A Manchester International Festival 2015 Highlight Review: Björk

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As the Manchester International Festival (MIF) comes to a close, we folks at the Manchester Culture Show present some of our highlight reviews from this year’s eclectic programme, starting with a review of Björk’s performance at the Castlefield arena:

I became hooked on Björk’s music quite late in my teens. It was August 2001 and I remember discovering a 9 track sample CD in The Sunday Times with CD-Rom content to promote Björk’s album Vespertine. I still have that sampler, a reminder of my own personal moment of a discovery that I am delighted to write about here 14 years later in the form of a live concert review.

Bjork © Inez and Vinoodh, with thanks

Björk © Inez and Vinoodh, with thanks

On Sunday 5th July Björk took to the Manchester Castlefield arena, a unique open-air performance that featured as part of this year’s refined Manchester International Festival programme. Björk previously took part in the MIF programme in 2011 with her Biophillia residency. This was also the first of her European Vulnicura tour dates, a one- off for Manchester audiences that could not be missed, especially as it was also placed a month before the much-anticipated headline performance at Wilderness Festival, August 6-9th 2015.

Arca and Jesse Kanda @MIFestival

Arca and Jesse Kanda @MIFestival

The support for Björk’s Manchester’s tour date was provided by one of the collaborators of Vulnicura, known as Arca (@arca1000000). Of course the Venezuelan producer, consultant, mixing engineer and DJ’s name often appears in regards to his producing and writing credits, so it was refreshing to see him mixing and providing a wide range of vocal techniques as a supporting artist for the concert. He was also joined by Jesse Kanda, (@jessekanda) a collobrator of Arca and visual producer who created the visual displays for the concert. These displays were coupled with Arca’s dancing which he performed in fetish gear and moved in an imitative fashion to the visuals on screen that often featured the a digitally-rendered, gender-ambiguous character. The support provided a set of hybrid RnB tracks, deviating from the conventional challenging listener with a blend of idiosyncratic electronic hip hop. Most of the sets tracks feature on Arca’s November 2014 debut release Xen, and included the tracks Thievery, Sad Bitch and album title track Xen. The audience may not have known who Arca was when he came on stage, but they won’t forget this unique artist with his powerful Spanish rapping in a hurry.

Half an hour after the support act had left the stage, London’s Heritage Orchestra entered, dressed

Bjork

Björk

 

all in white the fifteen piece string orchestra tuned and prepared the audience for the lush and bountifully rich live orchestration that would be delivered during the night’s performance. Vulnicura’s second album collaborator producer The Haxan Cloak (@haxan_cloak, also known as Bobby Krlic) placed himself firmly behind the electronic set up for the evening, also joined by Björk concert resident hang drum and percussion performer Manu Delago (@manudelagomusic).

Björk entered the stage with such energetic, playful strides, positioning herself on the stage so poetically as the cellos led with the opening bass notes of Stonemilker, and the enigmatic voice was released. From this opening track the Icelandic songbird took to the stage and enfolded us all in a very personal musical journey that revealed the heart melting yet startlingly direct core that is Vulnicura’s repertoire. Emotional truth was the direction for the first half of the concert with Lionsong following on from the opening track and then a personal favourite of mine Black Lake with its requiem-like strings that develop into a richer arrangement with Arca’s vocal patches and electronic percussive swells. Singing of family being ‘a mutual mission,’ the next track was The Haxan Cloak-produced track Family a powerful track of mourning and grief that utilises sustained strings as well as a disjunct, angular cello solo that seems to unravel out of control, giving way to delicate sustained upper strings that remain throughout the track fading at the end, representing something that though initially unravelled and out of control still can retain a certain grace of remembrance.

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Castlefield Arena, Manchester

Of course Björk likes to mix things up with her arrangements and tracks Notget and Army of Me presented obvious and subtle remixing, in the case of the latter. The concert also provided some stunning visual accompaniment in the form of the big screen that showed the various music videos for those tracks that offered one, or in the case of those that didn’t, videos of the natural world. However, Hunter was delivered with colourful smoke cannons, as well as onstage pyrotechniques and for the final encore, fountains of fireworks were also released. Hunter marked the turn of the night’s performance into the back catalogue of Björk’s hits, returning to the string reverie of Quicksand and Mouth Mantra’s nightmarish instrumental setting later in the set. It was clear why a live string ensemble was at the heart of this concert. Track’s from her previous eight studio albums included Bachelorette, Possibly Maybe, which showcased Manu Delago’s hang playing, Where is the Line?, Army of Me, 5 Years, the heavy beat eruptions of Mutual Core and the powerfully built up home groove of Hyperballad, virtuosic with the added encore of fireworks that concluded the night.

Bjork at Castlefield Arena, Manchester

Björk at Castlefield Arena, Manchester

Regardless of any Björk fan’s favourite album, the thing that really stood out with her performance for the Manchester International festival programme was her vocal delivery. Not once was she out of key, but the crisp perfect inflections and experimental virtuosity of her voice and lush rolling-Rrs enthralled as she delivered an explosive start to MIF. Teenage me would certainly have been impressed. I can only express my anticipation as to what the Icelandic songstress will deliver next and I feel confident we will see another enigmatic performance at MIF in years to come.

Written by Hannah Bayley for @Mcrcultureshow

Manchester serves up top festivals for summer

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Albert Square, © Lee Wild, with thanks

Manchester will serve up a plethora of cultural delights to whet the appetite of music and theatre lovers, festival-goers, jazz enthusiasts and food junkies this summer.

Kicking off in July, the city will come to life when a collection of the finest, international artists and performers descend upon the city for the Manchester International Festival (MIF2015), followed by original new music and some of the city’s best emerging talent will be showcased.

And finally, there will be 11 days of food festivities that will take you on a culinary trip around the world that – something you definitely won’t want to miss!

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Manchester International Festival 2015, Albert Square, with thanks to MIF2015

Manchester International Festival
2 – 18 July
Various venues

This is the fifth installment of MIF, whose programme this year features, in equal measure, huge talent, innovation and original work spanning the arts spectrum. Not only does the event attract world talent, events also take place in some of the most historic, alternate and iconic venues the city, which simply adds to the atmosphere of it all. This is also the last year for Director Alex Poots.

Highlights this year include the awe-inspiring Icelandic singer-songwriter Bjork. Returning for a second time after her dazzling performance in ‘Biophilia’ in 2013, the artist plays at Manchester’s Castlefield arena this time, with material from her new album, ‘Vulnicura’.

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Bjork, © Inez and Vinoodh, with thanks

The critically acclaimed and equally mesmerising, FKA Twigs, will bring take up residency at Old Granada studios to create seven short films over seven days, which audiences are invited to experience and observe.

New production, ‘The Skriker’, starring British actress Maxine Peake (another returning performer), as a disturbing shapeshifter in an ancient fairy story set in a fractured England, promises to be a chilling and captivating performance. While ‘Neck of the Woods’, debuting at Manchester’s newest cultural space, HOME, brings to life the story of a wolf from Charlotte Rampling, the Broadchurch starlet.

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Neck of the woods, © Douglas Gordon, with thanks

Richter/ Pärt’, promises to be an exciting collaboration between a world class composer and artist, who have created new musical works inspired by and dedicated to one, performed live in the stunning surroundings of the Whitworth Art Gallery.

Plus, new performer on the MIF scene this year, electronic music producer and DJ, Four Tet, will play a live set in the vast surroundings of former abandoned warehouse, Mayfield Depot, as part of a weekend long music event,‘10×10′.

There’s also a healthy injection of inspiring debate and discussion for two days at ‘Interdependence’ and a groundbreaking science show, featuring Professor Brian Cox.

If you just want to sit back and soak up the carnivalesque atmosphere, with great food and enjoy some free performances, you can be promised that too in Manchester’s Albert Square.

Manchester Jazz Festival

31 July – 9 August

Various venues

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Orquestra Timbala, © Daniel Parker, with thanks

Over 10 days an exciting array of international, regional and local jazz talent will take to the stage. With over 80 performances, bringing together multiple genres of jazz, there’s sure to be something for everyone, including some very special acts.

Launching with the New York Brass Band (NYBB), hailing ‘from the mean streets of Yorkshire’, this band will bring ‘swagger’ and ‘energy’ to Albert Square in order to start the party!

Don’t miss the big band sound of Orquestra Timbala, who will be returning with their distinctive Afro-Cuban beat.

For something alternative, a unique collaboration between Manchester’s Efpi records and Paris’ Onze heures Onze, will be performed by French quartet OXYD at Manchester’s hippest night spot, Soup Kitchen.

And for something new, Jazz North will be showcasing new talent from The Matt Holborn Quartet, an emerging gypsy jazz band hailing from Leeds, who will be performing in the Central Library.

Pride: The Big Weekend, Canal Street
August 28-31

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Manchester Pride Festival, with thanks

Held over the bank holiday weekend, this is the 25th anniversary of the Manchester Pride festival; a celebration of the city’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, spanning four days of ‘BIG’ festivities.

This year’s headlining act is award-winning pop-indie giants Texas, plus performances from Union J, DJ Fresh, US DJ Andy Butler and Hercules and Love Affair.

Pride festivities will kick off with the annual carnival parade, complete with floats, music and spectacular fancy dress, followed by a variety of acts and performances in different venues, including fringe arts events & performances throughout the city.  It will culminate in a poignant candlelight vigil in Sackville Gardens, when Canal street and the gardens will be lit up with lights.

Something Beautiful: An exploration of Acre Tarn’s debut EP- ‘Clasp and Shake’

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With thanks to Acre Tarn for the use of their artwork for the purpose of this blog post.

With thanks to Acre Tarn for the use of their artwork for the purpose of this blog post.

I spent last week travelling around Kyoto city, visiting the stunning temples, shrines, gardens and sampling ramen and sushi in a variety of delightful venues, all before settling in to my more permanent residency for the next five months here in Nihon. Music has played a huge role during this adjustment period, and not just as part of the Ph.D research I am conducting out here, but in the form of a soundtrack to travel with. Of course Japanese music has been on the agenda in all forms from traditional theatre music through to a more contemporary palette, such as Bo Ningen’s acid punk. However, digging into new music picks over recent months whilst preparing for my travels I came across a recent EP from a Manchester electronic duo Acre Tarn, and their debut EP- Clasp and Shake.

Starting to explore the Kyoto scenery accompanied by this EP led me on a journey of escapism and imagined landscapes, created from the music, beyond the physicality of the beauty I was experiencing around me. Even now, sat at my desk in an apartment in the mountain suburbs on the edge of the city, listening to the record, a whole series of developing images come to the fore. In fact my experience fits with the very words that the mysterious duo use when asked about their music:

We are a sum of two halves, founded by chance and brought together to realise our musical craft. We’re not afraid of anything when we unleash our imagination, we love beauty and we want to create something beautiful.
We’re explorers.

The first time I listened to Acre Tarn’s opening EP track This Once, I found myself sitting inside an atmospheric living room at night, accompanied by the sound of rain falling outside. From its opening the track began to morph into an ambient musical journey. Harmonic vocal layering is well utilised in this track with an ever developing beat that subsides to give way to electro-acoustic soundscapes, and heighten the presences of Anna’s glacial vocals.  I love the way the track fades away like the crackling of an old record left to spin.

Circles really showcases a lighter side to Anna’s vocals, there is a fresh feeling to this track that is so elegantly put together with lighter electric musical accompaniment, nicely coupled with a bass beat that thumps through with added lighter drum effects, and other electro-acoustic effects propelling this track forward.

Wishing Bone opens with vocal and drum effects in a tribal like fashion, shifting and building up more and more with different vocal effects. This is a track that uses word painting so well that you hang on to every vocal inflection. Another infectious beat that is carefully crafted with other instrumental entry points and harmonies that you find yourself completely immersed in. Again the track just ends creating a feeling of anticipation as you wait for the next inventive musical number.

Skeleton Key is the final number on the EP and starts with a single vocal line, delivered with echoes. Reverberated instrumental crunches and an ever-developing, throbbing synth beat slowly comes to the fore. Impromptu synth drum beats add further timbral variety to the track with various entry points throughout, and dominating in the latter half.

Acre Tarn are certainly explorers when it comes to this debut, every part of each track so carefully crafted using an array of aural colours and an aptitude for manipulating electronic effects to the duo’s advantage that you cannot help but find yourself listening to the whole EP over and over again when you happen to fall upon one single track. I was certainly glad to share my sightseeing of Kyoto with an equally rich musical experience.

Listen to Acre Tarn’s EP Clasp and Shake here on their soundcloud page. To find out more news and information about the duo visit their website here.
You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook.

Written by Hannah Bayley

From acting to art: The Buy Art Fair launches at Old Granada Studios, Manchester

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“It’s open plan, it flows. It’s more than that. It’s the floor in the old construction workshop which is covered in paint from a thousand set builds and set designs, and you just look at it and think about what might have been there? Was it a Coronation Street front room or a Cracker murder…?”

homepage_baf_tmc_2014_mcr693Sitting in the iconic surroundings of Old Granada Studios, Manchester, face to face with Buy Art Fair Director, Thom Hetherington on the launch night of the fair. He looks relaxed and comfortable already in the new surroundings, and is waxing lyrical about the place within the first minute of our meeting.

This is the seventh edition of the fair, which takes place annually over three days in September. It’s the biggest art fair outside of London and incorporates The Manchester Contemporary and for the first time this year, plays host to a special exhibition from the Asia Triennial, which also launched in Manchester this weekend.

The Buy Art Fair has re-located five times in those seven years. It has been met with challenges, evolved and expanded, but has it improved and settled now that it has found a new home at Old Granada Studios?

Thom, you are in your seventh year now of running this fair, how does that feel?

“I think we’ve really found our feet. I was pontificating earlier that seven isn’t actually very old. So maybe art fair years are like dog years. Maybe we are hitting out thirties; it’s a new period, were you cast off youthful things, grow up and find your feet in the world.”

Location seems to be a changeable factor in the life span of the fair. You’ve moved every year, with the exception of two. Has this affected development in any way?

“Yes, there have in fact been a variety of places. We don’t make life easy for ourselves by moving all the time! Certainly we have moved around for the last five years. So, every year, you end up making the first year mistakes in a new venue and then you don’t get to learn from them and you move on again, and your back making the same mistakes in a different venue. That’s challenging. Fun. Never boring. Even here, in the iconic Old Granada studios, we’ve had the challenge of being a guinea pig event. We are the first major exhibition fair to be hosted in this venue”.

 What was the motivation behind this most recent move?

“The minute we knew that the space was available, we fought tooth and nail to get it. We were lucky that Allied London, the people who own it were willing to work with us. It’s an iconic venue, resonant with cultural heritage and history for the north and internationally really; it has that much kudos attached to it”.

“It’s not just a beautiful building; it’s also the atmosphere. There’s something almost tangible in the air that makes you want to spend more time here and everyone seems to have picked up on it.

It’s open plan. It flows. It’s two and a half times bigger! At Spinningfields we were cramped, at capacity and landlocked. It prevented us from doing things.  Art is all about having room to breathe in a space that you want to stay in. Here we can do that and it makes a massive difference”.

The Manchester Contemporary and the Asia Triennial are taking place alongside the Buy Art Fair as we mentioned. What do each of these events bring to Manchester’s art landscape?

“The Manchester Contemporary is also our art fair, although they have very separate identities. The Manchester Contemporary is its own very self-contained fair for critically engaged art and emerging artists. We are also hosting an exhibition as part of Asia Triennial in the space here with us, which is a first, featuring new emerging artist, Bashir Makhoul (a contributor to last year’s Venice Biennale) and we have the Noise Festival here, curated by musician Brian Eno and Tim Marlow (Royal Academy)”.

“Essentially, the Buy Art Fair is the hub in the art ecology here. We generate the footfall and then push people out to all those other fairs and events. We are also here as the name says on the tin: to sell art. There are a lot of fantastic events where you can experience art, the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester Art Gallery, Harris Museum in Preston, the Tate, but there are very few opportunities where people can come, spend their own money and purchase a piece of art work they love, take it home and enjoy it everyday”.

What is the appeal of buying art?

“It’s a very visceral and intoxicating thing buying art and people don’t have the opportunity to do it normally”.

What advice do you have for first time visitors to the fair?

“As I mentioned, the two installations from Asia Triennial and Noise Festival are a must see. The work isn’t for sale, but the rawness is absolutely brilliant!”

“In The Manchester Contemporary, it’s got to be the legendary Bill Drummond, who famously burnt one million pounds as part of the ‘K Foundation’. He’s here for the next three days and is either painting or knitting for virtually all that time. Just go and talk to him. It won’t be time wasted”.

What advice would you give to first time buyers?

“It’s the simplest thing in the world. If you can afford it and you really like it, then buy it! It really is that simple. Art is art. You can’t do a price comparison website. If you have fifty pounds, five hundred or five thousand, it doesn’t really matter. Just buy it – you won’t regret it!”

And how is the art market at the moment, given that the Buy Art Fair has endured throughout a recession?

“You wouldn’t have thought there would be a bigger rise in spends on art, but our art fair has grown year upon year through the worst recession in human history”.

“I don’t know whether that was the art market itself or because there was untapped demand which we’re still scratching the surface of”.

What are the barriers to cultivating more collectors in the north: do you think wealth plays a role in that?

“Money? No. I don’t think that’s such an issue. Engagement is the main one. Everyone in the London art world told me no one bought art in Manchester. I thought it was the other way around and there were no galleries about six years ago to buy from; well, there were three in the city, but in a city of two and a half million, that’s virtually nothing! I felt that if we could provide that and give people the experience, take away the uncertainty and lack of confidence, then they would buy it and they do, but yes, there’s still some way to go”.

“It’s a bit like food – everyone has an interest in food now, but twenty-five years ago that wouldn’t have been the case. People would have thought you were mad if you took an interest in the provenance of your olive oil! Now though, it’s acceptable. Food broke through the mainstream. It’s on telly, in magazines and people talk about it a lot more. I’m not saying art will be as popular as food, but things are changing. There has been a shift…I think this fair proves there is no real north vs. south divide and if anything, if you provide something like this, then people will come. Plus, there is a generation now for whom buying art is a normal thing. It’s not snobby or elitist. People are growing up with this and seeing it as something you do”.

And finally, have you purchased any art work yet?

“No, but I will crack like an egg very soon! I have my eye on several pieces and I’m flinching whenever anyone looks at them because they are mine!”

With thanks to Thom Hetherington, Director, Buy Art Fair.

The Buy Art Fair runs until Sunday 28 September, 6pm.

Written by Cat Teague @catmcr @mcrcultureshow

Summer Single Launch: The Hope Edition- ‘Tony Adams Vs The World’

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Photographed by Rob Cattell, with thanks.

The Hope Edition performing at KRAAK Gallery. Photographed by Rob Cattell, with many thanks.

Stockport hailing alternative post-punk indie band The Hope Edition are no strangers to the Manchester Culture Blog. They featured on here back in November 2013, following their stand out support for Bristol-born indie rockers Coasts. However, the band have returned this summer with a new single, and to take the stage as headliners. For those of you who are not familiar with the northern high energy indie rock of Andrew Schofield on Guitars/Vocals, Phil Higgins on Guitars/Vocals, Alex Scott on Bass, Ben Bibby on Drums and Daisy Norburn on Keyboards, than this review will give you a flavour of what you should excitedly expect!

A single launch is always a daunting thing- especially when releasing material to your home crowd but The Hope Edition’s music captures the imagination of a city that has seen so many different musical influences shape its performative landscape, that to write about this single launch is a real pleasure.

The band’s single launch took place at KRAAK Gallery on 20th June 2014, and welcomed a dedicated audience of fans and new listeners alike. The Hope Edition had two support acts joining them- with Manchester/Liverpool 80s/90s moody rockers LVLS kick starting the music of the evening with a defiant buzz. Their track W.S.C.B.F with its edgy synths and delicate harmonies were perfectly matched to lead singer Jay’s slick vocal line, with a delivery similar to that of The Cure’s Robert Smith. The band have been together just under a year, which is hard to believe, and when you hear how well the instrumental and vocal lines gel together, you know these guys will go far!

The Hope Edition performing at KRAAK Gallery. Photographed by Rob Cattell, with many thanks.

The Hope Edition performing at KRAAK Gallery. Photographed by Rob Cattell, with many thanks

The second support act of the night came from Manchester solo musician Dance Savage– aka Daniel Savage. Armed with a guitar and pre-programmed beats and instrumentals, this young Manchester fellow is all about bringing uplifting, chilled beats to the city music scene. When Hearts Fall was a highlight of the set. Of course, then came the headliners of the evening…

Tony Adams Vs The World– the single release of the night was just one stand out example of The Hope Edition’s showcase set, displaying the band’s ability to create a sharp, energetic track, with a likeability that comes from switches in tempo and a combination of vocal harmonies and charming delivery that give it a strong melodic propulsion. The ten song set eloquently captured the band’s distinctive charm, which if summarised by song itself could almost be described as that of Squeeze’s Cool for Cats, and even more so from the surf rock influences of the band’s third track of the night. Oozing from both the charming descriptions and lyricism of their music, the instrumental balance is perfected with guitars, drums and delightful musical bridges from the keyboards. Or, as one reviewer who recently purchased the single on iTunes would describe the tracks as: ‘Just blood good music to dance about to’. Why not have a listen for yourselves below:

If musical influences were to be identified, for The Hope Edition the likes of fellow northern groups Joy Division, and The Artic Monkeys are there as well as the likes of those beyond the northern borders, including The Jam, and a detection for vocal influences that allude towards Adam and the Ants with their rich, heartfelt delivery. Of course, The Hope Edition deliver their signature mix of song and spoken word through each musical number too which is matched nicely with instrumental interplay and an energy that captures the urban setting at the core of so many of the band’s song lyrics. The final track of the evening- Closer finished off the evening’s set in delightful fashion. The track just demonstrates how the band have so much to give the contemporary music scene- transforming from a dainty love song that perfectly summarises the affection of love in the simple gesture of hand holding into post-punk energy that captures the heart and soul of a band breaking out in to the city’s music scene armed with an impressive set of live performances too!

The Hope Edition performing at KRAAK Gallery. Photography by Rob Cattell, with many thanks.

The Hope Edition performing at KRAAK Gallery. Photography by Rob Cattell, with many thanks.

You can catch The Hope Edition at The Road House supporting The Fourth Circle next Friday 15th August from 7pm. Tickets are available to purchase in advance here.

For updates on The Hope Edition, LVLS, and Dance Savage find them on Twitter here:
@TheHopeEdition
@wearelvls 
@nosauceplease

Written by Hannah Bayley
Photography by Rob Cattell @bobbikk

An Interview with… The Bobbysocks!

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The Bobbysocks. The use of this picture is solely for the purpose of this blog post. With thanks to the girls for its use.

The Bobbysocks. The use of this picture is solely for the purpose of this blog post. With thanks to the girls for its use.

We may have seen a recent surge in rain but arriving at Manchester Museum on Saturday 24th May to interview the harmonious trio that are The Bobbysocks, a three-part harmony group made up of rock’n’roller Jude Jagger, classical soprano Inés Soria-Donlan, and west end performer Emily Knudsen, the day was instantly brightened!  The three talented fun, and sophisticated musicians were more than happy to talk musical inspirations, roots, style icons, gigs, oh and dragons…yes dragons, surely not what one would expect from a music interview?!  So, to hear more about what the talented trio had to say click on the full interview below…

 

The Bobbysocks certainly are not afraid to take on a musical challenge, as well as promote a unique vintage style along with their music. If you are a budding fashion designer and would like the opportunity to design and create some vintage style outfits for The Bobbysocks to perform in then please contact the girls at hello@thebobbysocks.co.uk. The Bobbysocks boast a broad range of past gigs including PRIDE, Mothers Ruin! Contact, Manchester, as well as performing at the 1940s Swing Dance in support for Help for Heroes, Royal Air Force Museum, Shifnal. Visit their gigs page here for a list of past and future events. You can also find out more about The Bobbysocks’ latest gigs, news, and music links via @TheBobbysocks or on Facebook here.

Have a sneaky peak listen to the trio performing a cover of Taio Cruz’s ‘Heartbreaker’ below:

 

Interview and words by Hannah Bayley for @mcrcultureshow

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

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Manchester has a lot to be proud of in terms of new musical talent in recent months, with a range of new sounds, collaborations and projects that are well and truly hitting the Manchester Culture Show new music radar. Some have sprouted legs and are trending across a range of new music blogs, while others lie under the media radar, for now… We’ve picked a small, diverse selection of these fledgling musicians, so catch them here on the Manchester Culture Show blog before they well and truly take flight!

Bernard + Edith

Bernard + Edith performing at M.I.F. July 2013

Bernard + Edith performing at M.I.F. July 2013.

I actually have the pleasure of announcing that I have seen Bernard + Edith perform live in the flesh at last year’s Manchester International Festival. The Manchester duo opened for fellow Manchester musicians MONEY last July, and really stood out to me as a young duo that had a good grasp of what they wanted to achieve musically. Taking their respective middle names to form their band name, singer and instrumentalist Greta Carol and bandmate, and synthesiser player Nick Delap of Egyptian Hip Hop fame has just released their debut E.P. Poppy with B-side Spell On You through independent label SWAYS records, premiered on Dummy and they have been recording material for a future album release. If you are not familiar with Bernard + Edith’s atmospheric, ambiguous electronic musical creations then have a listen to Poppy below. My personal favourite is Eyes on You which really showcases Greta’s forthright, unconventional, and heavily jazz-influenced vocals. All of which makes a heady, captivating combination. Listen to debut single Poppy, eerie metallic synth beats and sultry, heady vocals included:

Their live musical set up is a real team work effort with Greta on vocals and pedals for reverb. She also plays the theremin. Nick is at the healm of the synthesiser and plays drums through a sampler, and of course there is Greta’s powerful vocals and stage persona. Both Greta and Nick are completely in the moment of their performances, and I tried to capture Greta’s artistic and commanding stage presence.

Bernard + Edith next perform at Birthdays in Dalston, London, on May 9th 2014. Click here to hear more of Bernard + Edith’s tracks.

Careless Sons

Careless Sons. With thanks to the band for the use of this image.

Careless Sons. With thanks to the band for the use of this image.

You cannot beat a fresh slice of melody-driven rock pop sensibility in your contemporary music collection, which is the route this next ensemble pick well and truly go down.

Careless Sons are a 4 piece pop ‘n’ roll band, who formed in London in 2013, having met across university and music college.  The band hail from both Cambridge and Manchester, which allows them to graduate in to the Manchester ‘new kids on the block’  gang. It is in fact drummer Ric Cryne, who is the Manchester lad of the band, providing the backbone of the band’s rock-pop beats. Fellow band mates are Dickon Collinson on Guitar/Vox, Rob D’Ath Guitar/Vox and Ben Donnelly on Bass/Vox., and together they form the four piece that is Careless Sons. The band have just released their debut single Rosary with B-side G.B.H. and we are currently touring following the single launch party.

Careless Sons is a great name for the band in the sense that it captures the enjoyment they clearly have in performing their music in a care-free, youthful, rock ‘n’ roll manner. This certainly comes across in the clean cut rhythms and melody driven edge of both Rosary and G.B.H; clear indie influences infused with their pop rock sound. There’s something about Careless Sons that reminds me of alternative Britpop rock band Ash as a band that also injected their pop sound with a harder edge. Plus, I cannot help but pinpoint a similarity in the clear cut vocal delivery. Finally, it has to be that like Ash there is something about Careless Sons that epitomises a refreshing pop-rock sound. Check out the video for Rosary below and hear B-side G.B.H via the band’s soundcloud page here.

Careless Sons had their debut a launch gig at The Garage,  Highbury & Islington, London on Friday 28th February, and will next be performing on 7th June in London, with a single launch and will be returning to Manchester in October. Visit @CarelessSons for more information on upcoming performances.

Race to the Sea

Race to the Sea. The use of this image is solely for the purpose of this blog post. With thanks to Dan Peacock for its use.

Race to the Sea. The use of this image is solely for the purpose of this blog post. With thanks to Dan Peacock for its use.

 Race to the Sea is the musical project of Manchester-based songwriter and instrumentalist Dan Peacock.

Originally part of an intial band under the same name back in 2008 Dan took off on a trip across the world following their split, unwittingly collecting material to inspire his next musical project; the new Race to the Sea.

What came to existence was the production of compositions that are both abstract and deeply personal, a marriage of both lyrics and melodies crafted from half-remembered images: memories of the sea, the desert, the forest and the mountains. Dan’s material stands out even more in his production through which he adds heavy layers to the raw material, further enhancing the atmospheric nature of the music with breathy, soulful vocals, textured guitars, synths and percussion. All of this is packaged in to debut four track self-titled E.P. that is available to purchase now. Listen to the stunningly atmospheric Hourglass below:

A second favourite of mine is the E.P’s second track Kingdom Come which has a light melodic momentum that just oozes elegance. Dan promotes his live show as ranging from the inclusion of stripped-back acoustic guitar versions, to looped and effected orchestrations, and, more recently, the inclusion of full live percussion and bass.

Dan was busy touring in 2013 supporting the likes of Badly Drawn Boy, The Magic Numbers, and had a sold-out E.P. launch at The Castle. You can next hear Race to the Sea at the Klondyke Club in Levenshulme on 8th May.

Naked (On Drugs)

Naked (On Drugs). The use of this image is solely for the purpose of this blog post. With thanks to http://www.brainwashonline.co.uk/swaysrecords for its use.

Naked (On Drugs). The use of this image is solely for the purpose of this blog post. With thanks to http://www.brainwashonline.co.uk/swaysrecords for its use.

After recently hearing a track titled Lee Ann’s Skin I was completely enthralled by the combination of almost menacing baritone vocals, 60s guitar rock, European folk influences, and heavy instrumental distortion with noise punk influences, unsurprinsgly creating these sounds from instruments crafted from wood and razor wire. I had a good feeling even then, the mix of electric and acoustic classical and handcrafted instruments into contemporary pieces is enthralling. It is no surprise that the unique duo who produced this heavy eclectic mix were picked up on the NME ‘bands to watch’ radar.

Another SWAYs records signing, the founding duo are french lead-singer songwriter Sébastien Perrin and guitarist Luke Byron Scott, originally from Milton Keynes. Little is known about how the pair met but regardless of this what we do know is that they soon struck up a friendship that revolved around a shared love of William Burroughs and the musical avant-garde, and it wasn’t long before Sébastien had moved to Salford, with the duo performing under the name of Naked (On Drugs). The now Manchester-based pair have been releasing demos and performing live in alternating guises, just to keep us on our toes. Going by their Naked (On Drugs) title or sometimes stripping themselves back down to Naked. One thing they do maintain regardless of any guise is that they always expose themselves with non-cha-lance — n. the trait of remaining calm and seeming not to care; a casual lack of concern. The pair have since grown for now form the current quartet line up with the addition to two new members Dave McClean and Dave White, a fifth member is also noted on their social media- Alecs Pierce. All we know is that this is one of Manchester’s most intriguing musical collective that certainly should not be pigeonholed, something they make quite clear to stress in interviews, with bold opinions that are backed up by their distinctive musical creativity. Have a listen to Lee Ann’s Skin below, which is available to purchase via the following link, along with B-side Araki Dinosaurs.

Naked On Drugs will be performing at ‘Back to the Kitchen-3rd Annual Record Store Day at the Soup Kitchen today, 1.00-10.15pm. They are fourth on the roster so do catch them if you get the chance! If you can’t get to the event today then you will be pleased to know that they will also be performing at this year’s Beacon’s festival, Thursday 7th– Sunday 10th August 2014.

Visit @McrCultureShow for updates on upcoming gigs from all of the artists featured above.

Written by Hannah Bayley for @McrCultureShow