Newts : Newts 2, EP released August 2017.

Named after the most misunderstood of UK amphibians (often blamed for holding up infra-structure projects, with Ken Livingstone and Wodehouse’s Gussie Fink-Nottle as famous keepers) Cambridge power-trio Newts release a blasting new EP.

1. Losers.
A mighty guitar riff, stately bass and drums, sorrowful vocal, it is like a strange industrial folk-tale to match the video of sinister doll heads and limbs being assembled. Crazy, disturbing but addictive.

2. Remains. The bass leads this more up-tempo track, with a distant vocal sounding a bit like goth-rock supremos The Mission, which is no bad thing.

3. Mission Creep. At five and a half minutes the longest track on the EP, the first slow section featuring a good build up of moody guitar picking and ultra deep sustained bass pedals. The drummer knows how to leave space between the flourishes. The song stops in true prog rock fashion then follows with a neat strummed bridge into a powerful descending line and heavy fuzz, my favourite bit of the EP.

4. Bone Wars. As summery as grunge rock could be, a short and sweet garage pop anthem, with added guitar solo.

Recorded with an on-stage sound, on the evidence of this EP the three-piece sound like they would be a bold live attraction….

https://newts.bandcamp.com/

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Bouquet Of Dead Crows, Six Bells, Cambridge, 9 September 2017

The local music scene in Cambridge (and I assume in other towns) is being supported by an increasing number of pubs and cafes featuring the best of home-grown talent (special commendations to The Earl Of Beaconsfield and Relevant Records café). Now the Six Bells off Mill Road has broadened its musical repertoire to feature some of the more contemporary indie artists, including a recent bout of noiserock from up and coming four-piece Shyer, as well as a forthcoming December gig from carnival psychsters The Scissors.
Tonight it was an acoustic showcase, beginning with Matt Hammond, added to the bill at the last minute, and very pleased to be playing to an appreciative audience.
He is one of those guitar players who is fascinating to watch, a style based around tapping the strings up the neck of the instrument, forming repetitive, hypnotic patterns to underpin his mellow vocalising. It was all relaxing and tranquil, he is clearly a fan of Nick Drake and John Martyn, as everyone should probably be….

Jethro Steel of Goldblume is not a coaxer of the guitar, preferring a more punishing approach to the strings. He plays effective versions of the electric power-trio’s tracks, with all their unpredictable twists such as whisking us away to ‘Winconsin’. With a new EP release imminent, this magnetic performer knows how to win a crowd over.

Bouquet Of Dead Crows are equally at home as full-on rockers and with different stripped down versions; tonight it was the vocals of Antoinette Cooper with guitar (and some effects) from multi-instrumentalist Neil Bruce and a rare appearance of an acoustic bass played by Graeme Clarke. They were featuring songs from debut album ‘Of The Night’, previously reviewed on this site. They certainly held audience attention, for a couple of quieter tracks we were instructed to be silent to get fully involved, this was readily obeyed!

Varied musical styles, intimate surroundings, good beer, free(!), that must be a good night out…

Bouquet of Dead Crows
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2015/09/13/bouquet-of-dead-crows-of-the-night-released-november-2015/
https://goldblumeband.bandcamp.com/
https://www.musicglue.com/matthammondofficial/shop

The Surfing Magazines, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 8 September 2017

Ricky Boom-Boom opened the show with the most obscure cover of the evening (‘You Belong In Rock And Roll’ by underrated Bowie side-project Tin Machine) and although he describes himself as ‘….playing songs about disillusionment, bitterness and smouldering anger….’ I found his set quite uplifting, with some sparky guitar work and lyrical entanglements. ‘It’s Snowing In Hell’ is a highlight , featured on his recent EP, along with the characterful ode to ‘Barbara’. New song ‘Discotheque In The Dark’ continues in the earthier trend of his work but my favourite was probably a bonus encore at the end, a burning blues that seemed part-improvised but showed that perhaps the devil does have all the best tunes.

Moonstrips have changed a bit since I saw them last, they are still filtering some fairly heavy rock through a psychedelic prism but now a saxophone has been added to the line-up and the music has increased in ambition. ‘Broken Catapults’ and ‘Why Do You Need It’ from their album ‘Glimpses’ stomp along nicely but it was the new ‘You Had To Find Out’ that brought the set to boiling point, an epic waltz sounding like seventies icons Sensational Alex Harvey Band and the Hazel O’Connor saxophone of ‘Will You’ fame had joined the party too. In a few spare minutes at the end they threw in a powerful cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Electric Funeral’ (which greatly impressed Dave T of the Surfing Magazines!)

Not since the formation of The Travelling Wilburys has a ‘supergroup’ been quite so anticipated; The Surfing Magazines consist of David Tattersall and Franic Rozycki from the Wave Pictures, Charles Watson from Slow Club and drummer Dominic Brider.
With a newly released album their onstage enjoyment of the music shone out from the opening track ‘You Could Never Come To Me Too Soon’, with all the expected flourishes from these players; forlorn lyrics, crisp guitar solos (now with extra rhythm guitar added), driving drums and slinky bass.

Taking turns to sing, David, Charles and Dominic all add something different to a cool set of songs, favourites of mine being the garage shuffle of ‘Goose-Feather Bed’ (featuring the exotic wordplay of ‘…pickled onion monster munch for lunch I had a hunch…’), the country lament duet of ‘One Of These Days’ and the brilliant build-up of ‘Lines And Shadows’. It is all such infectious good fun, a cover score of N Young 2, B Dylan 1 and don’t forget the surf guitar instrumental ‘A Fran Escaped’, propelled by Shadows-style dancing that may need some practice…

Like the famous quiz ‘fact’ that only one of The Beach Boys could actually surf, there may not be much sports activities here but this band can certainly play the blues/garage/pop/rock and have a great time too..

https://thesurfingmagazines.bandcamp.com/album/the-surfing-magazines
https://moonstrips.bandcamp.com/
https://rickyboom-boom.bandcamp.com/

Mary Epworth, Norwich Arts Centre, 2 September 2017

Three upcoming acts from the Momentum funding programme in the converted church that is Norwich Arts Centre. First on was Love Ssega, originally part of Clean Bandit, he now records polyrhythmic funk and soulful commentaries on modern life. Tonight his full band were stripped back to a subtle single electric guitar, this was an empathetic accompaniment to his strong voice and winning personality.

Hannah Peel is an amazingly talented solo performer, dressed in a white flowing outfit, surrounded by keyboards and conjuring extra sounds and effects from violin, a music box and her voice she takes herself and the audience to another plane. ‘All That Matters’ is a show-stopper, even better than the recorded version.
Back projections of her parents’ wedding video from 1978 seem timeless as the gorgeous and melodic ballad ‘Tenderly’ builds to a crescendo. I’m not sure quite what ‘Cars In The Garden’ is all about but it is a fine and memorable song. She ended the set with the epic ‘Foreverest’, an electronic spectacular; more evidence that Hannah is a creative force to be reckoned with.

Musical free spirit Mary Epworth has just released her second album, ‘Elytral’ (..relating to the wing cases of a beetle…) and tonight with a four piece band she enhanced the recorded versions of many of the tracks, with industrial bold beats, plenty of percussion, free-flowing saxophone and deep, deep bass synthesiser; it is a heady mix.
At times sounding like a modern version of ‘Being Boiled’ by the Human League but with Mary’s voice floating and yearning over the music she has created a sound all her own. This is most evident on ‘Me Swimming’, an extended, echoing piece with haunting hookline. ‘Last Night’ has a more ambient experimental start then a cacophony of synth crashes in like distorted sirens.

…..and the music disappeared upwards into the high rafters of this superb venue….

http://maryepworth.com/
http://www.hannahpeel.com/
https://www.lovessega.com/

Various Artists : ‘200’ A Compilation from German Shepherd Records

A compilation from the ever-questing independent Manchester record label to celebrate their 200th release, with proceeds going to the Coffee4Craig homelessness charity…

1. The Get – When The Oil Runs Out Veteran minimalist punksters sum up this burning issue (‘….will we get KFC?…will my solar panels power me?….’) They are a great live band too.

2. JD Meatyard – Ubu@Erics I saw him supporting Half Man Half Biscuit and he seems to have picked up on their surrealistic lyrics but added something of his own intensity. I saw (Pere)Ubu@Junction in Cambridge but it doesn’t scan quite so well.

3. The Screaming Love Collective – Come On A pleasant groove, a bit reminiscent of T.Rex ‘Get It On’ but that is no bad thing. All over too quickly.

4. M.T. Scott – The Auctioneer Piano dominated strange ballad, haunting and thoughtful. A neglected subject in popular music, I will never view Bargain Hunt in the same way again.

5. Issac Navaro – Swam Oceans To Drown In Concrete Ambient delights for 11 minutes. Good to hear the acoustic piano over the top of the electronics.

6. Moff Skellington – The Clegg Twins As well as drawing the artwork for this album(see below) Moff Skellington contributes characteristic fantastical prose over an uncomfortable backing. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the picture of two Nick Cleggs out of my mind but perhaps that was the strength of the track.

7. The Junta – MCR Bassy electronic instrumental, it needs to be loud.

8. Space Museum – Esoteric Another instrumental, drift off into the cosmos with this one.

9. House Mouse and Space Museum – Bigger Than The Beatles The title tells how it could have been; with spoken word over electronic backing, it is like a history of pop music from the last 40 years (‘…with more hits than Simply Red…make Bob Dylan eat his words…’)

10. Toska Wilde – The Death And Life Of A Dreamgirl Minimalist and graphic tale of woe, reminds me a bit of the late lamented Kevin Coyne, high praise indeed.

11. Keltrix – Alibi (Acoustic Version) A bit of timeless folk-rock from Cambridge stalwarts Keltrix, good to hear the violin and the colour-filled vocal.

12. Pearl Divers – Angel in New York Rocky waltz-time epic, the band claim they feature ‘…strong melodies anywhere from Happy Mondays style to Bond themes…’.. I happily listen to that combination…

13. Night Operations – When Night Fell Smooth ambience, the gentle beat underpins slight variations at each cycle, keep listening…

14. The Electric Cheese – 20 Years of Hate Probably the best band name on the album, sounding a bit like the Wave Pictures in their noisier moments, great as-live sound with reassuring up-front guitar.

15. Bouquet of Dead Crows – Without You (Scotch Bonnet Remix) Scarily different remix of one of my favourite Cambridge band’s best tracks, it has gone reggae instead of rocking out, but don’t be fooled.

16. PrunX – Devils Cookbook PrunX are from Berlin, describing themselves as ‘triple p rock, psychedelic – progressive – political’ It carves its way nicely through two of those three genres I think.

17. Dominic Carlton Jones – Cat’s Front Door A sort of acoustical Oasis anthem, DCJ sounds like he has really lived it – hold up the lighters and celebrate the end of a great compilation!

https://germanshepherdrecords.bandcamp.com/album/200

Shyer : Hideout, single released August 2017

The debut single from new Cambridge band Shyer is a summery concoction about the effects of a new relationship.
The lyric of ‘Hideout’ is a mosaic of references to perceptions all going a bit addled with some neat phrases threading through ‘….All the electrical output…the sudden surge of excitement and I’m charged for days…’ and my favourite ‘…. it’s like the sun’s under my skin ….’.. All assuredly sung by wordsmith Amanda George. The Marr to her Morrissey is guitarist/composer supremo Zak Tysoe, in this song he is always playing something interesting in jangly or full-on rock mode. Firm foundations are provided by the rhythm section of Chris How and Damiano Porcelli – and they are given their chance to shine in the middle eight section.

This is a classy and lovingly crafted single, with so much going on in one track you wonder if they have any more to offer, but don’t worry, the follow-up single ‘Bad Company’, a more rocky piece is finished (complete with ominous chord sequence and angry guitar but another catchy chorus line) and waiting to be formally released in a few weeks.

And there is plenty more to come; I recently saw them play outdoors as the sun went down (see picture below…) over the picturesque Three Tuns Beer Festival outside Cambridge, where they delivered a sparkling twelve song set of upbeat originals to an appreciative audience.
The band’s memorable name reflects the conflict that is common in many performers between the urge to reach out with their creativity balanced against lack of confidence and shyness during the process.
Look out for this energetic four-piece, they are developing as a force to be reckoned with on the Cambridge scene.

https://shyer.bandcamp.com/track/hideout

The Hayman Kupa Band, LP, released July 2017

A joyous confluence of the talents of singers/guitarists/songwriters Emma Kupa (also of the Mammoth Penguins, they have a new concept album due soon) and Darren Hayman (currently engaged in the ‘Thankful Villages’ music and arts project, commemorating the villages where all the soldiers in World War One returned home).

Opening track ‘Let’s Do Nothing’ is perhaps a surprising choice to start, it is the longest song and is a slow-burning musical dialogue between the couple. Layered with bittersweet regret and ambiguity behind the sung words it is given the time to build the emotion.
‘No More Bombs’ continues the lyrical tension and traded words but this time over a delicate summery guitar and a quick bass solo. In ‘Red Petals’ the two voices blend in harmony with an up-beat chorus. ‘Over’s Now Overdue’ is a beautifully crafted pop gem, with the irresistible title hook, the band sounds like they are having a great time too. ‘Do You Know’ is a real grower, nostalgically romantic in its simplicity.
‘A Tent Of Blankets’ has the biggest chorus on the LP (…I want you to always be there…) and it works a treat, ‘Pretty Waste Of Time’ is an affecting country ballad.

Emma sings solo for the gorgeous ‘Reach Out’, a subtle and sensitive lyric with acoustic guitar picking and gentle bass, then grand finale ‘Then We Kissed’ showcases how well these songs work with the dual voices.

There are other excellent tracks too and although there is no appearance for previously released single ‘Someone To Care For’ which is also a very fine song there is more than enough to sit back and indulge in here.

http://shop.fikarecordings.com/album/the-hayman-kupa-band