Tag Archives: live

Malena Zavala : La Yarará (Live at Studio 2), single released June 2020

This is a new version of La Yarará by Malena Zavala; it was the title track on her second album released earlier this year but this is an as-live studio recording cut at the legendary Abbey Road studios. The singer is based in London but draws on her Argentinian roots, she describes herself as being influenced by many sub genres; Cumbia, Afro-Cuban, Afro-funk, Andean folk, Argentine folk, bolero-son, and for this track, ‘reggaeton’ which is a music style originating in Puerto Rico during the late 1990s.

From the mysterious ascending keyboard in the introduction before the full band effortlessly join in the party it is a sinous, flowing track which evokes the image of the serpent of the title. As well as Malena’s sparkling voice the percussion and unadorned drums are crucial to the essence of the song and a spectacular trumpet solo appears from nowhere and nearly steals the show at the end as it duels with the graceful electric guitar lines.

I saw Malena and her band at the Blue Moon in Cambridge last year (see review below) so this is a reminder for me of an excellent show which has stayed in my memory…

https://www.malenazavala.com/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/04/28/malena-zavala-blue-moon-cambridge-25-april-2019/

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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/


Josienne Clarke, The Musician, Leicester, 8 March 2020

The Musician pub and venue is hidden away on the edge of Leicester city centre, hosting an extensive programme of live music that crosses the genres.

Tonight the mellow audience welcomed two solo singer/songwriters; first on stage was Autumn Dawn Leader fusing folk and blues as a platform for her very personal lyrics of emotional exploration. Starting at the piano but mostly accompanied by guitar, her vocals fully inhabit the theme of the songs as they move through their thoughtful structure. ‘Bottle’ takes a simple idea and spins it into an impressive ballad, new single ‘Another Year’ is a considered lament for the passing of time, while the much-streamed ‘What It Is’ fuses distant and haunting verses with a powerful and catchy chorus.

Weaving together subtle and varying guitar playing with her mesmerising and pure voice Josienne Clarke makes music of breathtaking beauty, showcased immediately by her opening tracks ‘Seconds’ and ‘The Drawing of the Line’, two highlights from her 2019 album ‘In All Weather’. The lyrics have the timeless imagery of the best folk music ‘…the swallows only sing the summer long…and leaves will turn to ochre in the fall…’ as well as more contemporary themes ‘…I’m leaving London but I might be back….I’ve given him my best years and he’ll never give them back….’.

More experimental tracks such as the song about a song ‘Season & Time’ (‘…this one struggles with structure…it wanders in its rhyme and its reason….’) appear alongside brief ideas and interludes – like the loop-pedalled vocals of ‘Fair Weather Friends’ that we share for less than two minutes and then drifts off hauntingly into the ether. ‘Onliness’ was a fragile and melancholy vignette, ‘Cast In Stone’ was a track that she recorded with previous collaborators Pica Pica and there were new songs too.

In this intimate performance space Josienne effectively communicates and invites the listeners into her musical world, the two sets she played tonight were over all too quickly…

https://www.facebook.com/josienneclarkeHQ
https://www.facebook.com/AutumnDawnLeaderMusic
http://www.themusicianpub.co.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

Smoke Fairies, Norwich Arts Centre, 3 February 2020

The city of Norwich is full of historic churches; this church of St Swithin was converted into an Arts Centre in 1980 and won the NME award for best small venue in Britain in 2014. It was the perfect venue for the gothic-folk of Smoke Fairies.

Accompanied by a drummer (and later to join the headliners on bass), John J Presley lets his guitar, bottleneck and deep-toned voice bring the audience into his world. With an echoing guitar sound straining and distorting, his songs use dark riffs on the lower strings on ‘Dance with Me’ and delve into murky blues for ‘On a Sunday’. ‘Left’ was a faster pop-like stomp and I found that the final song ‘Riders’ was a concise movie soundtrack lingering powerfully into the memory.

Smoke Fairies have a very new album out evocatively titled ‘Darkness Brings The Wonders Home’ and that formed the core of their set tonight, brought to life by the atmospheric guitar playing and magical dual voices of Jessica and Katherine. Opener ‘Super Tremolo’ has a tense, urgent structure and immediately all the elements are in place, a firm foundation from bass and drums as the guitars intertwine lines that fade in and out and the double line of vocals power through but float above the song.

Like a dark medieval folk song ‘Out Of The Woods’ is a definite highlight, the melody sounds like it is coming at you through the silvery trees and the harmonies in the chorus are otherworldly and sublime. Older songs such as ‘Summer Fades’ and ‘After The Rain’ from their first LP show how the band has developed to embrace different styles. ‘Left To Roll’ was the slow-burning emotional centrepiece of the show and the paranoid dream of ‘Elevator’ is built round a fuzzy, sinister chord sequence.
The encore featured the dense, complex ‘Feel It Coming Near’ and finally another new highlight, the rocking ‘Chocolate Rabbit’ (‘….you’re hollow inside, you leave me unsatisfied…’)

This is one of my favourite venues and Smoke Fairies are a band who can effortlessly weave their music into the fabric of this ancient building, as their majestic harmonies float up into the vaulted roof…

https://www.musicglue.com/smokefairies/
https://www.facebook.com/John-J-Presley-180387252007865/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/08/10/smoke-fairies-out-of-the-woods-single-released-august-2019/


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/

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


Big Joanie, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 13 November 2019

Formed in 2015 in Norwich, Sink Ya Teeth are a duo of singer and instrumentalist Maria Uzor and bassist Gemma Cullingford. Always embracing a pulsing dance beat their music builds layers around punchy repeating bass riffs, uncluttered synthesiser layers, live electronic percussion and excellent vocals from Maria.
The superb sound balance leaves space where necessary and as the lyrical ideas added to the experience there was more buzz and movement than usual in the Portland Arms crowd. ‘Pushin” drives all before it, ‘Complicated’ is catchy but tense while set closer ‘Substitutes’ is a deeper, brooding groove. A great performance, highly recommended!

Big Joanie are a trio from London, getting their messages across with raw guitar and lead vocals from Stephanie Phillips, Estella Adeyeri on bass guitar and at the front-of-stage drums was Chardine Taylor-Stone. They are very much an ensemble, all contributing to the vocals and crowd interaction. Many of the tracks tonight were taken from last year’s debut album ‘Sistahs’, but also new songs getting their first outing on this initial night of the tour.
With subversive social comment (the haunting ‘Token’), relationship politics (the sublime pop of ‘Used To Be Friends’) and cryptic words that just sound good (the addictive strangeness of ‘Down Down’) they are a riveting band to watch and hear. Lyrics are a strength but the music which is kept sparse and razor-sharp is always fresh and interesting. It is mostly fast-paced but ‘Cut Your Hair’ is more reflective and mellow and ‘Crooked Room’ abstract and sinister.

Their on-stage interactions and enthusiasm generate a supportive and warm atmosphere in the venue and as with the support Sink Ya Teeth it is good to see a band really enjoying themselves. A recent support slot for veteran art-punksters The Raincoats was a highlight they described with enthusiasm and relates to their own punk sensibilities which weave through all the music. While it is always good when at a show to escape fully into the musical world of the performers, this is a band with a conscience and awareness who made a point of reminding the audience about voting in the forthcoming surreality of the winter general election.

It was a brilliant set; by the time we reached the closing pair of ‘It’s You’ with its cymbal rushes and stealthy bass line then the all-out blast of ‘Fall Asleep’ the electricity was irresistibly flowing through the venue….

https://en-gb.facebook.com/bigjoanie/
http://www.sinkyateeth.com/


(photos by @MirnaGuha)

Robyn Hitchcock, Storey’s Field Centre, Cambridge, 26 October 2019

Storey’s Field Centre in the new Cambridge community of Eddington is continuing to host quality music; the room may lack a distinctive atmosphere but with the very high ceiling and versatile design features the acoustics are excellent for the two solo performers tonight.

First onstage was Emma Tricca, playing thoughtful acoustic pieces, many drawn from her 2018 album ‘St. Peter’. Using a fluid, gentle guitar style as a platform for her voice to summon and float a complementary jazz-folk melody, songs like the opener ‘Winter, My Dear’ are full of appeal.’The Servant’s Room’ reflects how cities change as time passes based on observations from a café window while ‘November At My Door’ is as captivating as the title promises.
It was a delicate and enticing beginning to a much anticipated show.

Robyn Hitchcock started his set with two songs from his Cambridge days with The Soft Boys – the darkly-catchy ‘Tonight’ and surreal treat ‘Queen Of Eyes’. You never know what is coming next from his vast back catalogue of solo work and collaborations; ‘Madonna Of The Wasps’ was from his time with The Egyptians, then the fast country-blues ‘I Pray When I’m Drunk’ was the first of four tracks from his self-titled 2017 long player.
Communications between songs this evening ranged from flights of fancy about the 1976 heat wave and speculating on what was underneath us before Eddington existed, but most frequently it was improbable banter with the sound desk about his fictitious requirements. He extends the range of his acoustic guitar with effects and adventurous playing excursions at the end of ‘The Lizard’ and final song ‘I’m Only You’ (for which he wanted sound settings that made his voice like ‘…a bundle of asparagus full of Art Garfunkels…?‘). A harmonica appears for two songs too.

Often it is the quieter moments that really hit home; ‘Stranded In The Future’, ‘Full Moon In My Soul’ and especially the requested encore ‘The Speed Of Things’ ‘…..You held my hand when I was crying…you were allergic to bee stings…I threw some earth onto your coffin…and thought about the speed of things…’; traditional-sounding folk transposed into a psychedelic masterpiece.

Robyn tours a lot and continues to record, most recently an EP with Andy Partridge from XTC. He also played latest single ‘Sunday Never Comes’, a melancholic and melodic anthem that has had its profile raised by a version featuring in last year’s movie ‘Juliet, Naked’.

It is an ongoing mystery why he isn’t a hugely popular performer playing giant auditoriums but to the faithful gathering in the church-like venue tonight he is unsurpassed in the musical firmament.

https://www.robynhitchcock.com/
https://www.emmatricca.com/