Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Single Review : Nikoli; Take It & Go and She Asks Me

There is so much pop in the world; put whatever tag you want in front of it, Cheesy, Electro, Indie, we love it and it is a fundamental part of listening pleasure.

Nikoli are not ashamed of their pop nature, and nor should they be. Producing good catchy tunes is no crime, and Take It & Go and She Asks Me have you singing along on the second play.

Tiers of sound move in and out, bringing to the fore vocals, drums, guitars and piano. As ‘She Asks Me’ commences a strong bass pulls out of the stereo and slaps on to the floor to hold you physically to the lulling guitar and vocal harmonies. The sound rolls around, as if you are being pushed amongst the band, journeying with them through the song.

This single release is a pre-cursor to an album and the band intend to build on the sound that they are showcasing here. I would like to hear this developed in to an album, to hear the strong production values employed across a full hour and to see where they can take it. The quality of writing could create an album that takes pop away from the dire precedents set by bands like Keane and develops the band’s sound through the full duration of the album.


Take It & Go/She Asks Me are available from Nikoli's label East Park Records

This review was written for and published by Tasty Fanzine.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Gig Review : Various Sources; Downdime+DJ Baboon+Delores

Whatever you are ‘in to’ there is the danger of becoming isolated, be it music, art, theatre or any of their seemingly infinite sub-genres. Absorbed and comfortable it is easy to box ourselves in to that which comes easiest to us. Yet this cuts off huge swathes of culture, which can illuminate and expand our horizons in unexpected ways. An approach that embraces eclecticism, experimentation and an open-mind is surely the legacy that the late and great John Peel has left us. I still don’t know how one man could possibly have liked such a diverse range of music, certainly at times the extent of his eclecticism would drive me mad, but as a listener to his radio show, you would have music opened up to you. Butting Hip Hop next to Prog Rock allowed for the underbelly of British music to be slashed open on national radio. There is a huge void left by the departure of this prodigious man and is not one to be underestimated.

On Sunday night, in blithe ignorance as to the card history was about to deal, a beacon was lit towards pushing forward, on a local level, what John Peel started over 45 years ago; a platform for blending musical genres and showcasing new talent.

Various Sources is the brain-child of Paula Hughes. Sunday saw the launch of her independent label, Arctic Circle Records, and featured sets from Downdime, DJ Baboon and Delores. This is the start of a series of nights that juxtaposes the different styles and approaches to music making that are emanating from Leeds.

Downdime, a raucous four piece, tread a musical path that is more common north of the border. They have an enveloping sound created through catchy bass-lines and twinkling melodies, which brings them in line with the sound of Sons and Daughters and The Fiery Furnaces. They have the imagination and ability to push their music much further, and will doubtless retain the amiable nature they possess both on and off stage.

A fiery and imaginative set pursues the funky and soulful sounds of DJ Baboon. Rhythmically tight, the intelligent approach of Delores throws up questions of what we expect from a band with a single vocalist. Operating almost as separate entities there seems to be little cohesion between vocals and band, as the male contingent push through a number of instrumental tracks as the set draws to a close. But Fuzzy’s vocals stay with you beyond this and the promise of her voice aligned more closely to the musical driving force is an exciting prospect.

Various Sources is here to champion these differing approaches to a wider audience, experimenting with the raw materials that already exist in Leeds, and hopefully being one of the many fragments of a wider movement, which embraces eclecticism and diversity.


Various Sources took place at the Brudenell Social Club on Sunday 24th October and featured Downdime, DJ Baboon and Delores

This review was written for and published by Tasty Fanzine.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Art Review : Liverpool Biennale

"Liverpool’s most pretentious art gallery – it doesn’t even have any art in it!"

If you don’t make it to the Biennale you might read this to gain an insight in to the work that you won’t get to see. I saw a lot of art the day I visited, exhausted by the time I collapsed on to the train amongst a days worth of East to West detritus, so how can I represent all of that to you, the reader? The ability of the press to canonise the here and now is often overlooked, but Liverpool based arts organisation, Static, have built on their ongoing work with the Static Pamphlet and decided to establish the Press Corps. Frustrated by the way previous press coverage of the Biennale has neglected the contribution of the Independents sector they have turned their vast space in to itself, simply laying on some luxuries for the press; free tea and coffee, wireless internet, sofas, fax machine. As a member of the public you may enter the viewing gallery only, to observe, but at all times maintain the privacy of the press.

In questioning the role of the press within the art world, The Press Corps reveals and magnifies the role of the artist run organisation; the often suppressed political potential available to groups that work outside of the institutionalised system is amplified. And it piques your interest in what else is out there in this city; what goes on here that allows this group to have the nerve to show their building off so well, unsullied by art?

Approaching the ‘Independent District’ I start to feel like this is where it is all at, there are large groups of people spilling in to the road, sofa’s and tables laid out in front of warehouse doors, the Buddliea Building is an incredible warehouse that has so much foliage growing out of it that it looks like it needs a shave, then there is afoundation’s newly acquired bus shed and the expansive buildings just seem to go on forever. The shear ambition of scale is quite a challenge to the work inside. Not all of it lives up to it but there are some moments of genius and humour that sooth my art-wearied legs a little.

In the Flux show, Oliver East discovers a violent reaction from the cows he wants to read to on Stretham Common. Dryly documented in wall text and video, the simple narrative hooks you in with a great comic twist. Down the road at Jump Ship Rat’s well-received group show in the Blade Factory is Jacques Chaucat and his mad Rowland Emmett style kinetic sculptures. A larger than life car made out of what looks like the bin yard of a student house, moves and billows, lights up and makes a clatter in the entrance to the Factory. A comical introduction that doesn’t really prepare you for the depth of the political commentary explored upstairs in ‘Streets of Desire’, where vibrant music and colours contrast with grainy images of public floggings and violence, harrowing images of one human lashing out against another.

Nicky Magliulo’s ‘Elton John is a ****’ steals the New Contemporaries show, summing up all the 18-30 holidays, lads beach bonzana’s and Holiday Rep reality TV in approximately two minutes. Watching through the lens of a perched digital video camera we see a tanned and muscle bound man in his early twenties, oblivious to the surveillance he is under, he sprays himself with tanning oil and lies back to sing along to Elton John. Encapsulating and amusingly poignant.

Upstairs, David Rowland doesn’t mince his titles as he declares ‘Bill Viola is Rubbish’. His direct approach, through a technically competent short video, involves him walking around himself in a back garden. I’d like to suggest that this kind of work is the reason why I enjoyed my trip, and why I prioritised the Independent sector over the plethora of art on offer. It is also why Static can leave out the art in order to bring the art to the forefront. It gives us room to think and then we have room to laugh.

for more information see :
Liverpool Biennale
Press Corps
Jump Ship Rat

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Exhibition : Joe's Basement

The inaugural exhibition from Monitor, a new Leeds based artist-led organisation, was on Saturday 9th October.

Taking place, quite literally in the basement of a rented student house, in the heart of Headingley where 60% of the population are students, the exhibition featured work from members of the Monitor committee.

I developed work previously shown as personal sound pieces, and re-contextualising them for the domestic environment of the rented home, where tenants pass through year after year, leaving traces of their existence behind them as they move on and in to the history of the building.

'Poplar Court', a fictional narrative told from the point of view of a small child in a suburban bedroom whose imagination runs wild as the kitchen comes crashing through the floor, played out of the bowels of the washing machine.

The classic wardrobe, one that exists in nearly every rented house or flat, sits partially empty in the corner of the room, the door is slightly ajar, allowing an unidentifiable but particularly disturbing sound to escape. The recording, of rats, evokes uncomofortable feelings in the viewer, who is unsure as to where the sound is coming from.

image to follow soon.

For more information on Monitor visit

Monday, October 04, 2004

Gig Review : I Like Trains + Nikoli + Vib Gyor

‘Liverpool Will Forget You’; the words flickered up on a small projection screen at the back of the stage, merging through a faint super 8 film, re-enforcing an already catchy chorus. I Like Trains crowd on to the small stage, presenting a look somewhere between The Libertines and Franz Ferdinand that seems a bit at odds with being squashed in to The Royal Park Cellars. The lyrics continue to be re-iterated by the fifth band member, who stands with his back to the audience, alternating between slide and film projectors and trumpet. It’s a bit distracting to their sound, which is further complicated by a vast array of bizarre twists, such as the melodica and violin bow on electric guitar.

I Like Trains seem to understand each other as a band, but they are still new to the gig circuit and as such they are building their confidence. An array of technical problems left them a bit shaky and rubbed the edges off their grooming, I liked it. It broke down the superficialities and gave an insight in to where this band could go with a bit less image anxiety and more conviction in the music.

Nikoli, a band with a consistent reputation and a dedication to their music, launch in to their set with strong drums and keyboard. As they move through ‘Always’ and ‘Resigned’ the vocals are reminiscent of the Smashing Pumpkins, pushing confident songs in which all members seem to take ownership. Four way vocal harmonies set off the melodies and bring depth to the acoustic rendition of ‘Locked Out’.

In ‘She asks me’ the song breaks down and gives a moment of clarity within the music that is perhaps lacking through the set as a whole. It is hard to hear the layers of the individual instruments, and leaves an impression of there not being enough definition. A highly competent four piece, they could allow the individual instruments to take their own directions, lowering the overall density of sound and making for a more coherent whole.

Vib Gyor are a band that fit in well with the current climate of melody led song writing. Sitting alongside the likes of Razorlight and Interpol, the passion of the band is certainly of equal measure to these Indie stalwarts but whether the tunes themselves would hook you within a wider arena is hard to say.

‘Church Bell’ leads in with poise through the drums and a lucid build up. There is a clear direction that has been adopted by each instrument and this gives a strong overall impression. The harmonic riff of ‘Faun’ holds throughout the song and makes you believe in them as band and convinces me that they believe in themselves enough to tweak these catchy and well rounded songs in to something pretty special.


I Like Trains, Nikoli and Vib Gyor played at the Royal Park Cellars, Leeds, Saturday 2nd October

This review was written for and published by Tasty Fanzine.