Songs of Praise, Swindon – My 12 favourite gigs of 2016 – part 1 (by Dave Franklin)

12376559_918068144947598_1890568069506145317_nI don’t get to go to many gigs that I am not involved in promoting these days, but whilst I am always present in more of a work than a punter capacity, I still get to watch, work and hang out with some wonderful bands and a set of people who are imaginative, affable, mad, crazy, creative, visionary and unlike anyone you’d meet in normal walks of life. With that in mind I thought that I’d pick my top twelve gigs I have been part of this year.

Polar Front, Lionface and Honey Trap – 7th January @ The Victoria

Polar Front are the local success story of the last year from fledging steps towards a sassy melding of R&B grooves with shimmering indie-pop to becoming soundscaping leviathans. Not only do they build massive sonorous dreamscapes and towering sonic cathedral in Sophie Goldsworthy they have the voice to back it up.

Lionface have similar draw dropping qualities, twisted electronic pop, jagged guitars and brooding melodies and one of the most mesmerising performers you will ever witness fronting the musical package.

 Gaz Brookfield and Ben Wain, Nick Parker and George Wilding – 18th February @ The Victoria

 It’s always a fun night when Gaz and his right hand man Ben head back to the town of the formers, formative musical years. Now commanding massive audiences but somehow still able to deliver an honest, often poignant, sometimes just plain fun set that still feels intimate and accessible, that’s one hell of a trick.

Nick Parker is one of my favourite people from this strange musical world to spend time with and just as big a Waterboys fan as me. His set of quirky stories, kitchen sink narratives, and sing-along rhymes defy anyone not to join in.

Opening the night was George Wilding who may look like Nick Drakes drug dealer but whose command of gutter poetry, back street operas and strange urban mythologies are second to none….except Joseph Porter. (Oh, go look him up.)

 SNDubstation and The Hat Club – 18th March @ The Locomotive

 This one was so memorable not only for the class of the bands who both take reggae and ska and blend them into wonderful, euphoric and unique musical shapes but the fact that the venue, normally known for homing a smattering of speed addled, budget lager drinkers who try to ignore and find fault with whatever music was programed that week were invaded by a party crowd who proceed to blow the roof off the place.

 The Black Feathers, Jonny Payne and The Thunder and Phil Cooper – 7th April @ The Victoria

 Anyone who doesn’t like The Black Feathers can’t be my friend. I’m sorry, those are the rules and there is nothing I can do about it. As they wander country, soul and folk musical roads they manage to lay waste any competition via the sublime way their vocals harmonise. The song crafting is great and they have an amazing stage charisma, add to that the fact that they are thoroughly nice people to hang about with and the attraction isn’t hard to see.

Jonny Payne does a neat line in Americana – country, folk, soul and gospel all find their way into the mix and the fact that The Thunder who make up the rhythm section are also two thirds of The Black Hats, one of the first bands I put on in Swindon sparks a few nostalgic conversations.

No one does accessible, acoustic pop like Phil Cooper; imagine Neil Finn with an English accent…and a hat.

 White Lilac, Wasuremono and Neverlnd – 21st April @ The Victoria

 I grew up musically with all the independent labels of the post-punk era and this gig was like a journey back in time. Sadly White Lilac is no more, as far as I’m aware, but like Wasuremono before them they blend post-punk boundary pushing, pastoral dream-pop and shimmering shoegaze into interesting new forms. The headliners take a more raw-edged approach though tempered when needed by some haunting cello lines, their support pulling at more bucolic, and atmospheric strings and garnering strange sounds from an array of retro technology.

Opener Neverlnd take the more commercial approach but still manage to walk that difficult line between radio play and cult status.

 Don Gallardo and Luke Tuchscherer – 8th May @ The Beehive

 We don’t get to put on many gigs at The Beehive but when one of East Nashville’s finest comes looking for a show you beg, borrow or steal to make it happen. Thankfully it only took a phone call.

There is quite a market in this country at the moment for music labelled Roots, Americana, or even British Americana, but when the real thing comes to town you sit up and take notice. You know how the music score of shows like “Nashville” just sound different to anything we produce on this side of the water, well, that makes a good point of reference as some of that music for that show was supplied by Mr G.

That said Luke Tuchscherer is one of our own and not only did he play the perfect support he then jumped on the drums and backed up our colonial cousin.

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Unwelcome Wishes – White Lilac (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

12510400_576049639212542_8462750670706802299_n-1In a week when The UK’s newest and blokey-ist radio station, Radio X, ran a poll revealing that their punters probably stopped listening to music in 1997 and declaring 4 out of 5 of the top songs of all time were penned by the Gallagher brothers, it is refreshing to be writing about a band who some how manage to embrace a time well before the “lad rock” era as well as current musical trends.

 

Whilst White Lilac have a clear love of the post-punk early eighties and the shoegaze and dream-pop worlds of the early nineties, there is a lot more at work on their latest release, Unwelcome Wishes, than mere backward glances through rose-tinted eyewear. For me the centre piece of this handful of songs is I’m All Colours, a song that links kaleidoscopic, Summer of Love grooves with trippy Stone Roses vibes and modern underground pop and there is even time to tip a hat to The Jesus and Mary Chain and that is never a bad thing. Around this jewel they spread more subtle treasures, Swimming Under veers between Kate Bush atmospherics and Banshees style urgency, the start stop dynamic of Change of Face are great and the minimalist strains of Swallow act as the perfect swansong.

 

And in this age of conformity it is the blend of their less expected instrumentation, Cello and Saxophone, that really helps define their sound, the former delivering brooding, dark canvases on which they paint their songs, the latter providing sensual and soaring interludes as required.

 

Some will point to the production of the record being a slight disappointment, but White Lilac have always revelled in the cottage industry approach and I for one applaud it. It reminds me of a time when independent labels with no money did their best to polish gems as best they could, gems which went on to become, for example, The Cocteau Twins who in many ways are perfect reference for this band, and bands who held song writing, atmosphere, emotion and passion to be more important than how much money you could through at a studio boss.

 

There has recently been a movement back towards a 4AD referencing dreamscaping indie sound which has filtered down to the lore grass roots levels with bands such as Wyldest, Colour The Atlas and Polar Front all riding that gentle wave, but for my money it is White Lilac who seem to be the most interesting – non conformists, no label chasing, no product endorsements, no concessions to fickle fashions, just a blend of musical past with present and a far more interesting future ahead of them. Watch this space.

White Lilac at The Locomotive Swindon – 25th July ’15 (reviewed by Geoffrey Head)

11753745_1663230517242448_8272897022402729679_nDowntown Swindon on a Saturday night and the place is crackling with energy. The lads are wearing their Ralph Lauren polos and their designer jeans and the ladies are wearing, frankly, very little.

We’re gathered in The Locomotive for the latest in a series of original music gigs curated by  Songs of Praise. It’s a small and neat pub with a stage that covers a good half the available interior space, but when the 70’s disco lighting starts up, I realise that we’re actually looking at a huge dance floor…

The young guy standing next to me is, not putting it too finely, hammered. “What’s this band’s name, mate?” he asks. I tell him and he says “They any good?” I tell him that I think we’re about to find out, one way or another – and we certainly do.

The amount of people who have told me that I should be watching tonight’s headliners, White Lilac has reached such a level that I turn to Bristol music luminary Mustafa Mirreh of The Flux for his opinion and when he gives a resounding thumbs up, I’m there.

I do a few minutes’ YouTube research to familiarise myself with the style, but nothing, absolutely nothing, prepares you11219112_1663230680575765_6908029146545632346_n for the power of this band. And I don’t mean they’re loud – aided by an excellent sound tech, they’re only using sufficient volume to rise above the hubbub – they’re just forceful, the music simply hits you in a wave. Imagine the most coruscating parts of Abjects colliding head on with the most blissful parts of Light Falls Forward and you might be getting close.

The band is a four-piece, but the pretty constant swapping of instruments to produce different configurations and soundscapes is an impressive feature of the performance. The one fixed point though is drummer Tom Counihan, who unobtrusively lays down a wide variety of different beats through the night with great craft and subtlety – an essential anchor when a band plays a good chunk of its set without a bass player.

Much of the coverage the band has received centres around singer Faye Rogers glorious, soaring voice, which is much in evidence as they jump straight in with their latest single, the mesmerising “The Girl Who Stole The Eiffel Tower”. Clearly not a band to keep their powder dry. Rogers also plays very smooth sax and can more than handle her lush teardrop Vox.

11781783_1663230393909127_5818595597345483278_nIt’s clear after about one and a half tracks that this band has got something very special going for it, and a further recent effort, the breathtaking ‘Night Visions’, long and elegant, firmly reinforces this.

Much of this band’s elegance is produced by Emma Thornton’s cello, which has the dual role of providing a deeply melodic backdrop to some tracks while acting as a substitute bass on the tracks where two guitars are being used. She also switches over to bass for the more rocking tracks, of which there are several of differing degrees of violence, topped by the brutal ‘Dog Meat’, a three(ish) chord post-Punk thrash of immense power, with an instrument-free Rogers showing that not only does she do the Siren call but she can also growl one out as well – it’s my favourite of the night – it could strip paint at a hundred paces and produces a tremendous crowd reaction.

Guitarist Curtis Warner also comes right to the fore in this one, crashing out the chords to add to the bell-like clarity of11800291_1663230630575770_7235828207295542885_n his fine soloing during the evening, he also adds very fluent bass to a couple of tracks.

They do just under an hour, which goes very, very fast. I turn to the bloke next to me, who’s still, miraculously, standing and ask him what he thought. “They’re [expletive deleted] brilliant, mate – what are they called again?”

The band is called White Lilac and you’re going to be hearing a lot about them.

Outstanding.

 (images used by kind permission of Geoffrey Head)

Welcome to the dream world of White Lilac

10511341_482074355276738_7671521640346479499_nWhite Lilac has come a long way in a short space of time, not least musically. With Faye Rogers’s early solo work now a distant yet charming memory, the band that formed in that chapter of the story now help her head down a more mesmerizing path. I’m guessing that the moment you realise that the sound you have imagined in your head for so long is now achievable with the people that you have around you, must be the moment when anything seems possible.

First single, Night Visions, was a brilliant statement of intent and immediately disassociated the new band from Faye’s earlier work and saw them take up camp in a cinematic indie soundscape of mist and shadows, as much a modern, ambient gothic film score as a song in the mainstream sense.

And yet as if to prove that they hadn’t put all of their musical eggs into one basket, what followed was even more heart achingly beautiful. Working with a sound palette that roams between Joy Division’s angular melancholy and Cocteau Twins dreamscapes, The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower shows that even within those parameters they find plenty of room to create a truly unique sound.

A homage to Audrey Hepburn seems the perfect subject matter for the band, both lyrically and musically and the gradual phasing in of Faye’s saxophone is perfect here to create a sonorous Parisian vibe. Strings sweep, vocals swoon, beats act as occasional punctuation marks and guitar lines merely provide a bed for delicate atmospherics to lie down on.

If there is one band in Swindon today making a truly unique sound then it is White Lilac, the fact that it happens to be one of the most emotive and evocative you have ever heard is an added bonus.

New Music of the Day – LIII : The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower – White Lilac

10511341_482074355276738_7671521640346479499_nWhite Lilac have come a long way in a short space of time, not least musically. With  Faye Rogers early solo work now a distant yet pleasant memory, the band that formed around that work now help her head down a more mesmerising path. Working with a sound palette that roams between Joy Division’s angular melancholy and Cocteau Twins dreamscapes, The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower shows that even within those parameters they find plenty of room to create a truly unique sound.

A homage to Audrey Hepburn seems the perfect subject matter for the band, both lyrically and musically, and the gradual phasing in of Faye’s saxophone is perfect here to create a sonorous Parisian vibe. Strings sweep, vocals swoon, beats act as occasional punctuation marks and guitar lines merely provide a bed for atmospherics and sensuality to lay down on. A perfect second single.

New Music of The Day – XXVI : Night Visions – White Lilac

16761_431631416987699_3056823681859735426_nIn keeping with the D.I.Y ethic of the band, the accompanying video to their first single is a montage of meandering footage but it perfectly matches the ambient and drifting nature of the music. The slowly building atmospherics and intangible washes resolve into a sonorous saxophone break and a crescendo of shimmering guitars and sweeping strings. Heart achingly beautiful and wonderfully ethereal, this song is the perfect calling card from this new band.

 

The Top Three – The most read articles on Dancing About Architecture for January ‘15

Gold Medal Position: Change – Nothing To Lose – L.A. Davis (London, UK)

12408869-la-davis-change-nothing-to-loseBut it is Davis voice than makes this stand apart from other pop prodigy’s. His soulful and gravely tones come as a welcome change (pun intended) from the chirping pop crooners that we currently are being presented with. Add to that a dual vocal that is grounded in the classical world and you have not only all the elements required of a current chart single but also enough innate quirkiness to appeal to the underground dance world as well. Effortlessly cool and brilliantly positioned just far enough off the beat to lead a whole new dance.

Read the full review here

Silver Medal Position: It’s Not What You Need, It’s What You’ve Got. (So Shut It!) – Oui Legionnaires (Cheltenham, UK)

oui-legionnaires-its-not-what-you-need-coverForget all those awful bands who line up behind the title pop-punk, a genre that seems to promise so much but deliver so little, it is in bands like Oui Legionnaires that the beauty and infectiousness of pop meets head on with the garage band attitude of punk. A soundclash that is the equivalent to gargling a cocktail of honey and steel bolts or of using a shotgun to try to create topiary, a mix of the sublime and the ridiculous with unexpectedly great results.

Read the full review here

 

Bronze Medal Position: Night Visions – White Lilac (Swindon, UK)

16761_431631416987699_3056823681859735426_nChiming electric guitars replace the acoustic strum of before and her voice suddenly seems framed by exactly the right musical surroundings. Cymbals wash in the distance and as a brooding cello helps build the atmospherics you find that where her music was filled with fading summer light and a warm breeze, now there is a moonlit ethereality, a gothic beauty and a spine-tingling expectation. Then the secret weapon is brought into play and a sonorous and sensual saxophone drifts by before the band rock out to a glistening crescendo.

Read the full review here

Night Visions – White Lilac (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

10849822_403110526506455_7389361583777842695_nWhen you have spent the last two years building up a musical identity, have been well received both by audiences and media and have managed to find a group of musicians to work with who bring exactly what is needed to your songs, why would you suddenly head off down a new musical path. Well, I guess some musicians are braver than others, whilst some are happy to wander the road that leads to safe mediocrity a path they seem destined to follow for the rest of their musical careers, others have visions and seem driven to head off into uncharted territory to realise them. Faye Rogers is on that latter journey.

Having made a name for herself as a sweet pastoral acoustic troubadour, this first release, a teaser for a planned future record has, in my eyes, already eclipsed everything that has gone before. A glimpse of her new sound was presented at a recent live show and although still a bit rough around the edges it raised a whole set of questions not to mention a few eyebrows. Those questions that have now been more than answered by Night Visions.

 Listen to Night Visions here

Drawing a line under what has gone before, writing a whole new set and even rebranding the band White Lilac to obscure that past in a wonderfully “year zero” fashion, her true calling seems to have revealed itself. Chiming electric guitars replace the acoustic strum of before and her voice suddenly seems framed by exactly the right musical surroundings. Cymbals wash in the distance and as a brooding cello helps build the atmospherics you find that where her music was filled with fading summer light and a warm breeze, now there is a moonlit ethereality, a gothic beauty and a spine-tingling expectation. Then the secret weapon is brought into play and a sonorous and sensual saxophone drifts by before the band rock out to a glistening crescendo.

 

This is not only the bravest musical re-invention I have come across in a long while, also on the strength of this first release White Lilac are a band who I am anticipating great things from.

 

5 Acts to Watch for 2015 (by Dave Franklin)

Not much new music has been reviewed this week, due to Christmas socialising, not to mention eating so much cheese that I was physically unable to lift myself off of the chaise lounge for about three days and had to suffer the agony of watching Mel B trying to be funny on The Big Fat Quiz of The Year. Never again! So what I thought I would do instead was tell you about the acts I think that you should be watching to do exciting things in 2015.

Port Erin

10712773_10152293780256876_355188488816819957_nAlthough they have been around for what seems like an eon in contemporary musical terms, Port Erin’s enduring charm is in the evolution and exploratory nature of their music having moved from Zappa-esque, experimentation through to late night jazz inflected atmospheres. Their just released third album, Floating Above The City, seems to encompass all aspects of that journey so far taking in a variety of broad genres; space-rock, jazz, avant-garde, funk, psychedelia, ambient, progressive and more besides, without being fully associated with any one or tarred with a particular generic brush. What’s even more astounding is that they can steer a course through these oft challenging marginal musical genres and still arrive at a destination that has commercial appeal. Surely the sign of a band doing something truly creative?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYOI8rfou3c

The Tribe

10470955_874970075860533_5349102813994746272_nBy contrast, The Tribe are fresh to the scene but have landed fully formed by virtue of the fact that they are comprised of some of the core movers and shakers on the dance groove end of the music scene. Having caught their debut show recently I, like the packed crowd they attracted, were given a master class in accessible, enthralling music and stagecraft. Musically they overlay a solid reggae and funk core with hip-hop and dance grooves, sweet and soulful pop vocals provide the perfect counterpoint to staccato rap deliveries and you can even catch the odd disco beat tipping it’s hat to halcyon dance floor days. First gig it may have been but the professionalism showed through and the band provided a benchmark for live shows that few bands on the local scene would even get close to.

White Lilac

10849822_403110526506455_7389361583777842695_nFaye Rogers has already had a successful two-year career as an acoustic player, slowly drawing the perfect band around her to best explore those sweet folk vibes and pastoral sounds. Most artists would continue to cash in and build on an already established sound, not Faye. By re-launching as a band she has drawn a line under what has gone before and allowed herself room to be able to reinvent herself. Drawing on a love of post-punk, indie and more ethereal sounds and introducing saxophone and a more electric guitar core, the band manage to run between the most chilled atmospherics and full on rock drives and everything in between. Not only a brave move but also an essential one to keep your music fresh and relevant. Other artists should take a leaf from Faye’s book.

 

Colour The Atlas

10628614_577491915689166_1724977292767799638_nAnother band to undergo a slight realignment this year was Colour The Atlas. A popular and fairly regular fixture on the local scene but with a Sony contract, professional management, esteemed tour supports and a plethora of national radio play under their belt, they manage to exist in both worlds. This year they entered Lighterthief Studios for an injection of that trademark production into their new recordings. The resulting e.p. Opaline, turned out to be the perfect pairing of band and environment, the production itself becoming another player in its own right. Trademark incidental sounds hover around the periphery of the songs providing an additional pallet of colours and textures for the band to play with; exotic tabla beats, haunting vibrato, warped musical motifs and simmering background washes for the songs to float on. This is a phenomenal collection of songs, unique, imaginative, sensuous and achingly beautiful and can only make the following full album one of the most anticipated releases in a long time.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtwYgjX22jA

Coasters

10603778_793417004050698_9203107064321514270_nCoasters is a band that came together almost by accident. Having gone into studio to record what was planned to be a solo e.p, Si Hall emerged from the other end of the process with a full band around him with a view to treading the boards to show off their musical wares. Si Hall is a name that you associate with both solo acoustica and previous to that raging pop-punk. By stripping back the wall of sound associated with those skate punk days, injecting some acoustic layering and subtler, more dynamic bass lines, but retaining electric guitar to power through when required, Coasters have found the best of both worlds. The energy, verve and spirit of ’76, and the agit-folk vibe of the solo performer now lock together creating massive scope, from intricate guitar picking to full on white hot six string salvos, pop sensibilities rubbing shoulders with anarchic punk volleys.

 

Whatever your musical persuasion, 2015 looks like a very promising year for new music in this neck of the woods.

(First posted at Swindon Link)

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