NARC. #163 July 2020

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Local releases abound this month, with new tracks from Leopard Rays, Chris Riley, Martha Hill, Moon Wax, Suddenly We Stopped Dreaming, The Last of the Fallen Angels, Shy-Talk, The Union Choir and many more; plus theatrical delights from OddManOut and BonBons Cabaret; arty goodness courtesy of Narbi Price, Northern School of Art students, Chad McCail, Melvyn Evans and Dovetail Joints Virtual Gallery, plus loads more


Coming at you from the backstreets of Ashington like a Pitmatic Joe Meek, St James Infirmary is getting noticed after thirty-five years at the coalface of pop. Lee Fisher finds out why

Welcome to another digital edition, dear Constant Readers. I’d like to be able to tell you when we’ll be back in print but, as with so many other things right now, it’d merely be speculation so I’ll refrain from making promises I can’t keep. However! There is much to be thankful for this month. For me, chief among them was the return of the rampant consumerism that I’ve so desperately craved. No, I’m not talking about buying leisure wear from Primark, but my first visit in three months to the haven that is Alnwick bookshop Barter Books, where I spent a delightful couple of hours browsing the stacks, and which succeeded in almost making me forget the world outside. Sorely needed, indeed. I’m planning to venture further afield over the coming weeks, as more of our region’s precious independent shops tentatively reopen their doors, I’d encourage you to do the same where you’re able to. On that note, please keep an eye on our website for updates on who is re-opening and when, from retail to pubs and venues, we’ll aim to keep a regularly updated list online. Also of note this month, I ‘celebrated’ a milestone birthday (I’ll leave it to your imaginations as to which one), and despite all the odds had a wonderful couple of days filled with sociallydistanced fun with friends and loved ones, thoughtful gifts and plenty of cake and wine. I also attended a North East Culture Zoom meeting with around 30+ others, which had the rare ability to make me feel useful and interesting for an hour or so, which was nice. A quick word on our cover image this month: the wonderful photos of idiosyncratic talent St James Infirmary were taken by the equally distinctive Sheena Revolta – aka Craig Puranen Wilson – one of our dear contributors who passed away in 2018. As always, we’re honoured to feature his work in our pages.


Editor Claire Dupree Website David Saunders Creative El Roboto Advertising Claire Dupree Stay social, connect with us NARC.magazine @narc_magazine @narcmagazine

Photographers Ricky Atterby / Black Robin / Colin Davison / Nina Elizabeth / Richard Farrington / Richard Kenworthy / Iza Korsak / Liz Rose Ridley / TIMOV / Janet Warren /David Watson / Cover Image Sheena Revolta Contributors Sophie Bell / Paul Broadhead / Mark Corcoran-Lettice / Caitlin Disken / Anna Disley / Laura Doyle / Lee Fisher / Jack Grayson / Lee Hammond / Tracy Hyman / Eugenie Johnson / Jason Jones / Catharina Joubert / Beverley Knight / Ben Lowes-Smith / Tom McLean / Jay Moussa-Mann / Robert Nichols / Ikenna Offor / Michael O’Neill / Nicola Owen / Ruth Patterson / Johnathan Ramsey / Paul Ray / Helen Redfern / Damian Robinson / Elodie A Roy / Steve Spithray / Jamie Taylor / Andrew Thompson / Martin Trollope / Robin Webb / Ali Welford / Alex Withers / Cameron Wright

Featuring EllCavell, Demon Summer, Sleepy D, Dassia and Terri Ann

32 TRACKS New releases from North East artists including MullFire, Ihrsan, Matt Dunbar & The Autonomous Collective, Parallax Skies, Darren Holmes, PsiMiTAR feat. MistaBreeze, Lovely Assistant and more

33 ALBUMS Reviews of albums by Dream Wife, Lianne La Havas, Denai Moore, NZCA Lines, Fontaines D.C., Protomartyr, Lovely Wife, Kutiman, Seasick Steve, A.A. Williams, Mr Ben & The Bens, Martha Rose, Sly & The Family Drone, WVCKO and many more

37 MIXTAPE 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

South Shields producer and musician Harbourmaster talks about some of the songs that inspire him

Next Issue Out 28th July



Narbi Price, who takes part in Newcastle University’s Insights Lectures


NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY’S INSIGHTS PUBLIC LECTURES Words: Claire Dupree Newcastle University’s Insights series of free public lectures have sought to inform, stimulate, entertain and excite, with a vast range of opinions and subjects tackled over the years they’ve been running. Somewhat inevitably, this year the three-month long series have been moved online, but they’re no less topical or inspiring. The programme comprises a mixture of Revisited lectures given over previous years, at which audiences can watch the filmed footage and join online conversations, and brand new


virtual discussions. Highlights include Revisited lectures from Prof. Leigh Fought who talks about African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass and the women he met while staying in Newcastle (Tuesday 30th June); director of linguistics research Prof. Karen Corrigan introduces an online ‘time capsule’ collection capturing the dialect of Tyneside (Thursday 2nd July); author and founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, Laura Bates discusses gender inequality and the fight against sexism (Tuesday 6th July); and in a lecture delivered back in 2011 by Emeritus professor Peter Olive, sustainable marine bioresources and biotechnology come under the microscope (Tuesday 28th July). Brand new lectures for the season, which will be screened via YouTube alongside a live Q&A with the speaker, include a revealing lecture from Dr Tina Chanter about philosophy in times of crisis (Thursday 9th July); the University’s professor of creative writing Sinéad Morrissey considers

poetry’s urgency during moments of heightened social and cultural upheaval (Thursday 16th July); and a special event on Thursday 23rd July will include discussions from early-year researchers who delve into new ideas through their research: Jack Hepworth discusses Ireland’s border before and after Brexit and artist Narbi Price discusses his work around the Pitmen Painters, and the cultural importance, output and legacy of the Ashington Group. In August, visiting researcher Dr Andrew Marriott talks about controversies around the Victoria Cross medal (Thursday 6th August) and, in association with Hatton Gallery, sculptor Lloyd Gibson investigates Kurt Schwitters’ Merz Barn and the ‘biomorphic 40s’ (Thursday 20th August). Newcastle University’s Insights lectures are free to view on YouTube, see individual links on their website


RIP 2 by David Watson



Words: Eugenie Johnson Whether you’re an artist or art lover, the current global situation has left a cultural void. Attuned to the needs of both artists and gallery-goers, Teesside-based arts events organisation Dovetail Joints came up with an innovative solution. They

created a completed interactive Virtual Gallery that visitors can explore at their leisure via its website, moving from the exterior into its various rooms to see a variety of exhibitions in a way that attempts to capture the exhibition experience. The digital gallery’s latest exhibition features two of Teesside’s most beloved artists coming together as part of Dovetail Joints’ Conversations series. For Our Place In The North, Bobby Benjamin and David Watson reflect on life in a post-industrial town in their own individual styles through a series of new and unseen works. A former dock worker, Watson’s acclaimed paintings represent the changing nature of working class life in Teesside, while Benjamin’s

multi-disciplinary craft using paint and found objects examines social inequalities and the role of the underclass in society. As well as the exhibition, there’s also a chance to hear Benjamin speaking with Dovetail Joints’ director Connor Clements and curator Mark Parham about the themes behind the works and looking back at the history of the arts organisation. It’s set to be a truly unique exhibition that forms a shared, inter-generational narrative of a changing culture and society. Our Place In The North is available to view at Dovetail Joints Virtual Gallery now



Suddenly We Stopped Dreaming




SUDDENLY WE STOPPED ODDMANOUT – IT’S ALL LIVE AT THE TYNE @ TYNE THEATRE & OPERA DREAMING RELEASES HAPPENING HERE HOUSE SINGLE, I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S YOU Words: Tom McLean Newcastle-based indie rocker Suddenly We Stopped Dreaming (SWSD) strikes a chord with melodic single I Can’t Believe It’s You, a perpetually rhythmic ballad presented on a bed of gritty guitar and comforting, steady percussion. This track is one of a series of singles planned for release throughout lockdown and the summer, and sees the return of ethereal vocalist Juniper, a previous collaborator on livelier single Tonight. With I Can’t Believe It’s You, the pair have produced a shoegazey hit to set your watch to. These singles, a sure nod to the 90s and early naughties indie rock movement, help bring the genre into a new decade, carrying a warming combination of fresh nostalgia. Beneath the surface, however, I Can’t Believe It’s You documents a tale of unrequited love and the loneliness that such an event can entail. Comparisons can’t help but be drawn between the single’s evocative longing and the current plight of society – those in lockdown alone will surely find a cathartic friend here. Another solid tune from SWSD (and Juniper), keep your ear to the ground moving into 2021 – an album is on the horizon. Suddenly We Stopped Dreaming release I Can’t Believe It’s You on 6th July


Words: Caitlin Disken The coronavirus crisis hasn’t stopped OddManOut, a new-works theatre company based in Darlington, from curating their latest project entitled It’s All Happening Here. As part of Darlington Borough Council’s New Town Commission, the project will see OddManOut working collaboratively with the people of Darlington using online workshops and tutorials. Set up in 2013 by Katy Weir and Scott Young, OddManOut’s ethos is centred around engaging with local communities. With a strong focus on social impact and cultural change, OddManOut believes that their theatre should reflect rather than inform. Using this notion of reflection, It’s All Happening Here will use Darlington as a starting point, with OddManOut leaving the project almost entirely in the hands of the townspeople. Working with various artists, OddManOut will help Darlington locals create songs, sculptures and pieces of written work for the exhibition. With the aim of connecting the people of Darlington, the pieces created will respond to the local landscape. Despite the challenges of Covid-19, OddManOut are determined to curate the pieces into a live performance celebrating Darlington and its people. The company remains hopeful that a live performance in Darlington town centre later in the year will be possible; if not, an online performance will occur. To get involved, visit OddManOut’s Facebook page

Words: Claire Dupree Let’s face it, we could all do with a laugh right now. If you’ve exhausted streaming sites of their stand-up and comedy shows, and are craving something a bit more ‘real’, there are a couple of great options for you in the region. The Stand Comedy Club’s Saturday night livestreamed sets have gone down a storm over the lockdown period, consistently showing off some superb national and local talent. Also in on the act this month are Tyne Theatre & Opera House, who kick off their first livestreamed comedy show on Friday 3rd July. Comics will be performing live on stage at the theatre, broadcasting via Twitch for your pleasure. Host Carl Hutchinson presides over a line-up which includes regional favourites Steffen Peddie, Nicola Mantalios-Thompson, Lauren Pattison and Gavin Webster, plus Carl will interview Tyneside legend Chris Ramsey. The Grade I listed venue dates back to 1867 and has a celebrated history, from music hall to cinema and multi-purpose venue, it’s a treasured space for many. They’ve been hit hard by their enforced closure, so it’s hoped this fundraising show will provide a vital lifeline. Live at the Tyne takes place on Friday 3rd July via Twitch. You can donate via PayPal by clicking here


Melvyn Evans - Boats, Church and Lighthouse, linocut, 40 x 50cm



Words: Claire Dupree The Cumberland Arms’ Summer Festival is usually one of the biggest events of the year, filling the beloved Ouseburn venue with music, performance, food and drink. Unwilling to let it go unmarked this year, despite their current closure, they’re taking it online from Thursday 16th-Sunday 19th July, and bringing a massive summer party straight to you. In true Cumby style, the event is all about supporting others; from musicians who will be livestreaming (Rob & Tom from Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra, Beccy Owen, Ruth & Conrad from Holy Moly & The Crackers, Gem Andrews, Stagger Lee and loads more to be announced), to the local breweries (Northern Alchemy, Almasty, First & Last, Wylam and Errant), and street food traders (Scream For Pizza, Fat Hippo, Shanty Town and Kogarashi). Through an online shop punters can purchase beer and take-out food, and donate money to the event which will support artists and the associated ecosystem which makes the pub so special to so many. “Dig deep if you can, but even if you can’t, just enjoy the fantastic line-up we have put together for you. The Cumberland is a community and we miss it.” Says proprietor Jo Hodson. “For now the doors to The Cumberland remain closed but we can’t wait ‘til we can put on gigs, pour pints, host sessions and generally just see your wonderful faces.” The Cumberland Arms Summer Festival takes

place from Thursday 16th-Sunday 19th July via their Facebook page. Check the website for details of the online shop and how to donate



Words: Beverley Knight Bespoke framers and art gallery Gallagher & Turner are pleased to be able to rehang exhibitions which were planned for the spring, as they tentatively re-emerge after lockdown. They kick July off with an exhibition from Melvyn Evans: choosing to work between print, painting and drawing, the artist endeavours to capture the human relationship with the landscapes of the British Isles, including locations around North Yorkshire and Lancashire. For this particular exhibition, entitled The Power of Place, he’s focused on the prehistoric site of Doggerland. Now lost to the sea over thousands of years, it connected East Britain to Europe but is fascinatingly still visible in the right conditions: his creation of Lost Land captures this. Melvyn’s signature style is bold and striking. He takes a graphic approach to painting and linocut printmaking, which harks to British Modernism work of the 1950s, and also uses a 160-year-old British-made printing press adding to the historical significance of his work. Recalling the likes of Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Keith Vaughan, he still manages to present contemporary imagery.

Melvyn Evans’ The Power of Place is at Gallagher & Turner, Newcastle from Thursday 2nd July-Saturday 15th August



Words: Martin Trollope Cestrian is the new album from North East music scene veteran Chris Riley, who is actually a fully fledged Cestrian himself. For anyone who doesn’t know, a ‘Cestrian’ is someone who hails from the “un-hip market town, Chester-leStreet” (his words, not mine). Cestrian-quarantine has led to Chris moving sonically through his four walls to pull together an album, with the intention of taking listeners to unexpected places which are decidedly untypical of a guy with an acoustic guitar. A perfect example of this is my personal favourite track The Dirge, an ode to Chester-le-Street itself, which takes us from Flamenco guitars to spoken word poetry and back again, via an ominous wall of backwards tape echoes and rainfall. Lead singles Syracuse and When The Roses Are In Bloom are fine examples of psych folk balladry, with sparkling acoustic guitars, intimate vocals and generous smatterings of spacey reverb. Chris also takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to his craft, so we’re treated to some light relief through the almost vaudevillian country fun of Kirsten’s Song and the mock spaghetti western, A Fistful of Quavers. Chris Riley releases Cestrian on 3rd July via Nice Mind Records



Stevie Wonderful Fiona King by Michael McGuire



Words: Beverley Knight Seeing the beauty in things around us has been tricky of late, but essential to seek. It became apparent to artist Narbi Price how our society had changed when he noticed pals posting pictures of benches enrobed with red and white hazard tape. It meant that nobody could use them; their existence was there, but their purpose was paused. With Price being unable to access his studio, he worked in a smaller space and started to use watercolours to show these images, creating new exhibition Lockdown. “I gave friends instructions on how to compose source photographs for me, and this is a chance lockdown collaboration, between the worker who wrapped the benches, my friends who photographed them and myself who painted them,” Narbi illustrates. The result feels desolate and tinged with sadness. However, there is an unusual attractiveness to the images as the tape ebbs and flows through the gaps. As a collection of twenty paintings, they’re engaging and handsome. In the second part of the show, there are eight small but incredibly detailed drawings. All showing a section of Narbi’s hometown of Hartlepool that puzzles the community, he has captured pieces of the ancient town wall where it is butted up against breeze blocks and jetsam from a new estate. Overall, the two sections of art complement each other, and the sharp-witted creator has produced a mysterious glimpse at our current, unbalanced world. Narbi Price’s Lockdown exhibition is available to view on his website




Words: Martin Trollope Lockdown has been undoubtedly one of the strangest things that has happened to many of us, but sometimes amazing things happen from the most unusual of circumstances. For Conrad McQueen and Victoria O from AXLS, lockdown has become a space to create and explore new sonic adventures. This has seen them joining forces with Mark D (Sapien Trace) to form The Last of the Fallen Angels (TLOTFA), remotely collaborating via email, messenger and Dropbox to bring us their new single, Phase IV. Perhaps one of the most astonishing things about this is that the single has been produced by none other than actual music legend, Simon Ellis. Yes, that Simon Ellis who co-wrote S Club 7’s classic, Don’t Stop Movin’! But if you’re expecting mainstream pop, you might get a surprise. Phase IV is dark and brooding; it grooves and undulates while the three different and distinct vocals proclaim their love for electro music. The accompanying video is intimate and appropriately minimal, made up of webcam shots of the singers interspersed with atmospheric lightning strikes. TLOTFA have two more singles due out in the coming months, so if you like this then you really have something to look forward to! The Last of the Fallen Angels release Phase IV on 16th July



Words: Eugenie Johnson Curious Arts’ flagship festival has been providing a platform for regional and national artists in a variety of art-forms since its first outing in 2016. It’s been a centrepiece for showcasing and celebrating LGBTQIA+ culture through the projects that Curious Arts has helped to develop, as well as increasing visibility and understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community. While this year’s event has been postponed, the Curious Arts team are undeterred by the need to put the festival back a year, and have been determined to continue advocating for and supporting the queer arts sector. As part of this, they’ve launched the Audio Queer podcast, a celebration and showcase of LGBTQIA+ creatives from across the North East. So far, they’ve invited the likes of illustrator, graphic designer and drag artist Adrián Martín; radio broadcaster and drag king Stevie Wonderful, aka Fiona King; maker researcher and drag king Lady Kitt; Joanie Crump, creative producer and director of Hartlepool Folk Festival, Small Brown Dog CIC and 2021 queer arts festival, Eek!; and queer arts collective, Bordello. Audio Queer is keeping the spirit of Curious Festival alive during its unprecedented hiatus, ensuring that Curious Arts continue their mission to increase LGBTQIA+ visibility. Audibly.

PREVIEW access its services and continue to be a part of the community. So far, the move into a virtual space has born a new blog on their website, which has featured both factual and fictional articles exploring the Society’s historical figures, scientists and visionaries. Previously unpublished works from local authors are also featured, as are submissions from the area’s writers, artists, professors and poets. Public engagement was also put centre stage during a recent haiku competition, which saw 450 entries judged by two local poets. As lockdown begins to ease for a variety of businesses, The Lit & Phil are planning a very gradual reopening from July to pick up and drop off books. The digital space will continue to be open even as we slowly return to physical spaces though, with the library planning to continue its postal and delivery scheme, and a short story competition in the near future. Despite challenging times, The Lit & Phil continues to serve its members and the public in new and captivating ways.



Soweto Kinch by Iza Korsak



Words: Eugenie Johnson In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Durham’s Empty Shop have set up The Creative Social, a series of think pieces, online talks and mentoring sessions delivered by experts in the culture sector. So far they’ve invited Fuel and Gyre & Gimble to explore theatre, performance and touring, and former Edinburgh Fringe director Paul Gudgin who discussed festivals and events post-COVID. For July, they’ve lined up Soweto Kinch – saxophonist, MC and heavy-hitter of the contemporary jazz scene – to explore how best to navigate gigs and touring while in lockdown. Kinch will be posting a think-piece on Empty Shop’s Medium blog ahead of the interactive event on Wednesday 15th July. There, he’ll be bringing his extensive experience as a world class performer, helping practitioners in the region to share experiences of culture-making during lockdown (and what we can learn for the

future) in a Q&A style. After the online discussion, there’ll also be the chance for practitioners from Hartlepool to engage in either a masterclass or mentoring sessions with the experts, offering them the opportunity to learn some handy solutions to unique lockdown issues as well as gaining valuable insight from industry leaders. The Creative Social: Gigs and Touring in Lockdown with Soweto Kinch will take place via Zoom on Wednesday 15th July. Sign up via this link:



Words: Eugenie Johnson Before the unprecedented situation that caused the country to go into lockdown occurred, The Lit & Phil hadn’t closed its doors to the public in a whopping 227 years. But although the building became physically inaccessible, the crisis paved the way for a new way of interacting with the Newcastle institution. Moving into the digital sphere, a ‘virtual Lit & Phil’ was set into motion, ensuring that its many members could still

Words: Helen Redfern New Writing North and Newcastle University are collaborating to create Murmuration, a collective poem celebrating the natural world in this time of climate crisis and coronavirus, giving voice to a fresh appreciation of the natural world and a desire that things should not revert to how they were before. This fascinating initiative of Linda France, New Writing North and Newcastle University’s Climate Writer in Residence is inspired by murmurations, those astonishing displays of aerial acrobatics we see when great flocks of starlings gather. As Linda explains: “Learning from the starlings, we can raise our wings, our voices in a loud accumulating murmur...Together we can make something spectacular, far greater than the sum of its parts, an ensemble work of art.” Each one of us is invited to take part by adding between one and three lines of any length on the New Writing North website or using #writeoutside on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram by 1st August. All contributions must open with either the phrase ‘Because I love…’ or ‘What if…’ and will be distilled and curated into a single long poem by Linda France. Artist Kate Sweeney will then bring the lines to life, making an animated film which will draw on our connection with this earth and each other at this extraordinary moment in time. The launch of Murmuration will form part of Inside Writing, a digital poetry festival hosted by Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts at Newcastle University and featuring some of today’s most exciting poets responding directly to COVID-19.



Martha Hill




MARTHA HILL RELEASES ALPHABETTI THEATRE’S MOON WAX RELEASE NEW SINGLE, SAYONARA NEW SINGLES, GRILLED LISTEN UP WRITING CHEESE AND LANDSLIDE COMMISSIONS Words: Ikenna Offor Quiet as kept, the last few months have seen Martha Hill deservedly enjoy the most progressive trajectory of her career thus far. Coming off a stellar session for BBC Introducing last year, the Scots-born Newcastle-based multi-instrumentalist’s 2020 game plan included the May return of her much-lauded Women Are Mint festival, with an eagerly-anticipated sophomore EP scheduled for September. Although said festival proceedings were scuppered by the ongoing coronavirus palaver, Hill is still on course for that EP drop, with two brand-spanking-new singles set to be released in the coming weeks. Recorded during lockdown (via Zoom, no less), both effortlessly relatable tracks speak volumes for her drily abstract yet keenly observational lyricism. The first offering, Grilled Cheese, is pure radio fodder – and that’s not a bad thing, mind. Built around an infinitely danceable backbeat and peppered with bombastic crescendos aplenty, its potently fizzy ebullience sugarcoats a flatly salient disclosure about petty squabbles spilling into major contentions. Hot on its heels is Landslide, a silvery sliver of mildly moody synths, which finds Hill contending with a serious case of the ‘new crush’ flutters. Understatedly catchy and self-deprecatingly candid, its manifold charms attest glowingly to Hill’s indelible pop sensibilities. Get familiar – and watch this space! Martha Hill releases Grilled Cheese on 26th June and Landslide on 31st July


Words: Claire Dupree As you’ll read elsewhere in this issue, it’s a tough time for small independent theatres like Alphabetti. The Newcastle venue is much more than a space for work to be performed; it houses a community of passionate creatives who epitomise the generous spirit of our region’s grassroots scene. Despite the troubles they are facing, Alphabetti are still striving to support artists with a newly announced series of writing commissions. The Listen Up micro-commissions will pay writers to produce a 10-minute audio play, with successful applicants having their work performed by actors and broadcast through Alphabetti’s online programme. Applicants must identify as female, LGBTQ+, be a member of a black, Asian or minority ethnic group or live with a physical or cognitive disability. Keen to build long-term relationships with members of the creative community that may be under-represented, Alphabetti hope that the commissions will help to amplify diverse voices in the region. All plays will be performed online from September 2020, with directors including Alphabetti’s artistic and executive director Ali Pritchard and senior creative associate Paul James, with the remaining creative team announced in due course. The deadline to apply is Sunday 12th July.

Words: Paul Ray There’s a lot of great noisy guitar music coming out of the North East lately, but if you’re looking for a significant change of pace, check out the new track from Teesside’s retro funk duo Moon Wax. Sayonara coasts along breezily on a languid house groove, heavy kick drums anchoring patiently bobbing sub-bass and reverb-coated keyboard chords. Liz Robson’s diva backing vocals lend the song a blissed-out disco atmosphere, and it’s clear that the duo are heavily influenced by disco music, considering the Chic-esque syncopated, palm-muted guitar plucking rippling around the stereo field throughout the verses. It’s admirably pared-back, quite minimal, in some respects; the synths are wispy and ambient, and even the killer guitar solo is quite spare, more about timbre than pyrotechnics, recalling Miles Davis’ old adage about the best solos centring the notes you don’t play. The lyrics are admittedly quite cheesy, and occasionally the vocals veer towards the smoother end of the spectrum, but it’s cheesy in a weirdly comforting way. It’s been so long since we’ve been able to let loose in a sweaty, packed club that these clichés feel pleasantly anonymous, a vital link back to the old world of dancing and fun. Moon Wax release Sayonara on 4th July



LEOPARD RAYS RELEASE SINGLE, BROTHER Words: Jason Jones Not enough indie bands sound genuinely dangerous these days. Plenty try, granted, but few manage to capture the sense of unhinged moxie that can send a crowd loopy and get the back of your neck tingling. Leopard Rays have no such problem.

Swaggering and slugging their way through raucous sets across the country, the Hartlepool quartet are gearing up for the release of their debut EP with new single Brother – and it’s a barnstormer. Once again the lads tread that fine line between melodious and boisterous with aplomb to pull out a big, big tune that has the distinct, rousing sound of a band hitting their stride. The riffs are weighty, the hooks are baited with juicy earworms, and the whole track glistens with a familiarity that never strays into hackneyed truisms.

The four-piece are beginning to pick up a rate of knots that is genuinely exciting, and with each passing tune the roof beams on their ceiling of potential get raised just a few inches higher. If Brother is any indication of what we can expect from Leopard Rays’ inaugural extended release, then there’s absolutely no reason to believe that it won’t be the first of many top drawer efforts. Leopard Rays release Brother on 31st July



BonBons Cabaret by TJMOV



Words: Catharina Joubert As we come to terms with the differences and similarities between communities in society, what better time to explore the creative work of emerging queer talent in the North East? Collective The House of Love champion diversity through their seasonal LGBTI cabaret show, The BonBons Cabaret, of which the most memorable moments are now online in their Best Bits series. The BonBons Cabaret started in 2017 in collaboration with Alphabetti Theatre and attempts to create a safe platform for provocative queer performance work. Their colourful cabaret acts and light-hearted musical numbers tread the contentious ground of LGBTI identity, highlighting the courage it takes to be different. The collective, which consists of theatre group Bonnie & The Bonnettes, singer-songwriter MXYM, burlesque dancer Mama Rhi and drag queen Vol-Au-Vent Love, have postponed their tour of the North East until Spring 2021. In the meantime, we can still add some thoughtprovoking sparkle to our lives by exploring their Best Bits on YouTube. For them, “it’s a way to keep the party going and provide some fun queer cabaret entertainment in such a tense and trying time.” For us, it is a perfect introduction to the artistic scope of cabaret and the work of LGBTI artists in the region, touching on questions of individuality and belonging during a time of division. The BonBons Cabaret: Best Bits is streaming on YouTube now




SHY-TALK RELEASE FINN FORSTER DOUBLE A-SIDE SINGLE RELEASES LOCKDOWN B-SIDES EP Words: Jason Jones There’s a lot to be angry about right now. Rarely has the game felt so rigged or the bastards seemed so brazen. Our political climate is disintegrating almost as quickly and as perilously as the actual climate, and you, me, and pretty much anybody else who’s never attended a meeting of the Bullingdon Club are being taken for an increasingly nauseating ride. Bearing all of that in mind, thank god for bands like Shy-Talk. The Newcastle sextet have come out swinging for the establishment with their latest double A-side, and in the process have landed a one-two combo so punishing it makes Ivan Drago’s fatal blow on Apollo Creed in Rocky IV look like a sorority house pillow fight. First out of the blocks is Chauvinism – a seething, frothing post-punk parcel bomb, all barbed witticisms with a chorus that hits like a disco in a jackhammer factory. On the digital flip side, Didn’t They Do Well mopes and waltzes with menacing intent, circling and circling like a shark in a disaster B-movie, just waiting to sneak up and swallow you down in one monstrous bite. The band have a barrage of new tunes coming in the next few months, and if this doublebarrelled statement of intent is anything to go by, you absolutely mustn’t sleep on them. Shy bairns get nowt, but Shy-Talk should be getting all the love. Shy-Talk release Chauvinism/Didn’t They Do Well on 2nd July via Box Records

Words: Ruth Patterson After building up a solid North East following, Teesside songwriter Finn Forster releases his debut EP Lockdown B-sides this month. Featuring five tracks recorded under UK lockdown restrictions, it’s set to be his most honest work to date. Lead single Four Walls, inspired by the huge societal effects of social distancing, has a pop melancholy to it reminiscent of Paolo Nutini’s Rewind, but in the same way it retains a catchy chorus and infectious melody that stays with you long after the song has ended. The EP is full of raw emotion tackling heavy issues, including Butterfly Man, a poignant depiction of bereavement from the point of view of those left behind after the tragic loss of someone close, longing for one more conversation. The DIY nature of the production on this first EP complements the themes of loneliness and nostalgia, and the atmospheric soundscapes support powerful, rich vocals effortlessly capturing the essence of each song. The common thread tying the EP together is one of determination and this self-release, written and recorded totally independently, is a powerful statement showing how artists can continue to create great music in challenging circumstances. Finn Forster releases Lockdown B-sides on 17th July


Holy Braille



Words: Claire Dupree Continuing on their mission to bring ‘excellent weird music’ from around the world to the North East, Newcastle record label Inverted Grim-Mill Recordings celebrate their 30th release with a compilation album of charmingly bewildering ear-pummelling sounds. Artists featured on Inversion Therapy Volume Two, released on 3rd July, all share the common theme of having performed at one of the label’s live shows since their inception in 2012. As such, it’s a thrilling mish-mash of styles and temperaments, which makes for particularly interesting listening as the A-Z tracklisting throws up some dramatic stylistic clashes. Expect ambient drone, experimental electronics, shouty punk and pummelling sludge, with new and exclusive inclusions from the likes of beguiling loop artist Nathalie Stern, whose track Blade Patch, in thrall to legendary composer and filmmaker John Carpenter, is often performed live but so far remains unreleased; Connect by Newcastle’s ambient drone-master Dextro was created in isolation for broadcast via BBC Scotland’s Vic Galloway; Corpse Twitcher’s As Silent As Moth sets out the band’s ominous murk; plus there’s live recordings from Newcastle’s wonky noise rockers Lump Hammer and doom-mongers Geomancer, not to mention tracks from Mondo Sadists, Brad Field, Bleach, Lore, 1727 and many more. The compilation serves as a not-so-subtle reminder of the health of the region’s experimental scene. The fact that all proceeds from digital sales of this and their previous compilation (released in 2018) will be donated to Music Venue Trust’s Emergency Response Fund, serves to ensure it’s an essential purchase.

Inverted Grim-Mill Recordings release Inversion Therapy Volume Two on 3rd July



Words: Beverley Knight Listen and watch parties have brought some much needed comfort these past few months, and since we can’t go physical for now, we’ve done the next best thing in going digital, maintaining relationships and conversations with people who share our interests. Heaton’s Star & Shadow Cinema have been part of this with their How Things Are Made distanced learning events. The very premise of this DIY cinema, which is inspiringly volunteer-run, is to include its community by discussing their ideas and opinions. Every Sunday night at 7pm, Shoot First film productions have been inviting folk to discover and learn more about film techniques by exploring archives, utilising the online platform Metastream. Hosted by award-winning director Dan Wallder, he presents vintage clips and documentaries about film and filmmaking whilst you watch along. There’s even the opportunity for you to discuss your thoughts through a chat window. Topics coming up this month cover an array of different themes, including a discussion on influential Japanese director and screenwriter Akira Kurosawa, who was inspired by westerns to make samurai films (5th July); delve into low budget, but commercial B-Movies (12th July), search for scientific accuracy in Hard Sci-Fi (19th July) and learn about how Star Wars films were made (26th July). In August, subject matter includes puppet films (2nd August) and digital

films (9th August). Shoot First’s How Things Are Made events are free to access, see the Star & Shadow Cinema for individual event links



Words: Martin Trollope The new single from Sunderland’s Holy Braille sees them venturing through uncharted territories to bring us back something unique. The synthwave duo have managed to reach into the void between goth balladry and 90s feel-good dance, and found something lurking in the darkness therein. Heart Braker fuses these seemingly disparate styles, with dirty, stuttering synths and fuzzy, experimental vocals, all twisting and swirling together to create their own dark, mutated R&B. The vocal delivery is effortlessly cool and detached, with more than hint of danger, bringing to mind a femme fatale from a black and white movie or a siren, drawing us closer to inevitable doom. The cut-up, minimalist lyrics were inspired by album and song titles from the 80s, a concept consistent with the genrecontorting découpé of the music itself. All of this combines to create an existentialist love song with beautifully sinister lines like “There’s nothing here to see, just the abyss and me”. It’s almost as if they’ve stumbled across an alternate reality where Dada and Nietzsche were bandmates in the 1990s, and spent their last pennies on a synth, a drum machine and a perfectly broken microphone. Holy Braille release Heart Braker on 24th July via Kaneda Records



Twist Helix



Words: Claire Dupree In many cases over recent months we’ve been forced to project our personalities online far more than usual; we use the internet as a validation of who we are, proclaiming our likes and dislikes as a way to engage with our fellow humans. Newcastle’s synth pop trio Twist Helix have taken this theme and run with it with on their latest single, Frida Kahlo, released on 10th July. “Frida Kahlo is a song about identity. How in an online world we self-fashion an image of ourselves by referencing popular culture and art, telling people what we like, who we follow, what we wish to be, in a manner akin to the tradition of self-portraits.” The band explain about the track. “Named for the Mexican visual artist Frida Kahlo (an artist renowned for her challenging self-portraits), the track is not so much about Frida herself but how the mass consumption of images deviates from a true understanding of the self in favour of the popular, current, now.” Kicking off with a shout of defiance, the track ably shows off Twist Helix’s ebullient energy; springy synths and repetitive rhythms underpin singer Bea Garcia’s incredible vocals as she switches between English and her native Spanish, rocketing through the track in barely two and a half minutes. It’s a breathless track of synth pop mastery which further demonstrates the band’s class and confidence, and serves as a delicious taster for their upcoming album. Twist Helix release Frida Kahlo on 10th July




DISCOVERED ONLINE @ #LOCKDOWNTAKEOVER THE NORTHERN SCHOOL SESSIONS @ THE OF ART STUDIO Words: Sophie Bell From mid-July, the Northern School of Art will be showcasing an innovative virtual display of the creative work produced by students from both the Hartlepool and Middlesbrough campuses. Their Discovered Online event will celebrate the exceptional talents of degree and further education students from a wide range of courses including costume design, textiles and surface design, animation and photograph to name a few. The institution has worked tirelessly to replace the traditional end of degree and post-16 exhibition with a virtual display. They have endeavoured to provide a digital platform to further enhance the online profile of their students and present them to a worldwide audience, as they progress with their future creative careers. Viewers can expect a visual feast of unique and individual installations that reflect the remarkable talent and determination of the students, who despite facing unprecedented circumstances have continued to work towards completing their course. The exhibition will include work by Amy Hastings, a textiles and surface pattern designer, and costume designer Jonathan Rogers, whose final collections can be seen alongside the incredibly gifted class of 2020. Discovered Online is available to view at The Northern School of Art’s website from 13th July

Words: Tracy Hyman It’s Poolie Time over at The Studio in Hartlepool. Since the end of May, The Studio’s Facebook page has been home to the #LockDownTakeOver sessions, a weekly virtual musical treat in aid of the Poolie Time Exchange. The Poolie Time Exchange is an organisation matching volunteers with people needing support in the local community. This helps those in need whilst giving the volunteers skills, experience and qualifications. Since the lockdown they have set up an isolation support service, cooking and distributing hot meals and emergency groceries for the vulnerable, elderly and those self-isolating without a support system. The Studio, having been successful in being awarded a £10k business grant with the help of the Music Venue Trust, decided to redirect its efforts to raising funds for the Poolie Time Exchange. In exchange for donations, they’ve put their considerable talent-finding skills into action, with performances in July coming from Hartlepool songwriter Michael Gallagher (Saturday 4th), lo-fi experimentalists The Woven Project (Saturday 11th), Gav Price (Saturday 18th) and Sara Dennis from folky blues band Peg Powler (Saturday 25th), who will all be streaming from 6.30pm via The Studio’s Facebook page. The #LockDownTakeOver sessions take place every Saturday on The Studio’s Facebook page


Chad McCail - Toy, image by Colin Davison



Words: Sophie Bell The Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Sunderland is currently home to the monumental new work of Chad McCail, whose exhibition Toy opened in February and is now available to view online. Chad spent three years creating an enormous three dimensional surreal cityscape from humble everyday materials. This detailed gallery-scaled installation features many recognisable everyday institutions such as hospitals, schools and factories but this is no architectural model. Raging above the buildings are gigantic mythical creatures, fighting to take control of the city’s resources and its soul. These figures are the colossi of capital, the 1% to whom the world is a plaything, yet they are facing armies of the city’s residents who unite to fight, alongside a snake that Chad states symbolises their desire for freedom. McCail has provided an online audio guide for NGCA alongside several images of his work, which allow you to follow him through each section of the exhibition as he discusses his inspirations and ideology, making for an incredibly immersive and engrossing exhibition. chad-mccail-toy



Words: Tom McLean When The Union Choir’s The Decade Dissolve EP makes its way to streaming services on 31st July, it’ll be the first material the band has released since 2017’s The Ghost In The Room. Recorded over the course of 2019, the South Shields’ group’s efforts have yielded four tracks that will enhance their reputation and do nothing to banish comparisons with greats such as Elbow and Arcade Fire. When like-minded creatives come together like this, they often forge a new niche in the industry, and while comparisons can and will always be drawn, The Union Choir’s sound encapsulates something distinctly North East. Headlining the EP is The Decade Dissolve, a charming, pacy slice of indie riffs that would be at home on Glastonbury’s The Other Stage, while following track The Lady Lowered offers a fine aperitif to the more thoughtful Be Warm. Be Kind. The latter is a slow burner with pathos and guides us through handsomely to number four, Witching Hour, a sobering commentary on the darker side and suffering of North Eastern society. Close to home for some. Quality for all. Together, these tracks form an EP wringing with The Union Choir DNA. This collective should reconvene more often. The Union Choir release The Decade Dissolve EP on 31st July



Words: Laura Doyle At the start of this pandemic, we were all bombarded with fears surrounding PPE shortages in the NHS and the care sector. There simply wasn’t – and frankly, still isn’t – enough to go around to make everyone safe and there aren’t the supplies available to dish them out willy nilly. North East artist, maker, performer and Drag King Lady Kitt will curate an online exhibition for Disability Arts Online, entitled #Portraits4PPE. This project seeks to raise awareness of PPE shortages in the care sector, and hopes to also raise money to help bridge the gap. Submissions are open to any disabled artists over the age of 18 from across the UK, and the guidelines are simple: create portraits of people who, during this lockdown, have done exceptional things. The criteria for exceptionalism is broad and inclusive: if you want to commemorate anyone for their work and efforts, now may be the time. Any artistic format is accepted, as long as it can be sent via email for a contact free, online exhibition hosted by Disability Arts Online. The deadline for submissions is 6th July. #Portraits4PPE will be exhibited online from Monday 20th July via Disability Arts Online



Image by Ricky Atterby




RUTH PATTERSON CLAIRE DUPREE TALKS TO THE NEWCASTLE-BASED MUSICIAN ABOUT HONESTY, ACCESSIBILITY AND FINDING YOUR PLACE IN THE WORLD Right now, many of us are attempting to understand the roles we are currently able to play. What does a musician, artist or writer become when they are no longer able to create? And what do we as culture lovers do when we’re unable to participate? Is the place you occupy in the world somehow diminished when your ability to engage has been stifled? Ruth Patterson knows this feeling better than most. “I try and write about being human, and as someone who has to constantly examine my place in the world, I think I am in a good position to do that.” The Newcastle musician, a member of folk ‘n’ rollers Holy Moly & The Crackers, has set out on a solo endeavour which was meant to get a major boost this year with headline shows, an album on the horizon and an Artist in Residency position at Sage Gateshead (which is still taking place, albeit remotely). Not one to let her ambition be derailed, Ruth has decided to forge ahead with the release of her new single, Sink Or Swim, and its subject matter is decidedly close to home for many. “Sink Or Swim is written about a particularly gruelling panic attack that I had last year. For anyone who has ever suffered from that kind of severe anxiety, I think they will know what I’m talking about – it really does feel like drowning, like suffocating, it was really scary. I just remember thinking to myself, I’m going to have to try and get back some level of control over my thoughts and my breathing or this is going to go on forever.” She explains. Certainly when it comes to the current situation, it’s a sentiment we can all identify with. The rise and fall of Sink Or Swim’s emotive piano lines are underpinned by understated percussion, with foreboding strings adding to the drama. Ruth’s mellifluous vocals are utterly captivating, transporting the listener on a gently terrifying journey into the darkest part of their own psyche. “There’s a lot of talk about the impact that the Coronavirus pandemic is having on our collective and individual mental health. The anxiety of illness and death (always a big one), the isolation of lockdown, the massive divisions in our society that Brexit and Trump had already started to it’s being ripped wide apart, plain for all to see. I think the whole world is having a panic attack, and we’re going to have to get through it. So, to start with, we need to talk about it.” Mental health and disability are subjects close to Ruth’s heart; she suffers with acute arthritis, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (a connective tissue disorder of the joints which results in frequent dislocations, wide-spread pain and chronic fatigue) and uses a wheelchair. Familial struggles with hereditary mental health problems have led her to being open and honest about her experiences. “A lot of my family have struggled with mental health problems, and I’m fortunate it’s something that as a family we’ve always been really open about. It’s never something I’ve ever been ashamed of. Something to be aware of and to work through, yes, but shame, no. My anxieties, neurosis, paranoia and sensitivities are a big part of who I am.” As a disabled artist, she’s also a passionate advocate for change in the music industry. “It’s not enough to just be tolerant – I think we need

to be actively inclusive, looking for new ways to be better allies. I don’t think disabled artists are given the same platform as non-disabled artists and that’s something that really needs to change. But I see the tide turning slowly. The more that we actively encourage diversity the more we sow the seeds for equal opportunity and the arts will be richer for it.” As an accessibility ambassador and consultant for a handful of regional businesses and venues, Ruth admits she’s faced challenging situations as a performing artist in the past. “I can safely say that I haven’t faced anything like that in the North East and I’m really proud of my home. I’ve felt really comfortable and open to speak out and complain when things aren’t quite right and also to advise about how things can improve.” As she points out, it’s not just about “ramps and building accessible toilets”, it’s about attitude. “We won’t have disabled artists unless we cater for everybody, and until then the only people losing out is the music scene itself and audiences. Disabled people have a lot to say, different perspectives and important voices. There is a lot to learn and we need to showcase those voices in the right way, keenly encouraging new and diverse music in our community.” While much of her work deals in the various ways she lives as a disabled woman, she is determined that it not become something which defines her. She describes her music as “personal, honest, maybe even uncomfortable at times, but also celebratory”, and cites artists like Kate Bush, Regina Spektor and Nina Simone as inspirations. “My solo work is a tapestry solely of my own inspirations. I’m listening to a lot of music and trying to channel whatever moves me about the way these artists write, the way they perform, the way they convey emotion and kind of distil it into my own potion of songwriting.” While her work with Holy Moly & The Crackers is a whirlwind of sounds, genre mash-ups and frenetic live performance, her solo material is more understated and nuanced, although no less impassioned. “I try to write about experiences in a truthful and open way and I think the music has to reflect the images and the emotion in the songs, so I’ve been scoring for a string quartet which is a big part of my sound at the moment. I always felt that strings are the perfect abstract embodiment of the human condition. They sound like feelings.” While the music industry may be in a state of flux, Ruth believes that now more than ever it can help us find a way to cement our identities. “Art has always been our way of exploring emotions, and how we relate and react to cultural and social changes. Music is the great healer, and at a time when divisions are widening music brings people together. Any influential artistic movement, throughout history, is borne from a time of social upheaval and uncertainty. I want to be part of that changing story.” Ruth Patterson releases Sink Or Swim on 26th June. A new release is also due in August





Sandy Duff

BEVERLEY KNIGHT TALKS TO THE FOUNDER OF THE REGION’S ONLY DEDICATED UNDERGROUND DANCE AND HIP-HOP RADIO STATION It’s tremendous when you hear of a new cultural venture from our area, especially such a bold and rousing one as this: an underground dance and hip-hop radio station named TRHY. Using the North East as a basis, founder Sandy Duff saw a gap that was crying out to be filled; he felt that local talent wasn’t quite getting the recognition it deserved on the airwaves and he was keen to spread the joy globally. Like most, plans for the enthusiastic vision needed to adapt for the COVID-19 lockdown. To keep the vibe alive it was decided to have a soft launch which ensured that the DJs and presenters had a platform, but it also warmed up their community. A shared love of music connected listeners through live chat rooms and social media, run by Sandy’s daughter Emily. The shows are focused on the dance and urban genres but aren’t afraid to stray into other areas. Initially, each day brought with it a broader selection of genres, and as things grew, it became apparent that concentrating on a specific sound each night flowed better. “I think the importance of creative platforms to showcase talent to the widest possible audience is vital to the credibility and sustainability of any regional scene. While there’s beauty in isolation, there’s seldom success. The North East has been a hotbed of talent for as long as I can remember.” Sandy explains. Broadcast via Mixlr, funk and soul champions Smoove & Turrell take over the airwaves on Saturdays nights, presenting a specific version of their weekly Northern Coal Experience podcast, where you’ll find a cacophony of sounds and styles, all topped with their priceless banter. Adding further to the list of local legends, Tony Hutchinson brings his T Party, a night of house music every Friday, with mixes from established names and fresh up and comers too.


IT’S NOT A CASE OF HAVING A STEPPING STONE FOR CREATIVES TO ESCAPE THE REGION, BUT RATHER A STEPPING STONE ENCOURAGING OTHER CREATIVES IN From outside the region, there is quality content from a fair share of dance music icons, including Slips House/World of Rave with DJ Slipmatt on Thursdays between 7pm-8pm and Isol-8 with Altern-8’s Mark Archer on Wednesday at 7pm-8pm, plus guest mixes from the likes of DJ Rap, Gez Varley (LFO), Andy Smith (Portishead), Oris Jay and many more. “We don’t want to just showcase North East artists with TRHY Radio; we want to showcase the North East. We have a great selection of local DJs and hosts, but it’s not exclusive. We have some of the biggest names in dance music lining up to be part of this, and so all of a sudden it’s not a case of having a stepping stone for creatives to escape the region, but rather a stepping stone encouraging other creatives in.” Adding to the buzz, the station has just produced an album called Isolation Summer which features exclusive, rare and unreleased content from many of the show hosts. If you tune in throughout July, there’ll be an opportunity to win copies of the limited CD-only release which ably reflects the vibrations of the dynamic station. TRHY Radio broadcasts every day via Mixlr



BETTI RECOMMENDS JAMIE TAYLOR TALKS TO ALI PRITCHARD ABOUT HOW, WITH A COMBINATION OF MAMMOTH TASKS AND MICRO-COMMISSIONS, ALPHABETTI THEATRE ARE WEATHERING THE STORM Alphabetti Theatre’s Ali Pritchard is a man who isn’t afraid of the impossible. As if juggling the demands of keeping a theatre afloat and stopping his toddler from climbing the walls wasn’t enough, he’s also taking on curating the internet. As we sit down to chat, I’m immediately struck by the enormity of the challenges he faces. There’s no bones about it. Alphabetti, like the rest of the UK culture scene, is not in a great place. Being one of the first venues to close its doors, Ali admits that it’s been “pretty darn tough.” Yet it feels like if anyone can get through this, Ali can. “We’ve always been skint and never really known what’s coming next,” he explains, “so in a way, this whole situation isn’t new for us.” Times might have changed but the theatre’s ethos certainty hasn’t. Alphabetti is all about providing a place where a diverse range of people can make their voices heard. “It’s an aspect of our work that we’re really passionate about,” says Ali. “It’s a place where Joe Public can take a gamble on some quality theatre without taking a gamble with their wallet.” While it hasn’t been easy recently, as I spoke to Ali the green shoots of recovery could be clearly seen sprouting from the gaps in the theatre’s hollowed boards. As he recounted the scene of his stage manager tearing her hair out trying to serve socially distanced coffee at their recent script development workshop, I detected that, slowly, things were moving towards some sort of normal.


Getting back to normal for Alphabetti is all about creating new work and it’s that aspect that’s driving Ali right now. He talks with real excitement about the series of micro-commissions he’s been able to offer to under-represented writers and the theatre’s re-arranged programme which includes the Aware Festival and Steve Byron’s new work, Sucking Eggs. Ali admits that his aforementioned desire to ‘curate the internet’ is turning out to be quite a task. “Alphabetti has always been a place to discover something new. We didn’t want that to stop just because the building has closed.” It’s from that spirit that the theatre’s newsletter, BETTi Recommends, was borne. Combining things to watch, listen, read and do, BETTi Recommends sails to the parts of the internet that you might not have been to yet. “We try to take people out of their bubble a bit,” Ali tells me. “Last week we introduced people to the Beverley Puppet Festival. It’s amazing what they do and we didn’t want people to miss out.” BETTi Recommends has actively engaged with Black Lives Matter and has tried to help its audience learn more about what is happening right now. “There’s some things in there that are quite hard to read,” Ali says. “But these are things that we think people should know about.” Despite the uncertainty surrounding the UK culture scene, Ali is still filled with a relentless belief and positivity about Alphabetti’s chances of weathering the storm. “As long as we have an audience who wants what we do, and artists to help us do it, we’ll always survive.” Sign up to receive the BETTi Recommends newsletter via Alphabetti Theatre’s website, where you can also donate to their fundraising drive



ST JAMES INFIRMARY COMING AT YOU FROM THE BACKSTREETS OF ASHINGTON LIKE A PITMATIC JOE MEEK, ST JAMES INFIRMARY IS GETTING NOTICED AFTER THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AT THE COALFACE OF POP. LEE FISHER FINDS OUT WHY IMAGE BY SHEENA REVOLTA “I make no claims for career / I really just do this for a lark / But I’ll have made it I know / When I make the cover of NARC.” - The Cover Of NARC. by St James Infirmary When people talk about bedroom/backroom artists, it generally tends to be about electronic or dance producers knocking out the latest dancefloor banger on a battered Amiga. But St James Infirmary have been producing almost absurd amounts of mind-blowingly diverse, often beautifully crafted music from their Ashington home studio for a long time and the world – or at least the underground music fan part of it – is finally paying attention.


Gary Lang first started using the name back in 1985 and it’s always been the primary outlet for his music – solo or as a band. “There’s been a constant flow of stuff throughout the years but it’s only recently that I’ve really started sharing the stuff with a broader audience.” Until recently, Lang released a remarkable run of almost monthly CDRs – the Almanac series – mailed to friends and supporters and covering a huge range of styles. Lang is a masterful ‘copyist’, mimicking or paying homage to everything from indie pop to sixties hippy cult drones but also creating very singular music (for



example his ‘blackened country’ collaboration with Cath Tyler as Blackdamp). “I make no bones about being a rip-off merchant in the way I do music. If I have one skill, it’s the ability to listen to other people’s music or sound and analyse how it’s been made and try my best to reproduce it. It’s not always perfect so that gives it a smear of originality at times, and lyrically I do have a tendency to songs about Northern life, often in a humorous way without going full Half Man Half Biscuit. Ideally, I would be sitting in a cubicle in the Brill Building in the sixties and the boss comes in and says ‘12 surfing songs by tomorrow’ and I could do that.” Lang views his work as craft rather than art, although if you’ve heard songs like Living Beneath The Blue Star (a lush and heartfelt account of growing up in a mining town) you’d take issue with that. “I really have a problem with the idea of ‘authentic’. I’ve never been one to pour out my emotion in art and I see myself as a craftsman, if a shoddy one, rather than an ‘artist’. If people get an emotional reaction out of the work other than laughter, that’s a plus.” I wondered if the constant stylistic shifts are a barrier to people understanding what SJI are about. “At the moment on Facebook my friends are all about the ‘pop’ songs,” Lang explains, “while on Twitter it’s the more ‘experimental’ side that folks go for. I do worry when I’m selling stuff that some people might expect nice tunes and be disappointed by 50 minutes of a combi-boiler wheezing away so I

tend to advertise the releases as POP and NOTPOP. I have an extremely eclectic taste in sound but realise that a lot of people don’t go to my extremes!” Since a release through Preston’s excellent Concrète Tapes in 2017, SJI has gained a following that has spread from the Almanac faithful deep into the cassette underground. “I’ve consciously been sending submissions out to small labels in what’s been dubbed the No Audience Underground because I thought they might like it, and using Bandcamp more to self-release. Seems to be working.” This month, Lang is releasing the April CD through Wormhole World, a largely lockdown-produced album that sees him indulge his more electronic side with heavy nods – both via the cover and the upbeat songs/eerie instrumentals sides approach – to Bowie’s Low. He already has the next few releases planned although he doesn’t want to flood the market (”a horrible term”). Much like MES and The Fall, SJI is ultimately Lang (who also inhabits the characters of Skip Doncaster, Mario’s Recording Services and the like to cover production, artwork and the rest) but he has a faithful pool of collaborators to call on: for example, Lang wanted last month’s Awesome Northumbrian Pop For The Age of Anxiety album “to be like a collection of old punk/new wave singles all lined up on the spindle and I knew that Ryan Siddall could help me get that feel as he has it in his own work…It really does just come out of what I’m fannying about with at the time. If there’s folks around I’ll get them involved or if there’s a particular feel I’m looking for I’ll ask them to help me.” Live too, you might get Lang doing a serious singer-songwriter set (or a less serious set in a stupid hat) or on occasion a full band. “When we play as a band, luckily I’ve got a core of good friends, (namely Mark Oliver, Tony Bennett, Tony Davison, Andrea Woodyer and Simon Foster) who trust me enough to take risks that other musicians might not take.” That said, Lang doesn’t gig much. “I only really play when someone asks me to and then, after agreeing, spend the time before feeling like a sheep knocking on the abattoir door.” He’s quite open about his anxiety – relating to playing live, the worth of his creativity and more – but nonetheless feels guilty if a day passes without making something (he’s an artist as well as musician). I wondered if that guilt was a spur to action or a curse? “Despite having Catholic parents I’m burdened by that workingclass Protestant Work Ethic where you need to produce things to be of worth. Being totally unable to relax tends to be a spur as well!” April is released by Wormhole World this month. Awesome Northumbrian Pop For The Age of Anxiety is out now. Both albums and much much more can be found on Bandcamp





DAMIAN ROBINSON TALKS TO THE NORTH EAST ALT. ROCKERS ABOUT RELEASING THEIR DEBUT SINGLE IN EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES If punk came out of boredom, frustration and a lack of activity, then just imagine what artists, and in particular the alternative rock crowd, should be able to do with today’s enforced lockdown and the growing sense of anger and resentment. And whilst it seems unfair to apply pressure onto our favourite recording artists, perhaps the very thing we should be doing as music fans is to make demands for greatness; to challenge and support interesting artists to create impactful and meaningful art. Now may well be the time for the alternative crowd to musically define punk’s original theologies of ‘no future’ and ‘year zero’. Though created before COVID-19 arrived fully-formed, Kickin’ Lilies’ debut single All These Bad Dreams certainly aims at greatness; looking to musically soundtrack some of the fear and sense of mortality we surely all face. Angry and fierce, the track uses riff heavy screeching guitars to power a rock/grunge crossover onslaught which faces down nightmares and chases them back into our subconscious; its timely crossover into today’s climate is not lost on the band, who champion a philosophy of personal responsibility. “The song, without going into too much detail, is about how negative energies can affect people's thoughts and behaviour. We believe this is a struggle people come across daily and we hope people listen and interpret the song


in their own way and relate.” Formed as a low-key supergroup, with members of Laurens Court, Fracas & Rhythm and Wood & Shapes, Kickin’ Lilies have had their hearts in the North East’s alternative scene for a number of years, enough time to build up individual reputations and to hone their collective alternative skills; something the band are keen to put to effective use immediately and carry on the momentum of their debut release. “The new single is a taster of what is to come, it shows that we can accomplish variation in our sound. From mellow and intimate sounds that can quickly explode into a fiery crash of attitude.” All These Bad Dreams finds Kickin’ Lilies reflecting on their own personal responsibilities; how do you control the uncontrollable and do the very best with what you have. “We did have a show coming up that was planned to promote the single and let people hear the song live to get the full experience, but things happen and everything must continue to progress positively, we have been working on promoting the song online as best we can.” Perhaps reflecting the philosophical differences between punk’s ‘tear it down’ manifesto and grunge’s ‘build a new world’ sensibilities, the rest of the year finds Kickin’ Lilies plug in their guitars and carry on creating, ready for the day when they can get back out and play for like-minded people keen to build rather than destroy. “Obviously it's very frustrating not to be able to play to everyone, but we’re using this time to get ourselves out there and start focusing on other areas of the band.“ Kickin’ Lilies release All These Bad Dreams on 6th July



BUTTERFLY EFFECT RECORDS SINGLES CLUB BEVERLEY KNIGHT TALKS TO THE NORTH EAST LABEL ABOUT THEIR EXCLUSIVE SINGLES CLUB Pure passion often steers artists into the music industry. However, most have to enter with eyes wide open. We all know how expensive it can be, but the savvy people from all over our region find ways to make it work; they have to, they simply can’t see themselves doing anything else. Blissfully playing their part is Darlington’s Butterfly Effect Records, who launched in 2015 with the intention of giving the undiscovered and unconventional a home. The label, under founder Stephen Gill’s tutelage, create limited vinyl releases with that extra bit of pizazz; with the curation and design of the whole package being key to their ethos. Stephen understands the scene in-depth and, after keen discussions with musicians about the difficulties of making money and covering costs when it came to releases, decided there had to be a way he could assist. With Butterfly Effect, he set about creating something that would do two positive things: offer meaningful money to performers, and something valuable and collectable to music fans, an artefact in effect. The result was a singles club, harking back that feeling of being part of a special society. “I’m trying to give money to musicians as well as give something lovely and collectable to music fans; it’s a win/win situation. All done for the love and the creation of a physical record that should last decades.” Once a month (ish), a record is released by North East (ish) musicians. As well as audio quality, a DIY art aesthetic is also at the forefront for the records, which so far have included screen prints, Polaroids and vinyl cuts. It’s exclusive too, as the maximum number of copies for sale is forty and, if you buy one, you’re automatically entitled to the first refusal for the next. Each record costs £20 (plus p&p), and you can rest assured that 80% of profits go to the artist.

I’M TRYING TO GIVE MONEY TO MUSICIANS AS WELL AS GIVE SOMETHING LOVELY AND COLLECTABLE TO MUSIC FANS; IT’S A WIN/WIN SITUATION So far, there have been 7” releases from the likes of gospel blues band The Dead Seat, clamorous pop duo The Noise & The Naïve, Teesside noiseniks Magick Godmothers, North Yorkshire’s alt. hip-hop group Ceiling Demons, Darlington’s funky and groove act Weekend Sun, and Ste from Mouses among others. Releases are also on the horizon for alt. rock loop guitarist Girl From Winter Jargon and JP Riggall, whose tracks An Arrival, A Departure and Untilled House are delightfully moody and rocky, with terrific harmonies and a sprinkling of 70s influence. The record, released in July, will be a hand-cut lathe with an individually signed print designed by the artist which continues Jim’s themes of travel, both physically and emotionally. The singles club has proven extremely popular, with most releases selling out. Progress is measurable too, as bands have used the money to help buy equipment, recording or rehearsal sessions, thus ensuring everyone involved is on the up and up. Butterfly Effect Records release JP Riggall’s An Arrival, A Departure/Untilled House this month






METROLAND IS BACK! I’m kidding, I’m sorry…but, something just as fun that shares its name with the nostalgic Metrocentre theme park has recently taken social media by storm. Metroland is a seven part comedy sketch series written by Jack Stanley Robertson, who developed the show with Jon Dole and director Caden Elliot. Mixing mockumentary elements with cinematic shorts, Metroland features a slew of eccentric characters from across the North East, including Ann – a Nana who gets so high she “can’t feel her fucking cheeks” - and Harry – a homeless man who has an unfortunate run in with a radgie’s forehead. “Metroland is an expression of Northern spirit, built upon hard times and harder circumstances, the humour which emerged has sustained generations,” said director Caden Elliot. “It’s a mix of that rich heritage, with a few dick jokes thrown in!” “We wanted to make a comedy series with an amount of real-life truth that doesn’t point fingers at the people of North East, but instead celebrates the everyday quirks of the people,” adds writer and leading man Jack Robertson. The pair have been inspired by sketch comedy groups like Aunty Donna or Loiter Squad on Adult Swim. “Mockumentaries always excited me too. I really wanted to take a jab at it myself. Frustratingly we found that a lot of the comedy that was coming out of the North


East was quite caricatured and by the book. With stereotypes of Northern culture that looked to appeal to the South and had been milked for years – very surface level and cliché. That’s not what the people are like. “My aim was to flip that, with Metroland we’re telling jokes that make us laugh. We’ve still got those surface level Geordie tropes that provide a false sense of security, before breaking those walls down and going in a completely different direction. Metroland taps into concepts that you didn’t know were funny.” With thousands of views already racked up across Facebook and Instagram, Metroland has certainly struck a chord with the region, even attracting some praise from industry insiders like Eastenders writer John Hickman who said the skits “have a really nice offbeat tone and loads of potential,” and Newcastle’s indie rock sensation Sam Fender. In these difficult times, when many are constrained to their homes with limited real human contact, comedy is an extremely important medium for lifting the spirits and bringing a bit of happiness to people’s days. Metroland does just that, it’s filled with tongue-incheek humour and shamelessly low-brow gags that you can’t help but laugh at. It’s not only the humour that makes this ambitious project stand out, it’s the inherent relatability that really amps up Metroland’s charm. We all know a foul mouthed old lady, a pretentious ‘creative’ or an absolute fucking radgie. These people exist not only in the North East, but all across the UK. Next stop on this comedy rollercoaster…Netflix? Search Facebook and Instagram for ‘Metroland’ to watch the series so far





Before its mid to late 90’s branch out into gangsta, America’s 1990 rap output was both a revelation and revolution. Able to span progressive politics and ideologies, acts like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul created hugely accessible albums filled with great rhymes and laid back, funky productions. Music from the early 90s talked about non-violence revolutions as well as the need for self-education and self-actualisation. Perhaps more importantly, their blend of hip-hop was optimistic and hopeful. Although not yet born in the early 1990s, Newcastle’s upcoming hip-hop artist Kay Greyson shares her style with many of the decade’s greats; looking both to articulately deliver insight into difficult subject matters whilst remaining both optimistic and downright funky. If you’ve seen her live you’ll already know this; she would have coaxed you into the outro call and response to banger and set-closer, Call The Police. “I do try and keep things optimistic in my music, absolutely,” Greyson confirms as we talk through her new EP, Paris. “Things do go wrong in life, but I think one of my core messages is that we have to be optimistic and try to have a good time.” Recently signed to Newcastle’s Soul Kitchen for a one-single release (“though to be fair I’ve been working with the people at Soul Kitchen for a couple of years and every chance I can to make music around them and be with them I take”) Greyson’s current preoccupation is with trying to reach a wider audience with her three-track EP, which is released on 3rd July. Taking a mixture of sounds, as well as being crafted by a variety of producers, Paris sees Greyson on sparkling form, moving from house parties gone wrong (Call The Police), through to carnivals going wrong (Carnival) to wide-eyed dreams about searching out

THINGS DO GO WRONG IN LIFE, BUT I THINK ONE OF MY CORE MESSAGES IS THAT WE HAVE TO BE OPTIMISTIC AND TRY TO HAVE A GOOD TIME other cultures and locations (Paris). It’s a stunning EP filled with cracked drums, booming basses and an MC making meaningful observations without insulting anyone. “Some of the tracks, like Call The Police, I’ve been working on for a few years so it’s nice to have the tracks recorded and finished, whilst also feeling like everyone that’s been involved can hear their contribution, which was really important to me.” There seems very little chance at the moment of seeing Greyson live, although plans are afoot to do something special at the time of the single launch. “I think the team at Soul Kitchen are already thinking about interesting launch ideas, so hopefully that might include a livestream or something similar, though I can’t wait to get back to live gigs.” Building on the momentum of Paris, plans are already in place to create its follow-up, though Greyson’s not sure yet what form that might take. “I’ve got so many ideas already which I want to get out, but I’ve also been writing loads during lockdown and I’d love to release an album as soon as I can, ideally full of the newer material. In the future I’d then like to release a mixtape and some of the older material. Ideally I’d like my tracks to all be released and heard.” Kay Greyson releases her EP on 3rd July, with Paris as the lead single, released via Soul Kitchen Records





DAMIAN ROBINSON TALKS TO THE NEWCASTLE SYNTH POP GROUP ABOUT THEIR NEW RELEASES Perhaps one of the central questions we need to ask ourselves when it comes to how we impact society is how involved we want to be in the conversations. Whether we’re speaking about politics, culture, religion, or whichever happens to be trending that day, the central question for us all is do we engage or disengage? Do we participate or do we walk away? With that in mind it’s worth asking ourselves to consider which artists provide the greatest possibility of sparking something which nudges us to want to participate and engage. Fighting out of the red corner, and creeping just outside of the mainstream, Newcastle-based synth pop group Blamire may well want to step forward and be counted as one of those bands that are worth engaging with. Sonically dark, combining a punk/emo honesty with strong pop melodies, theirs is a sound that nudges towards an early 90’s Depeche Mode or a One More Light-era Linkin Park, with songs packed full of honest narratives, electronic soundscapes and affirmative guitar riffs. “Who wants to have all that?” they ask in their new single Stay, “I might” is their answer. “It’s been an interesting time in terms of the local scene,” confirms principle songwriter Alex Blamire, “as a band we haven’t been able to play or rehearse together for a while and you can see that in terms of material from other local acts, whether it’s Facebook gigs or recent output. I’d guess we’re all in similar situations of trying to create remotely. Fortunately for us though as a newish band, although we’re finding not playing live difficult, it doesn’t take as


SONICALLY DARK, THEY COMBINE A PUNK/EMO HONESTY WITH STRONG POP MELODIES much away from us as perhaps it would with other bands who have larger followings.” Remaining optimistic, Alex is keen for Blamire to own their future; new single Stay is being released only a few weeks after debut single In The Waves, which in itself is a statement of intent. “Just before COVID-19 hit, the three of us were ready to release In The Waves and what we’ve done since is to try and mix and re-engineer other work we had which was almost ready. Stay will come out in July and then we’re already thinking about maybe one or two more releases in the month after, perhaps ending up with an EP by the end of summer.” Whilst releasing new material is important creatively for the band, as too is the idea of returning to the live space. “We did some livestreams earlier on in the lockdown but we’d like to come back and have a launch party for Stay, really create something interesting and worth watching. As it may be a while yet until we’re able to play in live venues we still want to enjoy playing live and creating something interesting.” Blamire release Stay on 3rd July and the band will be livestreaming via their social media pages on the same day




Image by Richard Kenworthy

ANNA DISLEY TALKS TO THE YOUNG AUTHOR ABOUT HER DEBUT NOVEL SET ON THE STREETS OF NEWCASTLE In Boy Parts, the incendiary debut novel from Eliza Clark, protagonist Irina obsessively takes explicit photographs of the average-looking men she persuades to model for her, scouted from the streets of Newcastle. It’s a pitch-black comedy both shocking and hilarious, fearlessly exploring taboos of sexuality and gender roles in the 21st Century. Irina is an unreliable narrator; she creates artwork that subverts the male gaze, making ordinary men vulnerable at the hands of a strong female. Rather than being an overtly feminist character, this trait appears as more of a conduit for her sociopathy, as Eliza explains. “I think Irina is pretty a-political. Her art work (in my interpretation of it, any way) is purely an expression of her preoccupation with male submission. However, I do think it would be very easy to interpret her work as feminist, devoid of the context of her personality. I suppose you could look at this as a meta-commentary on the way we often ascribe a non-existent political motive to the creative work of women, and other creatives from marginalised groups, with zero context other than their identity.” The novel is an interesting exploration of identity politics, and at times Irina is quite disdainful of her subject and their ‘virtue signalling’. “Because she is insincere, and devoid of empathy for other people, she sees all political engagement as ‘virtue signalling’, something which is exclusively calculated, hypocritical and insincere. I also think Irina has a problem with anyone who might think they’re better than her. She’s deeply narcissistic, but she hates herself, and this internal conflict leads her to project all of her worst personality traits onto the people around her.” Having moved to London from her hometown of Newcastle, Eliza is openly critical of the London-centric art world in the novel, its snobbishness and appropriation of working classness. “Jokes about the art world being pretentious is somewhat low hanging fruit, but it

IT’S A PITCH-BLACK COMEDY BOTH SHOCKING AND HILARIOUS, FEARLESSLY EXPLORING TABOOS OF SEXUALITY AND GENDER ROLES IN THE 21ST CENTURY is hard to resist!” She admits. Eliza shares the frustration of her protagonist, who struggles to make ends meet in London and ends up moving back North, although she is far more positive about region’s vibrant creative scene. “Irina sees having to return to Newcastle (not having the means to independently support herself in London) as a huge failure. I live in London again now, but the city did and still does feel like a black hole, sucking in all of the money and the jobs and the talent. Post-Brexit, it feels like the politics of Being or Not Being in London have become very weighty, particularly in the creative industry. Living between Newcastle and London, I’ve definitely felt the impact of being economically unable to live independently in London, the frustration of being locked out of career opportunities in Newcastle, and the guilt of moving back to London, effectively following the jobs and abandoning Newcastle’s vibrant creative scene which, despite the lack of money, is full of people doing fantastic things. It’s something I was very interested in exploring.” Eliza Clark’s Boy Parts is out on 23rd July via Influx Press Anna Disley is the executive director of New Writing North, the regional agency established to support writers in the North of England. Sign up for their quarterly Northern Bookshelf newsletter for more insight into regional writers





Image by Liz Ridley




Georgia May is a lo-fi soulful vocalist born and raised in Newcastle, with Nigerian roots. Her sound is defined by soothing timbres, exposing contrasting emotions of lust and heartache with a poetic lyrical narrative. Her debut album arrives this month; Mood Daze includes tracks which nod towards R&B, trip-hop and Afrobeat influences. Collaborating with international beatmakers, the album was designed to take you through an emotive journey of soul searching, resolving in serene sisterhood. A gorgeous, heartfelt album showcasing a variety of beats, styles and musical tones, the release demonstrates Georgia’s breadth of talent. To create the album Georgia worked with a number of talented producers. “The process was fairly straightforward, I usually received the beats from producers first then would write the lyrics for one or two of the tracks. I would have a lyrical idea and melody then the producer would work around that or I myself (as on Hesitation) would produce a beat to go underneath.” While creating the album Georgia discovered a number of talented beatmakers, both from the region and internationally. “Soledad Brother, who produced Soul Sister and Deadline’s instrumentals, is based in Macon, Georgia in the U.S. I’ve found Soundcloud really useful as a platform for connecting with producers.” Georgia’s collaborations took her as far afield as Germany where she found Aeson who created the instrumental for Euphoria, as well as local producers like Holy Smokes (Know Better and Fire) Thomas Dixon (Guessin) and $.O.N.N.Y (Mood Daze). Throughout the album the instrumentals span genres from Afrobeat and hip-hop to R&B and trap. Underneath Georgia’s stunning vocals lies palpable emotion; on each track the listener can sense an underlying thread of stories about friendships and people. “Often my tracks start out as drafted letters or poems. Soul Sister was written about my best friend, just to show her how much she means to me.” Georgia is inspired by musicians such as Erykah Badu, India Arie, Ray BLK and Mahalia, and her album is reminiscent of the power and weight of releases like Lauryn Hill’s critically acclaimed

debut. It’s clear that talking about her heritage is important in her music, and Georgia is actively engaged in curating gigs which celebrate African artists in her work with Newfro Music in Newcastle. “Newfro Music is about celebrating artists of African heritage in the North East. I think Soul Sister is the main track that highlights our heritage; when I talk about my best friend and her ‘contrast roots’, ‘bonny brown eyes’ and ‘locks of variation’ which are just hints of her African beauty.” Reflecting on the name of the album, Georgia explains that the subject matter revolves around the idea of not always feeling okay; Mood Daze can reflect good days and bad days alike. “It’s definitely one of my more experimental tracks to date,” says Georgia. “I sing about Oya the Orisha breaking waves, Oya is a Nigerian Yoruba goddess of winds, lightning and violent storms, death and rebirth! I’m half Nigerian and Oya is the name my mum gave me to represent my heritage even though my Nigerian dad wasn’t around to raise me. I think overall [the song] is about life being sweet and feeling alive.” Georgia wants to see her album and future projects engage with a greater audience, specifically in Africa. “I want to be able to tour in Nigeria and for my people to hear and play my music and enjoy it! I want to gig again!” Lockdown has been an unusual time for many musicians. Like so many, Georgia has appreciated the time to work on her album, but she misses performing. “I have dreams of performing at Shambala Festival and Afro Punk and I would love to be featured on Colors YouTube channel and NPR’s TIny Desk.” After such a huge project, far from taking a break, Georgia is ready to start on her next album and new projects. “In the near future I plan to collaborate more with other vocalists to create some interesting content and work on group harmonies.” Georgia May releases Mood Daze on 3rd July




The Circle by Richard Farrington

NORTH EAST STATUES TRACY HYMAN TALKS TO MUSICIAN AND HISTORIAN DANIEL COCHRAN, WHOSE NEW PROJECT IS SHINING A SPOTLIGHT ON TEES VALLEY’S MONUMENTS I have been following Statues of Budapest on social media for some time. It’s a project of Daniel Cochran’s, a musician and historian originating from Teesside and currently based in Hungary. It was perhaps natural that Daniel would want to turn his attention to his home back in the UK and share his passion for its history, and so North East Statues was born. Carried out in partnership with Tees Valley Arts and Dr. Simon McKeown of MIMA School of Art and Design, North East Statues is a ‘deep dive’ project focussing on the long and interesting history of public art in the Tees Valley and beyond, from the titans of industry right through to monumental artworks such as Temenos. Its aim is to catalogue, archive and share Teesside’s public statues via Facebook and Instagram, to engage the public, and, as Daniel tells me “to bring a new awareness to the way public sculpture in the Tees Valley could be seen as a forerunner to later, bigger projects, such as Gateshead.” So how did the project come about? “It was a moment of fantastic serendipity,” begins Daniel, “When I thought about doing it, I was pointed in the direction of Tees Valley Arts and Dr. Simon McKeown at MIMA School of Art and found that they were both thinking about similar projects. It was supposed to be a change of pace from the hyper-political sculpture of Budapest to the more ‘neutral’ North East. Recent events have caused a complete and



well-needed rethink on that.” In recent weeks the purpose and significance of statues has been a source of national debate, with our very own local explorer Captain Cook called into question. “People are rethinking their cities’ sculptures right now and it’s a debate that needs to be had. Why are these pieces there? Who put them there? For what purpose?” Daniel muses. Controversy around statues isn’t new. Many have hidden political undertones and messages to convey to the observer. Middlesbrough once had a giant red fibreglass elephant outside the law courts, 1975’s Equinox by Adrian Kidd. It was an expressionist representation of the scales of justice. “It was so divisive it only lasted a year or so before a public petition to remove it,” Daniel explains. “We interviewed the sculptor’s friends, and according to them it was a huge ‘fuck you’ to the legal establishment – literally a statue of an elephant taking a crap on the courthouse steps. It even had the nickname ‘The Elephant’s Arse’, but the commissioning bodies didn’t realise.” Then there are the statues that still exist. “I adore Richard Farrington’s Circle on Huntcliff,” Daniel enthuses. “It’s like a portal to another world. I was lucky enough to interview him recently so that’ll be going up on social media soon.” The North East Statues team are encouraging people to get in touch. They want your help to find out more information about the statues and sculpture in the Tees Valley and beyond; photos, stories and reactions to the art that surrounds us every day and the art that is no longer present. They also want to showcase the work of the next generation of sculptors and artists. To get involved contact Daniel on Follow North East Statues on Facebook and Instagram



T-B, L-R: Gandini Juggling, Patrick Ziza, Bridie Jackson



BEVERLEY KNIGHT TALKS TO ROSS MILLARD ABOUT RE-IMAGINING SUMMER STREETS FESTIVAL ONLINE Having played in Sunderland favourites The Futureheads and Frankie & The Heartstrings among other well-respected bands, Ross Millard has always sought to enrich the region’s music scene. He was previously part of the organisational team at the sorely missed Split Festival, and since 2017 has taken on the role of festival director of Summer Streets (run in partnership with Sunderland MAC Trust and Sunderland Culture). Ross expands: “Starting life as a music and community festival, Summer Streets has developed over the years into a cross-genre, multi-discipline arts festival, featuring music, theatre, outdoor arts and dance. It is Sunderland’s only free entry culture festival, and usually attracts a live audience of 4,000 plus.” This year, with their usual site of Cliffe Park in Roker out of the question, it was imperative to Ross and his team that the appreciated event still happened in some form this year, but they knew they would have to think of alternative ways. “This version for 2020 is an experiment to see what taking some of the activities onto an online space looks like while outdoor events are still unable to take place due to the Coronavirus crisis.” Having received emergency funding from Arts Council England to trial this approach, the result is a mini-programme of eclectic events which will run online from Wednesday 15th-Friday 24th July. In keeping with the festival’s ethos of highlighting the talents of diverse, multi-discipline arts, they commissioned artists to perform or run a project, resulting in a varied and fresh programme full of artistic integrity. Included in the programme will be worldrenowned London-based Gandini Juggling, who will be performing an exclusive lockdown version of A Garden of New Geometries, a series of innovative short films documenting their juggling patterns that will challenge the senses. Sticking with the circus theme, world-class performer Nikki Rummer will showcase a new solo performance film featuring circus, acrobatics, dance and text from

atop her narrowboat in Wenlock Basin, London. The piece involves the use of the UK’s historic industrial waterways, to which Sunderland has played a pivotal role in its shipbuilding and water-faring past. Closer to home, known for their Mixtape shows that have taken place to great acclaim across the region, theatre company The Six Twenty will be premiering I Made You A Mixtape, which will turn song dedications made by the festival audience into a 40-minute performance piece. There’s more music from Newcastle songwriter Bridie Jackson, who will collaborate with members of the Sunderland community to produce a new original song. North East-based artist Patrick Ziza will perform a special version of Dandyism, a multi-disciplined performance piece inspired by the gentlemen of the Congo; whilst Japanese artist Natsumi Jones will be delivering a Kirigami workshop. Finally, taking place throughout the festival, poet Kirsten Luckins will be running Your Summer Streets, a fanzine and postal art project in which she’ll collaborate with the audience to produce bespoke ‘zines based around lockdown walks, local neighbourhoods and landmarks. As if that wasn’t enough, there will be specific activities and workshops for children and young people, and two evenings of live music featuring regional, national and international artists, all still be announced. It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication to Sunderland’s artistic scene that Ross and his team have been able to put together such an enticing line-up, with so much more to come; all that’s left is for you to get stuck in! Summer Streets Online 2020 takes place from Wednesday 15th-Friday 24th July, see their website for more information on performances and workshops




Image by Black Robin

VICI WREFORD-SINNOTT NICOLA OWEN TALKS TO FOUNDER AND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF DISABLED-LED THEATRE COMPANY LITTLE COG ABOUT HER NEW WORK, SIEGE Passion and outrage are fuelling our existence. It’s hard to see the end to strife, especially when linked to such epic human tragedies as those of 2020, but inevitably things do quieten down, a kind of peace is negotiated and people drift back to a normal state of existence. Therein lies another kind of danger. “I’ve been an activist for three decades,” says writer, director and performer Vici Wreford-Sinnott, “What I’ve found is that things go in cycles. Things speed up and then at times they seem to slow down. We had a light shone on us during things like the Paralympics but it almost feels at the moment as though disability has fallen off the agenda.” The former punk and founder of Little Cog theatre company writes eloquently and passionately on her blog about the need for sustained activism, particularly for people like herself: disabled women. Social change doesn’t just involve a rally here and there, a homemade eye-catching slogan and some blazing headlines but lifetimes of graft to try to get the playing field just a little bit more level. “As women and as disabled artists we are all still having shocking experiences,” says Vici. “There are obstacles to getting our work made, especially when we create a piece which doesn’t conform to that stereotype of the passive, vulnerable person who is a victim of her condition.” She conceived one such project which she was to perform in 2021. “Siege was meant to be a touring production,” explains Vici. “I thrive off the energy of a live audience but when the pandemic happened it was awful to have that taken away and not know when it will be back.” A timely joint intervention from arts space HOME in Manchester and Stockton’s ARC meant that Siege was transformed into a fifteen-minute monologue written, directed and edited by Vici and featuring collaborator Phillipa Coles. “Phillipa is brilliant,” says Vici. “She was perfect for the character of Mim. Mim is edgy and radical.


THERE ARE OBSTACLES TO GETTING OUR WORK MADE, ESPECIALLY WHEN WE CREATE A PIECE WHICH DOESN’T CONFORM TO THAT STEREOTYPE OF THE PASSIVE, VULNERABLE PERSON WHO IS A VICTIM OF HER CONDITION She wants to be an underground performer but when she auditions the owner of the cabaret club gives her a job behind the bar as he doesn’t think she’ll be able to cut it as an act.” Mim’s bolshy, non conformist attitude reflects in the entertaining and insightful discussions filmed as an accompanying piece to Siege. In The Wrong Woman Discussions, disabled artists and performers Bea Webster, Tammy Reynolds, Melissa Johns, Julie McNamara and Vici chat frankly about their work and experiences around the topics of what’s expected, being looked at, transgressing and agency. After so many years at the frontline of fighting for space and the right to speak with integrity, you could perhaps forgive Vici for wanting to take a breather, however the success of Siege means that she has recently received funding to write and direct another of her creations. “It’s a four character film called Funny Peculiar about characters who have been in lockdown for most of their lives and for whom the restrictions offer a unique opportunity to shine.” She’s also involved with a multi-artist collaboration called Disconsortia which engages disabled performers, musicians, digital artists and more to create work. “I just want to say that the North East arts scene has always been extremely supportive of me,” she says. “I feel the future is really, really exciting.” Siege is available to view on the HOME, Manchester website





Demon Summer by Janet Warren

Demon Summer – Parr Street Session

When a local band splits, memories often dissipate quickly into thin air like waking from a dream, until all but a small group of band members and close mates remember them; something of a trite reworking of the ‘you come in on your own, and you leave on your own’ analogy. Hartlepool’s Demon Summer initially split in 2004 after their drummer left before they could release their Parr Street Session demo (and crucially before being able to leave any

Sleepy D – Garden

With a post-hardcore discordant bassline, Gothic, almost spoken word, vocals and a blend of distorted guitar and industrial synths, Sleepy D’s Garden is certainly original. And where less is definitely more it remains minimal enough to draw you in but intense enough to unsettle, so that you never quite know what to expect next. The horror-ish monologue and an odd childlike quality to an instrumental section towards the end lend it a genuinely intriguing but disquieting temper, a bit like those old number station recordings with ice cream van music in the background. Splendid.

Dassia – Holding Me Down

If lockdown has done one thing it seems to have galvanised those bedroom techno noodlers often detached from usual or more visible ‘scenes’, and Holding Me Down is four-and-a-half minutes of impeccably

social media fossil record), but they are now doing the decent thing and putting all their back catalogue up on Bandcamp. It is telling that without the bumf to hand you would never know this has been gathering dust for fifteen-odd years; with a touch of then contemporaries Puressence about it, lead track Founder is a slightly elegiac indie gem perfect for all those summer festivals.

produced nightclub fodder. Think timeless Kylie or latter-day Madonna with a touch of R&B; perfect to soundtrack one of those Geordie Shore or Love Island out-take shows. I don’t know who Dassia is and have little desire to find out as the track does nothing for me, but on a drunken night out at midnight in the Bigg Market...what the hell, why not?

EllCavell – Stand Alone

There was a music industry rumour in the 90s that Cliff Richard had produced an anonymous white label house track just to prove how easy it is to make dance music, but that it was a massive flop because, basically, it was shit. Surprisingly, minimal deep electronica is a genre sometimes overlooked in the NARC. demos column but these are strange times indeed. Stand Alone builds into a pretty decent percussion-led instrumental house tune, as pleasant as it is on the ear (and the drop at the five minute mark is sublime) I can’t help think

it’s just something knocked-up in twenty minutes on Ableton or GarageBand or any old sampler just to relieve the boredom, or perhaps prove a point.

Terri Ann – Trust Me

Trust Me by Terri Ann is more geographically surplus dance music in the shape of the sort of ambient house that Mixmag et al would probably say is everything that is wrong with Ibiza nowadays but, by George, when the pubs open and the sun comes out it’s what we are all going to be dancing to. Gentle piano, finger click beats and a soulful way with a melancholic relationship lyric, Terri Ann harnesses the loosely jazzy vibes of Groove Armada’s At The River but pairs it with Alicia Keys’ more blissfully esoteric moments as it evolves into something even more righteous and goodly.



T-B, L-R: PSiMiTAR, Lovely Assistant, Matt Dunbar & The Autonomous Collective The prospect of unearthing fresh, beneath-the-radar gems is the chief fillip which draws me to NARC.’s Tracks section, and having not heard a single entrant prior, this month’s offerings are of particular intrigue. First to catch my attention is Last Of The Aircraft Are Leaving, the maiden single from a collective of local stalwarts operating as Lovely Assistant. It’s another sterling production from Willy Thorneycroft, who was also behind last year’s debut albums from The Dawdler and Fax Machine, and should further delight fans of those records with its beautifully low-key melody and slow-cooked arrangement. The quartet’s eponymous full-length is out in September, and I for one will be listening intently. The impact of PSiMiTAR’s Everybody (It’s OK), meanwhile, lies in its message. “It’s okay to not be okay. It’ll be okay,” he assures listeners; his thickly accented raps clashing gloriously with MistaBreeze’s soulful chorus and guest verse, all while jarring keys and resplendent sax clamour to control a charmingly ramshackle backdrop. With all proceeds going to mental health charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), this one’s well worth chucking a couple of quid at. Elsewhere, Parallax Skies’ Judith (whose proceeds, incidentally are donated to West End Food Bank) and Ihrsan’s Waterfalls each owe shameless debts to the indie and post-punk sounds of the mid-to-late‘80s. Neither is especially inspired, and both certainly lack the potency of Darren Holmes’ Pimples. His latest track serves up a rich dollop of nostalgia with soaring, impassioned vocals. There’s more gorgeous vocal tones to be found on MullFire’s Up Street, where leading duo Phil and Chloe elevate an acoustic ode to


Cleveland’s mining communities, and the generations left behind since iron ore was last extracted in the ‘60s. Church, Honey, meanwhile, isn’t shy of trumpeting his own wares, having revealed second single Church to be the song after which his entire project has been coined. I can’t pretend it elicited quite such a reaction from me, but that’s not to say others won’t be snagged by the singer-songwriter’s tender refrains and spirited delivery. While it may not be the strongest of this month’s submissions, Matt Dunbar & The Autonomous Collective’s Different Kind of Heartbreak is certainly a contender for most powerful. Citing Ryan Adams among your key influences isn’t a good look these days, yet this country rock nugget tackles the elephant in the room head-on, conveying both the sense of betrayal and loss of trust the musician’s actions and absence of remorse have engendered. It’s a necessary denouncement of a figure whose impact – for better or worse – on modern Americana remains indelible, and the air of conflict is felt all the more keenly from a songwriter for whom his work has clearly inspired an emotional bond. Finally, I’m probably not the reviewer you want if you’ve formed a pop punk band, so my sincerest apologies to Hometruths, Endless Season and Palace Watson. Of the three, the latter’s Dead As Leaves scores highest for both dynamism and flair, though the artwork for the former’s Soundtrack – a mock-up movie poster starring all four band members and embellished with five-star reviews – is almost enough to win me over!


4.5 / 5


Lianna La Havas by Hollie Fernando

Words: Cameron Wright Lianne La Havas’ beautiful debut, Is My Love Big Enough?, was an introspective showcase of a bright talent. A stunningly sweet release, laced with purity, it was evidence that La Havas was special. Subsequent releases saw the artist draw from love and heartbreak to produce soulful pop laments. With her newest release La Havas provides a sense of solace, stripping away the grandeur and finesse of previous releases, she centres herself perfectly in the heart of a sound that is unquestionably hers. Where previous releases play as an artist thrusting her paints against the canvas, launching vibrant colours against artfully honed technique, her self-titled release is a phenomenally focused expulsion of musical ideas. The album is rife with everything La Havas has lavishly carved into image, as thoughtful ruminations explode from her mesmerizing voice that flutters between vulnerability and strength. As a whole, it’s a demonstration of unwavering emotion, yet sharpened by control and restraint, and these contrasts and crescendos echo throughout the album. Opener Bittersweet moves from gentle groove via lazy, lucid drum patterns to a frenzied pinnacle. The release plays as a transcendental listen, with each rise and fall feeling natural and organic. La Havas’ knack for capturing humanity through the ebb and flow of her music is never more clearly sighted than on her cover of Radiohead’s Weird Fishes. The track cowers with restraint, until the pieces gradually accumulate in a surreal swirl of sound which completely surrounds the listener. The album’s finale, Sour Flower, perfectly encompasses everything the album embodies, as humble, magnetic grooves erupt into cathartic explosions. Where this album differs from previous endeavours is in La Havas’ newfound comfort in simplicity; consistently refuting any veneer or polish that doesn’t immediately serve her matured, nuanced vision. As captivating levels of emotion flood from the songs, there is a refined sense of shading and delicacy throughout the compositions that are elegant and intricate in equal measure. La Havas’ newest output is easily her strongest, most intimate and most genuine release to date. Authentic, profound and bewitching, and one which irrefutably marks Lianne La Havas as one of the finest songbirds of our generation. Released: 17.07.20

ALSO OUT THIS MONTH Shirley Collins – Heart’s Ease (Domino, 24.07) // Rival Consoles – Articulation (Erased Tapes, 31.07) // Glass Animals – Dreamland (Polydor, 24.07) // Ten Foot Wizard – Get Out Of Your Mind (Beard of Zeus, 10.07) // The Naked & Famous – Recover (AWAL, 24.07) // The Blinders – Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath (Modern Sky, 17.07) // Jessy Lanza – All The Time (Hyperdub, 24.07) // Cuddle Magic – Bath (Northern Sky, 03.07) // Thiago Nassif – Mente (Gearbox Records, 03.07) //Venus Furs – S/T (Silk Screaming Records, 10.07) // The Lawrence Arms – Skeleton Coast (Epitaph, 17.07) // Asylums – Genetic Cabaret (Cool Thing Records, 17.07) // Silverbacks – Fad (Central Tones, 17.07) // The Psychedelic Furs – Made of Rain (Cooking Vinyl, 31.07) // Margo Price – That’s How Rumours Get Started (Loma Vista Recordings, 10.07) // Bing & Ruth – Species (4AD, 17.07) // Rufus Wainwright – Unfollow The Rules (BMG, 10.07) // Howling – Colure (Counter Records, 24.07) // Romare – Home (Ninja Tune, 31.07) // Ciara Lavery – Plz Stay, bb (Kartel Music Group, 10.07) // Dehd – Flower of Devotion (Fire Talk Records, 17.07)

Words: Mark Corcoran-Lettice Trying to tie down a band like Lovely Wife in the studio – a band known for its frequently shifting line-up and semi-improvisational live shows that can go anywhere from avant-garde drone to mutant hardcore to pure sludge menace – isn’t the easiest task, but their latest album Best In Show makes a pleasingly good fist of it. With core duo James Watts and Joe Garrick joined by FRET! and Tide of Iron drummer Rob Woodcock, this Newcastle trio format sketches across all the different forms that Lovely Wife dabble in; the bastardised doom riffing of Shan Patter sitting alongside the Alice Coltrane-withhead-trauma gutter meditation of Wallow. Noisy, abstract and knowingly absurd, Best In Show makes for a fine memento until the gig circuit can return. Released: 03.07.20

4.5 / 5 WVCKO BILDE (SELF-RELEASED) Words: Michael O’Neill When Northumberland-based WVCKO began recording Bilde back in the halcyon days of 2019, he set out to create music that would allow him to “feel total escapism and tranquillity” at a time when the world around him seemed to offer him anything but. Little did he know that he’d be creating the essential antidote to 2020 in the process, because Bilde is one hell of a cathartic experience given the current inescapable madness of the here and now. From the calm atmospheres of Distant Voices and Palma, through to the frenetic grooves of Joint and Bloc, there’s a broad array of sounds and styles on offer, but Bilde never fails to be consistent and refreshing. A superb debut. Released: 17.07.20








Words: Ali Welford For an artist whose live debut came little over a year ago, A.A. Williams’ resume makes for impressive reading. Tours with Cult of Luna, Russian Circles and Explosions in the Sky; a studio collaboration with Mono – really, it’s small wonder the Londoner’s debut comes cut from the very finest post-rock cloth. With her weighty vocals floating high in the mix, Forever Blue is a dense, smouldering song-cycle, veering effortlessly between sweeping classical, crushing metal and even traditional singersongwriter territories. Above all, it’s a record characterised by contrast, whether through mastery of quiet-loud dynamics or its eclectic choice of guests – from the velvety tones of ex-Wild Beast Tom Fleming to the coarse roar of Cult of Luna’s Fredrik Kihlberg. An engrossing new talent. Released: 03.07.20

Words: Paul Broadhead Oakland resident Kenney embraces and remains weary of the first throes of love on her third record. Sugar Sweat is an ethereal slow-build opener, whilst Picture Of You is drenched in laid-back summer vibes with a sprinkling of lush lead guitar. Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner duets on single Sucker which shouldn’t work but does – quite brilliantly – whilst there’s inventive instrumentation going on on the playful Double Hearted. Tell You Everything is Kenney needing to throw herself into new love but holding back, capturing the anxiety of wanting to follow your heart when your head is reminding you of past hurts. White Window Light, with its delicate touches, suggests she’s right to open her heart on a record brimming with possibility. Released: 31.07.20

Words: Alex Withers A masterclass in attention to detail, LA-via-Brazil musician Samira Winter debuts her melodic album Endless Space (Between You & I), creating a hypnotic trip of fairytale surrealism that sets her blend of dream pop and distorted American punk leagues apart from her contemporaries. Mixed with a fusion of sonic influences, the album introspectively spotlights her esoteric world and experimentation with nature. The otherworldly title track blends together time lapsed wildlife scenes, echoed distortion and trilling arpeggio to produce a surreal aesthetic, whilst lead single Say fuses delicate waves of soft synth psych pop with tight drum and bass loops. Endless Space... sees Winter truly arrive. Fashioning a technicolour daydream in aural form from start to finish. Released: 24.07.20







Words: Ikenna Offor Given its ostensibly baleful moniker, you’d be forgiven for thinking Denai Moore’s third studio effort was wholly laden with cathexic angst. And yet, from the word go, Modern Dread – with its acutely ingenious blend of quixotic turns and reflective songcraft – delivers a salutary jolt of exultant catharsis that emphatically attests to its author’s emotional acuity. In this sense, the record decidedly functions more as a timely salve than an augurous agitant. Sonically, there’s a pronounced emphasis on rhythmic continuity and contrapuntal clarity throughout, with Moore’s thickly textured vocals assuredly anchoring each dazzlingly intricate track with understated panache. Densely layered and amply rewarding, this breathtaking album sees Moore rightly taking her seat at the table without squandering any hard-won authenticity. Huzzah! Released: 03.07.20


Words: Jamie Taylor Kutiman is a collaborator extraordinaire. A man with a repertoire that’s as varied as the stamps in his passport, you probably know him best from his internet famous Mix The City and ThruYou series. For his latest record he spent time in Tanzania, collecting found sounds and melodies from the neighbourhoods around the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. The result is a silky warm jazz fusion that melts in the ears. It has the feel of a rare find, the kind of record you listen to and immediately get excited about. The musical sensibilities of the two cultures, on the one hand Kutiman’s psychedelic synths and the other the gentle swing of the Wachaga choir, combine to create a sound that is both meditative and uplifting. Released: 17.07.20

Words: Robert Nichols Punk pop female trio Dream Wife bite back with a fun, exciting, challenging and most of all empowering second album. They lay down the ground rules with catchy melodies to the fore with the zappy, energy packed Sports! Scaling back the tempo for moody, broody self-reflection, charismatic vocalist Rakel Mjöll deals sensitively with abortion, miscarriage and gender equality. Encouraging girls to the front at gigs and recording with an all female production team, Dream Wife live by their opening salvo: put your money where your mouth is. The spiky, bracing, guitar racing, riot and roll title track is a gauntlet thrown down for action. Brave enough to sign off with a moving afterglow in finale After The Rain. Be inspired. Released: 03.07.20


4.5 / 5

4.5 / 5

3.5 / 5




Words: Lee Fisher Early Sly gigs took their intensity, abrasion and potential chaos from the noise scene but replaced the surly machismo with an inclusive, uplifting joyfulness which was unique and celebratory live but never quite came across on record. Along the way, they’ve added sax and structure, and on this blistering new album, brevity too. But this is no lightweight thing: it opens with a fierce, rhythmic sax’n’drums palette cleanser, ends with a soundscape redolent of This Heat and in between veers from the almost sickening low-end lurch of Bulgarian Steel to Shrieking Grief (those titles!) which starts where a particularly manic Ex gig might end. My Torso Is A Shotgun is the highlight, alarming squiggles exploding into in-yr-face hardcore and then collapsing in a sweaty heap. Essential. Released: 17.07.20

3.5 / 5 JULIANNA BARWICK HEALING IS A MIRACLE (NINJA TUNE) Words: Elodie A. Roy Julianna Barwick’s fourth album is short, but indefinitely haunting. Her voice – high pitched yet soft – dominates; unfolding layer after layer, multiplying, fully drenched in reverb. There is a lot of space in this music. Safe, with its brittle wall of sound, recalls the sweetest moments of My Bloody Valentine. Flowers disintegrates into a spacious, lovely drone, while Wishing Well is reminiscent of the sparse, unhurried grace of Grouper. It’s a powerful record – not through force or loudness – but because of its endurance. Yet all the mirrors and reflections become dizzying after a while. I wish I could make out the words, if only once. But, as in a dream, everything appears through a veil – only the feeling remains. Released: 10.07.20

Words: Jack Grayson Nicolas Bougaïeff’s latest album continues the Berlin-based artist’s compositional approach to electronic music, drawing inspiration from multiple genres to create a complex, interwoven tapestry of sounds. First track Embrace Hope All Ye Who Enter Here opens things explosively, suitably paving way for the industrial techno-fuelled, white knuckle ride that follows. Thalassophobia offers a deep, haunting sound with thumping kick drums, bleeping synths and acid splices suited to after-hours dancefloors, while Nexus has a dark, progressive tone that unfolds to reveal hints of gabba, sinister synths and electrifying breakbeats. Overall, the album is one that packs a punch from start to finish, providing a comprehensive insight into Bougaïeff’s multifaceted production ability. Released: 24.07.20

4/5 THE BETHS JUMP ROPE GAZERS (CARPARK RECORDS) Words: Lee Hammond Following up their superb debut album was always going to be a tall order, but The Beths have achieved this. A furore of an opening in I’m Not Getting Excited sets a wonderful pace, one which isn’t always matched by the rest of Jump Rope Gazers, but not to its detriment. This is an album that is peppered with incessant hooks, most of which will be lodged deep in your brain for days. However, below all of this is a much more important and endearing layer, the likes of You Are A Beam Of Light and Don’t Go Away highlighting the heartfelt nature of Jump Rope Gazers. There’s a passion alongside their excitement that truly shines through on this incredible record. Released: 10.07.20

Words: Robin Webb Ganser are a post-punk art rock four-piece operating out of Chicago and now on their second full-length album. Propulsive and discordant, they’re reminiscent of 90’s guitar-driven raucousness from the likes of Sonic Youth or Fugazi occasionally phasing into a retro goth resonance. Their lyrics encompass a variety of modern dilemmas, such as making poor choices which lead to anxiety and damaging extreme behaviours on the opening track Lucky, to how it may feel witnessing the end of the world through social media for the closing track Bags For Life. Alicia Gaines and Nadia Garofalo share wonderfully sneering introverted vocal duties over an increasingly mature sounding, urgently explosive yet musically epic noisescape that’s been a year in the making. Released: 31.07.20

4/5 SEASICK STEVE LOVE & PEACE (WARNER RECORDS) Words: Tom McLean If you’re struggling to motivate yourself to exercise this summer, then Seasick Steve’s latest album, Love & Peace, is sure to get your toe tapping. Don’t worry though, he’s thrown in some calmer numbers should you need to catch your breath. Steve’s sound is as unique as his homemade instruments, and though opening tune Love & Peace rattles out of the can with a familiar, popping rhythm, every song thereafter has its own tale to tell. Blues-burner Carni Days smacks of personal experience, while the lively Toes In The Mud sounds like a hip nursery rhyme of his own invention. Whether you’re a fan of Seasick Steve or the blues, these twelve tracks are something to get excited about. Released: 24.07.20



3.5 / 5






Words: Andrew Thompson Pure Luxury is Michel Lovett’s (aka NZCA Lines) third release and the first in nearly four years, following on from 2016’s Infinite Summer. Now I’m sure I don’t need to point out that quite a lot of things have happened in the last four years; so for Lovett, a multi-instrumentalist and producer, making an album insularly between the UK and USA has provided a gluttony of topics to cover. Pure Luxury is awash with all the synth pop licks and groove-addled bass which have been a hallmark of his solo work; a sound which is, superficially at least, completely at odds with the seriousness of the subject matter. Zapp-inspired pop bangers about industrial agriculture and detaching ice shelves are hardly ordinary bed fellows but then again, we’re hardly living through ordinary times. Released: 10.07.20

Words: Michael O’Neill For a record rooted heavily in medieval folk, Undress & Dive After is one hell of an excursion in groove, with the Berlin-based Rose welding gritty disco rhythms and vibrant synths to some astonishingly brilliant slices of folk wonder. Of the nine impeccable songs on offer, only two (Signs and the marvellous I’d Like To Meet You) bear the hallmarks of classic folk with their lush fingerpicked guitars; elsewhere, Rose refuses to be bound to convention, making for the grooviest medieval folk out there. On the likes of the driving, glorious Keep A Part and Give It To You, Rose’s brilliantly unique aesthetic comes into its own, making for an album that is rewarding, addictive, and unbelievably refreshing. Released: 31.07.20

Words: Ben Lowes-Smith Ben Hall’s new collection has some semblance of a narrative thread, character pieces set in the North of England that coalesce with one another; tender, descriptive, vivid stories that feel cinematic in scope. MB&TB have had the ‘indie-pop’ tag thrown at them, but that feels reductive in this instance, Hall’s songwriting magpies from numerous corners of (particularly British) songwriting. Astral Plane taps into the spirit of Robert Wyatt with its sashaying brass, with Hall’s fragile falsetto telling a Bildungsroman. Faithful Hound is reminiscent of Euros Childs and his most whimsical, and The Windle On Spittlehill has a similar musicality to peers Teleman, with a Clientele-ish spoken word piece. Hall’s knack for making the silly serious (and the inverse) is the record’s greatest strength. Released: 10.07.20







Words: Jason Jones Great bands evolve because they have to to survive; not commercially or in the fleetinglyskimmed column inches of mediocre critics, but because their creativity erupts and spills beyond the confines of their early offerings with startling urgency. On A Hero’s Death, Dublin’s Fontaines D.C. have made it abundantly clear that they intend to be counted among the true greats of their genre. Darker and more brooding than debut Dogrel, this album strips away some of their boisterous shamanism for a more measured, no less affecting, sensibility. The result is an effort that hurls itself into a constant state of motion, ebbing and flowing from exquisitely-crafted post-punk soundscapes to discordant, swarming freak-outs that spin and exhilarate like a hurricane at a carnival. Released: 31.07.20


Words: Mark Corcoran-Lettice With the release schedule still dominated by albums recorded in the ‘before’ time, a lot of new records now have to be heard in the context of a different world: the paranoia and foreboding of Ultimate Success Today makes for an alarmingly neat fit then, but the greatest victory of Protomartyr’s fifth album is how they’ve charted their escape route from post-punk revivalism. The molten cod-psych of Processed By The Boys is a point of cathartic terminus, from which the drunken jazz balladry of The Aphorist and knowing bathos of closer Worm In Heaven emerge. Appearances from Jemeel Moondoc on alto saxophone and Izaak Mills on bass clarinet expand the band’s textural terrain, but it’s a career best set of lyrics from blue collar fatalist Joe Casey that makes this such a rich and still strikingly relevant work. Released: 17.07.20

Words: Ali Welford With their no frills set-up and overt noir lyricism, this Manchester trio’s gaze is set squarely on the crossover post-punk nirvana accomplished by the likes of Idles and Fontaines D.C. Although a solid progression from 2018’s Columbia, this second album lacks both the freshness and dynamism to emulate their contemporaries’ successes. That’s not to call Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath a write-off, however. Crisp yet clamorous, the likes of Forty Days And Forty Nights and Lunatic With A Loaded Gun spearhead a visceral opening, while the record’s darker designs bear fruit on the slinking, Cure-like From Nothing To Abundance. At times, this momentum is spurned no sooner than it’s gathered, yet at its finest Fantasies... is an admirable stab at capturing the verve of their vaunted live shows. Released: 17.07.20

MIXTAPE WORDS: HARBOURMASTER, AKA MARTIN TROLLOPE I’m Martin and I work under the name Harbourmaster. You might already know me from District Attorney, The Union Choir and/or The Railway Club. I’ve been playing music for as long as I can remember, and for the last fifteen years or so I’ve been recording it too. I’ve worked in a studio in South Shields where I’ve recorded hundreds of people of different ages, backgrounds and levels of experience. I’m currently working from home; mixing and mastering, recording session guitar and bass, and even just offering advice to anyone that needs it. I’m always happy to help. Now that you know who I am, you can really get to know me by listening to some of the songs and artists that have inspired what I do and how I work. You can get in touch via email on

WU TANG CLAN BRING DA RUCKUS When I bought 36 Chambers, it changed everything for me. I’d sort of fallen out of love with music at the time, then suddenly music was my life again. I wouldn’t be doing what I do now without it. There’s an ‘us against the world’ spirit and a sense of collectivism that really invokes the good things I see in our local music community. Listen

TOM MOUSE SMITH THROW ME TO THE WOLVES I’m sneaking a few songs I’ve worked on into this, because they’re mint. This is the first one. See if you can work out the others… Tom is sixteen. Listen to this song and let that sink in. It’s thoughtful, urgent and relevant, and he recorded it at home during lockdown. Tom’s distinctive, powerful voice and lyrics give us a pretty accurate summation of how so many of us are feeling about the COVID-19 situation. He’s going far. Listen

BEYONCÉ HOLD UP The actual queen, with a perfect song. Pure pop minimalism. Vocally, it’s almost train of thought improvisation which totally appeals to me. It’s got this incredible groove mixed with a lingering,

seductive threat that keeps you on your toes. I’ll always be crazy about this song and eternally jealous that I didn’t write it. Listen

TANKENGINE BANSHEE One of my favourite current local bands. Aggressive, progressive and slightly wonky, BANSHEE is full of appropriately wailing guitars, driving bass and pounding drums. The interplay between the two vocals, and the bite and bile within them, is really something else. It’s only just over four minutes long but it feels like it’s got absolutely everything. Listen

TALIB KWELI/REFLECTION ETERNAL GOOD MOURNING I’ve loved rap since I bought The Best Rap Album in the World… Ever! on cassette. Unfortunately, whoever compiled it missed out Talib Kweli. I found out about him from a rapper I was recording and though I’d been told how good Talib is, nothing prepared me for HOW GOOD Talib is. Conscious and eloquent, Good Mourning is a perfect introduction to an important artist. Listen

EVE SIMPSON HIGH MOUNTAINS This song is just so beautiful. Eve is an

absolute perfectionist and you can hear that here. The vocal is stunning. The lyrics are honest, open and reflective and every single aspect of this song works because it’s been so carefully thought through. I still get goosebumps when I listen to it, and I’ve listened to it a lot. Listen

HEADCLOUDS FEAT. ME LOST ME I DO TOO The first time I heard them play this song, I knew Headclouds had something special. It’s an effortlessly cool song, and it almost whispers its breathtaking melodies and harmonies to you while you float around in its atmosphere. If I think about this song for a second, it gets stuck in my head for a month, which is fine by me. Listen

TERRY RILEY A RAINBOW CURVED IN AIR Can I just quote the sleeve notes? “And then all wars ended. Arms of every kind were outlawed and the masses gladly contributed them to giant foundries in which they were melted down and the metal poured into the earth...All boundaries were dissolved...The energy from dismantled weapons provided free heat and light...The concept of work was forgotten.” Listen







Originally the image which adorned the cover of our first digital-only issue in April 2020, listing the cultural venues in the North East which found their doors closed due to COVID-19, this A4 250gsm poster has been produced in tribute, solidarity and with love.