Monday, 29 March 2010

Hold Up, Before We Get Started... Guess Who's Coming?

Introducing are a nine-piece band that play DJ Shadow's Endtroducing (released in 1996, the first album to be composed entirely of samples - cheers, the Guinness Book of Records) live, recreating every drum loop, esoteric vocal sample and the famous organ solo with actual instruments. An impossible task? They came to the Hare and Hounds in King's Heath last Friday to show Birmingham that it can be done.

The opening of a call for a round of applause for the DJ himself was a sign of the good humour with which the band approached their task. Despite looking like a collection of detail-loving music obsessives (and on this blog, that's not an insult) they weren't hung up on the subject matter and played with laid-back flair. This meant that the jazzier side of the record could come through and the odd little vocal parts, with the potential to be twee and annoying, passed off as geekily cool - especially the "one of them has eyes as big as Jolly Ranchers. Beautiful girl" bit on the untitled sixth track.

There was a special mention for drummer Mike Reed at the beginning of 'Stem/Long Stem', and he really deserved it. It would be clear to anyone with more than a passing acquaintance with the album that this is a project that lives or dies on the quality of the rhythm section. Fortunately Introducing have nailed it; Reed was amazing, as was bassist Rob Pollard, driving the songs forward with technical brilliance and exactly the right vibe.

The set sheds new light on the differences between live and recorded music. I listened to the parts more intently, discovering previously unnoticed details like little repeated sections and cool beats. I also enjoyed the sparser sections far more than I ever have when listening to the record.

Live music, as it's no real surprise to be reminded, holds the attention more powerfully and has a sublime energy lacking from anything tied down to endless repetitions from a medium of your choice. There's something about a group of people sharing a room with you and hearing your responses to what they're doing... people fashioning something that wouldn't exist without them, and will never exist again in the same form beyond the moments that you are sharing... a feeling amplified through the uncanny experience of music both totally familiar and new and exciting... these are the reason that make what Introducing are doing something pretty special.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Nice Pair

Earlier this week the latest collaboration between Erol Alkan and Boys Noize - a double A-side 'Lemonade/Avalanche' was finally released by Erol's label Phantasy Sound. This is a pairing up there with rum & raisin, bangers & mash and skinny jeans & deck shoes: the best DJ I saw last year (Boys Noize at the Custard Factory) and Alkan, who has as much as anyone in his field to define the popular modern electro/dance scene.

After initial listens the pick of the two is Lemonade, which pairs a riff tending towards the Boys Noize end of the spectrum, with the 'a bit more interesting than just thump-thump-thump' beats of Erol. Avalanche is an altogether darker and more brooding affair - the Scar to Lemonade's Mufasa, if you will. Only time will tell whether it will become the better song, before being usurped and thrown to the hyenas by a young upstart Lemonade remix returning after 'finding himself' in the clubs of East London.

Here you go:

Thou Shalt Always Spell 'Phoenix' P-H-E-O-N-I-X

Phoenix released a lovely live album for completely free this morning - thanks Phoenix! As Thomas Mars, their incredibly French and - amazing - Sophia Copolla-dating lead singer, revealed on 6 Music today, he felt like it was record label sacrilege when the band released 1901 as a free download early last year. The last 12 months have worked out pretty well for them though, gaining a much bigger audience outside France and seeing 'Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix', the album from which 1901 was taken, win the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in January.

They've obviously decided that releasing stuff for free = loads of success, and so are treating us to 'Live in Sydney' as a free download. Just go here and you can keep a piece of Franco-Australian sunshine to carry you through this patchy beginning to Spring.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Two Door Cinema Club at Birmingham Academy

There was some fitting St Patrick’s Day fare from Northern Ireland’s Two Door Cinema Club at Academy 3 last night and, even though most of the audience looked too young to have been on the Guinness, they weren’t acting like it. There is little adoration as powerful as the adoration of 16 year-olds for their favourite band, but over some serious handclaps and word-perfect singalongs it sounded like this lot might have made a poor choice when preparing their tunes for time on the road.

Birmingham is hardly known for great audiences at gigs, but a new generation in the surprisingly well lit Academy 3 suggest that the future might be different. Bouncing from the opener, singing throughout most recent single ‘Undercover Martyn’ and hardly stopping for breath until the encore, the atmosphere was frenetic. An especially energetic welcome was reserved for ‘What You Know’, yet to be released but all over the Hype Machine, and surely pencilled in to the immaculately kept Moleskine diaries at Kitsuné HQ.

Sadly, though, the sharp synthesized drums of the band’s recordings have been replaced by an actual human being - an attempt, the press release assures us, to bolster their live sound. However, cool electronic drum sounds complement their art rock perfectly, making last night's live drumming sound messy. This was especially true of ‘Costume Party’ which, after the intro, had the synth and guitar parts so low in the mix that they drowned under splashy cymbals.

Because of this, the live show straddled indie dance a little uncomfortably and I found myself silently willing the band, as they tuned their guitars through the great wash of electronic sound that introduced the encore, to just put them down instead. Unfortunately psychic abilities are no more advanced in Bangor than it is in Birmingham and they launched into yet another arch dance tune transformed into something you would hear in the main room at Propaganda.

The closer was ‘I Can Talk’ which, despite having an intro that has dined out with Delphic’s ‘Doubt’, finally sounded like the band promised by their debut album. The band are set to explode all over this summer's festivals, but they might be wise to rethink what they offer as a live act before they go out to win any more fans.

The amazing 'Undercover Martyn':

Monday, 8 March 2010

TBB #1

TBB #1 is now available! It's got some climate chat from Emma Vickers, bits and pieces you've read on here, some words from Charlie Levine and a winsome piece by Edward Greenfingers. And a satirical sports page. Pick up its collage-y goodness in any number of a handful of central Birmingham locations, or check it out in all its pdf glory.