Archive | April, 2017

Michael Rother – Nottingham Rescue Rooms (April 25, 2017)

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Michael Rother – Nottingham Rescue Rooms (April 25, 2017)

Posted on 27 April 2017 by John Haylock

Together with the late Klaus Dinger ( 1946-2008 ), Michael Rother was one half of one of the most influential German rock groups Neu!.

I use the words rock and group in their loosest most flexible definition. Guitars and drums were involved but used in such a way as to severely undermine the strict confines of normality and indeed the listeners’ reality.

Prior to this Michael Rother and Dinger were briefly members of a formative Kraftwerk, that’s one hell of a CV… and it’s only 1974.

Michael Rother

Michael Rother

Under the guise of Neu! the duo utilised primitive electronica and studio experimentation to create puzzling and often exhilarating vistas of new sound. Together with fellow German musicians Can, these intrepid explorers put a landmine under pop and created a new uneasy listening. Their combined influential shadow still looms over much of contemporary music – a remarkable unintended consequence of music created over four decades ago.

Post Neu! Michael also involved himself with equally adventurous fellows, Harmonia, Cluster Brian Eno and Conny Plank and since then a regular feed of solo works, reflecting a more melodic side and latterly many eagerly consumed tour dates – one of which was at the fabulous Greenman Festival last August. His set there proved to be a belter. I should know, half my brain is still there.

Hence the anticipation levels on seeing him again were rather high. Certainly not looking his advanced years Rother is a self-effacing, grinning presence behind his silver laptop, commanding proceedings with  precision, his trademark treated guitar soaring above pulsating, pre-generated programmed rhythms.

The band comprise of an additional guitarist, the youngster of the trio, Franz Bargmann, and a most amazing drummer, Hanse Lampe, whose stamina and sheer devotion to the beating heart of this music is mesmeric. When they all kick in you can’t help but be swallowed up by the hypnotic swathes of joyous beats, especially when synced to the grainy multi-coloured slightly surreal imagery on the back projection.

In a ninety minute all instrumental set they rarely slowed down the pace. It was all busy busy.

Standouts were Watussi from the first Harmonia album and Flammende herzen from his debut solo album in 1977 , which Michael explained was only the second time they had played this one live.

Of course no one would have let him out of the building unless he played the two classic Neu! tracks Hallogallo and the incredible Negativland,which were duly nailed to perfection. Those motorik beats just pummeled the senses into submission. At one point ,after a particularly strenuous guitar solo, Rother screams ‘I’ve got blisters on my fingers’!

An absolutely tremendous evening of electronica from a visionary musician.

by John Haylock


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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition 2017 Finals

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition 2017 Finals

Posted on 25 April 2017 by Joe

Each year at the live finals for the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition particular themes emerge, which give a good indicator into the current thinking of festival bookers and music journalists.

At last year’s event attitude proved the winning theme, with She Drew the Gun’s ability to speak to a generation of young people earning the top prize, of a £5,000 PRS Foundation talent development grant and a main stage slot.

The previous year it was melody that shone through, being delivered by teenager Declan McKenna, whose track Brazil has arguably never been bettered in the competition’s history for sheer pop savvyness. Within months he was signed by Columbia and will be appearing at this year’s festival, for the third time in his fledgling career.

This year it was all about singing talent with all eight acts showcasing top vocal gymnastics.

Josh Barry

Josh Barry

In the end the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition judges, including Michael and Emily Eavis, Glastonbury stage bookers and music business professionals, went for the act with the biggest voice of them all, Josh Barry, a soul singer from London who has been a stalwart of the underground dance scene for a number of years and once even auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent.

His was an incredibly passionate live performance and on a night of tonsil based excellence his victory was inevitable. He will own whichever main stage he is allocated and make good use of his £5,000 PRS prize.

Young Yizzy

Young Yizzy

In terms of unearthing original talent,  Young Yizzy and Flohio were worthy runners up. These London based young MCs are already gathering critical acclaim and the teenage Young Yizzy is one of the UK’s emerging grime stars. He was a close second to Barry in terms of working a crowd, with a stage invasion at the end of his two track set a highlight of the night.

Flohio oozed star appeal and like She Drew the Gun, took the mantle of spokesperson for a generation. As a website focused mainly on indie and alternative guitar music the charismatic Flohio took me out of my comfort zone and I loved every minute of it.



Both Flohio and Young Yizzy scooped £2,500 PRS Foundation grants to help further their careers, which on this evidence, will go from strength to strength.

It sounds patronising and clichéd to say that all eight finalists; also including Lucas & King, Lilith Ai, Silences, WOWH and TYNI, were winners. But as all gain a slot somewhere on the festival bill and have garnered some excellent publicity from reaching the last eight, they have in no way lost out.

As a long list judge for the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition, and regular attendee at these finals, I’m looking forward to the next emerging theme. Although I’ll have to wait two years, as the festival takes a year’s break next year to let the grass at Worthy Farm recover.

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper

For more information about the competition and live final click here.

Visit our Facebook page to see more pictures from the live final.


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Tallinn Music Week 2017 Review


Tallinn Music Week 2017 Review

Posted on 21 April 2017 by Marc Argent

Earlier this month we dropped by  Tallinn Music Week, the annual event held in venues across the Estonian capital. Here we showcase some of the standout acts and other highlights from this annual event, which is now in its ninth year.

The Standout Acts



Latvian power strings quartet Dagamba topped the bill in the Old Town Cinema on Saturday night, during Tallinn Music Week. Taking to the stage several minutes late during an impeccably precise festival, the band cranked up the anticipation and feverish excitement in the audience, before blasting straight into their unique take on classical and contemporary music.


Performing tracks like Prokofiev the Knightrider and a gloriously energised version of the Game Of Thrones theme, Dagamba proved again how to win over new fans and delight existing ones.

Albert af Ekenstam

From hardcore rock bands to instrumental groups and writing songs for others performers Albert af Eckenstam has finally found his rightful place in the music industry. Performing his melancholic songs in a warmup solo performance at Apollo bookstore during Tallinn Music Week, Albert had the support of a full band for his evening show.

Albert Af Ekenstam

Both sets wonderfully showcased his beautifully crafted lyrics, and heartfelt vocals as he continues to build on the deserved success of debut album Ashes.

Erki Pärnoja

Estonia’s very own Erki Pärnoja quite rightly performed more times than anyone else than we cared to notice at this year’s Tallinn Music Week. We managed to catch two of his enthralling instrumental shows which showcased his new LP Efterglow. Erki’s band brought the magic of Efterglow to life on the stage, with it’s undulating soundscapes that sound like the soundtrack to an Estonian Western movie.


If you’ve ever wondered what a Mogwai, Fleet Foxes and Other Lives supergroup might sound like, then Erki Pärnoja might just be your cup of tea.


Norwegian singer and activist Moddi performed songs from his latest album ‘Unsongs’, which is an exploration of banned songs from around the world. Your first instinct would be to think this is restricted to oppressive regimes, but this is not always the case.


For example, among his set was a beautiful interpretation of Kate Bush’s Army Dreamers, which was banned by the BBC in 1991 as it was considered inappropriate during the original Gulf War. His final song Oh My Father, I am Joseph was the exception, although brought to court three times for blasphemy, courts in Lebanon cleared the original performer each time. The story and song brought some in the crowd to tears.

Other highlights


Mick Pedaja

They say music is special when it takes you to another place. Be it a beautiful summer day or the Mongolian steppe. Mick Pedaja is something different. Songs like Valgeks seem to channel the voice of mother earth herself. His music gives the forests, lakes, bogs and seas a musical voice. When we caught him at Tallinn Music Week his voice was truly breath taking.


From the beautiful setting of the Russian Theatre we were blessed to listen to Finnish instrumental group Barlast. In parts it felt like we were at a grand 18th century dance in keeping with the setting. In others such as song Cs-137 we descended to a much darker place more in keeping with a Scorsese thriller.

Úlfur Úlfur

The Adidas clad Icelandic rap duo certainly know how to engage an audience that has no idea what they are saying and can barely see them.

On performing in the botanical gardens palm tree greenhouse they said “It was very moisty. We couldn’t see the crowd. It felt like we were performing to the trees.”


Flamingods are the musical equivalent of the children’s show the magic roundabout. Not only do the exceptionally talented musicians move around the stage swapping instruments with each other (even mid song). Their music and presence gives off that psychedelic 70’s Woodstock vibe.


Special Mentions


Siv Jakobsen

Norwegian singer songwriter Siv Jakobsen’s beautifully crafted melancholic songs are like a loving hug for the soul. Her and pianist Einar’s obsession with Britney Spears provided a touch of fun to proceedings too.


Tcheka is one of those artists whose music makes the sun shine and brings warmth even on the coldest of days. With snow and sub-zero temperatures outside he was certainly in the right place.

The Notes

Imagine the trio of embarrassing young reprobrates from Channel 4’s Inbetweeners with musical talent and you would be 90% of the way to describing Estonian three-piece group The Notes. Their perfect harmonies and catchy melodies are noteworthy indeed.


A special mention also goes to Abirdwhale (AKA Masato Kakinoki) from Japan. His self made system for creating one-off improvised audiovisual performances might just be one of the most memorable live shows of the entire week

Words by Marc Argent and Mark Taylor.  All photos courtesy of Reti Kokk photography and Tallinn Music Week


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Happyness – Write In


Happyness – Write In

Posted on 05 April 2017 by Joe

Happyness’ 2013 debut Weird Little Birthday was a perfect collection of 1990s US indie rock inspired tracks, that garnered a 9/10 review from this website.

It’s taken four years to release the follow up and since then they have expanded their palette, beyond their staple influence of the US College Rock scene, to take in the 1970s, with a few nods to Big Star, and 1960s psychedelia in particular. There’s also a softer, more relaxed tone in the main to this new collection.


To add to the musical points of reference further, if Weird Little Birthday is akin to Teenage Fanclub’s distorted melodic debut A Catholic Education, this sounds more like Grand Prix.

This is particularly the case on openers Falling Down and The Reel Starts Again (Man as Ostrich), which wouldn’t be out of place on those glorious early 90s Teenage Fanclub albums.

By Through Windows and Uptrend_Style Raids though they’ve dipped further back in time to the 1960s, with this pair of Beatles-esque psychedelic numbers.

They then bask in the glow of the US indie scene one again, with the Dinosaur Jnr inspired Bigger Glass Less Full.

In many ways this is a typical second album, with elements of a stunning debut coupled with signs of a band wanting to go in new directions.

As a result, while all tracks are enjoyable, it feels uneven as it darts across the decades and influences, like a bridge between two albums rather than an end product in its own right.

Write In, which was recorded in their own studio for £500, also lacks the killer hooks of Weird Little Birthday’s best, such as the butt kicking single Its On You

If they continue sticking to the form book, that say The Clash mastered – a killer debut, OK follow up then masterpiece –  then Happyness’ third album will be their London Calling.

For now though this second release offers a reminder of how good there were at the start and glimpses of how much better they are going to be.


by Joe Lepper


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