Tag Archives: Cambridge

Tape Runs Out : Sleepwalking Into A Fire, EP released February 2020

Creative indie experimenters Tape Runs Out release an excellent new EP, a companion piece to last year’s ‘Talking Through The Walls’.

The Cambridge-based septet have an armoury of sonic flavours they can employ, but can still play  more conventional synth-rock as on opening track ‘Train Toy’. A waterfall of random sounds gives way to a stunning bass-driven chord progression; over this lushness a partly disembodied voice weaves strange, paranoid  imagery. The instruments come and go (especially a roaring guitar sliding up and down octaves) over a spectacular, relentless but soothing six minutes.
A bit like an epic song by The War On Drugs, or a journey travelling on water, it takes the time to do what needs to be done.

‘Anklebone’ is a much shorter psychedelic interlude, but like the following track ‘Children Will Dance’  there is a pulsing power produced by this talented ensemble.

‘Into The Sea’ is built around an urgent guitar figure (or is it the hammered dulcimer that they use later in the track?), tempered by some rich synths and violin. There is a melancholy in the lyrics on this pivotal song, ‘…maybe I’m optimistic…or maybe I’m sleepwalking into a fire…’

A repeating bass note beneath a treated violin heralds baroque chants and progressive rock moodiness in ‘Even Colours Follow The Rule’ then finale ‘Flowers’ is a calming meditation to bring this generous (twenty-six minutes) and accomplished EP to a satisfying conclusion.

https://www.taperunsout.co.uk/

Salt House, Storey’s Field Centre, Cambridge, 15 March 2020

Storey’s Field Centre in the new settlement of Eddington near Cambridge welcomed folk trio Salt House.
The clarity of the acoustics and the lofty church-like structure were an ideal setting for their haunting, celebratory music – conjuring images of stark but beautiful landscapes from the Scottish islands where they record.

Opening song ‘Turn Ye to Me’, “a tale of a baby stolen by a sea monster and replaced by a changeling whilst her mother gathered seaweed” is a new interpretation of an existing poem; immediately the music and voices on this and the following ‘Lay Your Dark Low’ set the tone for the evening. With acoustic guitars, a Gretsch hollow-body electric twelve-string, violin, viola and an indian harmonium the instruments were as lovely to look at as to listen to.

Imagine seeing hump-backed whales and orca off the coast then the northern lights in the sky, top it off by writing the gorgeous ‘Old Shoes’, with its fast guitar picking, relaxed harmonies and a lustrous violin solo and you have a perfect song to go with the ideal day.

Over the course of two sets they played many songs from their 2018 album ‘Undersong’ as well as all the tracks from their new long-player ‘Huam’ (the call of an owl), released at the end of the week. Each song was introduced and explained, drawing the audience into the rewarding layers of this rich musical genre.

The band feature the history and folklore of traditional Scandinavian and Scottish themes such as ‘The Sisters’ Revenge’; an epic seven minutes built around the recurring words ‘…the summer comes the summer goes…the grave of my father green grass grows…’. The words and music built the tension as the title characters prepared for the gory final act ‘…they hacked him into pieces small…’.

There were more contemporary reflections too; ‘All Shall be Still’ ties in the tedium of work routines with thoughts of escape and the timelessness of the natural world, also evoked in ‘Mountain Of Gold’ and ‘Staring at Stars’. Musically there was plenty to gently immerse yourself in but there was also darker, sombre moods such as the hypnotic dream of ‘The Road Not Taken’ with pulsing rhythmic guitar and soaring violin.

It was a warm, flawless and brilliant show.

http://www.salthousemusic.com
https://www.hudsonrecords.co.uk/
https://www.storeysfieldcentre.org.uk/


Mammoth Penguins, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 3 March 2020

A big turnout for a Tuesday night at the Blue Moon, full of well-wishers for the upcoming appearance at the US ‘SXSW’ festival by Mammoth Penguins.
It was a cracking support bill too, started by Peterborough quartet SUDS. Opening with the catchy recent song ‘You’ll Feel Better’ the sound is immediately established; a warm, ethereal jangle-pop, topped with smooth vocals that float over jazz-infused guitar lines, a bass line that descends and garnishes reassuringly and drum playing that weaves everything together.
The breezy pop of ‘Evergreen’ was a highlight – this was their debut single and included on their EP ‘It Suits Me Well’, a fine collection soon to be added to with recordings of some of the new songs featured in this impressive set.

Last time I saw Goldblume they were playing live in a summer storm and as always generating enough energy to compete with the elements. Opening with ‘Fawning’, tonight they were showcasing the instrumental power and complexity when the ensemble lets loose, with math-rock time changes and the volume and dynamics of the trio constantly varying. A great communicator with an audience, singer/guitarist Jethro brings the lyrics to life with a vocal performance that cuts through the noisy wall of sound, especially on ‘Bleach’, one of their best songs.

Cambridge three-piece Mammoth Penguins have two excellent albums to draw songs from and they opened tonight with the compact and to-the-point ‘Propped Up’ and ‘Cries at the Movies’ from 2015. Emma Kupa’s vocals sound simultaneously disconnected yet right in the middle of the narrator’s viewpoint in the songs, especially on the more recent album tracks such as ‘I Wanna’, an uplifting and clear statement of love (‘….I wanna be waiting when your train arrives…I wanna save your life….’).
The tense longing of ‘Put It All on You’ with the lyric of contradicting pairs of phrases (‘….you filled me with confidence and then you drained it all out…’) is another highlight, especially when the band go into overdrive, as they also do on the power pop of ‘Cold and Lonely Place’.
Mid-set they perform ‘Closure’, one of my favourites and probably their definitive song in all areas, with the resigned melancholy of the vocal, the chorus that sounds suspended and unresolved and the bass and drums that alternately sit back then explode into action.
It was a standout set in an atmospheric venue…good luck at SXSW!

https://www.facebook.com/MammothPenguins
https://www.facebook.com/goldblumeband
https://www.sudsband.com/
https://schedule.sxsw.com/2020/artists/2022509

12 Highlights From 2019 : A Sampler Of The Year

A distillation of tracks taken from some of the memorable albums, singles and Cambridge shows of 2019…

1. Sleaford Mods: Into The Payzone
Opening salvo for their storming Junction set; minimalist, wry and addictive.

2. Ward Thomas: Hopeless
Alt-country harmonies first heard at an instore appearance then in a superb show at the Junction.

3. Luke James Williams: Still in Bed
From 2018, but with steadily gathering airplay and compilation appearances this is still an emotional tour de force.

4. Hydra Lerna: In the Dark
Strong and perfectly crafted single from Norwich multi-talented electropop performer, making her live debut in Cambridge.

5. Billy Bragg: A13, Trunk Road to the Sea
After many BB performances I have finally heard this favourite live!

6. Captain Handsome: I Wish I Had a Dog
Lily from Fightmilk releases an excellent solo single – thoughtful but playful, tense but catchy.

7. Big Joanie: Used To Be Friends
Passion, politics and sharp tunes at the Portland Arms. (Enjoyed support Sink Ya Teeth too!)

8. Robyn Hitchcock: The Speed Of Things
Another fine song from the intricate Hitchcock canon and as always a brilliant live show.

9. Molly-Anne: Cold Is the Night
Chance discovery of this acoustic gem from Gloucestershire folk-country rising star.

10. Caswell: Surface
Classy upbeat single from this dynamic live performer and skilled songwriter.

11. The Tuts: Let Go of the Past
Cambridge debut from energetic indie trio, electrifying the show in a Corn Exchange double bill with The Specials.

12. Jeremy Tuplin: Humans
This elaborate and engrossing single with famous people name-checks was a highlight of his art-folk album which was brought to gentle life at his Blue Moon show.

The New Fools, Relevant Records, Cambridge, 20 December 2019

From the opening in 2014, Relevant Records in Cambridge’s Mill Road has been the perfect combination of relaxing coffee shop and a basement full of new and old vinyl. Live music has regularly featured too, sometimes amongst the records but now more often in the larger area upstairs.

Arriving late I unfortunately missed support Karalinga but after some seasonal sing-alongs Cambridge five-piece The New Fools opened their set with a cover of ‘Day Tripper’ (the Christmas Number 1 in 1965!). The rest of the set showed that the band have plenty of their own material to draw on, with featured tracks from the album ‘Brilliant’ from earlier this year (reviewed at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/07/07/the-new-fools-brilliant-lp-released-june-2019/) and a soon to be released new collection.

‘Martine and Me’ is a bittersweet tale and ‘New Way Of Thinking’ brings the piano to the fore. I enjoyed the Höfner bass lines in a new summery song (about a druid?) and ‘Something About Jane’ was an admirable slice of Britpop. Lead singer and composer Tony Jenkins says he wants to create an original northern soul song and ‘House Of Having Fun’ has the trademark energy and certainly got the audience moving. New single ‘John Candy Talking’ is out soon and ‘The Big Wheel’ is as ever a standout track; the melody, words and atmosphere perfectly driven along by the band.

The finale was the optimistic but realistic ‘(Waiting For) The Good Times’, setting up the crowd for the festive season.
It was an excellent, upbeat show in this very warming and welcoming venue…(though I was looking forward to a live outing for their acerbic tribute/dissection of Morrissey ‘Oh Steven, Why?’, but I suppose no-one would have wanted to lower the mood!?)

https://www.thenewfools.co.uk/

Various Artists : Cambridge Calling Volume 4, released 13th December 2019

Cambridge Calling Volume 4 is a new compilation of tracks from musicians based around the Cambridge area, with proceeds going to Emmaus – a charity which aims to reduce homelessness.

1. The Rugs – Blame It On Me Upfront, sparse rocker driven by a guitar counterline and some well-placed handclaps.
2. Colour Sergeant – Now it’s colour Dense ambient layers and creative sampling make a spectral, descending waterfall. A luminous three minutes.
3. ncklcng – Sleeper in the Valley This one is a bit of a grower, busy and accomplished jazz-funk with sax and sharp bass.
4. Kammahav – MLIRIR An acoustic version of the track from their second EP, standing for ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ and a mystery extra IR? ‘…fields full of skeletons….students on courses reciting white horses….’ populate the lyric as a strong rhythm guitar drives along like Gordon Giltrap’s cult instrumental hit ‘Heartsong’.
5. Luke James Williams – Still In Bed Brilliant song and performance, as previously reviewed on this site ‘…Sung with passion it is a standout track; a simple but stunningly effective ascending and descending guitar line is the only accompaniment to the emotionally raw lyric, coupled with a very attractive melody….’
6. RJ Archer and the Painful Memories – It’s Snowing In Hell As previously reviewed on this site ‘….adding an extra energy to the insistent riff, always returning to that great title line,‘…you tell me that you’re doing well, it must be snowing in hell…..’ With the gradually increasing desolation of the vocal it is a mini Tarantino movie soundtrack….’
7. SENEX IV – Valentine Dark rock from trio drilling deep into the mineshaft of Ziggy Stardust glam overlaid with a lovelorn lyric that doesn’t give up.
8. Moonstrips – Nothing Like You This has the initial flavour of echoey detachment of an early Pink Floyd piece then by adding extra noise to a full dense mix, the trio deliver a powerful rock song.
9. Kyanos – Egypt This four-piece draw on psychedelic and dream-like pop to construct a mainly instrumental piece which after gentle synths and a brief vocal sojourn surprisingly starts to rock out.
10. Cong-Fusion – Turned Tables Jazzy and with an 80s smooth sheen, this is an appealing and spirited pop song, embellished by electric piano, brass and a strong lead vocal.
11. Tribes of Europe – Intermission Sounding like it is straight from an imaginary film soundtrack, full of wide-open spaces and a restrained foreboding.
12. Annie Dresner – Nyack One of the brightest talents on the Cambridge indie-folk scene with a wistful reminiscence set over a gentle guitar and piano.
13. Absolute Beginners – Here Tonight Like a meandering river this sociable folky-rock track flows by and is a bit of a grower, winningly enhanced by the moog synth solo.
14. Pink Lemonade – Space Girl The poptastic trio have a new EP out but this is where their recordings started, as reviewed on this site previously ‘….they were out in the cosmos for two and a half minutes of power pop ‘….surfing the waves of the Milky Way…not your usual Friday, hey!…’, a burst of energy featuring a na na na na chorus, fuzzy guitar and as much outer space terminology as they can cram into the grooves. Follow that!…’
15. Slava B. – Games of System Singer/songwriter from Wisbech, sounding like more than a full band and with very distinctive vocals crossing between doom metal and The Ukrainians.
16. Future Now – Dying Universe Full-on rocker with prog rock storytelling and even though the song has many sections and paces there is no letup in the intensity over nearly seven minutes, good to hear the extended guitar solo ending too.
17. Karalinga – The Old Man Another track that grows in stature with each listen, reviewed on this site previously ‘… Laid-back semi-psychedelia driven along by an amiable saxophone line….’
18. Amethysts – Stones The gorgeous signature track by this soulful electronic duo; the voices, keys and guitar which sounds excellent live have transferred stylishly to this recording.
19. Lo-Grade Lawrence – Purple Pyramid An instrumental featuring dense layers of synthesisers, built around a steadily wandering theme and bass tone, garnished with other-worldly drums and percussion.

https://germanshepherdrecords.bandcamp.com/album/cambridge-calling-volume-4

Billy Bragg, Junction J1, Cambridge, 28 November 2019

Billy Bragg returned to Cambridge Junction J1 for three sold-out and different shows; featuring his current set, only songs from his first three albums and for tonight songs from the next three: Workers Playtime (1988), Don’t Try This at Home (1991) and William Bloke (1996).

Opening with his most well-known track ‘Sexuality’ the long set (with no support) was punctuated with musings, reminiscences, and of course specific political campaigning given the proximity of the general election. The three featured LPs contain plenty of ballads of break-up, make-up, disappointment and contentment but always laced with dry wit and a smart turn of phrase.

Although this was the umpteenth time I have seen him live there had not been enough room in his sets for many of these songs – so definitely a treat to hear the wordplay of ‘The Short Answer’ (‘…between Marx and marzipan in the dictionary there was Mary….’), the resignation of ‘She’s Got A New Spell’ (‘….she’s gone to get the cat in The next thing I know she’s mumbling in Latin….’) and the gentle melody and sentiment of ‘Brickbat’ (‘…I steal a kiss from you in the supermarket I walk you down the aisle, you fill my basket…’).

‘Valentine’s Day’ and ‘The Space Race’ are both ‘over’ in two of his most affecting and thoughtful songs. The politico-folk of ‘Thatcherites’ and an unaccompanied ‘Tender Comrade’ make their message clear and you cannot fail to be uplifted by his performance of ‘There is Power in a Union’ and the topically adapted ‘Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards’.

After two emotionally-involving hours there was a real surprise bonus – the ultimate UK road-movie soundtrack and one of my favourites ‘A13, Trunk Road to the Sea’ was the final song…

Home Page – Billy Bragg at the BBC