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

Glass Animals

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.

SOHN – Tremors

Sohn-tremors

Finally it’s arrived. London-born, Vienna-based producer, singer and all-round-talented-musician Sohn released his debut album on Monday (7th April).  He’s produced for two of the most exciting new artists, Banks and Kwabs, and has released three singles to-date.

Artifice‘ is his most recent single and is currently playlisted on BBC Radio 1.  It’s a tuneful, well constructed song, and definitely the most likely “single” from the album.  The further 10 tracks bring quite an array of concepts.  Generally, the focus of the album is on the colourful mosaic of rhythms, but Sohn’s vocals shape the tracks to form eerie and refined gems.

‘Lights’ is one of my favourite tracks on the album.  Vocally it doesn’t stand out from the rest but the complex, synthesised rhythmic and string sections fascinate me.   It’s immersive and totally mesmeric.  Here’s a video of live session for his label 4AD (I’m not sure why he’s dressed as a nun):

You can download title track ‘Tremors’ for free as part of iTunes Single of the Week:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/tremors-single/id853622938

 

Route 94 – Fly 4 Life

Route-94Route 94 (Rowan Jones) began as a relatively low-key, anonymous House DJ.  In 2012, rumours began stirring about his identity; most fans and producers assumed Route 94 was the new alias for an already-established Dubstep artist. As it turned out, it was an accurate guess. Dream, a native Londoner, was signed by our dear friend Skrillex, on his OWSLA label.  In 2012 it appears Dream had a change of genre-heart and decided to reinvent himself as a House producer.

Route 94 first appeared with ‘My Window’, a Deep House record which is unsurprisingly less mainstream than his most recent hit ‘My Love’.  Jones, still only 19 years old, remained quite under the chart-radar until ‘My Love’, a track which topped the UK singles chart in its debut week.  Apart from the obvious fact that it’s particularly catchy, there is a couple of other possible factors contributing to its success: Clean Bandit’s recent number 1 -‘Rather Be’ which also featured Jess Glynne and the huge rise in popularity of Pop-House music in the last 18 months.

The ‘Fly 4 Life’ EP originally dropped in summertime last year, but was withdrawn for unknown reasons.  It’s now back on the circuit, conveniently only a week after the release of ‘My Love’.  ‘Tell You Why’ is the opening track on the EP and features R&B infused vocals and a funky bass.  Title track ‘Fly 4 Life’ is actually my least favourite track on the EP, there’s some slightly creepy vocals and a mildly irritating synthetic-organ sound. Track 3 is ‘In My Heart’, which takes a more four-to-the-floor vibe with low sampled vocals, often heard in Deep House music. ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’ is reminiscent of early 90’s House, particularly in the vocals, but features a really groovy bass line (sorry I couldn’t think of another adjective!).  Out of the four tracks, ‘Tell You Why’ is definitely my favourite. I can’t see any of them being as successful as ‘My Love’, but I get the impression this EP wasn’t targeted at the charts anyway.

The EP is out on 31st March, but you can stream it from SoundCloud here: