NARC. #165 September 2020

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News on releases from Cameron Scott, Bad Amputee, Mitch Laddie, Nick Pride & The Pimptones, brb>voicecoil and bigfatbig; live gigs at Wylam Brewery; news on cultural venues reopening including Shipley Gallery, Great North Museum: Hancock, Discovery Museum, NewBridge Project, ARC, NGCA, National Glass Centre, Arts Centre Washington and Dance City; plus exhibitions at Biscuit Factory and BALTIC, Carl Hutchinson stand-up show at Middlesbrough Town Hall, online theatre festivals from ConnectLD+ and On The Line, plus online shows at Alphabetti and loads more


Outspoken Middlesbrough rapper Leddie MC talks to Steve Spithray about forging a path as a female MC, experiencing sexism in the scene and finding inspiration in dark times

Greetings dear Constant Readers, I hope you’re faring well. I’m not going to lie, August has been challenging, but there have been positives – I have watched THREE live band performances! In the flesh! In a venue! With other humans! Much excite. I shan’t reveal the whys and wherefores of these shows as they weren’t strictly for the public’s eyes (yet), but instead part of a super secret project which is in the works. More will be revealed in due course. Bet you’re on the edge of your seat! (Sorry, that’s literally my second emoji since going digital, pls forgive me). Talking of gigs, there’s a few absolute corkers lurking within our pages this month, and I’m mightily glad to see local promoters and venues putting themselves out there to get live music back in some form or other. While I’m hearing a handful of sad stories about some venues really struggling right now, I’m also heartened to note how many are re-emerging from their lockdown slumber. Things are by no means ‘back to normal’, and it’s going to take a very long time before that’s even remotely a possibility for much of the performance and hospitality industry – as we all know – but things don’t seem as dire as they did this time last month, at least. The one thing you can do to make sure it’s an easier ride for all involved is to get out there and support the performances that are happening. I certainly plan to be unleashing the moths from my wallet a few times this month. You’ll have noticed we’re still digital-only (*sob*) but I’m working on a plan to change that really soon – I promise you’ll be the first to know (if you keep an eye on our website and social media pages, obvs).

Editor Claire Dupree Website David Saunders Creative El Roboto Advertising Claire Dupree

Cover Image Adam Kennedy Contributors Chris J Allan / Jonathan Coll / Kristopher Cook / Mark Corcoran-Lettice / Caitlin Disken / Laura Doyle / Lee Fisher / Lee Hammond / Beverley Knight / Paul Jeffrey / Eugenie Johnson / Jason Jones / Ben Lowes-Smith / Tom McLean / Jay Moussa-Mann / Ikenna Offor / Stephen Oliver / Nicola Owen / Helen Redfern / Damian Robinson / Steve Spithray / Linsey Teggert / Martin Trollope / Claire Venus / Robin Webb / Ali Welford / Cameron Wright

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NARC. Magazine, Tel: 07748 907 914 Email: Web: Published monthly by NARC. Media. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part without permission from the publishers. The opinions expressed in NARC. belong to the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of NARC. or its staff. NARC. welcomes ideas and contributions but can assume no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts, photographs or illustrations


36 TRACKS New releases from local artists including Pit Pony, Living In Shadows, Dave Neil Crabtree, Rojor, LYRAS, Not Now Norman, Silver Club, Lyre & The Lamb, Scrannabis, The Dawdler and ZELA

37 ALBUMS Our writers review new album releases from IDLES, Lafawndah, The Flaming Lips, A Certain Ratio, Bill Callahan, Throwing Muses, Bob Mould, Pillow Queens, Cabbage, Steve Arrington, Anna Von Hausswolff and more

41 MIXTAPE Theatre, drama and creative learning charity Mortal Fools talk about some of their favourite tracks

Next Issue Out 30th Sept





Words: Beverley Knight Recent times have generated reflection of one’s self. A great many have taken a different direction and approach to their lives, and this can certainly be said for the arts. Musician Cameron Scott has had the time to allow the


work of Thom Yorke, The Blue Nile, Brian Eno and a dash of Kraftwerk shroud him during isolation. His go-to creatively is usually indie rock, but suddenly he found himself like a moth to a flame, drawn towards ambient pieces bordering on the electronic side. “During isolation, the luxury to work in my mini home-made studio helped me focus my time and not go too stir crazy with boredom. In the past month, I ended up with three tracks, which I consider the peak of my creativity during lockdown, and two of them I decided to fit some lyrics around that complimented their aura.” He explains.

Final Boss Round is bizarrely fun, creating a sci-fi language with a hint of medieval atmosphere, topped with a chilling laugh to end. In The Good Times, we strongly hear the Eno influence, with the song shifting velocity when the organ-backed lyrics hit, and Watch Me Smile As I Cut You Off is a moodier song with the repetition of the profound title. The trio of songs are an eclectic bunch, which provides an interesting documentation of Scott’s lockdown experiences. Cameron Scott releases The Last Laugh EP on 4th September


Imran Perretta





Words: Jonathan Coll The region’s adaptation to the new normal continues with a truly unique occasion at Newcastle’s Exhibition Park on Friday 11th September. The North East has so far led the way and helped to pioneer the socially distant gigging experience, but Wylam Brewery’s Socially Distanced Supper Club is the absolute antithesis of the arena-sized mega gigs down the road in Gosforth. Having already showcased funk maestros Smoove & Turrell at an August show, their next event features Sunderland favourite, The Lake Poets. The moniker of Sunderland’s Marty Longstaff, a multi-instrumentalist who has become known for his emotive music and goosebump-inducing voice, Marty also recently found notoriety for his song Shipyards which hit the mainstream as the soundtrack to Netflix series Sunderland Til I Die. Ticketing will be done by table rather than by general admission, and as the title of the show suggests, food is included in the price of the ticket (so don’t be alarmed when we tell you a table for two will set you back £66). The venue will be operating at under 20% of its licensed capacity, making for an intimate and exclusive event. The Lake Poets perform at Wylam Brewery, Newcastle on Friday 11th September

Words: Claire Dupree As with the rest of society, the academic world has had a pretty rough time of late. The Class of 2020 will have much to remember this year for, but many are determined to put their newfound knowledge and skills into practice, no matter the situation. We’ve seen a series of successful and engaging virtual final shows from art students over the last couple of months, and now Northumbria University’s Theatre and Performance Arts MA students are getting in on the act, staging a new online festival called On The Line, taking place from Wednesday 23rd-Friday 25th September. Taking the form of a bite-sized programme of contemporary theatre, performance art, multisensory installations, audio experiments and talks, taking their final projects online will enable a wider audience to access the work, and with a diverse range of themes and provocations, it’ll be an essential look into the new generation of theatre makers. Highlights include Rebecca Johnston’s spoken word piece Their Words Not Mine, which explores the Black Lives Matter movement and its relation to LGBTQ+ culture and white privilege; Daniel Dryden’s film Centre Stage is a cabaret-style love letter to amateur musical theatre; John Scott’s film Towers uses multiple characters, text and images to examine social justice; Isabell Dawson’s audio experience delves into prison life, while Kyla Dean’s short film showcases a collection of stories exploring the lies we tell, hide and hear. A series of live panels and talks will discuss the theatre making process throughout the festival, providing additional valuable insight.

On The Line festival takes place from Wednesday 23rd-Friday 25th September via their website



Words: Claire Dupree Having reopened their doors in early August, Gateshead’s contemporary art gallery BALTIC welcome back two exciting exhibitions; Imran Perretta’s film, the destructors, and Abel Rodriguez’s beautifully detailed paintings. Perretta’s film, which re-opens on Monday 31st August, explores ideas of state power, identity and biopolitics, all topics which are in the minds of many right now as we lurch towards Brexit at a rate of knots. the destructors (lowercase intentional) draws on Perretta’s own heritage as a young Bangladeshi growing up in the Tower Hamlets community; informed by conversations with young Muslim men, Perretta’s incisive piece looks deeper at the complexities of coming of age as a young British Muslim man in the UK. Abel Rodriguez’ detailed paintings and drawings draw on the artist’s heritage and ancestral knowledge of the Colombian Amazon. An elder from the Nonuya ethnic group, Rodriguez and his family were ousted from their rainforest home in the 1990s due to armed conflict and the exploitation of natural resources. His artwork depicts in minute detail the fragile ecosystem of the rainforest; serving to preserve his memories of the region and display his ancestral knowledge, which has become highly prized by botanists. Free tickets for both shows are available from the gallery’s website, and visitors are required to book in advance.



bigfatbig by Ryan Young




INPATIENT LOCKDOWN CARL HUTCHINSON @ BIGFATBIG RELEASE MIDDLESBROUGH TOWN NEW SINGLE, MILK AND @ BISCUIT FACTORY VINEGAR HALL Words: Jonathan Coll Stand-up comedy returns to Middlesbrough Town Hall, as Carl Hutchinson performs a socially distant live show on Saturday 19th September. It’s part of an extensive, countrywide tour for the Jarrow-born comedian, as venues continue to adapt to the latest guidelines. Carl is well known on the North East comedy circuit, having made his name at The Stand in Newcastle, performing his own material and as compere at the venue’s open mic nights. His affable manner, charisma and storytelling style would lead him to prime time spots on Comedy Central UK, and on stage at some of the country’s biggest comedy venues supporting the likes of Chris Ramsay and WWE legend Mick Foley. Comedy venues have found themselves in a fairly difficult position of late, as performers often thrive with an engaged crowd in an intimate setting. Tickets for this show will be limited so social distancing rules can be taken into account, so snap one up now and keep an eye on the venue’s website for future show announcements. Carl Hutchinson performs at Middlesbrough Town Hall on Saturday 19th September


Words: Laura Doyle Peanut butter and jelly, sweet and sour, milk and…vinegar? The best combinations sometimes don’t sound right. We might have to put a bit of blind faith in bigfatbig for this one, though. (Sidebar – milk and coke is a surprisingly legit duo.) The North East all-girl trio’s new single doesn’t seem from its title to be especially tantalising, but thankfully its meaning is a delightful metaphor for those hardy friendships that spring from the unlikeliest of places. Unlikely combos stretch to bigfatbig’s sound too; you wouldn’t expect jangly pop vocals to go so well with punky riffs. I haven’t seen such fun, nonsensical but well-meaning pop rock since The Bangles; and the best thing about this track is that it is so undoubtedly fun. After months of doom and gloom, lockdowns and restrictions, it’s nice to see that bigfatbig have grabbed 2020 by the ‘nards and not let it distract them from what matters. Call your pals, have a nice sandwich and pop on some tunes until we can all get back out there together. In the meantime, I’ll be Googling weird recipes to see if there’s anything that might surprise me. bigfatbig release Milk And Vinegar on 3rd September

Words: Laura Doyle The last few months have largely been spent stuck inside twiddling our collective thumbs. If you’ve had the fortune to spend most of your time in your home, then count your blessings and spare a thought for all those essential workers who made your life just bearable enough. Those essential workers, however, had to find new ways of making their lives somewhat enjoyable. Take NHS Occupational Therapist Dolores O’Doherty, for example, who saw employees and patients across the North East live and work amidst a crisis with very limited means for entertainment. She had a bright idea: a photography competition! Most of us have a phone with a camera in our pocket, making this little project widely accessible – and what quicker route is there to excitement than a bit of creativity and competition? Staff and inpatients of local NHS Trusts were encouraged to take advantage of their daily exercise and look at the world anew, seeking something worthy of documentation along the way. Each ward competed to have their photo named the best of the bunch, and now the public get to see the fruits of their efforts in the resultant exhibition Inpatient Lockdown at Newcastle’s Biscuit Factory this month. One will be crowned winner, although I do believe in this case that all entrants have achieved wonderful things on their journey. Inpatient Lockdown runs at Biscuit Factory, Newcastle from Saturday 5th-Sunday 20th September




Words: Beverley Knight Their tightly arranged horn section has always been a powerful force of Newcastle funk and soul institution Nick Pride & The Pimptones, and

with the addition of velvet-voiced Eliza Lawson and an all-new rhythm section, the Newcastle outfit are sounding lustier than ever. Formed in 2007, there’s a breezy subtlety to their fusion of funk and soul, jazz and blues, disco and dance, furnishing an air of class and grace. Now on their fifth release, Ideology presents twelve tracks that entwine their wealth of experiences with their reinvention. Singles Don’t Turn Me Loose and Four Leaf Clover balance a retro aura with modern-day pop, creating a light and airy attitude. A grand horn opening sets the political scene for

quick-paced Queens Are Stronger Than Kings, which pays tribute to Michele Obama and creates a vivid anthem which could hold a place in musical theatre. A Latin flavour washes over track UNITY with a thrashing, exotic instrumental, while Northern Soul fanatics won’t be disappointed with One More Tear. This LP has a lot to tell you about its optimistic hopes for a better future, while keeping its feet firmly placed on the dance floor. Nick Pride & The Pimptones release Ideology on 4th September



Throughout the Fragment of Infinity That We Have Come To Know by Chris Alton


Wrong Place, Wrong Time is presented via Alphabetti Online on Wednesday 16th September

Tapes/MuzaMuza on 7th September

WRONG PLACE, WRONG ART & LIT TIME @ ALPHABETTI NEWBRIDGE PROJECT MUSIC THEATRE ONLINE REOPENS BRB>VOICECOIL RELEASES NEW ALBUM, ALMS OF GUILT Words: Eugenie Johnson Many of us will have felt that life has been turned upside down by recent events, as we have had to adapt to a new way of living and working. For others though, being in the wrong place at the wrong time might have already resulted in life-changing consequences. Wrong Place, Wrong Time, which follows its protagonist Nicky as he tries to navigate the world and find acceptance, explored that idea when it first premiered in 2016 as part of a double-header between the Alphabetti Theatre and homeless charity Crisis. Wrong Place, Wrong Time was originally performed in response to Ali Pritchard’s How Did We Get To This Point?, which placed as its central focus the question of where the concept of compassion has gone. Its script was originally based on creative writing materials produced by Newcastle’s Crisis Skylight, who produced their own scripts, poems and short stories in a series of workshops hosted by Pritchard. These were then weaved together by Steve Byron to produce the short play. Now, the piece has been adapted into an audio play, which premieres on Wednesday 16th September and will be available online indefinitely. Despite being transformed into a different medium, it’s unlikely that Wrong Place, Wrong Time will lose any of the raw power and passion that characterised its original run. Instead, it’s likely to remain a vital piece on the battle between nature vs nurture, continuing to ask searching questions about contemporary society.


Words: Beverley Knight Under the guise of brb>voicecoil, with sheer devotion teamed with dedication, Kevin Wilkinson has achieved the accolade of 21 releases over 30 years operating on the fringes of the UK experimental underground. Upping his total to 21, Alms of Guilt manoeuvres his vast library of field recordings via a feeding tube of granular software, producing a body of work that entices the listener to fully concentrate and unravel multiple tiers of noise. Every sound in the five tracks, some nearing the ten minute mark, originates from a Zoom H1 or i-Phone sound capture. Stark, anxious, unforgiving and brutally detailed in its simplicity, Alms of Guilt aims to be a saddening reminder of the desperate lengths a fragile psyche will search for belief and forgiving. Kevin explains: “Faith meets faithless, wrongs offset with bank transfers and PayPal, history erased, and the realisation that the denial of all internal struggle replaced by consumer belief mechanics, is a false hope.” Opener The Cost of Redemption features an unnerving effect, giving the impression of a mythical beast resting, not to be disturbed; while the most melodic of the collection is Seven Swords To The Heart, and Buried is a creaking, bustling piece. Give yourself time with this release to close your eyes and visualise your narrative. brb>voicecoil releases Alms of Guilt via Opal

Words: Nicola Owen The NewBridge Project on Gateshead High Street re-opens on Tuesday 1st September and you have around four weeks to get down there to see the exhibition by young creator Chris Alton. The exhibition was cut short when lockdown hit, however the gallery has managed to negotiate an extension to the fascinatingly eclectic and playful piece named Throughout The Fragment Of Infinity That We Have Come To Know. Throughout The Fragment Of Infinity That We Have Come to Know uses science fiction as license to imagine alternative value systems and questions the capitalist belief of infinite growth on a finite planet. Alton has imagined alien species and their divergent concepts of money, value, debt and memory and displayed these fictional works alongside existing human currency. The collection of objects and texts is accompanied by a video essay tracing connections between classical mythology, British colonialism and contemporary tax avoidance. To visit the exhibition, book a time slot using the gallery’s online booking system. In addition, the gallery shop will return with a selection of ‘zines, gifts and artist publications. The shop is open to new stock and relevant launches so if you are a creator who has been working on a project during lockdown this might also be a good time to get in touch and discuss your work. Throughout The Fragment Of Infinity That We Have Come To Know is at NewBridge Project, Gateshead from Tuesday 1st-Friday 25th September


Mushroom Works Shop



Words: Caitlin Disken Ouseburn-based studio Mushroom Works is re-opening its venture, SHOP at Mushroom Works, from Saturday 5th September. The studio, which supports seven different artists, has been working in tandem with its resident artists to curate the wares on offer. From furniture to jewellery, the shop will stock a unique range of items created by Mushroom Works’ artists over lockdown. SHOP will give its visitors the chance to get their hands on distinctive items, all whilst supporting local creatives during this difficult period. Amongst the items up for grabs is jewellery designed by Bronwen Deane, an artist who has been in residency at Mushroom Works since 2005. Bronwen uses both traditional and innovative techniques to create her intricate earrings and necklaces, including acrylic print methods. Furniture from designers Nick James and Majid Lavasani will also be available to purchase; James, founder of Mushroom Works, uses traditional woodworking techniques to create his furniture, designing everything from coffee tables to shelving, while Lavasani also utilises traditional woodworking techniques to create his hand-made bespoke furniture. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a gift, be sure to take a look at a.musing’s work, an independent designer who specialises in art that has an emotional message. Other artists whose work will be sold include Bethan Laker, Amanda Rabey and Lucinda Kelly. SHOP at Mushroom Works opens from Saturday 5th September



Words: Claire Dupree As life is returning to our town and city streets, our precious arts venues are beginning to re-emerge. A highlight of September’s reopenings will be Stockton’s ARC, which initially kick their programme off with film screenings and workshops beginning from Monday 7th September. The local community is at the forefront of ARC’s plans, and a new exhibition will feature work created as part of the We ARConnected programme which saw local people invited to submit work created in response to fortnightly themes throughout lockdown. The arts venue have been quick to adapt to the current situation; in temporarily removing the seats from the theatre they’re able to restart workshops and classes in a socially distanced manner. Classes for adults and youngsters include such diverse practices as tai chi, ballet pilates, creative writing, arts and crafts and filmmaking. Movie fans who have missed the lure of the big screen during lockdown will be able to catch up on a variety of flicks from Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning Parasite to David Attenborough’s climate change documentary A Life On Our Planet. All the expected measures will be in place, including one-way systems, hand sanitiser stations and socially distanced seating in the cafe. New opening hours are: Mon 10am-4pm, Tues 10am-7pm, Wed-Sat 10am-10pm, with the building closed on Sundays.



Words: Eugenie Johnson Formed in 1986, the Lawnmowers Independent Theatre Company has been run by and for people with learning disabilities, dedicated to researching and developing new ways of working and supporting spaces where people can develop their futures. Undeterred by recent global events, the company are set to continue to showcase the work of artists with learning disabilities or those attached with the community in Connect LD+ 2020, a digital festival set to take place on Monday 7th September. As Andrew McLeod says in a video about the festival: “LD+ means learning disabled people plus their parents and carers, plus friends and families. But plus also means to me reaching out to the wider community, with our personal communities and with the wider world, and it’ll allow a wide range of other learning-disabled companies to be able to join us and celebrate the work we do and the work they do.” Through a recent open call, the company asked people to put forward their work to contribute towards the festival, whether it’s in archive footage, pre-recorded or live material. Through showcasing the wide variety of works, Connect LD+ will continue the Lawnmowers’ tireless work in celebrating and raising awareness of the artistic achievements of the community. Activities will include work by Twisting Ducks, who lead a live script writing workshop; a movement workshop with Hubbub Theatre Company; Lawnmowers’ theatre ensemble present the making of retake, remake; and their youth hip-hop team will lead a dance workshop before the Krocodile Krew Zoom Klub ends proceedings. Connect LD+ 2020 takes place on Monday 7th September



Mitch Laddie




MITCH LADDIE DISCOVERY MUSEUM & CREDIT ONLINE RELEASES NEW ALBUM, GREAT NORTH MUSEUM: PREVIEW + Q&A WAVE OF ILLUSION HANCOCK REOPEN Words: Beverley Knight Feeling retrospective, creator Mitch Laddie looked to his past to frame his future, heading back to classic records from the 70s and 80s to produce electronic record Wave Of Illusion. Through his nine songs, influence from Prince and Stevie Wonder fuses with contemporary artists such as Frank Ocean and Dabeull. As he was born into the blues/rock scene, this was a bold move for Laddie. He reveals: “What came out was something bigger than I ever could have hoped for, and this is a project I can say I’m truly proud of. It’s me. It’s an album that flirts with sexuality and morality, as well as accepting that life’s too short.” It was paramount that Wave Of Illusion exuded an atmosphere of going out, dancing and having a blast. In Dig A Little Deeper you hear French Touch and Janet Jackson style, with a powerful guitar solo which surprises near the end. A fuller bassline plays out in Real Thing, and stripped back Musk is a steady piece of funk. Dirty Kink has an edgier attitude than the rest, but like all of the tracks, is not overly political, which was always Mitch’s intention: “The album is about coming together to be better, to live and feel. Not just for ourselves but for us as a collective. Facing issues and growing – together.” Mitch Laddie releases Wave Of Illusion on 24th September


Words: Nicola Owen Tuesday 1st September sees the re-opening of two Newcastle museums: the family favourite Discovery Museum and the stately Great North Museum: Hancock. The Discovery Museum brings to life the story of Newcastle and champions the spirit of the North East. A wandering panel gallery explores the contribution of Tyneside’s female population to the region in the Discover Her Story exhibition and, if you visit with people in your support bubble, you can try out the newly acquired Red Arrows capsule simulator. Great North Museum: Hancock has been able to secure extensions of two special temporary exhibitions. Other Worlds: The Art of Atomhawk and a British Museum touring exhibition Ancient Iraq: New Discoveries will now run until 1st November. The permanent exhibitions of Fossil Stories, Ancient Egypt and Living Planet are also well worth a look. Both museums are stuffed full of loads of other brilliant treasures and offer a coffee and a bite to eat, as well as activities for the young and young at heart. Booking tickets in advance is highly recommended and if you don’t feel like braving the outside world just yet both museums have virtual tours available online.

Words: Laura Doyle Serendipity is a curious thing. When playwright and community creative Laura Lindow started a project on the experiences of people living on Universal Credit, she wouldn’t have expected the finished theatre piece to be performed under such unusual and difficult circumstances. We’re not just talking directly about Miss Rona here, although her antics mean that Credit has been pushed to an online preview. Just last month, we hit a record-breaking recession. With the economy not doing so great, now is exactly the time to take a look at the benefit system meant to catch those made most vulnerable by this circumstance. Gateshead Council initially commissioned research into life on Universal Credit in the North East which was completed by academics from across the region. Unsurprisingly, the report concluded that it kind of sucked. Lindow draws on this comprehensive research to bring it to the stage in a drama that delves deep into the experiences of those let down by our government. A rehearsed reading of Credit will be recorded at Alphabetti Theatre and streamed on Wednesday 16th September, followed by a Q&A session with those responsible for bringing the disparities to light. While an academic report may have limited reach, there is the hope that this play will bring wider accessibility and in turn, greater discussion. Cap-A-Pie present the online preview of Credit + Q&A on Wednesday 16th September at 2pm and 7pm




Words: Claire Dupree While performance may be slow to return to our theatres, there are still art forms which can operate relatively well in a socially distanced setting. Newcastle’s Dance City will be reopening their doors on Monday 7th September and, while

performances aren’t on the cards just yet, their world-class tutors and classes are on offer. The city centre venue will be offering a reduced timetable of hybrid classes, available to join both in the building and via Zoom. Classes span all abilities and age groups, and provide an ideal opportunity to try something new. Of particular interest is the Afro Mix dance work-out, comprising a mixture of dancehall/reggaeton, coupé décalé and azonto styles (Wednesday); Contemporary dance lessons offer a fusion of styles including ballet, modern dance, African and jazz (Thursday-Saturday); Fitsteps, a dance

and fitness programme choreographed and designed by the professionals on Strictly Come Dancing (Tuesday); the popular high-energy hip-hop dance class (Wednesday/Friday); and Meditation, which uses mindfulness to achieve a sense of calm and flow (Monday); as well as more traditional forms of dance including ballet (Wednesday/Saturday), ballroom, Latin and tap (all Tuesday). Dance City reopens for classes on Monday 7th September





Words: Helen Redfern It’s been a busy time at Sunderland Culture, the organisation which operates National Glass Centre, Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens and Arts Centre Washington. The teams have been moving exhibitions online, delivering workshops via Zoom and producing fun and accessible cultural resources, such as free Takeaway Packs. Now, they’re reopening galleries and exhibition spaces with an exciting programme for all ages. From Monday 7th September at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, the free exhibition Castles: Paintings from the National Gallery, London features Bernardo Bellotto’s The Fortress of Königstein from the North, accompanied by five works featuring castles both real and imagined, alongside artworks from Sunderland Museum’s own collection, including L.S. Lowry’s drawing of Bamburgh Castle. The extended Received Wisdom exhibition challenges the notion that creativity, boundary-breaking and dynamism are the preserve of youth by presenting a body of work created by artists working in their later years. Sunderland Culture is also launching Art Crush, an exciting free mobile app available to download from Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Art Crush allows you to swipe through hundreds of artwork images by the biggest names in British Art to discover what your art personality is and create your own digital art collection. At the National Glass Centre and Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art the exhibitions No Strings and Chad McCail: Toy have been extended until 2021. Toy, at NGCA, is a monumental cityscape populated by gigantic mythical creatures battling for its future freedom; while NGC’s No Strings features the work of seven international artists working with glass beads in unconventional ways, including a beaded burger and coke by Faranak Sohi and a beaded chicken showing his gymnastic prowess on the rings by Felieke van der Leest! National Glass Centre will also soon be opening a brand new online shop showcasing a striking selection of glassware made on site in the Hot Glass Studio. While Arts Centre Washington continues its


Treasures from the Shipley Art Collection, image by Colin Davison online programme of classes and exhibitions, Hardwick Park in Stockton have embraced new you will be able to visit in person from tech in the most productive way; check out their September the new exhibition of photography, Love Exploring app on your phone for a bespoke text and installations from artists Sally Southern audio tour of the grounds of this Grade II listed and Nicola Lynch. Looking Out, Looking In is site. If, like me, you’re the kind of person who inspired by feedback from the local community needs a bit of a nudge n the right historical reflecting on their lockdown experience. direction, this sounds key to unlocking a whole For full visiting information and activities visit host of knowledge about this gorgeous parkland. the Sunderland Culture website New events and openings are being announced daily, so check the website for further updates. Heritage Open Days takes place across the region from Friday 11th-Sunday 20th September



Words: Laura Doyle It’s the most wonderful time of the year for history fans across the UK – Heritage Open Days are back this month, reformed and reinvented to best suit current conditions. Sure, we have to maintain a safe distance and get masked up indoors, but that doesn’t mean we have to forgo a bit of cultural spice. There’s still plenty that can be done with minimal risk, especially thanks to this year’s theme: Hidden Nature. Our history can be found anywhere, not just in museum halls and libraries; instead, we are given the chance to explore lesser-known historical hotspots buried in natural landscapes and landscaped gardens. Taking place from Friday 11th-Sunday 20th September, a multitude of venues open their doors, and highlights in our region abound. On Saturday 19th attendees have the opportunity to find out more about the refurbishment of County Durham’s Thorpe Light Railway, a historic miniature train that will hopefully be restored to full working order soon. Meanwhile, Alnwick’s Bailiffgate Museum & Gallery honours the heritage event with Helen Poremba’s Machine Stitch Art exhibition, which celebrates the natural world in textile art and also explores the social and technological history surrounding the simple sewing machine. The history hidden in churchyards so often goes neglected: the online activity hosted by Sunderland Minster delves deeper into the mysterious features decoded by historians which give us glimpses into the past. St Hilda’s in Hartlepool got a similar memo about the joys of virtual exhibitions: they’re hosting their event online, with two pre-bookable presentations allowing culture vultures to gain valuable insights into the church’s architectural history, or perhaps learning more about the eponymous Saint herself.



Words: Nicola Owen The Shipley Art Gallery near Saltwell Park, Gateshead welcomes the public back through its doors this month. As with everywhere else, the experience will be a little more socially distanced, but there are still plenty of wonderful things for visitors to enjoy in this engaging space. The current still life exhibition Excess And The Everyday showcases the Shipley’s stunning craft and design collections. These objects range from teapots to tequila glasses, lunchboxes to lanterns and chairs to candlesticks, and provide an entertaining way to see how design is everywhere in our lives. For the first time in 50 years collections from the historic Saltwell Towers are brought together for the public to enjoy. The displays include glassware and ceramics, taxidermy, bird eggs, insects, minerals, fossils and geology, as well as objects donated from Gateshead residents. Highlights of the Shipley Bequest include Dutch and Flemish paintings as well as some important Victorian British paintings. Craft groups still meet in the gallery space, and with activities ranging from jewellery making to basket weaving, there is the opportunity for children and adults to get creative with a range of materials and techniques under the eyes and hands of experienced and friendly local makers. Shipley Art Gallery is open now


Bad Amputee by Robin Fry



Words: Lee Fisher Nobody is going to disagree that this album has been a long time coming. Some Bad Amputee songs go back farther than 2017, when the current line-up came together, a Tyneside

supergroup of sorts: Phil Tyler of Cath &… fame, but also reaching back into the last century with Spraydog; Claire Welford, who performs austere and powerful folk as Yakka Doon (along with Phil); and Robin Fry from the enigmatic Emergency Librarian among others. Before lockdown, Bad Amputee were the best ‘new’ band in town and were getting to support all the right acts. Then The Awfulness came upon on us and their unstoppable momentum…well, stopped. But before that happened, the three of them had managed to hunker down in First Avenue Studios to record Convenience Kills with

Dave Curle at the desk. It finally gets released this month (11th September on Ferric Mordant) and it lives up to expectations. Convenience Kills boasts six lengthy, killer tracks that are deep in a golden American nineties guitar sound – nods to Low and Codeine and the like – but with vocals from Welford and Tyler that are still rooted in their folk background. Hopefully we’ll get to see them live again soon. Meanwhile, be careful what you Google. Bad Amputee release Convenience Kill via Ferric Mordant on 11th September








If the last few months have taught us anything, it’s that the world is in a pretty perilous place right now. Even taking COVID-19 out of the equation, global catastrophes and environmental disasters are on the increase, and our part in the destruction of our planet is keenly felt. It perhaps comes as no surprise that the new album from North East quartet Hen Ogledd is a prescient one. Free Humans is a typically diverse kaleidoscope of a record: a love letter to the earth and to each other, a collection of gleeful wonky pop and weird freakouts informed by psychedelic voyages, off-the-wall poetry and the glorious contradictions which make Hen Ogledd such an enticing prospect. Sally Pilkington, Richard Dawson, Dawn Bothwell and Rhodri Davies came together as a quartet for 2018’s Mogic; a surprising record which took themes of artificial intelligence and ran with them in typically off-kilter ways. Free Humans, as Sally explains, is rooted in love. “I feel like we have a lot of love in Hen Ogledd. I’ve found it really overwhelming playing gigs, and feeling like we are giving and receiving a lot of love, and sharing some kind of mysterious understanding! I wanted to write songs that encourage love. It really feels like hate and division are on the rise.” The natural world and the environment are frequent touchpoints on an album which attempts to offer hope amid the maelstrom. Sally expands on finding inspiration from the likes of philosopher Mary Midgley and from reading The Secret Life of Trees: “It talks about how trees feel, communicate and support each other. Trees also tie into the theme of time, as they often outlive humans by hundreds of years and have a kind of wisdom in their years, with humans waltzing in and out in a short lifetime, pillaging and generally making a hash of things!” “I’ve been thinking a lot about different perspectives of time, and also about the surfaces of other planets.” Says a typically deepthinking Richard Dawson, who also claims to be “bewildered” by dark historical fantasy trilogy The Vorrh by B. Catling. “That was floating round my consciousness quite a lot during the making of the album. It asks some very interesting questions about…saving the world?!” While Rhodri looked into the history of the vocoder for album track Remains, and Dawn “floated the idea of sewers for a while”, much of the lyrical content of Free Humans came to the group while recording. “It’s different for every song,” says Richard on the recording process, “from one coming to the table totally fully formed to another appearing just as a framework, or maybe some other song came half-formed and lumpy.” “A lot of it is about timing. Trying to gauge how much should be done at home and how much to leave to the moment of recording in the studio.” Rhodri says. “A bit like not blowing all your musical

ideas and energies in the soundcheck and keeping the freshness for the concert.” Engineered by Sam Grant at Blank Studios in Newcastle (Sally: “We got a bit carried away...three days, 18 songs! We have a few spare songs that might turn up further down the line”), Sally explains that a lot of the vocals came together spontaneously, including the group singing on the aforementioned vocoder-inspired Remains, while Dawn’s terrifying vocals and chanting on Paul Is 9ft Tall (Marsh Gas) are a phenomenon in themselves. “The song started as a drum machine and synth loop, the vocal effects started on the chorus because I played it to Richard and Sally through a bluetooth speaker which made a weird spacey delay – we set this up again in the studio to record it, and we decided to put extra effects on in the verse with me snarling the words.” Explains Dawn. “It’s a love song. About feeling high with love and someone else seeming ridiculously tall because you see them like that. A kind of high where you fill up with helium and float above the world and into space, terrified and with a big balloon head you begin singing.” Much of the album offers a form of cinematic catharsis. “I think it offers solace in that it delves into depths of our human depravity and beastliness but also shines a bright light of hope. Change is possible!” Says Sally. “I think the album has a sense of collective power – people with like minds coming together to turn things around.” Going on to explain that “all songs are a bit of a surprise”, Rhodri concurs. “I don’t think we set out to make music that has a style. If anything we are trying to disrupt standard ways of doing things, like typical or conventional approaches to song form, and set off from new perspectives.” Hen Ogledd release Free Humans during possibly the weirdest time anyone of our generation will experience. “It’s the right time for this record. And this is the right record for the times!” Richard succinctly confirms. “I think parts of the album take on a different meaning and significance now.” Sally agrees. “I started to feel like Time Party could be an end of lockdown disco party anthem, but now the whole idea of the end of lockdown is all a bit hazy.” Ultimately, the success of Free Humans is down to the foursome’s ability to make occasionally bewildering – but always beguiling – music together, rooted in friendship and mutual respect. “I get quite emotional when listening to the others in the band coming strongly to the fore in a song. Dawn’s shit scary voice on Paul Is 9 Foot Tall (Marsh Gas), Sally inviting us to ‘find our animals’ on Skinny Dippers, Richard singing on Farewell and Sally’s amazing organ interludes…” Rhodri explains, and Dawn concludes: “Hearing your friends so alive through music is such a delight.” Hen Ogledd release Free Humans via Weird World on 25th September




Film still from Fi Dem II, Zinzi Minott, 2019

BERWICK FILM AND MEDIA ARTS FESTIVAL DAMIAN ROBINSON CHECKS OUT THE ONLINE HIGHLIGHTS OF BFMAF’S RICH PROGRAMME OF FILMS, TALKS AND NEW WRITING Setting a genuinely high standard (so high that it was recently named by MovieMaker as one of the Top 25 coolest film festivals in the world) the Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival (BFMAF) has gone from strength to strength during its 15 year history; wowing visitors with both the size and breadth of its diverse programmes. BFMAF will switch to an online festival this year, which will take place from Thursday 17th September-Sunday 11th October, in an attempt to maintain the event’s status whilst trying to provide solutions to the challenges COVID-19 presents. BFMAF have curated a superb programme for 2020 in a move designed to maintain their reputation as being both a fun and ground breaking cultural initiative. Continuing the festival’s ambition to focus heavily on new cinema and artists’ moving image, this year’s BFMAF looks to increase the opportunities for visitor participation by surrounding the work of featured artists’ and filmmakers’ with conversation, new writing and podcasts; giving audiences a chance to interact with artistic endeavours through a rich programme of films, talks and new writing which they can explore in their own time. Although mindful that a change to the festival’s structure might impact some of its core strengths, Festival Director Peter Taylor is convinced that the event’s new format will remain world-class and


full of the type of inspiring art it has become known for: “Over the last months we have needed to reimagine what Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival might be. Not just for now, but the future too. As ever, that is a work in progress and exciting to share.” Still ironing out the final details and timetable of its festival, at the time of going to press BFMAF have confirmed that their traditional fan-favourite categories of Filmmakers in Focus and New Artists Commissions would both continue. In addition, a remodelled New Cinema Competition will showcase short and feature-length films; Propositions will be a hybrid of discussions and online screenings which will deep-dive into new cinema; and Essential Cinema will provide a revisionist view of classic works of cinema. Particular highlights of note in this years Filmmakers in Focus category includes work by Ayo Akingbade, whose work addresses notions of urbanism and power; French/Moroccan filmmaker Izza Génini explores identity and Moroccan musical heritage in her influential work; Indian director Payal Kapadia’s films are distinctly ethereal; while Angelo Madsen Minax’s multi-disciplinary work explores queer and trans experiences. Similarly the New Artist’s Commissions for 2020 looks particularly strong with recently announced works by artists Renèe Helèna Browne and Zinzi Minott premiering at the festival. Browne’s piece, Daddy’s Boy, is a personal exploration of the influence of paternal lines on bodily experiences of gender; while Minott’s Fi Dem III focuses on the relationship between dance, bodies and politics, reflecting the legacy of the Windrush Generation and how dance is perceived through the prisms of race, queer culture, gender and class. The 16th Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival will take place online from Thursday 17th September-Sunday 11th October. Keep an eye on the website for the full festival programme



T-B, L-R: Badger by Tom Harvey, Kay Greyson, Me Lost Me by Amelia Read, Sing Again Syren by Adam Kennedy

TYNE BANK BREWERY GIGS CLAIRE DUPREE TALKS TO THE BRAINS BEHIND TYNE BANK BREWERY’S FORTHCOMING LIVE GIGS If anyone was expecting live music to come bouncing back as soon as BoJo and his pals said venues could open, they’d have been sorely disappointed. As educated members of the region’s cultural scene, you certainly don’t need me to tell you why, but I’ll spell it out for those at the back: social distancing is not conducive to a profitable show. Fewer people equals less money for overheads, let alone giving decent fees to the performers themselves. But there are people who are attempting to shake up the status quo; Middlesbrough’s Base Camp, Prohibition Cabaret Bar and Bobik’s in Newcastle to name a few, and we have it on good authority that several other venues are about to follow suit. September will also see live gigs take place at Tyne Bank Brewery Tap, and the duo behind the shows couldn’t be any more maverick. Cole Gilroy and Allan Scorer are old hands on the scene; Cole, a seasoned musician and promoter (Head of Steam, SSD Concerts) and Allan, head honcho of perhaps the region’s ultimate DIY grassroots venue, Little Buildings, have joined forces to present a series of gigs in September, with more slated for October. “We’re basically trying to run a small venue within a big one,” Cole explains. “The space is there, and we have a configuration of tables to meet social distancing. We have hand sanitiser stations and everything is table service. Like the pubs it’s a case of remaining seated – it might be weird but if it’s the only option and it allows gigs to restart then I’m excited.” “I’m just buzzing to be able to give everyone a chance to try this out


while we can.” Allan enthuses. “The reality is the gigs we want are a long way away, so by supporting these events you are helping us keep things ticking over.” It’s clear Cole and Allan have put considerable thought into curating a diverse, inclusive and balanced line-up. Kicking off on Friday 4th September all-girl rock ‘n’ roll power trio Sing Again Syren perform alongside self-styled ‘snarling Goth’ Hannah D’Arcy; energetic pop rockers The Escapades head up the show on Sunday 6th, with support from indie musician Keiran Bowe; there’s wordplay wonderment from alt. pop duo Badger and ‘barely rap’ artist Faithful Johannes on Thursday 10th; the superb talents of multi-instrumentalist experimentalist Me Lost Me will be on display on Friday 11th, alongside synth popsters Blamire; soulful sounds and empowering lyrics come courtesy of Georgia May on Sunday 13th, with support from up and coming songwriter Lizzie Esau; Thursday 17th will see hip-hop vibes and lyrical largesse take centre stage as thrilling young rapper Kay Greyson is joined by the off-kilter beats and smooth instrumentals of John Dole; Friday 18th sees electro funk punk outfit Vandebilt take to the stage (support TBC); on Sunday 20th Sunderland’s indie quartet Plastic Glass are joined by fellow alt. rock Mackems Post Rome; melodic punk noiseniks Fast Blood take headline duties on Thursday 24th, joined by Teesside’s brilliantly vociferous lo-fi duo Mouses; and closing the month with a bang, grungy noise punks Shallow (fka Creature) will perform on Sunday 27th. As evidenced by these shows from Tyne Bank and many others soon to join them, the pandemic doesn’t have to spell the end of the grassroots music scene. But let’s be 100% clear – there is one simple thing which is universal to the success of these shows: your support.




OUTSPOKEN MIDDLESBROUGH RAPPER LEDDIE MC TALKS TO STEVE SPITHRAY ABOUT FORGING A PATH AS A FEMALE MC, EXPERIENCING SEXISM IN THE SCENE AND FINDING INSPIRATION IN DARK TIMES IMAGE BY ADAM KENNEDY “There are people who work within the North East music scene who have asked me to do a song and I’ve agreed, and then they’ve sent me a dick pic and I’ve had to say I’m actually happily married. No song has ever come out of that!” When we meet for a socially distanced catch-up in Middlesbrough, Leddie MC is not in the mood for mincing her words but, known for her steely disposition forged in the still heavily male-dominated regional rap scene, this shouldn’t surprise us. “I used to get threats and stuff. Men don’t like it if women are in the spotlight more than them. It’s only in the last few months that I’ve felt more included but then I recently did a podcast and someone contacted the producers and said the only reason I get publicity is because I’m female. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, I’ve perfected my craft, and somebody just thinks they can wipe it out with one remark. Good


music is good music whoever makes it. If you like it you like it, if you don’t you don’t.” As concerning as these sorts of allegations continue to be, particularly when it involves people in our regional scene, Leddie is keen to push on musically with her new Born Of Stone EP, which does also touch on some of these issues within its lyrics. For such a prolific artist (having already released four stand-alone singles in the last calendar year) releasing an EP now feels oddly like a pause and a chance to take stock; the five tracks represent not just a stylistic departure but a clear evolutionary step from 2018’s Raise A Glass album, now unceremoniously dumped from streaming services, as Leddie explains. “[Long-time collaborator] Alex Bailey decided he didn’t want to push the album and the more I listened to it I decided it didn’t really reflect what I want to put out, so I decided to delete it.



The images of Leddie MC were taken by Gateshead photographer Adam Kennedy in a virtual photo shoot. Here, he explains how the idea came about. During lockdown I was thinking about how I can keep myself creative as a photographer. I decided to conduct portrait photography sessions online with artists from the music world to prove that there can still be creative and photographic collaboration even in isolation. These sessions take place using video conferencing platforms such as FaceTime or Zoom. So far, I've completed 192 virtual photo sessions with musicians from a variety of genres around the world. My motivation has been to document a historic moment in time, with the thought that this project could become a reference point for future generations. The long-term plan for the project is to present it as part of an exhibition or a photo book.


I feel like I was at an in-between. There were bits I wanted to change and rerecord. I could have done it a lot better if I’d been able to.” However, fear not, the album is still available on the artist’s Bandcamp page along with the rest of her back catalogue and shows just how much the rapper has come on both technically and stylistically. On the new EP Leddie mixes more live instrumentation than ever before with help from Be Quiet! Shout Loud’s Jamie Donnelly amongst others. “I’ll send a tune over to Jamie to put a bass on it but then there have been other times where I’ve asked him to put a guitar solo on something and he’ll refuse because he doesn’t think it needs it. I rope other people in but basically just tell them to do whatever to give them their own creative control.” This freecollaborative approach is a surprisingly trustworthy alliance but is also testament to the wealth of talent locally across all musical genres. The EP title track mixes layers of piano with lush blues guitars over a tale of casual sexism and the burdens of grief, while elsewhere They Don’t Make ‘Em Like You folds a dancehall vibe over a super-quick flow, and a cutting but funky Where Were You is Leddie at her most scathing. If all this betrays a surprisingly broad set of influences it’s partly because music is a family trait, as Leddie continues: “My dad is a Northern soul DJ, so when I was sampling tunes he’d suggest things. I like the musicality of it when it drops out, the solos and the little changes but it wasn’t until I started producing my own stuff that I really took notice of it.” This jazzy/bluesy energy is apparent throughout all five tracks. “I thought the EP tracks fit together nicely. I wanted to do a lighter sounding one and then a darker sounding one to mix it up a bit. I’ve tried to keep it so there is a bit of everything.”

It’s clear Leddie is going through a real purple patch, and recent global events have helped rather than hindered her creative spirit. “It feels like a pause because I wrote it all before I started writing even more in lockdown. I loved lockdown. I was doing loads of writing and being really creative, then when I went back to work it pretty much stopped, but I’ve got enough material.” Looking forward with an optimism of sorts then, Leddie is clearly loving life at the moment. “Every single I’m releasing beforehand isn’t on the EP. I don’t want to release anything from it because with it only being five tunes it would be cheating a bit if I’d already released three of them. Then, I’ve got a tune with Eyeconic, one with Jister and collabs with people from all over the UK including Genesis Elijah, a soul singer called Greg Blackman who is unreal…” And, on playing live again: “I want to but not yet. I’ve been asked to do a lot of online gigs but I just think MCs rapping to the laptop camera doesn’t work for me, so I’ve said no a lot of times. Hip-hop is more crowd based and interactive with banter between songs, so watching people online I just thought I don’t want to do that. It lacks atmosphere for me.” For a few fleeting seconds there is a silence as Leddie seems to muse to herself, perhaps reflecting on the year so far, before leaving with one parting thought: “I’m doing a tune to release on Halloween. It’s basically about COVID-19 but about them finding a cure and turning everyone into zombies – let’s hope so because I’m done with this!” And if that isn’t the realest shit I’ve heard this year I don’t know what is. Leddie MC releases the Born Of Stone EP on 25th September



TUSK FESTIVAL IN TYPICALLY INVENTIVE AND DEFIANT FASHION, THE TUSK TEAM HAS TURNED THE DISASTER OF THE PANDEMIC INTO AN OPPORTUNITY TO EXPAND AND BROADEN WHAT IS ALREADY ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST FORWARD THINKING FESTIVALS. LEE FISHER SPOKE TO ORGANISER LEE ETHERINGTON ABOUT HIS PLANS For those of us with a taste for the experimental, the radical and the unknown, the loss of festivals like TUSK, Supernormal, Supersonic and the rest due to The Awfulness is keenly felt. Luckily for us, the TUSK crew aren’t easily kept down and the usual three day festival has now morphed into a huge two week online event with a truly killer bill. But it’s been a tough journey. “When lockdown first started, we decided to just sit on it and do nothing for a few weeks – we stopped promoting the festival as it seemed odd to urge people to buy tickets for something we suddenly couldn’t guarantee would happen,” explains Lee Etherington. “I think we started the month of April thinking October was miles away and we’d be fine and back to normal by then, but as that month went on that confidence waned and we had to have a serious think about what the best way forward was. We didn’t want to pump lots of our limited resources into setting up a


live festival we weren’t sure would happen, but also didn’t want to take the plunge and cancel until it definitely looked like the best way to proceed.” Obviously when the cancellation happened, all ticket revenue was lost along with money already spent on flights, hotels and crew fees. So it’s one of the remarkable aspects of this virtual TUSK – the tenth – that the whole thing is entirely free. Concerned about the pandemic’s likely status in October and its impact on people’s income, and in collaboration with key partners like Sage Gateshead and the Arts Council, the funding was re-purposed and virtual TUSK was born. “We’ve been streaming since 2014 but have never managed to work hard enough on maximising the international stream audience. TUSK is all about spreading the word about artists we love – and suddenly all those artists have lost all their work and need our support more than ever.” Like-minded concerns like





Horse Lords (Batimore, USA) Horse Lords have been gaining momentum and fans for a decade with their deeply hypnotic blend of desert blues guitar, avant garde rhythms and tunings and a totally encompassing sound. Their performance – originally planned for the live line-up – is bound to be something special.

Angel Bat Dawid (Chicago, USA) There seems to be a resurgence of interest in the spiritual

jazz of artists like Alice Coltrane of late, and Dawid is the perfect torch-bearer for new music in that vein, with a variety of releases and collaborations that led TUSK to describe her as ‘Sun Ra meets Funkadelic’. T-B, L-R: Gaelyn Lea by Bartek Buczkowski, Eiko Ishibashi, Roscoe Mitchell, Horse Lords, Angel Bat Dawid by Alejandro Ayala WFMU and venues and organisations all over were enlisted, and independent venues were approached regarding using virtual TUSK as a base for their own fundraising events. Etherington ensured that the acts already confirmed for the live event were taken care of, as well as the new additions. “In order to support the confirmed acts as much as we could, we guaranteed the terms we’d agreed with them provided they could give us a set for the stream, which they were all into aside from Whistling Arrow, who are too spread out geographically to make it feasible. Everyone involved is getting paid though, again to support the artists – fees for providing a streamed set are lower than for a live appearance, and that helped too as our programme is so much bigger like this. But as always, we are striving to pay fair fees to all.” On top of this, a TUSK auction and a forthcoming benefit album will raise funds for the Newcastle East foodbank. Like anyone planning on attending this year, the loss of live experiences with Horse Lords, Death Prod et al is keenly felt. But with the move online, amazing new opportunities were available and long-yearned for performances were realised. “I’d been harassing Michael Morley to bring The Dead C here for years but we could never make it work – largely because he and Bruce [Russell] both work in academia and it’s term-time for them. And likewise Roscoe Mitchell – we’d been after him and/or Art Ensemble Of Chicago for years too, but could never meet their fee demands. But then, as I mentioned, fees for streams/pre-records are very different – so all parameters suddenly took a shift.” The decision to run the festival across two weeks (“crazy/ambitious – delete as appropriate”) came about because the TUSK team were worried people would miss things and generally feel disconnected during a three day virtual festival. “Spreading it across two weeks gives more jumping-in points and you can dip in and out as you

Gaelynn Lea (Duluth, USA) Lea came to my attention – and I’m sure many others

– through the championing of Alan Sparkhawk and through an NPR Tiny Desk Concert that genuinely reduced me to tears; her voice and treated violin sound is rich and powerful, sounding not unlike Joanna Newsom’s debut, and her TUSK performance is going to break your heart.

Mariam Rezaei X Stephen Bishop (Newcastle, England) Rezaei and Bishop are the twin colossi of the Tyneside

underground scene through their music and so much more (The Old Police House! Opal Tapes!) so this collaboration – surprisingly their first – is going to remind people that Newcastle is home to so much innovation and the natural base for TUSK.

Eiko Ishibashi & Jim O’Rourke (Mobara, Japan & Chicago, USA) As Etherington says above, it looked like O’Rourke would

never make it to TUSK, but its virtual incarnation finally brings us this storied titan of the underground alongside his partner and collaborator Ishibashi in a very rare live collaboration from their home in Japan.



OOIOO please.” Etherington explains, “so now we have two weeks of programming rather than three days – more live acts, twice as many films, 12 talks, 14 guest mixes, Malcy Duff ’s animated series etc.” The scheduling will involve live performances every day, with a focus on Saturdays, and the rest of the aforementioned content – alongside extensive archive films and the rest. “I quickly realised that suddenly my job had morphed to become more like running a TV station for two weeks, and that’s been helpful in drawing up the schedule – we’ll have a downloadable pdf brochure available soon with all the listings on it. And thinking like an old-fashioned TV station, we’ll have idents where the artwork is animated and with music added (Sun City Girls for the opener, Tom Recchion for the closer and shorter ones popping up through the night) and the amazing voice of Peter Conheim (Negativland/Porest) as our announcer. We’ll also have a different host for each day/night – these include David Liebe Hart (Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job!), Rock N Roll Jackie Stewart (Smegma, The Tenses), Dale Cornish, Newcastle-based TUSK lover and music obsessive Sean Thomas, Irish artist friend of the festival Vicky Langan, and various others.” It’s remarkable that this whole event is essentially still being run by the regular TUSK crew, with streaming ninja Shaun Blezard taking a bigger role than usual, mixing everything from his house in Cumbria with an iMac and a pile of tech, and Etherington monitoring and ‘stage managing’ from Newcastle. “So basically, two blokes in the North of England, a million WhatsApp messages and some nervous musicians in various international locations getting texts from me about when to press go...” It’s traditional to ask Etherington about the bookings he’s most excited about and the hidden gems we need to look out for, and although the festival might be online, that tradition holds. “The Dead C and Roscoe Mitchell – we’ve wanted them both for so long. Has [Gaylani] and I were actually all set to go to The Dead C residency at Cafe Oto in May but of course that went by the wayside. Horse Lords and Deathprod were bound to be mind-bending in the flesh – very chuffed to have managed to keep them involved. And Jim O’Rourke of course – I’ve been in touch with him for the last few years and tried to drag him over here every year. He lives in Japan and has done for a decade or so now, and he tells me he feels he spent the first half of his life on tour so has completely lost the urge to travel, so we grabbed this chance to involve him.


TUSK IS ALL ABOUT SPREADING THE WORD ABOUT ARTISTS WE LOVE – AND SUDDENLY ALL THOSE ARTISTS HAVE LOST ALL THEIR WORK AND NEED OUR SUPPORT MORE THAN EVER “One thing we decided early on was to use this change of format to allow our schedule to include many more regional and UK acts – we’d usually have three or four in the central programme but that’s multiplied this year, again because right now artists need our support more than ever. There’s loads of stuff we’re very excited about – this is always a tricky question because we’re not one of those festivals that chooses acts because they’ll sell tickets – our line-ups are about an experience, about discovering new music and getting a deeper understanding of the music/artists you love. So we’re excited about everyone on the bill but I guess that’s not a useful answer for an interview! But blimey – MC Yallah X Debmaster, Senyawa, OOIOO, Gaelynn Lea, Nour Mobarak, Moulay Ahmed Elhassani, Triple Negative, Nihiloxica...” One of the most alarming and wearying aspects of The Awfulness is that it mitigates against any long-term planning, something Etherington obviously feels keenly when thinking about the likelihood of TUSK 2021 taking place live or online. “I’m trying not to think about it right now, to be honest!” he admits. “Like this year, there may come a point where we have to take that decision – I can’t offer any predictions on that, and that is largely down to the appalling way the whole thing has been ‘handled’ by our government: there is no advice coming from them that is in any way reliable or that gives you confidence in their judgement, so prediction is very difficult. All I can say is we fully intend to do TUSK again in 2021 – how we’ll do that right now I do not know, but we intend to be around for a few years to come yet. This is our 10th year, of course – not quite how we envisaged marking that landmark but despite everything, from a purely selfish point of view, I’m actually really enjoying this new way of working.” TUSK Festival takes place via their website from Monday 28th September-Sunday 11th October. For the full line-up, including archives and fringe activities, visit their website





I GUESS THIS RECORD JUST PRESENTS BAKER ISLAND AS THIS RANDOM THING WITH NO LINE-UP! Back from the brink having prematurely broadcast their own demise, Baker Island were gearing up for their first local shows in almost three years before COVID-19 wiped the calendar clean. Thanks to a pre-planned release, however, 2020 is no write-off for Newcastle’s most ramshackle noise pop outfit. In fact, How Does Half Help By Doing Nowt is perhaps the most quintessentially Baker Island collection to date; a gloriously baffling hodgepodge of odds and sods showcasing Sean Dodds’ project in all its scrappy, haphazard glory. “It draws a line under the old stuff,” the vocalist and songwriter explains. “We became a band in about 2013, but before that I used to record on my own just for the sake of it. The oldest things here are from around 2006 – fragments which were either abandoned or never picked up again, but which I always kept. When I went back through them all, I realised there were some – the weirder ones – which I actually quite liked. I guess by the time we got around to the first album we were trying to sell-out!” Compiled in typically disorderly fashion, the demos which make up the bulk of the tracklist feel like an exercise in gem sieving. Some last as little as nine seconds, yet others such as Jig and Southern Discomfort could just as easily be cuts from a long-lost Pixies of Guided By Voices session. “I didn’t want to do a Bee Thousand or anything like that,” Sean confides. “I know that on that album [Robert Pollard] went back to older songs and then completed

them. I didn’t even want to bother finishing these – I just wanted to look back, see which bits I liked and put them out.” The remainder of the release collects a selection of ‘rarities’ (“here’s the other stuff that we did which wasn’t good enough!”) along with a handful of live recordings, including a rendition of The Fall’s How I Wrote Elastic Man recorded at The Cluny’s annual NYE Grafteoke. “I think I just put the live stuff on there because it’s funny! Our label said that How I Wrote Elastic Man would be the easiest Fall song to get the rights too, but in the end Cherry Red didn’t reply anyway, so we just put it out. I feel like I can justify it artistically because The Fall have put worse recordings out themselves! “Rather than being a full stop, I guess this record just presents Baker Island as this random thing with no line-up!” Sean concludes. “The last album [Restless Legs] had our most stable line-up, but the album before that [Bobby Hundreds] was a bit all over the place. Now I wouldn’t even say we have a line-up, and this one has songs which are barely even me!” For those who feared Restless Legs would prove an untimely final salvo, it’ll come as a delight to learn that some version or other of Baker Island is piecing together a fresh studio release: “It’s…a double album” Sean reveals, almost by way of apology. “It’s been demoed for about four years. I know there’s at least 30 songs in various stages – a few of them are about eight minutes long. It’s a bit of an albatross, but it will happen!” Baker Island release How Does Half Help By Doing Nowt on 4th September via Philophobia Music



Artwork by Gordon Dalton, Life is Hard that’s why no one survives. Exhibiting at The Auxiliary

MIDDLESBROUGH ART TRAIL CLAIRE DUPREE TALKS TO THREE GALLERIES IN MIDDLESBROUGH WHO HAVE JOINED FORCES TO PRESENT A TRIO OF SUPERB EXHIBITIONS Ordinarily, this month would have seen Middlesbrough Art Weekender bring art lovers from across the region to the town to visit a multitude of galleries, museums and unusual creative spaces. While we may not be doing ‘ordinary’ this year, MAW’s organisers couldn’t let the month pass without opening their doors and showcasing the array of arty goodness on offer, so the loosely themed Middlesbrough Art Trail has been revealed. The art trail will take place from Friday 18th September until mid-October at The Auxiliary, Platform A and Pineapple Black. “There is a very correlative and cohesive creative scene in Middlesbrough and it is really exciting to not only have three credible, independent art spaces in such close proximity, but also to harmonise on initiatives such as this. Pineapple Black has been re-opened for a while now and we can’t wait to celebrate our friends The Auxiliary and Platform A joining us on Friday 18th with a


superlative programme of exhibitions.” Says Pineapple Black’s Bobby Benjamin. Pineapple Black’s contribution will see the work of sixty contemporary artists go on display in their Hillstreet Shopping Centre gallery. The artists have made new works in response to a postcard version of Diego Velázquez’s masterpiece Las Meninas. Titled Enough Is Definitely Enough, the Spanish painter’s work has famously been reinterpreted by the likes of Picasso, Richard Hamilton and Goya and the exhibition has been curated by Andrew Bracey as part of his PhD research at the University of Lincoln. “He is exploring how contemporary artists have used and appropriated existing paintings by other artists, through a position of using the metaphor of the parasite and symbiosis in connection with painting.” Artists taking part include gallery directors Bobby and Stephen Irving, as well as fellow locals Gordon Dalton, Raymond


T-B, L-R: Image by Jonathan Chapman. Exhibiting at Platform A Gallery, Image by Kate Buckley. Exhibiting at Pineapple Black, Artwork by Gordon Dalton, Adverse Camber. Exhibiting at The Auxiliary,


Bentley and Philip Gatenby, plus internationally recognised talent including Fiona Curren, Cathy Lomax, Pip Dickens, Juan Bolivar, Louise Bristow and many more. Local artist Gordon Dalton gets his own solo show over at The Auxiliary. “We are beyond excited to be back and to be reopening with a solo exhibition by Gordon Dalton is just the cherry on top.” Says artistic director Liam Slevin. “Gordon has supported numerous artists with his work through Creative Factory and we are glad to now support him. He has also been prolific throughout lockdown and it is an honour to show his work, in the flesh, at The Auxiliary.” Gordon’s paintings are landscapes, but not of one place; described as “an invention, full of contrasts and spontaneity...[that] reside somewhere between fantasy, nostalgia and a decorative beauty”. Using familiar motifs like boats, clouds, birds, dark skies and trees, the images combine memories of places he’s lived, visited or longingly imagined. “The work has always been influenced by the coast and country of post-industrial Teesside.” Gordon explains. “To have a show of this scale locally, where my art education started 30 years ago, means a lot to me as it opens on the eve of my 50th birthday, especially at The Auxiliary, who are very supportive of


artists here.” Rounding the trio of shows off at Platform A is Placed, an exhibition of work from Northern School of Art lecturer and gallery director Jonathan Chapman. Drawing on the practice of photography – seeking an image out, rather than creating it like a painting – Chapman’s work fuses the DNA of the region’s industrial heritage, the inspiration he finds in classic artworks and the ability of photography to document a narrative. “My camera is my dog, it changes me from sad loner to purposeful flaneur. When I returned to this region, like a dog, I wanted to be outside exploring this new familiar place.” He explains. “I didn’t want to be in my studio sniffing oil paint, stuck inside the genre of still life. I wanted to move across landscapes, cut across genres; photography let me do this.” The Middlesbrough Art Trail takes place from Friday 18th September-mid October at Pineapple Black, The Auxiliary and Platform A Gallery in Middlesbrough






SOARING YET DIGESTIBLE, IT’S AN ENGROSSING ARCHIVE OF A GROUP WHOSE POST-PANDEMIC RE-EMERGENCE PROMISES TO BE WROUGHT WITH SURPRISES Line-up changes are pretty straightforward for the most part, yet some force bands into major rethinks; whether recalibrating members’ roles or completely uprooting their sound. This is the type of crossroad Newcastle-based instrumentalists Winter Isle have faced in recent times, having lost half their number with the simultaneous departures of drummer Paul Hawdon and guitarist John Aspinall. “Paul was based in down in Sheffield, so when we did practise we had to re-learn everything and couldn’t be productive,” explains Graham Bayne. “It got to a point where it was exhausting and expensive, and at the same time John’s business was taking off,” recalls fellow multi-instrumentalist Eugene Davies. “This band has been driven by friendship more than anything else, and we always knew there would come a day when they couldn’t do it any more.” To readdress the balance, the remaining pair have enlisted their friend Mark Copper – the expressive free percussionist underpinning experimental local duo Ten Sticks, as well as the newest release from Eugene’s solo project Heat Death of the Sun. “I could have picked out a few other drummers who could have just done the job, but with Mark the different varieties of music he’s interested in help him throw up stuff; interesting synths, layers and textures. He brings a lot more than drums,” Eugene reveals. “Poz was a groove drummer, whereas with Mark that groove sometimes isn’t there any more,” expounds Graham. “I’ll often have to change what I play around it, but he’ll also fill what’s missing, which is nice.


It might be the case that we bring in a further member, but for now we’re enjoying it.” While settling into this fresh guise, this month sees the band offer a superb document of their previous incarnation with new self-released record Nothing But Whispers And White Horizons. “It’s a snapshot of what we were doing at the time,” says Graham. “We spent a couple of years working on the material, fleshing it all out and these were the songs which came along and sat together the best.” Having previously adopted a determinedly DIY approach to recording, (“We tried to do it in Graham’s house – I remember sitting in the loft trying to record violin and having an absolute nightmare!” says Eugene), this compact yet epic four-tracker carries a polish which does their sweeping, mythical post-rock justice, having spawned from sessions at Newcastle’s go-to recording hub, Blank Studios. “We did [first record] Eilean entirely ourselves in the Off Quay Building – I think we spent about £40 renting some mics. It came out okay for what it was, but the quality here is unreal by comparison,” Graham enthuses. “In Chris McManus we had somebody from the outside who was able to say ‘do what you’re doing, but do it like this. I know this is going to sound good.’ We’ve been so insular previously, but since we were paying a decent chunk for the recording time we thought we might as well be more receptive to help. For the title track for instance Mac had us record these massive swells, and that’s probably ended up being my favourite part of the record.” Soaring yet digestible, it’s an engrossing archive of a group whose post-pandemic re-emergence promises to be wrought with surprises. Nothing But Whispers and White Horizons is out now




DAMIAN ROBINSON TALKS TO THE PUNK SONGWRITER ABOUT HER HIGHLY ANTICIPATED THIRD SOLO ALBUM, ELEMENTAL A high proportion of recently released albums seem to have been made in a matter of months; in some cases suggesting interesting sparks of lockdown creativity, in others a seeming desire to polish up old demos that have been lying around the house. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s recent observation that artists need to increase the regularity of the ‘content’ they release may be an interesting point to make, but I’m not sure that the music fans I know are interested in hearing ‘lockdown special’ cover albums, and surely scarcity plays a part in the enjoyment of being a music fan? Don’t we enjoy the wait for new releases by our favourite artists? All of which sets the context for a new album by Pauline Murray, singer, songwriter and performer with first-wave punks Penetration and 80s pop force The Invisible Girls. Taking four years to create and design, Elemental arrives with us in late September; surely a long enough period for us to miss her particular blend of acoustic/ electronic pop and to be excited for her return. “Yeah, it took a while to get this one out,” confirms Murray, “we actually started recording and writing it in France almost four years ago, taking our time to write on acoustic guitar, and letting the music come to us when it was ready. We had the album fully ready and mastered in 2019 and were keen to release it then, before it was delayed again.” Further delays with shifting logistical challenges mean that it’s taken almost a full year to release Elemental, something Pauline seems acutely aware of. “It’s been really hard some days to keep going if I’m honest. Even though I’m really proud of the album we’ve had to really stay focused and get through issues with the release and then challenges with promoting the album with the lockdown situation.” Elemental sees a continuation of her partnership with long-term collaborator Robert Blamire and also sees the return of Penetration’s Paul Harvey, Steve Wallace and Ken Goodinson, supplemented by the Invisible Girls’ Steve Hopkins and Roxy Music’s Paul Thompson on drums. The album title perhaps gives a nod to the album’s loose

LIVE MUSIC WILL BE BACK, BUT WE NEED TO DO ALL WE CAN TO MAKE SURE THERE’S VENUES TO PLAY IN WHEN WE GET BACK theme; all tracks are written in minor keys and cover topics like the power of nature, emotional ties, reflections and depression, as synthled pop gives way to gentle, shifting sounds. Given Elemental’s fusion of acoustic and electronic sounds, it’s a real shame we won’t get to hear Pauline perform live in the immediate future. “I’d really like to be out playing live and letting people hear the album but the gigs have been pushed back and pushed back. It’s understandable of course, and the shows will happen, but I guess we all just have to be patient.” We do have lead single Secrets to build our anticipation; especially given its accompanying creepy, multi-layered video. “We ended up doing the video at the height of lockdown, in the loft, in one take, and it came out really well; so much so that we’re working on similar ideas.” An accompanying live virtual event may support Elemental’s release, as Pauline admits they’re hoping to do a streaming event from her own Polestar Studios followed by some eventual touring next year. “There’s talk of doing some Invisible Girls shows soon and playing parts of Elemental in that set which I think will work really well,” she reveals, although Pauline’s immediate focus is supporting the local scene and venues: “We all need to stick together and support the music scene and each other. Live music will be back, but we need to do all we can to make sure there’s venues to play in when we get back. We all need each other in the music scene more than ever.” Pauline Murray releases Elemental on 25th September via Polestar Records




Image by Virginia Bodman




AKO HOUSE PRODUCER SIM SODEN – BETTER KNOWN AS AKO – DISCUSSES MELODIC PROGRESSION, COLLABORATIONS AND VAPOURWAVE WITH MARK CORCORAN-LETTICE Whether as part of alt. rap duo Badger, synth-goth powerhouse Mausoleums or a lynchpin of local promoters/label Kaneda Records, Sim Soden has appeared in the pages of NARC. plenty of times in frequent years: yet for all of that, his solo work as ako has often taken a back seat. Having worked under the name for over a decade, the debut ako full-length West Babylon finally arrives this month, and Soden was able to shed some light on this dark, elusive project. Discussing the timing of the album, Soden explains: “I always said to myself right from when I first started to take the ako stuff more seriously when I was doing my masters in 2012 that I’d do an album when the time was right. It just felt the time was finally right: hard to say exactly why, but partly because I wanted to do a new live set for the project, and to get enough tracks together for that basically meant writing an album’s worth of material.” While past ako material delved into the realms of witch house, West Babylon finds Soden expanding the parameters of the project, incorporating the harder, dystopian edge of old on tracks like Bonehill Interchange alongside more melodic influences, including an Elizabeth Fraser-channelling guest appearance from Me Lost Me on Spirit Compass. Of this, Jayne Dent (Me Lost Me) says: “I think that the title stood out to me first conceptually and I found it easy to hum along with, the vocals just appeared really naturally so I knew that was the best one for me to work with!” Discussing the evolution of his work, Soden notes: “I basically spent the first five years of ako messing around with drum machines, and got that side of things down pretty early. I think there’s something deeply intrinsic about understanding rhythm, a lot more so than melody and harmony. So I think what’s mostly evolved is understandings of harmonic progression and how to write interesting melodies. I also play a lot more stuff on the new ako tracks, rather than drawing them in with a mouse or programming them on a sequencer. I think that really helps get away from the rigidity in structure of loop-based electronic music, and really helps tracks flow and progress better.” As well as seeing release on Bandcamp via Sunset Grid and other streaming platforms via Kaneda Records, West Babylon is also being released as a limited series of VHS tapes, complete with visuals made by Soden. Having always produced visuals for his own live shows and worked on design for Kaneda Records releases, Soden discussed the design aspect of his work and his interest in vapourwave. “I first started messing around with visuals properly as part of my masters course, I’d taken a module on PureData that I was already somewhat familiar with, although up until this point no

one had pointed out to me that you could use it for visual stuff as well. I really like the idea of reactive visuals, and of linking musical and visual rhythms for live sets, as it added a new dimension to the performance for audience members who weren’t hardcore IDM fans and didn’t really get a lot from watching someone with a beard turning knobs in a darkened room. “As for the vapourwave aesthetic, I got into that as I was starting to lose interest in witch house around 2014: I enjoyed witch house up to this point as it was kind of a ‘frontier’ genre, but as genres progress they end up getting heavily formalised as a result of commodification and degenerate into boring ‘music by number’ with a bunch of gatekeepers who weren’t around in the early days. I kind of jumped ship to vapourwave because it was in its infancy, and I could have a lot more fun with it. I also liked its interesting commentary of the hyper-capitalism of the nineties, the alternate future vibes and the tongue in cheek exploration of the ‘art as a commodity’ mindset. I like the importance it placed on the visual aesthetic too, and it did this with a much more critically informed mindset than a lot of other aesthetic genres.” Given Soden’s involvement in multiple projects, it’s perhaps not surprising that production and musical ideas have sometimes found themselves flitting from one project to another, but the latest take on Nightforest – an ako track that became a Badger track that’s become an ako track once more – is a fairly unique case of musical to-me-to-you. “Nightforest started out as an ako track. I had an ako gig booked in Bradford around when Badger had a tour booked, so we decided to try and do a collab set where Chris [Maltby, Badger vocalist] would come on with me half way through and do some Badger tracks. Whilst working out the set, he said he really liked Nightforest and that he’d like to do some words over that as a way of transitioning to the Badger material, so I made a new version of the track and we went from there. It was really well received and it’s sent us in a new direction production-wise, so expect some new Badger along similar lines this year. In terms of picking which project a particular track goes with, it actually makes life super easy because I don’t have to either shoehorn disparate ideas into one project or have to drop tracks that don’t fit, it means I can just make whatever I’m feeling at the time and allocate it to whichever project it fits most and that I don’t waste time working on tracks I can’t use.” ako releases West Babylon on 12th September via Sunset Grid and Kaneda Records




PALACE WATSON LINSEY TEGGERT UNCOVERS THE DARK SIDE OF NORTH EAST POST-HARDCORE TRIO PALACE WATSON A disused Victorian primary school. Occult chants. Letters to dead people in a secret notebook. Not plot points from a horror movie, but things that have played a part in the creation of Palace Watson’s debut EP, Fun In Purgatory. The three-piece, consisting of ex-members of local progressive hardcore favourites Future Horizons (Will Rayment, bass) and Middlesbrough ‘math-mosh’ outfit Rosa Valle (Liam Richardson, drums and Daniel Wilmslow Huddlestone, vocals/guitar), hinted at their proclivity towards the darker side of life with their first single The Smell, released back in June 2019. With its morose lyrics and nervous, knife-edge energy, the hooky slice of post-hardcore set Palace Watson out as ones to watch. They’ve been pretty elusive ever since, so where have they been? Well, creating music in that aforementioned Victorian primary school for one. “It’s an old primary school that’s been converted into a community arts centre in this tiny little nowhere village in South Yorkshire,” explains Huddlestone. “It’s barely used for anything, so it’s mostly just empty classrooms with the old chalkboards and everything, but with a beat-up recording studio installed into the school hall/old toilets. Our friend closed his studio and moved to Prague and left a lifetime’s worth of oddball recording gear in the school studio. A full analogue desk, hand-built compressors, a RADAR computer from the 90s that perfectly emulates reel to reel tape. Stuff audio nerds would drool over. It was so fun recording with it.” With the bones of the EP laid down, the songs were meticulously produced and worked over first in Tbilisi, Georgia, while


Huddlestone stayed with family there, and then in an attic in South London where he is currently based. The resulting EP is a beautifully morbid four track body of work which blends emo angst with contemporary pop production flourishes. Frantic lead single Dead As Leaves sets the tone from the off with its themes of growing up and examining who you are, complete with sampled occult chants. “Those chants are from an old radio play I found on a tape archives website. It was so nutty I couldn’t even tell you what it was about, but I remember it really caught my attention. I’d already got most of the lyrics to Dead As Leaves and knew I was writing about adulthood feeling like a death sentence, then I heard the chants, ‘they have sentenced you to death’. It was such a cool moment accidentally stumbling onto something that fit so well. “I suppose that’s the main theme of the EP, exploring those darker moments where you wonder why you even try at all. When it comes to the dark subject matter, I’ve loved skeletons and monsters since I was a kid. I used to write letters to dead people in a secret notebook. So I think it’s just been on my mind from pretty early on.” When it comes to the rest of the EP, though the same punk dissonance of Dead As Leaves appears on the frenetic Embarrassment, the remaining tracks are wonderfully disparate. Leave The Cemetery is a delicate lament, while closer Dead As Leaves (Reprise) reworks the lead single as a grandiose arrangement of piano and strings which swoop sorrowfully. “I’d say my songwriting idols are Billy Corgan and Gerard Way, but as far as producers I look to the likes of Kanye or Sufjan Stevens for the maximalist approach they’re known for,” says Huddlestone. “I’m always drawn to artists who aren’t afraid to borrow from other genres. I think punk/emo boxes itself in a lot of the time. There’s no reason you can’t make that kind of music and also blend other types of production.” Palace Watson release Fun In Purgatory this month




Image by BriFocals Noel Gallagher often remarked that great musical scenes, and great bands, are often characterised as much by their prominent record labels as they are by their sound. As an example, those of us old enough to remember two distinctive genres from the mid-90s, Gangster Rap and Brit Pop, may have strong memories of two of the main labels associated to those scenes (Death Row and Creation) but how many of us can remember all of the artists on each label (Johnny J, The Jazz Butcher anyone?) Not to take anything away from those artists, but perhaps such a quiz proves that sometimes a record label becomes so identifiable, and so of the moment, that it transcends a musical genre. The label becomes the beacon which attracts us towards new music. All of which asks interesting questions about the North East musical scene and our local labels; what beacons are helping attract us towards new music, and which labels are prominently showcasing the North East? I’m asking rhetorical questions because there’s a number of labels we can be really proud of in the North East, but let’s just focus on one for now: Durham’s very own Sapien Records, a label which celebrates its ten year anniversary this year. Initially rooted in metalcore but since expanding to cover everything from folk rock colliery bands to rap, perhaps what Sapien has come to represent most is how it mirrors some of the best values of the North East; its inclusivity and diversity. “What I enjoy most about us now is that we’re so diverse as a collection,” says head honcho David Smith. “Not only do we have a diverse sounding collection of bands, Dennis for example are a nine-piece folk rock and colliery band who play amazing live shows,

WHAT I ENJOY MOST ABOUT US NOW IS THAT WE’RE SO DIVERSE AS A COLLECTION but we also include non-North Eastern bands like Rider from Pennsylvania and Steve Strong from Plymouth. If a band sounds good, regardless of their genre or birthplace, then they’re welcome on Sapien.” Pressed into revealing some of his favourite moments of the past decade proves difficult for Smith, “To be honest, I can’t believe what we’ve become but if I had to give you an answer I’d say working with Steve Albini with We Are Knuckle Dragger or Ross Robinson on the follow-up. These people were legends to me growing up and to think that they’ve done some work on a label I work for is unreal sometimes”. Growing in strength (“we’ve made some really interesting releases in the past year or so with bands like Dunes or Scott Michael Cavagan”) the next phase for Sapien is to look forward: “2020 was going to be a year for a lot of releases on Sapien, and a lot of second albums, but we’ve delayed them until next year. The main thing is we’re all fit and healthy and the music can wait. It’s been an amazing ten years and I’m maybe even more excited now than ever before when listening to some of the pieces coming soon. That’s sometimes enough.” See the NARC. website for exclusive interviews and features with Sapien Records’ bands





The annual Festival of Thrift usually takes place in Kirkleatham, Redcar and offers a range of brilliant experiences to get us thinking about sustainability. While a physical festival isn’t on the cards this year, in true thrifty fashion the organisers have repurposed and upcycled the event into an online celebration, taking place on Saturday 12th September. This year’s theme is ‘energy’, and despite operating on a muchreduced budget with considerable challenges, the festival promises heaps of vibrant thrifty fun. I caught up with festival director Stella Hall who explains how she’s been managing her team and bringing the event together despite the restrictions of COVID-19. “The Festival of Thrift team are all freelance and we are working together from Edinburgh down to Saltburn and also calling in via Zoom from as far away as New Zealand. It’s our hope that the spirit of thrift can be replicated in multiple places simultaneously and we


are looking forward to seeing the ripple effect through different people in their communities.” We talked about how COVID-19 had given us renewed energy to grow veggies, chat more with neighbours and embed in our communities in new ways; for lots of us, our commuting time was cut to mere minutes as we walked into a different room to switch on our laptops, and it’s this shift in our lives that has provided inspiration for the festival. The line-up is as creative as ever, with something for everyone, and is designed to make us slow down and think about our impact on the planet and how we use our time here. Visitors are encouraged to ‘Thrift Your Place’ on the run-up to the festival, using activity packs and fun-filled ideas to inspire all ages, available to download from the website. Highlights of the programme include Diane Watson’s Garden of the


L-R: Fixit Cafe; Postcards by METIS; Diane Watson, Garden of the Deep

IT’S OUR HOPE THAT THE SPIRIT OF THRIFT CAN BE REPLICATED IN MULTIPLE PLACES SIMULTANEOUSLY AND WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING THE RIPPLE EFFECT THROUGH DIFFERENT PEOPLE IN THEIR COMMUNITIES Deep, an installation of 3,500 plastic flowers created from the bottles and debris found washed up on our beaches, with the aim of raising awareness of the consumption of single use plastics. Festival goers can download instructions online to create their own plastic bottle flower. North East gem Fixit Cafe make a welcome return with a ‘live fix’ streamed on the day, as Gateshead-based artist duo Lindsay Duncanson and Marek Gabrysh invite people to write to them for advice on fixing broken items and giving them a new lease of life. On the festival website they provide top tips on ways you can get more out of your stuff by using less. Contact them on Facebook (search Fixit Cafe) to get involved. Levilab have created the first workshop kit of its kind which enables participants to become ‘architects of air’; their Building With Air workshop kit contains instructions, tools and materials to build several inflatable creations, order in advance of the festival and share your designs on the day using #levilab on social media. Plan a make-over for the day with the help of Newcastle-based dancer and choreographer Patrick Ziza, whose in-depth guide on how to become a dandy is informative and fun. Patrick’s tips cover how to dress, pose and walk, while providing a history of the 18th Century form of rebellious self-expression. Patrick will also host a livestreamed dance workshop on the day. Also on a fashion tip, The Secret Stuff of Life invites participants to design, make and move in wearable sculptures with dance artists Jennifer Essex and Lorraine Smith who, along with Dutch costume designer Daphne Karstens, use man-made materials to create wearable sculptures. Join tutorials on the festival webpage. On the day itself, poetry readings will be given by Tees Women Poets, a performance poetry collective who seek to empower


women in the Tees Valley area. There’s more performance from London-based interdisciplinary performing arts company METIS, who create A Brilliant Day to be broadcast as part of the festival; having invited participants to imagine their perfect day via a series of instruction-filed postcards sent out in advance of the festival, METIS will weave responses into a script for their performance, which will also help them create their spring show, Love Letters To A Liveable Future. Gobbledegook Theatre encourage moments of reflection with their downloadable tips on cloudgazing, which will teach you how to identify the main types of clouds while also demonstrating how cloudgazing can have a positive impact on mental health, and on Saturday 12th they’ll present a Cloudscapes at Home podcast. Also on a weather theme, Whippet Up’s fun info pack on creating your own sun and wind faces will keep kids and adults alike amused! As always, a series of talks will provide further food for thought, with topics including Thrift Youth and Feeding The Community. Another highlight of the physical festival has been given an exciting online makeover – the virtual festival marketplace will be online until Christmas, and features a range of sustainably-focused businesses offering upcycled and recycled goods and ethically produced products. Stella added: “It’s really been a coming together of people and it feels a very exciting moment of its time this year; we are hoping thousands of people join in. 2020 has offered a brand new way of working for the festival and we are waiting in anticipation of what will play out in your homes and communities!” Thriftfest Upcycled takes place on Saturday 12th September via their website





Artwork by Nikki Brewster

FILMMAKER CHRIS J. ALLAN REVEALS THE UP AND COMING ARTS AND CREATIVE HUB IN SOUTH SHIELDS In February the proposition of a space bringing together a range of creatives under one roof in the heart of South Tyneside seemed almost too good to be true. Plus as any locals know, it being in walking distance of the metro and Simonside Maccy’s was undoubtedly also quite appealing. Upon arrival, even though the former factory space was still in the process of being converted by owner Illias Mantalios, Prospect House turned out to be an easy sell. While it hadn’t been exclusively planned as an arts hub, Illias saw the benefit of bringing creatives on board from the ground level of the project, helping to nurture them as businesses based there and planning to further develop ‘The Block’, an area which would function as a community space within the finished building, facilitated by the creatives themselves. So, two units were set to become ours under the banner of AMOS Creative; a joint effort between Wycombe 89, a filmmaking and digital media partnership I formed with Grant Robson several years back, and Jordan Embleton, a frequent collaborator whose work as PhotoByJordan had gone from strength to strength. With a year ahead of planned short film and documentary projects, wedding photography and promotional campaigns, we were raring to go. But, as I mentioned, all of this was in February 2020, right? And you know what happens next... The shutters were down and the reality of what 2020 was going to be began to set in. It was a twist in the story that wasn’t unique to us, or any of our fellow residents at Prospect House, but weathering the storm of lockdown was a frustrating inevitability nevertheless.


Eventually we returned, not only to establish what the place would be, but now also to make it a COVID-safe workspace. As we did, our neighbours there began to do the same, social distancing markings were laid out and copious amounts of masks and hand gels began appearing as standard. Vocal coach Jen Stevens even returned with large perspex shields around her piano, ready for whatever people must mean when they say ‘the new normal’. For those involved, even at a social distance, a space like this provides fertile ground to cross collaborate with other local artists, filmmakers, musicians and creatives, for the betterment of their own works, but also for the community. For upcoming artists it also makes what you are doing feel real. Artist Nikki Brewster of NolaSean recognised the benefits for growth here too: “Having a base makes my business finally feel whole after being self-employed and tired of working from home and hot desks.” Since returning, drummer Rhys English has begun soundproofing, local clothing favourites Red Star set up their office and Martin Trollope (aka Harbourmaster) has just begun a target smashing fundraiser to relocate here. “South Tyneside is such a creative, artistic area that having this sort of hub will be really helpful to the local community, not to mention having this wide range of creatives on site who can help out the artists I work with,” he enthuses. Indeed, aside from his sterling mastering, mixing and recording work with a variety of local artists, the fact this is following his work on our short films Big Pink Dress and First Date Of The Dead, is frankly another massive plus on the ever-growing list of being based at Prospect House! Creatives and creative spaces have a difficult journey ahead in recovering from the fallout of this year, but knowing the comradery and passion that have been shown by the others around us for making it work, I’m glad we get to do it here. Prospect House is located at Amos Ayre Place, Jarrow, South Shields, NE34 9PE





Yung Lotus - Outta My Mind Yung Lotus, Sunderland born and bred, describes his music as “hip-hop infused with psychedelic melodies” which it most definitely is. Outta My Mind hits you with an instant feeling of lightness; airy layers contrast a deep beat and bass, and an

Groovebox Adam - Thirst Trap

The product of a new series of collaborations by Groovebox Adam, Thirst Trap lives in a strange land somewhere between jazz and alt. rock. With a clear, strong bass line and drums running throughout, the track is infused with a soft male voice speaking somewhere under Bernie Christie’s easy, calming vocals. Topped with a subtle electric guitar played by Morris Ford, the whole piece has a strange hypnotic quality to it. Although it’s not the style of music I would usually go to, if you are into jazz fusion I think you’ll find this one highly enjoyable.

Don Coyote - Fresh Start

A light soft rock piece, hinting at a bit of jazz, Fresh Start is an easy-on-the-ears song with a great bass line and funky guitar riff. Telling story of a breakup and the lingering

infectious chorus. Outta My Mind reminds me of summer holidays sitting at a swim-up bar or a breezy hot night out in a club. One of Yung Lotus’ aims with his music is to make the world that little bit brighter through what feels like constant dark times, and this track did that for me within seconds of hitting play.

awkwardness of an old relationship and where that relationship sits now: “And now we can talk again, we don’t need to pretend that we’re really friends”. I would have loved to hear this really take off at the chorus, the verse teases something bigger but never quite gets there.

LadaLive Lullabies - Soul Boy

Soul Boy is the story of a woman who loves Northern soul music, frustrated at what she has become, and wanting to go back to her youth to be a soul boy. With a driving folk country guitar strumming, the tale is carried by a vocal lead full of tension and drama. It’s an arresting track, hanging between the folk music of the North East and traditional country. All the emotion of the story seems to be carried in the tone of the voice, with

succinct, tight lyrics hinting at a soul wandering, looking for something.

Igg - Identity Politics

Igg is a rapper and producer from the North East who describes his style as meta boom rap, characterised by loud drums, dense vocal samples and abstract lyrics. Identity Politics has all of these traits, building in layers and intensity as the song goes on. The theme deals with the absurdities and overreach of identity politics in modern society. The rapping and lyrics become much more addictive and powerful later in the song, and it would have been good to see that at the beginning of the track, possibly with a shorter intro and lead up.



T-B, L-R: ZELA, ROJOR, Pit Pony Opportunity Went is the new single from Pit Pony, and if you’re missing underground gigs and sweaty house parties you need to take this opportunity to listen. Pounding drums, massive riffs, megaphonic vocals and much needed noise; I just want to put my arms in the air and scream “YES!”. Staying in the mood for loud music, we have Not Now Norman’s new release, End Of The Day; an EP which is full of confrontational, in-your-face vocals, insistent riffs and wailing solos, but which also has time for a laid-back, slower jam showing the range of the band. Silver Club’s Ode To Lem harks back to the psych pop of the ‘60s with its descending chords, sinister hook and playful fairground organ, and you won’t forget it in a hurry (you won’t want to!). Once you’ve heard the chorus, you’ll find yourself humming it when you least expect it. For The Love Of The Birds is the first EP from Lyre & The Lamb, and hopefully there’s more to come. Somewhere between folk and jazz, the EP feels like a cinematic soundtrack to that daydream you have when you’re staring out of the car window on a long drive. There’s more avian antics on the new EP from ROJOR, Melancholy Songs Of The Caged Bird, which showcases a songwriter who knows how to craft a great melody, and how to expertly adorn it with grooving basslines and glimmering arpeggios. There’s a sense of hopefulness for the future here, which feels especially timely at the moment. Dave Neil Crabtree’s single I Just Want To Tell You is a softly undulating love letter; familiar and unexpected, comfortable but ever


changing, the song never imposes itself but offers space to sit and enjoy the sense of warmth that it generates with its swirling electric pianos and mellow strings. A more abstract look at love sees jazz singer Zoe Gilby and bassist Andy Champion join forces as Living In Shadows. Their single Sending Electricity gently circles around pulsing time shifts, somehow slipping away while drawing us closer into its delicate embrace. This is a graceful and adventurous song, with sublime musicianship throughout. Scrannabis’ new EP Calm Amongst The Storm could easily be labelled as ‘most understated pop hit of the summer’. Morning Sun sees kitchen sink rapping over delicate piano loops, combining with a minimalist beat and killer chorus. The whole EP maintains the chilled vibes and is well worth a listen. Fingerpicked guitars, floating strings and beautifully distant vocals interweave to bring us Lava Lamps, the new single and video from The Dawdler. Atmospheric and ambient, the stunning production works together with the brilliantly made cut out animation to give us what feels like a loving insight into an important story. If you need a perfect pop song in your life then look no further than I’m Healing by ZELA. It has everything you could possibly want; heavy synths, simple drums and backing vocals you’ll join in with on your first listen. It’s a celebratory, confident and truthful song. Just excellent.




IDLES by Tom Ham

Words: Jason Jones Anger alone is a regressive thing. It rots away at people from the inside out, mangling them until they’re gnarled and unrecognisable. It can sharpen tongues and eclipse friendships, ruin lives and extinguish love. But anger, when tempered with empathy and articulated with reason and purpose, is also as powerful a weapon as humanity possesses. Nobody knows this better than IDLES. While debut album Brutalism was as blunt as its moniker suggests, sophomore effort Joy As An Act Of Resistance embraced the might of self-love and positivity to unleash a uniquely uplifting brand of fury that catapulted the band to the heavens. Ultra Mono once again sees the Bristolian punks assume the role of mongrel alchemists, splicing seething rage with a mantra of togetherness and hope to fashion something bigger and more urgent than themselves. The outcome, like the intent, is irresistible. Opener War feels like coming to in the throng of a guerrilla firefight, spittle and shrapnel whizzing by you as that unquenchable beat batters away like a meteor shower on a hot tin roof. Elsewhere, recent single Model Village is a rollicking head-turner, a barbed bop that sees frontman Joe Talbot cast his beady eye and cynical wit over the cowardice of narrow-minded rurality. It’s a big tune, but that being said, everything here sounds absurdly massive. Take the magnificent Reigns, for instance. The chorus on that thing…oh my days. It is staggeringly, thunderously, shockingly huge, like going rockpooling and finding Godzilla. IDLES drafted in esteemed hip-hop producer Kenny Beats to impart his wizardry behind the scenes on this album, and based on the evidence presented here, one can only assume that Beats is his middle name and his father was called Mr. The-Living-Crap-Out-Of-Your-Eardrums. There are no lulls, no moments of respite to speak of. This is a glorious, frenzied riot, and it is, without exception, an absolute triumph. IDLES are back with a bang and their message is clear; everything is fucked, but it’s still not too late to tear it all down and rebuild the lot – stronger, kinder and better. Released: 25.09.20

ALSO OUT THIS MONTH Everything Everything – Re-Animator (AWAL, 11.09) //Asian Dub Foundation – Access Denied (X-Ray Productions, 18.09) // Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts – Nowhere To Go But Everywhere (Wicked Cool, 18.09) // Matt Berry – Phantom Birds (Acid Jazz Records, 18.09) //The Apartments - In And Out Of The Light (Talitres Records, 18.09) // Sufjan Stevens – The Ascension (Asthmatic Kitty Records, 25.09) //Kraków Loves Adana – Darkest Dreams (Italians Do It Better, 25.09) //Tobin Sprout – Empty Horses (Fire Records, 18.09) //Matt Costa – Yellow Coat (Dangerbird Records, 11.09) //Annie Taylor – Sweet Mortality (Taxi Gauche Records, 04.09) // Honey Joy – II (Everything Sucks Music, 04.09) // Temptess – Must Be A Dream (Pony Recordings, 30.09) //Sprain – As Lost Through Collision (The Flenser, 04.09) // Will Butler – Generations (Merge, 25.09) // Naked Roommate – Do The Duvet (Upset the Rhythm, 04.09) // Native Harrow – Closeness (Loose, 04.09) // Death Bells – New Signs of Life (Dias Records, 25.09) // Susanna – Baudelaire & Piano (SusannaSonata, 11.09) // Dukes of Chutney – Hazel (Beats in Space/RVNG Intl., 04.09)

Words: Ali Welford The starting point for Anna Von Hausswolff’s latest project was Sacro Bosco, a garden of grotesque mythological sculptures and overgrown buildings commissioned in the 16th Century by Italian condottiero and arts patron Pier Francesco Orsini while grieving his deceased wife. A solo instrumental piece, it was performed entirely via pipe organ; a colossal instrument whose unique tuning temperament brings both life and nuance to a surrealist Gothic soundscape. At its most electrifying, All Thoughts Fly recalls such exceptional score work as Hildur Guðnadóttir’s Chernobyl and Bobby Krlic’s Midsommar, though so vivid is its imagery that backing visuals never feel absent. Indeed, even shorn of backstory, this is a record which embodies exploration; the sound of a liberated artist offering amble scope in which listeners’ minds may wander. Released: 25.09.20

4.5 / 5 SIDI TOURÉ AFRIK TOUN MÉ (THRILL JOCKEY) Words: Ben Lowes-Smith Sidi Touré is one of Mali’s most coveted musicians. His dynamic and emotive voice has found him great acclaim in collectives and as an artist in his own right, and his lean, incisive playing is instantly recognizable within the context of his peers. On this record he is joined by virtuoso guitarist Mamadou Kelly and calabash player Boubou Diallo, blending parables and tales of inspiration that honour courage and resilience in the face of trial and tragedy. What’s instantly striking is how remarkable the guitar playing on this record is, optimising and intertwining with Touré’s voice. Centrepiece Tchaw Yan taps into the powerfully transformative nature of this; indeed the record is lean and consistent throughout. A truly mesmerising trip. Released: 11.09.20








Words: Ben Lowes-Smith Barbarians continues Young Knives’ trajectory of odd, claustrophobic rock music with fairly mixed results. Where the band’s canny sense of melody has all but been intentionally rejected, the sense of humour still remains, most notably on Society For Cutting Up Men. There is a slightly myopic nihilism present throughout, notably on the title track and opener Swarms. Highlights include the Radiohead-esque Jenny Haniver, which marries tender, melancholy folksiness with electronics to mesmerising effect and the hypnotic centrepiece I Am Awake. It’s quite compositionally try-hard at points, and more often than not, the clever-clever exercises are at the expense of any meaningful connection. As daring as it is, it’s pretty austere music that isn’t much fun to listen to. Released: 04.09.20

Words: Lee Hammond Blue Hearts is a record packed with political angst, from the acoustic opener Heart On My Sleeve right through the ferocity of Fireball, this is Bob Mould at his most cutting. The sedate start to Blue Hearts is quickly eroded, replaced with sharp driving riffs that become the unrelenting fixture of the album. At times the messages are relatively easy to grasp yet no less powerful, as evidenced on Racing To The End. However, American Circus and The Ocean shine through as possessing the most heartfelt passion, coupled with fierce anger towards the establishment. Blue Hearts is an immediate and powerful record, played at phenomenal pace. While it’s over quickly, the underpinning messages ring on, this is a wonderful outwardly political album. Released: 25.09.20

Words: Ikenna Offor Lest ye forget THAT scene-stealing turn on Thundercat’s Black Qualls; there’s no denying that Steve Arrington has been riding the crest of a late-career revival – that same ineffable finesse vividly enlivens his first solo LP in over a decade, which finds the former Slave frontman dishing out feel-good vibes like a fairy funkfather. Buoyed by a stellar roster of beatsmiths, Arrington’s inimitable croon scales soulful peaks, tempering the mawkishness of The Joys of Love with ardent sensuality – then similarly, luxuriating in its own sultry splendour on It’s Alright’s infectious bop. Elsewhere, nestled squarely between You’re Not Ready’s electro-laced bounce and All I Wanna Do’s spectral groove, Make Em Say Yie’s fiery riffs offset that beatific revelry with rough-hewn swagger. Released: 18.09.20

4.5 / 5






Words: Paul Jeffrey Imagine if you will, an expert producer taking the William S. Burroughs Cut Up technique to the entire ACR back catalogue; editing, splicing and dicing until all that remained was the absolute essence of Manchester’s finest punk-funkers… add in lashings of squelchy 303 synths, sumptuous and soulful vocals from the always incredible Denise Johnson (RIP you absolute superstar, we will miss you forever) and slinky and superlative guest spots from Sink Ya Teeth, Gabe Gurnsey (Factory Floor), Mike Joyce (The Smiths/ Buzzcocks) and Eric Random. Now mix the whole thing up until you arrive at a somewhat disorientating, wildly woozy and wholly euphoric mind-bender. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to ACR:Loco, a forward-looking genre-defying slice of musical majesty. Released: 25.09.20


Words: Lee Hammond The eagerly awaited debut album from this exceptional quartet does not disappoint, the band’s influences are clearly evident. With an infusing of grunge and a dose of post-punk, In Waiting is a heady mix. The themes that underpin this record are what really bring it to life; the political and social context in which they operate is increasingly evident, and a desire for unity exudes from these impassioned tracks. Brothers and How Do I Look are clear album highlights, and the tracks which demonstrate Pillow Queens at their most heartfelt. Seething riffs and powerful drums collide within these heavy tracks, with enthused lyrics searing through. A truly brilliant debut record from a band destined for big things. Released: 25.09.20

Words: Lee Fisher Every Bill Callahan album contains at least one song that is a masterclass in songwriting. This time out, it’s Pigeons. Over a subtle but gently inventive tune (dashes of woodwind and brass against a simple guitar figure), Callahan imagines himself a wedding limo driver reflecting on love and marriage. And it’s just the loveliest fucking thing. Wry and tender and bookended with a self-deprecating gag. Gold Record shares a general sense of ease with his last album, but this is a warmer and wittier affair. Ry Cooder is just Callahan goofing off really, surprisingly daft but still insightful. And there’s a lovely reworking of Let’s Move To The Country (hey, Jonathan Richman has been doing this for years!). Contentment never sounded so appealing. Released: 04.09.20








Words: Cameron Wright Never shying away from artistic excursions, Flaming Lips’ second release of the year showcases a swirling, mellow blend of synth pop balladry. The desire to deliver an experimental, challenging record has often hampered the band in recent years, struggling to balance endearing extravagance and a meandering, wayward sense of confusion. American Head may not reach the heights of records that have carved Flaming Lips’ legacy, occasionally sounding distracted and lost, with derivative tunes and heartless lyrics. However, as one of the more engaging records they’ve put out recently, American Head certainly contains some of their greatest triumphs. Conjuring up enormous sounds with exquisite and tangible emotion bleeding from them, the highs of the record deliver the cryptic genius that fans have been craving for years, albeit inconsistently. Released: 11.09.20

5 /5 RICHARD SKELTON THESE CHARMS MAY BE SUNG OVER A WOUND (PHANTOM LIMB) Words: Lee Fisher Driven to create by tragedy, Skelton has maintained a staggering quality (and quantity) of work over the years and this latest is among his best. The drift from acoustic to electric seems complete and the album’s nine tracks are more industrial than rustic, with more in common with artists like Stars Of The Lid than before. But Skelton’s music is as immersive and melancholy as ever. For An Inward Wound balances on a deep mechanical throb, while Against Bite & Rend Of Snake buries a looping sadness under scree and scurf and For Either Deadened Or Undeadened plays out a sequence of pure sweet heartbreak across nine swelling and fading minutes. Surely the most affecting minimal/ drone album of the year. Utterly beautiful. Released: 25.09.20

Words: Kristopher Cook An ethereal experience, hauntingly opaque acoustic music from Tashi Dorji can be found across Stateless, documenting the sporadic nature of living as an apparent outsider in the so-called land of the free. Be warned, some of the compositions here will trap you in what feels like the eye of a never-ending storm. The rawness of the recordings make for an isolated feel from the outset, which isn’t to say there are no bright spots here — those are well and truly earned through navigating some of the heavier arrangements. See to it that you listen to Stateless in one sitting, giving it your complete undivided attention. There’s a cinematic quality to this project that I can’t really put into words; you’ll know when you hear it. Released: 25.09.20

4/5 MAN OF MOON DARK SEA (COSMIC POOL) Words: Stephen Oliver This duo are able to build a big swirling sound on their debut album. Euphoric, fuzzy, psychedelic guitars create an epic room-filling sound over the crisp percussion. Chris Bainbridge and Michael Reid have created some huge slabs of monolithic rock music. Texture is demonstrated in the occasional quieter Gothic interludes before the heavy auditory onslaught continues. Add in some atmospheric gruff vocals and the result feels like an update on the Hawkwind vibe. Dark Sea takes you on a journey through a sequence of emotions, rather than having ten separate songs that don’t necessarily belong together. Each track paints an evolving picture in your imagination. Albums like this are for turning the lights down and cranking the volume up. Released: 25.09.20

Words: Cameron Wright With each release, punk outfit Cabbage seem to sharpen their sound, tempering their work with a rising sense of discontent. This album sees Cabbage cannon back into the scene with a barbarous urgency. Amanita Pantherina instantly crashes in with a colossus of noise and rage; snarling vocals, dripping in personality and venom control the madness as crunching guitars and booming basses curate a cacophony of sounds, the likes of which Cabbage have never summoned before. With only 11 tracks, this release feels enormous. The billowing magnitude of the project is undeniable, with Cabbage harnessing a sound distinctly theirs. Maturing from their early work, Amanita Pantherina has the poignant odour of greatness, sweating out of the emotive performances, incredible production, staggering instrumentation and unexpectedly tender moments. Released: 25.09.20

4/5 DEAD QUIET TRUTH & RUIN (ARTOFFACT) Words: Tom McLean If you’re a fan of heavy metal or stoner rock, Dead Quiet’s seven track album, Truth & Ruin, tears a rock-shaped hole in your soul and fills it with gutsy metallic riffs and melancholic rip-roaring vocals. While the band evoke a certain 70s timbre, for this listener comparisons can’t help but be drawn to politically-charged ear-busters Rage Against The Machine. At times singer/guitarist Kevin Keegan’s vocals sound spookily akin to Rage’s Zack de la Rocha, but the undulating, grinding riffs of all seven of DQ’s anthems provide a bedrock of relentless, incandescent force throughout. Banger Partial Darkness is the hit, but if you want your ears to bleed, Cold Grey Death comes recommended. Released: 11.09.20




4.5 / 5

2.5 / 5




Words: Robin Webb Strains of Stereolab’s ethereal chugging rhythms and Can’s meandering explorations can be sensed as this album develops, reverberating with Angel Deradoorian’s attempts to “…reach herself…” as she journeys toward the sun. Restrained analogue instrumentation and sparsely placed synthesiser drones flower into modern Krautrock-inspired gentle psychedelia, where I find myself staring off into audial space. Angel has collaborated with percussionist Samer Ghadry and fellow multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington (Darkside) in a seemingly childlike innocence that sparkles collectively into life as an often starkly intimate post-pandemic introspective expression of self-discovery amongst the ether. The ultimate destination track being Sun, closing the album perfectly with Middle Eastern inflections asking transcendental questions of the performer and the listener during their vision quest. Released: 18.09.20

Words: Robin Webb Fuzzed out vintage indie bliss resplendent with Kristen Hersch’s glorious husky rasp, Sun Racket fuses melody, vitriol and melancholy in a largesse haze of classic Muses overdriven guitar. The opening track demands you listen and appreciate the decades of experience in writing songs and music that have left an indelible, and most welcome, mark on an alternative scene begging for more of this true originality. Upstairs Dan is steeped in menace and feedback, while Frosting’s lush poetical lyrics juxtapose expertly with the country-tinged horror of Kay Katherine. 2013 saw the last Throwing Muses epically lavish album, whilst Sun Racket being succinct in comparison is nonetheless a perfectly formed LP; let’s hope it doesn’t take another long hiatus until the next album. Released: 04.09.20

Words: Robin Webb Popcorn Fiend, aka Michael MacLennan, originally hailing from Glasgow, releases a debut album that’s been 17 years in the making. Produced by CHVRCHES engineer David R Simpson and featuring the drumming of Ross Rankin (The Kills), it claims to occupy a space between indie synth pop and the sonic onslaught of Nine Inch Nails. However, what actually emerges across the album has a distinct Chemical Brothers structure, albeit without their clear inventiveness, instead resorting to repeating somewhat understated and extended crescendos amid intermittent aggressive guitars. The opener Bear On Bear and penultimate track I Wish are high points, with the former’s punchy big beats and Manga-style video, while the latter swaggers with its post-punk discordance, sparse and genuinely thoughtful repeated mantra. Released: 18.09.20







Words: Damian Robinson Intentionally challenging, Lafawndah has spoken of her music as being part of a community designed for all the orphans of the world; in essence a desire to create challenging music to represent those with unintentionally challenging (or ‘challenged’) identities. Brave, ambitious and highly musical, The Fifth Season works best when it focuses on communicating the challenges in neat Björk-esque pop symphonies (Don’t Despair, You At The End) rather than when the challenges become overly complicated and lost in layers and layers of sounds and cross genres, as evidenced on The Stillness). There’s genius in the intent and in the statement, but there’s only partial genius in the album. Released: 08.09.20


Words: Damian Robinson The opening track to the new album from Mexico City-based psych duo Mint Field, Cuida Tus Pasos, sets the standard for the album; lush, scuzzy, guitar-based soundscapes played through with emotive vocals. Composed with hints of the ‘intelligent pop’ created by Eno (particularly his work with Roxy Music and Bowie) Natural unfortunately takes us to more experimental worlds of intelligence than it does to the pop locations. Standouts Contingencia and the title track break from the norm by pushing dreamy, guitar-laden post-punk hooks, in a technique which is more immediate than the rest of the album. For all of the interesting layers of sound and superb musicianship, there’s perhaps too few pop earworms to make this a classic. Released: 25.09.20

Words: Stephen Oliver Fusing empowering pop lyrics to hip-hop and electronic dance beats, Haiku Hands’ debut sets off with a bang as opener Not About You sets the stall out clearly. This manifesto is not about compromise and fitting in, they plan to take huge strides and ensure the world is on their terms. Based across Melbourne and Sydney, the core of Haiku Hands is Beatrice Lewis, Claire Nakazawa and Mie Nakazawa; they have a confident swagger in their lyrics as their voices harmonise together. While they are not afraid to keep repeating the same refrain in pulsating tracks like Manbitch, they are capable of peaceful reflection in Morning Becomes. That contrast keeps this album interesting, making for an exciting debut that feels different to the current output on daytime chart radio. Released: 10.09.20


WORDS: HELEN FERGUSON & ENSEMBLE YOUTH THEATRE MEMBERS I’m Helen Ferguson, Creative Producer and Theatre Director at Mortal Fools – a theatre, drama and creative learning company. We support children and young people working alongside our team of theatre professionals to co-create great theatre experiences. We like to make stuff that is socially engaged, contemporary, fun and important to the young people we work with. Music is a hugely important part of our work – a great soundtrack can really bring a show to life. We are especially skilled at adapting to different spaces and circumstances (which has been useful!) and the current situation has led us to create When The World Is Loud; an audio theatre experience to drown out the noise of the modern world. You can listen to it anytime, anywhere, with original stories, community voices, music and soundscape (by composer and sound designer, Mark Melville). It’s designed to help you escape, reflect and feel better about the future. When The World Is Loud is available now – it is free (donations welcome) and you can stream directly from our website or stream on Spotify, Apple and Podbean. We’d love you to listen and to share your listening experience with us via our social channels @ MortalFoolsUK and use the hashtag #WTWIL. We have put together this Mixtape with our Ensemble Youth Theatre members who all love music and regularly use it to aid their wellbeing. The tracks we’ve chosen are inspired by the themes of escape, wellbeing, gratitude and hope – all underpinning themes of When The World Is Loud.

JACOB COLLIER HE WON’T HOLD YOU This song makes us feel like we are floating on a cloud, looking at the stars. It’s beautifully written and filled with complex musical ideas that help us escape. Listen

THE MONKEES TAPIOCA TUNDRA A song filled with sunshine that helps us to appreciate what we already have. Listen

PAUL SIMON 50 WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR LOVER The contrast between the melancholy verses and exciting choruses always make us feel hopeful when feeling upset or frustrated. Listen

CHASE AND STATUS PROGRAM An upbeat song that always gets us energised within the rehearsal room; it reminds us of when we were able to devise in person. This song was usually paired with a highly competitive ball game named Spooner and was the soundtrack to our early mornings. Listen

M83 MIDNIGHT CITY Makes us think of the future - when listening, we get this image of driving through a city at night with neon lights everywhere and just feeling happy. Listen

GORILLAZ ON MELANCHOLY HILL Another song that you can just drift away to – we love the vibe; it makes us feel sad but not in a bad way. Listen

MAC MILLER GOOD NEWS This song is big favourite and is incredibly calming. It touches on themes related to mental health, a key theme within Mortal Fools’ productions, a subject we feel passionately about. Listen

CHVRCHES MIRACLE When thinking back to our 2019 tour of iWeigh, this song takes us back to the fun we had when rehearsing and the amazing soundtrack of our rehearsal room and in the production. Reminds us of being all together. Listen

ELTON JOHN DON’T GO BREAKING MY HEART A familiar uplifting song that always puts us in a good mood and reminds us of carefree times. Listen

PINK FLOYD BREATHE (IN THE AIR) When listening to this song, it feels like you’re entering another world. It feels a bit like that right now and When The World Is Loud is a bit like that – you go on a journey with us and we encourage the listener to have hope for the future. Listen

SUFJAN STEVENS VISIONS OF GIDEON A song that we instantly think of when thinking of the theme of escapism – this song is beautiful and gives us goosebumps. Listen

CHILDISH GAMBINO THE NIGHT ME AND YOUR MAMA MET It’s just a really pretty song. Somehow it sounds like Prince and a 1950’s Disney movie all at once so it’s really nostalgic. Listen



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