As part of the long-running institution that is the Cambridge ‘Big Weekend’, what seemed like the entire population of the city were on the historic green space for a rare appearance by 80s originals ABC. Founder member and creative force Martin Fry fronted a seven piece band, reminding us that the mid eighties charts weren’t just full of electronica and there was room for lush, sweeping romance tempered with underlying world weariness….and just how good those songs still sound.
The pounding stomp of later hit ‘When Smokey Sings’ opened the set and we were soon into some choice selections from the 2016 album ‘The Lexicon Of Love II’. The classy ‘Viva Love’, big ballad ‘Ten Below Zero’ (…It’s not surprising there’s snowflakes in my room…) and best of all ‘The Flames Of Desire’ with its historical Roman references over a ‘disco classic’ beat; though I’m surprised Martin didn’t push the spoken …vene vidi vici… line a bit more, after all we are in Cambridge…
On the album and some live dates these tracks are woven through with strings arranged and conducted by original collaborator Anne Dudley but tonight it is left to the two keyboardists to effectively handle the orchestration. As you would expect for this complex music the band were top-notch with a special mention for the elaborate special textures from the percussionist.
The finale was the mighty quartet of hits from the original ‘The Lexicon Of Love’ album; step forward ‘Poison Arrow’, ‘Tears Are Not Enough’, ‘All Of My Heart’ and of course ‘The Look Of Love Part 1’. A fine collection indeed as a prelude to the fireworks afterwards…
On the hottest day of the year so far and as the summer solstice approaches a double header of psychedelia featuring Swedish collective Flowers Must Die and Cambridge band Psychic Lemon.
I have followed the career of Psychic Lemon and reviewed them several times, hearing them satisfyingly evolve into the mighty trio on show here tonight. If ‘psychedelic’ conjours up images of trippy acoustic interludes and 60s keyboard solos the band are well removed from that, instead we are hearing space-rock power; relentless drums and slicing bass lines with unpredictable raw guitar and the effects pedals becoming instruments too. There are occasional vocals (and some keyboard too), a contrast with the songs on their debut album. The four extended tracks played tonight presumably form the substance of the highly-anticipated second long-player due later this year.
This band are totally immersed; it is like they are a conduit for pre-existing natural and technological sounds somewhere in the ether. They have tapped into the source and the audience are completely pulled in too. Enthralling, primal and hypnotic!
Flowers Must Die show a similar no-compromise approach to their music, from the stage setting with a single backlight and revolving colour dome keeping the six members as outlines and shadows for the whole set (not quite sure how they could see to play, but it all sounded fine!) to the build-up of musical ideas within the tracks. The two guitars, bass and drums line-up is enhanced by added electric violin, keyboard and the extensive use of that always fascinating electronic marvel the theremin!
‘Don’t You Leave Me Now’ was a standout song, with impressive vocals over a mutated disco-funk backing. ‘Hit’ was a complex groove, another track from their 2017 album titled ‘Kompost’ with its enigmatic mixture of Swedish and English titled songs.
Flowers Must Die have finely honed their live sound but they have still retained an effervescence and sheer enjoyment in their performance.
I missed this when it first came out but having liked the idea of a domesticated corvid and seen the striking sleeve it just had to be looked into further…
Pet Crow are a four piece from Derby, confidently managing to extract a distinctive sound from the conventional guitar/bass/drums line-up. The as-live sound is spot on with the echoing vocals appearing over the distant hills to slice through some aggressive drums and bass.
Opener ‘Harold And Maude’ (named after a 1971 dark comedy drama) has an introduction reminiscent of old standard ‘Can’t Get Used To Losing You’ but don’t be fooled, when the band crash in there is no easy listen as the vocals carve their own path on top. ‘She’s back’ is driven by a busy bass line and guitar fireworks, ‘Bazwatch’ name checks David Hasselhoff (of course) and is all over in a minute and a half.
‘Pressure Sores’ is my favourite, with the plaintive vocal (…why can’t I just be me?…) never resolved over the restless instrumentation. Heavy. ‘Let Your Hair Down’ is superb too, with twin vocals, dissonant guitar and a bass and drum middle eight as anything but light relief. The longer track finale ‘Absorbed’ incorporates many of the musical ideas from the rest of this short and loud but perfectly realised album.
An album launch for ‘I’ve Been Over Thinking’, a new CD of self-penned songs from Newmarket based performer Lee Hull.
Taking the stage first was the highly-regarded local indie folkster Flaming June, a favourite on this site and tonight with the added bonus of electric violin and occasional backing vocals from Alex Herring. Louise Eatock’s songs draw on folk traditions, modern mores and the underlying tensions of fairy tales, all performed with the rhythmic drive of acoustic guitar, with its insistent lower and mid-range tones duelling (in a good way!) with the gently soaring violin on the top.
The tracks from the ‘In Pursuit of Happiness’ EP still sound fresh and there is some new material being recorded this summer.
Lee Hull opened his set with an extended cover of ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ but it is his original tracks that are the most engaging, a mix of electronica and very personal lyrical ideas. ‘Kiss Me Like You Used To’ and the ‘The Way I Am’ are straightforwardly effective, with a few keyboard surprises to keep us guessing. ‘Thank You’ was mellower and emotionally voiced while ‘The Way I Am’ is a consciousness stream over a funky synth bass line.
Two more covers; ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ (on ukulele?!) and classic Ray Charles number ‘Hit The Road Jack’ somehow seemed entirely appropriate and new non-recorded songs pointed in future directions.
I really enjoyed the set, it must be that winning combination of 80s keyboards, bass guitar and lyrics that make you think….
Dan Mayfield is a songwriter and folk-influenced violin player; after many years playing for other musicians he is now releasing a collection of his own compositions with a five-piece incarnation of his band Enderby’s Room. Mr Enderby is the name of a character from the pen of Anthony Burgess, of ‘Clockwork Orange’ fame and I must highlight the sleeve artwork, drawn by artist Jonny Voss in one continuous pen line.
This is a gorgeous album with the guitar, double bass and other acoustic instruments blending perfectly, often underpinned by a pedal harmonium to add a different tone. The opening track ‘Lakeside’ showcases the dual harmony lead vocals as those waves of sound roll onto the shore. Likewise ‘Stars’, these are evocative pieces with no need for over-embellishment, the sentiment and music flow together.
‘Birds’ is a delicate fragment, the ornithological observations are followed by a chorus that could easily be used over again but the song is just left hanging there. Also around the 2 minute mark and leaving the listener wanting more is ‘Grey Stones’. Delicate ukulele introduces ‘My Old Friend’ an up tempo track which reminds me a bit of the late-lamented thoughtful indiepopsters Allo Darlin’. ‘Tiptoe’ has a strong hookline and ‘I’ll Find You’ (‘..dance with me to our love songs…’) is an emotion-filled finale.
The musical arrangement is minimalist but sounds lush and full, like an antique watch you don’t need to take it apart to realise its beauty and intricate workings…
Opposite the well-established Boogaloo music pub on the main street in Highgate is The Red Hedgehog; an unassuming bar/café and the venue for the second night of a showcase from multi-instrumentalist and singer Dos Floris.
The set featured tracks from her majestic debut album ‘The Widowed Earth’, performed with striking confidence, depth and power. The show divided into a lighter and darker half, reflected by the costumes and new arrangements of these organic soundscapes. As a pulsating light back-projection links to the vocal sounds early tracks ‘Rivers’ and ‘The Other Side’ gently draw us into her world. Florence has complete mastery of the complex looping, multi-tracking and keyboard playing needed to bring everything alive, demonstrated to great effect on the faster post-apocalyptic groove ‘That Day’ and a funky version of ‘All The King’s Men’ (featuring the tones of a metal-stringed walking stick?). As the music grew in intensity and the back projection ended up like virtual barbed wire to reflect the anti-war sentiment of the lyric we were ready for a short interval.
On resuming the empathetic soundman seemed to crank up some of the denser bass tones so we could wallow in the gorgeous ‘Before You Loved Me’ and ‘The Widowed Earth’. In an older unrecorded song ‘Starlight’ the audience boosted the lightshow with glowsticks, then the superb ‘To The Wolves Part II’ was a natural choice for the finale, with an encore of the new ‘Human Relations’ pointing the sound in a different direction for the forthcoming album.
It was a triumphant performance! Sitting back and listening carefully I could hear the way that every small sonic element fits in, looped phrases drift in and out again and fill the spaces in between; just as astronomers search for the dark matter invisible amongst the bright galaxies, in this music the whole adds up to far more than the sum of the parts…
In these days of political and social upheaval it is good to have something to rely on; this year is the 35th anniversary of the first recordings by Southend band The Get, and here they are on stage at the Corner House with singer Bruce Gordon strutting around and delivering a set of punk laced with irony and wit on songs like, ‘Dalek’, ‘Batman And Robin’ and a concise guide to the music industry on ‘Hit!’. They have a newish EP out, and from that ‘You Made Your Bed…Now Lie In It’ could be taken as a commentary on large government decisions, or just as a diatribe against an ex-partner…
I have enjoyed and reviewed the album ‘Resounding’ by Moscow Circus (https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2016/08/29/moscow-circus-resounding-lp-released-june-2016/) so it was great to get an opportunity to hear it live at last. Songwriter Jonathan Beckett delivers the complex lyrics, vocal nuances and jangly guitar parts effortlessly and the four piece band are a tight playing unit.
‘Timebomb’, ‘Bleed For You’ and especially ‘Princess Rainbow’ were all highlights, but there were newer unrecorded tracks too including the enigmatically titled ‘4000 Weeks’ (that’s 77 years…Hmmm).
The set ended on another high with the noisy rocker ‘Ex-Genius’. This music had a long gestation time and has rarely been performed but tonight it was definitely job done.
One of Cambridge’s finest, The Scissors are seasoned presenters of spirited mini-movie songs and taking the stage quite late in the evening they featured many cuts from their 2016 album ‘Haunted Mirror’.
As I see so many guitar bands, it is always good to hear some keyboards too, especially when it is the timeless timbre of a Hammond organ, rolling in on ‘Do You Believe In Modern Love’ or more ska-laced on ‘Gone’. The strident guitar line and theremin wail herald ‘Why Don’t You Cry?’; their standout torchsong which is always a highlight of the varied set.
A quick encore of the album title track (as recently featured on charity compilation ‘Cambridge Calling Volume 1’) ended the trio of authentic acts in the welcoming setting of The Corner House (and all for free too…!)