Tag Archives: surrey live music

CURVED AIR — Back Screech Love? In Concert at Claygate

This Sunday we visited CLAYGATE — at the tail-end of their superbly organised MUSIC FESTIVAL week — to see the pioneering British progressive rock group CURVED AIR play live in concert at the Claygate Village Hall.

Their “Air Conditioning” album (1970) is still considered “essential listening” by the prog-rock crowd.

Retrospective – Anthology 1970-2009 – Best Of – (Remastered) – Curved Air

It was exciting to see a band — so famous — in what amounted to a village hall.

And the band have a strong Surrey heritage too [forerunner Sisyphus played one of their first performances at the Leith Hill Place Ballroom, Surrey] — so they were made very welcome.

After an extended instrumental introduction, the original “Hair” girl Sonja Kristina emerged onstage in a swirl of boho gypsy waftiness to get the crowd clapping along before the start of her distinctive low-dark, sexy vocal styling.

One of the first songs performed was “Stay Human” from the most recent album “North Star” [2014] with the “I am still your lover...” line.

This has strong riffs and thriving violin work from the “Sideshow Bob” lookalike Paul Sax on violin

(Fiddle-wizard Paul was one of the first participants at the Yehudi Menuhin School… and it shows.)

Sonja Kristina emerged onstage in a swirl of boho gypsy waftiness…

Screw” began with a two-tone riff played by the elfin “Legolas” Robert Norton on keyboards.

With clashing cymbals from original drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa and unfolding vocal drama.

This number sounded like an avenging angel — on the prowl and dangerous. The alarming shrieks from Paul’s violin added to the sense of urgency and impending doom.

In the Seventies the band were often referred to as “the British Jefferson Airplane” and with songs such as “Marie Antoinette” [from Phantasmagoria, 1972] it is easy to see why.

This number was full of delicious harmonies, expert twiddles, and a lot of punches and trills.

However, it was a protest song at heart, although misted in historical imagery. Back in the 1970’s the worlds of fantasy, psychedelia and new-age shininess could all be packed-together in one gorgeous song. And they still made social comment. How cool is that?

Paul was one of the first participants at the Yehudi Menuhin School… and it shows…

Sonja took an acoustic guitar for the popular folk-song “Melinda (More or Less)” [also from Phantasmagoria.]

This beauty is a fan favorite and shows the hippie principles of the band as well as their eternal affection for the folk-star Donovan.

Unfortunately the second half of the show was bugged by a very loud and completely unpleasant feedback squeal.

“We need to find that pesky mouse….” Sonja told the crowd.

The problem was temporarily fixed — but it didn’t stop a lot of people from wandering off into the night.

The show ended with the fantastic “Back Street Luv.”

This super-hit demonstrated Sonja’s slow vocal style, which still reaches those husky tenor lows where she seems happiest, though she breaks into expressive contralto register at times.

Chanting revolution, pop and psychedelia.

Progressive rock is never much better than this…

Words & Images: @neilmach 2017 ©
Link: https://www.facebook.com/CurvedAir/

Cornelia Live at The Boiler Room Guildford

Cornelia Live at Boiler Room Guildford
Image © Neil Mach 2012

On Monday 15th Oct we were lucky enough to see the Swedish singer / songwriter and electronic pop temptress, Cornelia Dahlgren at the fabulous Boiler Room venue, in Guildford, Surrey. Cornelia participated in the first season of Swedish Idol 2004, but dropped out of the show in the final stages because she did not consider the manufactured approach to the music to be what she was all about. She instead chose to start her own label ‘Camp Mozart’, and debuted with an EP release entitled. ‘Capsule’ .

Recent widely acclaimed collaborations with artists such as Portico Quartet and Scratcha DVA have brought her to the forefront of the music scene in the UK. We saw this strange musician supporting the amazing and sumptuous sounds of the Submotion Orchestra – the 7-piece project from Leeds.

Entering into the world envisioned by Cornelia is like being trapped inside a snow dome, with a swarm of moths. It is not a particularly pleasant experience, but it is not truly distressing either. Uncomfortable enough to give you nightmares, but you could endure the sensation for an eternity. The relentless wing-beatings are somehow comforting. Pellets of sound strike you … creating uneasy memories that will never go away.

Her voice is Kate Bush, Katie Melua and Lene Lovich – all rolled into one. And then smothered in popping candy. If you listen to this at the same time as drinking cola, it will cause your stomach to explode. And that is a fact.

Shadows of sounds come and go, tempting the listener briefly before wisping to heaven. Into this simulated reality of synthetic sounds and mixed, disjointed bass notes, comes the voice of Cornelia, at once disturbing, tragic … renegade. It has a fleeting, spectral quality that does not materialize properly. It will always border on the ethereal world.

Take her song “Stormy Weather” – the bumpy, potted traffic-jam of noises encrust the baby-voiced bleats of the singer. The song touches you in places you wish were not touched. It feathers you, and slides down your backbone… stroking and teasing its way into your nervous system. It is creamy and delicious.

Or listen to the older song “Aquarius Dreams“, which rises and falls like a sinus beat. A grumble of lightly percussive sounds creates a rustle, while the gloopy electronic soups bubble and broth. But rising from this boiling mix is the steamy voice of Cornelia. It shimmers and glides across the surface.

Cornelia is a dangerous kalidah and she cannot be trusted. If you feel safe within her glittering folds, beware. She will attack you, and she will stab you. With prongs of power. You had better give her the attention she demands. You will hear much more from Cornelia in the future.

© Neil_Mach October 2012

Link:

http://www.facebook.com/iamcornelia

First Aid Kit Live at The Boiler Room

First Aid Kit is a Swedish folk duo composed of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, whose close vocal harmonies and woodsy, folk-influenced songwriting take influence from the likes of Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom. Hailing from Enskede, a southern suburb of Stockholm, the siblings began composing songs in 2007.

After playing a concert in Nashville the duo was approached by Jack White who requested them to record a single for his Third Man Records series. In February 2011 the duo collaborated with Bright Eyes during their performance of Lua. In January 2012 the band released their second album, The Lion’s Roar, produced by Mike Mogis. The album was critically acclaimed upon release and went straight to #1 in Sweden on the week of release and #35 in the UK.

First Aid Kit came to the superb Guildford venue The Boiler Room (sold out) with songs like their very special piece ‘The Lions Roar’. These have a Dylanesque quality to them- not only lyrically but also with wallowing, haunting chord structures. But you can often find a harshness, a grit and a determination in their exquisitely rendered songs. No matter how sweet the girls look, or how honeyed those immaculate confections are, this pair are bold and rugged and they have a knowing glint in their eye.

‘The Lions Roar’ is a song that criticizes religion – but empathy is also shown for the ingenuity of the human race. It is recognized that, where we need to seek comfort – we will look for it, and find it. In the best ways that we can. Klara’s voice breaks at unpredictable times – reminiscent of those country and western singers who sometimes you lead to a choke. And Johanna’s tresses billow and sway like shimmering plumes. You soon realise that these girls are true performance artists. The “Lion’s Roar’ leaves you almost inconsolable, with feelings of isolation, rejection and pain. Yet, somehow you smile. Because life is beautiful. That’s all there is to it.

A similar song that can also be enjoyed as a metaphor for gaining strength in isolation is ‘Hard Believer’, which was written after reading Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The God Delusion’ and starts out as an explanation – offered to an uncompromising believer- that sets out the sibling’s own belief system. The vocals are arranged against a soft combing of delicate strings. As the harmonies start, you can almost feel the wind on your face – and see the wild geese flying into a winter moon. Yes, as they say, “time is tough”. But, as the keys are starting to fall in tone, and notes drop fatally lower – like autumn leaves tainted by an early frost – the descant becomes even more soulful and less expectant. It is at this stage that the song can truly be released- into a full and thriving understanding of the nature of life. It’s a position that we can take and we can understand – no matter our belief system or adopted religion.

Two cleverly crafted cover songs were also included in the Boiler Room set. The gently rhythmic ‘When I Grow Up’ (written by The Knife’s Fever Ray (Karin Dreijer Andersson) and, later, “America” by Simon & Garfunkel, which the pair performed ( for Paul Simon) at the Polar Music Prize Ceremony 2012 this year.

An amazing, and spiritually uplifting evening of fine performance.

– © Neil_Mach September 2012 –

Link:

http://www.facebook.com/firstaidkitofficial

Brightlight City – Live at Hobgoblin, Staines

Epsom band ‘Brightlight City’, formed together holistically in 2010, following long time friendships and brotherhood (the Giarraputo brothers- Jamie on vocals and Justin on guitar). We were pleased that we managed to catch up with this band and their photogenic jamboree of musical fun at the best live music venue in Middlesex, the Hob, Staines.

Their debut single ‘Pressure’ was self released at the end of 2010 and can be heard on the cult British film ‘Jack Falls’. And their new single ‘The Others’ is a bombastic frothily beating heart bop song. Very ‘Duran Duran’ in places with but with their customary slice of acetic growl and snarl adding garnish later. And it’s even reminiscent of ‘The Jam.’

The band played an appetizing show at the Hobgoblin, featuring some excellent song structures and fine vocal imagery, expertly veneered to perfection. Songs like ‘You Shone’ which has diamond sharp lyrics and chirpily relentless vocals (with a dove-like coo-coo-coo). Shot through with cleanly etched guitars that rise and fall like demented moths around the candle-wax. Sumptuous harmonies add a luxurious quality and an impressive extra dimension.

Other catchy tunes include ‘Shortcuts’ – this travels with ease along a jagged path, yet at a light-footed pace. With short, sharp shots of guitar from Jono and Justin, and unhesitating percussion and eloquent bass from Joe and Dan. A cleverly planned chorus means this number sticks around in your brainbox long after the show.

‘Set Sail’ has an irregular rhythm guitar pattern and a sparkling pace. This song brings to mind ‘The Cure’ even with  those bruised and smeared ‘Robert Smith’ sounding vocals and an insistent chorus that drills into your skull and finds a neat place to curl up and slumber- bursting out later to surprise you!

Brightlight City are full of shine. This band, by rights, should have a profitable future.

© Neil_Mach October 2011

Link:

http://www.facebook.com/thebrightlightcity

Lucky Toppers – The Black Hats – Live Review – Staines Hobgoblin

Take three Elvis Costello types. Give them some twanging bass. Crank up the volume so loud it sends a thermic lance up your tender-loins.  Tighten up  the sounds with a heavy gauge torque-wrench. And you have yourselves ‘The Black Hats’. As dangerous as a night out in Hackney. Swift as a switchblade in steady hands. And as formidable as a home-made zip-gun. This band takes no prisoners in a bloody relentless surge for power.  

Oxford’s most articulate pop punksters played a successful show at the Staines Hobgoblin during the summer. They may look like yobs in “Proclaimers” specs or the remnants of a twisted “Freddy and the Dreamers” lookalikey party, but they play garrulously energetic punk at high pitch, high dose levels. And they sprinkle their sounds with seasonings of ska, dub and reggae. In this sense, they are our ‘most post’ protopunk pop-star popinjays. Increasingly recognized and well received throughout their home territory, they now seem to be branching out along the Thames Valley- and they are already creating quite a stir on radio. And they are just out of the studio, having recorded with Mercury-nominated producer Sam Williams (Supergrass, Plan B, The Go Team!)

A rattling & rolling gig at The Hob got all the good people in the audience moshing and prancing and, generally, yelling to the aggregate sounds. This band look like a bunch of rock-hard ‘leave-well-alone’ nut-case bruisers with psychopathic intent. But their songs and intelligent musicianship elevates them to a higher level. Yes, they may be a bunch of amoral, discontented antisocial misfits – wearing ‘Two Ronnies’ glasses -but they are also talented, effervescent with energy and almost academic in their production.

Their big number ‘Tunnels’ rushes & crashes-  it barely hangs onto the tracks- like some kind of out-of-control cattle car upon a flimsy trackway . Driven by a Liam Gallagher-style vocal from Nick Breakspear, the jaggedly highly-wrought guitar-work adds radiating spirals of sound to the bumpy rhythms laid down by Ian Budd on bass, and the generally rickety percussion from Mark Franklin on drums.

Other Black Hats numbers like ‘Magnets’ are creatures that can trace their lineage back to ‘The Jam’ and ‘The Cure’ via ‘Simple Minds’. Bippperty beats, slide around rhythms and cutie-pie slip ups, underpin the smiling yet ultra-cynical vocals and those acid laden vitriolic lyrics. Silvery guitars slice up the atmosphere and a catchy chorus adds to the joy of the frivolous, yet desirable, songs. Yes, indeed ‘We’re all magnets … don’t you know?”

And ‘Just Fall’ helps you feel your way along it’s twisting path with a reassuringly jammy sound. But the angular motifs and progressive bass notes create hazards and unseen footfalls in the dangerous architectural sub-terrain.  Two-for-one chug-a-chug chords get toes tapping. And echoing sweetly, lofty vocals from Nick remind me of Sting at his best (Reggatta de Blanc) and now, come to think of it, his reggae guitar tones also sound a lot like Andy Summers.

Crikey, there is a lot here to be thankful for here. The Black Hats are set to top-off and rise. This is spruced up defiant and infallible punk.

© Neil_Mach
September 2011

Link:

Weyward Chile – at the ‘Wey Will Rock You’ event – The Star Guildford

Weyward Chile possesses that kind of cock-rock insolence and sweaty strutting charm that actually swoops the gals off of their feet and sets the men a-jigging. And that’s exactly what occurred at The Star Inn, Guildford on 9th Sept at the boys’ regularly hosted rock night ‘Wey Will Rock You’ (planned for the last weekend of every month.) The guys and girls were dancing and grinding  – and hollering along to the best, biggest and most bruisingingly boisterous bad ass blues rock this side of the Smokies.

Frontman lead vocalist Karl looks very much like ‘Donovan’ but he possesses the seriousness and the rustle of Robert Plant. He is as bold as he is beautiful. On the sweet lead guitar we have chancer and chief mojo-maker Korush, on the smouldering rhythm guitar we have Jack and on the power-house percussion we have Alex showing off a tantalizing new kit, with James on finger-lickinginly good bass.

Starting with an onslaught of power and strength that shakes the roof tiles off the mossy ole ‘Star, the band smash into a blistering set that can only be described as ruthless classic rock. Delivered in dollops so big, you will need an excavator and a pile-driver to make sense of the chords and chops. With songs like “Whole Lotta Love” and Jimi’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” you know what you’re going to get.  Yes, exuberant classic rock and blues.

But their own songs are also full of promise and contagious, good time, rock-ability. From their gas-bottle necking grassband country twanging, feverish ‘Go Go’  to ‘Clouds Start To Rain’ which has an elegant chord structure and a tuneful verse together with nagging guitar ripples from Korush- lightly feathering the pattering rhythms. I can’t wait for their studio album.

There was a lot of low-down, yard-dog, dice rolling type numbers, like ‘Mike’s Song’ created with roostering roistering buoyancy. And ‘I Went Down’ which is their truest ‘Bad Company’ number. It’s like running down the strip with a desolation angel on your arm, trying to get to the liquor store & grab yourself a bottle of Gentleman Jack before the big game. It’s like sluice-juiced rock-daddy headymen Aerosmith before their big-hair dandy days. When they played true honest-to-goodness rock, blues and metal.

Huge sound and energy is created by Karl as he prances the boards and teases the audience with his wild shirtless holier-than- f * ck arrogant swagger. Yes, Weyward Chile are now truly ready for stadium stardom. I can imagine these boys making a success of a West-coast tour anytime now.

Hard place dominant rock and blues for the wise and the ready…

© Neil_Mach
September 2011

Links:
http://www.weywardchile.com
http://www.myspace.com/weywardchile
http://www.youtube.com/user/WeywardChile

Cow live at Bed Bar, Woking – July 2011

“Cow” are an acoustic 4-piece soul and pop band with a California sound and a kinda sixties-style kookiness concealing a modish edge, flavoring both their sound and their image. This band would not seem out of place supporting The Mamas & the Papas  on the Ready Steady Go! show circa 1966…

The band has already ably supported the Woking ‘Modfather’ Paul Weller and has created quite a lot of buzz and excitement on the music scene. I went to see the band as they launched their superbly packaged “Sunrise” E.P at the sumptuous Bed Bar in Woking.

The band is seated in a half-circle and play acoustically, without drums. Female vocalist and guitarist – Maxine  – is located in the centre of the group, looking relaxed and regal. She provides the warmth and depth to vocals, but Mark and Ben (on guitars) provide some interesting harmonies and generally descanted sounds. Michael is twanging the bass guitar. They reminded me of the kind of band that would be warmly appreciated on the Val Doonican show! But their insightful lyrics and creative compositions, and the constant intertwining, reminded me more of songs by  Loves  Lee Arthur in Los Angeles in the 60’s … together with the delicate air of mystery that lies beyond every song, and the vaguely uncomfortable feeling you get when you realize that you are being  taken up the-garden-path by the lyrical sub-texts and the arrangements.

“Sunrise” the ‘Side A’ on Cow’s new E.P. is like a sixties fruit-cup of love. Not unlike anything by the Mamas & the Papas in aspirations or moodiness. At first glance, this could be put down as a light pop song, but by rubbing its delicate surface, it reveals darker secrets. There is a flourishing yet controlled burst of chukka-chukka rhythms set amongst a profusion of squelchy guitars, but the flamenco style beats and the pervasive chords get heads nodding and feet tapping.

“New Day” ( this song went town well at Wembley Arena when Cow supported Paul Weller) is a foam-wrapped eerily haunting song, shrouded in mysterious folksy froth. And ‘One in B’ sounded like a less funky ‘Long Train Runnin’ (‘Dooble Brothers’).  This song evoked (for me) memories of joss sticks, turtle-necks and snuggling up in your Afghan, on quilted cushions, listening to Jefferson Airplane.

“Get To Luv You” sounds every bit as dippy and preppy as anything by the Partridge Family – a saccharine sweet and high-pitched jaunt. If the haunting emotions bring a tear to your eye and a slight ache to your heart, never mind, because the songs are joyful and  tender enough to lighten your mood and put a shake in your hipsters. Perhaps I could have done with some keyboards to ‘flesh the sound out’ – it felt a little like a watercolor wash at times. But, nonetheless, enjoyable.

“Fragile Foundations” has lustrous autumn gold vocals from Maxine against mellow chords and feel good bass lines.  ‘leaving ain’t no good when you’re misunderstood‘ she sings, while lofty harmonies provided by Ben tend to lift you to a higher place.
Gentle ‘Donovan’ style sweet sixties vibrations linger long after in your mind, even once the sweet chorus finishes…

Passionate, inspiring, folksy, Amercican style sixties soul – from this intimate and creative group. For your gentler side!

© Neil_Mach
July 2011

Links:

http://www.cowmusic.co.uk
http://www.twitter.com/cowuk
http://www.reverbnation.com/cowuk