Monday, 31 October 2011

Concert4Conservation : stornoway, the epstein, dusty & the dreaming spires : the regal


Back when Stornoway were formed, a band fronted by someone who studied ducks, who had a cunning idea to use the BBC weather map to find their name, they had ambitions of one day supporting the Epstien at a major gig, so this homecoming event rounded off a significant chapter in their ever progressing career.
Greeted by a lady dressed as a chicken (or other ornithological creature I’m not sure), it was clear on entering the Regal that this was going to be a special event.  The opening band were Dreaming Spires, it’s the first time we’ve seen the Bennett brothers since the sad collapse of their festival, and a somewhat humbling and humanizing experience.  They open the set with lines 'For the first time in my life i see things as they really are.  I love you like a falling star', a powerful moment, their songs are musically tight and although the audience don’t know the songs they are pleasantly received.  Their new single 'Everything all the time' is a bit too similar to Ash for me (whiney and annoying), and isn’t their best song of the night by a long way, however the B-side ‘Fait of the world’, written with conservation in mind, just about saves their release.  They end the set singing ‘Carry me home’ and as musicians above business people, I hope they can continue this project a long way further.

Most of the Epstien’s set for me was annoyingly spent queuing at the bar, which quite probably hadn’t seen this many thirsty punters for quite some time.  However the sound was tight and new band members on Bass and Keys have been integrated seamlessly into their rich acoustic sound.  The vocal harmonies are stronger than ever, and set closer ‘Leave your light on’ a duo sung with just Olly and John, is a deliciously understated gem stuck on the end.

Tim Bearder compares the night, and introducing the main act is a proud moment for him having steered them through a lot of their early career with BBC introducing.  Tonight Stornoway showcase a lot of new material and some new arrangements with the North Sea Orchestra.  The new material is written far more as a band, rather than Brian’s songs arranged out, and the transition works well.  'When you touch down from outer space' is a quirky hit, written tongue in cheek about showing an Alien around Oxford, (but a very human link to Brian’s recent fatherhood). “I can’t wait to introduce you to your new world” are again lovely lyrics, which I’m sure have underpinned their previous success.

Other new material includes ‘Working in a Café’ (set in Jericho), ‘Farewell Achalasia’, ‘6th Wave’, an eco song played when an autoharp, and in 7/4 time, (I’m sure Rob has wanted to play in 7/4 ever since the beginning!)  ‘The Bigger Picture’, a solo 12 string finger picked song and ‘The ones we hurt the most’, where Rob, Olly, Jon and Brian huddle acoustically around 1 microphone, singing intimate 4 part harmonies.  The familiar hits were as expected sing-alongs, We are the Battery humans and Fuel up linking nicely to the days theme, and new arrangements at the start of Cold Harbour Road and Zorbing keep everyone happy for different reasons.  

The night is raising money for conservation charities SOS, the Earth Trust and the RSPB.  A signed Electric guitar is auctioned on eBay raising £395 and a variety of merchandise, posters, T-shirts, Hacky sacs, are sold with profit being donated also.  There was a moment at the end when we all thought the massive balloons were going to crash into the lights and burst the perfect bubble… but thankfully not and I leave with a Stornoway water bottle, a warm drunken feeling of rejuvenated humanity and a love for cute orange orangutans.
Trev Williams

published OMS 15
Stornoway playing a new song at Truck Store

Ley Lines Festival

Ley Lines Festival descended upon Cowley Road on Saturday 15th October as the reincarnation of last year’s OX4 Festival, an event which also featured a similar mix of upcoming foreign-to-Oxford talent and inside-of-Oxford talent. So up and down the Cowley Road, meandering members of the music going public faded in and out of The Bullingdon, O2 Academy Oxford and the Truck Store (which isn’t closing down any more, hooooray!) to get their aural fill of guitar noise and synthesizer warbling. Oxford Music Blog writers Trev Williams and Bethany Bagnall-Ainslie had a wander around to see what they made of the festivties and the bands hidden within.
To read review visit :

crayon - signs of life ep (self-released)

Crayon - signs of life ep (self-released)

I have enjoyed Crayon’s music foralongwhile, so,forme,this EP is long awaited. ‘Consolation’burstsoutwithits bouncy, syncopated beats and catchy, detached vocal lines fromRobinMoffatt–it’sthered Crayon in the EP box. ‘Paper- trails’ismoreofasoundscape, with swirling guitar effects and delays from Will Orpen. The advantage of their 5 piece band beingtheamountofvarietythey can create – green Crayon. ‘Undone’ highlights the great drumming talent of Chris Carr, with fluttering flute added by MichaelFothergill,creatingtribal sounds – blue Crayon. ‘Fighting Chance’,isalighttrack,andwell placed in the EP, unfortunately notthebestvocaltakebutstilla bright yellow Crayon. Title track ‘Signs of Life’ is a reflective, sad, epic, and reminds me of Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’, a grower but definitely a black Crayon.Overall,acolourfuldebut EP,showcasingthebestworkof a band well worth checking out live. 

Published OMS15

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Wood Festival braziers park

wood braziers park

Truck’s Wood off shoot pitches itself as an eco-friendly festival and it is predominantly aimed at, and attracts, families. Many people got in the environmental spirit of the weekend and biked to the festival, but still, a full car park and overflow with a standby taxi means that not everyone can be awarded a green star... Mama Rosin, Uiscedwr, KhaïraArby, Zeus and Willy Mason all provided great, exotic music from Canada to France, USA to Timbuktu, as did London roots/rock outfit Treetop Flyers, who are Glastonbury EmergingTalent winners this year, and one of only a few local acts on the bill, The Epstein. Katy Rose & The Cavalry Parade, the new project from re-named KTB, was pleasingly optimistic in sound, ending in the characteristic group singalong “I don’t want to lose my friend” they went.

The efforts the organisers make to provide solar-powered stages, rubbish recycling and compostable toilets – recycled tractor tyres as seats – and a cycle powered stage are all great initiatives, but there is certainly an underlying feeling that more local acts would go a long way to reducing their carbon footprint. There does also seem to be a gap for a local singer/songwriter type stage in the day as the workshops were predominantly aimed at families. 

My main highlights were, powering Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou’s encore set by bicycle–great close harmony acoustic music from this Heavenly couple, both singing into one microphone, and also the main headline act Eliza Carthy Band, who were superb. She promoted her new album Neptune, boasting a lovely, soulful voice and a mix of upbeat and intimate numbers – she came across humbly as if she was ‘Mother Wood’. The concept behind Wood is a worthy one, and it’s an enjoyable festival especially, it looked like, for people with young families. 

(TW) published OMS 14

dive dive, winchell riots, minor coles o2 academy

dive dive, winchell riots, minor coles o2 academy

For such a hot, sweaty day, Oxford truly turned out in force for this gig. Opening in shorts and t-shirts and adding some real passion to their set, Minor Coles have truly raised their game since I last saw them. More confident, rhythmically tight and energetic, songs ‘Black Hole’ and ‘Fortune Teller’ go down well. A more bass riff-driven sound, which is pleasingly similar to Foals, gives an optimistic preview of their June EP release.

Winchell Riots followed, and although I’m a fan, I didn’t really enjoy tonight’s set – it was too loud and lacked subtlety. They didn’t engage with the audience either, which resulted in it seeming like a practice session.‘RedSquare’,forme,was one of only a few which stood out from the noise.
Dive Dive have been around for years, and are probably better known as being Frank Turner’s backing band these days, but they haven’t yet gained the recognition they deserve in their own right.Tonight, reminding Oxford what rock music is, they play some blistering songs from recent album Potential as well as some old classics. Nigel Powell is one of the best drummers I have seen and the other members do their bit to drive the rhythm home. I watch with memories of moshing at Truck festival, and hear sounds truly in the same league as Foo Fighters and Green Day. ‘Liar’ is the best of their new set–Jamie Stuart’s vocal is in good form, and a hundred sweaty people leave the venue encouraged that rock music, thankfully, isn’t dead.

(TW) Published OMS 14

very nice harry #reformat (self-release)

very nice harry
#reformat (self-release)

VNH have been increasing the profile of their gigs, the latest of which was an
appearance at Oxfringefestival, and having not caught them live it was good to get their new‘#Reformat’ EP to get a feel for whatImightexpect.Hailingfrom Didcot, they build on the now familiar ‘Dead Jerichos sound’, particularlywiththeirfirsttwo tracks. Delayed guitar loops and effectsandambitiousdrumming aremuchondisplay–it’seclectic at times but it gels together to make a good little EP. ‘Among Whispers’ismyfavouritetrack, where Sam’s vocal is definitely initselement.‘Undisclosure’and ‘Vegas’ have a big sound and epic lengths and although the long instrumental sections may work well in a live situation, they don’t provoke the most insightful nuggets over my morning coffee! Certainly the energetic sound makesmewanttocatchalive set–I’msuretheywilldowellif they can recreate this sound at their shows.

Trev Williams
published OMS 14

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Radiohead – The King of Limbs

Quick, download, listen, review, break laptop (optional), upload,

The hype around Radiohead is truly huge, as one can tell from the instant reviews written in the half hour after download of the mp3 release.  I feel after 2 days digestion I’m only just poised to write even the smallest of insight..

Hailing from Oxford and all the cliquey nature that sometimes entails, Radiohead seem to adopt an approach which suggests:  We’re just as ‘clever’ as you and look what we can do.. dribble down a microphone, throw our drumsticks about and have a fit onstage.  In the video to Lotus Flower, one of the album’s leading tracks, Thom’s eccentric dancing reminds us that craziness, abnormality, and difference are indeed beauty. Phil Selway’s clumsy intelligent rhythmic diversity and the lyrical links to nature also highlight how right they are. 

Building on the juxtaposition of scattered beats, cut up instrumental loops and piano samples, topped over with Thom’s saliva-induced perfection of intimacy, and wailing in his vocal delivery.  What In Rainbows and Thom’s solo work started this album continues.   There is an energy which at points has every element of chaos, and yet somehow manages to project as relaxing.  There are no catchy sing-alongs, few instrumental hooks or indeed any choruses, but presumably this wasn’t intended anyway and as a whole the album flows in its messed up natural soundscape.  I therefore refrain from giving a track by track analysis.  In fact the token commercial guitar track being left out altogether works in the album’s favour.  The King of Limbs finishes with an amazing simplicity which highlights Johnny Greenwood’s genius as a melodic guitar arranger.  Radiohead have obviously built up the attention span of their existing fans, and taken them to new musical realms yet again.  Good work guys!

Trev Williams