Spokes/Tomorrow We Sail – The Basement, York, 23rd November 2010

I haven’t really written a live review for a while, mainly because I’ve not been to many live shows.  I think this year I’ve seen maybe 5 gigs in total.  I used to manage that in about 2 weeks.  However, I don’t miss it one little bit.

Last week was a bit different for me though as going to York for a gig is a bit more exciting, a bit more of a novelty than going to Sneaky’s or the Wee Red Bar.  Plus, I’d never heard Tomorrow We Sail or Spokes before.  Well, I say I’d never heard Tomorrow We Sail but technically I had heard them rehearsing in the cellar of Rich’s house the night before.  So although I had not heard them properly, I had a fair idea of what I was in for.

There’s something really wonderful about York.  The moment we arrive I feel like I could exist in that place.  It’s old.  It’s beautiful.  The River Ouse dissects it.  I think all great towns and cities have a river or are near water.  I love being near water and the river in York adds to the overall beauty of the place.  There’s a calmness about the town that I love.  We look at gravestones for those who died of cholera, a random strip of ground just outside the train station.  We walk along the town walls for a bit.  Then we make our way to the King’s Arms, a little pub on the banks of the Ouse renowned for flooding when the Ouse decides to burst her banks.  Inside there is a marker on the wall to show how high the water has reached when the floods have come.  The walls bare the scars of water damage but the atmosphere is just perfect, as is the cheap lager.

After grabbing some food we head to the venue.  The basement is a strange place.  A cinema and music venue.  The smell of popcorn at a gig is an odd one, but one that is quite welcoming.  If I had had money I would definitely have bought some and eaten it in the venue just to see how people reacted.  As a space I don’t like it.  Bit modern.  Low ceilings.  Nowhere for the sound to go.  Nowhere to really stand.  I hear soundcheck and am concerned about the noise levels.  When the gig start my concerns are confirmed.

Tomorrow We Sail are a really good band.  Interesting songs and good players combine to create a really enjoyable 4 song set.  However, the main vocals are the only ones that are really audible throughout.  I know others in the band are singing but I have to strain my ears to really capture what is going on.  It’s something that repeats itself during Spokes set and it’s a bit of a pain.  It’s the room and the sound system rather than the bands that causes this problem.  I guess I’m a vocal freak and I’d rather everything else was turned down a little so that the, at times, 5 vocals can be registered.  But it’s a small complaint in an otherwise strong set.  I’m not sure if I’d compare them to other bands from this part of the world, but there is definitely a Leeds-ish-ness about them.  I like it a lot.

Spokes are completely new to me.  I know the name.  But I’ve never heard anything by them.  When we get home a discussion about whether the new stuff or old stuff is better and why takes place.  I’m a bit lost.  All I know is what I heard and saw this evening and for me it was just not enough to blow me away.  The discussion later in the house intrigues me though so I probably will check them out online.  Plus, they had good t-shirts on sale and that’s always a bonus in my eyes!  Anyways, their set, or what I see of it as we have to run for the last train to Leeds, is interesting enough.  I feel there is a formulaic style to their music, which if translated on to record would bore me quickly.  Again, the main vocal dominates the others and I really cannot bare the song sung by the violinist.  Yet there is enough to suggest that this is a band I could get into if I give them time and wasn’t so judgemental based on one show.  So despite leaving the venue with a sense of ambivalence, I really enjoyed the overall experience and would recommend that you check out both these acts if you get a moment.  I will certainly be listening again.

Check out Tomorrow We Sail here and Spokes here. Enjoy.



mini50 records Website Now Online


I’m delighted to say that mini50 records now have our very own WEBSITE.  Please feel free to visit it, browse around, and maybe even sign up to the mailing list, which you can do in the ‘ABOUT’ section.  We have a lot of exciting news on the horizon and a monthly newsletter will keep you informed of all things mini50 if you are interested.  First up, of course, is the debut album by Conquering Animal Sound entitled ‘Kammerspiel’ due out on 7th February 2011.  This, as you can see below, is preceded by the album track ‘Bear.’  Please check it out.  Enjoy.

Conquering Animal Sound – Bear – Single Now Available For Streaming

Gizeh Records and mini50 are proud to announce that the new single from Conquering Animal Sound entitled ‘Bear’ is now available for streaming. You can listen to the tune simply by clicking on the image above or have a gander at the Gizeh Records website for more information. I would suggest you have a look at the mini50 website but it’s currently under construction.

Bear will be officially released on 13th December as a digital download only along with the exclusive B-side ‘Plinth’ and is taken from the debut album ‘Kammerspiel’ to be released on 7th February 2011.  Enjoy.

Oh, and here’s the video for the single created by Alec Cheer.

BEAR from Alec Cheer on Vimeo.

Why I Love No.2

I first met Mark De Vita when he posted some comments on this blog.  He then showed tremendous support for the Kays both through his e-mails to me and on his wonderful blog Argos Barks.  It really is worth checking out and he has written the second piece for the Why I Love series entitled Why I Love Silence.  It’s just great. Enjoy.
Fragile, unspoken, intimate, personal… I love silence. It’s a precious good that is often hard to find, but if you pay attention, you can find tiny bits of it everywhere.

My headphones are almost always on me, playing music incessantly, except right at this very moment. Usually music gives me the inspiration to write but, if I am writing about silence, then shouldn’t I dedicate myself completely to it while I write? And yet, so fragile it is, my constant tapping the keyboard breaks the silence. I’ll try to press more gently.

Not many people stop to think on the impact silence makes in music, which is absolute and essential. Unless you can actually play an instrument, it’s sometimes a bit difficult to think that the silence between each note played can make or break a song. I only truly found out about this when I started to learn how to play the piano. In my first attempts, I quickly found myself comfortable and after a couple of weeks I was already playing simple things, and yet, there was something escaping me. All the right notes were there, in the right sequence, my hands moving in the right way, but there was something that wasn’t quite right.

And then it struck me. The silence. What a precious element. Anyone can play an instrument after trial and error, but to give music a soul, to make it connect and be what it truly is meant to be, well, it’s not in the notes, or in the quality of the instrument. It’s in the ability of giving the right weight, space and value to the silence that precedes every note.

Just like in music, when we speak to someone, what often proves most valuable is not what we say, but what we don’t.
I feel like I could go on for hours about what silence means to me, but then again, didn’t I just say that silence is sometimes more important than saying things?

Let’s make this one of those times.

Deertick – The Black Dirt Sessions

About a year ago I discovered Deertick.  Their album ‘Born On Flag Day’ seemed to appear on my radar from nowhere – I think it was one of my myspace trawling sessions.  Anyway, appear it did and I was hooked.  I saw them live at Sneaky Pete’s and the rawness of their alt country sound and the performance that night stuck with me.  A great album and a great live band too.  But I must admit, I was quite surprised when I discovered that they had released another album so soon after ‘Born On Flag Day’.  It didn’t feel like that record had time to mature, to develop, to be heard.  Or maybe I came late to it.  Either way before I blinked Uncut were reviewing this new record.

The Black Dirt Sessions had a hard act to follow simply because Born On Flag Day was such a good, raw, rock and roll record.  I’m not sure if a band can mature in a year, I guess maybe touring allows growth as you play songs and begin to understand them better.  Again I am speculating but somehow there is a different feel to this record altogether.  It feels like the band are all grown up now.  Given that the lead singer is sponsored by a sunglasses firm and on stage in Edinburgh wore a playboy wooly hat and playboy watch I find the grown up thing a little difficult to swallow*.  However, it is certainly more mature in terms of music and this album is a gem.   No doubt about it.

It starts slowly without any real impact but bursts to life with the stunning  ‘Goodbye, Dear Friend’ a beautiful piano lead ballad, which more renowned songwriters would be proud to call their own.  And, from this point on it really is hard to fault the record.  Duet ‘The Sad Sun’ is another gem of a track, contemplating life and love and death.

The album still has the country blues, rock moments of its predecessor, such as ‘When She Comes Home’.  These moments are very necessary but also beautifully incorporated into a record, which for the most part is a much darker affair than Born On Flag Day.   The tone and content of the record feels much bleaker than before, more contemplative, more sombre.  And I for one think the band have benefitted from this as I think this record is a step forward, a progression and a real improvement on the previous one.  Sometimes it’s hard for a good time band to make a transition in sound like this but Deertick achieve it perfectly.  Album closer ‘Christ Jesus’ feels like a band ready to take on the world.  Watch this space.  I’m sure that Deertick have the weapons in their armoury to be massive.  I certainly hope that this record gets the plaudits that it merits.  I can’t think of many better alt country rock records.  Have a listen yourselves here. Enjoy.

*Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

M.Ostermeier – Chance Reconstruction

More ambient minimalism for you now.  You know, no piano album is going to trump Goldmund’s ‘Famous Places’ for me this year.  Of that I am completely sure.  However, I keep stumbling across some wonderful piano records from 2010 and this is yet another lovely record.

M.Ostermeier has created a very peaceful piece of music in ‘Chance Reconstruction.’  Melancholic in tone, piano pieces drift in and out, complimented by field recordings and abstract electronics.  I wouldn’t say there is a total Godlmund-esque quality to the work, but there are certainly nods in that direction throughout.  This for me is a bit more sparse.  A little more disconnected than the work of Keith Kennif.  Always with his music I feel I am listening to piano compositions complimented by field records, strings and electronics.  With this record I feel like the piano is more fragmented at times.  That the electronics take centre stage now and again and the piano drifts in to accompany.  I like that about this record.   It’s definitely a piano album first and foremost.  However, the arrangements are interesting in themselves and I love the way the piano flits from being the focus to the accompaniment.  It makes for a lovely, engaging record.   I absolutely love this quote I found about the record:

“The hesitant piano melodies take on an almost conversational form, but from someone repeating and rephrasing his thoughts as he talks to himself, imagining different outcomes of some unfortunate event.”

I don’t think I could have said it better if I tried, so I won’t!  What a wonderful description.

You can and should check out the work of M.Ostermeier here.  Enjoy.

I Like Trains – He Who Saw The Deep

In yonder days of Kays we supported I Like Trains at Cabaret Voltaire.  It was actually the first time I met Rich from Gizeh Records as he was working as a guitar tech for them – or something like that, anything to tour eh Rich?!  Anyways, they were pretty stunning live.  I remember this gig for a number of reasons.  Matthew Young from Song By Toad reviewed us at that gig.  A very nice review too.  It was actually a hilarious review as he was being very funny in it and it spawned the famous t-shirt ‘The Kays Lavelle Were Shit’, which are still in existence I think.  I certainly have a couple.  Anyways, the point was that that night I was exposed to the full force and intensity of an I Like Trains show.  Although at that time I believe they were called iLiKETRAiNS…..thank god they got rid of that way of writing their name!

Their last album ‘Elegies To Lessons Learnt’ really should have propelled the band to a new level.  However, it seems that ultimately it has led to them releasing this album on their own, without any label involvement.  I can certainly find no evidence of a label.  So, it seems that that album, which is brilliant, failed to take them to the level that many, including myself had expected.

The music on that record is dark, brooding, aggressive.   It’s a concept album based on tragic historical events and figures, which only adds to the intensity of it.  When you see them live, the visuals behind them tell the story of each song.  It really is quite something, believe me.  So, I was expecting something equally dark, equally atmospheric, equally hard work with this new record.  And at times I would say the I Like Trains of the debut record are in evidence, in particular on tracks like ‘Hope Is Not Enough.’  However, this album feels more instantly accessible than it’s predecessor.  Even the chorus of ‘Hope Is Not Enough’ feels more like a pop chorus – if that could be possible – than anything that happened on Elegies.  This album feels like I Like Trains have matured and perhaps their music has grown in maturity in tandem.  I don’t know, that’s just the impression that I get.

Album opener ‘When We Were Kings’ was certainly a surprise.  The Explosions In The Sky type guitars to open, and throughout this album, are stunning.  There’s a warmth in this record, an undercurrent, that was never apparent on Elegies.  Choruses are also in evidence.  I’m not sure, there’s just something about the record that feels more instantly accessible without ever being instantly accessible, if that’s possible?  I guess what I mean is that it is instantly accessible in terms of I Like Trains, which is not really instantly accessible at all but if you like this band you’ll know what I mean, I hope!  The record is still dense, it still needs lots of attention and time.  But tracks like ‘Progress Is A Snake’, ‘These Feet of Clay’, and album stand outs ‘Hope Is Not Enough,’ ‘Sea Of Regrets’ and ‘Broken Bones’ highlight a more beautiful side to this band.  The darkness sometimes lifts and when it does, it does so in a sea of stunning beauty.

I never thought the words I’d use to describe this record would be beautiful, delicate, gorgeous and stunning.  Sure, the elements of darkness are there but ultimately, for me, I Like Trains have produced a simply wonderful second record and, if there’s any justice, one which will propel them to greater heights.  Probably not, but if they keep producing music this good I will keep buying their records, that’s for sure.

You can check out I Like Trains here.  Enjoy.

I love the winter light.  I think I do an annual post about this fact at about this time of year, but as I sit on the train today on my way back to Dundee, I cannot be anything but stunned by the beauty of this country.  As the train travelled along the shores of Fife and I looked across the Forth estuary to Edinburgh, the light reflecting off the water was creating an image nothing short of spectacular.  If only I was a photographer skilled enough to capture such a perfect Scottish Winter’s moment.  Alas, I will just have to store these moments in my brain and remember them when the rains come.

It got me thinking about making a winter playlist for spotify.  I’ve not done it.  But I intend to this week.  So much of the music I listen to soundtracks this time of year perfectly which, given that I love winter more than any other season, is kind of perfect.  I really do hope the bright winters days continue.  People moan about the cold.  Moan that it’s cold but they want snow.  Moan that it’s cold and wet.  Just moan actually.   I cannot understand those who do not enjoy this time of year.  I love bright winters days.  I love that it gets dark early.  Nothing is better than going home to a cosy house and a glass of red wine.  Sure, I’m like everyone, I could do without the rain.  However, I accept it because it’s part of where I live and to be honest, at this time of year I’d rather not be anywhere else.  Perfect winter music – Language of Landscape, Clem Leek or even Nils Frahm.

So, as I pass through Cupar and head onwards to Dundee I look forward to the moment that we cross the Tay Bridge at Wormit because nowhere in the world is as beautiful as the River Tay at Dundee on a day like this.  It will be another postcard moment I fail to capture but save in my mind for the days I need it most.