As part of a tour to promote their excellent third album, London quartet Teleman raised the pulses of their many devoted fans in Norwich (and those who had travelled from Cambridge…).
Support act C.A.R. (the performing name of Chloé Raunet) plays electronic soundscapes where a pulsing bass line underpins her hypnotic vocals and synthesiser lines. Singing in French for ‘La petite fille du 3ème’ added a haunting sixties texture to the sound. An impressive set, well appreciated by the audience.
As the stage was set up to the accompaniment of disturbing mixes of white noise and film soundtracks (2001, The Blob(!) et al) and the LED backdrop glowed with random lightning flashes we were wondering how the current Teleman live sound would reflect the new recordings. Straight in with one of my favourites ‘Strange Combinations’, inexplicably not on any album, but showcasing many of the elements that make the band so compulsive.
New song ‘Cactus’ also does this, with a deep synth riff that drives the song to its loud conclusion, given extra potency when the bass guitar thunders in to add an extra layer.
‘Fun Destruction’ has some great retro synthesiser settings too, while the surreal narrative of title track ‘Family Of Aliens’ is strangely evocative. ‘Submarine Life’ features a vocoder vocal with the funkiest bassline of the evening and the foreboding gothic mood of ‘Fall In Time’ unravels and unnerves like a Hammer Horror. ‘Song For A Seagull’ has a lovely melody and lyric and ‘Twisted Heart’ is a good poppy blast with a hookline chorus that sticks in the mind. To finish the main set fan favourite the mighty ‘Düsseldorf’ pushes all before it. For the encore we had relative oldies ‘Christina’ and modern-life list song ‘Not In Control’ and then it was all over, the time had flown by.
This was the 5th time I had seen the band since 2014; in each show the sound has evolved subtly in many directions and it is always fascinating to watch how the musical contributions of the four players gel so well together. They now have so many strong tracks that some favourites get left out of the set but tonight showed that Teleman are on fantastic form.
This was the album launch for ‘Dreamland’, the debut long-player from sixties revivalists Elma. With the Portland already nearly full, Fragile Lives (aka Sandy Mill and newly solo) performed a short well-received set of very personal own compositions, mostly with acoustic guitar and a bit of experimental looping.
Chris Fox has more folky roots, and coaxed a whispering, bluegrass sound from his acoustic. As a devoted fan of John Martyn, rather than performing a cover he has written an excellent song in the style of the late, great performer. New single ‘Bird Of Paradise’ is a soothing taster of a forthcoming third album and ‘Pirates’ imaginatively stretched the boundaries of his set. His fine songs, relaxed delivery and skilled musicianship easily won over the supportive audience.
The evening belonged to Elma, with the long awaited release of their album (full review here https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/08/23/elma-dreamland-lp-released-september-2018/).
This was a real showcase for their music, usually performed as a duo but this time with eight players on the Portland stage for the stomping opener ‘California’. The timeless sixties sound was made full by a three piece brass section, two semi-acoustic guitars and a solid backline featuring album producer Chris Pepper on drums. Mark Ellis’s guitar moved effortlessly between styles, as Ellie Gillett’s vocals sailed above, especially on the exuberant but melancholy ‘Slo-Mo’ and the lounge jazz of ‘All I Want’.
The heartbreaking showstopper ‘Butterfingers’ was balanced by the optimistic blast of ‘On My Way’ and two new songs made an appearance too. The audience of many friends and followers (and musical collaborator Boo Hewerdine) were behind the band all the way, it was an evening of genuine celebration.
The finale was appropriately ‘September’ and what an excellent song that is (I love that middle eight!).
A short encore ended with Mark and Ellie performing ‘Over The Rainbow’, which fitted in well as a reminder of the talents of the core duo of tonight’s unforgettable ensemble.
Cambridge four-piece Ember Rev are currently finalising their third LP, but this excellent previous release from early summer this year is well worth considering first. It is a concept album inspired by the state of the nation, with a feel of reflective and thoughtful protest.
1. Bring It Right Down Based on overheard conversations during train journeys by band leader Dan Ecclestone he has distilled the sentiments and current attitudes to political developments into a disruptive, edgy opus of powerful and personal imagery. The instrumental spikes are partly tempered by the rocking accordion of Chris Peckham and Dan’s vocals remind me of Tom Robinson at his protesting finest.
2. The Fear Another track where you can’t quite pin down the time signature this one broods into a descending guitar figure and hookline of paranoia and warning. There is a good featured voice contribution from Romy Gensale too.
3. Something Almost Imperceptible Relaxing acoustic instrumental passage with guitar arpeggios, glockenspiel and piano but with a sense of foreboding threading through. It is like something from an early gothic/pastoral Genesis album (eg Trespass)
4. Papillon The title is a reference to a quotation from Alexander Pope;’Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?’ and famously referenced when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were given a prison sentence in 1967. Mix those allusions in with a stately strolling accordion rhythm, loping bass, spacious drumming then suddenly a huge chorus crashes in. The pensive, questioning lyrics lead the song to its downbeat conclusion.
5. My Sentiments Exactly The polyrhythmic undercurrents of much of the album are given free range here, with complex drumming driving the jazzy feel of the tune and another excellent vocal performance from Dan Ecclestone.
6. England’s Finest Hour The finale of the album unifies many of the musical styles we have heard previously. The forthright lyric links a historical context to the present day with the resigned multi-lingual words expressing solidarity with the European continent.
Acoustic indie band The Sunbathers release their debut LP ‘A Weekend Away With …..’, featuring a sea-related theme threading through the 15 tracks. As the duo hail from the East Midlands the geographical distance to all coastal areas adds an extra longing in the references to far-off places as the answer to yearnings and melancholic reflections. Beginning with wave and gull sounds the opening track ‘It Doesn’t Matter If It Rains’ sets the tone of wistful nostalgia explored in later lyrics.
The instrumentation consists of Paul’s sparkling acoustic guitar, with delicate arpeggios and multi-layered harmonic structures. An occasional ukulele and percussion fades in at times, with a melodica giving a reassuring DIY simplicity too on ‘Big Boy Now’ and ‘Shifting Sand’. The chance meeting in ‘If Only’ is a sad lament for a past relationship possibly given new life by a day at the sea, ‘…the wind sweeps in across the bay and takes my breath away and I’m willing you to stay…’.
The waltz time of ‘Girl You Left Behind’ gives an upbeat musical gloss to a brilliantly restrained lyric of disappointment, delivered with subtle emotions by vocalist Julie.
‘Don’t Go Home’ is a plaintive real-time cry from the heart over shimmering echoing guitar, as on many tracks the voice and music complementing each other perfectly.'(Waiting) For Trains’ is a realistic summary of long-distance relationships ‘…what can I do, now I’m a slave to engineering works at Crewe….I wish that one of us could drive, it might just be the only way our love survives..’ ‘Warmth Of The Sun’ closes the album with some sort of redemption from emotional insecurity, having finally arrived at the sea…
It is a beautiful, involving album to escape into, fragile and carefully crafted. Discovering its quiet secrets was a bit like hearing Nick Drake’s Pink Moon for the first time and I can’t recommend it higher than that.
As a final prelude to a new LP ‘Motus Octo’ in November, Cambridge quartet Bouquet Of Dead Crows release an alternative version of the album’s second track.
The phrase “the good God is in the detail” is generally attributed to Gustave Flaubert, but less certain is the author of its satanic counterpart. Whatever the origin the Crows have turned it into a hookline for a stately slice of highly-charged rock. Making full use of the stereo separation in the mix, Neil Bruce’s dissonant guitar in the introduction lays down the devil’s own riff, the bass and drums crash in and away we go.
Many diversions and subsections come and go and masquerade as new directions for the song before it keeps returning to that ultra-catchy title line. There is even time for a quick guitar solo, a bit of stabilising bass and a genuinely different middle-eight.
The angelic voice of Antoinette Cooper is the serene influence on this organised mayhem, leading the way over musicians at the heavenly height of their noisy powers.
The band are launching the album with a show at the Blue Moon in Cambridge on 24th November, with other shows being added. See you there!
The third volume of tracks reflecting the variety of the Cambridge music scene, expertly curated by DJ Dave Hammond to keep the restless listener guessing. The proceeds from this release go to the local branch of mental health charity MIND.
1. Ember Rev – The Fear Thoughtful opening track, interesting rhythm and guitar lines underpins a lyric of paranoia and warning.
2. Carolyn’s Fingers – Twice Born for full review see https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/06/17/carolyns-fingers-twice-born-single-released-june-2018/
3. Goddammit Jeremiah – Can I See You Being a fan of minimal DIY pop I was very pleased to find this one; 100 seconds of lovelorn low-key longing.
4. Lemondaze – Tremelo A pounding psychedelic excess of creativity from this superb live quartet. Even the quiet bits are loud.
5. The Fifths – Chance It One of the catchiest tracks, full of spiky guitar, rhythmic sharpness and once I realised they were saying ‘..FYI..’ it all made perfect sense.
6. Elma – California for full review see https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/07/01/elma-california-single-released-june-2018/
7. Jessica Law – Find Me In Hell Theatrical prog-folk tale, full of curious imagery, 70s instrumentation and topped with a soaring, haunting vocal. Unique and brilliant.
8. The New Fools – The Big Wheel This one moves along very nicely driven by acoustic guitar rhythm, the gentle lyric is suddenly disturbed by the striking image ‘…like the boy falling from the big wheel I fall for you…’
9. Blue Alatar – Eesabigguntho Hefty, complex instrumental with multi-layers of guitar effects always returning to a mighty main riff.
10. Grieving – Brian Emo Fast blast of US influenced rock with a strong hookline and twin guitars roaming all over the compact track.
11. Eeyore – Out Of Sight I nearly blew out my car speakers when this introduction got going, this is a grinding, stately slice of proper metal and goes a bit Thin Lizzy too when it speeds up, then closes with a spoken section. Good stuff.
12. Section 3 – Danger Zone Bluesy, busy up-tempo rocker with a haunting guitar line counterpointing the punchy bass and drums.
13. Crackleford – Playhouse Well-structured pop song, a variety of keyboards transport it between the sixties and the eighties with a satisfying result.
14. Romy Gensale – The Garden Where No Flowers Grow Despite the barren title this is a lush, verdant moody jazz piece, coaxed along by gorgeous saxophone and Hammond organ. Romy sings in Italian and English, it is an intoxicating seven minute treat.
15. Honeywitch – What People Say Pure acoustic folk, with mandolin and guitar interweaving in the mix around the distinctive, timeless vocal.
16. False Adults – PC Load Letter After the sax intro this Ely rap trio have fun nailing the truth of the world of work, with wit, precision and a knowing turn of phrase ‘…I say I’m self employed but I’ve barely got a job, I just sit around all day eating chocolate Hob-nobs…’
17. Manic Mannequin – Hypnotic Big grungy rock ballad, each instrument an equal driving force and with the deadpan vocal delivery making the chorus stand out.
18. Influx Of Insanity – Scaffolded Minds This talented duo make a cinematic and complex noise in this multi-sectioned rock spectacular
19. Self Love – Faith-Bliss Another confident duo, with a frenetic, explosive wall of fuzz guitar and unforgiving drums. The sinister vocal gives way to an extra instrumental finale.
20. Moody Swing Things – Cuthbert’s Head A hidden gem at the end and the best title on the album; a surreal lyric sung with intense desperation over a riff that pays tribute to the Kinks via the Stranglers.
21. Fay Roberts – Sedna A soothing end to the album, storyteller and musician Fay relates a semi-mythical spoken word tale with some ethereal background voices and timeless themes.
Retro duo Elma revive and re-interpret many aspects of sixties pop genres on their long awaited debut long-player ‘Dreamland’.
The title track sets the agenda with its sparse instrumentation, a leisurely waltz time, smooth melody and of course a lyric of regret and longing sung by the golden voice of Ellie Gillett. It conjures up the russet shades and faded grandeur of the deserted fairground and art-deco cinema on the album sleeve. Some of the tracks have been released before as inviting aperitifs to this full collection; the glorious stomp of ‘California’ and their four-track EP including the heartbreaking ballad ‘Butterfingers’.
(as reviewed on this site previously at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/07/01/elma-california-single-released-june-2018/ and https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2017/11/05/elma-slo-mo-ep-released-october-2017/)
Mark Ellis orchestrates a full band sound with plenty of brass for anthem of independence ‘On My Way’ (featuring another fine middle eight and instrumental break).
‘The Game’ is a beauty, the atmospheric introductory waltz creating an image of a rainy London street in the 1960s or a black and white TV detective series theme, then the jazzy vocal takes control and lifts it to another level, with a big chorus suddenly appearing.
Then the album ends with two excellent and contrasting tracks; ‘All I Want’ is an appealing and effortless lounge-music vignette, the voice floating above lighter-than-air electric guitar work, bass and brushed drums, with a piano solo too.
Finally, if ‘Butterfingers’ left the listener in emotional turmoil, then ‘Late To The Party’ has surpassed it with lines like ‘….you did all that you could boy, you wrote our names in the clouds, too bad that I wasn’t looking up…..’. Over simple and effective acoustic guitar chords, Ellie delivers a show-stopping vocal performance of nuance and emotion, worthy of this superb song.
Elma are launching the LP with live dates featuring a full band, including a show at The Portland Arms in Cambridge on 27th September….