the slightly distracted vibe support act Blanck Mass had to contend with).

I was amazed from the outset at how quickly Hopkins was able to switch between high-energy electronica to pure ambiance. The variation between electronic and acoustic sounds is also not something you hear very often; the transitions between the two were impeccable. I was really pleased to hear him play on the beautiful concert grand, which delicately resonated throughout the venue.

For a performer who didn’t say a word, he was so charismatic. A lot of DJ/producers who I’ve seen in the past have their heads stuck in their mixers and find it difficult to communicate with the audience. Often it’s excused for lack of a microphone, but Hopkins was open and receptive which made his flawless performance truly entertaining.

After a number of immersive tracks, Hopkins brought it up notch with one of my favorite Immunity tracks, ‘Open Eyed Signal’. Gradually members of the audience stood up to dance along. I thought it was a bit odd at first considering the setting, but eventually the entirety of the packed out venue were on their feet. Even though I was on my own, I felt a sense of unity and liberty (slightly cheesy, but true). I can’t imagine what it must have felt like as a performer to trigger such a powerful response from the crowd. I hadn’t envisaged my evening ending up as it did; there was even the odd shirt off!

Jon Hopkins’ music features numerous soundscape style samples, with homemade effects; the likes of Tristram Carey and Karlheinz Stockhausen, who were the original pioneers of electronic music, would have been particularly proud. I wish they had lived to see Hopkins at his prime.

All in all, a fantastic show. Jon Hopkins’ style is certainly not for everyone but if you’re in to ambient-electronica, techno or just want to broaden your musical horizons, have a listen. And if you ever get the opportunity, I’d fully advise to experience it live. I never thought I’d have had so much fun on my own!

Standon Calling 2014 – Live Review

Friday 1st – Sunday 3rd August, Hertfordshire

photo 30Standon Calling is a small-scale family, boutique festival based only a short ride from London, in the beautiful Hertfordshire town of Standon. It originally started as a private birthday barbeque in 2002 at the 16th century manor house, Standon Lordship.

The festival was as eclectic as it comes, with artists of every genre and activities for every age. There was Mexican wrestling, a trapeze school, dog show, a carnival procession and a charming wooded area described to us as ‘an immersive art installation’ – I’m not sure I’d go that far but it was a pleasant touch to the site. The camping facilities were better than any I’ve seen at any festival, with real (kind of) toilets, decent showers and even Full English breakfasts and proper coffee.

Standon Calling was a different experience for me; I hadn’t been to such a family orientated festival before but I really enjoyed the vibe. There were a lot of kids, but they didn’t feel out of place. It was a safe place, somewhere I’d be happy for my young’uns to run around on their own (not that I have any).

My weekend started off quite disastrously. Friday trains really seem to hate me; so for the third week in a row I was left waiting at the station for a painfully delayed train. I made it to Paddington only to find every tube line down. As such, I sadly missed the whole of Friday evening, including the headline act Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls. Performances from The Other Tribe, Charli XCX and Felix Da Housecat were hailed as the best shows of the day.

photo 27Luckily my Saturday turned out significantly more successful. It began with a tender, harmony-filled performance of Amber Run’s up-coming-release ‘I Found’. The five-piece band from Nottingham really captivated me. Lead singer Joe Keogh has a dependable tone, with solid support from the rest of the band. The lyrics were touching and simple, and required no unnecessary embellishments. All in all, a fantastic kick-off to the weekend.

Next up were the fantastic Cuban Brothers. They put on a high-energy performance, with dancing, comedy and some lively funk and soul music. Pure entertainment. London-based Indie band, Eliza and The Bear followed on the main stage, whilst Norwegian six-piece band Team Me rocked out in the Big Top.

King Charles, who notably won the International Songwriting Competition in 2009 with a unanimous vote, displayed solid musicianship. After a couple of years without releases it was interesting to hear some new material. I think King Charles will be back on our radios pretty soon.

On a midday explore around the Standon site, we encountered the Groove Garden, where the combination of dance music and the swimming pool was slightly peculiar. Obviously the swimming pool was full of children, and they seemed to be totally oblivious of the somewhat inebriated partiers behind them – so no harm done. The pool was an individual addition to the festival and although I didn’t get in myself, it was a good activity for the kids and gave a personal touch to the party.

photo 3For me, Clean Bandit were the biggest draw of the festival. I’d been trying to find an opportunity to see them live since I heard ‘A&E’ in 2012, which was logically their opening song. Whilst queuing for the posh gin and tonic (Fever-Tree’s) my absolute favourite Clean Bandit tune ‘Rihanna’ came on. The gin was worth it although I’m not sure the rest of the queue appreciated my singing! They took the festival from day to dark and thoroughly motivated the crowd. They definitely didn’t disappoint. I felt the set was over a bit too quickly but as soon as I realised they hadn’t played classic number one single ‘Rather Be’, I knew they’d be back for an encore. Sure as anything, within seconds the band had the whole audience singing along. The vibe was electrifying and really hyped the crowd for the headline act of the night, Public Enemy.

I do feel like Public Enemy were a little before my time, so I’m not sure I got as much out of the performance as I should have. Their politically charged lyrics and powerful, hard-hitting style was certainly memorable. Their classic hip hop record ‘Fight The Power’ was a crowd winner and sounded exemplary. Flavor Flav and Chuck D were top class, clearly seasoned performers, with tons of energy and at home on stage.

Saturday came to a close whilst we danced the night away to DJ Yoda in the Big Top, who fluidly blended the theme from hip hop to dance. We also encountered a tiny stage called Topshed, which was literally a wall-less garden shed being hosted by London DJs Cat Lovers, who put on an all-night intimate house and techno set, which was great fun.

photoWe arose on Sunday with the sun beaming down on the tent (thank the festi-gods). We grabbed a sausage sandwich and a coffee from the breakfast area to refuel before the music kicked off. The first act we saw was Imperial Leisure, an alternative ska band with a rapping and singing lead vocalist. An impressive superman jump from the stage to the grass got the crowd on their feet. They presented the fastest moving set of all, with a fair share of the audience skanking. If my breakfast had fully digested I would have been up there too.

Hackney Colliery Band showed off their impressive jazz skills, featuring fun covers of Adele and tracks of their own. I have to say, I’m not usually one for covers but the jazz spin refreshed the well-known tracks and made the performance all-encompassing. The audience weren’t particularly lively, but as a jazz group, they were probably used to that vibe. Ibibio Sound Machine were not quite as understanding and it was obvious lead singer – Eno Williams – found the lack of dancers a little hard to swallow. She tried really quite hard to engage the audience, but it was clear everyone was happy sitting down and enjoying the Sunday afternoon vibes.

The line up in the Big Top was pushed back several hours due to last minute cancellations from Ella Eyre and Fat White Family. I was actually gutted about Ella Eyre as her new song ‘If I Go’ would have been fantastic live. I’m quite intrigued about Fat White Family too, but never mind. The first band on in the Big Top was Brixton-based, four piece indie-soul band The Thirst. I was mesmerised. They had so much soul and passion, and great interaction with each other and the audience. I thought it was a shame their set time had been moved, because it confused things somewhat and the crowd was a little dwindled. Their performance warranted a bigger audience but I fully endorse The Thirst; I really hope we start to see more of them.

Flyte followed in the Big Top. I’ve seen them perform before and this was just as good, if not better. Again, the size of the audience was lacking but these four guys are seriously talented. They premiered their brand new single (the name embarrassingly has slipped from my memory) – I’m really hoping it will break them in the UK scene, as they deserve some big-time recognition. Their set ended with the delightful ‘Faithless’, a song I’m really hoping will get officially released at some stage in their expectantly fruitful career.

Sunday was concluded with a fantastic show by Maximo Park. For a band who have consistently impressed with all five album releases charting in the top 15, it’s no wonder they have an extensive collection of tracks, including ‘National Health’, which was on their 2012 album. We may not have seen a great deal from these guys in the past few years, but the show was by no means stuck in the past; a great performance to summarise the weekend.

My only negatives were that it felt slightly on the quiet side (not sound wise, the sound systems were all spot on for the locations) but there seemed to be an absence of people. The headline acts pulled big enough crowds, but throughout the daytime the stages lacked the buzz I’ve been used to at other festivals. I enjoyed the range of ages, but I can’t help feeling it forfeited the usual excitement and commotion. The lack of available site plans and set times meant we actually missed a couple of things we’d intended to see. The Cow Shed is one of the focuses of the festival and because we didn’t have the chance to find our feet on the Friday night, we failed to locate the Cow Shed in all its glory on Saturday (I blame TFL and Cat Lovers for being so good).

Clean Bandit were one of the highlights of the festival for me, along with The Thirst and Amber Run. I would definitely recommend Standon Calling, particularly if you have little’uns as it’s some where you can enjoy high quality and diverse music yet feel safe and comfortable everywhere.

Chance The Rapper – Live @ The Forum

tumblr_mx16iqG9Yx1r5hp9ho1_1280Tuesday 15th July 2014 – London

Chance The Rapper, aka Chancelor Bennett, concluded his 2014 European tour at The Forum in Kentish Town. He and his four-piece band had sufficient talent to enchant the 2000 strong, sold-out venue.

Only the second time Chance The Rapper has blessed London with a solo show, I can honestly say he was extraordinary. He kicked off with Acid Rap tune ‘Everybody’s Something’ and instantly the whole crowd were on their feet. The show was full of energy, start to finish and near perfection. A minor lyric blank near the start gave him some extra charm and charisma.

Over the last few months the Chicago native has proved his talent at various festivals and concerts, being one of only two artists to receive a five star rating for his Glastonbury performance. His second mixtape release Acid Rap was made available for free download in April 2013. Having already made a name for himself in the US hip hop scene with his first 2012 mixtape 10 DayAcid Rap brought Chance’s jazz and soul influenced hip hop to the UK and beyond. Still without a record label, he is intent on remaining an independent artist. This new ideology appears to be taking off with many in the hip hop scene, and although it’s unconventional, it’s a great example of originality and creativity.

Chance’s supporting band, the Social Experiment, consists of seriously gifted musicians: Peter Cottontale on keys, who has produced for Chance, Vic Mensa and Lil Wayne. Greg Landfair Jr. aka Stix on drums and Nico Segal aka Donnie Trumpet on, you guessed it, trumpet, were both part of hip hop band Kids These Days before their split a year ago and have performed alongside Frank Ocean. Nico Segal released a seven-track EP titled Donnie Trumpet last year which is a musically genius record, combining brilliant jazz, Lauryn Hill influences and clever verses from Vic Mensa and Chance. Nico staged some unforgettable trumpet solos throughout the concert. The whole crowd was entranced; it was a great touch and added extra zing to the show.

The majority of Chance’s songs were from Acid Rap or from his recent three-song collection Sox. We were also treated with slow-jam ‘Braincells’ from 10 Day and a rhythmic and truly entertaining version of the Arthur theme tune – ‘Believe In Yourself’. Chance and the Social Experiment adapted and adjusted most songs, varying energy and arrangements to keep the audience on their toes.

The show was rounded off with one of Chance’s finest hits, ‘Chain Smoker’. An irrefutably impressive show, one I will certainly remember and I fully recommend anyone with the opportunity to go and see Chance The Rapper live.

FKJ – Take Off

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22 year old Vincent Fenton aka FKJ (French Kiwi Juice) is a seriously funky electro-soul producer from Paris (obviously).  FKJ seems intent on bridging the gap between old school funk and flawless production techniques that make every single track as smooth as a baby’s bum.  His unblemished musicality seems to be innate and effortless.

FKJ dropped his first single ‘Lying Together’ back in November 2012 and his first EP ‘The Twins’ around the same time.  Since then we’ve had another stunning EP, ‘Time for a Change’, in July 2013. It’s reminiscent of Moodymann-techno, highlighting a similar mix of acoustic and synthetic instruments.

On Tuesday 1st July he released ‘Waiting’ which features Madelyn Grant. It has a slightly more commercial sound than his previous tracks, but still showcases his extraordinary talent.  Madelyn Grant hints at a Lauryn Hill-type flair and has some serious similarities to UK singer Elli Ingram.   It’s the first track to be made available from his most recent EP ‘Take Off’ which is available for purchase on 21st July.

Have a listen to as much as you can find. Whatever your mood, whatever your age…

Glass Animals – Zaba

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Icky Gooey Hazey Woozy, Glass Animals love onomatopoeias that’s for sure.  Brand new, debut album Zaba is released on Monday, 9th June.  I’ve been following Glass Animals for 6 months or so and am so excited that finally the Oxford-based boys are releasing this record.  They were the first band to be signed to Paul Epworth’s Wolf Tone Records, alongside Canadian producer Zodiac – most famous for his work with The Weeknd, but expect bigger things to come.

So far from Glass Animals we’ve had ‘Leaflings EP’ which was released in 2012 – second track ‘Cocoa Hooves’ features on Zaba (a good shout). ‘Glass Animals EP’ was released in January this year and was the trigger of my interest in their innovative music.  Diffused, echoey but headbobbingly-bassy, ‘Black Mambo‘ on this EP also made it on to the album, but my favourite song was ‘Woozy’ which features seriously talented Jean Deaux, who’s debut record ‘Soular System’ is out later this year:

Glass Animals have created a kaleidoscopic, psychedelic stamp and coated every track with it. This most recent collection of tracks follow a similar theme, but somehow still manage to sound unique. This album is the epitome of Indie/R&B, with some droppings of HipHop, World music and  Psychedelic Rock/Dance/Trance whatever you fancy really. The range of sounds and samples used throughout is so intriguing.  My favourite is Hazey, track 7.  I think it gives the perfect balance between smooth R&B rhythms, interesting instrumentation – a bit of India, some China – and damn good vocals.

You can stream the whole album from their website or Spotify if you’re that way inclined: http://glassanimals.eu/

Finally, in April this year we had the release of ‘Gooey EP’, with the trippy, vibrant title track ‘Gooey’.  It also features on Zaba (alongside ‘Pools’ which has a peculiar stop motion video). Here is the very creative and frankly bizarre video for Gooey:

Chet Faker – Built on Glass

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Bearded Aussie, Chet Faker, has released his first full length album.  After years of writing and producing dance and electronica, Built on Glass is a skilful and accomplished collection of tracks.

For those of you who don’t know jazz, the real Chet Baker was a brilliant trumpeter and vocalist – his heyday during the 50s and 60s.  He was known for both his intricate trumpeting skills but also his clever transition into contemporary singing, something our own Chet Faker pays homage to.  Faker (born Nicholas Murphy) began his musical career as an electronic producer, remixing the likes of Temper Trap and MSMR, along with producing for British singer Rainy Milo and collaborating on several tracks with fellow Aussie, Flume.

Thinking In Textures LP was released in March 2012, and was Faker’s first introduction in to the commercial music industry.  It features his cover of ‘No Diggity‘ which was famously used for the Beck’s advert in the 2013 Super Bowl, and has had a reasonable amount of publicity since.  Built on Glass was released mid-April this year and has become a resident in both my headphones and my house!  The album is chilled, soulful, electronic yet musically valid and versatile.  Faker has a nice voice, not impeccable but homely and warm.  His lyrics, although not arduous, are food for thought and let you come away feeling refreshed and enlightened.  To me, the most impressive aspect of this album is the instrumental arrangements and the sheer extent of musical talent he exudes.

Title track from the album ‘Talk Is Cheap’ incorporates growling sax lines, effective lyrics, a shapely bass and is accompanied by a refreshingly original video.