Speakers Push Air

February Narc
January 26, 2012, 7:35 pm
Filed under: Miscellaneous, Narc | Tags: , , , , , ,

February’s revamped Narc has hit the shops and venues and ting. Obviously not any shops I can get to (our local shop is a strictly cat food, bin bags and penny sweets kind of deal) so I’ve yet to see my pieces. But anyway, here’s what I submitted (the edited version may be different, I’ve no idea! )…

Quite a busy month for me..

1) Bridie Jackson Live Review

Bridie Jackson & The Arbour – The Sage 2, January 12th 2012
From the moment Bridie Jackson arrived on stage you knew it was going to be a special evening. A capacity home crowd helped, but it was more about the atmosphere Jackson creates, working up magic from seemingly simple elements.

thanks to Stolen Orange for the pic

The haunting first song, We Talked Again (also the opener on the Bitter Lullabies album) was electrifying, just Bridie’s rich, clear vocals over a delicate, spine-tingling bell plate pattern, harmonies and a pulsing cello. The impact was astonishing and from thereon in, she had us.

Instruments came and went, and what was essentially folk music managed to take in flamenco, blues, gospel and much more, but the night was ultimately all about the voices: the wonderfully arranged chorus around her, of course, but primarily Jackson’s voice itself. A thing of rare depth and power and control, equally affecting as a murmur or a full throated roar. After the main set ended with Jackson showered in rose petals and bouquets – which did bring a little grit to my eye – she closed with a couple of solo acoustic songs, one witty and charming, the other sadder and more reflective,  and 500-odd people left the Sage entirely spellbound.


2) Meschiya Lake Interview

Whereas most interviews tend be with some lads who met at college and are “really looking forward to recording our first album”, very occasionally you get to interview someone like Meschiya Lake, an extensively tattooed former circus performer who fetched up in a pre-Katrina New Orleans and reinvented herself as a jazz singer. Ahead of her two dates in the north east, we caught up with her at home in New Orleans.

Lake took a very indirect route to the music she makes now, having grown up surrounded by country and taking in punk and hardcore along the way. “I didn’t really listen to jazz in those days, but I do remember giving my mother a Billie Holiday record one year for Christmas, and listening to it more than she did. New Orleans is most definitely the reason I am so blessed to do what I do today. It first started with a couple of 1930s blues around a campfire on Chartres St and I threw myself in head first from there”.

Although getting started wasn’t always easy (there were some “lean years, food stamp years, but at least I was doing what I loved”), she’s gone from busking and selling home-made CDs to fronting her own band – The Little Big Horns – in a few short years, and is winning increasing acclaim in New Orleans and beyond. Of the city’s music scene she says “most of the musicians were extremely supportive.  I remember the Jazz Vipers and the Palmetto Bug Stompers asking me to sit in back when I didn’t even know what a key signature was, let alone what key I sang in. Their kindness and openness is really where I got my start.”

Her debut album Lucky Devil, a beguiling, swinging, sexy mixture of jazz standards and originals, showcases her incredible voice and totally sympatico band and demonstrates how deep her love for this music goes. Lake mentions some fellow travellers we should look out for, such Tuba Skinny and The Royal Roses, but to UK ears the most familiar comparison might be CW Stoneking. These musicians aren’t engaged in pastiche or homage; it’s a living, breathing love affair with the music and the city.

“It’s always been a beautiful, vibrant place, full of contrast and extremes, and people here are very proud of the uncanny uniqueness of this place and its art forms.”  says  Lake, explaining “it was more necessary than ever after Katrina. When the government and insurance companies turned their backs on the people of New Orleans after the storm, the people formed organizations to help each other… Music was a very big part of it. It’s the sound of people’s heartbeats and unbeatable souls.  It’s how people celebrate life, and release sorrows when life bares its teeth. It was more necessary than ever after the storm. I think as a result, it’s enjoying an even bigger renaissance now.”

Music as good as Lake’s will always find a way of getting heard, but the fact that her emergence has coincided with a renaissance both in this style of jazz and its related scenes has definitely helped. Lake says she’s discovered “an audience for this kind of music all over the world, even before I knew about the vast and ever expanding lindy hop scene. Several times, after a performance, people have come up to me and expressed how they didn’t even know that they liked this type of music, simply because they’ve never been exposed to it. It’s joyous, and infectious.  It takes, often times, very sombre subject matter, and executes it in a very happy, colourful way. People hear this music, and see how much fun people are having dancing to it, and can’t help but want to learn it for themselves.  The dance is the physical interpretation of the music. It’s how this music looks. We are taking a certain musical form and improvising to it, just like the dancers are doing with movement.” To illustrate the point, Lake is bringing two champion Lindy Hoppers on the tour.

As for her circus past, “I keep some skills I learned in the circus with me, but don’t ask me to eat glass ever again!  It’s alright by my insides, but I’ve had dental work since then, and can’t put my pearlies through the things I did when I was younger. Although now that you mention it, I may be ‘lighting up the night’ where allowed on this tour!”

Meanwhile, although a hernia-beset brass section has delayed things, album number two is taking shape. “I’m shooting for recording in March – after we return from our UK tour, and after the craziness of Mardi Gras. It will have mostly the same feel, originals alongside classics, but more arrangements, and some surprises! I may even throw in an original 60’s R&B/Motown tune. We’ll see!  Look for it round September!”

Meschiya Lake brings her horns, her dancers and her wonderful tattoos to Saltburn Community Theatre (Feb 8th) and Jumpin’ Hot Club at Newcastle Cluny 2 (Feb 9th).


3) Singles Reviews

Something about the first pile of singles of the year makes you hope for something really fresh, which is why Allo Darling’s Capricornia gets things off to such a dismal start. If you really want to sound like The Popguns in 2012 you better have great songs. Allo Darling don’t, so we’re left with a dated, jangling mediocrity. Cupid by Rocketeer seemed more promising but never really moves beyond an unremarkable plod and what had potential as a scathing commentary on sex and relationships turns out to be someone confusing vocabulary with poetry.

Things pick up considerably with some local heroes: Mausi are a lovably shiny electro-indie-pop outfit who on wonderful – really, really wonderful! – new single Sol manage to sound a bit like The Notwist and are therefore indisputably excellent. All of a sudden, summer doesn’t seem so far off. Styles Make FightsAll The Things Ive Done Wrong isn’t reinventing any pop punk wheels but it’s a cracking tune, while We Are Knuckledragger’s Mr Son Of A Bitch is a blistering 2 minutes of hardcore with fire in its belly and some impressively larynx shredding vocals. I’ve no idea what they’re upset about but I suspect they mean it. Keeping it gnarly, Blacklisters remind me of Mclusky (a very good thing) and new single Trickfuck is warped as fuck (also a very good thing).

There are better songs on the latest King Creosote album than John Taylor’s Month Away but you can see why this is the single – it’s a radio-friendly near-anthem, which is no mean trick for heavily accented accordion folk. Also aiming for the anthemic is Missed You At The Show’s Pretty Riddle, which I flat out hated but I suspect its epic indie gesturing will find an audience. Much better is Days by The Drums, more infectious Anglophile indie out of Brooklyn.

Talk about saving the best till last: Year Of The Tiger is the latest Chinese New Year-themed single from the untouchably brilliant Fucked Up, and it’s 15 minutes of beautiful, ambitious, utterly unique hardcore that stands my arm hairs on end and makes me think 2012 might be a great one after all.


4) Josh Rouse Live Review

Josh Rouse / Matt Stalker’s Fables – Sage 2, 22nd January 2012
It’s the second time in ten days I’ve seen Matt Stalkers Fables and I’m afraid I still can’t think of anything positive to say about their polite, accomplished folk-pop. Creeping Mumfordism…

Unfortunately and surprisingly, Josh Rouse didn’t fare much better. Judging by the reaction he got from a packed Sage 2, I’m probably on my own with this but it was a pretty dispiriting affair. His recent immersion in Spanish music seems to have omitted all the passion and melancholy and left his recent material sounding equal parts ‘cruise ship Girl From Ipanema shuffle’ and ‘2nd rate Me & Julio Paul Simon-isms’. Rouse himself is a strangely stiff, uncharismatic performer, so much so that even his older, stronger songs (1972, for example) actually suffer from seeing him play them live. I’m struggling for positives: I’ll concede that opener Hots Full Of Love had an Orbison-esque charm, and To The Clock at least tried to be innovative, even if its unusual structure wasn’t married to a particularly memorable song.

His Spanish backing duo were far more impressive, especially the guy on banjo, guitar and percussion who managed to invest some real feeling in his playing. Otherwise, a flat and unengaging evening all round. Seriously, if you want to listen to an American musician who really ‘gets’ Spanish guitar music, go straight to Jonathan Richman and cross your fingers that Rouse remembers what he’s (quite) good at next time out.


5) Bridgit Hayden Preview

Tempo Tempo presents:
Bridget Hayden (ex-Vibracathedral Orchestra) @ Star & Shadow Cinema, Friday 10 February, 2012. 8pm, £5

If your idea of the blues is closer to the music of Bill Orcutt or Carla Bozulich or even Swans, rather than the Jools Holland sanctioned likes of Seasick Steve, then Bridget Hayden – formerly of the much missed drone / noise outfit Vibracathedral Orchestra and a sometime member of The Telescopes – may be just what you need.

With a début album (A Siren Blares In An Indifferent Ocean) out on Kraak and picking up a lot of acclaim (not least from the Arch Drude himself, Julian Cope), Hayden’s self-described “fucked up blues” might be the perfect complement to a bleak, melancholy February. Performing solo using just her voice, guitar and effects, Hayden manages to bring to mind everyone from Glenn Branca to the early, sparse Polly Harvey, but still sound totally original. With support from Jazzfinger and Obey, this is one hell of a bill.


6) Field Music Album Review

Field Music – Plumb (Memphis Industries)
You have to admire Field Music’s fearless ambition and singular vision. Sadly, as so often in the past, ambition and vision can lead to prog, and that’s what we’re dealing with here. Inventive and restless and accomplished, sure, but still prog. At its best, Plumb brings to mind late-80s XTC, at its worst Camel (man, those guitars can sound ugly). One track’s even a ringer for Eclipse by Pink Floyd. I’d still rather listen to this than any number of plodding landfill indie bands, but the Brewis brothers do appear to have made The Lamb Lies Down On Teesside and that’s just a bit worrying.

© Narc Magazine, Feb 2012

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