A rare pink meadow grasshopper was recently spotted in inner-city Salford by Dr Luke Blazejewski, an independent film-maker and urban wildlife specialist. I can only imagine the excitement he must have felt that day, knowing it’s discovery could be an important piece in understanding, documenting and protecting our environment. It gives us a fascinating insight into how, when left alone, a small ecosystem can be a breeding ground for life at it’s most magical and unique.
When I think about it, what Dr Luke and I do isn’t all that different. For the past 8 years, I’ve tried to document Manchester’s music scene, with it’s sprawling diversity, hidden secrets and ever-changing landscape. Undoubtedly a new name to most, Tom Hardwick-Allan is my latest find, every bit as beautiful as a rare pink grasshopper. From the early raw bedroom demo’s of ‘Li’ and ‘Unwritten Confession 2’, where Tom’s baritone vocal crackles and glows into near oblivion, to his more recent experiments with drone and industrial noise on ‘Cold Clear Sky’ and ‘When You Die I’ll Think Of You As The Sky’; it’s clear to me that there is something special at work here. Still only a teenager, and at times bringing to mind Dean Blunt at his most understated and emotive, these developing ideas are fragmented but undeniably affecting.
‘Snakes Fucking‘ is a bleak but darkly euphoric introduction to his world, with it’s chiming guitars and bellowing trombone, seemingly unsure of itself but unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Using google translate to dehumanise his voice, the unnatural patterns of speech are at odds with the track’s lyrical content, which reveal a painfully intimate cry for help. All too aware of it’s contradictory nature, it’s hard not to find yourself disappearing into Hardwick-Allan’s lonely post-modern depths with relative ease. The video only enhances this experience further, with it’s minimalist and clinical grey room, in stark contrast to the private self-reflection on offer. As the track progresses, a Pinocchio-esque long nose is revealed, perhaps hinting that the lines between the real and the unreal are often closer than you think.
Tom Hardwick-Allan releases debut EP ‘When Waiting’ in August via Tru Luv https://truluv.bandcamp.com/
Just when you are beginning to think the Manchester talent pool is close to filling up, another name emerges and blows everyone out of the water. With a sound reminiscent of King Krule… and perhaps even GREAT WAVES at their most melancholy, Shea Hickling aka Coasst is about to announce himself as a serious contender.
I Guess U Lied is driven by a haunting, singular sound.. his world weary voice radiating above a lonesome electric guitar and some sparse drum beats… before breaking out into something more funked up. Clearly still experimenting and by no means representative of his future, it’s hard not to get excited by this understated and dreamwoven noise.
Coasst plays Night & Day this Thursday evening. Doors 8pm. Might be a good idea to go…
The passing of time often goes by unnoticed; days become nights, weeks become years… we see the changes happening all around us and yet we try to convince ourselves we’re not really changing too. Before you know it, you find yourself looking at a face you don’t really recognise. Today is my Birthday, and I am looking into the mirror. My immediate reaction is one of repulsion, closely followed by fascination… love and finally, relief… because I’m still here, trying to be the best person I can be.
Willis Earl Beal is trying too. An artist who speaks with an unparalleled honesty, his music touches me on a very personal level. It’s hard not to relate to a man that has seemingly lived his life searching, creating… adapting. Beal’s story so far is almost mythological.. raised in Chicago, he joined the army and was discharged, worked a succession of low-paid jobs… even spending some time homeless. He left self-illustrated flyers around town in the hope of finding a girlfriend. He auditioned for the X Factor (dropping out at boot-camp) before being signed by XL imprint Hot Charity… releasing two albums, Acousmatic Sorcery and Nobody Knows to critical acclaim. The fame that followed seemed to have a negative effect and acknowledging this, Beal retreated back into his art (and loneliness) to write his latest work; the self-produced and released Experiments In Time. This 21 track collection of lo-fi recordings breathes new life into Beal’s soulful voice, which at times echoes the warm tones of Nat King Cole. A tender vulnerability is found throughout the album, and as such makes it emphatically and heart-breakingly relatable.
I’ve admittedly been feeling fairly uninspired lately, and in turn my writing… and love of music has suffered. It often takes a special kind of band to bring me out of this spell, and I’m happy to say Faenimal Arm were able to do it. Based in Helsinki, this electronica duo consisting of Mia Ojapalo and Emil Järnefelt remind me a little of Manchester’s Bernard & Edith; experimental electronica but retaining a pop sensibility within their sound. Début track Industrial Sex (released via Vild Recordings) has this hypnotic and sensual rhythm that playfully dances around Emil’s shoegazer vocals. The video, created by artist Nick Tulinen, mirrors the feeling the song creates beautifully…
Chicago’s Keiya is the kind of artist I get very excited about… her latest self-produced tracks are beautiful cuts of contemporary R&B with smooth harmonies and hazy beats. Typical manages to combine hip hop influenced electronic dub, reminiscent at times of Hype Williams, with the sweet soul in Keiya’s yearning vocal. The chorus has a raw, playful energy that would translate well to the dance floor. In contrast, the late night melodies found on Maybe highlight her sensuality. Wrapped up in a dark and lush atmosphere, Maybe is an infectious and seductive track made strictly for the bedroom.
Having performed live in various guises these past few years, multi-instrumentalist GHR Leeming seems to have been content to remain in the shadows. Perhaps Manchester wasn’t quite ready… but the musical landscape here is changing and the outsiders are starting to be heard.
As Wilderness Hymnal his sound is both immersive and apocalyptic. With elements of doom-laden post-rock and electronic experimentalism combining, stand-out track Phospher is teeming with tension and ambition. Galloping drums give it momentum within the clouds of drone; his baritone vocals holding the piece together, bellowing into a cold night sky.
Wilderness Hymnal plays Night & Day Cafe on August 27th
I might be going a bit soft of late, or perhaps just seeking out a non-pharmaceutical antidote to the thrust and bluster of modern life, but I’ve found myself increasingly drawn towards more tranquilizing sounds; textural exploratory ambiences, drumless lullabies.
As part of my daily treatment, I’ve self-prescribed Katzgraben – a duo of João Tiago and Ricardo Peixoto who find themselves perpetually disconnected in a geographical sense, except for around twice a year when they join together to create stirring, evocative sounds. Combining electronics with a natural flair for swells of guitar feedback, on a superficial level at least Katzgraben appear to pitch somewhere between Stars Of The Lid, Hermoine Harvestman and the more sedative side of Growing. The first of these artists in particular naturally gravitate towards night-time listening, whereas S9 seems more suited to daylight hours – an odd synaesthetic quality, these elegiac soundscapes are brought to life against a visual backdrop gently cast shadows and the natural breezy sway of fauna.
It’s music to soothe, but more importantly music which can reinvigorate one’s sense of the here and now.
Clarity is a rare and wonderful thing… when the fog parts from before your eyes to reveal an overwhelmingly clear vision. If like me, you’ve experienced depression, you’ll know just how difficult it can be to find it… every little negative thought compounds daily, making a light at the end of the tunnel seem so painfully out of reach. Music has always been a way of breaking that spell, certain voices and sounds together just seem to fill me with hope. I feel this way about Huh, the début song from QUALIATIK.
An experimental electronica project from Philadelphia’s Arielle Herman; it’s hard not to be excited.. her exquisite falsetto vocals seem to swirl around in melancholy before soaring away into another dimension, a rap chorus bursts the track into life, playful… restless, teeming with tension. As a demonstration of her ideas and ambition, Huh is a stunning statement of intent.
Dark to the point of being genuinely disturbing, the crushingly bleak witch beats of DMR aka Daria Ramone seep silkily into your soul, extracting all colour until all that remains is a strobing montage of monochrome ghostly detritus. Debut long-player The Falling Body follows on from a string of excellent EP’s which themselves are well worth exploring; this time out however something feels more taut, more focused.
There’s a sumptuous weighty density to Eleven, cold slow beats striking unholy accord with an articulate mesh of sustained gothic synth sounds. The key choral vocal lines sweeping the track to it’s all-too-soon denouement are devastatingly spooky – like the more melodic sections of James Cargill’s Berberian Sound Studio soundtrack turned up a few notches.
You’re not going to find any stock can-tricks here, it’s just pure unadultered sonic malevolence.
Hailing from Los Angeles, Whisper Kid is a diverse and experimental musical project fronted by Rhea Tepplim. Content to let the music do the talking Rhea maintains her distance; her SoundCloud profile lists no other band members or collaborators and provides no links to social media, websites or anything that might offer clues in solving the riddle.
The mystical and slow-burning, psych-infused Calliope builds on this enigmatic theme with its opening shroud of amplifier hiss, atmospheric slide guitar and buried lead vocals – it gives little away. There are hints of early Cat Power, The Velvet Underground and The Breeders, especially in the lush Kim Deal-esque vocal harmonies. It’s hypnotic and strikingly pretty, a raw recording brimming with spiritual leanings that rewards repeat listens – art for arts sake and that’s the purest kind there is.