Tag Archives: Cambridge

Indiepop All-Dayer, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 10 November 2018

The Blue Moon was the venue for the sold out and highly anticipated Cambridge Indiepop All-dayer, now in its third year. With a tasty line-up of nine bands; songs of relationship angst and elation, protest and politics, set to a DIY soundtrack of jangly guitars and spiky drumming.

Opening the proceedings to an already sizeable audience were Doyouthinkhesaurus?, a four-piece featuring staccato drums and creative bass patterns weaving around fuzzy guitars with fragments of lyrical ideas added to the mix ‘…you’re so underwhelming, how long is a piece of string…‘. ‘Lipstick’ resolves into a singalong chorus while ‘Cross-Words’ is based around one lyric line, noisy interludes and general unpredictability. Excellent sounds at 3pm on a rainy afternoon and all strangely addictive.

Last minute additions to the bill were duo Panic Pocket, a minimal mix of harmony voices, guitar and the only keyboard of the day (a retro mini-Korg) that seemed to produce some mighty, echoing tones. The songs addressed modern life concerns of internet dating, the tedium of the workplace and disappointing relationships; the lyrics were brimming with ideas and references. ‘Don’t Get Me Started’ was a standout track among many others.

Next it was short songs played quickly from exciting Leeds trio Nervous Twitch. With a tight uncluttered sound they are not afraid to draw on great 60s and 70s retro influences, especially on the surf guitar of instrumental ‘Tarantino Hangover’. They pushed the standard three piece instrument line-up in all sorts of directions, featuring fantastic vocals from bassist Erin; energetic but tinged with melancholy on ‘You Don’t Want Me’ and ‘Torment Me’. For me, this band was one of the big highlights of the day.

I fell for the irresistible low-fi jangle of Charmpit when I saw them before at the Leicester All-dayer; and as then their easy stage manner and crowd interaction earns a lot of love for their new summery tracks. You can’t resist a song based around the line ‘I’m in love with the world through the eyes of a squirrel’…

Also previously seen and reviewed on this site, Wolf Girl have a new album out and it made up most of their set. The quartet make an excellent sound with strong, uptempo songs and I particularly like the 60s folkier sound of ‘Dream Partner’.
Named after an amusement park ride, Witching Waves make a big noise (despite no bass player for this show). Opening with the relentless ‘Disintegration’, Emma sings and pounds the driving drum patterns while Mark extracts dense textures and spikes on the guitar.
I have reviewed Mammoth Penguins many times and they never disappoint; songs like ‘Cries At The Movies’, ‘Played’ and especially ‘Strength In My Legs’ sung with feeling by multi-talented Emma Kupa are indiepop perfection and there is a new album due very soon…

Another highlight for me were the excellent Happy Accidents , a power pop trio with an intense, sharp sound that belied some of the wit and comment in the lyrics. Opener ‘Wait It Out’,’Chameleon’ and ‘Different View’ motored along and bristled with energy while ‘Nunhead’ was more of an anthem with the repeated request to ‘….meet me by the cemetery…’.

And finally headliners Colour Me Wednesday, beginning with the majestic ‘Sunriser’, a distillation of many of their distinct facets; world-weary feelings of frustration with a relationship delivered with style by Jen Doveton, fascinating and endlessly varied guitar phrasing from Harriet Doveton and a tour de force drum performance from Jaca Freer. With excellent second guitar and bass the sound is full and rich. Transports of delight driving songs ‘Boyfriend’s Car’ and ‘Edge Of Everything’ sound great too and older track ‘Shut’ is a real crowd-pleaser.

All this and then an indie music disco into the small hours, this Cambridge institution is now a firm fixture on the music calendar….

https://www.facebook.com/doyouthinkhesaurusband/
https://www.facebook.com/panicpocket
https://www.facebook.com/nervoustwitchband
https://www.facebook.com/charmpit/
https://www.facebook.com/wolfgirlband/
https://www.facebook.com/witchingwaves
https://mammothpenguins.bandcamp.com/
http://www.happyaccidents.band/
https://www.colourmewednesday.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CambridgeIndiepopAlldayer/

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Annie Dressner, CB2, Cambridge, 26 October 2018

Opening the sold-out show in the atmospheric basement space of the CB2 café bar was Milton Keynes based singer/songwriter/guitarist Anna Hester. Playing her own compositions she moved effortlessly between genres, but always with an emotional core. Starting with the minimal ‘In The Meantime’ she soon won over the supportive audience. Especially poignant was the musical interpretation of WW1 poem ‘Everyone Sang’ (which we did…) and I particularly enjoyed the gorgeous drifting jazz tones of ‘Watch The Clock’; as light as air in the spirit of an early John Martyn track as it resonated around the intimate venue.

Luke James Williams uses the percussive and rhythmic possibilities of his guitar to showcase his intense, personal songs which he describes as ‘…reflecting the opposing forces and wonderful chaos of the world around us…‘. There is some darkness in the lyrics of ‘Snares & Traps’ and lead single ‘Rabbit Hole’ from his forthcoming EP. He played ukulele too, and a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ fitted in well. The final thoughtful song ‘Still In Bed’ rounded off an impressive set.

This was the launch event for ‘Broken Into Pieces’, the new alt folk/country LP from Annie Dressner, with her set featuring a complete play through of the album.

Annie led with acoustic guitar, supported by occasional keyboard/electric guitar/cajón/percussion from her two fellow musicians. On the album there is denser instrumentation on many tracks but this line-up worked too, because of the strength of the songs and Annie’s pure, clear voice.

Opener ‘Fades Away’ builds around a simple guitar figure, with a dream-like hookline. ‘Heartbreaker’ is an uptempo jaunt featuring eternal themes of country music; reminiscence, then the inevitable ‘moving on’. Lead single ‘Don’t Go’ is a cleverly structured pop song, with big chorus and classic middle eight. ‘Bruise Beneath My Bone(s)’ is a compact, deceptively simple song of regret.

And so it continued; this is an excellent album, with many, many highlights. Originally from New York, Annie is now a Cambridge resident but recalls anecdotes and memories of her former life to draw on for lyrical inspiration, especially on two of my favourites ‘Kentucky’ and ‘Paper Moon’. The haunting, spiritual ‘Morning’ was the closing track from the album showcase, but there were more delights to come, especially ‘Fly’ and ‘September’ from her previous LP.
‘The Book Of Love’ by the Magnetic Fields suited Annie’s voice perfectly, then for a final encore the three acts played a gentle version of ‘You Are My Sunshine’ bringing a fine evening to a close.

http://anniedressner.com/
http://www.lukejameswilliams.co.uk/
http://annahester.com/

Elma, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 27 September, 2018

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.

https://www.facebook.com/elmaband/

Ember Rev : Premonition And Ruin, LP released Summer 2018

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.

https://www.facebook.com/EmberRev

Bouquet Of Dead Crows : The Devil’s In The Detail, single released September 2018

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!

https://www.bodc.live/

Amber Arcades, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 26th July 2018

On another hot summer night, the Portland was host to two contrasting bands; unfortunately I missed most of local psych-noise four-piece Lemondaze, but I did see enough to realise they were maintaining the high standard since I saw them at the Bury all-dayer earlier this year. Clearly enjoying themselves on stage they were still punching holes in the sub-ether with their effects-drenched exuberant, enjoyable and loud hypnotic grooves.

Amber Arcades is the band fronted by Dutch singer/songwriter/guitarist Annelotte De Graaf, soon to release her second full-length album.
Lead single ‘Simple Song’ opened the show tonight, with heavenly vocals floating in the air over her suitably subtle and skilled backing musicians. The songs draw on many influences, with jazz and country infusing the indie-folk atmosphere.
The mellowness of new track ‘Alpine Town’ moves onto another plane when the vocals soar at the end while ‘Goodnight Europe’ seems to sum up a state of sad confusion with a stately but catchy tune. There are excellent contributions from the band, with restrained keyboard tones and some lovely echoing guitar chiming through many of the tracks.

Too few bands are prepared to cover Nick Drake songs but the band takes on ‘Which Will’ turning the acoustic original into a shimmering jewel of re-invention, perfectly suited to Annelotte’s voice. The main set ends with the pounding drive of ‘It Changes’ then the encore included the poptastic track ‘Come With Me’ built around a trance-like guitar line, followed by its companion up-tempo piece ‘Fading Lines’.

An excellent set, warmly received and I’m sure they will have gone down a storm at the Indietracks festival!

http://www.amberarcades.net/
https://www.facebook.com/lemondazeband/

Indietracks Warm-Up, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 24th July 2018

On the hottest day so far of the endless summer this was the annual warm-up gig for the Indietracks festival near Derby at the end of July, with tonight an emphasis on some of the international acts featured.

First on were Let’s Whisper, a spin off band fronted by Dana Kaplan from the Smittens, with songs of insight and introspection based around acoustic guitar with additional support from fellow smittens on electric guitar and bass and Cambridge’s own Emma Kupa on bass. This was all very engaging and set us up nicely for the headliners.

Eureka California have been playing and recording since 2007, now performing as a duo their sound harks back to many sixties styles, played with a real swagger and featuring some thought provoking lyrics. There is a lot going on musically on guitar and drums and who can resist a band playing a track called ‘I Bet You Like Julian Cope’?…

The ever-popular Cambridge punk-pop trio Baby Seals then played a short but memorable set; their lyrics of modern attitudes and prejudices pull no punches but are always sung with a knowing smile and tongue firmly in cheek. Musicianship is spot on and above all the band have genuine fun on stage with the audience taken along for the ride.

The Smittens are a real treat to see on their debut in Cambridge, describing themselves as ‘….a hard-working, globe-trotting independent American twee pop band from Burlington, Vermont…’ . The six-piece opened the show with short but subversive love song ‘These Lips’ and in a set that seemed to fly by too fast they played tracks from their extensive back catalogue (they formed in 2002) and from the new album, officially released later this summer.
While bass and drums maintain a subtle reassuring groove the band are able to blend the four singers’ very varied voices in countless ways as well as giving each vocalist a chance to shine. Minimalist keyboard and melodica are added to the guitars to keep the much-loved DIY/Indie sound and this is used to great effect throughout. I enjoyed all the songs, especially ‘Half My Heart’, ‘Love Is A Word’, new song ‘Season One’, the joyous ‘Upper West Side’ and final track ‘Love Record Breaker’. They came across as lovely people and this was an excellent show!

http://www.smittens.com/
http://thebabyseals.co.uk/
http://eurekacaliforniaband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/letswhisper