Lee Hull, Corner House, Cambridge, 4 June 2017

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….

https://www.facebook.com/leehullmusic1
http://loui552.wixsite.com/flamingjuneuk
https://www.facebook.com/flamingjuneuk/

Enderby’s Room, LP released April 2017

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…

http://enderbysroom.co.uk/
http://jonnyvoss.com/

Dos Floris, Highgate, London, 29 April 2017

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…

http://www.dosfloris.com/

The Scissors, Corner House, Cambridge, 1 April 2017

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…!)

http://thescissors.blogspot.co.uk/
http://www.moscowcircus.co.uk/
The Get

Hannah Lou Clark, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 29 March 2017

Opening the show tonight Mammoth Penguins played new and older songs, starting with ‘Cries At The Movies’ and ‘Propped Up’, two of many highlights on their debut album ‘Hide And Seek’. Released in 2015 it is a glorious package of hooks, fuzzy guitar and exuberant bass and drums, topped off of course by the carefully crafted words and spot-on vocal delivery from Emma Kupa.
In a live setting you can appreciate the musical extras, like the fathoms-deep rolling bass on ‘Played’ and some great drumming fireworks on a couple of the new tracks, hopefully destined to be on a follow-up album soon.
I was glad that what is for me their definitive song ‘Strength In My Legs’ was in the set, a super-poppy blend of vulnerable lyrics and powerful music.

Hannah Lou Clark is a singer/songwriter/ guitarist, fronting a quartet playing some atmospheric Indie rock to celebrate the release of new guilt-edged titled EP ‘The Heart And All Its Sin’. From that disc, the dual salvo of ‘Matilda’ and ‘Don’t Sweat It’ are stealthy, restrained build-ups to memorable choruses.

Introduced simply as ‘..a love song..‘ the ballad ‘We’re Rich’ is a show-stopper; over guitar triplets the plaintive emotional statement unfolds, as the instrumentation gradually weaves in the layers. Wow, just how good was that?

Back into rockier territory for ‘It’s Your Love’ and we also hear the unexpected bass noises and drum pattern of ‘Silent Type’, showing that the band is not afraid to stretch the sonic boundaries.
The anthemic, stately ‘Grief Underneath’ is a big finish to the show with crunching guitar echoing around the appreciative crowd, already won over by some good interaction from Hannah during this well-paced, energetic set.

https://www.facebook.com/hannahlouclarkmusic/
https://www.facebook.com/MammothPenguins/

Broadway Danny Rose, EP released March 2017

This EP from Broadway Danny Rose is called ‘Passive Aggressive Post-Its’ and according to the band is the distillation from 14 hours of music; that sounds like plenty to choose from, which is not surprising given the range and scope of the music made by Joe Bell and his cohorts.

‘Rabbit Foot’ is an out-and-out rocker, it sounds like Wilko Johnson has temporarily joined the band to play along with the riff for a tale of gambling, debt and low-life deals. Worth the price of the EP on its own, it is a great opener.
We then go over to ‘Jeffrey’s Place’, a strange concoction of loud loping bass and driving guitar; also it includes the lyric ‘….For Jeffrey knows what’s wrong, haunted by mistakes… Rupert Brooke’s can charm but the sentiment’s misplaced….’ and other cryptic delights.

‘Organised Sport’ is a short blast of punk pop energy, with an opaque cut-up lyric where it is the sound of the words that count. I am lucky to own an early acoustic version of ‘Carrie Simmons’, on this release it is now filled out to form a swirling mini-movie murder ballad,‘….There’s something about the way you use that knife….Together in death as in life…’. Disturbing stuff; this is also a track of musical contrasts and shows the impressive versatility of the band.

I look forward to the album….

https://broadwaydannyrose.bandcamp.com/releases

Ricky Boom-Boom, EP released March 2017

This EP is called ‘A Rum Old Do’ and is a refreshing dose of folky blues from Ricky Boom-Boom, a Cambridge guitarist named after the enduring song by the late great John Lee Hooker.

The opener ‘It’s Snowing In Hell’ has a driving acoustic riff with a lyric of bitterness capped off with the unlikely meteorological notion of the title line. As the singer sinks into despair (‘…Good will has jumped out of the window to a hundred storey fall….’ ) the blistering slide guitar of Tom Colborn bursts breathlessly into the mix.

‘Trouble Will Find You’ is a great blues title and the song is more mellow as the slide guitar rolls across the top of the chords. While the narrator is full of foreboding and warning on this song, the next track ‘Eyes Of Strangers’ is a lyrical sequel, a sinister and oppressive musing that there is no escape from destiny (‘…now you’re getting sleepless nights…You’re getting paranoid and won’t switch out the lights…’) , these words contrasting with the intricate guitar work from both musicians.

Beginning with the neat lyric ‘….wandered lonely in the crowd.. Until some eyes stared out aloud…’ the final track is the distinctive ‘Barbara’; a stately amalgamation of dense guitars and a lyric and vocal delivery reminiscent of Syd Barrett’s later solo material. A high quality finish to a stylistically rare and satisfying addition to the current Cambridge musical cornucopia.

https://rickyboom-boom.bandcamp.com/album/a-rum-old-do (Proceeds to National Autistic Society)
http://www.tomcolborn.com/