Songs of Praise, Swindon – My 12 favourite gigs of 2016 – part 2 (by Dave Franklin)

14939458_1559888457371002_5875406412455867816_oThe second instalment of the yearly live pick

Piano Wire, Dead Royalties and Sea Mammal – 29th September @ The Victoria

If the summer was a bit lean, our autumn dance card was deliberately aiming for some bigger names. Piano Wire is half of what used to be Eighties Matchbox B-line Disaster and revel in the same mix of incendiary, post-punkery, razor wire riffs and dark melodies.

Dead Royalties, a band who go back to our days of running a music label never disappoint, a mix of grunge, math and melody and Sea Mammal were their usual cavernous art-noise selves.

 The Groundhogs, The Harlers and Kikamora – 7th October @ Level III

This version of The Groundhogs may only contain one original member in the guise of drummer Ken Pustelnik, but it is no mere pastiche or rose tinted tribute. This is a band that proves that rock and roll isn’t just a young man’s game as they deliver psyched out blues that if you got too close might very well melt your face.

Local blues duo The Harlers sound had got even bigger than last time we worked with them and Bristol’s Kikamora did a neat line in classic rock meets grungy melodies with a surprise, sax driven, sleazy R’n’B finish.

 Non Canon and Sad Song Co – 23rd October @ Baila Coffee and Vinyl

Baila Coffee and Vinyl proved to be a great little venue in the short time they indulged our musical machinations. We’d booked Non Canon, the new musical vehicle for Oxygen Thief’s Barry Dolan and were amazed and overwhelmed when he said he would bring along the act he was currently supporting on tour with him.

Away from the more driven and raw vibes of his previous formats, Barry as Non Canon is a wonderfully sublime mix of chilled poignancy, and thoughtful reflection that both subverted expectations you may have from previous musical encounters with him and yet sounded like he’s been doing this all of his life.

Sad Song Co. is the musical sideline of Nigel Powell, normally found drumming for Frank Turner and Dive Dive. Here switching between plaintive piano and deft, minimal guitar with just a bass alongside him, Sad Song Co play with strange structures, pin-drop atmospherics and slightly proggy modus operandi.

 Nick Harper and Burbank – 27th October @ Baila Coffee and Vinyl

 There is nothing like experiencing Nick Harper up close and personal, so to watch him play to 35 people in a coffee shop was nothing short of awesome. Wonderful interludes and rambling anecdotes connected songs that warped normal musical templates, that subtly and sometimes not so subtly jumped generic boundaries and that was best described as having the ability to do things with his guitar that would have Segovia weeping into his Rioja.

Burbank opened the night with a selection of sublime and delicate songs that belied their young age.

Avon, Rewire The Time Machine and Phoxjaw – 3rd November @ The Victoria

 They say that you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but when they are as charming and friendly to work with as Alfredo Hernandez then I’d say, do it. The one time Kyuss and Queens of The Stone Age drummer was in the country with Avon and we were pretty excited to bag a date. Desert blues, grunge, alt-rock all go into the mix and what an amazing performance they put on.

And in the perfect “if you like that you’ll like this” line up both Rewire The Time Machine and Phoxjaw were the perfect warm up material on this fantastic night.

 Johnny Foreigner, Misfires and Cupcake Diaz and The Felt Tip Pens – 24th November @ The Victoria

 Describing Johnny Foreigner takes some doing. Punk, indie, pop, noise, warped deliveries, melody and mayhem are all in there somewhere in ever changing quantities but the overall affect is always tantalising and unique.

Local indie kids Misfires played a blinder of accessible Arctic Monkeys melody meets warped psychedelia and the brilliantly named Cupcake Diaz and The Felt-Tip Pens where their usual fantastic punky-grungy-rocky-pop musical art attack.

I could go on, I could mention the likes of Grant Sharkey’s bass-rants, Franc Cinelli’s panoramic travelogues, the madness that is Diagonal People, The Vim Dicta, Vienna Ditto, Port Erin, Los and The Deadlines, The Bohos, Empire and much more besides. I guess it is a testament to the support of Swindon’s gig going community that this 12 of the best could have easily have been 20 or even 30 of the best. Here is to 2017 being another great year for original music.

 

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Non Canon debut album and tour

non-canon-1-credit-jack-lilleyXtra Mile Recordings will release the self-titled album by Non Canon, another side of Barry Dolan AKA Oxygen Thief. It is out on 28 October 2016 on vinyl, CD and download, pre-order links are below. 

Non Canon exists apart from the story we know and love. A concurrent storyline, a different perspective, the world we experience through someone else’s eyes; familiar but insightful for its new dimension.

In another life entirely, Non Canon gathers maelstroms of guitar noise and feeds them with caustic, yelled, (a)stringent sentences, calling himself Oxygen Thief. Having spent ten years deftly swerving expectation at every measure as Oxygen Thief, Non Canon turns things on their head again. He threads cello where there may have once been feedback, places a third chord where two key changes could have lain, and repeats a chorus line where a scream may have broken the silence instead. He’s returned to his acoustic beginning, that’s true, but he’s torn that up and refused to retain his previous self-taught lessons.

‘Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye’ sets out the manifesto: “I’m afraid of sad songs, afraid of what they’ll do…so I made a firm decision that I’d hardly ever listen and I’d never sing them to myself or you.” But we’re through the looking glass, and what he’s afraid of is now what drives him. As if in defiance of the sad song, fiddles create eddies through repeatedly chiming guitar, a cello building underneath for maximum undertow. ‘Eponymous’ sticks flags in this untouched territory, boldly declaring “I’ve got reservations, I’m not sure I’ll get away with this, I’ve got no expectations, I’m not sure my heart is even in this” – we couldn’t be further from the bold, antisocial thrash of his other self. Deliberating on a blank book alongside a collection of prolific authors (‘A Study in Emerald’), daydreaming about him and his wife meeting  younger (‘Crayola’), and memorised reality versus physical and mental regeneration (‘Memory Beta’), Non Canon charms a narrative and converses with considered wordplay.

“It started as a little challenge to myself to see if I could write something other than the loud riffy stuff I’ve always done with Oxygen Thief and previous bands I was in,” says Barry. “It’s kind of snowballed from there really – I never really expected it to be anything other than a bunch of songs I could look at with a sense of achievement at finishing, and then I’d get on with the next OT record.” Having received support from close friends, his wife and Xtra Mile, he set about recording in February 2016 with some of the songs done at home and some in OneCat Studio in Brixton. All the strings, piano and drums were written on an iPad before being sent to musicians to learn and play on recordings. Chris T-T’s piano playing stand out on ‘Bad Twin’, while Ben Marwood and Charlie Barnes (a touring member of Bastille) contributed backing vocals, along with Gareth from My First Tooth playing drums, and the guitarist from Barry’s first ever band playing violin and viola.

Non Canon is a new story, but it’s a story of its own, one that we will soon know and love with its own history, character and setting.  

Tour dates – more to be confirmed:

October
 17th Firebug, Leicester w/Sad Song Co
18th The Maypole, Derby w/Chris T-T & Sad Song Co
19th The Monarch, Camden w/Sad Song Co
20th Old Road, Chippenham w/Sad Song Co
22nd Star & Garter, Manchester w/Sad Song Co
23rd Baila Coffee & Vinyl, Swindon (early show)
23rd Stag & Hounds, Bristol w/Sad Song Co
24th Tooting Tram & Social, Tooting w/Ben Marwood
27th Frog & Fiddle, Cheltenham w/Chris T-T
28th Regather, Lamplight Theatre w/Chris T-T
30th Bodega, Nottingham w/Chris T-T
31st The Nest, Bath w/Chris T-T

 

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